family mission statement.

Every family in our shared life group put together family mission statements as homework this past week to share with each other.

This is something that Brad and I did a few years ago but we decided to start fresh.  I thought it would be fun to share ours and to encourage other families and individuals to do the same.  Making a mission statement is a fantastic way to consider the important values in our lives and refocus our time on what matters.

We started by making a list of what is important to us and Brad with his writing power but it together in a beautiful, almost poetic way.

—————————–

We will seek and serve God and be witnesses of his grace and selflessly honor our community with our time, resources, and talents.

We will reduce our burden upon society and the Earth by sustaining ourselves, our neighbors and our environment.

We will live in the intentional present by embracing poverty, play, experience, and spontaneous generosity, and by resisting consumerism, security and competition, and we will not be entrapped by debt.

We will use our talents in service to the Lord as an act of worship.

————————-

If you have a mission statement please consider sharing!

for what it’s worth.

Sometimes it feels as though my grandmother and I are about as opposite as can be.

The other day I was telling her I had to go to Athens to drop off my artwork for the Women of Appalachia show.  Just a few days before I had picked the photos up from the Parkersburg Art Center.

She kind of laughed and said, “Is it worth it?”

I stammered for a minute and muttered something about knowing how much driving this entailed when I submitted my pieces.  If I could go back in time I would boldly declare that YES, it is worth it.  It’s worth it because my art is in a show and that is super cool.

My heart was hurt because I feel like she often doesn’t see the worth or the value in the type of life I’m leading.  My children break things, I don’t value stuff the same way she does and my house is always, always a mess.

In reality I lack the courage to find my worth in Christ alone.

My word to focus on for 2016 is courage.  I was inspired while listening to a sermon of my father in law’s one morning (grandpa music as the boys like to call it).  He was defining courage not just as bravery but as living from the heart.

I can’t be the only person who looks back on situations and has the perfect thing they should have said or done, right?  If I were living from a place of courage and not of fear how differently would I respond sometimes?

If I were living from my heart, value and worth would be found in my savior alone.  I would not feel less than because I am not more.

I desire courage to break the paths of bad habits, courage to parent fully and lovingly, courage to boldly do what is right for myself or my family and courage to not make decisions out of fear.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of living out of fear.  I’m tired of it creeping into my soul, into my mind, always reminding me of the “what if’s”.

This year I will find courage to be me without excuses, a beautiful child of God.

the search for church.

Sometimes I like to look back through old writing that I didn’t post because at the time they were too raw, too close for comfort.

Sometimes when I find them now it is such a testament to the glory of God and the work he is doing in our lives (see the dung).

Since moving to Zanesville we’ve been swept up in a loving and gospel filled church community.  They are plopped down in the middle of an impoverished area, right down the street from our work at The Narrows.   They are bringing God’s kingdom to the streets of Zanesville, worshipping him simply and focused on living with one another in community.  We are so thankful to have fallen into a group of friends who we can share our lives with.

Glory be to God.   The following words were written in the fall of 2014 (mostly unedited).

———————

5 years ago we decided that conventional church was no longer for us.  I suppose we threw conventional life out the window as well when we bought a campervan, sold our stuff and traveled around the U.S.  We came back 6 months later searching out an inner-city neighborhood to call home and landed on a double lot in the heart of the near east side.

Our early writings while traveling were full of reasons that the church was no good.  They wasted money, didn’t really get to the heart of the gospels, etc. etc.  Certainly we were 23 and had it all figured out.

But as most 23 year olds realize after a few more years of living, we did not have it figured out.

We had tried to replace church with more spontaneous community.

We tried Sunday night dinners, a time to hang out with friends and eat and if we were lucky we would sometimes touch on spiritual matters in our conversations.

We tried “broughts”, a small group with close friends where we “brought” something to each meeting.  Sometimes it was a bag of chips, sometimes a spiritual thought we had while reading.

Somewhere in there we had a child and rested from trying so hard to find a place to fit in.  I remember feeling so lonely, with such a desire to connect with others on a deeper basis.

As we got older we developed more stable friendships and decided to give a living room group a try again.  We had a few couples who we would meet with, pray with and discuss spiritual topics with.  It was great while it lasted, but schedules prevented us from furthering it.

Two years ago I journaled to pray about seeking a physical church space once again.  There were several discussions over the next year between Brad and I about this possibility of going to the normal Sunday service again, and after some prayer and deliberation we both decided it was worth a try.

We attended a small contemporary church for a few months and found it comforting that there were a lot of people like us there.  We felt very comfortable and it felt genuine, however there were some issues that we could not get past.

We had become accustomed to enjoying this Sunday morning ritual again so we decided to try the church that we had left many years before.

We fell back in to a routine for a few months.  Enjoyed worshipping with others and feeling the presence of God.  I integrated myself into a book group which I thoroughly enjoyed and felt inspired by.

But there was a Sunday afternoon, a few months later, that Brad and I both looked at each other and said the same thing.  It’s fine, but it’s really just not where we’re at right now.  As much as we felt like it was a good place to be, it wasn’t quite right for us.

This was a suburban church, we are an urban people.  It took us 25 minutes to drive there which makes it a bit inconvenient.  How many churches must we pass on the way there?  Why would we reach so far out of our element to worship and build relationships?

The past few months we’ve reclaimed our Sundays as days we try to have no expectations.  We do not do work and we try to not have too many planned things.

But still the desire for community nags at my soul.  I am lonely with all of these thoughts sometimes.

Is there anyone else out there like us?  Who desires true community and who understands what it’s like to live where we live?

Our lives are unconventional but it’s where God wants us.  For years now I’ve been clinging to the hope that he will bring us into true community with others but honestly I’m getting impatient.

Am I the problem?  Am I preventing true community?  Am I overlooking perfectly good options because they’re not what I think is right for us?

I don’t know.

I have a hard time speaking up for what I believe in and for voicing my opinion.  I am an introvert with extrovert tendencies which means I truly enjoy engaging in meaningful conversations with others.  When I find people who share my passions or who make me think differently I feel truly refreshed and invigorated.

I dislike superficial conversations about how good the worship in a church is.  Why in the world would that be the most important thing about finding community?  Shouldn’t we spur each other on to living more selfless, light-filled lives?

Seriously, who gives a shit if there’s coffee available before a service or whether or not the children’s ministry has a really cool program?

There are people dying without the love of Jesus everyday.  They are being swept up into violent lives, living in poverty with a feeling of hopelessness about their lives.

People are dying all over the world.  People are dying right here in my neighborhood.  People are struggling, they’re getting mixed up into the wrong things, they are hungry.  They are lonely.  I am lonely.

What can we do about this?

I don’t know.

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.

april2015-1425

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.

april2015-1436

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.

april2015-1465

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.

april2015-1444

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.”

april2015-1459

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.

april2015-1476

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.

 

1234-8760