I dipped into Canada for a few days of my trip. I had to go to Montreal to attend a training for a summer class I was taking and while I was there I took a couple days to visit dear friends who I used to live and work with when I lived in Quebec. Although this seemed a diversion from visiting the states, I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to finish my trip well without my Canadian interlude. Quebec is a second home for me and has a dear place in my life and heart. Consequently, being there was a form of respite in the midst of my journey.
Have you ever experienced deep stirrings when you’ve visited a place you love? Every time I enter Quebec, I have butterflies in my stomach. Butterflies of expectation, excitement, memories and an anticipation of settling into a place that has been such a significant part of my life.
Quebec holds many memories and holds deep meaning for me. I first moved there when I was 18 as a student to attend bible school. In the two years before I moved there, my brother and dad had both died and I had graduated from high school. I didn’t know how to grieve or that it was okay to grieve and so I had a lot of compounded pain and grief and I didn’t know what to do with it. I used to see my move to Quebec as “running away” from having to grieve, but now I recognize that I didn’t know what else to do and felt lost and entrenched in pain that I didn’t know how to sort through. Quebec was a place where God slowly started softening my heart and providing me a safe place to start grieving slowly. The figurative walls I had built up around my heart started being removed there, brick by brick. This became the impetus to me returning to BC two years later to do the hard work of wading through layers of grief and learning how to identify and feel the pain. It was hard work but slowly God started the healing process in my heart.
After graduating from university and working for a while, I decided to move back to Quebec. I had visited many times in the years in between and still had a deep love for the place and the people there. It was a really difficult choice to move there though. I decided I would start by working at the bible school I had attended and then after a few years I would find a more permanent home and job in Quebec. After two years of working there, I got the call from my mom that she had cancer. I had finally started settling into life in Quebec when I felt torn from the community there and brought back to BC to an even harder situation, but brought me back to my other “home”.
My mom and I also had lots of fun in Quebec. She came out to visit me a few different times and I cherish the memories from those trips together.
So, whenever I enter Quebec, a flood of all these thoughts and more comes over me. My time with friends was renewing and refreshing, especially after 10 days of traveling by myself. While in my second home as well I had a lot of reflecting concerning where or what our true home is. My mom was often the definition of home, because no matter where I was or what I was doing, I could always come home to her and she was my constant in the midst of life. I don’t have this sense of home anymore and have a physical home where I live, but it’s not always the same.
I’m learning that where I am is home. I can be fully present to where I am and who I am with. As Paul quotes in the book of Acts, it is in Christ that I live, move and have my being. As I am fully present to each moment, I can fully rest in God, recognizing that he is my home, even in the midst of uncertainties and when it doesn’t feel like I have a constant place to land. God is my refuge. God is my place of rest. God is my constant. God is my home.
When I was at the training in Montreal for a few days, there was a labyrinth that I walked each day. I appreciate labyrinths for many reasons and love that it is a physical embodiment of centering myself and it has become a meaningful practice of prayer and just being with God. This labyrinth had a “shortcut” to the middle when you first walk in and there was a little sign next to it saying “no!”. I laughed to myself that I could just cheat and go straight to the middle. That parallels to life are strong- along this journey I am on, I often want to be in the middle. I want to know what the middle is. And yet I am stuck on these other paths, uncertain of when I will get to the middle and curving around in different directions that are unexpected and at times seem long and lead me in different directions that I think I should be going.
As I walked the labyrinth each day, I kept hearing God’s gentle voice, “be where you are.” Generally my response would include asking “But God, where am I going?” “God, when will I get there?” “God, what will it look like?” And over and over again, “Be here. Be where you are.”
So far on this trip, I have had this unique experience of being more present to where I am than I have ever experienced. It has been profound and wonderful to be able to enter more fully into each situation and place and I long to live with this type of presence. I continually get caught up with what’s next and in doing so, unwittingly fast track what is to be experienced right now. My time in Quebec served as a reminder again to be fully present to each moment and to be where I am. The truth of this is so strong and resonates so deeply with me and yet I need to be reminded daily to be where I am.
I am here. God is with me. And it is good.