the birds.

Since March I’ve been noticing birds. Many birds, some beautiful some ordinary. Cardinals and sparrows singing their songs and nesting in our trees.

I’m certain we’ve had birds in our backyard in years past however I cannot remember ever seeing so many or hearing such an abundance of beautiful songs all day. I’ve mentioned it several times to Brad, and felt in my heart it must have some significance to our neighborhood.

I even began hearing an owl hooting morning and night, although it’s location eluded me. “An owl, in the city?!” I thought and smiled every time I heard him.

In the most recent weeks I’ve spent many mornings outside with Theo tending our south facing, front yard gardens. I observed a change in our streets. Different cars, less traffic and quieter nights. I wanted to believe these were good signs, but anxiety and fear of the “what if’s” still gripped me.

Last Saturday I photographed a romantic wedding of two wonderful people. I sat down in a seat at the edge of the aisle just as the minister began reading from Song of Solomon. I listened in between photographs and quickly realized these words were meant for me. Of course they were there for the bride and groom, but for some reason God intended for me to hear them at that exact moment and to know they were special. Tears welled in my eyes as I listened.

 

Ah, I hear my lover coming!
He is leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a swift gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he is behind the wall,
looking through the window,
peering into the room.

My lover said to me,
“Rise up, my darling!
Come away with me, my fair one!
Look, the winter is past,
and the rains are over and gone.
The flowers are springing up,
the season of singing birds has come,
and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.

The fig trees are forming young fruit,
and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming.
Rise up, my darling!
Come away with me, my fair one!”

It would be impossible for me to explain how much meaning this passage has for me. There are so many things I’ve felt over the years with an appearance in this passage.

We knew the winter was important. It was a time to make way for renewal.  “Look, the winter is past,”

Last summer, when I first heard Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zero’s song “All wash out” the lyrics struck me and I felt that rain was significant to the cleansing of our neighborhood. It became a song of comfort to me as we went through the long dry spell of summer.  “and the rains are over and gone.”

The verse of that really moved me was “The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.”. We have singing birds! Many singing birds this year! And gardens! Our yard is finally blossoming and growing into something beautiful and useful.

As if God could get any cooler, after the wedding Brad and I were leaving home to pick up the kids and saw three deer at the edge of our neighborhood, leaping in the air and playing as dogs would. We both looked at each other with mouths slightly ajar. We live 2 miles from downtown and I’ve never seen a deer this close to our house. “My lover is like a swift gazelle or a young stag.

This morning I began to google owls. I wanted to know what kind of owl we had living in our neighborhood and also if owls had any biblical significance. Not only could I not seem to place the call that I’ve been hearing to any one owl, the mention of owls in the Bible seem to have negative significance. With discouragement I kept looking.

Finally, at the bottom of one site I found it. The mourning dove can produce a call that is often mistaken for an owl. I listened to the youtube clip and, yes, that was the friend I’ve been hearing out our window.

I googled “mourning dove bible” and you’ll never believe what showed up first. A link to the second chapter of song of Solomon.

and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.”

I got goosebumps and started crying. God is here. Living and real. Evil is being defeated and goodness is rising up.

gardens in may.

 

This will be zinnias along the garage and red raspberries along the path.  hurrah!may2013-0152

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Hopefully this honeysuckle will keep our porch nice and shaded from the late afternoon sun.may2013-0178

 

 

And just for a fun reference, here is what our backyard looked like the first year we lived here.  Yikes.  Under those weeds was a nice layer of gravel.  I’d say we’ve made some progress.  4448_692766368604_860390_n

lament.

The rebirth of spring and warm weather has also brought the rebirth of illicit activity in our neighborhood.

For some reason every year I think it’s going to be different. I think it’s going to be gone. Eradicated by the cold and barren winter.

But every year, like clockwork, it returns.

Don’t get me wrong. Our neighborhood is changing and wonderful things have happened. But evil is still here. Still trying to grasp at those who feel they have no other choice.

The other night I felt such deep sorrow over this.

We’ve now owned this house for 4 years (March 30th was our buying anniversary!). We’ve seen the houses around us go from empty to filled. We’ve gotten to know the names of the people who walk by.

I can’t stop thinking about the boys who 4 years ago were just little boys. They wanted nothing more than to ride their bikes through the street, play basketball and cause a ruckus (as boys tend to do).

Now I see many of these same boys turned into men too early. The streets have won and they wear their red proudly. They walk up and down these streets with confidence and fear in the same stride.

They have turned from boy life to gang life.

I don’t blame them. What else do they know? They are being “recruited” as early as 10 years old. They are given money as bribes when they want to run to the store for a snack. They are given a false sense of safety that someone cares about them.

This world makes me sad beyond belief. The grief that wells up in me because of the choices that these boys make is so strong.

I want nothing more than for them to know the love that I did growing up. Perhaps if they had the love of a strong family they would know that there is more to life than this ghetto and selling drugs.

All I can do is pray for these men. These boys. Pray that our Lord lifts them up. That he shows them they can be so much more than this. That their life can be wonderful.

Will you join me in praying for these men? Pray that they have the confidence to go against the grain, to stand up for a life that is different and a life that is better.

Pray that they can have a new life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VI0Ffwt706w

(This video is crazy.  haha.  But I really love this song!)

watch us fly as loud as we can

I’ve started playing the guitar.

We scrapped the 40 day Lent food challenge (we were coming by the changes naturally already) so I decided to limit myself to one facebook check a day for Lent. And maybe forever. What a time waster and bad habit forming (Hi my name is Melissa and I am/was a compulsive checker) website it is.

With less facebook I have more free time in my mind and my day so I decided to teach myself to play guitar. Way back in our German Village days (think 2006) (ahh those were fun days) Brad taught me the four chords to play “Pour Out my Heart”. I learned them and then forgot to practice.

My desire to play has been growing and growing. Music can instantly change my mood and my day. In my head I told God that he would have to help me with this because I am not very musically talented. He agreed.

The past three weeks I’ve been teaching myself to play “Amazing Grace”. The first week was full of pain and finger misery. The second week was “HEY! It kind of sounds like a song…maybe I can do this!). The third week has been like, “HOLY CANNOLI! I can play and sing at the same time!”.

My entire life I’ve chalked myself up to not being a singer. I’ve never been able to carry a tune and I am in awe of people who can.

Brad and I occasionally worship together and I mousily sing along allowing his handsome voice to carry us through.

By week two of learning Amazing Grace I was beginning to notice that my voice was getting better. Theo and I had been spending a lot of time learning it together (me on guitar, him the words) and the more I sang the more confident I felt. The more confident I felt the better I thought I sounded.

Hmmm.

I even used my phone to record myself singing. Embarrasing but true.  I really wanted to know if it sounded as good to someone else as it did in my head. IT DID! I was in tune with the music! Hooray!

Tonight I sat in the bath reading Eugene Peterson and began to sing “Amazing Grace” because I can’t seem to get it out of my head these days. I noticed the clawfoot tub combined with the small room acoustics allowed me to hear myself as I really sound. As my voice carried up to the ceiling I realized something.

The more confidence I have the better I sing. The louder I sing the better I sound.

Then I thought,

The more confidence we have in Jesus the better we live. The louder we live the better we dwell.

Let us live in confidence and live that confidence loudly, all the rest will fall into place in a life spent with Jesus.

The Avett Brothers “Life” has been on repeat in my life for months now and the verse “Watch us fly as loud as we can” has been plastered on our chalkboard wall.

The other day Brad asked me how one “flies as loud as he can”. I laughed and told him it was a lyric but in my head thought “he just doesn’t get it”. But really, I didn’t either.

Now I feel like I’m learning to be loud. To stand up for what is right. To seek justice here on his Earth and for his kingdom. To advocate for what is good and just and right in this world. To seek beauty in the ugly. To turn the bad into good.

The times they are a changin’. For me anyways. The hope that we’ve had in God and this neighborhood is proving itself. Good things are happening. Beauty and light are shining and the darkness is passing away. “Flames can’t touch how time will prove it”.

We must begin to fly as loud as we can.

3.5 years later

**Note:  We are going to revamp SimplyOneLife.org soon because we feel the desire to start blogging again.  We want to change it to wordpress for ease of use so in the meantime I am writing on this wordpress blog to make it easier to transfer content:)

You may want to reference this blog post that we wrote in December of 2008, two months before the house became a reality.

We’ve dropped off the face of the earth when it comes to blogging how we are doing spiritually as well as what are doing physically in the house.  I know that a part of me felt like a failure because we weren’t doing any of things we had imagined we would once we got this house.

Only in the past 8 months or so do I feel like I’ve come to terms with a purpose for living here in this neighborhood. We are here to pray. To pray for the evil to be expelled in this neighborhood. To pray for the darkness to be turned into light.

“Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven, but getting God’s will done on earth. It is not overcoming God’s reluctance but laying hold of God’s willingness.”
Richard C. Trench

I do believe that we’ve had a physical impact on the neighborhood. We may not have set up tutoring and haven’t had a community of believers living under our roof but we have hung out with a dozen kids on our porch and had two friends live long term in our extra bedroom.

We have always desired to find a community of like-minded people to share this life with. Eventually, we found that among our friends. We don’t live together but we do spend time together in prayer and mutual encouragement.

Something that has always amazed me about this house is how comfortable people feel in it. I always feel as though I’m making excuses for it’s constant state of half-doneness…”Oh, I’m sorry, we’re working on this….” or “Oh, I’m sorry we still need to do this….” but nobody seems to care. On several occasions friends have told us how cozy and at home they feel here.  The peace of the Lord rests on this house and we are blessed to live in it!

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We’ve never tutored in our home but we have developed relationships with many of the neighborhood kids. We know most of them by name and there are afternoons in the summer spent sitting on the porch and talking with a group of them. Until it was stolen, we even had a basketball hoop that many of the boys played on.

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We’ve never taken on any large community enrichment projects but we’ve had friends help us clean up alleys and we’re trying our hardest to make the outside of our house look better. We’ve been so busy trying to fix up the inside of our house that we’ve neglected the outside although we are realizing how important it is to remove the blight from our own property in order to influence the rest of the neighborhood.  We hope to finally get to many of the outside projects next summer.

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We have had no community garden and have pretty much failed at even keeping our own garden tended. Oops. Maybe someday!

SPIRITUAL GROWTH! YES YES, YES! Oh how we’ve grown in patience, in love, and in kindness since we’ve lived here. A lot of crazy and crappy things have happened to us in this neighborhood and each time we see the perseverance of God overcome it! There’s nothing like physically seeing evil extinguished in the houses around you to lead you to believe that a difference can be made. PRAISE THE LORD!

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At times this house has seemed like a curse. I have spent hours crying and telling Brad that we can’t raise our kids here, that it’s not safe for them. I have cried over the worry that the dust in the air from our renovations is harming their tiny lungs. I have cried over the house that caught fire across the street, or the gunfire that rang out directly outside our bedroom window late one night. I have cried that this is just too hard. I have cried because the swat team raided the house across the street while I was pushing Theo in the swing. I have cried because our house is ugly and the rooms are falling apart despite the fact that we just fixed them up. I have cried because we have to call the police for the millionth time to report gunshots fired. I have cried because raising kids and renovating a house and living among such blatant evil seems like too much. But every time, every single time, God picks me up. He comforts me and plants my feet firmly on the ground. He tells me that he’s got my back and that if I just keep running in the path of his commands he will make my life perfect here on earth even if it means living a life full of hardship.

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