Friday, February 29, 2008

What if the finish line were in sight? It is!!

What do you get when you combine a handful of volunteers, 110 days and $12,000? How about a 1064 sq. foot barrier-free home built just for two?

The finishing touches are all that is left. Next week, Jay and Charlotte Allan will finally be moving into a brand new barrier-free home built by a handful of committed individuals and financed by local businesses and benefactors. To celebrate the completion of the project, a small house-warming for the volunteer helpers and the Allans will be held at the new home on Thursday.

Working with only $12,000 in donations, a total of 25 volunteers, tremendous support from local area businesses and about 1850 hours of volunteer labour, this small project team coordinated the construction of the barrier-free home, built from the heart. From the drive-in ceramic shower to the heightened electrical outlets and lowered kitchen countertop and lightswitches, everything was planned with Jay and Charlotte's needs in mind.

Although we started without a cent, or even a budget, someone always appeared with money when it was needed. My hubbie Pat Carr, the coordinator says:

“There’s a ripple effect when people help people. This goes far beyond the work of the actual project. When someone opens their heart to others, it changes their own life, in addition to the lives of those they help.”

Monday, February 25, 2008

What if we sought joy in each day?

The question wasn’t a hard one and most people in the class scribbled quickly on their sheets of paper. We were asked to write down the most joyful event we’d ever witnessed or participated in. I instinctively knew we were expected to share moments that related to relationships. While events surrounding children or loved ones came easily came to mind for others, for me, it was a struggle.

Not that I don’t feel joy with the people in my life, but to nail it down to a particular joyous event stumped me. I adore my husband and we’ve had many intimate moments of joy shared between us, but what came to my mind most quickly were these memories:

Callie-dog running for the sheer exhilaration of the moment after being cooped up in the house all day. Like something possessed, she bounds with unabashed abandon, ears flapping and tail spinning like a whirligig, her open mouth stretched wide in happiness. Each time I see her like this, I feel the release of her joy like it is my own.

A luna moth resting on a bough. I’d never laid eyes on one before and I found myself mesmerized by its fragile perfection. Its softly fuzzed body, long delicate tendrils like streamers and luminescent colouring made my heart pound. I watched until it tired of my presence and flew away. Then I ran home and sketched it quickly, so not to lose the memory.

The morning sun rising over Bryce Canyon, Utah. The beauty of that moment, as the sun flowed onto the sandstone pillars in a soft glowing glaze of colour, took my breath away. In the empty space, feelings of quiet awe flooded in with the realization that the creator of such artistry must indeed be a God of joy.

Standing at the edge of a cliff in Portugal, gazing over the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Salt wind in my mouth, churning waves cascading into shore with ferocious strength. Sheer cliffs rolled to my right and to my left, rich in natural untouched beauty. There was joy in the strength and endurance of such a scene, repeated time and time and time again over the millennia.

These are my moments of joy…beauty and abandon, artistry and endurance. I think it’s significant that they are connected more to nature’s gifts than to people.

So many of those who populate our daily lives seem to sap our energy and steal our ability to feel a deep abiding joy. Senseless busyness has stolen the depth in our relationships and robbed us of meaningful connections. Some stumble on, not realizing why they are so sad; others, like me, instinctively seek a quiet joy in other places. But a thought occurred to me. How might I be robbing others by not sharing the joy in my life?

At the end of the class, we were challenged. What if we began to set aside one day a week (or even a month) to consciously seek joy without bounds in our experiences and relationships?

Of course, that's the easy part. The real trick is giving ourselves the freedom to feel it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What if we had the courage for solitude?

"If you could have full day of complete solitude, what would it look like?" our pastor asked in our adult Sunday School class last Sunday. We had been talking about the busyness of our lives and how we feel compelled to fill every moment.

Being busy has become a badge of honour. How we love to sigh and roll our eyes and lament about it, as if the more we do, the more we are worth.

The busier we are, the more important we feel; but beyond this, being busy gives us an excuse not to examine our motivations or explore our hearts too closely.

About three years ago, I began to 'yearn' for solitude. Long stretches of it. I dreamed of a one-room cottage by the water; one with a wood stove and no phone, no internet. A place where I had to time to think uninterrupted thoughts. Where I could live entirely in each moment without thinking of what comes next.

These thoughts coincided with a point of introspection in my life. And about that same time, I started taking occasional walks alone through the forest or along the shore. I remember one evening, strapping on my snowshoes and going out in a snowstorm to sit under a tree. Just to see how long I could stay there alone.

Sometimes I would find a spot in the woods and just sit on a log and breathe in the breath of trees. Or lay in the moss and try to separate all the smells and textures. Or simply watch the transformation of a sunset.

It's as if I am pulling myself away from the life I've created and getting closer to the life I was created for.

It will take courage to claim that place of extended solitude for myself. To embrace it and face whatever mystery it holds and then follow whatever path it reveals. But it will come in time. I need the silence to hear my heart. That's where God and I have our best conversations. If only I take the time to listen.

When a plan comes together...

What do you get when you throw together a handful of committed volunteers, $10,000 in donations, 1800 volunteer hours, 100 days and the participation of about 25 volunteers and over a dozen businesses?

A house for Jay and Charlotte.

Granted, the planning took a couple of months before we ever started, but from the wall raising on November 24 until today, I'm amazed how much has been accomplished. It's quickly become a cozy little bungalow.

For two weekends, Bill Redwood and a friend spent many after work hours installing the ceramic in Jay's drive-in shower .

Donna Reid has been painting for several days.

Saturday, Chad MacLean put the propane fireplace in place. John Tingley is working on crafting a mantle.

Today, Wildwood Kitchens arrived to assemble the kitchen they graciously donated.

Here, faithful volunteers Gord Hisey and my hubbie, Pat take a cookie and tea break with Donna before she picks up the paintbrush and roller again

So many wonderful people, with such willing hearts. Do you wonder why I love Albert County so much?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Frustrations & Miracles

The end is in sight for the Gifts from the Heart house-building project. It has taken a very busy, very hectic, six months to make this home a reality. But, if all continues as planned, the house should be ready by the end of February!

There were times that things went well; other times, it was frustratingly slow.

Sometimes people promised to help, but never showed up. A few delayed the process by their hemming and hawing until we finally had to find someone else.

But then help would come from an unexpected source. The pieces would fall into place. And all was well again...just a little later than hoped. There were several faithful and very dedicated helpers who showed up day after day to help - taking time from the busiest season of the year, to work in the bitter cold.

Throughout the winter and into the new year, there may have been as few as one, or as many as six men, at the house on any given day, working on the interior. Power wasn’t hooked up until mid-January. The volunteers ran equipment off a generator for three very cold months.

But through it all, there were moments of miracles – helpers and money appeared when needed or businesses offered to cover extra materials.

As Charlotte picked out her flooring, countertops and paint, she was beginning to finally envision how it would come together.

The Allen's vehicle had transmission problems in December and they were without transportation for several months. It wasn’t repaired until the end of January, so until then, Jay had not been able to see his new home take shape. The wallboard was on the walls before he finally got to enter his new house.

“Awesome”, he said, grinning, as he and his wheelchair sat in the space reserved for his ‘drive-in’ shower stall.

It has been a roller coaster of a ride, but through it all, the dedication of the workers and the generosity of strangers has touched everyone involved.

Little mini-miracles have been commonplace, leading us to call it, “The God Project”. It seems obvious our ‘contractor’ has a handle on the plan.

If you are one of these mini-miracles who played a part in this project; we wish to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It’s not over yet, but the end is near, thanks to your help and support.

Anything is possible, when you put your mind – and your heart - to it, and then step out in faith.