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.

The Fruit of a Little Time Off

One of the perks of my current job is two full weeks off in August, followed by a week of meetings, orientations, and preparation for the fall semester. My family will be visiting for most of the second week (yes!), but this week I’ve found myself with more free time than I’ve had since I was unemployed last summer. I’ve squandered some of that time just relaxing — browsing pinterest, reading, and wandering through the park with my camera — but I’ve also done some babysitting, visiting with friends, and helping friends move.

I did take one one larger project this week as well: painting our kitchen. We had nearly a full gallon of yellow paint left from when we painted at the Tracy House (we over-estimated how much paint we would need for the living room there), so when we’ve talked about using it to paint the kitchen since we moved in — almost a year ago now — but never actually did it. In a fit of cleaning and organizing this week, though, I pulled out the paint and decided to go for it. I finished most of the kitchen in just a couple hours and then completed the rest today. Though it was a relatively small change, it really added some life and warmth to the space.

The kitchen before:

And after:

(This is probably the cleanest the kitchen has ever been, by the way, and perhaps the cleanest it ever will be)

Feeding the Hungry

Yesterday work started with a third grader pulling the fire alarm. The whole school evacuated to the back of the playground, amidst much grumbling from the teachers (this particular third grader has created a bit of a reputation for causing trouble). When his mom came to pick him up, she told us that she’s used to it and wasn’t even angry.

On the bus ride home, I talked with one of the other teachers about it and about how so many of the kids there are hungry for attention. Some are ravenous for it, willing to do anything to earn a moment of interaction. As teachers, we try to respond to their hunger – a little extra homework help, a moment together reading a book, a word of praise, an invitation to be our helper for a project – but with a whole class of kids clamoring for attention, we can only do so much for each one or the most part their hunger continues to rumble and erupt into broken toys, scattered crayons, and punched classmates.

When I came home, Angel and Bubba were there to greet me. I could hear the patter of their feet as soon as I walked in the door and by the time I reached the top of the stairs, Angel was peering over the top of the gate, calling out “Hello!” And there was that hunger again, staring at me with eager eyes and a bright smile. Not for dinner (they had just finished that), but for attention. Love.

Often I find that I’m still painfully dismissive of that hunger, reluctant to give up my own freedom and pursuits to pour out the time and attention they need. I’m not their mom, I reason. I have other things to do, work to finish, projects planned, books to read. Yet here I am, grumbling about parents who don’t pay attention to their kids, don’t try to teach them or form their character, and lamenting the shortage of people to give these kids the one on one attention they need, while at the same time retreating into my selfishness and dismissing the opportunity to pour into these kids who share our house. Isn’t that part of why we invited Shelby and her kids into our home, not just to give them a place to live but to bring them into family, to begin to fill the places of neglect and lack? Oh yes, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

So after dinner, I stayed downstairs. I read books to the kids. We colored together. We made a tent out of a blanket and then played peek-a-book. We ate freshly baked cookies (courtesy of Lindsay) in the kitchen and then cleaned up the toys together before bed.

It’s just a start. I can hear them running around downstairs now as I write, reminding me that to love them well requires ongoing, persistent, daily sacrifice. But this afternoon, as I prepare for work and think again of my kids there, I’m also reminded of the price we pay if we deny that sacrifice of love and the incredible worth of giving time to these little ones.

Trekking Home

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” (Nelson Mandela)

This past week we rented a car and made the long drive to Toledo, our first trip back since we moved to Kansas City. It was a short trip, just Wednesday through Sunday (and that includes driving time), jam-packed with as many visits with people as we could fit into that time frame.

It felt a bit surreal, coming back after eight months of building life half-way across the country. So much life happened for me there in Toledo. That first night we drove through the city, passing so many familiar places, remembering street names, flipping through memories like a photo book. Some things had changed since we were gone – a house or two painted new colors, a Sonic where we remembered a parking lot, a few businesses closed and a few more opened – but for the most part everything was the same as we remembered it.

On Thursday we drove up to Maybee to see my family, then up past Detroit to share Thanksgiving dinner with Derek’s sister’s family, then back to Maybee for the night. The next morning I wandered around the house – the house where I spent the first almost nineteen years of my life – while I waited for Derek to wake up. So much was the same as I remembered it being when I lived there – the same bookshelves, stacked with the same books and random knick knacks, a box I remembered sitting on my dresser years ago (now filled with rosaries), the photo I took of my sister when I was in high school still hanging on the wall, the cuckoo clock (unmoving and dusty now). Mixed in with all the old, familiar things were new additions since I moved out – a bigger TV, a Justin Beiber poster in my sister’s room, our wedding photos.

On Friday we visited my grandparent in Monroe, then drove south to have lunch with Derek’s mom in Bowling Green. On the way we stopped at the house where Derek was born and lived when he was little. It’s a used car lot now, but we wandered around a bit and Derek shared memories about the house. In an upstairs window, we noticed the same duck curtains that hung there when Derek and his brother shared that room.

On Saturday we celebrated the marriage of our friends, Tim and Theresa, with some of the old ACT crowd. After the reception, a group of us went back to the ACT House. The house looks a lot different now – new paint, new curtains, new furniture – but there we were again, gathered back in the living room where we shared so much time and life. It was kind of funny to gather there again, all of us grown up and scattered around the country now. Derek and I are married now and living in Kansas City (where we first visited with these same ACT friends). Chris and Katie will be married soon, as will Brittany (as well as several others from the old group). Daniel graduates next month and Sam graduates this coming spring. And Ginger is in Arizona, working full-time. Crazy. We sat and worshipped together for a while, Derek and Chris on guitar and the rest of us singing or humming along. As we worshipped, I was so struck by the love of God for us. Here we were, back in this place where I radically encountered God more than four years ago, where we became family and community, where we ran and stumbled and struggled together for that short, intense, and completely life-altering season. And though we’re scattered now, look at the way God has pursued us through it all! It was an incredible moment of reflecting on the goodness and faithfulness of God in the work He has done and continues to do in our lives.

So much of the trip was a return to familiar places. And yet, in some ways, everything was different. Perhaps most of all, Derek and I are different.

As we prepared for this trip, I spent time reflecting on how much I have changed in these eight months in Kansas City. The transition to a new city and new community engulfed our lives in a sort of refining fire, those first few months in particular, burning away lies, false perception, and old crutches, and then opening us up to the painstaking process of rebuilding the foundations of our hearts (still a work in progress), rooting and grounding us in the love of our Abba and the truth of who we are in Him. Our marriage has grown and changed so much, too, during this time, drawing us closer together in the transition and deepening our commitment to each other. I was excited to go back and share what God has done in us since we left. That growth must be more evident than I realized because several people commented on it, both on the deeper unity they recognized in our marriage and the greater freedom and steadiness they saw in me personally. Though I knew already that God had done a significant work in us since we left, it was encouraging and affirming to hear other people share how they saw that in us as well.

Our return to Toledo was also bittersweet in what it revealed about friendships we had there. There is a sense of distance that has crept into many of our friendships over the time and distance, a quiet moving on as we all enter new stages of life. I know it’s natural and inevitable, but I still grieve over it. Other friendships were as vibrant as ever, though. We stayed with our friends Jeff and Kristina – a beautiful couple that shares our love of worship, adoption, and creative things – and their two little boys (not so little as when we last saw them, though!). When we walked into their house, it felt like we’d only been gone a week. That night we stayed up until two in the morning, talking about their life in Toledo and our life in Kansas City, about community and ministry and how things change. We are so blessed by their friendship and still talk about how great it would be to live in community together someday. Saturday morning I shared coffee with Amanda and her mom and sisters. And Saturday night I talked for a long time with Katie, another one of the few friendships that seem immune to the erosion of distance and life shifting around us. I feel so blessed in that as well.

And somewhat unexpectedly, this trip confirmed the rightness of where we are right now, here in Kansas City with the Boiler Room. Often over the past eight months I’ve found myself homesick for the community I remembered in Toledo. Our visit back reminded me that, though I love the people there and everything God had done and continues to do in these communities, we are so blessed by the community and life we’ve found in Kansas City and everything God is doing with us here. It felt good to come home to Kansas City again.

Home. There’s that word again. What is home anyway? The place I was born? The places I grew up? My current address and place of residence? Perhaps it’s simply a place where I feel fully alive, less definable and mysteriously spread out over the country, popping up in unexpected places and moments.

So now we’re back in Kansas City again, the trip back smooth except for the jolting discovery that I left my purse – containing my wallet, my bible, my last two journals (only covering the last month and a half or so, thanks to my obsessive journaling tendencies), and both digital cameras I was given this weekend (is it strange that I feel worse about those than my wallet? :-P) at Subway in Effingham, IL. I called yesterday morning – after not getting through the night before when I realized it was gone (we think they must have just closed) – and the woman who answered hadn’t seen my purse but said she’d call if it turned up. I’m praying for a miracle there. In the meantime, I’m learning again what I truly can do without.

And Thanksgiving made me realize that we’re coming up on Christmas. We’ll be spending Christmas here in Kansas City this year, having used our traveling funds for this Thanksgiving trip. I’m actually excited about decorating the house (we have a 20 year old Christmas tree from freecycle and I plan to make some snowflakes and paper chains and perhaps a few other simple homemade decorations) and getting to establish Christmas traditions for our family, not to mention that we get to share them with Shelby and her kids this year.

A Flock of Color

When Derek and I first talked about colors for our new bedroom, we decided that we wanted something red in our room to go with the glorious gold. At first I thought I’d make some sort of flowers to set on a table or dresser (which I may still do), but then I remembered how much I like the look of origami birds (like these hanging in my sister’s room, or these, or the hundreds of birds hanging in the Starbucks on Main St.). There’s something beautiful about birds in general and when they’re made out of paper,they seem that much more delicate and beautiful.

So for the past week, I’ve folded birds in my spare moments. At first I was going to look for special papers, but then I remembered all the old magazines I had (for the paper collages that I sometimes make), so I have birds with crackers on them, birds with leaves, birds with Michael Jackson’s daughter’s feet (the magazine’s are a little outdated), birds with red rain boots, and birds with peaches, among other things, all with various shades of red.

Then Thursday night I laid them across our living room floor and begin to hang them, one by one, from a red piece of yarn.

I hung them in an empty corner of our bedroom and I really like how they turned out. Something about birds reminds me of freedom, and the bright red of the birds against our glorious gold wall reminds me especially of the freedom we have in Christ.

And they also remind me of Haiti and the hours I spent making bird after bird for the kids, like this little guy:

Home

After two days of painting (two long days – fourteen hours one day and seven hours the next), a day of carrying boxes and furniture up two flights of stairs, and several days of unpacking (including carrying boxes back down three flights of stairs to the basement)….we’re all moved in! Almost everything is unpacked and put away (just one more box to sort through…), paintings hung, books on the shelves.

As we pulled into the driveway Sunday evening with one of the final vanloads, the song “This is Home” by Switchfoot (from the Prince Caspian soundtrack) came on the radio. The timing was perfect and made us smile.

This is home. It’s true. Even before we moved in, this house began to feel more like home than anywhere we’ve lived since we got married.

That longing for home has been deep inside me for a while. Not a longing for the place where I grew up (which doesn’t really feel like home anymore) but that ache to put down roots somewhere. I remember one afternoon in particular, in the spring of 2007, sitting on a blanket in the sunshine in front of the Marwood house, longing to finally slow down, settle down, and make it home. I’d moved three times that past year and watched by life turn completely around. I felt constantly in transition. I felt worn out. I dreamed of a garden, of a cat, of putting little touches around the house to make it feel more like mine and not just a place I stayed. I was homesick for a sense of permanence. But at the same time, I was acutely aware of its lack of permanence, knowing that God was preparing to send me elsewhere. And though I stayed there for over a year after that (the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I moved out of my parents’ house), it never feel like home.

Home. It’s an interesting, complex word. What exactly makes somewhere home? What makes you feel like you’ve come home? The definition seems to encompass so much more than just the place you choose to live, your “usual residence”. One of the definitions on dictionary.com is “the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.” That edges a bit closer. It touches on our hearts. Something about the idea of home feels directly tied to our hearts, to where our hearts find refuge and belonging.

Maybe that’s why this feels like home already. Something about this house seems to invite our hearts to pursue their calling. It’s settled securely in a neighborhood in need of the transforming love of God, the kind of neighborhood we want to live and minister in long-term. We’re surrounded by life and community that welcomes guests, calls forth hospitality. When we walked around the neighborhood the other evening, I noticed at least four empty lots that could become a community garden. There’s a second bedroom next to ours on the third floor that could be filled with kids someday and a park down the street. And there’s the downstairs unit, occupied now, but perhaps someday (and here I’m just dreaming) we could rent that, too, for the daycare I plan to start or the neighborhood prayer room we’ve talked and dreamed about. It feels like we have room to dream here, room to grow. It feels less temporary.

But even here, though I feel more settled, more at home in this lovely old house, with it’s luxury of color (bright, cheerful colors with names like “honeybird”, “blue jewel,” and – my favorite – “glorious gold”), I’m reminded that, ultimately, this is not our true home. This home, beautiful and comfortable though it is, isn’t the ultimate goal. As Hebrews 11 talks about, we desire “a better homeland, a heavenly one” and Jesus is preparing our true home, even now (see John 14:2-3). Abba, help me hunger more deeply for that true, heavenly home!

In a way, it feels like this house, with its vibrant colors and ample sunshine, reminds me of that. It pulses with the invitation of God to come home, to our true home, our ultimate refuge, to come to Him where we truly find home. Even that first night, as I unpacked in the kitchen, my head was filled with pictures of sitting at the kitchen table, with coffee in hand, a bible open in front of me, and the morning light streaming onto the yellow walls. And so Tuesday morning, I sat with my bible and journal and talked to God about home. In the other room I could hear Derek playing guitar, his own bible and journal next to him. Perhaps (I hope) he feels that call home to our Abba, too.

Perhaps that’s the Word of God to us in this season: home. Even Tuesday night at prayer we prayed for home, for people in the city to find a sense of home. And in so many ways, I feel drawn to home here, home to God, home to our calling and purpose, home to who we were created to be, called to both make a home and find home, and to lead others home. It’s a nice feeling, a peaceful, I’m-finally-where-I-belong feeling of, well, coming home.

This Is Home – Switchfoot

 

I’ve got my memories
Always inside of me
But I can’t go back
Back to how it was
I believe you now
I’ve come too far
No I can’t go back
Back to how it was
Created for a place
I’ve never known

 

 

Chorus:
This is home
Now I’m finally
Where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I’ve been searching
For a place of my own
Now I’ve found it
Maybe this is home
Yeah, this is home

Belief over misery
I’ve seen the enemy
And I won’t go back
Back to how it was
And I got my heart set
On what happens next
I got my eyes wide
It’s not over yet
We are miracles
And we’re not alone

 

(Chorus)

 

And now after all My searching
After all my questions
I’m gonna call it home
I got a brand new mindset
I can finally see The sunset
I’m gonna call it home

 

(Chorus)

 

 

Now I know
Yeah, this is home
I’ve come too far

And I won’t go back
Yeah, this is home

And now, a few pictures of our new home….

Our bedroom:

The upstairs living room:

And the upstairs bathroom:

Goodbye Garden

I love our new home (which I plan to write about soon).

But I miss our garden already. I’m hoping that perhaps I can go back to work in it sometimes….

Time to Pencil in a New Address (and Other Changes)

I’ve tried to write this update several times over the past few weeks, but so much has been happening, both on the surface and internally, that it feels like my words are never going to catch up. But big changes are happening, so I’m going to throw this update out there anyways, incomplete as it is….

A house accustomed to community

“People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.”

More and more over the past few years, this line from “The Vision” by Pete Greig has felt like a tagline for my life. I’ve moved six times (including three states) in the past four years. And this weekend that number will be upped to seven times.

On Sunday (assuming we finish painting by then) we are moving in to the Tracy House, just a couple blocks east of Troost. We’ll be sharing an upper duplex with two other women, a baby (yes!), and a guy. Our bedroom will be on the third floor, with a small living room and a not-so-small bathroom that we’ll share with the guy, while the girls are on the second floor.

We started talking about the possibility of this the same weekend that both our jobs ended and it feels like a good fit in so many ways. Historically Troost has been Kansas City’s dividing line between the black and white neighborhoods, between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the underprivileged. The neighborhoods east of Troost have a reputation of violence, crime, drugs, broken homes, and bad schools (we found some pretty sobering statistics). Which is exactly the kind of neighborhood we’ve been yearning to live in, exactly the kind of place we feel called to.

Not only that, but we’ll be living in community, praying together, ministering together, sharing meals, sharing life. Yes. It feels like a solid step towards a myriad of things we’ve had tucked away in our hearts for a while.

In some ways, the Tracy House already feels more like home than any place we’ve lived since we got married, maybe because it’s a house accustomed to community. We’re looking forward to adding some of our own touches to it, too, like painting upstairs (the living room, the bathroom, and our bedroom). I’ve never lived somewhere where I’ve been able to pick paint colors. It’s just a little thing, but it makes me excited (we have a collection of bright, cheerful paint swatches of blues and yellows sitting on our side table right now and I’ve been scouring the internet for paint deals).

Now we just need to pack (luckily, moving so often has encouraged me to simplify on a regular basis)….

Collaborating

Along with the move into the Tracy House, we’re also planning on joining a new “leadership collaborative” at the Boiler Room. The purpose of the collaborative is “developing and equipping leaders in the Boiler Room to extend the kingdom of God in Kansas City and beyond.” Each person in the collaborative will choose a “kingdom assignment,” some sort of project in prayer, mission, or justice, according to their specific gifting and calling (for Derek and I this will probably involve some combination of neighborhood ministry, community living, hospitality, prayer, and possibly a community garden), and explore the question: “Who am I called to love and how do I love them well?”. Together the group will walk through the process of starting and developing these projects. We’ll meet weekly for prayer, worship, friendship, encouragement, accountability, and strategic input. We’ll also be going through teaching on developing a right, kingdom-centered perspective on God, ourselves, and the world, as well as looking at our own personal callings, how God has interacted with us I our lives, and how He’s shaping us as ministers and leaders. It sounds like good stuff.

This will be their first time doing something like this so we’ll join 15-18 people in a sort of test run of the program. It’s just a part time commitment, so people have the option of still working and going to school at the same time (Derek will still be working at the Roasterie and I’m continuing to look for work).

When Derek first told me about the collaborative, I was a little hesitant about it. It sounded great, but it sounded like they were inviting pioneering type people who wanted to walk out a specific call. To be honest, I wasn’t sure we were the kind of people they were looking for. I mean, yes, we had all these dreams on our hearts for community and incarnational ministry among the urban poor….but we were living in Brookside, working our normal jobs and not walking in any of those things. We weren’t even making definite plans to walk in them any time soon. They were just ideas, just dreams for someday.

But we prayed about it. And our jobs ended. And things opened up with the move to the Tracy House. And then several weeks ago we met with Wendy Andrews and several other girls who might be joining the collaborative as well to go over the preliminary plan for it (which has changed already, but anyway…). As we listened, something deep inside me stirred with a resounding “YES!”

The building of a bridge of faith

So here we go, moving forward. A lot of the details are still fuzzy and I don’t know exactly what it will look like here to begin walking in the things we’re called to, but this move and this collaborative feel like steps in the right direction. I believe God will bring clarity as we continue to step forward.

I’m reminded of a reflection I read a couple weeks ago, so I’ll end with that:

“The Lord never builds a bridge of faith except under the feet of the faith-filled traveler. If he builds the bridge a rod ahead, it would not be a bridge of faith. That which is of sight is not faith.

There is a self-opening gate which his sometimes used in country roads. It stands fast and firm across the road as a traveler approaches it. If he stops before he gets to it, it will not open. But if he will drive right at it, his wagon wheels press the springs below the roadway, and the gate swings back to let him through. He must push right on at the closed gate or it will continue to be closed.

This illustrates the way to pas every barrier on the road to duty. Whether it is a river, a gate, or a mountain, all the child of Jesus has to do is to go for it. If it is a river, it will dry up when you are near enough to it, and are still pushing on. If it is a mountain, it will be lifted and cast into a sea when you come squarely up without flinching, to where you thought it was.

Is there a great barrier across your path of duty just now? Just go for it, in the name of the Lord, and it won’t be there.” (Henry Clay Trumbull, quoted in Streams in the Desert, p. 202)

On Days Like Today….

I really miss….

....going to Wildwood

.....with these people

....and these people

.....and going to the Botanical Gardens

....with these crazy people

....and her of course

....not to mention hanging out on Peak St.

....with all our neighbors

....including these lovely kids

....and porch sitting

Yes, I am admittedly homesick for Toledo today.