By Tina Olesen
Almost two years ago I visited Toronto for the first time. I remember feeling an odd sort of sadness as I lifted off from Pearson and watched the city slowly disappear from beneath me. It was huge, brown, and kind of ugly looking; yet I felt something tugging at my heart. I didn’t know exactly what it was. A few hours later I looked down over the green expanse of Vancouver with the ocean beyond and the contrast was remarkable. Home again. Or was I?
Fast forward three months. I have all my most important possessions crammed into an aging but trusty Toyota, and I am headed east. This script is replayed over and over again:
“Where are you headed?”
“I’m moving to Toronto.”
“Toronto?! Really? Why?!?”
I don’t know if it’s because people from Toronto who retire out west tell horror stories about the winters, but Toronto seems to have a bad rap in those parts.
My first winter here made their “Why?!?”s echo through my head. I had never before in my life scraped ice off the inside of my car windshield…
I nearly had a breakdown over the traffic. Why are people allowed to park in the right travelling lanes? Enough said.
Adjustment comes in phases. First the excitement of meeting new people and making new friends. Then the longing just to sit and talk with someone who knows you, who has known you for years, and not to have to give your background all over again. Then, surprisingly, your new friends begin to feel like old friends. You feel like you would miss them just as terribly.
Missing my loved ones and the land of my birth comes in waves. Sometimes I long for the sight of the ocean. Some days I want to lift up my eyes to the mountains and all I see are high rises. I stood washing dishes in the kitchen one day and ached for the sound of rain (I never would have believed that I would miss the rain, but I do!)
The beauty may be subtler here, but it’s here. I’ve had endless wonderful surprises from a loving, caring Heavenly Father. The first snowdrops after a long winter. The unexpected lily of the valley and lilacs that I had no idea were buried beneath all that snow in the yard. The robins who came to play in the sprinkler in early summer.
I still feel somewhat like a transplant, but one whose roots are growing and whose leaves are stretching up towards the sun.
In the 90’s when I was at UVic, the education students in my cohort were all crammed into an auditorium one afternoon, listening to the head of the Faculty of Education. She was giving us a pep talk before we went out to do our practice teaching, some of us to some pretty far flung places in BC. I’ll never forget her commanding but warm words urging us to “Bloom where you’re planted!”
Lately I’ve been thinking about her words again. What does it take to bloom where you’re planted?
For me it has taken a lot of tender loving care from God’s people in Toronto. They’ve embraced me. They’ve nurtured me. They’ve loved me.
It also takes a quiet heart. As the Psalmist says, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” It takes trust in the character of the God who led me here, and who continues to provide for me.
It takes a sense of adventure in exploring a new place, and accepting and embracing it for what it is, instead of continually comparing it with what you know. The possibilities of discovering new territory here are pretty much endless.
The best new territory by far, though, has been the realm of Christian Education. As I stepped into my new classroom that very first day, I experienced the freedom of being able to speak openly about Jesus Christ and exalt Him as Lord and King. I had the whole Bible at my disposal as the teaching tool that can address all of life. I was able to pray with my students, leading them to the One who can bring hope to any situation.
I have the blessing of watching my students grow as they soak in the water of the Word of God and bask in the warmth of His grace and love. “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered,” promises Proverbs, and it’s true.