Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Critical, I've been so critical lately. Both inwardly and outwardly I've been criticizing everything and repeating the phrase, "I need to do this; you shouldn't do this; if only they would do it this way." What is wrong with me? Where is grace? Where is patience? How did I go on about this and miss it? Perhaps you haven't seen it, but I am painfully aware of it (and so is my husband!)

I think it might have something to do with want. We all want something don't we? We want skinnier bodies, more money, more discipline in prayer, the answers to life's problems; we seek affirmation from people by looking polished, "having it all together," saying all the right things, paying attention to all the "right" people, even if "for the sake of the Kingdom." But we want. 

At dinner tonight I found myself saying, "Uh, that's so lame, why would they want to have this big festival with a bunch of concerts. It's just going to attract a bunch of Christians. People don't meet Jesus through flashy shows; they meet him in the face and lives of others." Now, I know this blanket statement can't be true; I'm sure lots of people can say they were moved to know Jesus because of a concert, a festival, a crusade. But I'm thinking of how Jesus moved and affected people. There were some crowds we hear about, and maybe they left some of the stories of other crowds out, but there sure are a lot of one-on-one encounters. Quiet, intense encounters, that left a life changed. Did they all give it up and follow Jesus? We can't know. But I know from my measly 23 years of life lived that when eyes meet, when laughter escapes, when bodies are embraced in lingering hugs, something happens... something that can't be replicated from a stage and a sinner's prayer.

But I rambled.

I still can't say such strong words as "can't" and "won't" because God can and does use anything to make his name known, to nudge a person's heart, to waken something in their spirit that might not have been stirred otherwise. I just want things my way; I want my opinions and theologies to be true and correct.

Alas, I shall ask, "but what do you want of me, Lord?"

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory... (Psalm 115:1)

Friday, December 19, 2008


This week in particular has reminded me of some of the things I love most about the South, some of which are only relevant in the DEEP South where I come from. And since I don't write about "light" things very often, here goes...

Things I love about my South.

1. the way the city shuts down with the prediction of ice/snow that never actually comes...
2. sweet tea
3. cheese grits
4. pool swimming season lasts from May - September (at least)
5. sweet tea
6. New Orleans cuisine
7. two days out of school for Mardi Gras holidays
8. the ability to wear skirts at random points throughout the winter
9. no need for snow tires
10. sweet tea
11. southern accents
12. southern belles (like the sweet lady at our last church who sounded like Blanche Devereaux from the Golden Girls, but with much better morals.)
13. sweet tea

I'm constantly dreaming of places to move, all of which are NOT in the South, claiming that I can't stand the heat, that I want to meet people who follow Jesus instead of just claiming him, and that I want to hike and whitewater raft more. And those things are true, and those dreams keep dreaming, but you know, my South is home and you just can't get good sweet tea anywhere else, that's for dang sure.


Wishing you that joy and peace that came when the Word became flesh....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We've been waiting for so long to see them, to sing songs, to laugh hardily, to see the beautiful color of their eyes. And it's finally here. What's better is we get to share them with matthew clark AND my parents--the whole Family, together for Thanksgiving, a time to be especially thankful and reminded of everything, even the small things.

Aislinn and Matt will be here so soon; we haven't seen them in a year. Our soul-friends, you could call them, ones we miss every single day of our lives, but they're finally here!

AND we're in the North Carolina mountains! too much, too much!

We've already been sharing so much of our lives. We made a stop in Knoxville, met some new friends, crashed on their futon and floor, ate crumpets and sipped coffee and shared about life and love and the Church and all the things that sound so cliche on a blog, but are so rich and meaningful when shared on the living room floor of a duplex in the foothills.

We were made for relationship; this is it. This is beauty at its beautifulness-est.

We love this Family!

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Sharing is caring..."

You must have sung this song as a child. I'm not sure the rest of the words, but I've got a hint of a tune in my head that goes along with this phrase, and I am singing it in my head just now...

Sharing is caring.

But sharing sure does freak people out these days. "You let someone else drive your car?" I do, after all, have such a deep affection for this chunk of metal sitting in the driveway. "You actually want to live with other people? I could never..." No, I could never live with people; why on earth would I do that? "You put all your money in a common fund? Never."

We don't do all these things, and even if we do, it probably doesn't look exactly how you'd imagine, but then again, some of these we do. I'm awed at the extreme sense of ownership of every tiny detail of our lives--down to the very thing that was given to us freely--our salvation. It's my car, my house, my money, my church, and my worship service. "It's just me and Jesus!"

Mine, mine, mine.

Sharing is caring.

One can't blame another for having this ownership over things; it is the center of American culture. Get a good degree so you can have a good job and buy lots of things. You will have complete control over your life when you have enough money to live where you want, have what you want, at any time you want.

But my friends, I'll tell you, in my measley experience that sharing is caring, even when your hands have to be pried off of that which you prized so dearly. Once it's out of your hands, you never realized how good it felt to loosen that grip and wiggle those fingers.

So loosen your grip and wiggle your fingers.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I can't decide if busyness is good or bad. I know it depends on what kind of busyness, but in general, regardless of whether it was for the good or not, I find myself exhausted in the aftermath, wishing I had sat across the table from more friends, cooked more meals, read more books to children, and read more books of my own. I don't mind all busy days--they often are filled with good, meaningful things. But when you start to feel like your life is one whirlwind... that's hard.

So once again, my obsession with labeling everything right or wrong/good or bad has failed. But I'm glad tomorrow isn't busy!


Halloween today. We're going to a "no costume, no entry" party, so we've got to find something homemade (and cheesy, preferably) to be before 7pm tonight. Before that, though, I get to hang out with kids from other parts of the world, which is going to be a b-l-a-s-t! Cam (from Refugee Empowerment Program) asked me if I'd like to help take kids to the children's carnival at 2nd Presbyterian Church, and I am totally in. Fun times will be had...


If you're interested, here's what I'm reading: "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver; and "Freedom of Simplicity" by Richard Foster. We're gearing up for a community garden in the Spring, all-organic (or as close as you can possibly, technically, be "all organic") and the sheer simplicity that comes with that. You might not think tilling the soil and tending the veggies is easy, but we know simple and easy are not the same. What's more simple than this? Plant it, take care of it, watch is grow, eat it. God designed some beautiful things, and producing fruit from the earth is one of them.

Oh and today is one of the other most beautiful things...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the first anniversary

Well, the one year wedding anniversary is behind us, but another is approaching: One year since I inquired about this job. I have an email dating 11/27/07, the day I received the full job description for Missions Associate at Christ United Methodist Church. One year since my prayer time was lengthened, and my stomach in knots over the decision at hand. One year since I began imagining (sadly) my life without Court Street. One year since I began preparing myself to say goodbye to Hattiesburg.

One year goes by so fast.

We sat in front of Andrew Peterson last night, listening to him share stories of newness and resurrection; He [God] really does make all things new. Gives us new songs to sing, new cities in which to call home, new friends to take care of (and to be taken care of by them).... all of these make up the new seasons of life.

I am amazed at the spoiled, selfish girl I can be. Some days it's all I can do to not imagine myself anywhere but here. The mountains of North Carolina. A home with Matt and Aislinn. Or even no place to call home but a travel trailer, guitar, and the open road with Jeff, Matthew, and Brian. Other days I am so sure that this season in Memphis is full and good and purposeful. Does everyone else find themselves feeling this way, that I somehow "deserve" to live in the mountains or something? What of those who are trapped in lives of abuse and poverty and misery? Or do I imagine their lives are misery? Have they discovered an even deeper understanding of fullness because of their circumstances?

This is just my stream of thoughts.

I was driving to Tupelo last night, and though we may not have the Autumn that other places do, our trees are in fact looking lovlier by the day as they change colors. Slowly but surely, just as our lives change.

There must be death in order to be life.

The seasons must change.

The jobs must end, and another begin.

He did not even spare himself.

Yes, there must be death in order to be life.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

what we once called home

This is it, the place I used to call home. We're in Waynesboro, visiting the 'rents, old friends, and the Family I'll never forget and never, ever replace. Yes, the Spiritual Warriors, as we've forever dubbed ourselves. My youth group from First United Methodist Church in Waynesboro. We weren't just a youth group, we were most suredly a family. We reminisced over lunch at Robinson St. together (where I highly recommend the gravy fries and chicken salad sandwich) about all the things that make Jeff insanely bored and out-of-place but like an enduring spouse, he.... endured.

It's good to be here with them, good to see them carrying on and living well and being faithful to the One.

But still, I know, that once you've left, it's hard to come back. Would we make it after being gone to Memphis? Could anyone take in our opinions and the way we dress and Jeff's love for imported beers (always in moderation, of course). I'm afraid we might be dubbed as too different... and for this, I just smile and consider myself very blessed to have grown up in such a safe place with loving people in the Family of God. But as Sara sings it (always so well)...

the places that used to fit me
cannot hold the things I've learned
and those roads were closed off to me
while my back was turned. [sara groves]

Still it's so good to be back....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Memphis, O Memphis...

Well, I admit it: I'm glad you brought us here. Maybe it's the cooler weather convincing me of this gladness, but regardless. Oh, how I am glad...

Monday, September 15, 2008

in my mind I'm gone to Carolina...

It's that kind of day today. Yes, the kind where I want to drive to North Carolina and never look back. I've had a lot, lot, lot of those lately. To breathe mountain air. to hike. to find a waterfall. walk a street. write a song inspired by mountains. This is the stuff I've been dreaming about for years, but sometimes I feel it more than others. Will the mountains seem less grand once I live there? Sometimes, probably. Will it start to feel like home more than a fun vacationy spot? Yes, probably. But that's okay.

And if I never get to live there, I will wait for the next part of eternity... THE heavenly home.

"yes, I'm gone to Carolina in my mind."

Monday, September 8, 2008

blogging in a snobby coffee shop

Apparently, it's the new hip and cool thing to be nonchalant, in a hurry (when I'm the only person waiting in line), avoid eye contact and any real human interaction, and frankly, just be a snob. You think I'd get used to it, but every time I come to these places, I'm frankly, quite amazed. He literally swiped my card, and slid it across the countertop back to me--and we're talking, a good, fast slide. I mean, I thought I'd miss it and it would hit the floor. I hope I would have been witty enough to say, "Oh! Point for you, better step up my game!" I'm sorry. I didn't know we were playing bar hockey. Whatevs.

Alas, I keep coming back to these places (though more and more infrequently.) When I want to be left alone to read and blog to myself, I can surely count on having that here. But truly, Caritas village is the place for warmth, a good, cheap lunch, and free wireless.... and Charlie. Good ol' Charlie.

Girls' Club. It's going to be a blast. Monday nights from 6-7pm we hang out with 1st-6th graders, and when we break up for Bible story time, I get the 4th-6th graders. We pick them up before, too, and on my route I get to pick up the Burundian girls (Burundi = African country, just to those who don't have a world map shower curtain) which is such a joy! I'm determined to learn their names, which shouldn't be too difficult except for nshiminana... or something like that. Oh man, the beauty....

Memphis. All I've got to say to you, Family, is that if you move here, you'll get your hands dirty and see some beauty and challenge and good music. So... just let me know, and we'll move into a big house together.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Yes, I'm reading this particular book by Barbara Kingsolver, and I'm officially grossed out by caged chickens led to slaughter. But more than anything, I'm distraught at the beauty and creativity of God that is destroyed when we make animals and food production what it's become today (corporate, single-specied) in the name of efficiency and obesity. I could go on and on.... It did nudge me towards the farmer's market this past weekend with my lovely new sister, Michelle, and my eyes were aglow! I don't even eat many veggies, but let me tell you, I'm on my way to eating more and the bright colors at the market sure know how to inspire...

You, O God, know more beauty and color and love than I could ever imagine. And you're showing me...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Our Table is Full...

Since moving to Memphis 7 months ago, our supper table has been full many nights, full of vibrant conversation, hearty laughter, and good food (courtesy of my hubby, Jeff, the best chef in this-here neck of the woods.) Just last night we had our new neighbors over, who just moved in down the street from Nashville. Newlyweds, void of cellphones and too many vehicles, they have after only a couple of visits in one-week's time, proved to be easy to begin to get to know. Never could I have imagined having this many people around the dinner table! It is quite joyous. If your dinner table is empty, I encourage you to fill it up...

I begin reading Richard Foster's 'Freedom of Simplicity' today, something that has been on my reading list for quite some time. Appropriately, I am refraining from reading 3 or 4 books at one time (as I so often do) while I read his thoughts. This is, after all, a book about simplicity of the heart and the home, so why clutter it up with multiple reads? I may, however, have to have two books going at the same time, as my new friend let me borrow a book about a family who challenged themselves to one year of eating and buying locally, with lots of recipes and gardening advice weaved through the pages. Exciting! The tomatoes on our front porch are, sadly, proof that I do indeed need to read this book.

This Fall will most surely be full of new dinner guests and become very familiar with a few constant faces. If you plan on coming for a visit, be ready for Indian food and new conversation. We invite you to our table...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

just give me room to breathe...

sometimes it feels like suffocating, this place that I am in. Reading Josh's blog earlier I longed for the space to question and speak frustrations and joys and doubts; room to be who I am, while still exploring who I'm becoming; a place to laugh and wiggle and not always be so sure about everything, to not have everything figured out; room to breathe. I think most of us long for that; I do every day in this season of my life.

working in the church is good and important and hard. what an important and often trying place! the lessons I am learning... they are valuable and timely. but oh how sometimes it feels hard to breathe.

but I am reminded just now that my brothers and sisters here do give me that, Ashok and Neha give me that space, Matthew gives me that space. Thank you for that, my dear family. But I still feel suffocation some days, a sense of out-of-place-ness.

I don't think my mind and heart and gifts were built for strategies and plans and business models; my heart and mind seem to be all over the place most of the time, and I like it that way.

I miss you, brothers and sisters who give me room. At this moment, I'm thankful the dinner tables and firesides that have let me breathe freely, and I long for them once again.

room to breathe; I need room to breathe.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Much has happened since I've last found some words to put down. Jeff and I celebrated our one year anniversary on August 11, while having dinners and laughs with Heather, Braden, Laura, and Casey in Nashvilla. Ah, it's always great to see a new city! It's also great to celebrate good things, like anniversaries. We thawed the wedding cake, which suprisingly, was still pretty tasty. Maybe the better your first year of marriage, the better your cake tastes. Hmmm. It was definitely a good year...

And a BIG YEAR. We changed cities, states, jobs, restaurant choices, and front porch views. We gained new friends and kept good, good "old" ones (and might I add, you discover depth of friendships by the ones who end up on your doorstep and at your dinner table from hundreds of miles away!) We've been in Memphis for almost 7 months now, and it's been wonderful and hard. Living in the same city as Larry Ray Reed, Kim Perry, and Ashok & Neha is certainly a good, good thing. But it's also hard living in a place with so much need and despair and division. I've written enough blogs on this, so no need to go into it here. But I'll keep reminding us...

Beauty is best when it is born out of brokenness.

We've been back from Zambia for almost 2 weeks now. It was terrific and fun and tiring and difficult. I was struck by the simplicity and the sunsets and the potholes (and they were definitely serious potholes!) We learned a lot about flexibility and patience. We learned something about hunger, though nothing compared to those who know what starving is. We worshipped and prayed in different languages, but in the same Spirit. We added to the beauty, together. The story I love telling best is this one.

As we were watching "the Jesus film" one night, this little girl of 5 or 6 sat next to me. She spoke Tonga; I spoke English. So basically, we didn't speak at all. but at the end of the film, when the Zambians begin to sing and worship, she reached over nonchalantly and took my hand, clasped it, sometimes clapping with it, but mostly holding it, and just held it for what seemed like forever. No big gushy production. We just sat under the African sky, stars beaming, holding hands and worshipping in Tonga. Simple and incredible.

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and I can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it

something on the road, cut me to the soul....

your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
and what I know of love...

[sara groves]

yes, words just get in the way.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

across the ocean isn't so far; it's where my brothers and sisters are

probably my last post, before I hop on a plane for 17 hours (phew-wee!) But before that, I've still got chapel at SOS, morning coffee with Neha, laundry, banking, thrift store shopping, and praying. As Audra has reminded us, "it's the everyday."

it's been too, too busy around here, and I'm glad to get to African time... (which I hear is no time at all...) and when I get back, it will be smoooooooth sailing. I am hoping for lunches with Larry, bike rides with Kim, and a long phone chat with HeatherfreakinawesomeVallot. I mean. Land.

everyone is freaking out the economy is the way it is, and I am reminded of the words in the gospel as told by Matthew, that we are not to be anxious--today is all we have, and so we just live it out, one foot in front of the other, one breath and prayer at a time, while we cook meals and work hard and do our laundry and play our guitars. so rest, my friends. It isn't easy when things fall apart but we know he holds us in the palm of his hand...

as I watch the news and eat my meal in peace
I watch the people stand in line all day and shuffle their feet
and cry, where's the money gone? they just can't take it.
I have a family, we'll never make it on our own...

i see the lilies of the field and they dance around all day
i see the sparrow up above and she never seems afraid
because they know that You hold us.. in the palm of your hand.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

We're coming up on one year--August 11 is our anniversary. Seriously, one year? It flies by. It's fun, to know we've been married a year and we can get along and work together and make this journey together. It comes so naturally, being married to Jeff.


Playing a lot of music these days. We'll be in Jackson (MS) sometime in August, playing at this new coffee shop/community center in downtown. We'll do a house concert, too, only 15 or 20 people and tell our stories and sing our songs. I hope you can come.


I guess there isn't much to talk about. There is actually so much to talk about and so much going on and so many issues and theologies and ideas, that it makes my head spin. And reading other friends' writing only shows me that we're all struggling with this, struggling to put aside--at least for awhile--all our debates and confusion and strategies and just get up in the morning and let the Lord be our guide.

the Lord be our guide

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Caritas Village. Picture it, Sicily, 1923... haha, okay, that's from the Golden Girls.

Seriously, though... The Caritas Village--or just 'The Village' over here--is my place of rest for the next half-hour or so. I'm sitting on a lime green (very comfy) couch, with a glass of water, and a stummy (stomach + tummy = stummy) full of their delish chocolate chip cookies. To my right is a crooked picture of MLK, Jr. and a big statue of a pitbull with a chain around its neck. This piece of art, which just arrived here this week, apparently, is representing the pitbulls who fall victim to dogfighting in this neighborhood, I assume. anyway. To my left is tons of artwork (all by a guy named Frankie) who has captured the Bing in his artwork. Lots of it is that kind of artwork with stuff on it.... is it decopage? I don't know. Objects such as used cigarettes, bus passes, crushed Colt 45 beer cans and a condom or two, representing the struggles of the neighborhood, but first you notice all the bright colors he uses in his art. I think this is because Frankie knows there is beauty underneath it all. Straight in front of me is Josh, whom I just met, and the African-American mailman, who is stopped in here for a break and conversation. I only point out their racial difference to point out what you often find in here. Lots of black and white sitting around tables (which also means Africans, because we have some beautiful Burundian refugees in the Bing!) chatting it up about politics and mowing the grass and this and that and this and that.

I am reminded why I love it here. This little haven, the Village, is the picture of what most of us hope can happen on a much larger scale in Memphis one day. But we know Jesus likes to start one-by-one, with personal conversations and relationships (which also mean disagreements and racial tensions) but if you want the beauty, you've gotta take the mess.

Some of you have seen this place; we bring all our Family here, but I wish you could come, too.


Yesterday was hard; Below is what I wrote.

Peace to you, Family.


I’m feeling frustrated. What am I going to do when he calls back on Monday? He will call back. And if he doesn’t, he’ll show up at the front desk, and I’ll hear my name paged that a young man is looking for me. He’ll probably have tears in his eyes—fake or real, I won’t be able to tell—and I’ll feel my heart start to bleed and wonder what in the world I’m supposed to do.

What if his story is true? And how much does that matter? I’m thinking of how Jesus would respond (or rather, how He is going to respond through me.) Jesus would have responded. In what way, I am unsure, but he would have responded, even if with an admonishment to “go and sin no more,” or a place to lay his head for the next week. How can I, with all my inconsistencies, help this man and his family? How can I use the resources I have to really help this man?

There is this enormous, self-imposed pressure on my shoulders to fix everyone’s problems, particularly because all the questions and needs come directly to my office, at my desk, on my phone. And time after time, I don’t have answers. There is the occasional referral I can make, but time after time I hear, “I’ve gone down the list; I’ve tried everyone.” Many are good at this. Yes, many people who call consistently make bad decisions and rely on other places (specifically churches) to come to their rescue and provide a free service for them.

How can we empower and enable folks, build relationships with them, without constantly providing a crutch? Aren't we supposed to be meeting temporary needs, too? Isn't this the door to enter someone's world and help them more? And what about those who will never choose a better lifestyle? Don't we still get to love them, frustration and all? Is this possible when we feel so disconnected from the outside world? Is the whole church feeling this way, or just 4488 Poplar Ave.?

The harvest is plentiful. And today, I feel like the workers are…. Few. To say the least.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

burning in Memphis

As Sara Groves looks over the past couple of years, she recalls from where she's come and where she is now. From "hugging the wall" to this: "I want the wick to be gone; I want the wax to be gone. I want to burn down to the ground." She wants her kids to see her, not hugging the wall, but running with her head thrown back.

down to the ground, down to the ground.

We're singing songs more lately, ones we wrote well, ones we wrote hesitantly, many that take our listeners and ourselves over and over on our journey. This is what I like about our songs. We don't forget where we've come from--who was there, and who isn't anymore; what stones were thrown, what seeds were planted; what minds were closed, what hearts have since opened.

I hate not feeling completely safe going for a walk in my own neighborhood. I take myself on guilt trips for wanting to go walking in other neighborhoods, ones that are quieter, safer. I am staying with a friend for a few days, and it's a nice break to go outside by myself, on a walk. But the obvious difference is that there aren't as many people outside. I've gone from one extreme to the other--from people sipping their brown-bagged bottles in the noonday sun (day after day after day) to those who are so busy that there isn't time to sit on porches. This is perhaps misjudgement on my part.

But I've decided it is okay not to feel guilty anymore. I just want to go for walks. I am praying for courage to walk in the mornings in my own neighborhood, to begin making Binghampton my home instead of a place where I feel like such an outsider. It's all perception. Other people might perceive me as an outsider, but I want to stop perceiving myself that way. Self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't want to fall victim to it.

the healthy don't need a doctor; welcome to Memphis.

Friday, June 6, 2008

full house = full life

Our house has been very full, as well as our lives. Many have passed over our floors, cooked in our kitchens, slept on our air mattresses, played our instruments, sipped coffee on our porch, played games on our floor, and laughed 'til they cried. They are....

of Dutch descent...

very good at Scottish and Australian accents... (and guitars and lyrics)

now spending their days in Hatty and Africa....

and introducing us to the world of High School Musical (1 and 2!)

You don't realize what little space you need to live in until you have to share it with others. I've had to bend and stretch in ways that I didn't want to. For instance, I really like organic milk (who doesn't love antiobiotic-free cows?) But you can't afford organic milk when your houseguest goes through a gallon every 3 - 4days. (and that's just ONE GUEST.)

Some of our visitors stayed for 4 days, some stayed 3 weeks. Some were difficult, some were more joyful.

All were a blessing.

God is continually revealing little bits and pieces of our calling in life, callings that I believe are present for all Christians, and callings on our lives as individuals and a couple. I'm reading a terrific book, that is answering many of my questions about how to take care of each other, both physically and spiritually. Hospitality is on my mind a lot lately, and God is giving us many opportunities to flesh this out. I wonder, are these opportunities present for us all the time? They've come across our paths, quite effortlessly. Do we routinely ignore the call to take care of each other? Are we doing it best we can? And what does this look like for each of us?

I look forward to including each of you, my brothers and sisters, on this intense journey, as we are forced to re-evaluate everything we've been taught and shown about individualism and privacy and self; about sharing, community, and selflessness.

Join us......

Friday, May 16, 2008

beauty and the mess, the mess, the mess...

beauty today, outside. sun, wispy clouds, blue-ness. beauty, indeed.

the mess of my soul. yes, inside I have felt like a mess. one who doesn't take time to get it together, to breathe, to sit, to pray, to feel the Spirit fillingmy empty places, my lungs, my holes. I have so many holes. when I have the time to be still, I don't want to. yet, I crave it. what is wrong with me? help, Jesus.

hospitality. decisions. life-interrupted. the Good News. the gospel of Jesus. the tough parts. following, not just believing. it can drain your soul, if you let it. if you try on your own strength, which perhaps I have done for too long.

there will be a cookout on Saturday. we're starting a neighborhood association. how did I get roped into this? didn't I say I was excited? did I lie? have I become discouraged?

I must pray; I must trust. I must live every day, trusting on provision. I am not real good at this!

Jesus, come.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


yes, motionless. That's how I find myself this morning at any attempt to do.... work. It's beautiful outside; that's where I want to be. Memphis weather isn't always this great, so I need to snag it before it's gone. But that's not the real reason I can't keep my hands busy today.

Today I want to stop. I'm tired of getting phone calls about financial assistance and not having the answers. I am not the Church; I cannot fix everyone's problems. I am a part of the Church--a member of the body of Christ, but I cannot do everything. Not that anyone explicitly asked me to, but it's starting to feel like it.

It's hard to bridge gaps; it's hard to try to teach people to be the Church.

Let me be idealistic for a moment; Church--let's wake up and start taking care of each other! It's my hope that one day I can pick up the phone, hear this concern/request, and then call on a small group of Christians to take on this need as their own, seek the source of the need, and meet it.

Taken advantage of. This is most people's concern, to be taken advantage of. My answer is--you will be. That's what happens when you enter into relationship, things don't go right, they're hard, they're messy. This is relationship, community; this is life.

more to come.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


"Where do you think it comes from, what I hear?"

"I think it comes from all around you...
it comes through us... some of us...."

"So, only some of us can hear it?"

"Only some of us are listening." [from "August Rush"]

We're all talking, talking, talking. It's been too long since I spent time (good, quality time) with folks who don't have it figured out and aren't afraid to admit it. You can only hear the answers for so long, and then you want to jump out of your skin, turn to the guy next to you and say, "You know, this whole 'What's the point of life thing?' Yeah, well I don't always get it either." But then I'd jump back into my skin, so it didn't look like Abbye was admitting that; she might get the turn of a head, or the mark of a pen, or the boot out the door.
So, I'm needing to be with people who are nothing like me and just like me.

those moments. I know you recognize them. I most often recognized them when I was walking across the campus of Southern Miss, by myself... when the wind comes barreling in from behind, out of nowhere! And you felt it. Something. It happened this morning, walking from my car into the building that houses the Church (ah, yes.) and the wind is swirling all around me. Signs that a storms a'comin. No surprise, it's been storming a lot in the 2 + months we've been living in Memphis. Anyway, the wind blew my hair all up in a dither and the temperature felt just less than perfect and I didn't want to leave it. I felt, in that moment, free because no one was asking an answer of me; no one was there to interrupt the whirlwind. The roar of the winds lets you drown out not only all others, but perhaps mostly, it lets you drown out yourself.

let the wind roar.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I'm too full, I might get independent,
saying, 'God? Who needs him?'
If I'm poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God."
[Prov. 30:8-9, the Message]

It gets this way; you don't know how to fix all the problems, so you start wondering why you're even trying to do anything, anything at all. I know Marlon feels this way. He sits with the same guys, with the same addictions, dismissing him in the same manner, day after day, week after week, and year after year. The story doesn't change much. He can make the call, he can get him into rehab. He has the connections to help this person not only move toward freedom from addiction, but also find housing, clothes, and job skills. Marlon has these connections. And still they refuse. Oh, there is the occasional (in every sense of the word) positive response. Clean for a few months. Abstinent for a few weeks. But it's a heart condition, and this is what Marlon knows, this is what we know, this is what we want all to know. That you don't have to live in bondage.

But still, the man at the car wash, who lives with the shakes, drinks hydrogen peroxide because it's cheap and somehow gives him the illusion that it's as good as the real thing. And he, day after day, refuses help, refuses to dial Big Dog's number, to let him pick him up and carry his burden for him. This is familiar. This is all he's meant to do. This is his "freedom," and so he stays at the car wash. He answers to know one. Yet his insides, including his heart, are slowly burning away.

Heavy week.

Ten children who I desperately wanted to shelter under the roof of my home, who were terribly surprised by my request for a hug, but so willing to give it. Do they ever get hugs? Or are they constantly made slave to the requests of their crack-addicted mother and tired and helpless older sister? What will happen to them? How can I stay in their lives? Answer, please! God, help us, ANSWERS!! Why, why, why, and how could this happen? WHERE DO WE BEGIN?

This is what happens when I think on it too long. You go through these cycles or deep grief, of anger, of helplessness, and too often, final retreat.

"This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing." [Matthew 10:42. the Message]

We're all just doing our best to make it through and shine our love heavenward and thus, outward to our neighbors, to our brothers and sisters, to each other, any and all.


Friday, March 14, 2008

one month too long

gosh, I'm usually such a good blogger...

And I've missed writing, I really have. I'm having writer's block when it comes to songwriting, which really gets me down. Am I losing my ability to express myself in song? Am I just no good at it anymore? Am I just not inspired enough? I've had dry spells before, but I've usually come out of them by now.

I ache for another woman to have rich friendship with, the kind you go to have early morning breakfasts with and be really honest about even the things you dread being really honest about. I miss Aislinn something fierce, and I wish she were my next-door neighbor. Ah, but amidst those missings, we are experiencing a lot of newness here. We are making some great new friends and making new decisions.

I'm seeing money and possessions newly, too. Ronald J. Sider (author of 'Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger') has challenged me with the idea of ownership. The concept of God's ownership over things in our lives isn't something new to me, but I have never been challenged to take it seriously, to actually acknowledge and practice this. God's money, God's home, God's life. I mean, if everything "I own" is really God's, then shouldn't things be a lot different? Yes. It's actually freeing to grab hold of this. Difficult, but freeing. Yeah, so I'll let you know how that comes along.

Sleep would be good.... now.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This is a picture of the tornado that hit about 10-15 miles from our house in Memphis. Kind of amazing, huh?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

We're here...

I really am happy being here in Memphis. So far, I really enjoy my job and the people I work with. Jeff and I are falling in love with some new friends, and for fear of getting our hopes up, they shall remain nameless--but we hope they like us as much as we like them and want to be our forever-friends (i.e., BFF). One of the guys I work with has a lot of the same values, theologies, concerns, and this makes for a hopeful time during my days.

We bought a[nother] car. We've been thinking about how it is hard to get around without each person in the house having a car, and so how can we reconcile that? Well, maybe one day we'll get to live with a couple of other folks, and we won't to have one car for each person, rather, we can work it out where we take the car at different times. It wouldn't be easy, but everything in life doesn't have to be easy in order to be simple.

So we're reading new books and having new conversations and watching our lives change. It is refreshing, and I am so thankful that God is so gracious.

We don't have cable, which is good, and hopefully we won't cave in and get it. Or at least, maybe we'll just stick to 13 channels--the cheap stuff. I mean, I like the music on weather channel, and there is something comforting about hearing the voice of Jim Cantori during a thunderstorm.

Seriously, come visit. There's so much room....

Oh, and if you want some outdoor tables/chairs (4 chairs, 1 table) then let me know. We left some in Hattiesburg and our ex-landlord is probably twiddling his thumbs [literally] wondering when we're going to send someone by there to come pick them up. Gheesh.

grace and peace for the journey.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

From Here to There: The Journey of a Calling

:: Day 6 ::

Today was a little excruciating on the inside. As we were standing before our family at Court Street United Methodist, I felt as though my heart might scream, though I've been trying to tame it just so. Ever since I got the job, and officially decided to move to Memphis, I've done good work avoiding all the very emotional spots that I knew would bring me to the brink of tears. It's all happened to quickly, you know? No times for real goodbyes. [Pastor] Bruce has known for the longest, and though he's "ready," I don't think he's really ready to let us go. Am I even ready to let them go?

But, you don't really get ready, do you? You just leave a little piece of your heart with them, and take what you've learned (and boy, have I learned) with you, and spread it around to the rest of the world, thereby leaving the mark of Court Street on other people, even when they don't even know it.

So, we stood there this morning, as Bruce asked the church to pray for us on our journey, saying our their bittersweet goodbyes, I held it together [barely.] I couldn't look in the eyes of anyone but Bruce, for fear that I would really lose it then, bawling a little too uncontrollably! And I confess, I am glad it is over. I can't have my heart ripped out like that every single Sunday. Ever since I heard about the job (2 months ago,) I've been emotional every Sunday, thinking about what life would look like without the presence of this family I've grown to love. Ah, but there will be a new family of brothers and sisters. There will be new experiences. I won't replace anyone or anything, just add more family and friends to the email list and the "list" in my heart of those I hold so dear.

But a tribute, now.
To Laurie, who always had room for lunch on her calendar, and let us ask the hard questions. Who closed her eyes during the communal singing on communion Sundays, allowing the meaning of the bread and the wine to enter into a place I had never let it touch.
Bruce, whose passion bleeds over into everything he does, and always shared my excitement about a new idea, even if no one else did. Whose passion for reconciliation is evident in every area of his life.
Toris, whose gentle spirit is noticeable to everyone around him, and whose eagerness to learn and grow is all but bursting out of him. Oh, how I hope he is given the chance in life...
Tyquel, who perseveres and overcomes, and who encourages and believes, after everything she's been through, after everything... Who is proof that God hasn't left us here alone.
To Imogene and Yvonne, who love us with a love that warms every piece of your heart, with their good cakes and meals and good lovin' that everybody needs. Who have known the loss of a spouse, loss of control, and have gone to hell and back, and still come out smiling and serving their brothers and sisters on the other side.
To the Schramms and the invitation to share free food and laughs on their front porch, when I wasn't even invited (or rather, I was always invited.)
To JB and Mark, who never fail to deliver their hugs and words of encouragements, who love us no matter who we are and what color we are.

Court Street...... Oh, my how you will be missed.

Today wasn't easy. But the journey is full of tough, bittersweet, and joyous moments like these that make us who we are.

Peace to you, dear family.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

From Here to There: The Journey of a Calling

:: Day 3 ::

The house is a wreck, which is to be expected, I guess. But when you live with the world's cleanest/most organized husband, you kind of get used to the uncluttered atmosphere.

I don't think I'm a very good box-packer, either. I mean, I get stuff in there all straight and packed well, so it won't break, but I don't know how efficiently I use the space. I mean, I don't want to pack it too tight and put too much stuff in one box, or something might break, or just be too heavy to lift when we are moving things. I end up having two or three items leftover from each box, that I couldn't fit. So there is a buffet of items in a line on the floor, waiting their turn for a box.... candle holders, a few books, a jewelry box.
Mom was right when she said that you don't know how much you have until you start packing it. Geezam, what do people do with 3,000+ square feet of house? Just 2,000 +!! More space = more stuff. No thank you. [Please remind me of this later on in life.]

I'm having daydreams of what my job will be like. Will I have my own office? Will I get to listen to my own music? Who will I get to have cool lunch dates with?
Something I am very excited about, though, is having in-office coffee every morning!!! Do you know how much money this will save? Shooooo, I am totally keeping my own flavored creamer in the office. This is going to be fantastic. I have, however, become a little spoiled with french press coffee, which is kind of superior to all the rest.

Kim and Clifton and Larry and all sorts of other people are going to be within spitting (well, you would have to have grand prize in a spitting championship, I guess) distance, and I don't know what to do about that. Settlers with Larry (he promised), dinner with Kim and Blair, cookies to our neighbors.

This is another thing. I hope our next-door neighbors likes us. Even more, I hope we like them.

Daydreams. These are what the days are made of.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

From Here to There: The Journey of a Calling

Here starts my journaling through the week and a half leading up to our move to Memphis, TN, and the first couple of weeks after we arrive into our new house, in our new neighborhood, with our new (and old) friends, at our new jobs.

I could preface with a lot more, particularly some of my anxieties and questions and the conversations born out of those, but instead I will let them be revealed in due time through this blog.

:: Day 1 ::

We have packed 11 boxes, give or take a couple. The walls are becoming bare, and the guest room is becoming maze-like, as we maneuver our way in and around the ever-rising boxes that have nowhere to go but up. I like this feeling. It provides evidence to me that this is really happening, we are finally moving to Memphis. I'm not sure why I've been itching to get there so badly. Perhaps when I first left SOS (where I worked [and consequently, had a life-changing experience] during summer 2005) it was because in my mind, I wanted to replicate that amazing summer, but now, that isn't the case. I've been back to visit too many times to know that the feeling is gone. Michael Buble is now mainstream, and our choreagraphed dance moves are probably far outdated. At least half of the support staff is now married, and Larry is keeping the books. So things have definitely changed.

But perhaps what I've really been waiting for is the calling to come back to Memphis.

I hesitate to use that heavy phrase, "God is calling me," because what about the times I'm not 100% sure that he's calling me to this exact spot? Thus begins a string of questions about how well I listen to God, and my capability to screw things up. But then, I might be giving myself too much credit. Maybe a portion of Psalm 106 can help me explain:

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise?" (v. 1)

In other words, who really knows what they're getting themselves into? Who really gets God? Who really knows the extent of our means of praise and our deeds done for the sake of the call?We're doing the best we can, following the best we can, hearing the best we can. And I believe God is capable of the rest, capable of using my decisions and job and our next door neighbor to tell the good news of the gospel, the good news that he has not left us here to waste away alone, to just exist. The good news is that the way of Christ leads us into a fullness that is much more than the aquisition of wealth and security. It is much greater than making a name for ourselves. It is vastly greater than this rat race that propels us to always move faster and harder to make another dime, to climb another rung on the ladder of society.

The way of Christ is found in laughter and conversation; in meals together; in songs that cause you to close your eyes and breathe deeply; in innocent children who cling to you for their very life.

This much I know for sure: I am called to proclaim the love and laughter; I am called to proclaim the good news.

"Those things that are of value to the kingdom of God, look like rubbish and a waste of time to the rest of the world." --Matthew Clark (paraphrase

Monday, January 7, 2008

there's a change a'coming...

change comes like the splitting of wood
like the plow blade turns the soil on the ground
and the change comes like it should
you gotta die before you live
something’s gotta give for you to find
what comes after {sandra mccraken, "traincar"}

Oh, sweet change, are we ever really ready for you? It is the one thing we can't run from. Even when you try devilishly hard to stay in the same house, in the same city, with the same job, and same friends... change finds you. Some seek it; some run from it; but we all stumble upon it. Sometimes you want to embrace it, sometimes you want to spit on it. Ah, bittersweet change.

I got a text message from my friend Josh yesterday, expressing the bittersweetness of our move to Memphis, leaving behind the other ordinary radicals, otherwise known as our circle of friends, who keep us alive with stories of Kolkata (Calcutta) and Rio; old, dying men and spirit-filled children; dirty streets and loud favellas. They won't be sitting in our living room at the drop of a hat, but they will race on in our hearts.

What new stories will we find? What new questions will we raise? What new theologies will we grasp? And what will our journey look like two months from now?

you gotta die before you live
something's gotta give for you to find
what comes after

the beauty and the mess of what comes after