Thursday, December 20, 2007

Deep Sighs Are Prayers

It's been a long week. Phewwwwwwww.....let out a deep sigh.....

I have lived with the Scott Family since I got back from Africa in May. Rob, Stacey and their girls Emily and Kaylee have kindly and graciously put me up for the last 7 months. They have given me a room, have fed me, included me in their life and have grown in my heart to become my family.

So when Stacey's dad got sick and her sister (my best friend Shannon) temporarily moved in, it didn't feel weird or strange. It felt right that we should all be together. Shannon's boyfriend Will has traveled down from Red Deer a number of times to offer his support and lend a hand, quickly becoming part of the family too. Shannon and Stacey have been at the hospital every day since Allan was admitted. Three nights ago, he passed away in his sleep while both of them were by his side. Rob and I waited for them to get back from the hospital and we shared embraces and grief. The next morning I got a phone call at work that my brother-in-law's father had also died that night in a car accident. Overwhelmed by everything, I came home and was on the receiving end of comfort-giving. Weird hey? But also, not so weird. It just made me feel more like we were all in this together.

Now Shannon and Stacey are busy with funeral preparations, we celebrated the girls 4th birthday, Christmas in on its way, and I leave in 13 days for Uganda.

Life is amazingly dynamic. We may be going about our business and routine thinking we are in control until that illusion vanishes and we are suddenly thrust into situations we may not be ready for. Ready or not, life happens and I'm extremely humbled by this gift of life I've been given, thankful for a community that has become family, and awed by a God who knows and cares and guides....sigh....sigh now.

'We're walkin' on a thin string but I know The Lord got the whole thing in His hands.."
-Josh Garrels, Songbird

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Do These Things Mean Anything?

Is it possible, that God is so much bigger than us and our worlds, that He can cause our individual lives to cross over with a stranger's life even for a moment? And if so, if it's possible, does it mean something? Does bumping into one another cause a greater grumble of activity in the grand scheme of things?

I was set out tonight to do a very individual, specific task for myself. Find a guitar case. Not just any guitar case though. There are features this case needs to have: a) needs to be travel-friendly b) needs back-pack straps so I can hike around African villages with it c) needs to be lightweight d) needs to be sturdy e) inexpensive

I have been searching for this case for a month and a half and seem to keep coming up empty. I'll spare you the frustrating details. So finally, as I'm driving to the next music store, I start praying out loud. "Here's the thing God..." I laid it all out, what I would really like to have in a guitar case, and if He could help me out, I would really appreciate it...

In comes Shane at the music store, long, bushy grey hair, Santa-esque physique and kind blue eyes. First encounter: I ask if he could lend me a hand. He starts clapping and pointing to me shouting for everyone to give me a hand too. I laugh and say, "Yah, ok. I set myself up for that! Good one." He helps me on my quest to find THE guitar case and over the 30 minutes I remain in the store, he finds out I do HIV/AIDS work in Africa, why I do HIV/AIDS work in Africa, that I leave in January, that I go to church, that he has a daughter named Nicole, his son's birthday is today, he likes to crack stupid jokes that make me laugh, he is a Celtic Pagan, his wife also works at the store and they have a dog who licks my hand.

We finally track down the case I'm looking for in Edmonton and it will be here next week. Has features a), b), c), d), and e). Thank you Jesus! I am so relieved and happy. Shane offers his hand for me to shake and says, "Nice to meet you." I shake his hand and say likewise and also, I thank him for all his help and for some reason I decide to tell him what I've been thinking all along, that he is a very kind man. I tell him to have a fun birthday with his son. Shane loses the twinkle in his blue eyes; his face falls. "I'd like to," he says, "if my son also thought I was a kind man..." Ohhhhhh dear. I put my hand over my heart and offer my sincerest apology. His son is somewhere in Pennsylvania. I don't have to guess that they are estranged. I gently ask about his daughters and he says they're coming for Christmas and his smile comes back. I wish him a very good Christmas and then they are closing up the store so I have to go.

So anyway, all this struggle to find a guitar case, I'm just musing, was it all to bring me to Shane who in 30 minutes made an impression on me and who maybe needed to tell someone about his son on such an important day as this? It all of a sudden seems to mean a lot more than just me and my guitar case.

Hmmmm.....

Sunday, December 09, 2007

TRUE

Why do I pretend? I'm tired of pretending. I want to stop pretending but it's become such an ingrained habit in me, I don't know where to begin. It makes me feel sick sometimes, the way I shove that little girl in me down, yell at her to be quiet and quit her crying. "I'll give you something to cry about" I say to her, echoing the words of my father from years past. I can't have weakness in me. I can't let anyone see how truly frightened and alone I feel. That just won't do. I have to steel myself against the blows life brings. There's expectations too I need to fulfill. People expect me to be funny, happy, laughing, bubbly, cheerful, a leader, a mature Christian... If I let them down, I'm afraid I'll lose companionship. And there's so much in the world to be depressed about, I can't add to the pain. I have to be what people need. Because I need those people to need me. I need to have a role to play.

But I'm so tired of it! This mask is suffocating me! It's beginning to meld into my skin and now I wonder how I will be able to tell who is really me, and who is the mask? Oh God! Ever since I got back from Africa, I've struggled with this masked society of ours. I see how those around me look at one another, judge one another out of their fear and I bought into that fear. And I started judging too, and I toyed around with a mask or two, wanting to know what it feels like to live someone else's life. It's not at all that I despise the life I have. That's the infuriating part. I love the life I have. I feel very blessed by it. So why would I go and play pretend??

I marvel at the ones I meet who freely show their true selves. They seem so free and peaceful. I long for that courage. And for that freedom and peace. I know I've been that kind of person before. I just don't know how to get back there.

So, here's the thing. I'm giving it up. I'm done. This is stupid. We all experience fear, loneliness, hope, disappointment, hurt, love. I don't want to pretend that I'm always fine when more than half the time it's a ruse.

And here's how I'm going to start. By admitting to you, friends, that I sincerely doubt my ability to make a difference in anyone's life and I'm a lot afraid to go back to Africa and try to help people whose lives are steeped in suffering. I don't know what I have to offer, especially since I have been somewhat estranged from Jesus who is the source of all the love, goodness, peace and sustenance that people need. That I need! We all need Him! All I have is hope in a God who is truly bigger than my mixed up self. And I have a very minute, mustard-seed size faith in Him, which I hope He will make grow into an enormous, full, leafy tree that will provide shade and health and beauty.

And I want to tell everyone I'm sorry for being a phony. Maybe if we all try to be more like who we really are, we won't need these silly pretenses. Maybe we can help eachother to be True.

I think that's it for now. I needed to get that off my chest. Thank you to all my loved ones who continue loving me for me. I love you for who you really are too, as super corny and cheesy as that sounds! It's TRUE!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"Wellness Is Cultural"

I didn't want World AIDS Day to pass by and not do something or be involved somehow. Last year I was in Cape Town and we went from township to township doing skits, singing songs and holding a memorial for all the lives lost to AIDS.

This year, it was a bit more difficult finding events in Calgary to attend. This one was last minute. A gathering of Aboriginal people at the Museum where high school students had put together an exhibit looking at HIV in their community.

The parallels between our Aboriginal communities here in Canada and the life in the townships in South Africa are so similar. Poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, lack of education...these things lead to the spread of HIV in all of our communities.

My hope is that we in Canada can be as open about HIV as I found South Africans and Ugandans to be. Everyone talks about it and even people infected with the virus are not ashamed or afraid to declare their status. In doing so, they are breaking apart the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Here are some pics of the students' artwork. Let's talk about it.