Light and Shadows

Our dining room is my favorite spot in our house.  A place of convergence at all times of day to both create and eat.  During the evening hours of spring and fall the room fills with glorious light.  The sun creates pockets of highlights and shadows that easily take your breathe away.

Today contractors are removing one of my beloved windows to make a room for my grandmother to live in.  My sacred space of light is about to darken.

This whole process of deciding and planning to move my grandmother in has been one of many ups and downs.

She can no longer live at home safely but she can no longer stand to live in her assisted living room.  There are days she’s ready to bust herself out of there and I can’t really blame her.  Who wants to be old?  Not even a 90 year old woman.

But how am I going to care for an elderly woman along with my four small children?  Only by the grace of God I’m certain.

How is she going to fare living alongside our loud and chaotic household?  I’m not sure.  This quote from G.K. Chesterton has really been helping my perspective on the whole thing:

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered”

This is bound to shape up as quite the adventure, and I’m looking forward to experience not only for Brad and I, but also for our children.  This is a life changing experience we get to embark on.  What is it like to care for someone in their last stage of life?  I imagine it is humbling and sad as well as joyous and insightful.

We are taking an inconvenient risk and our house and our lives are permanently changing.  I pray that there are more moments of light than darkness, and that the joy of the Lord is present in this place.

 

 

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.

being the brave photographer i want to be.

I told myself at the beginning of summer that I was going to be braver when it came to taking photos of our neighborhood.  I was going to ask people for their photo when I saw fit and try to really capture the beauty that I see here everyday.

It’s August and I’ve taken one photo that counts toward that goal.

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Tonight I announced that we would be going for a walk after dinner.  Partly because we have snotty kids who needed time out of the house but mostly because I needed to force myself to use my camera in our neighborhood.  Photography comes naturally, but only if I first set out to do it.

These are not amazing photographs but they are photographs.  I hope that I can use the rest of the warm weather to work toward my goal, to be brave and confident so I can show others how beautiful this place is.

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giving thanks.

The smell of sweet honeysuckle drifts through the air.

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I study the plant that will eventually creep up the wire to shade our porch and smile.

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I look at the flowers that line our porch, the food growing in our yard.

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My heart could almost burst from gratefulness.

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A house once broken, now redeemed.

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How long before it would have been condemned?

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But now it sits on it’s corner, shining bright for all to see.

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To remember what it used to be and see what it is.

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And to know, hopefully, Light is there.

the miracle of the furnace.

The furnace would shut off sometimes. We flipped it off and back on again which restarted it. For a couple of years this sufficed.

This winter, one of the coldest I can remember, it began to shut off more frequently.

Mornings we awoke to 40 degrees. It would be 4 pm before it reached 67. Space heaters became our friend.

We started a savings account for a furnace. Obviously something was wrong.

One weekend it got particularly bad. I spent several hours of two nights awake. Down the stairs, ’round the corner. Flip the switch. Turn it on again. Up the stairs. Warm in bed. Falling asleep. I hear it turn off again. The cycle returns.

After two days I got into bed weeping. Exhaustion set in and I was tired of being cold.

So we prayed. We prayed hard. We begged God to fix our furnace.

And he did. He fixed it right up. It’s been several weeks and I haven’t touched the thermostat.

I had no idea how much of my time was spent worrying about the furnace. My head feels clearer, freer.

Thank you Lord. Thank you.

epic mess.

Every single day my son builds a fort. This has been going on for about 6 months now. There are days that I try to insitute a “no building” day but I still end up stumbling upon a pile of blankets, books, and couch cushions.

Everyone says “ Oh he’s being so creative, don’t worry about the mess!”. Yes, I agree. He’s fantastically creative.  However, it is more than just a little mess. Books get destroyed in the process, the living room becomes unusable and once it’s time to pick up a child goes berserk because “It’s too much, wahhhhh”. Timeout. Cry. Repeat.

I am at my wit’s end. I want to be the kind of mother who doesn’t care about the state of her house, but this house is already too big and difficult to keep up with.  I cannot handle the normal upkeep as well as having everything including laundry baskets, hangers, baby toys, etc. strewn about and a child who generally refuses to clean up at the end of the day.

This week has not been good. I have yelled a lot, cried a lot and generally feel like a pretty terrible mom.

“Why can’t my child behave like all of these other sweet kids?”

“Why can’t he just play with his toys?”

“Why do I keep yelling?”

“Why do I feel like I have no one cares?”

“Why is my life the worst?”

Wahhh, right? So quickly I go from loving life, knowing that I have a great family and support system to feeling like the sludge at the bottom of a garbage disposal.

Something has to change. I need to change. I need a better attitude and more grace for myself and my children if I am going to survive parenthood.

So today I came up with the idea to post the epic messes. Sometimes the only thing that can make bad things better is laughing at them and being honest about what my life looks like.

So here we go.

Epic Mess 11/23/13.

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