My world felt as though it had turned upside down. Everything in it had changed. Much was new and exciting--I was being stretched in ways I hadn't imagined before--but nothing was the way it had been and the adjustment was hard.
I mourned the loss of the simple life we had known together as one large family on the farm in the country. It was a life of long days; large meals cooked; endless laundry; shopping, and 24/7 hard work, but we were all together in a place we had grown to love.
I knew though, that painful though they were, God was in the changes. He had given me a verse that somehow I knew was mine for this situation:
Philippians 3:20 (New International Version)
20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ
That verse told me that this life is temporal. It's not all about here and now, and the choices we made weren't based on an earthly perspective.
I'm not sure that helped though, going through the stress of transition to a totally different lifestyle.
I remember going "home" from "work" one night, and thinking, "I want my Mummy!" Yes! I wanted Mum to be there to lean on, to help me through this difficult time. But she was 3000 miles away in England, and besides, I was 33 years old.
Afer one extremely stressful day; my journal tells me it was January 6th, 1984; I was driving home to Holland Landing and I stopped at a red light at the corner of Main Street and Davis Drive in Newmarket. It was just after 5.00 p.m. One minute I was staring at the red light, panic gnawing at the pit of my stomach and a thousand thoughts swirling in my head--and the next, I was flooded by peace. I knew only that peace had come but not how or why. The light changed to green and I drove on. Moments later, it registered that in England it was five hours later than in Canada. Mum would be going through her nightly routine. She would be praying. I knew that was it! I got home and tried to express the experience in verse. I didn't do a very good job, but here it is:
I felt your gentle touch today Lord,
"Someone" must have lifted me in prayer.
While all around the storm was wildly raging,
I felt within my heart that you were there!
Caught up with all the cares of daily living,
No time I'd found for kneeling at your feet,
But how I thank you, Lord, for your calm presence,
And for somebody who lifted me in prayer.
I learned through those difficult days that although we cry out to God to take us out of difficult circumstances, he sometimes just gives us the strength to get through them and he teaches us lessons that we would learn no other way. I would have gladly wimped out, but he loved me too much to allow me to. He was building spiritual muscle.
Paul was praying about the next step in his life too. He had a well paid government job that was coming to an end as the institution closed. All of the staff were offered comparable positions elsewhere but Noel Churchman had approached Paul about possibily joining Christian Horizons. As we prayed, God gave him a verse, similar to the one he gave to me:
Colossians 3:2 (New International Version)
2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
There was no real choice. Paul left the government, and in June of 1984, nearly six months after I had done so, he too, joined Christian Horizons. The agency had agreed to take the ten of the residents that were hardest to serve and Paul opened up the first Christian Horizons home in Toronto in a duplex which happened to be right in the middle of a Jewish neighbourhood.
It is hard to understand just how it was then, when we now have such a structure of support. We now have policy and procedures to cover every circumstance. Back then we were still creating the structure.
Ed had arranged for a Christian Horizons manager from Muskoka to come down and spend a day with me during my first weeks on the job. Her name was Ruth and I was forever grateful for the wisdom and counsel she shared on how to run a Christian Horizons home. To help him he had two young shiny eyed DSW graduates named Vivien and Gwen.
At one of the meetings during which the ten or so managers from throughout the province got together, one of them said to me, "Don't worry Belinda, one night you will suddenly realize that you actually went to sleep and didn't think about work all night long." That was so helpful! I realized that I wasn't going crazy and that other people had felt as stressed as me and it didn't last forever.
Personally, it was a difficult and dark time. But I found my joy in the people with disabilities who every day at work, accepted me with candour, no hidden agendas (well, not too many) and love. I was supposed to be serving and supporting them, but during that time, they were my support and shelter. They replenished me when I was empty and made me laugh when I thought I had forgotten how.
God had given me a gift that came wrapped in prickly paper--but I knew the giver and I trusted him. That trust plumbed deeper depths before the wrapping came off.
More next week!