Thursday, October 16, 2014

31.15 :: Because We Are People Who Pray

I'm going to spend my time walking today praying for my sweet friend Anita and her little boy Rocco 9 (well, for their whole family really). Since I told y'all about Rocco originally, they changed his diagnosis to Burkitts lymphoma, and he just finished his second of four rounds of chemo. You can follow his journey on his Caring Bridge site. I remember so clearly how this community prayed us through Caden's heart surgery, and I'm not certain we would have made it through that time without it. So I know that y'all are a people who pray, and that your prayers are faithful and loving and helpful and beautiful. Which is why I'm asking for you to raise your voices in support of my sweet friend. 

Rocco's daddy shared a few specific prayer requests on his latest journal entry at Caring Bridge: The next several days will likely be when his white counts drop the most and leave him susceptible to infection .... Please pray that God would once again supernaturally intervene and protect him from exposure. Please also pray that the side effects from the chemo would be radically less than advertised.

Thank-you for the ways you pray for and with me, and even for following me along my 31 miles. Y'all are the bomb. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

31.14 :: When Things Get Real

Yesterday, I wrote about walking in the woods. And yes, it was all true. But here's the thing: beautiful words about how I meet God in the details of walking in the woods cannot quite capture the entirety of the experience that was our camping trip.

We indeed enjoyed a lovely hike, perfect temperatures, and a successful tent and campsite set-up (ok, ok mostly by Adam with the children's "help" while I lay in the hammock and read Orange is the New Black). However, the children found themselves in rare bickering and disobedient form. I always feel somewhat cheated when this happens on a special trip. Like, if we are taking the time to do for our kids something we wouldn't necessarily be inclined to do on our own (camping would fall into this category for me), they should reward that sacrifice with excellent behavior in order to create maximum family-fun memories. Am I right? Someone forgot, apparently, to give Jayci and Caden this memo. They were decidedly not on their best behavior.


I tried not to lose my patience when they asked a million and twelve times if we were almost to camp (Caden, in particular, seemed confused as to our destination and the difference between camping and camp grace). Upon arrival, everything was taking entirely-too-long for their liking, and the endless complaining about drove me to the brink. Deep cleansing breaths and small jaunts deeper into the woods for a few minutes to cool-mama-down were in order.
Jayci's attitude towards me pretty much the entire time can be summed up with this one picture. You might think she's just joking around and sticking out her tongue for the camera, but look at her eyes (it's all in the eyes). 


Anyways, we pulled ourselves together enough to enjoy our afternoon and to cook a nice dinner over the fire. Although, of course,we forgot plates and utensils and ate potatoes with our fingers from red solo cups. We also forgot the marshmallows (which were unfortunately in the bag with the plates), and this caused much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Caden is in the phase of killer-loud-and-obnoxious-fake-cry, FYI.
 With both kids messy already, they drank a cup of hot chocolate (in place of marshmallows) by head-lamp, and we got them at least semi-cleaned up for bed. Sighing with relief, we slipped into camp chairs next to the fire and listened to the kids giggle in their tent. Looking at Adam with eyebrow cocked, we made bets on how well the tent-sleeping thing was going to well. Hint: we both thought not-neccessarily-well, but I fell on the side of decidedly less-optimistic than Adam did. 

We adjusted sleeping bags and tried to figure out how to pad the ground adequately and zipped and unzipped and tucked and re-tucked. Finally, Caden fell asleep and when Jayci grew silent for a few moments we assumed she was sleeping too. We sipped our own hot chocolate and talked quiet under the stars. Jayci, however, ended up not-so-much-sleeping as getting-sick and freaking-all-the-way-out. She was feeling-some-kinda-way such that Caden woke up, and everything got disastrous and we ended up packing up the camp at midnight and heading home. 

And I spent the next day doing approximately 17 loads of laundry to disinfect and clean-up, and I'm counting that as my walking for the day. Because laundry is far-more exhausting than walking.

So there you have it: real talk about camping trips and walking in the woods.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

31.13 :: Walking in the Woods

Leaves and twigs crunch and snap under my worn Nike’s. The ground forgives, damp and spongy. Caden and Jayci run behind and before and beside us, jumping over roots and gathering acorns to toss deep off the path. They squabble and make-up in rousing circles, particularly after Jayci “accidentally” hits Caden with an acorn or two.
Shhh I tell them: listen.

They look around quizzically. We dont hear anyfing, Caden informs me.

Exactly, I tell them. Listen closer. Now what do you hear?

Quiet, they say. Bugs. Birds. Leaves. Water.

We trudge quietly for just a minute, I savor the silence gathering under the soaring tree tops. Closing my eyes and drinking it deep, before the chattering from my children rises in cresting waves and we continue our hike. We head down on a winding path, meandering lower and jumping over fallen trees.

The sun has begun its slow descent beneath a cloudy cloak. Its light filters gently through the trees, not golden so much as pale grey, reflecting with gently brilliance on the lake beneath us. The effect is unnerving, reflecting such that I cannot tell sky from water, nor up from down.

Emerging from the trees onto the lakeshore, we clamber over shale slices and Adam skips rocks with quiet splashes across the water, while Jayci and Caden land theirs with satisfying kerplunks.

We are alone, but not really. The pebbles we toss into the water make ripples that widen across the lake.

Later that night, we gather around the fire to roast biscuits and chicken while Adam concocts some delicious potatoes over the camp stove. Caden and Jayci grow impatient, eating their biscuits doughy and clambering around the campsite, accumulating dirt across their shirts and beneath their nails.

The sky seeps to inky black, and we tuck the kids into their tent before huddling together close to the fire, even though it’s not really all that cold. Still, the back of my calves feel chilled to the touch, while my shins flame with heat from the glowing embers. We cannot see any other campsites nearby, though occasionally we hear distant raucous laughter from a group much further down the trail.

Adam and I eat biscuits and potatoes like communion, passing a cup to one another across the flicking light from the flames. Overhead, the trees sway dark silhouettes against a navy sky, illuminated by an occasional flash of lightening without accompanying thunder. We curve our backs closer to the warmth, and the peace God promises feels so near we can taste it. Smoky and flecked with ash, hard won and gently nurtured from spark into flames.

The cicadas sing their chorus and we close our eyes to listen to the crackling fire and rustling leaves, our fingers entwined in the dark night.

"Never did I think so much, exist so vividly, and experience so much, never have I been so much myself- if I may use that expression - as in the journeys I have taken alone and on foot. There is something about walking which stimulates and enlivens my thoughts. When I stay in one place I can hardly think at all; my body has to be on the move to set my mind going." - Rousseau

Monday, October 13, 2014

31.12 :: Readings

A few quick links for your week; because I am so tired from all-of-the-crazy, I have no time or energy for writing myself currently.

Want to know why I'm so tired? You guys, this (warning: do not read if you're going to be offended by some language!)
"I am not pregnant, but I've had three kids and there is a 'bump.' From now on ladies, I will have a 'bump' and it will be my 'baby bump' and let's just all settle in and get used to it, it's not going anywhere." - Jennifer Garner

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up ... We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” —Maya Angelou
25 Famous Women on Aging - NY Magazine
24 Surprising Things about Parenting in the U.S. - A Cup of Jo

Come in - from my girl Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl.

"I want to hear what my neighbors say." Quiet time confidential with D.L. Mayfield. - at A Little Yes
Who Told Me? (part of Esther Emery's 31 day series of Church in the Woods, the whole thing is just lovely).
Ebola is a Inequality Crisis - Jim Wallis
'In 1976 I discovered Ebola - now I fear an unimaginable tragedy' - Peter Piot
In this context, walking is a subversive detour, the scenic route through a half-abandoned landscape of ideas and experiences. - from Wanderlust

Saturday, October 11, 2014

31.10-11 :: On Building Community

Today, like yesterday, I have spent most of the day hauling camera gear, along with a light on a giant stand across smooth concrete floors. Taking pictures of pretty flowers and vases in every conceivable nook and cranny of a sprawling showroom. Most certainly, we walked a mile (just ask Maddie). So when I got home, I thought that maybe I could/should just skip the day's walk. After all, it was already dinner time. And after dinner, things only get more hectic as we inch towards bedtime through the landscape of grouchy and tired and I-dont-want-to-go-to-bed.
But I still vaguely remember the lesson I learned yesterday about intentionality. So I begrudgingly decide to walk our friend Ava home instead of driving her. Luckily, Jayci opts to stay home and help daddy with dinner (pioneer woman!), so Caden climbs next to Ava in the stroller and we head down the street.

The corner bustles around the green-walled corner store. The bell over the door rings constant trills, and the man waiting outside tips his hat to us before asking if he can hold a dollar for some trap chicken.

I never have cash anymore I tell him, which is entirely true. I'm walking unfettered tonight: just the the stroller, the kiddos, and me. The light blinks yellow/orange, then red, we cross and continue down the street, the strong smell of greasy fried chicken fading as we pull away from the store. I step over a hair net with weave tangled through it, and take the stroller through the grass to bypass a mattress and a pile of tires.

As the sun sinks ever-lower, the sidewalks turns glittery magic with shards of glass catching rays of sunshine and flinging them back to the sky. I stop and talk to Mikey, who we met at our Thanksgiving feast. She sits on the covered bench painted with flowers Adam built by the Marta stop, and when I ask where she's headed she tells me just resting my feet for a minute Becca.  We hug and chat about the perfect fall weather, and she peers in the stroller to say hi to Caden: he refuses to respond, as per usual. I shake my head and we laugh at his ridiculous shyness.

We turn off the main street, and I am greeted by a gaggle of children who want to know when we can go back to Camp Grace. I walk with one hand pushing the stroller, while the other grips one of the twin's hands, though I still have trouble telling them apart so I just call her punkin. The smaller kids try and climb in next to Caden and I shoo them out, telling them they can only climb in if they are four-years-old-or-younger. Immediately they all insist they are, in fact, four years old.
 
I have a sneaking suspicion, growing as I tread even now over cracked sidewalks, that the way community builds and Kingdom comes is just like this: one step at a time. One foot in front of the other, even when we are tired and empty. Because in our emptiness we walk smack-dab into His fullness.

Swerving around empty Colt 45 cans, the light catches weeds and graffiti just right and they shimmer like mirages, an oasis of art in a vast barren landscape. I chat, however briefly, with everyone who crosses our path. Cars honk as they buzz past on the busy street, and I wave a hand or smile broad in response.

Something about walking through here feels subversive, directly opposing the forces that declare these streets unsafe. We walk past Mikey again; I stop, and we sit side-by-side, both of us just resting our feet for a minute. 

Walking through the neighborhood we call home, I recognize the Kingdom that is both here and not-yet. I find the beautiful and the broken, reminded how impossible it grows to separate the two. Community builds slow and steady, gentle and strong, one step after another on a sidewalk that ends abruptly in a patch of grass. We cross the street and point ourselves back towards home, reminded anew of the ways God has called us to this place, to our neighbors, to each other.

Walking is about being outside, in public space, and public space is also being abandoned and eroded in cities, eclipsed by technologies and services that don't require leaving home, and shadowed by fear in many places (and strange places are always more frightening than known ones, so the less one wanders the city the more alarming it seems, while the fewer the wanderers the more lonely and dangerous it really becomes). - from Wanderlust

Friday, October 10, 2014

31.9 :: Unintentional Walking

Adam and I decided over dinner that I most certainly walked at least a mile again today, between an all-day work photoshoot, and a 2 hour engagement session. At least a mile.

The walking snuck up unintentionally though. And I'm learning there certainly demands a different posture when I choose to walk. Setting aside time, lacing up shoes, pulling out the fallen leaves that have gathered in the bottom of the jogging stroller. The ritual of it all shifts something. And as my feet touch pavement, or grass, or pebbles, I am aware of what's beneath my feet. Aware of the ways my breathing comes slow or ragged, the way I constantly shift the stroller right because it tends to pull left. I notice the leaves falling quickly, the breeze rustling them right out of their tenuous hold on branches.

So many things in life, I've learned and am learning, lean different when done intentionally. Connecting with your spouse. Spending time with your kids. Even cleaning. Certainly I spend time with my hubby and kiddos regardless of whether or not I do it with intentionality. We live together, and I am responsible for cleaning and getting places and bedtimes; and most of my time, as it turns out, gets spent with my children. But when I do things on purpose, rather than by default, that changes everything. My heart, perhaps, takes a different posture. Or maybe my eyes get opened to what I otherwise see only dimly. I dont know what it is, exactly. But I do know that I'm learning, even just by walking every day, the ways that doing things intentionally changes my heart towards them.

So I still spend most of my time with my children but spending it intentionally means I notice things. The freckles dusting his tiny nose. The way he hugs my arm and kisses my elbow before throwing the football and tackling himself to the ground. How she writes notes abundantly and bends low over her coloring pages. The way her hair sweeps across her forehead blonde still, but darker by the day.
And so tomorrow I will walk intentionally. And hope that the Lord continues to use my steps to teach me about my place as wife and mother, about loving carefully and well, and mostly about noticing. 
(pictures from my photoshoot, during which - intentionally or not - I walked at least a mile) 
Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors - home, car, gym, office, shops - disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it. (from Wanderlust).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

31.8 :: As I Walk

AS I WALK, SOLITARY, UNATTENDED (Walk Whitman)
AS I walk, solitary, unattended,
Around me I hear that eclat of the world—politics,
produce,
The announcements of recognized things—science,
The approved growth of cities, and the spread of
inventions.

I see the ships, (they will last a few years,)
The vast factories, with their foremen and workmen,
And hear the indorsement of all, and do not object
to it.

But we too announce solid things;
Science, ships, politics, cities, factories, are not nothing
—they serve,
They stand for realities—all is as it should be.

Then my realities;
What else is so real as mine?
Libertad, and the divine average—Freedom to every
slave on the face of the earth,
The rapt promises and luminĂ© of seers—the spiritual
world—these centuries-lasting songs,
And our visions, the visions of poets, the most solid
announcements of any.

For we support all,
After the rest is done and gone, we remain;
There is no final reliance but upon us;
Democracy rests finally upon us, (I, my brethren,
begin it,)
And our visions sweep through eternity.


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