church-ing

A and I have been meaning to find a church since we officially made downtown Toronto our permanent address… in May of 2012. Yes, it’s been over a year without having a regular church to visit and it feels odd…  I did a google search of downtown churches and we checked out a few… but came away not quite feeling connected. We found one that we plugged into a little bit, but with A’s unpredictable schedule it soon became obvious that the time required by the church just wouldn’t fit with us. And I didn’t want to plug into the church alone… there’s something about now being a “we” that changes the ‘finding a church’ game.  Sometime in the first few months of Toronto church-hunting, a forgotten gnawing feeling returned inside of me….

I grew up as an expat child and the church of my childhood was really what dreams were made of. I don’t mean that it was perfect or that we all got along all the time… but we were a family, literally. We were all from other countries but living, working or going to school in Alexandria, Egypt. All of our relatives were far, far away. So, we literally were each other’s families. We didn’t go to church on Christmas Eve and then spend Christmas with our families. We went to church on Christmas morning and then spent Christmas with each other.  It built a sort of community that I know I will never ever experience again in a church…

So I walked into the first church and youth group in Toronto with an open heart… ready to accept a new church as it presented itself… but to be honest, I was shocked at what I felt… a popularity contest.

And I wish I could say it was only that church. But almost every church or Christian group I’ve walked into in Toronto has had an obvious “cheerleader” group – a group of girls that everyone knows and that everyone wants to be / or be associated with (i’m strictly speaking from a female perspective) or, as I’ve grown older, the cheerleader group is now more a generic “popular” group… filled with couples and singles who go way back… they may be nice enough to bring you over and ask a few questions, but soon they launch into inside jokes or some funny story… and now and then someone will interrupt to explain a bit of context to you… but then jokes are less funny when you have to do that… so you end up excusing yourself so they can go on with the merriment that you’re obviously impeding. oddly as well, i’ve felt like the odd one out… so many Toronto Christians are attractive, fit, active, very in-the-know of cool music/art or underground stuff, parents who were wealthy / reasonably well-off… and i’ve often felt just not good enough or too different…

Before the recent move to Toronto, I got to be in Kingston for 3 years…We had a small law school Christian group… filled with individuals who were once again far away from home, from family, from comfort zones…. and by God’s grace, a local lawyer opened up his home to us, cooked us a dinner on Wednesday nights and led us in some intense bible studies. Intense in that he was a wealth of knowledge and could spend an hour long study on five words in one verse… after which, you’d leave with a fully belly and mind blown. it was awesome. and something about those dinners made me remember the family-Christian-group-feeling that I had so missed.

and then we moved back to Toronto, and that all familiar church-ing dread returned…. and with that, a significant area of sadness in my life with respect to not having many christian friends, in particular, girlfriends. and couple friends for A and I. it has been a part of my regular prayers… i felt like many christian girlfriends i know already had their groups and their bonds…and once again, i’d be the outsider looking in, hoping someone would invite me to play… or could bear the discomfort of a new person joining their well-established clique. an inconvenience who wasn’t good enough or just didn’t share the same memories, childhood, whatever it is… that makes me feel so different…

all this to say… today there was a glimmer of hope. a new church visited. a small tiny church filled with people our age and with jobs (a post on why that’s important to me to be saved for another day!) and of various shapes, sizes, economical backgrounds, colours… most importantly, people who, despite obviously having friends in the congregation, weaved over to A and I to chat. A and I later mused at how it wasn’t just a ‘hi i’m so and so, welcome to our church’ and small talk. they actually talked to us for a good 15-20 mins at a time, such that an hour went by of us meeting and having solid conversations with people. it made me really happy. i realize this was a first impression and that time may go by and i’ll feel not good enough again or too different… but there was definitely something different. definitely something that gave me a glimmer of hope. that God heard my prayers and is maybe slowly creaking a door open.

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ache

i swore up and down that this blog wouldn’t become an adult version of my teenage diary a.k.a. filled with some super-happy entries and mostly super-sad (read: teenage angst) entries. the truth is, i still haven’t figured out what i plan to do with this blog, but one thing’s for sure – i still process pain by writing. and life isn’t just about happiness, so this blog will have some ache-y posts and somehow it’ll all balance out. writing is just my way of processing. and this blog has to be for me before it is for anyone else. 

don’t worry, this post is not about teenage angst.

i walk home from work.

the last leg of my walk home takes me straight through the go bus station in downtown toronto. i walk in the section where the parked go buses sit i.e. it’s dark and there are only a few people around. so, i almost missed him.

a black man, wearing an olive coloured suit, maybe in his mid 30s or early 40s. and, he was disabled. i have no idea how to label various disabilities, so the only way i can describe it is, he had crutches and whatever condition it is that gives you the legs-splayed-out look as you try to walk. well, when i first saw him, he was bent over (one crutch on the ground) and trying *so* hard to pick up a big file folder that he had obviously dropped.

he had just managed to pick it up and then twist his hand around his crutch and also pick it up, when my brain registered that he might need help.  but he didn’t look defeated, he looked determined. he then stuck the file under his armpit and awkwardly, his crutch, too, and took one brave step forward. and then another. and another. slowly.

and my heart just broke.

i could tell that picking up the file had taken a lot of strain, energy, pain… and that with every slow step, he was praying he wouldn’t drop it again. .. i didn’t want to stare, but i also couldn’t peel my eyes away.

It was 9:30 p.m., from the way he was dressed it seemed like he had maybe gone for an interview. Did it go well? Why isn’t wheel trans taking you around? Oh gosh, I hope you get that job. I wanted to run over and tell him to have a seat on a bench and that I’d come back with a zipcar and drive him home. Why, why, why do some people have it oh so hard? It just breaks my heart. i could just imagine the moment he dropped his folder. in the dark, with nobody around. nobody to ask for help and no way to move forward without it. what it must have drained from him mentally and physically. 

i still haven’t gotten the image of him out of my head. i kept turning around to check on him, until i couldn’t see him. he slowly crossed the median… the median took him a good 20 seconds to climb onto and then climb off of. it was 9:30 p.m. nine thirty. and cold. i still have so many questions… but mostly my heart still aches. why is it so difficult for some? and what can i do to help? 

poppies

I frequently think long and hard about how to describe me & him.
We are not a perfect couple.
People often look at us and say that we look so good together and,
I biasedly agree, our individual positive features seem to balance out our individual imperfect features – ha!
But we don’t fit perfectly together.
We aren’t one of those couples that are in sync like a beautiful melody
but we are okay with that.
Because we believe love is a choice and a choice that is damn worth fighting for.
And in those moments we’re not okay with it, we remind ourselves of of this truth.
So how would I describe me & him?
Well, a moment on an empty road between two towns in Provence,
in the south of France,
this summer,
comes to mind….
him driving a manual car (which I have no desire to ever learn to do, he loves it)
and me gazing out the window in silence and rapture (as I always do on road trips, which he’d never do)
suddenly I saw one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life:
Image
the trees and vineyards gave way to open country
perhaps abandoned…
and, scattered in abundance over the green grass
were the largest bunch of wild red poppies I’ve ever seen in my life
all set against a sunset sky
and waving happily in the wind
It lasted for all of 3 seconds and then I let out a squeal (as I am known to do)
He kept zooming down the road and asked what happened
“Oh! I just saw the most beautiful thing, did you see it? I wish I could have photographed it”
The car screeches to a halt
A three-point turn on this empty provencal road
And he returns me to the dancing poppies
Lets me jump out of the car barefoot and run across the road
And he agrees, that the dancing poppies against the sunset are one of the most beautiful things…
And as I danced along in the wind with the poppies,
I knew one thing for sure,
this unforgettable evening would have never entered either of our lives without each other.
Without his ability to work hard and manage our money,
We wouldn’t be able to afford incredible vacations
while still fulfilling our goal of building real estate equity in our 20s.
Without my ability to organize, plan and execute,
he wouldn’t be on this incredible vacation.
Without his ability to drive a manual car,
we wouldn’t have been able to rent a car at Aix-en-Provence.
Without my ability to speak French,
we wouldn’t have discovered this gem of a road in Provence.
So that’s the kind of couple we are. We may seem like a clashing gong at some times, but in those moments we are in sync, the melody is so beautiful that every piece of my heart seems to fly apart like a thousand butterflies in my chest.
We bring moments into each others’ lives that neither of us knew we needed.