the dung.

*** I wrote this almost a year ago (it’s unedited).  Praise Jesus for what he has done in that year’s time.  We are in our spacious place and the house in the city is coming into it’s true glory.***


“We are not even the seed. We are the dung preparing the land to receive the seed.”
Dorothy Day

We knew that when we moved to this house 5 years ago that it was going to be hard. We understood nothing about the community around us other than it was broken (literally, most of the neighboring houses were vacant) and that we had a ton of work ahead of us (literally again, our house had no plumbing or electricity left).

However, I think we had (have) this fantasy in our heads that “If we build it, they will come.” Meaning that if we begin the work here, others will see the good that is happening and desire similar things (aka living nearby and taking part in our dreams).

Unfortunately this is not the Field of Dreams and at times we can still feel quite alone here. Certainly we have plenty of support from family and friends who think it’s cool that we do what we do and who help where they can, but at the end of the day we’re still alone. The damn dung.

I can’t even count the number of times Brad has tried to sell friends on buying/renting some of the houses in our neighborhood. As soon as I hear it coming out of his mouth I cringe because I can read it on their face “it’s really cool that you live here and I love visiting but no way would I ever want to live here.”

I want to embrace being the dung. To be content with quiet. The ones who pray and endure and cry and feel, well, alone. Because after 5 years this place is changing. I can see it. I can see our compost, our dung, our prayers and our vigilance turning this land into rich and beautiful soil.

Only God knows when the soil will be ready for the seed. Ready for others to come along and claim this work as their own.

Yet another burden of being quiet is not getting the recognition that you think you deserve. Perhaps you start things, pray for them, put all the dung filled hard work into them and then someone else takes it over and receives the credit. It sucks but it’s the best way. The quiet way. The way that we will not fill our egos thinking we can do this all ourselves. We can’t. Only the Lord working through us will ever accomplish the goodness we hope for on this earth.


As the sun filters pink through the trees outside of their bedroom window, I listen to my son pray and reflect on what he told me earlier.

“God makes the seed grow into a tree. It’s like the seed is trash, and God makes it into something new again.” he said that evening while they played outside. “God is like upcycling.”

Upcycling—the process of taking something old and useless and giving it new purpose.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? God taking our lives, once rubbish and useless, and turning them into something new. God taking a planet, a world that was broken, fractured and terrible, and slowly redeeming it—transforming it into a new creation.

And the process that binds it all together is hope.

When you upcycle an old sock into a hand puppet, it’s senseless to do any one step. What’s the good of sewing one button onto the end of an old sock? Should I believe that a second one will help? What’s the purpose of a tassle of yard at the top? Individually these things are meaningless, but because the creator has hope, the object transforms and gains its purpose.

When we lived in Columbus, hope is what sustained me. The hope that someday people would drive by that old neighborhood, once full of criminals and brokenness, and say, “You see, God is there. What once was lost has been found. What once was broken has been restored.”

There’s a Hebrew phrase in the old testament, Jehovah Shammah, which means “The Lord is there.” It both means that God exists in a general way, and that God is specifically in this place. Listening, hoping for us.

God is with us. Hoping for us. Working step by step for a better creation in each of us, and for all of us.

We can’t upcycle by fire. Nothing explodes and suddenly turns into something new and better. Things change through the patient expression of each step, day-by-day, each seemingly inconsequential step sustained by hope.

Now I sit outside in this spacious place I get to stay for a while, watching a sunset with oranges so vibrant and pinks so deep that I’ve melted into my lawn chair. What will God make of me next?

I will wait, and I will hope for His kingdom come.

May the hope of the Lord sustain you.

the next step.

It felt like the world was rushing us.

Trying to convince us to put our house on the market quickly so it didn’t sit empty and become a target for vandals.


I get it, it makes sense.  But it didn’t feel right.


We knew we had to take one step at a time.


Selling our house was never the next step to take.  I felt confident God would provide the right people for this place.


After disappointments, hopes and many nights of wondering what will become of our beloved cocoa manor we now know.


It is incredible.


In fact it is everything we ever imagined before moving here.


The house will become an intentional community full of life and love and those who want to be good neighbors.


I am so thankful for the Lord.  My cup overflows.


He is sending us to our spacious place, he is continuing the work we started in our neighborhood.


We fought the battles, we fixed the house.


After so many years of wondering how we could ever live out our dreams of community, we will see them come true.


Just without us.



an open letter to my family.

Our name is on the deed.

It’s ours.

But the thing is, it’s yours too.

You have memories and experiences there.

I want you to know that we know that. That in some sense we share this space, you and I.

I want to you to know that we will take care of it, we will love it and fill it with laughter. Tears, too.

We will care for the land and respect it.

It will be a place for our children to connect to their history, to hear stories of the past and learn the life they are woven into.

A house is ours, but it can never really just be ours. It carries stories of all the people who passed through.

We have the great privilege to know much about this house.

We have the great privilege to make it our own while remembering what was.

Even though it’s ours I want you to know you are invited. To drop in, say hi, stay the night, share a meal.

We want you there.

it’s ok.

It’s ok to not always enjoy parenthood.

I feel like I see so many blogs today about appreciating all the parts of parenthood, even the difficult ones because soon they will be gone and our kids will be grown.

This is certainly true but I find it often adds guilt to my life.

Yes, it goes too fast. Yes, I should enjoy every minute.

Sometimes it goes painfully slow. Sometimes I really dislike the minutes.

Some days I wake up exhausted because a baby used me as a human pacifier all night and I find two rambunctious boys ready to start their day.

I rarely take a shower without one, sometimes two boys in the bathroom waiting for me to get out.

I can’t even read a psalm without having to answer a million questions.

The middle boy shouts “mom, mom, mom….” until I answer. Then he says “nothing!”. Over and over again.

I know that I will miss this someday. I will think, “wow, I should have appreciated those times more”.

But right now I’m telling myself that it’s ok not to always appreciate the moments. That in these moments I’m learning how to be a better parent and liver of life.

It’s ok to be exhausted and grumpy, because often that spurs us on to something better. It teaches us what we need in those hard moments and how to allow ourselves that. (For me right now it’s trying to get away to write this….even though there is a two year old asking me to help him put his pants on).

My eyes are half open today, my kids are loud and annoying, I feel grumpy about life.

And that’s ok.


the scars of cancer.

I was listening to a bit of “All Sides” with Ann Fisher this morning as she talked to the deputy director of the new James Cancer hospital about how amazing this new facility is and what it has to offer patients.

It brought a flood of emotions. The scars that I can never get rid of. This is a dump of some of them.

It brought me back to countless hours spent in the old James, in the room where my mom was receiving some sort of experimental stem cell treatment. It was a very isolated ward, we had to be especially careful to wash our hands before entering and I remember the nurses telling me the smell of canned corn was normal.

It brought me back to the day in our living room, I was very small, that my mom first realized she couldn’t move her arm. The memory is fuzzy but I think that was the first symptom of her bout with cancer, this one of the bone.

It took me back to the days of staying with grandparents, aunts, etc. while my mom was in the hospital.  I remember having a pizza party in the lobby on her floor and someone giving me a book of jokes to practice.

It brought me back to the day we got family photos taken my senior year of high school. We had just found out about her brain tumor and she wanted them taken before she began treatments again.

It took me back to the day the phone rang during dinner. The news from the doctor that she had a brain tumor. She sat back down and kept eating. What else is there to do?

It brought me back to the month(s?) during my last year of high school that my mom spent unresponsive in the James after surgery to remove that brain tumor. Every day after school I would pick my dad up from work and we would drive the hour to Columbus to sit in her room. Her room overlooked Ohio stadium but unfortunately it was spring. We survived on dinners from Wendy’s quietly eaten.

It took me back to the times she said all she wanted was to see me graduate. She died 5 months after I walked across that stage.

I remember caring for my mom once she began to wake up and was eventually transferred back to Zanesville. I administered her medicine through a PICC line. I washed her hair, she always wanted me to scrub so hard. I helped her up out of her chair. I went on a senior trip with my friends during which she had a seizure and my dad had to call an ambulance.

I went to college and she got sicker.

One time I came home to visit she was back in the hospital. I remember the doctor pulling my dad and I in the hall and telling us it was time to transfer her to hospice. Part of my life was enjoying the first few months of college, the other part was a dying mother.

I remember a week or so later, the end of another weekend home. My godmother and another very good friend of my mom’s took me to the pizza place across the street from hospice. They told me I shouldn’t go back yet. Her health was too bad. She died a few days later, the night before her birthday.

I had taken to sleeping on the couch. The phone rang after we had gone to bed, maybe I was still up watching TV.  Of course I knew what it was.  My dad answered.  Came in to tell me.  We spent the night talking about her.

So many of these memories are fuzzy and confusing. My mom had so many different cancers at so many different times of my life I can’t really keep the facts straight.

Sometimes I think, “Did that really happen? Was that really my life?”.

These scars have healed for the most part but they will always be visible, always there. I’ve tried to hide them, forget about them. Pretend I had another life in which my mom didn’t have cancer for most of it and didn’t die.

But that’s not my reality. I have to let my scars be there. I have to let the reality spur me on to something good.



the fulfillment of promise

we are moving.

to zanesville.

to the house my grandparents lived in and raised their eight children.

to the six acres where I spent my childhood exploring and enjoying.

i remember the cherry tree just behind the house and the pies that came from it.

i remember the broken arm from jumping off the swingset and giant zucchini from the garden.

i remember the love that was there, and the kindness I was shown.

i hope for wild summers with my children and cabins built from scraps.

i hope for abundant gardens and sufficiency.

i hope to learn about the enjoyment of the earth and resting in providence.

i am thankful for promise, and for the fulfillment of the hope that has rested in my heart.

i am thankful for beauty and new adventures.

i am thankful for merchab, for this spacious place.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

66_503839370521_3924_n IMG_20141230_0005 IMG_20141230_0006

IMG_20141230_0002 IMG_20141230_0003

3 2 1 december2014-6870 december2014-6869 december2014-6866 december2014-6864 december2014-6862

enjoy peace.

The past couple of years at the beginning of the new year I’ve had a word to focus on for that upcoming year. 2013 was contentment and for 2014 I picked peace. When I say I picked it, I really mean it picked me. But that’s another story.

This year we got pregnant for the third time. We enjoyed a super quiet spring and summer in our neighborhood. This is a drastic improvement over years past…no burning houses, no murders or middle of the night screaming matches within a 200 yard radius of our house.

We felt at ease in our neighborhood and happy to be here. We started our community garden and it actually grew a little.

When we started trying to have this third child I felt like the name should mean peace. In my head I thought it would be a girl and we would name her Olive (ya know, olive branch, a peace symbol).

Well we had a boy and it was evident as he was born that he should be Solomon. His name is derived from “Shalom” or simply “peace”.

The months leading up to his birth didn’t feel very peaceful in our household. We felt stressed, overwhelmed and anxious. I remember several times just saying to each other it will all get better once the baby comes.

The thing is, Solomon did bring peace with him. Certainly we all still have our moments but this transition has truly been easier than expected. His brothers adore him, he adores us and we have really been coming into our own as a family. We’re deciding once again how we want to live our lives, this time considering that we are a family of five. It’s been a good time to reevaluate our priorities and make sure how we are currently living matches them.

I started thinking about 2015′s word a couple of weeks ago and just felt like it should be “enjoy”. To enjoy the contentment and peace I’ve learned. To enjoy God’s good earth. To enjoy this wonderful life I’ve been given. To just be “in joy”. I want to be joyful and happy and optimistic and unfortunately that is often not the case with me.

Enjoy comes from the French word “enjoier” which means to give joy. Isn’t that cool, if we enjoy life we actually give joy to others. Everyone wins!

Do anything, but let it produce joy.
- Walt Whitman





Solomon teaches patience.

Two days before my due date.

I took the boys to play trains at Barnes and Noble in an attempt to enjoy a rainy day. I thought I would get a coffee and relax my aching pregnant body while they were entertained for hours.


Of course not.

They began to fight over trains and my sweet Theo’s anger escalated quickly. What began as a lovely trip ended with a kid following me out of the store trying to kick me in the shins yelling “I WANT THOSE BOOKS”. Yep, I was that mom.

It was a rough morning and when we got home I was stressed out and tired. I began making lunch and realized that I felt off. I was nauseous and having some stronger braxton hicks. I didn’t think much of it because I had been having contractions for weeks.

Things quickly seemed to get worse and I just felt terrible. I texted Brad and he came home despite having a meeting scheduled.

I thought that maybe, just maybe this was the real deal. We spent the afternoon relaxing with movies and timing contractions.

The intensity increased ever so slightly and we discussed what our evening might look like. I knew we wouldn’t be going to the hospital super soon but we made a quick call to the grandparents and decided it would be better to leave the kids with them before bedtime than to have exchange them in the middle of the night.

We treated the rest of the evening like a date night/attempt to increase contractions. We went to a meeting Brad already had set, ate dinner at Whole Foods and walked around Target and Half Price books.

I began to feel very anxious because my contractions were still not really increasing in intensity. I felt like we had prematurely given the kids to the grandparents and caused a lot of fuss over nothing.

We went home and eventually I fell asleep at 3 a.m. I woke up two hours later feeling super bummed because I wasn’t in labor. I used the restroom and realized I was bleeding a bit.

My excitement ramped up again, bleeding means labor is imminent! I wasn’t crazy!

I called the midwife and she said to come in to get checked out because I was bleeding.

We got to triage at OSU around 7 a.m. I was only 3 centimeters dilated so we were instructed to walk the hospital for two hours.

Two hours later I was at 3 centimeters. Go home, they said. Come back in if anything changes.

Le sigh.

We picked up things for breakfast and went to get the kids. I missed them and wanted to give my in-laws a break.

My contractions continued throughout the day, the same somewhat uncomfortable but very manageable feeling I had been having for a full 24 hours. I tried to rest.

We took the kids back to my in-laws for the night because we were still pretty sure that labor was happening, albeit very slowly.

We ate dinner with them and put the kids to bed there. Once home we opened a bottle of wine to calm my anxiety over the slowness of this labor. I brought a glass with me to bed, Brad fell asleep and I laid down in slow and quiet prayer. I contemplated how my body was feeling with every contraction.

I decided to time them again for an hour and then reevaluate.

That hour was the first time I had truly relaxed in 36 hours. By the end of it I was moaning through the contractions. This woke Brad and we both realized it was time to return to OSU.

At midnight I was 5 centimeters dilated and quickly moved to a room. My contractions were getting much stronger as they filled up the labor tub. My midwife, Cassandra, offered to break my water just to speed things up even more.

I immersed myself in the warmth of the tub, Brad put on Bon Iver (the same thing I labored to with Ira) and the pain increased quickly.

I entered into the birthing zone. I no longer conversed between contractions but just lay my head down to rest. I wasn’t quite present in my surroundings found myself in another place of both dread and anticipation of each contraction that would draw me nearer to my baby.

OSU no longer allows women to actually birth in the tubs so Cassandra told me that as soon as I felt a desire to push I needed to get out of the water.

I could feel that time getting nearer with every contraction. Nausea was present with every pain and Brad faithfully held the blue barf bag next to me just in case.

The slight urge to push filled me with the next contraction. I told Cassandra and she helped my dripping self out of the tub. They surrounded me with warmed blankets on the bed but I could not stop shaking. The contractions were overwhelming at this point.

At this point I imagine every woman feels they cannot continue. That their body will simply give up from the pain it is enduring.

The many times I said I couldn’t do it, Cassandra simply told me that I could.

Thankfully I knew that I could. I knew that I did this with Ira’s birth and that I would do it again.

I felt much more confident and less overwhelmed by the entire process this time. I knew how to breathe with the contractions, I knew how bad it was going to feel before and during pushing. I knew I would probably throw up (I did, right before starting to push). Knowledge is power and I knew it would soon be over. That soon my baby’s tiny little body would exit my womb and immediately I would be flooded with relief and great joy.

I began to push and scream. I could feel my baby’s body moving down. Cassandra told me to focus and moved me into a better position to push. She told me the baby would be out soon if I could focus all of my strength into one push.

She was right. His perfect little body slid out of mine at 3:10 a.m. on his due date and I heard Brad gasp from the beauty and rawness of it all. Cassandra quickly unwrapped the cord from his neck and the nurses brought him to my chest as I declared that it was a boy.

As I sat shaking from the adrenaline while I was being attended to, I looked back and forth between Brad and our third son. Perfect excitement and joy filled my soul as I surveyed his tiny body.

I looked at Brad and asked him the name. Solomon Daniel, he said, I feel like that’s right. Me too, I said with a smile.

We rested like that for many minutes until the nurses came back in to measure and clean him.