Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Beach and A Prayer

We are in Myrtle Beach, thanks (as I mentioned) to some amazing generous friends. And thanks also to the good man Corey at the tiny and miraculous tire shop in the middle of nowhere, who fixed us up with a new tire and sent us on our way after an impressive blow-out and an-of-course-its-already-flat spare. Tempers flared up temporarily, particularly in the nearly-three-year-old who couldn't quite wrap his mind around HOW MUCH LONGER TIL THE BEACH. But we grab hands and remember to pray grateful. For safety, and for a far-calmer-under-pressure husband who just switched places to drive when I mentioned I felt a little sleepy. For tire shops open on a Sunday. For friends who help us go on vacation, and only a few more hours to the shore. 

Arriving in our condo just in time for dinner, we take off our sandals and walk down the beach to the grill. Caden promptly falls into the surf and we eat dinner in soaked clothes and sandy feet. After dinner, we take our time walking back. The sounds of gentle surf punctuated with loud laughter and bad karaoke from the beach grill. We trail toes in the sand and Jayci collects shells, cradling them in her pink cast. Caden also collects shells, launching them into the waves, and running away with a shriek each time the surf sneaks too close. The sun sinks lower, casting golden sheen into their fine blonde waves. The run and their calves freckle with sand, and skin sticks with salt from sweat and spray alike. I stare amazed at their identical button noses and rosy cheeks. Their eyes so similar, yet each such distinctive and different shades of blue. They leave footprints in the sand, and I watch the rising surf dissolve their prints into a smooth sheen reflecting the fiery sunset like glass. 
At the tiny-miraculous tire shop, Adam washes his hands under the hose, trying to scrub off the oil sunk deep in the cracks. He laughs loud and chats with an elderly man sitting in a chair out of sight.

He asks Adam: do you have a son? When Adam responds affirmative, he reminds him: don't let him drown.

Adam assures him we will keep a close eye, and I am reminded of his words as Caden grips my hand and dances into the bubbling waves as they recede.

His son died recently, he tells Adam. Not drowning, he says: but you just never know. 

We learned this lesson the hard way once, and I suppose it's something you dont forget. The memory lingers, softened by time and years and pounding surf. But scratched indelible in the cracks marking our lives.

On Friday, a dear friend's son was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He started chemo today, and has been experience intense stomach pain as a result. Because his kidneys still aren't functioning well, his potassium levels are spiking (putting him at risk of cardiac-related issues). He is in the ICU now and will probably be receiving dialysis tonight.

I have tears in my eyes remembering the ways your prayers carried us so unswervingly while Caden was in the hospital. And I am asking y'all to storm heaven on Rocco's behalf. Pray for healing and for pain-relief. For miracles and for peace. And for God's presence and strength to draw this beautiful family close. To follow Rocco's story and keep updated on what's going on with him, you can visit his CaringBridge page

I am reminded again today of those desperate and beautiful days in the CICU. And of all the ways that even those things we want most desperately to hold onto can slip through our fingers as easily as sand. Of only a few pieces that hold even when buffeted by strongest storms, even (or perhaps especially) when all I can see to do is the next right thing. The one step in front of me, even as my footprints behind are washed by the waves. Because things don't make sense, and I cannot even pretend to understand sweet babies with cancer and broken hearts. But I do know that I have met Jesus most intimately and closely in my wrestling, in my deepest pain and hurt. So I ask that you guys will join me in bringing my friend Anita and her Rocco (and their whole beautiful family) into the arms of the One who knows them and longs to hold them gentle and fierce through even the worst storms. Pray, and know that I love y'all and am grateful for the ways you guys support and love and pray for and with us every day. Seriously.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa a la Stanley Man

Sometimes, your garden (I use the term "your" loosely, because if we are honest the garden definitely belongs to Adam), gets really overgrown and full of way more tomatillos than you even know what to do with. Sometimes, you also get stopped every day and asked "what are those things in the little shells/pods?" by everyone who walks past. Tomatillos. I usually answer before they even finish asking. Same question, every time. 
What are tomatillos good for, you might ask? Well, it turns out that The Stanley Man makes a pretty amazing roasted tomatillo salsa using fresh tomatillos and onion and jalapeño from our garden. Yes please. And since Adam is over-due for a Stanley Man post, I figured now sounded good. 
So without further ado, "how to make delicious roasted tomatillo salsa a la Stanley Man" (a recipe illustrated by crappy iphone pictures). 
Start by removing the papery husks from the tomatillos and rinsing well.
Cut the tomatillos in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.
Chop up 1/2 white onion, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, and 2 jalapeños.
Place tomatillos, onions, cilantro, and jalapeños (along with 1 tbsp fresh lime juice and 1/4 tsp sugar) in a blender or food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator.
The final step is obviously to enjoy with chips. Often. 
*original recipe from here

If you want to can the salsa, here's a recipe I used for that, because this recipe needs to be used within a week in the refrigerator. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The tiniest freckles

Now that we are home from camp, we have been spending inordinate amounts of time on our cheery yellow front-porch-swing. With our rad new neighbors, and other friends and kiddos alike. I've also been editing pictures and eating cheese and watching all-of-the-episodes-of-the-Bachelorette, but that's besides the point (and I do have a point). The point is this: while sitting on the front porch with my babies in their jammies in the early morning light, I noticed the tiniest of freckles that emerged on their noses under the sun-drenched days at camp. And Lawdy but they are adorable. Seriously. Also, Jayci's missing teeth, emerging grown-up teeth, and the fact that she's about to start REAL kindergarten, like all-day-long-every-day school? Slays me. Seriously. Anyways, I've collected a fairly random selection of articles and such that I've stumbled onto across the interwebs and thought y'all might appreciate (or thought you should read to broaden your perspective, even if you dont necessarily "appreciate" it).
"We have failed at Christianity"
How and why to care about immigration
My friend Sarah writes one of my favorite blogs discussing immigration and reform, she blogs at A Life with Subtitles.

(this is our beloved Decorey making his amazing art for the Accent Decor showroom).
More links/interesting reads:

This is what happened when I drove my mercedes to pick up food stamps
Long-lost photos show what hasn't changed about motherhood in 50 years
Are you raising nice kids?
10 Creative Rituals You Should Steal
22 Reasons We Absolutely Need a Full Season of Mindy Project Next Season
While my friend Danielle and I drove to and from Nashville to visit my little sister, we listened to Eleanor & Park (Ira Children's Book Awards. Young Adult). Which I adored. We laughed together and it definitely made the car-time fly by (although I'm not certain I'd want my teenager reading it, because of the language and such). And I finished reading it (aka listening to it) via Audible while I was on the elliptical at the gym. Mostly because: child care. And I discovered an ability to exercise much longer while listening to a good book. So now I'm listening to The Sea of Tranquility; which I'm also loving so far, although I'm only on hour 2 of 14 so I have lots of working out to do (ps - both of these recommendations are from one of my go-to places for book recs, Modern Mrs. Darcy).

A few articles and interesting info about our neighborhood/area of Atlanta. In particular, the first article is about the middle school our mentored kids attend, and sheds some light on the cheating scandal a few years ago. And the second link addresses a question I have asked myself often as I watched public housing projects torn down in favor of abandoned lots.
Wrong Answer
By 2011, Atlanta had demolished all of its public housing projects. Where did all those people go?

As far as actual books go, I'm currently reading: Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure (more on this later) and The Secret Keeper. I just finished The Thirteenth Tale (re-reading because I love it), and The House Girl (which I enjoyed, but wasn't my favorite book ever). Thanks to my amazing sister-in-law, I have a hot date with my hubby tonight, which will likely involve Mexican food (obviously) and a trip to the book store (because we are crazy like that). Any new books I absolutely have to read/pick-up while we are there?

Finally, thanks to some amazing friends who shall remain nameless (ahem Megan and Christina), we are going on a little family vacation next week. Shockingly, we are resisting the urge to bring along any neighborhood kiddos, Adam and I both felt like we needed some concentrated time with just our family to rest and rejuvenate. I'd love for y'all to be praying that we have a good time of refreshment and togetherness. Although I'm slightly worried that my children are about maxed out on their togetherness and literally can no longer go more than five minutes without fighting or needing me for something. And to quote one of my favorite mama-blogs: for those of us who are introverty, a LOT of time with People, even the People We Love More Than Any Other People in the World, equals a LOT of time having our energy siphoned away, as though all those People were issued Mystical Straws and then they popped those suckers right through our bodies and straight into our souls and slowly but surely sucked our Life’s Essence from our now-useless shells, Dementor style, leaving us empty and breathless and pretty much dead.

So pray for not-that ok? Like that I might also get some very-badly-needed alone time. Amen.

Friday, July 18, 2014

When days are a coin toss

Parenting through the relentless days of summer exhausts me. I can tell from the moment the two little ones get up if it will be a good day or a bad one. Whether they climb into bed with me and kiss my cheek, or yell for me disconsolately from their room. If they will accept the toast and peanut butter I make while I brew coffee, or cry alligator tears because they desperately want cheez-its for breakfast instead.

I’d like to say I don’t get caught in the rut of conforming to their first instincts to whine and fight or share cheerfully. Instead I mindlessly follow their lead, snapping quickly with irritation to their emergence on the wrong side of the bed.

Yet, I feel so strangely disconnected from my emotions as we march inexorable through the last weeks of summer. Torn equally between longing for quiet days and back-to-school, and weepiness that my baby starts real-big-kid-school this year. I wipe sweat from my brow as we walk to the park, and I cannot even figure out what I’m feeling. Or how to think deeply about hard things.

The wall I have watched myself erect brick-by-brick somehow manages to keep my own heart and head from properly connecting. The protection I seek perhaps isn’t worth the price. Yes, my heart will be unbroken by the pain of loss and rejection and failure; but it will also remain unmoved by the things that sit close to the heart of God. And I’m not sure which side of the fence I fall on: whether or not I’m willing to hazard destroying the wall and facing the risk of pain in order to live, to feel, to be moved.

I’ve made this decision before, to take down the wall, to care for those who might break my heart with loss or failure; only to build it back up again in the midst of the flurry of life. Living unarmored takes remembering fiercely. Choosing daily not to brick and mortar myself in.

Today, I think. Today I will live fully and freely. I will engage my children without too much irritation at the ways they batter my walls. I wont allow irritation to sneak in, to steal joy. But how do I do this? How do I cultivate and keep a heart and attitude that leans gentle and kind rather than cynical and hard?

Loss lingers in the corners of our neighborhood. We feel it sharp in piles of furniture and trash in a front yard. Evicted again, I think. And we feel it insistent in kids who move away, who leave and we wonder if our paths will ever cross again. We watch the UHaul pull up for one of our favorite families and closest neighbors. They carry boxes and furniture and garbage bags and pile the truck high. We bring cards and snacks for the road and my eyes fill with tears, for which they tease me relentlessly. Caden wipes my tears with grubby hands, and I play with his hair and tell one of the boys the things I see in him. The gifts I am certain he does not yet recognize in himself. I drape them heavy over his shoulders like a mantel, hopeful that the promise God gives him will ring in his head and heart even halfway across the nation.

The two older brothers are staying behind and one of them moves his stuff into our back room for a season. Because of course.

We have the kind of neighborhood day that aches with goodbyes while brimming with promise. Because the breeze cools while the sun warms, and both kids play quiet while I read on the front porch. Adam decides he cannot ignore any longer the overgrown craziness of the abandoned house next door, and he sets out with a lawnmower and some sort of machete-type-thing. In no time, neighbors from all up and down the street join him. They pull weeds and pick up the trash and scrape the sidewalk with a shovel until it practically shines with glittering shards of glass uncovered by vines and old Fanta cans. They laugh and talk and we order pizza. One of our favorite teenagers walks down and helps too, telling us over pizza that he decided to leave two months early for the military and ships out Monday. We will miss him: I say it with tears brimming for the second time that day. And he laughs at me, but the loss and transience sits heavy for me, even on a day like today that reminds me all of the reasons I love living where we do.

Meanwhile, a few blocks away at our friend’s house, she texts me and says her neighbors fought all night. The whole street, the whole block even, in an all-ought brawl. Until someone calls the police and tells them there is a gun because that’s the only way to get them to come quick. Shirts rip and tempers flare and generations who choose fight-over-flight keep making the same choice.

Like my friend Shannan says: some days nothing we do seems to be enough. No matter how many weeds we pull, more grow stubborn in their place. Choices ingrained in grooves that run deep. Deeper than it feels like even our prayers and hope can penetrate.

Most days though, it feels like a coin toss.

Heads, we win, and the sun shines bright over shiny streets and big bowls of spaghetti. Fried green tomatoes from our garden in a tin pie plate. I pop one in my mouth, unaware he has only just pulled them from the stovetop. My tongue scorched, I gulp lemonade and then eat another one.

Tails, we lose, and the fighting looks like a scene from a movie. Maybe Anchorman: that escalated quickly. Our boys choose numb and tell friends they need some space from us. His words cut deeper than I want them to, and I cobble together more bricks to protect my bruising heart.

A coin toss, I think, works far better in determining a football game than it does a life.

So I must untie my emotions from the circumstances, both in parenting and in our lives here in the hood. And anchor them instead in the Truths of a Savior writing a story that’s not yet finished. To remind ourselves that failure and hurt like megaphones shout and point us to Him. That the places I find myself bruised and battered are the very spaces he treats most tenderly.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. - Hosea 2:14

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

For when I hope the saying is true . . .

 . . . that a picture is worth 1000 words: Our last week at Camp Grace via pictures. Which means this post is approximately 19000 words, and improbably lengthy. Oops. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Catching up in pictures (and a few words)

Oh hi there friends. So I realize I haven't been around much this summer; it turns out that back and forth from camp (and kiddos not in school) means very little free-time/alone-time. We just got back from teen week at camp; while this is usually my favorite week of camp, we had a rough week this week and need some time to untangle and process everything. Which is why I'm just popping in with my latest pictures from the 365 project. Hopefully I'll be back soon with more well-formed sentences and possibly even a deep thought or two.


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