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.

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So, It’s Been A While….

I know I’ve been pretty silent her in the blog world for quite a while (for almost two months, actually, if anyone has been keeping track….oops). My life, on the other hand, has been anything but silent. I don’t have adequate words yet for some of what has happened in those two months (and some can’t be shared in a public forum like this anyhow), but I can give you a brief list of some of the major life events since I last wrote:

  • We did a lot of wondering and praying about how we were going to pay rent and bills at the end of July.
  • I found a job (quite shortly after I wrote that last post about being discouraged by the fruitless job search, actually). Now I work as a server/cashier/dishwasher at a breakfast café in Westport. I really love it (except for working every weekend…). And it has been a reminder of God’s attentiveness to my heart and desires. During my final week of work with the after school program, I was praying and asking God to provide work for me and Derek. I felt God ask, “Well, what kind of work would you like?” The first thing that came to mind was a little breakfast and lunch café, full of bright colors, where I could serve cheerfully. That picture opened the door to a lot of lies in my heart about how I would never be good at the things that I wanted to do (some yucky heart residue from the after school job). About a month later, when I received the call for an interview at this breakfast place, God reminded me of that conversation with Him. Sure enough, the job opened up.
  • We contemplated a major, life-changing decision, ultimately deciding to say yes to what we felt was an invitation from God. That following month was an emotional roller coaster, careening though drama, phone calls, urgent meetings, a good deal of heartache, and then eventually ending with all our options exhausted and all the doors closed. God spoke to us deeply in that process, though, and assured us that He always brings forth life. Though we don’t know or understand what that might look like in this and we still carry a fair amount of grief over how things turned out, we’re still believing His word in that. (One of these days I may write a password-protected post sharing some more details of what happened and the ways God spoke in it).
  • Derek found a job (just in time to confirm the aforementioned life-changing decision). Now he works three days a week doing apartment maintenance and grounds keeping at an apartment complex near the Plaza (which fits perfectly with his school schedule).
  • Derek and I celebrated our second year of marriage by going out to our friend Autumn’s farm out in the middle of nowhere in Kansas. It was so peaceful and perfect. (I came home to discover that my engagement ring was stolen from the house while we were gone, though we got it back later that night, but that’s a whole different story….)
  • Derek returned to school for his second semester in CISCO networking. Don’t ask me what that is exactly. I just know it has to do with computers (and nothing to do with facebook) and that now he knows enough about routers to set up a home wireless network for us (pretty handy!).
  • I started school full-time. After almost five years out of school (which I still don’t regret, by the way), I’m a student again, this time working towards my associates in child growth and development. The classes are proving to be pretty intensive so far (more so than I expected for me first semester). I’m learning a lot already, though, and growing more and more excited about learning to teach young children well.
  • We moved out of the Tracy House and into our own apartment. We had been looking towards this move since the beginning of the summer (we were finding it increasingly difficult to live in community as a married couple, especially in a community with such a diversity of ages, life stages, and values). We felt like God was inviting us into a season of more intentionally establishing the foundations of our family. Somewhat unexpectedly, Lindsay decided that the season of the Tracy House was coming to a close and we all moved out at the end of August. So now, for the first time since we moved to Kansas City, Derek and I have our own space, a huge (and cheap!) third floor apartment, complete with a sunroom and its share of old building quirks. The building is named Isabel, which means, “God’s promise” or “Our God is a vow.” It feels like a significant name for our new home. We are mostly unpacked now (except for the second bedroom, which has become a temporary storage space for everything that doesn’t have a more permanent spot yet). Now I often find myself distracted, dreaming about ways to make the space lovely and home.

So there you have it: the reasons behind my silence over the past couple month. And now, I have some homework to do (or procrastinate on…) and some beautiful weather to enjoy….

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:

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)