Our Routine Nowadays

I realized it has been a while since I’ve shared an update about what The Dale’s routine has looked like lately. Small things have changed throughout the past few months as we ebb and flow with the weather and restrictions. 

We anticipate being inside for our meals, to sit around a table again, but as we wait for doors to open for us to do that, The Dale remains present on the streets and continues to be serving to-go meals outside. 

One of the biggest blessings is that church has been inside since the beginning of the year, and still is. Every Sunday we gather in pews and get to worship, pray, and hear from God’s word together. Before church, each week, we get our food delivery from Second Harvest. It has been so helpful throughout covid to receive over 100 pre-made frozen meals supplied by the city each week, that we use Monday morning. This Second Harvest delivery also generously brings along a variety of snacks and grocery items we can use throughout the week.

On Mondays we prepare our lunch to-go bags which often include things like a hot or frozen lunch, a water bottle, a baked good, a fruit or vegetable, and maybe a mask or some socks. Closer to 1pm, we set up outside with some tables and hand out the meals to a long line of people. My highlight during this time is when people step to the side after they get their food just to chat. Though we wish we didn’t have to serve food via a line, it’s great to see so many familiar faces each Monday. 

Tuesday is when we have our staff meeting. This gives us the space to check in, reflect over the week ahead, and plan what’s next! Tuesday is also a flexible day that can include variety of different things including grocery pick-up, outreach, fundraising, phone calls, visits, etc. 

Wednesday is our big prep day. We start by cooking up our bacon and egg sandwiches for Thursday morning’s breakfast. Then at some point in the morning, every other Wednesday, a large delivery of muffins and sandwiches arrives from Christ Church St. James- often called The Muffin Patrol! As a result, Wednesdays usually end up being a day full of individually wrapping all the numerous food items we make and receive to be served to the community safely. The breakfast for tomorrow is pieced together in paper bags with a juice box, a fruit, a snack, and any other treats we might have on hand.

Around 12:30pm we get to work loading up the van with outreach supplies and we’re off! We set up at the parkette outside the health centre in Parkdale. It is there that we unload our supplies and hang out with whoever comes our way. This has been such a great way to connect with our friends in the neighbourhood and meet new people. Recently it’s been a lot warmer and we’re seeing more and more people show up!

This past Wednesday we also added a bit of gardening to our day. There is our very own plot in the Hope Garden, run by Greenest City, for The Dale. We planted strawberries, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes to be able to use this summer! Routine garden check ins and watering will be a weekly part of our schedule for the rest of the summer now.

Thursday, the breakfasts that were prepared on Wednesday go out at 10am. Similar to Monday, this is a great opportunity to chat and connect with people. Since I have been recently working part-time hours, I’m often not there on Thursdays, which is sad. But our team does a lot of awesome work using the time after breakfast for things like outreach on foot, home visits, hospital visits, prayer downtown, and so much more.

Each week at The Dale can be so different from the next, but that is what I am grateful for. I am grateful for the opportunity to move and change with our community and have that freedom to participate in whatever is going on locally, without a rigid schedule.

The Dale is surrounded by so much support that makes each part of this “routine” possible. Community members come help serve the meals. Churches and local businesses donate food/necessities. Volunteers join on outreach. Right now we have two interns that help throughout the week. And, we are always so cared for by a larger network of people who who pray, donate, and send encouragement each in their own way.

A Delayed Process

I recently received some really good news.

My husband, Grant, has finally received his Permanent Residence Status for Canada (PR)! This means that he can finally live in Canada in peace, with the right to live here, receive health care, work, and so much more.

This is a huge answer to prayer. Almost every time Grant and I prayed together, whether that be before bed or even before eating, we would always ask God for Grant’s PR. I can’t even count the number of friends and family members who have told me that they are praying for Grant’s PR to come. Though it took a lot of patience, God answered that prayer this month!

The average wait time when receiving Permanent Residency in Canada, pre-pandemic, was 6 months. Grant and I waited eagerly as 6 months went by, then 12 months, and finally now, after 18 months we got the good news. Altogether it’s been a year and a half of waiting and confusion. The biggest challenge we experienced in waiting for this PR was the fact that Grant was not allowed to cross the border into the US until he had it. He no longer was allowed to see all of his friends and family, in the country he knew as home. This definitely brought, to both of us, a new awareness to the struggle that so many have to go through when moving from their home country.

During the 18 months of waiting, three major things took place, contributing to the delay. The first as I mentioned was the pandemic. Worldwide, hundreds of couples, families, and close friends also went through separation through the closing of borders and airlines. The second was when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021. In Canada, our leaders made it a top priority to focus on the paperwork for those fleeing from Afghanistan and seeking refuge in Canada. The third was the beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine. For many reasons this delayed the PR process, and again this included giving priority to the paperwork of Ukrainian refugees.

Though Grant and I were desperate to get his papers, these major world events brought to our attention the reality of what many are facing today. Currently there is an estimate of 1.8 million people waiting for permanent residency and citizenship. Because of our situation, I’ve read countless articles and stories of so many families longing to be together again. Some families have been waiting years for their status and cannot even go home if they get rejected. Though it’s been hard to wait, I’m grateful that our leaders chose to prioritize refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. Grant and I have been safe here in Canada and we were able to get by financially while we waited. There is a lot of difficulty and disorder in our immigration system that for the first time I witnessed first hand.

My heart goes out to those missing birthdays, weddings, holidays, and funerals for the ones they love. Almost everyone in the world experienced this type of separation in the lockdowns from the pandemic, but as covid restrictions subside in Canada, many immigrants still have to wait an indefinite amount of time for their reunion to come.

I am beyond excited to see Grant finally reunite with family and friends. It will be great to see the joy he feels to be back somewhere familiar and have the freedom to come back anytime. Though it was hard at times when the answer to our prayers was to wait, God taught us both a lot about leaning on His will, even when it didn’t always make sense to us.

Grant holding his finished application ready to submit it back in 2020!

My Mask-iversary

This week, 2 years ago, I wore a mask in public for the first time.

My birthday (march 15) was my last normal day of life. My parents and I were in Florida visiting Grant (my fiance at the time) and his family. We celebrated my birthday going to a buffet, of all places, and I recall talking around the table about how “maybe” we should sanitize and how “maybe” it was a risk to be sharing tongs with strangers in the buffet. But, I had no idea the risk it was leaving the house in general. On our way to the airport to Toronto, Grant’s mom thoughtfully gave my family some masks for the plane ride, but I remember feeling embarrassed wearing it because no one else was. Little did I know, that would be the first mask of 100s to come.

When I got home I was required by the new regulation to quarantine for 2 weeks before going back to work at The Dale. I thought maybe that was a bit over cautious until I saw the news on screens in the airport showing the panic of this fast spreading virus. There was tension in the baggage area as everyone tried to get the heck out of there.

As I reflect about these early days of Covid, I can’t believe it’s been two years. I remember my whole family being home, gathering in the living room with nowhere to be. I remember being careful to not use too much toilet paper. I remember hugging Grant goodbye in Florida and saying “I hope I see you again” (at the time more as a joke). I remember going on long walks with my friend Cat, standing 6ft apart as we walked. I remember the anxiety of going back to work and not knowing who could have it. 

When I went back to The Dale, everything was different. We were no longer running indoor drop-ins, we weren’t allowed to use our usual locations all over the neighbourhood, and I had to stand far away from everyone including my co-workers. The team had the weekly schedule nailed down by the time I got there- the outdoor to-go meals and outreach I talk a lot about in my blogs. 

The moment I first got back to The Dale is such a clear memory in my head. I entered the church slowly, full of fear after being stuck at home watching the news so much. I felt like I couldn’t touch anything at all without sanitizing after- the hand railing, the light switch, my phone, everything felt like a risk. It amazes me looking back at how my outlook and fear of covid has ebbed and flowed with the regulations and the fatigue, you might share the same experience with that. I felt torn between wanting to protect our friends in the community by staying away but also wanting to have a fearless love through being close to people, wanting to embrace everyone because of how hard things were. Those already marginalized now had to deal with being unwelcomed into buildings and distanced from others on top of that. The days felt so heavy.

And now here we are. Two years later and masks are almost no longer be required. I am excited, afraid, and tired. I know I’ll still wear one most places for a while, especially at The Dale, but I can’t wait to see people’s faces again. It’s exciting to talk about what The Dale could look like in a few months. Though difficult, we learned a lot about how strong our friends at The Dale are and witnessed, in action, the power of community. 

Peace is a word use a lot at The Dale. Even during the fear and grief of the pandemic, at times I felt an indescribable peace that I knew could only come from the Lord. Even when it felt hopeless, God was there, and continues to be. These are the truths I will carry with me into the rest of this year and throughout the unknowns of so many changes ahead.

A Quiet February

There’s something about standing outside at night after a fresh snowfall. Even now that I moved closer to the city, when my crunching steps come to a stand still, it’s extra quiet outside. I heard there is a scientific reason for this, that the snow on the ground absorbs a portion of the sound. On nights like these, I feel a mix of both calm and melancholy, the stillness is somber. I find that by this time of the year the weight of winter gets really heavy, and I yearn for the spring to break the stagnant quiet of each day. I know many can relate. 

I think a lot about how a bear hibernates in the winter and I’m jealous. That’s probably why I have been taking a nap almost everyday since the new year. 

There’s a quiet corner on Queen Street, where a friend of ours used to sit. We said a sad goodbye to him on Jan 26, unprepared and shocked by the news. His name was Ronnie, and he was a good friend to so many. He made us smile and laugh everytime we chatted with him. 

I remember first meeting Ronnie; it was back before Covid. One Monday he rolled into the church on his scooter and looked at me confused, until Erinn introduced us to each other. I was still new and was never sure if people would like me or not be happy I was there. But Ronnie’s unsure face turned into a smile quickly, and he began to chat up a storm, with lots of stories. He became someone in the room that I knew and felt comfortable to go talk to as a new person. Since Covid we would run into Ronnie weekly on our outreach walks or pretty much anytime I was wandering around Parkdale. 

Today on our outreach walk it didn’t feel the same without seeing Ronnie on his block or with his friends. In fact, we didn’t see too many people out and that just seems to be the reality of winter. Feels like everyone is dealing with hard things and there’s been a lot of loss. It’s difficult to not get caught up in the weight of it. Especially when the contrast from the summer is astounding, a time when so many people are out and there’s this energy in the air. I look forward to being with people outside without shivering, community events happening, people sitting in the park, and sunny evenings without the rush to go home. 

I thank God that I got to meet Ronnie. He had a lot of love for others and made sure they knew it. Today felt extra quiet. I missed his usual big presence in the neighborhood.

For now, I can only do what I’ve been taught by our friends at The Dale, and that is to carry on. I’ve heard so many stories from our friends at The Dale, things I can’t even imagine how they got through. But they’re still here and the way they carry on and bring joy to others, is inspiring to me. 

2021 Look Back

As we enter this new year at The Dale, I took some time reflecting upon 2021 and all that happened. And it was a lot! Some of it cool and exciting, while other parts are hard and heavy. From restrictions increasing and decreasing all over the place, to moving our church outdoors, then indoors, then back to outside. It’s been a rollercoaster, so I just thought I would share some of the moments that really stick out to me from 2021.

The Dale had the opportunity to partner with many awesome local businesses, churches, and organizations. Through our Dale Registry, donations that came in made it possible to feed our community while supporting local restaurants at the same time. It was a win-win situation and it was so special to be able to offer fresh delicious meals, from breakfast burritos to roti. 

Another amazing partnership that stuck out to me this year is with The Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. Not only do they let us use their outdoor parkette to run our outreach, but they also helped us host 2 vaccine clinics! They have very kind-hearted staff there that treat the community with dignity and respect. 

For Easter, it was a lot of fun to each grow our own tomb gardens to celebrate Lent, and read through an Easter devotional booklet that we put together. Though it was something to do at home and not together in person, it felt unifying to all be doing it at the same time and discussing it with each other on the phone or during lunch. 

The hardest part of 2021 was the loss of friends known and loved by the community. It was a long year with a lot of grieving that could not be properly done in any sort of big gathering. In February, we set up a small table outside the Health Centre and gave out photos, roses, and care packages for those grieving to take home and remember their loved one. Still wanting a proper memorial, in December we were finally able to run an indoor memorial to honour, remember, and celebrate those who have died, from March 2020 to the present. A space in the church was arranged with photos around the walls, flowers, paper to write memories, and live music by a friend and his band we know from the community. Though it was a gathering of sorts, we weren’t able to have more than 25 people in the room at a time, so we arranged it to be a drop-in type of event; where people could visit, light a candle, hear some music, and then leave when they were ready. I’m so grateful for how it turned out, and for the chance to remember and celebrate the lives of the individuals I knew and lost. 

A highlight from the year, was hanging out with the girls! Though working through covid hasn’t been easy, one silver lining is that as a staff we have had more time just the 4 of us together, with all the prep we did behind the scenes, in the kitchen, and in the office. I feel blessed to grow closer to these inspiring women and learn together as a team. This photo is from our super fun staff retreat on a farm with chickens probably right behind us.

For thanksgiving, friends from Christ Church St.James came and helped us prepare a delicious turkey dinner to be packed into so many to-go boxes for the community! It was a lot of fun to cook together and create something special.

A Dale Christmas Eve tradition- outreach with our families! So many familiar faces were out and about, and it was so nice to bring our families to join our very big Dale family to celebrate Christmas.


2021 still carried a similar heaviness as 2020, and I don’t want to ignore that there were hard times throughout the year. Even so, I still believe that God is faithful, and that He has blessed us with all the joys that I shared in this blog. It is my prayer that 2022 brings more of these joys as well as many reunions (with lots of hugs).

Respect within Community

Last Monday on my way to work, I got on the subway west bound to Parkdale. If you’ve taken the subway before you’ve probably experienced for yourself, the subway can be a mix of encounters. This time in particular, I sat next to a lady who was having a bad day. She was yelling really loudly, spitting angry words, and causing people to shift away in the train. I wanted to be able to help but there was a lot of unknown in what would happen if I approached her, if it would be a dangerous situation or not. At the next stop she got off the subway and I could tell everyone felt more relaxed again. 

At The Dale we had our usual lunch planned, but this week we also had something else a little special- Flu shots! Plus the option to get a covid-19 vaccine if you didn’t already have yours (which majority of our folks do). Even after running two vaccine clinics in the summer and knowing the drill, we were still mindful to make sure things went smoothly. 

As people came for lunch we notified people that there were flu shots available and then would walk anyone who wanted one inside. While trying to keep things in order, a guy standing outside the line started shouting/speaking very loudly. It started to cause a bit of a commotion, but before anything else could happen my co-worker Meagan went over to him. She kindly asked “Hey man can you keep it down?” Right away he said “ok, case closed”. It seemed he didn’t realize he was disturbing the people around him and quickly stopped yelling. It surprised me. Though I personally don’t know this man very well, he seemed to respect Meagan and The Dale, and without getting louder or fighting back he lowered his voice. It made me think about the lady in the morning who was alone and going through something that no one around understood. Though this man at The Dale might not have been as angry, it was remarkable to me the difference in conversation when there is mutual respect and it’s with someone you know (or are familiar with). Now I’m not saying this happens every time at The Dale, we have definitely encountered situations that have escalated when addressed. But, in that moment I witnessed the strength there is in respect and relationship. 

When I started at The Dale, I was intimidated by some of the folks who spoke loudly or would sometimes yell. It wasn’t long until I got to know some of our core group when things really shifted and I was able to address people by name and feel comfortable checking in. A lot of what I’ve been learning and what I write about in these blogs always seems to come down to the power and importance of community. It makes me think of the body of Christ and the role of the church to be intentional in community with their neighbours. 

It challenges me to continue to meet new people in the Parkdale community and seek out meaningful conversations in our lunch line of people that can often move along so quickly. I’m thankful that a spirit of mutual respect has been cultivated at The Dale, that not only I check in with others, but others also check in on me. That’s the beauty of community.


My job with The Dale requires that I fundraise my entire salary! If you would like to support me in my work go to thedale.org/donate or reach out to me at livdower@gmail.com. Please prayerfully consider joining my team whether that be through support financially or through prayer! Thank you!

Church Indoors

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Back inside! It’s finally happening! We have moved our Sunday service back into the building. 

For many months now (i’ve honestly lost count), we’ve been having our service outside, under a tent, in the parking lot of the church in Parkdale that we have been residing in throughout Covid. Each week we would hope for the best when checking the weather on Sunday mornings. It was difficult to have consistency with the rain, wind, and the cold dampening our plans. We always worked with what we had, switching to outreach when the restrictions got more intense or having one on one prayers in the rain. Having to be flexible is what we’re used to at The Dale!

Besides those things, there have been a lot of perks to church outside! I know I have already mentioned it but there’s something so special about being out underneath the trees, seeing the squirrels go by, and hearing the birds all while worshiping together- and I’ve heard others say the same. Also, the openness of the outdoors offers less limits on people and where we sat was more visible for anyone walking by to see and jump in. I will miss having church outdoors, but I won’t be surprised if one day when summer rolls around we’ll end up outside again. 

At the beginning of the month, we had our first service inside. With masks, distancing, and a limit of 25 people, there was a carefulness felt in the room. Simultaneously, there was a comfort of being back somewhere familiar. These pews were the same ones most of our congregation sat in pre-covid. It was this same sanctuary where I got to know a lot of our core community members on my internship back in 2018. 

Our time together felt special- we gave peace signs to each other from across the room, worshiped with Erinn on the piano paired with an electric guitar played by a friend from the community, and we shared in communion together at the end. When the service wrapped up we all headed outside for some hot chocolate in to-go cups and for some time to catch up.

Being displaced throughout covid and in figuring out how to do church outside, has been a on-going reminder that church can happen anywhere, that it is all about the people. We are the church and will continue to be wherever we are.


My job with The Dale requires that I fundraise my entire salary! If you would like to support me in my work go to thedale.org/donate or reach out to me at livdower@gmail.com. Please prayerfully consider joining my team whether that be through support financially or through prayer! Thank you!

A Cherished Photograph

On this cool fall day, for lunch at The Dale we had a whole lot of chow mein , some pizza, and good chats. Though our lunch is done through bagged to-go meals in a line-up type of format, we still manage to meet new people, build relationships, and have some laughs. 

A gentleman who we just met and came to know throughout the Covid months, is usually found front of the line every Monday and Thursday. I’ve never had super long chats with him but I’ve learned over the months that he is quiet, patient, and kind-hearted.

Today, he came over to me asking for help with his camera. He recently got a really fancy camera and was struggling with how to work it/fix it because it wasn’t taking photos. I couldn’t think of any tips to offer him until Joanna made me realize that he actually had the camera on him. So we sat down together and I tried what I knew. That turned out to be a bust… so I called the camera specialist-Grant! My husband Grant is a photographer and a real pro with cameras. I called him on FaceTime so he could see all the buttons and I followed along his instructions, pressing what whatever he told me too. I doubted it would work at first, with nothing budging for a while and my phone battery nearing 1%. But then all of a sudden we heard a CLICK and saw a photo appear on the screen!

He was so happy! It worked! Then he said “let’s take the photo now!” I was confused at first and then Meagan also said “can we take the photo now?” Then they went on to tell me that our friend has been waiting to take a photo with us and kindly waited for a day I was there to be in the photo! Unfortunately he is leaving and we won’t be seeing him anymore so he wanted a photo to remember us. It was a really sweet moment that felt like a little miracle. The camera getting fixed was more time sensitive than I realized, and I’m grateful for how smoothly the situation resolved. A great reminder about how God’s at work, even in the little things, like making it possible for our friend to get a photo to cherish the memories. 

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!

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