Be All There

My mother left behind everything she knew when she was just shy of 35 years old. She threw the baby out with the bath water and headed East, in the hopes of finding new life. One could hardly blame her — when the life you lead breaks your heart into a million pieces over and over again, sometimes there’s no other option. I was that little baby, and I couldn’t blame her. Sure, I might have back then, but I certainly don’t now.

I can picture her in my minds eye, packing her things into a ratty suitcase and leaving her life in the rearview. She grabs the hand of the man beside her, and he squeezes back, reassuring her. How thankful I am for that man now and for the safety he gave her. Knowing what you leave behind is the hardest part of leaving, and in this case, it was her own flesh and blood. But her hope grew with every border crossed, and she eventually found her Eden– her home, her peace, her joy.

Even as the eldest child of the two left in her wake, I identify with my mother in a deeply significant way. Like her, my home has always left me restless and unsure. The people I grew up with confused me and walked away in search of greener pastures. I struggle with feeling like I don’t belong anywhere, and my heart calls out for some place where I can rest. I have enough reasons and excuses to pack it all in and bolt. My mother had no fear in leaving, and neither do I.

And I am. Leaving, that is. I’m selling my things, closing up shop, and flying away. Like my mother, I have a lot of things to leave behind. I have people I’d really love to be distant from, situations I’d like to forget about. But that’s not how it works. I understand that leaving home is not a matter of running away. It’s not about cutting ties or putting the past behind you. We can’t run from life when things get too difficult. To those who might have wondered, I’m not running from anything.

In this case, I am being called to go. Obeying that call is part of what I signed up for as a Christian. I’m okay with that. And I’ve learned that there is power in “leaving well” or “finishing well”. My mother left in the blink of an eye; up and gone before I even knew it. I have another three months or more to hang about until life as I know it changes forever. We don’t always get time, but when we do, we have to use it well. We ought not close ourselves off to protect or preserve. We ought not to always talk about the joy ahead of us, because there is still joy in the present. We ought to draw close to those it will ache to leave behind, and invest until the very last second. People are not to be used in the sense that we should only give to them when it suits us. Give your heart to people you love because soon enough you won’t have the same chance. Don’t hide it away because you’re desperately trying to save yourself from being hurt. More pain will be left in your leaving when you sever ties while you’re still home. You will mourn lost chances, and you will notice the overwhelming loneliness.

As Christians, our lives are not going to be pain-free or neat and tidy. They’re going to be a mess of heartache and love, laced with the joy and hope that we have for things to come. When you’re called to something difficult, be it leaving a church, leaving a country, or leaving a relationship, let it hit you. Let it break your heart, let it bring you joy, and feel it. Let me leave you with this:
“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God.” — Jim Elliot

Hey There, Sports Fans

blue jaysGrowing up, I was never particularly encouraged to be athletic. My parents were usually preoccupied with trying to hold together a separated family (fair enough) and somehow, sports just never fit into the family dynamic. Honestly, I think it would have been way too complicated for my parents to coordinate–every-other-weekends here, Wednesday afternoons there, packing and unpacking overnight bags, etc.

Yet somehow, I found them. Sports, that is. Between homework and mastering the monkey bars, I found a love for athletics. People who meet me may laugh, because I’m 5 Foot Nothing with the least athletic build known to Man, but I love sports. The funny thing about sports is that it’s normally the “team” aspect of things that ropes people in. The camaraderie and the fellowship that comes with rooting for a sports team is more than half the fun.

As a kid from a fairly dysfunctional home, I learned to like the things my parents liked in order to spend time with them. This likely explains a lot of my odd tastes in books (poetry and fantasy) and TV shows (The West Wing, old British sit coms), and it certainly explains how I got into sports. My father was a closet hockey fan–“closet” in the sense that he loved it but barely had time to watch it, so I had no idea he was into that sort of thing. As we got older, he had a bit more time to watch games, and I started to get into it too. Since the rest of my family was pretty disinterested, I could finally have some quality time with my father. That’s how I became a fan of the Leafs–a team that never wins, but we love them nonetheless (and will still pay through the nose for tickets). I’ll never forget when he took me to my first Leafs game. We had Gold seats. They lost.

I guess I can’t say we were never encouraged to get into sports. When we were younger, my father enrolled us in baseball. I knew nothing about baseball, but my father became the assistant coach and gave my sister and I a crash course on all we needed to know. I wanted to be a bat-catcher so bad, except I was terrified of being hit with the ball. So I was a short-stop. Of course. Our team was in a league with two other teams and we lost every single game the whole season– except for the final two games. In our tournament we beat the second place team, and advanced to the finals, where my little sister got us the winning run. The ultimate underdogs won the whole kit and caboodle.

In high school I played football for two years and started watching the NFL at home. Unfortunately, no one in my family got on that bandwagon, but I now have a lot of friends who like awful teams, so I can at least talk about football with them. There’s a certain comfort in sitting down to watch a football game. I can’t really explain what it is, but seeing the amazing Greenbay Packers run in a touchdown just makes my heart sing. Maybe it’s knowing that thousands of people are cheering along with you. Or maybe it’s being a part of something bigger. Team loyalty is a strange thing to me sometimes–most of us will never meet or know the players on our favourite teams, but we accept them as one of our own. We love when they succeed and we feel for them when they fail.

Tomorrow the Jays play their first game at home, and I’ll be working across the street, cheering them on. I’ll be making lattes for excited fans, and showing off my new Arencibia (we miss you!) jersey, soaking in that unnameable feeling. I know a lot of people don’t care about sports or scores or things like that, but for those that do, I’m with you. Sports teaches us a lot of things: working together, healthy competition, endurance, focus, and what it means to do your best. Even though the drinks are expensive and the stadium is always smelly, it’s worth going. It’s worth it for that moment when they get that crucial run, and you think to yourself: I love this team.

Bring it on, Yankees.

Sudbury

He realized she was no longer 

a child, as she turned to walk

away for the last time, and it

was in that moment that his

thumb was forced up. 

The day she had claimed for 

most of her childhood had arrived, 

and just as she had promised, 

she was gone. He remarked that

there was not a quiver in her

voice, or a wobble in her step, 

as she turned to leave.

He would think of her as he walked

to work, or when he would stumble

across her toys in the attic, and he

would wonder if she ever thought of

coming home. 

 

The answer, of course, 

was no.