Monday, September 22, 2014

Camp Create


I have been waiting to tell you all about Camp Create.

Because the world certainly has its wonderful moments, I had the chance to serve with some of my favorite ladies. It's hard to believe I was there, in Kansas, at that house, just over a week ago.

I came home feeling every single way. I was full. Indescribably free.
I'm still holding those things to my heart. I still feel all of it.
So much happened in just 5 days, heart things and things I can reach out and grab.
It seemed like all of them were good, and it still seems that way upon further reflection.

I don't know. It feels risky to be so sure.

Why is unbridled optimism sometimes scary?
No, really, why?

It's hard to shape our time together into just-right words.
I could try, but I'm confident it still wouldn't be enough.

What I can say is that God had plans for each of us.
He used that time to unleash bold visions and chest-thumping, God-sized Dreams.

It took me a little while to sink into the knowledge that even though I was there as a helper, I was also there. I was every bit a part of the design. I was there with purpose, and not just to help with dishes and food prep.

As soon as it sank in I was even more excited. Could God possibly have something to say to me??

Yep.
He did.

We shared our hearts in a way that only a big, cry-baby group of beautiful women can.
I shared a Big dream and a HUGE dream and then I did a throw-back to high school youth group and cried my eyes out while I shared an "unspoken" dream. (Those were the height of youth-group-culture drama when I was 16.)

I'm confident you'll all be pulled into each of those dreams of mine. It's just a matter of time before I'm ready to talk.

Be ye warned.

For now, I have loads of camera-grade pictures to share. I'll try to make this quick.

First, I won't lie and say it didn't feel good to do my hair and wear proper shoes on a Tuesday.
(Remember when I said I wanted to try my hand at this look? Voila. It looked more "right" once I had properly looped the scarf around.) (And my new favorite t-shirt under my jacket? Secondhand, baby.)
Scarf - fashionABLE , Boots - Country Outfitter, Jacket - Old Navy (last year), T-shirt - Goodwill, Suitcase bauble (spot it a mile away!) - Noonday

{South Bend airport is relaxing and serene.}

 
{O'Hare has a life-sized dinosaur skeleton and a Frontera Grill next door to a McDonald's.}

Kimberlee * Moi * Meg

These beauties picked me up from the airport and we immediately found food and swan-dived into the deep end. THEY ARE MY PEOPLE.

A few hours later, our resident Crafting Queens arrived - Stephanie Ackerman and Michelle Allen.
(And because I'm irresponsible and rude, I didn't get a proper shot with the two of them.)

But right away, I adored them.

As a display of my adoration, I conned Stephanie into driving the 15-passenger van for me the next day to pick up the rest of the campers from the airport.

I navigated from the passenger seat and snotted my face off.

Let me back up.

I fell ill the week before I left for CC, and though I was well enough to still go, I was in, the, uh... drainage phase.

I couldn't stop honking on my nose and it sounded so ridiculously disgusting but I swear to you, nothing was coming out.

(Is this awkward for you???)

So Steph says to me and the elephant in the van - so politely, I might add - "Doesn't it make you wonder where all that stuff comes from?"

And I yammered on about how really, nothing was coming out.

You know, typical getting-to-know-you conversation.

And then.

Without warning.

Stuff was ready to come out.

(Goodbye forever, kind readers.)

The problem was, WE WERE IN A VAN TOGETHER. I couldn't leave the room. I couldn't do anything at all....except "exorcise" the "demons". So to speak.

So I closed my eyes. And I blew.

Somewhere in the middle, I apologized, knowing in the depths of my soul that Dear Stephanie would have hopped out the window if she knew she'd clear the ditch.

I hated myself so bad.
BUT IT FELT SO GOOD.

When it was all over, she says to me with a certain measure of fear/disgust (I'm still not sure), "Well, that sounded...productive."

We awkwardly laughed about it together then brought it up 58 more times that week.

Boom.
Friends for life.


This is where we lived:


 





 This is where we ate:




 {Stephanie photo-bombed my French toast pic. I felt like she owed me one...}


This is where we crafted and were led and encouraged by the fantastic Holley Gerth:



{The second day there I was the only one who stayed in my pajamas for the entire day. I should be so ashamed...and yet I'm just not. Do you ever feel like I make it hard to love me?}


"The work of your hands is just as holy as the work of your heart." - Holley Gerth, Camp Create 2014

This is some of the best of Newton, Kansas:

Kellyn, Michelle, Steph and I went thrifting one morning.
(We all went junking at The Barn, too.)

Holley did a signing at the Christian Bookstore in Newton and I LOVED this display inside the door! Some of my favorite books, including Dirty Faith...and Love Does!

And then there was the sunflower field...






 When it was time to head home, I was filled all the way up. Super excited to hug my people, but doing what I could to hold on to the ways my heart had shifted while I was away.

I'm so thankful for Camp Create and all the ways God used it to quiet my heart and tell me the truth about things. The ladies were ALL so much fun. They inspired me by their courage and I can't wait to see what happens next for them.


 *Affiliate links used.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I'm Sure It's Fine


Sometimes my kids act like wild, rabid animals with each other.
They're mean and nasty. Stubborn. Selfish. Fighty. (And then there's me...)

Just this morning, Silas screamed, "You're a LOSER!" at Calvin.
Right????

Calvin lapses into the habit of annoying people just for the sake of being annoying.
Ruby can be a hitter.

I mean, I don't love it.

It's a battle around here, lots of days. We're trying hard to learn to use our words well, but it often feels like digging ditches, bending steel, baking a cake with no eggs or flour. It's taxing. Impossibly wearing. Maybe a little futile.

But some days it gets quiet - in a good way.
And I know they're conspiring.

It's almost never good (so to speak.)

So I let them go.
And they become a little more like friends and a little less like sworn enemies.


{The Super}





I ignore them as long as I can, with one ear trained to where the action is LIVE and in full color.

Then I grab my camera, because I don't want to miss this.
I don't want to forget, and I don't want them to, either.

I want them to see me laughing and know I'm a big fan of being wild together.

I want them to dream up crazy schemes that probably won't end well...
...but I want them to figure it all out together.

This is some of the best magic of motherhood. It's not the parts where we schedule out the moments and everyone's faces are shiny-clean.

It's this. Right here.

This is a day for kissing life on the forehead.


PS - Ruby has a small battle wound from said adventuring. It did not end well. But you'll have that.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our Road Trip Video (Part II)




Other than the unfortunate "roast beef" "sandwich" I experienced at a rest stop somewhere in Western Pennsylvania, every single thing about our road trip to Philadelphia spelled good news.

You may not know this about our family, but we've never taken a legit family vacation with all five of us. And true, driving 10 hours to visit a doctor probably doesn't fit the "legit vacation" criteria, but we were determined to make the most of it.

When the stars aligned and the good people at Chevrolet offered us the chance to travel in a Chevy Traverse, we knew we'd be able to make the journey even more memorable and fun.

The first item on our agenda was to fit all of us and all of our stuff. And for part of the trip, we added my mom and my adult cousin to the mix! Could the Chevy Traverse handle us? I wasn't completely sure when I first locked eyes with it. It looked too pretty and sleek.

I'm happy to say I was wrong. 7 bodies in seats.* 7 duffel bags. A cooler filled with snacks. Miscellaneous purses, backpacks, cameras and computer bags? "No problem," she crooned. (Indeed, our Chevy Traverse was a female with a penchant for harmony. Tell me I'm wrong.) We filled every seat, but with plenty of leg room and a comfy and refined interior, we were good to go!
 
We drove through two ridiculous hail storms and felt snug and safe with the NHTSA 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for Safety.**



The rest of the week was a whirlwind of Philly Cheesesteaks (wit whiz), neighborhood traipsing, a visit to the historic district, authentic Korean food, time with beloved extended family, and...

...a good report from Calvin's newest doc! 
We've never felt more encouraged about the condition of our biggest little dude. So thankful!

Our family had a blast spending time together, seeing new sights, and adventuring. And of course, we kept the cameras rolling. Here's a video recap of our week with the Chevy Traverse:




This trip was a blessing from every angle, outright and undeserved.
The kiddos are still talking wistfully about the road trip and our sweet ride.

Silas asked multiple times if he could "hug it." So, I mean, yes. It was a pretty big hit amongst us and the shorter set.

We loved driving "our" Chevy Traverse and cannot speak highly enough of it.

Thank you, Chevrolet!

(See Part I here. )

*Seating for up to 8 is standard on LS and 1LT. Available on 2LT. LTZ seats 7.
**Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) New Car Assessment Program (www.SaferCar.gov).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

For You



I woke up yesterday in my own bed for the first time in 6 days.
It felt like forever and a single breath.

I kissed my kids' faces off and drove them to school.
And I had big plans to tell you all about my week at Camp Create.

But plans were made for shifting.
So, here I am, rolling up the rug and scooting my big ideas far across the floor. They can wait.

Right now, while the rain falls straight down and taps out a reminder that seasons change and there's not a thing we can do about it; right now, when the house is quiet or wild and you're feeling like you want to grab life by its ears and run with it, or your eyes are puffy and stinging and you honestly don't know if you can do another day; right now I need to tell you something.

God is for you.
He is not against you.

Listen.

He's FOR YOU.
He wouldn't know how to forget about you or write you off if He tried. (He won't.)
You have screwed up and made a mess of things.
You've wounded ones you love.
You've wronged the innocent.

Doesn't matter.

You've told lies and plotted retribution.
You have stolen what wasn't yours to have.
You've chosen poorly, swam a river of greed and selfishness.

He's for you.

You've done drugs. Had sex. Gotten drunk a bunch of times.
You've been a mean mom.
An unfaithful wife.
A hateful sister.

He loves you.
He knows your capacity to turn away, and it does not scare Him.
He wants to take your shards and chuck them into the sea.

You've walked away from community - from Him.
You've felt silly over what you believe in your soul about God.
You've decided you're too smart. Too free.

He's for you.
He created you with that big brain and that thumping heart.
He wants you all to Himself. So He waits.

You've been angry with Him. He dealt you a hand you never asked for.
You feel abandoned, forsaken, like a wide-awake child alone in the dead of night.

He knows it's not always easy to believe.
He knows the risk He ran when He flung us into a world where we're told we don't deserve an ounce of pain. He knows it feels uneven, some days, like a trick or a ruined punchline. And knowing all of those things, He swept us together here, in an untidy pile, and gave us the opportunity to work together, alongside Himself, toward the redemption of the broken places.

He trusted us to find Him in neon lights and shopping malls and endless sidewalks and despairing jobs and broken families and bleak injustice and the exact kind of unfairness that makes us rage until all that's left are our weary hearts.

And just when that pulse drops and we think we're finished, just when we dare to believe - really believe - that He isn't enough or we're not enough or that it's all one poker-hot lie,

He scoops us up.

And He tells us one hundred times in one thousand ways, "I'm for you. I am never against you. I know it seems that way. I know it's hard to trust. I know you think you've run too far from my reach. I know you think you're a goner, a lost cause. I understand. But where you see a spark, I see a forest fire. I see its first plume and its last ember. I see what you can't, the eternal Why, that burning bush where my presence meets your faulty humanity and its end is redemption and beauty that will rocket every heartache away."

There is nothing that can separate God's people from His grand design, where every end spells goodness.
We can't do anything bad enough to turn the wine back into water.

He's got the microphone.
He's up on the stage.
His shirt is soft, His jeans are muddy, His eyes are so kind.

And he shouts while He laughs, His free hand waving us to Him.
"I am so for you. You don't even know. Get over here!"

Then He drops that mic, He jumps down and He runs.
Straight into our mess.

He kisses our faces, not giving a single rip about where we've been, ecstatic - just like a Dad - to have us back.

Bosses and parents and exes and bad friends might be against us.
We might be against ourselves.

But not God.
Not ever.

What are you waiting for? Run. 

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[a]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:31-39 (NLT)



* Thank you to Kimberlee and Bethel Music for being God's truth to me today and inspiring me to write it all down for you. Thank you to the Village Ladies and, in a roundabout way, Jen Hatmaker, for kicking my behind just when I decided I didn't need to hit publish. It's uncanny and wonderful, and it's God.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

When We Knew God Was Moving

Hey, friends! Today I'm reposting a blog I wrote 4 years ago.

This moment - this post - is what I see as the first link in the chain of selling the farm, moving to the city, and flipping much of our lives and most of our hearts upside down.

If you've ever wondered how we got here, this may help. :)


Doors 
Originally posted May 18, 2010



I had big plans to write tonight about my journey for contentment. It has been on my heart every day. It is becoming a part of me, and the harder I pray for it, the more it snuggles up to me and holds my hand. I am on a mission to be content with what I have...and maybe with even less than what I have. God has been connecting the dots for me with bright red Sharpie and I am thankful for that. Let's face it, who doesn't like it when God reveals Himself to us in a way that is impossible to miss? So, I went to bed late last night with some of the word threads already knitting together in my mind. That is the way it is with me - my brain writes in intermittent sentence fragments almost all the time. It can't be helped.

But then I awoke before daylight, clammy, chest-pounding, sick inside from the dreams I had. I rolled closer to Cory and clamped my eyes shut, but the traces of sorrow and charcoal, leaden guilt tinged the edges of me.

I mumbled, "I will carry this around all day long". I knew I would, I've been down this road so many times before.

So I prayed for relief and a fresh perspective. Blindly, I reached for solace. I drank orange juice that tasted like the sun. My lips were sugar-brushed from the comfort-food cinnamon toast that I had planned before the night, before the dreams. Today was going to be a good day.

Nevermind that the view outside my windows was dripping grey. Nevermind that I subconsciously chose a grey shirt and a brown sweater - the very picture of blah. I had decided half a day ago that today was going to be a good day. I was determined. And it was, for nearly two hours.

My husband works for Congressman Souder, in Indiana's 3rd District. You may have heard the name in the news today.

Another scandal, only this time, we are at the periphery. We are watching it unfold in real life, not on Fox News.

In spite of everything I know about God's supreme sovereignty, I cried behind my bedroom door, phone in hand. I was disappointed. I was scared. I was doubting, and I knew it, and I knew I had to stop.

I feebly tried to ignore the number counter in my brain, ticking away the dollars while we spoke. Subtract. Subtract. Subtract. I was thinking of my own job, a recent victim of the political machine. I was thinking of mortgage payments and health insurance.

I opened my Bible right in the middle and through my grief I was instructed to sing and to praise.

The kids and I piled into the pinkish car and I heard Calvin sing, "Let the waters rise if You want them to. I will follow You. I will follow You."

I have been singing that song every moment since.

I am heartsick for every person who is affected by this - there are many. I feel compassion for Congressman Souder and for his family. This is why we do not put our trust in men. They will fail us every time. I will fail you every time. I pray for redemption and I know for sure that it awaits those who seek.

As for us? It looks as though God has upgraded his notifications with yellow highlighter atop red Sharpie. Do you remember me saying that change was coming? That I could feel it in my bones?

It's here. 
 
 
** This post, written a month later, tells all about our decision to sell the farm. (It also has tons of pics of the farmhouse!)
 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Skipping Town and the Back-Story on Robert


Right now, I'm in Kansas, being helper-extraordinaire, crafting my brains out with the *actual* campers at Camp Create, and hopefully not filleting my finger with the lime knife again.

I'm sure I'll have one million things to tell you about when I return.

In the meantime, I'd like a moment of silence.

You see, today is picture day for my kiddos.
What I'm trying to say is, Cory is the only adult on the premises. On picture day.

 If you're wondering what the big hairy problem is, might I direct your memory to what happened last time. You know, the time Silas went to his recital in his pajamas.

This is why Mommy should never leave during momentous occasions or the holidays, or anytime physical appearances are a priority. Or just ever.

In the meantime, because I've got some rad and eager new readers asking questions with really long answers, I thought I'd take the opportunity to repost a few older blog posts that will hopefully help fill in some of the blanks for our new friends.

I'll see ya on the flip-side, Homies!


Bankrupt
Originally posted 8/14/2012


His neighbor's window caught my eye when I pulled up a few weeks back.  It's one thing for Robert to live there, quite another for a child. Of course, I thought of Abraham.

What sustains the human spirit? What is it that pushes up through the dirt and inspires a message to the whole world, written in reverse, all except for that pesky "S"? I wanted to know that child, take her for a walk, have her teach me something about contentment and joy.

He walks out of the building and over to my van, all swagger and falling-off pants. He might fool them, but I wouldn't know how, because when he smiles you see clean through the tattoos and the put-on scowl, or at least I do. I see the boy, the Abraham, the one who might have scrawled his own Ode to Joy on a window a few years ago.

We drive to a house a few blocks down, where cops creep through at intervals, where people smoke on front stoops and babies toddle down the sidewalk in droopy pampers.

They scream at him from the porch, each insult more toxic than the last. He loads the van, loads the van. He doesn't say a word, won't play along, and their hatred grows. So they amp it up. He splits down the middle, his protective shell falling away at both sides. He screams back, hurls the ugly over the heads of smudge-cheeked children and right back at them.

I might have done the same, if the whole world was just a tiny bit different.

So I commend him for his self-control. I'm impressed. I mean it. You're better than that. You have skills they don't have. We believe you can do anything. And there he is again, that beautiful child that maybe only I see. He laughs and jokes. We pass the defunct pie shop and I swoon all over again about the signage, so perfectly blue and chippy. "You're so white", he laughs. I shrug.

His apartment is a sitcom waiting to be filmed. It's full of so much crazy, so much reckless emoting, so much masked pain. I love them. Each one of them. They're beautiful and wild and tender and frail and I want to keep them forever as my friends.

I drive home a few hours later, brim-full of the life he shows me. I find more of God every time I'm with him. Isn't that strange? He doesn't even know God. Doesn't want to. But God is there. He's right there in that crappy apartment with all the people who believe they're nothing. He's there in their arbitrary rage. He's with the ones with the dull eyes, the yellow teeth. He's with the ones who shine in spite of it all. They are His people, and I see Him in their midst.

***

I sit two rows behind him, boring holes through his shoulders, his neck, his growing-out afro. It's two weeks later. I listen, but only half-way. I've heard it all before. I know what those papers say and to be honest, I just don't care that much.

He tries to raise his right hand, but it's chained to his left. He won't turn around. He won't look my way.

But I've got all day, I've got forever, so I just keep looking. I won't miss my chance. And so, he looks. We lock eyes and I wink, because it's all I can do. I wink and I smile my smallest smile and he watches me, takes it in.

His lips twist to the side and he shrugs his shoulders. I'll spend the rest of the week deciphering the gesture. I don't know what it meant, but I have my ideas.

They lead him out in pants six inches too short, his slippered-feet barely able to shuffle. His shame is the cinder block of the walls, the concrete of the floors, the drab of the polyester, the bite of the shackles. It trails behind him, emanates from him. It's something real, something I could reach out and shove. It's the thing that killed his light.

So I'm the mom in the courtroom, the one who doesn't care so much about what was said, the one not dumb enough to believe it's not bad, because it's awful. But that's my "son" heading back to jail. He's only eighteen. They'll keep him for a very long time.

I don't know who he'll be when he comes back out. This boy was never a criminal. He was the one I would nudge, through the sheer force of my will, to prove everyone wrong. He was the one who would write the book someday, the one who would show all the other Abrahams that it didn't have to be that way.

One mistake changed all of that and now I'll talk to him through a video screen. I'll show up for his hearings, because no one else will. No one. I'll write letters and I'll pray that the light comes back. I'll miss him and I'll mourn his tonight, his tomorrow, and all of his future. My heart will break in shock-waves.

And I'll hope.

PS - This post (and the links in the post) will fill in almost everything else you missed on how Robert came into our family. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our Closet-Turned-Desk-Nook


Many of you have asked to see more of our revolutionary, cutting-edge, closet-turned-desk-nook. I've been meaning to do this for, oh? two years. (I really like to build suspense between Part I and Part II...)

In my defense, this area can be difficult to photograph.

Also, it's often a complete disaster area.

Back story: We had very little involvement in the house plans for our home. Because we bought our home as part of a neighborhood revitalization project, most of the details were pre-determined.

This was supposed to be an ordinary storage closet.

Being a person who is almost entirely incapable of "envisioning" something that isn't actually in front of me (come on, can people actually do that??) I never gave this theoretical "closet" a second thought. Closets are good. And necessary. The end.

But one afternoon during the framing stage, we drove over for another of our obsessive check-ins and as I stood on the footprint of our home - the one that seemed impossibly small, I noticed the perfect little nook-sized area, right smack-dab in the main living space (which is essentially all one room.)

"Could we put a desk here?" the wise wife asked.

Yada yada, the builders were happy (if a bit skeptical) to bypass details such as shelves and a door.

Our desk nook was born.

When I found the wallpaper, it seemed like a kiss from the angels. The world needed this desk nook. It was pre-destined. From the foundations of the earth.

It's the best decision we made about our house.

Our farm house had 1300 more square feet than this house, and I remember wondering where on earth we would keep the computer and, you know, work.

This is definitely one of the most used spaces in here. It's a great reminder to me that we don't always need new or more or bigger. Sometimes we just need to rethink what we already have. BOOM.

Voila. It's perfect.

Our old, beat-up desk slid right in.
 (Now can you hear the angels???)


 {Hey - this is one of my  favorite new blog finds.}

Sidenote: Calvin made me an "actual" writing quill.

Many of the details have trudged with us from home to home...because although we've unloaded countless tens of twenties of boxes of things we no longer needed, I apparently couldn't envision a life without the red, defunct, entirely impractical stamper.

I won this ah-mazing Hellen Keller quote print a few years ago in a blog giveaway.You can get yours right here.

I plopped it in a thrifted frame. Gah. I love it so much.

The light came from Lowes.

Here's where things get weird.
Because I realized I wanted you to see the "nook" being an actual nook....so I pulled out the ol' point-and-shoot and took some sloppy, wider shots. So you can see it all in context.

We like context, right? It's good? Context??

You'll see the green entry table to the left, basement stairs to the right.

So wonky and so wrong.

Whatever.

See that odd corner of brown? That's our dining room table. I'm telling you, the quarters are close. But they work! They really work!

We have some weird support posts that interfere with lots of things like photography.
And walking.

One more, because why stop at 3 contextual poses?

I'm here to say, if you're short on living space, re-think one of your closets. It turns out, doors were made to be removed from their hinges.

Happy nooking!

-Shannan

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