dedication

this morning, with our wonderful little church family and some of my natural family, too, tim and i dedicated hazel to God. hazel’s little buddy lilia was dedicated, too, by hear parents ryan and alicia. (alicia and i get together each week with our girls. they are three months apart in age. so this was very special to do together).

tony and jeremy lead us through the event, charging us to take seriously the priviledge and weight of shepherding our girls’ hearts. remember always and most of all to pray for them, jeremy said, especially when we see God doing things in their lives that we might not understand. and tony exhorted our families (spiritual and natural) to love God before these girls, as that is what makes the biggest difference in terms of making Jesus desirable to children. tony and jeremy know us and they know hazel. and i could feel their affection toward us and commitment to us as they led us through this moment of dedication.

we shared some of our kingdom hopes for hazel, along with some scriptures we have on our hearts for her. i’m going to record here what we said, so that we can remember. and so that our Collier family who lives so far away and could not be present can also know. 🙂

Kingdom Hopes

Tim:

  • that she would know Father’s love for her personally and intimately
  • that she would not carry burdens the world wants to put on her, but that she would dream far and wide, seeking Jesus’ kingdom as an outflow of that intimate relationship with Him.

Brooke:

  • that she be filled with supernatural joy and lead with that foot (water) and have a clear and bold voice of truth and discernment (fire)
  • that she learn to hear and obey her Shepherd’s voice from an early age, and walk by the Spirit her whole life

Scriptures

  •  “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:30-32 NLT)
  •  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
  • “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27)

We presented the girls with hand-made bible covers for their Jesus Storybook Bibles, crafted by me and alicia. And then everyone clustered around us and prayed over our families. The prayers of our friends and family over hazel are so precious to me, not mention powerful and effective, i am sure.

And now, here is a little slideshow of some of the photos from this very special morning. It was really a beautiful time.

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here is jesus

anne lamott, in her book “operating instructions: a journal of my son’s first year,” a book that tim sometimes reads aloud to me and hazel during feedings, wrote, “this, a man scrubbing a new mother’s bathtub, is what jesus means to me.” yes, Jesus who came to serve, not to be served.

i haven’t put my birth story up here yet (and i will eventually do that, i promise), but the recovery part has been about lots of dependence as I adjust to new motherhood, while also sporting an injured leg, some war wounds, and lost blood. many moments i’ve felt completely in over my head.

but here is Jesus:

my mom flexing her work time to come stay with us, bringing us breakfast (and lunch and dinner) in bed and keeping the house in running order for days

my husband cleaning up after me when i lost control of my bladder, without even making me feel embarrassed, and tenderly standing by me so that i can shower safely

jeremy and dustin mowing our lawn without being asked

harvey wrangling up a team of friends from love feast to help remove all the bags of old sod from our new garden before it killed the lawn sitting there

charis photo-documenting two events that i really longed to be at but couldn’t; she did it so i could feel as though i had been there

coop making me beans and rice with avocados for lunch on the first day tim was back to work and i was alone with hazel

jenn delivering her homemade granola and good reading material, and more importantly descending on our house at the end of a particularly hard day to soothe our inconsolable girl and to pray over us all in such a way that the shalom came swiftly in and did not depart until morning

tony holding hazel after morning prayer and whispering over her what i can only assume were blessings and prayers, because that’s what tony would be whispering

heather bringing me marie catrib’s for lunch and eating it in bed with me while cuddling my girl

marguerite’s amused compassion as she soothes a sobbing mother (me) who feels like her life has just been ruined and will never be the same again

justin being so obviously proud and pleased and uncle, as well as one other unspecified act of kindness

my uncle chuck driving over from lansing to give me a much-needed chiropractic adjustment in the comfort of my own bed, twice

friends from the boiler room coming by each day at 10 am to ask us what chores they can do (sweep and mop floors, laundry, move furniture, do dishes, take out trash)

chelsea staying past her volunteer helper hour, during which she changed the sheets and cleaned the bathroom, and finding more things to do that i did not ask her to do

lea and dustin bringing over sun tea from across the ally on a hot evening and cooing at hazel

nick calling from the farmer’s market to see if i need anything, and then bringing it

friends signing up to bring us meals more days than not, and meals that are really special and thoughtful, like oases in desert-like days

numerous encouraging emails, texts, and facebook messages reminding us that we’re being prayed for and reassuring us that we are doing a good job

and there is more, i am sure, things i’ve failed to record here. but my gratitude this morning was deep and i wanted to record it. because Jesus comes to me in all these places, through all these people, and He reminds me of how real His gospel is, that it turns folks into servants just because of love.

kingdoms collide (or, my neighborhood)

stockbridge neighborhood is waking up. i like to sit in the couch in our living room, from which i can survey the sidewalk, and watch all the myriad people go by. they are of every color and every age. often they walk west with hands empty and walk back east with a bag holding liquor, beer, or small grocery items from Family Pantry. there are a handful of folks who make this journey 3 or more times each day. though our end of the block is occupied with quiet, good people we are a thoroughfare for the Family Pantry traffic, and the bus stop traffic.

some days i sit on the front porch and watch our urban wildlife, too. the squirrel who runs up and down our fence throughout the day, and the birds who stop to pick worms from our front lawn. then there’s the pit bulls being walked by their owners. when walking-by neighbors see my belly, they smile at me and wish me the best and ask if it’s a boy or a girl, and all the rest. people smile at you a great deal, i’m finding, when you’re great with child. even people who wouldn’t normally be warm get a little softer. it’s sweet.

there is a mexican family that lives about a block away they have a little taco stand that they set up on weekends. i’d heard about the taco stand and how great the food is, but until this weekend, we had never gone to visit it. friday night tim and i walked over to get some homemade horchata (good!). it was like walking into Mexico, that 50 square feet of space that felt like another culture and world entirely. and we chatted with the cart owners, and some other neighbors who frequently patronize the taco stand, and we felt so warm inside. we walked home in the dark talking about what a special thing this is; most neighborhoods don’t have a taco cart to call their own. added to the blaring of hispanic music that was until very recently emanating from the house to our east, and you can sometimes forget that you don’t live in a spanish-speaking country.

then there are the church bells of St. Adalbert’s Cathedral, ringing at 7 am and 6 pm daily, reminding you, if you have forgotten, where in the course of the day you are. and the ice cream truck, currently decked out with shrek cartoons on its side, playing it’s never-changing song punctuated by the robotic feminine voice that says, “hello!” that ice cream truck drove by during our wedding here two summers ago. our neighbor boys stop by nearly daily asking for tim, wanting to work on a bike, or to help out with our yard. and chris from next door yells from her porch to me as i sit sunning in the yard, giving me her updates on babies born to her nieces and asking if i want more venison.

we are putting a community garden in our giant yard, and there are a few other neighbor-friends planting food and keeping up compost heaps and raising chickens, ducks, and turkeys. some college guys down the street have a frisbee golf “hole” that they put in the street and use. another neighbor has the sweetest laundry lines stretched across the roof outside her kitchen, where she hangs her bath-tub washed clothes out to dry. and another neighbor feeds all the stray cats, and is now caring for 9 of their baby kittens. we have mint and comfry growing in our yard, and more flowering ground cover than we have grass.

within a block of our house there are at least 4 vacant houses. most of them have been vacant for a long time, though one just went up on the market two days ago. some of them are not even for sale, just boarded up and abandoned. the ones that are for sale, are usually $20K or less.  i like to dream of what they could become. our homeless friends have turned the back porch of one such house into their gathering place, and i can see and identify them from my kitchen windows.

on top of all of this quirky wonderfulness, there are a couple dozen Jesus-loving friends who live here, too. i can see some of their houses from the windows of my own. across the alley, one block south, two blocks east they have taken up residence here because they love each other and they love Jesus and they are crazy enough to think that (a) Jesus wants His kingdom to come to the West Side, (b) that prayer has something to do with accomplishing that, and (c) setting up camp in the middle of the mission field is part of what it means to live like Jesus lived. so, here we all are. we take great comfort and joy in one another. we share meals, pray together daily in a three-stall garage, started a little church, plot random acts of kindness (birthday celebrations for the forgotten ones, field trips for the fatherless kids, guerilla gardening in the alleys), share lawn mowers and toilet paper and eggs. it’s so very sweet.

i love this life. i love this place. i am so completely thrilled to be called to call this home.

even though i know that our neighborhood is considered “rough” by certain standards, most days i can totally forget it is so; my affection for this place and these people surpasses the statistics of crime, gangs, poverty, failing schools, abuse, fatherlessness, and addiction. most days i feel like the luckiest girl, and can laugh at the west side antics, taking them all in stride and seeing the beauty between and amongst the grit.

BUT

last night at 2 am i awoke from dead sleep to the sound of angry shouting. i got out of bed and went to the open window to have a listen and determine whether or not some sort of intervention was required. all i could make out was a single phrase, shouted loud and proud: “west side n-gg-r”. then, suddenly, after a few f-bombs and scuffles, four short, sharp gun shots in a row. then three more chants of “west side n-gg-r”, as though it were a battle cry, and all was silent again. we called 911 and told the dispatcher. within 5 minutes there were three cop cars present, but i wasn’t able to ascertain whether they found anyone, or found a body, or anything else. it is possible that someone was killed down the block last night.

it took me a long while to fall back to sleep, even after tim and i spent some time interceding for the situation, and reclaiming the promises of God for His protection and authority over us and our neighborhood. it was sobering. not like it’s the first time there’s been a slew of cop cars on our block or in our alley, and surely not the first time we’ve heard loud shouting and yelling steeped in violent anger. we’ve seen drug deals happening out in the open, and our friends have seen men beating other men with sticks and bricks. we know it happens. but for some reason, that event last night re-opened me to feeling the heavy evil. there is great evil. and it is very nearby. there is great evil that is done out in the open, without shame, with no attempt to hide. how that makes me long for Jesus to come and make all things new.

i’m anticipating giving birth to a child, and probably this week! she will be born into this place. and those sounds, with their accompanying spirits of violence, murder, and addiction, will be the sound-scape of her early life. i could almost feel my cervix UN-dilating in response to the fearful climate those gun-shots and shouts created, as if to say, “whoa! hold up! are we sure we want to give birth here?!”

i have learned to trust Jesus with my own body, heart, and home. and tim, as a discerning adult, can do the same. now we must learn how to trust Jesus with our daughter, who is an innocent. and that almost feels irresponsible. (i don’t actually believe that it is).

but i believe that there is a real battle, a battle that is perhaps even heating up, because there is a strong front advancing here: it is the Kingdom of God. and darkness tries to hide, but trembles at His voice. His victory is sure, but it isn’t human nature to go down without a fight.

we’re staying put here. under any flitting doubts about the zip code we’ve chosen, there remains a solid peace.

but you can pray. you can pray for more of this place to be transferred from the kingdom of darkness and brought into His glorious light. and you can pray that our daughter would get to grow up in a neighborhood that is being transformed by the blood of Jesus, steadily and surely over the years. as my friend chelsea wrote the other day:

I see Revival. As if our voices can be restored, our hands made new — let us begin with this city and let the gossip be that Jesus lives

amen.

on the act of giving birth, and the community that catches our baby

last night tim and i went to see a little documentary on natural childbirth and midwifery called Guerilla Midwife. the film was being screened at a vintage community theatre on wealthy street. we walked in to a crowd of pregnant women and women wearing their babies, childbirth educators, doulas, and midwives. they were a crunchy crowd, and a passionate one. there was literature out about all the natural childbirth and parenting resources available in our community. we found out that following the movie there would be a panel discussion made up of labor and postpartum doulas, home and hospital midwives, a natural health practitioner, and an OB.

Guerilla Midwife follows the story of one particular woman who practices at a small clinic in Bali, offering free or reduced-cost midwifery services to families in poverty. she and her team deliver over 700 babies each year. they do it because they believe that there is a correlation between gentle birth and world peace, just as there is a correlation between violent birth and war. they believe this because we are beginning to learn from science and research that there is a delicate cocktail of birth hormones released through the process of birth and in the hour immediately following that is vital to the bonding of mothers and babies, and that when natural birth is altered or interrupted (e.g., in the case of caesarean deliveries, epidural use, induced labor, and the whisking away of babies from mothers within minutes of their births), that cocktail is disrupted, causing hurdles to mother-child bonding as well as breast-feeding. what, they wonder, are the long-term consequences of this on a society in which 30%+ of babies are being delivered in ways that routinely disrupt that vulnerable period? does it inhibit the ability of humans to love one another as well? we know that in monkeys and other mammals, when their babies are delivered under the use of epidural or via c-section, the mothers will reject their young and refuse to care for them. as humans, our higher brains and our spirits enable us to adapt to such disruptions so that even mothers who have their babies by disconnected or traumatic avenues are still able to love their babies and be wonderful mothers. but are we making it harder on ourselves than we need to?

this is just the beginning of the many issues being explored in certain circles, and by science, regarding child birth practices and birth culture in our society. it provokes me.

i want very much to deliver our baby at home, but we’ve ended up choosing the compromise of using a nurse midwife in the context of the hospital, perhaps with the addition of a doula to our support team. and tim and i are learning about Bradley childbirth methods, which focus on intervention- and drug-free labor and delivery with the husband acting as the primary coach to his wife. we feel good about this course of action. i have a conviction that is deeply important and vastly impactful to my baby and my empowerment as a woman HOW i move through the birthing process. i do not want to be numbed, nor to take shortcuts, to getting our baby out of my womb. i want to actively participate in her birth.

i realize that this sounds silly or like needless suffering to some. i know mine isn’t the only perspective.

but however we each decide to birth our babies, one thing that i think we can all agree upon is the importance of birthing our children in an atmosphere of support, safety, gentleness, and great love. a lot of times that atmosphere is hard to find in a hospital, where there is so much fussing and intervening and worrying and screaming. and for many women they don’t have the supportive village of family and friends who speak the truth over them that they were made to give birth, and that they are adequate to do that work, just as they are adequate to parent their children.

i know that so many women give birth with fear and dread, and alone (either literally or because their family and friends are emotionally absent or abusive). i know there are lots of woman in my westside family who have given birth alone and in fear and covered in hatred or anger. and it impacts families. those beginnings matter.

so as i sat listening to the film and the panel discussion, i was washed over with gratitude for the choices i DO have in how to give birth. i am so grateful to have access to midwives who work with our medicaid status. and i am even MORE grateful to know that our baby is coming into a loving and safe marriage. and not only a healthy marriage and home environment, but also into a community of people who are literally THRILLED that she’s coming. our community considers our as-yet-unborn daughter a person and a soul, and they pray for her regularly, as well as for me and tim and our birth process. they can’t wait to know her name, to hold her, to help us to care for her and to raise her. and these people who will be the welcoming committee for our daughter are loving, Spirit-filled people whom we deeply trust. she has a slew of neighbors already claiming titles of honorary aunt- or uncle-hood. what a joy it will be to share our child with this village, and to let her newness and purity be a testimony of grace to a neighborhood of broken families. knowing that this is the life and landscape that our daughter will come into puts me at ease in so many ways and boosts my confidence in our ability to parent well. and hearing the birth stories of women in my life encourages me that i can do it, too.

every wednesday, a miracle

every wednesday night between the hours of 4:30 and 8:00 pm, i witness a miracle. i walk around in it, stunned with gratitude.

every wednesday night, you see, a small group of sacrificial, joyful people purchases and prepares enough home-made food to feed over 100 people. they come into the kitchen at the Hall and prepare it for serving, while neighbors of all ages and colors and sorts set the tables (12 8-seater tables) with humble paper plates and plastic silverware. the children run around chasing one another and wrestling with their college-age friends and mentors. a few folks come early to sit in the warm and drink a cup of bad coffee. and by six pm, almost every seat in that Hall is filled. most of the faces are familiar; they’ve been coming for months, or even years, and we feel a bit like a family by now. folks who walk the streets with heads hanging low under the weight of their shame or addiction, look bright-faced and confidently converse with trusted friends. everyone sheds their heavy winter gear. you’ll see an unaccompanied neighborhood kid seated next to a cluster of homeless men, or a caring grandmother with her grandkids seated next to a middle-class churchy person. sometimes someone will pull out a chair for someone else, or younger person will help and older one up the wide stairs into the hall. on small slips of paper, people write down how they would like us to pray for them over the course of the week (“pray i’d find work,” “ask God to bind our family together,” “freedom from addiction,” or “thank Him for our houses and our families and everything He gives to us”), which we will do corporately a few days later. worship music plays quietly in the background as the folks who did all that cooking come around to each table, look each person in the eye, and serve them their food  (a delish pasta dish with green salad and a roll, maybe a brownie, too), or pour them another glass of water. and after everyone has gotten their portion, we all pause and receive the Bread of Life from the mouth of a friend who’s been prayerfully studying for days, asking God to speak to hearts. and there is stillness and attentiveness, and someone might shout “amen!” or “that’s what’s up!”. most days everyone can have seconds on the food. as folks finish up with eating, they’ll take their plates and cups to the trash can or have another cup of coffee, or move across the room to talk to another friend. some weeks a guy will get up and sing a gospel song into the microphone, or deliver an impromptu and disconnected sermon. the room will empty nearly entirely, but some of us will stay and pause once again to worship (an appropriate response to a miracle, right?). if there are leftovers, we’ll send them home with people, and some friends will stay to wash down the table tops or to sweep the floor. and at about 8 pm, we’ll walk out from that place, turning off all the lights, and we’ll all be very, very full.

every wednesday.

a miracle.

seriously.

note: the pictures in this post are more than a year old. yes, i need to get current ones. one of these weeks…

to see again, and to lean in

it is so easy to stop seeing what’s right in front of us. this past week, charis asked the tenderos if they had a drop cloth they could borrow. well, for months there has a drop cloth laying in a corner, right in the pathway where they walk every day; it was right in front of their nose. this reminds me of how so many days i can sit alone in my sweet little house (thank you, Lord) and ruminate on the meaningless of my life and my lacking mission, while failing to see that across my yard, in clear vision of my kitchen windows, at any given hour, there are three to six homeless men sleeping or drinking on the porch of an abandoned house. could it be that part of my mission — or at least one place where i can begin to bring the kingdom to bear — is right in front of my nose, even while i sit inside moaning about my aimlessness? or maybe i haven’t stopped noticing their physical presence, but i have lost vision for the image of God in them, the Christ that is near to them, and their potential identity as redeemed children.

do you want to know what holds me back from giving into the urge to bring them hot coffee or muffins in the mornings? or from speaking bold and loving truth into their souls (again)? it is this: i’m afraid that if i give an inch, they will demand a mile, either because my heart will adopt them and long to help, or because they will, in their un-health, act out of entitlement and manipulation. there have been people in my life who have demanded a mile, in the unhealthy sense, and i feel so swallowed up by their neediness, so entirely consumed, that it is enough to keep me from giving even the inch that i can afford. other times, they might demand a mile simply by arousing my heart to engaged concern, which is painful to carry, and sometimes inconvenient in what it requires of me. so i hold back.

all i’m saying is that even if you move yourself and your family down to the center of the action — where the poverty and the drugs and the abuse are — you can still stop seeing what’s in front of you, and you can still neglect the poor. it’s always in our hearts. if you live in a more affluent area, you may need to go a bit further afield to find the least and the lost, but you can carry them in your heart. in fact, maybe you’re carrying them in your heart, your  prayers, your pocket book even more than i am, though i have a cluster of homeless men in my back yard who know my name and where i live.

“lean in,” was the short phrase that Tony embedded into his sermon at Stockbridge Mission Church on Sunday morning. it wasn’t even a main point, but it reverberated in my heart. that same phrase was spoken to me, specifically, at a healing conference i went to a couple years back. it was spoken to me by some caring group leaders who, after hearing my stories and my heart, exhorted me to lean in, and then to stay there. because lots of times, when it comes to relationships, i stand erect and across-from, independent and needless, and hope that others will be, too. maybe you do this too? the fact is that people are messy — not just the ones sleeping in my alley, but most all of them — and it takes great compassion and incredible courage to lean in closer, take a deeper look, and to speak and act in a way that effects change in the both of you. i wonder how often i avoid leaning in by talking about “having boundaries”? but i suspect that when this life is over, the things that will be worth remembering, the things that my Papa will want to talk about with me, will be those relationships into which i leaned hard and fearlessly because i trusted that He is big enough to sustain me as i lean, and to heal the other person, however intensive and far-reaching their mess.

calvin college is putting on a course during their “j-term” called Dunamis, which is a course all about the Holy Spirit, for Reformed people. Tony and I get to go to this class, and not only that, but we get to act as “Spiritual Trainers,” mentoring the students in exploration of the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. and i cannot even begin to tell you how unworthy i feel (am) of playing this role. because though i have been given revelation to know that amzing Person, most of my experiences with Him feel past tense, not a reality i’m currently swimming in and into which i can beckon others to jump. so i was thinking for a while that i might not do it, because of that lack, because i feel like a fraud. but then a couple of people (you know who you are) pointed out to me that perhaps such a commitment will be just the ticket to stretching me back out, pulling me back in, opening that up for me again. lack of engagement is a slow death; so when you feel like you’re dying, choose to engage.

 

so it begins (rhythms and relationships in stockbridge)

almost three weeks now since we got the keys to this house. and only 2 nights that we’ve slept here. the first i slept horribly. these floors — because we live in what tim calls a dr. Seuss house — are so crooked that the furniture leans this way and that. we’re learning this house. i feel like we’re uncovering it, and what it was meant to be. it seems like a cross between farm-house and cottage suits it well.

some of our things seem like they were made for this house. they tuck just perfectly into certain spaces and our antique, road-side/thrift-store furniture feels so at home in a house built around the turn of the 19th century. so even with all the boxes and curtain rods and tools still scattered around the living areas, i can see that this is going to be lovely when it’s all finished.

today we are making room. (well, tim is doing this while i rest because i seem to have caught claire’s cold). we are making room for sarah jayne and for crystal, who will come to live here with us within the next week, i think. crystal’s room just needs the trim painted and blinds put up. sarah’s needs the wall patches completed, the tools/equipment cleared out, the walls painted, the door re-hung, and a curtain made. and then they will be here. and we will learn to “take care of each other” as the robert louis stevenson quote hanging on our fridge door says.

behind our house and across the alley is an empty little house with a small back porch and it appears that steve and dave and joe oakes and joe black and a couple other guys i don’t yet know have made it their resting spot, their dry place, their sleeping place. some days i walk to the rear of our yard and stand at the fence and talk with them. they’re so welcoming, so glad to see me back and to meet my husband. and in the mornings, before the Family Pantry starts selling alcohol, they are sober enough to have real decent human conversations with. steve says that one day he’d like to sober up and come visit us. i didn’t tell him this was a prerequisite to visiting our home, but he seems to know that that would be respectful. i hope he’ll do it.

watching tim at the Love Feasts has been sweet. he’s getting to know these crazy beautiful neighbors. this past week he worked at the “intercessory table” — a little station we’ve set up to allow people to come bring their prayer requests on folded pieces of paper to drop into a box, which will later be opened by the SBR family and prayed through, and at which folks can come to receive prayer in real-time. he had a steady little stream of men come to sit with him, to talk, and to pray.  my old pal Derek (alias Green Mile) met tim and upon learning he was my husband, told tim that he’d like to come to our house and make us a meal one day.

yesterday afternoon, after the Nitty Gritty meeting with Tony and all the SBR interns, charla walked with me to our credit union so i could get a rent check made, and we walked and talked all the way back to our house where she came in for tea. she was my first tea guest. and this is one of the reasons i’m so happy to be back: the nearness of charla and the rest of this family.and i love it because of people like marcy, who is also new to the neighborhood, but not to this family, and who walks the neighborhod almost daily with her dog mya and sometimes one of her children and always stops in to see how we’re doing in our house projects.

this morning was the first Intern Breakfast of the season. there we all were: jordan, coop, charla, paula, chelsea, tim, me, and all the tenderos (we are missing danmike, who is in scotland, and charis, who had to go to work). to look around the table at these faces, and to laugh together at classic neighborhood stories, and to share tony’s frittatas and jenn’s homemade granola… well, i’m home. the faces around the table are different ones than a year ago, but i choose them. i choose to be committed to unity, co-laboring, laughter, prayer for, and sharing with these friends. joyfully.

i am looking forward to nestling in close with Jesus this autumn, once the dust has settled and we return to rhythms.  i am hungry for Him, but have been far off. i have been so preoccupied with getting things done. it’s time to draw near again. with expectancy instead of fear of disappointment, with belief instead of cynicism. and to ask Him for His dreams for this neighborhood and this community. and to ask Him to live through me with the sort of potency of love and truth that we all need (not just the neighbors, but this family, too).

i plan to bake muffins tomorrow and take them to all the neighbors on our block (yes, the kitchen is completely set up; it’s very sweet.) i plan to pick up my camera again soon and start showing you what my eyes see in this place. i am praying for His choice of one or two other women to get really real with in this season — to mutually nurture and exhort one another.

after prayer walking last night, we made our first dinner here and as we lingered at the table, tim spontaneously stated, “i love the richness of our new life here.” amen. we don’t have to go far to find our mission field, he said, and we have these quality relationships right around the corner.

resting now…

ps: there is mint growing in our back yard. and a raspberry bush from the neighbor’s, which spills over to our yard. steve told me there’s a pear tree in the alley behind Family Pantry, too. sweet.

pps: jenn’s opening post for this new season

70 of 101: peruvian stew for carlitos

it is a long-standing tradition for members of a community to make and bring a meal to a family following a birth or a death.  it’s a tradition that i want to practice more than i have in the past. which is why it is on my list of 101 in 1001.

i recently finished a book that is all about the theology of house-keeping. and it was very good. probably it will be its own post soon enough. but for now, i want to give one excerpt from it that informs this idea of bringing meals to others at times when cooking proves more difficult.

when we cook, we produce things to eat, of course, but we produce something else too: acts of kindness… cooking is something that naturally overflows its boundaries, that leads to there being leftovers to share with someone, a pot of soup that can stretch to feed a guest or two, an extra loaf of bread to give to a neighbor.

(Margaret Kim Peterson, Keeping House: A Litany of Everyday Life, pg 119)

so last week carlos and jeanette had their second son, carlitos (“little carlos”), and it seemed a perfect opportunity to practice this value. when carlos stopped in on sunday and asked me to hold hakobo a moment whilst he switched around car seats, i blurted, “can i cook you guys dinner this week?” “sure,” he said, very casually.

carlos is incredibly hospitable. when he threw a birthday party for hakobo this fall, there were 30 people there with about as much diversity in age, sexual orientation, gender, culturals, and social groups as there could be. he and jeanette are very good at celebrating, very good at keeping an open door. i think, therefore, that it didn’t seem like a significant offer, this idea of me bringing them dinner.

regardless, tonight i made a double batch of peruvian quinoa stew (a favorite recipe from Moosewood Cooks at Home). i ladled half of it into a pyrex, and t and i went across the hall to offer it up. when carlos opened the door, the thick and heady smell of frying meat assaulted our senses. there he was, cooking up what appeared to be about 3 pounds of beef. “i finally went out for food,” he said, smiling.

so i handed over my very vegetarian stew, explaining quinoa, and put it into the fridge for another evening, when perhaps they will be more in need of it. no fuss was made whatsoever, only that sort of thanks that takes for granted that such a kindness would be shown on the ocassion of a birth.

then jeanette brought out carlitos, all wrapped in blue receiving blankets, and for a few glorious moments, i held his 6 lb, 4 oz body in my arms and gazed at his wide-open, big brown eyes. so precious.

i don’t know if they will like our quinoa stew. if i could have done it over, i would have given some notice, would have perhaps attempted to sit down to table with them. but, then again, in this fashion, they can carry on with their adjustment to new life in peace. and eat when they are too weary to cook. and that is enough.

now, as a bonus to you, dear reader, here is the recipe:  Peruvian Quinoa Stew–Moosewood

this week in our life…

living with the poor reads more romantically than it is. i mean, we’re barely putting a single toe in the water, but even in choosing the intention of being available and responsive… interruptible… to the poor among us, it’s already sorta rough. like when phil down the street always forgets who we are and that he’s already tried asking us for money before, and we’ve turned him down, but now he wants to use our phone. so we sit on the front porch of  the dilapidated boarding house he calls home and talk to his housemate rio whilst he makes what seems like 15 calls on t’s cell phone, then asks for a ride somewhere. meanwhile, i really want to get in our car and drive back to the house where we saw a fantastic piece of furniture on the curb, up for grabs. but by the time we get away from the porch of phil’s house, it’s been taken by someone else. someone who didn’t stop to let a down-and-out guy use their cell phone. i’m more disappointed by this than i have any right to be.

dinner at the Winnebago house tonight had all the house inhabitants (minus jon, who left a homemade pumpkin pie in his place and the pences who are visiting family), plus me and t, neel and kaia, and jake’s brother pete. we sat around one long table and ate family style, which isn’t usually possible because there’s too many folks. but i guess lots of people were still away with their families for thanksgiving. harmony and eric made a mexican pizza, i brought some fried rice, and there were like 4 kinds of pie, 3 kinds of bread, veggie platter and frozen yogurt. anyway, all of this had a cozy family feel (we seem at ease with one another by now). i didn’t leave my seat all night, but had great conversations with the 5 friends who took their place beside me to chat for a spell.

t and i have been on our laptops too much today. there was lots of photo editing to do. and then photo-ordering (for frames in our apartment, for gifts for family, etc.) t has been tackling his email inbox with singular focus unusual for him. he seems to have forgotten that i’m occupying the apartment with him, so intense is his purposeful email sorting and deleting.

this is the beautiful face of claire, which i was staring at for hours today while i edited the photos i snapped of her on her 3-week birthday (for more, see here).

my SIL jess gave birth yesterday. oh, how i had hoped to be able to get in the car and drive over to Milwaukee to see her and daniel, little sam, and baby elijah hours after the birth. but, sadly, eli is in the nicu trying to learn how to breath, as he was born with fluid on his little lungs. of course, he’ll be okay, but i’m sad for jess and dan for this somewhat traumatic first two days, in which they aren’t getting the amount of bonding time that they desire and need. but here is little eli, with a shocking head full of dark hair and a nose that i think is undeniably collier-esque.

one of my Transit girls has left us. on some level, i know it’s normal for the second-guessing and temptation to leave to set in at about this point in their year. but it’s been extremely hard on me to watch her go, to see her decide for something else and, after a week of hard conversations and up-and-down emotions, to bid her farewell, praying for the best for her. the three remaining are standing in strength and a lot of mutual love for one another and i’m so very proud of them.

so now there is “chick church.” i know that e would rather i not call it that, only we haven’t found a suitable alternative yet. chick church is a handful of women whose names were each distinctly pressed onto my heart, who come to breakfast at our place on sunday mornings (so far only twice) and dig into one another’s lives and hearts, also studying the Word together and engaging in listening-prayer for one another. and so far it is very good.

yesterday i got to talk to a wonderful woman whom i’ve always short-handedly called w. there’s one particular thing that she said, full of truth, which i want to remember, so i’ll record it here: “God is always building something. either inside of you or around you.” yes! he is always building, even in those seasons that seem like so much dead space. i guess in the Kingdom there is no such thing as dead space; nothing is wasted.

i got some more things hung on walls this weekend, which felt nice. suddenly this area above our dining room table feels so much warmer. there is a hodge-podge of articles framed here. clockwise from top left: a prayer-room relic snatched from the SBR prayer garage last year, tim and WE International Founder/friend in the Sahara desert, an acacia tree photo inscribed with Psalm 1:3, Lake Michigan relics in a shadow box, and the Tendero’s dining room table.

so, we’ve said “no” to the offer to lead that trip to algeria in january, for no reason other than that we sat down and listened a while and heard Him say the word Stay. now we’re kinda camping out on that command to Stay… wondering what it’s about… for how long and in what way and where precisely to stay. does it mean buying property in our neighborhood, bearing children here, deciding no longer to waver about our role in the Madison Boiler Room, to abandon daydreams about our next move? (i’m reminded of jeremiah 29:4-7).

thanksgiving morning was sorta special in our family of two. i woke up before t did and whipped up some pancakes, which we topped with the leftover berry sauce i’d prepared as a topping of the homemade ice cream we ate with the Transit girls the night before. we had a french press and sat around the table a while lounging and talking casually. here is a scene that i love – t at the table, coffee mug in hand, bed head not yet corrected:

and after this we drove to Milwaukee to celebrate with the collier clan. what a spread of food and goodly number of people were present. we had roasted potatoes with kale (me), gingery apple-yam-plantain saute (me), turkey (linda), mashed potatoes (jess), wild rice (lisa), green bean casserole (linda), pumpkin pie (nathan), and orange salad (linda). sam was a little show-off. and, because they couldn’t be with us from Pittsburgh, we made flat versions of ben, lisa, and little sophia and took turns posing with them (missed you guys!).

no, i haven’t been cooking anything particularly interesting or amazing lately. (well, t might beg to differ, as he was terribly fond of that homemade GF pizza we had last night. he said that it was so good he wanted to punch something, which is his newest form of highest compliment).

goodnight.

 

rattling around in my heart

it doesn’t feel like almost-winter

but some eternal springing fall

(i should be out walking)

 

maybe we’re already pregnant in our hearts

because we’ve been trying to work out the

hows and wheres of raising our hypothetical baby

we’re considering abandoning our lines of defense

and asking questions about

who is our village, who’ll raise her with us?

who are the stayers?

what will be standing when 80% of the delicate “us” has left and gone?

we sort of want to hunker down

will we be among the stayers,

the ones who pray and adopt our way into a New Village?

(but then there’s that one in MI with a million heart strings

and cheap property for sale and we wonder

should we join them?)

 

lately my heart is softer in my chest

i hug folks a little tighter, like i mean it

and great compassion floats to the surface when

i see L’s tears or hear of P’s trials

i think maybe i could love here afterall,

but they’re all go-ers (most gone by july)

it hurts a bit to keep that end in mind

 

if i want a baby is it for the wrong reasons?

what about africa? (we have to give an answer)

 

the other night we chatted with missionaries from Uganda

who’ve hunkered down and made it their home for years

i felt i could never be so pure and natural as they

and all the UW students (bright minds,

humanitarians, ready-to-goers)

who have plans for concrete expressions of care

in the form of water systems, soccer clubs, and agricultural groups

i felt like my own hands were so empty

(i doubted that i could go)

 

when we’re quiet in the prayer room at 9 pm

none of these questions seem so urgent

because we’re in the living room with a timeless Daddy

 

but then there’s small things

like that i want to bake muffins

and have d & d, c & j come to our door naturally

(maybe they’re the stayers!… surprise!)

i want to make a cookbook so lovely you’d cry

to see its bursting-with-live images and

intuitive anyone-can-do-it recipes

that’ll make you feel nourished and capable.

i want to finish decorating my walls,

record music with t (or hear him do it).

i want to learn sabbath at my core

i want to pray for my co-workers

and there doesn’t ever seem to be enough minutes

 

so i open, i open

i risk and i dream

and i don’t know who or what will come

and sometimes i want to go home

 

but most of all i want to be with Him, wherever He is

i really mean that, in my bones

(it’s not just pretty talk)

“to whom shall we go?! you have the words of life,”

one disciple said (john 6:68)

there is no where else

 

K read psalm 84 this morning

about the swallow who makes a nest for herself,

where she can raise her young… and that nest is

near the alter of the living God.

so i guess i can be a pilgrim so long as

i’ve got that nest with T and our babies

in the place where He dwells

 

pastor bill preached about the kingdom

and spoke about its belonging to the least

and those who care about them

(at which point he looked at us,

because we are the pretty/young/wealthy ones

in a room of so many leasts,

a status i did not feel proud of because

i want the kingdom and

jesus is near to the poor)

 

that’s all for now