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The answer in a cup...or just a snowman


posted by Susan Dominikovich on , , , ,

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Knowing that I had to achieve a major grocery shop in town this morning, I treated myself first to a wee excursion at my favourite garden centre which happens to have a lovely café attached.  I ordered myself a large flat white and then found a perfect table in the shade beside a raised flower-bed and fountain.  Summer!  Perfect!
I pulled my tablet out of my canvas bag and started writing a piece that I hope to submit for one of my favourite magazines.  Completely engrossed in the words that kept coming, I almost didn’t look up when the barista brought me my coffee.  When I did, I actually exclaimed out loud and then smiled at the barista.  How terribly cute, this milky snowman in a cup.  How terribly out of place in the middle of a gorgeous New Zealand summer.  Odd, but perfect for me, having just returned here from a Canadian winter.  The barista smiled back.  She could see that I appreciated the care and skill she had put into that cup for me.

For me.  As if she knew.

I sipped and I wrote and I browsed and I shopped and as I breathed my way through the morning more words came into my head.  The theme over at SheLoves magazine this month is “belong.” 

And that snowman in a cup told me that I belong.

Back in December, after a few grief-filled months of spiritual abuse by people in my church, a woman met with me and said the one thing that actually stuck. In fairness to her, she was trying to make some reparations for what had gone on in leadership around her at my expense.  I saw her heart and appreciated her intentions but she started by saying, “I’ve never met a Canadian I didn’t like, and I’m not going to start now.” 

Her words were innocent on the surface and I am sure she had no idea how they struck me.  My first thought was, “really?  After all this time (18 years), I’m still a Canadian?  I thought I was as kiwi as you, but you’re telling me I’m not?”  And my second thought was, “is THAT what all this rubbish is about…a cultural difference?”  Because I had spoken out, told the truth, asked the questions that needed asking and pointed out inaccuracies and injustices, I stood out like a sore thumb.  Here I thought I was doing it because it was the logical and right thing to do, but to her I did it because I was Canadian.  Really?

I don’t know if she intended to communicate those messages to me, but that is what I took away.

And I took it away with me all the way to Canada.  Because ironically, a couple of days later my family was on a plane to visit friends and family in B.C. for Christmas.  It was a fun-filled adventurous time with very special people but it was also a time of soul-searching for me.  Behind every conversation and every place I visited was the question…"is this where I belong?"

I confided some of what we’d been through and what this woman said to me to a friend who nodded with a knowing look at the end of it.  She affirmed that yes, my roots determine that I am a strong Canadian woman, now living in a country which excels in being non-confrontational.  Kiwis, by and large would sweep their dirt under the carpet rather than deal with it.  There is a similar Canadian stereotype, certainly (the Canadian who apologises for everything), but as a mosaic of cultures, we have a lot of strong European voices amongst us and we are also influenced by our vocal American neighbours.  I use the first person “we” because yes, I am Canadian.

I looked at my Canadian friend across the table and I smiled to myself and while I didn’t say it, I acknowledged this woman who has influenced me since we became friends in high school. Because my Canadian friend is also Finnish.  I think Finnish must mean “champion” in translation because she and her family are all similarly honest and open and they are not afraid to call it like they see it, and they all stand tall.  Anne has campaigned and written letters in the face of injustice and indecency on behalf of others and I have applauded every one and even those I don’t even know about because I love her and she has taught me so much.  I thought of her often last year when I was writing my own letters and preparing my own speeches in the face of untruths and injustice.  I definitely said to Paul on more than one occasion, “I wish Anne was here…she’d fight this with me.”  She is my champion.  And she is so much more than Canadian or Finnish. 

Looking back at that conversation with Anne I can see that I should have realised that being “Canadian” means a lot and also means nothing at all.  It’s a label and a stereotype.  It describes where I come from, but not who I am.  That should have been the end of it.  But at the time, my vision was still cloudy and my purpose still elusive, having gone from being a contributing member of a small church ministering in a community that I was passionate about, fully believing that this congregation was my family, to being church-less and unwanted.  From being loved and respected in my community to being shunned by some and avoided by others because they do not know the truth and do not really want to know.

So we came home to New Zealand and I still had no answers.  I admit, I didn’t settle back well and even looked at the housing market in Vancouver Island and investigated the schools there.  I am Canadian after all.  But then I thought perhaps change was the right idea but not quite so far.  Because I’m a kiwi too.  I looked at the property listings in the city near us.  It makes a lot of sense, since Paul works in the city and the kids will be going to high school there.  In a practical sense, it would be a good move.  But God isn’t always about practicalities.

I was plagued by the confusion, looking for signs in many directions.

Things started to become clear yesterday, after two much-needed days by myself once everyone had gone back to school.  There is something to be said for solace.  And I started writing again.

Surprisingly perhaps, today, I found the answer in my coffee cup.

Right there in that garden centre on a hot summer day, listening to Stan Walker and surrounded by the heady scent of roses, I found the answer in a snow man.

An oddly out-of-place-but-perfect-at-the-same-time snowman.  A snowman in a flat white in New Zealand.  Who would have thought?  Probably no one, which is why I expect never to find a snowman in my coffee in New Zealand in the middle of summer again. 

That crazy snowman in my cup of coffee may have been out of place, but it still belonged in the cup.  The barista thought it was a good idea and so it was.  Why not?  I may be out of place in my surroundings too, but I still belong.  If God thinks it’s a good idea for me to be here and if He has things for me to do, then this is where I belong.  Those surroundings or circumstances may change and I will probably still be out of place as long as people only see me as a label, but I will belong because I will be there according to God’s plan for me.  He has made me, He knows me intimately and He knows where I am needed.  And after all, "there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

Yes, I am Canadian.  And I’m a kiwi too.  But if after any length of time that is all you know about me, then I am going to say in a very un-kiwi way, you are missing out.  And in a very un-Canadian way, I won't apologise for saying it.  Because I am so much more than Canadian, or kiwi, or Jesus-lover, or teacher or brunette...

If you want to know me, I’m right here. 

Where I belong.

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