The autumn of the unexpected
This autumn brought some unexpected turns. As we settled into new rhythms, new jobs, new schools and new communities, the newness of being back in Canada wore off and many things that were uncomfortable became comfortable, like going to Costco, walking Commercial Drive (where every day is Halloween) and feeling linguistically disadvantaged amongst my neighbours who speak only Spanish, or only Arabic, or only French.
I often use a morning prayer liturgy from the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland. It says,
We make room for the unexpected,
May we find wisdom and life in the unexpected.
Help us to embrace possibility,
respond graciously to disappointment
and hold tenderly those we encounter.
Help us to be fully present to the day.
In this recap of 2021, I have chosen to focus on events, people and places from 2021 that we are grateful for, many unexpected. But I also must take time to acknowledge those things that were unexpected and at the same time were disappointing, that caused heart-ache and even those things which broke our hearts. Through each of these things, I hold space for this liturgy.
I’ll start in mid-October. I left for four days to attend the Alpha Canada staff retreat at Barnabas Landing on Keats Island – the setting was magnificent, it was filled with Biblical teaching from Darrell Johnson, prayer and amazing worship. It affirmed so deeply that I was called to Alpha and am part of a truly special ministry with an amazing group of people.
Help us to embrace possibility.
I arrived back late on Thursday evening and early Friday morning we left for Alberta to visit Ben’s family. Ben’s sister picked us up from the airport and we spent time with her in Calgary. We went to the Calgary Zoo, saw our nieces and nephew and brother-in-law, before she drove us Three Hills where we were staying with Ben’s dad. On Saturday afternoon, Ben’s brothers and their families came over and it was like old times, as we ate, caught up on what each of the kids were up to and toasted Ben’s successful completion of his Doctorate (he actually graduated in 2020 but his family had not had a chance to celebrate with him). The next day, Ben’s sister drove from Calgary with her family and we went for a walk around Three Hills. We had knocked on his brother, Jason’s, door but there was no answer so we moved on and went back to Ben’s dad’s house. Upon our return, we received a phone call from one of Jason’s sons saying that he had collapsed on the bathroom floor.
Respond graciously to disappointment
Not too long after, Jason was pronounced dead; his family and people from his church gathered outside their home, tears flowing, making exclamations of disbelief,
And holding tenderly to those we encountered
There was no explanation. He was 47. The autopsy showed nothing definitive.
I left Ben in Three Hills to stay with his dad and flew back to Vancouver with the kids for a week before flying back again to Alberta for Jason’s funeral. The second trip was 48 hours that felt like an eternity. We are grateful for God’s mercies: that we were able to have a lovely evening with Jason before he passed and that at the time of his death, the family: Ben, his three siblings and his dad, was all together and our wonderful friends, Peter and Mel, who fed us and cared for us in those two weeks. Finally, for a swift departure to the Father, with no suffering.
So everyone asks, “How is Ben?” I suppose you are wondering too.
He is okay. He is heart-broken. He is grieving. And as anyone who has grieved will know, the world does not stop because you are grieving, they do not stop for death. No, the world goes on and we are all expected to keep up, catch up and carry on.
Please pray for Jason’s wife and four children. Please pray for Ben’s dad, his sister and her family and his brother and his family. And pray for Ben.
Help us to be fully present to the day.
From where I sit
I have written this over the course of the day, here on Bowen Island, at a little place called Rivendell. Ben came on Wednesday and spent a few days on his own before we joined him yesterday. The fire is gently crackling, Christmas music is playing, and supper is just about ready. It was a much needed retreat as we are feeling quite empty. We hit the ground running when we touched down in Vancouver last May and have had more socialization and travelled more in the last six months than we did in all of 2020. I’m sure we are not alone.
I want to tell you so much more: stories from Kinbrace, the challenges of not having a church building, and about my graduate studies that seem to never end but I’ll save it for that One Day I spoke of. Oh and by the way, thanks for reading this far, Mom and Dad.
Finally, for those of you who have read this far just to find out how Byron is, you can rest assured that he is well. His first class flight to Vancouver didn’t phase him one bit. He misses England A LOT especially our lunchtime walks and the nearby forests and farmland where he could run free. We have to travel a bit further to get to places like that here, but he does appreciate having grandma around who spoils him and is currently spending the weekend with my brother and his partner, which is also a very special treat. He has made friends with the chickens so all is well in the chicken coop.
We look with anticipation toward the season of Advent and then Christmas. It will be very different than the last few years with only one or two Christmas Eve services. We pray for healing, we pray for restoration and we pray that 2022 will be filled with hope, joy, peace and love as we seek to do His will.
Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go
Thy daily labour to pursue
Thee, only Thee resolved to know
In all I think or speak or do.Charles Wesley