The Tapestry of Grace

Unpredictable. Chaotic. Surprising. Arduous. Exhilarating.

It’s hard to sum up life these days. Life since…well my last blog post was just shy of a year ago. I never stopped blogging intentionally; life became full and the longer I went without blogging, the more difficult it became to imagine posting again. So here we are: a toe-in-the-water post. Nothing particularly inspiring or hilarious. Just life.

Rather than writing a history of the past year of my life (snooze), I think I’ll just leave you with two updates.

Adoption! 

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know Varun and I have been in the process of adopting a little one from India for 3.5 years. The short version of the story is that in August 2015, we were matched with a little girl, whom we’ll call ‘M’ for now. She is 3.5 years old, lives in Uttar Pradesh and enjoys chocolate and talking (love this girl already). We are currently navigating (sometimes adrift among) the remaining paperwork and *hope* to bring home little M by the late summer.

Due to Reasons, I can’t post pictures of her giant eyes and sweet smile, but trust me, she’s a cutie.

Our celebration on M's birthday

Our celebration on M’s birthday

If you have sent prayers or texts or books or blankets or clothes or smiles or furniture or toys…or have in any way helped us to hold the torch of hope during these (sometimes bleak) days of waiting: thank you. They say it takes a village to raise a child; I know it definitely takes a village to wait for a child. Thank you: You have held our hearts above water.

Speaking of Water. 

(This is a terrible segue). In early January, Varun and I were on our annual retreat, resting and dreaming about the upcoming year. As we lay sleeping peacefully in our B&B, we were startled to consciousness by our neighbour phoning us, frantic. “You have to come home! There is two feet of water in the apartment!!”. Thinking of the 6 years of adoption and immigration paperwork sloppily stored on the floor (I never claimed to be a gifted administrator), we packed up and sped home.

The entrance to the road we live on was blocked with firetrucks and ambulances. Hundreds of building occupants stood huddled outside the building, fighting in vain to stay warm in the cold January rain. Inside the building was mayhem: a fire standpipe had broken on the 6th floor, inundating the bottom 6 floors of the apartment with thousands of litres of water. Thankfully, our unit only had 2 inches of water, something that came as a happy surprise. Never mind that water was pouring into our bedroom through a crack in the ceiling; our paperwork was safe. We learned a lesson that day about expectations.

The first floor hallway

The first floor hallway

In the days that followed, Varun and I were showered with love and generosity. From coworkers who made us lunches to church friends who shared their homes, we received a torrent (so many water puns) of love and kindness. And it doesn’t stop with us! Our coworkers and church friends gave our neighbours bedding, room in their home, gift cards, meals…In a time of incredible stress and great need, our tribe showed up.

Next came fighting our landlord for fair compensation, emptying our unit and finding long-term short-term housing. So here we are, 5 weeks after the flood and exhausted and wealthy beyond imagining. We have been the recipients of so much love and grace. Are we weary? Very much: it’s been a long haul including the flu, colds and various pestilences. Are we loved? Immensely.

And The Plan. We sing a song in church that says:

And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
Within this tapestry of grace…

(Keith Getty)

(More water puns, ha ha!)

In this season of feeling like we see a lot of strands of sorrow and suffering, we have been gifted in seeing some of the bigger tapestry. The hotel in which we are currently staying is home to 188 of the 499 Syrian refugees who are newcomers to Hamilton. Our being displaced here has afforded us the opportunity to connect with and love on some of the most vulnerable in our city. Although we don’t have a ton of energy to spare these days, we’ve been able to connect these new friends with our Church’s ESL classes and host a social for some of the women and children.

Crafts and snacks: the universal language

Crafts and snacks: the universal language

So, all in all. Life has been nuts. Our adoption agency tells us we will bring our daughter home in “6-8 months” and our landlord tells us we can move back home in “2-3 months”. If ever there has been a time to roll with the punches, it’s now.

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Bring it.

Categories: adoption, friends, immigration, life, love, neighbours | 4 Comments

From ‘Namaste’ to ‘I Do’

I’ll never forget the uncertainty and fear I felt, as I sat at the kitchen table, tracing the word “pyaar” (love) in gold letters on our wedding invitations. My thoughts were racing to process the contents of a recent discussion Varun and I had had in premarital counselling.

While exploring the chapter on extended family, Varun had explained that he would expect and hope to be available to care for his parents as they age. This, he shared, might mean, moving home to India or inviting them to live with us. I had two thoughts when I heard this: run! ignore! If I’m honest, there was a big part of me that was tempted to say, He doesn’t really mean that. He’ll change his mind. But, the wiser, more mature side of me knew, If I marry this man, I marry him as-is.

Now, let me clarify: I absolutely love Varun’s parents: they are generous, kind, loving, fun-loving, wise and affectionate. They have made me feel like a beloved and welcomed daughter from Day 1.

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However, the intensity of Varun’s conviction in such a nebulous proposal made me do a double take. It really had nothing to do with his parents, or where we should live or whether or not we would move to India in 15 years. What terrified me was that there was an ingrained, cultural ideal that made Varun feel convicted, and I did not hear that same voice tugging at my heart and mind.

As I stacked completed wedding invitations, I had a growing realization of the fragility of our relationship. We are two people from vastly different religious, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, about to pledge our hearts to one another for life, no matter what. I didn’t hear the voice that Varun did, and yet we were committing to walking hand in hand into the future.

I knew at that moment, that if I married Varun, I would be marrying those voices. This doesn’t mean we blindly follow my culture or his, or that our families, backgrounds or customs dictate our choices. What it does mean, is that there are voices and customs and languages and ideals offering their vote in our heads at each junction; and it’s our job to forge ahead, creating a unique Varun & Amelia hybrid culture. (Hint: easier said than done!)

With my invitation-making party drawing to a close, I had come to a conclusion in my heart: because of our shared faith, the integrity of Varun’s character and my absolute joy in being with him, I would continue forward. I also made a commitment to myself never to irnore or underestimate the differences, but to truly listen and hear, even when the desires or convictions run counter to my own.

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I recently had the privilege of chatting with an incredible intercultural couple who will be getting married soon. As we chatted about intercultural relationships, I realized how much Varun and I have wrestled with over the years, the hard conversations we’ve had, and the things I wish we’d been asked about or told.

I started thinking about the power of conversation, and the possibilities of creating a tool to help those on the intercultural marriage journey. So to that end, I want your input! Leave a comment, shoot me an email, text, PM, call…or even write me a letter (yes, the kind with stamps) and tell me:

  • What questions helped you to process your intercultural relationship (before or after marriage)?
  • Did you find premarital counselling helpful? Why or why not? What in particular was helpful?
  • What were the biggest hurdles you found in moving from dating to marriage?
  • What do you feel you were unprepared for after marriage? How do you feel you were prepared?
  • How do your cultural differences impact your marriage/relationship?
  • How did you navigate differing familial and cultural expectations around wedding ceremonies, traditions, etc.?
  • What cultural differences have the biggest impact on your marriage/relationship (family relationships, finances, community, sexuality, etc.)?
  • What do you wish someone had told you ahead of time about being in an intercultural relationship?
  • What supports would empower you as you negotiate and learn the ropes of an intercultural relationship?

*All responses will be kept in confidence. I won’t blog about you–without asking first! 

It’s important to note that I want to hear from everyone, as every relationship is, in some way (big or small), intercultural. I’m so excited to hear your thoughts!

Happy Friday, y’all! 

Categories: celebrations, communication, family, love, wedding | 1 Comment

Thoughts From The Job Hunting Life

“So, what do you do?” If these words inspire fear and trembling, you, like me, might be job-hunting.

As you may or may not know, I spent 3.5 years of my life and a somewhat extensive (for Canada) student loan on graduate school. Having completed my Masters in Clinical Counselling, I am now ready to take on the world.

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Since job-hunting can be a stretching experience, I thought I’d write about it. ‘Cuz that’s what I do when something is hard or exciting or strange or hilarious. And then I remembered, I have written about job-hunting! In my pre-blog days, I used to type pithy posts and save them to my folder where they never again saw the light of day. But today, I’ve dug this up from the archives to give you a glimpse into Amelia’s Brain on Unemployment, circa 2010.

This gem is from Year 1 of married life, in which Varun graduated from University at the height of the recession and spent over a year looking for a job, while I worked as an intern for campus ministry. When my contract ended, we were both unemployed. That was the summer of resumes and learning to iron and ultimately, moving across Canada to our new home (and job!) in Ontario….

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Did you ever wonder why Mr. Roger’s went to car factories and bakeries and music stores but he never took you to visit someone who’s unemployed? You might have thought this is because he wanted to inspire you to work hard and develop skills and if you saw the good life of the unemployed who watch the Price Is Right all day, you’d never finish kindergarten. Probably it’s because he didn’t want to depress your socks off by showing you that after years of recess and algebra and history classes, there’s a chance you might not get a job at the bakery, or even as a Mr. McFeely doing speedy deliveries.

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After being unemployed for 5 official business days, I feel at liberty to reflect on the topic. My expertise comes not from my own experience, but from my husband’s 369 days of unemployment. You see, I would say that unemployment is harder than working. What?!, you say. While it’s true that you can make your own schedule, sleep in and eat instant noodles whenever you want, having a job has its perks. Income, for example. And, as much as I crave flexibility, having a regular schedule does wonders for your sleeping and exercising habits. And let’s be honest, how much Youtube can you watch? (A lot, I know. But 369 days worth?)

But really, the worst part of being unemployed is the noise that is as constant as a dripping faucet. It’s there at parties, while out with friends, while checking job postings and especially on the 1st of each month. This, my friends, is the noise of responsibility. It’s the voice that whispers, “It’s 8:31 am, what are you doing in bed?!” and, “Rent’s due, again? Wow. Time flies”. You see, the difference between a planned in-between-jobs vacation and being unemployed is just that: plans. When there’s money in the bank and vacation on the calendar, we’re happy to prop up our feet for weeks without feeling restless or guilty. But give yourself one day on the unemployed roster, and you’re up to your neck in guilt thicker than gravy.

I have to say though, mad props to my husband for his persistence. As I type this encouraging and helpful diatribe he is warm-calling CEO’s at companies for which he’d like to work. This man is a champion. In fact, he’s a genius at job-hunting. After only 2 days I realized my ineptitude and turned to him for resume and CEO-stalking tips. I wonder if he shouldn’t open up a job-hunting business, he definitely has the requisite experience in searching

unemployment

In all seriousness, I have a whole new respect for those 9.9% of Americans and thousands of others who are unemployed. Although we spend our days sending out resumes and “working”, I think physics makes a good point by calling “work” force multiplied by displacement; this means that any energy exerted that doesn’t result in movement isn’t “work”. Likewise, the job-hunter spends hours exerting energy and at the end of the day hasn’t seen much movement. But, luckily for these job-hunters, Youtube has enough Star Trek episodes to fill any void of frustration.

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Wow, apparently Amelia’s Brain On Unemployment (2010 Edition) was way better at Physics than the 2015 Edition is. Because that last paragraph was a doozy.

At any rate, my thoughts and feelings this go-round are quite different. For one thing, my affinity for Star Trek has declined markedly. For another, I’m working part-time so ‘unemployed’ is not the most accurate term. I’m also experiencing this time of job-hunting as one of opportunities; life is so very full of friendships and learning and serving and growing. It’s turning out to be a season of asking questions, exploring my identity and being brave. Perhaps this calls for a follow-up post…

But for now, I have job boards to search and a chocolate chip cookie speedy delivery to make.

This cookie picture is 100% stolen from my sister. My cookies didn't make it to the picture stage.

This cookie picture is 100% stolen from my sister. My cookies didn’t make it to the picture stage.

Categories: life, physics | 1 Comment

Harry Potter and the Tardy Enthusiast

Confession: I’ve never read the Harry Potter books. That is, until about 3 weeks ago. I’m slowly realizing I’m a bit late to the party. In the late 90’s when my peers were frantically turning pages, desperate to find out what was inside the chamber of secrets and who would win the House Cup, and how Harry Potter would evade Snape again, I was reading Little House on the Prairie and Dear America, playing in tree forts and raising chickens (Yup).

Somehow, I also ended up playing ‘Quidditch’ despite the fact that I was HP illiterate. It would take an entire blog post to explain the life decisions that got me to this moment:

Playing 'Quidditch' despite the fact that I was HP illiterate. It would take an entire blog post to explain the life decisions that got me to this moment.

Of course I knew about Harry Potter; in fact, I laughed when y’all were lining up for midnight releases of the next book. But somehow I massively missed the memo. Until Christmas 2014. In response to my request for a beach book, my sister suggested I read Harry Potter. Dismissively, I acquisced.

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After a few hours of Harry Potter, warm sand and the Pacific Ocean I was hooked.

Now, the problem with reading a gripping series 18 years  after its release date (I KNOW, RIGHT?!) is no one else is quite as excited as you are. I’ve spent the better part of January asking people, “Have you read Harry Potter?!” like it’s 1996 and I just discovered home internet.

Despite being a decade and a half behind the people, I’ve managed to make it this far without any spoilers. Except one: since middle school, I’ve always been likened to someone called ‘Hermione’. All I knew was she was the main girl in Harry Potter. I suppose I took this as a compliment. Until I picked up the books myself.

Description of Hermione:

bushy hair

bossy

eager to be called on in class

 

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If gifs existed in 1999 I would insert a gif of me in middle school english: bushy ponytail with a ribbon, hand waving in case my teacher couldn’t see it. Sooo….yeah…Thanks, everyone who ever called me Hermione: we’re not friends anymore.

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All of this to say, can we please talk about Harry Potter?! My ambition this winter is to Bring Harry Potter back. Since I missed the boat the first go-round, I’d really like the opportunity to rave and wonder about it with y’all. Although to be honest, picking up the next book is kind of like making a conscious decision to not be an adult for a few days. I’m halfway through book #6 and I’m wondering if I should even buy groceries or just commit to take-out for the week…

And the movies! I haven’t even started on them. Who wants to watch some movies with me?! Oh my word. I have so much catching up to do!

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Have you read Harry Potter? Without giving anything away, what did you like or dislike about it? Should I watch the movies?

Categories: books, hobbies, kids, life | 11 Comments

The Baby Blanket That Lent Me Hope

As Varun and I sat in the flickering candlelight reading words of hope from Genesis last night, I thought how candles are beacons of hope. Bright and yet fragile, a candle can give light to a dark corner or be snuffed by a strong gust. At times, our hope too is frail, weakened by long days and longer nights, or extinguished by no news or bad news.

Advent is a time for hope. Hope, that 2,000 years ago took human form and gifted us love and reconciliation. Hope that whispers to us through the ages.

Throughout the adoption journey, I have sometimes struggled to maintain hope. There are moments when I feel I’ve stepped out of the company of “everyone else” to join the onlookers, those whose desires for school or spouse or child or job or health leave them feeling behind and stranded. These are the ranks of the broken, the wanting, the waiting.

But the reality is, this company on the sidelines isn’t the stragglers; this is “everyone else”. In fact, we all seem to be looking at someone else and thinking “everyone else”…except me. In this jostling journey of life, we get to gently come alongside one another to offer a smile to encourage a heavy heart, a hand to help carry a burden or an arm for a weary body to lean on.

One such reminder of hope came to me in an ordinary-looking grocery bag given to me by a dear friend at my grad school convocation. As I returned home and carefully examined the contents, hope was rekindled in my heart.

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Inside the bag was a beautifully made blanket and a card. The card lovingly explained that the blanket was made to represent the colours of the Indian, American and Canadian flags. This soft, cozy blanket is to be a small reminder of the love that brought our family together across continents and oceans.

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The card went on to explain that the centre of the blanket has a circle, which represents the spoked wheel at the centre of the Indian flag. As I ran my fingers across the brightly coloured squares, I imagined snuggling our little one in this lovingly made blanket. In spite of my carefully crafted walls of Reasons and Timelines, I dreamed for a moment of our child being home.

There it is again: hope.

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Thus far, we don’t have much of a collection of things for our child. One hand-carved toy my Mom purchased on vacation, a few classic children’s books I’ve found in thrift stores. But for the most part, I’ve held myself back.

And yet.

Whenever I visit India, I admire beaded strands of brightly coloured elephants and birds and envision hanging them in my child’s room. Each time, I’ve told myself, Next time. It’s not reasonable or close yet...On this trip, I borrowed hope from the prayers and smiles of others. Proudly and expectantly, I wrapped the elephants in a shirt and tucked them in a corner of my suitcase.

Wouldn’t you know, their vibrant blues, oranges and greens match perfectly with the blanket?

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Someday, we’ll wrap our little one in this family blanket and sing them to sleep in a saffron-coloured room. But today, we wait. And hope. Expectantly. We light candles and remind one another that there is hope in the little things because of the Hope that was fulfilled on the first Christmas.

Categories: adoption, Canada, Christmas, family, india, USA | 4 Comments