in memorium :: kevin

kevin, a few years ago when i first met him.

kevin, a few years ago when i first met him.

when i met kevin, he was dapper: clean-shaven, well-manicured, proudly and uniquely dressed, and sauntering confidently around the neighborhood. he loved to talk. and he never hid anything. i remember sitting with him in the boiler room yard one day as he told me about his father’s abandonment, his intense love for his mother, the abuses he had suffered, the homosexuality he owned, the disease he contracted, and the alcoholism he struggled with. i can write this here because if you met him, he would tell you all of it, too.

so here we are, a church. and the church has been many things to men like Kevin, but warm and embracing has not typically been one of them, sadly. yet with us he somehow found a sense of safety and belonging. he knew we loved him, no matter what.

over the next few years we watched him get painfully thin, fall into despondent depression as his mother neared the end of her life and he couldn’t imagine going on without her. he stopped taking his life-sustaining medications, and he stopped eating. he stopped bathing and taking care of himself at all. he developed sores at the corners of his mouth, a glazed over look in his eyes, and a unique odor. in this season, to continue to offer loving touches and nearness were hard for me.

and then, he nearly died. or rather, he DID die. but on that hospital bed, having been declared dead, he saw Jesus. Jesus didn’t say anything, just met his eye and pointed the way back. and then Kevin wasn’t dead anymore. i cannot explain this.

but when Kevin came back, he gave His life to Jesus. he decided he wanted to live the second half of his life differently than the first half. he got healthy again. he started to have hope. he did so much hard work as he bravely and intentionally chose to forgive the many people who had abused and wronged him through his life, getting lighter all the time. he chose to be kind to his housemate, whom he had traditionally been rather mean to. he surrendered his entire heart to Jesus to be shepherded, including his sexuality, because when he asked God what He wanted Him to handover, that was was the answer he heard. there was fruit in keeping with repentance, as the scriptures say. and then Kevin asked if we would baptize him, which we did, on a Wednesday evening in the boiler room yard. it was a holy moment.

about to be baptized. october 2014.

about to be baptized. october 2014.

"kevin, you are the Father's son, and He is pleased with you!"

“kevin, you are the Father’s son, and He is pleased with you!”

exactly one week later, at the age of 42, he had a stroke. and that stroke, with all it’s complications, took his life before the day was through.

there were many tears running down the faces of our Love Feast family, who had heard word on the street throughout the day that Kevin was dying, and then came to our gathering to find that he had passed already. all those tears bear testimony to how he impacted us.

i wasn’t able to get to the hospital in time to say goodbye to him. but if i had, i wanted to tell him in a conspiratorial whisper, “this time, Kevin, you don’t have to turn around and leave when you see Jesus. you get to STAY.” holy smokes, how lucky he is.

but how he will be missed. i was looking forward to seeing him grow up and mature as a Christian, into the fullness of the man he was made to be. i was looking forward to more years bearing witness to his rambling and gut-honest story-telling prayers.

his funeral is this saturday, and Jordan will conduct the ceremony. next wednesday at Love Feast we’ll have a little memorial for him, too.

in memorium :: derek lee, gentle giant

derek helps prepare the food cart to serve love feast

derek helps prepare the food cart to serve love feast

on the street he was also known as Skillet (he loved to cook and feed people, and everyone knew it) or Green Mile (he sorta resembled the main character in the movie by the same name, at least in size, and in gentleness).

as i write this post, he is close to breathing his last breaths, as he will be disconnected from life support any minute now. it was only last week that he was walking among us, his oxygen tank trailing reluctantly behind him, but his face still full of life and humor. he was always the first one to jump at the chance for the open mic, and he had a few numbers that he performed regularly at our weekly LoveFeasts, while all the crowd clapped their hands and grooved along. He was proud of his big, deep voice, and i loved to hear it. i can hear it still.

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yesterday in the early morning hours he suffered a stroke. but it was worse than just that. there was also systemic infection, blood clot in brain, and internal bleeding with unknown source. when i went to the hospital to see him, his gentle giant body was perfectly still, tangled up in an impossible number of wires and tubes and machines. every once and a while his eyes would open, but it wasn’t clear how much he was registering. i sat with his fiance and made her eat some dinner i’d fetched from the cafeteria. in that uniquely self-conscious way that accompanies speaking to someone who is not cognizant, i went to his side, laid my hand on his large black one, and talked to him about the days when he lived in the boiler room and cooked so many terribly greasy things in the deep frier, then turned around and teased me for cooking so much “healthy stuff” when it was my own turn behind the stove. i told him how much i liked hearing him sing at Love Feast. i told him that i’ve actually come to like bacon grease a lot recently, and could he believe that? i blamed it on the pregnancy, the pregnancy that he so boldly and unapologetically inquired about before i was really even telling anyone the news. he wasn’t the king of subtly. 🙂

before i went, i prayed with him and his fiance, through tears i did not expect, both mine and hers. they came when i told him how loved he was, what a valuable member of our family and our church he had become, and how hard it was to see him suffering. i wanted to pray for God to grant him new life on the other side of this, to bring him through singing and dancing once more (he is only about 50 years old, afterall), but in my bones, i knew he would be leaving us. so i prayed mostly for a release of the shalom and presence of Christ in that room, and over Derek’s body. and in my own heart, i pleaded that even now, in this late hour of altered consciousness, that Holy Spirit would show Derek how to believe in Christ for his salvation. because i’m sorry to say this — almost ashamed — but after 6 years of knowing this man, i have never directly asked him where he stood with Jesus. and suddenly, this mattered so very much, but was too late to discuss. God, have mercy.

and now today. my husband is sitting with him and his gathered friends and his family who had to make the hard, hard call that no one ever wants to have to make: to pull the plug. and he will be gone before this afternoon has ended. which means that i will never get those gentle hugs or kindly teasing from that giant brother again.

but he will be finished — for i am casting my vote on my Papa’s love and mercy — finished with chronic sickness, with the temptation and ensnarement of addictions, and with the hardships of poverty.

me and derek at a love feast in 2009

me and derek at a love feast in 2009

why i fail at writing ministry updates

LoveFeast-9.11.13-15when i first moved in over here to this westside neighborhood, knowing the statistics about its crime and poverty, and seeing with my own eyes that it was most definitely very different than anywhere i had lived in my privileged life thus far, i wrote on my blog a lot about the lives of the folks i was meeting. i wrote about the people we were helping and how. i wrote about what they were struggling with and my yearning to see them have more. i wrote freely partly because i knew they would never read it (they wouldn’t have internet connection or a computer) and because most of it i would say to their faces, too.

but these days i can’t find it in me to write about “them.” nor can i even see their unfolding stories with the crystal clear precision that i once thought i could. i don’t know how to summarize who they are, why they struggle, what’s going on in their lives/hearts, or what God is up to in their stories.

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so when it comes time to attempt to write for the boiler room blog, or to write a ministry update letter, i get so stuck. i sit there thinking about the people we are here on the westside to serve, and i think, “i can’t think of anyone! what are we even DOING over here?!” (yeah, sometimes self-doubt and panic set in). but it isn’t true that there isn’t anyone we’re serving, nor is it true that God isn’t writing a good story with their lives… it’s just that… well, maybe it’s simply that “they” have become “us.” what were once case studies are now long-term, living-and-changing relationships with people. and though their number is few, the relationships are deepening and enduring.

the people we’re here to serve now serve alongside us, setting up feasts and serving meals. the people we’re here to minister to now share keen scriptural insight at Sunday gathering. the folks we’ve been praying for now offer up their own startlingly potent prayers.

and, yes, they are — some of them — still addicted or unemployed or living on the streets or struggling in relationships or looking for a free set of mittens on a cold day.

how can all of that be true at once? how do i put that in a ministry update? how do i make a statistic out of that?

a man named K

in the group of people that i call my Church Family, there is a man (K) who is dying. he is dying of AIDS. he is dying because he has stopped taking his ARVs. in the last year, i have watched him shrink several pants sizes, become unkempt and listless, dirty and rumpled, and mentally altered, with deep and painful-looking sores cracking the corners of his mouth.

we aren’t sure why he’s stopped taking the ARVs, but neither of the possible reasons is a good one. it is either because he has stopped taking them in his depressive state over his beloved mother’s slow dying process these last two years, or because he cannot afford to pay for these life-saving drugs.

and i don’t know how to help him. he trusts Jesus as His savior, and He has experienced the unconditional love of the Father through his mother and this Church Family, i think, even in his open homosexuality (i’m so grateful for this because i know that is a sadly uncommon experience). i believe He’ll go Home on the day that He dies.

but then i wonder, does he really even have to die? couldn’t he yet choose life? if we could get him his medications, perhaps then he would have a while longer? if we could somehow sort through all the unhealthy codependencies that leads him to wish for death rather than a life without a living mother, perhaps he’d stop this slow suicide?

sometimes i get caught up in the larger picture, too…. all the social injustices and unfair infrastructure that make the lives of men like K so difficult, demoralizing, and desperate. these are systemic flaws to “the system” that make it so that some people have every opportunity in the world and others not a fighting chance. i can’t fix all of that in my lifetime, let alone in time for K to get his medications and a healing diet and good counseling services and all the other things that might turn his life around.

but God. He sees. I believe He knows K, and is holding Him still. i don’t understand why He doesn’t want to social-work K’s life to make things better for him this side, or heal him in an instant, but i’m glad that K is with us here for now, receiving some affection and hearing the words of God.

as i took a breather from writing this post, because i wasn’t sure what to say next, i noticed this status update from a Facebook friend:

Some of the most comforting words from Jesus: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” -John 13:7

maybe that’s a place to end this.

ps: tonight during worship at our Church gathering, i took a video K holding hands with one of our Vision Course students. this, my friends, is the kingdom of God on earth. i was so humbled and touched by the sight of this dear dirty and untouchable middle-aged man holding hands with a clean-and-tidy young woman.

recommit

for so long i was checked out. i had on glasses that made my distorted perspective still seem real.

and that’s ok. i think there’s lots and lots of grace for that season. i am even willing to bet all my money that it had/has purpose, though i can’t yet tell you what it was.

i’m recommitted now: to being here, to giving my husband to this work and to partnering with him as i am able, to raising my children here and making it home, to living on a modest salary dependent on fund-raising, to seeking Him for all that we need to keep going, to keeping our lives and hearts open to the neighbors who sometimes walk in chaos, and to the many young people who will walk in an out amongst us seeking to serve or to heal or to learn.

this city dwelling. this boiler room work. this “being the church” gig. 

it’s pretty sweet. 

i just forgot for a while. 

thankfully, Papa is faithful to remind us of things we forget. He’s using our board of directors and the beautiful, prayer-drenched documents they’re drafting to put into words what God has called us to be and to do. He’s using a threatened financial crisis that forces us to re-evaluate. He’s using a gentle drawing of myself into His presence in 10 minute increments each day. He’s using the words of friends and the visions and prophecy of brothers and sisters. He’s even using a growing dream of house here that we believe will be our Home for the long haul, for the many children and the visiting pilgrims, and even transient students. Through all of these avenues, He’s correcting my heart posture.

i read this in anne lamott’s new book (definitely worth reading) a couple of weeks ago, and wrote it down in my journal:

for us to acknowledge that we have been set free from toxic dependency, from crippling obsession or guilt, that we have been graced with the ability  to finally forgive someone, is just plain astonishing. you can’t have gotten from where you were — gripped by anxiety, tiny with fear — to come through to freedom, for God’s sake. to have been so lost that you feel abducted, to feeling found, returned, and set back onto your feet: oh my God, thankyouthankyouthankyou. thank you. thanks.

i like this because it speaks to that most awesome sort of miracle: the rearranging of a human heart that doesn’t know how to help itself. and i feel that He’s doing one of these sorts of miracles in my heart right now, tender and tentative as it may yet be.

He’s doing it regarding our life work and where we call home. He’s doing it regarding my ability to rest in this motherhood role. and He’s doing it in my marriage.

that’s my testimony today.

stepping back

he leads me beside quiet waters, he makes me to lay down in green pastures. he restores my soul.

the stockbridge boiler room has been a significant part of my life, my spiritual journey, my healing, and my work for about 4 years now. even that year when we lived in madison, i carried it in my heart still. the neighborhood that the boiler room is centered in, the prayer rooms it begins and encourages along, the networking with students and pastors and people across the city, the love feasts it hosts, the family that it is… all of this has made up the landscape on which my recent life — my NEW life as a transformed follower of Jesus — has played itself out. for heaven’s sake, i even met my husband via the boiler room, got married in its yard, and dedicated my firstborn to God at it’s sunday gathering. it has been so hard to imagine life without it.

which is why, i think, for the last year and some months i’ve been trying so hard to make it work.

while i was pregnant with hazel, i felt massive, glacier-deep shifts occurring in my heart. the energy of my life and heart were turning in a new direction: facing her, my daughter. suddenly, it felt harder to care about the homeless men behind my house, i just wanted to love her. logistically, her addition to our family also made showing up for the work and shared life of the boiler room more challenging, and realistically i have not been “around” as much in this past year as i have been in the past, or even as much as i would have preferred. it has been a sacrifice.

and our team — our SBR family — has worked with me, allowing me to rearrange my priorities and responsibilities to maximize my leadership role, changing up the places and times that we meet in order to accommodate hazel’s napping schedule so that i could continue to be involved. they have honored and received me as a sister, a trustworthy leader, a worthwhile and gifted member of the family and doer of the work. how kind they have been, how accommodating.

but all year, in fits and starts, there has been self-doubt, a desire to run away and have a “normal” life, a growing resentment towards the sacrifices of the ministry, and more disgust than love for the neighborhood we are supposed to be here to serve. each meeting felt overwhelming, every project felt like an obligation. the scale tipped so that the sacrifice and hard work of this ministry life felt heavier than the joy. and that hasn’t always been the case, nor do i think that’s they way it is supposed to be when living as Jesus’ disciple. and so i worked at figuring out what wast wrong with me, trying hard to find places where i needed to practice repentance, get more disciplined, pray and surrender more, or have an attitude adjustment. i talked through it with tim and with jenn and with other friends, all of whom have helped me recognize and walk away from any lies that were playing a role in my dilemma. and many times i thought i had finally found “the thing” that needed to be adjusted so that i could carry on.

then we took the month of august for our sabbatical, as we do each year. and when, on the way home from vacation, my heart and mind grew heavier and more overwhelmed and i became filled with dread at the thought of returning home to my normal life… well, i knew something wasn’t right. a few days later, i had a melt-down in the office of our wise marriage counselor. i wept while telling her and tim how tired i am, how sick i am of being in ministry, how much i loathe and want out of our neighborhood, how i can’t see the purpose of it all anymore, how i can’t do it all, how i just want to stay home with my babies. and judy looked at me and gave it a name: burn-out. (oh, so that’s what it’s called.) she said my feelings are normal and probably something i should listen to; that i need to stop assuming something is wrong with me for feeling these things and instead consider that God might be leading me into a different path in this season.

tim has had reservations about coming too quickly to this conclusion. i understand that. there are so many good and sweet things about having healthy biological family units at the center of a ministry together: all the important things that it communicates about the family of God, the blessing that our children can be to the college students and 20-somethings we parent and work with, the example we can be in a neighborhood full of broken families. and, of course, tim is stronger with me by his side. he’s more balanced and more confident (i guess that’s why we call women “helpmeet”), and we had assumed that in order for me to be the helper he desires, i need to stay on the front lines with him. but what if, Judy suggested, i can be a helpmeet to him just as well even if HE is the one doing the bulk of the ministry work? oh, there’s a novel idea. at last tim said, “Well, i think we’ll need to tell everyone that you’re stepping down in September.”

the rush of relief, that tearful gratitude i felt in that moment. it was like, “yes, finally. i’ve been heard. i’ve wanted this for so long.”

and so, after sitting on it for several days, and thinking through some logistics and getting some counsel… today we told our team our decision. we explained what that will look like, what it will and will not mean. i got a little tearful. i had to fight back feelings that i was abandoning people or making their lives more difficult by stepping down. but that peace about the rightness of it didn’t waver. i headed home after that morning meeting of catching up with my SBR family, officially released and blessed by them.

i know there might be a little span of time here where i’ll be like a turtle pulling its neck deep inside its shell, preferring total retreat from the things that have worn it out or frightened it. but i also know that Father has deposited in me a love for His kingdom, a concern for the poor, and a desire to life my life according to His purposes, even if it seems radical. so though i don’t feel very in touch with those roots right now, I’m trusting Him to draw me back out of my shell in the right timing, perhaps in new ways this time, but with great joy and in a manner that brings much praise to His name.

meantime, tim is carrying on. he’s still sure of it. for him the scale still tips in favor of joy. he’ll work harder now, since the position we once shared will now be entirely his. but he’s up for it. i praise God for that.

here is some of what is rising in my heart in the wake of finally surrendering to that inclination to step back:

  • i am looking forward to learning and mastering the art forms of managing my household well (including cleaning and menu planning and budgeting), and mothering intentionally and creatively. our entire marriage has been spent with both of us in ministry, and the timeline of our shared life has been a whirlwind of events in quick succession (meeting, moving, marriage, transit-leadership, moving again, buying and fixing a house, beginning SBR leadership, having a baby, getting pregnant a second time), and so there hasn’t been that time period in which to really settle down into some of those foundational skills. i want to master them and do them with attention to the presence of God.
  • i suspect i’ll actually be a fresher and more positive encourager and helpmeet for tim now.  i had been so tied up in knots of cynicism and criticism about the boiler room ministry because of my own lack of peace about continuing on in it, that i carried that energy into all of our conversations with him, with the end result of often making him feel discouraged or diminished in his life work. now i feel i’ll be more able to see it from his perspective (which is one of confidence and faithfulness and joy) and spur him on.
  • i am excited to be able to pour my time and energy into taking hazel on outings and to play dates that will stimulate and bless her, as well as to pursue photography, without feeling like i should be doing 20 other boiler-room related things instead (which just ends up paralyzing me).
  • i look forward to seeing how Father will direct my heart, and what divine appointments He will lead me into now that i won’t be moving out of a place of obligation or slavery, but of freedom. i wonder what he’ll do with some of those areas/interests in my life that seem to “have life on them” (as tim would say): photography, the birth community, motherhood, food.

His peace rests on my spirit today.

Hazel is napping now, and i’ve got a meal to clean up after and some things to put away. there are some errands to run later this afternoon, then my friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday to attend (and a dish to prepare and bring along). and all of these simple things are work enough. i’m going to go do them with joy and purpose.

on this day

on this day…

… i walked the two blocks to the prayer garage and spent some time praying and worshiping with my friends before the day got going at full speed.

…i ran errands for three hours. discovered costco with my new membership and came back with brown rice, quinoa, chia seeds, maple syrup, agave nectar, and cinnamon. picked up photos at my lab, some for my mama for a gift, and some for hazel’s birthday party. got some craft supplies at joanne fabrics.

…i gathered with some women from our church to talk about the fertility awareness method and to prayerfully surrender our hopes, fears, and plans to God regarding the growing of our families.

…hazel was a little needy and quick to tears for the afternoon and evening. food made it a little better. riding with mama in the ergo baby carrier for a while helped even more. and then the time spent nursing until drowsiness before bedtime was the final touch.

…tim made good progress in the bike shop, hanging more tools on the tool board. this following a day yesterday of incredible progress, thanks to the help of three friends and partners in the project.

…i did some diaper laundry. as i do every other day.

…we ate a good dinner using a new recipe. vegan because we’re trying to go off dairy. gluten-free because that’s how we always are. it was avocado-pea pasta if you were wondering. with a side of roasted squash. it was so pretty. and we’ve been eating well around her lately because i’ve had more energy to try new recipes, more longing for pretty, wholesome food.

… we took a little walk and ended up having a 30-minute conversation with some new-ish neighbors – jackie and her granddaughter princess and her friend mario. in conversation, which was quite pleasant, we covered vegetable gardening, jazz, religion, and africa. and jackie brought down some mango slices for hazel and princess to eat while they played on the sidewalk.

… tim went to our 14 year-old neighbor boy zachary’s choir concert this evening, to support him. and then straight to the neighborhood pub for a drink and some Getting Things Done accountability with our friend jeremy.

…i am a little bored right now and really want to go to bed, though it is only 9:15. but i’m going to sit on the porch with some lemonade, an oatcake, and a book instead.

 

4 (5th St NW)

the block of fifth street that corresponds with ours on 6th street is awful.

for as long as we’ve lived in this house, that block has been a place of chaos, abuse, violence, noise, mean dogs, drugs, and street fights. plus many other things that go on behind closed doors, i can only imagine. the odd thing about it is that it seems to retain this atmosphere regardless of who lives there. it seems to be in the air, or the soil, or something. as if it is a place claimed by the Enemy, as if there are strongholds in that physical location that attract and hold in bondage anyone who moves into the houses there.

there are four houses in particular that seem to bear the mark of the beast. last week, within 5 days there were 7 arrests. at least two were assault and battery involving stones and hammers. another appeared to be auto theft. we use crimemapper.com to get a sense of things, though we already know SOMETHING is going on (it’s hard to miss), this website helps to fill in the blanks.

several members of the boiler room community live on that block. they hear the noises in the middle of the night, have been awoken by the fighting, have seen the flashing lights and the animal control vans and the rest. and i know it tires them; they are weary of it. they are also burdened for the men and women and children living in that dark kingdom. we aren’t sure quite how to be light bright enough to penetrate that darkeness. so we gather on the

(dang, there goes the timer)

these days

these days

  • we are soaking up the sun for as long as we can, taking near-daily walks around our neighborhood with hazel in the ergo-baby, stepping prayerfully past all the grimy houses and their hidden stories unfolding inside.
  • we are discerning what may be a calling to something that seem impractical and big, and we’re holding our hands open to God as if to say, “you can put here whatever you like, and we will receive it from you.” this something is so sweet an expression of the central message of the gospel that it seems it might be impossible to say no to, in the end. 🙂
  • i am finding Scripture tastes like honey once more. i approach it not so much to study or analyze it, but to be moved by it.
  • i am craving baked goods and feeling thankful that due to amazon subscriptions i now have an ever-present supply of gluten-free all-purpose flour in the pantry that make all my baking desires possible to fulfill.
  • we are spending lots of time sitting or laying on the big floor rug we brought up from the basement to cover our wooden floors on these colder days.
  • hazel is discovering her feet and gifting us with her laughter and grabbing at food from the table and nose-diving open-mouthed into our faces to “kiss” us.
  • i am often photographing the joy and play of families in their own homes or in lovely outdoor spaces. i want to do more of this.
  • we are watching our little collection of TV shows on hulu.com in the evenings after hazel has gone to bed and we can’t go anywhere. we watch The Office, Modern Family, Parenthood, and The New Girl (in case you were wondering).
  • we are sharing meals with the boiler room family two to three times each week. eating together knits hearts together, we find.
  • tim is practicing repentance in the form of  “tweeting” (unlikely form of repentance, i know!) as well as Project Wake Up Before Dawn.
  • we are planning trips to WI in both November and December, anticipating the cuteness of our nephews there and lazy afternoons in the living room of the Collier homestead.
  • we are intentionally interviewing each of the 12 (!) houses full of Jesus-followers who’ve moved into the Boiler Room’s neighborhood in the last year, and asking God how He might want to connect us to one another and send us out for more of His Kingdom come.
  • we are eating good food again, as my energy for creatively cooking returns.
  • i am beginning to image having energy and impulse to do things like disciple women and reach out to my neighbors once more (for a while there, all my energy — ALL — was pointed at preparing to become a mother and then becoming one).
  • we are preparing a 6-week Discipleship Intensive to study The Vision & The Vow and Orphan Slave Son that we’ll facilitate at our house on Monday nights this winter. (if you want to join us, you are welcome! email us).
  • i am enjoying visits from various friends and neighbors, and marveling about how rich a collection of people and stories can come to our very own doorstep when i am not as able to be out and about as i was pre-baby.
  • we are eating the last of our garden’s harvest — the carrots, the squashes, a tiny head of broccoli — and learning about what we’re supposed to do with all the plants before the snow falls.
  • we are content in the shelter of one another, caring for one another in small ways and having hearts full of gratitude.

what a life has been given us.

thank you, Papa.

in brief

1

this evening tim and i had our supper on the front porch, in that funny little fold-up love seat we have there. we had a favorite stew. hazel sat across us in her little chair, smiling at us like a fool. and then, next thing i knew, this scene had unfolded in our front yard: four boys of three colors, having dropped their bicycles on the sidewalk, were wielding light sabers, laughing with abandon as they rough-housed together. and then, tim joining them, playing in a way i haven’t seen him play before, while i held hazel in my lap (she is just the right size for cuddling these days), watching with a smile in my heart. lots of days i resent these boys who come knocking on our door more times in a day than seems proper, always wanting something or another, and always just at the moment when we are sitting down to eat or trying to put the baby down for her nap. but tonight i had affection for them, seeing them behave at last like the children that they are, rather than the bad asses they so often feel compelled to play.

2

we begin again with the boiler room rhythms. once again we’ve sat down around a table, dreams held in open hands, quieting our voices to hear His guidance. our job is always to discern what He’s asking us to do in each season; to be more committed to coursing like a river through the bends of His winding ways than to be a rod, straight, stiff and unmoved by changing seasons. so we let go of some things that seemed so central, so essential, in the past… and we pick up other things that we wouldn’t have seen coming before. over three years now, my life has been connected with this family and the corresponding work of God here. three years of revisions and surrenders and surprises. it may seem hard to put labels on, difficult to pin down, but then so is the Holy Spirit.

3

three weddings down and one left to go this season. and that’s enough. as for next year, i’ve got one on the calendar already, but i’m not at all sure that i will intentionally pursue booking more weddings. i sense it’s time to release those intentions. if folks come knocking, wanting me to be the one to capture their wedding through my lens, i will most likely agree to it; but i won’t go looking for it like i once would have. because these days i see the world as babies and families more than as young people in love. having a baby changes everything, including, apparently, the eye of an artist. so i’m looking forward to doing some family sessions this fall, and senior portraits, and i’ll likely just about beg my friends with new babies to let me spend some time photographing them, too.

4

many days my eyes brim over with tears of affection and deep love. this love for my daughter is qualitatively other than all the other deep loves of my life. loving her opens me up. she sleeps horribly and eats like a greedy little horse. lately – after three nights of waking every two hours to feed and to comfort her – i am an empty well with mush for a brain. but then she looks at me with recognition and joy, and i can forgive her anything that she’s ever cost me.

5

i think that one thing we are learning these days is that dreams are far less lovely in their actuality than in the imagination. like this thing with the neighborhood boys and bikes (“this is what i dreamed of,” tim said one day after answering the millionth request for help, “so i guess i can’t scorn it.”) being a parent is another example, of course. and so is missional living in a neighborhood with not much going for it. and now there’s this other dream… a Big One; the one that drew tim and i together with a sense of shared purpose foundational to our marriage… and it, too, is inching into actuality… so it, too, is starting to feel a little less romantic. we dream without even knowing the cost. i wonder if the dreams of God planted in our hearts are the only ones that can survive the onslaught of Coming True. and i wonder what will happen to this one. all i know is that i stand at the threshold with more ambivalence than i would have predicted.

(being vague for now intentionally).

6

remember: to stand behind a good man with all your strength and conviction, and to raise a child with all your wisdom and endurance are large enough contributions to humanity and the Kingdom.