this house

i know that buildings aren’t where the magic lies. i know that whatever joy, whatever healing, whatever love i’ve experienced here is due to the pursuit of my heavenly Father and not to some concrete characteristics of these walls, this roof, these rooms.

but, still, this house is very special to me.

Image

when i moved to the west side in order to live and work at the boiler room, this house was where jenn and tony lived with their four kids. every week they invited me and the rest of the interns out of the holy chaos that was the boiler room house and into their dining room to share a meal, into the kitchen to do dishes and dance, then into the living room to sit and visit. they invited me in close to their family and began to show me by their doing many things about what a healthy, Christ-prioritizing family looks like and how it functions.

after living in Madison for a year, it was this house that i — overheated and emotional — came toafter my long, solitary drive home in adverse conditions. their children flung open the front door and invited me in, and jenn fed me green beans from the garden and her homemade pesto, and it tasted better to me than any meal i’d had in a very long time. it felt like coming home.

then they moved out of it, and kevin and marcy and their 4 kids moved in. and in this house they have undergone radical surrender to Jesus and have ridden the waves of joy and trial that come in its wake. when they had their 5th child (surprise!), he and hazel became friends and now every week hazel spends a morning in this house with marcy and landon, playing. when she walks by the house she reaches for it, and starts up the stairs. it has become a familiar and safe place.

and now, four and a half years after the first time i stepped into this house, we are buying it. we’ve been dreaming of doing this for months, and now the day is here. the purchase agreement is signed, the mortgage application complete, the arrangements with the smiths made, the dream solidified in peaceful joy in our hearts. so unless some insurmountable obstacle arises or Father directs us elsewhere, this house, God willing, is going to be our home. probably for quite some time.

in so many ways it feels so right. this is happening at about the same time that tim is taking over the oversight of the boiler room from tony, which means another layer of commitment to this neighborhood and this ministry. jenn and tony have moved out of the neighborhood now and also are moving into a new work (the planting of a school!), and we are moving into their first west side house as well as into the roles they previously held as the lead pastoral couple of the boiler room. so it’s symbolic in ways.

but i don’t even care about THAT so much as i do about the rich legacy of hospitality, surrender, worship, family, trust, obedience, and outreach that this house holds. it has a shalom over it, begun when jenn and tony bought, redeemed and started praying on its porch each evening, then continued when the smiths left all they had to follow jesus here and use it always to bless and envelop others in love. this house comes with a lot of GOOD baggage. you can’t put a price tag on that.

but aside from all that, there’s also more rooms (more guests! more housemates?, more children!), first floor laundry (every mother’s dream come true), a wood-burning stove (so cozy), a private fenced-in yard (for kids to safely frolic), and loads of sweet aesthetic details (lovingly chosen by jenn).

tentative closing date: mid march

moving-in date: sometime in may or june

can. not. wait.

thank you, Father, for this very good gift (i am still in a bit of disbelief that you would give it to us). we offer it back to you and ask that you would continue through us the kingdom-rich legacies it has carried up until now. fill it in the ways that will make your heart most glad and us most free. remind us that it is YOUR house, to be shared. give us the gift of your shalom over this place as we settle into it for the long haul.

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.

 

hazel’s birth story

ladies and gentlemen, at long last, i offer you hazel’s birth story.

it’s a bit long, just like my labor was. settle in for a slow read.

 

ps: you can watch the beautifully-crafted photo slideshow my doula created here.

pps: same doula is doing an artprize entry this year on the subject of birth. her bio and description of her project is here.

neighbors to clear the snow

just needed to stop in to share this one sweet thing.

lots of snow fell overnight. our heater hasn’t been working right, and needs to be manually jump-started every morning. so i got up and did so, then made breakfast and coffee and banana bread, crystal made chocolate chip pancakes to share. we haven’t anywhere to go today so the clearing of snow was not our morning priority.

then chris — the woman next door — called because she was out with her snow-blower and wondered if she could do our sidewalk for us. certainly, thank you!, i said.

tim and i were sitting on the couches in our living room, enjoying the sunny wintry scene outside, and then we saw jeremy — our neighbor around the corner –walk up with his snow-blower, clearly intending to clear our sidewalk for us. upon seeing it already done, he waved to us, and turned back around.

five to ten minutes later Zach — our neighbor kid from two doors down — came by with his shovel. seeing the sidewalk already done, he cleared the steps of our porch and knocked the icicles from our porch, then slipped away.

all this while we sit snug as can be inside our house, sipping on our coffees.

in fact, we haven’t had to clear our own snow all season so far.

it makes me smile because the idea is that you move to a neighborhood like this — which is sorta “rough” and “in need” — because you’re gonna bring your service and gifts and provision to it… and instead, sometimes you find yourself on the receiving end. it’s humbling and delicious.

pilgrims

pilgrim (n): one who undertakes a pilgrimage, literally ‘far afield’. This is traditionally a visit to a place of some religious or historic significance.

24-7 Prayer Boiler Rooms hold pilgrimage and hospitality as one of it’s six core practices. it’s one of my favorite practices (am i allowed to pick favorites?). you see, tim and i could decide next week that we want to head to Tulsa, OK, and know that there would be people there who would take us in for a while, keep us company, tell us stories of God’s faithfulness, and feed our bellies. because there is a boiler room there, and this is central to their identity, as it is to ours. Conversely, when a group from Kansas City tells us they’d like to head up this way for a visit, we’d move things around to make room for them, and pray that their time here would leave them refreshed and with renewed perspective and a sense of connection to brothers and sisters and to God. you can see why this is one of my favorite boiler room practices.

our last week has had a pilgrim theme. in four parts:

  1. tim’s old college pals, sara and kelley, came over from milwaukee to stay a mere 24 hours. but in those hours, we told stories about what God is doing in our cities, elicited one another’s dreams, and remembered shared experiences from the past. when they left, they said they felt refreshed and renewed in their vision, which is exactly what i would have hoped for. but the gift was mutual. because, for me, something in me came back to life as i walked with them around our neighborhood and told stories about the origins of the boiler room, the things God is teaching us here, and the friends who fill the houses on these streets. i’ve been feeling so disinterested and unaffected by life here, lacking in zeal and perspective, but as i started to tell the stories, i began to remember that this is good, that God has brought us here, and that He is moving. and then came the joy. i’m grateful to sara and kelley for giving me a chance to remember God’s story. and now i will be tracking their unfolding story of finding a place to call home in a broken milwaukee neighborhood with heightened interest.
  2. sarah w, who is from here, but who has been living in LA and KC for the last two years, found herself “stuck” back here in GR for a couple of month with health concerns and no clearance from the Lord to move on. she is my most transitory friend, a pilgrim in the truest sense. sometimes she doesn’t even have a place other than her car to call home, but she moves with the Spirit. i’ve learned to hold loosely to my time with her, because i understand that He could call her onward again at any time. that’s how she rolls. but for these two months, when i was freshly moved back to GR, sarah and our friend kely and i got together nearly every week. the Lord surprised us with this sweet fellowship, prayers for one another, sympathy of spirit, commonality in friendship…. and all so timely. it was like a well of living water refreshing me each time. sarah stopped by the other night, on her way out of town to KC (yup, He’s moving her onward again). and as we prayed together she thanked God for the gifts in short seasons.
  3. mary (not her real name), the 80-year-old polish woman who lives next door to the boiler room, who persisted in beautifying her yard with flowers when no one else in the neighborhood cared for their own, who baked us pączek by the dozens, who celebrated my marriage, who came over for dinner sometimes, who caught squirrels and made us drive them to a park to live somewhere other than her garden… this dear woman had a stroke last week. and yesterday morning she passed away. we got to visit her in the hospital last week. though she wasn’t conscious, we talked to her anyway, and laughed at memories with her, and told her that we loved her. and i believe that she heard us. the sweetest thing, though, was being able to say good-bye to her with confidence that she was going Home. she has longed for it, and she was ready. i don’t think that she was afraid. before we left her room danmike prayed over her “I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:27)” and he added, “i’m jealous.” so though this neighborhood will be void of several bright slashes of color because mary isn’t here with us, and though my throat tightens with threatened tears as i write this, my heart is so happy that she get to see His face. at last. and her leaving reminds me that she and we have never been anything other than pilgrims here.
  4. trent sheppard and nathan chud came through last night for the God on Campus tour. it was tim’s relational connections with nate, and his organizational ties with Campus America that led to us initiating a tour stop here in GR. before this, they had just come from madison and lacrosse, bringing news and stories of our mutual friends in those places. the bridge street house of prayer hosted it at their Pavilion and there were students from about 5 different campuses present. beforehand, Trent and Nate and Nate’s brother Aaron joined the boiler room core team for a family dinner at the boiler room. i got to cook for us all: black bean and butternut squash soup with a green salad and warm bread (one of my favorite ways to love on pilgrims is to feed them!). and sitting around that table, laughing, telling stories, connecting, speaking kindly to one another… later tony said it was like meeting some great cousins you didn’t know you had. i never cease to be gratefully astonished at the similarity of DNA that God has put in His kids, and how much like family it really can seem when we are together in one place. the God on Campus event was great (so very good, so very much inspiring to lean into the dreams of God for students and campuses), but it was this time to just be with each other that really warmed us all, i think. we found ourselves wishing that their stay could be longer, and our conversations more enduring. but this morning they took their leave. they are pilgrims, too.

to welcome pilgrims is a rich, rich blessing that i would not forgo.

to be a pilgrim, journeying and then taking refuge in the hospitality of another, reminds us of our true nature.

we’re all headed Home.

 

ps: jenn wrote about mary today, too. and you should read it.

encounters with toddlers

1.

his attention is all over the place, this being his first camping trip and his age being two, so we had to teach him to slow down and watch long enough to see the fireflies. but eventually, he and i are laying on our bellies in the grass, looking into the nearby grasses and trees to see the little flickers of light. “ooo! i saw one! i saw another one!” he exclaims. this holds his attention for a remarkable period of time. later, when the precious moment has passed, he excitedly announces to his parents, out of the blue, ” i saw sparklies with auntie brooke!” one of those magical, stick-in-your-memory moments.

2.

i am watching her response, standing in a room with these familiar grown-ups whom she all knows by name, but from which her “dada” has momentarily exited for a bathroom break. she is disoriented, concerned, suddenly shy and reluctant to speak. she keeps saying, “dada? dada? dada come?”. but the moment he re-enters the room she is all smiles and confidence once more. it is not even that she needs to be standing right next to him, only that she needs to know he’s in the room… and then she is adventurous and bold once more.  i think how very much likewise it is with me and my Father. when i know that He is near, i walk with more confidence, speak more clearly, rest more fully.

3.

same little girl, at the same get-together, at which we are praying. it is our turn to be prayed for by our friends. and she, listening to her mother’s prayer, latches onto one phrase: “much life,” which she then repeats over and over again, even after a long lapse, as though it is important. and i sense that even though she is not even two years old, that she is praying. and the purity of the prayer of  toddler for “much life” is probably very likely to be heard and answered by our Father. i tell her, “thank you for praying for us.” she nods, says, “yup.”

photos and stories

here are some tidbits from recent life for you. sorta newsy. and illustrated.

tim has been tinkering lately with bicycles. inspired by The Bike Guy a few blocks from our apartment, who recently gave our bikes a spring tune-up, Tim spent a few hours a few weekends ago working on his bike on the back patio while i painted our dining room chairs dusty green. we had a great time out there, working quietly alongside one another on our separate pursuits. also, i think it’s pretty hot, this bike-repair thing he’s got going on. what is it about a little grease on a man’s hands?

my dearest Transit gals are taking off this week. this picture is of the little present packages i made for them as i saw them off (i almost never make pretty packages out of presents, so it seemed worth photo-documenting). if they walk away from this year with any good food for their souls, i will gladly give all credit to God. i was so glad to be with them this year, and to be a witness to their growth. btw, i gave them each a copy of the book The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith, which comes highly recommended.

and here’s another photo of the three of them from our retreat at the end of april:

they’re SO cute.  and really splendid people to know.

we have been kicking butt with thrifty shopping lately, friends. yard sales, auctions, st. vinnie’s outlets, and road-side freebies. recent finds include the above-pictured photo hanger, several plaid shirts for t, a desk chair for t, a picnic basket, new blue jeans and several shirts for me, etc. the things hanging on the photo hanger all make me happy for various reasons.

  1. a list t and i made the other night of the qualities of our Ideal House (those who’ve been following our attempted purchase of The House… well, i don’t even know what else to say about that right now except that it’s not working out so well).
  2. a photograph i took at our family cottage the same year that we sold our share in it. this photo is taken from the kitchen looking into the center bedroom. the bed in the photograph is now mine and is the one t and i sleep on today.
  3. a photograph of me and my baby brother. i am particularly endeared by the aesthetic of his shirt adjacent to that fabulous boxy car to his right. i loved growing up with him.
  4. a photograph of all the roost (mom’s side of the family) women at an ice cream shop in the upper peninsula, sometime during college.

my dear pal jane, whom i met after college and lived with for a bit during grad school, came for a visit from the san francisco bay area where she now lives with her quirky and wonderful husband, lars. tim and i had a great time with her. we bicycled around a lot, visited the farmer’s market and olbrich gardens, and had a picnic in the courtyard of our apartment building.

finally, i’ll leave you with this group shot, taken this past sunday at the final meeting of the Madison Boiler Room (as we have known it). it was a good run, our sunday nights together in prayer and meal-sharing. but those words we heard the Father speak months ago about a kernel of wheat falling to the ground and it’s seeds being scattered and planted in different places… well they’re coming true. we were guided away from this thing as surely as we were guided throughout it. and that feels right. i’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the particles of this dissipating cloud (thanks for the analogy, pete).

good day.

this is how we came to be

a picture from tim's first visit explicitly to see brooke (jan 2)

a picture from tim's first visit explicitly to see brooke (jan 2)

it’s a longer story, full of more details ad God-fingerprints than I can adequately convey in this space, but the timing of it was just right and the knowing was nearly immediate.

brooke likes to joke that God dropped tim in her back yard, which is pretty literally true. on november 1, 2008, tim came to grand rapids, where brooke was living and working at the Stockbridge Boiler Room, for a boiler room get-together of sorts. there were boiler room friends from tulsa and madison pouring in to spend some time in the prayer garage together talking about what it means to be spiritual family. these gatherings always feel like family reunions of sorts, the DNA is so similar between us.

tim had been to Grand Rapids for another gathering of similar nature  back in april, but brooke doesn’t remember having seen him there, nor he seeing her. (paths are prevented from crossing until the time is ripe).

so he came to Michigan for this gathering and actually they first laid eyes on one another at Maggie’s Kitchen, a little mexican place a few blocks from the Boiler Room. brooke noticed his hat (hand-knit, red and pink). tim noticed her sincerity. they sat at the same table, with a few others from madison and grand rapids, talking about shared community life in their respective places.

throughout the 24 hours that tim was in grand rapids, he found many excuses to talk to her, seeking her out in the kitchen, which is where she often was. and interest was peeked on both sides.

tim left his disciples  (Transit students) in grand rapids for the week as part of their training experience. brooke had a great time with them, and was always listening to hear how they spoke about tim, wanting to glean more information. brooke and her housemate, chip, decided to hand-deliver the students back to madison instead of throwing them on the bus. so they piled into the truck and headed out.

upon being informed that they were coming, tim worked hard to put together a weekend filled with fellowship and fun for all. after dinner the first night in madison, chip took tim aside and suggested that he might do well to take note of brooke. chip told tim that he could tell they were cut from the same cloth, and that brooke was a really good woman.

and brooke didn’t need much nudging, as she had already noticed tim. with each conversation snippet they had together, she was amazed by yet another layer of like-mindedness.

the Lord extended chip and brooke’s stay in madison that weekend, which was good, because those last two days were key solidifying tim and brooke’s interest in one another. though they were playing it cool when in each other’s presence, they were each confiding their feelings in a couple of friends over the course of the weekend. tim told his accountability partners that “i don’t know what’s going on, but this girl is here and i think i’m falling for her!” brooke told chip that she was smitten, and texted a friend back home, “tim collier is pretty much my soul mate.”

so brooke left. she cried on the way home because she was so sad to leave tim. but she had left a note of verbal affirmation in his wallet, which emboldened him to reply to her and initiate ongoing conversation. the following weekend they were on the phone telling one another more of their stories. the conversation was two hours long and very very good.

from then on out, they talked on the phone for 2-3 hours each weekend, tim sneaking around to hide this new-found correspondence from his housemates, and emailing nearly daily. with each conversation they discovered more commonalities of dreams and desires, and more and more appreciation for one another.

in the secret place with the Lord, brooke was praying and fasting about tim, having recognized him as her future husband nearly immediately. and tim was contending with the sense of rightness he felt about brooke in contrast with all the safety-net rules he’d established for himself relationally. on the outside, they just continued on with a deepening and affectionate friendship.

at one point when brooke was particularly impatient for tim to pursue her, the Lord said, “give him 5 weeks.” so she took note and settled in for the wait. it was 5 weeks to the day from when she had left Madison that tim resolved that he wanted to tell brooke that he had feelings for her. that was on december 17th.

on new year’s day tim came to grand rapids again, alone this time, to see brooke. that trip was essential in reassuring them both that they were not imagining the connection between them, and that the other was just as good in real life as in emails. and on january 10th, 2009, tim called brooke in the morning and read her a poem he’d written called “i see you,” which had a message embedded in it requesting her to be his girlfriend. so she said yes.

there is lots in between, including monthly visits between madison and grand rapids, ever-lengthening phone-calls, love letters, and all the rest. and a lot of prayer and counsel-seeking behind the scenes. they knew they had to ask the question about moving to be near one another. and in march, tim invited brooke to move to madison.

with her internship ending on march 31st, they decided that brooke would move out to madison on april 13th, and that tim would come to get her. both of them knew that this move was significant, and that, baring any unexpected conflicts or revealed incongruities, this would be another step in the direction of marriage.

brooke was in madison for only a month before they began openly talking about getting married. and by the end of april, after praying and listening to the Lord together, they decided to be married by summer’s end.

and this merely the tip of the iceburg. this tells nothing of the deep things God was arranging in their hearts and orchestrating in their circumstances to propel them forward with confidence and joy, nor of the peace and purity that has always been characteristic of their relationship.

our God writes a really great love story.