Saturday, August 30, 2014

Weekend Cheer-Up List

Lots of little cheery things happened today, but one in particular thing rocked my world.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me a son who knows his way around brown-girl hair. Your love for me has never been more evident. Thank you also, I guess, that said son desperately needs cash this week.* Bonus points for moving in his spirit in such a way that he actually let me feed him something other than mayonnaise or chocolate. Amen.

Since we're already here being cheery, I gathered up some more Cheer, list form. 'Cause I love yas.

:: I love all of her lists, all the Fridays. (Thanks, inspiration!)

:: This is the most satisfying movie I've seen in a very long time.

:: The only thing that would have made it better is this snack oh my word.

:: Also, if I'd been wearing this.

:: I read this to Cory in bed one night. In its entirety. We laughed our heads off so bad.

:: Oh, Anthro. You're so weird in a bad way. (Skip the top if you get mad about bad words. Also, the very end. Everything else will make you pee your pants laughing. Wait, just found one right smack dab in the middle. Maybe if this sort of thing really troubles you, just skip it.)

:: Oh my Josh, just STOP. (Bill Cosby, you read my mind.)

:: I want to vacation here.

:: This song will never get old. Ever. In any form.

:: Just give the kid a dang pencil

:: I'm dying over this art. 

:: Jail + College = Radness.

:: I don't have a freckled girl, but we did just read Freckle Juice.

Happy holiday weekending, Party People!

*It's only fair to point out that he offered to do it for free. :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Entry Table - Back-to-School ed.

This green entry table has created a real situation.

I can't stop doing weird things to it.
It inspires me in the strangest, most seasonal of ways.

We've lived here for 2 years now and there have been at least 8 iterations that I can think of.

We'd been in a holding pattern for the past few weeks, after I'd finally had my fill of the Nester-inspired Art Wall. Not gonna lie, it was painful taking it down. I LOVED it. Loved.

But I was also ready for a change.

Here's the thing.
I don't put a ton of thought into the stuff I do.
(Pretend this wasn't obvious.)

I don't buy new things or take great pains.

I throw a bunch of stuff together that makes me happy.
Boom. I'm happy.

In this case, I have strong feelings that the balance is all off whack. It's all sort of a downhill slide. But hey, better than an uphill climb, am I right?

Often, after I monkey around, I'll notice something I want to change.

In this case, I swapped out the old oil can for one of my beloved Erlenmeyer flasks.
It rocked a more back-to-school vibe, which was a theme that only occurred to me when I was more-or-less done with the whole deal. And now we've swung all the way back around to, "I don't put a ton of thought into the stuff I do." Endquote.

You know what else I wanted to change?
My heinous, streaky mirror.

I didn't notice it was such a problem until I took a few pictures. And then I realized that I didn't care enough to fix it.

But then, suddenly and without warning, I did care.

I cared so much that I walked all the way to the bathroom, grabbed the Windex, walked to the paper towels, tore two off, walked back to the mirror, sprayed, wiped, sprayed, wiped.

Still a hot mess.
I give up.

You win, gray mirror.
You: 1
FPFG: nada

But it's okay, because there's some distracting, homemade, 100% weird in a "where-do-I-get-these-ideas-no-really-where" kind of way.

I made pinwheels.
With the back-to-school catalogs.

Are you dying yet? From things like jealousy or fervent inspiration? No?
Does this scream e-book???? Because I think this is my 8th catalog/magazine-related craft.

Eight must be my lucky number.
Who knew?

Dear God,
I cannot handle four more kids.
Just playing straight.
Don't want eight.

It's my weirdest work to date.

Now do you believe me?

Now do you??
(see: YOUR FEET)

Hello, fancy Garnet Hill backpacks and leggings.
I cannot afford you, but you sure do make my green entry table look stunning and bright.
And odd maybe a little.

If that's your little girl on the left in the pink shirt and ombre skirt, I'm sure this is awkward.
I know my pits feel damp. Just know that I really do think she's lovely and she totally fits our vibe. In a theoretical sort of way. I won't make it weird. Promise.

There are all kinds of tutorials online on how to make pinwheels. The ones I saw were saying I needed arcane instruments such as pencils. Scissors. Rulers, for the love of the land.


They were saying this because ideally, all your paper pieces should be the same size and shape to make a non-wonky pinwheel.

Or, you could just grab your trash, tear out pages, and fold them like a B.O.S.S.

Pre-measured. Winning.

How to make a catalog pinwheel:
Tear out a bunch of pages from the same magazine. (I was going for bright and colorful, so I kept that in mind while I ripped.)

With each page, fold back-and-forth, accordion-style, keeping your folds roughly the same width but DO NOT DARE use a ruler or I will bust you up. Rulers aren't fun. Catalog pinwheels are fun. Rulers in the context of weird junk-mail crafts are inherently incompatible and might even ruin your life.

Fire up your hot glue gun.
(Prayers for safety.)

Glue the edge of one accordion page to the next. Every now and then, fan them out and see if you need more pages to make it circle all the way around. When you have enough, glue the final edges together.

Glue a small piece of heavyish paper to the back, to help it keep its shape. I also added a little dot of watercolored paper to the front center, because I'm practically the Queen of England.


Remember my croquette mallets? They were looking sad and crusty, so I painted off their stripes a few months ago and spray painted them white.

I wasn't sure if it was the right move, but now I am.
Like 'em so much.


This is a page from a big, delicious, vintage kids book I bought years ago and immediately forgot about. I probably paid a quarter for the book and IT IS AMAZING. But this was totally my favorite page.

I painted this sunburst thingy one day while the kids refused to paint one with me. Good times. Instead, they painted blocky Mine Craft figures (Calvin) a new signature "Dot" series (Silo) and Girls with Cats (Rubes).

Kid's dictionary (thrift store duh) and Calvin's Dangerous Book for Boys.

Zinnias. AKA "The Only Thing We Don't Kill".

Life Lessons:
Live with what makes you happy.
Live with what doesn't add to your debt or make you feel like you have to compete.
Be content with what you have, but fearless in switching things around, because THAT IS FREE THERAPY.

Now, go! Dig around. Move things. Do something weird. Break the rules.

I will straight-up love you for it.

*Amazon Affiliate link used.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Secondhand Wardrobe Challenge

There are lots of things that turn my crank. Here are a few:
Sleeping in.
Riotous fiction.
Compelling non-fiction.
Every fruit except bananas.
All the Mexican food in the world.
Even Taco Bell.
Because it totally counts.
Magazines. (This is dinner tonight.)
Tunes (right now it's Lecrae.)
Hammocks. (How do you say this word? Because I was laughed straight out of AR when I said it.)

I could go on.

When it comes to the internets and the blogs, there are two kinds of posts that I will always, always stop to read. 1) Those list posts where you say what you're wearing/doing/wishing/etc...right now and 2) Outfit posts.

Come on, show me what you're wearing. I don't know why, but I love it.
I was raised on Teen Magazine and the Supermodels. Somewhere along the way, something stuck and now I remain intrigued by personal style, especially if it's thrifty. And comfy.

Here are some of my recent wears:

Old Navy eyelet (2010), cut-offs, my impulse-buy vest, and Noonday wrap bracelet.

Target boyfriend cut-offs (2013), House of Belonging T, the love-of-my-life J Crew gingham, Farmgirl Paints cuff, flea market cuff, Krafty Kash necklace, road-trip hair (not pictured.)

**Repeat after me: Gingham is a neutral. "Gingham is a neutral!"**
Thank you.

Vintage dress, Target necklace (2005), bracelet from my sister (2007), TJ Maxx wedges (2005)

Patched-up AE jeans (2009), consignment Arizona striped T, J Crew belt, 31 Bits necklace, Noonday bag, FP cuff, Old Navy peep-toe flats (2008).

I bought this dress at the jankiest Salvation Army earlier this summer. I think it's a Target brand. Not something I would usually go for. But, it was made of t-shirt knit...and black...and not a micro-mini (I'm extremely prudish about skirt length.)

Jacket: Marshalls (2014), rummage sale coin necklace, shell necklace from Silas, TJ Maxx sandals (2011)

Believe it or not, there's a moral to this story.
A weird one.

I'm a bit of a clothes horse. I don't necessarily buy often, but I enjoy thinking about what works together (sometimes). It's something I like, and it can be a source of frustration, along the lines of, "It's a new season and I want ALL NEW THINGS."

I jumped ship a couple years ago and began buying the kids' stuff almost exclusively secondhand, and though I've slowly slid into more of that for myself, I was never ready to take the plunge and commit to buying only secondhand for moi.

I have lots of excuses, namely that it's almost impossible to find certain things that fit me in stores, thanks to my gangly proportions.

But the truth is, I have enough jeans. I don't need more, anyway.
I have enough everything.

I consistently wear and re-wear the same things, year after year. They're what I'm most comfortable in and what I'm drawn to, yet like an ill-trained pup, I keep adding new things to my closet, often things I don't really even love.

I'm thinking long and hard about stewarding our resources wisely, and I'm lying to myself if I think this isn't an area that could use some tweaking.

So, for the next six months, I hereby do solemnly vow to only buy secondhand.

I've gotten a taste of how much fun it is to put things together I might not ordinarily grab in a retail store. It forces the ol' noggin a bit, and often, I like the outcome even better. 

Does anyone else want to dive in with me?
It could be fun.

Monday, August 25, 2014

We Are Human

Some days are for digging deep into thought, floating on the current of real world problems and questions of war and peace and how on earth can we ever have both?

Some days are meant for the hard work of the soul, for recalibrating, mining truth, crossing our hearts for change and heart-felt compassion, knowing when enough is simply enough.

Scratch that. All days are meant for those things.

But the truth is, the floors still need to be swept. There are so many unholy things wrapped in dust bunnies and hiding under the couch. (I am not speaking figuratively here. Just fyi.)

We're out of milk no matter how hard we wish we weren't, and the sitter comes at 5:15 and, you know, the kids will want dinner.

There are piles of piles and letters to mail and our hearts thumps inside our chests because life never stays simple long enough.

We crave this salad but first it's got to be made and we want our legs to be less wobbly. Our minds, too.

We feel God moving and shaping and pulling us like taffy but for the love, we're finally ready to make the downstairs bathroom look cute.

It doesn't feel necessary to explain (again) why you end up with so many different parts of me. I'm just here in last night's wonky ponytail and my XL Ball State t-shirt, waving my human-flag. I'm raising my mug of Pure Kenya Tea - to all of us!

We're creative and scattered complex and we cannot be penned. We weren't wired to be pensive all the time. If that were the case, God never would have invented zinnias or 5-year olds or Mindy Kaling. We can't always be serious or burdened because, hello, there's salsa in the fridge and a hot guy waiting on the couch with the TV remote in his hand.

So we multi-task. We let the deeper business marinate while we take the lighter road.

We live here and there; in our heads and way, way out in the open, where all we are is simply us, fully human, asking questions and doing our best to live out loud.

Don't ever apologize that you don't read enough, you aren't consistent or scheduled enough, your vocabulary isn't big enough, your clothes aren't stylish enough, your home isn't clean or pretty enough, or that you always burn the stew.

What you are is brave and needy and scared and wild.

(Me, too.)

You're lazy and powerful and so tired.
You're thoughtful and kind and sometimes, you're rude.

(Me, too.)

We aren't a shiny colony of robots. I don't want that lie. I don't like it and if you try to convince me it's real, you will lose me. We're ridiculous, hilarious, random, shy, way-imperfect people. With the forehead-wrinkles and the kids who went to school in yesterday's socks to prove it.

We are so on it, party people.
We've got this. But only, only, only because we sure know we don't.

So we bare our guts and admit when we're wrong and talk about silly things like George Clooney's baby and what's showing at the movies and how she won't sleep through the night. Oh, and that we will never care enough to scrub our floors as often as we should.

It's Monday, guys.


Be human with me.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What To Wear When You're Lost

I spent this morning listening to grim stories on the news; filtering through headlines that remind me this world is broken, this world is hurting and raging and mostly, it is lost.

We need our Savior.
And He's here. Emmanuel.

But I'm lost in the lostness. I'm that child alone in the parking lot, looking for a familiar face, waiting for arms outstretched for me.

I don't know what to do about anything.
Does anyone? Do you?

I stir my tea and when the phone rings, I wish it hadn't. I want to ignore it, but instead I spend 22 unplanned minutes with a woman made of bricks, her pain and hatred and her need for love stacked edge-on-edge until it's almost all I see, it's all I can hear. She screams at me through the receiver because I'm the only one listening and she's mad as hell. She spits her venom here and I don't know what to do. I can't fix any of it.

I listen and in the end, I tell her, "I understand why you're angry," because honestly, I do. (That's where listening will get us. It will change all our plans and all our ideas. You've been warned.)

Today, this week, this month, this year, it's a long run of wounds.

It's a bruise the length of a little girl's cheekbone, faded down to a dusty green. I'm left wondering how long it's been there, who else has noticed, how does she stand in my kitchen and smile anyway?

It's a brother and sister on the news, holding up a memory with courage and hope while their hands wring in their laps. They plead with us to separate evil from good while they sit dressed in black, reminding us good still lives here, too.

It's confusion and fear and wanting to to be heard but believing it's a lost cause.

It's itching from the inside for change and waiting for marching orders but realizing we're all waiting. There's no megaphone, no map, nothing but the Gospel, so we take it up with trembling and do our best to hear.

And it tells us: Put on love in the morning, wear it around, wear it to bed, wear it out.

This requires action, not just thought or emotion. We can never outspend or outgrow it. It gets softer with time as our shoulders relax into its creases and we know, this is all we can do. This is the only thing.

It's simple and it's hard, but God stands on the scaffold right this second. The volume is cranked up but He's shouting anyway, because He knows this pain we feel. He gets our confusion, our anger, our anxiety, our despair.

We're reading all of the words and doing our best to hear every side. It's not such a bad idea. But His voice has got to be the loudest. It has to be the filter through which we hear or speak a single word.

Make allowances. 
And above all, wear love, be bound up with me.

It seems impossible that harmony might stretch around the frame I see today, but His word says it can, so I believe.

{Do you need a little more good news today? Read through the comments on yesterday's post. Dare you not to cry.}

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Did you guys know today is legendary?

15 years ago today, I donned a puffy, too-short dress, re-routed myself past the "center aisle door" that had mysteriously been BOARDED SHUT for reasons I still don't know, walked down the aisle towering a full head over my cute Dad, and married the man God gave me for life.

We are similar in so many ways and also polar opposites in others, which probably makes us an ideal match. I learn from his example everyday and look forward to nothing more than our low-key evenings puttering around this little house or watching shows from the couch.

If you're tempted to believe our story has been edged in roses, you're wrong. We have fought for us. We still fight (both figuratively and the other way.) I've linked to this before, but I shared our love story right here. I just re-read it and it makes my insides bunch up over all the ways we've been saved and then saved again.

He just invited me out for tacos, so I've gotta skate.

But here's one more thing I keep forgetting to tell you about. I had the fun opportunity to chat on-air with Lynne Ford of the Mid-Morning Show last week. As someone with a history of "forgetting" when I'm being filmed/recorded or otherwise memorializing actual, verbal words that might live in the stratosphere in infamy, these events are always ripe for catastrophe. I'm happy to say that, despite repeated efforts not to cough on air, our convo was fun, but not in a way that will make it onto an unfortunate Pinterest meme. I call that success! 

If you'd like, you can have a listen right here. (Click "download file" to make the magic happen.) The interview is just ten minutes and should you be alarmed by my rugged, manly voice, be reminded that I was battling a cold. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

In honor of today, because I like hearing your voices, tell me something about your love story. Or the love story you've prayed for. Or the one that broke your heart. It can be happy or sad or funny or boring. I've lived every chapter and I'm sure to do it again.

Love and salsa forever,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Living in the Outtakes (New Family Pics)

Of all the messes we make and we are around here, Sunday mornings are the hottest ones.
It doesn't matter what we do or how we try or how everyone slept the night before, we are immune to getting our act together. We're incapable of forging a new path. We're rushed and cranky and on occasion, there is blood-shed.

We fly out the door for church - the one positioned just a breezy, 2 minute walk from our front door - leaving the house looking like a crime scene and the cat happy to have us gone.

On our best days, we squeeze into the pew somewhere during the first hymn.
On our worst? Nevermind.

So it makes perfect sense that I decided on a lark last Sunday to head to the park after church for a few family snapshots.

And if you don't believe me that it makes perfect sense, let me add the following to my body of evidence: It was 84 degrees out with harsh sunlight. Cory is allergic to all temps above 71. (And harsh sunlight.) We had a carry-in after our service. (I "invented" a pasta salad around midnight the night before with bacon grease as the secret ingredient.) Half of us were suffering through Allergies from The Pit of Hades. We had just gorged ourselves silly on church-lady food. The kids had better things to do (aka: anything else in the world besides wear church clothes past noon and pose for family pictures.)

But even more compelling than those reasons? We all kind of matched. And I was having a decent hair day.
The end. Goodbye.

Don't even think about trying to talk me out of this one, Cory Brandon. Don't you dare. I don't care if you're "dripping in sweat". Call someone who cares, but first, set up that tripod LIKE YOU MEAN IT.

We ran past the house to grab equipment before heading across the street to the park, and found our oldest Goober sitting in the driveway on a 4-hour pass from the clink.

Let me say again, This wasn't planned.

So yes, God was good to me. I can't tell you how badly I've wanted a family pic with all 6 of us and I had almost given up hoping.

In a twist of fate, dude was "dressed up" and even more arrogant about his appearance than usual. It worked in my favor. Selah.

But as pretty as that picture looks, of course it's only part-real, part-pretend. It doesn't begin to show all that we are, and for that fact we thank the God of the heavens.

Real life is everything happening just beyond the frame.

It's fun to capture our best selves now and then, but let's not get too attached with an ideal. Let's not forget that just one slim hour before, we were wearing chocolate frosting on our chin and inconspicuously slinking up to the buffet for thirds.

Here's more of what we caught on Sunday:

Oh, homeboys. For the love. Look alive.

The bad thing about Robert is that he lacks personality.
And a sense of adventure.
Also, he's shy and nervous about himself as a person. Afraid of the camera. Insecure.

 Also, he's just not affectionate AT ALL.
Typical teenager.

(Don't tell him I just called him a teenager because technically, he isn't. But in my heart, he shall always be...)
This guy is fairly fond of his big brother and doesn't miss a single beat, as evidenced by this photo and the fact that he picked out high-tops for his back-to-school shoes.

So far, he hasn't taken up smoking.

(I know smoking is not a laughing matter, reader-friends. JUST SAY NO.)

This happened when Cory was trying to set the timer on the camera. Silas climbed onto my lap and cuddled way in like he does when he's not busy raging or constructing elaborate water circuitry. "Take our picture like this!" 

So, duh. We did.

Sister could not stop twirling...

We didn't know Silas posed himself like this until we were sorting through the shots.
I can't look at it without cracking way up.

We had the most painful time trying to get a shot of the two of us, but only because we're the most awkward and weird people we know. (And the whole "allergic to the heat" thing.)

Bottom line: We nailed it.
Then again, the years have taught us to keep our expectations on the left side of the bell curve, if you know what I mean.

These pictures aren't fancy or airbrushed. There was no "golden hour" sun-flare or quirky props. Calvin is wearing his homemade cuff.

This is just us, and I love us so dang much.

Ruby's dress and Siley's T: Tea Collection
My dress: Vintage (from Vintage Twill at Junk Evolution, South Bend, IN)
Robert: Wal Mart (his fave)
Cory and Calvin: whatever.


Hey, guess what? I'm speaking at one of the main sessions at the annual Passion for Orphans conference (Oct. 3-5, 2014) in Boulder, Colorado.This year's theme is Hope and Healing and I'm  honored to have the chance to share with this group of fun, like-minded women about the journey of hope my family has been on through adoption.
"Passion for Orphans exists to serve women involved in adoption, fostering, and world wide orphan care in an authentic and Christ-centered manner." - from their site
They have put together a truly top-notch conference that covers a wide variety of relevant adoption/foster-/orphan-care topics.

Want to join us? DO IT! It's open to anyone who wants to attend and I would love to meet you!

You can go here for more info and to register. They also have a facebook page.

Monday, August 18, 2014

2 Books That Are Changing Me

Five years ago, my comfy good-girl life was split at the seams by a sermon series that soon after became this book. (It seems impossible that it was five years ago, but I just counted on my claws and yep, five.)

Prior to that, we were good Christian people live honest, Christian lives. We did all the things we thought Christian people were supposed to do, things like putting down deep roots, living within our means, attending church, tithing, and not being mean to our neighbors. We said the right words and did all the right things. We kept up our appearances and worked hard to build a life we could be proud of. For bonus points, we also gave financially when we knew of a need, read Bible stories to our kids, listened to Christian music on the radio, attended and led Bible studies, lived in the country, talked about homeschooling one day, and spent all our time with other Christian people.

I'll be clear right out the gates, before anyone gets the chance to get angsty: None of those things we did were bad. They were good things. Positive and life-giving things.

But they were not the Gospel.

We were not living by its words and bleeding its cause.
We weren't dying to all the things we thought we were, all the things we wanted to be.
We weren't spending our life for the sake of being the Good News to the world around us.
(We didn't even know the world around us. Not really.)

So, when I say it felt like a gut-punch, I'm not trying to be dramatic.
I remember feeling nauseous in bed and bawling my eyes out in the shower.
It was painful to let go of what we thought were the right things to live for and we felt bruised and banged up for months on end. I was terrified and ashamed of the way I had twisted God's very words to fit my me-centric lifestyle.

For the first time, I was faced with the hard question :: Am I really following Christ?
The only answers I saw made my knees weak.

The Bible says if I love and follow Jesus, I will care for the poor, fight for the orphan, love my neighbor, feed His sheep, wage war against injustice, advocate for the forgotten. I will live like all I have is His. I will be inconvenienced and misunderstood and lonely, sometimes. I will intimately understand my smallness and need - my humanity. I will hurt and weep for the sake of Truth.

I'd spent my entire life, up to that point, doing the exact opposite.

My solitary goal was to make my life better, easier, safer, shinier, and happier. I expected my church to serve me and meet my needs. I knew "worldly" people needed Jesus, but they would need to find Him somewhere far away from my children, because I didn't want them near an unholy influence.

I could go on, but it's making me feel sick again...

We didn't know what else to do, so we just kept asking God to show us the next right thing. And that's all He did, and all He does still. There was never a grand revelation, or a giant pull-down map that descended from the heavens, charting the rest of our life on this earth.

For us, He deals in baby-steps.

Had I been able to project five years into the future, I would probably hope to be further along. I'm still Flower Patch Farmgirl, but I live in a shabby part of the city now and the cucumbers I tried to grow this year are a testament to all I've unbecome. I don't know that I would see *this* as progress enough, but I'm learning now that God moves freely in our small places, turning our hearts to Him one degree at a time.

Consistently, He has used the wisdom and openness of others to refocus our hearts.

Without hesitation, the outside voice that has been the most instrumental for me is Jen Hatmaker's.

I found Interrupted two years ago, after reading her book 7. Though I loved 7,  this matched the drum-beat of my heart. I devoured it, underlined and dog-eared it mercilessly, kept it on my bedside table for months, and bossed everyone to read it.

With every page, the call on my heart was affirmed. During a time when I've never felt more misunderstood, God sent this stranger and her words on a page to convince me I wasn't alone and only half-nuts.

Until two years ago, my life resembled the basic pursuit of the American Dream; it just occurred in a church setting.    - Interrupted

So Americans living in excess beyond imagination while the world cries out for intervention is an unbearable tension and utterly misrepresents God's kingdom. While the richest people in the world pray to get richer, the rest of the world endures unimaginable suffering with their faces pressed to the window of our prosperity, and we carry on oblivious.    - Interrupted


God used Jen to show me He likes us wonky and weird and living in ways our human nature tries to avoid. He meets us most intimately when we nose-dive with Him into the ditches. He finds us there and breaks our hearts, but His presence is our reward and He fixes and heals us and keeps us low-down and needy so the only thing we can do is cling. And because He happens to behilarious and the opposite of what the flannel board taught us, He also gifts us with strange and amazing people along the way to share our lives in the weirdest ways.

Interrupted is being re-released, and it makes me want to wheel around every little town like a misguided paperboy and fling a copy onto every porch. It's revised and expanded and you need to read this book, guys. Don't be scared of what it'll do to your heart. Trust me that it'll hurt, but He will carry you and you'll never be the same.

Unfortunately, the years since I first met Interrupted haven't found me at a position of particular saintliness. Rats. We're still fumbling people, we just happen to fumble in slightly different ways.

But we've come to embrace the wild call of Jesus to do hard things and go to risky places and abandon some of the comforts we're inclined to cling to for the sake of loving His lambs. Some days it's easier than others. Some days we act like it's 2008.

Over the past couple of years, we've had tremendously painful days, but we've also had some shocking and humbling opportunities come our way. This is one of them.

My new friend, David Nowell,contacted us last year asking if he could include our story in his book, Dirty Faith.

We said yes, and here it is.

Friends, this book is phenomenal.
I didn't know what to expect, and it is blowing me away.
It's the perfect partner to Interrupted. The ideal follow-up, or "Now what?" read.

I can't tell you it's an easy read, because truthfully, it will break your heart.
But isn't that part of our mission? Haven't we been called to live with our hearts split open?

This is a book about perspectives and possibilities. It is about looking at our world through the lens of grace, about seeing people as Christ does. It is about a different way of extending grace to and beyond the community of faith. It is about compassion - hurting alongside those in need.           - Dirty Faith

Deeply and profoundly understanding just how blessed we are can be a powerful motivation for blessing others.          - Dirty Faith

Let's be in this together, want to? Find a few people near you. Start a class at church or in your neighborhood. Host an online book club. Grab your people and get busy.

Let's lean in and be a wrecked-up mess for His glory.

In Jen's words, "Come, Jesus. We are yours. Have your way with our generation."


Find 'em:
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

Dirty Faith by David Nowell

PS - To see more of the books that heavily influenced me at the beginning of this wild ride, click here

*Amazon affiliate links used.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I Know A Boy

I know a boy who told me about the nights, some 12 years ago, when he would sit up 'til morning on the couch with a loaded gun on the table beside him. He was scared, all alone while his dad worked the graveyard shift, his younger sister asleep down the hall. He was the Man of the House, he was told, tasked with protecting them if the wrong dude came knocking. The deadbolt was turned. He had the gun.

He was 8 years old, and he didn't want that gun.

That boy relived those nights on my couch. He laughed about it, downplayed the whole deal, like it wasn't any more than nothing. It's just the way it was.

So we asked him the obvious question, "If you needed help, couldn't you have just called the police?"

He was done laughing then. Dumbstruck, disbelieving we had the gall to wonder. "My dad said to never call the cops. The cops wasn't safe for us. Still ain't."

I chalked it up to the sort of misinformation that percolates around the streets and projects and on the White-bread road where I grew up, urban legends about birth control and home remedies and what to put in a colicky baby's bottle.

This was group-think gone amiss. That's what I settled on. That's what felt safest. It was a rumor that had careened off the rails but gained momentum anyway. If you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to worry about. That's what I told myself. And him.

He just shook his head and laughed again.

I was out to convince him he was wrong, and I wondered about all the dark-skinned 3rd graders. The brothers I passed walking to school that day - do they feel this way? Is this a sweeping belief of the urban African American culture? Is it tied more to class than race? Is it real?

I picked at the knot without unraveling a single loose thread.
In between yanks and tugs, I let it fade. I lived my life. My life.

But there was Trayvon and Jordan and I worried about that boy on my couch, the one with the good heart and the occasionally-faulty instincts (read "unsupervised-teenager instincts"). He didn't seem as safe anymore, not because every officer is out to get him, but because he believes they might be.

And if he wasn't safe, then neither was I.
Because if he wasn't safe, it meant I had been so wrong, for so long.

If he wasn't safe, people like me were partly to blame, nice folks minding our own business, ignorant by choice about little boys sitting home alone at night feeling safer with a loaded gun than a cell phone. Rules set to govern and protect us were failing in ways, at times wrecking lives, and lacking the humbling, ulcerating work dealt when hindsight lands and repentance follows.

I started to see that "real" is relative. What might be truth to me could be lived and breathed differently in him. He believes he isn't safe. And so it is.

Tuesday morning, I read the headlines about the growing rage in Ferguson, following the gunning-down of 18-year old Michael Brown and dread dropped into my soul like a millstone.

I thought of that boy I know, the one who clowns around and loves the best he can, even when it costs him. I thought about his jobs and his children and his prison ID number. For him, justice is being served, but I knew all over again that I would have never served prison time for committing his crime.

I stacked his mistakes up against my own, and found them even.

But if trouble knocked here, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up my phone. I know the police force is here for me, and I teach my children the same. I know most officers are here for that boy on my couch, and I've seen their support in action (even if he can't.) The men and women who roll down our streets and visit our schools are at our service, here to help and protect. They are good and decent, but he doesn't believe or trust that, and it scares me.

Of course each of us must be held responsible for our actions and our choices. Yes, sometimes men of all shades and hairdos pose a real threat. But how did we get here, really? How have we met this divide without understanding we helped shovel the dirt?

There are so many sides to every story and we may never know for sure what happened in those moments where time stood still and a new line of a mangled history was inked. It's too hard to wade through, the water too murky, and we don't want to be wrong. So we turn and walk away, back to our tidy corners and our predominantly-white churches where things make sense and everyone believes the same version of the story.

I sat in Bible study at my church down the block not even one hour after reading the newest headlines and read this, "The council then threatened them [Peter and John] further, but they finally let them go because they didn't know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God..." (Acts 4:21)

The government stood to silence truth, and the people of God were poised to riot.

Friends, it is time for a Holy riot.
Not against specific people or specific groups, not against the police force or black men with their jeans slung low. We need to start railing against injustice, wherever we find it. We need to wig out over the prejudices ground so deeply into our own hearts that they feel like dust instead of splinters. We don't even recognize they're there. 

We have got to do better and demand more from ourselves and each other. Our knees need to meet the floorboards while we beg for God to show us where we've tossed brick and beam on this problem, or even where we've lit the match.

We have to talk to each other. Really know each other. We've got to create safe places to love and learn. We've got to be friends with communities we don't fully understand. We need to risk our pride and sacrifice our "good Christian"-ness on the altar of truth, and we need to take a hard look at what we find. We're probably not as "good" as we think.

I still don't know how to unravel this knot, and because I lack tangible, studied answers, I've told myself it wasn't my place to speak.

But I know a boy who showed up yesterday after his factory shift for no reason other than to kiss my  cheek, raid the candy cabinet, and hug his brothers and sister. I know there was a time I'd have assumed things about him that capped my capacity to love him.

I know his humanity is as raw as the rest of ours, but I also know his worth is every bit our equal.

I want him to be free - really free.
And I want you to want the same for him and all the boys on all the couches.

After writing my own words, to ensure they remained my own, I went to some trusted sources and I loved what they have to say:
Why We've Got to Go There by Deidra Riggs
Reframing by Becca Stanley at The Stanley Clan

Black Bodies White Souls by Austin Channing Brown (Found via Becca Stanley)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Palms Up, Hair Down

I dropped the kids off at school this morning then kept on walking in a straight line, into the heart of downtown, through the kinds of neighborhoods that make magazine covers and the kinds most of us avoid. (If my city has both, yours does, too.)

Lining every block were homes filled with people who all want the same things, deep down. We're mothers and wives and sisters and friends. We care for our families and take pride in certain things. We want to believe we are lovable.

I clocked miles and stopped for a piping cup of Earl Grey with my city-sister, Kim. Then I turned around and headed back home, where the bathroom waited to be scrubbed and my writing projects waited patiently for my attention.

I knew my walk was stealing time from things that seemed more important, but I've been wrong before and I'm learning the truth often opposes my instincts.

Along the way, I took loads of photos of pretty homes to share on this little Instagram thing I do called #favoritesofgoshen. I could stand on the curb and stare at beautiful bricks and historical, gingerbread-laden homes all day. They inspire me, but more than that, they make me believe the world is an easy place to be.

These are the homes that really pull me in. My heart always casts the surest line to the neglected, the cracked up and beaten down.

And I know I'm repeating myself, but for real, give yourself permission to suspend judgment, starting today. The next time you drive past "this" home, imagine only the best of the people living inside. They might need something you have to offer, but they might be doing just fine for themselves. They might not need a helper, just a true friend. Reach in and grab all the junk we accumulate living in our privileged corners and toss it out, because I am telling you, politicians and civic groups and churchy folks and our elders teach us things that aren't true. These untruths sow seeds of superiority and disregard that dull our ability to love and before we even stop to think about it, we are no longer the Good News.

Go ahead, ask me how I know this.

A few blocks down, I found a home with a humongo, magical garden smack-dab in their front yard, complete with kale, tomatoes, herbs, and 10' sunflowers. I re-routed to take a closer look, and there they were on the front porch, sipping coffee and wearing their hearts on the fronts of their t-shirts and the ink on their arms. If I had know they were sitting there, I probably wouldn't have walked their way. I'd have gotten that shy feeling and felt strange about the fact that I was technically still in my pajamas and I looked a fright. As if they care.

But God tricked me, so we talked gardens and pickles and yes, the walnut tree really is poisoning our garden.

We shook hands and shared names and I can only hope they are future friends of ours. Their radness and joy still shine on my face.
A few more blocks, and here she was. Still working over her fire like she had been when I passed through earlier. I'd had a million questions, but all I'd mustered was a tiny smile and it felt like a victory when she returned it. I didn't think she'd still be there working, hours later.

So I smiled once more, and kept on walking.

See? This is what I usually do. Most of the time, I get tangled up in my insecurities and my strange pride and my reverse-pride, the one that says my neighbor doesn't care.

Something in me made me turn around.

She nodded shy when I asked if I could take her picture. I sputtered out a few words of broken Spanish, enough to confuse her, but not so much that we couldn't patch it all together. She did the same, speaking to me in the language I know best, her skills infinitely sharper than my own, but not close to perfect.

Before I walked away, she handed me something delicious. And I can only hope in my wildest dreams that she is also a future friend.

Two blocks from home, there was Bonnie. It's been months since we've crossed paths and when I shouted her name, it startled her and she jumped into the air. "Shannan!" she yelled back. Then it was  grandkids and great-grandkids and how she still walks her two-mile loop, every single day.

I'm sorting out how my days should be spent now that all the kids are in school. But I have to believe staying inside, keeping to myself, drifting towards people who are mostly like me, isn't what will make me a better neighbor.

And I'm starting to see the best way to love a broken neighborhood is by being a broken neighbor; palms up, ready to spend whatever I have for the sake of His kingdom, hair down, willing to expose my messes and scars and that stubborn humanity I can't seem to keep at bay.

This is community. This is what we were made for.