Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days of Listening

31 Days of Listening - The Stanley Clan
Here's the problem with starting this 31 Days series on listening right now, right here. I'm currently watching season 2 of Homeland, editing wedding pictures, and trying to write this post (so I can link-it-up - obviously I must hurry!)

See, there's a slight problem with writing about listening, and actually genuinely attempting to listen, when you're engrossed in and surrounded by oh-so-much-noise. Which, I cant help but think, might be about 95% of my problem these days. Too much noise and not enough listening.

Listening, in fact, seems to be this thread that wont stop running through the fabric of my life. A theme, a call to action even, that finds itself surfacing in my personal life, my spiritual journey, my marriage, my friendships, our ministry. And sometimes, when God brings something to the foreground again and again and again, I notice. So I'm taking this month, the next 31-days, to explore more deeply and thoroughly this idea of listening. What does it mean? How can I listen more carefully? How can I hear God? Why and how should I listen to my friends, my children, my husband, our neighbors? To take the time to hear other voices, alternate viewpoints, different points-of-view.

So I'd love for you to join me and take the next 31 days and make space to listen. I'm hoping we might all be surprised by what we hear.

The Stanley Clan - 31 Days of Listening
<div align="center"><a href="" title="The Stanley Clan"><img src="" alt="The Stanley Clan: 31 Days of Listening" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

What I'm Into: September

I am nearly giddy at the prospect of fall in Atlanta. I can feel it on the breeze and the leaves edged with hints of orange. October is nearly here, which means full-tilt fall. 

Books I'm Into:
The Kite Runner - I just re-read this book, and can't quite get it out of mind. Heavy and hard but also making me think, which is always a good thing, right?
The Light Between Oceans - I liked this book but sweet heavens but it turned me into a hot-mess, as in I could-not-stop-all-of-the-crying.
The Cuckoo's Calling - This was a fun read, not life-changing or anything. But it kept me up turning pages, which I always count as a good quality in a book.

Currently ReadingThe Orphan Master's Son

A few months ago, I wrote about my marriage and the hard slant of things. I haven't really updated yall on how things are going, and I get lots of emailed questions to that vein. Anyways, I've been pondering some things in my heart, and maybe one day will write more. But right now, Adam and I are reading together with some awesome folks from church Timothy Keller's The Meaning of Marriage. And we have discovered that the simple act of setting aside intentional time every week to focus on US and on marriage and on Christ? It's a few big steps in the right direction.

Reads from around the Internets that I'm into: 
*In my honest moments, though, I’ll tell you that I’m a girl who can’t live without the left, the wind-stung face and the roar of third gear at it’s limit just before fourth while I laugh because no one can hear me. - The Left

*Childishly terrified of my calling, I have been trying for weeks now to unwrap myself still more from the dark days of this summer. Isn’t depression an ultimate self-awareness, a mind tangled inside itself so tightly that it can’t see out? This has been a season of unravelling from myself, and though I knew the unravelling was good, I was terrified. It’s hard to let go when you don’t know what you’re becoming. - Hair of the Dog

*We may not get a why, but we know the how: together. Jesus is so good and He loves you. The sun will rise with healing in its wings, but until it does, may we all learn to be a soft place to fall, cushioning the blow of suffering until Jesus turns it all into glory. -Why does God Allow Pain and Suffering

*Also, I am considering joining in with the Nester's 31 days, which means writing every day in October. Last year I wrote about 31 Days of Margin (a topic I am clearly still re-visiting and re-learning). I have a topic that's been on my heart; however, I have planned nothing, I haven't made a button, and I am not sure I can find time to write for 31 days. For most bloggers, apparently, participating in 31 days is like an-actual-thing. As in, with promo videos and such. But I'm not much for planning ahead, it's something I should probably work on actually, so we will see (tonight or tomorrow I suppose) if I decide to jump in or not. Just keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Random things I'm also into:
Underwater Sculpture (this is pretty darn amazing)
* This is my favorite. Seriously, I love Justin and Jimmy. And yes I obviously am on a first-name-basis.

*I'm pretty into macaroni and cheese (and anything involving cheese really), so I feel pretty excited that this is a thing. Too bad it's not in Atlanta.

Moments from our lives, which I'm obviously into: (via my instagram)

Linking up with Hopeful Leigh this month.
What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's about that time

It's been a minute since I posted a random list-style update on our lives and all-the-crazy-fun that's been going on around here. . . You've probably all been holding your breath in anticipation right? The truth of the matter is that I'm strangely exhausted today, and this is just about all I have in me.
* Despite the decidedly-summery nature of the sprinkler pictures (from last week), I'd like to state for the record that I wore boots today. Which makes me pretty excited about the prospect of fall and leggings and scarves. Also, Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching and hot chocolate and bonfires with the kiddos . . . Sigh. I adore fall in Atlanta.
* The Anteater's football season is in full-swing. Which, as I had apparently forgotten, means lots of boys over all the time, who eat all-of-the-things. It's fun and exhausting and crazy. This week, in fact, two of the boys got in a big fight including their fists at practice, which is always fun.

Anyways, if anyone wants t-shirts, you can still get them for $10. Also, if you want to contribute to the feed-the-Anteaters-fund (currently non-existent), I probably wouldn't complain.
* We are smack-dab-in-the-middle of the process matching mentors with another fourth grade class at Gideon's elementary. The class, however, seems to keep growing, and we're still short mentors, especially of the male variety. If you're interested, we have another training coming up October 13th, which you can sign up for right here. Just FYI, coming to training doesn't mean you're committing to anything, it's a good way to connect and get more info if you're possibly interested! Also, it's at our house and I promise to convince Adam to make you delicious things. 
* Lately, Jayci has begun the process of actually learning how to read. Every night, she reads me a book before bed. And y'all, this is absolutely the longest process known to man. Truthfully, it's amazing: I love reading, and I want Jayci to love reading, and it's absolutely precious to hear her sound out all the words. However, by the time bedtime rolls around, I am flat-exhausted. As much as I wish I could do a better job of treasuring all of the moments, it's just entirely too hard. I simply want her to sleep so I can enjoy a few brief moments of quiet before heading to bed far-too-late and beginning the whole crazy cycle again tomorrow.
* This is kind of a side-note, I suppose. But it has come to my attention that I didn't do a good job of updating you guys on the results from Caden's cardiologist appointment. Dr. V said that Caden's murmur sounds louder, but his function looks mostly unchanged. This means we have another 6 months before his next appointment, and we just have to keep an eye on him as usual. His valve WILL wear out eventually, but they are hopeful we have a while before that's a serious concern. And judging from Caden's crazy-active-wild-man-all-of-the-time, he is not currently suffering from any decreased heart function. Thanks to all of you for praying and keeping up with our little man!
* Speaking of cardiologist, we are taking Jayci to visit our cardiologist next week. This is not because we are necessarily worried about anything, just a suggestion from our doctor/cardio that Caden's specific heart defect can be genetic and they recommend screening any siblings. The pediatrician hasn't heard any murmur etc, so we're not particularly worried, but would still appreciate prayers.

* I'm not sure if I've mentioned this a time or two (or twenty-seven), but y'all are the best! We are working on a ministry-specific update/newsletter, so if you want to sign up to get that - please do!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

For Zack, on the occasion of your sixteenth birthday

Dear Zack,

The other day, we sat and flipped through old pictures and howled with laughter over Adam’s hairstyles and your own growth from a small and slightly-awkward nine year old with pizza-grease on his face, to the strapping young man you are today. And I realize that sounds silly, but seriously. You already know you look far older than just sixteen, and you have grown into yourself in every sense of the word.
When I think back on those days after we first met you, seven years ago now, I wonder if I could have envisioned what a beautiful place you would have in our hearts and families someday. I watch your mom watching you today as you celebrated your sixteenth birthday, and I think of the ways she has sacrificed. The way she labored and pushed and breathed deep and birthed you into a world that was harder perhaps than she could have dreamt. Letting you go, when holding tighter feels easier. Asking for help, loving you well. She rubs her swollen belly and rocks softly while she cranes her neck to laugh at you wrestling Adam and racing Jayci in the pool. And I know that this thing we have somehow stumbled into is a beautiful conjoining of community and the-really-truly-way-it-was-intended-body-of-Christ.

The truth is that you are an extraordinary sixteen year old. We see it, of course, when you tickle and chase and wrestle your two little shadows for hours. Without fail, lifting them into an embrace and pouring them water and getting them snacks endlessly without complaint. We see it too in the way you notice and do dishes, even though you’ve told us that dishes and pancakes top the list of the five-things-you-hate-most-in-the-world. You are a leader, you are funny, and handsome and talented and athletic. And we see it every day. We just hope and pray as your sixteenth year begins, that you will see it too. That you will look at yourself in the mirror and recognize the imprint of a God who has made you to be a change-maker, a leader, a man after His heart.

Though my own womb didn’t stretch and carry and labor you into this world, I have perchance been rewarded with some extra laugh lines and worry-wrinkles for the privilege of walking hand-in-hand with you these past seven years. For better or worse, you are a part of our family. And I know that sometimes you like the fact that you get to come inside when everyone else sits on the front porch. You probably enjoy the extra trips to Tin Lizzie's and the insider relationships and pleasures that come with being a son. But I know too that sometimes you doubtless wish you were just another kid. We expect more from you. I realize this, and I recognize the burden you carry sometimes for the ministry you never really asked to be a part of. And so I want you to know how grateful we are for the grace and dignity with which you have carried that mantle, even when we draped it over you perhaps before you were ready.

You have known me long enough to know I am better at grace than I am at confrontation, or drawing hard lines in the sand. Sometimes, I think you might be better served by someone firmer, who will teach you more about boundaries and consequences. I just never want to worry about your behavior to the detriment of your heart.

My mentor when I was in college used to always tell me: “what’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.” Her gentle words reminded me that the things that come out of me (be it behavior, language, or attitude) could only be a reflection of what’s already in my heart. And so rather than simply focus on what comes out, I pray that you will also focus on what is going in, and what’s already inside.
The world is relentless in telling you what it means to be a man, what looks cool, what is important, what woman should mean to you. The world is relentless, so I will be relentless. That said, let me apologize in advance if I drive you crazy with the number of times I tell you I love you, with the number of times I remind you to watch your language, or to stop listening to things that will pollute your heart. I am convinced you are special and worth fighting for, and I will be relentless in my pursuit of your heart to that end.

As you begin this sixteenth year, I mostly just want you to know how much we love you. How proud we are of you, and how grateful we are for all the ways that you have changed us and stretched us. We are better for knowing you.

Lots and lots of love and love ☺

Friday, September 20, 2013

Anteater Pride and More

We had our first (of many) monthly mentor/hang-out/community-building event a few weeks back. It consisted of kick-ball and a cookout, and some bike riding too. I realized I never shared those pictures here. And I've also been collecting some of my favorite reads from around the web the past couple weeks, so I thought I'd combine the many pictures and links into a random and slightly picture-heavy post for your weekend. Enjoy!

We heard Michelle Alexander speak while we were at CCDA last week, and I just finished reading her book too. She shares some powerful and convicting stuff y'all, you should definitely listen to what she has to say: Jim Crow Still Exists in America (from NPR)

Blessings for the Weary - Esther Emery
Missional Anxieties - Deeper Story
Beyond Red and Blue in the Fight Over Food Stamps
6 Words You Should Say Today - Huffington Post
I am Woman - SheLoves
The Language of Lament - Deeper Story
Can't Help - Sarah Bessey

Watch: Y'all should watch this, because good gracious heavens.



Laugh: Surely most of you have already seen this, because it's all over Facebook. But y'all, I could not have laughed harder sitting here all by my lonesome reading this: 27 Reasons Why Parents Shouldn't be Allowed to Text 
The Stanley Clan: Blueprint 58
In other news, the Anteaters had their first game of the season. Which they won. And Ashton yelled "Anteater Pride!" out the window the whole way home while we listened to Katy Perry's Roar. It's sort of our anthem. If you want to purchase your very own hot-pink Anteater's tshirt, let me know! 
The Stanley Clan: Anteater Pride
The Stanley Clan: Anteater Pride
"Come on guys, show some Anteater pride" -Curt
Also, we saw PJ at the football game! Amanda and I might have been a little overly excited about the whole thing. But seriously, he's adorable.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Cause for Celebration: Jayci's Birthday Party

We returned home from our CCDA conference at approximately 3am on Sunday morning. Later that day, we hosted Jayci's birthday party. Admittedly, this might not have been the best idea. The party itself, however, was low-key and fun and full of mermaids (Jayci's request, which she remembered and stuck to for an entire year).

While the girls played tag and blew bubbles and did hula hoops, the teenage boy contingent of the party watched the Falcons.

Emma (obviously) made the delicious, rainbow-sprinkle-encrusted cake. I'm pretty sure she rued the day she agreed to make such a sprinkle-y cake.


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