Ruthann's Seasonal UPdate Embracing silence: the art of Letting Go

Chapter One: Saying "Yes" to Silence

Stillness. Quiet. Silence. It is in these places we learn to let go. We learn to acknowledge that God is God, and we are not. It is a place of surrender, of release, of submission to Someone greater, stronger, who is in control. That's what I have come to learn those words to be. However, those words were so foreign in their meaning that nothing but fear found its place in my heart even as I considered them. What would I find in the stillness? Who would satiate my loneliness in the quiet? How could I ever embrace silence? These questions bombarded my thoughts as I stepped into a life-transforming reality that would teach me silence, but one that I had least expected: a month of sabbatical.

Getting ready for our "Family Photos"

The summer was one of the hardest I have experienced. I had an amazing team; however, they were exceptionally young, inexperienced and majority on a journey towards Christ having not yet received Him. At the same time, we had the most kids we have ever had! The weight of the responsibility fell, what I perceived to be, on my shoulders alone. I carried the burden of the whole camp-kids, youth, leaders, families. I did not even begin to understand the art of letting go, of releasing control. I was like a mama bird, chewing up the food and spitting it into the mouth of her young, never taking anything in herself. For me, in body, in soul and in spirit, I began to deplete rapidly, not knowing exactly why. It was not until my older brother intervened and told me, "Rudy, you need to take a Sabbatical".

Within days, the Lord made it clear that I was to take a leave of absence, and to my chagrin, He also made it evident that it was to start with a silent retreat. And it was in the silence that He truly met me, renewed the truth for me of who He was and who I was, giving me space to let go. As I walked through the meadows and fields, forests and farm at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre, my heart was captured by the Lover of my soul and Redeemer of my life. We walked together, He leading me each step of the way. He would draw my attention to the detail of a leaf, a painted blue and white sky, the cool air blowing my hair freely, the wet dew under my step. With journal and Bible in each pocket, I simply awaited His words, relishing in the silence. And He spoke.

Ignatius Jesuit Centre, Guelph, ON

Isaiah 40. As clear as the blue sky above, I knew I needed to open the pages of His Word and look deep into His truth. Not having marked it, my Bible fell open to Isaiah 40, leaving me resigned to pay attention as I fell into the grass in disbelief. As I read the pages, they somehow found their way into my soul.

"Why, O Israel, do you say, 'My way is hidden from the Lord; my right disregarded by my God.'?" Isaiah 40:27

Like a wave crashing over in the sea, these words crashed upon me, overwhelming me. I realized, in that very moment, that I had embraced the lie that my life, the everyday ordinary details of my life were hidden from God, and not only that, He did not actually care. When I reflected on this, the fruit of my life as of late proved this to be true: perfectionism, unrelenting standards, constant need for control, micromanaging all of life, unnecessary stress, mind-gripping anxiety, crippling fear. The lies had crept in so deep that I had not even noticed their hold. How could I have come this far from the truth?

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary; His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

With grace and compassion, He filled my heart with the truth of His character, His heart, His identity. He breathed life into my weariness, breath into my soul. His love consumed and nourished my ravaged mind and emotions, my spirit within me. We continued walking together, as He simply spoke His banner of love over me.

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted WITH ALL MY WAYS." Psalm 139: 1-3

He knew me. He knew my ways. And He loved me.

I walk through the meadow and stare at the flowers, better dressed than any girl on her wedding day. So why do I worry? Why do I freak out? God knows what I need. He knows what I need. Your love is strong.- "Your Love is Strong" Jon Foreman

As these words resonated through my soul, relishing in His love for me, a rabbit trail thought came to mind. I desired to purchase a booklet on the Ignatius prayer practice of Examen; however, it was three dollars of which I did not have. In a moment of wishing, the sunshine glistened off of something laying in the grass in the field at my feet. It was a toonie! Two days previous, while walking on the McMaster Campus, I had found a loonie! My three dollars! Tears began to stream down my face as His love consumed me. It was not about the booklet, nor the three dollars; instead, it was about a loving Father who is intimately acquainted with all my ways, ensuring that I knew that nothing is hidden from His sight.

Chapter 2: Visions in the Quiet

From this place of confidence, I stepped into the next portion of this month of letting go, of stillness: traveling with my big bro, Jay Brock.

Jay and I at one of his favorite places in Ontario: Agawa Bay

Jay and his wife Michelle are writers and film-makers who are touring with their most recent film Over18, dealing with pornography and its effects on children especially. I was joining him for this leg of the tour across northern Ontario. Only being two years apart yet never having a close relationship as children, we had never spent one on one time together throughout the course of our lives. As we embarked on our road trip that would take us up from Bancroft Ontario across the upper part of Lake Superior to Winnipeg, Manitoba, it became clear that we needed this time to re-kindle and begin a close friendship and brother-sister bond like never before. We laughed a lot, talked for hours, watched for moosen and met many humans on our journey.

With each passing turn, I was left breathless at the sights and beauty of the north. Lakes and bays, cliffs and trees, eagles and deer. I was overwhelmed with the Lord's creation, finding myself letting go and surrendering to His majesty displayed all around me. As we talked, I also found myself letting go to new possibilities and life directions. Both a visionary and a man of action, Jay is incredible at "putting legs to vision". Through his many questions and prodding, he dug down deep in the recesses of my heart that had become dull and dim. The passions that lay within began to surface, and with unprecedented passion.

From a young age, I knew I was made to be "a mama to many". Despite having no children of my own, I have a nurturing, mothering, teaching heart that is only satiated when I am with little humans. Not simply being with them, but cultivating curiosity and learning through experience. Dreams of one day offering both a place of nurture and home, as well as learning and growing had been shelved, never seeming to truly be on the horizon. This conversation changed that.

"What are you doing to step towards this dream?" Those words resonated in my heart. As I meditated in the wake of that question, the phrase that surfaced was something I had longed for since I was a little girl-to be a teacher. "Well then, it seems pretty clear to me, Rudy. You need to go to Teacher's College."

Since I was a little human, I desired to be a teacher. Hours upon hours, I would play "school", creating creative lesson plans, implementing them with my imaginary and always eager pupils. Despite taking a different path educationally, my passion for teaching has truly never waned. When my passion for prevention program for at risk children and youth rose, I went down the road of UrbanPromise Toronto, engaging in afterschool programs. People often mistook me for being a teacher, assuming I was based on my tales with the children. And in my heart, I already am a teacher. However, I desire to get the legitimacy as well as the professional training, giving me the freedom to pursue dreams of teaching far beyond the classroom specifically with at-risk and marginalized children.

Upon returning home, my mama responded to this realization of next steps with, "Well, your father and I were specifically praying two things while you were away: that you and your brother would not kill one another and that you would revisit your dream of going to teacher's college." Letting go to embrace something new.

To walk a new path, one must leave another behind. Although you leave it, you do not forget it. It shaped you as this new path will as well. (Photo in Northern Michigan)

I spent time with my Aunt and Uncle in Michigan, basking in the Northern beauties and silence. While in this sacred space, I received confirmation of my passions and dreams, desires and longings. In a completely unrelated conversation with my Aunt, she asked, "Rudy, have you ever thought about being a teacher?" I had not yet shared my present musings of my heart. It was yet another God-given affirmation. My Aunt is a teacher, but not any kind of teacher. She is a teacher who is compassion-driven, seeing and loving the most marginalized of children, those at-risk and under-resourced. Those seeking love and affection, care and consideration. She is a kindred, and somehow, she saw the same thing in me that is evident in her.

Ch. 3: The Art of Letting Go

The Gospel tells us this: That in order for new life, for new beginnings, there has to be a death, an ending.

The snow is only meant, created and commanded to fall. The rain is only meant, created, commanded to pour down. You were only meant, created, commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely. What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self that God created? What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for His purposes? -Shauna Niequist from "Present over Perfect"

When I returned to Kitchener, it was now within days of having to go back to Toronto, to face my new reality. I was struck with deep anxiety and fear. What would these new findings mean? What would the implications for me, for my kids and youth, for my families, for my community? How would they be cared for and loved? How would what had started be able to continue if I was no longer there? These questions plagued me until the Spirit led me back to the very beginning of my time away: Silence. Letting go.

"How do we let go? How do we let go of position, title, power, circumstances, relationships? In silence. In stillness. It's in these moments we are able to say, 'God you are God. You've got this. I am not in charge'."- Pete Scazzero

It all came around full circle. To truly embrace a life surrendered, submitted and conformed to Christ, I needed to embrace silence. Stillness. Quiet. I needed to let go in order to let God, as the old adage testifies. My kids, my youth, my families, my ministry, they were never mine. They have always been in the hands of the Lord. He never needed me; He simply chose to use me as His vessel, as His tool for His kingdom's sake. He has always been the One in control, not me. He has always been the One sovereign over my life, not me. What a realization!

Ch.4: Waiting for the New

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19 (Photo from ravine in my Jane and Finch neighborhood)

Upon arriving back in Toronto, I met with our Executive Director at UrbanPromise Toronto (UPT). My testimony was met with resounding support, love and care. I recognized that God was doing a new thing, even in the hearts of those in leadership at UPT. Throughout the course of this past year, we, as an organization, have spent a great deal of time re-organizing, re-imagining and recalibrating. The result has been a clearer vision: "To see a generation of young leaders from Toronto Community Housing loving Christ and serving their community." What was realized through this process of re-visioning was that Camp Freedom, our Jane and Finch location where I am placed, has truly reached that vision! There is an incredible generation of young people that are engaged in the local church, Christian Centre Church (CCC) and are passionately pursing Christ and desire to make Him known in the community. As such, the leadership recognized that it was time for us to move out of this specific location, to pass the baton, allowing space for the young leaders within the community and church body to rise up and take over! As a result, this would then free UPT to continue pursuing other Toronto Community Housing locations in the city who are in need of Christ, and programs such as ours (as currently we are only in 3 out of over 140 TCHC communities in Toronto).

As the leadership had learned to let go, God was allowing their hearts to be open to God-orchestrated changes and plans. For me, I have now been given complete freedom to remain in a supportive role at UrbanPromise acting as the direct line of support between CCC and the children, youth and families. I will have the privilege of making introductions, sharing resources, conducting trainings and mentorship of leaders who are visioning the next steps for the church and community. I will continue being on staff with UPT throughout the course of this year until the end of August, at which time I hope to then start Teacher's College.

It is with mixed emotions I learn to let go. I love this community, with all its mess and beauty. I love the little humans in all their hurts and pains, joys and hilarities. I love the youth with their drama and depth. I love the mamas with their sorrows and strengths. The thought of leaving nearly takes my breath away. Yet, I can fully breathe knowing that as I let out my breath, somehow, I release each child, youth and mama to the Lord knowing they are His. Fully His, and not mine. I also can let go knowing that He is at work, that He is doing a NEW thing in the hearts of each of the leaders, of the congregation of CCC and in the community as a whole!

Ch.5: Living in the Hope of Him

My precious Little Big Man who lost his big brother due to gun violence in our community. "Keep the Dream Alive" has become the mantra of our community as "Caheem the Dream" was only a boy, losing his life at the age of 17.

Within days of communicating with CCC about the changes and transition, I discovered that we lost a dear young man to the gun. Seventeen years young, Caheem "Clayshawn Montieth" Ramsuchit was murdered during the day on November 19, 2016. His siblings and family, who are near and dear to my heart and have been a part of program for several years were left behind in the mess of his passing. With the news of his death, I was overwhelmed with grief and confusion. How could this happen right as we are leaving this community? Did we hear wrong? Is this a sign we should stay and continue on doing what we have been doing? I was baffled and bewildered, angry and heart-broken.

I got quiet and still before the Lord. I listened. I watched. I waited. And He showed up in the midst of the madness of the loss of Caheem. He revealed Himself through the Prodigal Young Man who's heart has turned back to Christ and to the lives of the children. He made Himself known through Basketball Boys who are tired of seeing their friends senselessly murdered and want to show the next generation of young boys that it does not have to be this way. He declared Himself through Word Man as he shared his powerful spoken word piece of hope for the future. He showed up in Passionate Young Woman who is firey and passionate about raising up the next generation of women with dignity, grace and love. Over and over, in the silence, He made His presence known that He was, in fact, doing a new thing, of springing up hope in the darkness. That it would not have to come from UPT, but would come from within the community, within the heart of the youth themselves!

As I now live in the reality of all of these things, I invite you as partners in prayer and support to continue journeying with me as I choose to let go, as I choose to trust in His sovereign plans and faithful goodness. I ask that you would keep praying. I would ask that you consider supporting me financially through this time as I seek to finish well in this community.* I also ask that you too step into silence, into letting go and letting God. There is great richness in receiving Christ when we let go.

Merry Christmas, from our UPT family, but especially from ME to YOU!!!

May we be open to let go so that we can prepare HIM room, to receive the gift given to us- God Himself. May we be silent and still in order to take in the truth of who He is, what He is doing and what He will do.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Thank you for your loving prayers, your on-going support and your consistent encouragement!

Much love in Christ, Ruthann "Superfly" Brock


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