Let’s Make It Our Business

This morning I read a beautiful story of a person who responded to a call in the airport for a distraught woman who could not speak English. The airline asked for someone to come who spoke this language and she made it her business to come. When the crying woman heard her native language spoke, she calmed immediately and realized she had not missed her flight and visible relief transformed her countenance. To add to the sweet story, the rescuer phoned her sons and gave the phone to the mom for them to confirm they would be on the other end to pick her up. When the panic was subsided, the elderly woman pulled a sack of homemade donuts out of her bag and began to share them with all the women around her. Not one declined. A little girl came to hold her hand and a community was built. It was then that a small, fuzzy green plant was noticed in her bag. It was tradition to bring a potted plant to symbolize being rooted wherever you are in the world. This story struck home with me.

How often do we see a situation where there is distress? The first thought can tend to be, “it’s none of my business”. Why isn’t it our business? I know I can certainly make it “my business” when someone gets up in my grill and I want to let them know about it. How about less of that and more of this. We are human beings with the purpose to care for one another as we love Jesus in wholeness. One afternoon, Kevin and I were driving home from the grocery store many years ago, before we had children. It was pouring rain and there was an elderly woman pushing a cart with a couple of grocery bags up a hill. We stopped to ask if we could give her a ride. It was evident she wanted a ride yet fear of strangers overtook her. I managed to convince her that we were safe and we loaded her groceries into our car and drove her to her house. Kevin loaded her groceries onto her porch and we bid our goodbyes. He would have taken them in to put them away for her too but her comfort level had already been stretched. We “made it our business”.

This has become a reflex now. Yes, sometimes there is a refusal of the help offered but even then I think there is a small restoration in the heart of a person when the offer is there. Something in the faith of the goodness of humanity is restored when we “make it our business” and reach out to care for each other. This week, I felt helpless to care for our daughter all the way in Toronto. She has no vehicle and needed a table/chairs and a place to put her clothes. I reached out to someone I only know in name and is a sister of a dear friend of ours. She responded with such grace and kindness, willing to help. It brought me to tears of thankfulness. She “made it her business” and it blessed my heart. We have the privilege of being a “home away from home” for a few university students because we “made it our business”. Next time we see a person struggling, step over that feeling of awkwardness and offer assistance. This is the kind of world I want to live in – where people care for one another as we would want to be cared for. This is love.

Playful Powerhouse

I miss you.

My beautiful friend

If I were to describe my friend Diane, it would be “playful powerhouse”. She was a force and an enigma. If you knew her, you knew you were blessed. When I met Diane, I was a young woman of 22. I was engaged to be married to Kevin, whom Diane was quite fond.  It was a little nerve-wracking to meet this woman. I desperately wanted to make a good impression. She was a very elegant, well-dressed woman and I made assumptions of what she would be like. I was wrong. While her exterior shouted elegant and professional, her spirit was adventurous and playful. There was always a twinkle in her eye, especially before a silly prank. These pranks usually involved a huge amount of generosity.  Upon hearing that Diane had died peacefully in her sleep and was now in the arms of Jesus, part of me rejoiced with her and yet the lack of her presence here will be a chasm of loss and pain. She reached into the hearts of so many and gave of herself with abandon.

For our family, she was Auntie Diane who dropped pockets of delicious whimsy on special occasions. When we were expecting our first child, we were invited to the Rogers for supper. The table was set for five with a tiny little juice glass and gifts piled on the fifth setting. She beautifully acknowledged the arrival of our firstborn with such a playful spirit. When the pregnancy became difficult and I had pre-eclampsia which caused swelling, she would offer Bill to soak my feet in their foot bath, followed by a foot massage. As a couple, they loved on others in the humblest of ways. Washing my feet and so many others as they gave and cared for the people in their midst.

So many fond memories of waking on Easter morning to find surprises in the yard. When had she come? We had no clue – she was stealth!  One year, we came home from an event to find the Easter Bunny had traipsed through our yard and there were visible footprints heading up our steps (candy, of course). The kids went from 0-90 in a heartbeat. Chaos ensued as they hunted for what the Easter Bunny may have left behind for them. To their delight, there were baskets and baskets of candy. They remember it still. This speaks to her heart for others, her joy to bring delight to others and her generosity.  Tears roll down my face as I write this. She brightened our world on so many occasions. 

This spunky heart of Diane’s showed when we were out for a Sunday drive. We had toddlers and infant in tow as we had dropped off our two eldest at Ness Lake Bible Camp for an overnight stay. Driving the back roads of Cranbrook Hill, I hear Bill shout, “I wonder what’s down here”? With that question also came a swift jerking motion to the left as he followed an off-road trail with his 4×4. Shocked, I looked at Diane, as if to way, “what the bleep”? She shrugged and shook her head as if to say, “It’s Bill”. As we bumped along the trail we were forging, we came across a small lake. Bill had the good sense to recognize he would not make it through, so he started to back up. Diane teased him, “I could do this”.  Silence. Gear shift and gas on full, we headed through the watery terrain only to get stuck. Diane then remarked, “but I wouldn’t”. Oh gosh, we laughed while the boys got out to try to winch the truck, knee deep in muck in their Sunday best. I didn’t have my camera.  I do however, have those memories tucked deep in my heart of hearts.

When one of our kids turned double digits, she still did not own a pair of flare leg jeans. Diane invited her on shopping trip to select a pair. Since I knew the generosity of Diane, I made her promise to keep the shopping trip to ONE thing. She solemnly promised she would stick to ONE thing.  I was suspicious but I was certain I had secured a promise. On their return, they both got out of the vehicle with smirks on their faces. They had bags, not one bag.  I said to Diane, “you promised only one thing”. Her perky reply with a twinkle in her eye, “It IS only one thing: ONE outfit”. How could I deny that she got me? Those two chuckled away at their mischievousness.  

Her heart to engage with her loved ones was always evident in the way the conversation flowed. Many visits found one of the kids hunkered at the table with her, chatting about the state of the world and how the Lord would prevail. When they came to visit, each kid swapped out plans so they could be around for the shenanigans and conversation. She imparted wisdom to each one of us.

There are so many precious memories of this woman who invested her life into her community. She was involved in a professional sense in her community, and she spent herself on others.  It was a beautiful combination of skill, talent, and heart. She did this for the glory of her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Diane exuded confidence in the Lord. She was resolute in her faith and spent countless hours studying the Bible and seeking to understand. She was solid ground. I truly believe that when she slipped into her eternal reward, these words were whispered to her from Matthew 25:23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Heart Trickles

The smooth black handset is brought to my waiting ears to hear my parents belt out, “Happy Birthday to you…. Happy Birthday to you……. Happy Birthday dear Jacqueleeeen…. Happy Birthday to you!” With a smile and a head shake, I allow each note to trickle down into my heart. Off-key, out of tune and completely beautiful; their song to me. I miss them. Today my heart felt that loss as I revelled in that memory. On September 1, I turned 57.

Kevin and I are off to aqua therapy, and we are riding in transit with a wonderful driver who cares for all who enter his bus. He is an eccentric, kind soul; we have struck up a friendship. He reads out the pick-up list and lets us know that we are picking up the lady we picked up last week; a tiny, frail, sweet lady with some learning disabilities. He adds that she is a singer. She makes her way up the bus stairs and boards the bus. We make eye contact, and she greets me with a conversation about Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners. We chat for a bit and then she asks me if I remember that show from 1966. I say that I was only two years old. She does the math and says, “you are 57 years old”. I reply that I am, indeed, this very day! She is delighted and wishes me a Happy Birthday.

Teasingly, I told her that I heard she was a singer, and I would love a birthday song. Without a heartbeat in-between, she started thumping on her purse/banjo and belted out a few beauties with “Happy Birthday Jacqueline” sprinkled throughout. As she sung, each note trickled down into my heart. I am once again reminded of the beautiful faithfulness of God as we seek to see Him at work in our day-to-day life. Don’t miss out. Ask to see His hand move throughout your life during the day.  Watch for those winks from Heaven that let you know that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Today, He wished me a Happy Birthday through a lovely soul who unabashedly belted out a blessing. 

That evening, there was icing on that cake of care. The sweetest messages of birthday greetings on my FB page and to top it off – another song gets texted to me from a dear friend and his lovely family. Another trickle into my heart. Off-key, out of tune and completely beautiful; their song to me.

He is worthy.

They Finally Heard

Imagine a world where the echoes of your pain and suffering boomeranged back to your wounded soul. Your voice silenced. In the light of truth and reconciliation thoughts, I recall sitting in a room filled with “nohkum”, the grandmothers. Our hands thread the beads onto the slender needle as it wove its way onto the vamp of the “mukluk”, long boot-like moccasins. The design of the hummingbird started to take shape. The hummingbird has significance to the Indigenous people as a “messenger of joy”. My mom was a hummingbird. She is now more alive than ever before, with Jesus. A happy cackle wafts to my ears and I look up with a smile; my mom’s laugh. Before me was a woman about my mom’s age, joy spilling out of her. With a glance, I notice she wears a pin that says, “Residential School Survivor”. I am instantly appalled at the trite, cheap trinket which symbolized an apology for all she had endured. She noticed my glance and proudly displayed it for me to see. Conspiratorially, she drew me down to her little frame and leaned in. She showed me her pin and from the depths of her heart, she whispered, “they finally heard”. The room stopped for a moment. What I had considered a cheap gesture, this “nohkum” felt heard. The stifled unheard pain had an outlet. This is what is needed, we need to listen.

Weeks later, at a luncheon (with me at the table) a guest stated “I don’t know why “they” think bringing back “their” culture will help now, it never helped “them” back then”. This was in reference to her having to endure a three minute Indigenous drumming ceremony at the start of a function. I turned to the voice and politely yet directly asked, “As an indigenous woman, I would love to hear what you mean by that comment”. I will spare you the exchange because it is highly indicative of a person who does not consider other cultures valuable. At the end of our short exchange, she sputtered, “what would you suggest? Do you have the answers?” I replied that I do not have the answers but I do know one thing. Conversations need to be started and they need to be embedded in respect. That doesn’t happen when cultures are mocked and disregarded. In her defence, she did mention that she went to the streets to give out sandwiches to “your” people. I wanted to tell her that Uncle Bob says to say thank you, but I withheld. I stood there with nothing more to add. Sometimes conversations are to be had and sometimes it is better to just be silent. This time, I chose the latter. She had answers and defence; no questions.

In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, instead of having answers, let’s have loads of questions – let people be heard. This is a start.

MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS

This morning I read a beautiful story of a person who responded to a call in the airport for a distraught woman who could not speak English. The airline asked for someone to come who spoke this language and she made it her business to come. When the crying woman heard her native language spoke, visible relief transformed her countenance when she realized she had not missed her flight. She had major surgery scheduled for the next day. We can tend to say, “it’s none of my business” when we see a situation. Thankfully, the rescuer “made it her business”. To add to the sweet story, the rescuer gave her phone to the woman to phone her family to confirm they would be on the other end to pick her up. When the panic was subsided, the elderly woman pulled a sack of homemade donuts out of her bag and began to share them with all the women around her. Not one declined. A little girl came to hold her hand and a community was built. This circle of community was born with a simple act of “making it her business” to come and help a fellow human being in need. I am smiling, are you?

How often do we see a situation where there is distress? The first thought can tend to be, “it’s none of my business”. Why isn’t it our business? I know I can certainly make it “my business” when someone gets up in my grill and I want to let them know about it. How about less of that and more of this. We are human beings with the purpose to care for one another as we love Jesus in wholeness. One afternoon, Kevin and I were driving home from the grocery store many years ago, before we had children. It was pouring rain and there was an elderly woman pushing a cart with a couple of grocery bags up a hill. We stopped to ask if we could give her a ride. It was evident she wanted a ride, yet the fear of strangers overtook her. I managed to convince her that we were safe, and we loaded her groceries into our car and drove her to her house. Kevin loaded her groceries onto her porch, and we bid our goodbyes. He would have taken them in to put them away for her too, but her comfort level had already been stretched. While sad that she felt this fear, we were glad to be able to help her to this measure. We “made it our business”.

This has become a reflex. Yes, sometimes there is a refusal of the help offered but even then, I think there is a small restoration in the heart of a person when the offer is there. Something in the faith of the goodness of humanity is restored when we “make it our business” and reach out to care for each other. This week, I felt helpless to care for our daughter all the way in Toronto. She has no vehicle and needs a table/chairs and a place to put her clothes. I reached out to someone I only know in name and is a sister of a dear friend of ours. She responded with such grace and kindness, willing to help. It brought me to tears of thankfulness. She “made it her business” and it blessed my heart. Here, we have the privilege of being a “home away from home” for a few university students because we “made it our business” for students who are missing their home and not feeling connected. I cannot even count how many times someone has “made it their business” to come alongside our family in the last two years after Kevin’s stroke Next time we see a person struggling, step over that barricade of awkwardness to get to a place where help is extended. This is the kind of world I want to live in – where we care for one another as we would want to be cared for. Now let’s imagine our place in it. There is always room for generosity; for that posture of hospitality which welcomes those around us. We welcome them to our heart, and we create a space in our lives for others. The kind of world I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren is one where people look hard into the eyes of the other and see the very face of God. We are made in His image and He is love – let’s show the world the beauty of that Love.

Decisions

Anxiety mounts. Faced with yet another decision and I am unsure which direction to take. Riddled with the obscene amount of choices, I sort through the dollar store bin of glossy nails, trying to find the colour that I will settle one. When I left last time, I chose a bubble gum pink by accident or by haste. I regretted the decision immediately. This time, I was resolute to NOT choose bubble gum pink or any version of red. I was searching for the perfect muted raspberry. With the bin balanced on one knee, I recklessly careen through the colors, trying to find that perfect one. I find it!!! My anxiety lets itself out and I lean back in the chair content. I am questioned for the color and I hand the palette to the nail specialist. “Oh no” she says, “this is for acrylics. Choose again”. Anxiety must not have gotten too far down the street because she was back in wreaking havoc within seconds! Now haste has entered the scene and is beckoning the bad decision mongrel to rear its ugly head and he did not disappoint. By the time I left that salon, I did not choose bubble gum pink. I hastily chose bubble gum pink with SPARKLES. Good grief. What happens to my brain in crunch decisions???? Anyone else struggle with choosing that perfect shellac color??? Oh…and my toes are almost red (with sparkle) Please recall what I decided when I walked into the salon. No bubble gum pink and no red. Send help.

Kindness Kills Me

Over the years, I had built up a veneer of confidence that has slowly been chipped away. The veneer, that is…not the confidence. You see, the confidence was just a veneer. In the environment I had grown up in, you must be strong or you would be annihilated emotionally. I learned the “steely gaze” while I was still in middle school, only to melt into a puddle of tears as soon as I was out of ear/eye shot. Then I met Jesus. Without going into my entire story of how that transpired, I will say this one thing. He gently chipped that veneer away and replaced it with something so much more beautiful. Something beautiful, something good. All my confusion. He understood. All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife and He made something beautiful of my life. Oh, I was still broken but it was a brokenness that was being restored.

Fast forward a few years and I am married with a few children, five to be exact. There was a fascination I had with lights on in houses. I loved Thomas Kinkade prints of those charming houses that glowed from the inside. It was my heart’s cry to create a home like that for our family, so I read voraciously to try to be the best mom and wife I could be. We opened our doors and turned on our lights and tried to make our home a place of refuge for anyone who didn’t have a “place”. So often I felt displaced when I was a child and it was a mission to be invitational to those who needed to feel included. This was our home for so many years. This became our home; we opened the door of our heart and our home. Young adults, dinner clubs, friends dropping by, strangers needing a bed, kids friends hanging out around the island; this defined us.

Then the words hit my heart. “He’s down”. My husband suffered a catastrophic stroke from a hockey collision that tore his carotid artery. Our lives changed trajectory in a heartbeat. While he fought for his life, we fought to keep living. Dark days loomed with no lights in the windows. This deep tragedy caused my heart to curl up into a ball and seek refuge in the dark. I could barely breathe, let alone function. Friends who knew us well didn’t let this happen. Countless acts of kindness descended on us like a flood as our lives circled around caring for Kevin. Meals were brought to our home 3x a week, scripture texts popped up in my inbox, offers of financial help, words of salve that ministered to my heart, extraordinary prayer, waiting room visits, laughter that was so needed, practical helps….the list goes on. Every kindness killed me. The tears would flow when kindness cracked open my heart again. Every tear healed my heart a little bit more. This time, the vulnerability wove my friendships to an untearable strength. There was no need to hide anymore, Ironically, the weakness made me stronger. I rested in His strength, because mine was gone. I allowed the many tears of grief and feeling quite bereft and lost. This time, I would not be ripped apart when my tears gave way as in childhood. What WAS ripped apart was my significance and my understanding of who I was. I was the giver. I was the host. I was the strong one. I was the one who offered hope. I was none of these things anymore. I was needy, lost, weak and scared, just clinging to God’s word as a lifeline. The proverbial rug was ripped out from under me and I laid on the floor bewildered.

Leaving the hospital after a week long death watch over Kevin, I was feeling bankrupt of emotion – dull and overwhelmed. Looking up to the dark sky, I saw a picture of our friends who had gathered around us. They were crawling on their knees in prayer, our family was being carried by them. Others encircled us by holding hands. This gave me so much hope. We were not forgotten; by God or by our prayer warrior friends. Our life was in His hands. Trust and confidence in Him began a new journey to a foundation, not a veneer. While this is just the beginning of this new path, we are slowly gaining a rhythm. Every little kindness still kills me, the tears flow freely. At the mention of a kindness bestowed on anyone, my eyes leak! This is just who I am now – raw, real and ridiculous. This is our story. This is His story in our lives. It is hard yet it is filled with both tears and laughter. He is not done writing our story and so we join hands with our loving Father and the people He has placed in our lives, to walk it out for His glory.

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.

  • William W. Purkey

MUSTARD COLOURED MOMENTS

My mind is a Rolodex. Flipping from memory to memory, I relive those special sunshine moments as we walk through the darkest days of our married life.  I love laughter. It is one of my hobbies and I try to do it at least a few times a day, if not more. I am not good at a lot of things, but I am VERY good at laughing. Even when I return home from a night of grocery shopping when I was a young mom. The house was quiet and that meant that the baby was sleeping and I was eager to wash off the grime of the day and make my way there as well. I take out my contacts to render myself semi-blind. The water is turned on and I feel for the soap and lather it up in my hands and bring it to my face to scrub off the make-up. The soap is rinsed off my hands and I grope around for my facecloth that is bunched up in the corner of the bathroom counter. Bringing it to my face with my eyes squeezed tight, I begin to scrub the soap off. What is that smell? Why is it so sticky? What is going on? I am blind with soap in my eyes and cannot for the life of me figure out why I smell poop. I throw the facecloth down in the sink and yell out in confusion. From across the hall, I squint to see my husband rushing in to find out what the problem is, with a huge smile spreading across his face. Looking into the mirror, I see splotches of mustard colour on my face and in my hairline. Nothing makes sense but I can now see that I have spread baby poo all over my face. Hot water rinses and splashes, coupled with choked down sobs of laughter from the hallway, I emerge. Red scrubbed face, shocked eyes, and a very apologetic husband who cannot stop laughing. In a very tired night, he wiped the baby’s bottom with MY facecloth and then LEFT it all bunched up in the corner of the bathroom counter, forgetting to rinse it and throw it in the laundry. We laughed so hard while I literally had to PRETEND to be angry to amp up the “funny”. To this day, we can still bring that story up to find ourselves chuckling. Life can have its “hard” and thank the Lord for a Rolodex mind that recalls funny moments for us to escape. Today, in my daily talks with my husband who is in a rehabilitation facility on quarantine after a stroke that almost took his life, I will bring up this story to add to his repertoire of memories that he plays in his mind. These mustard coloured moments are ones that scatter themselves across the pages of our story. Sunshine moments. I find myself searching for the “yellow” in the canvas of my life even when the dark lines are being woven.

What Does Love Require Of Me?

Our community group is walking through a series called “Irresistible” and how we are called to care. This question “WHAT DOES LOVE REQUIRE OF ME” is one that needs to be asked in the every day situation.  When this question is the lens through which I choose my response, I am almost certain to be kinder, filled with more grace and eager to choose hospitality and hope. My mom was a person who gave of herself freely and so many of us were recipients of her generous heart.  I am grateful to her and on this day of Remembrance, I remember her as well.  She was not a soldier but she fought hard for her family and for goodness to prevail. I am so proud to be her daughter and so grateful for her constant outpouring of love to every one of her grand-kids and great grand-kids.  She was a remarkable woman in a quiet, yet sassy way.  Each one of the kids reflect her generous character in their own unique way and this is an example of how Zachary reflects his grandma’s giving, generous heart.  He definitely did what “love required of him” and I was the grateful recipient. Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

At a recent retreat, the question was poised, “what does LOVE look like in the everyday?” We were seated around a table and challenging one another to love more extravagantly and with intention. There were some really great examples of how we had moved in “love” and today I was the recipient of such love. Shopping today, I stupidly locked myself out of my car. In a panic, I called Kevin and could not reach him; he was in a presentation. The battery on my phone was at 3% when I tried Zachary Bay and he picked up. I blurted out, “I locked myself out of my car”. His response was love. He searched for the spare key, found it, and told me that he would come immediately. I didn’t ask him to come rescue me, he just did it willingly and without complaint or any scolding for doing something so stupid. From call to rescue, was about 20 minutes, when he arrived with key in hand with a smile on his face. Not only did he make sure I was rescued, he made sure I was in the car and with my own key before he drove away. I am truly blessed to be mom of this amazing guy and I feel it every day. This picture above is him with his grandma, my mom. She adored him (and showed him what laying oneself down for others looked like) and days before she passed away, we all stood over her, praying for and with her, weeping for the separation yet thankful for being able to meet again one day. THIS is what love looks like; putting others before oneself and doing it with joy. Thank you Zachary for doing this every day.
 
Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.