Friday, May 31, 2013

Congested

My head and sinuses feel about as congested as our front porch right now. That is to say, crowded to the point of bursting. The pressure, it's next-to-unbearable. I'm not sure if I'm just suffering from a nasty head-cold, or maybe allergies or something, but I'll just go ahead and tell you that I feel Terrible. Yup, with a capital T.

Technically, this is our first summer HERE at our house in the hood. The first summer we lived here, I was super-duper preggo with Caden, and we spent most of the time at camp. Then last summer we were at camp all summer. This summer, however, we are splitting our time between camp and home. And y'all, somehow I was completely unprepared for the complete chaos that is summer in our home.
 

Statistics say that many kids in “at-risk” and poor communities will go hungry during the summer months, without the breakfast and lunch they are usually provided in their schools. Now, to be fair, these statistics can never be as nuanced and complex as the reality of the kiddos’ lives entails. I don’t know how many kids would actually be hungry/not-hungry etc, or how accurate all of those statistics really are. But let me tell you, we've been feeding some kiddos. Some kiddos who can straight-put-down the food. And most of them are here from sun-up til sun-down, and would stay past then if we let them. 
Sometimes lunch is peanut butter sandwiches and dinner is ramen noodles. The kiddos usually make me noodles, careful not to put in too much hot-sauce since, admittedly, I'm a little bit of a wimp. But somehow in the making and serving and sitting down around the table together, our communion over even a meal of noodles leads to deeper community, and finds us staring into the heart of Jesus. 
So as busy as we are, as tired and congested as I feel in this moment, I am grateful. And also looking forward to being at camp next week. That way, you know, we can keep things a bit more low-key. Ha.

Have I mentioned we are bringing 65 kids from the neighborhood to camp this summer? Don't worry, it's spread out over four weeks. And I'm pretty sure we've collected permission slips for five of those kids so far, despite handing out at least four forms (to replace lost ones) to each kid who wants to come. Hmm, that reminds me - I should go try and collect more forms right now. Pray for me?
I know I'm a little sporadic around here, and I almost didn't post today until I decided not to put too much pressure on myself to write something GOOD and DEEP, and instead just give myself permission to write ANYTHING. So here I am, thanks for joining me.



Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Little Blue Box

(originally posted January 2011)
Anyone who knows me at all knows that my car is somewhat of a, well, junk-collector. In fact, last time the kiddos rode in my dad’s car they said: “Becca, your car ain’t never been this clean.” Out of the mouth of children comes truth my friends.

When we pulled up to April’s temporary residence the other day, children literally poured from the house and packed themselves into every crevice of my car. They were determined it was going to snow and they could come spend the night at our house. Besides feeling slightly panicky at the thought of Toddrick (who most likely needs some ADHD medication or at the very least a little Super-Nanny) running around my house, I was pretty convinced that Tuesday night was not going to bring snow (and lo and behold I was right. As usual).

Oh my rabbit trail.

Anyways, while the kids were in the car, they discovered all manner of knick-knacks and trash-like items, which they were determined they should keep. In fact, I let them have approximately 19 diet coke cans in order to hide my major slight problem from Adam. Oh I kid. But seriously, sweet little Ray-Ray found a tiny little blue box (which at one point held earrings, which are now lost. Probably somewhere in my car). He begged me to let him keep it. I peeked inside to make sure it didn’t contain my missing earrings, and then readily agreed. Because, you know, one less thing for me to throw away.


After much ferrying and transporting of items and people from residence to apartment and back again (a journey which involved being tailed for a good 10 minutes by some undercover cops. Who were very sneaky and under-cover-like hiding in the Bluffs in an unmarked car holding 4 white guys in black caps and gov’t plates). We finally dropped April and the babies back off. We were just getting ready to pull out of the driveway, when Ray Ray came running back out to hand me the little blue box. Despite my assurances that it was for him to keep forever, he insisted that I take it, whispering in my ear that there was a present inside. Grinning and winking at him, I took the box and hurried to the car in an attempt to escape the frigid cold. It’s like I never even lived in Canada with my low tolerance for sub-zero weather.

Pulling out of the neighborhood, I peeked inside the box, and saw a crumpled up one dollar bill. And in that moment, I melted into a puddle on the ground. I mean that gift, my friends, was one of the truest expressions of loving kindness and sacrifice I have ever received. All of a sudden, I was able to understand Jesus’ words about the widow who sacrificed everything. Giving her few coins when it was all she had. Sacrificial Giving. The kind of giving that Jesus described in Luke when he said: "All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on" (Luke 21:4).

So what does it look like in my life, in your lives, to give sacrificially? I dont even know the answer to that. But I know that we are all living in poverty in one way or another: be it relationally, personally, materially, spiritually . . . So out of my lack, out of my poverty, I will give.

“I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (2 Sam 24:24)

Monday, May 27, 2013

What I'm Into: May

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone! Judging by the amount of traffic in Atlanta yesterday and today, y'all must be going some places. 
Also, it's possible I started something new. Because, you know, why not? I just wasn't loving my 52 week project and I thought I might as well just start taking a picture a day again, I usually do anyways. I'm collecting them all on a new tumblr site instead of trying to keep them up to date here. Anyways, you can go check it out right here if you're interest: Stanley Clan 365.
And now, a reading update (if this isn't the most well-written and cohesive post ever, than I dont know what is).

*Toddlers Helping at Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. This, this is our life currently. It's exhausting.
*Why City Living is Beautiful Too - from my girl Shannan at Flowerpatch Farmgirl.
*I've been really interested in reading Jen Hatmaker's 2-part series on Adoption Ethics. I think she also said there will eventually be a part three. For now, check out Part One and Part Two.
*Downward Mobility - DL Mayfield
*Searching for Pentecost 
*The Bloggess - Me and the Internet

Speaking of reading, I also signed up for Good Reads. Because again, why not? It's not like I dont already have entirely too many things to unsuccessfully stay caught up on. If you're on Good Reads too, look me up - I'd love to see what you've been reading too!

*Linking up with Leigh Kramer.
What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Jump

Once, almost four years ago, Adam and I had some friends who made a video about our lives. It's funny to look back on it for a few reasons: 1-We are now actually living in the city (yay for realized dreams!) and 2-I'm wearing the same shirt today, clearly I am very up-to-date on all the latest styles.

BVtv: Jump from Broken Voices on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jail-birds and freedom


The jangling of the chains between his feet matches the rattling in my heart. I feel each beat viscerally as he shuffles in without meeting our eyes. We are the only ones in the room not there to build a case against him. I stare at the back of his head, willing it to turn our way, knowing it wont. His blue jumpsuit reads DJJ in faded white, and Adam and I clasp hands as his probation officer recommends him sent back to the Department of Juvenile Justice. The judge quickly agrees, barely even pausing long enough to look intently at the fifteen year old chained before him. And just like that it’s over. I silently thank Jesus that we didn’t have to be the ones to utter the no we had been agonizing over for days. The guard recognizes us from last time, and meets our eyes with a sympathetic smile, letting us talk to our Sabo (which really isn’t allowed he whispers). When Sabo turns towards us, his eyes flash the hurt and anger that war for his heart, and I long to gather him in a hug and whisper that we are still here. That we aren’t going anywhere. But when Adam tells him this very thing, he shakes his head and says he never wants to see us again. In my head I know the words bubble from the fear beneath, from the fifteen-year-old part of his heart and brain trying to process his future with bravado and swagger. And yet. My heart breaks raw and he still wont meet my eye.
We walk out of the courtroom, smiling shakily at the other families whose curiosity burns in their stares. We quickly confer and agree we will go to the jail anyways, even if he refuses to see us. We will just keep showing up every week. For as long as it takes.   

His probation officer chatters at us excitedly about the fastest commitment he’s ever gotten. He pauses long enough to notice my pouty lip and remind me that he already gave Sabo far more chances than he should have, that there’s nothing we could have done. That our years and shared last names mean nothing in the eyes of the court. We march back down a sun-drenched-hallway that dances with the shadows of the birds flitting past, and I think of their freedom as Sabo shuffles back to prison in chains.

I write Sabo a letter. Because in person his narrowed eyes that flit over my face without seeing me, and his shrugging shoulders and refusal to hug, they make me nervous and unsure. But when I put pen to paper and think of who Sabo really is, I can remember and hold fast to the fifteen-year-old who is really more broken-hearted-boy than the bravado and frame he inhabits might lead me to believe. Tomorrow, I will mail it along with the picture Jayci drew him, though I don’t really even know if he will ever see them. It turns out that I navigate the whole prison-thing poorly, a result perhaps of my shaky fear of rule-breaking and getting in trouble. So when we show up for visitation and they tell me to change my pants and pat me down, I feel inexplicably nervous, and extra apologetic for not knowing that we should bring change to buy him snacks.
Last time we visited, we sat across, but not before I hugged him tight. This time we scrounged together change, proud that we know this now. We buy Hot Fries and Sprite without him asking, because we know. The guards wonder, he says, why we have the same last name. We laugh when he relays the fact that he told them Adam was his real dad and they just stared at him in disbelief. He reminds us, the day before his trial, that he doesn't want to live with us because we will make him go to school and stay in the house at night. We agree with his assessment, and ask where he would go, if he could hypothetically go anywhere. He tells us he just wants to go back to his corner; to the drug house they pulled him out of not even ten days earlier. And I am reminded that freedom hinges on more than whether or not we sit behind bars.

My eyes scan the room; the inmates wear faded blue jumpsuits and tennis shoes, or orange jumpsuits with sandals for those who threaten escape. Saviour says they in fact just let him out of the orange-suit after he drew up some fake escape plans. I glimpse the real Saviour during our visit, if only briefly tucked beneath his nonchalance and carefully-worded tales. I wonder about all the other boys, try to trace their stories in the tattoos on their necks and their afros and the lone light-skinned-red-head in the bunch. Context breeds grace, and I know from experience that every single one of them can be defined as far more than just a juvenile delinquent.  In their complex identities, they become more than numbers, the truth of them looms far more important than even the most sobering statistics.
And I want to give Sabo wings, so he can fly free; rising unfettered from the ashes of his mother’s death, of his bad choices, of the drug trade and get-rich-quick promises, of his gang, his “partnas,” and every single thing that keeps him from freedom. Because rest assured, they run far deeper and stronger than the barbed wire fence and barred windows that encircle him today.

In birthing children, whether from our wombs or our hearts, we make ourselves vulnerable to hurt and disappointment, but also to joy and the kind of hope that only comes entwined with pain. I see flashes of this hope in the faces surrounding me, the hands clasped across plastic folding chairs, the kids who slouch and only reluctantly accept the proffered Hot Fries, and the ones who sit in their cells pretending not to care that no one visits. It is hope and grace that will give them wings, and grow beauty in the ashes of the stories that have led them to this place. 
 
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Baby Steps


(O
riginally posted November 2009 - Disclaimer, these pictures are from last week . . . not 2009). 

Jayci has been spending the last month or so learning how to walk (a milestone which I was super-excited about, and now I'm just bone-tired from chasing her everywhere, because why would you want to be strapped into a carseat/highchair/stroller when you can WALK!?) Anyhow, I've been watching her go from her first unsteady, shaky steps, to toddling all over the place. Granted, she still falls on her behind sometimes (a lot of times actually), but she is fearless and OH SO EXCITED about her progress. In many ways, her wobbly steps mirror our family's own spiritual steps.

People ask Adam and I all the time how we ended up in inner-city ministry. How did we get into full-time ministry is some of the worst parts of Atlanta? It seems like such a big leap. A scary jump to go from corporate America, or even from teaching, to serving as a full-time job. And it IS a scary jump; one that Adam and I never actually had to make. For us, our movement into ministry was more like a series of small steps. Of little obediences. We said "yes" to being a part of Camp Grace. And that was the first step. And then I said "yes" to serving after camp by volunteering downtown a few times a week.

And soon my passion for the kids grew, my time spent with them multiplied, and before I knew it I had left a full-time, well-paid job in corporate America so I could spend more time in the trenches, serving and loving the poor who live in our own city. I keep waiting for the shiny newness of working downtown in ministry to wear off, like the high from a retreat or mission trip. But it hasn’t. I look forward to every visit downtown with my kiddos, knowing that in them I encounter the Lord, who became the poor and hurting as He died on the cross. Never before has my faith felt as vibrant and real as it does when I am serving these kids.

I’ve never been to seminary or had any missionary training. I am insecure, I am flawed, and I have no idea what I’m doing half the time. And more often than not, I fall flat on my behind. But never before have I felt as sure of myself, sure that I am following Christ, as I do when I’m serving these kids.

And it's all because I was willing to let get of what I was holding onto (my house, my money, my job, my security etc) and take those first wobbly, baby steps towards serving downtown.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Trip to the Falls

On Friday, we popped over to North Carolina to visit Adam's grandparents. The weather was (unexpectedly) beautiful, the kids were (reasonably) well-behaved, and we didn't sleep (at all). However, we did hike up the falls at Dupont State Forest. There's something about putting feet to dirt, climbing over rocks and into trees that connects me, grounds me. Makes me remember that I am crafted by an infinitely creative and loving God who leads me beside still waters. I am grateful for the reminder.
Also, this one cracks me up. She's silly only every once in a while, much like her momma. 

Pictures from our weekend are making me feel weak-in-my-knees at my long-legged almost-5-year-old girl. Almost five! I just want to clutch her close and stop all this growing-up business immediately.

Monday, May 13, 2013

For the Mommas, no matter how they're made

A few weeks ago (3 weeks to be precise), Adam came bursting in the backdoor, literally pumping his fist in the air. Only mildly surprised by his semi-uncharacteristic outburst, I glance up from my book long enough to ask what he is so excited about. Vague hopes surrounding lotteries won or exciting news involving cheese dip flash through my head.

Domino has gone broody! He practically shouts. I look at him quizzically, my eyebrows raised beneath eyes which I may or may not have rolled.

A day later he comes in smelling of dirt from digging in the garden, and gives me a bear hug while chattering with the news that Peep, too has “gone broody.” Finally, I ask him what in-the-sam-hill that even means. He explains that two of our five chickens have begun sitting on their eggs, convinced they will hatch, even going so far as to pluck feathers from their own chest in order to keep the eggs warm. I wonder aloud if Adam should sit them down for a talk about the birds-and-the-bees, considering our particular chicken coop lacks an important element in the whole hatching-eggs equation, namely the rooster. Adam excitedly explains that we will be getting a shipment of two new chicks in three weeks, exactly the amount of time it would take eggs to hatch. If all goes according to Adam’s grand-master-plan, the chicks will arrive just in time to be slipped inconspicuously under his broody hens’ bellies, where they will be adopted and he will be left with none of the work of raising chicks that he undertook on the last time around.

I am skeptical of the whole plan, especially considering the chicks on their way to our doorstep are an entirely different breed of chickens than Domino and Peep. But, who knows really, since the ladies are currently sitting on unfertilized eggs in hopes of hatching them.

A few days ago, our teeny-tiny baby chicks are left on our doorstep in a small hole-ridden cardboard box, which emits loud cheeps and excites both Caden and Maverick to nearly fever-pitch. I am surprised by how adorable they are, especially the one with the mini-mohawk and soft yellow fluff. I hold it (the first of our chickens I’ve ever held. I know, I’m ridiculous). And I feel jumpy about his tiny feet pricking my skin and his little wings stretched out. One of the boys asks me if I’m afraid of the flappers. Yes, yes a little, I admit, even though this particular “flapper” is only approximately three inches high. That night, Adam gathers the chicks and says he is taking them out to the coop.

He gently cups the two baby chicks, and slides one under Domino’s black and white speckled belly. The yellow mohawked one he pushes carefully beneath Peep’s brown feathers. The ladies begin clucking excitedly, which is adorable really, even for a decidedly non-chicken-fan like me. A few hours later, Adam tiptoes back up to the bright blue coop, and slowly lifts the lid to find the chicks sound asleep beneath their new momma’s wings. Their quiet unnerves them, so he reaches beneath the feathers and the chicks begin their cheeping as they sleepily emerge. Domino clucks nervously and gently tries to nudge her chick back under her belly. When the chick refuses to budge, she gathers her wings, and spins on her spindly chicken legs before settling herself squarely on top of the tiny chick. The bald spot she has plucked on her underside nuzzles next to the chick’s downy coat, and in a touching display for the importance of skin-to-skin contact, the chick cheeps contentedly before settling back into sleep.
The whole thing strikes me as both hilarious and beautiful, proof that mothers can be made in more ways than one.

Mother’s day dawned yesterday after a quick trip to North Carolina, in which the children apparently took a vow of not-sleeping. I found myself making pancakes for approximately ten children, sighing loudly at the unfairness of it all, snapping at the kids when they disagreed, and chasing Caden down to try unsuccessfully to pull his church shoes onto his busy feet. He ended up barefoot at church, and I didn't even get a slice of the delicious coffee cake Grandma Mary sent home with us.

During worship, I find myself in the bathroom stall of the school-we-make-church-on-Sunday-mornings, tears rivulet down my cheek and I try to decipher the scrawled epithets of the middle school variety scrawled on the stall door. I squint to read of who-loves-and-who-hates-who, distracting myself from the vague and unsettled disappointment I feel at myself and the mother’s day expectations I didn’t even know I had. I hear a familiar sniffling from the stall next to me, and I finger the velvet petals of the red rose that declares me mother, wondering if perhaps her tears mirror mine for reasons all her own. And I am reminded again that mothers can be made in more ways than one.

God’s grace lavishes on a day that bustles and rubs, and one of the boys gets a rose for the mom in front of us who scurries out the back door with her son kicking and screaming, her face an apologetic grimace. I try to send telepathic waves of sympathy and understanding and I settle for the rose he lays in her seat, before deciding not to wake the other boys because at least they’re quiet.

We declare today a do-over, and I’m eating homemade pancakes and strawberries in bed, shooing children out occasionally who come in to “throw me a hug” or request more strawberries. Granted, there have already been three knocks on our door for forgotten homework and missed buses, and sometimes motherhood looks nothing like we imagined.

Today, the do-over-mother’s-day, I am thankful for the grace He lavishes over all us mothers. The ones who cry in school-turned-church-bathroom-stalls. The ones who pluck their own feathers, painfully making a warm and safe place for babies to snuggle. Those who have more children than they imagined or hoped for, and the ones who ache to hold a baby in their arms. The ones whom motherhood was foisted upon, and the ones aren’t really sure they even want the title. The fifteen year old momma whose water broke in class, who now holds her son as he grows impossibly big in her own small arms.

The one who paints unfurling flowers and thinks of the baby once growing in her womb. The one who has lost, and the one who every month swells in hope and anticipation, only to find herself wondering if there’s a God who always picks someone else. The one who stands for hours juicing carrots to nourish a boy who cant eat. And the one who counts breaths and heartbeats of a son born with a broken heart. She who sits helpless beside a hospital bed, and she who unclenched her fingers and courageously gives her baby to be raised by another. The ones who just know they were made to be mothers, and the ones who aren’t so sure.

I remember today that there are more than one ways to make a mother, and none of us are doing it perfect. So we will love our giggly-messy-babies who make sock puppets of tights in the middle of my pancake-breakfast-in-bed. We will love them fierce and big and sometimes we will love them small and shaky. But love we will, because that’s what mommas do, no matter how they’re made.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Super-duper belated 52 week project update

Based on the fact that the last time I updated my 52 week project was 10 weeks ago, you might think I haven't been keeping up with it. You would, in fact, be partially right in this regard. See, I've been taking lots of pictures, just not paying attention to what week # it is. I mean, who knows what week it is? As it turns out, I preferred my 365 day project, even though it was technically "more work." At this point, however, I'm just going to stick it out and try and do better at keeping it up to date.

 
 Also, this week at school is teacher appreciation week. And since I clearly cant say it better than Jen Hatmaker, I'll just echo what she said: Dear Teachers Everywhere. Jayci's school is doing an "around the world" theme for appreciation week, and Adam has embraced the whole thing whole-heartedly. In fact, he definitely made Jayci's teacher a tiramisu cake for Italy day. And it was delicious, beyond delicious really. I might have convinced him not to give her the WHOLE cake (sorry Kim!) Anyways, in case you want to make your own beautiful and delicious tiramisu cake, the recipe is from Smitten Kitchen right here (Adam's other favorite recipe source). However, I will warn you that the recipe has MANY more steps than any I would ever attempt. That said, my maximum number of recipe steps usually involve picking up the phone and calling for pizza.

ShareThis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...