Art Gallery and Blog

Monday, April 30, 2012

Passing Through

As Andrew, Gaelle, Jordan and I crossed from the US into Canada this morning, sleepy as we all were, there was such a collective sigh of there's-no-place-like home, and then, once again, crossing from NB into NS, the mood in the car was positively giddy! We even arrived over an hour ahead of plan, even after taking "a wrong toin at AL-B-QUOIKY" and ending up touring downtown Boston, enjoying the site of centuries old Cambridge, at, like 2 am. We were all glad to get here and share a meal with our loved ones before we will hit the ground running tomorrow morning for Guayaquil. It came upon us so quickly, that Andrew and I are both pretty sure the time will fly by and we'll be home again soon, kissing the ground and cherishing the feel of our own sweet bed.

Our bed is not a place we can sleep in right now, though. It's strewn with stuff from Ohio needing to be put away and stuff for Ecuador, needing to somehow fit into our allotted suitcases. People were so generous with clothing and goodies and bags and hats that we're not sure there'll be room for those awesome, new steel-toed boots. We're thinking of just wearing them on the plane. They'll be broken in, alright.

Anyway, there's little time for reflection, and less time for writing deep things, so I shall go spend this last hour with my boys, finish packing up and preparing a few meals, pick up Jess from work, and, once the bed is cleared of yesterday, today and tomorrow, I shall sleep the sleep of one who has traveled far and yet still has so far to go. Same old same old.

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 3:13-14

Sunday, April 29, 2012


We topped off the first night of our spring leadership training with pizza (and birthday cake for Misty) in Marlene's room. It was Friday night... well, actually it was Saturday morning after 1am local time, 2am our time, we were all a good 20+ hour drive away from our homes, we'd been crying and laughing and learning with tens of thousands of our peers for 6 hours, we were tired and excited and vulnerable and giddy. It was the BEST!

Phil asked us each to share what we were excited for the most about the direction LIFE was headed, and then to talk a bit about the person to our right, what we liked or admired most about them. The answers around the room were full of hope and joy and enthusiasm, and there was growth and maturity reflected in each response. And the genuine praise and admiration for each person in that room was expressed so eloquently, with so much love and transparency. Looking around at the faces of these people I've grown to love like family, I was so proud to be there with them, so honoured to know each one. As they spoke I found myself both listening carefully and praying for them, for their families, for their circumstances, for their futures. That hour was probably my favourite hour during the whole conference, but not like a cookie after a decent meal, but more like the caramel sauce drizzled carefully into a design atop an elegant dessert after a sumptuous meal aboard a cruise ship filled with your closest friends headed somewhere warm on a month long vacation paid for by someone else.

Yeah. It was pretty much like that.

When I first met Claude, who eventually led me to the rest of this room full of wonderful friends, I was so afraid of what he was offering, of what he was bringing into my life. I was beginning to take myself seriously as an artist and writer and I was ramping up to start my career now that my children were all about to be in school. When Claude sat at our table that night I had absolutely no time for him and let him know that I didn't want his little idea to get in my way; to distract me from becoming a rich and famous artist and writer.

Well it DID distract me.

It distracted me into learning to love my husband again; into being a better mom; into learning to be honest and transparent; into caring more about being good than looking good. I was distracted into returning to being a Christ-follower, and into leading my family to follow Him as well. It distracted me into becoming the woman I always wanted to be but just pretended to be. Into living the life I'd always wanted.

I've painted more, written more, spoken more, made more friends, made more of a difference since meeting Claude and Lana than I would have thought possible. I love my husband dearly and he knows it. And Andrew and the children love the Lord and have given their lives to Him.

And I'm so excited that what Claude brought to us that evening has evolved from a weird, uncomfortable little business into a brand new industry where I'll never have to distract someone from their purpose or path again. Now, what I do with LIFE is to offer people information that can compliment, augment and improve their lives, wherever they're looking for growth, doing whatever they're called to do. I was terrible at selling makeup, soap, pots and pans and juice. It's just not my calling. I was a terrible banker. I was a terrible beauty consultant. I was a terrible parts and service clerk, a terrible merchandiser, a terrible barrista. I was sweet and bright and kind through it all. But none of those career paths had anything to do with my calling.

But helping people figure out what they're here for? Pointing them to information that will change and enrich their lives the way it has mine? Helping them live the lives they always wanted? Oh, baby, now THAT'S something I can do. And I can do it while I grow my own character and follow my own gifts and talents to live out my unique mission. While I'm painting and writing and singing and leaving a legacy.

I'll be sharing more of what I learned this weekend at another time, because it profoundly affects my life from this time forward, but right now all I can think of is the blessing about to come. After church today, there'll be another dessert of the last bits of leadership training and then Andrew, Gaelle, Jordan and I will hop in the car and drive the 22 hours home, finish up the last few details, grab an awesome supper tomorrow night with the whole family, get a good sleep and then we'll head for the airport for our flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

I don't want anyone to think we're going over to save the Ecuadorians. They don't need 12 Canadians to come rescue them from their lives. They're already building these houses for those who need them. They're already filling countless backpacks so marginalized kids can go to school. The church we'll be visiting has a bigger weekly attendance than  our own.

Originally I did think some of those things and I'm pretty sure I was proud and patting myself on the back for going.  But after learning from Carito and Adam and Pastor Les, after much study and prayer and training, I know now that I'm going there to be with part of my family. To visit my brothers and sisters. To serve where I can. To listen carefully to what they tell me. To watch and learn. To see another reflection of the face of God, mirrored in the faces of the people I'll meet. To hear His voice in their voices, His songs in their songs, His love in their eyes and arms and hands.

And probably to learn something very much like what Jill said last night, that I must stop thinking the grass is greener on the other side and start watering the grass around me. I have brothers and sisters here at home who need me to listen carefully to their voices, to serve their needs, to just be with them. Mother Theresa told Shane Clairborne to find his Calcutta, so he headed back home to serve his people.

I don't know what I'll learn. But I'm ready to learn it. I'm ready to get distracted.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."~Romans 12:2

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The List

Last week, my beautiful friends Donna and Terry approached me about not only donating financially to our trip to Ecuador, but also expressed their earnest desire to provide us with school supplies for the awesome backpack program they have there. With joy I told them about the post I'd either seen on Julia's facebook, or that perhaps she'd sent by email, detailing the comprehensive list of the most difficult to find and expensive school supplies. They were so pleased and asked me to forward it to them as soon as possible so they could get the supplies ready.

I looked in my email inbox. Then I checked Andrew's inbox. Then I combed through the folders in both our accounts before I remembered I'd seen a picture of Julie in whatever the correspondence had been, so, therefore, it must have been her facebook page. I searched through all the Julia's I "know". Then I looked at the friends of several of my friends from church who might know her too.

Nothin'. Nada.

I let Terry and Donna know the next time I saw them that I was having trouble finding the list, but that I'd be sure to check with Julia at our next meeting.

This is what I humbly had to send to Terry and Donna after meeting with Julie and after asking everyone else on the Ecuador team about the elusive list:

"Don't laugh too hard. The reason I can't find the list of preferred school supplies for the backpack project in Ecuador is because it doesn't exist. I dreamed it. I can still clearly see Julia's facebook page with her picture and the message, but Julia doesn't even have a facebook account. The weirdest part was that Elsa and I both must have either dreamed the same or very similar dreams, because we both remember seeing it. Or something like it. Or Elsa is just extremely kind, and didn't want me to feel TOO dumb.

 I searched our emails and my facebook, inputting Julia's name and every variation of it I could imagine, but there was no list, so I brought it up at our meeting Tuesday night. And that's when it came out that not only did Julia not know about a list, nor had she sent any messages about one, but she didn't even have facebook."

After the funny looks, there was some laughter, then some final questions and instructions, and then we looked at each other, excitement on our faces and love in our hearts.

As we stood around all the donated backpacks and water bottles and hats and clothing, holding hands and praying, I could feel the sunshine just pouring in through the windows, bathing my face in warmth and light, like being hugged by God, and I felt honoured and overjoyed at the prospect of GOING, after this recent time of TRUSTING and GROWING. I mentioned it to Andrew as we were getting ready for bed and he laughed and said, no that he hadn't felt the sun's warmth and light because it was overcast. And it was. I remember that the sky was very grey. But not where I was standing. God is so good to know that sometimes I need a hug to know I'm loved.

So, there's no list. And although I can't deliver school supplies, the prayers already offered by so many will deliver love and service exponentially multiplied by God's best for His own. Connections will be made, lives changed, houses built, children loved. And all our lives will never be the same.

"Therefore, my dear brothers stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord. Because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58

Friday, April 27, 2012

Breaking in My Boots

Wednesday, I broke in my steel-toed, puncture proof, construction site approved boots.

The trip to Guayaquil, Ecuador will involve building 6 houses in 8 days, and I want to be ready. Fit, strong, and wearing boots that don't give me blisters.

So, after work, I decided to walk to my daughter Gaelle's work to meet her. We were leaving directly from there to embark on the 24 hour drive to Columbus, Ohio, where I sit now, well-rested, belly full of all-you-can-eat breakfast, and ready to start this adventure. So I put on my new breathable work socks and my beautiful new boots. Not esthetically beautiful, you understand. But beautiful nonetheless for what they represent. I leaned over and kissed Bob on the forehead and said I'd be back to see him in a few weeks and to be nice to Gillian and Kasandra while I was gone. Then I did one more safety check around the house, put on my backpack and headed out the door.

I usually walk on this beautiful path through the woods from Halifax to Bayers Lake Industrial park. It's picturesque. It's quiet. It's FLAT.

But not today, my dears. No, no, no. I was in training. So I headed out on the route that would take me through Fairview, along the new Washmill Lake Rd route that goes directly to the middle of the Park where Gaelle works. Google said it was the same distance. Perfect.

It probably was the same distance. But it was NOT flat. My ankles and shins were sore as I turned the corner from Romans onto Bayers, about 3 minutes into my journey. Then I felt the blister forming on my right heel and the tops of the beautiful new boots rubbing persistently against the backs of the bottoms of my calves, as I started up Sunnybrae. And I mean up. And it just kept going up. And up.

About 50 minutes into my uphill climb I texted Andrew, "HELP. It just keeps going up!"

But what a feeling, a few minutes later as I reached the summit of Mount Fairview. Betcha didn't know we have a mountain in Halifax, eh? Well we do. I have summitted it.

In steel-toed, puncture-proof, construction-site approved boots.

I have band-aids on each heel, but no other injuries to report. I broke in those boots. They did not break me.

Oh and the loveliest things happened on that walk. I had the time to pray for the people of my city, for the people of Guayaquil, Ecuador, for the leadership conference in Ohio, for my family at home. I got to sing a little as I summitted..."I feel the winds of God today, today my sails I'll lift..." And I met the most awesome kid. He was shooting orange pucks at a net and the first one I knew about went flying in front of me, across the street and down someone's driveway under their car. So when the inquiring face came out from behind the net, I was able to point the way to the stray puck.

"Thanks! There's pucks everywhere around here. You from around here?"

"No, I live in Timberlea. Just out for a walk to break in my new boots. But I used to live around here. Convoy. When I was your age...14?"

"Yeah, 14! Woah. Cool. I better start gettin' some of these in the net!"

"You will. Keep shootin'. Shoot for the NHL, man!"

"I will, thanks! Have a good one!"

"You too, my friend."

Sure I passed other teens during that walk. One of them grunted in response to my Hey, and one of them dropped an F bomb. Not at me. He was just talking to his pals in the vernacular of his peers. But he gave me an almost apologetic look as he said it and I smiled at him. He spit casually on the sidewalk as they passed me.

But that 14 year old left a mark. It was good.

So I'm packed, our itinerary is all laid out, my boots are broken in. I'm in Ohio ready for a weekend of the best leadership training on the planet with my awesome husband, my bright light of a daughter and her inspiring, strong fiance.  And I feel the hand of God today on all of it.

Time to go shoot some pucks at the net. I'll miss some, but I'll keep shooting.

"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
 Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." ~Proverbs 24:3-4