Passport Patience

This summer I learned a huge lesson in patience. I am still learning to be patient. In fact, I am learning a hard lesson about long-suffering and endurance, eaten with a slice of humble pie. Let me start at the beginning: Almost a year ago we were excited to learn that a beloved niece was getting married in the States. Covid restrictions were beginning to lift, travel was becoming a bit easier, and we were thrilled that we could plan for a full-on family vacation! Snag: Canadian passports were due to expire a month or so before our flight. No problem… lots of time to renew… times six… with one turning “adult” and one without a current health card. And with rumours of backlogs mounting. Be patient. No worries. It will all work out. Can always fast-track, right?

I’m good at forms. English is my first language. I can navigate government papers. I can follow instructions. Cue a full evening of sitting at the dining room table with a specifically coloured-inked pen in hand, a handful of rather expensive and well-earned, non-smiling photos carefully doubled signed and pinned to said matching forms. (Who knew the local convenience store was the easiest spot for passport photos? Obviously not us who drove by the sign every day that clearly states “Passport photos here” and yet sought out Costco and Shopper’s Drug Mart and Walmart for such things…) But I digress.

Five out of six passport forms were completed and in the hot little hands of an even more patient husband who delayed work one day to drive out to the neighbouring city to wait in line at the passport centre because we heard the lines were fewer there. Patience. Smile. Got to the front… “Here you go nice government lady, yes, my wife filled them out, why yes, she does have neat handwriting, yes, here is my credit card… What? A simple mistake? Yes, we can adjust that now…thank you, yes, I’d love the receipt, yes, we are travelling soon… guaranteed a week or so before our flight? Great, thank you, ma’am.” Perfect.

One to go. No worries. We can get the necessary documentation for the “adult” child who needs to fill out a whole new form. I can go to the official office and get that one “fast-tracked”. The family vacation is worth the extra few bucks. Signal God’s lesson in patience about to fall on the head of a momma bear who may just lose her sense of Christian decency. Here’s the story:

Knowing time was no longer on our side, I took a day off work to take the remaining form to one of the few centres that could process the form in time for our already booked flights. I knew the line would be long, so arrived several minutes before opening to find a rather large line already gathered outside. There was no signage. No helpers, no arrows, pylons etc. Only a few hopefuls with coffees and lawn chairs parked near the doors. The rest of us huddled behind them cued up in the overcast weather, armed with folders of forms and high hopes. I chatted with the mom of four in front of me who was re-doing all her children’s forms because they “got lost in the system”. I instructed the gentleman behind me he was in the wrong line. His was moving much quicker at the far end of the building. I texted the picture… not so long… halfway to the front door now. I’ll soon be inside. Crocheted a few rows. This mom is patient.

Exactly one hour and a half after opening time (most of us still standing around the corner to the OUTSIDE of the building) a lone (and somewhat brave) security guard comes out to inform us that “there are no more tickets for today… please go home and come back tomorrow morning…. preferably at 4:00AM to have any chance of getting inside…” 4:00AM? Really?! Needless to say, most of us were a little shocked. Many, many grumbled and fussed (and cussed) and left. The rest of us stood around for a little, pondering our predicament. Someone tried the other door, and the flock of us followed suit, hoping to take advantage of an alternative route to travel freedom. We were quickly turned back to a locked door, again, on the outside of the building.

Patience. Breathe. Let’s look at this logically. The office has been open for business for only an hour and a half. One hundred or so “secret ticket holders” seem to be lined up inside. Even counting a lunch break, these professionals should be able to serve us by end of the day! I shall commit. I will be patient and kind. Many were not. The mom of four and I took our chances. After all, today was my only day off. I have all day to stand here. Our line had dwindled to about 30 from the over 300 people. We slowly filed inside the building to another cue and those seatbelt line maker things that made us weave in and out to the “front” of the glass enclosed room to the “ticket holders” and the kiosks.

I texted the picture… not so long… halfway to the front door now. I’ll soon be inside.

The lone (and somewhat brave) security guard was now joined by about 5 or 6 others. Flashing their badges and appearing to be in charge. “I have no authority to let you inside” they say. “Come back later”. “Only if you have proof of travel within 48 hours can you be here”. “No” “NO”. God-given patience. Be kind. “Yes, sir, I appreciate what you are saying. I understand — but I choose to wait”. “Thank you, I chose to wait”. Five people left in front of the glass room. Twenty-five people holding up in the secret space.

Finally, the lone (and somewhat exasperated by this crazy lady) security guard asks my business. Ha! A month before travel? Okay, lady… if you are willing to “dropbox” your form (ie no inspection of said form, just throw it at the guy and pay your money and hope for the best) then I can give you a golden ticket. “Thank you, sir, yes I will wait”. Haha! Look at me and my patience paying off! I have been here seven hours… but it worked!

Fast forward some 20 weeks and more phone calls, emails, faxes and tears… and we are still waiting for one final passport to arrive. (Oh… no, not that last-minute one… it arrived first with no special added treatment) We missed the wedding, we missed the vacation, we missed family, and are yet to receive credits for booked flights. My sense of accomplishment and pat on the back for being so full of patience has dwindled to a story to tell about frustration. There are many more details I could have added to this long post… but here’s the point. It’s a lesson. At least I am trying to look at it as a lesson. I was kind. Was it life and death? No. Was it a disappointment? Absolutely.

Many of you may have similar stories. Maybe some of you have even better stories. We have every right to be served well by others. We’ve done “the right thing” and “followed the rules” and “deserve” this or that. It’s frustrating and sad. Yet, we have been called to stand out as light in a dark world. To spread love and not curse those who mean you harm. It’s a tough pill to swallow. It takes some self-talk and a little dose of Holy Spirit. I’m finding I have to face the lesson more and more in these post Covid days of people-who-have-lost-all-abilities-to-socially-interact. Now is the time for us to shine. May you and I learn the lesson well, my beloveds.

Musing about Miniatures

What is it about tiny things that fascinate humans? As a good scientist, I am captivated by all the minuscule creatures that can live in a centimetre of earth or water. Bacteria, germs, viruses, even tiny creatures. The microscope appeared somewhere around 1600 and gave scientists a peek into a whole new world. I suppose some of us are not interested in all the creepy crawlies that live just beneath the surface… Still, one must confess that the microscopic world is a fascinating one. Or let’s think about a little bigger. Mini toys. Lego mini-figures are prized possessions; if you happen to have an Iron Man or Captain America from 2012, you might be in for a bank balance boost of up to $1900. Or what about Polly Pockets from the early 1990s? Weren’t they fun? A whole world in a little purse thing-ie! Mini toys have been around for decades. Dollhouses are one thing… but the world of miniature make-believe? Well, that’s a culture all its own. In total, there were an estimated 3.24 billion mini-gamers across the globe in 2021. These people create and “play” with their miniature toys in tournaments all over the world, sometimes for high stake monetary prizes!

Photo Credit: tabletopbellhop.com

Now, I don’t know too much about miniature gaming, but this past weekend we went to a new miniature display in our city, depicting various Canadian cities … all scaled down to one or two rooms. Mini parliament buildings, mini Tim Horton’s shops, mini-farms with mini chickens and horses, tiny gardens and even tiny moving bicycles! It was fascinating. Little mini subways with moving cars letting teenie tiny passengers off to their trains at the teenie tiny Union Station. It was a good few hours pointing and lolly gaggling at all the minute details. Just think about the details. Hours upon hours of planning and designing and cutting and crafting, 3D printing and painting. Teensy weensy yellow polka-dot bikinis on itty bitty sunbathers at the beaches. One must take a moment to marvel at the complexity of it all.

Image from Little Canada

Then, as we ponder the fine details, we become aware of how those little things can become a part of something so much larger. Each tiny thing becomes a part of the bigger picture. And so it is with us, my friends. Our tiny existence here on Earth becomes part of a bigger plan in God’s miniature village. How we interact with others, how our “casual meetings” sow the seeds of His love for all mankind. How many times does the Bible refer to “little things” making a big impact? The widow’s mite in the offering plate (Mark 12) or the power of the tongue, one of our tiniest body parts (James 3)? Or how about it only takes a spark to ignite a whole forest fire (also James 3)?

Yes, my friends, no matter how tiny and insignificant you may feel on any given day, be assured that you are no small potatoes to God’s bigger plan. You have been created in all your finite detail, for a specific job. You are part of the display to be pointed at and discovered hidden away, but adding to the landscape. You may think you are small, but you are mighty! Now go out and live like it!

Rotting Fruit

Alright, my friends… this post is not for the squeamish, so if you can’t handle the yucky stuff, move on. I have a funny story to share. We had a lovely dinner out this past weekend, and halfway through dessert, I put my hand down on the booth beside me, only to discover something sticky… which I promptly blamed on my son for being messy and dropping his dinner between us. I was wrong. It seemed to be my purse leaking some awkward, yet sweet-smelling substance. Rewind a few days. Heading home from work late and a dear co-worker says, “Here, take this banana home – it’s a little too spotted for my liking”. Yup. Popped it in the purse to empty it later… fast forward to three days of overripening fruit accumulating in the bottom of the handbag. Lightly coating the contents in the thin, fruity film à la rot. Gross. Lesson learned.

Please tell me I’m not alone in this constant battle of trying to keep fresh fruit and veggies crisp and vibrant. Who else fights with avocados and zucchini, willing them to stay around long enough to be eaten? Or “gently reminds” their children not to play with the apples for fear of bruising? Of course, individual consumers are not the only ones who fight the rot. Margaret Barth, author of “Microbiological Spoilage of Fruits and Vegetables,” estimates that of all the product that is grown in the United States, 20% will be lost to spoilage.  In Canada, 45% of produced fruits and vegetables are wasted. And 1.4 million kids don’t have access to healthy choices. A sad reality.

And although efforts are being made to rectify these issues, moving forward is prooving to be difficult. I watched a video recently about “American dumpster divers”. Folks who make it their mission to finding the treasures left behind by stores. Now, second generation iphones are one thing to find… but 50 lbs of overripe cherries? How do we save such a rich resource? One lady in the video explained it simply… time. Her crew of helpers wash, cut and process the perfectly-good-but-needing-quick-attention produce to share with those who need it. A job the supermarkets simply can’t take on, and so the dumpster it is. The divers have a worthy cause, although unconventional. How many of us are willing to make the sacrifice? Visions of one slimy purse banana creep into my head.

And so I muse. What “good intentions” do we have that seem to solve little in this messy world? God created the natural world and humans to co-exsist in perfect harmony. Sin arrived and made it messy. Unfortunately, nothing we can do can restore that perfect connection we had with our Creator. Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us that it is only through God’s gift of grace are we re-united with Him (perfectly…as He originally intended). None of the “good things” we do can reconnect us. Despite our best efforts, good food still rots. If we work hard and make good choices, we can preserve a larger portion of “fruit” and share the wealth with others who can benefit from our efforts… but ultimately God’s perfect gift of salvation is the only way to an eternity in Heaven.

So next time you pluck out that bruised apple from the fruit basket, or search near the back of the fridge and discover the shrivelled up zuchinni (or dare I say find the left over lunch at the bottom of your purse?) be reminded that our best “fruit” still spoils quickly. The dumpster divers among us can assist in using our resources as best we can. We can help reduce the waste by working together to get the job done before time takes over and everything gets yucky. Ultimately, though, we simply must take the gift God gives us from His pure and perfect garden. And how sweet it is, friends, to taste that perfect offering!

Want to learn more about food waste? Here’s some interesting stats: Food Waste

Want to learn more about accepting God’s free gift? Try here: Perfect Fruit

Want to learn ways to make your food last longer? Here’s one source: Preservation