all that is.

Sometimes when I’m stuck doing a really mundane task like sweeping or hanging clothes out to dry I think about how my grandparents may have stood in the same spot doing the same thing.

When I look out over our hill in awe of the colors of the sunset I wonder how many nights they spent doing the same.

I’m trying my hardest to see what they saw while also seeing this space through my own eyes.

It’s a beautiful connection we have.  One that helps me to remember that even though we are all at different spots on our journeys we are all essentially the same.

All of our fears, thoughts and dreams have been had before.

All that is, was. DSC_5772

allow.

There was a time in my life that I made a decision.  It was a decision between believing that I can make great things happen and believing that my life was gifted to me by God.

I imagine you know which one I chose.

I took my talents (many which I had not even discovered yet), my money, my marriage, my comings and goings and I told God that he could do with them what he thought best.

I wish there was some dramatic event in which this happened but there wasn’t. It was a slow and steady series of decisions in which I listened to that quiet, still voice that points me in the right direction.  Perhaps you call it your instinct or gut feeling.

My stewardship of my life is a result of my belief.  I believe that God has a much better path laid out for me than I could ever imagine on my own.  I also believe God has given me really incredible gifts and talents that I can use not only to support myself but also to inspire others.

Sometimes I feel very different.

It has recently occurred to me that perhaps I feel different because I am of the minority (I think) that lives under the law of stewardship rather than the law of ownership.

In our world the law of ownership is top dog.  It’s the mentality that this is mine and that is yours.  We should keep it very separate because I worked very hard for what I have.

I think that it’s time to realize that we cannot be the owners of our lives any more than we could pour all the water into the sea or turn the nighttime sky deep shades of orange.  We are not the masters of our creations.  God is.

If I take a profound photo it’s because God gave me the eyes to see it.

If we have a beautiful place to live it’s because God has poured out his generosity.

If we seem “blessed” it’s because we’ve allowed our lives to line up with God’s will.

Instead of trying, we allow.

Allow.

No it won’t happen when you want it.

You will worry that you’ve been forgotten, that you’re not good enough or that this isn’t right.

But you also know.  You know in that deep, profound heart of yours that God is coming for you.  You know that he has some really cool and amazing thing for you to do, write, look at, build, create and love.

Allow.

we will sway but we will not snap.

I said words I knew I didn’t want to say.

Hurtful words. Once again doing the same thing I swore I wouldn’t.

I just wanted to be mad. And I knew that. But I carried on.

The yelling and arguing. For no purpose other than the evil that I will always carry in my heart.

The anger subsided, normalcy crept back in. Dinner was eaten. Kisses exchanged.

I walked down the hill, the wet grass filling my holey boots with water.

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I breathed in the pear blossoms, observed the may apples popping up. But kept on walking, right down over the steep cliff, past the fallen hollow tree.

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I sat on my log and listened to the creek go by. Opened up Brad’s bible and read a couple of psalms. Being down there seems to be the only way I can connect to God these days, where the only distraction is nature.

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I was reading Psalm 116 and the wind picked up The trees creak and I look up. They’re all bending and moving and I start to feel a surge of panic rise up through me. That hollow tree fell only a couple of weeks ago at night during a storm.

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What if another falls?   There’s nothing to do but watch, mesmerized by the beauty and rawness that it invokes.

And I hear, “they sway but they won’t snap.”

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And I knew it was for me.

I will sway, I will always and often sway from where I want to be. But I won’t snap, can’t snap, because I have the Spirit of the Lord in my heart.

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Learn.  Be still.  Be at peace.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.   I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 7: 21-25

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.

upcycling.

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.

 

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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.