Thursday, September 20, 2012

One Thing I've Learned in a Month

I grew up two miles from a tiny town, over the river, through the holler. There were no neighbor kids to play with, just my blue banana bike and that familiar curve of road, that slow "S" to the stop sign, then back again. My world was as small as our 13" black and white TV, as thin as the pages of a paperback dream.

My Dad used to crow that this was why his kids were so good (we weren't so good) - because we didn't gallivant around with the riff-raff. We didn't run the town. We were stuck at home pining for the Schwan man to bring more of those little pizzas or Push Up pops. We were making local calls on the rotary phone, crafting Slip'nSlides from the giant roll of plastic we found up in the hay mow.

It became critical to find a townie best friend, where we could escape for a day of biking on sidewalks and plunking quarters into the pop machine.

Eventually, life circled back around and I ached to give my kids the very same tied-down, forced-boredom life. We didn't turn out so bad, after all, and I trusted my dad. He was probably right about living in the country. I surveyed the collective mistakes of us three kids and had to wonder, how bad might it have been if we'd spent our early years "out gallivanting around"?

It felt safer to stick to the formula. I couldn't really picture life differently, life on a city block. I had no frame of reference. I didn't know what I didn't know.

But now I do, or I'm starting to.

Living on this city block means teenagers everywhere. All the time. They shriek from the park and knock on the door right as my kids are taking baths and climbing into flannel pajama pants. They show up nosy, just to sniff the new-house smell. They flaunt their acrobatics and their dance moves with one hand holding their pants up but no, they don't want a belt.

They get jittery when I ask about school. 

Their bikes are stolen. They get evicted. Her big sister gets knocked up by the guy across the street - and now he's headed to jail.

They know too much, talk too loud. They've never heard of a filter when little ears are near.

I look into their faces and wonder why the Universe needed us to be together like this. How will these chapters end? Will they move away? Lose interest? Will I learn their middle names and birthdays? Will they play board games at our table?

I like watching this big mystery unfold. 

I wouldn't trade my sheltered childhood for all the world. I'll fight for the very same things my parents fought for. It may take a little creativity and a trough of grace, but I'm banking on my kids growing up smart and true, their hearts pointed in the right direction, while they gallivant around with the riff-raff.


  1. Such a great mystery!
    Love that you are going to have a big impact on the 'hood! I just know it!

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  3. I miss your neighborhood. And I miss you. But this made me feel like I was sitting in your living room playing games and shoving extra hamburgers in a plastic bag to hide in my bedroom :)

  4. Your Dad did right, and you will too. Following God takes us wherever.

    God things happen in the land of Wherever. Even when they make no sense at all.

    You do my weary heart good like medicine.


  5. This is going to be an interesting adventure, and how lucky you are to experience both living in the country and living in this area. I think you will bring a unique perspective to life there and your kids are blessed to have loving parents to raise them, no matter where they are brought up.

  6. I laughed at your use of "knocked up"--didn't see that one coming from you of all peeps. You surprised me, kid and surprises CAN be good. Must have been kind of like when I used "wtf" right on your page here?

    It's too hard to tell how it will unfold as it's happening, but my-oh-my is it going to be interesting in just a few years to look back and see. I feel that way with my nieces and nephews. It's amazing how when you put in the time and energy and a little work, to see how much light and love comes shining so brightly back at you. And often, when it's least expected and when you began to think it just didn't matter much.

    I'm so proud to know you and impressed. I'm sure I've told you this and sorry for the repeat, but it's been said that all a kid or teen needs is ONE adult who listens, pays attention and shows up. Think of how many kids will possibly feel that way about you. You're doing God's work..while possibly eating salsa in your own happy living room (that Arden HATES!)

    You rock, kid.



  7. girl, amen.
    this post cements that you live now in a town like i grew up in.
    edwards, mississippi. look it up:) i never really grasped what our life was like in that tiny, rif raff run place...until i became a mama. the stories i can tell!! gracious, so much real life. some horrible memories there, but mostly joys of what shaped me into who i am now. keep loving well. you are needed there, the lord is busy in you! xo

  8. i'm guessing we live in a similar neighborhood in a town a little further south in indiana. we have been here seven years. we have had our hearts broken by poor choices, and watched in amazement at kids experiencing things we take for granted. i think my kids are the better for it.
    my very favorite tween moment, not long after we moved in. a picture of my husband and i kissing on our wedding day provoked a lot of questions and comments from the kids until finally one of them asked if we had a movie of it. she wanted to see it because she had never seen a real wedding, only the kind on television. sometimes, i forget that just being married and loving each other might be one of the best gifts that we give our children (as well as the 'riff raff' coming in and out of our lives).

  9. oh, this is so beautiful. I'm trying to figure out how to give my kids what I did have (cul-de-sac kickball games and kick the can every summer night), and how to give them what I didn't have. Trying to figure out what God wants from me in this neighborhood we've lived in for seven years. (the one where we are the only home owners, where our house has been broken into, where our neighbors change frequently, and there is almost always litter flying into our yard. The neighborhood none of our friends live in...)The one I want out of desperately until each time I read about your intentional move. You remind me that I have so much more I can do here, even if I don't know what that is yet. Thank you!
    (Also - I love that you said pop machine! I transitioned to soda at age 24, but deep down it is still pop to me.)

  10. We live in a broken world, with the forgotten, hurt and so very broken.You may not save them all but if you save a few it's worth it! Even if you save just ONE it's worth it! For God to use you where he needs you to show no judgement, Love and direction for the young and lost at least you know you were there.It will make your own children more worldly, kinder hearted and just maybe they too will want to make a change one child at a time.
    If only we all just tried to save just ONE child at a time just think of how many forgotten children would be saved.Continued Blessings to you and your Family! May you be very blessed for taking the chance.~Kim

  11. i love it when you talk about the teenagers. it speaks to my heart and where our lives are right now. my children are surrounded by it day in and day out. and i trust that since this is where God put us, He is watching over our little one's while they witness these messy lives that we lead. thanks once again for sharing - i love it!

  12. I love that we have a front seat to watch what is unfolding in your life! Hopefully it will inspire me to get out of my chair and make some "happenings" in my own life. :) Thanks for sharing. Hey, have you seen the little girl who was yelling on the playground again during your picnic? I can't recall her name now.

  13. those gallivanting teenagers are so lucky you moved into their 'hood!

  14. I love your sweet, sweet spirit and your most wonderful, insightful stories. I have no doubt that your kids will be "THE" positive influence on the town riff-raff. There's always one!

  15. If you're one thing, it's creative and gracious. Ok, if you're 2 things. Point being, you're just the girl for this job. And your 3 strong little ones will carry this torch of conviction and compassion to their friends...and their friends...and the gift will go on and on, all because you and Cory were willing to obey. Bless you, FPFG. Big time.

  16. Thanks for the reminder that I dont need to shelter my kids from everything in order for them to grow up "strong and true"! Keep on truckin' FPFG!

  17. I, too, wouldn't trade my sheltered childhood for anything, but it's not what I choose for my two brave kiddos. They survived the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after all! I love watching your story unfold here. What does the next chapter hold? Love, love, love your heart!

  18. I, too, grew up in a sheltered community. And then, four years ago we were house parents to eight teenage boys from a whole different world to us--the inner city, The Bronx. I felt badly for my sheltered life. And I think I still do. Embarrassed. Yet, I think God is teaching me about His grace. And of course, He taught me so much more through that experience (and still is) about what love is. And acceptance.

  19. Riff-raff. Street rat. I don't buy that. Oh, have you heard that song? I grew up differently than you. I grew up in the inner-city schools of the ghettos of Las Vegas. Those are some doozies, I tell you. High school on the Las Vegas strip. Hookers. Kidnappers. Creepers wearing unibomber glasses and I swear the same hoody. Like it was a uniform for being up to no good. Drugs in my neighborhood. Teenagers in gangs. All of my friends had tagger names. About a quarter of them were/are gay when that was not at all as acceptable for kids as it is now. Amazingly, God found me early. He plunked me down in the middle of that non-sheltered, out in the nitty gritty open world and made me a solid Christian. I never knew there was a different life. I thought all kids knew about huffing paint in the garage. We didn't all do it, but I didn't know some kids lived sheltered lives. God takes care of the sheltering. It's amazing to me. I see it in my own kids as well. Kids just don't "see" things. They appear clueless, but I am pretty sure that's God keeping their hearts. Love Him for that.

  20. oh the push and the pull. i feel it too. right when i start patting my own back about what a good mother i am for what my kids DONT know (aka the lyrics to nastified songs on the radio) i realize how selfish i am because deep down secret like i'd rather keep their hands clean then get them dirty in God's work. i know this... and yet what does it mean? it might just be the hardest thing i've ever done. figure this all out... so maybe you can figure it out and then teach me? ;)

  21. My childhood is your now, and my now is your childhood. I'm seeing the value of living in the middle of nowhere for so many years. my kids world was our family of 5.

    we moved last nov. and this former "riff-raff" doesn't know what to do with the riff-raff. praying God will lead me in grace as I lead them in grace, and that he'll remind me of the couple of mother's that embraced me then, and cause me to model the Christ in them.

  22. you are an inspiration.
    which i bet you don't like to hear but it's true.
    teenagers are hard.
    it takes a special heart and calling from God to have the desire to do what you are doing.
    and you are.
    it's pretty awesome.

  23. Ok so this. This post, your heart, where you are and how you are fighting for your kids and loving your neighbors and seeking justice . . . I love it and you. And also, I owe you an email :-)