Friday, April 24, 2015

Me Right Now

I'm sitting here in my stripey pajama pants with a cat on my feet and a smile on my face, because it's FRIDAY! Gah. Finally.

The last few weeks have been so intense. Last night Cory pulled off the 1st Annual Elkhart County Jail Ministry banquet for over 400 people. It's so fun to watch him do his thing. He morphs into this uber-detail-oriented dude that just takes care of business. Who would have guessed jail would end up being his passion? Not moi.

Aside from that major event, I've been stockpiling smaller things to tell you, because it's just what I do. I leave nothing to the imagination...

...including my kitchen shelves.

I spruced them up for Spring. And by "spruced", I mean I collected a few random, clashing dishes from the thrift store and a rogue trip to Ikea and threw them all together. It's like a flower garden, only the kind where some of the flowers are actually blue zebras and some are jailbirds.

Whatever. It makes me really happy.

Sidenote: Do I need to lecture you again about decorating on-the-cheap with things that just make you happy? Because it feels like it's been several weeks since I've preached about this.

"Don't overthink. Don't spend cash you don't have. Don't worry about what Pinterest or that one redonkulously stylish friend would say. Swim towards the happy. Float in its sea. It'll make your heart feel prettier."

(Lecture over. Until next time.)

Can you even believe this stunning art from the hand of my lady, Aliza?
She just dashed it off, just for me. When it showed up at my door I felt like I'd just won the PowerBall.

Visitors in my home think it's sort of fun and ironic. BUT YOU KNOW BETTER.

In related news, I found myself growing weary of the circus tent curtains, so I started an exhaustive search for something new. Since curtains make my eyes cross with their inane price points, I considered stitching up some sheets again. But then I remembered the last time I tried to sew and shelved the idea.

In the end, I found these polka-dotties from Joss and Main. They're more sheer than I thought, but I sort of love them, and not just because they cost me $20 for the pair, but mostly exactly because of that reason. (And the polka dots.)

It's such a fun source for quirky, inexpensive stuff. I need to remember to look there more often.

When we're not working and fluffing our shelves and hunting for curtains, we're still doing regular living, and while it's been extra full lately, I find myself more thankful than ever for those normal, everyday moments that bring me right back to the core of who I am.

Things change, but some things never do. I need that reminder playing on a loop.

Last weekend I got an afternoon with just Ruby and Si. They were so dreamy. They got along like old mates and we ate Subway in the sun. It felt like summer, in all the right ways.

(Then it SNOWED on Wednesday. SOB!)

Silas has been ultra-adorable lately. He usually tells me at least once a day, in a voice dripping with amazement and awe, "I'm so glad I got the best mommy!"

(((Heart eyes! Heart eyes! All of the emojis!!!!!!)))

Maybe he's always been this way? I can't remember.
He's always been charming and easy, yes?

NO. The answer is everything that is the opposite of charming and easy. So Mama, if you're in a rough stretch right now, one you've renamed "eternal reality", take heart. Hope is somewhere on the horizon. I never would have believed it myself, and yet, here it is, right in front of me with a missing front tooth and a premature mustache.

He ebbs and flows. We all do. But I'm happy to hang out here for a while.

Other Important Stuff:
Just finished: The Rosie Project (So funny and strange! Loved it.)
Starting: All the Light We Cannot See
Listening to: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors - Good Light (my kids are OBSESSED, too)
Eating: black bean/brown rice bowls FOREVER. Not a ton of "real" cooking happening here lately, but these are easy, healthy and delicious. I top mine with avocado, tomato, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, a little sour cream, and sriracha.

Welp, Chunky Pants is here visiting with my sis and Ihear him stirring. Gotta run!

I'm sure you understand, but on the off-chance you need convincing, try this. Or this. I have watched them both one hundred times and have no plans of stopping. Instant day-brightener!

Luv to all the homies,

*affiliate links present!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Love Like A Human


I spend an unusual amount of time thinking about love. Or, at least, more time than I used to. What does love look like? How does it act? Does it somehow achieve a balance of justice and mercy, or does it automatically fall on the side of grace?

What exactly is love? And how can I get better at it?

There were years I took love for granted. While I would have said it was a fundamental part of my life, I assumed its presence and kept on living. I’m a nice person. I love people.
Not until I fully recognized my God-given birthright (love Him, love my neighbor as myself) did love become a tangible thing. I knew I was not fulfilling my job, but in order to fix things, I needed to make up for lost time. I wanted to. I needed more love, in and through and pouring out from my life.

You know what happened next, how we sold things and moved places and surrounded ourselves with neighbors who can't help but respond to love. You know I'm being changed by their love.

You may have also gathered that I remained a bit lost in my mission. I routinely believe I’m missing the mark.

Yesterday my hunch was proven, but I need to back up.

Saturday found me at what was easily my personal, recent worst. What began as a stellar slash of white space across my overly-inked calendar spiraled without warning.

I had hatched a plan, and it just wasn't working. Aside from the general failure of my plan, there were other humans involved, and they were behaving badly. 

I stomped my mile-and-a-half around the pond at break-neck speed. I was fuming. Appalled. I felt so sorry for myself. I wanted justice and if I had to be the one to dole it out, well. I could do that.

Back home, my anger, unrelated to my family, spilled over to them. Naturally, I went on a cleaning rampage. I wanted to throw things away. Slam some stuff around. The kids hustled, following orders, keeping the peace, willing me out of my funk when it wasn't on them in the first place. I knew what was happening, I felt the tension mingle with my shame, but honestly felt incapable (unwilling?) to stop. It felt too good, too justified.

Then Cory threw a wrench in my already-torqued day. It was a total accident. He made a mistake, a simple, harmless one, and I lost it.

I cursed under my breath, shouted into the phone, made sure he knew he'd managed to make my bad day worse. I told myself my anger was validated. I raced sweaty and breathless back to my old stand-bys, "I'm the only one holding things together around here." "Everything falls on me." You know, complete lies.

In my blind, bratty mini-rage, I wanted him to feel some of the pain. I wanted apologies, and then some. I wanted everyone to acknowledge my faultlessness, but I'd settle for him.

Only because there's a God in Heaven and an empty tomb, I eventually recovered. The day wasn't as ruined as I had insisted.

Cut to yesterday.

Cory and I had just spent over an hour in our accountant's office, trying to make sense of a bunch of numbers. He did this without a single reminder that it was the busiest week of his entire year.

He drove me home, ticking down his mental to-do list, then kissed me and headed to work.

I drove back to the pond for today's 1.5 miles before diving into my own work.
And immediately locked my keys in the van.

When I called, he said he was almost to work. Why? What did I need?

Having no other choice, I humbly told him what I'd done, and apologized.

Guess what he did?

He said he was already turning around. He'd be there in twenty minutes. "Go ahead and start walking. I'll take care of it." 

He never once raised his voice. He didn't berate or shame me. He showed no sign of anger. He didn't make me pay for my sins.

I walked that familiar mile, the wind whipping my hair, my eyes trained for his van in the distance, coming to my rescue when I'd done nothing to deserve such mercy, nothing at all.

Around the furthest curve, I saw him pull up, a tiny speck across the pond. Though I should have felt deep shame, what I felt instead was tremendous grace. I felt love that was freely mine, no strings attached. A kernel of regret was still wedged in my heart, but he came for me and the cost was all his. He came, and it didn't make me want to hide, it made me want to live. It made me want to love him better, to somehow try to match his kindness.

I wondered if he could see me in the distance. Was he looking for me across the pond? I didn't blame him if he wasn't.

The gap between us was closing while I walked, but I was still only half-way there. I watched him drive away, still astonished by his goodness.

Then the van stopped. It reversed.
And he waited there for me, on his busiest day of the year.

He didn't wait because he was itching to remind me of my inadequacy, or point out all the ways I'd inconvenienced him. He didn't wait because he wanted my apology in person.

He waited because he saw me coming his way. How could he drive away?

It's true, love does things, but love also is things. 

It's patient. Kind to the core. 
It might be forgetful or distracted. Maybe it's not always the best communicator or the picture of romance. Love is Jesus, wrapped in a human. There's bound to be some fall-out.

For all I've learned in recent years about what it means to love hard people, I learn the most by being loved by one of the easiest.

I'm ready to take a closer look not at the things I do in love, but the simple way I am. Am I loving? Do I represent grace, or carve tally marks?

I can do loving things until my hair turns gray and still not be a person defined by the way I love. 

That's what love really does, it inspires growth. It makes us want to be better.
It settles into the cracks of our soul and tells us we were made for more than our shabby excuses.
It silences the clang and makes a melody of our mess.

Love is free.
Love is reckless and foolish.

That's what love is.

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.

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