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.

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Breaking into Spring

As of 5:30 p.m. on Friday night, I have been on spring break, not just from school but also from work (both spring breaks happened to fall on the same week).

Saturday morning I started my break with a big breakfast, hosted by Justin Andrews. We ate delicious food, talked, and laughed. Then we meandered over to Anna’s going-away garage sale where I picked up a new bag (after straining under the weight of school books and notebooks for seven months, my old one finally snapped this week), a garlic press (hallelujah!), and an armful of beautiful fabrics.

From there Derek and I rode down to the library where I perused the shelves for some fiction to read (I find it so hard to find good fiction sometimes). Then we packed a picnic dinner and spent the evening at Loose Park, sitting under a budding apple tree. We ended the night with a movie (the second Jurassic park, if you must know; I’d never seen it and spent a decent percentage of it calling advice to the characters and gripping Derek’s arm).

On my list for the rest of this week off:

  • Go to the Kansas City Community Garden’s office and sign up for a membership.
  • Start our garden. I confirmed with the landlord this week that it’s still okay for us to plant one and posted a flyer by the mailboxes today inviting the neighbors to join me. My goal is to get the plot tilled and a temporary fence (to keep out animals — especially the neighbor’s dog) this week.
  • Start (and perhaps even finish) my observations for my child development case study (yes, I do plan on doing homework this week unfortunately).
  • Begin researching Reggio Emilio for my curriculum comparison project (and decide on my second curriculum focus).
  • Begin research for my program spotlight project.
  • Finish research for my risk factor project and write the paper.
  • Write eight activity plans for my curriculum class.
  • Write four activity plans for my internship class.
  • Set up my observations at Plaza de Ninos.
  • Finish reading, reviews, and application activities for my health, safety, and nutrition class.
  • Read fiction
  • Spend time outside (it’s supposed to be sunny and in the 70s for the first few days this week)
  • Catch up on letter writing (I have at least five that I’ve been meaning to write)
  • Make something creative (perhaps that toilet paper role wall hanging? Or some flowery branches for our dining room?)
  • Write a blog or two (maybe. No promises…)
  • Do laundry (and all that everyday stuff that still needs to happen).

Actually, now that I look at that list, I have quite a bit of homework to do. Ugh. But even so, I plan to spend time relaxing and enjoying break, too.

Unfortunately, my body seems to have it’s own plan of being sick this week….

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.

My Heart For Community

(My husband wrote this today. It speaks of the heart both of have for community so I wanted to share it here as well).

“I don’t normally write notes, but I read this today and I had to write about it. It is so much my heart for community and the way I see (or want to see) the church. You are tagged in this note because I consider you one of those who are on this journey with me…Does this ring true in your hearts as well?

‘The early church was built on small groups of people who came together to support one another in a whole new way of life. These primitive communities were visible evidence of an alternative to the status quo of their culture. Today we need small bands of people who take the gospel at face value, who realize what God is doing in our time, and who are living proof of what it means to be in the world but not of the world.

These ‘base’ communities or neighborhood churches should be small enough for intimacy, kindred enough for acceptance, and gentle enough for criticism. Gathered in the name of Jesus, the community empowers us to incarnate in our lives what we believe in our hearts and proclaim with our lips.

Of course, we must not romanticize such groups. It is all too easy to envision a cozy, harmonious little fellowship where everyone is tuned in on the same wavelength, to love the dream of community more than the sin-scarred members who comprise it, to fantasize heroic deeds for the Lord, and to hear the applause in heaven and on earth as we shape an angelic koinonia. The reality is otherwise. Egos collide, personalities conflict, power brokers intrude, anger and resentment surface, risk is inevitable. It is less like utopia than a crucible or refiner’s fire.

The experience of community is neither a luxury for the spiritually affluent nor a panacea (remedy) for the lonely, bored, and idle. It is, in fact, a necessity for every Christian. It is my personal conviction that this is what Jesus and Paul meant when they spoke of the church–small Christian communities praying and worshiping together, healing, forgiving, reconciling, supporting, challenging, and encouraging one another. Scott Peck says, ‘There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace–and ultimately no life–without community.’

We need a group of people around us who support and understand us. Even Jesus needed this. He called them ‘the twelve,’ the first Christian community. We need perspective on the present, so we pray together; we need accountability, so we share our lives with each other; we need a vision of the future, so we dream together.”

This is a quote from The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to ruin their life for the sake of Christ and His gospel. Please comment on this note, I want to hear what you think.”