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2013: Year of Possibilities

This very time last year, I reflected on the year that was coming to a close and realized that it was indeed a year of transformation for me. This week, I was invited to the celtic community year end celebration in which we were asked to bring an object that signified something from 2013. I ended up not being able to go, but I have been thinking about what object I would bring. Initially, I shrugged – nothing too significant happened this year. I laugh as I write this as God has shown me how very wrong that statement was. There is probably no way to fully capture what 2013 has been for me in just a blogpost – but it has been a year of possibilities.

In January, I received hospitality from a very good friend who provided a place of refuge for me as our community house was rapidly breaking down. Once again, I have found myself in need of housing quickly and once again God has provided. My friend and I spent countless hours sharing stories and laughing, along with discovering our quirks. I look back on that community endeavour and thank God for the experience, but also graciously letting us out. I made decisions with my heart and not my head, and the community was likely never to be sustainable with the various needs and abilities to meet those needs. I learned a lot from that experience and actually, I wonder if God allows us to have an experience of an unstable community for our learning as this seems to be a common theme in much of what I have read.

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During this time, I discovered the necessity of a rhythm of prayer and the beauty of being held in liturgy. Morning prayer in the Celtic Daily Prayer begins with asking if I give my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength to God. There were many days when I could only say that I have a little of each to give to God and if he wanted what little I had, he could have it. Evening Prayer has an affirmation of faith that acknowledges who God is and his faithfulness, my inability to see his faithfulness and the commitment to believe anyways. Each day, these words spoke to me in many ways. I do not think I would have survived that time without a rhythm of prayer.

In January, a small gathering of people who have supported me with presence, practical help and/or prayer met in the chapel of my church at the time to mark the end of the gruelling court process and to pray for my family. It was a pretty significant event for me. I spent time preparing the liturgy and thinking about what I wanted this night to be about. Friends who weren’t able to make it helped write the prayers. Friends and family who were there were invited to take part in the liturgy. I preached a sermon that actually has been really important for me and my journey and has been further developed into a paper that is the culmination of much thinking and research!

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Shortly after the appeal was closed, I had a deep sense of hearing God say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant’. Followed by “You are now ready.” I knew what that meant. When I felt called to be a priest at 17, the very relevant question that I faced was would I follow God if it meant losing my family. Of course, at 17, I didn’t really have a clue what that would mean or the hardship I would face. But I did know that God was saying now – after losing my family but not my faith – I am ready to pursue this path. I applied to Wycliffe to do my Masters of Divinity and doors have been opening in amazing ways ever since! I was accepted about 10 minutes after my interview and I know without a doubt that I am on the path I am supposed to be. Not sure where the path will lead me. Priesthood is a possibility. But I am open to where God is leading and a clear picture has not emerged yet.

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Meanwhile, leading Sunday School was getting more discouraging – I too frequently was a well-paid usher as children rarely came. I began projects to try to engage with the neighbouring community with very little success. After a lot of prayer and thought, I decided to work towards a 9 week youth mentorship program that would include three weeks of day camp and a retreat. I drew upon a lot of experiences in my life, drank a lot of coffee and prayed a lot. In many ways, I was prepared and well connected to start this. In many ways, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or what the heck I was getting into. I began fundraing, webdesigning, connecting with the neighbourhood organizations, approaching strangers and telling them what was happening. I applied for grants and sought out prayer support. I had so many wonderful people behind this initiative and ready to share their expertise and encouragement. There was a lot of work to do.

In May, I decided to go out west for a couple of weeks to visit some close friends and then some families. I knew that this break was essential for sustainability. But – there was so much work to do, how on earth could I take two weeks vacation? I can’t say that I went the whole 2 weeks without working. But I was amazed at how God solved problems without me. It’s easy to think that everything rests on me. It doesn’t.

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This was the first vacation that I planned and my first time really traveling alone. I hung out with a family that I lived with in community and it was so very good to see them. I still miss them and think about them every day and have often thought of moving to Victoria. Many lovely conversations, laughter, hanging out. Sad to leave them. The world needs more people like this family. I then travelled on to Vancouver to see some relatives. I discovered that fish are actually incredibly fascinating as we went to the Vancouver Aquarium.

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After an amazing dinner, I set for Edmonton on the Via Train – a trip that I have ALWAYS wanted to take. How amazing to be in the mountains, without capacity for email or human contact beyond the neighbouring passengers. We stopped for a couple of hours in Jasper, which was quite an incredible experience for me. I’ve never been anywhere really by myself. I’ve been to Jasper enough to know the few streets so it was hard to get lost! But I remember standing in total freedom realizing that I was an adult. Somehow, being able to check of “have travelled alone” added to my being an adult.

We’re only at May? Whew!

Came back and took two really important courses on youth ministry and group facilitation which continued to add a perspective to the youth mentorship program. As the weeks went by, I tried to remain confident that we would get youth or kids, but with an unchanging registration list I had my doubts. Finally, in the days before the program was to start, there was fruit from all the weeks work. Three youth signed up. And then God daily added to our number. Over and over. We peaked at 17, with 14 regular youth. Again, I worried as we approached camp with only a few campers. And then we hit vacation Bible school with about 34 children, most of whom were from the neighbourhood.

Inspired by a good friend, I decided that I needed to take the edge of stress by running – I longed to pound the ground with frustration. It’s something that I have kept up a bit, except for our winter weather as I’m not equipped for that. I’m appreciating the discipline and dedication that needs to go into this.

September started with anything but an enthusiasm for school. Don’t get me wrong- I love school. But my heart was not in it. One thing I need to learn is how to give everything to God in terms of ministry that I am involved in and to not burn out at the end. I was tired entering this school year and rather sleep deprived. Leaving that job was one of the hardest decisions – I loved the youth, children and their families and longed to see them continue to thrive and meet Christ. But it was clear to me that my time had finished there. I recently received a letter which greatly encouraged me that the ministry continues and that the connections made with the neighbourhood continue.

And then my grandfather passed away. I am still working out the many layers around this. I struggled this past term in coming to terms with grief – not only the loss of a wise and beautiful grandfather, but the loss of my family. I ended up withdrawing from studies this term so that I could focus on the hard work of grief and come back refreshed in the new year. One of the things that I learned during this time was that everything is part of my training and development – there is so much that I learned this term outside of the classroom and even outside of books. I also came to see things about myself that need God’s love and grace.

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I have been hired on as the animator of an organization that seeks to support children’s ministry in the Diocese and beyond. I find this quite interesting – the girl who was once so painfully shy that she would write out conversation starters before picking up the phone to friends, is the one chosen to promote and network and speak to strangers! I’ve come a long way – thanks to God’s grace and the patience and kindness of those who love me.

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In December, I moved. Yet again. I’ve moved a lot. But this time, I hope that I can stay for awhile. it’s a good place. The family upstairs is so very lovely and their five year old is sweet. We’ve shared much already. The girl comes and hangs out with me and makes pictures for me. Oh how I love children and living in community, while much less commitment than others, is what I love. I’ve set up my library and hosted people for various parties. It is starting to feel like home.

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Christmas this year has been different. Hard, as always. But has a unique flavour of community. When the power went out, I needed to rely on the kindness of others. I was able to witness a beautiful side of humanity. I held a Grinch Party – embracing the huge part of me that hates this time of year for all the fuss and nonsense. Christmas was simple, quiet, lovely. I am grateful for the hospitality of so many.

I’ve read many wonderful books – too many to name. But one that has had a real impact on me has been Miroslav Volf’s writings. Specifically, his talk on the condition for possibility. I think that has reshaped how I look at my life and all the painful stuff – it all contributed to the condition of possibility. That is, all the blessings I have now would not be mine without my story and history. My life would simply be very, very different. I would know different people, I would learn different things. My life is full right now – not full of what I have always wanted, but it is full – and full of beautiful things.

And as I look to the next year, I am both curious and excited to see what 2013 has laid the foundation for. What will come of a year of possibilities? A year of so many lessons, changing direction, grieving, moving?

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