Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For if You're Wondering if God Still Pursues

I talked to Robert today. I talked to him twice.

The first time was a collect call, so I ran to the closet, shut the door, stuck my finger in my other ear, and closed my eyes. I didn't want to miss a thing. (Also, he's a mumbler.)

I had heard a rumor a few days back, one that changed the whole course of my night, one that made me cry my eyes out on the couch.

Now I know for myself that it's true.

He met Jesus in his jail cell. And it's all he can talk about. It's all that he wants.

I knew Jesus was there, in that steel-barred gutter. I begged Him to hunt Robert down. I pleaded around the clock for someone to put Jesus on and wear Him right in Robert's face - right where he couldn't miss Him.

I said I would keep hoping and I meant it. But I thought the fire might take years to ignite. I was never thinking in weeks.

Skeptics will say that everyone finds Jesus in jail, and man, I wish that were true. But what I do know is that I'm learning for the very first time what it's like to fight for a soul. I know that this boy is different.

So tonight his eyes were never clearer. His spark has never been sparkier. He smiled back at us, bright teeth and dark skin, still a goof-ball with a pic stuck in his hair.

But this time, there was more when he looked back. Maybe the jailhouse teleconferences feel extra safe, but he laid himself bare. He told the truth about some thing, truths a guy with a street name wouldn't typically mess around with.

He held up his Bible, said he's reading John. He'll put Calvin on their prayer list - he'll do it tonight. He wants to go to church with us - "I'll bet you never thought you'd hear those words from me!" He ran back to his cell and grabbed a book that he wants Cory and I to read. He's already on page 60 and did a mini reading with me on the line, busting out words like "Deuteronomy" and "sovereign" like they were baby food.

God wants this kid. And I can't say that I blame him.

So thank you for your prayers (and sorry for the whole Abraham/Robert confusion). :)

Please keep praying for our big kid.

(If you're dying to see Robert, watch this. But no laughing at my man voice.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Money Shot Monday

I have fallen hard for Mango.
It took me quite by surprise. We just...have a connection. It's real, man.
Mango gets me.
I don't have to pretend with Mango. I can be myself -- the self that eats two entire mangoes in one sitting. The one who piles them into my shopping cart like they're salsa jars.

What I really want to know is, why didn't you tell me how amazing Mango is? Did you want to keep us apart? Were you jealous? Why??

He's beauty and brains. Sweet and healthy. He's Bill Cosby and Bill Kristol.

Here's a tip, though you totally do not deserve it seeing as how you blatantly sabotaged the first 35 years of my life: Pick the mango that squeezes a little more than you think it should. It might look a little past its prime. A bit squishy and age-spotted, perhaps. The smoother, greener ones will try to sway you. Do. Not. Let them.

You'll thank me for it. And so will your peepers.

 PS - The curtains are up! What do you think?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mennonite Portland

A friend of mine described our new town as Mennonite Portland. Truer words were never spoken, though I'm not Mennonite and I've never been to Portland.

Let's just say that there's a certain crunchy vibe happening around town. And I dig it.

I don't know exactly what's happened to me. I think it all started back when I began sliding from my former Right Wing status into a vague sort of political apathy. I will spare you my beliefs - they are complicated and boring - but suffice it to say that over the past year I've decided that maybe they aren't the most important thing, after all. Maybe they don't define me as much as I once fancied. Maybe they'll be just fine there on the back burner. (Don't. Tell. My old boss Robert.)

Alas, here we are, in the land of quirk, braids, and upcycling.

Rubes and I did the whistle-stop tour yesterday morning and I decided some things.

1. I will visit the Farmer's Market every Saturday.
2. I shall dine in the coffee shop.
3. I will bring home a bouquet of flowers. Always.
4. And maybe a cupcake with frosting twice as high as the cake.
5. Or some cheesecake.
6. Or a personal cherry pie.
7. I would like to become more familiar with grains.
8. I'll start with wheat berries.
9. Is that even a grain?
10. Seems like it shouldn't have "berries" in the title if it's a grain.
11. Portland is confusing.

Flower Patch Hippie Girl

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cookies in Bed

Our first full week is officially in the books. Last week was a big, sloppy blur of boxes and cramming a whole lot of stuff into not a lot of room. We met teachers and friends and practiced some new routines. Life is so good when there are flowers on the table and not a single smudge in the sink. Everything is shiny and new and different. It's busy and exhilerating...

...and then, one afternoon, it's too bright. Too busy. Something.

I'm grumbly and blue without warning, and not just because I had my first-ever bad Mexican food experience. That's when the real reality sets in - the one that follows us always, the one we unpack with each new move. It's the reminder that I'm still me, they're still them, he's still him. We're all still us, and we still have bad days. We have things to sort through. We're banged up about the shins. We're still prone to the ills of that blasted PMS. (Well, some of us are. Like me, for instance.)

As my friend Tiny reminds me, "Wherever you go, there you are."

It's never a surprise, not really; but it's strange to sit in a spanking new place and feel that nasty dude slink over me like a bad shirt. I want to shake him off, leave him behind, lose him for good.

That's never going to happen. I'm learning to see the beauty in a little angst. It's just one of the things that connects me to you, you to me. Life wasn't meant to be simple. And some of the greatest blessings of my life have closed in on some of the deepest hurts, only to unfurl again into a different sort of lovely, a whole new type of grace.

So maybe I pout a little.  Maybe I do. Not too long, just long enough. I whine to Cory and grump around for a solid three-quarters of an hour. I wrestle with feeling alone and wanting more alone time. I need a new hobby. I need to be settled. I need a routine. I need to be a better friend, wife, mom. I need a sitter. I need more time to do work stuff - wait, I don't actually have a job... I need time away. I need more family time. I don't know what the heck I need.

Turns out, I need to tuck the kids in and go straight to bed. I need to lay on top of the covers and read a mindless magazine for an hour. I need to slice up some fruit and watch a show with my man. I need Orange Milanos. I need to pray about some things and fall asleep before eleven o'clock.

I need to take care of myself, and let myself be taken care of. I need to cut me some slack and not worry when every single day isn't a barn burner.

Morning comes, the kids wake up chattery and full of the kind of hope that I want for myself, so I take it. I hold it with both hands and all my heart, relieved as ever to find that it followed me here, too.

What's your remedy for one of those days? I'm taking notes...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From There to Home

As much as I'd like to ring in the new house with a beautiful first blog post, full of wit and wonder, this is all I got: We made it.

Are you thinking about moving? I don't recommend it. It's just not fun, that's all. Because it's enough that you have to pack up every single belonging you own. And, you know, maybe your oldest will be hospitalized overnight 2 days before moving day - just for kicks. Maybe you'll miss closing on the new house because you're trapped in a hospital with a kid who isn't really sick. Maybe you'll shower twice in a span of 5 days. Maybe you'll start to scowl a little, just so your greasy hair looks more at home. Maybe you'll stop labeling boxes. Maybe you'll curse the day you decided to sew the curtains.

Maybe all of that will happen, or maybe it won't. But either way, you'll get all your business moved and then you'll realize you still have to unpack it all. And not in a philosophical sort of way. You'll actually have to take the crap out of the boxes and find it all a new home.

So, all that to say, just don't do it.

Unless God told you to, then totally do it.

All melodrama aside, moving day went off without a single hitch. Thank you so very much for the thoughts and prayers. We started at nine and had everything here by noon. Pretty fancy, right?

I owe a debt of gratitude to our family, church friends and regular friends alike - the very people who have supported us every step of the way on this seemingly ridiculous journey. They rallied around us and made our day feel as big and loved-up as we ever could have hoped. It felt important to be surrounded by people who really get it. They made us laugh, ignored the dust rabbits lurking behind every blasted piece of furniture, loaded the truck like a pack of rogue Tetris geeks, carried all the heavy boxes (and the light ones), watched the wilies, made lunch and dinner, and did it all with a smile. I wanted to cry several times that day, but I was too dang happy.

Also? My Mama surprised us by showing up at our door late Friday afternoon. I lost the bulk of my big packing day to hospital drama and she swooped in and saved us all, International Spy-style. I positively could not have done it without her. Pulling off her trick was not without consequences though, as she almost had to lie to cover her tracks. Almost. Upon close review, it was determined that she made short work of dancing around the full truth while retaining her full integrity. She gets an A+ for Vagueness and a solid A- for Believability.

Me: (upon reaching her on her cell that she never, ever uses) Where are you?
Mom: Oh, just out running errands.
Me: (suspicious and slightly hopeful) What kind of errands?
Mom: Well, first your dad wanted some milk. Then he wanted some cookies...
Me: (Since when does mom drop everything and run to get dad milk and cookies in the middle of the day???)
Mom: Oh, and we needed dog food.

The dog food is totally what sold me.

So, here I sit, in a house only partly unpacked. It's starting to not feel like a weird vacation home and beginning - just barefly - to feel like home, tried and true.

I walked the kids to school yesterday and felt so alive, joy seeping through all the tiny cracks. I love being part of this community already, the one that doesn't bother putting on airs, the one that probably doesn't know how. This right here is the life for me. It just feels right. It feels like the exact thing that our hearts have been moving toward.

I'm not gonna lie, the house is beautiful. It's more than I could have imagined. Much more than what we ever expected. That's the part of the story that I still can't wrap my brain around. But everything else is the part that waltzes my soul around.

Details to come, but you probably already assumed.

Flower Patchy

ps - Photo in honor of our 13th Anniversary today. I'll let you guess who the cheap skate is.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Move On

I just found this photo a few days ago. This is how I made the final trip from our farmhouse to the BDR. Quite fitting, since we'll be doing it all over again tomorrow, though I'm officially calling shotgun.

It should feel sort of monumental, but I'm too busy being troubled by the fact that Ruby's birthday decorations are still up and the garage isn't packed. Silas is sleeping in the hall. Things are more than a little wonky here.

But more than anything, what weighs on me is this: why is my thumb so dang long? It's like a second forearm up there.

Think of us tomorrow. I'm hopeful we'll survive because 1) we're well practiced 2) my mom surprised us and showed up today unannounced 3) silas will be wrangled by a friend 4) we have many amazing people lined up to help, one of whom is bringing a crock-pot full of sloppy joes

And stay tuned, because I have a whole big boatload of processing to do. This is an end and a bigger beginning. 'Twould be a shame to let it go un-over-analyzed.

Still FPFG, no matter what, even in the city, forever and always amen

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


His neighbor's window caught my eye when I pulled up a few weeks back.  It's one thing for Robert to live there, quite another for a child. Of course, I thought of Abraham.

What sustains the human spirit? What is it that pushes up through the dirt and inspires a message to the whole world, written in reverse, all except for that pesky "S"? I wanted to know that child, take her for a walk, have her teach me something about contentment and joy.

He walks out of the building and over to my van, all swagger and falling-off pants. He might fool them, but I wouldn't know how, because when he smiles you see clean through the tattoos and the put-on scowl, or at least I do. I see the boy, the Abraham, the one who might have scrawled his own Ode to Joy on a window a few years ago.

We drive to a house a few blocks down, where cops creep through at intervals, where people smoke on front stoops and babies toddle down the sidewalk in droopy pampers.

They scream at him from the porch, each insult more toxic than the last. He loads the van, loads the van. He doesn't say a word, won't play along, and their hatred grows. So they amp it up. He splits down the middle, his protective shell falling away at both sides. He screams back, hurls the ugly over the heads of smudge-cheeked children and right back at them.

I might have done the same, if the whole world was just a tiny bit different.

So I commend him for his self-control. I'm impressed. I mean it. You're better than that. You have skills they don't have. We believe you can do anything. And there he is again, that beautiful child that maybe only I see. He laughs and jokes. We pass the defunct pie shop and I swoon all over again about the signage, so perfectly blue and chippy. "You're so white", he laughs. I shrug.

His apartment is a sitcom waiting to be filmed. It's full of so much crazy, so much reckless emoting, so much masked pain. I love them. Each one of them. They're beautiful and wild and tender and frail and I want to keep them forever as my friends.

I drive home a few hours later, brim-full of the life he shows me. I find more of God every time I'm with him. Isn't that strange? He doesn't even know God. Doesn't want to. But God is there. He's right there in that crappy apartment with all the people who believe they're nothing. He's there in their arbitrary rage. He's with the ones with the dull eyes, the yellow teeth. He's with the ones who shine in spite of it all. They are His people, and I see Him in their midst.


I sit two rows behind him, boring holes through his shoulders, his neck, his growing-out afro. It's two weeks later. I listen, but only half-way. I've heard it all before. I know what those papers say and to be honest, I just don't care that much.

He tries to raise his right hand, but it's chained to his left. He won't turn around. He won't look my way.

But I've got all day, I've got forever, so I just keep looking. I won't miss my chance. And so, he looks. We lock eyes and I wink, because it's all I can do. I wink and I smile my smallest smile and he watches me, takes it in.

His lips twist to the side and he shrugs his shoulders. I'll spend the rest of the week deciphering the gesture. I don't know what it meant, but I have my ideas.

They lead him out in pants six inches too short, his slippered-feet barely able to shuffle. His shame is the cinder block of the walls, the concrete of the floors, the drab of the polyester, the bite of the shackles. It trails behind him, emanates from him. It's something real, something I could reach out and shove. It's the thing that killed his light.

So I'm the mom in the courtroom, the one who doesn't care so much about what was said, the one not dumb enough to believe it's not bad, because it's awful. But that's my "son" heading back to jail. He's only eighteen. They'll keep him for a very long time.

I don't know who he'll be when he comes back out. This boy was never a criminal. He was the one I would nudge, through the sheer force of my will, to prove everyone wrong. He was the one who would write the book someday, the one who would show all the other Abrahams that it didn't have to be that way.

One mistake changed all of that and now I'll talk to him through a video screen. I'll show up for his hearings, because no one else will. No one. I'll write letters and I'll pray that the light comes back. I'll miss him and I'll mourn his tonight, his tomorrow, and all of his future. My heart will break in shock-waves.

And I'll hope.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Low-Key Six

You might already know this, but we have a unique way of celebrating birthdays around here. I like to think of it as charming and throw-back.

Throw-back to when? I don't know. Pioneer days?

I'm just not much of a party-thrower. Which is weird, because I really like to throw parties. I'm all about hosting the impromptu gathering. I think the key word is impromptu, which birthdays never are.

When required to plan ahead, I revolt. The result is off-beat and relaxed. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

Sidenote: I once "hosted" an ice cream sundae bash and no one showed up. Nada personas. (And yes, I'm brushing up on my Espanol. You noticed?)

But what I will do is slap up some decorations the night before. Then, when the birthday girl and her brothers wake up, I'll let them eat cups of dry cereal in front of the TV while Mommy and Daddy rest for another hour while intermittently breaking up squabbles and shouting out random Silas checks with our eyes closed.

They will think it's the best thing since Christmas.

God bless Saturday mornings.

When the dry cereal will no longer cut it, I'll make cinnamon French toast with peaches. Also, bacon.

Sidenote: Are you tired of me taking these awful pictures of my food? Do you wish I remember before I dive in, thus eliminating the need for artful cropping?

Me, too.

The birthday girl's wish was putt-putt golfing.

I'm not even gonna say who got 4 holes-in-one. (Hole-in-ones? Holes-in-one?)

Though sadly, "she" still didn't win, because "he" proved to be a much more consistent mini golfer, ending just one over par. Creep.

Calvin told me to stop being a braggy winner. And I didn't even win. I mean "she" didn't win...

And now, a word on the Silas: He's exhausting, man. He rolls in peaks and valleys and we're all valley these days. Dude did not appreciate the fake golf club at. all. He knows when he's being taken for a child.

We headed home after golfing and ice cream, all tired out and emotionally drained on account of the above-mentioned rogue faux golfer. We had big plans to stay in for the rest of the night and survive until bedtime. It was all we could muster.

And then! A gem of a gift. Silas was invited to accompany his Papa to see Great Grandma Polly.

We had no choice but to go on out for dinner. Rubes picked Olive Garden (after some strategic suggestions) because, "They have the goodest macaroni and cheese!"

Reality being what it is, it has become increasingly important for us to balance including Silas in our fun and letting him go have a different kind of fun, with someone who is not us. 

Our love for him is unwavering, but small breaks are healthy for all of us, especially Calvin and Ruby, who still bear the fuzzy memory of how serene life used to be around here. These little breaks give us a chance to really focus on them, listen to them. An evening without drama and angst? Sign me up. Any time. 

A dear friend in a similar situation helped me see that it's not a bad thing to do this. It doesn't mean our love for him is any less. It just means that he's at a stage in life that may take us all down if we're not careful.

So now, here I am, passing the advice on to you.


Here's Miss Six. Have you ever seen a lovelier girl?

Me, either.

She's emotional and affectionate. She's a giver and a lover. She makes friends easily, she's not afraid to try something new. She hates bugs and she loves flipping on the monkey bars and riding Buck the horse. She's a treasure, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.

As proof of her awesomeness, she fashioned a scarf from a scrap of the dining room curtains just before we left for dinner. Love that.

Sidenote:  A certain person in our family turned out for church this morning in this. I almost fainted dead away. From the time "he" was two, "he" would not allow me to layer him up. He even resisted basic matching assistance. "He" was all sports gear, all the time. And usually a little deranged looking. But just ever so slightly.

Over time, "his" style grew on me. It just became an extension of "him", and I'm quite fond of "him".

Never in my life have I tried to steer "him" into something so smack-down fantastic. I wouldn't have dared.

I can honestly say that as a mom, I have never, ever been prouder. Because at the end of the day, what's more important than layering? Let's say it together: "Nothing!"

The rest of our today included ballerina cupcakes at Nana's house. The boy cousins were all disarmingly supportive of the ballerinas. It really took me off guard. 

And just to prove that I'm still evolving, I made homemade cream cheese frosting for the Betty Crocker lemon cupcakes. Impressive, no?


Really, no???

 That's how we roll around here. We rock the box mix. We buy toppers from TJ Maxx, decorations from Odd Lots, and we call it a day. We call it a very, very good day.

Happy Birthday, Ruby River. You make our life pinker and brighter and you teach us every day.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fish Frying

This post is headlined by the fabulous Ruby River, who begins kindergarten tomorrow - tomorrow! - and is sure to blow the whole school away. To prepare, we got her hair trimmed (a big event) and bought her a pair of knock-off Toms shoes called Bobs. I don't know much about this Bob guy, but he gets zero points for originality.

Is this the fanciest salon you've ever seen? It's more of a beauty parlor, really. I wish I could tell you the beautician's name was Madge and she had lipstick on her teeth, but tweren't meant to be.

 Yesterday afternoon, I suffered a curtain  breakdown of catastrophic proportions. I was overcome with anxiety that the "tapestry" curtains wouldn't be wide enough for the big front windows. Then I worried that they were too colorful. Then I was sure that they were altogether weird. They weren't for me. They'd argue with the wall paper. They'd be kiss ups to the chair.

Herringbone Curtain

I found these and my confusion swelled from inconvenient to insurmountable.

I sent an SOS text to my friend, who responded with back-to-back responses, "Blah. Boring!!!" "Would look like you chickened out." "Nope. No way. Bad idea!"

So I just argued harder and with more fervor.

Truth is? I'm a big hot mess. I'm like Calvin, who just shrieked himself to sleep over a broken ink pen that I dared to throw away when what he's really worried about is his first day at a new school.

We went to a kindergarten orientation then buzzed past New House, wherein I decided that they will be fine, and only partly because they are already paid for and machine washed.

Then I showed up at the above-mentioned friend's house at 9 pm with the curtains, the picture of the curtains held wonky to the window, some other random fabric swatches, the wallpaper and a piece of fine art.

The ladies officially talked me off the ledge and all is well again. For now. We celebrated with cobbler and Round II of skirt-sewing.

Side note: They finally believe me when I say I'm terrified of sewing. Also, cutting. And I can't do math in my head. And patterns give me hives. So while they sewed my skirt, I snapped their beans and we all pretended like it made perfect sense. That, my dears, is friendship.

(This is the fine artwork. I have big plans for it. Please ignore the magazines, just there to keep the edges from rolling.)
We kicked off our last day of summer vacation at Rise 'N Roll bakery. My doughnut was so sweet that I could only eat half. I don't even know myself anymore. All of a sudden, I'm giving perfectly good doughnut halves away, calling emergency curtain forums when I have bigger fish to fry and singing Billy Idol songs in the middle of the afternoon.

Hey, little sister, shot-gun.

Here's something else that may definitely not interest you: Every month or so I get this song in my mind, "If you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love." I haven't heard it in years and years. It always puts me in a good mood when it pops in for a visit.

I know it's crazy. But it's true.

Speaking of frying fish, I fried some up tonight. Cory gave it 5/5 stars. Calvin said, "If this was the Olympics, I'd give you the gold medal!" But he's totally a corrupt judge because he didn't even try the mango salsa or the chipotle cream.

And this? Dinner last night.

Dear Summer,
Please don't ever leave me.

Dear Bacon,
I'm sorry that I never make you out of fear that you'll stink up the house for the rest of the week. Because honestly? The house still smells faintly of bacon and I find it immensely comforting.

And now, another word on bad words. I've enjoyed the spirited debate on this post. I'm cool with a little debate, people. I'm fascinated by the things that connect and divide us. It's healthy and worthwhile, when it's done in love.

It seems the debate took a turn from my intended purpose, and I'm okay with that. But as a reminder, my point was that Christians shouldn't be offended by the language of non-believers. Period. It's not our business. I spent most of Tuesday with someone who said a handful of "bad" words throughout the day. Her saying those words was the last thing on my mind. I don't want her to believe that her words are "bad". I want her to believe that she's worthy of every good thing. I want her to believe that she  was created in beauty and with purpose. I want her to believe that she can go to Jesus, right this very minute, without a split-second of sprucing up.

When we are so bothered by "foul" language that we can't go there or there or there, we're in a big heap of trouble, because at that point, we're putting legalism ahead of love. 

As for what Christians should/shouldn't say, my opinions are numerous. We could talk semantics and hermeneutics and cultural constructs until we're all well past blue, and we might still disagree. As for me, I know when I have said something in sin. I know when I've been wrong. That - the personal condition of my heart - is where my finger should point. I should keep a tight reign on my tongue. I shouldn't slander or gossip or lie. I shouldn't tell dirty jokes or revel in the things that are clearly sinful. I shouldn't speak in a way that hurts another. I should absolutely worry about being legalistic. And I should interrogate the condition of my heart on a daily basis, constantly looking to Him to sweep me to the shore of His truth and away from the things that aren't of Him.

To that end, I stumbled on this interesting take.

And while we're already here getting down to some business, there's this article, "Would Jesus Bake a Cake for a Gay Wedding?"

(One of my favorite lines: "There is no sliding scale of sins and if you’re going to withhold baking a cake for a gay man, you better shut down the whole dang bakery because no one is really worthy of your red velvet!") (#nocakeforyou!)

So you know what I love today? I love hearts that want to think things through a little. I love my baby boy, who has morphed into the wiriest, sneakiest, most affection little dude on the map. He exasperates me daily and makes me question my abilities by the hour, but he's so cuddly and rad. I love my Calvin, who spent part of this rainy day planting some flowers for me in my little Igloo water cooler. I love my Ruby girl, who embraces change with the spirit of a New World explorer. I love my husband, who is just as fed up with the current pace of our lives as I am. I love that date night can happen at 9:15, after the kids are in bed and the dishes are done, with a Red Box and a bowl of cereal. I love night air that's certifiably sweat-pants-worthy.

I love this life, this world. I love you, even if we don't always agree on every little thing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

White House Diversion

Can I call a diversion?


It's been a really difficult couple of days with the big kids. Like, heart-breaking, cry-my-eyes-out difficult.

As surely as I sit here in a cherry-stained t-shirt, I'll be ready to talk about some of it before long.

But tonight? I need a vacation from the darkness.

I'd like to be blinded by the light a little.

Are you with me? Well, pull on your shades. It's about to get bright up in here.

First, here's a close-up of the nook paper. My friend Heather kindly pointed out that it looked yellow in the last post. Eeek! Low light photography, people. Remember, I'm a novice.

Now, remember that Barn Light Electric contest? Well, I took the Bronze. I could scarcely believe it. It was so unexpected and it jacked us up so bad. I got word that I medaled exactly two days before our lighting selections were due. It was a huge, wonderful, farmy, free wrench. Thrown right in. I fretted and stewed and changed my mind eighty-five times.

Pretty pumped with my final choices.
(Low light, people! Low. Light!)

Thank you to the ends, Barn Light Electric.

Okay, do you see what I see? Cause I see a whole lot of white. I've always pined for the all-white interior but was too chicken to try it. The problem was solved when our builder handed us six different whites and told us to choose one. One. Voila! White house.

It's so...white.

I'm kind of scared.

Hold me.

And yes, I did pick white lights on top of the white walls. They were cheap at a flea market. (And no, I'm not defensive at all or worried about it in the least.)

 And indeed, I went with white cabinets to go with the white walls and white lights.

Who put me in charge???

Not this guy, that's for sure. He only puts himself in charge. I tell him many times a day, "I'm the boss." It does feel a little throw-back first grade, but it seems to get the job done. And by that, I mean that he ignores it not quite as entirely as most of the other things I say throughout the day.

But is he ever pumped about New House. If you've crossed paths with him over the past few months, he has surely invited you to come to New House. "We get a new house. You can come!" He's probably also told you about new microwave, new fridge, and most importantly, new ding-dong.

 And dare we forget, new fan.

So here's the thing: I got all practical and put ceiling fans in the 2 upstairs bedrooms. White, of course. In a surprising twist, it ended up saving us some money to vault the ceilings. Oh dear Heavens, it killed me to not order up some massive Barn Lightery for those ginormous ceilings. Did I mention that the upstairs ceiling height in our farm house was 7 feet? Kid you not. Kid you not.

So yes, this feels extra indulgent and exotic, what with the big ceiling fans and all.

So there you have it. Our all white house. Word on the street is, we might be in by next week.

On Books with Bad Words

A few weeks ago I showed up at the library five minutes early for our Monday service project because I needed some reads. I scanned the shelves and found some familiar names. Down on the bottom shelf, I noticed a random title by an author I'd never heard of. He's a dude. And I never read dude fiction. But I liked the title, loved the cover art, and was sunk by the inside flap. I brought it home.

I brought it home and immersed myself in the world of Abraham Singleton, living in Ever, the projects, and I fell in familiar love. I know this kid.

As for me, I had done three things. One: I went to school. I sat like a piece of furniture in class. I stared out of the window, put my head down on the desk. I did my work when I felt like it. I passed it in rarely and most often never. I didn't raise my hand, not once. My mother, she whose sole responsibility was to love me unconditionally, proved I held less value than a small chunk of baking soda and cocaine. So what did I have to ask or contribute? So I had stopped talking. I had become mute.
- Hold Love Strong by Matthew Aaron Goodman

The funny thing about blogging is that it can sneak into your thoughts when it really doesn't have to. Just a few pages in I knew there was trouble because Abraham's family cusses like a cramped apartment full of Mobsters. Did I dare link the title over on my side bar? What if someone bought it blindly, on just my recommendation? They would be offended. They would be disappointed in me. They...they...they...

I decided I'd just write a disclaimer. They'll still be disappointed in me, but at least they'll know not to buy the book.

Then I kept reading. I couldn't read fast enough. I took it to the conference and after we'd stumble in at midnight, full of pizza and dreams, I'd pick it up and read until two in the morning. When it was time to check out, I opted not to put it in my bag because I wanted it out with me for the drive home. I wanted to be able to glance over and see it on the passenger seat. (weirdo alert)  

(In a strange twist, the previous decision actually caused me to accidentally leave it in the hotel room and pay to have it mailed back to me. It was a rough couple of days.)

It made me wonder, why did Christians decide to choose cussing as one of our top 3 worst sins? Because I'm telling you, I grew up believing that if a person said the d-word, they definitely needed Jesus. Pass the tract.

A few years ago, a church lady said, "We were at a football game last Sunday and the men behind me wouldn't stop cursing so I finally turned around and said, 'I'm a Christian, and I am offended by your language'. So even though I wasn't at church, I still felt like I was able to be a witness for Jesus!"

To put it feather-lightly, her stance didn't make sense to me. I'm quite confident that her personal offense did nothing to point those men to the Kingdom.

I had nothing to say, no song to sing. I owned not a single word, not a guttural syllable. No matter what I claimed, what I learned in school, how I loved to jump and run, how I played basketball for hours with friends, and alone in the dark of night against imaginary defenders, no matter how I watched TV for hours: I was not free. The absence of my creators enslaved me. And not just me; there were armies of brothers, so many children, like me. So I did what I had to do. I did what plenty of other brothers did too. I looked down, spit on the ground, and stopped myself from crying. Hell no; Lord knows, I would not break. From then on, I would be a dam; a dam that dammed a dam. Nothing would leak from me. Nothing would slip in. 
- Hold Love Strong by Matthew Aaron Goodman

I know that kid, the one talking up there. I have seen his pain and felt his fear. I've stood next to the dam and wondered who built it.

The more time we spend with people we have nothing/everything in common with, the more I'm overcome with compassion and fierce love for them. I want them in my face as much as possible. We ask that they not cuss around our kids, because the last thing I need is Silas carrying around a four-letter-word. For the most part, they're quite respectful, even without our asking. They tone it down about twenty-five notches.

But at the end of the day, I just don't give a rip. I don't want them to see a list of things about them that excludes them from our club. I don't want them to worry about a senseless hierarchy of sin the way that we do. I just think God has bigger fish to fry. If they can come to Jesus just the way they are, who are we to make stipulations?

This sort of thing just doesn't offend me. If it did offend me, it would also separate me from some of the people who need me most.

This was the effect of Ever, that even the strongest and most courageous and most blessed of us, even the most confident and willful, even the most brilliant were infected with a dangerous degree of self-doubt, that damn dankness that infiltrated bones. In worst-case scenarios, it caused us to aim ourselves at self-destruction. In best cases, we fought and clawed and used that seed to fuel our refusal to fail. 
- Hold Love Strong by Matthew Aaron Goodman

Suffice it to say, I've got opinions about this stuff. I'm sorry if you're disappointed.

But if you're interested in an extremely true-to-life glimpse of life lived in the Projects, if you want to be pulverized to your core, this story was beautifully, flawlessly rendered. It was told so well, in fact, that I had to force myself to remember that it isn't an autobiography. It's the kind of writing that makes me believe that I should hang it up and leave it to the pros.

Hold Love Strong paints a searing picture of urban American poverty. It starts to unwind some of the biggest tangles, it answers a few questions and leaves you with more. It was heart-breaking and raw. It was hard to read and impossible not to. It was Rated R, but you know what? There's a lot of Rated R out there waiting on us to pull our heads out of the sand and stop being a bunch of wimps. Their kind of ugly is really no scarier than our own.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012

When Helping Hurts - For Real

My people sleep quiet down the hall, three little loves and one big, and here I sit, awake, the sort of tired that makes my hands heavier than my arms were ever meant to hold.

It's been a Friday. It's been second-hand shopping, swimming, skirting. It's been cucumbers and peaches and yes, Spanish rice. It's been opening up the windows of my soul for a little airing out. It's been patience and tested patience, magazines in the afternoon, "I like you, Mommy".

Then, I swear I saw the flicker of a lost friend and it felt so good to hold her in my sight for just a breath, until the world skidded and slowed and I was left wondering if helping ever doesn't hurt.

Life was simpler when all of my people were huddled down the hall, sleeping warm and brownish. They were enough to fill my heart. They were full reason to stare dark out the window and lock eyes with the companionable streetlamp. They were more than plenty. More than I ever deserved. And their choices aren't always good, but their kind of bad can usually be wiped away with just a spray bottle and two paper towels.

But new people came and they brought all the love they had to give. They brought love they didn't even know they had, love they didn't know how to share. So we just took it. We made them ours. We didn't wait for the offer.

So we sit and watch their choices grow legs and feet. We sit at the very edge, because we know this isn't cheap entertainment. It's no spectator sport. We know the long hand is spinning until they'll need a referee or a cheerleader. A parent in the stand? A medic on the field? They'll need us. 

And we'll be there.

It will be messy and dark and the worst kind of new.

And when we can't fix a thing, when we wouldn't dare pretend that we could, we'll sit back down and feel like fools while we hope.

That's what love does, you know. It always hopes. It never gives up. It endures through every circumstance.  (NLT)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One Way He Never Speaks

The path to our new house has been wrought with issues stacked on problems propped against inconveniences. From the beginning, the transition has been neither smooth or straight-forward. It's been sloppy and sideways. It's had me saying, "I don't even give a rip." "Who cares." "So what?" "This is lame." (I regress to sixteen when backed into a corner. Keep that under your hat.)

There were days when we were told that it wasn't going to work out, we didn't meet the requirements, it wasn't meant to be.

There were days when we were told that we did meet the requirements but progress stalled so we looked at other houses in similar neighborhoods. We turned around and we almost walked away.

Still, something was there; something nudging us up closer to the edge. We felt it enough that we fought for it. Logic eluded us, yet we were convinced that this house on North 5th Street was where we were supposed to be.

That is, until roughly three days before we had to sign on the dotted line, when fear crept in like a slow-moving freight train. It hovered near the door. It tore through the walls and picked up speed. At the very last second, we almost derailed.

Strangely, it didn't feel unexpected. It felt like the tail end of many of my biggest decisions. It seems I'm a creature of habit in the ways of major life change. (Have I mentioned that I called my wedding off two weeks before?)

With one nerve-wracking report from Calvin's doctor, we had our out. We convinced ourselves that sky was earth and "Go" was open to interpretation. Lies hooked me in the gut - We'll have to move to Ohio to be closer to Calvin's doctor. What if he needs surgery? What if our bad insurance situation becomes worse? What if we were never supposed to make this move in the first place? What if all the hoops we jumped through were actually signs that we had missed? What if this is God pulling out all the stops to get our attention - Don't Do It!

The good news is, I had Cory. The bad news is, he happily pulled up his own fears like suspenders, trussing his anxiety, pressing every uncertainty against his shoulders while his feet dragged the floor.

 We waded around for a couple of days in the kind of complicated confusion that causes people to forget appointments and almost run out of gas on the interstate. We ate cereal and cold sandwiches for dinner. We were distracted and grumpy while we ran breathless and infatuated into the arms of Fear.

Isn't that one thing we secretly love about fear? That it's always right there, handing us an out when we want one?

When I was a child, someone told me that fear was a sin. I carried their words with me and felt them take root. I figured sin was sin was sin, so if I was going to be afraid to do something new and brave, I might as well take it one step further and lie about it. No, I'm not afraid. I just don't have peace about it.  Just like that, I had formed a safer reality, one that would carry me piggy-back out of every nail-biter and over every bend. I'd found the perfect scape goat.

What I know now is that fear itself isn't wrong. It's a human emotion, no one is immune. What I know even more is that God never speaks to us through fear. Fear isn't part of who He is. He wouldn't know how to spook us if He tried. He has other ways of letting us know if plans have changed or if our ears need checked. He wouldn't waste His time on What Ifs. He's smarter than a flimsy scare tactic.

He loves enticing us into the unknown, holding us steady across rugged terrain. He's got us

So maybe He's leading you somewhere new and maybe it scares the snot out of you. Maybe it requires more than anything He's ever asked before. Maybe you're feeling gutsy, maybe you know there's beauty in flinging your fears onto Him.

Say it with me, the fear isn't Him.

Let your smallness lock hands with every big thing that He is and be amazed at how it wraps all the way around. He's got you.