Monday, December 17, 2012

Ready for Christmas?

As the 25th of December draws near, the frequency of the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" also increases.  I never know quite how to answer what I'm sure is a well-intended question.

First, the demand on my readiness quotient has diminished greatly due to an exodus from my home- I'm a single-again woman with an empty nest.

  •  If it's shopping that's meant, then there are my married children and two grandsons who make the season amply fun by giving me a chance to once again peruse the store's toy section. That doesn't take much time.  
  • If it's baking that's being referred to, I'd eat what I make and have only myself to blame, so that's not going to happen:).  
  • If it's being charitable, I've found some really fun places to share what I have
  • If it's decorating, I surprised myself by really liking the little tree that I put up this weekend.  It's the first one since I moved into my current home.  My lights went up during that warm spell in Nov, so I can check that off my list too. 
Maybe I've missed the point and something else is meant?

I'm grateful that I've been repeatedly asked this question, because it's gotten me thinking.  Am I ready for Christmas?  In my re-shaped life, what would that mean?  What do I want it to mean?  What would "The Reason for the Season" want it to mean?

When I was a preteen, my father was a church planter, which meant that his family got to be the star of the show whether capable or not.  Thus, I was a soloist at our church's Christmas program.  It was memorable partly due to the fact that mere days before the program I had wiped out on the trampoline in gym class and skinned the top of my nose quite thoroughly.  There was no way to cover that large scab!

I've never forgotten the song I sang, "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne"  (yes, that ages me!).  As I reflected on being ready for Christmas this year, the chorus, "O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee," began to wind it's way through my spirit again, and I realized that this was it!  Making "room in my heart for Him" is my heart's desire this Christmas.  This desire was confirmed as I pedalled away on an exercise bike to Casting Crown's Peace on Earth:  "Will we go down in history as a nation with no room for its King?"

Next time I'm asked if I'm ready for Christmas, I'll smile and give a resounding, "Yes!" as I gladly carve out  space in my schedule, day, life and heart for Him who is my life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let My People Go!

I've been reading the exciting, real, dramatic, history-making saga of Moses and the Exodus.

At the same time, I've been listening to the news updates of refugees drowning as they try to cross bodies of water in unreliable, overloaded boats.  And grieving over the Canadian deportation of a dearly loved family after four years of very successful integration and assimilation into the hearts and lives of our community.  And watching the Syrian government drop bombs on its own citizens and the DRC conflict heat up again.

It occurred to me that I'd like to be a modern-day Moses, marching in to the powers that be and declaring, "Let my people go!"
Leading those who are trapped and bound and are crying out for help, to safety and a Promised Land -a future.  Sure, I'd be just as hesitant and awkward as Moses (definitely more so!), but if there was something I could do, I'd be game.

Can't you just see me, all grey-haired five feet of me, marching into the refugee camp atop a mountain in Rwanda and leading 20,000 refugees who've spent 16 yrs in waiting, streaming around the curves down the muddy mountain to freedom?

Or entering the slums in Nairobi, so dangerous that our hosts wouldn't even drive us into them, and declaring a future for all the Somali refugees? I'd like to lead out a river of women and children in the DRC who are fleeing the rebels and being shot down as they run.

I'd like to Pied-Piper-ish gather up all those waiting with faint hope for their claim to be approved in Canada and lead them to a YES.  Sounds rather glorious, doesn't it?  Honestly, I really do think it's more about those crying out for freedom than making a name for myself (I hope!).

I'll most likely never have a burning bush call to stand in front of Pharaohs, Kings or Prime Ministers, but there are two things I can do.  They sound so small, and even so... pat, but how I dare I diminish God's means of changing the world!

1.  Pray, plead, wrestle
The Exodus story in the Bible begins with:
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

Hab 3:2 
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Renew them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

2.  Love the refugees God brings to Welcome Home, and join Him, inviting each one to a future and a hope...in Him.

Join me?




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Déjà vu

Instant friends!

I was invited to dinner the other evening, (we had home-made cabbage rolls!) and one of the questions these long-time friends asked was, “What difference did your trip to Africa in spring make for the work you’re doing with refugees?”

It was good to pause and remember.  I remembered my flight over lands I’d only heard of and the thrill of recognizing landmarks as I sat transfixed, staring out my airplane window.  It didn't take long, though, for me to go from, “Wow, those are waves of sand down there- that’s Sudan!” to the sobering reality that one of our young women living at Welcome Home fled this place and right now, too many others are still suffering what I cannot see from my birds-eye view.  

It’s this connection between refugees I share my life with here in Canada, to the stories and images broadcast through all sorts of media, that is one of the most impactful results of my Learning Trip.  I see an ad to sponsor a child and see their counterpart in the children we’ve sheltered here in Kitchener.  I see a news story of a destitute mom struggling to survive and realize it’s the story of the moms and babies who have become my friends at Welcome Home.  I watch the news of Cairo and Syria and make the connection to the refugees who initially fled to these very places to wait for safe transit to Canada and are now living at Welcome Home.  I see victims of violence in Latin America flashed across my screen and my mind goes to my courageous friends who’ve risked everything with the hope of safety in Canada.

You know what I mean- you see your friend's adopted children in those photos, or your newly arrived neighbours or classmates in the news broadcasts.  Or, something as simple as seeing daddy in your  precious newborn son's face.  What we see calls to mind what we have seen.

Oh, and there are many beautiful images I see, too.  When one of our refugee friends tells me she sang in a choir, I remember the exuberance of the choirs I heard in the refugee camp.  When  a young mom expresses how much she misses her family, I remember that “family” means the community and the love that I saw demonstrated in the communities I visited.  When a parent will do anything to help their child succeed in school here, I call to mind the sacrifices made in the slums of Nairobi to pay for uniforms and school fees.

We have a word for this:  Glocal.  Global and Local all at the same time.   I can no longer plead ignorance or apathy. When we receive a child or a mom or a teenager or a single man, I now see more of the context from which they came.  I remember my time in a refugee camp and the day spent with desperate refugees lined up to make their claim at the UNHCR in Nairobi- the images, the stories, the smells, the feelings- and limited though my experiences were, they give me more of a “Before” as I give my life to affect the “After”.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It depends on your perspective

I read the Book of Ruth (all four chapters!) while on vacation last month, and recognized it as a refugee story.  (It's amazing how differently the Bible reads after working with refugees for almost five years.)
You may be familiar with the story.  Naomi's Jewish family flees to Moab because of severe famine (think of the Somali famine and scores of starving refugees we've heard about in the past year).  Naomi's boys marry local girls, and it looks like they'll stay in this new homeland, until all the men in the family die before any of the next generation are born.  Bitterly defeated, Naomi takes stock of her future and, hearing that there is food again in Israel, decides to return home.  Here's where the story gets interesting, because Ruth, a Moabite, refuses to stay behind.  Her famous plea, "Entreat me not to leave thee... for your people shall be my people..." has been used in many a wedding.
I've been paying close attention to our federal government's decisions with regard to refugees in the last few years, and have noticed the rather dramatic shifts in language, which reveal a depressingly seismic shift in values and negative attitudes toward refugees.  As I read the story of Ruth, whom we've often seen as a hero and a courageously committed daughter-in-law, I realized that if we approached her story with the currently propagated Canadian attitude of suspicion, it would read very differently.
The key players the way I usually see them:
Naomi- terrible sorrow, bitter circumstances, hopelessness
Ruth- loyalty, strong choice of family and Yahweh, courageous
Boaz- honourable, just, generous, kind

Here's my re-reading of the Book of Ruth aka Jason Kenney:
Ruth grew up in _______ and deviously schemed to marry a Canadian, hoping he'd someday move home and she'd thereby be able to become a Canadian citizen.
Ruth's husband died and she refused to leave Naomi, seeing her opportunity, finally, to get into Canada.
Arriving in Canada with her mother-in-law, Ruth discovered that a rich relative owned land nearby, and strategically placed herself in his fields, hoping he'd notice her.
She even went so far as to sleep at his feet during harvest, seducing him.
Boaz fell for her wiles and married her, giving her the future she wanted.
Voila!  Bogus refugee scheming to get married and have access to citizenship in Canada, taking advantage of the generosity of Canadians like you and me, accomplished!

My point in this potentially controversial blog is to help us be aware of how we're being influenced to view refugees as bogus, with suspicion and a resulting miserliness, rather than compassion.  Yes, we should deal with the 2%* who are trying to take advantage of Canada's open borders.  I'd like to challenge us to check our attitudes, however, and listen to refugee's stories with open hearts, reaching out with Jesus' love as He exhorts us to.  No one gets to legislate compassion out of our lives if we don't let them!

*Percentage quoted to me by a Canadian Border Services official, Ft Erie, Ontario

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My Personal 95 Theses

The Wittenburg Door

It's been four years since my personal life changed immeasurably, and after many years of therapy, I feel like I'm turning a corner and want to plant a flag, so to speak, as I move forward.  Please join me by interacting with some of the lessons I have learned (and will probably never be done learning).

Like Martin Luther, I've realized that it's how we think that shapes how we live.  His 95 Theses are often seen as the catalyst that launched the Protestant Reformation.  A similar, explosively new way of thinking came to the Apostle Peter through a vision in Acts 10-11.


 "10:28 God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean." 
If you think about the entire foundation of Jewish law and practice until then, this was a revolutionary insight!   God went to extraordinary measures to make sure Peter and the early church got it.  I can identify with Peter in wrestling through and accepting new, life-altering ways of thinking.

So here are my personal game changers. By implication, you can see some of the lies I've been entangled in.  Maybe you have a few of these thought patterns too?

  • God's love is a gift that I cannot earn by being better than I am or destroy by being worse than I am. I am worthy to receive it because HE created me, chose me, redeemed me and lives in me.
  • I don't need to be right or perfect.  I'm okay.  I'm human.  I'm still worth a lot to God.
  • My ex's rejection of me, betrayal of his vows, etc, etc has more to do with him and his choices than my deficiencies.  (Help thou my unbelief!)
  • I am not responsible for anyone else's choices, but will be held accountable for mine.
  • I need security and significance, not everyone else's approval.  (Larry Crabb) 
    • Therefore, I need to move the locus of my identity from outside myself, to inside of me. 
    • And, act out of my God-given values, not out of fear of what others think.
  • Do it afraid- do not ever make life-limiting choices based on fear (except to wisely heed everything my parents taught me:).
  • Suffering is often more about people's poor choices (including mine) than punishment because I've messed up.
  • When things go wrong, it's not necessarily God punishing me.  Looking at many Bible heroes’ lives, when things go wrong, it's probably the RIGHT direction.
  • Bad things happen in life- it's perfectly normal. When I long for it to be different, it's obviously heaven that I'm eager for.  
    • "In this world you will have trouble, but fear not, for I have overcome the world!"  Jn 16:33
  • Speak up, stay present in relationships.  By not talking about what needs to be talked about, I don't win (peace at any cost, costs too much!).  I lose, we all lose.
  • Don't be angry at God for not keeping promises He never made. (Check it out, you might have a few too!)  "I will never change, I will be with you" are promises I can count on.
  • Thinking differently than someone else doesn't need to threaten or diminish either of us, if we can respect each other's individuality. 
  • Stop giving more than God wants to give through me, than what He has given me to give away. After all, I am NOT the Messiah.
  • Add up all the stresses, fears, opportunities and joys of the day to come.  Then put God in the equation first- He makes ALL the difference!

One last note:  Yes, many of these lessons learned came about through a failed marriage, but every one of them has application to my daily life, and to my relationship with myself, God, family, refugees, co-workers and friends.  For that I'm immeasurably grateful. 
So, what do you think?  Any you'd add?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Shock and Dismay

I always take a book along to read on the airplane, and found myself surprisingly ready to digest something meaty on our flight to Rwanda.  So, I read (and possibly annoyed my seatmates with frequent excerpts from) Mirror to the Church by a Rwandan priest.  I was shocked by many insights from this book, but one I continue to  chew on has to do with colonialism.  The author traced the roots of the Rwandan genocide to the interference and political manipulation of the people by colonizers, a really damning view of Rwandan history which at first left me relieved that I wasn't a descendant of those particular colonizers.

Feeling a bit like the Pied Piper:)
Where was I when this was taught in history class?  It seems inconceivable to my 21st Century mind that any nation would have the gall to "civilize" another.  And yet, it was often legitimized "as a way to facilitate religious conversion and salvation of indigenous peoples".  As a modern day missionary, and someone of European descent, I'm starting to feel more and more implicated in what happened...  A series of disquieting emotions erupt, not unlike those I feel whenever I watch The Mission.

I'm still troubled by what I learned, but even more, I'm troubled by the ongoing ramifications of our history.  As a European background Christian, where am I (where are we?) continuing the legacy of the colonizers?    I lead a non-profit that serves newly arrived refugees from countries like Rwanda.  How do these refugees view me, considering their nation's experience with colonizers?  How do I treat them differently than my forbears did?   (Thankfully, missions around the world has radically changed and I can see how the orientation I received has prepared me for these hard questions.)  How do we create a level playing field, show respect, and honour what each person embodies- the richness of their history, the uniqueness of their culture and the fact that each one bears the image of God?  Our refugee friends are ready, eager and grateful, with SO much to contribute to our communities and our country!
I love it when God brings to light that which I've been blissfully ignorant of, and am energized by the challenge to learn, to love better and to let Him refine me from the inside out.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Conversion Experience

In Africa, I discovered that I needed to repent.

We started our learning experience with a visit to a Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda.  What a disturbing, heart-rending afternoon that was!  It also laid the foundation for almost everything else we saw in the rest of our trip.  Because of the genocide, there were refugees in the camp we visited for two days.
We visited men, women and children who had AIDS as a result of the genocide.  And street kids, many of whom were homeless (either directly or indirectly) because of the genocide.
Visiting one of the "homes' for street kids

Our hosts, Jen and Serge, are missionaries with International Teams, developing ministries that give practical support for each of these groups of courageous people.  I am a very focused person, with a mere two week "Refugee Highway Learning Team" trip to cram in as much learning as possible, so at first I struggled with the idea of spending time with these non-refugees.  But their stories grabbed my heart, their resiliency and faith inspired me, and as I reflected on our encounters, I realized I needed to repent.

As a missionary to refugees, I've narrowed my focus to the extent that I've not allowed myself to also be moved by the needs of the homeless and hungry people in my community, even though they have much in common with our refugee friends.  Just as the impact of the genocide wove its way through much of Rwandan society, the brokenness in our community cannot be segmented.   I received a very special gift in Rwanda- a gift given by women with AIDS and boys who'd grown up on the street, and I plan to treasure it as I open my eyes to the greater needs in my neighbourhood.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rain!

Muzungu!
I've been asked what the response was to our visit.  If you can imagine, we were 6 people, all white, mostly women, arriving by car.  All these already made us stand out, and we often heard "muzungu"  wherever we went. Muzungu means "white", but it also implies wealthy, privileged, powerful, in contrast to many of the wonderful people who opened their lives to us during our two week visit.  And, no, it is not derogatory.  

Serge translating for us
Back to the original question, and a bit more background.  Our team was hosted by International Teams workers in both locations, so they acted as guides and translators, introducing us to people they work with every day, as they try to alleviate suffering, build capacity, and share Jesus with refugees in Rwanda and Kenya. The welcome we received speaks well of the excellent reciprocal relationship these missionaries have with everyone we met.  How different it would have been if we had tried to do this learning trip without these connections!

Take my picture!
All that said, I was surprised by the welcome we received.  We were honoured guests almost everywhere we went, starting with being mobbed by children, Bieber-style(!), in the refugee camp. Fortunately, they wanted us to take THEIR picture, which was an easy gift to give!  
videoMany of our days were spent asking questions, and answering some, too.  The camp has it's own unpaid, democratically elected government, and we were privileged to have a visit from the president.  He even answered many of our questions!  In his diplomatic welcome to this Canadian delegation, the president said, 
"It's a sign of love that you would come so far, just to see us.  And God must have brought you."   
Each of the six different groups we visited during our two weeks were equally gracious and ready to engage with us.  Let me share an interesting response we  received in Kenya.  
First, some more background, lest you also struggle to receive this compliment.  
  • Kenya straddles the equator, and while we were there during the rainy season, each day was still hot, very dusty and dry.  
  • Many neighbourhoods have no running water, so people walk far to carry what they need for each day.  
We spent a day with a group of Rwandan refugee women in Nairobi who try to support their families by creating handbags*.  

Sewing to feed her family
These ladies generously took the day off and exuberantly welcomed us with, 
"It's such a blessing to have visitors, it's like rain!"  
 Along with all the treasured input these resilient folk shared with us, I also have a new perspective on rain that I hope will be a permanent gift.  

* PS Watch for an upcoming Welcome Home Coffee House, when you could become the proud owner of one of these bags!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Getting from A to B in order to survive

There’s one picture of my days in Africa which is imprinted in my mind and continues to break my heart.  It’s of the exhausted face of an old woman, trudging up the precarious mountain path with an immensely heavy load of firewood on her back. Perhaps it’s my grey hair, but I was particularly sensitive to the older refugees in the Kiziba camp, and how incredibly hard every day’s physical work was for each person, from the smallest children to the oldest, most frail senior.  With no electricity or running water, that work involved ceaseless carrying.



Grocery Shopping
Walking was by far the most common way people got around.  I don’t mean on a sidewalk, for a short time, in the daylight.  Narrow roads were lined with rivers of people walking miles, in the middle of nowhere, day and deepest, darkest night.  Lugging food, firewood, water, basins of wet laundry, building materials- whatever needed to be transported- on their heads or backs.

Even the wheels are made of wood

In the camp, an ingenious hand-made scooter attracted our attention.  We had to watch that we weren't run over by the boys racing up and down the hills delivering loads of firewood.






In the hilly city of Kigali, motorcycles were a common taxi, and I shouldn’t have been surprised to see a passenger balancing a door under his arm as they navigated a chaotic intersection beside us!   In the middle of a congested downtown street, trucks, motorcycles and people on foot all shared the road, going about the business of transporting and making deliveries.


Riding side-saddle



Rwanda also had a uniquely adapted bicycle, with energetic riders eager to carry people or materials on an extra long and strong rear rack.











I had the hardest time believing that this different continent I was in was really Africa.  That got resolved on the day we went to visit a Giraffe sanctuary.  It wasn’t seeing the giraffes in their natural habitat that did it, however.  It was on our return to downtown Nairobi- catching a glimpse of a rider and his camel whisking past the capital buildings!

Cold and rainy, too
What was different in Kenya?  The donkey, sometimes taking the place of a human mule, hauling even larger, heavier loads on a rubber-tired cart.  And the rainy season began, turning roads full of potholes into a slippery quagmire.

Nairobi-Amsterdam-Toronto

As I buckled my seatbelt and began my long flight home, I tried to imagine what a refugee thinks and feels as they leave this world they knew.  For many, this strange new mode of travel will lead to a much less exhausting existence, a longer life expectancy, and hopefully, a brighter future, perhaps even for eternity!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Worshipping

Team photo outside the Nairobi Chapel
I had the best April Fool's joke ever, in a Nairobi Church service!  There was a new Mercedes parked prominently outside the mega-church, and it was announced that one of the pastors was donating this gift she'd received, as a fundraiser. Everyone was invited to drop in a bid, with the winner to be announced at the end of the service.  It was only after many hundreds of eager bidders responded that Pastor Janet revealed that the joke was on them!

While that was memorable, there were many other once-in-a-lifetime worship experiences in Africa.  International Teams missionaries in Rwanda and Kenya made it possible for us to meet with those they're serving, and each experience will continue to resonate through my heart as I re-enter my life here in Canada

Youth choir in a Kizumu church service
My first Sunday was spent on a mountain-top-at the Kizumu Refugee Camp in Rwanda. After years of anticipation, I was beside myself with excitement to actually BE in the camp!!  We slip/slid our way down a muddy hill into one of the many churches there.  Light came from the doorway and small windows at the front of the rectangular building.  As my eyes adjusted, I saw that there were gospel stories painted on the rough clay walls. I also saw where the beautiful music was coming from!  We were thrilled to have four choirs, including the moms-with-babies-on-their-backs choir, take turns inciting us to worship and even though I couldn't understand a word, the joy being expressed was infectious!  Tears came to my eyes as I shared this time with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Dancing out our trust in Jesus!
Back in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, we worshipped again, this time with Ubuzima, which means "Life".   It's a group of people with AIDS, one more devastating effect of the genocide, who are sustained and revitalized by their mid-week teaching and worship time under the leadership of "Mama Deborah".  As they burst into dance, we were pulled into the circle and invited to joyfully celebrate God's unfailing goodness.  (Thankfully, no one laughed at our lack of rhythm:)

We had been warned to be ready with a verse, a story, or even a short message to share with the various groups we would meet.  This weekend was my turn. I was given the privilege of sharing from Psalm 16 with a group of MBB's (M*slim-born-believers).  It was the most exciting experience I've ever had in my life!!   I sat beside women wearing head coverings who were passionately worshipping and praying to Jesus!  I was so caught up in the miracle of worshipping with these lovely, courageous people, that I had to work hard to focus on what God wanted me to share. (Needless to say, I can't post any pictures.)  

I started this blog with April 1st at the Nairobi Chapel, but need to add that the worship in Swahili and English was familiar and outstanding, the message was inspiring and the choir can dance their way into my home church anytime!  I'm so glad that the missionary team in this city has such a solid source of local inspiration and support.  And, speaking of support, that brings me to Easter, once again at home, and the thrill of worshipping with my church family again, as we join with believers all around the world in celebrating the Risen Christ!




Friday, February 10, 2012

A Lifetime of Learning

It's been over 4 years since I became part of the Welcome Home team, serving refugees from all over the world right here in downtown Kitchener, Ontario.  What an amazingly full and stretching time these years have been!

Right from day one, however, I knew that although I had lots of training and a heart full of love, I was missing a significant piece of my equipping to be a full-time missionary to refugees.   You see, I’ve never been to Africa or the Middle East, where so many refugees come from.  

I realized that I needed to go and see, to personally experience just a bit of what our friends have lived through in order to be more effective here at home.  

I’m so excited to let you know that I finally get to go!  I’m part of an Africa Refugee Highway Learning Team, organized through International Teams Canada, the mission agency that oversees Welcome Home's work.  


Seven Canadian leaders who serve refugees in Canada will spend two weeks learning together- March 21st until April 5th.  That team includes myself and Scott Cressman, Welcome Home's Male Supervisor since May 2010.  

(Scott plans to stay in Africa until early summer, so we're saying goodbye to him and welcoming a new supervisor during this month.)

  •  We will start our visit in Rwanda, where we will serve with missionaries who are helping refugee orphans in Kigali and spend time in a refugee camp, meeting refugees and hearing their stories.  
  • The second week will be spent in Nairobi, Kenya- the UN’s visa processing centre for all refugees from East Africa.  We will join a team there, meeting refugees in this urban centre who are waiting for an invitation to safety. 
    • I look forward to having a context for the stories I hear from the refugees I serve here in Kitchener. 
    • I look forward to firsthand experiences which will help me advocate for refugees with more integrity.
    • I look forward to having my eyes opened and my heart broken for what breaks God’s heart.  I know that we will be powerfully moved to pray, to care, to speak.
The Welcome Home team works hard at being a learning community, but so far much of our equipping has been through seminars, books we've read and sharing life with our incredibly patient refugee friends.  This first-hand experiential learning will make a significant difference for me personally, and hopefully our entire team.  Watch this blog for updates!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Memories to Savour

The first candid shots of my son and his bride's wedding are beginning to populate my inbox, and with it come many mostly wonderful memories.

  • Most delightful surprise:  My 2 yr old grandson leaning forward from the pew behind me during the rehearsal, tapping me on the back and loudly whispering, “Hi, gramma!”  I’m pretty sure he was hoping I’d help him escape for a game of hide and seek.
  • Most senior moment:  Realizing the other earring was safely entombed in the afghan at the end of my bed… at home.
  • Most sure I was losing my mind, but only a senior moment:  Searching hotel room and car for the rehearsal dinner table decorations, only to realize I not only left those bags, but also the 2 crock pots and dinner ingredients in my parking garage stall, back home.
  • New favourite grocery store:  Sobey’s in Whitby
  • Ironic end to the rehearsal evening: “I’m hungry!”  My “worked like slaves” daughter and son-in-law snuck across the hall to my mom and dad’s hotel room to polish off the rest of her famous crab dip.
  • Best compliment:  “Can I have the recipe for your lasagne?”  President’s ChoiceJ
  • Biggest waste:  Buying the pack of subs for the greenish hued groom and his crew’s lunch before the wedding.
  • Pleasant surprise (or gift from God?): A hotel in Whitby became the “family home” for the days surrounding the wedding, and it felt like we were all able to be a family to the groom, even in that setting.
  • Best smile:  After all those years of trying to get him to show his teeth for photos, I couldn’t tear myself away from the brilliant, beaming smile the groom lit up with when his bride made her grand entrance.
  • Miracle to enjoy: After months of hoping and praying he’d be able to attend, watching my son-in-law stride down the aisle during the processional. 
  • Biggest regret:  Growing up in a household and church where dancing was forbidden and then finding out the guy you married just plain won’t dance!  It sure looked like fun at the reception and I simply plan to dance my heart out in heaven someday.
  • Enjoyable once-it’s-all-over moments:  taking down the décor after the reception with family (even my last trimester-pregnant daughter-in-law) and surprisingly, some of the bridal couple’s friends, even though we were turning into pumpkins.
  • Most humbling moment:  Hearing how the teary-eyed photographers and long-time friends of the couple were impacted by the day, the stories, the speeches, the families.  To God be the glory!
  • When I take a moment to think about it:  My parents and my children and my siblings and their children were there from all over the place.  What a blessing to have such godly support over the years, and in particular, on this day!
  • Most eagerly awaited picture:  my family.  My poor grandson spent Christmas Eve throwing up, so the family photo we were going to gift each other with didn’t happen.  It’s rare that we’re all able to be physically together at the same time, so this photo will be a treasure.
  • Most eagerly awaited photo #2:  I have a sepia-toned wedding photo of each of my other two brides and grooms, with a frame and spot on the wall just waiting for number three.  I guess that means I’m done with weddings for my children- they’re all grown up with families of their own now, and it’s time for me to parent them by prayerfully supporting them in a new way.  What more could a mom ask for?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tying up loose ends

For someone who didn’t do any Christmas shopping, I sure spent a lot of time returning and exchanging today!  I’m musing about customer service and thought I’d work through the highs and lows of the day by sharing it with you.

The last of my family left today.  That meant that my car was all mine again and stores were actually open.  I managed to lug everything that needed to be attended to in one trip, but for some reason, no one else dared to share the elevator with me.

My first stop was the Garage, where I was returning for the 3rd time to repair the repair that had been done just in time for the arrival of my family and the consequent many trips around southern Ontario for family gatherings and a son’s wedding.  (My car was in good working order, but sounded terrible and was driving me bonkers.)  As I made the circuitous trip across town again, I was contemplating finding a new mechanic somewhere in my neighbourhood.

The outcome?  A creative solution was found, the work was done at their usual not too harried pace while I organized my day over a Tim Horton’s cup of tea, and there was no charge.  As I drove away listening to the restored purr of my aging ride, I decided to give this inconvenient garage another chance.

Next on my list was Rona, the bank and Home Outfitters, mercifully all in the same plaza.  The line-up at the bank was long, but the greeter called me out of line and took care of depositing my USD cheque in mere minutes!

I only had $4.50 worth of unneeded rehearsal dinner decorations to return at HO, which they did quickly, without a smirk.

The wrong colour caulking I wanted to return to Rona was purchased by my handyman son-in-law on his credit card, alas, a different brand than the one I use, so I was quickly and cheerfully given a store credit to use in the future.

Next stop was Winners, where I was returning a too heavy for my aging wrists blow dryer, a gift from my already on their way back to Seattle daughter and husband.  A bit wiser from my Rona experience, I mustered up my courage.  I wanted to come away with cash, so I could purchase a blow dryer somewhere else.  I had the receipt; the receipt promised a return by Jan 8th, so I adamantly pressed my case… and won.

Cash in hand, I headed to Cdn Tire to return a caulking gun that wasn’t needed after all, with the hopes of finding a blow dryer.  Both were easily taken care of within the next 20 minutes (but not before I confirmed their return policy).

Next stop was Goodwill, where I was finally able to deposit the boxes of donations from my son’s move on Dec 23rd.  The frozen but cheerful young man who hauled the boxes from my trunk was a bonus.  With energy to spare, I decided to see what manner of skirts I could purchase in their store for my March trip to Africa.  After trying on at least 15, I left a half an hour later with 2 skirts and 10 teaspoons for Welcome Home (where do they all disappear to?), for a total of $13.50.

Being in a generous mood, when the Party Store couldn’t refund my purchase of 3 pkgs of serviettes++, which had inadvertently stayed behind when we traveled to Whitby for the wedding week (it’s a longgg story), I handed them over to the hesitant clerk to re-stock.  My recent experience with the Dollar Store, which has a no returns policy, had taught me that it was costly to lug something back home, too.

I was so frustrated with the clerk at the Party Store that a bag of chocolate-covered almonds sounded really good.  Instead, this opportunity to recall the grace I experienced during my many stops today has helped me end the day well satisfied.