Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grow, Baby

I'm rolling down a back street in my janky mini van when I get the news. Another neighbor had showed up back at the jail, and this one was a sucker-punch.

Sometimes we see these things coming - there's heartbreak cooking and it's only a matter of time. Other times they simmer; and we watch from the outside in, staring at that pot and daring it to boil. You know what they say about a watched pot, right?

This guy fell into neither category. I knew he'd seen his fair share of trouble, even recently. But he kept showing up, and his hand rested lightly on his girlfriend, the small of her back, her forearm. He wore his nice t-shirt and met my eye when we laughed about the day we'd met, and the unlikely incident surrounding it.

I don't know why, but I didn't worry about him the way I do others.
It never crossed my mind.

I won't pretend to know him well. But I had my plans, and this wasn't part of them.

Around every corner, I'm met with dead-ends. My good ideas chip away, hit the dirt, crumble at my feet. It shouldn't surprise me, but I'm left slack-jawed and spent.

Good news mingles with the bad until what's left on the table is somehow both bland and risky.

I could get comfy here in this desert, because the truth is, growing hurts. It requires things, like loppers and rain. I'd rather not sit soaking wet, and please don't prune me.

Truth remains, and I repeat it on a loop, allowing my dry bones to be filled with the promise of living water. This feels like endurance and my character could likely use a boost.

Around town, our friends are nudged to new growth, and I with them. So different, but so strikingly similar. I know I'll see another flash in all this dirt, and you'd better believe I'll be ready to snatch it up when I do. But if you believe it for me, you have to believe the same for them.

This is the season of quiet work, hours clocked beneath the soil and hidden in gnarled limbs. It might be quiet here, with gusting winds and the bone-chilling dampness of spring.

But summer is coming, and we're all equal shareholders.

So we'd better grow.

:: This was me almost exactly one year, so maybe there really is something to the seasons. (Or maybe I'll still be dealing with this same exact stuff forever. ;)  )

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Little Bit of April

This month is FULL. And we're not even a third of the way through!
So many good things to come, mixed with a few of those nights when I whine in the dark about how unmanageable life feels.

Deep breath.
We can sleep when we're dead.

All of that, right?

Here's what we've been up to so far:

The weather can't make up its mind, in classic Northern Indiana style.
When it's feeling cooperative, we go to the park or take a walk.
These are the days when I think dumb things like, "We'll take long walks every dayyyyy!"

And then June hits and we're all, "Meh. It's cooler inside."


(oh my word don't show this to any kid grade 4 or above at Chamberlain elementary school, promise?)

We're busy flinging gravel around and wearing mulch in our hair.

(Sidenote: If I could freeze Silas at this cuddly, wiry, front-toothless stage, honest to goodness, I might. He has reached his peak cuteness.)

Calvin is working hard at TKD.

Ruby has gotten the hang of tennis. Chica is so strong. Also, #lefty.


These two can't decide how they feel about each other, but I'm happy Cory captured them in an agreeable moment.

We walked right past all the chain link and random carpet remnants in the alley (??? I thought alleys were just for old tires, but whatever.) and showed up for Easter Sunday, where nothing mattered except the hearts who gathered and the Reason we came.

For all the angst I've felt over The Church over my lifetime, my heart is healing, bit by bit.

I surprised Rubes and took her to pick out an Easter dress. Guys, I have never done this before.
I don't think she even knew "Easter dress" was a thing.

In related news, I have bought umpteen egg dyeing kits over the years with the noblest of intentions and my kids have NEVER dyed eggs.


It's not you, Easter. It's me.

We hunted eggs. More than once.
Yesterday I let each kid pick 10 pieces of candy to keep, then threw an entire grocery bag FULL away.

Ain't no bunny trying to eat fifty-five Laffy Taffy's.

(I hoarded the Reese's PB eggs in the freezer, but if you tell them, I will kick you in both shins.)

We spent some time near water, with people we love.
Calvin begged to bring this guy home and not a day has passed since that he hasn't said to me, "I miss my turtle..."

And I'm just over the turtle. I lack turtle empathy. I didn't get the turtle gene.
Enough about the turtle!

Sue me.

Incidentally, when did Ruby turn 19?

She is the dreamiest of all the dreamies. Her heart is pure gold.
I can't stop staring at it.

So that's us, April 2.015.3

Now I'm making up weird codes that only seemed funny and clever in theory.

Goodbye forever,

*Photo credit for all photos except one goes to the famous Jailchap. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Very Important Newsletter

Hey, Rugrats!
I mean that in the best of ways. Promise I do.

It's been an interesting day around here, wherein I was supposed to fly out to Kansas this morning but instead, I sit here on my personal couch in my striped pajama pants, yacking at you.

Just know I wasn't playing when I've mentioned my twisted history with air travel.

We'll try again in the morning, but for now, it's a fine Spring night, and there are a few things I need to update you on.

1) I have giveaway winners for two copies of Jaded by Varina Denman! Annette Maron and Tracy Beyers, you're the lucky ladies! Email me your address!

(On that note, it was both wonderful and painful to read all the comments on that post. We have to just do better, right? I have so many feelings about church, so much angst and even some stress. But at the end of the day, it matters. God wants us in community, baring our guts with one another regularly, seeking Him together. It can be a real pain in the rear to find a safe place to do those things, but please, don't give up. Be the community you long for. Show up and be fully human. I have to think that's a good place to start.)

2) Calling all locals!
As I mentioned, I'm partnering this year with Women of Faith for their farewell Loved tour. Next Friday, April 17th, they are hosting a free kickoff event in Ft. Wayne, IN!

I'm not actually speaking at their events, but will be attending several, including this kickoff, and am helping spread the word for their events across the nation. (Let me be clear that I'm not being compensated for this, I simply love what they're doing and wanted to help out.) 

If you're interested in attending on the 17th, all you need to do is RSVP here with the number in your group. Bring all your ladies! I can't wait.

And if you're not local (or even if you are! still planning a coffee/tea FPFG meet-up at the Ft. Wayne and Columbus events) tickets are still available for all Women of Faith events . Click "more info" to see who will be speaking, etc... Use the code FARMGIRL20 for $20 off any standard or premium ticket. 

3) Around here, we like to refer to announcements as "Very Important Newsletters" because of this. (You gotta listen!) I've shared it before but it will neverrrr get old.

Join Women of Faith Speakers Mary Graham, Thelma Wells, and Sheila Walsh
at a FREE Fort Wayne Kickoff Event!

The Fort Wayne Women of Faith event is not until July, but we’re bringing some of our speakers to you early for a taste of what’s in store! We’d love for the women of your church to be part of this invitation-only, FREE event:

Friday, April 17th
7:00 PM
Pathway Community Church
11910 Shearwater Run, Ft. Wayne, IN 46845

It will be a fun time of fellowship, desserts, appreciation, and information about Loved: The Farewell Tour and how you can be a part of it.

Please RSVP by April 14th.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Remember those oldish-school Q&A survey thingies? I read one on Meg's blog a while back and thought it would be fun to do one here. I never get tired of reading these things. NEVAH!

Happy Wednesday, Party People!

Reading...Wanted: A Spiritual Pursuit Through Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders by Chris Hoke (Can't stop, won't stop. This is the best thing I've read in a while.)

Playing...Spot It (Question, do you let your kids win games when you play? I'm asking for a friend...)

Watching...Just wrapped season 3 of House of Cards. Season 2 went off the rails, but 3 was so good! Also, New Girl, Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, and finally saw Rich Hill. Oh, and we rented the new Annie today on Redbox! Just as good the 2nd time. write a book (what. send salsa.)

Cooking...healthy chicken, rice and broccoli casserole. This was a slam dunk! I added cooked onions and garlic (duh) and used thawed, frozen broccoli because I had it on hand. All 7 of us approved, and that almost never happens. 

Eating...I can't even dignify this question with an answer.

 (it was ON SALE)

Drinking...I'm newly smitten by the Private Selections (aka "fancy" Kroger brand) White Tea

Calling...hopefully no one, ever.

Texting...Haven (always) and Robert (he likes emojis).

Pinning...ideas for our front yard sitting area. It's the new porch. (I tell myself.)

Tweeting...nonsense. Incidentally, this is my most popular tweet ever. Because life makes no sense.

Crafting...I haven't crafted much lately, though this was sort of like crafting.

Doing...everything I can to keep 4 kids content on a rainy, going-nowhere spring break. (Sidenote: entertaining a 2 year old girl AND a 10 year old boy at the same time is harder than splitting the atom. So I've heard.) Kansas later this week to speak at an adoption conference. My people!

Loving...Pharrell (heart eyes). I want Bob Goff to run for President with Jimmy Fallon as his running mate and Pharrell as Secretary of State.

Hating...eye doctor's offices with all the creepy eyeball "artwork". No bueno.

Discovering...I sleep better with 3mg of melatonin at bedtime.

Enjoying...nights when Avery sleeps straight through

Hoping (for)...June to come quickly. We're taking our kids on their first-ever vacation and we're all SO excited, but mostly Silas. We wrote a literal count-down on the calendar earlier this week. In a mere 87 days we'll be on the beach! :/

Celebrating...Spring? Supposedly???

Smelling...Mrs. Meyers Clean Day - Radish scent. I bought a bottle of the all-purpose spray at Target because it's TAX REFUND SEASON so let's buy a frivolous cleaning supply. I'm in complete amor! Can't stop spritzing. (And is it just me or do radishes actually smell nothing like this??) lucky stars for Cory. He is everything.

Considering...a capsule wardrobe for Spring. (Honestly, it's a long shot.)

Finishing...half a bag of Santitas per night, with help from Jailchap

Starting...A book club with two fun women I didn't know before we moved to town. At our first meeting we kept accidentally talking about The Bachelor and pre-schooler antics and I ate 3 bowls of salsa, but now I'm just beating a dead horse.

How about you???
Tell me everything.

Monday, April 6, 2015

When Cupcakes Aren't in the Forecast

I picked her up at 9:15, all keyed-up jitters, her hands folding and unfolding in her lap as we chatted away the next ten miles. Are you getting enough to eat? Having any morning sickness? Those people you're staying with, are they being fair?

None of her answers were positive, but it didn't matter. There wasn't room for a single cloud in the sky, that day.

I waited in the van while she ran inside the building with its low-lurching roof-line, my window cracked just enough to catch slivers of conversation. Wisps of cigarette smoke crept in with the breeze. A tangle of second-chance bicycles jammed the side yard.

She emerged ten minutes later, a free woman.

"She handed me the scissors and let me cut the ankle bracelet off myself," she said.

For the second time since I've known her, she was walking in the wide space of justice, the end finally tipped in her favor.

I had baked her cupcakes the night before, and frosted them in the morning. Funfetti - her favorite kind. She'd been craving them. It doesn't happen often enough, but I filled those tins with pleasure. I wanted her to have a celebration, even if it came to her in processed, artificial-everything cake.

These are the good days around here, and we're learning to snap them up. Because move past that first moment in my mini van when her cheeks flushed with possibility, and you'll see it looming. Take just one step to the side, one tiny step, and you'll feel it breathing down her neck, making you anxious in your close proximity. Eat your cake and your biscuits with gravy, go ahead and order the tallest glass of juice, but I dare you to believe it'll stay this way forever. You know better, now. So you'd better bake that cake like you mean it and you'd better linger in the booth.


The months have blurred since then. She's still wearing her smile, but only because she's some kind of miracle.

All around us, life chews our friends and spits them out. These are souls that matter to us, not in a rah-rah, "love one another" sort of way. These aren't just our neighbors and they aren't "the least of these", they are wounded souls who stand before us as mirrors. We recognize ourselves. We realize, over shared space and spent time, all the ways we are wrong.

Our hearts are fused, so when theirs split open again, we're left clutching our chests and gasping for air.

When we moved to the city, there were days I dared to imagine true community with these people living hard, hard lives. We would help each other out, lend a hand, borrow cups of sugar or an egg. We'd look out for each other's kids while we beat back addiction and poverty and the tiresome bent of our hearts to wander. We would fight life together, celebrate together, share meals and pews, pile up on long snow days and run the streets in July. We would be the best kind of fusion.

There were days we tasted those things.
But from this vantage point, I don't think I had a clue about "true" community.
I probably still don't.

Here's where we are right now: We are living our lives. Most of the moments are lived at the atomic level - the opening and closing of cabinets, the clanking of dishes, the piles of library books (probably overdue), a brush against hair, commercial breaks, dinners when it's just us six.

But stirred into the mix are humans we love, and our lives keep banging up against theirs. There are friends I've never talked about, so sacred was the space our hearts created. There are friends (the same friends) who have slipped off the grid. They have left us feeling abandoned, and that's not a scenario I ever imagined.

Our neighbors, the ones we connect with most easily, come.
And we love them.

We love them in all their wild places. We live alongside their living just as we raise babies and dream in the dark. It's so easy and it's so freaking* hard. We let them in. Our kids let them in.

Then they leave.
They "fail".

All it takes is one more missed day of work, one more month of back-due rent. It's a car that won't start. It's dad hauled to jail.

It's a needle meeting blood. Just one needle.
And they're gone.

The problem is, I feel like I'm built more for the cupcake days. I might be a sunny-day friend. A good news friend. I'm a whole lot better when it's a whole lot easier.

I'm starting to believe this isn't something I'll ever be good at.
Our hindsight trajectory might show that we actually break people. 

Jesus calls these friends of mine blessed, and I don't doubt it. But I feel sorry for them to be stuck with me instead of Bob Goff or the nice ladies at church or you.

We swore we weren't here to fix anyone.
So why am I left feeling angsty that no one seems to be getting better?

I keep praying for my botched-up heart to be fixed and for a heart that is compelled to love, even if it takes half a day to get there. I pray against cynicism and jadedness. Mostly, I pray against the perils of common sense.

I keep coming back to Jesus, because it's all I seem to do right, and He keeps saying to go. Just go. He says to align myself with His love and try my best to share it. He expects my imperfections just like I expect my neighbors' and they surely, by now, expect mine.

It's our hot-messness that was meant to be shared, and I'm beginning to see the baring of mine as holy work.
This happened right as I was leaving to pick my friend up on her independence day. Of course it did. The frosting was all junked up, but they were still exactly as cupcakey as we hoped.

And because I can't think of a more fitting analogy, I'll just leave it at that.

*stay tuned...I have more to say about this.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

DIY Washi Tape Front Entry Wall

Oh, green table, you have been so good to me.

I found you at a country auction house, and if I recall, I paid all of $7 for you. You were such an embarrassing shade of not-quite-mint-green. All you needed was a coat of paint and a fresh knob.

You were the first thing people saw when they walked through the door. GREEN TABLE!!!
You collected our keys. And lots of junk.

It's not that I don't love you anymore, it's just that you're kind of short. No offense.
I thought we could do this tall girl/short table sort of thing, but in the end, you're no sexy rock star and I'm no supermodel.

Also, I guess I was just getting kind of tired of you, but that just makes me sound like a player.

What I really wanted was to do something entirely different with that entire space. It's small, but impactful, or at least it could be. I wanted something functional (think more storage space) and something with a little Wow factor.

I wanted wallpaper.

I blame the desk nook, and you would do the same if it made you happy every single day.

I looked around, but wallpaper is expensive. And pretty permanent.
Since I found myself in this whole mess because of my fickle heart, it seemed like a risky combo. Plus, nothing I saw really knocked my boots off.

Then I spotted this stenciled wall in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

I couldn't quit it. Couldn't stop thinking about it.
A few weeks later I lamented to one of my whip-smartest friends (she of Bruce Jenner Baby Jesus fame,) "The problem is, I want the reverse of this. I want the walls to stay white and the lines to be painted. But that seems like a nightmare to figure out."

She started back at me, speechless, but I've learned to read between the lines. As nicely and nonchalantly as she could muster, she replied, "Couldn't you just put washi tape on the white walls in that pattern?"

I swear, the clouds broke and the sun shone down on us.
It was like when Moses hit the rock with his staff and water came out, only salsa.

This is living proof that there's a good Kim behind every decent Shannan.

I found narrow, charcoal grey washi tape at Hobby Lobby. It took three rolls to complete the job.

Per usual, Cory did all the actual hard work. We sort of eyeballed our spacing, then he measured and taped everything off one Saturday evening while I tried on a bunch of my spring/summer clothes from last year and realized, for the first time ever, that something weird had overtaken my closet, because a lot of the jeans and pants didn't close properly. They fit just fine! Except if I wanted them zipped.

My next mission was to find something with storage to replace the green table.

{cue angel's singing in harmony}

I found this at my favorite thrift store. The price tag said $55, but luckily Marty doesn't ring up furniture, so I actually paid $55.

Hanging directly above it? That mirror.
You've never seen this kind of serendipity.

The mirror (it's plastic!) was marked $5, but I had a $5 off coupon, so it was free. Like, literally free, not "I accidentally stole a mirror" free. (Another story for another day, or for never.)

As you can see, I made quite a haul that day. Hate me forever.

That big black book was a history of the 20th Century, a birthday gift for my history-buff nephew. By God's good grace, I flipped through it at home and realized there was an entire section on the sexual revolution. So I tore those pages out. Then I scanned the index and promptly put it back in my donation bag. Basically, the MCC Thrift Store charged me $5 to censor a history book. Whatever. Related: What is actually wrong with Madonna???

Everything else came together from around the house.

That blue lamp became mine four years ago on a spring break trip to visit Cory's grandpa in Dunlap, Tennessee. I've never used it until now and it is everything.

My friend Becca took the picture of graffiti and sent it to me because she knows graffiti gives me the good vapors, especially when it says "Alan loves Mamie".

If you're wondering about the odd angles of these photos, it's because I was trying to avoid this situation.
(I'm very glamorous in my real life. I keep telling you.)

I thought I wanted different hardware, but this is speaking to me now. Reminds me of my childhood. And the edges are already perfectly distressed, in the actual way things end up distressed!

The drawers now house all our games, art supplies, and extra dishes and linens for entertaining.

And that's the story of how I traded in my green table for a rock star.

Happy April, Homies.

To see past iterations of this entry wall, see:
Summer '13 entry
Fall '14 entry
Art wall entry
Back-to-school entry

(I may have a sickness. Goodbye forever.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hope that Remains

Maybe because I'm an overly-introspective person, or maybe as a strange coping mechanism, I occasionally like to step outside of myself and imagine what my life would look like if it were different.

I don't mean that in a "What if I were single?" or "What if I had different kids?" kind of way. My man and my little people are ingrained in my fiber. There's no other way when it comes to them. We're a unit. Connected across time and miles, hopping DNA altogether but stitched by eternity and every single "meant to be".

Weird as it may be, a large part of my life is my writing. It's this blog. Seven years in, it's no longer something I do, but something I am. I can't imagine me without it.

I frame my world in blog posts, it's always rumbling beneath the surface. I've written hundreds of posts while washing dishes, posts that never do tumble out on the screen. I'm sorry to say I do my best work in the shower, against the white noise of water and the muscle memory of rinse-and-repeat.

This is part of who I am, in precisely the same way Timi persuades a judge or Sarah writes proposals or the chef in town pairs sweet corn with crab. We risk differently in our work, but we all risk. Including you.

Now and then, my work finds me on a plane, lurching into the air just to land again in a different city where there might be tulips blooming in late March as sleet spits against the windows at home and the whole world remains brown and leafless.

These planes sweep me away from my everyday life and set me back down to marvel at all the signs of life, giddy from the warmth.

Some of my truest friends are plane rides away. I miss them all the time. 

Yesterday I sat on a lounge chair at the edge of a pool. I ate a hamburger with the sun on my face and my hair whipping around.

For three days, I was surrounded by hundreds of women. I saw good in every single face, saw again the way we're all tracking the same things.

People say the world keeps getting meaner, but I don't buy it. We have more access to the mean, that's all. It's always been here, and I believe it's receding. I do. We're growing more connected in different ways, less so in others, but a circle doesn't lose power as it widens. It gains.

I've talked before about the time I flew to Belgium for a month as an eleven-year old. The heart and guts of that trip was the firm belief that making friends across cultures can literally change the world. I don't remember trying to navigate language barriers or worrying about international codes of conduct. I remember being corralled in a gymnasium on a rainy day where we danced with glass plates on our heads until the last one had fallen in shards at our feet. I remember dipping folded paper into bowls of dye. Every day, we ate packaged Belgian waffles and drank bottled Coke for snack. We held hands around a flag pole and called ourselves a family. We played water games where we gulped water from the same bucket, ran the length of the yard, and spit it into another. As the days wound down, we sang into the night. We clung to each other. We grieved on those last days as though we were adults. I don't know that I had ever cried harder, or felt such despair mingled with so much promise.

Almost three decades later, I bear witness again to the surging power of humanity. Our mutuality is universal if we can only believe it's true. Doubt for a second, and you risk missing it.

There was so much fun to be had, so many laughs, so many tacos.

We were a mash-up lot, so we got down to the business of being neighbors and we memorized our kinship.

God used our misjudgements to remind us how much bigger He is than we remember. He called us all iron then threw us together for a while. Driving home late last night from the airport, I knew I was sharper for it.

{my can't-be-beat small group}

 {my can't-be-beat small group plus one}

Was our time together perfect? Close, but not quite. There were things I would change, moments I'd like a second shot at. But that's the beauty of community - it's never perfect. That can't be the goal, and we all know it, because community involves us. We jack things up. We're negative for no good reason. We're prideful and insecure, we angle and hide. We have to choose sometimes, and we don't always choose well.

We crash against each other. My edges meet yours, then hers, then hers.

In the end, we're a little softer, a little stronger.
Our cheeks hurt from smiling, our eyes hurt from crying.

We would do it all again.
We will do it all again, in a thousand different ways.

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