All posts by Charity Mongrain

About Charity Mongrain

Follower of Jesus, Seeker of Truth, Writer of Psalms, Sharer of Stories, Finder of Funny. Reach out & start a conversation.

365 – The Difference a Year Can Make

I woke up 365 days ago, having just celebrated 22 years in pastoral ministry and received a text that was about to change it all.

As I prepared to head into the office, I got an unanticipated text-meeting-request with no details, but the Holy Spirit spoke volumes to me. The Spirit’s coded message let me know it was time to prepare for the end of a chapter. Little did I know that it was also the end of the book, and it would be more than a year before the sequel.

  • 365 days ago, I had a steady paycheque; today, I do not
  • 365 days ago, I thought I knew who I was; today, I am on a journey of discovery
  • 365 days ago, I was the teacher; today, I am the student
  • 365 days ago, I worked in my neighbourhood; today, I live in my neighbourhood
  • 365 days ago, I led volunteers; today, I am the volunteer
  • 365 days ago, I was confidently independent; today, I am confidently dependent on Christ

I still don’t know what my sequel will be called. Like all epic stories, it will have some elements from the first book as well as new themes, characters, adventures, and even perils. I feel (and hope) that the Author is close to picking up His pen to begin scribing the opening paragraph – I want to believe I am ready.

If I’ve learned anything these past 365 days from my writer friends, it is that the first words of any book are what grabs a reader’s attention. 

So if I were given the privilege to write the opening paragraph, perhaps it would sound something like this…

If the last year taught Charity anything, it was ‘to expect the unexpected’. With those words echoing in her mind, she surveyed the unfamiliar surroundings. Steeling her nerves and inhaling a breath all the way to her toes, she turned the golden doorknob.

On the other side of the ancient door she was greeted by the deepest voice she had ever heard. “Hello, Charity. We’ve been expecting you.”

Let the adventure continue!

*Photo Story: Feature image was taken today while editing this post…fitting right!

Still Waiting…

It’s been six months since my last post – doesn’t that sound like a doomed adventure diary entry when they are about to tell you all the near-death experience they harrowed.

Sorry to disappoint, but this is not that. It is almost the opposite. My last post chronicled my adventures in a Starbucks while waiting for a friend to join me. I likened my no-show experience to this dessert-like season of waiting for God to direct me to my next. To show me an ‘open door’ to walk through.

Then the country went into its second lockdown. Literal doors were closing everywhere. My waiting room switched locations. After two weeks of self-isolating, I flew home to physically distance myself from my folks for two weeks before I acclimated into their cohort for Christmas. Some much-needed love and affection from my Mom & Dad were just what I needed after months of this neutral zone I called life.

Yes, but it was good to be surrounded by the two people who love me unconditionally and who first introduced me to Jesus, but it still didn’t change the fact that I was still in this waiting period. I had just switched waiting rooms.

It was also the safest place for me to hit that proverbial brick wall we often hit when our world comes crashing down around us. They were there to listen, to remind me what God’s Word says, to cry with me and when I was ready, to laugh with me.

(I do make it all sound dramatic, but if you know me at all – I am dramatic)

What was supposed to last weeks lasted months, and as much as I wanted to finish my waiting period there, with them – I knew it was time to come home. But to what? What was waiting for me here?

If you guessed my dream job – sorry friend, to disappoint – we aren’t at that point in the story. If you guessed more waiting, then your prize is behind door number…

On my first Sunday back in church, my Pastor’s message about Joseph helped give me a new perspective. I know this story well; my first CD was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The abbreviated version of Jo’s story: he bugged his brothers to the point that they threw him in a pit right before selling him as a slave. As a slave, he worked hard until his boss’ wife falsely accused him and got him thrown in jail. In jail, he puts in his time until his cellmates have some dreams; he tells them what they mean. One cellmate gets out of jail, and when Pharoah has a dream, he doesn’t understand; Jo gets the call to leave his prison and tell Pharoah what it all means. Jo gets hired on the spot, lives in the Palace, saves the country from famine, including the brothers who threw in the pit.

I have heard this story too many times to count, but this time something new struck me. Joseph didn’t settle when he was in the pit or the prison; he allowed them to be his pathway to the Palace. I have no idea what my metaphorical Palace will look like, but I am working now to prepare myself for it when it comes. I may be in the waiting room, but I am not just waiting – I am working while I wait.

Blog post image from unslash –Anita Bagg


I seem to be doing a lot of waiting lately, and it is something I am not used to doing. 

In my ‘former’ busy life, I would be booked back to back with appointments. People would travel across Edmonton, to my neck of the woods to meet me since I was at the big church; they knew my schedule was full, I was busy, so…

Now, I am the one travelling across to connect with my busy buddy. 

This whole season is one of waiting. There are moments when I love it. When I sit back, and in a slow moment, I find joy and wonder all around me. Others are as painful as watching paint dry or the dread of watching a snail cross a road. 

Right now, I am sitting in Starbucks, with a burnt tongue from rushing a sip of my Skinny Vanilla 1/2 Almond 1/2 Coconut Milk Latte. 

After 10 minutes of waiting for a perfectly punctual person, my patiently waiting turns to wondering. Is there a chance I have missed some message, some signal that this is the wrong time or place for this meeting?

Not wanting to be viewed as impatient, I give it a few more minutes, 2 to be exact. Then my fingers feverishly type away. Requesting data from my missing date – did I miss some directions, am I located in the wrong place, or are you running late?

Immediately those familiar three iPhone dots beginning their wiggle…information is on its way…I will have an answer soon. Yep, there was a major miscommunication, a day of the week was specified, but which week was not.

Apologies on both sides are exchanged, and assurances of another appointed time are forth coming…but; this writer is now sitting alone in Starbucks and find myself looking for the lesson. 

With my cellphone still in hand, so begins the journaling of this saga, okay that might be too dramatic, but you weren’t the one stood up in Starbucks. 

This is reminiscent of my current season. I am in a season of waiting, and it can feel so much like being stood up, like being left out of the communication loop, left out on a limb swaying in the breeze without a safety net. There are so many metaphors you could choke a horse, but what are you to do in the midst of the waiting. 

The answer is simple: WAIT

I know it is so simple, but that is what you are supposed to do in the waiting season. Isaiah tells us what happens when we wait on the Lord. Isaiah 40:29-31 (NRSV)

29   He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30   Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31   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 faint.  

What does the waiting actually look like? That one is a little bit more complicated; I’ve got a two-word answer for that one. THAT DEPENDS. 

It can look differently at different times, so let me my use my last few months as an example:

  • REST: There have been moments of rest, sitting by the water and just watching the waves roll by—the restorative nurture of nature.
  • Family Time: Surrounded by family and friends who can wait with you, who can distract you, who can fill the hours with laughter, be there for the tears, endure the silence, just be in the waiting.
  • Projects: What projects can you finish up, get off your plate, so you have a clean slate to start your next, whatever it may be, whenever it may begin. And maybe start a new one, that one you’ve always wanted to start but never had the time for…well now there is time.
  • Learn: Read, Listen, Watch – I have read more books, listened to more sermons and podcasts and watched more Ted talks and how to’s in this season than in years. I learned how to paint, build a website, publish a book.
  • FEEL: allow yourself to feel those feelings, acknowledge them, process them, let them go, share them with the creator, release them to Him, share them with others – maybe someone can relate

Who knows how long a season lasts? On the good days, I don’t care. On the bad days, I stare at the calendar and count…but every day I talk to the Maker who is with me in the waiting (even in this Starbucks) I know He knows His plan for me, and that is enough – so I wait…

A Chicken, Serving Tray & Some Gift Cards

Fall has always been my favourite time of year. Sometimes I call it Autumn if I am feeling romantic and artistic. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the season when the leaves paint the forest for a moment then create a carpet on the walking path. The calendar declares renewed hope for change with the start of school, mid-week programs, Christmas choir, and the weather cools off enough that cocoa and sweaters, fireplace and books sound like a perfect evening. 

The other thing fall brings is Thanksgiving and Pastors’ Appreciation month, both of which, for us in Canada, are in October (sorry for the confusion to my American friends). 

As this October arrived, I realized that it was the first time in 30 years that I was not in some form of leadership in my church. For those of you doing the math, I began serving in volunteer roles when I was 13 and began working in churches six years later. 

So, why does this information matter? It’s pretty simple. This is the first year I can openly talk about Pastors’ Appreciation without it being self-serving. 

This year, probably more than ever, your Pastor could use some appreciation, and it can take on a variety of expressions. Here are some of my favourites from over the years.

A Chicken

As a young pastor in a farming community, I was shocked when the 6-foot-4-inch frame fills the door-jam of my kids’ church room at the end of the Sunday Service. All the kids were gone, and I was cleaning up. The presence of a parent was a bit startling, but his offering was the shocking bit. He came back into the church to gift me this chicken, his chicken, from his farm – that they had killed, cleaned and were giving to me as a show of appreciation just before Thanksgiving. I, as graciously as I could, received this unconventional gift.

I arrived home with my whole chicken, and never having cooked an entire bird in my 21 years of city-slicker life, I placed it in the freezer until my Mom came to visit over Christmas. Even as she instructed me to pluck the tiny “armpit” feathers before we cleaned and cooked this appreciation bird, I felt so honoured by this farming family.

Serving Tray

This same church also had a woodworking craftsman who, almost 20 years ago, carefully constructed me a serving tray. To this day, I remember the time, energy and effort he put into this creation. It still makes me smile.

You may not have a chicken or a woodworking shop, but a few of my other favourites are the emails and cards I have received over the years. I have both a digital and physical file full of kind words, and on those rough days, I have pulled them out and found encouragement to keep on. If you’ve been one of those people who sent me a card or email over the years – this Thanksgiving, I’m thanking God for you.

Gift Cards

This summer, I had to pick a church to attend for the first time in my life. In a large city like Edmonton, there are many great churches for me to choose from. After prayerful consideration, I landed at a church with great worship and biblically-based preaching. I was excited to write out seven cards for the pastors at my church, 3 of whom I haven’t met yet. It was a first for me. I was wrestling between Tim Horton’s or Starbucks, and if I hadn’t been able to decide, then my fall back would have been a grocery or gas card since everyone needs those. I remember feeling appreciated when people showed appreciation with kind words and gift cards blessed my heart; hopefully, it will bless theirs too. 

I hope you will join me this October and shower the Pastor or Pastors in your church with so much appreciate that their “appreciation-tank” will be filled to overflowing. You never know how much those words can mean to them. 

If you need some ideas – reach out; I’ve got a few more stories of some great gift ideas, or use the comment section to share some of your own.

Through the Fog

There is moisture in the air. Not rain, not snow, just moisture. The atmosphere is thick with it – fog, as far as the eye can see. It hides the shore, the sea, it all.

The silence of this place, this quiet moment is interrupted by a blast of the foghorn, a warning to all those who brave the afternoon sea. It notifies them, declaring; we are here, you may not see us, but we are here. 

It’s incredible what can cause a memory to stir. With the blast of the horn, I’m transported back to a time when darkness still scared me, imaginary animals lived under my bed, and bad things lived in the closet. My fears were many, and my faith was still small. Again I am that little girl curled up in her bed, afraid to let her arm escape the fortress of her blanket for fear of what might be lurking in the dark.

It was my father’s voice that rang out like a foghorn in response to my tearful cries.

I saw them. Not in my closet or under the bed. I saw them falling from the sky like fiery drops of rain. If I close my eyes, even now, I can still see them. Inside each teardrop of fire was a face. Full of evil, ugly and grotesque.

I knew what these were; I knew what kingdom they belonged.  I knew, but I had no idea what to do with what I knew.

 “DADDY!” I cried out, 

He must have known something was wrong, or my sense of time was way off because from the darkness, he replied, and in an instant, he was there – bringing the light. I mean, he literally turned on the lights and dispelled my arch-nemesis, the darkness – the keeper of all things scary.

My Dad sat on the corner of my bed, gently adjusting my covers to soothe this scared soul. “What did you see?” he asked. With great description, I spoke of what I saw. 

“Make them go away, Daddy!”

He didn’t make them go away. He wasn’t even going to try. He sat there looking at me; I wonder if he took that moment to gauge my faith. Is she ready? Can she handle it?

“You can make them go away.” I might have laughed at his words had I not been racked with fear. Did I hear him correctly? Make them go away? Impossible!

But it wasn’t impossible – it was quite possible. The exact words escape me, but my dad spoke of a power I possessed. More accurately, the power HE, Jesus possessed. My father explained that Jesus has power over the darkness and dark places. With Him in my life, I no longer need to be afraid. Speak His name, call on Him, He can make them go away.

So I did, and He did. They went away.

In a fairytale, the story would end here. The brave young girl had slain the dragon, and all was well in the kingdom.

But this is no fairytale. Through the years, they came back, sometimes as they did before in drops of fiery rain, other times as dark voices penetrating my mind. 

They came but not my father; he never did again. 

He’d done it – his job, his duty. He’d trained me, given me the words to speak, the name to call on – the giver of light who is light Himself.

They came again and again, and at times even now they come…but so does Jesus. 

And when I call on Him, they have to leave. 

The blast of the foghorn pulls me from my memory, a smile on my face and moisture in the air.

Forgiveness & Taking out the Trash

Growing up, this was a once a week task – gather all the trash bags in the house, bring them to the curb the night before, so they were ready and waiting for whatever hour the faithful garbage truck drivers were to arrive to pick it up.  Make sure the bags are tied up and, in the cans, with lids on, so no critters got into them, so you didn’t have an unpleasant task in the morning. 

A family of 5 accumulated a lot of garbage in those days.

Fast forward a few years decades. Now I am a singles adult living a Condo – there is no such thing as a garbage day. 

We have a dumpster – it is readily available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – the terrific truck comes by twice a week.

So, at first, I dreaded taking out the trash. I would wait until the bag was so full that I could hardly lift it into the dumpster. Then I tried the “wait until it stinks method.” Then I gave myself an artificial ‘garbage day’ thinking that would establish a rhythm.

As my 6th anniversary of Condo living comes up, I’ve finally found the secret.

Do all of the above.

Now, when I cut an onion that stinks – and the bag is ½ full, I take out the trash. 

When I do a crafty project – and the bag gets full, I take out the trash.

On Saturdays, when I put clean sheets on the bed and clean the bathroom, I take out the trash. 

It’s a lot like forgiveness.

I would carry a bag around with me and stuff every offence in it until I could no longer bear its weight, or the bag broke, or began to stink, or was politely asked to deposit in the ‘forgiven pile’.

Perhaps until that sermon when the Pastor reminds us to forgive others – then I would go to Jesus, the one who gave all, so we could know forgiveness, and lay all that baggage at His feet…until the next offence. Then a new shiny bag would come out ready to collect all the hurt and misdeeds.

Time and time again, inevitably, I would find myself repeating the processing and collecting.

After almost 40 years of following Jesus, I am still learning.

I want to be quick to forgive – before you ask. In the middle of the offence, when it is the 100th time you’ve done the same thing. 

I choose to forgive – Every day is garbage day.

Come to the Well

Wanting to capture the emotions and lessons from tonight, I grabbed my trusty pen – my green filled ‘Stylo’ – my favourite fountain pen. 

Suddenly I remember the last time I had held it in my hand, to jot an idea or two down, it literally had scratched the paper for it was out of ink. 

Too tired or too lazy to refill it or maybe my ideas had run as dry as the pen – it was left there inkless.

But tonight, I had need of it – there were words, His Word to record—life-changing phrases and memories to capture so as to later recount them to a soul or two.

But first I would need a visit to the well. My ink well. It’s green since it’s one of my two favourite colours. My other ink is red and seems too harsh for these words. Red is used to correct. Green means go, it reminds us of nature – Green nurtures and encourages growth. Green is good.

Carefully twisting the barrel to reveal the empty cartridge, I plunge the thirsty nib into the green liquid. Submerging it in the well, I pull the plunger to replenish the ink and giving my pen a new life; suddenly, I am struck by an image.

How like an ink pen, am I?

In the hands of a masterful artist each day, I glide through my life – moving here and there – pausing and continuing, allowing The Master to choose the path, the purpose. At times it is smooth and others abrupt. At times I comprehend and others I do not.

Regardless of the motion, there is intention, and when I submit to it – His purpose is revealed. What an adventure it can be!

Then looking back, I see the marks left behind. They tell my journey, His story. They can be filled with laughter or, at times, streaked with tears, but either way, they are beautiful and all because I allowed The Master to fill me at the well.

So dear writers, brothers, sisters, friends

Come to the well.

Today’s Pondering is brought to you by: A Ragged-Legged Bison

Driving away from Yellowknife after what had been a fantastic day and a half adventure, full of exploration and serendipity, the goal was to enjoy the ride, stop when we saw something of interest and get some great photos. All was going according to plan until well after dark. 

Then it happened.

I was switching back and forth between watching for the reddish orange moon peeking through the cloudy night sky and checking the brush along to roadside for Bison. Chatting away, I went back and forth, back and forth. 

Some of the conversations were deep, and others were not so much. I’m not sure at what point my eyes peered down the center lane into the darkness, and my mind registered that big hunk of darkness you see is not the night; it’s…

STOP was the only words that came out my mouth – warning the driver that their foot should rapidly move from the accelerator to the brake pedal. 

Tensing my body preparing for an abrupt end to this car ride, halted by this one-ton beast now looking at us, as the driver swerved and the creature sauntered simultaneously in opposite directions. My right foot mimicking what I was hoping was happening with the driver’s foot, pressing down, down, down. 

Tired screeched,


We slowed for only a moment and then continued down the road past mile marker 145. There was no need to stop. We were fine, the animal was fine, the car was fine. We hopped. 

The chatter went back and forth between myself and the driver as I was kindly told that ‘Bison’ might have been a better word than stop. I kindly responded the only word in my brain was ‘Stop.’ 

The discussion soon changes to moments of nervous laughter at the situation, to the realization of a missing side mirror. 

Around this time, I realize my foot is still firmly pushing on my imaginary brake and as the adrenaline reaches its heights, my hands shake a bite. I ask the driver multiple times if they are okay to continue- I would not have been – they have nerves of steel and keep going. 

As the kilometers pass more slowly than ever, the realization sinks in of just how badly this night could have ended. We return to our intermittent chatter of the deep and meaningful to the lighthearted and silly. 

Our journey ends ‘safely’ as we pull into the driveway and exit the car to examine the damage – words fail to describe the dismembered bumper, dangling mirror sans mirror, the ripped metal. It could have been much, much worse. More jokes are shared as we empty the car, but the gravity of the moment lingers thick in the air. 

Our Guardian Angels had their work cut out for them this evening – and that poor Bison and his now ragged-leg left their mark on us, the car and the night.

Photo Credit: Hailey Armoogan (this photo as well as the Bison photo) Yes the Car was a write off.

The Lightning Maker

As I turned off the corrugated dirt road, on to the smooth highway, I saw it in my rear-view mirror. The beginnings of a lightning storm that would rival any I have ever experience before or since.

It had been a wonderfully warm August weekend at Kids Camp in the heart of the prairies. I readied myself for the late-night drive home.

Sheet lightning. Bolts that touched the earth. Ones that went from cloud to cloud and shot straight across the sky. Some lasted the blink of an eye. Others caused me to hold my breath. Amazing, awe-inspiring power was on display. I was surrounded by this visual conversation between the Lightning Maker and me.

Instantly, the soundless sky shouted and proclaimed, “Let there be Light,” and there it was. Flash after flash, a constant reminder to me, of how differently things can look; day-night; truth-lies; right-wrong.

It takes but a moment to shatter the darkness. It may only last a moment. One here and one there, the rhythm of the storm quickens the pace; it is a fantastic display. In that moment, I was reminded, no not reminded – impressed upon – indented in to – there now was a brand-new understanding.

I – serve – the Lightning Maker.

In my life, there have been times when I choose not to remember this and find myself in a dark and lonely place where I forget the Lightning Maker. I prefer to “pack it in.” Pack my belonging, gifts, and talents and move there. I sit alone in the quiet darkness and forget that the Lightning Maker wants me to live in His light, to experience His Power, and to avail myself of it.

All of a sudden, the song on the radio rises above the noise. “Give me your eyes for just a second” …the sky flashes bright – the music continues. “Give me your eyes so I can see.” Another flash.

My mind wanders. Could it be that Lightning Maker wants to use this storm to “show” me something, to open my eyes?

The radio continues to direct this message. “Yours” starts, FLASH “everything is Yours.” 


The soundtrack continues song after song after every song. Ones that speak of freedom, of seeing through God’s eyes. It’s as though the writers-on-the-radio and the-creator-of-the-lightning have come together to compose this piece just for me this night.

The flashes of lightning illuminate the sky, and the bolts jump from cloud to cloud. Heaven and earth were connected; each moment, a bolt of lightning crashed down. The conversation between the Lightning Maker and me continue to reverberate in my soul.

How can I ever choose the darkness again once I’ve experienced this unique communion with the Lightning Maker?

Photo Story: I saw Justin Sinclair’s Photography at a Church Craft Fair, and when I saw the above photo, I knew it was for this post. Justin is a talented young man of faith who uses his camera to capture God’s creation and the community around him. Please be sure to check out his website.


The metaphor of the butterfly’s transformation has always held a fascination for me. Almost autobiographical in nature. There was a time in my life where circumstances left me feeling cocooned. A time when I was bubbled wrapped, safe apart from the world, an observer.

I believed that my Creator was using this time to heal some hurts, build some perseverance, endurance, forgivingness, and teach me some lessons that I would need in the outside world. Important lessons that would shape my life from then on. Much like the butterfly getting out of the Cocoon was a struggle, but part of the growth. I looked back on this time of my life and loved it some much, I am writing a children’s book on the topic, in my spare time, so it’s been over 15 years and it is still in process.

Then March 2020 rolled around, and we around the world learned a new word, Covid19. The world began to Cocoon. I realized in this moment, as my workplace became my home, as my restaurants became my home, as I no longer could see and touch my family or friends, that this was a new sort of Cocoon.

Over the years, I had learned new lessons and unlearned others. I turned to friends to get advice before the Creator at times. I turned to food for comfort instead of the Comforter (another name we have for the Creator). In my years outside the Cocoon, I had, in fact, found new hurts along the way and carried them with me.

I called this season Cocoon 2.0

Embrace the yuck – Let everything change. I began to examine everything. My heart, my home, my closest, what I ate, watched, listen to, what I spent time thinking about, who I spent time with (virtually). I think it was almost 2 months without a hug, that is hard when your love language is touch. I let myself feel my feelings instead of trying to push them away, which was my default mode. It was good, I felt like I was changing, and I had the summer to continue to cause the government and church leaders said nothing going to change until September.

Then May happened, I was now jobless, in Covid19. I thought I knew what it was like to be in a cocoon over 15 years ago, then in March, but having been out of work for over a month when the country is just starting to “Open Up.” Cocooned has a whole new meaning. I went from seeing thousands of people a week, emailing with hundreds, chatting, and meeting with dozens to nothing. Literally, there have been days when my phone doesn’t ring, and unless I call someone I don’t hear from anyone (sorry Mom and Dad you don’t count)

In my other sequesterings I always still had work, some form of it, some way to contribute to the world at large. It still mattered to someplace, that I show up that I put in my time, that I show my face.

I had a title, a salary, an office, a position. I didn’t know that I cared about those things until they were gone.

Now I am truly Cocooned, learning from my Creator. Wondering what He will show me. Real Caterpillars go into their cocoons for 5-21 days. That is it – that is how long it takes them to transform. I wonder how long this cocooning will take?

Join me on my blog to follow me on this journey.