The Backstory


I want to say hello to our new followers. Welcome to the journey, I’m glad to have you with us! Those who know me, know I love to share my process, especially when I’m making prints or paintings. I have been sharing my journey as a New Venture Apprentice through what I formerly called The Butterfly Project and now with my New Venture, Butterfly Way Muskoka.

When we fast-forward to finished products, we miss out on so much richness. We all know paintings (and New Ventures) don’t materialize out of thin air and usually involve a lot of hard work but so often we don’t get to see the development or what’s happening ‘behind the scenes’ or know the backstory - Marvel fans know how important the backstory is! In our fast-paced, instant society, process and development can seem almost non-existent. It is my habit to continually reflect on what I'm doing, learning and thinking about. I share through my blog and now social media. In light of that, I thought it might be a good time to provide another glimpse into our backstory and a good reminder of why this ministry is so important.


Just a note of caution, some of this could be triggering.


May 2009, 13 years ago now, my family experienced a life-changing crisis. Our daughter at only three years old was sexually abused by the babysitter. My whole world came crashing in on me. The police were involved, children’s aid, lawyers, and doctors. I was in a state, desperate to do what I could to repair the situation, none of the professionals we were dealing with had resources or support to offer us.


I literally flipped through the Yellow Pages of the phone book to find a therapist. Our church was going through a transition, most of our close friends from there had scattered and there really was no one left to call - the ones we did call said they couldn’t help. Our extended family was estranged. We were alone. The court case took over two years to conclude - and of course, there was a publication ban so we couldn’t have anyone with us for support there either.


I have learned since when someone experiences a crisis or traumatic event, some kind of intervention needs to occur within six weeks in order to prevent the crisis from taking root as a trauma. When a crisis becomes trauma, a person is much more likely to make poor choices which of course can lead to more crisis, more trauma, a downward spiral. This is exactly what happened to us. We were in active crisis for over two years. We had exhausted every option we had available to us. We went bankrupt, had to walk away from our home, we were barely able to make ends meet.


Fast forward 10 years to 2019. I was reflecting on 10 years of rebuilding our lives. It took a long time but piece by piece, through therapy, our faith in God, and a few friends who did what they could, we got through it. We survived. We healed. We were able to buy a house again. One day out of curiosity I thought, if the same thing were to happen today, I wonder if the support we could have used then is available now. Surely now that we have the world wide web and things like sexual abuse have become less of a dirty little secret, help is available.


I had been following an organization called Little Warriors in Alberta for the past 10 years. I longed to see something like it in Ontario. They have a place called Be Brave Ranch which is a residential program for children who have been sexually abused. As I looked for help, disappointed with what I wasn’t finding, I thought, it might be time to visit Be Brave Ranch.


That summer, Mike and I made the trip out west. We were deeply moved by the work they do and left with greater conviction we were being called into a ministry, but not in the way we were anticipating. I had in mind creating an Ontario version of Be Brave Ranch but I realized after being there, Be Brave Ranch doesn’t need to be duplicated. It needs to be supported. Still, I knew there was something unique that God was calling me toward so I kept following.


By now I was mid-way through my Master's degree and had begun my New Venture Apprenticeship. I decided I should change my specialization to Counselling and Spiritual Care. For the remainder of my degree, I explored what it would mean to create space, initially for families who had experienced sexual abuse, to “calm the nervous system,” a term I first learned through Be Brave Ranch and then in my Crisis Intervention class. I was fortunate to have Dr. Cathryn Harris for the majority of my remaining classes and was able to take this idea and examine it from a number of different vantage points with Dr. Harris’ expert feedback. Sexual abuse is a crisis, but so is the death of a loved one, as is dementia, a car accident, a diagnosis of cancer, Covid-19, a miscarriage. There are so many. I needed to broaden my response to include all forms of crisis.


When I think back to our crisis 13 years ago, we were exhausted. We fought with everything we had for so long. We literally went from one thing to another, to another, to another. We had two friends at the time who not knowing what else to do, offered us a short getaway. We went to a resort in Collingwood but Mike still had to work and I was alone with toddlers in an unfamiliar place, trying to keep it together for my kids and so the other moms at the park wouldn’t notice I was actually dying inside. The next was better, a cottage in Burk’s Falls, clearly more our style but we were isolated and completely dependent on each other when we really had nothing left to give.


This is the backstory of the idea of supportive respite.


I imagine creating an environment where people can come to let nature soothe and calm their nervous systems, to calm and refresh their souls. Where they can rest in safety and in a place of knowing. Sitting around the campfire, if the tears start to flow, they are free to release them and be cleansed by them. A place where feeding chickens or planting geraniums can help remind someone how to put one foot in front of the other. And when words can’t be expressed or simply don’t come, people can still find an outlet or simply a distraction by making art. The concept is simple but can literally change everything.


One last story. I often talk about how finding and buying this property in 2020 was nothing short of a miracle but I haven’t told many about this part before.


Everything was already done. They accepted our offer and we had to hurry up and sell our house. Within a few days, it was done. Sold firm. Then our initial financing for our Muskoka home fell through. It’s ok, mortgage brokers often have a backup, ours did. After waiting for a painstaking amount of time, I got a call from the broker at 9 pm, “the bank wants to know why you have a gap in your credit history back in 2009. This could mean they won't give you the financing.” I had to explain the whole situation to him. It felt like an incredible invasion of privacy and I was frustrated that after all of this time, we're still dealing with the fallout. I went to bed that night fearing that we were going to wake up the next morning and be homeless - the way the market was going, we now couldn't afford to buy the house we were currently living in! I was angry but the righteous kind of angry. I said to Mike, “this is just one more reason as if we needed more, but if there is anything we can do to prevent this from happening to other people, we have to do it. We have to help.” The words of Joseph in the book of Genesis rang true for me that day, "[this] was intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." It only added more fuel to our fire.


Supportive respite is a simple concept but can literally change and save lives. It's not just about getting away or running away from our problems, although there is plenty of biblical precedent for that but I'll save that for another blog. I meet so many people who have experienced a crisis and have said how much they would have benefited from having a safe place to retreat to, to get their feet back underneath them, catch their breath for a while - because the problems are still there when we go home, but maybe we can go home with a little bit of fuel in the tank and a few resources to help in the battle.


I'd love to hear from you! The best way to comment is on social media or by email, at christina@butterflyprojectmuskoka.com. Thanks for joining in the conversation!

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