Archive for November, 2013

Creating my own history



I’m moving – yes, I’m moving yet again. I am hoping my nomadic stretch is coming to a close and that I can be really rooted in place and community for awhile. I have learned to call any place home – whether it is a place I stay for a night or a place I live in for a year or so. So once again my living space is filled with boxes. I really hate boxes. And I really hate moving. It will never cease to amaze me how every move I purge all the stuff I really don’t need only to discover that each move I carry more stuff over than the previous move. Admittedly, there are a few too many boxes of books.

My cat is really not thrilled with this whole moving thing. He was most displeased when I brought in numerous boxes and started backing up my library. He has tried to escape 4 times already today. Extra caution will be required whenever we leave the apartment as this will be his strongest ambition until either the boxes go or he escapes.

Once again, as I go through my stuff, I’m struck by the lack of history represented by my stuff. Very few items made it from my family’s home that held history in them – items that were mine, that were handed down to me, that had meaning. Items that were taken out of my room and items that perhaps were accidentally missed. It’s only stuff on one hand – but these tell a story, a story of my history. There are very few pictures that were sent with me. I have memories – and no one can take these away from me – but every now and then I wish I had a tangible reminder of where I come from.

Almost everything in my life in Toronto is new. There are a few people who knew me when I lived at home and I treasure these relationships. They can picture the home that I once called home. They can picture the people in my story. They know my history in some way. Everyone else learns it through story – through the telling of who I am from my lens and perspective.

In one of my psychology courses a few years ago, we learned of a man who had some stroke or serious condition that rendered his memory obsolete. He didn’t recognize his wife, his children, his home. Each day his wife patiently had to remind him that she was not some strange person. This person believed that he had fallen asleep and woken up that day for the first time in a long time. Each day. He had no recollection of the previous day. He didn’t recognize his handwriting accounting the day before. He believed that he had woken up from a long slumber and with no idea what happened to bring him to this place.

Sometimes I feel like my life is like that. Suddenly, on April 28, 2005, I found myself in Toronto with a drastically new way of life. Instead of with family, I was with friends until I found my own place. I was learning my way around a new city when I could ride the streets of my hometown on my bike with my eyes closed. The rules of engaging with my family had changed. I have never experienced such hateful words from anyone except those who once claimed they loved me. Sometimes I shake my head and wonder how anyone could be so unkind – and then it boggles me to no end when I am reminded that this ‘anyone’ is actually family members. In some ways, the family I thought I knew seems so foreign to me, so completely different from the family I have come to know that I have trouble connecting my life in Toronto with my life before.

Well, today I had a brilliant idea. Seems like connecting through material items with my past and kin is going to be pretty impossible. But it’s not impossible to create a new history with the people who form my family in Toronto (and beyond). I may not be able to have items that ground me in my childhood and teenage years – and years before I was born. But I can find and acquire items that speak to the formative years of being on my own, discovering who I am in Christ, friendships, university and ministry experiences.

So… my plan. I gave away much of my stuff in previous moves, including a lot of my kitchen ware and dishes. So I’ve asked friends and family for random dishes – I don’t want whole sets, but that random plate or bowl that doesn’t match anything, or the one glass that is left over from what used to be a set of 8. I’m collecting random plates, bowls, cups, mugs, and cutlery. Any colour, any size, any pattern. And I am going to write where they came from so that I have a story about people who give them to me, memories to tell and a history to each piece of my kitchen.

Faith Perspectives on Children’s Rights (Article)


An Article that I wrote for the Centre of Excellence in Christian Education after attending an interesting workshop.

From Rocks to Mountains

November 17, 2013 1 comment


Well, it’s been a rocky fall. Many challenges, many unexpected twists and turns, many new realizations, many unanswered questions.

I have to admit, at points this fall, the rocks seemed not only unnecessary but completely pointless. And yet, the path forward meant climbing them. One by one. With no sense of direction or understanding of what was going on.

And then, there was a moment last week when someone asked me how things are and I surprised myself with my own response — “It’s been rocky, but I’m now starting to see the mountains. And they are beautiful.”

I think that’s an apt description of how things are right now. I love mountains – they are majestic and beautiful, breathtaking and amazing. This summer I spent over 24 hours traveling through the Rocky Mountains by train and it was the most amazing experience ever. I lost myself in time with a constantly stunning program of beauty out of my window. One of the amazing things about traveling in the mountains was just realizing in a new way how big the mountains are – we would travel for a long time with practically the same view.

Instead of becoming wearisome, the view was beautiful the whole way. The longer I stared at the same mountain, the more aspects of it that I saw. I took a gazillion pictures and each one is slightly different, capturing something that the previous one didn’t. There wasn’t a yearning to be past the mountains either – I was never restless, never anxiously awaiting what would happen next. I just enjoyed the ride and view.

Mountains are rocky. Life is rocky. Without the rocks, there would not be mountains. And I would miss some of the beauty.

Let me share one of the mountains in my life that I am daily becoming more acquainted with. I unexpectedly was given an opportunity to move to a basement apartment within walking distance from church and many families and friends that I know . The details are quite perfect in so many ways. My only hesitation was finances – this apartment would increase my expenditures. After encouragement from those who know me well, I decided to go for it. God’s hand seemed to be all over it and God would provide – he always has, he always will. It is an opportunity to be rooted after years of nomadic existence and learning to call and make any place “home.” It’s an opportunity to have some external stability in my life.

Within days, I have had offers of freelance work, a piano student, some babysitting gigs including one that could be full time for the time I need. In fact, the opportunities keep coming to the point I am turning some down. There have been dry seasons in my life when I’ve been laid off and struggled to find work – this is not one of them.

There have been intense times of learning too. I have been reading Walter Brueggemenn’s The Land which is a really wonderful book tracing the theme of ‘land’ (and specifically the promised land) throughout Scripture. Breuggemenn looks at the call of Abraham and how he was sent from his homeland to a land that he had not chosen. He was to Go – and follow God. He was to leave behind. And then the Israelites were rescued from Egypt only to wander for many years in the desert – Brueggemenn, like others, note that Egypt needed to be taken out of the Israelites.

Perhaps, as part of my call to go forth and follow God, I am called to leave all behind. Perhaps this rocky wilderness is in part God removing Egypt from me so that I am free to live in the promised land. Perhaps it is a time when I learn to depend completely on God for my daily manna, learning to be content with whatever I have. Maybe in a time that has too frequently felt like God is far, perhaps he is very close, refining as fire refines, constantly guiding and moulding me into who he is calling me to be.

These mountains aren’t easy. They are rocky.

But there is beauty.

Homemade Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing – Original Recipe


I love to shop at fruit markets and I happened to stop in one that sells a lot of local fruits and vegetables. They had spinach and strawberries on sale. The strawberries are not the ones shipped from the states, picked way too early and ripen on the commute. Rather, these were juicy, melt in your mouth, local strawberries just bursting with flavour and colour. Out of nowhere, I had a craving for creamy poppy seed dressing – strangely something that I’ve never previously enjoyed from the supermarket. So tonight I experimented in the kitchen to make what turned out to be a delightful dressing. As with all of my original recipes, quantities are far from exact – so add or subtract as you like (I made a large batch – but here is what I estimate would be good for a 4-serving salad.

In a food processor, blend until smooth:

3 TBSP Plain Yoghurt

1 1/2 TBSP White Balsamic Vinegar

1 1/2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar

1 TBSP Vegetable Oil

1 TBSP Honey

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt (normally I don’t add salt to recipes, but this was needed)

1-2 TBSP water (to create desired consistency)

1-2 TBSP poppy seeds.

Serve with spinach, strawberries and almond slices.


God Bless Toronto: The Piety of Rob Ford

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Melodies of the Heart


Tonight, I sat in the corner of a dimly lit room at a baby grand piano that is somewhat out of tune. It’s quiet, though there are people around. As I sat at the keys, I noted the curious facial expressions of people who were a little rough around the edges and having a tough day. People who I have heard complaining all day and fighting over who knows what. Angry, sad, hurting people.

Truth be told, I’ve been a little rough around the edges myself and been facing difficult times as I process the passing of my grandfather and another layer of grief with my family. There have been times when it is all-consuming and there have been times when I feel that I have nothing to contribute to the world beyond carbon dioxide at this very moment.

I am not sure what inspired me to play this evening. I fiddled around for few minutes, totally out of practice and cringing with every mistaken note. I soon gave up playing the great classical pieces in front of me for fear that Beethoven or Chopin would roll in their graves.

Instead, I just played…. from my heart. Not sure where this song came from, but it came and I couldn’t stop it. Emotion poured into my fingers on the piano – notes of sadness and sorrow, interspersed with melodies of hope and joy.

And soon the room filled. People smiled. People cried. My little ditty on the piano met people who I do not know very well at a deep level. They asked for more and bragged about being able to have front row seats at an unexpected concert.

I was asked whose song it was that I played – I sheepishly told them it was my own.

A few broken chords on an out-of-tune piano and a melody that shared my heart more than words could at this very moment. A melody of a grace-filled pain and beauty in the midst of difficult times. For a moment, I lost myself playing the piano – and for a moment, others were gathered into the song.

After they left, I was reminded of a book I read in second year university by Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning). Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who was in the concentration camps. He was stripped of everything – even his hair of his head was shaved. But one thing that could not be taken from him was who he was – and his care for others. He began to use his gifts of listening and helping people in the context of the horrible concentration camps. And as he did, he found meaning in his own suffering – through his suffering, he was in a position to help those around him. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it brings meaning into it.

As I played the piano, I was reminded of how even in my difficult days, I do have gifts to offer. Tonight, my little melody brought a smile to a few people who had not smiled much today. My little expression of emotion uplifted others and encouraged them to continue to seek beauty. In fact, one gentleman referred to the piece giving him a reminder that he needs to keep on, keeping on.

There was something beautiful in that moment. I was able to share the gift of music and an expression from my heart and my own woundedness with those around me. The moment doesn’t take away the wounds I have been facing – but it did serve as a deep reminder that there is meaning in suffering and that God can use me in the midst of difficult and painful stuff to bless others.

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