Hands & Feet

My heart has been heavy. I find it difficult to breath when I open up social media. My heart palpitations are back. Tears are on the verge constantly. Sleep is lacking. On the other side of things, I also feel content. I love the sunshine we’ve been having. I love the little seedlings I am coaxing to grow and bring us bits of joy with their flowers this summer. I love the growing hope I have for some areas of our lives. It’s okay to feel joy and sorrow at the same time.

I just opened up an email from our pastor and was brought to tears. This is such a difficult time for so many and in the email he encourages us to be the church. He doesn’t have answers to all that is happening, and how could he? But I love that we can go to the Word and be encouraged. I love that no matter what is going on around us, we can spread hope, encourage, BE the church. It’s not a building…it’s the people that normally go to that building, being the hands and feet of Jesus. But it takes intentionality.

Yes, so much of what is going on, just plain sucks. There is lack of trust. There is division among family and friends–such deep hurt. There are people dying a physical death from a pandemic. There are even more people slowly dying inside mentally and spiritually due to a pandemic. There are financial battles going on. There are unseen battles going on that are more devastating than we will probably ever know. Yes, I feel discouraged and I feel helpless, but I am also brought to tears knowing that God has asked us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What an honour.

What does that look like to you? Tonight that looks like making 5 dozen cookies because we have an 8 year old who is devastated that she will spend another birthday away from her friends. She asked if she could bring individually packaged cookies to school to share with her friends to have a tiny bit of a celebration before learning goes online. Tonight the hands and feet of Jesus look like cookies.

What does it look like to you? How can you be intentional about it?

Some Days Are Like That–Even in Australia

I thought it was Tuesday all day today…until about 3:30 p.m. and then I thought it was Thursday, but in reality it is Wednesday. Oh grief brain, you are messing with me today! But they say: Some days are like that–even in Australia.

It started this morning…missing Sunny in a tangible way. I needed to hear her voice. So, I downloaded the Marco Polo app onto my phone again, and logged in to hear old video messages. For a good 15 minutes it felt like she was still here. But then reality hit and the tears came. I miss her so much. It was one of those days where I needed a red cardinal to land outside my window like it used to do on hard grief days when we lived in Ontario, but there are no cardinals this far north. After we moved here, Sunny would always send me a video or text if a cardinal landed in her tree because she knew it meant so much to us both. I miss those texts and videos.

I went on with my day, going through the list of errands I needed to run. One of them was to bring bags and boxes of items to the thrift store. Since I was there anyhow, I decided to go in and check for milkglass. There was a short line-up outside of the store and even though I was wearing a ball cap and a facemask (my I don’t want to interact with anyone uniform), the elderly gentleman behind me didn’t take it as an I’m hiding from the world today, please don’t talk to me. He started talking about how he couldn’t wait until this pandemic was over. How it’s nothing like what his parents went through in Germany during WWII, but it sure would be nice if it were over. We chatted a bit and were let into the store in no time. He continued to talk and told me about his wife who passed away in 2017–that they used to love thrifting together. He talked about his “honey” so sweetly. We talked for a few more minutes and continued on our way.

I didn’t find any milkglass, but did stumble across vintage coasters with a red cardinal on them. God knew. Just as I stumbled across them, the elderly gentleman was in the same aisle as I was and we stood there and talked about his “honey” and all the wonderful people he met and was able to help during his career as a taxi driver. I told him about Mikail. We talked about God (or the Big Guy up there as he called Him), comforting signs and angels. Suddenly I realized that I only had a couple of minutes to get to Olivia’s school to pick her up, and apologized that I needed to run. It felt like I should give him a hug and just as I thought that, he held out his elbow to me and we touched elbows. I paid for my cardinal coasters and went to the truck and cried ugly tears.

God is so amazing. He gave me my red cardinal and He gifted me with the opportunity to chat it up with a stranger in a store…just what Sunny was famous for…connecting with everyone in her path. This is something that does not come natural to me, but I love how God gifts me with the opportunities to keep Sunny’s memory alive.

I may not know what day of the week it is, but that’s okay. Some days are like that–even in Australia.

When It’s Time to Unplug

Sometimes, I find, that my body, mind and soul need to be un-plugged and there are so many ways we can do this. Here are a few ideas I use:

  1. Go for a walk in the neighbourhood. I use the app “Map My Walk” to track where and how far I have gone. This helps to push me to go a little further and somewhere different every time. The fresh air and movement do amazing things for my body, mind and soul.
  2. Don’t rush lunch (if you can). I try to take the time to make something healthy and use a pretty napkin and stemware for my water. This was recommended to me by a nurse when I was going through post partum depression and wasn’t taking the time to eat properly. It helped to take the time and effort to make my lunch special.
  3. Drink lemon water. It is so refreshing and helps digestion and less bloating throughout the day. It’s also said to be really good for your skin.
  4. Declutter your digital life. Erase apps you don’t use, unsubscribe from emails you don’t want to receive, ‘unfollow’ or remove accounts that cause you anxiety. It’s amazing what this has done for my mental health…especially in these times we are living in.
  5. Try positive affirmations. It feels silly at first, but it is so incredibly helpful. Think about what you struggle with and turn them into positive affirmations. Some I use are: I am enough. I am safe and secure. I am courageous and I stand up for myself. God, I give everyone and everything to You.
  6. Focus on One Thing at a Time. There is so much coming at us from every direction that life can get overwhelming. I often say to myself: Just do the next thing. Progress comes from just doing the next right thing.
  7. Freshen up a Space. It’s amazing what just neatening up a space in your home can do. Move around some decor. Buy $4 dollar tulips at the grocery store. It doesn’t have to be a big project. A simple freshening up of a space is so motivating for me.
  8. Go somewhere new. It doesn’t have to be far. It could be a new coffee shop. It could be a new trail you’ve been wanting to try out. Take a different route to work. Explore a town that you don’t live in. Go to a tourist attraction in your own province or state.

It’s amazing what these little things can do for your body, mind and soul. A couple of weeks ago, Jason had the week off, Olivia was on Spring Break and we were tired of the renovation scene in our lives. We were tired of the heaviness of living during a pandemic. We were tired of the issues in our lives weighing us down. We just wanted to ‘get away’ for a bit.

For some people this is an easy thing to do…just take off and stay at a hotel for the weekend or fly to a different destination for a bit. For us, this is a little tricky financially for us, with all the projects we have going on, but we knew we needed to do something.

I remembered that we have AirMiles. Normally we use these to fly somewhere, but that isn’t possible right now, so I looked at destinations in our own province. Jasper National Park is just a few hours south of us and to leave the prairies and go to the mountains for a weekend sounded like just what we needed. We chose a hotel with a pool and hot breakfast included and the cash out of our pockets for the hotel stay, was taxes. A total of $34.99 for the weekend including two meals and entertainment (the pool and jacuzzi tub in our 2 room suite). Yes, there was the fuel and other meals we had to pay for, but we brought our own food for lunches and were able to support local small business restaurants for our supper meals. It was quite economical and just what we needed.

So, if you’re in a place where you have done all the things to help rejuvenate, perhaps there is a way for you to have a change of scenery. Sometimes we just have to get creative to make it work.

Seneca, a Roman philosopher and advisor to the emperor Nero, once said:

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind”

It Could Make All the Difference Part II

Recently I was thinking about why we live where we do. We live in an older neighbourhood that is closer to the downtown of our city, than the suburbs. We love the older houses, the nearby trails, the close proximity to everything, and we love our home. But with our location comes more noise than the suburbs, more theft, and all the things that come with being closer to downtown. I have no desire to move, but don’t like the uneasy feeling I sometimes have, living where we do. I also know that God has always placed us in certain neighbourhoods for certain reasons and I don’t think it is any different this time. Yet, sometimes I still ask ‘why’? And sometimes God answers our questions in a unique way:

On Easter Sunday we had our Easter dinner in front of the T.V. watching The Chosen–a good weekend to binge watch season one before season two started. Following dinner, I suggested we walk the block to the convenient store for our first icecream of the year. Everyone was ‘in’, and off we went.

As we approached the convenient store, a young man came running towards us and abruptly stopped when he saw us and jumped to the side–surprised to see us. I noticed that he had his belongings in the low lying shrubbery beside the sidewalk. I didn’t think much of it. Olivia and I stayed outside of the store while Jason went in to get our icecream. Another young man–this time on a bicycle–approached the first young man and they had a conversation but I didn’t pay attention–they weren’t near us. Then a father and son approached the convenient store and asked us if we were okay. I was a little surprised and responded, saying that my husband was inside and we were just waiting for him. He inconspicuously motioned over to the two young men who were still having an exchange. I had suspected from the start, that there was something questionable going on, but I couldn’t really tell. We ignored them and chatted as we waited. The young man on the bike must have driven off, when suddenly he came from the opposite direction into the parking lot and from a distance said, I’m so sorry ma’am, I didn’t know there were kids around. I really didn’t. I was utterly confused, but smiled and said, ‘It’s okay. You hang in there, okay? He smiled, said he was sorry and we wished each other a good day.

Now, what confuses me is, why would someone who is in the middle of what I can only guess is an illegal exchange of some sort, come back to apologize to a mom in her 40s for his behaviour–none of which our 8 year old took any notice of. He was the kindest young man and my heart just broke for him. For him to acknowledge that his brokenness is not appropriate for an 8 year old to see, shows me that he is stuck in such a sad, sad cycle. Sure, he may have thought that if he was nice to me I wouldn’t report whatever they were doing, but even that doesn’t make sense. And then it hit me. God places us in the neighbourhoods we are in for a reason. Perhaps this little exchange between us was part of that. Perhaps that young man just needed to hear the words You hang in there. Maybe those words and our 30 second exchange were more than just a few words.

Maybe we are placed exactly where we are, not for some amazing newsworthy reason. Maybe God has us living where we are for these chance encounters that last but a few minutes, because sometimes those few seconds or minutes may make all the difference.

It Could Make All the Difference

As I write this, it’s been exactly a year since the pandemic began and one thing that I have thought about a lot this past year, is how we reach out to one another. How we care for one another. How we step out of our comfort zone and listen to those quiet nudgings. In the past I often felt that when someone was going through a difficult time and I didn’t ‘know them well’, someone else–someone closer to them would reach out and do something nice for them–bring them a coffee, a meal, flowers, sit with them, or send them a card. I made an assumption that I am finding, is often a false assumption.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, many years ago, many people in my friend and family circle reached out and I was so grateful, yet the person I remember the most in how they reached out was someone I didn’t expect it from. It was the Dean of Education at the University I went to. She reached out and checked on me, she sent an elaborate bouquet of roses following surgery, and ensured that I was able to finish my year of schooling by giving me four months of extension on all of my assignments. She didn’t truly know me. I was one of hundreds of students in her faculty and we didn’t have any sort of relationship, yet her kindness meant the world to me.

Decades later when our son passed away unexpectedly, it was the unexpected kindnesses that have stuck with me. The ladies who packed up our home and cleaned it so we didn’t have to go back there; the family whom we didn’t know, who didn’t have time to make us a meal, but felt the Holy Spirit’s nudging to reach out, so they had pizza delivered to us for dinner one day. The car dealership who had just bought a house that was to be torn down to make room for more cars–who allowed us to move in (rent free) while we looked for a house to buy–so we didn’t have to return to the house where Mikail died. The children’s ministry pastor who came to visit and was willing to sit in the awkwardness of grief and emotions and silence with us. The dozens and dozens of cards that were sent from strangers all of North America just to let us know we were in their thoughts. None of these people needed to or were expected to do these things, but they listened to the nudging and acted on it.

These unexpected moments of kindness from people we didn’t know well or didn’t know at all, were everything. They still are, when they happen. They taught me to listen to the nudging within when someone comes to mind. It is easy to reach out to those we know–our family and our friends, but do we reach out when it’s someone we don’t know or don’t know well? Do we make an assumption that ‘someone else’ will step up? To reach out when a need is made known for a person I don’t know well, doesn’t come naturally, but from experience, I know that it can make all the difference. Yes, it can be weird and awkward, but it could mean the world to the person on the receiving end.

Has someone come to mind for you? Has a need been made known? Have you acted on it? It could make all the world of difference. I would love to hear about it.