Divine Interference

The front door slipped shut behind me, closing out the scene of warmth and light and fellowship I had been a part of that evening. I stepped out into the realm of darkness and streetlights. “God,” I groaned, “I don’t think I can do this. Can You show me, somehow, that I am heading the right direction?”

I crossed the street to where my car was parked. It had been a beautiful evening, but also emotionally intense. How could I tell my small Bible study group—the group that prayed for me and supported me so much when I first came to Ontario—that I was on the verge of leaving the church we all called home? And yet that’s exactly what I did.

They asked questions and gave encouragement. They were understanding, but that didn’t make it much easier for me to think of changing our relationship. Even though I planned to keep connected with them, it won’t stay the same if I am part of another church.

But this transition seemed to be the way God was directing me. Some days I was excited for it, but some days it was just plain hard. Like that evening. I had made plans that morning to have a meeting in a week and a half with the leaders of the church I was moving towards—a meeting I expected would clinch my decision.

The time felt so far away. Another week and a half of living in limbo, not being quite sure where I belong or whether I am going the right way? Another week and a half of grieving what I was leaving yet not feeling like a part of what I was joining?

I sank into the seat of my car and pulled out my phone to check for messages before driving home, subconsciously looking for a distraction.

Huh? A message from someone I didn’t have in my contacts. Who was this?

I opened it. “Hey Rebecca,” it read. “It’s [a friend] here, not sure why you have been on my mind so much lately but thought I would reach out and say that I am praying for you.”

My mind spun, trying to place the name. Ah yes. Her profile picture confirmed it. She was from Berean Christian Fellowship, the church I was moving towards. I had met her at least once, maybe twice. But we hadn’t gone deep. We must have exchanged only a few words. Why on earth did she think of me, just now?

I spluttered, laughed, almost cried, still staring at the screen. Tingles went up and down my back. “God,” I said aloud, “You are so beautiful. How You did this for me. How utterly creative You are.”

To think that someone from Berean, who I hardly even knew and who certainly didn’t know of the decision I was in the middle of making, was praying for me. And she went to the trouble of letting me know. It felt like God was saying, “You’re afraid to step out? You’re afraid to leave the safety and sense of family you have found at Hesson? Don’t be afraid. I can give you the same at Berean. I can raise up a sister who cares for you even before she has any idea you’re going to go to church together.”

I raised my hands in wonder, then turned on the car and drove towards home. Thankfulness surged through my heart, and I sang You Are Beautiful Beyond Description as loud as I could.

When I got home, I sent my friend a reply letting her know how much it meant to me. This led to us messaging a little over the next few days.

The next Sunday evening after I had spent the day with Hesson people, I commented on a quote she had posted on WhatsApp. When she responded, she asked, “Are you coming out tomorrow?”

There was a Berean event I could attend? I was ready for that, ready to see the people I was going to be a part of instead of grieving those I was leaving. I shot back a message asking what the event was.

So on Victoria Day Monday evening I joined the crowd just as they were finishing up a baseball game and getting ready for supper. My new friend and I found each other quickly.

We were standing in line for roast pork on a bun when I turned to her and said, “I still can’t get over how you messaged me at just the right time last week.”

“Me neither,” she said. “But I had no other option; God froze my phone and I had to message you.”

“Huh? What happened?” That tingle went up my spine again.

“I was on my way to messaging someone else, and I was scrolling down through my contacts fast. Then my phone just stopped, right at your name. The contact in front of yours wouldn’t open, and the one after yours wouldn’t either. Yours was the only one that worked.”

“Wow. Wow. But wait—how did you get my number? From Rhoda’s update chat?” I knew we had never exchanged numbers, but I figured we probably had this WhatsApp group in common.

“I don’t know! I don’t remember ever putting your name in my phone. God must have typed you into my contacts.”

We moved slowly forward in the supper line, and the people in front of us turned slightly to listen. I didn’t care. I was just in awe at what I was hearing.

She went on. “I looked at your name and at first I was like, Rebecca Weber, who is that? And then I remembered, yeah, I kinda know who that is. But I had never messaged you before and I was going to contact this other person. But my phone just wouldn’t do anything else. I turned it off and started it back up, and same thing.”

“That is incredible. I can’t believe God did that for me.” God does this kind of thing for other people, but for me? How could He have done something this dramatic for me? He could have said, “Oh, you’ll have your answer in a week and a half. Just wait.” But He didn’t. He cared about how I felt, right on that Wednesday night after small group.

“I’ve had that happen a few times before, that my phone froze at one person and later I found out they needed my message. So finally I was like, okay, I’m supposed to message her, but what do I say? I asked God and the words came, it just felt like He gave them to me.”

“He must have,” I said. “It was just so perfect, that this random person from Berean—“

“I’m not a random person,” she shot back.

We both laughed. “I know, I know. You’re not. And that’s what was so amazing, that a girl who I hardly knew—and you didn’t know I was thinking about coming to Berean—would reach out to me like that.”

We filled our plates, and I was still giddy with amazement. The two of us walked across the lawn to the bleachers to sit in the sun. When we were settled, she said, “You know, the person I was trying to message when your name came up—I was upset at that person. But because I messaged you first and had time to calm down, when I actually responded to them, I was able to respond out of love and not out of anger.”

I shook my head. “Wow. That’s so like God—He makes it work out for the good of everyone involved. That is just incredible.”

Who would have guessed that God would comfort His distressed daughter through divine interference with someone’s phone? If He could do that for me, He can do what it takes to sustain you, too. Our kind Father loves to give good gifts, and nothing is outside of the realm of His creativity.

Not even technology.


A Single Writes on the Mother Life

A few months ago, while wrestling with some of my almost-subconscious feelings and reactions, it dawned on me: I have spent a sizable part of my life trying to prove that I could be a mom. I have always been a distractible person, and, since childhood, have often been more attracted by creative pursuits than by the practical. (The prover in me wants to insert: But I have also been making cheese and baking bread since I was eight years old.)

However, since I have also really wanted to get married for a good long time, and I knew motherhood usually came with that, I felt compelled to prove that even a scatterbrained writer would be capable of running a home and caring for children.

I brought this mentality with me when I transitioned to life in Ontario. This past winter when the family I lived with began fostering a two year old, I took as much responsibility to help with the new child as I could. And even though my heart knew it wasn’t practical, my mind said, shouldn’t I also take care of him at night? They already had their own children. I should prove that I can do this.

I was afraid to take time for myself, afraid to admit my own needs. Wouldn’t that somehow show that I was after all just an unrealistic dreamer who could never follow through with any actual worthy commitment?

And yet, I think often of how God abundantly answered my prayer last spring: “God, whatever I do this winter, please let it include children.” Now, I work as a nanny and have a number of other children besides who I babysit or read books to or lead Sunday School songs for.

Not too long ago, a friend who also works as a maid/nanny told the story of how she had been out for a walk one day with a stroller and several children in her charge. An older woman stopped to chat. Before long, the woman popped a loaded question, “So, are you and your husband planning on having any more children?”

My friend had some explaining to do. No, she was not even married and these were not her children.

I hardly know, sometimes, how to respond to people at the park who comment on the child I have with me. I would love to be a real mother, yes, but the truth is I am not. I feel compelled to tell people that I am only his nanny—even though I count my position a great privilege.

When I pick him up at his nursery school at noon, I sometimes chat with the moms. Recently I was standing beside a mom watching her child talking to another child. I was on the verge of saying something like, “It’s so much fun watching your child make friends, isn’t it?” But I stopped myself, because wait. I am not a mom, so I shouldn’t pretend to know how they feel, even if I am quite sure I feel a similar way about the child in my charge.

I love taking care of children, and I love keeping house, but as long as I am doing it for other people, I tend to feel as if I am only pretending. I have to keep proving things, because I am not yet a legitimate mom.

When some of these twisted perspectives came out in conversations with Grace (the mom in the young family I lived with for the winter), she said, “But you are a mom. You don’t have to feel like you need to have given birth to your own children to use the gifts God has given your for being a mom.” She listed the many children’s lives I am involved in right now, including her own.

She graciously helped me see that if I’m still in the stage of life where I can take time for things like writing and more intentional rest, I don’t need to feel guilty for that. Being able to sleep through the night without waking up four times to feed and change a baby doesn’t make me less of a woman. I don’t need to spend this season wearing myself out to prove that I could be a mom.

It’s been so liberating to recognize my faulty thought patterns and let go of unrealistic expectations to live the life I am called to live now. I still catch myself feeling like as long as there is anyone around who could use help, I should give it. But I have also experienced a sense of stillness that I hardly knew was possible—simply resting in where I am at and trusting God to provide for whatever He calls me to in the future.

All the same, I do live in the mother world to a large degree. It’s possible to embrace the reality that these children are not mine and I have only a limited time to invest in their lives while still delighting in the sorts of experiences that I share with moms.

I am not a mother, but I wrestle with whether I should spend less time pushing swings and serving apples with peanut butter and invest more in potty training and introducing academics. I run back and forth between the stew on the stove and the child who needs a diaper change.

I am not a mother, but I think about whether I’m feeding a balanced diet to the picky eater in my care. I dream up ways to get more protein and vegetables into him. I bake falafel and slather everything with hummus or peanut butter, because this is how I can get him to eat what’s nutritious.

I am not a mother, but I mix up children’s names in my head. Which of the many I love am I actually trying to talk to right now? I stumble over their names and still they throw their arms around my neck. I draw dinosaurs and families and fire pits. And sharks. Lots of sharks. Hammerheads especially.

I am not a mother, but I have been known to carry Hop on Pop and Winnie-the-Pooh books in my purse. There’s a car seat in the back of my car and cracker crumbs on its carpet. There are days I wonder if my child is losing all sanity, or I am losing all patience, or both.

I am not a mother, but pictures of children take up a lot of space on my phone and their hugs and antics take up a lot of space in my heart. I pray over them and train them and sing to them.

Why? Because I believe that even though I am not a mother, God has a purpose for my life. Even though my deepest dreams still include being a mom someday, I don’t need to prove anything. But neither do I need to wait to exercise those nurturing skills God has given me.

To all of you mother hearts out there who have not yet crossed that mysterious threshold of giving birth—big sisters, aunts, teachers, nannies, maids, unable to conceive, whoever you are—your investment matters. You don’t need to try to be everything a mom is (a mom can’t be everything to everyone at once either!) But there is a place for you in the Kingdom, because the Kingdom is given to the least of these.

Someday we dreamers might hold children of our own. But in the meantime, let us love and invest in the places we can, embracing the awkward dance of complicated identities. Delight in the peanut butter kisses, run down the sidewalk laughing with the little person holding your hand, and trust the Father to transform every moment into part of the bigger story.

Color Threads: Green

It’s the time of year when green starts seeping out of every branch and every crack in the sidewalk. It’s the time of year when hope surges out in every bursting leaf.

Almost two weeks ago, I travelled to Pennsylvania with friends for the weekend. The farther south we got, the more pronounced was the green everywhere. Ridges washed over with new green, leaves dripping in rain, weeds sprouting by the creek–it revived and rested my soul.

That weekend, I kept thinking of the first line of this poem by my friend Sheila Petre, which she graciously allowed me to share here:

I See
A green so young it looks absurd
Against rain-blackened branch and bird
       With twig-encumbered beak.
       Yet who am I to speak?
However long the winter's been,
Each spring I leap to hope again.
-Sheila Petre 

As I looked through my files for green photos, I was struck by how often green was there as a background rather than a focal point. Green grass underfoot, green trees in the distance, hints of green eddying in the stream. Green is a humble color, content to invite us into rest and growth but never demanding attention for itself.

It’s called chartreuse…

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Isaiah 61:11 (NIV)

The growth of green leads culminates in harvest, in the fullness of time prepared by the Father. Embracing the green buds of new life is the only way forward to the richness of a colorful yield. Let verdant glory draw you deeper into His will today.

From the Face of the Earth to Soaring With the Father

I’m excited to share my first guest post with you! For a while I’ve been dreaming of sharing this space with some of my talented friends.

A few years ago, I was talking with a friend about my personality struggles and some fears I had. She said, “You’re a butterfly who is trying to stuff yourself back into a cocoon, but you’re meant to fly!”

Ever since, I have had a special fondness for butterfly imagery. So when I saw these words by my friend Stephanie, it seemed like the perfect time to welcome another voice to the pathway here.

I met Stephanie Horst for the first time last July when I came to Ontario for a month, and I’ve been so blessed getting to know her more deeply now that I am part of her youth group. She glows with the love and joy of Jesus and has been such an inspiration to me to pursue Him and His rest. She’s always up for a heart to heart conversation or something random like sitting at Tim Hortons together to read and journal. She writes, “I belong to the King and I live to know Him more.” It’s an honor to share her words with you.

From the Face of the Earth to Soaring With the Father

By Stephanie Horst

Photo by Calvin Mano on Unsplash

The caterpillar lives fine. It crawls on the face of the earth, eating off the face of the earth, never leaving the face of the earth.

But the caterpillar was never created to stay on the face of the earth. The caterpillar was created to be a butterfly. The caterpillar was created to fly.

The caterpillar wraps itself in darkness. It goes through complete transformation, and when it bursts forth, it is a new creature. No one calls it a caterpillar anymore. For it’s not.

It is a butterfly.

It does not live as a caterpillar anymore. Because it’s not.

It is a butterfly.

It flies high in the sky, far from the face of the earth. It drinks the sweetness of the fruit of the earth. It soars wild and free. Every day. Because it’s not a caterpillar anymore. It’s a butterfly. What it was always meant to be.

Photo by Bankim Desai on Unsplash

People are sinners. Sinners do not live fine. We create chaos and are victims of chaos. We crawl through life, scraping our bruised knees on the face of the earth. We scrounge for food on the face of the earth, never satisfied.

But we were not created to stay on the face of the earth. We were created to be sons and daughters. We were created to fly.

Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

There comes a point when we are wrapped in darkness. It threatens to consume and destroy us. This would be our end, but God. God created us to fly, and in His mercy, He is the One Who sees to it that we do.

A yes to Him, and we go through complete transformation. We burst forth a new creature, and we are clothed with His beauty and His brilliance. He does not call us sinners anymore. For we’re not.

We are sons and daughters.

We do not live as sinners anymore. Because we’re not.

We are sons and daughters.

We fly high in the heavens, far from the face of the earth. We drink of His goodness, fully satisfied. We soar wild and free. Every day. Because we’re not sinners anymore. We’re sons and daughters. What we were always made to be.

Photo by Elisa Stone on Unsplash
Photo by Sherry Horst

His Footfall: Oasis Chorale Video

When I wrote the previous post, I really wanted to share the song itself, but a YouTube search had proved futile. The song was sent to me as a recording from a CD; I didn’t want to infringe on copyright by posting it here. But enough people asked for the song that I did a little more research, and I’m delighted to share it with you now by Oasis Chorale on YouTube. This is the exact recording that has meant so much to me.

Faces of His Footfall

My last blog post took an unreasonable amount of time to write. Everything had gotten too big to fit into the thought patterns and metaphors I was grounded in. When I finally finished it, I felt like it was still incomplete. Unmoored, floating in a sea of so much more that could have been said. How to know what matters most? And why could I hardly write poetry anymore?

I pondered these things on a morning walk in the park. The air felt like spring, birds twittered, and squirrels skittered through tree branches. The previous day had been full and rich; there were deep thoughts to think, but how to think them? Suddenly I had this crazy urge to climb the trees. Memories of climbing trees in childhood washed over me. The scent of pine. The rickety tree houses. Legs swinging over the sides of a branch as I sat there thinking.

But now I noticed for the first time that the lower branches have been trimmed off of the trees in the park. So much for that. I can’t go back to childhood.

However, that moment of memory and longing began to turn a key in my mind. I prayed for God to show me more of Himself, and to help me to see myself the way He does–the things He wants me to know about both of us.

The next morning I woke up earlier than usual, and read for a while in a book called Many Lighted Windows. My cousins lent it to me, and it has sat patiently waiting to be read for far too long. It’s the story of a widow and her family, in a very laid back and picturesque country setting. Part of the reason I wasn’t making much progress in it was simply that it felt so far removed from my current world.

But that morning I read. And read. The descriptions captured my attention. Those mountains and valleys it talked about–they sounded so much like my mountains in Nova Scotia. The descriptions of horse and buggy life took me back to my childhood. And other aspects of the story connected with scenes from other times of my life.

The mountains stirred me most. Mist on ridges, rising sun, slanting light, shadowed valleys.

“Do you miss Nova Scotia?” people ask me sometimes.

I didn’t think I did. I was too busy settling in here in Ontario. That other previous life? It was too far away to reconcile with the present.

I glanced out the window. A waning moon still shone through the approaching dawn. The moon? When had I last seen the moon? I never thought of looking for it here in the city.

Threads of a song teased my brain. I opened my phone and looked it up. A year ago, I had found the poem, by Amy Carmichael, and when I shared it with some writer friends, one of them sent me a recording of the poem set to music.

Do We Not Hear Thy Footfall? 

Do we not hear Thy footfall, O Beloved,
Among the stars on many a moonless night?
Do we not catch the whisper of Thy coming
On winds of dawn, and often in the light
Of noontide and of sunset almost see Thee?
Look up through shining air
And long to see Thee, O Beloved, long to see Thee,
And wonder that Thou art not standing there?

And we shall hear Thy footfall, O Beloved,
And starry ways will open, and the night
Will call her candles from their distant stations,
And winds shall sing Thee, noon, and mingled light
Of rose-red evening thrill with lovely welcome;
And we, caught up in air,
Shall see Thee, O Beloved, we shall see Thee,
In hush of adoration see Thee there.

by Amy Carmichael

Sometimes music brings back memories with a startling clarity one didn’t expect. I sat on my bed, soaking in the soaring words and images and letting the tears run down my cheeks. I remembered sitting in the black office chair in my classroom, after yet another exhausting day when I had been at my wit’s end with no idea of the best way forward for my student or myself. I would sit there in front of my messy desk, finish the food in my lunch bag, and listen to this song. Time and again the words lifted me up when it felt like there was nothing to go on for, when my life and dreams were falling apart, and everything I thought I knew was shifting and crumbling. It reminded me to watch for the evidence of God in little things.

I wiped my tears. It was time to go for my walk. On the path to the park, I found myself singing through the song again. Up the little knoll I walked, away from the path, out across the greening grass toward the trees. In the open space, I allowed myself to feel again the majesty of nature. The air felt like spring, like that season of so much pain less than a year ago, when the last oak leaves where pushed from their stubborn hold on the branches to be replaced by tender new buds.

The brilliant imagery of the song brought back more memories. Days of playing outside at school in snow and wind, watching the patterns of light and shadow on the barren mountain, desperately praying for hope and light. Walks in the winter woods alone, crying out to the God beyond the stars for some sort of direction for my path. The yellow roses my friend brought me when I was sick. The way spring came, despite everything, and that slow wash of green breaking out on the mountain.

Sometimes the first step in overcoming something is to name it and give it a face. Finally I was ready to name the truth: I missed the mountain. I missed the world where I had lived out a metaphor.  The valley where my home had been and the mountain I had lived in the shadow of both held a wide range of significances to me.  No matter the weather, they had always meant something. Countless times, some pattern of mist or mountain became an image for my internal world. I had learned to listen for God’s footfall there.

Maybe that was why I could hardly write anymore–I had lost the metaphor I lived in and hadn’t yet found a sense of place in my new environment. I looked around the park at the rows of houses backing on it, the shopping mall signs visible a little beyond, and the high rise apartments off to the left. Was it just a matter of building my thought processes around the city images around me?

I went back to the house, feeling like a window had been opened in my soul. I read my Bible and worked at some writing with more clarity of mind than I had felt in a while. I still didn’t know what my current go-to image should be, but at least I could start watching for one.

After breakfast I stood at the sink washing dishes and talking with Grace. The Footfall song was still going through my mind, so I related some of my morning thoughts to her. “For years, I have had some image, some sense of place, that grounded me and showed up in my writing a lot and reminded me of God,” I explained. “When we lived beside Lake Erie, it was the lake. When we lived at the first place in Nova Scotia, it was the Shubenacadie River valley with the mist and everything–that was the view from my window. And then when we moved to the Annapolis Valley, the valley and the mountain became the metaphors I lived in. It became deeper there than in any of the places before.”

I paused, not sure if it was making sense. I couldn’t quite read Grace’s expression, so I plunged on. “I realized this morning that maybe I need to find a new image to come back to, something here that is my grounding point. And I don’t know if it’s necessarily going to be a place…”

My words and thoughts tangled; I was still developing the ideas as I spoke.

Then Grace said, “Maybe I’m way off here, but do you think…maybe it’s the image of God in people?”

I pulled my hands out of the dishwater and stared at her. “Yes.” I said, and tears sprang to my eyes. “Yes. That’s it. You found it for me. “

We talked some more, unpacking the idea. I was amazed that while I was still struggling to express my feelings, she found the answer that resonated deep inside me, the answer of God to my quest.

My mind wandered over all the times I have felt anchored or alive in the past few weeks. I thought of my blog post where I pulled out moments that seemed significant. Suddenly I could see it everywhere. I feel at home in so many places right now, but the real thread of significance that runs through everything is the moments of finding His image in the people my life overflows with. I am supported by the hands and feet of Jesus in those around me. That empowers me to go and do likewise for others, seeking the restoration of the image of God for their lives.

Grace said that she loves flowers, and when she became involved in city ministry, it was as if God told her, “The people are your flowers now.”

I have waded in the waves of Lake Erie, have dreamed above the mist of the Shubenacadie valley, and looked unto the hills for the help which comes from the Lord. And now He has brought me to another place, where His footfall is still among the stars, but sometimes those stars are people’s faces, and His glory shines out despite the darkness of fallen humanity. I see Him here, and rejoice, and look forward to the day when I will see Him unveiled, when every place and face gives way to the ultimate translation of hope into glory.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Horst

Moments That Matter

It’s not the big things that make a full rich life. It’s the little moments that sparkle with light. I can think best in snapshots these days, so I won’t share any wonderful revelation today–just a few of my moments that matter.

I climb the steps of the playground set with the three year old I am a nanny for. Thankfully today there is no shopping cart blocking the way, and, for that matter, the swings haven’t been tangled in a while either. The sun shines. Oh, the sunshine. It’s a treat this time of year. We reach the top of the slide and I sit down on the brink. He plops himself into my lap, giggling. We whoosh down together. My feet scrape through snow at the bottom and bring us to a stop. The little guy twists and leans back his head so his face is looking up into mine. His laughter and sparkling eyes win my heart all over again, every time.

We are gathered in the living room here at Tom’s house, the majority of the Reach team. The children play on the floor with Legos while we adults sing and share thoughts and needs. Then we all bow in prayer, going around the circle one by one. The prayers are as varied as the people, but the God to whom we all speak is the same yesterday, today, and forever. “It’s not my Kingdom to build,” Tom has said before prayer, and as we bring the needs to the Father, we are reminded of this affresh.

Afterwards, we share a meal that everyone has contributed to–rice casserole, veggie tray, fruit, and fig cookies. The conversation goes in random and interesting directions.. Archaic and new poetry (we have two poets in the circle). What manna tasted like, and how the number of Israelites in the wilderness compared to the number of people in Waterloo County. What songs we should sing in church tomorrow. We are becoming a family. My friend Leah stays overnight. We walk down the well-lit side of the street before bed, talking like sisters. The air is nippy, but our hearts are warm.

I pull off my boots in the tiny entry and open the door to the kitchen. A curly-headed brown two year old comes running towards me. He makes happy sounds and stretches up his arms, begging to be held. A light-skinned two year old comes around the corner, eyes shining. “Beka,” he says. I am home. We are experiencing life with twins right now since Tom’s are looking after a child who needed a temporary home.

Partway through a church service, Grace hands over the active chocolate child to me. I stand in the back of the auditorium, just behind the wide open glass doors, and hold him on my hip. He is not content for long. I alternate between the mother’s room and the back of the church, also going down to the basement once, and catch fragments of a message about serving. In the mother’s room, he plays on the floor quietly with a red fire engine. He also makes the acquaintance of a little girl in a pink dress who is also playing under the watchful eye of her mother. The mother and I chat a little–she and her husband have just joined the small Bible study group I am a part of, but this is our first time meeting since she wasn’t able to be there last time. It may be the first time I have met someone in the mother’s room while looking after a child.

After the service, I take my little man outside to get rid of some energy. Tom and Grace decide to go home rather than stay for the fellowship meal, so when they come out, I buckle him into his car seat. Then I go back inside and suddenly my arms feel empty. Where is my baby?

I park in the street, then walk up a potholed driveway and icy steps to the green side door. What level of chaos or calm will I find at my friend’s house today? There is no way of predicting. She opens quickly after my knock, her face lighting up in a smile. “Hey Rebecca, how are you?” I step into the entry and suddenly it hits me: I feel at home in this place. “My house is your house,” she has told me time and again. I am starting to embrace that.

I  climb a snowy hill in the company of friends and sleds. At the top, we survey the sides and discuss their suitability for sledding. This side looks unsafe because of the trees at the bottom. That one looks too tame. “It’s supposed to be scary, a bit of an adrenaline rush,” someone says. “That’s what makes it worth doing.” Two girls drape themselves across a tube. I protest at all the dangers, but join them anyway–in the middle, where I can’t even jump ship if I freak out. Someone gives us a shove from behind. Our unshapely craft lumbers down the hill. The mild temperature has made the snow more sticky. We laugh at ourselves–all fears were unfounded. I am a child again, trudging up a sledding hill with friends.

Coffee in an airy coffee shop beside the train station. Sunny windows, green plants, casual decor. A friend with a storied life and gentle laughter in her eyes.

Squirrels scampering above me in the trees at the park. I squint into the sunshine to watch their graceful leaps. This weather feels like spring.

Snow fights with laughing boys at the playground. “You’ll pay for that one!” Running and squealing. Cold snow on bare hands. Laughter and light.

Rain falls on the windshield on my way to work. I drive up Westmount Road, praying the Lord’s prayer, thinking of the broken people I love and others’ love for this broken person I am. And above all, I think of the Kingdom of God greater than all this. Let your Kingdom come, Lord, even here.

This is King Street actually, on a sunny day. =)

Color Threads: Orange

Popping into your world with some exuberance, because don’t we all need a bit more color in these late winter days? I don’t feel particularly exuberant right now, but perhaps these pops of orange from my photo file will refresh your weariness just a little, as they did mine.

Orange is the happiest color.

Frank Sinatra
Juicy orange…
The growth of orange…
Optimistic orange…

Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.

Wassily Kandinsky
creative orange…
The fiery glory of orange…
The homey welcome of orange…
Spontaneous orange…
The orange of transition…

I read recently that orange is one of the colors least often chosen as a favorite; only brown ranks lower. That seems unfortunate. Orange has so much spunk and cheer to offer. To me, it symbolizes energy and positivity. What does it mean to you?

My Times Are In His Hands

I promised to tell a little more about the process of settling into my new life in Ontario. It seems a little late–all of these stories happened a month ago or more–but I still want to tell of the hand of God in them. And what better time than now, as we contemplate the end of a year and the beginning of a new one, to reflect on the ways God orchestrates the timing of our lives?

But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands

Psalm 31:14, 15a NIV

Two of the most important matters of concern after I arrived in Ontario were finding a place to live beyond the first three weeks and getting my car insured and licensed for this province. Since I knew the latter would involve submitting an address of residence every step of the way, I decided to wait to start the process till I had a home. My temporary permit would last a month anyhow.

The first week, I stayed with Tom and Grace at their place in the country. All the housing options that the Reach team had pursued for me hadn’t worked out, so the ball was in my court. I got busy chasing down all the connections I could think of. My friend Leah and I went to the neighborhood close to downtown Kitchener where my family lived years ago, and we knocked on the door of a house where two single Christian ladies had lived back then. I had thought perhaps they would have space or have connections. But there was no response.

It seemed to be the same story everywhere. A promising lead…then either silence or a negative response.

On my last day with Tom and Grace before going to Peter and Amber Martin for a few weeks, I brought up the subject of my car. “I think I should get started switching it over,” I said. “But I still don’t know where I’ll be living.”

“Just use our Kitchener address,” Tom offered.

I gratefully accepted. Their Kitchener house seemed like home to me anyway; I had lived there with them for a week last summer. When Grace sent me the address, I read it over. 63 Overlea Drive, Kitchener ON N2M 1S9. It was so simple. I quickly found an acronym to remember the postal code by: New 2 Ministry: 1 Serving [with] 9. I double checked the number of Reach staff. Yes. Nine besides me.

If only that could be my home address. Wouldn’t there be some way I could actually live there? But no. That possibility had been ruled out long ago, because they had a guy from the city living in the basement already.

Armed with an address, I began the long process of paperwork for my car by stopping in at Service Ontario on my way to Peter and Amber’s house. The lady gave me a list of the steps. Vehicle inspection. Switch my license to an Ontario one. Get insurance. Get new ownership papers since I had just bought the car from Dad before leaving NS. Get plates.

Over the next few weeks, I slowly worked my way down the list. It was a headache. I don’t like paperwork to begin with, and now glitches came up and I needed more paperwork in order to get my insurance policy. People were helpful, certainly. Peter and Amber gave tips and got me connected with their local mechanic for my official vehicle inspection. When I needed the winter tires installed in order to pass inspection, Dad and my brothers rescued me by installing them in my uncle’s shop after a family gathering. (My family came for a visit to Ontario a few weeks after I came, and they brought my winter tires along.) But there was still some stuff I just had to sort out on my own. And everything took longer than I expected.

The yellow temporary permit in my rear window still sufficed, but time was running out. I had been pulled over on my second day in Ontario by a cop who hadn’t seen my temporary permit; I didn’t want to risk being pulled over for one that was no longer valid. Would I get the process completed in time?

And then there was the problem of a place to live. After church on my first Sunday here, I had stood in a circle of friends in the parking lot in brilliant fall sunshine and told the girl who asked about my living arrangements that I didn’t have a place yet. She said, “That must be really stressful!”

“Well, no, not really,” I said. “It’s kind of exciting. God was clearly opening the doors for me to come, so I know He will provide for that too, at just the right time.”

As time went on, however, it got a little harder to stand on this faith of God’s provision. I knew I wouldn’t be homeless–Peter and Amber had said I could stay there longer if I didn’t have a place yet. But I was getting weary of living in limbo, this constant state of in-between.

During my second week at Peters, I got desperate. Had I been too stubborn? Did God actually want me to just find a place in the country on the edge of the city? Or did he not even want me here at all? I began to explore more peripheral ideas, even checking for rooms for rent by random people on Kijiji. I hadn’t wanted to live alone, but if that’s what it took…

Then Grace sent me a message. They were already moving into their Kitchener house for the winter. This was a surprise: last winter it had been much later before they were able to leave the farm.

I had already been rolling crazy ideas around in my head about how we could shuffle people around to make something work. But suddenly it seemed shockingly simple. If they were already moving down, there would be much less awkwardness surrounding me joining the household, despite the other person already living there. Had no one ever thought of this?

I cautiously asked the Reach administrator’s wife if she knew whether this possibility had ever been discussed. She didn’t recall that it had, and gave me the go ahead to ask about it.

That morning I was singing Watch and See.

What if today you find

The heavens open wide

And what you dared to pray is finally answered?

Watch and See, by Kenna Turner West , Jason Cox, & Kris Erwin

I had dared to hope for this, but I had scarcely dared to pray for it. Could this be the the surprise God was keeping for me? Could I live after all in that relaxed semidetached house on Overlea Drive?

I sent a message to Grace with fear and trembling. I had to be crazy. There was no way this could be possible.

That night I was still questioning whether I was in the right place, for multiple reasons. And if I couldn’t even find a place to live, was I making this all up? I went to bed with a final desperate plea for something, maybe a just little Bible verse, that would confirm to my heart that God was still in this.

My family was staying at Peters that night. In the morning, we gathered around the table for breakfast and Peter suggested that we sing a song. Since no one else produced a selection right away, I came up with one of my favorites, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by Thy help I’ve come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

Robert Robinson

The words gave me a sense of hope, even though I still hadn’t really felt any deep confirmation yet.

But a little later that morning, my heart nearly burst with joy. For God, who is rich in mercy, seemed to have smiled down at my need and said, “You’ve been walking by faith, and I have a surprise for you that I’ve been saving for just now when you needed it most. I have a home for you.”

I could hardly believe Grace’s message was real. She and Tom were giving me the green light to come live with them. God had come through. He had provided. I had asked for some small confirmation of His guidance; instead He gave me an enormous gift I had never expected.

My parents were still there, so I told them and Peters as soon as I could. Dad said simply, “Well, God found you a place. We knew He would, right?”

Yes. This life of faith is the most adventurous and glorious place to be. At first it hardly seemed legitimate, simply too good to be true. I was afraid I had pushed my way into it. But gradually I came to see that this truly was God’s provision.

The next week, I prepared to move. On Wednesday, I took some stuff down to Tom’s house, after my CPR training (in preparation for working as a nanny), and helped get ready for the small group Bible Study that Toms were hosting that night. It felt so right to be a part of their household again. And it was a joy to be able to tell my small group friends that their prayers for me from two weeks before had been answered.

The next day I packed everything up at Peter and Amber’s and headed down to Kitchener. My whole being smiled as I turned into the driveway at 63 Overlea Drive. This was already the address on my license, and now it was actually home.

That afternoon I finally got the confirmation that my insurance was processed. My car was covered. The process was almost over. I checked online for the nearest walk-in Service Ontario location and drove across town to get my license plates.

When the lady at the desk brought out a set of plates, I quickly evaluated the letters and numbers on them. CXXJ 228. All those x’s! What could I come up with as an acronym for those x’s? The lady was still going over paperwork when the perfect one hit me. It came together so fast that I laughed right there.

She looked up quizzically.

“I like to make acronyms for license plates,” I explained. “And I just found one for these. Christians eXperience eXtravagant Joy.”

She looked startled, and then said, “You must do well with studies. My professor told me to make connections like that to help me remember things in my studies.”

I was still laughing when I got back to the parking lot. And why not? Here again, God had provided just in time. It was the last business day before my temporary permit ran out, and here I was at long last with my new plates.

The next day I was back at Peters to babysit for a bit. I had already attached the back plate to my car, but since NS doesn’t require a plate on the front, I had no hardware for that. So before I left, I asked Amber about borrowing a drill and some screws.

“Oh, I’m sure Peter wouldn’t mind doing that,” she said.

He came through the fresh snow with a drill, and, under the watchful eyes of some of the children, he screwed that plate firmly in place.

It was November 19, the expiry date on my temporary permit.

The next morning, I remembered that I had planned to find a Bible reference for the numbers on my new plate. Would Psalm 2:28 say anything profound? I looked it up in my worn brown Bible. No, Psalm 2 doesn’t have that many verses.

I decided to go with Genesis. I laughed when I read verse 8 of chapter 22.

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Genesis 22:8, NIV

Christians experience extravagant joy.

Because the Lord Himself will and does provide–at just the perfect time.

Where I’m At and a Poem

What an unpoetic title. Well, I must confess I don’t feel very poetic these days. Only rarely do I find the silence of schedule, heart, and environment to cobble words together, though I think it will happen more often as I find a rhythm in my new life. But it takes time. I’m sharing a poem I wrote about a month ago while raking leaves for the family I was living with at the time.

At the end of October, I packed up and left Nova Scotia. Drove a few days–a delightful trip with my aunt and elbow-cousin–and started the process of settling into Ontario. I hope to tell you a little more about that process before too long. I do have a home in the city of Kitchener now; it has been so good to finally settle in after being in transition the first while I was here.

But as to the subject of this poem: I was so amazed and blessed time and again by how people surrounded and supported me after I arrived. I guess I knew I had friends here already, but some of them went the extra mile to help me get what I needed–phone numbers for insurance companies, suggestions of where I could live, listening ears, and more.

And then there were the people I was just starting to get to know, like my small group from church. I ended up sharing some needs the first Wednesday night I attended a meeting, and they literally surrounded me with a circle of fervent prayer. How can I be so blessed, so cared for?

I thought was going on a solitary adventure. I think I assumed people would sorta let me figure things out on my own. But thank God they didn’t. The people of God rallied around me and gave me security and belonging and support. I am humbled and grateful. What a rich heritage for those who fear His name!

Sacred Vulnerability

I thought to be the warrior woman Jael
Who brought the enemy into her tent
And with a flame of courage in her heart
Drove in the peg until his head was rent.
Her solitary triumph sparked desire:
Would that my wilderness contained such fire!

Instead I find myself akin to Ruth
Far from my father’s house, in search of home;
Surprised by care, surrounded in the field
By those who would not let me starve nor roam.
As I go forth alone—yet loved and known—
I find a rest and triumph not my own.