Friday, August 30, 2013

BënThere shirts: DIY T-shirt kits and a Giveaway

Happy Friday everyone! Adam and the kids just left for North Carolina to visit family. I am photographing a wedding tomorrow, which means I couldn't join them (and I was going to get a massage so I've basically never been more bummed). However, so far today I took a nap, an uninterrupted shower, and I read my Bible and a few pages of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, so I'm not exactly complaining.

Anyways, I'm really excited about today's post. You see, we have these friends who work at Camp Grace (which y'all already know all about), and Mrs. Robinson is pretty amazing. Her and her husband print all our amazing Anteater jerseys and t-shirts etc. She is a mom of seven children, she runs marathons and homeschools, and all of her children are beautifully behaved. In face, I might dislike her except that she's so kind and easygoing and fun! Anyways, her and another mom came up with the concept for BenThereShirts. I'll let their own words tell the story:
BënThere shirts was started by two moms in the spring of 2013. As they drove home from a grocery store outing they reminisced about passed journeys and travel destinations. A concept began to develop, the concept of wearing your own experiences on a shirt. Little did they know, their journey was just beginning. Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Fry shared their idea with their husbands, children (13 between the two of them), and friends. The consensus, develop a creative clothing line that lets you tell your story. With their washing machines in full gear, they tested numerous fabrics, materials, and color combinations, determined to deliver a high quality product that would be an experience on its own. BënThere shirts is that product. Enjoy your experience and we look forward to seeing you "share your story".

The DIY t-shirt kit comes beautifully packaged and includes rhinestones and easy-to-follow instructions for making your t-shirt your own. Jayci helped me with mine, and loved every minute. Her only request was "MORE BEAUTIFUL CRYSTALS MOM!" The t-shirt is easy to put together and you can use the crystals to illustrate the states you've been to and where you live, really however you want! My shirt is currently in the dirty laundry pile (which I should probably tackle this weekend, but it is just. so. ginormous.), but here's a picture from their facebook page of the finished product.
Y'all are extra lucky because I have one BënThere shirt kit to giveaway to one of you today. Enter below and happy Friday! And be sure to visit BënThere shirts website and facebook page.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Feel free to share this giveaway!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Lakehouse and links for a Tuesday

Sometimes you just need to go to the lake. For family time, and reading time, and swimming time (which equates to keep both kids from drowning time). To reconnect with each other and with our own hearts, and perhaps to swing and shoot fallen nuts from a slingshot. 
A few of my favorite reads over the last couple of weeks (running the gamut from race to tuna casseroles). 
"Yet if we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that when one single group of people is conspicuously left behind, it never bodes well for society as a whole. In many ways, black men in America are a walking gut check; we learn from them a lot about ourselves, how far we’ve really come as a country, and how much further we have to go." -The Fight for Black Men

"I think deep down many of us are just a little bit afraid that someone else is doing a better job at this whole thing than we are."The War I Didn't See Coming

"I’ll tell you of the way he glows after a six hour practice, the finesse with which he glides across the floor, the way his very soul leaps from his eyes when he manages a toe touch or perfects a difficult series of steps. I’ll show you a boy who carries himself with grace in manner and spirit, who is strong in character and skill, who is learning of compassion and team effort and how to appreciate the brilliance of life’s beauty." What I wont tell you about my ballet dancing son

"Fewer than one in three black Americans and not even half of whites say the United States has made “a lot” of progress toward achieving racial equality in the half-century since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared he had “a dream” that one day freedom, justice and brotherhood would prevail and that his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” -Racial equality is still a work in progress

"I stand over my oven and I realize that I must, at some point, acknowledge the emptiness. I must feel it. I serve slopping spoonfuls of tuna casserole, I wash the dishes and I feel my emptiness." - Loneliness and Tuna Casseroles

Also, I just finished reading Jesus and the DisinheritedAnd the Mountains Echoed
(loved it), Dad Is Fat (hilarious), and am currently reading War of the Bloods in My Veins: A Street Soldier's March Toward Redemption (more on this later). 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why you should mentor . . .

I realize that if we're friends on facebook, you have probably already seen me post this link approximately 734 times. But I really feel like I have a few more annoying times of sharing before I make everyone un-friend me. You see, the new school year has begun, which means we want to match a new round of fourth graders with mentors. To accomplish this goal, we need mentors. If this is something you think you'd like to sign-up for/learn more about, PLEASE Sign up for mentor training this weekend (there's one on Saturday and one on Sunday). If you cant make it to our house this weekend (did I mention the bonus that you get to visit our house, meet our chickens, and I'll even force Adam to make you something delicious?!), let us know and we will put together some more training dates for September.
Most of you probably already know how passionate we are about mentoring (otherwise, we obviously wouldn't have started a mentoring program); but for anyone who is unsure about the whole thing, I wanted to share some of our reasoning and perspective on mentoring. Also, I've included an extensive photo montage of our relationship over the years with our beloved Zack, because y'all know that restraint has never been my strong suit.
From our side of things: We have had the joy and privilege of mentoring Zack for the last six years. This relationship, in fact, is what led us to start Blueprint 58 in the first place. One reason we are so passionate about mentoring is because of how deeply and fully we have been transformed as a result of mentoring Zack. Not because we are “such good people” or because we have done so much for Zack, but because he has shown us Jesus, shown us what it means to persevere, to love fully and to be selfless, overcoming adversity . . . We learn new things from our sweet Zack every time we are with him, and we are so glad to have him as a part of our lives and our children’s lives. Jayci calls him “big brother” and “Ack” was one of Caden’s first words. Mentoring is a mutually transformative relationship, because investing our lives in something meaningful makes us better and more whole people. Likewise, having someone truly invest themselves into you offers a sense of worth and value, reminding of your true identity and speaking Truth that helps overcome the obstacles and hardships the world might throw your way. We love Zack and he is truly an integral part of our family, our ministry, and who we are.

From Zack: I have had a wonderful experience with you and your family. When you and adam first introduce yourself I knew you would treat me like your own famiy. The way you have affected my life is by me knowing that you guys are always there for me and my situation. Also made me to strive to be the best I can be. Me being one of the ones you guys care for make me feel very important. Thank you for every thing you have done for me and my family . I love you!!!!!!!!!!!

What is a mentor –
Mentoring is the foundation of Blueprint 58. We match Christian mentors with the public school children in our neighborhood. We match mentors with students in 4th grade, and ask that the mentor walk with their student through the 12th grade. A minimum of two-year commitment is required, because we believe that the last thing these children need is simply another person who “gives up on them” and ends the relationship after a short period of time. Because of this conviction, our ministry will commit to our mentored children through high school. This means that if a child’s mentor is unable to continue for any reason, we will match them with a new mentor throughout their middle and high school career.
The Role of a Mentor:
  • Walk with a young person and develop an on-going, one-to one relationship
  • Serve as a role model, advocate, advisor and friend
  • Be a good listener
  • Be respectful of differences
  • To communicate with your student (via phone, email, letter) once a week, and meet with your student face-to-face at least 4-6 hours per month.
  • Pray for your student on a regular basis
  • To walk along side your student until they finish high school
Requirements to become a Mentor:
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Complete a Blueprint58 Mentor application
  • Complete a background check
  • Personal interview with our staff
  • Provide three personal references
  • Attend mentor training
See? Not even that hard. And trust me, beyond totally worth it. Seriously. So just go ahead and sign up, and I'll see you this weekend!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Caden's Second Birthday Celebration

Sometimes, I throw cute birthday parties for my children. Like Jayci's butterfly themed party, or Caden's rainbow and heart first birthday party, and even Jayci's first birthday party or her second. . . . But sometimes, I think to-heck-with-it-all, and opt for a "pool party" at my parents house. Sometimes we even make it pot-luck style, meaning all I have to bring is hash-brown casserole and zero decorations of any kind. Because let's face it, the kid is two. Which means he has no idea what's going on and as long as he gets cake, he considers the party a success.

First things first: we celebrated Caden's actual birthday with homemade pancakes, a la Smitten Kitchen (btw, these pancakes are the jam).
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
 And then we went to the zoo, where Caden was particularly enamored with the elephants.
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
Then, Sunday morning we did our usual pancake breakfast (with pancakes, gasp, from a box), followed by church and then to my parents' house for the PAR-TAY. 

Immediately upon arriving at my parents' house, Caden was greeted with his gift from oma and opa, a car that he clearly loves already. His stance and expression here looks much like mine when I can't figure out which way I'm supposed to turn. I get lost easily. 
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
 I think he liked his party. I mean, he drank juice boxes (yup, plural).
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
He hung out with his BFF, Jay (btw, could you die at how cute this picture is?)
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
 Meanwhile, his big sister hung out with HER bff (who happens to be Jay's big sister).
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
And his fabulous auntie Emma (who happens to be the pastry chef at One Eared Stag), made him an adorable ombre birthday cake that was chocolate buttercream with rasberry jam filling. Yes please.
ombre birthday cake - chocolate buttercream with rasberry jam filling
And I cannot stop laughing at Caden's attempts to blow out the candles. Luckily, his big sister stepped up to the plate (literally) and blew them out for him.
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
 And here is Caden's cake-eating face. Which also, remarkably, looks very similar to my cake-eating face.The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
And one more shot of that cake, for good measure. Because, like I said: delicious.
chocolate rasberry buttercream birthday cake with blue ombre frosting
See, Caden even wanted more - but I finished his piece so there wasn't any more. All in the name of making sure my child doesn't have too much processed sugar.
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
 The whole extended family was present (well, besides two aunts and an uncle who were on exotic vacations in Brazil and Jamaica. Rough life).
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
 And the other guests. Coolin' it, if you will.
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party
And just in case you needed further proof that Caden is now officially a terrible two, I present to you the temper tantrum which resulted from having to share his new t-ball game.
The Stanley Clan: Caden's Second Birthday Party

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Links and prayers

Sometimes things are complicated, and sometimes the harvest is oh-so-much smaller than we hoped or longed for. I have lots on my heart, but not so much space to wrestle through it. Hopefully I can share more soon. 
For now, some links and some prayer requests for you, my faithful friends.

Silver and Gold by Ben Bishop for DL Mayfield. This is one of my favorite things I've read in a long time. For realz.

My girl Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl went to Ethiopia with BlogABLE, and her first post from her trip? It did me in y'all.

Hector Black Forgives the Man who Murdered His Daughter 
I'd also love for you guys to be praying for Diana. A few days ago her son (Kaden!) was born, after his birth they discovered some severe heart problems. Sound familiar? I know, right? So I cant stop thinking about her little guy and praying for her heart and for peace and healing and wisdom over the whole situation. I'd love for all of you to be praying too, and you can find updates on her blog

You can also be praying for my friend Duffy, her two year old daughter Kaylee is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia. You can follow their story here, and keep the prayers coming!

One more thing: one of our girls, who we have known for nearly seven years now, is having her baby as we speak. She's sixteen and just started her sophomore year of high school. Needless to say, the whole situation could use your prayers, particularly because they want her to see a cardiologist because of some irregularities they heard. Please pray!

I am grateful to everyone who covers our family in prayer, and I know we for sure wouldn't have made it through our time with Caden in the hospital without your prayers sustaining and carrying us, and I hope for the same grace to cover these sweet families right now. My heart feels heavy to imagine where they are, especially since it's not hard for me to close my eyes and be right back there. . . Thanks so much for praying, and for following our journey and being such an important part of our family and our lives and what we do. Seriously, I mean that.

Monday, August 12, 2013

When things are more complicated than they seem

My tan lines are already fading. The boys lament how black they turned, and I hold my arm next to theirs while we compare skin tones, mostly using terms involving candy - ranging from caramel to dark chocolate. We’ve been home from the beach for just over a week, and life continues full-tilt. School starts back up and we bring donuts for an early morning bus-stop-party, grinning at the kids who run with backpacks bouncing, desperate not to miss the bus on their first day of school. The bus driver smiles and honks, and we obligingly hand her a donut too. Our own little ones go back to school, and we forget Jayci’s backpack on her first day, effectively setting the bar low. Life goes on, and vacations quickly slide into the realm of reminiscence.
A week at the beach, it turns out, with two small children and three large teenagers cannot be considered relaxing in any sense of the word. Looking at pictures posted on instagram, I read over the comments and emails we got during that time: “you’re an angel,” and “I want to be you,” and “I love the way you live your life.” And I recognize that life is always more complex than it looks. People are complicated, relationships messy, and sometimes figuring out right and wrong, good and bad, feels like untangling an overcooked pot of spaghetti.
I could share a post chock-full of pictures of our time at the beach, and you would probably think we are such a GOOD family doing the RIGHT thing by taking some black teenagers from the inner-city to the beach, where they played with our (clearly well-behaved and beautiful) blonde children; we read books and our Bibles; and stayed in a beautiful house which was generously offered up for our use by the most wonderful Christian family we’ve never even met. In fact, I’m tempted to think the very same thing as I watch these young men we love so dearly letting the sand sink between their toes (once we finally convinced them to take off their socks), and stepping foot for the first time into the salty surf that seems to stretch into infinity.

But the truth leans hard and infinitely more complicated than a snapshot of children in the sand could ever adequately portray. Because toddlers and teenagers alike defiantly declare “NO,” and we look at each other with raised eyebrows, because now what? And Jayci hears foul language from the boys, and she and Caden stand utterly entranced by whatever choice television program the boys refuse to turn it from. The boys laugh loud and tease ruthlessly late into the night, Jayci boycotts sleep, and Caden remains permanently attached to me. We get a call from the homeowners that they received noise complaints, and the boys respond angrily to our pleas that they keep it down.
We take the boys to Seaside beach one day, a place I remember finding absolutely perfect when I visited in college. The boys whisper to me that they are the only brown skinned people there. That they feel like a circus act, like the collective eyes of the perfectly manicured town are trained on them. I wonder what I found so perfect about an expanse of monochromatic skin and socioeconomic status.

Caden’s constant chorus of “mommy hold you,” begins to wear on me. His small hands shove sand into my armpits and I am certain my crevices will never be sand-free again. Finally, I grasp his hand and pull him gently into the surf. Our toes both curl around the soft sand and suddenly he decides the ocean is fun rather than fearful. We jump over the waves until he tires, and requests to ride my shoulders. I stand on the sand bar, with Caden on my shoulders, his sandy fingers entwined in my hair. My feet sink ever-deeper into the sand with the current, while waves gently lap my calves.
Yook mommy!! Caden orders, pointing insistently at Jayci and Adam and the boys. We watch them swim, listening to the mingled chorus of surf and seagulls and their laughter. The sky gleams brilliant blue under a beating sun, and the waves are too small to ride the boys declare, exchanging their boogie boards for a football. Despite the gently rippling surface, I feel the current strong, tugging my feet and moving our group further left down the beach than we realize until we look and find our rainbow umbrella no longer directly in front of us. Appearances, I realize, can be deceiving, everything inclines more complicated than it might seem on its surface.

I guess my point is that nobody's perfect, least of all us. And obedience to a calling, and to live our life in solidarity with our neighbors, is more complicated than it might appear. This internet thing, it inclines dangerously towards a tendency to oversimplify, I think. Or perhaps something in us rushes to conclusions, when reality lies infinitely more complex. The pregnant sixteen year old living in poverty? Complicated. The mom who homeschools all five of her kids, not to mention keeping her house immaculate in the process? Complicated. The single dad, the drug-dealing teen, the prostitute, the pastor: complicated, every single one. And I hope and pray that I will respond with grace and mercy to this complexity, recognizing the space to both encounter and share Jesus in each.

As for me, I will do my best in this space to somehow portray and share the complexity of living missionally in the city. Because so many of the complicated issues we encounter here, and in Florida on vacation, seem very hard to draw out in terms of black and white. Race, prejudice, poverty, friendship, motherhood, marriage . . . All profoundly complicated. And in sharing our week at the beach, I somehow couldn't let yall think that we were angels, or that our life was perfect. Because I wouldn't want that assumption to stop any of you from living your own missional life.

And so looking back on our time at the beach, I am grateful for grace that covers complicated. That obedience and missional living doesn’t mean perfect. That motherhood can somehow be both beautiful and the-hardest-thing-I’ve-ever-done, and that vacations can be the opposite of relaxing and still be absolutely delightful.


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