When I was 19 years old, I was discharged from a hospital in Toronto. I had been a patient there for 11 months. I was told I most likely would not recover from my “disease.” But I did. And I walked out of the hospital, into the clean streets of Toronto, never to return to that difficult time and that challenging place. People often ask me, “ how did you regain your strength? How did you get well and defy the odds?” My answer has remained the same for over three decades-Love. Faith. God.
During my illness, my family never left my side. My uncle wrote me a letter every day from Winnipeg. My Minister from Winnipeg visited Toronto often and every time he was in the city, with a very full agenda of meetings and appointments, he would come and see me. My friends came by often and I know they hated hospitals! They came anyway. I crawled my way back to wellness and I believe I was able to do this because during these months of pain and fear, I was held in love by arms that were both near and far. They showed me God’s love and I leaned into them at every chance.
Fast forward to 2018. During my time at STAW, as I work and fulfill the requirements of my Supervised Ministry Experience and move towards Ordination, I have had wonderful and remarkable people to walk beside me and sustain me. During my years at Vancouver School of Theology, I was also accompanied by dear hearts who gave me a bed to sleep in, some beautiful clothing and I was often fed and nurtured by their wisdom, their laughter and by their love.
A while ago, one of the members of my Lay Supervision Team at STAW asked me, “ what can I do to support you?” This is a difficult question to answer. When we are working, moving quickly, learning, practicing Ministry, what can anyone do to support us? Ministry provides such a fulfilling life-but yes, we do have to feed and water ourselves. And so I told my friend-“One of the hardest parts for me to get right, is to feed myself well and not skimp on meals. As a long term diabetic, I do tend to have high and low blood sugars quite regularly.” My friend heard me and off she went.
A few days later, my friend appeared with a very large bag. Within the bag were smaller bags-perhaps twenty-five of them. Inside each bag-and no two bags were the same- was nuts, fruit, veggies, hummus, cottage cheese, meat, cheese slices, salsa and more. Each small bag contained a nutritious snack, perfectly balanced for a diabetic. And there were snacks to last an entire week. The second week this loving, caring friend, repeated her generosity and this time into every bag, she placed a piece of paper with a quote of encouragement, wisdom, faith and love. The following week she repeated the practice and each little bag contained a tiny photograph of her own. Images of eagles, mountains, trees, the sky, the ocean, flowers, textures. Each time I opened a small bag, I received a gift and a voice saying, “Here is my care and my love.”
This gift from my friend continues. I am deeply moved and very grateful. And I have been reminded of what love in action looks like. It looks like a letter arriving at your hospital bedside every day for a year. It looks like a small bag holding slices of meat wrappd around a stick of celery and cheese and held in place by a toothpick. I imagine you can picture in your own heart and mind, what God’s love in action looks like to you. It is awesome and amazing. Never-ending and always present. When we begin to notice and look for it, we see it more and more around us and it flows out of us as an endless stream.
We give one another such gifts! I see love in action every day at St. Andrew’s Wesley and beyond. I see God working through us all, connecting us, allowing us to spin and weave our tapestries and quilts of love and care together. We wrap them around one another’s shoulders or place them at the foot of a friend.
In this time of Lent and introspection, we remember that with gifts large and small, we receive God’s grace and blessings beyond measure. I breathe deeply, open my eyes to a new day and read a word of encouragement placed by my friend in one of the small bags of nutritious snacks and I share it with you.
“ Be content with what you have. Rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”-Lao Tzu
May it be so,