Friday, April 18, 2014

My neighbor sold his car... and I cried about it

My neighbor sold his car on Tuesday. He and his wife are both in their late 70s. They've lived in that house for over 30 years. His whole life is here in town: his church, his grocery store, his job was here, his son lives here. His little Chevy s10 only left our town a handful of times.

When we first met him shortly after we moved in November of 2012 he told us that his wife had Alzeihmer's and that he was worried that he wouldn't be able to take care of her by himself much longer. She'd wake up many times in the middle of the night and ask if it was time to go to church yet. She rarely slept. You could tell he loved her very much. He worked so hard to make it work for so long. He wasn't taking care of himself because he wasn't able to sleep and had a heart attack about 6 months back. Around that time he hired some nurses to come and help. When the nurses weren't there his son or people from their church where over helping him out.

About a month and a half ago he finally had to put her in a memory care facility because it was just too much. She never slept anymore and was often confused and disoriented. Talking to him you can tell that he knew it was time but that he still feels guilty about it. It seems to hurt him in a way that I pray Mitchell or I neither one have to understand.

With it just being him in the house now he no longer needed both of their cars. He cleaned up his chevy (which was always in immaculate order anyway) posted a "for sale" sign in the window and parked it in the driveway. Every morning for two weeks he backed it out, turned it around in the street, and reversed into his drive. Person after person drove by, slowed down, got out, peered in, and knocked on his door. Person after person drove away.

On Tuesday, as I was doing my bible study at the kitchen table I saw him pull up in his driveway in his truck. He slowly unloaded his groceries from the back but didn't pull his truck all the way into the garage (the way I've seen him do since we moved in) You could tell he was taking his time. You could tell he was trying to take it all in and squeeze out every memory that he could.

About thirty minutes later a couple pulled up with an envelope in hand. They went inside with our neighbor and shortly after walked out with the keys and title. The man got in the front seat and drove away in his new truck. Our neighbor stood at his front door with the storm door closed and watched his truck pull out of his drive way for the last time.

As I was watching this unfold I was moved to tears. It's not very often that you so firmly see the closing of a chapter as that. Yes, he was "just" saying goodbye to his truck but in reality he is saying goodbye to the wife of his youth. Even though she is still here corporally, her mind is gone and he is having to move forward into this last chapter of life alone.

The other day he was sitting on his porch alone so Mitch went over and talked with him. They talked for about an hour about nothing in particular.

If you think about it today, say a prayer for my neighbor and all the other people like him who are saying a bittersweet goodbye to the things of their past without being able to hold the hand of the person they thought they'd be still walking side by side with. Reach out to your neighbor that may be lonely.

There are so many people on earth, we shouldn't be lonely. Be a friend to those who may not have any.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stirrings in my heart:

Hey everyone! Some great  news to start off this post: Our home is finally certified! That's right! Our child could potentially come home at any time now :) I'm kind of feeling "April-y," how about you?

God has been working on breaking me down and ruining me yet again to build me back up stronger.

Last weekend Mitch and I were doing the same thing to our garden. We were pruning back old growth that didn't produce fruit last year on our apple and peach trees. We cut back new growth in the wrong places from the bushes and shrubs. We tilled under the garden and added new compost in to enrich the soil to be ready for the work it has before it in this upcoming season of growth.

Lots of different things have been working in me. I feel very blessed that it has (for the most part) been things that God has put on my heart or stirred within my soul and I obeyed to follow through. If God calls you to do something and you don't follow through that's a huge issue in your relationship. Our former college minister once said "If God's not showing you the next step maybe its because you didn't do the last thing he called you to do" WOW!

Have you heard "Oceans" by Hillsong yet? O my goodness! Yes, God! This song has been my anthem. The stirrings He's putting within me call me even further away from safety, from tradition, from ordinary. But I've got to tell you the looser I hold on to "me" and my expectations the more beautiful life becomes. The less I focus on me the more I see of Him! The deeper I swim into Him the less I need mundane things. Things that used to be my oxygen are now crumbs. I can't subsist on that stuff anymore.

I watched the IF: Gathering until the free streaming of the conference ended and my world was rocked! Christine Caine was talking about the difference in "deliverance" and "freedom." In Exodus, as soon as the Israelites left Egypt they were delivered out of slavery but it took them 40 years to reach their freedom in the land of Canaan. The journey should have taken 11 days but because of distrust and backsliding the people didn't get to walk into freedom. In the Christian Bible we call the book that contains the story of the time "Numbers" because they count the number of Israelites but in the Jewish Pentatuch it's called "Bemidbar" meaning "in the desert"

That really made me look into my life. Where am I settling for deliverance when I should be thriving in freedom? Once the generation that had doubted passed away Joshua led the new generation into the Promised Land (surprisingly, the story of that is found in the book called "Joshua") But freedom didn't look like what they had expected. The first town they came to that had to be conquered was Jericho... BIG... BAD... HUGE... JERICHO...

God had a plan. He had already given them that place they needed to only do what He had said.

Jericho was nothing compared to our God and His plans.

This was nothing new and was not the last time His Plan looked nothing like our reality.

In John 6, Jesus and his disciples were speaking to people on the hill side. He fed them from a few meager loaves. He fed all of them, thousands of them.

Sarah and Abraham gave birth to Isaac.

Ruth saved the lineage of Israelite people even though she wasn't of the "right stock".

Moses parted the Red Sea.

George Mueller provided safety to thousands of orphans.

Cassidy became a mother to the motherless and gave a home to the homeless. (I say this not because it has happened yet but because, if God plans it, it is as good as done)

You_____________________.

None of this is from me, Sarah did nothing, Ruth did nothing, Moses did nothing, Mr. Mueller did nothing... except... except that they did what God told them to do.

You don't need to make the plans. You only need to trust that the God who goes before you has the best plans.

I implore you to run to Him. And do what he has told you to do.

From a practical stand point I wanted to give you examples of a couple of things God has called me to do in this season of life that I have followed His plan on.

1. God called in to me a desire for simplicity and focus on Him. Modern day slavery is a huge burden in my heart as is our Modern World greed that drives the slavery to still exist. He told me to give away half of my clothes. Once I decided to follow through it was really easy. I took all the clothes out of my closet stacked them by type (pants, shorts, dresses, skirts, t's, blouses, etc.)

Before

Everything on the bed

On my first pass I picked out my favorite 10% of clothing items. This showed me my main colors and favorite style.
First pass (see all the pink and floral!)
My next pass I picked out 20% that worked in well with what I had already selected.
After my second pass
 Then my last time through I picked out the final 20%. If I got stuck between some pieces I opted for ones made ethically and that fit in with the main colors I saw after my first pass.
My new, half full closet!
It really was easy. Everything else that I didn't choose out got put into a different closet. I sold some of the stuff to friends and then gave the rest and the money to a local mission here that helps people get back on their feet after crisis times. (For those that are interested over 90% of my closet is pink, grey, floral or stripes)

2. God has been calling me, for a long time now, to apologize to someone who I wronged almost 9 years ago. I finally got up the nerve yesterday. I found his FB account, asked for his address and sent a letter. I don't know what God will do with it, but I hope it gives him peace. He was a very important person in my life and he played a huge role in God's plans for my life.

No excuses. Swallow your pride. Lay yourself aside and be the person that God has called you to be! Do the things He has called you to do! Live in freedom, don't settle for deliverance!

This freedom is beautiful. It's addicting. The freer I become the more freedom that I crave. The freer I am from the things of this world the more things of God I crave.

Cherokee lesson: Chesequah (chat-say-kwa) red bird.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gardening

As you may know, last year I grew a backyard fruit and veggie garden. Some people have asked for me to do a post about it.

So here is a novice gardener's advice in becoming a novice gardener.

I, truthfully, got most of my basic gardening and food growing advice from the Bible... (what did she just say?)... yeah, it may sound crazy but there was a reason that Solomon wrote about gardening and that Jesus' parables referred to gardening things... because everyone knew about it back then and it ws incredibly important. So I "reverse engineered" many passages and came up with my basic outline for gardening.

For veggie specific info I bought The Heirloom Life Gardener book from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. I also buy all my seeds from their website: all NON-GMO and they are committed to a safe and diverse food sources. The book goes through basics and then digs into each of their 50 most popular veggies and fruits to grow. The pictures are gorgeous and the book really is a life-saver. It details history of the plant, when to plant, how to care for, how to save seed, and how to cook with it!

January is the perfect time to start because we are now 8-10 weeks from the last frost (at least in North Texas)

Step by step:

1. Plan where you want your space: needs full sun and an easy to irrigate area if you are someplace hot like me. In January (or whenever you are going to start) lay out black plastic to kill the grass so that you can start fresh. A week or two before you need to put something into the ground take up the plastic and till it under (we bought an electric tiller from Home Depot, you could rent too, or if the space is small, till be hand) Then add compost/manure/store bought compost and till again.

Remember that the terrain of your garden is important. Remember the parable of the sower and the seeds? The seeds that grew were the ones that weren't in too rocky of area, that were able to grow deep roots. Make sure that your ground is level or else the seeds will wash away in heavy rains.
My garden during a very heavy rain. There were inches of rain. They were planted firm and already sprouted so they were secure (sound familiar?)


2. Decide what to plant: ask others what has grown well for them. What food do you like to eat (and I mean really like because if you over plant like me you will have said produce coming out of your ears.. haha corn joke...)  We chose to plant tomatoes, peppers, corn, watermelon, squash, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, and cilantro last year. This year we are planting okra, carrots, corn, tomatoes, peppers (spicy and sweet) cucumbers, lettuce, peas, marigolds, chard, broccoli, kale, watermelon, and squash.

3. Plant when they need to be planted. Some plants need to start inside anywhere from 8-10 weeks to 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Others can be planted directly outside from 4-6 weeks before last frost to mid summer.

During this phase it is important to control weeds and keep your sprouts safe... the trick is that it can be hard to tell what is weed and what is the plant you are trying to grow. Therefore you have to let the weeds and plants both grow up enough so that you can tell which is which. I also learned this idea from the Bible in Matthew 13:30.
I tried the "cardboard" method to control weeds but it didn't work for us. They kept blowing away.
We ended up using straw as our mulch. Here it is around our cow horn peppers last season.
Swiss Chard sprouts. NOT weeds.. don't pull these ;)
Carrot sprouts are the "frilly" ones. The flat leaves are weeds
Lettuce sprouts


4. Water, weed, control bugs and control other issues. As you can see in the picture with the straw mulch we used soaker hoses throughout our garden. We also had a rain barrel that I would use to hand-water plants when we had extra rain.

We were blessed to not have any bug issues this year but we did have blossom end rot. We added calcium and watered extra.
Blossom end rot on our tomatoes
We also had a problem with one of our peach trees breaking a limb. I tried to "fix" it with duct tape... it didn't work...

Cassidy the arbolist's hard work...

5. Watch it grow, grow, grow!

Early days of our garden... June

Growing, growing... July
  Here was our "final" product. To the left of the tomato plants, behind that are peppers, then the corn are the tall plants behind those. To the farthest right are the carrots, swiss chard, and lettuce. Then the cucumbers are braced up and then the watermelons are crawling along the ground.
Towards the end of the growing season. August or September.
Here are close ups of the different plants growing.

Beautiful Heirloom Cherokee Corn

Pink/purple silks on the corn
Yellow/green silks on the corn
Our corn "field" some stalks grow up to 9ft tall!
Beautiful lettuce mixtures with the swiss chard to the right. (Note all the grass growing in between... those should have been pulled)
Red chard and yellow chard
Apples growing on our tree with the roses behind them

Cucumbers growing. See the beautiful yellow flowers?

Watermelon vines! All of those vines are from 6 plants!
6. Eat your goodies!

Carrots!


We grew the tomatoes and grilled peach. The tamales, avocado, and cabbage are from the Farmer's Market

Adelaide loved the carrots!

A few last tips:

Enlist help, here Adelaide was helping me water.
Sun protection is important :)

Finally, get out there, get dirty, and have a blast growing!
 Gardening is important work and hard work!

Proverbs 20:3- Don't love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare!

Psalm 104:14- He make's plans for people to cultivate, bringing forth food for the earth.

1 Thessalonians  4:11-12- And you should study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that you may walk honestly toward them that are outside the faith, and that you may lack nothing.

Proverbs 16:31- She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hand she plants a vineyard.

Proverbs 6:6-11- Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, providing her meat in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you sleep, o sluggard? When will you arise out of your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber and a little folding of hands to sleep: so shall your poverty come on you as a their and scarcity as an armed man.

Any questions? Did I miss anything?

Bonus Cherokee lesson: Dog-   gi-li (geey-li) because Theo the dog also liked the carrots :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Privileged White Girl's take on MLK Jr. Day: 85 years after his birth

Race, ethnicity, equality, slavery, hate, terror, derogatory thoughts, ideas, and practices...
I grew up in a mostly white area. I am (phenotypically) white. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and white (some say pasty... I prefer alabaster I guess), I am fit. I've never been looked down on just because of how I look (well... one time in high school but that's a long story and had more to do with the way I dressed.)  In fact, two times I was asked by someone coming to work on our home (once in a mostly low SES, Middle Eastern apartment complex in San Antonio and once in our "slightly" shady, low SES 75white/25black neighborhood in Pittsburgh) I was asked why I lived someplace, under the assumption that I "looked" like  I shouldn't live in such a poor area.
I didn't grow up "rich" but I always had enough. I always had food, always had shoes, always had a new outfit for the first day of school. At Christmas time I was always blessed with lots of goodies including toys that I wanted.
I always carry what many people refer to as "the invisible knapsack." That is all that comes along with being white in America (not being suspect of theft when I walk into any store, not "driving while black," an assumption that wherever I am I am "allowed" to be.)
Ok... get to the point... Adelaide is getting close to two years old and I was really excited for MLK Jr Day to be able to share with her the legacy of this great man and all that he has done for humanity. I set off into pinterest world and started searching but I've got to say I was pretty disappointed with the choices... it was a lot of the "crack two different colored eggs... see they're the same inside" stuff which is fine and dandy but it doesn't celebrate our differences that idea just tries to gloss over race and says "just ignore it"
I wanted to tell Adelaide (age appropriately) of how beautifully we are all made, how beautiful the world is with all of our differences, because of our differences; I wanted to tell her that sometimes some people do evil things and think evil thoughts but that sometimes there are heroes among us ordinary people that stand up to hate and proclaim beauty and equality!... but I didn't find a lesson plan for that.
I headed off to the library. Up on their special displays they had books for Ground Hog Day (o brother!) and books for Valentine's Day (don't even get me started) but there were no books out on display for Martin Luther King Jr., a true hero, a real man actually worth celebrating.  So I go and try the computer system... no luck... seriously... I go over and ask the librarian in the kid's section if there were any books on MLK Jr. in the kids section. "Ummm... let me see. Hmmm. Hmmm. Looks like we have one." We walk over there and buried in the stack of "random holiday" books, misplaced, a couple spots over from it's proper Dewey Decimal system was the one kid's book on Martin Luther King Jr.
Maybe we as Americans think we are "just fine" regarding race equality and equity... maybe it seems antiquated to talk about race or maybe it's too uncomfortable.  Open your eyes! People are still prejudiced, mostly in "little" ways. Though in some places, some people are still filled with racial hate, filled with ethnic hatred, filled with cultural hate. Right now the Sudan is on the brink of war, one ethnic group in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo is massacaring another, the Taliban battles and oppresses those with different views. Even in places in the US the only interactions black and white have together is in an "official" capacity, never friendship, never family, never in church, and rarely in school, take Little Rock for example.
The truth, the truth is hate is still all around us. Hate runs around, hate cloaks itself under apathy, hate  hides in "a comfort zone," hate gains its power in ignorance.
C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. He wrote "since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage" YES! I want my daughter to know all about brave knights and heroic courage. I've started read her chapter book stories of heroes like Matilda and Ms. Honey standing up to the evil that was in Ms. Trunchbull. I plan to read her the Chronicles of Narnia soon. But how much more important is it to tell her of real, life heroes. Heroes that walked this earth and looked evil and hate in the face and made it run! I tell her about King David, I tell her about the Apostle Paul who stood up to the evil that was even inside himself, I tell her of Saint Nicolas and his love for the poor that others looked down on, I tell her about Irena Sendler who looked the Nazi party in the eye as she snuck out over 2,000 Jewish children before they could be gassed. Why would I not want to tell her of Dr. King?
Dr. King, in his famous "I Have a Dream Speech," said that "we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation."
Why is this injustice allowed to sneak back in on us? Injustice is not something that once is fought back and we are forever loosed of it. Evil is not something once retreated and forever vanquished (not yet, at least)
So why does this privileged white girl want to write about this of all things? First, I believe that we are all valuable, important, people (yeah, I know, shocker...) Second, we have no choice how we are born, ethnically, economically, locationally, etc. (yes, another huge shocker)
Way back when, way, way, way, back when the children of the tribe of Israel were the "supreme" people they were God's chosen ones, the only ones that had access to God. They were his chosen people. The ones he wanted to show his love to, to show the rest of the world how great his love was. They were enslaved and freed. Captured and exiled but always restored, always blessed.
God graciously adopted people from all peoples, not just the Hebrews, through the fulfillment of the law through Jesus Christ. I am not of Jewish heritage, I am not one of the chosen of Israel. I am one who was called out from "the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back' bring my sons from afar and daughters from the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 43:6) I was fought for and bought at a blood price. Racial slavery was fought against and bought with a blood price. Civil rights were fought for and bought at a blood price.
God's plan was always for infinite beauty to give infinite glory to it's creator. God didn't create just one type of flower. God didn't create just one type of tree. God didn't envision just one type of people.
 In John's vision of the end time he "looked, and there before [him] was a great multitude of that no one could count, from every, nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne of the Lamb*...they cry out with a loud voice saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne'" (Revelation 7:9-10) *Remember that this Lamb is Jesus, the great equalizer, the one who created the path for all of us come to God and bask in his amazing grace.
God wants people of ALL the beautiful colors. God wants people of all backgrounds (David was a shepard, Jesus was born in a barn, St. Nicolas was born to wealthy parents that left him a large inheritance) God wants people of all languages. Anytime that I stretch myself, anytime that I spend time outside of my cultural comfort zone I am blown away at the different types of beauty there are. I love worshipping in different places, just glimpses of the beauty to be embraced once we are in heaven. We, as a people, speak thousands of languages, dance millions of dances, are tall, are small, are strong, are beautifully weak, are hundreds of shades of skin, different hair, different eyes, all uniquely shining the amazing creativity of God.
Dig in to other people, learn other cultures, let ignorance have no foot hold within you.
Stand up to hate, stand up to ignorance. Don't stand by apathetically when you see hate. Do what Dr. King did. Speak truth even when it's hard. Demand justice even when the judges are corrupt. Love fully even when love isn't reciprocated. Dream in the face of a nightmare reality.
Don't let race define you or others but don't ignore it either! Embrace others for the content of others characters, don't judge them for their skin color. Usher in Dr. Kings dream within yourself!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Living Room Makeover

A post not about adoption ;)

I love our 1950s ranch style house! I love it. I love it. I love it: quirky pink tile bathroom, beautiful wooden floors, picture frame paneling, sun drenched from all of our large windows... but, I have had a lot of issues designing our living room because it is long and skinny (15'x30'ish)

When we first viewed the home it was set up like this: 4 individual spaces (the fourth is the piano area but you can't see that in these photos)


Looking into the living room: first you see the sitting nook, the living area, then a table/vignette space
The sitting nook

The living area looking out onto the large porch
We liked this set up a lot but we didn't have the right furniture for it or the rugs or the ability to play with our daughter in this space. We did follow their basic set up of "sectioning" off the room

After living here for a while I got a little tired of the living room being soooo gray! If you know me, you know I need color. And pardon the mess I'm the mom of a TODDLER! There will be messes!
 We set about our redo of the living room: I started off the totally sane way of photoshopping the whole living room. I turned the couch gray (we physically switched the sofas though) added in extra pics and covered the pillows with bright fabric.
My re-work of the living area
My re-work of the play space
After struggling with rug finding and buying at least two (I can't remember how many now) we realized that we would have to have a 9x12 rug or a 5x7. 8x10 just didn't work in this space. We selected the "Throndale" rug in 5x7
We found this rug at Home Depot for a great price ($100)
Our sofa is the Karlstad from Ikea. We were able to purchase a new cover for the sofa for $150

Next, I needed a large piece of art the span the large wall and awkward size allotment needed to work on our paneled walls. Art is expensive so I bought a piece of birch wood and painted it with paint from our garage and mounted it on some 1x2 pine wood. The painting cost about $12 plus time. I call it "Home"
Art sitting behind the sofa. I bought fabric to re-make our pillows for $20
The next issue was figuring out how to mount it since the moulding sticks out half an inch from the wall. After much discussion I decided to nail into the raised part of the moulding and mounted it like that.

So.... duh, duh, duh, DUHHHNNNN, DONE!!!!

The big reveal!!!!
Our "new" space is much more inviting and doesn't feel like a long hallway anymore. 
I recovered the floral pillow on the couch and painted the lamp and made the lampshade. The painting looks great and I love how it anchors that whole wall!
These seating areas are much more inviting. I recovered the floral pillows and the blue one. I also made the funky Texas flag pillow siting on the brown chair. By placing the chair on the other side of the back door I bridged the two halves of the room (well, that was what I going for at least)
Looking towards the play area. The spaces work much better together now.
We "tried" to build her shelves but ended up buying some from Ikea. There is plenty of space now for her puzzles, puppets, instruments, and such.

For now this is her reading nook. I hope to find a piano soon to put on this wall. The rocking chair and doll crib were mine when I was little. I made the floor cushions.

My serious girl hard at work. We bought the Don Quixote painting while we were in Puerto Rico and her Noah's ark set is from Uganda. I bought the purple storage pieces at Ikea and the heart ones at Target. 
My next projects include finding more art for our living room and making a dining room table. I was inspired by these portraits in the Nordstrom's women's lounge



I'd like to paint a portrait but I've only ever painted one. 
Painting I did inspired by art seen in Hitchock's Rope


 I also want to build a long skinny table like this one that I saw at Antropologie


Sorry for the blur... I was shopping with a cranky toddler :)
What do you think of my re-do? What projects are you working on?

And don't worry, I didn't forget!

Cherokee lesson:
English:      home
Cherokee:  
Phonetic:    O we nv sv
As in: Our home is ready for you baby Martin! Come home soon!