The smell of life.

The boys are outside and Winnie just started crying in her room.  I’m neglecting the chores, deciding instead that I will embrace this quiet moment to write.  Naturally, my quiet moment has now been interrupted by the aforementioned crying baby and the middle boy coming in yelling at the top of his lungs for me.  The door has again been left open, leaving our kitchen a safe haven for the flies.

A drink of milk and 10 minutes of rocking later, I sit here again in the quiet.  The air conditioner is running, but it smells like a dead mouse is trapped somewhere in the duct.  A reminder that our house is old, smelly and falling apart.  Not that I need that reminder, I think about it every day.  In fact, it is such a concern for me that it causes me great anxiety, especially in the warm months when everything grows out of control, smells are more pronounced and boys are dirtier.

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I remind myself what a gift this house is.  The summer we first moved here, aside from difficulties that come from being in a new place, it felt magical.  Everything was beautiful and this house even in its “as is” state was much nicer than our previous one.  Many evenings I ran outside at the sight of a golden sunset, marveling at the beauty and our fortune to call this home.

What has happened to me over the past two years?  When was the last time I dropped the dishes and ran out to a sunset, or walked down over my precious hill to spend quiet time with God?

Why did I allow life to suck me dry of all courage to live a joyful life?

I feel it seeping back into my bones.  I feel like I can take back my life, that I can submit myself again to God’s will and to stop giving the devil his foothold.

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I just turned around, it looks like the rain is about to start.  Our basement is a moldy, musty mess, and the last thing we need is any more water in it.  We threw out bags of stuff this past week, not important things (of course, there aren’t a lot of things we deem important enough to get upset over), but things nonetheless, ruined by the deluge of water that ran into our basement.  Our house smells musty, and my constant headache and allergy symptoms lead me to believe it is indeed making me sick.  My anxiety is having a real field day with this house right now.

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Earlier this week we ran away and spent the night with my in-laws.  It was a good respite for the boys and I while Brad spent the day in meetings.  I came home less tired than I had left, which is pretty good for a night in a strange bed.

As soon as I got home, though, I felt even more anxious and worried about the state of our house than before I had left.  My in-laws have this beautiful house, and my mother in law is great at cleaning and keeping tidy.  Her house is lovely, her gardens are lovely and it is a peaceful place to be.

The contrast to our house which is full of chaos, noise, dirt, building materials, and weedy gardens just about put me over the edge.  Will I ever be adult enough to keep our place under control?

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My writing is different today and words are flowing freer than they have for quite a while.  I’m reading the “The Crosswicks Journals” by Madeleine L’Engel, and her beautiful words has inspired me to just write.  Usually, I think of a topic that has been on my mind and try to fit a succinct blog post around it.  My stash of half written documents tells me that method is complete crap.  Today I prayed that the Spirit would lead me to write something because I was feeling so joyful from L’Engel’s book.  I do feel like He came through and is here with me.

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I had to go close the kitchen door again (hello flies!), and caught sight of all three boys playing intently in the garage.  Theo is building something out of a giant box, Ira is watching, and Sol is riding his trike.  I think they are the most wonderful children even though they can seem like such monsters at times.  Their frustrations and anger make me so much more aware of my own anger and how I frequently act as ridiculous and irrational as my two year old.  I never expected children to make me confront my own humanity, my own being, and my own emotions in a way that would force me to better myself.  I certainly don’t want to teach them more bad habits than I already have even though I know I will.  I am flawed and human, but I always strive to apologize after an outburst and explain to them that I was not acting my best.  I hope that they have a better understanding of their emotional selves as they grow than I did.

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It feels like we have had so much change this past year that I’ll burst if anything else changes.  Except that I’m longing for change because what we are doing now is so exhausting it’s not sustainable.  We are to the point where I think we are going to work ourselves, especially Brad, to sickness.  We sat in our new addition last night, supposedly my grandma’s room if she ever decides to move in, and talked about our options, about our future and what might lie ahead for us.  It felt lovely.

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This is a lovely day.  A lovely, ordinary day.  Thunderstorms are darkening the skies and for the first time in a week we don’t have to leave the house.  I’ll never understand why there are “days in which the whole world seems like a rose garden and days in which our hearts seem tied to a millstone” as Henri Nouwen wrote, but I know God is with me in both.

Around us and to us.

I’ve been pondering the differences of our hardships in Zanesville and those of our life in Columbus.  Both are and were difficult, full of a lot of times where we threw our hands up in despair over the situations we found ourselves in.

In Columbus, in our inner city house, we felt protected.  We knew we had angels guarding our property and that for the most part, no harm would come to us.  However, outside of that line all was fair game.  There were murders, fires, drug deals, all within 100 feet of our house.  Every time something like that happened, fear showed up.  The “what if’s” raced through our mind and it took time for us to reevaluate and remember we were there because God asked us to be and that he would be faithful.

Here in Zanesville, we have our spacious place and we no longer worry about gunshots because the ones we hear belong to hunters.  We don’t sit on our porch and see drug deals, or vacant and abandoned houses go up in flames across the street.  We no longer hear neighbors screaming at each other at 3 am while their babies cry.

However, we seem to be dealing with a whole load of personal scrutiny and attack since landing and starting our ventures here.  We can now see that it goes with the territory of having public events and spaces, but I tell you, we were not prepared for it.

Every time it has happened, it has hurt our hearts.  It’s so hard to read these things (generally on social media) about us, and to not just want to scream untruth and try to make ourselves look better.  But one thing we’ve learned is that if someone is willing to spout angry things about another person, they’re generally not going to listen to good reason.  We pray about it, try and forgive them, and after some time things feel better.

God has shown up, in so many of these times, to completely reverse the situation.  We’ve seen him change the heart and mind of the person who felt they were wronged, so much so that it’s nothing short of miraculous (Brad has a really good story that I hope I can get him to share).

I don’t know if either of these situations is more difficult than the other, they’re just different.  I am pleased to no longer wake up in the middle of the night shaking because of gunshots outside our window, but it’s no easy thing to hear unkind words about your husband and to stand strong knowing that our worth is in God alone.

Through it all, God is good and has led us on some spectacular adventures.  The desires of our heart have been heard and answered, and His work is always good.

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 social media fast.

I need to step back for awhile, maybe forever.  Hopefully forever.

I feel like an addict.  Can I socially use social media…or am I doomed to waste too much time and anxiety scrolling through feeds?

I don’t know.  I’m concerned I will feel disconnected from society, but I hope that I in turn will feel connected to God.

I’m not going to set up many rules for myself because guilt will not help make this better.  I may still be on social media for business purposes or just to check something.

I will be posting more here, photos and such that I would normally post on social media.  I encourage you to subscribe on here if you would like to keep up with photos and such.

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!

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).

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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

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.