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.

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.

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)

Windows to My Soul

They say dreams are the windows of the soul–take a peek and you can see the inner workings, the nuts and bolts. – Henry Bromel

The other day Derek and I were talking about the dreams we have for our family (a good thing to do periodically) so I thought I’d share some of the dreams on my heart. Some of these I’ve found already, but some are hopes for the future (in no particular order):

– I dream of making a home for our family and opening wide the doors to share it.

– I dream of a big house, with room for lots of people to gather, and a guest room for visitors. I dream of a welcoming home.

– I dream of a spacious kitchen where I can cook and can and talk with lots of people (it’s not so much about the food as it is about the fellowship).

– I dream of a garden – preferably a community garden where I can work alongside friends and neighbors – and local farmers markets in the summer.

– I dream of an endless pot of coffee to share with visitors (of whom there will be many), along with fresh baked bread and a pot of soup simmering on the stove in the winter and fresh fruits and vegetables from the aforementioned garden in the summer.

– I dream of a prayer room open al the time, where I can invite people to come and meet with this amazing God I know.

– I dream of quiet times with God in the soft morning light. I dream of a quiet corner in our home – and our lives – set aside to meet with Him.

– I dream of kids to fill our big house. I dream of our own kids, but also foster kids and adopted kids, and neighborhood kids coming to us and finding love and acceptance.

– I dream of our lives lived as ministry, loving the least of these, the unlovable, the broken and orphaned.

– I dream of friends within walking distance so I can run over and visit and they can spontaneously visit us.

– I dream of friends who will cook with me and make things with me, friends who love to use their hands creatively to make something of what is on hand, to draw beauty out of everyday, seemingly ordinary things, to transform the old and make it new. I dream of friends who share my desire to see this same reality in the spirit, too, who long to see lives transformed and made new.

– I dream of a community of people who gather together to pray for and with each other, sharing their joys and sorrows, triumphs and weaknesses. I dream of a community that worships together and reads God’s word and who actively encourages and challenges each other in the Lord (I don’t care so much about titles, but I suppose you could say I dream of a house church).

– I dream of a community that shares time and resources to make sure everyone has what they need.

– I dream of a place that draws together all people, all races, ages, social classes, denominations, all drawn together by the love of God.