Thursday, October 8, 2015


She said she was pissed because some girl with a ghetto street name was wearing her son's shirt. She'd rifled around in her drawers while she was at work, this near-stranger who lives in what used to be her home but has become just a roof and four walls. Who the hell does that? These were her words, not mine, but trust me, I'm editing, and sometimes, I grow weary of it.  Sometimes I want to tell you like it really is, give you all the throb and every bit of the tension that bangs around a room jammed with broken people.

Maybe someday I'll tell you about the song I was sent to help me understand what it feels like to be an addict and how for a fraction of a second, a single atom of me understood. It didn't matter that it was loaded with the f-word. I felt just one molecule of the despair and it made want to rage. It made me want to sob until my sides ached and I wondered if God is really big enough to rescue someone from meth. And if he is, why not here? Why not now?

I wanted to share it with someone, but I wasn't sure who could handle it or who would want to. We're taught not to invite suffering and I won't overstate it, I can't suffer for a song. But I also can't escape this one, and I'd like another person to absorb it by half. That's how I feel a lot of the time. I want to unburden, but who wants this load?

I don't know these answers, so I edit.
I save.
I hold back out of fear of offending, and I'm the one left wondering. Who are we to be offended? Where do we get off?

I want you to know that this is what they think about when they think of us. They believe we cannot handle them. They think we'd never want to. They see us as too clean, too good. They hate us for it, because they believe in their bones that we're better than them. Even if we are a bunch of hypocrites.

Over time, their gut knows they are unholdable.
It's not the streets that teach them this. It might be the needle, but just in part.
We could blame their record or all their baby daddies or the ones they wanted who didn't want them back.

We'd only be half right.
These are their wounds, but we bring the shame.

Driving across town just an hour ago I saw a man in a different broken-down neighborhood. In a Land's End half-zip, he held his to-go coffee while he spoke to a woman on a bike. His eyes were filled with kindness. I'm lucky I didn't drive straight into his neighbor's front yard the way I whipped my head around.

I don't know the story, but I wrote one anyway.

He lives in that house with its suspiciously bright white paint.
No one quite understands why, and that includes his people and theirs.
He loves his neighbor.
And he's waiting for someone else to see that the "his" and the "theirs" are marked off with a soluble line.

I'm dying to know him. I want him and his unfussy wife with her homemade quick bread in my kitchen and I want them here yesterday. I want his rowdy kids hovering over Minecraft with my own. I want them to tell us everything, because I need to hear it. I want them to tell us nothing at all, because I already know.

He's a middle classer. I see it like I see the first-hand boots on my own two feet and our second freezer full of meat. I know it like the tea in my hand and the curtains pulled wide at my window. I can't say exactly why I know it, only that I do.

And if it's true for him, it's true for me.
I will never blend in all the way, and this causes me more angst than you will know.

But I saw the way he cared for his neighbor, so I wrote the ending, too.

He loves them.

He refuses to turn away from their pain.
He stands with his coffee and talks to the lady on her giant tricycle bike and it's worth it if he's a few minutes late to work because some of them love him back, and that's what wooed him there, not just to love them, but to be loved by them.

I don't know most of my neighbors and I don't love any of them like I should.
The human part of me wants to chisel off all my hard edges, become someone entirely new, who feels and lives differently, unafraid and unselfconscious.  I want to be friendlier. I want to kick language barriers in the mouth, bake cookies, and take more walks.

It doesn't come easily for me, and I wonder if that's the whole point.
If nothing else, it serves as a constant reminder that I'm the one waiting to be rescued.

I close the distance between me and whomever stands nearest, that much I can do. Accidentally, I've arrived at a place where I don't flinch when God and prayer and f**k fall cleanly in the same phrase.

Sometimes, secondhand smoke is the fragrance of Christ himself, and I pull a long drag.

I stand close to their flame and my edges melt. But theirs do too.
This can only mean that I carry some burn of my own.

They can handle what I've got. They don't turn away with the Jesus that falls from my lips or the opinions I'm prone to offering without invitation.

Real love does not apologize, and we keep on learning the way truth can cut chains.

God loves me exactly the way I am right now, in my Goodwill sweater and my morning hair. He loves me, and I can be sure, because I stare hard at faces lined with pain and all I can see is His glory, shining off their hard surfaces, lighting everything around me like a fuse.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Eagle

For the rest of my life, whenever I hear "The Eagle", I'll think of my friend Jessica's car, back in high school. It was a station-wagon-esque boat of a vehicle that could be started without a key. In the scope of cars, she was a sturdy, mustachioed Polish woman with a soft side and a mad craving for Taco Bell. We called her "The Eag" for short. Because we were busy.

And that rabbit trail perfectly illustrates the problem with being a writer.

Words and phrases have limbs and joints. They carry weight and occupy space inside my head, scurrying around, cuddling up to old memories. They fire off and ricochet around. They make me feel - a swirling symphony, a sonic boom.

They derail my train of thought.

I did not come here to talk about cars or Taco Bell or even my friend Jess, though she is totally blog-worthy.

I came here to tell you THE EAGLE HAS LANDED.

I turned in the manuscript for my book late last night.


It has me all:
Because this is inexplicably important to me, I'd like to announce to the whole world of FPFG readers that it wasn't actually due until Monday. This is the first time in my life that I've turned something in early. And not only that, I still had time last night to unwind with a bowl of generic peanut butter "Cheerios" and two episodes of Parks & Rec. (We're almost finished with the entire series but I'm far too fragile to go there right now...)

I honestly don't know what to do with myself today, or what to think. Or if I even can think. Or if I can do anything at all except drink tea and grin.

At the risk of sounding like a giant whiner, pulling this off was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It took me by surprise. I started off on my high horse, "I write every day! This will be a cinch!"

But before I'd even officially started, the horse had pitched me off and run for the hills, my pride was sore, and my countenance took on the eerie glow of a crazed woman.

Then I accidentally took the entire summer off.

Then I plunged straight into the depths of fear, despair, and copious amounts of Coffee Shop food and days on end where I barefly moved but still fell into bed exhausted.

It was also really fun, some days.

Mostly, it was all consuming. I've heard of "baby brain", and this feels like that baby's cousin.

The process was something like:

{here we go...}

{falling apart}

{everyday, I'm hustlin'}

{caught something!}



{piles upon piles of clutter}

{led by a pillar of fire???}

{get me out of here!} 


I took two wrong turns for every right one, and I honestly don't even know if I ended up where I was supposed to.

That's not a problem for today.

Today is for:

As of now, my big plans include writing a proper list, getting a full cart of groceries, and (shocker!) making dinner. This hasn't happened in a while.

I also have some books to read. (Hey! Hey! Hey!)

Tea and/or basil gimlets to drink.

Salsa to eat. (Said Ms. Obvious)

And an entire house to clean. (It's quasi-terrifying in here.)

There are miles to go and months of editing ahead of me, but today? I regroup. 

I want to thank you from the bottom of my dusty, mixed-up heart for all the ways you cheered me on. Part of me wishes I didn't need cheering. I know most of you accomplish much harder things, every day. It makes me want to deliver dark chocolate brownies to your door, and it also makes me feel a little like a baby for feeling so dramatic over my own stuff.

But then I remember that's sort of the whole point of the book I just wrote - that we were made to need other humans. We were created to own our smallness and lean on each other. We were built to fall together, not to climb mountains alone.

I'm more fragile than I thought and I'm learning to see vulnerability as one of the best things I can offer God's kingdom here on earth.

So, thank you for the notes and packages (you guys!?!!!), the prayers and the emails, the text messages and the butt-kicks, and the half-gallon of cider with donuts that just showed up at my door.

I love all of you big-hearted weirdos. You're my favorite kind of people. 

Honest to goodness, next to God and Cory, you're the reason this is happening. And while a month ago, that made me want to write passive aggressive notes to you and tell you you're mean, like Silas sometimes does, today it makes me want to sit really close to you and kiss your cheek, like Silas sometimes does.

I'm beginning to accept that the point of all of this isn't to make any single human proud of or happy about my words.

But if I had to bend the truth just a little, I'd bend it toward you.

Ever and Ever,

*All photos found languishing on my wonky phone.
*Amazon links. (duh)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Better Together

Today, I'm talking with my soul sister, Lori Harris, about what it has looked like for our families to travel similar but different journeys away from the security we thought we wanted and into the thick of our neighborhoods, where life is often complicated and always LOUD, but where we keep finding more of Jesus and the abundant life He called us to.

Pour a giant mug of Earl Grey, and don't even think about changing out of those two-day yoga pants. You come just as you are, and we'll do the same. We can talk about the hard and the good, remembering all over again why we're so much better together.

Join us over at (in)courage.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Simple Fall Decorating

Over the weekend I stripped the living room, just like Nester did. I liked the idea of taking everything away and then adding back in, selectively.

The only problem with that plan is that I haven't gotten around to the adding back in part. I'm sort of just enjoying all of the bare surfaces, and these things take a level of time and thoughtfulness I seem to have misplaced.

Maybe next week? Week after?
Maybe bare is the new Fall? Just-moved-in-chic?

I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I put together a post over at the Midwest Living blog sharing some of my favorite, simple, fall decorating tips. I definitely gravitate toward a fall decor that isn't overly-decorated or overly-Fall. It's fun to cozy things up and I love bringing small bits of nature inside, but whatever I do, I like it to stretch through Thanksgiving, and I never want to spend much cash (if any.)

I've also realized (this took me much longer than it should have, in hindsight) that I only decorate our living room. Ever. This might be why I do it so often. It's a very small space within a very small main level, and with our floor plan as open as it is, it easily sets the tone for the entire area.

Do you decorate as the seasons change?
Or do you think I'm nuts?

Don't answer that.

On another note, I recently finished two books, both worth sharing.

Wonder - R.J. Palacio
Calvin read this last year and has been asking me to read it. I finally picked it up and am so glad I did. It's the story of a 5th grade boy with a severe facial deformity and all the despair and triumph that ends up shaping his life. It's heart-breaking at turns, and there were a few lines here and there I felt weren't necessary in a book geared toward pre-middle-schoolers, but overall, I was glad he read it and that he shared it with me.

The Long and Faraway Gone - Lou Berney
I picked this up on the New Release shelf at the library a couple weeks ago, and I still have no clue why, other than I liked the title and its font. It goes against everything I typically read: It's a mystery, written by a man. Closing in on the due date, I grabbed it late Thursday night to flip through it, not sure I'd even commit. It grabbed me immediately, and I finished the entire thing over the course of the next (busy!) 72 hours. Though quite gritty in parts, it turns out I love a good who-dunnit. It's like Dateline Mystery, but without the creepy voice-overs!

That's all for now, homies. I know I've been a bit scarce around here, and I miss you!
Every day, I think of ten things each day I want to share with you, so just know you're never far from my  heart. :)

I'm in the home-strech and getting excited to share more with you about what's been keeping me away!

Happiest Tuesday,

*Amazon affiliate links

Friday, September 18, 2015

Everyday Us

I'm not sure what I'll remember about my life at home with my littles as we all get older.

A few days ago I saw a mom holding her small fella's hand in a store, making important conversation with him, her little buddy. My heart ached a bit for those long days that were often so hard. On this side, they do seem a bit magical. (Go here, here, and here for proof. SWOON!)

As a work-from-homer and a writer, my life is largely solitary now that all three of the kids are in school. I love quiet. But I'm starting to wonder if I have a saturation point. At the very least, these long stretches of quiet are a glaring contrast to 3pm, when everyone rolls in SO loud, SO bickery, everyone wanting my attention at once. The transition makes me feel like I need to rest under a compression blanket while someone brushes my hair.

But I don't want to be a person who always wishes they were in a different part of their day, or a different stage of their life. Looking at that mom with her little boy, I saw the way time has its way with memories and emotions. With any luck, these are all the glory days.

The future and the past and this right here is a web, stitched together and catching the light. We can't have part but not the whole. I want to keep feeling my life, not just remembering it in hindsight.

I want to freeze-frame the easy way we move through our afternoons, all that racket eventually settling down to an exhale. We're home.

Yesterday morning, in my quiet kitchen, I parsed through the day ahead of me. I've been spending most of each day at the coffee shop, finishing up the manuscript for my book. So there was that. But the library books need to be returned (and a fresh stack brought home), I'm heading out next week for a little workish adventure with Jailchap, and Si turns seven in seven more days.

I'm sure it'll feel pretty surreal to see a book with my name on the shelf, but what I want to really feel and really remember is the way I fold a load of laundry most days while dinner is cooking, or how Silas climbed into bed with us after having a bad dream that he was being chased by lightening. I want to remember the way I survived seven straight years (and counting!) of Legos strewn across every floor of every room. I never want to forget the ultra-verbose book Ruby wrote about Piggy and Elephant going to the beach, and the way she spelled cumpashunit. Hey hey, Silas got an 86% on his behavior chart in school yesterday! Calvin taught himself the opener to a Trampled by Turtle song on his violin!

These little things run the risk of blurring together into the greater good, and though good is always good, I'm a small moments girl, so I'll hold onto them like fruit in my apron.

Walking to school a few days ago, just as we we neared the building, Silas asked, "When Jesus made the numbers, how did He know what to call them?" We hadn't been talking about Jesus or numbers, and I sort of never want to solve the riddle of his brain.

{Si's toy box}

Back home in the quiet, it washed over me again. I LOVE MY LIFE.
It doesn't mean it's easy and it sure doesn't mean I always live it well.

Eternity calls, but I'm grateful for the other travelers I get to hold space with while we're here. God knew all along what I needed.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Of Course, Of Course

One of my most guarded secrets is that I don't really like animals HEAR ME OUT.

It's not that I don't like them, it's just that don't really like them.
It's an "I'm just not that into them" sort of situation, kind of like the book from the early 2000's but without the self-loathing, low self-esteem, and crying jags.

I feel strangely protective of animals. I don't wish them any harm. More than once I've caught myself pondering the mental health of our cat, Howard. (He enjoys licking Calvin's hair when he gets out of the shower and I'm no expert, but doesn't that scream feline psychological maladjustment?)

But the point of this post isn't really that I'd rather not hold your cat or that I'm slightly afraid of large animals because I once fell off a horse and twisted my ankle, or that when I see a human person letting a dog lick its face, it gives me the visceral shakes.

The point of this post is that I can't stop buying animal paraphernalia.

It started after we left the farm. And it confuses me deeply.

No amount of self-reflection could have prepared me for the moment I was minding my own business, traipsing through a barn sale with my friend Emily, and came upon a piece of animal art, rendered entirely from magazine pages.

I repeat: It is a farm animal magazine collage.

You know how I am about magazine handicrafts!

Yada yada, Stop it.

I casually walked past it, pretending to be normal. I browsed around outside, trying to make myself feel what it would be like to not take it* home with me. Then I slowly turned around and said to Emily, "Just fyi, I'm going to spend up all my pocket cash and buy a big picture of a horse."

"Okay", she said.

Tell me you blame me, even a tiny bit.

{Artist: Shelly Henning}

Turns out, it didn't fit in my checked baggage, so I shoved my purse into my carry-on and called this my personal item. Amazingly, no one questioned me. ( < horse miracle)

And that's the story of how I keep continuing to decorate with animal-themed objects, even though I it's not 1986, I live in the city, and I'm not a fan of animals.

For more animal-themed decor (<< something I never imagined writing at any point during my life), check out my gigantic cow canvas, which used to live over the couch but has wandered over to the kitchen. {Source: Whatever Shop}

And if you're anywhere near Thomasville, NC, be sure to check out the Chartreuse Barn Sale.

It was SO good!

* I know literally nothing about horses, so I can't tell if this is a man horse or a woman horse, but I do know that it doesn't deserve to be called "it". I'm taking name suggestions in the comments, and if yours is connected to a funny story, I'll love you forever.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Two Questions

When we moved into the neighborhood, we had ideas about the people we might meet.
I'd rather not even talk about the ways we got it all wrong.

But what would be the fun of that?

Vulnerability grows vulnerability. And if we ever hope to be free, we've got to first be willing to bare our guts.

Though I know most of them would be regular people like us, trying their best, I thought others would be broken. I imagined some with junk on their porches and track marks on their forearms. I thought there might be criminals, parents who didn't love their kids enough, or didn't know how.

I assumed they'd need Jesus.

Only because of God's great love, He nudged us along, calling us down to the humble place of understanding that all of our worst assumptions...were right.

Then he slowly turned that mirror around until all we saw was our own monstrous need, the ways we piled junk up around us and chased the wrong thing. We were them, and they were us. The only way out was to circle up and let God's glory bounce around in the space between us.

That's when I realized my faith, and any hope I had to offer boiled down to two questions. Who is God? How does He love us?

Those two questions form the bulk of my personal discipleship, these days. They're the very keys to holding on, our only hope for really loving one other.

I pray it for my neighbors and I pray it for me.
Show us. Just let us see for ourselves.

And He does. Every day, I'm looking out for signs left in my path.
Yesterday, I found a couple on our hard drive.

 This is who God is.
 This is how He loves us.

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