Where feet fail.*

Memories from a time gone by.

T was a slender girl with fine features, average height and mid length ebony coloured hair that flirted with the wind as she walked. She had a cheerful, shy smile that more often than not she was very self conscious about. Everything about her spoke of a young woman who had a sensitive and tender soul. For me, it was her eyes that always drew me in. Eyes the shape of tear drops and the colour of rich pools of melted dark chocolate glistening with either, mischief, wonder or happiness. On very good days, that sparkle often transformed itself into soft contagious giggles. T never liked attention even though she had a way of brightening up a room without even trying.

For every moment that she warmed the hearts of those around here, there were even more days when life’s painful struggles would draw her into very dark places. Her eyes would change into ominous dark pools of pain, anger and bitterness. Sometimes we as friends shared hope infused words that would draw her out of her miry depths. A few times she was too far gone that our rescue efforts fell on deaf ears. On such days, I fervently prayed for her, imploring God to step into the depths that I could not reach. Ours was a friendship that was dominated by the constant game of tug-of-war between life and death. A fight to see who would be the ultimate victor, the few simple joys of her life or deaths hypnotic pull.

The last time we played the game, summer was almost upon us. The sun played hide and seek with a few of the scattered clouds but at the most part, they preferred to be left alone. It was not too hot and the afternoon air had a chill that warranted a light jacket. A perfect day to spend an hour at the local lagoon and that’s what we did as five friends. The car was filled with girly chatter and laughter as I meandered the villages roads riddled with treacherous muddy potholes. It was only when we sat by the lake and looked into each others eyes that I realized she was not well.

Even though I was grateful for the trust she had for us, her candid words describing her deep pain that afternoon frightened me. Even more so the state of her eyes, foreboding maelstroms of hopelessness that shook me to the core. I had never seen her so far gone. Our circle was pulsating with palpable anguish and yet the scenery around us was of picturesque serene beauty, very common to those parts. The lakes navy blue waves tenderly interacted with the shore whilst the wind intermingled with the birch trees. Its gentleness encouraging thousands of fresh green leaves to unfurl themselves for summer. Everything about the lagoon spoke of peace. It almost made me believe that everything would be alright.

One by one the four of us reminded her of the gold she had and the treasure she was to us. As we talked, It felt as if I was walking on razor thin ice, aware that one wrong step would unravel the protective bonds of hope that we as friends lovingly wove for T. As the conversation continued to flow, I watched as her eyes began to change and by the time we left the lagoon, the choking hold that despair had over her was gone. Her eyes shone.  Only then did I allow myself to believe that death had lost.

Two days later, she hang herself.

I now know the unique grief that comes with suicide. I understand the battle that rages in the mind as my heart is bombarded by a myriad of questions that I know will never be answered but my mind still clamors for a response. I have struggled to cope with the irrational guilt of not doing enough and the pain. Dear God the pain. Often I would welcome the numbness that enveloped my heart and gave me respite but even that was short lived as the pain would always pierce through my flimsy defenses. It felt as if, suicide had marched right up to me and ripped my heart out without remorse, leaving a gaping hole where my heart should have been. It was excruciating for months.

T left us two years ago, the pain has turned into a forever ache and I have learned repeatedly to lay the guilt and questions to rest. Tender and delicate tendrils of hope are now growing in the places that death left scorched and barren.

T,  I miss you, I always will.

‘I remember my affliction and my wandering,

   the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

   and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind

   and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

   for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

   great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

   therefore I will wait for him.’

Jeremiah the prophet.

https://youtu.be/dy9nwe9_xzw

Just keep swimming.

 If you have followed this blog for awhile, these girls must look familiar to you. My friendship with them began 3 years ago when I moved to Pikangikum.

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The desire to keep to myself in the first few weeks of arriving in a new place is very strong. Especially when I don’t know anyone and I am the only black person for miles! Because of this, I push myself to do the very opposite of what my mind is telling me to do. I purposefully put myself out there and go make friends. It is with this determination to make friends that I walked over to their home unannounced, not quite sure how I would explain my sudden appearance. By the time I was at their doorstep I had decided to go with the typical greeting that everybody back home will use when they rock up announced, ” I have come to visit.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say after that but my determination to make friends was stronger than my fear to stay away.

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These girls decided they did not like me the moment they saw me. Their first reaction to seeing me was a lot of screaming, crying and hiding away. The panic lasted awhile but their grandmother was very accommodating and in the midst of the wails and calls for grandma to come to where they where we tentatively held a conversation of two people getting to know each other. I must have spent an hour in their home that day and thankfully by the time I left, the girls had calmed down completely. Even after they realised I was quite harmless, they would not come any closer to me. I  assured grandma I was not bothered and confidently told her, eventually, the girls would warm up to me.

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I made a point of visiting the family once a week, a month went by and the girl’s reaction remained the same. That month turned to two then three, rolled into four, passed five and still the girls would not accept me. On my part, I did not impose myself on them, I waited. It was sometime in my sixth month of knowing the family when the change occurred,  by this time grandma and I were very comfortable with each other. That afternoon, I walked into their home fully expecting the usual cries but instead, I was greeted with three toddlers joyously shouting my name, running towards me each clamouring to give me a hug. I was amazed. I knew there and then, I had just made life long friends.

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I have often times found that we long for the fruit that comes with genuine friendships but we cringe and hide away from the work that needs to be put into making community happen. Obviously, my case with these adorable girls is extreme but the lesson is still the same. Healthy, long-lasting relationships are hard work, there is just no way around it. Most times pursuing friendships takes patience, sometimes it is messy and occasionally the temptation to walk away is strong. The Bible shares an incident when one of Jesus friends asked him how many time he had to forgive his friend.The Bible does not give a back story to his question but I can only assume the man was deeply offended with his friend and wanted nothing more to do with him. Jesus answer raised the bar for any of his followers, his response to the question was, he had to forgive 70 times 7. In other words, you never stop forgiving and you never tire of loving.

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When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and pursued a friendship that you know would stretch you to the limit? Sometimes some of the best relationships are made when we courageously step out in faith even when we are afraid and have no control of the outcome.

Times are changing

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There was a time when I didn’t value rest as much as I did work. It took a couple of burnouts, lots of reading and taking the time to listen to words of wisdom from others that I finally understood. Guarding my time of rest helps me perform better at everything else in my life. Progress has been slow but over the years I have got better at saying no to friends and not feeling guilty about it. There is still so much more I need to learn when it comes to resting and the art of being still. I am at least thankful that I pursue rest almost as much as I do serving others with excellence. One day I will get the balance just right.

Today I spent close to three hours at the local park, my mind and body enjoying the sun rays. As I walked to the park, I assumed that I would see lots of people out and about seeing as the sun has been hiding for over a week but that was not the case. Maybe they were taking advantage of the warm day in their backyards.

Winter is coming.

Thanksgiving with Mars

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Today I sat at a table with Americans, Russians, Canadians, First Nation Canadians and had supper. The conversation covered Russian history, languages,politics, hunting, children, culture. My heart was thankful, I enjoy being in a setting where different cultures sit around a meal and connect. As I watched my friends children play with Mars around us and under the table, I couldn’t help but give thanks to God for giving me a heart for children. Its the main reason I moved to Canada. There are people out there who will spend a lifetime trying to figure out what their purpose in life is. For me, loving kids whatever race or creed has been my heart’s desire from the age of 13. What an adventure it has been with God as he has led me from country to country. Each place with its own set of trials and joys but the connecting thread the same, children.

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Jesus shared a parable of a man who gave three servants money to do something with whilst he was gone. Two did something with the little they had but one just let the money sit, thinking that there was nothing he could do with so little. Needless to say, this servant’s attitude was a great disappointment to the master when he returned. I want to be like the others who did something with the little they had. I don’t want to tire of getting better at working with children. I want to always strive for excellence. I want to say when I see Jesus,” here, you planted a desire to go and love and I did the best I could.”

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When I think of where I have come from and the opportunities God has given me to travel to different parts of the world because of His name, I am filled with amazement and thankfulness.What are the God-given desires, plans, ideas that have been planted in your heart? Don’t give up on them, the road may be lonely, you may not have enough people encouraging you but it’s better to live trying than never attempting at all.

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving.

 

 

Contentment.

Last night I spent time looking through some of my pictures on my external hard drive. I found so many memories that I had forgotten about. Interesting that for some even though I am smiling at the camera, I can still remember I wasn’t having the greatest day.

For those of you who have been reading this blog for several years, you will remember that I spent 10 months in the U.S several years ago. I will just have to borrow a quote from Charles Dickens to briefly describe what those 10 months were for me:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair… We had everything before us, we had nothing before us …

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The week we spent camping in Moab Utah. I have probably posted this picture before, lol!

I laughed a lot,  cried way more than I wanted. I learned some painful lessons, a cliche but true, pain is the best teacher, I am a little wiser now. I learned light-hearted lessons too, for example how to ski ( I was still an epic fail at the end of the day even though Heather was a patient teacher). I learned, if you don’t hold a shotgun properly when you shoot, the kick back will make you scream and cause those around you to double down in laughter. Most importantly, I will never, ever, ever knowingly go camping in the mountains when it’s about to snow, talk about misery! But that’s a funny story for another day.

Ever since I learned in psychology that we humans have a tendency of looking back into the past and seeing it rosier than it really was, I have always strived to be careful how I look back , sometimes you can get so caught up in “the good old days,” you rob yourself of valuable lessons in contentment whatever season of life you are in.

I saw this quote on my friends Instagram, what do you think about it?

Contentment comes not from adding to what you have, but from subtracting from what you desire. Jeremiah Burroughs.

Days gone by

A few of my favourite shots from the past two months.

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I am watching the opening night of the Olympics as I edit pictures. Made me think of Paul, one of the Bibles writers and something that he wrote:

 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Watching the show has got me thinking, do I have goals or am I just living? What dreams must I keep holding on to? How am I embracing discipline in my life? and am I really running my race in such in a way that says, ” Yes, I am running to win this ?!”

Good night friend.

 

Peace, my soul be still.

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Be still and know that He is God,untitled-4

Be still and know that He is Faithful,untitled-2

Be still oh restless soul of mine,

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Consider all that He has done, stand in awe and be amazed.untitled-3

Be Still.

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Be speechless.

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Words by Steven Curtis Chapman.