What I Like

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I like color and light.
I like white walls and bright floral patterns.
I like vintage dishes and quilts.
I like worn wood and cotton fabric.
I like house plants and vases of fresh flowers.
I like front porches and window seats and neatly-organized bookshelves.
I like dangly earrings and paper crafts, branches and handmade things, quiet and words.
I like photography and stories about relationships and comfortable shoes.

I have not always known what I like, though. Growing up, I wore mostly hand-me-down clothes and ate whatever was served to me (though I discovered early on that I did not like liver or lentils). I shared a room with at least two of my sisters until I moved away to college, the look of our bedroom dictated by the number of beds and dressers we had to fit in it and the flowered wallpaper that came with the house.

Only in adulthood did I really start the process of discovering what I like…what I like to wear, what I like to eat, what I like my home space to include. Over the past two years especially, as I nested in our first apartment together after community living, I began to explore “my style”. I browsed pinterest*, read through blogs, and saved photos of spaces and things that I found beautiful. I began to give away things that I owned that I did not really like. As I explored what I liked, I experienced a beautiful unfolding of who I am and how God has uniquely created me.

When Maggie invited us into her house, then, I started dreaming up ideas for how to set up and decorate this space, how to make it beautiful and welcoming. I created a pinterest board full of ideas of furniture and color palettes I liked with the blue-green of the walls, mostly full of golden yellows, rich reds, and burnt oranges, offset by plenty of bright white and patterns. I browsed craigslist somewhat obsessively for a colorful rug, became unreasonably wrapped up in the choice of curtains, and secretly looked forward to the day when the marble table would move out of the front hallway. After years of living in spaces where these sorts of things were already decided for me, I clung tightly to my new-found ability to decide what I liked.

When Lyric moved into the house two months after we did, she brought with her lots of copper, stone, clay, velvet, stained glass, and dark wood – in many ways the opposite of the bright colors, simple textures, and whimsical patterns that I loved and had envisioned for this space. A part of me was reluctant to see those darker colors and heavy textures dispersed throughout the house. What if people thought that was my style, that I really liked those things?

But over the past couple of weeks, as we have unpacked and reorganized the house together, I have discovered that this is what I like.

I like creating a space that makes people feel welcomed and at home (which for Lyric includes making space for the things she loves, too).
I like organizing and decorating side-by-side, brainstorming together about what to do with a space.
I like wandering through the aisles of the thrift store and holding up items that we think the other would appreciate.
I like the give and take that community asks of me, the stretching it requires.
I like that loving one another can look like a stained glass candle next to a vintage bottle full of zinnias.

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*I have found pinterest pretty handy in the process discovering and articulating what I like because it allows me to organize ideas in such a visual way.

Good Soil

I realized recently that I never posted much – or anything, really – about our garden this year. Any moments this spring when I might have written about it were instead engulfed in schoolwork, weddings, moving, and traveling.

The garden was part of the initial vision and invitation for this house. When Maggie bought the house, the entire backyard was a big expanse of blacktop, the former parking lot for a business that once used the house for its offices. But Maggie, with her farmer’s heart and a desire to see land restored, saw beyond the blacktop. After she bought the house, she had the pavement broken up and removed and fill dirt trucked in. She built pathways sectioning the garden into four square plots and sectioned off a row in the back for berry bushes.

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Over scones, Maggie and I sketched out ideas for how to divide the space, listed available tools, meticulously wrote out conditions for participating in the garden, and brainstormed a list of friends who might want to garden a piece of the land this first year. She accompanied me to the Kansas City Community Gardens where I picked out an armful of seeds – spinach, lettuce, kale, beets, bush beans, black-eyed peas, zucchini, pumpkins, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, marigolds, and zinnias – and ordered sweet potato, raspberry, and blackberry plants.

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And then Maggie moved to France, leaving the garden and our plans in my hands.

Derek and I spent a chilly Saturday in late April, just weeks after our last snow storm, spreading compost, tilling the garden, and planting the earliest seeds. As my rubber boots squelched in the gray mud, sodden from the rainy spring, and the tiller stuck in the thick clay of the soil, I struggled to imagine how anything could grow in that space. Even so, when our friend Lebeka (now our newest housemate) joined us to help spread compost and plant seeds and as everyone who planned to participate in the garden stopped by during the day to work in their own plots, I felt hopeful about the garden and the relational fruit that might grow from it, even if no vegetables or flowers flourished.

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Despite the initial sense of hopefulness that sprung out of that first planting day and the literal sprouts of vegetables that followed soon after, discouragement soon burgeoned as well as I watched nearly all of what I planted struggle to grow at all in those first couple months. I learned firsthand the importance of good soil as I watched the heavy clay of the soil fall aside in solid chunks whenever I dug into it with my trowel and witnessed the pools of water that settled on the surface around the plants before drying into a solid, impenetrable crust. No matter how much I weeded, watered, and mulched, the plants struggled to thrive. They simple couldn’t. Their delicate roots couldn’t push through the heavy clay and even with the compost we mixed in before we planted (too little, we realized), the plants couldn’t access the nutrients they needed. In those conditions, they quickly began to starve. Many of the sprouts soon withered and yellowed and what remained of our spinach went to seed before it grew even two or three inches high.

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I felt tempted to give up on the garden, to wait and start fresh the next year with more compost or perhaps even with raised beds that bypassed the soil entirely. But instead I began loosening the soil around each row of plants before watering to allow the water to seep deeper down. I sprinkled nitrogen-rich chicken manure fertilizer around my kale, lettuce, and beets to provide more nutrients. I dug out the dirt around all my pepper and tomato plants and replaced it with compost from our compost pile. As I began to give the plants the air, water, and food they needed, slowly they began to revive and grow.

Now, over four months after we first planted the first seeds, I have a bowl full of fresh tomatoes on the counter and a jar of perfectly dried black-eyed peas in the pantry. I have eaten one zucchini (bugs and bacteria consumed the rest of my squashes) and stir fried green beans and gypsy peppers. We have more kale than we can eat and vases of zinnias adorn several rooms in our house. A fall crop of spinach, kale, beets, and arugula is already sprouting and just yesterday I noticed that several of our bell peppers are finally starting to blush red. I have weeded, watered, planted, and harvested in the garden alongside friends and had some hard, stretching conversations about use of the space and tools.

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The garden (and the relationships within it) are still far from perfect, but when I remember the parking lot that covered that space when Maggie first showed me the house less than nine months ago, I can see that life has undoubtedly grown out of that space, with even more restoration to come.

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Trusted Stewards

This week our friend Maggie arrived back from France to settle into the house for the next month while she works out her visa to return to France.

In the days leading up to her return, I found myself walking through the house, sweeping, organizing, cleaning, arranging. Remembering our experience moving into the house just a few weeks ago and our sense of unwelcome (unintended though it was), I wanted Maggie to feel welcomed into her house when she returned. As I prepared for her, I realized how much I value creating a sense of welcome in a space and as I looked around the room she would use, I asked myself, “How would I feel, coming into this space?” I put fresh sheets on her bed with a bright blanket folded on the end. I dusted and swept the room, added a chair in the corner, and opened the curtains to let in sunlight. On the bedside table, I set up a welcome home note and a small vase of fresh flowers. I hoped that each of these little details would speak “Welcome” to her.

My desire for Maggie to feel welcome motivated most of these actions, but as the morning of her arrival came, I finally put my finger on another emotional pushing me to clean and organize:

Fear.
(Still such as ever-present motivator in so many ways.)

I was afraid of what she would think of the house, her house, of the way we had cared for it, of the way we chose to live here. What if it was not clean enough, organized enough? What if she didn’t like how we arranged things or the colors we chose or the way we hung things on the walls? In the months leading up to our move, Maggie had invited us in, advocated for us, and blessed us in who we are, but as stewards of her house, would we live up to her expectations and her trust? Though I had worked hard over the past few weeks to clean and organize and had carefully chosen each thing we added, would it be enough?

As I put a name to these fears and wrenched them into the light, I wondered how to steward this space well without living out of fear and striving.

I turned to the parable of the talents (found in Matthew 25:14-30) as I waited for Maggie’s arrival, re-reading it with eyes fresh from our current situation and reflecting on what it says about stewardship. I realized that by entrusting his property to the three servants, the master in the story was indicating a level of trust in each one of them already. The parable does not say anything about the master telling the servants what to do with the talents or even that he expected them to invest these talents to produce more. Instead the servants found them selves free to use their own judgment, creativity, and ideas to care for what they had been given. While the first two servants did just that, though, the third servant clearly did not feel that same freedom. Why? Because he falsely viewed the master as a hard mad, exacting and unjust. Perhaps he even resented the responsibility of caring for something that would never be his. So he simply preserved what he had been given, believing that in doing so he had fulfilled his responsibility as steward.

The ability to steward something well, then, seems to come (at least in part) from an awareness of the trust that we have been given already and the freedom we have to function out of that place of trust. Do I feel free to steward this house creatively, to invest what I have been given? My level of uncertainty about whether I measure up to Maggie’s expectations and standards suggests that my day-to-day life is still tinged with more fear than freedom.

But the invitation to step into that freedom is there. I am trusted to steward here, to care for the space, to make decisions, to use it well. Trusted to choose curtains, hang pictures, and plant flowers. More importantly, trusted to help choose who will live here alongside us. I suspect that these coming months will push me closer to the reality of that trust and the freedom that springs from it.

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A House Where I Cannot Hide

On Friday, after a full day of countless trips up and down stairs, plenty of sweat, but thankfully no rain, Derek and I moved out of our apartment and into a nearby house owned by our friend Maggie.

For the past two years, our apartment has been a place of sanctuary for us after the chaos and heartache of the Tracy House. I felt more than a little reluctant to leave this sanctuary and jump into community living again, but as we prayed and considered Maggie’s invitation to move into her house and serve as house parents for the Vision Course students who would live there. I could feel God prodding at those still-raw places of hurt and frustration from our last experience in community. In the past two years of school and busyness, those hurts had lay mostly dormant, but God does not let those things rest indefinitely. He desires wholeness and right relationship for us and does not settle for partial healing. In Maggie’s invitation, I felt the Lord’s invitation as well to walk with Him through that process of healing.

Even recognizing this invitation from the Lord, though, I felt twinges of fear at the thought of living in community. In the weeks leading up to our move, people often asked me if I was excited for the move. I was, in some ways, but truthfully I was (and am) far more afraid than excited.

I am afraid of being annoyed with dirty dishes piling up in the sink.
I am afraid of growing frustrated with unexpected guests.
I am afraid of not being able to rest or enjoy quiet in my home.
I am afraid of overreacting to little things.
I am afraid of feeling pushed aside or disregarded.
I am afraid of miscommunication and conflict.
I am afraid of being rejected.

In short, I am terrified of moving into a place where my brokenness and humanity is laid bare and impossible to hide.

But that is part of the invitation in this season, the point in moving back into community: to learn to embrace those broken places, to expose them, to bring them before the Lord and receive healing, to experience the reality of God’s acceptance of me even in those places.

So even in the face of my fear, I am choosing to unpack and settle into a house where I cannot hide, to lay all of myself before God and learn to walk with him into my broken places.

Made for Community

Sunday marked the beginning of a new year, which means flipping calendars and, if you’re like me, the beginning of a season of scribbling out dates until I finally remember to write the correct year.

Sunday also marked my last shift at the breakfast restaurant. Several weeks prior I was offered a job as a support teacher at an early childhood education center, mostly working with infants and toddlers. I jumped into the classroom the day after I was hired, soaking up as many hours of experience as I could fit in before I took responsibility for my own extended day classroom this Tuesday. It marked the end of working every Saturday and Sunday, opening up my weekends again.

Despite how much I hated working every Sunday morning, I found myself reluctant to leave the job. Part of it was a reluctance to make yet another transition (we’ve had so many in the past couple years). When Sunday afternoon came, I lingered a bit, trying to figure out how to say goodbye to coworkers who I spent hours with every week but who were not necessarily friends in the sense that they had no place in the rest of my life (am I the only one who finds this a bit awkward?).

That afternoon, as I enjoyed my rest at home, I pondered why I found it hard to leave that job. It wasn’t that I was particularly attached to the restaurant business (though I do love hospitality). Then that still, small voice said simply:

“Because you were made for community.”

I was made for community. Indeed. That simple phrase opened up my perspective. Looking back, I recognized that I have spent a lot of my life feeling alone, so when I find pockets of community, I cling tightly to them. Even surface communities, where the closest ties are merely proximity and we share little of our lives, feed that desire for community. For the past five months I spent more time at the restaurant than anywhere else and I did develop a sense of community there that I sorely missed elsewhere in that busy season of school and work that left little time for anything else.

In a small way, it reminded me of the power of meal-sharing in building a sense of community and acceptance. Though we did not share full meals, there were early morning breakfasts before the customers arrived, sampling the chef’s daily specials, and gathering with the other servers to eat miscooked meals that couldn’t be served to the customers. Even in these brief moments of chatting between bites, I saw how sharing food brought people together, even people who were very different from one another with a wide variety of backgrounds and lifestyles. It reminds me of Brennan Manning’s insights on the power of meal-sharing in A Glimpse of Jesus, in the chapter titled “Healing Through Meal-Sharing”: “In the East, to share a meal with someone is a symbol of peace, trust, brotherhood, and forgiveness; the shared table is a shared life. To say to an Orthodox Jew, ‘I would like to have dinner with you,’ is understood as ‘I would like to enter into friendship with you’” (Manning, A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-Hatred, p. 54).

But I also recognize that a surface sense of community like I experienced at work will never satisfy my desire for true, Christ-centered community. It remains only a shadow of the depth of relationship that God desired among His people and – even more importantly – the communion we were made for with Him. We are made for deep relationships that push deep beyond the surface, that open up our lives to be vulnerable with one another, that carry one another’s sorrows and joys, and that sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron. A surface sense of joint activity will never satisfy the ache for community like that.

I was made for community. Not surface community, not just shared activity, certainly not the facebook version, but true, deep community. This year, as I transition into a new season, I want to intentionally pursue relationship, giving it greater space in my life again.

(P.S. I don’t really do New Year’s resolution, but if I did, I would probably also resolve to blog more this year, so you may be hearing from me more regularly again. Maybe.)

A Sabbath Cleaning

Recently I’ve become more and more aware of how much my environment affects my ability to rest and feel at peace. I thrive when I have steady rhythms of life, sufficient quiet time each day, meaningful relationships, colorful surroundings, lots of sunlight. And a clean kitchen.

First thing in the morning, after I shower and get dressed, I start heating water for coffee and then clean the kitchen (Derek shakes his head and says that’s why we’re different; he needs about an hour to wake up before he does anything remotely productive and cleaning the kitchen is the last thing he’d think to do early in the morning). Depending on the state of the kitchen when I walk downstairs, my coffee may be cold before I finally sit down to drink it. But I know that if I don’t clean first, I’ll be distracted by the dirty dishes and crumbs on the table and won’t be able to rest and focus during my quiet time.

This poses a significant challenge for me living in community because I can’t control other people’s standards of cleanliness (don’t think I haven’t tried…) and rarely do I live with a group of people that cleans as often and as meticulously as I would like. I long to make our home a place of sanctuary and rest, a haven of peace and welcome – ideals that erode in the midst of clutter and chaos. Little things like dirty dishes in the sink and socks in the hall lodge in my daily routine like pebbles in a shoe, an irritation that escalates the longer I walk with it. Often I retreat up to my room because I know that at least it will be clean and orderly there (did I mention that I clean my room every day before I clean the kitchen? Well, I do).

So today I came home from church feeling particularly disgruntled and disoriented (we arrived home from our trip last week in the midst of four or five major transition, enough to make me feel like I am wallowing in a mire of change). I surveyed the dirty breakfast dishes in the sink, the mound of clean dishes balanced precariously in the drainer, the hardened food splattered across the stove top, and all sorts of crumbs and crud on the table, counters, and floor, and I tied on an apron and set to work. I cleaned the whole kitchen and then cooked dinner for tonight and tomorrow (pumpkin soup and homemade yeast bread for tonight, rice salad with eggplant and tomatoes for tomorrow).

And you know what? I feel more rested and peaceful than I have in days.

Now I’m sitting in the evening sunlight, writing and watching the soup simmer as the baking bread fills the kitchen with a warm, yeasty aroma. And, if I’m really honest, I’m also watching the kitchen so it stays clean, at least for a little while.

Meet Lindsay

I’ve meant to share a link to this blog for months, but somehow never did. Lindsay is one of our fellow Tracy House members and probably one of the most passionate, faith-filled, evangelistic people I’ve ever known.  She can also make a mean green smoothie and has a knack for putting words to the faces and lives we encounter in this community. Check out her blog here

What’s Cooking Good Looking?

(note: I’m chuckling/wincing at the cheesiness of that title. But I can’t come up with anything more creative right now, so there it stays)

I know I haven’t been writing much lately (more because of lack of time than lack of things to write about) but I have been cooking a lot.

Several weeks ago Derek and I sat down with our budget and decided we needed to go back to buying our own groceries to have a little more control over what we spend on food each week (rather than doing mostly community groceries like we had been, which was getting expensive and usual didn’t cover all the essentials for the week). So for the past three weeks, I’ve been making a weekly menu and doing our grocery shopping.

Now, instead of half-heartedly rummaging through the refrigerator and cupboard when I get home from work to see what I can possibly throw together quickly, I’ve been making dinners in the mornings so Derek has something to eat when he comes home from class and I don’t have to worry about it when I get home from work. I’ve been spending more time cooking, but trying new recipes and enjoying being a little more creative with what I make. It’s been refreshing, actually, having things planned out like that.

I’ve tried a number of new recipes in the past few weeks, but I’ll just share the one (based off of this recipe but altered to fit what I had and like) for Guinness stew that I made for our date night. Derek is a fan of beef and Guinness, so this made his list of top recipes recently:

Guinness Beef Stew

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean beef stew meat, cubed
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper to taste (I used seasoned salt)
dash of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 c. Guinness (or other stout  beer)
2 large onions, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. rosemary, crushed

Directions:

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet. Dredge the meat in the flour mixture, then brown on all sides in the oil. Transfer the meat to a crock pot. Add about a cup of water to the skillet where you browned the meat and bring it to a boil, scraping the pan. Add this to the crock pot as well, along with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours (I did a combination of the two).

A Story of Limitations

“Because there are more people than we have time or strength to see personally and care for, it is imperative to remember that it is not sinful to be finite and limited.” (Edith Schaeffer, quoted in Making Room, p. 132)

These past few weeks I’ve come right up to the hard wall of my own limitations. I may have even banged my head against it once or twice.

It began on a Monday night, when I joined the Boiler Room community for a night of prayer and worship. As people sang and danced around me, rejoicing in the joy of the Lord, I curled myself up in a corner of the room and tried to cry out a weighty ball of frustration and anxiety.

I had spent that morning babysitting the kids, forfeiting my quiet time for a constant stream of activity. I love being with the kids, but that day I just felt drained. Then there was a last minute scramble to find another babysitter to take over when I left for work because the one who was supposed to come couldn’t find her keys. And then work that afternoon was…chaos. Kids throwing crayons, beating each other up, cussing (my preschoolers use more profanity than I do….), and even pulling down their pants to show off their underwear to the class (one boy started it and the next thing I knew, five more had followed his example). I did a fair amount of yelling and left feeling like a pretty crappy teacher.

But as bad as that Monday was, the real problem was that it perched precariously on top of several weeks of packed days (snow days and all). My weekends, when I usually take time to rest, were particularly crammed with activity, filled to the brim with good things – time with friends, creative projects, prayer meetings, hospitality, community gatherings, and meals with people – but filed nonetheless, with barely an hour anywhere to sit down and breathe.

After about four weeks in a row of this, I began to wear thin. I felt starved for real rest, longing for days and days on end with nothing scheduled. Even when I found myself with some time to potentially sit down and be quiet, I was so wound up with everything that needed to happen, that I felt an inability to wind down enough to rest, much less to really go deep with the Lord.

This wasn’t a new place for me. I hit a similar spot when I lived at Lewis House. When I moved into Lewis House, I left my job to do ministry “full-time” and threw myself in with everything I could muster: time, resources, passion, everything. I knew that a missional lifestyle required sacrifice, so I set my heart to give give give until there was nothing left to give. I wanted to be fully devoted to what I was doing with the ministry, so I felt guilty if I took time for myself. In that process I set aside a lot of things that I enjoyed – reading, writing, art, and even many of my friendships (and just ask Derek how fun it was to be in a relationship with me during that season). As it turns out, it didn’t take that long until I reached that point where I had nothing left to give and increasingly withdrew from truly engaging with the people around me.

Since then, God has taught me a lot about learning to rest and finding my identity in Him rather than in all my doing, but now that I’m back in a place of ministry and intentional community, that temptation to cram my time full of doing is back. I don’t want to run hard and then burn out again so I have to withdraw for months. I want to live a sustainable life, not just sustainable as far as physical resources go but also emotionally and spiritually sustainable. I want to pace myself to run for the distance.

So following that Monday night, I closeted myself away in my room for a good portion of the week, skipping out on several corporate gatherings and trying to hash out what boundaries I needed to set for myself. I read ahead in Making Room by Christine Pohl (a book on the Christian practice of hospitality that I’ve been working my way through) to the chapter on the limits, boundaries, and temptations of hospitality. It reminded me that this need for boundaries is common in the practice of hospitality and that “Boundaries help define what a household, family, church, or community holds precious” (Making Room, p. 136).

I still wrestled with it, though, because I didn’t want to set so many boundaries that I was no longer open to the opportunities to meet the Lord in the midst of this life. God has challenged me, in the past and especially more recently since Shelby and the kids have moved in, to be available, to be fully present where I am. There’s sacrifice in being present and a constant temptation to hold myself back, whether literally or emotionally, and only give so much.

And yet, if I’m overbooked, rushing from one thing to the next, how can I hope to be fully present in any given moment? When I burn myself out, my capacity to love or even just my ability to be with people is diminished. If I don’t take time for adequate rest and renewal, time to nourish my own life and spirit, the quality of what I do is weakened.

So I have been reflecting on where I’m called right now and what specifically I’m called to do, trying to set some boundaries and cut things from my schedule where I can. In particular I’m trying to guard a place of Sabbath rest.

In all this, though, I’m realizing that what I really want is to live out of the presence of God, not out of a string of frenzied activity or simply following good principles. Ultimately, I want my boundary to be that I’ll do when He says to do and rest when He says to rest, that all that I do will come in joyful obedience to the prompting of God. Because it’s only in God’s will that I can truly rest in freedom. I’m not free simply because I’ve set all the write boundaries or opened up space in my schedule; I’m free in relationship with my Abba.

I am also reminded of the chapter in Punk Monk that talks about the ancient art of breathing, the balanced rhythm of time with God and time ministering to others out of that place. In it Pete Greig writes:

“As we seek to establish a life-dynamic that balances prayer and action, receiving and giving, being and doing, we must remember that the priority is always the inward breath. Adam was mere dust until God first breathed into his nostrils. Likewise, a newborn baby cannot cry until she has taken her first great gulp of air, a breath that unfurls her lungs like a sail and begins a process that will last as long as her life. The midwife knows that nothing else is more urgent than that first breath – everything else in life will flow from there. In just the same way, as we seek to develop a rhythm of life, we cannot breathe out God’s life and God’s dreams through the kinds of hospitality, mission and justice described in this book, until we have first breathed them in by being with Him….We are called to be fruitful (see John 15), but only by being rooted in Jesus. We are commanded to go and preach the gospel (see Matt. 28), but first we must come to Jesus’ side.” (Pete Greig, Punk Monk, p. 93-94)

So right now I’m stepping back, becoming more acquainted with my limitations and learning to breathe in God’s presence and the deep grace that meets me in the midst of my weakness.

“Because this is, perhaps, part of what sets us apart from “the world”: that we don’t knock ourselves out, but are people able to be still and know our humanity.” (my blog friend Brooke, in “the obligatory new year reflections”)

Valentine’s Day

I have a more serious blog (or two….or three….) brewing right now, but in the meantime, here’s a bit of our valentine’s day celebration….

I generally don’t get too caught up in the commercial Valentine’s Day hype. When I was younger, though, I used to spend the weeks leading up to Valentine’s day, making stacks of valentines for my family and friends. Being so far from my family (and many friends) this year, though, I decided to revive that tradition. I like the idea of taking that time to make something to show my family in particular that I’m thinking about them and care about them.

So I made and sent out a stack of Valentine’s:

I also made one for each of my housemates:

And some Valentine’s Day cookies for my kids at school (who were a little hyped up on sugar that day already :-P), as well as for Derek and Shelby, who like sweet stuff (I made vegetable risotto with organic vegetable broth, spinach, and brown rice for Lindsay and Myles, who like healthier stuff):

As for celebrating with Derek, Mondays he has class most of the day (except for a couple hours in the afternoon while I’m at work), so our options were limited. I wanted to let him know how much I love spending every day with him, though, and left him small cards throughout the day: with his coffee in the morning, in his backpack, and with lunch (including some cookies).

And finally, a blanket tent in our room to surprise Derek when he got home, inspired by this post (a bit cheesy, perhaps, but I thought it might be a fun and creative way to relax with Derek when he got home).

The next morning Derek took me out for breakfast, which was a treat (my dad used to take us out for breakfast on our birthday and I think I still prefer it to going out to lunch or dinner):