on the occasion of your 9th month

towel-baby-1dear sweet boy of mine (buster, gus-gus, buddy, son),

yesterday you turned 9 months old, which means you have been outside of my body now just as long as you were inside of it. this also means that you are three-quarters of the way through your first year of life.

you are crawling around at lightning speed, usually goal-directed, with the kitty cat, a tempting toy, or your mama as the target destination. you pull yourself up to standing like it’s no big thing, and you can balance already quite well. if we hold your hands while standing behind you, you will take steps across a room. i am guessing you’ll walk before your first birthday.

you eat. bananas, avocados, potatoes (sweet and white ones), apples, gluten-free pasta with sauce, chicken curry with rice, broccoli (a favorite), beans, goat cheese, veggie-quinoa soup, strawberries, and almost anything that i am eating that i’ll share with you. you always eat more than i think you will. i think it’s possible that between you and your sister, daddy and i will be eaten out of house and home. such good appetites you have.

you sleep on your belly, even though i put you down on your back every time. you’re still in our room with us, in a pack ‘n play at the foot of the bed, disrupting me multiple times a night with your waking, sometimes because you want to nurse (you were too busy during the day to do it, so you make up for it at night), or because you want to practice your new developmental skills, or sometimes because you just need to sleep in my arms, beside me in the big bed.

but that’s just the physicality of you. your spirit is the more incredible thing to witness.

you move through your world with courageous curiosity and good humor. you are not easily startled by unfamiliarity or loud noises. you just move right into a space with an assumption that things will go well for you there. you rarely hang back. you take all things in stride, quietly and with a bemused smile on your face. some moments, you are squirming out of my arms in a way that seems to say, “let me at it!”

you are quick to laugh, especially at Hazel and any form of peek-a-boo, or mama’s face pushed into your belly on the changing table. you are slow to cry. usually it is only teething or hunger that will bring out your grunting, humming vocalization of displeasure or discomfort that most closely resembles crying but really isn’t crying by any traditional definition.

you are significant. you bring something to the table that matters, something no one else can bring. you are courageous and gentle. you make a difference.

i am so proud and so terribly grateful to be your mama. there is nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you. you are my favorite son.

love,

mama

life is art

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there is a folder on my hard drive called Life Is Art. and it is full of other folders — one for each season for the last several years — of photos of our ordinary life and the people in it. they are not photos of events, just moments, or found beauty in our home, around our neighborhood, or wherever else i’ve been.

this quirky form of photo organization might be explainable by telling you that i am a Type 4 on the Enneagram. one of the hallmark characteristics of a Type 4 is a craving — perhaps even a real need — for beauty.

Whether you are organizing your living space to reflect your refined tastes or engaging in an artistic pursuit, it is essential for your sense of well being that you express your creativity.

Profound and insightful, you have an uncanny knack for transforming the dull and the ordinary into the exciting and extraordinary.

You appreciate the special, the humane and the beautiful. You like to put your personal signature on everything that you do.

(source)

and boy is this true for me. i craft my living spaces with incredible care. i choose beautiful and unique things (that doesn’t mean expensive or name brand, just things that are beautiful to ME) and have a super low tolerance for anything tacky, common, or merely utilitarian in my home. i hesitate sometimes to share this about myself, as i know it can seem snobby or shallow. and, when i photograph these details of my life and share them publicly, like on instagram or facebook, i know it might appear that i’m presenting something more perfect or posed than could possibly be real. i want to be authentic (ha! another hallmark of an enneagram type 4), so it’s uncomfortable for me to think that i’m coming across as something other than that.

but, given that i am not a painter or a crafter, life is my art form. and the reason my photographs are beautiful is partly due to the fact that i am always trying to make everything beautiful! it’s not just for the camera, it’s for my sanity. my sense of wellbeing shoots through the roof when i can create — or reorder — a lovely space and sit within it, either with people i love or by myself.

i was the girl who brought a folder full of photos, quotes, and other pretty things to my week-long summer camp each year so that i could decorate my bunk area!! seriously. as if i could not endure even a single week without beauty surrounding me, without owning and shaping a pleasing environment to rest in.

this has interesting implications for me as a photographer. see, beauty is such a large prerequisite to my creative inspiration that if i’m working with a situation/client that isn’t immediately aesthetically pleasing to me, i really have to dig deep within myself to find inspiration in the midst of that. i have to choose not to write it off as un-lovely, and instead to put on a new set of glasses that will enable me to see the beauty that is really in all of life. wherever i go, i’m learning, there is beauty to be found, whether or not it matches my personal tastes.

so then, this is also the gift that i hope to give to my photography clients, especially those who do the family photojournalism style sessions: to notice and then to capture the beauty in their ordinary lives, so that they will feel seen and celebrated and blessed with the gift of the life that they’ve been given to live. i want to hold up a mirror to them and say, “see?! do you SEE that? you, your family, your home, your life… they are truly beautiful!”

at the same time, if there’s any counsel i could give to someone who wants to take better photographs of their own life or family (a question i get relatively often), i would say start with this: see your life as art. fill your home with objects that make you feel peaceful and satisfied, dress yourself in fabrics that feel wonderful on your skin, fling open the drapes each morning so the light can come in, tidy up and simplify your rooms, cook colorful food.

as children of a Creator God, i’m beginning to allow myself to say that beauty does matter, that it is okay to pursue beauty, and that perhaps that might even be part of my offering to the world.

and that’s enough rambling from this Redeemed Type 4. 🙂

if you’re still with me, and you want to see more of my Life As Art, click here.

do not despise the day of small things

sept-saturday-hike-4small seems to be a theme ’round here these days.

there’s the obvious smalls, named Hazel and Gus, to whom most of my creative energy, time, and effort are devoted day in and day out. they come with many other small things: small time blocks for activities caused by small attention spans (hazel) and small wakeful periods (gus), small clothing to wash and fold and tuck away in drawers, small bodies to lift, carry, cuddle, and bathe.

it’s taken me a considerable amount of time to get okay with all that smallness, to let go of resentment over how their smallness keeps me from the supposedly bigger things i’d like to think i’m capable of, and to learn to savor and celebrate it for the beautiful gift that it truly is.

but there’s another kind of smallness i’ve been grappling with lately. the smallness that comes with our ministry this season.

see, we launched this 10-month live-and-learn discipleship school we’re borrowing from 24-7 Prayer called The Vision Course. it’s a beautiful life model, a heart-shifting curriculum, a year set aside to let Jesus touch students in important ways. i’m proud to be offering it here and proud of Coop and Tim and Tony for shaping it so well and leading it with such integrity and passion.

but we have two students. two students where we were hoping for six to eight.

and when you get a number that much lower than the target number, it can be easy to think of it as failure. then there’s our friends who launched a [somewhat] similar school in our neighborhood and they have 7. so i start to compare (not a great idea). and i wonder if we’re doing something wrong so God isn’t blessing it, or if we aren’t attractive enough as a ministry, or if we didn’t recruit widely enough or well enough. these two students are pure gold, so it isn’t who they are uniquely/individually that’s a problem. but the number of them… it’s been bugging me. more than i care to admit.

small often means failure or shortcoming. that’s the trouble, isn’t it? somehow in our culture small has come to mean something less-than, unworthy of attention.

grace came to me in the form of our Older Wiser Mama-Bible-Study Facilitator a couple weeks ago, when she gave us 5 passages of scripture to look up, along with instructions to guess what the theme is and why she chose it for us.

guess what the word was? “small.”

each passage was from the gospels. in each one, Jesus is talking about or demonstrating how He values and works with smallness. examples: faith small as a mustard seed moves mountains, a small boy’s tiny lunch feeds thousands, two tiny sparrows whose fall is noticed by the Father, a small bit of money faithfully and sacrificially invested or offered. how had i not noticed this before?! how had i come to see feel that Jesus’ call was to large-scale, dramatic, full-throttle action instead of ordinary, small-scale living offered in love to Him?

this opens up so much grace for me as a mother, occupied as i am with so many literally small things. it also offers up to me some reassurance that even though we at the boiler room have only two lives to invest in this year (rather than 8 or 50 or more), we have two. lives. (!!) to invest in. do you see the gravity of that?!

the Good Shepherd is one who leaves 99 to search after 1. ONE. a single life is worth running after in passionate pursuit. the Father God is like the father of the prodigal (AND his brother who also was having trouble grasping how much his daddy loved him and who was also pursued by that daddy!), who pursues the naughty son while he’s still far off and throws a big fat party over him. Our Jesus does not wait until we’ve gathered a critical mass before He says that it counts. 1 counts. 2 count.

and then — as if the above isn’t enough — He reminded me of scripture that was prophesied over the SBR in it’s infancy:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, — Zecchariah 4:10

so i say Amen.

far be it from me to say that what the Father calls significant is something other than just that.

i used to…

… be a health food nut.

another-summer-dinner-2i bought only organic grains and vegetables and locally raised meats. i never used sugar or caffeine. i purchased the best quality oils and spices and ingredients i could. whole grains all the time.  and i kept track of how many servings of dairy i’d already had so that i could keep it in check. and i ate meat only 1 or 2 times per week. i took vitamins. i planned meals that included the entire rainbow of colored produce.

and all of this is fine. those are healthy choices, choices that honor the body God created for me to live in.

but see, it became a bit like religion to me. it was a way to stay clean, to be pure. there was a certain degree of self-satisfaction in living up to all these ideals, even if it meant my grocery bill was astronomically high for a single young women with no family to feed, even if it meant i couldn’t enjoy fellowship over foods that didn’t meet my stringent criteria. there was lots of low-grade anxiety around it, too, as i would scan ingredients lists and refuse things that didn’t measure up, which i’m sure sometimes caused offense to other people. and if i ever did “cheat,” i’d feel so anxious that i probably made myself sick.

then God moved me to the Boiler Room. suddenly i was surrounded my homeless folks who couldn’t be so picky about food even if they wanted to be (they didn’t). i tried to cook my special, nutritionally healing foods for them and they would choke down a few bites, then tease me about eating nuts and berries while turning down seconds. folks donated food to us often, so that we could feed ourselves (we didn’t have paying jobs) and the recovering addicts who lived with us. they donated a lot of cakes. there was a LOT of coffee. and my habits couldn’t be kept up in this environment. i felt a little embarrassed to be so concerned about dietary purity when suddenly i personally knew so many people who had to eat whatever they could get. i started to see that my eating habits were sometimes keeping me from connecting with other people. i started to see that i was finding solace in food instead of in Jesus’s sufficiency.

the way that i was eating… it had just gotten…out of order.

this area of food was one of the first places where i experienced a parenting technique i’ve experienced with Papa many times since: He takes something away for a while so that He can give it back to me, this time rightly ordered.

He has done this with big things like marriage (or the hope thereof), where i lived, or my career, and smaller things like the way that i eat or my photography hobby.

He takes it away and at first blush it seems so unkind, as if He’s some cosmic spoil-sport. it’s only in hindsight that i can see how He wanted me to have the good gift, but He wanted me to have it in a way that would optimize my ability to healthfully enjoy it, in a state of freedom! He had to re-order it so that my heart would delight first in Him, which is where true joy lies.

things WILL get out-of-order in our hearts. it’s the human condition. as we recently discussed at Mission Church, “the human heart is an idol factory” (Tim Keller). therefore, one of my favorite prayers to pray these days is, “rightly order this thing in me, God.”

i’m happy to live a season or two (or three!) without something that i love in order to have it put back in order by Him. He always returns it to us in better condition than it was in when He took it from our hands.

what is something you have experienced God re-ordering in your own life?

 

ps: i’m still a bit of a health food nut but there’s been a deep release of up-tightness about it. i’m able to enjoy foods that previously seemed too naughty/disgusting to consider consuming before. i eat sugar and i drink coffee. i also love quinoa vegetable soup and sautéed greens. all things in moderation!

on budgeting (the right way)

as i mentioned in my last post, my “nesting” this time around has taken on a different form: it’s about financial planning, budgeting, and preparing to buy a new home. i’ve been thinking a lot about money and working a lot with numbers (filing taxes, gathering financial documents for mortgage applications). in some ways, i’m thinking, “who AM i? doing all this work with numbers… weird!” but i have so much energy for it right now, and it feels so much more important to get right at this point in my life than it ever has before.

i’m working with self-employment income (read: lots of expenses to keep track of + nasty taxes), but also a husband who is about to become a certified minister and will then qualify for the mysterious and complicated manse allowance and some other odd tax statuses that are totally over my head. and i’m working with the soon-to-be reality of owning two homes and renting one of them out (we’ll be landlords(!) and we hope to do that with integrity). so, there’s a learning curve here. a steep one.

we’ve been technically budgeting for our entire marriage. but the budget has been an excel spreadsheet that tentatively maps out the costs of all living expenses and bills and things to keep money on hand for (e.g., unexpected car or home maintenance stuff). but, that spreadsheet — while it does give us a ball park estimate of how much money we can afford to spend on groceries or entertainment in a month/season while still managing to pay the bills — has had no power to track where the money is actually going. consequentially, there was so much falling through the cracks, and all those “save-up-in-case-of-emergency-or-for-a-vacation” sections of the budget were basically not happening because of that. still, i liked the system because there wasn’t much accountability (well, that’s honest). if i felt like we had a little extra money, i was excited to be able to buy a few more cloth diapers or stock up on some other useful but ultimately unnecessary item for our home or family. and i could get away with it. but then a week later i’d find we didn’t quite have enough to pay the gas bill because i forgot it was coming up and instead went thrift store shopping.

and, by God’s grace, we’ve gotten by this way. we’ve never missed a payment on a bill and when the emergencies have arisen — like having to replace a water heater and a furnace within about a year of each other — somehow we have always been able to pay cash to replace it. we haven’t even been relying on credit cards. and i have to tell you that this really is purely grace and the kind provision of a Father who is really patient with His daughter’s misguided budgeting efforts. i can’t explain how it has always all worked out.

still, it seemed time to get serious about getting a handle on our finances, to steward well what we’ve been given, and to be mentally freed up from keeping track of so many moving parts in my little brain. tim saw the need first and suggested a system called You Need a Budget (YNAB). i was reluctant (remember how i loved that lack of accountability), but after a few friends — quite independently of tim — joined in on the chorus of praise for YNAB, i read up on it a bit and realized i was ready to surrender. 🙂

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and now i am SO. EXCITED. about the budget. it might be ridiculous. but this system makes so much sense and it makes me giddy. here, just a few days into it, i have this sort of peace from knowing exactly how much i can spend on what. and knowing that every bill is accounted for. i will almost never have to look at my checking account balance again. and this system will even help us navigate the next few months of changes that come with moving, paying two mortgages, receiving rent, having a baby, and switching jobs (tim) and tax statuses.. AND it’s going to help me stay focused in our goal of saving up enough money to pay the [ginormous, rather depressing] taxes we owe this year [because i didn’t fully know what i was doing when i was trying to put aside money for self-employment taxes, apparently].

i have been looking at my YNAB budget spreadsheet several times a day and just appreciating its elegance, and the fact that it does so much math for me (hehe). and though i know that right at this moment i have zero money to spend just for funsies, at least i know WHY: i know that the money i might otherwise have felt free to spend here and there is assigned to a few really good and worthy jobs, jobs that i wouldn’t want to take them away from.

this isn’t supposed to be an advertisement for YNAB, though i wouldn’t mind if you took it that way. this is supposed to be more of an honest conversation about the untouchable subject of personal finances. i wanted to share my journey, along with my shortcomings and sinful attitudes, surrounding money…and to share the way that we’re stumbling into the light in these areas. feels real good, folks.

how about you? what has your journey/struggle/triumph with personal finances/budgeting been like? i’d sincerely love to hear about it.

so pregnant

i don’t remember 34 weeks feeling so uncomfortable when it was hazel. but perhaps memory mercifully fails us at some key points? my hips, pelvis and lower back are so achey and painful. my stomach is queasy and never satisfied no matter how many calories i attempt to pack away. each night i wake at 4 am and often remain [wide] awake until 6 am. some nights i don’t really sleep at all. each afternoon i nearly fall asleep while putting hazel down for her nap. baby boys movements, particularly in the midst of a good Braxton Hix contraction, feel just plain uncomfortable.

it looks a little smaller when my sweater conveniently hides half of it (left).

it looks a little smaller when my sweater conveniently hides half of it (left).

but the finish line is in sight.

meantime, it’s interesting to see the for my nesting has taken on this time around. its been less about acquiring baby gear (we’re already in pretty good shape) or making a nursery (he’ll sleep with us and we’ll keep his things in hazel’s room until we move) or reading birth stories to mentally prepare. this time it has been getting our house in order in super practical ways. like these massive projects:

  • wrapping up all loose ends for clients of brooke collier photography
  • getting our mortgage application and all other pre-requisites to house-buying in order
  • setting up a new budgeting system in response to some changes in our financial situation that will be more complicated to navigate
  • reapplying for medicaid for little man

these are the things that are taking up the bulk of my mental energy and free time. that, and a little sewing.

as for baby’s NAME. well, it hasn’t been as easy this time around. hazel was named months before she was born. we call this little man by a certain, long-beloved name, too. but when it comes right down to it, i’m still wavering on it. i suspect that we’ll have to see him and live with him a few days before i can either fully settle into his provisional name OR choose a new favorite from amongst the list of contenders.

and then there’s the impending birth. yes, that challenging ordeal you have to go through before you can hold the baby. 🙂 i’ve been really aware of lots of lingering anxiety this time around about giving birth. i have been anticipating it being incredibly long and difficult again, with hours of pushing, and a recovery period of weeks. it’s been really hard for me to imagine this birth being anything other than arduous and looooooong. my midwives — and other seasoned mamas — tell me that it is also very possible that this birth will be early (hazel was 10 days late) and quick, and the recovery much less complicated. they say to mentally prepare for that outcome as well. so now i’m trying to prepare for either without clinging to either. there’s been some internal stuff to wade through as i try to get my head in the game to give birth to my son. but i can feel things shifting and sense God’s grace. the fear is waning.

i got him a dresser and a bassinet. i sewed him a little pillow out of up-cycled pajama pants, and a bassinet sheet in burnt orange. and ordered him an art print from and etsy seller. his clothes are all packed into the dresser drawers, awaiting his body to fill them. we got some newborn size prefold diapers. the midwives are already paid in full.

his drawer full of tiny little BOY clothes

his drawer full of tiny little BOY clothes

he is head down and appear also to have dropped this past week, though i understand he may come in and out of this “dropped” position a few times between now and when labor begins.

he moves differently than hazel did. she was punchy and dramatic in her movements. he rolls and squirms more subtly.

hazel daily rests her curly little head on my belly and talks or sings to him, then kisses my belly. she and i have been watching home birth videos together so that, whatever she DOES witness of our homebirth process will not be so shocking or foreign to her. it has been so special, actually, to hold her in my lap and talk through the birth process, watching her responses. she is never as traumatized as i am, and rarely phased by even the most graphic images. but i am realizing that she has no reason to be! she hasn’t had a lifetime to build up judgements and negative associations about birth; to her, this is neutral territory still. i have this really unique opportunity to show her birth in a much different light than many girls have been shown it. i wonder how much of the labor and birth she will be around for, and how much she’ll need to get space from it. or will she sleep through it all? i am pretty confident that when he emerges and she first sees him, she will point and say, “baby” and try to kiss him.

there’s no summary point to this post. just some thoughts toward the end of a pregnancy that i wanted to make note of.

though i've set up the crib for him, he'll actually room in with us for the first several months.

though i’ve set up the crib for him, he’ll actually room in with us for the first several months.

on the spiritual work of fund-raising

did you know that henri nouwen (of all people!) wrote an entire booklet titled the Spirituality of Fundraising?! even after skimming it through and making note of his very good points, i dread actually doing it. it’s one of those things that can so quickly tie me up in knots of self-doubt and send me into a downward spiral of questioning the worth of the work that our family gives itself to. 

somehow, knowing that our paycheck comes from other members of the family of God — who have faces and names and financial situations of their own — creates a much higher sense of responsibility and accountability than does getting a paycheck from The Man. it’s been hard for me to live under that. 

but Nouwen invites me — us — to look from another angle. in his viewpoint, fundraising itself is a spiritual activity, not merely an unpleasant task to be endured in order to support the REAL spiritual activity, which is elsewhere. there’s an invitation here, to step into the here-and-now blessings of asking for and receiving funds. and those blessings, he maintains, are for both the one asking and the one giving. 

here may be a place where i need to choose to believe that he is correct, though my gut shrinks away from it. i will choose to believe that when we sit down to tell a brother or sister in Christ the story of the Stockbridge Boiler Room and God’s faithfulness to and through it, during each of its many and varied seasons, that it will be a blessing to him or her. that YOU might leave that conversation feeling renewed, inspired, encouraged, re-energized in your belief, and expanded in your capacity for faith. and that if after hearing you write a check, or a series of checks, that your heart might then be growing in grace, that you might get the sincere delight of feeling the Father’s pleasure over your generosity, that you will stand in more confidence as the part of the body that He has created you to be, and that you will feel more deeply connected to the purposes of God by that participation of sharing what you have worked so hard to earn. and maybe even in that obedience of giving He is beginning to heal something in you at heart level, like bondage to greed, fear or a spirit of poverty, or from a lack of trust. 

to think that so much good could be given through a simple conversation and transaction… well, that’s more than i would have dared to imagine. 

and yet i know it to be true personally. the practice of giving — even and especially when it has felt impractical to do it — has been a spring of life for our family. (so why do i doubt that it will be so for others?)

the fact is that fund-raising is part of the spiritual work that we’ve been given to do in this season. mostly tim is the one carrying the weight of it, and me only by association. yet i am beginning to see how this spiritual discipline has potential to shape me and free me. i want to participate more joyfully and fearlessly than i have up until this point. 

when i sat down to begin this blog post, it was going to be a post that included a presentation of the good story of God’s kingdom work that has led us to this point of seeing the goal before us and knowing that but for the body of Christ contributing their finances and their volunteer hours and their prayers, we would not be able to do it at all. and i was going to supply you with lots of the nitty gritty details about tim’s job, in particular. and then i was going to ask you if you’d like to have the blessing of financially sowing into this task. 

but now i see that this post has become much more about the internal and spiritual processes surrounding fund-raising generally. so i’ll leave it there for now. and perhaps later there will be another post for the rest of it.

better off without it

our month-long “fast” on facebook and other social media is only about three-quarters of the way through, but already i’ve drawn some conclusions. already, and in spite of the fact that i haven’t been very pure in my keeping of this fast, i can see that my life is not made better by facebook or the reading of blogs. in some ways, it is probably made a touch worse.

i can see already that without it as a fall-back activity into which i rush at those moments when i’m not sure what to do next, i choose things that have more life and more fruit. i have been more creative in these last three and a half weeks. and more present. and my mind less noisy. i have made things, both good things to eat and things out of fabric.

i have been outside, eating meals or sipping a beverage on the front porch or in the yard, sometimes alone during hazel’s naps, sometimes the tree of us sharing a meal, and sometimes outside with friends. watering the garden and spending many moments examining the soil for the first signs of seedlings, which always thrill me to discover. outside holding my baby’s hand as she walks more and more like a big girl, side-by-side with me, up and down the sidewalk and through the grass.

and my business has not, i don’t think, suffered form my facebook absence. i’ve popped onto facebook here and there to address business messages, to update a business status, or to upload a photo. but i don’t think it’s made much of a difference. i am more confident in my identity as a creative artist now, more sure of the product that i offer and the heart that i carry into it that makes my photography its own, valuable thing. that tends to make me strive a little less to “sell” myself and my work. still, i’m not sure it is a prudent thing to ditch facebook and other social media altogether when one is trying to build and maintain this sort of business, so i know i won’t be giving into that unthinkable dream of going off the facebook grid.

and i have found that pinterest actually hold potential to enhance my life a bit. for instance, it taught me how to make my own deodorant and “beach hair” hair spray, both of which i did this week. and it’s brought me to many delicious and wholesome recipes that i’ve been trying out. and it has given me inspiration and guidance in making a crafted present for hazel’s first birthday. pinterest, if you actually step back and DO the things it aims to inspire you to do, can enhance life. a bit.

and blogs. well, there are probably only a small number that actually are worth sticking to. and they are the ones that talk to me about how to be a whole-hearted and present mom, and how to press into Jesus for each day’s needs. i sense that a purging of blog subscriptions might be in order.

facebook. oh, love and hate mingled! what an ambivalent relationship. but i’m thinking that keeping it within the confines of one, maybe two, days of each week will be the new normal. because i love the freedom of mind and time that has come from keeping it within bounds this month.

so there’s where i’m at. and here’s some of the beauty i’ve been indulging in and creating during this fast:

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hazel and the peonies (an almost birthday post)

almost a year ago the peony plants in my backyard – ripe and ready – held out and waited to bloom until she did.

on may 31st, the first one opened. hazel was born in the middle of that night. so on the day of her birth – june 1 – they were all out in their pink, soft-petaled beauty. tim cut them and brought them in, arranging them in vases and pitchers all around the room where we lay resting. they kept us company as we got acquainted.

this year, the peonies did not wait until june 1st. the first one bloomed a few days ago. but they will always be her birthday flower to me. peonies will always be hazel’s.

her she is. my flowering almost-one-year-old, with her flowers. 

winter, work, and yes

yesterday the first snow flurried through shards of sunlight and clusters of golden leaves.

i can’t believe it’s already that time of year: the front end of the 4-month midwest winter season. grey, cloudy, built of short days, and very cold. here we go. thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away, and then we all know how quickly thereafter christmas arrives. it seems to surprise me each year with its coming.

and hazel will be six months old at the start of December. six. months. old. !!. it’s been half a year of loving this little girl and of watching her unfold, and half a year of having my daily rhythms, my body, my heart, and my very identity shift shape.

change is the only constant, someone once said.

it’s not too soon to look ahead to january. in fact, we have already begun. we have begun to look ahead because january will bring with it a shift in tim’s work (and mine, too, to a lesser extent). beginning in january, tim will work twice as many hours in boiler room leadership* and half as many  hours with his “normal” job at Hope Network. this won’t change much in terms of the total number of hours each week that he is working, but it shifts a greater percentage of our annual income into the land of faith. see, the truth is that the boiler room doesn’t have any money except for that which is provided from donors and grants and the hand of God. and if the boiler room ever doesn’t have enough money, we don’t get a paycheck (this has almost happened twice this year, but both times, at the eleventh hour, we all got paid after all!). with more of our total hours of work being with the boiler room next year, a higher percentage of our total annual income is not guaranteed.

(though whose is, anyway? in the economy we’re all living in, none of us are on very stable ground, even if we’d like to forget that fact.)

also, we need a new furnace. also, we need to GIVE AWAY MONEY AND RESOURCES because, to our embarrassment, we haven’t been letting these things flow from our hands in the way that someone who understands that nothing they have is their own ought to do. i feel downright congested for lack of giving. so, we’re gearing up to give a bit… give until it makes us a little uncomfortable. between the giving and the furnace and the “health insurance” we finally just signed up for, our cushion is rapidly shrinking. things don’t feel as comfy and secure.

nearly four years ago, when i first stepped out of the normal economy in which one gets a job and earns a paycheck from the business for which he/she works, i would get freaked out about a change like the one we’re about to make. i would get freaked out often, sick to my stomach with worry and dread that a bill would come up that i could not pay, that i was being irresponsible and a burden to others. i would sit over the numbers and crunch and re-crunch them and try to figure ways of scrounging and skimping to get by. that’s called a poverty mentality, folks.

you know what? i’m not freaking out this time. not deeply, and never for long. this time i have a million past experiences to remind me that He will never leave us high and dry, that He has always brought us the funds and resources we needed as we follow Him as best as we know how. always. i rest in that experiential knowing. so in some ways i’m writing this as a small testimony to celebrate how far we’ve come, Papa and i. that poverty mentality has been slowly starving to death in recent years.

actually, i’m a little excited about it, too. i’ve been reading a book (a book that i tried to avoid reading because i knew it would mess with me, and i wasn’t sure i wanted to be messed with) called Kisses From Katie, which is written by a 22 year-old girl who left her entire upper-middle class life to live like Jesus in a Uganda where, by His grace and provision, she has adopted 14 girls and begun a ministry that sends 400 children to school and feeds another 1500 or so. all within 4 years. and as i read her story — even the parts about taking near-dead babies to hospitals, carving jiggers out of the soles of children’s feet, and taking in widows dying of AIDS — i feel a little jealous! jealous because over and over again, on a near-daily basis, she is getting to KNOW the power and the compassion of Jesus! she is getting to experience that grace that is sufficient for her in the midst of her weakness, even and especially when she is in way over her head.

when was the last time i felt in over my head, to the point that i had to cling to Him, needed Him to show up or else the entire operation would absolutely become a disaster? it’s been a while. in fact, i think it was this season, when i first moved into the boiler room as an intern three and a half years ago and had 8-12 recovering addicts living in our houses. (i also felt that way for a couple of months after hazel was born)! but really, it’s been a while. could i live that way again, as a woman who is a wife and a mother?

i don’t think that just having more of our income come from a no-fundraising non-profit’s budget is going to accomplish that sort of radical dependence on and experience of the Living Christ. that is still a very small risk indeed, once you get used to it, and compared to other risks.

but what if i started to say YES, like Katie, to every person who comes my way each day. YES to helping them in whatever small way i can, just for that moment. YES to being present and listening. YES to sharing myself and the gospel. i wonder where that would lead?

what if we opened up our hearts and our home wider than feels logical or comfortable?

*i’ll write more at another time on the particulars and specifics of what tim’s new work with the boiler room will be.