Nanny

“Bye love” is how Nanny always says her goodbyes. My grandma who goes by “Nanny” hasn’t changed her final greeting, from when I left her space back when she lived in my childhood home, to now when I leave her nursing home room. Always in the same tone with her Irish accent. 

For the past few months I have been visiting Nanny in her nursing home as a sort of “caretaker” role but mostly for a visit, to make sure she feels safe and surrounded by family. Though she usually forgets who I am, she knows I’m familiar and family. More often than not,  I’m June, which is my mom, and on those days I get more of her blunt honesty. Overall, I’m grateful for time there, especially after months of covid and not being allowed to see Nanny at all. 

After my first few visits I cried quite a bit. It took a while to adjust to seeing how much she changed and I thought about how long she had been trapped in there alone. Since I started, a huge blessing has been an opening in a spot for Nanny on the floor in the building that offers more nursing care. She’s busier and less lonely because all the residents on that floor gather together during the day rather than separating into their own rooms. She’s even made a friend and the nurses call them “two peas in a pod”. Her friend often barges into Nanny’s room looking for the exit but smiles when she sees us and stays for a chat or links arms with me for a walk around the halls.

Even though Nanny has forgotten a lot of things, there are beautiful moments when her old sassy personality shows or when she sings a song and somehow remembers the lyrics. I love playing the song “Danny Boy” for her because she lights up every time, and never forgets the words for that one. And the other day when Grant and I took her for a drive in the car she pointed at a building and said, “look at the size of that building, who needs it?” Which is such a classic Nanny thing to say. 

It surprised me when I realized, while watching very old home videos, that I’m starting to forget what Nanny was like before her Alzheimers. But no matter how much time has gone by I’ll never forget the ice cream soda floats she would make me and my cousins when we were kids, the way she used to come to the beach in Florida and sit on the shore to read while we played, the way Jasper (our dog) would always get a piece of her food and she would say “look at his wee face” or “the poor innocent thing”. There are many memories like those that I’ll remember forever.

We have fun, the two of us, and it’s been sweet getting to know the other people on her floor. I’ve been reflecting a lot upon what it means to grow old and the meaning of family. The moments when Nanny’s speech doesn’t make sense I daydream about the olden days and remember we’ll have those again in Heaven one day. It makes me think about the shortness of life, the urgency of time, and what type of moments I will and will not cherish when I’m Nanny. Like these visits, and like the reunion with people we all received when the covid restrictions got a lot lighter. Like the new friends that I get to make at The Dale and the chats we have on the street or sitting in the grass. Like a journey that I’ve been on recently attempting to have a more authentic relationship with God and a more stable quiet time, because I know looking back that will never be time wasted. 

Even though some of my visits with Nanny are quiet or slow, she’s been teaching me a lot. Just like she did when I was a little girl living under the same roof. 

Rebekah’s Baking

So much of what we talk about at The Dale is the power of community. Churches experience this when everyone’s different skills and gifts come together. Many parts of one body! An example at The Dale is when we would create a meal together during pre-covid days (i miss it a lot!). Some people would be chopping vegetables, some stirring the pots, some washing the dishes, and others playing music to set the vibe in the room. 

I also see this power of community come to life when fundraising for my salary at The Dale. If you don’t already know, my work with The Dale is completely funded by a generous team of donors. It’s something that I find hard, encouraging and discouraging at times, but most of all so beautiful. Through this fundraising I’m blessed with a team that prays, listens, and understands. It’s a team who I’m excited to share updates with, and who prays so faithfully. Each person is a part of the greater Dale community and each donor is the reason I am able to spend every hour that I do in the community. It’s miraculous, really.

This year, my sister Rebekah shared her very special gift of baking for my fundraising! 

In March she came up with the idea to sell Easter dessert boxes, where all proceeds went toward my fundraising! And this past July she baked her delicious scones and paired it with jam to sell in a summer strawberry box! Rebekah is known for her baking skills and generosity, never asking for anything in return. I’m proud to have a sister like her, and it is so special that she decided to use that skill for my ministry with The Dale. 

There was a lot of trial and error with this fundraiser. There were a few baking disasters but also delicious discoveries- like those cake-pops tasted better than I imagined, better than Starbucks, just saying. I’ll add a couple photos below, because I need to show off her amazing work! 

Baking with Rebekah and seeing her put all her efforts and time into this fundraiser was a good reminder that I can’t do this without my community. Between the people purchasing boxes and family and friends helping along the way, it was amazing to see this project come together only through the efforts of everyone involved!

Our Garden

Back before I worked at The Dale, I was involved with leading groups of youth to visit The Dale. This was with an organization called Project Serve that taught youth how to serve in the city (it’s really cool and you can check their website here http://www.projectservetoronto.ca). Since we had such big groups that would come, most often half the group would hear a story and the other half would visit The Dale’s garden plot! The youth would rave about this part of their day, The Dale was often their favorite place to visit.. and mine too!

In Toronto, there is an innovative and unique collection of urban gardens run by Greenest City. And how awesome, The Dale gets a plot! This summer is my first time being a part of this garden. Last summer, unfortunately, we didn’t save a plot because of Covid. This summer we wondered if it would be the same situation, but upon running into a friend in the community, we discovered that he signed us up!

In June, through donations and generous neighbours, we got a full garden in action! Now that it is late July we have so much in blossom, it’s beautiful.

Below are some photos I took to share with you! One special part of our garden is our pumpkin, planted in honour of our friend Chevy. She used to grow them herself and loved it. That is until the squirrels would come for them. Meagan and I screamed in excitement when we found our first little pumpkin last week, and had to tell the others.

I’m looking forward to seeing how our work in the garden will connect with providing fresh produce in the community!

OUR FIRST PUMPKIN
Today I went and discovered we have so many more pumpkins!

A Shoe Clinic

This past Wednesday evening, The Dale was able to host a Shoe Clinic!

I arrived in Parkdale, a half hour before the event, and there before me stood a shockingly large crowd waiting in line, ready to go. At first I was overwhelmed by greeting everyone, but it was nice to see some people we don’t get to see as often. Then I hurried inside realizing we had to get a move on things to get everyone some shoes!

Now it was super hot out, so from the start Erinn and Meagan handed out bottled water to everyone waiting in line. We also had some freshly made sandwiches that were just donated that we were able to distribute to feed the line while they waited. There were mixed emotions in the crowd, excitement for new shoes combined with the frustration of the heat and volume of people. Luckily we had some lovely volunteers to help move things along!

All of these brand new shoes and sandals were generously provided by The Meeting House Toronto, who also came themselves to help! They set up chairs in the shade where people could sit down, have their feet measured, and then we’re fitted with a pair depending on their size and preference. It was a similar event to when The Meeting House ran a winter boot clinic with us in March, and it was great to have them back.

While the Meeting House volunteers ran the shoe fitting, Meagan, Erinn and her husband, and I managed the crowd. For the most part we were amazed at how it all came together with only a few bumps in the road! Being in the line is always the best job. It is nice to catch up and have some chats. It is also how I have been able to meet a lot of new people (and sometimes cute dogs)!

Miracles at The Dale never cease to amaze me. Just like the Boot Day, the ratio of shoes to people seemed too good to be true. Though we didn’t have the exact amount, it was pretty close to it! We will be following up with only a few people to get them the right size. It was amazing to see the joy on people’s faces when they got a pair they loved or that fit better than they thought. Some people walked the line showing off their new shoes and others went and got their friends to get a pair too.

God really heard our prayers, and I am so grateful for another successful shoe day!

Fun in the Sun

I am not always good at putting my thoughts into words. So to share an update on how things have been going lately, I thought I would share some pictures.

The heat has been picking up, so below are some good moments we’ve been able to have at The Dale this summer so far.

To help keep people cool while they wait outside, we have been able to distribute Freezies! I love getting to hand them out because so many people light up when they see the cooler come out.

This Sunday, we had another lovely day for an outdoor church service. It was beautiful to come together in this way and see a lot of faces we have been missing. There was “Passing of the Peace” done with peace signs and elbow bumps, community prayer, a thoughtful message by Erinn, communion with miraculously the exact number of grape juice cups, and live worship music for everyone to enjoy at the end. It felt life giving to be together and do normal things, even if it was done a little different.

Outreach in the sun! Even though it is hot, it is great to be able to spend more time outside with people. Sometimes that looks like driving the van around with snacks, Gatorade, summer kits, etc. and sometimes it’s done by walking on foot with soup, bread, and water.

Strawberry season! A great thing about June is that it is best time to pick strawberries and make some jam. This is a little bit of a sneak peak of the (soon to be announced) baking fundraiser that I will be doing with my sister again. So if you like strawberries, jam, and scones, keep your eyes out for a facebook post coming soon!

Happy Summer Everyone!

A Day of Receiving

One of the best things about community is the two way street of generosity. Even though, in working at The Dale we are often giving to the community, lately I have been amazed at the amount of receiving that happens in a day. 

I especially noticed this last Wednesday. Erinn, Joanna, Kim, and myself geared up for our usual afternoon outreach with our lovely van- Morrison. That day, Erinn and Kim took the van, while Joanna and I walked the streets with bags of snacks and drinks. During our walk, Joanna and I met a kind lady sitting outside Dollarama. We chatted with her for a while and then turned around and talked to a gentleman sitting on a bench. They were both so nice and the man on the bench was excited to offer us some funny jokes. While finishing his jokes the lady then said she wanted to sing us a song and burst into singing “O Canada”. It was a sweet moment, I loved seeing both of them so full of joy. As we walked away I thought about how outreach doesn’t always mean us giving necessities to the community, but instead we are so often on the receiving end of things. Receiving the gifts of songs and jokes!

Later that day, Grant came to walk around the neighbourhood with me to take photos of some local restaurant owners for our upcoming fundraiser (more details on that to come!). The two of us met and chatted with some really friendly people. Our last stop was at a restaurant that serves Tibetan food. Parkdale is home to a large population of people from Tibet, it is commonly also called Little Tibet because of this. And yet, all this time I still have not been to any of the Tibetan restaurants, though their food always looks so good. When Grant and I met the restaurant owner he was so excited to get his photo taken and to be a part of our fundraiser that he could not let us leave without giving us some food. He started putting together a bag full of dumplings before we could speak and he even gave us some delicious mango lassi. Again, I walked into this task as something for me to do to give but came back being the one receiving the generosity of others. And this is just what one day looks like.

I feel that during this year and a half I’ve been at The Dale I have been learning from the community first hand how to give in different ways. Not out of money or abundance, but out of the sincerity of heart and with whatever one has to offer.

Delicious gift of Tibetan Food!

Chevy

I remember when I first met Chevy. It was my first Sunday at The Dale when I came as an intern in summer 2018. I had never experienced a church service like The Dale, and it really was something unique and special. Worship began with Erinn playing the piano and singing, a row of musicians in the front playing guitars, and the congregation holding their song books to sing- that is when I noticed Chevy. I will never forget seeing Chevy, with her little dog Jacob on her lap, singing and waving the dog’s arms in the air. I thought to myself, I have never seen a dog worship at a Sunday service, but that’s when I really took in how inclusive The Dale is- that even dog’s can praise the Lord in church. 

When I tried to meet Jacob I quickly learned that he does not take to new people very well. Well actually I learned that really he only trusted Chevy, no one else. She was his world and I really don’t think I ever witnessed one without the other. I loved how sometimes he would have his own chair at drop-in or a space on the pew. Chevy loved Jacob so much and I’m grateful for how he was there for her until her passing late last night. 

My friendship with Chevy grew a lot during the beginning of Covid-19 when The Dale came up with a Phone Connection Train, to take turns calling people in the neighbourhood to check in. I’ve had chats with Chevy in person previously, but on the phone I felt like we got to know each other individually. When I called, Chevy would tell me about some of her adventures that day, mostly about a show/movie she was watching or about the squirrels in her garden. She opened up to me more about her health conditions and asked me about my life. Sometimes Jacob would join the call barking and Chevy would laugh and translate what he was saying. 

One special moment with Chevy that comes to mind was one of the times I delivered her groceries on my own. At the time I was new to driving in the city and kind of did a few loops around the neighbourhood finding my way there. It looked like it was going to rain so I was trying to hurry. When I finally arrived at her place I couldn’t reach her on the phone to ask her to come outside. Then I looked up and just down the street I saw her walking her dog. She was surprised to see me and checked out the groceries I bought her, always looking for doritos or skittles- her favourite. We ended up walking on the sidewalk for a while together. Even though it started to rain, she asked me to sit with her on some steps outside her place to chat. Though it was raining and my car was parked in a temporary parking space, I couldn’t turn down the invitation to hang out. Now that Chevy is gone, I am very grateful for that time together. I don’t remember all of what we talked about but I remember laughing and Chevy pretending Jacob was talking to me while he gave me an unwelcoming side eye the whole time. 

Some words that come to mind when I think of Chevy are generous, sassy, funny, and strong. From all the stories I have heard from her and others, I’ve learned that Chevy battled a lot of difficult things in her life. Regardless, when I would see her she was always laughing and exuding joy amidst many trials. And that joy would spread to others with her very contagious laugh. Most visits ended with gifts from Chevy for us or to be passed on to a friend. Not too long ago, Erinn came back with a rather large Halloween decoration for me that feels extra special now as it sits in my house. 

Erinn, Joanna, and Meagan had a deep friendship with Chevy that goes on many years before I came. They have endless fun stories that I love to hear and they remind me of the real honour it was to know Chevy and be a part of the Dale family with them. Chevy will be so missed by us and her community. We love you Chevy.

Rethinking Church

I miss church. I miss singing worship songs with a congregation, and being in community with people at both my home church, Parkway, and at The Dale. This pandemic has really caused me to reflect upon what church is. I agree with many who say “church is essential” but I’m not sure that has to mean gathering in a building once a week. 

At the beginning of the church closures last year, at The Dale we knew we wanted to stay in the community so we made the decision to remain present through doing outreach. What this looked like was walking the neighborhood along Queen Street, checking in and chatting with folks, offering prayer, and handing out snacks and drinks (at a safe distance with masks). It was nice to feel connected in this way and we even ended up seeing some of the same folks every week. 

During this time, I thought about what church is. In the New Testament, the church is described as the fellowship and the unity of people serving God. The Greek word for church “ekklesia” means assembly of called out ones or a body of faithful people. Here it doesn’t mention a building, chapel, or pews, but instead a group of believers. 

One of my favourite things about The Dale is that it’s never needed to own a building to function. Experiencing this combined with a pandemic, which has locked so many doors, has taught me how “ekklesia” can look. That the fellowship in reading scripture with someone on the phone, in sipping soup together on the sidewalk, in colouring devotional colouring pages and sharing them with each other, in partaking in communion on the lawn with leftover juice boxes are all a part of church. It has been such a good reminder that church is more than just a weekly service.

Don’t get me wrong, having a gathering for a church service is still very beautiful and valuable. Over the past 13 months of this pandemic, as the guidelines ebbed and flowed we were able to have a handful of church services here and there, all outside in a parking lot space. And I really cherish those moments! But I’m thankful that God is still with us no matter what rules are in place, that we didn’t leave Him in the building, and that He is still at work. 

A Change in Season

My backyard is a pile of dirt. It has been since I moved into my apartment back in October and now that the snow is all melted I can see it once again. I’m grateful to have a backyard space to use and that the tenant above us doesn’t want that space. My landlord mentioned in the winter that he wanted to turn that pile of dirt into a lawn, so I’ve been (sort of) patiently waiting for that day. 

This winter no doubt has been a difficult one, not just for me but for so many people. Being with Grant has been a huge blessing, but we both have felt like we’ve just been waiting for life to happen again. I am in awe that this is our 6th month of marriage, when not a lot has happened besides chilling at home in a lockdown and myself going to work. 

I don’t think I am alone when I say that looking forward to warmer weather feels hopeful. It seems as though that is when life can begin again. Already, as it warms up, I have been able to go on coffee dates outside with friends and go on longer walks with family without it being rushed by the cold. 

Because of this warmer weather, it has been more enjoyable to wait in a line and chat with people during our meals at The Dale. Things have felt less rushed and instead conversations have been longer. Outreach has felt lighter without being so bundled up- especially because it was hard for people to recognize us with masks on top of all the winter gear so that most of our faces were covered. 

This April is not too far off from last years- Ontario is now in another lockdown and the covid numbers are still going up. But I am holding on to the hope that Spring has to offer, to help me through it.

Recently, since the outdoor and church restrictions have changed in Toronto, at The Dale we have been trying to do something on Sundays. From individual prayer, to communion, and often hoping to have a full service, weather permitting. But recently the weather has not at all been permitting, from strong winds to pouring rain. We knew Easter Sunday was on its way and began praying hard for a sunny day. And, Praise the Lord, that is exactly what we saw this Easter Sunday. It wasn’t just sunny and clear, but warm enough to sit outside without shivering. Though just a handful of us were there, it was so special to hear a word on Jesus’ miraculous resurrection amid the miracle of being together.

There is currently a little leaf of a plant sticking out of the dirt pile in my backyard. I was so excited when I first saw it two weeks ago. Without any grass there, getting to watch something grow feels exciting! It gives me hope of life after this bitter cold winter. We survived it and there is new life because of it. It is written in Romans 6:4, 

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

The gift of new life from Christ is something that I seem to feel over and over again. I feel like this Spring season is bursting with new life and a hope that feels miraculous after a winter like this one. 

(ps. i really feel like it’s a tulip, but if anyone knows, please let me know)

Boot Day

Who doesn’t love a new fresh pair of boots? We all get that good feeling when we get some new shoes that fit just right. 

Last Sunday we had the opportunity to offer that to the Parkdale community all thanks to The Meeting House Toronto. The Meeting House Toronto is a church that works alongside The Dale in many ways such as outreach, grocery deliveries, Christmas gifts, etc. 

Last week on Sunday, together we were able to run a Winter Boot Clinic with brand new boots gifted by The Meeting House. Outside, in the courtyard of the church in Parkdale, there were three stations set up for three people to get fitted at a time. At each station stood two volunteers, a chair, and a foot measurement device. People stood in line on the sidewalk and whoever wasn’t boot fitting got to hang out with everyone in line. This included giving out socks to make sure everyone had a pair to wear with their new boots.

Before the event began, we had all the logistics, but had no idea how quick or smooth it would go. We didn’t know if a ton of people would show up or barely any. We didn’t know if we would have enough sizes for all who came or not. But at the end of the day we all admitted that there was something miraculous about the day. All but one person (who we will follow up with) got a pair of boots! And not only that but at the end of it all we only had one pair of boots, that actually ended up with someone the next day!

Not only did the boot ratio work out so well but the overall vibe felt in the area was good. People were excited, and communicated that getting to take a perfectly sized, fresh pair of boots, found individually for them felt dignifying. I really could see God’s hand in all parts of the day!

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