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Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Process

Perhaps it was a combination of late nights, gloomy weather, and a final meal with dear friends who were leaving, yet another page in the scrapbook of life. She wasn't sure. Yet when she locked the door after the little ones had left Cradle Roll for the morning, she found herself walking towards the church hall instead of her car. Usually she headed straight home and took a nap. Today was different. Perhaps she would find a friend to sit with, so she went.

She stood in the doorway, scanning the room. Several people stopped to greet her, exchange hugs, chat for a minute or two. The song leaders were singing, she joined in every now and then, as a feeling of nostalgia began to grow. This was unusual; she often came and left feeling empty, disconnected, and alone.

The grieving process was beginning. So this is what it feels like to leave, she thought. She had no clear direction yet, she was still searching for the pathway her Father wanted her to take, but she knew it would come soon. So many times over the past 17 years she'd wanted to leave, prayed to leave, hoped to leave, but leavings were always tempered by a return, the longest being 10 weeks. It was strange to live in a single community, a single country, a single continent for this long. Nearly half her life now had been spent anchored to the unfamiliar which somehow had never become home. She'd tried, oh how she'd tried, and the average American would say she'd succeeded in integrating, but she'd always known she was different. The heart of an African child beat inside her, the emotions of a Seychellois grandmother had become hers, the hospitality of a Middle Eastern heritage she claimed, the independence of a German grandmother was a definite part of her.

She finally turned and left. She recognized the desire to stay was that feeling she got when she was about to take off on another trip, whether across the state or across an ocean. It was a feeling of longing to stay. It came invariably as she packed her toothbrush and phone charger, double-checked her travel documents, and turned off the lights. When the feeling came, she knew it was time to go. She was ready.

The sadness blanketed her heart, wrapping close and pulling her in. The ghosts of yesterdays came out en masse, all the ones who had left in one way or another. For a few moments, the anger and the weariness dropped its veil and she saw the beauty of treasured memories created over a lifetime. For that was what it was. Each country birthed its own lifetime and as she left each one, she carefully placed it in its own cotton-soft-lined drawer in her heart and slid it shut.

It was time to go. The people now were not of the tribe of Joseph and life had changed from anticipation to existence. She knew it was not right and to thrive she would have to once again, hold change close and allow its sharp pain to change her. Perhaps this time she would breathe in deep and the senses would reassure her that she was home.

She was ready.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Marks & Sparks

And this is for you, he said, opening a bag and pulling out a pale yellow short-sleeved cardigan. It's from our aunt. She took it carefully and left the room with the excuse that she was going to try it on. After closing the door, she buried her nose in its softness and breathed in deep. Ahhhhh, there it was. Faint, after having traveled thousands of miles to get to her, but still there. The familiar scent of home. One of many homes.

It fit perfectly, of course. Somehow, over her 35 years, most of them spent away from those who were tied to her biologically, they had known exactly what sizes of clothing to send. Her aunt and Granny were adept at picking out stylish yet fashionably durable items she would wear for years after and then hand down to her sister.

Even though yellow was her least favourite colour, she knew the cardigan was not going to the charity shop. This would become her favourite cardigan because it was more than just a cardigan. It was a symbol of someone's love and care for her.

She breathed in deep one more time. She wished she could vacuum seal the familiar scent for days when she missed the familiar. There were all too many of those.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

92 To Go

I've been doing a joy challenge. A friend posted it on Facebook,, and curious, I went to see what it was all about. The challenge piqued my competitive nature, particularly since they claimed very few people were able to last the full 100 days. So challenge taken and I set off determined to post a picture every day for 100 days of what made me happy.

I thought it would be easy. It was at first, but today was particularly difficult. I laughed when friends made funny comments, but it was more of an instinctive reaction than a deep feeling of joy. I talked to God on the drive to and from a community mental health program I coordinate, but the emotion associated with our heart-to-heart time was expressed in tears. I came home, made a chocolate souffle in the microwave, and submitted it for day 8 of my 100 happy day challenge. 92 days to go. . .

I chose this challenge for a very specific reason. I've noticed that the past few months have been getting progressively darker and less joy-filled. I remember a time when I would anticipate life with excitement, when little things brought great joy, but now I tend to focus on the negative. This isn't how I want to live my life. I don't want to be known as the grumpy melancholy woman who can never think of a nice thing to say about anyone. I want that joy. I want joy which comes from the deepest part of my heart and is seen easily by others.

Interestingly, the challenge bases joy in circumstances or finds it in friends or tangible evidence. Yet at the same time, science has shown that joy is not found in possessions, per se, as much as it is experienced in the intangible such as spending time with people who love us. As a Christian, I am admonished to find my joy in God and to be joyful regardless of circumstances. I'm still figuring out the balance. I'm very curious, though, to see whether a deliberate attempt to see and seek the joy in my life will bring an awakened understanding of what it means to be joyful.

Henri Nouwen said, Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. Today, and for the next 92 days, I shall determine to choose joy.