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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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If you have a mission statement please consider sharing!

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).

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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

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.

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

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8 years.

8 years seems like a really long and a really short amount of time to be married.

I look back at photos from that day and think about how young we were. About how little we knew of our lives ahead but what we did know was that this was right. That despite our age and the concerns from family and friends we were to be together. And not just together, but married.

wedding-0772Without a doubt we made the most perfect decision. I have been married to my best friend for 8 years and I’ve known him for 9 ½ and there are times I reflect on our life and still cannot believe it’s mine.

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Brad came into my life during a time of grief and I am just so thankful that God sent him to me. He was the first person to really listen, to really care and to just be there for me in an intimate and real way that I had not before felt.

Growing up together as a married couple has has it’s ups and downs. I remember during our pre-marital counseling the pastor warning us that since we are getting married so young that hitting these “growing up” steps together might be difficult. In some ways they have been, but every couple grows and changes as they get older and I’m not sure if our problems have been different than any other couple that’s been married for 8 years.

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There came a time for us this past year when we had to throw away everything we thought we knew about each other and kind of start over. What I mean is that we both have these preconceived thoughts about how the other will react to a certain situation or phrase and over the years we’ve tried to “keep the peace” by avoiding these conflicts.

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The problem is that we are completely different people emotionally, spiritually and physically than when we were married and our views and moods have changed. We’ve learned that we must be open and honest and to leave those past feelings and reactions at the door.

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I love him so deeply and wholly now. I cannot imagine how different I will feel about us after another 8 years. We’ve faced challenges and conquered and we’ve had good times and bad and we’ve made it through.

I think we’re on the verge of a new adventure I cannot wait for the ride.

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Brad wrote this poem before we were married and it appeared on the back of our program.  I unearthed it from a CD backup a couple of weeks ago and can’t believe how true it still rings for us today.

Someday there’ll be an old wooden house on a picket fence lane
With dozens of wishes made on broken window glass panes
Passersby will wonder and never quite know
why the porch swing sways when the wind doesn’t blow
But the swing will sway until the house doesn’t stand
Pushed by feet of innocent love and wedding bands on children’s hands
For it’s pushed by loving, tiny feet
Feet of hard times, lucky finds, and success we can’t keep
The swing may stop when the house is gone
But the memory of love will always live on
Because I’ll be there, and you’ll be there, and we’ll be there
And because the only thing I’ll always have is this moment… and you

-Brad Pauquette

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seder

The word “seder” simply means order or arrangement.

We decided we would celebrate the Passover instead of Easter this year, which is a remembrance of how God liberated the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt.

Saturday evening Brad suggested that instead of a traditional seder with the bitter herbs and lamb that we should come up with our own foods that represented what God has done in our lives. The thought of it brought a huge smile to my face. I’m certain the ritual of the Jewish seder is beautiful but I knew that creating our own based on our own experiences could be awesome.

We decided to write down the foods and text that we used in our seder meal on Sunday evening. These are representative of our own experiences and are in no way meant to become ritualistic. Some of the foods we had on hand, others we had to buy. If we do this again next year we will most likely come up with an entirely new set of foods and text.

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The entire meal was eaten without silverware. This was to remind us that God calls us to simplicity even when it makes things more difficult.

We served ourselves because God calls us all to be active workers in his Kingdom.

We then ate these foods in this order. Brad read the description of the food and then one of us would read the verse that corresponded.

We poured the drinks for the person next to us because we are called to serve.

Eggs – Because God is a god of life, and to celebrate the coming spring. The season symbolizes the promise of the new life that we have in Christ, on earth and in heaven.

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
– Romans 6:3-5

Shot – Because when life comes hard and fast, God is there.

“If the Lord had not been on our side—
    let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
    when people attacked us,
 they would have swallowed us alive
    when their anger flared against us;
 the flood would have engulfed us,
    the torrent would have swept over us,
 the raging waters
    would have swept us away.
Praise be to the Lord,
    who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
    from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.”
-Psalm 124

Lobster – It was slaughtered now for each of us personally, just as Christ perpetually dies personally for each of us. For some reason, sacrifice is a part of the world that God has given us. And in some ways, we each bare the full weight of the sacrifice God made for us.

 “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,  through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—  he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
-Roman 3:24-26

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world .”
-1 John 2:2

Rice – God is everywhere. Everyone eats rice. Just as rice is eaten around the world, so is God’s love available and evident to all the peoples of the world.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
-Romans 1:20

Malta – Because when life is awful, God is there. (Malta is a Mexican soda we had in our fridge that we find to be, well, disgusting.)

“People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

“I baptize you with  water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with  the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
-Matthew 3:5-12

Hamburger – Traditional American traveling food – because God is with us wherever he may send us.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:18

Moscato – When life is sweet, God is there.

“Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.
 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.”
-Psalm 150

Carrot – God is with us now, he delivers gifts to us. Just as the carrot comes from the ground ready to be eaten, so God meets each of us as we are, and has purpose for us.

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above,coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
-James 1:16-18

Baked Potato – God will be with us in the future. Some of his gifts develop over time. Sometimes God’s plans for us are messy, difficult and time consuming. But he loves us and is faithful to his promise to reward us in the present life, and the one to come.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.   In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
-Phillipians 1:3-11

Lick-A-Flavor Popsicle – Just as the flavor changes, so God changes us. He is a mystery, perpetually the same, yet perpetually adapting to meet us personally.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and  knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
-Romans 11:33

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