28 January 2009

Good remembering

Today in chapel (Wed, Jan 28) my colleague Barry Nelson preached from 2 Peter 1. I'll type up some of my notes another day (perhaps even on another blog, since I've been thinking about starting to collect the cornucopia of ideas so many wise mentors share with me), but for now let me tell you about his title: "Good Remembering."

He reminded us to ... well, remember.

And I do remember.

I remember when we arrived in Canada in '98 and knew not a single soul in Alberta. Now we are surrounded by a community of kindness here in Cochrane, and Calgary, and Canada-wide. (Some days we even choose to field phonecalls because we receive too many for comfort.)

I remember when we owned not a stitch of furniture because our container had sunk in Hurricane Mitch, and our church family provided for us materially (and spiritually) in ways we still find hard to comprehend, a decade later.

I remember walking through the doors of Dalhousie Community Church and hearing "Shine, Jesus, shine" being sung -- a favourite of mine since our days at Bedfordview Methodist Church back in South Africa (where I began attending as a pre-teen, and walked down the aisle to marry my lifemate a dozen years later). We have been at home at DCC ever since -- and just last Sunday we sang "Shine, Jesus, shine" once again.

I remember every stranger in the church and wider community who treated us with warmth and affection when we were still aliens in their midst. Now we are friends. Those early friendships have matured and blossomed over the years, and we are in awe when we look back ... and remember.

I remember enrolling at the local Baptist seminary in 2000 (with the dubious blessing of my Mennonite pastor, who thought I would have a more heterogeneous experience in Fresno, CA; I reminded him I was from Johannesburg, and that a bit of Cochrane's homogeneity wouldn't harm me). I was a bit apprehensive at what a Master's degree in Divinity would entail, and I went out to King's Fold to make my final decision about whether or not to study full-time again (I had just completed a Master's degree in Linguistics in '97/'98 and was loathe to subject myself to further mental discipline). And now, nine years later, I'm still at the seminary, loving my job as an adjunct instructor, and working alongside the very mentors who guided me so patiently through many of my own spiritual and intellectual battles.

I remember meeting a special family at a dessert fellowship hosted by our new church. We chose to stay at DCC, and they chose to leave, but during that first meeting of the minds (and hearts) we bonded. Now we have been adopted into their extended family, comprising a Canadian mom and dad, three sisters and three brothers (roughly our ages), and an assortment of children we've known since birth. We have the privilege of spending special occasions together as a family, and not a month goes by without one of us celebrating a birthday or sacred event. Tomorrow R and I will join two of our family/friends for a Chinese meal in Calgary, in celebration of our Jan 25 and Feb 2 birthdays.

I remember when the hippo and unicorn book was a mere dream in 2004, and now I've sold the 250 copies I set out to sell (and give away!). And my new dream is to write on my own -- a book a year, lofty as that goal seems at present. I will cherish this dream, and work a bit each day to turn it into a reality. And I will remember.

{Thanks, Barry N, for your timely reminder today in chapel.}

Let us remember, and give thanks.

25 January 2009

Pre-birthday weekend

What a wonderful weekend I spent out at the King's Fold Retreat and Renewal Centre: words hardly seem adequate. The food was soul-satisfying, the fellowship sweet, and the teachings divine. Rob Low, a longtime friend of King's Fold, was our retreat leader; he used to work there full-time when I first visited what soon became one of my favourite sacred spaces in '99. (Now he and I enjoy monthly mini-retreats at Mount Saint Francis, a Catholic retreat centre closer to home.)

Because the New Year, New Life retreat took place so close to my birthday, I chose to stay in the Hideaway instead of the main lodge {with apologies to Dee}. The Hideaway is a tree house situated in the forest, a short distance from the chapel. I have been going there each year to celebrate my birthday in solitude and silence, but this year I may do something a bit different on Feb 2nd, so I combined the retreat and my annual tree-treat.

All in all, I was refreshed in body and spirit, and I returned home with my joy fully replenished. After a weekend away, I am more able to carry whatever life brings, and my hubby is gracious (and wise) enough to encourage my time away from the usual array of responsibilities (and burdens?) we both bear.

R has been suffering in his own spirit of late, and we trust that the darkness will lift in due course. Several factors in combination play a role; it's hard to find one specific trigger. But Tax Season cometh, and we both know that we need to be strong for the season ahead. I have noticed that his sadness is not affecting me as much this week as in bygone days; I am actually able to help him deal with his depression in ways I wasn't able to even a year ago, and that brings us hope. Despite the occasional poverty, life is rich and full and good. And our Creator is faithful. We have not been given more than we can bear, and in that we take comfort.

I am truly content during this pre-birthday week. This has been my best year to date ...