Thursday, December 31, 2009

I'll say goodbye with grace...

I've never really been a resolution-maker. Seems kind of silly, since every day is a new day; December 31, 2009 isn't going to feel much different than January 1, 2010...

But I understand the way a new year can cause you to re-evaluate the bigger picture. There's also something about a new decade that can push you into introspective-ness (is that even legal? to use that word?)

I've been thinking about friendships... how some of them are ending; some, just beginning. I will willingly let go of the ones whose season is behind us, and spend time listening to the stories of the people who are just entering my life. I will stop thinking that so many people need me to do for them, that their worlds will crumble without me. I will stop filling my schedule with so many good things and good people that the ones who really need my attention don't feel connected to me like they should. I'll stop killing myself to stay connected to those whose season in my life ended long ago; I'll admit that it is time... it is time.

As my grandfather slips away, I've mostly said goodbye, without actually saying it. I've taken a brief moment to care for him (yet nothing like my family whose been present so much more than me); I've finally seen him vulnerable and extended a nurturing hand. And it was enough.

In all this, I've summed it up like this...

I'll graciously say goodbye.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I'm always rather perplexed/annoyed at how much yelling and frustration and veins bulging on the forehead, that can go on in front of a TV screen, where men in colored uniforms, helmets, and a desire to tackle people, run around and cause folks to scream at them. Most people get this, but I do not. In fact, most people enjoy this Sunday afternoon/Monday night ritual during a certain time of year. They get together with their buddies or family, and scream in unison.

Actually, it's quite fantastic. Maybe I should just sit a bit further away, to spare my eardrums, and laugh at the whole thing. Wish I'd thought of this approach BEFORE the Saints lost to Tampa Bay today...

Friday, December 25, 2009

home for the holidays

I mean, what is home anyway?

We're at my parents' house in Petal, MS (outside my college town, Hattiesburg). So far, we've turned the TV off to be together, to cook in the kitchen, and that makes me happy. We're a pretty media-overconnected family (some of us), but I think we're learning how to be together better. We were all in the kitchen this morning making breakfast casserole, mac and cheese, sweet potato pie among others. It was good to cook together and then eat together, especially sharing it with our friend Jay, who is family-less for the holidays (but not really, because he is our family).

Good to be together.

to be with you, to be with you
I love this time of year
it always brings me here to be with you
[sara groves]

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"...reality is reality."

"Romance is romance, and sex is sex, but reality is reality."

That might not make much sense to you, but in the context of the conversation I just had with a woman who has been married 55 years, this makes so much sense. It also makes sense to me, who has "only" been married a little over 2 years.

I'm feeling immeasurably thankful right now for those who have walked the roads of marriage before me, most of whom are still walking it...

Vivian and Robert... married about 40 years. [then Vivian passed...]
Libby and Robert... married 17 years.
Joan and Richard... married 55 years.
Diane and Terry... married 30 years.
Trish and Frankie... married 21 years.
Josh and Stacey... married 3 1/2 years.

This is my family history, full of marriages long-lasting, still going strong, still bending and stretching; enjoying each other, rolling with the punches, hurting each other, forgiving each other, taking care of each other.

Our family knows full well what taking care of each other looks like in the last month, even the last couple of years. My grandparents are reaching their fullness, in many ways. Hearts are failing, muscles are tiring out, weary eyes are tired from sleepless nights on hospital chairs, turned fold-out bed, which in some ways reminds you of sleeping on lumpy concrete. The ending of life is a mysterious thing that takes pieces of those left-behind. But with the ending of life comes the ending of marriage. And the ending of marriage is another thing. It is the fullness of the commitment made so many years back. A promise kept. Even for all the promises you broke in between... "I will take the trash out," or "I'll stop; I promise not to do it again." There is one promise kept... "'Til death do us part."

All around me I see the rubble and dust of marriages fallen, promises unkept. And this isn't a blog about judging why others divorce; I am not speaking to the hurt of abuse and unfaithfulness (though marriages have survived that through the healing grace of Christ Jesus). This is me, so thankful for the images of marriage, so thankful for the togetherness of my family. It has shaped me, in ways I will never fully understand and am only now beginning to open my eyes to.

I am so much of who I am because of being "found" in a family, of knowing the safety and love of a family. My family.... Vivian, Robert, Libby, Richard, Joan, Trish, Frankie, Diane, Terry, Josh, Stacey. They have held me; they continue to hold me.

[I stand amazed...]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

some words about home, or the search of such a thing

the hazy sky welcomed me
to the place I now call home
3 more years, "or more," you say
the sky, still gray, with haze

back there felt like home
with its board games and laughs
back there felt like home
yesterday, still today

but aren't I always the same?
wandering onward
in search for my home
only to say, "it's not here."

just give me a week
or two
or three
and I'll sing another tune

I'll call this place home
come sunshine or haze
and wait for the next time around

Friday, November 20, 2009

Miss Scabby! Miss Scabby!

Miss Abbye. Or Miss Gabby? Or Miss... Scabby. I'm pretty sure she's saying Miss Scabby, which is what it sounds like and this one is frankly just the funniest one, and so we'll go with it.

This little 4 year old gal lives (or visits, but is there most of the time) about 3 streets down. And normally she doesn't really listen to me, and I spend all my time saying, "No, don't touch that," and "Aniyah, this is the 12th time; stop that," or some other reprimand. There's a reason I hang out with elementary-aged kids and not pre-K kids. But from the backseat hearing, "Miss Scabby, I want to come to your house; Miss Scabby, Miss Scabby!" I couldn't resist. She's coming with us from now on.

That's just a funny story to maybe make you smile. Or grossed out, because scabs are pretty nasty.

I've not blogged for awhile. What's going on? A grandfather is slowly slipping away from us; A community of hospitality in South Bend, Indiana opened its arms and shared in our songs and stories; we met a presidential candidate; and we've eaten some ice cream and done some homework with the kids down the street.

We've been learning why love should keep no record of wrongs; why it matters where we live and who sits at our dinner table; that prayer is something much more than talking, and in fact, maybe has nothing to do with it.

Hopefully I will make time in the coming weeks to spend more time on some of these... but for now, a Friday night with no plans awaits me (ah... finally.)

[peace be yours]

Sunday, November 1, 2009

music & lyrics

songs were meant to be shared...

sister, stop your pacing feet
you'll wear a hole in the floor by morning
sister, calm those voices loud
they've never done a thing but wear you out

kicking, screaming all day long
but the reality keeps hanging on
that everything is falling through
what will they ever come to think of you?

have you ever known such freedom?
have you ever known the truth?
that you are so much more than the flowers of the field
and he'll take care of you.

what in the world are you living for?
is it to gain the world or something more?
Jesus came to set you free
from all these things that keep you company

written while reading 2 Corinthians, "Where the Spirit of the
Lord is
there is freedom..." and praying our sister finds it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

setting the world ablaze

So, "setting the world ablaze" sounds like perhaps I'm going to have some poetic blog entry, or something profoundly theological. Actually, the phrase literally popped into my head mere seconds before I wrote it. Maybe I'm not as bad at titling things (my song titles are generally boring) as I thought...

But our world needs some Fire, some Light, some Goodness. And I'm more and more sure that only Jesus sets a fire in our hearts to go and do the same. This week I've been struck by pictures of a terrible bombing in Pakistan, images of little children in the arms of already injured men; words from my fellow Memphians about their neighbors in this city, in this case neighbors who are considered poor, pondering, "are they poor because they're stupid or stupid because they're poor?".... such outrageously hurtful questions to ask. And a sister who is struggling, plagued with fear and worry and discontentment, who has yet to embrace freedom.

Yet amidst the darkness, there are those setting the world ablaze. Matthew and Brian have been burning a trail all over the eastern half of the country with their stories and songs and laughter; friends in India are passionately loving a people mostly without the Fire of Christ; the Church slowly raising a voice against the injustice of Memphis city schools, and inch-by-inch children in our inner-city are bearing the name of Christ, rejecting the apathy and destruction of their often dark and oppressive surroundings.

Ablaze, I'll tell you... ablaze.

Brothers, sisters.... keep setting the world ablaze with the Light.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First let me start by saying...

that Neha's lentil soup is fan-tas-tic (that's 3 claps, if you're learning your syllables). It's past 9pm, and she made it so we could have it for the next few days, but it's such a chilly evening, that I had to grab a bowl. Besides, I'm in a contemplative mood, partly brought on because of a story I just read in "Simple Spirituality" by Chris Huertz, about a family from India. A family he was friends with. Not "the poor" as I so easily throw around, but "his friends who happen to be poor" as he says, in an effort to give some dignity back to his friends.

I can't re-tell the story here.

But I did speak a prayer for them. A prayer for all "thems" who find themselves bowing down the prosperity God. Whether it be the one with the elephant head or the one with the shiny rims and luxury, private security living, or whatever our prosperity god happens to look like... God, have mercy on us...

...your kindness leads to repentance. Lead me to repentance, God!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Autumn in New England [we love thee]

Just a couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves laughing, roasting marshmallows, and listening to the Wailin' Jennys with two of our favs - Matt and Aislinn. If you've been around me more than 10 minutes, then there is a good chance you've heard their names... multiple times. What can we say? When you love 'em, you just love 'em.

And so we like to visit them, too. The colors were beautiful and soul-healing; the conversations were dreamy; the marshmallows (plus nutella) were delish. But most of all, it's just good to be with them. It was a good, good time... [here are some pictures to prove the good-ness.]

Yes. We miss this very, very much. Oh, Autumn, we love thee.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Please go see Matthew and Brian's tour blog! And if you're near one of their shows, go listen to their music, stories, and wonderfully terrifically hilarious jokes!

and tell them the Pates sent you.

Friday, October 9, 2009

the giver

I haven't developed this at all, but here goes.

We (and you'll know if you are in this category) always know what it means to be the giver. We are probably the ones who serve others. And isn't that what Jesus did when he stooped down and washed feet? Yes; he served them.

But it was also a much bigger deal than that. He was taking a low position, perhaps one of the lowest. Someone has to wash the yucky feet... and who offered to take up this position? Yes, Jesus. God made flesh.

How can we teach our children to "go low?" To befriend the lowly at school (which is difficult at their elite private schools)? How can we teach them to take up a position side-by-side with the poor instead of just above them? To be among each other. And can I even speak to this when I, too, am almost always the giver? Can we stand side-by-side and enter into suffering? Do we know what that means?

And is that at all what we communicate from our Church leadership? I fear the answer is mostly no.

Our efforts to create service projects, give away our old things, teach our Church body to go out and give away to people. Those things do serve their purpose; and yet often times they hurt the already open wounds.

[Re-envision. Awake, my soul.]

I am not speaking of voluntary poverty here; I am talking of enough. less. uncluttered. potluck dinners, where everyone can bring something to the table, and it is honored, no matter how big or how small. "freedom parties," where we celebrate freedom, even if only freedom from their addiction for those 2 hours when we're together; also to celebrate in hopes of the lasting freedom that we can have by way of Jesus the Christ.

Let us serve. give. and let us allow ourselves to be served. Let us move in, stand beside, work together.

we will walk with each other, we will hand in hand...
and they'll know we are Christian by our love

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Who doesn't hate leaving? Most of the time, at least. We just said goodbye to Matt and Aislinn after a really, really good visit. There were marshmallows + nutella, songs, walk by a river, good meals, and a country store (maybe the best country store I've seen!) And we're sad to leave. It's always sad to leave them. But to have friends - Family - like these is truly, truly a gift, a grace.

And as our last trip to Vermont, things are the airport are uncertain. It's 11:45am now, with a 12:30pm scheduled flight that is currently delayed until 1:55pm. We're already going to miss our flight in Atlanta, which we all knows we'll be put to 'Standby' on the next flight out. Maybe a side-trip to see Jeff's sis in Atlanta? [one can hope so, since I love a good side-trip :)]

Pictures of Vermont to come!


hurry up and wait.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

'Tis Autumn in New England...

Waking up in Vermont, knowing it is crisp and cool outside, with trees of red and yellow outside my window... this makes me want to write. But of course it does, right?

Aislinn is singing with her pure, strong voice in the living room, Jeff is making homemade
chicken noodle soup in the kitchen, and just 25 minutes ago we were taking a walk around this
small New England town known (by a certain few) for being the former home to Robert Frost
as he wrote of the apple groves Shaftsbury holds so dear.

We've been sitting around the table, laying around on the couches, walking the roads, dreaming
of storefront worship, a cafe who boasts farmers' market specials, and all sorts of rebirths
(reupholstered furniture, broken mirrors turned art, and souls reached without the help of flashing lights and stained glass windows). These dreams are lofty, but they have been stirring
in our hearts, even if they never come to be.

The leaves are changing, and maybe, finally, so are our hearts. It's been a tough 2 months. The crazy-busyness of the summer left us drained and wondering... what are we doing? why are we here? where have we been for the past year? Auto-pilot perhaps left us less than satisfied, knowing that Jesus isn't auto-pilot. He's breath and life and outstretched hands. But he is also rest to our weary souls. And that rest we are finding here in southern Vermont.

Aislinn is singing...

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
in the arms of my dear Savior
oh, there are ten thousand charms

Sunday, September 6, 2009

if you haven't sat on the floor with a guitar in your hands
or in the person's hands across the room...

if you haven't sipped coffee on the back porch despite the intense humidity...

if you haven't held an almost-2 year old in your arms
and tipped him upside down until he almost pees his pants from laughing so hard...

if you haven't turned off the TV and opened your listening ears...

then you should.

indeed, it has been a good day.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Words and melodies. That could be all you hear when listening to a song, but for most of us that just isn't true. As a songwriter there is something about getting it into a song--getting the lyrics and the melody just so--that takes me to the depths.

It's been an encouraging week of songwriting- 2 songs! That's a lot in one week. I'm practicing some new forms of discipline in writing, and of course, it's helpful when you are going through things or those around you are really wrestling. Getting that struggle put into a song can really help you through it.

But more than just getting through it, I understand it better. Songs often transport us, help us understand, perhaps in a way we don't even realize at the moment. Listening to a song over and over and over (and learning every single word and note) is kind of like repeating the Apostles' Creed or the Lord's Prayer. Not that my songs are always (or ever) theological truths, but it's the repetition that can bring understanding. Saying and singing over and over until finally... you "get" something.

And so I keep writing... and singing... and writing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

a hard week

It has, indeed, been a hard week. I've been serious stressed and even worrisome about general things, and I don't know why. Wait, I kind of do know why... because I neglect "practicing the presence" of God, reading Scripture, journaling, etc. I neglect them, and I am realizing the serious need for them.

But today is Saturday, and I'm beginning to love these restful Saturdays! Coffee is brewing, Cheerios are already eaten, and leftover chicken strips and mashed potatoes (homemade) are awaiting me for lunch... ahhhhh yeah! These restful times are just good.

We're thinking another trip to Vermont in the Fall, to see Matt and Aislinn, to get replenished with them. It's our post-anniversary trip, and we originally were going to go to Asheville or somewhere mountain-ish... but I can't get excited about going anywhere. EXCEPT to see them. That makes me really happy.

So.. it's Saturday. And I hope you can rest and laugh and go to a free Redbirds game with whatever kiddos you can manage to load into your Binghampton mini-bus (oh yeah, that's going to be the Saturday finale:) )

grace and peace be yours...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's Saturday...

And here's why I like it.

... buying homegrown tomatoes at the Farmer's Market (I know, I know.. we grow our own! But
they're all green right now) AND buying local coffee.

... getting your car washed by the East High Football Players.

... shopping at the Asian Grocery.

... watching PBS cooking shows.

and finally....

the CHICKEN CURRY that I'll be making this afternoon. Becca, this one is my favorite!

See? You should come visit the Pates on a Saturday. You won't be sorry.

Friday, July 24, 2009

they come and they go; they come and they go...

Sometimes I just wish they would stay. Not forever, I know, but for time enough. I wish they would stay in my life, in my living room, at my table.

Two friends are going overseas, living for a year in a place where I just hope my letters will arrive. And I know they will return, but we were just getting to know them more, it seems. And the word has now come of another couple leaving, an unexpected friendship, but the kind you know you need to have around; the kind of friendship that needs you just as much. And 4 hours isn't that much, but it's not like living across town.

And what about us? Aren't we always sitting on the edge of our seat, wondering when we'll need to jump up and run to the next town? the next job? Aren't we often discontented (though mostly we shouldn't be) with where we are?

I digress. This isn't really about going or staying... it's about the loss that comes with. It's about change. It's about seasons never staying too long, because without the Winter, the Spring can't be as green. And without the Summer, we can't appreciate hot chocolate and cuddling in the cold during the New Years Eve fireworks.

The seasons must change.

But right now, I'm turning a bit of a cold shoulder to these seasons; they change too quickly for me these days. Will we be given the grace of deep friendships? Of ones who knows us and love us and willingly stay in our lives? Or will we just grasp aimlessly, hoping someone sticks around and chooses to let us in?

But then I think of Matt and Aislinn, friends who have never been a car ride away (except for those fun 2 months back in Miss-Sippy!) I think of our defeat of time and space and how our times together are filled with jewelry-making and Southern dinners and Vermont hikes and laughter and honesty. And even our time apart is filled with good--good that can't be torn by seaons of change.

In the past 2 years, I've spent time hoping and praying that we will be swept away, "sent" to go be with them, live in a big house, raise our babies together (don't get any ideas; no babies for me yet), and argue and make-up and get through it together. But while I was weeding the onions the other night, I thought that maybe time and distance is a good way to start off. Maybe we are building something unique and unbreakable because we've chosen to keep building this bond across state lines.

At the end of this talk of leaving and hurting and re-building new friendships, I realize this is the stuff of life; I know it. And so I'll take every minute, every laughter, every prayer, every meal, and live into it fully, breathe deep its meaning.

I am long in staying; I am slow to leave
especially when it comes to you, my friend

...I'll take every moment, and every minute that you give me.
["Every Minute" by Sara Groves]

The glory of God is many fully alive.
[St. Irenaeus]

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Moscow, Pskov, St. Pete...

I'm less than halfway through my 2-week stint in Russia with a group of folks from my church. We spent a couple of days in crowded Moscow, and though there were some neat things to see, it's just too cramped with too many non-smiling faces. Add cold and rain to the equation, and you have a gal who is ready to get to quaint Pskov, which is where we are now.

We will spend more of our time here (until next Tuesday), and the folks from Pskov UMC are taking such good care of us! We are staying in homes which is so much more personal. The folks are nicer, move more slowly, and laugh at us less often (for being American). I really like it here, AND as a little gift, we have hot water! We didn't have it in Moscow and were prepared not to have it here. They turn it off for about 2 weeks each year to clean the pipes, whatever that means. Anyhow, we're glad to have it, and even if it goes off, we'll be glad for what we had. You become grateful for the things you do have when they are taken away from you. And hopefully you also realize that some of these luxuries you can live without. In fact, I'll go back to the apartment tonight to take some clothes out of the washer and hang them to dry on the little porch.

We go to St. Petersburg next Tuesday and then fly back home on Saturday the 18th. I DO like Russia, but so far, I really like small, charming Russia (Pskov) and not crowded, expensive Russia (Moscow).

Go with God, friends...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jeff is on a roof, sweating it out with Jr. High kids; Brian is in Ireland, exploring beautiful rocks and lakes and having lots of good conversation; I'm off to Russia in less than 5 days to learn more about the people and culture there than I ever hoped to learn; Aislinn's heart will be forever opened and changed in Uganda. We're all over the place, and it is hard to be apart. But when we come back together - in our living room, on our porch, with our guitars, with our chicken 'n dumplings - we will be glad we went only to come back richer than before.

Peace to you my fellow travelers! Come back with your stories. (Brian) (Matthew) (Jeff)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

thoughts from a Vermont airport

It's 10:07am (Vermont time) and we've been in the airport, oh... 5 hours... and counting. We'll be here another six. Delta was a mess this morning: angry customers, missing flight attendants, cancelled flights, etc. I learned a long time ago (after one big trip with a delay and rebooking that ended in lost luggage but a fun detour) that it does no good to yell at the folks at the ticket counter, and if anything, it will get you sent to the back of the line with no remorse. So we acted calmly... end result? Rebooked flight with no extra charge and $400 flight vouchers - per person - for a flight any time during the next year. Yee haw! And when we got to the gate, the rest of the folks (an hour after expected departure) were just finding out the flight was cancelled and having to go back to the ticket counter to reschedule.

Jeff and I truly knew we'd been given a grace, that God had honored the peace and thankfulness that we extended to the man who was working with us. We'd done all our rebooking after the line at the Delta counter had cleared, whereas the others from our flight would be amid a mass of people trying to rebook. [Grace] So many people were talking to the man at the ticket counter as though he were nothing, that it was all his fault, and in reality, he was working so hard. He helped us so much, albeit over the course of 2 hours, but in the end, our interactions were so peaceful, and we were given compensation - a gift - so we can travel to see friends/family that we don't have to pay for in the end. How wonderful!

The man at the ticket counter is George. We said a prayer for him as we watched the flood of people leave our gate with angry and frustrated faces (and we do know that it is frustrating). We prayed for George to have confidence and patience; for him to extend the same calm, but firm, self that he gave to us; we prayed that people would be kind; we hoped that the peace given him this morning would sustain him throughout the day.

I see George walking across the parking lot right now. He has a break from the counter. He's taking two bags of ice to one of the planes, where maybe they've run out. Apparently George is a man of many trades around this airport, and I wonder if the folks crinkling their noses at him know that he is working this hard, doing the best at his job amidst the general yucky-ness that can come with working at an airport.

Extend peace to others...

Yes, pass the peace, brothers and sisters!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Phew. It's been too long.

You know what I am doing right now? Taking a PERSONAL DAY. See, we leave for the Maytide Makers Conference (aka, 10 friends who are artists and who want to praise the Name through their songs, photographs, music, etc. and are spending a weekend together to do just that.) and we are leaving around noon-ish. But I just really have a lot do this morning before we go, include rescuing my guitar out of someone's house (would be nice to have for the weekend, eh?) before noon.... ish.

The Garden. Wow, who knew gardening was so fun? It's such hard work--weeding, tending, adding dirt to the barren spots--but it's so much fun. And you feel great when you come in after 3 hours in the garden. I'll have to take a picture to show you, but we've got a strawberry plant smack-dab in the middle of our flower bed by the front porch. While digging up this bed, we found a little green army man (you know the ones I'm talking about, the ones whose feet are connected to you can stand them up) and now, he guards the strawberry plant (which by the way, already has 3-4 little strawberries! It's delightful. 

Summer. I'm only going to see Jeff 31 days from now until July 31st. Sucks, right? Yeah, I miss him. He's in Mobile, AL seeing his folks right now, and I leave today so I won't see him until Monday evening.

I don't usually just give updates, partially because I don't think anyone reads this, and partially because I usually blog when I've had some spiritual awakening or am feeling deep about some other topic. But here you go- a regular ol' update. And that's not even the half of it.

Memphis is unique. And so are our lives. This season... mmmm, there could never be another one quite like it.

go and love and serve, friends...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

pineapple and living room prayer

Who knew that fresh cut pineapple was so much better than the stuff out of the can? You know, the stuff they served in the cafeteria when you were in school? Jeff seemed to think that I should have known that this would be true, as all fresh things are better than canned ones, but you just can't imagine how much better until you bite into that juicy goodness called fresh fruit. I'm sitting here right now, eating my pineapple while Jeff eats his chicken strips and Neha is trying to decide whether to eat the vinegar-y bean salad or Jeff's leftover General Tso's chicken from lunch at A-Tan. We're quite an eclectic bunch around here. :)

But just before the pineapple...

There was some praying going on in our living room. In fact, there's been quite a bit of praying going on, and it fills this house with a peace; I like it. Michelle, Neha, and I are meeting together once a week, reading Celebration of Discipline (Richard Foster) together and praying together. It's so good to pray with others... to be in each other's lives, and watch each other live the Light in our daily lives (or try our best) and then come together recognizing the Presence of God together and communing together.

Foster's writing is really beautiful. I'd already read Freedom of Simplicity by him, and it was so wonderful, and I'd always heard that Celebration of Discipline was really good. It is, and he's got me thinking a lot about discipline, or lack thereof, in my own life.

Last night I collapsed in bed frustrated and worn out. I'm busy, so busy that I find myself not having enough time to be a neighbor and spend time in solitude and be outside on the porch and hanging out with the families I've made friends with in the neighborhood. And being involved in a lot can't be bad--I don't want to be idle. But that's never been an issue for me.. instead I'm overwhelmed.

Prayers for the peace of Christ and stillness of his presence are needed.

Grace and peace be yours...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I've been meaning to blog a lot lately, but this week has been crazy. Tomorrow we enter into a weekend-long time of learning what is God's heart for our brothers and sisters who are poor and oppressed, both here in Memphis and around the world. We'll lead others from Christ United Methodist through some decision-making and tough conversations as they will likely be outside of their comfort zone much of the weekend. Won't I even be outside of mine? Do I know what it means to go without food and a shower?

We by no means proclaim that this weekend we will "arrive," that we'll know what it means to live a life of poverty. We are fully aware that we aren't even scratching the surface. But we do know that in our white, affluent church, we must start somewhere. We must walk these friends by the hand, a little closer to the heart of the matter.

My friend and brother Matthew said, "Reconciliation can only happen when we submit to the fact that we are all equally valuable in the eyes of God." And so it is. This is why we are going this weekend; this is why we are stretching ourselves... not to be saviors, not to put ourselves in a place of status above those who are "poor," but to know our brothers and sisters who the world says we cannot be in communion with because we are too different, who we are taught to ignore and cast off. From the same Family we came, and Christ came to save us all. We must see the eyes of Christ in each other!

Pray for us as we come together...

Until Sunday..

Saturday, March 21, 2009

houseguests, galore!

It's true; we love to have people in our home. And not just the occasional dinner. Yes, we're a bit obsessed. In fact, for the past two weeks we've had 5 different people stay over night (Matthew - 3 nights, Jay - 2 nights, Clifton - 1 night, Amy & Tracy - 4 nights) plus several dinners mixed in there (chicken enchiladas, black bean curry), and 9 college kids sitting in our living room floor asking us about our lives here in Memphis. There's been lots of dance-partying, dish-washing, laughing, coffee-making, special K bar-eating, and onion-growing (more to come on that.)

And we (Jeff and I) crash in bed every night and say, "How did we get this good life?" These folks are gifts from God. There's so much beauty breezing in and out of our doorway, that I can hardly keep up. What we learn from others, what we get to share with them-- Ahhhhhhhhhh!!! that was a scream of delight.


So the Pates/Forlines/Kizzee/Walkley Neighborhood Garden is officially underway. She's been tilled, and the indoor seeds have been planted now for 2 weeks (onions, mini-bell peppers, and tomatoes.) They've all sprouted, particularly the onions (which are at my house). They're growing so quickly... I'm so proud. :) It's a lot of work from the seed up... watering them once or twice a day, keeping them fairly warm, putting in the sun for a few hours a day, making sure they're draining, keeping them under a lamp for warmth, etc. Phew! But when those little guys began to peek through the soil... man, oh, man I was one happy mama! Maybe I'm just going to raise vegetables instead of children for the rest of my life? :)

The potatoes go in the ground either this weekend or next weekend, which I'm COMPLETELY PUMPED about. I love potatoes. My grandma used to call me a potato head, and it's totally true. I think I could have them for every meal!

More to come on the garden... and the house parties.

If you're in town, we're playing music (Matthew Clark, Jeff, and me) at Christ Methodist (4488 Poplar Ave., 38117) tonight, 7pm! Fun times lie ahead...

Grace and peace, Family..

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Daffodils... the bravest of flowers. At least 2 weeks ago, we noticed a little patch of daffodils growing next to our broken sidewalk. They're not strategically placed or growing in a neat sort of way, they are just there - bold and beautiful in all their splendor of yellow and green!

Then it snowed, 3 inches in our front yard, we are sure. Winter snuck up on us again, despite our glowing smiles as we saw Spring approaching with all the 60 and 70 degree days we'd been having. Then the snow, which might I add, actually stuck around for a few days!

But as the snow melted away and the ground underneath made its reappearance, we stepped out onto our porch only to notice our yellow and green, proudly welcoming the warmer days to follow. They made it; they survived! Our daffodils - so strong and brave. And they're everywhere, all over Memphis it seems! I don't know much about daffodils. Do they grow wild? Did some seed happen to fall there at one time? I seem to find them in odd places all over the city.

At our house, as I said in earlier in the post, they are next to our broken sidewalk, which says something meaningful to me. They're adding such beauty to what seems kind of sad and in need of repairs, not unlike Jesus; not unlike how we are to be living as followers of his Way.

Daffodils... making beautiful what is broken. I feel today like we should be like these daffodils. Coming out and braving the world, even when it seems to be against us. Risking life for the cold. Choosing to bloom where it's planted (or wherever it happens to fall), favoring the broken and forgotten places where people need to see beauty the most.

Christ in us is at work. Let's make beautiful what is broken.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jesus at the Bus Stop

There's a woman sitting out at the bus stop, and she's been there for more than 24 hours. Sometimes sleeping, sometimes walking, but always there, at the bus stop. And it's cold and rainy today. But can we see the stranger and invite her in? Is there room in our home where 4 poeple are already dwelling, with more soon to come tomorrow night and through the weekend?

I've been dwelling on it all day.

Then I found this a few moments ago....

"In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness...I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate..." [from the Diaries of Thomas Merton]

Last week, while visiting Duke, I think this happened to me... I think I awoke from a dream of separateness. I walked around with tears at the edge of my eyelids all week, wanting to burst out in smile, maybe even take someone aside and stare through their eyes and find the beauty. Although almost everyone who passed me was cold and disconnected, as we seem to be so accustomed to portraying ourselves, I felt overcome, like somehow my soul was seeing through them, to something that I don't recognize with my human eyes, but Christ in me certainly did recognize it. It's still happening, even today, this overwhelming awakeness...

I hope I never fall back asleep. Keep waking...

Underneath the surface of it all
is the aching for the trumpet call
when we cannot feel the weight of all the we have sown...
[when will He shine light on all that hides?]
(a. pates, m. clark)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

my big house makes me feel good

the lies we believe. I'm watching PBS (which I just really love), and right now I'm watching a show that highlights big A houses, with their custom made doors and cabinets, granite countertops, grand winding staircases, and MUCH, MUCH MORE! So much money spent on this grand space, a space that doesn't even feel lived in or cozy. But it's a status symbol isn't it? These folks are now on TV, even if it just local. And their friends can come over and "Ooooo" and "Aaaaaahhh" at their home, further affirming them that they are people of worth because their house is so huge and pretty and fancy. Do we really believe these lies?


I'm going to Durham, NC on Tuesday, to spend some time with Aislinn and Matt. It feeds my independent self that sometimes wants to get out and being able to fly alone is one the ways I feel the most independent. Don't get me wrong, I'm not so independent that I can't work with other folks. I know that would mean death to my marriage (and defeats the purpose of the Family of God), I'm just not going to lie that when I get to do something solo sometimes, I kind of like it.


I'm not saying a big house is wrong. When we fill it with friends and family and have people around our dinner table. When we open the extra room for the stranger, then we might need that big house to serve and love people best. what I am saying is this...

Don't believe it. Your fancy house just gives you an expensive padding for your bottom and a silver spoon in your mouth and might even make it harder to follow the Christ whose life oozed with simplicity.

Lord have mercy on our lifestyles and the ways we seek the world to affirm us.

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Right now, I'm taking a break from recording. Yes, Matthew Clark is here with his traveling recording equipment ("Where did you record?" - "Suitcase Studio," I reply.) It can be quite exhausting to record, and though I've been looking forward to it for quite some time, in some ways I'm looking forward to it being completed. I don't dislike recording altogether, but I don't love the way it has you look at your music, with a painfully critical ear, making you nervous and overly conscious over every single note that escapes your mouth. I miss more guitar chords and squeak out more off-notes than usual. Yes, I prefer house concerts and living room praise choruses and shower-singing. 

Yet, I've also discovered something else today, that recording is like a spiritual discipline. 

Not in the sense that you are doing it all the time, but in the sense that sometimes you don't want to; it is hard, and it is necessary. Matthew said today that when we write songs and play them live, they are developing... changing and forming into their best form. Then, we are ready to record them, to make them solid and complete. They've been tried and tested, and so we need to do "finish" them (though they live on and on and we continue to play them over and over and over...) This helps us even move on in writing more, to change and grow, to see new experiences through the lense of song-writing. I can often feel an experience even more fully by putting it into a song, singing it over and over makes it even more real to me.

I am resting right now, as Jeff is in there putting drum tracks over my vocals and guitar. Matthew will go home and add some bass, some harmony vocals, etc.


Together, we'll make this music complete. What's best about recording is the togetherness of it all. I need Matthew; I need Jeff. We do this together.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"What is the Church for, if we don't reach out and hold the hurting?" (j. casper)

It's easy to forget what we, the Church, are for; it's easy to stop digging through the junk we call "church", to stop doing what it is we are to be doing and love like we're supposed to be loving. I won't even pretend I have a perfect paragraph or "how-to" for us... I just know that we're so often not doing it. But I try not to sit around and complain about what we're not doing, and instead work towards helping my brother and sisters (and myself) become betters lovers of God and people.

It doesn't take long, though, to start giving up, to let our posh, American, selfish lifestyle suck the life right out of us, and almost quit altogether. It's easier to start picking out carpet colors and song styles that better suit our tastes, than to tear down walls of racial divide and sit on the curb with a homeless drunkard who is lying to my face and still see the face of Christ in him.

It's easier to just suffocate than keep gasping for air.

Ah, but tonight I was so encouraged. It takes one conversation, one soul to help you get going again. We are not alone. Josh is easing through Memphis on a road trip that's just beginning, but he's come into our home with his quiet smile and given us new hope, that our Love is not in vain and that all over the world people are wrestling and struggling. I love it that our brothers and sisters stand with us in solidarity and give us nudges and keep us going.

Sometimes I feel like I'm just climbing a sand dune, taking one step, only to slide back down, maybe even further back than where I started. We are a hurting and broken people, us world-dwellers, and very few of us have felt the spark, fanned the flame, and lived into the Love that put on flesh for us. Very few of us rest in that. And so we sit on curbs and give away some money and move into the abandoned places; we take risks and open our homes and put an extra place setting at the dinner table. We give ourselves away.

Friends, it is so much more than the style of music and order or worship at the 11 o'clock hour on Sunday. We've got to know that.

thank you, brother.