Brother of Mine

This brother of mine.

You can’t tell but twenty minutes before this he was ranting about something that happened in 1991.

 

I’m not sure that anyone can make me feel as exhausted as he can.

I say that in love.

He comes home on the weekends, generally just for a a day. Often he has his own agenda. There is no sit down and relax with him, no enjoying a movie. He used to watch movies, but for the last ten years or so he’s only able to watch a few minutes at a time. He may sit for a bit, rocking in his chair then get up and wander out. My favorite is when he comes back in and stands in front of the television talking about Guitar Center or The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It’s not really my favorite. I’m being sarcastic.

Erik’s mind never stops. There must be a constant flood of chatter up there.

Putting him to work, though, at least gives him somewhere for the energy to go. He will relax then. Last week we started putting in a raised bed. He had driven me bonkers with his talking and I wasn’t happy when he chose to follow me outside where I wanted to work. Alone.

That’s the thing with someone like Erik. You never know what kind of day you’re going to have. For me, even when I’m in a sour mood, I can correct it while I’m around people. Erik, though,  doesn’t subscribe to any social constructs. He could care less how it makes others feel. Well, actually it’s not that he doesn’t care about other’s feelings. He is simply unable to see how his behavior affects them in the moment, and he’s incapable of stopping the behavior.

Sometimes.

Sometimes we can pay him $2 to get it under control.

Seriously. 

You get him working, though, and it’s amazing how coherent and calm he becomes. He’s always been good with his hands, able to put things together (or take them apart) quicker than I would think possible. Getting his body busy gives somewhere for his anxious energy to go.

That day we worked in the soon-to-be garden I remembered how much I liked doing things with him. When I was pregnant with my first child, Kiley, Erik came over and helped me put together all of the baby furniture. We were just going to do the bassinet and changing table. We both were so excited, though, that we put every single piece together.

Erik is such a strange juxtaposition of turmoil and calm.

When I was young, in my early teens, he was happy to sit in my room. He’d watch whatever I was doing while he laid on the floor. One leg was crossed over the other bouncing on his own knee, hands behind his head while he stared at the ceiling. His presence never bothered me. In fact, his presence was comforting.

I can’t remember when his constant chatter picked up. It was probably around the same time I had kids, so I got good at ignoring background noise.Whenever it started it’s a constant now. When people meet him I can see them waiting for the pause, for their turn. For me it’s just like white noise in the background – occasionally I tune in.  Erik is satisfied with me nodding my head, I guess. I learned the hard way to never agree to anything without clarifying what he had asked.

We will probably never break his habit of turning the radio up loud while continuing to talk incessantly.

“I can’t listen to you and the radio,” I’ll tell him.

He’ll turn radio up and look out the window.

And continue to talk.

I wonder so much about him. What does it feel like to be him? Does he feel connected to us, or separate? He’s like a child in some ways but very adult in others. He can be quite capable. He can mow the yard, weed eat, add windshield wiper fluid, and find things on the grocery list. Erik thinks on deep things and worries about getting cancer, losing his family. He’s surprises me sometimes with what weighs on his mind.

Erik has also developed a lot of fears over the last 8-10 years, something I was sure would never happen. He always seemed the most fearless person to me.

When we were kids our parents used to take us to amusement parks all the time, Kings Island, Dollywood, and county fairs. We’d keep track of him as best we could but he would always wander off on his own. One time we had split up to look for him and I stopped to watch a ride. It was one of those round things, where they load everyone into cars that surround a circle. The arm lifts the cars into the air and starts spinning the willing passengers upside down for two or three minutes.

Those things horrify me. I’m afraid of heights and throw up pretty easily but I was powerless to take my eyes away. I was watching in horror when the face of a passengers jumped out at me.

There was my brother in the center of a group of strangers, smiling huge with his eyes closed. Erik looked completely relaxed. I wondered if that was when he felt the most free. I wondered if he was going to puke. I wondered what it had been like for all the strangers around him when he was in line.

I told you I wonder a lot about him.

Erik didn’t look surprised that I was waiting for him as he got off the ride. He had gotten what he wanted and was fine to join the rest of us wherever we were.

We all laughed and talked about how weird it was that he would enjoy something like that.

I wonder, though, if that’s what it takes to get his mind quiet.
Neighborhood walk.

Erik has never been simple. Going places with him is generally a gamble. It can go really well, or not. My family has developed the ability to read his body language and make a hasty retreat when necessary. The last few years have been particular difficult, though, because we truly thought that we were losing him. I’m so thankful for medications that allow him to function, for behavior therapists who know what they’re doing, and for staff that cares for him.

I’m also thankful for community. My friends, my church family, Parks and Recreation, Erik and my parent’s church family, Latitudes, and many others, have made life much easier. They’ve all played a part in finding our way back to normal.

When you love someone who can be difficult there are times that being away from them feels better than being with them. Sometimes it is easier, and sometimes it is necessary to spend time apart. Other times, though, pushing through the desire to avoid complicated feelings gives way to better things.

Things like satisfaction, love, and commitment can be born in relationships fraught with imperfection.

I think we’d all fooled ourselves into thinking we’d found the sweet spot Erik, that we’d gotten him there. There being that magical place where people with disabilities, or impairments, or whatever issue they may have, are copacetic with what we want for our lives. 

There is no sweet spot this side of eternity, though, is there? Not one that we can maintain. Situations are always changing, our hearts are always turning.

Erik is teaching me to enjoy the sweet spot when we’re there, and to hold on to those moments when things are rough. He’s always teaching me something.  I’m learning about unconditional love in real time (and it’s not always easy).  Unconditional love means loving without condition, to love no matter what.

It’s not based on behavior, looks, or how good someone smells.

It’s just love and love and love and love and love no matter what.

 

Erik’s most recent purchase, and prized possession.

 

 

 

Be brave, misfits, and love.

No matter what.

 

 

 

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Disaster Preparedness

My husband and I are completely different.

I mean, I know that goes without saying. There’s the whole male/female thing. What I’m saying is that we operate in COMPLETELY different ways.

He operates under the ‘everything is great’ premise, while I operate under the ‘at any minute we could face disaster’ premise.

A couple of years ago we took the kids to the beach. It had been a long time since we’d been to the ocean so I prepped them on the drive down.

Thank goodness we had twelve hours.

We went over drowning protocols, jellyfish scenarios and practiced CPR. It made time go so much faster.

When we got to our house on Dauphin Island it was dark but Lee wanted to take the kids to the ocean. You know, to say hello. So we climbed up a sand dune and followed the sound of the ocean. We got lost in some brush and had a family argument. I’m sure everyone on the island heard it. Some kids were crying and one lost a flip flop.

We made it there, though, and could almost see the ocean. I think Lee felt vindicated that the kids were as happy as the were to be near the ocean.

In daylight we could see that we had chosen the wrong path, the one that led to the crappy part of the beach. I didn’t gloat, though.

I was satisfied with a look of superiority.

Our beach, as we called it, was perfect. It had shallows where clusters of hermit crabs were gathered, ripe for us to examine. There was a long stretch of sand we could walk out on and there was a deeper part perfect for body surfing. I found a spot on the beach to sit and watch.

Thirty minutes later Lee came up to sit with me, smiling, covered in sand, and slightly out of breath.

“You having fun watching the kids?” he asked.

“No. I’m looking for sharks. I heard on the radio that one was spotted this morning by a fishing boat. Also, a local man drowned last week while fishing so we need to keep an eye out for undercurrents,” I answered.

No sharks. Yet.

Lee was looking at me like I was nuts.

“Is that what goes on in your head?” he questioned.

“I packed some snacks if you’re hungry,” I deflected. He smiled and started rifling through the bag, “I didn’t want anyone getting low blood sugar or dehydrating.”

He huffed and headed back to the water.

It works out pretty well in his favor, though, that I plan for disasters. Because when things do go wrong I’m there with an amazing plan.

Unless I’m overly tired. Then I’m not so great with a plan.

A few weeks ago we were driving back from an ultimate frisbee tournament in Ohio. The hotel was nice but someone in our group snores. I’m not naming any names, but it’s not me or any of the kids. Well, I do snore but  not that night. What I’m saying is that I had no sleep for two nights.

There’s only so much coffee can do that for that situation.

We were driving home by way of Cincinnati when a strange beeping started. At first I thought it was my phone, but no, that wasn’t it.

My next assumption was that the car was getting ready to explode and that we needed to immediately pull over. This caused some of the children to begin panicking.

Well, just Liam. Kiley and her beau were laughing, like it was a joke.

As if there were no way that the car could blow up.

Anyway, we have an AED that we take with us. That’s not part of my planning for natural disasters. Three of the kids and I have Long QT Syndrome so the AED is a precaution, like an epi-pen.

Kiley applied her logic and deduced that it was the AED, which  had been tilted on its side for a little longer than it was apparently happy with. We uprighted it and the beeping stopped.

I took a nap.

Before I fell asleep, though, I remembered when I had a job at a video store when I was in college. I’d been watching The Godfather before I closed the store for the night. It was about ten o’clock at night, so I was sleepy.  When I got into my car I heard ticking and assumed someone had planted a car bomb.

I wish I was making this up.

I called Dad and begged him to come and investigate. I think I was crying. I’m glad I didn’t call 911. It seems I had forgotten  that I had an old fashioned alarm clock in the glove box. I liked to take naps in my car in between classes and needed the alarm to wake me. (It was before cell phones, and my watch beeping would not wake me).

Poor me.

Dad rolled his eyes and went home.

One day my husband and the rest of the people who just enjoy life as though nothing bad could ever happen will be thankful that they have people like me.

They will rue the day that they laughed at me! Then I won’t be a ‘worry wart’ or ‘nervous Nellie’! No! Then I will be their hero, the one that they look to in times of trouble.

If only they didn’t count on me for meal planning.

 

I think zombie apocalypses are my specialty. 

 

 

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IMRL (in my real life)

It’s funny how when you start out parenting you think you have a plan. You plan to grow them up, to do all the right things, and to live happily ever after.

Pee on the toilet seat is not part of your plan.

Children who refuse to eat vegetable is not part of your plan.

Mountains of never-ending laundry are absolutely not part of the plan.

I sometimes feel that life and my plan should have a conversation with each other, a shared google calendar, perhaps.

All the stuff that gets in the way of my plan is the problem, not my plan. Right? Right?

Say I’m right.

That’s real life, though, right?

Pendulous

Right now in my real life I feel like a pendulum. I swing from ‘everything is awesome’ to ‘what the freak is happening?’ constantly.

I’ve got to tell you, Lee’s job search is getting to me. I’m weary from the wanting and praying and hoping. Yet, I feel so grateful that we’re okay, that our kids are okay. It’s not where we thought we’d be at our age (hello, the plan I was talking about!) but we’re happy, healthy, and relatively stable in mind.

I feel for people job hunting. It’s demoralizing and tiring.

On to happier things in my real life.

Garden

We’ve started our garden. This year we’re trying it in the front yard. I hope it looks beautiful in July. The boys love planting things…hopefully they’ll also love eating the things that we grow. We planted arugula and lettuce. It’s a little late for those but I’m a Brave Misfit! No rules shall be followed in my garden. Green beans and peas went in as well. Sweet peppers are in, and in a couple of weeks we’ll put in tomatoes. I’m stoked.

This is not our garden. It’s not even our yard, but Liam wanted me to put this one in.

I’m getting the Brave Newsletter ready to go out and I’ll share some sites I love for gardening tips – so if you haven’t signed up go do it! You won’t be disappointed.

And if you are, please don’t tell me.

Screens

They are taking up my life. I’m going to be transparent here: I really struggle with screen time, I think for a couple of reasons:

1)They leave me alone when they’re on screens. Just being honest.

2) I love screens. I love the interwebs. I love Google and Instagram and Facebook (most days). I want to love Twitter but fail to understand it a little. I write a lot and I write on a screen.  And Netflix. I heart Netflix. I love a great series.

Liam interrupting me whilst binge watching. Er, I mean applying hyper focus.

There’s my struggle. I don’t allow myself to find a series very often because bingewatching is a real problem in my life. Hyper focus is my super power but can be detrimental when applied to movies and shows. Lee, my darling husband, told me yesterday that he wasn’t ready for me to find another series because he needs me to run things.

It’s like I’m the show runner! I AM THE SHOW RUNNER!!!!! Revelation. I’ve had a revelation, an epiphany whilst typing! (Can you tell I binge on BBC shows, which is why I feel I can say whilst?)

I really think we’d all be healthier and happier without screens in our lives, but here they are. So I’m applying some scheduling and trying not to freak out over it all. Liam told me the other day that he knows I often forget they’re only allowed screen time after 3:30, which is why he asks regularly. Smart kid, silly mama. So, I’m also reading some helps for parents with ADHD. 

Summer School

We typically do year-round school, so this isn’t a huge deal. However, this summer we’re going to keep going with Tapestry of Grace because we are behind where we’d like to be. Illness, schedules, math and science took over for a while. I love this curriculum so much, though, and I don’t want to short-change the children.

Spencer is begging me to short-change him, however.

Laurel is excited, though, because we’ll be studying early America, which means HAMILTON. I’m pretty excited, too. I’d be more excited if we won a free trip to Williamsburg, though. Or tickets to Hamilton. Or both.

I’ll probably settle for Fort Boonesborough, though, and be quite content.

Storage Unit
We went to the storage unit to look for sheet music. Laurel stayed home and did math. Look how big Spencer is getting!

It’s been two years.

Really almost two and a half.

I never thought our stuff would be in storage for that long.

The math works out like this: plan + life = new plan. 

I’m thinking, though, that most of this can go in a garage sale. Some of it can go here, too, but Spencer wants to save up for a red footed tortoise so a yard sale seems like the thing to do. I’ve got a ton of homeschool stuff that we no longer need, too. Maybe I’ll have an auction.

I wish I was an auction caller. I think that be so fun.

Here habadnye nadbandye Teaching Textbooks Algebra One heremabnda noeobdanae day dye going for $60 habandyend adyabodydady $80 over. I think I’ve got the hang of it.


So, that’s it. That’s the gist of my real life. Pee on the toilet set, battling binge-watching, planning summer things, lamenting loss, and moving on to summer plans.

Here’s hoping that in next month’s newsletter I can tell you that no urine drops have plagued my behind.

 

This photo does not represent guilty parties. At least not all of them.

I’d love to hear what’s going on in your real life, too. Share in the comments or shoot me an email, or visit on Facebook or Instagram.

Be brave, misfits. Carry on!

 

When to Push

I try to remember the first time I thought that my kids might have learning issues. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the light bulb went off.

That’s the beauty of homeschooling. You figure out how your kids learn and you keep moving forward. At first it was hard for me because I’m a rule follower. If the instructions say to do it a certain way I tend to believe that’s how it must be done. I have figured out that instruction manuals are not always right.

I’m guessing it was around seven or eight years ago that it dawned on me that my teaching wasn’t the problem.  Well, I should say it wasn’t the only problem.

 

I’m a paper and pencil girl. I love to write. I think in words; short and sweet words, or long and lively ones. I learned to read before entering kindergarten. I any free time I had reading throughout my growing up years. I loved to practice handwriting for fun. Math and I have always had a tumultuous relationship, though. 

Reading made all of my children cry. All of them. It caused them great anxiety. For two of my kids writing is possible but laborious and not quite worth the amount of effort they have to put in. 

Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia. We’ve got it all.

So how do you teach when learning is really, really hard? How do you know when to push, and when to back off?

First, observe how your child learns.

I was so surprised that my second daughter actually finds it distracting to be read aloud to, especially if she doesn’t have something to do with her hands. Her younger brother is the same way. We do read aloud with play dough, drawing books, and Legos. That’s also where audiobooks come in handy. They can do other things, and so can I, while listening to great books.

Another miracle came in the form of YouTube. There is total trash to be had there, for sure, but there are also some awesome learning channels. Spencer, my third child, takes in information best from videos or hands on learning. Then he dictates information back to me in a journal because writing is his mortal enemy. (We’re working on keyboarding and speech to text but this is a great way for me to see what info he’s taking in.)

If a certain curriculum that you bought because it was the best, or worked really well for someone else, doesn’t work for you DON’T USE IT. Or feel free to modify so that it does work for you. Ask your child how they think they could learn this thing.

Second, observe what your child is curious about.

 

My boy always has a frog or a lizard somewhere.

 

For kids with learning disabilities passion about a subject will always drive them over the speed bumps. It’s worth doing the hard thing if there’s a reward at the end. Plus, research shows that interest led learning is the way to go for children who learn differently.  My kids have taught themselves knitting, sculpting, chemistry, herbology, herpetoculture, drawing, cake decorating, ukulele…I could go on and on. I imagine that this goes for kids who don’t have learning issues, too. 

Don’t we all learn best when we’re excited about a subject?

Find what they’re interested and allow them to pursue it. Start with books at the library then try and find real life resources in your community. YouTube is an excellent source for this kind of stuff as well.

Build on their interests to teach them other subjects. Geography is not fun when you’re just memorizing things. However, when you’re learning where your favorite scientist or composer lived it suddenly becomes interesting. I tend to teach grammar through editing but we don’t get bogged down in too many details. If we’re feeling curious Purdue has an awesome website for that.

Thirdly, don’t feel sorry for them.

Frankly, this one was hard for me in the beginning. I still struggle with it a little now. Feeling sorry for kids who struggle with learning won’t do them any good. In fact, I look back I can see where I made some mistakes by parenting through guilt rather than compassion. There were times when I inadvertently gave my kids the impression that they were not capable of something hard. Then I had to do the  work of undoing that message.

The best thing I ever did was stumble upon Marianne Sunderland’s site Homeschooling with Dyslexia. I read a post about struggling versus stubbornness and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Knowing I was not alone, that I was not the only person in the world who had multiple children with learning challenges gave me courage. I re-evaluated how we had been doing school and I changed some things.

I’m still learning about education with my number 3 and 4 kids. I tease mine all the time about how it would be much easier for me if all their learning differences were the same. I do know now that to prepare them for the world I’ve got to teach them to work around their learning issues. We are realistic about what’s difficult but choose to focus on their strengths.

When my children were really little I used to say, “When things are hard we just try harder.” I DO NOT say that any more, partly because of this article. I have no understanding of how hard it is to learn to read and write with their issuesNow I ask them how we can work around it, what I can do to help. By allowing them to part of the solution I give their power back which helps negate the learning disability’s power in their lives. 

There are sometimes, though, that we take breaks from certain subjects. I do think that the brain needs time to process information. We don’t do spelling every day because 15-20 minutes three days a week is a lot of spelling for someone with dyslexia.  I’m using game schooling for math because paper and pencil just don’t work for Spencer.

To tell you the truth I quit doing spelling with my oldest two kids when they were in middle school. I didn’t know about All About Spelling back then, which is the best thing ever in my opinion. Every week the spelling list left them defeated because no matter how much time they spent trying to memorize their words it just didn’t happen.

If frustration levels are too high learning isn’t going to take place anyway.

Once we took the source of frustration away their spelling improved on its own. Texting, keyboarding, and speech to text apps were a huge part of that advancement. Some things you figure out along the way.

Asking my kids to explain to me what they’re learning about helps them, too. It’s called multimodal learning. Taking in information is important but so is relaying knowledge. 

Legos are an essential part of our homeschool.

 

Ultimately, figuring out when to push and when not to is about knowing your child.

I have to trust my kids when they say, “I cannot do this right now, Mom.” This requires me to take a step back from shoulds and have-to’s. I have to evaluate WHY I feel it’s important they learn this thing I’m pushing on them. Occasionally I’ve caught myself pushing because  I want to impress people with our homeschool powers.  I may have to remind myself (again) that education is not an emergency.

I don’t believe tears should ever be part of learning.*

I’ve learned that if I’m always pushing my kid they don’t learn to enjoy pushing themselves. I want them to enjoy learning for the pure joy of it, not because they have to. I’ve found thinking of myself as a guide helps. I’m not here to force them to learn things they don’t want to. Rather, I’m here to guide them toward the things they’re interested in.

Allowing my kids to be in control of what they learn has made them brave. They’re more willing to take risks knowing that ‘passing’ a class isn’t the goal. Although my second born loves to get A’s and complete assignments and make sure her grades are recorded. Still, she knows that’s not the most important thing in life, she knows that’s not what’s expected.

I think my kids are the biggest, best Brave Misfits ever.

I’m amazed that when I quit pushing they began to excel in certain areas. Sometimes I still have to nudge them along, and sometimes I have to say, “This is really important to me.” and we figure it out together. Overall, though, I’ve quit pushing. I’ve quit forcing, and we rarely have tears. I’m good with that.

 

Are there any areas you’re struggling with? Do you find it hard to know when to push and when not to?

 

*I am talking pre-school to third grade here. Sometimes as kids get older tears may be part of the process of finishing a project or a assignment. Tears may happen when you put down boundaries with them. I do not believe, though, that tears should be part of acquiring new information. That part should be fun and if it’s not I do think it’s important to take a step back and figure out the why of the tears.

Community Matters

A couple of days a month I drive to a house in a rougher section of town. I have friends who meet me there, some I know and some  are strangers to me.  We have coffee together, maybe share a meal . Sometimes we do art together. Sometimes my friends just sleep on couches  or the floor. Sometimes my friends need fresh clothes and a toothbrush. Sometimes my friends need hugs.

My friends have worked the streets. They may be addicted to drugs, or alcohol. They may be experiencing homelessness.

I volunteer with an organization called Natalie’s Sisters, a ministry devoted to showing the love of Christ to women who have been sexually exploited, either on the streets or in clubs. The Natalie’s Sisters drop-in center gives women a respite, a place to go  where they are safe and free from judgement. Food and clothing are available, as are other services to  help them.

My first experience with the group was meal drop off. I rode with two other women and a police officer to deliver meals to women on the street.

Poverty was not new to me and I knew about sex trafficking.

I had never seen it in action, though. I had never seen women getting into a car  and driving off to conduct their business. I had never seen a person so strung out on heroin that they could barely form sentences. I had never seen women so thankful to be treated with dignity.

When I came home, after that first night, to my warm house and full pantry and healthy children I cried. Hot, angry tears left my cheeks wet. It’s so confusing that a different world is only a few miles from my house. Suddenly everywhere seemed dark and dangerous. I wondered what happened in my own neighborhood that I didn’t know about.

I wondered how I can have so much while others have so little. 

I wondered how I would sleep knowing that my new friends might not be safe.

I wondered a lot of things.

I’ve only been volunteering for six or seven months but I am so changed. I have learned so much. Examining my preconceived notions of what it meant to be on the streets, what I thought prostitution looked like, was hard but important.

Pretty Woman is not how it is, in case you were wondering.

On of my first full days spent at the center I just sat back listening to some of the ladies chat with each other. We were making bracelets together outside. The sky was blue, the clouds white and puffy. From far away the noise was just women talking, laughing. Up close their words punched my gut.

Their lives were not safe. Some of them had lost their children. Some had been stabbed, others slapped and hit. Some needed to find a place to sleep for the night.

Still, they had room in their lives for  laughter. They made room to be caring. They took the time to  hug and ask each other to stay safe.

They have community.

I think that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned from Natalie’s Sisters. Community matters. Having people who listen, and have your back, people who will make things with you, and share a meal with you. That’s community. That’s important.

 

Community is essential, in fact, to being human.

Natalie’s Sisters is a bridge between communities that are separated only by social constructs.  Natalie’s Sisters is Jacob’s well.

Jesus met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, breaking all the rules of Jewish culture. He sat at the well and offered her Living Water, so that she would never thirst again. The woman listened to him, shocked that he knew her sin. That used to be the part that got me, too. The disciples were shocked to discover the two of them in conversation.

This is my favorite New Testament story. There is so much happening here. It is not that Jesus knows her sin that is important. No, the important kernel here is that Jesus knows her. He knows the authentic her.  He knows each of us, the real us. That’s what’s important. 

 

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” ~John 4: 23-24, The Message 

 

One of my favorite writers, Shannan Martin, shared on her blog about this, the importance of being known. Her life was forever changed when she learned the names of people previously only theorized about. She knew about them as a concept,  in the context of improving the lives of those stuck in poverty.

Shannan learned that poverty, when given names, can’t be looked as something to be fixed and she filled her blog up with words that left me hungry and knowing something new. Poverty needs relationship, shared meals,  and yoked shoulders. That’s where we’ll see change. (Go read her stuff. She’s amazing.)

I’m learning the same thing. My friends have names, they have beautiful faces, and unspoken dreams. Putting a list of shoulds and have-to’s on them won’t work because their system is broken. Their personal system is broken, and the government system they have to work within is broken.

I don’t know why there are the gaps that there are, no matter how much I read it about it. I don’t understand addiction, sexual trauma, or why change is so slow. I don’t know why it’s not just about providing money and food, but it’s not. 

 

What I have learned is this: the more time I  spend with my new friends the less space there is between us.

 

After these months I’m comfortable knowing that it’s not my job to fix their lives. I’m called to know them. I’m called to be their sister and love them just where they’re at. I love them addicted and strung out, and I love them clean and sober. I celebrate the triumphs in their lives whether it’s jeans that fit or the choice to go to detox.

Their lives matter just as they are.

What I can see is that my time at Natalie’s Sisters is changing me from the inside out, too. I see that I am becoming Jacob’s well, not just visiting. I am allowing myself to be a space where cultural barriers are broken, a place that Living Water can be offered from. I am becoming more like Jesus, able to see people for their authentic selves. I’m not seeing addicted people, homeless people, or bad people; I’m just seeing people.

See, you can’t be in relationship with people and not be different. I no longer avoid people pretending not to see them. I look them in the eye because being known is more important than food or water. I believe that.

Today I am convicted to pray to become Jacob’s well. I want to be a place where others can meet Jesus, drink of the Living Water, and never thirst.

I think it’s key to remember that the woman at the well didn’t leave believing. She left wondering. She also left cognizant of the Truth that she was known.  I believe that her questions caused her to seek answers. She went back to her village with her questions, but I also have no doubt that she was changed from what she now held in her heart.

Her heart held the treasure that she was known by the Creator of the universe, the Maker of all things good.

What is better than that?

My heart holds a new truth, too. I know that it doesn’t matter if people walk away from me believing. I used to think I was a failing Christian if I couldn’t convert non-believers. I know that it’s important that they walk away wondering, seeking answers. It’s important that they know  that I see them for who they are, their true self, and that I love them. 

That’s it.

Jesus will take care of the rest.

 

Be brave, misfits.

May you find Jacob’s well today.

 

Books That Changed My Life

 

Photo Credit: Pascal Rey Photographies Flickr via Compfight cc

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read. I was definitely one of those kids that always had a book in hand, or tucked under my arm, just in case I had time. I sat in science class with my textbook propped up on my lap and my ‘real’ book inside so that the teacher thought I was absorbed in the boring words.

I stayed up late, flashlight in hand, reading until the words blurred on the page. I suffered for reading a good book, but I would read bad ones, too. I’ve just always loved the written word.

In looking back on my life there are books that literally changed me, made me think differently, caused me to view the world from a completely different perspective. I consider this to be a great thing. I’m still adding books to this list, but here’s a start:

1. The Velveteen Rabbit -by Margery Williams

This is one of the first books I remember having read to me. I identified so strongly with the child who had to have their favorite toy taken away. I felt so sad for the bunny, too. Now, as an adult I identify with the rabbit. I have written about it before, but I believe that I have been loved into being real, too.

2. The Hundred Dresses – by Eleanor Estes

My second grade teacher read this aloud to our class and then gifted me with a copy. The ending surprised me so much. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book transformed how I looked at people, but especially immigrants.

3.  Rebecca’s World – by Terry Nation

This is one that I stumbled across in 5th grade. I used to go to our school library and browse for as long as I could. I found this book on the shelves and sat down on the orange vinyl cushions scattered about the library and read until it was time to go home. I think I got in trouble because I didn’t want to return this book.

4. The Hobbit – by J.R.R. Tolkien

Dad read this aloud to my brother and I, or maybe it was both of my brothers and I. What I do know is that we loved it. I looked forward to finding out what happened with Bilbo and Gollum every evening. I’d say it was also during this time that I knew I wanted to be a writer.

5.  Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret – by Judy Blume

I was in sixth grade when I read this and loved it. If you were a girl born in the 70’s you absolutely read this book. If you didn’t, you should.

6.  The Catcher in the Rye – by J.D. Salinger

I found a copy of this book in my Grandpa’s coat closet. I think it was during 7th grade, and I think it may have been right he after he died. The book had a picture of Holden on the cover, wearing his hunter’s hat. I loved everything about the book, even what I didn’t quite understand at that age. I read that book every year. I adored Holden and his quirks, I loved him for his weird vocabulary. I also couldn’t stand him and found myself squirming during some of his conversations  with adults. I think that’s why I liked this book so much. Holden isn’t completely likable but he’s recognizable in each of us. My daughters read it and hated it, so that stinks. I guess they’re a couple of phonies.

 7. Gone with the Wind – by Margaret Mitchell

I don’t know what possessed me to read this book in middle school. I’m sure it was to avoid doing school work. It was the first historical fiction I had ever read and enhanced my love of history. I’d also never gotten to know characters so well, some I loved and some I hated. Rhett and Scarlett’s relationship really confused me . That hasn’t changed. This book allowed me to see how description creates a strong sense of place when reading. It also taught me that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie.

8. Julie of the Wolves – by Jean Craighead George

I picked out this book because my mother’s name is Julie. It’s a very intense story that gave me a look at a completely different way of life. It caused me to see that we are each experiencing life in very different ways. Julie is 13 and I was probably around that age when I read the book.I think I’d probably always assumed that all of us humans had pretty similar life experiences.

 9. The Color Purple – by Alice Walker

I’d say this book is in my top 5 all-time favorites. The scope is incredible. I learned so much about slavery and racism, but also about how those issues are entrenched into our society.  The book also illustrates the deep cords of relationship. I used to re-read it every summer. It’s been five or six years, so it’s probably time again.

10. Lord of the Flies – by William Golding

I’m sure I had to read it for school. I know I stayed up all night to finish it, and it may be when I decided to homeschool my future children.

I’m kidding about that. But really, this book made me think about society, groups, and the behaviors that drive us.

11. The Princess Bride – by William Goldman

This was one of my best friend’s favorite books so I had to read it. It is so great, so funny. Again, better than the movie. I also learned how to use humor in writing from this book. I wanted to name our first son Wesley because of this book. Maybe I’ll get a puppy, or an R.O.U.S.

 

So that’s the top 11. There’s more to the list, but those are the ones I read between the ages of 10 and 18 that had the biggest impact on me. In high school I entered an embarrassing Harlequin romance novel phase that I’d rather not speak of. When I met my darling husband I began reading in earnest again. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Tolkien were staples of the early years of our marriage.

What got me thinking of this list is the book I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. It’s another life-changing book, at least for me. Zusak’s writing is amazing. It’s literary. It’s beautiful. The story is one that has stuck with me. I was taking a writing class at the time I read it and I felt so jealous that he’d been able to write all of this beautiful stuff. 

Speaking of the writer’s class, my big news I wanted to share is that an essay I wrote (in the writing class I was telling you about) has been accepted for publication in Mother’s Always Write, an  literary publication celebrating motherhood. The essays and poetry in MAW are inspiring as well as beautiful. Go check out their site and for any aspiring writers I highly encourage you to look at their Writer’s Boot Camp. This helped me take my writing to another level.

So, I’m curious…

Are there any books that have remained with you long after you read them? If so, what are they? I’d love to know. I’m always on the hunt for a good read.

 

 

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Antique Stores and Such

I’ve always liked to pilfer through old stuff. My mamaw’s Victorian house was chock full of amazing objects. There were old records, shoes, and pictures stacked under chairs and on window sills. Really any flat surface held something. A giant closet beneath the staircase filled with coats was at least 8 feet deep.  Untouched bedrooms held posters, board games, and clothes from eras gone by.

My cousins and I would sneak off to play hide-and-seek but then get lost in game of searching. That may have led to my love of antique malls and flea markets. Though I know Mom and  I spent many Saturday afternoons at flea markets. Perhaps it is just in my DNA.

At any rate, when we moved back to Lexington we discovered a little store called Feather Your Nest and fell in love. They have a collection of booths AND free coffee.

All photos by Kiley Shepherd

 

Hello?? Free coffee and antiques?

Yes, please.

There is just something comforting in history. I love imagining where items were before they ended up in the store. I enjoy wondering what stories a tea cup has overheard, whose fingers wrapped around it’s delicate handle. 

 

I have a jar of shells at home. We collected them on a trip to Dauphin Island a few years ago. I remember my toes digging in the sand finding shells, the kids coming and fishing them out. Mom held the bucket and they plunked them in. Liam and Spencer pretended they were money. Lee was out in the waves with Dad and Erik.  It’s one of my favorite memories.

I wonder if my jar of shells will end up in an antique mall one day.

Wandering around stores like this is like wandering around in someone else’s memories. I can imagine the housewife tying on her yellow apron, or a salesman putting on his fedora before he walks out the door. Their lives fascinate me but so do their dreams. What did they want out of life? Did they get it? Who remembers them today?

 

 

 

 

I’m not sentimental over objects, generally speaking. I tend to enjoy memories more. There are a few objects that I do love. My mother’s original wedding rings are special to me because they are one of my earliest memories. I remember watching her spin them on her ring finger with her thumb.  I also  remember the feel of the prongs holding the diamond as I played with it. I loved playing with her delicate fingers when I was small. I thought they were so beautiful. I still do, in fact.

My Dad had a nail brush, and still does. A thick white, two-sided brush. I still use it on my boys. I remember it sitting on the edge of our sink throughout my childhood. Dad likes clean fingernails but also hard, dirty work. He’d come in from outside, covered in sweat, and go straight to the restroom to clean up. Even then it reminded me of my Grandpa.

I also love my sweet husband’s journals. I tease him about them sometimes but they’re one of my favorite things about him. He is a poet, a real romantic, and has filled leather journals with his thoughts and prose. I adore how sensitive he is. His love of the written word was a surprise to me when we were young. 

 

Who knows where those things will be in 50 years. Who knows where I will be?

Today I am here, in my house, with my little boy and little dogs. I think we’ll go for a walk after we argue about Minecraft. Then we’ll all have dinner and it will be noisy and loud and I’ll wonder why I neglected manners so much.

Then I’ll realize it’s more fun to join in.

I can go to the antique mall for quiet.

 

Be brave, misfits.

You know where to go if you need a free cup of coffee and time to meander through a stranger’s memories.

 

 

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Sunday Thoughts

It’s a rainy Sunday here in Kentucky.

Perfect for staying in bed and spending lots of time with my thoughts. I find myself thinking a lot about God’s goodness,  his grace. I ponder how he loves completely even in the midst of this broken not-quite-right world.

Some days I find it difficult to reconcile.

A few weeks ago at house church we talked about struggle and what our struggle means in light of Christ’s struggle on the cross. I often compare my first-world struggles to those of people in war-torn, far away places like Aleppo or Nigeria. It fills me with shame that I lament the loss of a secure future when there are people starving to death. My worries over pension plans and 401K’s feel selfish, and I suppose that they are.

In American culture, though, that’s the thing, We work for security for ourselves and our children, and before we know it that’s where we’re putting our hope.

At least that’s how it is for me.

We’ve been hoping and praying for a new job for Lee. One that will fulfill his purpose and provide for our security. He suffered a blow this week when he found out that a position he had been working toward was given to someone else. He didn’t suffer alone. I hadn’t realized how much hope I had put in that job. It was going to save us, I just knew it.

In my sadness I often rail against the Lord. He can take it and I sure can dish it out. Then he always comes in with these quiet, convicting comebacks that leave my heart pierced. 

He told me, and I know it’s true, that we’ve been putting our hope in a new job, in more money. He talks to me in a quiet voice so that I have to listen. This annoys me. I like shouting and billboards and neon signs. Quiet requires quiet.

I think that’s his tactic.

Jesus is the best at behavior management.

He reminded me quietly, gently that my hope is in God. Period. That’s it.

 

“God is our refuge and strength,a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.”   ~ Psalm 46: 1-2

 

Struggle is part of this world. In fact, Jesus promises us trouble. It’s how we respond to that trouble that makes the difference. 

We can’t deny struggle. That only delays the inevitable pain from it. We can’t make it too big, either. Giving struggle more attention than necessary causes it to grow larger than it really is.

Acceptance is the only way to go. Accept the struggle we’re each in, whatever it is. Then, knowing that the God of hope is with you, keep going. 

I know that sounds all footprints-in-the-sand, but Truth is Truth.

God doesn’t want me to feel ashamed of my response to struggle, either. He knows me, he knows how I work and he’s okay with it. He knows that each thing I move through softens me, makes me more like Jesus. He is patient and good and doesn’t push me along.

My walk with Christ does not need to be fraught with tension. There is no condemnation from Christ. If I’m feeling that I know it’s time to seek him and his answers.

He is teaching me so much about resting in him, knowing him, and trusting him. It isn’t the way I thought it would look at all.

Not long ago I fell back to my old way of thinking. The way that said I was in my position because of how God felt about me.

Believing that my circumstance are a reflection of how God feels about me is lie of the enemy.

That is not true. Where I am at physically, emotionally, or mentally or not an affliction that God has put on me. Yes, he allows me to move through difficult stuff. That’s life here on earth, though.

How God feels about me won’t change my situation. God’s feelings for me, should I choose to recognize them, will only change how I respond to my situation. 

The trap of the theology that God gives to those who deserve it is deep. If I believe that I am in my difficult situation because of something I have done, something I deserve, then what about those starving people in Africa? The children of Aleppo? The innocents caught in horrible places in my own city? What is that they have done to deserve their fate?

Nothing.

We were born where we were born and God loves us each the same.

He loves the people in Aleppo, Africa, cooperate America, brothels, and prisons. He loves everyone the same. It isn’t God’s love that’s confusing for me, it is the world that’s muddled. I get that mixed up sometimes.

There is no earning his grace, he just gives it.

There is no gaining God’s favor, it just is.

It’s all there for the taking waiting for our response.

Our pain is real, the battle will always be there. It will take different forms and shapes for every unique individual. Struggle will always be a commonality between us human beings.

Grace is bigger. Goodness is bigger. Love is bigger.

I like that commonality even more.

It is the Truth that God is bigger than all of the wars we wage that allowed Corrie ten Boom, Anne Frank, Dietrich Bonhoeffer to write words hope from dark places. It’s that Truth that pushes us to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and smile at a stranger. Those acts are responses to struggle AND the Light of Christ.

Maybe we need that combo?

Maybe struggle forces us to dig deeper?

Perhaps my struggle for security coupled with the Light of Christ is what allows me to my hope in eternal security. 

There is no shame in weeping or gnashing of the teeth. I believe that’s necessary.

How I respond inwardly to struggle though, there’s where it gets me.

Do I turn to God for answers or towards the  world? 

The big question, among the many,  I am asking myself today is this:

When people see me do they see my struggle or do they see Jesus?

More importantly, when the people I live with see me which do they see?

That last one gives me something to build my week on.

 

Those are my Sunday thoughts, the ones I caught before the rain went away. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions, too, or maybe you’d share your own Sunday thoughts?

 

Be brave, misfits.

Ask the hard questions.

Then wait for the quiet answers.

 

 

 

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Education is Not an Emergency

I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with a fellow homeschooler where the conversation doesn’t fall into our curriculum choices, where we’re at, and what we’re working on. It’s to be expected. I mean, we’re somewhat isolated, no one taught us how to homeschool, unless you count the school system you were educated in.

The best thing that ever happened in my homeschool life was meet homeschoolers who would tell me the truth. They didn’t give me the jive that you learn to give strangers in public. They were honest with me about how much time they spent doing seat work, what they struggled with, what they did well.

These other mothers choosing to be transparent with me made a huge difference in how I homeschooled. They all echoed the same thing: “It will come when it comes.”

Meaning, sure you can push your kids to read, write, memorize, etc., but they’re not going to grasp the information until they’re developmentally ready.

It took me a while but I finally figured out that education is not an emergency.

At the beginning of our homeschool journey 14 or 15 years ago I had the kind of confidence anyone who has done a lot of reading on a subject has. I was armed with books that told me what my child needed to know when and was prepared to stuff my little kindergartner full to the brim. By second grade she and I both felt confused about the whole ‘school’ thing.

For me, her education was not going the way the books said it was. For her, her education was not going the way her brain said it should go.

I suspected dyslexia was part of the problem, but my intuition also told me that there was something else at play. My little one had things to explore, things to do, and I was holding her back with seat work and hand writing. I was impeding her development.

So I let her go. She and her little sister spent most of their waking hours outside, creating an imaginary world, learning about how nature worked on their own, and climbing trees. I started reading Charlotte Mason and John Holt, but also just watching them. I answered questions as they came up. We learned to identify birds and trees together. We attempted to garden.

In fact we attempted a lot.

I have a headful of unfinished projects, and a handful of favorites that stuck.

I found that I was learning right along with them, and by the time our number 3 child was school age playing was a huge part of our homeschool lifestyle.

I wish I could say that it was easy, or idyllic.

It wasn’t.

I still struggled with shoulds and have-tos in my own life and I pushed that onto my kids.

Some of my favorite memories of learning at home with my children revolves around read alouds, impromptu puppet shows, tea parties, and breakdancing. Those times were punctuated, though, with moments where I forced things on them because I thought I should, or felt we had to have a certain subject mastered. There were tears, from me and them, and more than a little reluctance about school.

Some friends thought that tears were a normal part of learning. I wasn’t convinced.

Of course, sometimes you have to do things that you do not want to do. That’s part of life. Kids are natural learners, though. They are instinctually curious about the world around them, how things work, and want to get to the bottom of the great ‘Why?’ They also want to please their parents. Those are their two main drives. So why make them compete with each other?

On a side note, I was also coming to the realization that my kids had a learning issue that was keeping them  from moving forward the way the books said that they should. I had thought that perhaps my teaching was wrong, that I just needed to do it harder.

I learned the hard way that gentler was the way to go.

All of my kids have dyslexia, just like their Dad, and some struggle with dysgraphia and dyscalculia, too. Sometimes sounding words, decoding, came easily, and other times it was like they had never encountered the word before. Copying was possible but tedious. Painfully tedious. Memorization was impossible. My husband’s sad story of being the only child in his 3rd grade class to miss the ice cream party for not memorizing the multiplication tables breaks my heart.

I refused to be the one breaking my children’s hearts.

A friend said to me, “If they haven’t memorized the multiplication tables by fourth grade, they’re not going to. Just let them use the multiplication chart.”

In other words, give them the tools to succeed.

Over the last 14 years my whole educational philosophy has shifted. I rarely think of ‘school’ as sitting down at a table and doing worksheets. I’m not afraid to change things midstream or research other ways of doing something. This year chemistry has thrown my daughter for loop, something that I cannot really offer a lot of help on. I can encourage her, though, and enjoy listening to her excitedly tell me about a different way she learned of doing things.

What I’ve learned is vast. I’ve learned that when my kids make huge leaps in learning, like reading or math concepts, they need time to process and reflect. Mastering a concept does not mean it’s time to push them forward. They need to play with the newly acquired information, to feel it out and experiment. They need to learn what they like about it, what they don’t like about it, and where they can apply the information.

It felt scary to let them take the lead on some subjects, especially the ones that are the hardest for them. There are times that I have to force intention into our days. We are all happier with rhythm. That said, kids have an amazing ability to learn if we let them. I need to provide the materials but let them chart the course.

I’m loving history but Spencer, who is 13, was not loving it. After a couple of weeks of frustration I asked him what DOES interest him about history. He immediately answered that he wanted to learn more about inventors and scientists during the colonial period.

Of course that’s what Spencer wants to learn about. He doesn’t care about wars and battles and Kings and Queens. But he’ll learn that stuff as he learns about what he’s interested in because that’s how information is acquired.

All I had to do was ask. He already knew what he wanted to learn about. He didn’t need me to tell him what, he needed me to show him how.

Take some stress out of your life and remove the 911 from your homeschool. I know it’s countercultural, I know it feels like people are breathing down your neck waiting to see what your kid knows. It doesn’t matter what others think of you and your life.

Education is not an emergency.

Write it down, heck tattoo it somewhere if you need to. Know that they will get what they get when they get it.

Be brave, misfits.

Go learn some stuff together.

 

Home Again

Our family traveled a lot when I was a kid. We took short trips, long trips, and sometimes just day trips. I loved going, seeing new places, but also knowing that we shared the same sky, the same moon no matter where we were. I can sleep so well in a car, probably because of all that traveling. One of my favorite memories is lying in the back our big yellow van, my head against the wall so that I could see out of the window above my head. I would sleep that way, only waking when when we slowed down to turn into our neighborhood.

The big hill that leads to our house is lined with trees and streetlights and is as comforting to me as home. I would open my sleepy eyes and know exactly where we were, which neighbor’s house we were passing. As we pulled into the drive my parents would chant, “Home again, home again jiggity jig!” Even today I feel myself relax as I drive up that street.

It’s funny to me that I never wanted to move away from home. I mean, I wanted my own apartment as I got older,  but I never thought about living in another city. After Lee and I had been married for a couple of years a job opportunity came up that would require us to move. Every cell in my body wanted to stay in Lexington but I knew that Lee needed this.

So, we moved to Knoxville, Tennessee.

The first few months there were scary and lonely. Driving in Knoxville terrified me, and I learned lots of back roads to avoid the interstates and heavy trafficked roads. Because the radio in my old black Volvo didn’t work I had to sing loudly to distract my babies and myself from my panic at sharing the road with so many trucks. Old hymns, Mary Poppins, and Queen make up the soundtrack of those days.

Moving made me brave.

I was able to travel I-75 because I knew that home was at the other end. Going to visit my parents gave me courage. On the return trip knowing that Lee, our house, and our little life were all waiting for me made my goodbyes less bittersweet. It’s funny how fears abate when you have people waiting for you. They give you mission.

We moved three more times, twice two new town, and each place I fell in love with. I enjoyed learning the history of our new town, local favorites, and hidden treasures. I stopped thinking of Lexington as home and more as the place that I grew up. Two years ago when we moved back I couldn’t help but contemplate home, and what that means.

I was reminded of all the coming-of-age novels I read where the main character moves back home and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. I always wondered what it was like to move back home after redefining yourself in another place.. No one knows what you were like in high school, or about your brothers, or what you and your best friends like to do. You don’t run into people you know at the store, at least at first, and you can switch hairdressers easily. Everything is new, and that can include you.

Moving back home, though, was so different than I thought it would be. Living in my childhood home, roaming the streets of my neighborhood with my own children, is much more grounding than I had imagined. On our daily walks we step onto the same corner that was the meeting spot of the neighborhood kids. Even though someone else lives there the house across the street is still ‘the Leggett’s house’ to me and my parents.

My handwriting, in permanent marker, is in the closet of the bedroom my girls now share. My boys’ swing set is where me and my brothers played for hours. Neighbors who knew me from childhood stop me and we condense our lives into a ten minute chat. We wave goodbye, filled with memories of a picturesque past.

Moving back to the town where I took off my training wheels for the first time, where I learned to drive, and where I got my heart broken for the first time made me brave again. While a new place can give you the freedom to be someone a little different it can also sweep you up into a current that’s not your own. We’ve had some heavy stuff happen, which caused the shoulds and have-to’s to become even more weighted.

Sometimes you just keep functioning and don’t realize how big of an influence fear has become.

Moving home gave me the space to face that. Moving home gave me space to find my courage again, to remember that no matter what happens in my life I have a place within me that houses my ten year-old self. The me that knows riding down a hill with no hands is possible, the me that doesn’t care about skinned knees or climbing too high will always be there, waiting. Fearlessness that reins freely in our youth isn’t grown out of. Rather, it is covered up under the guise of maturity  and responsibility, making us think we’re grown ups.

Audacity is always waiting for it’s moment to shine, though.

Coming home made me feel that again. Watching my youngest learn to ride his bike with only two wheels on the same sidewalk I did unleashed it. I’m probably not going to ride my bike with no hands today, but my heart is lighter, more able to be in the world.

Life is short but fear makes it shorter.

Today courage means filling my life with relationship that make my life messy, embracing inconvenience and taking heart in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world. Pushing through the uneasiness that comes from going against the grain of this life is not always easy but my days feel longer when fear is not in charge.

God knew that I needed the shelter of home to find my courage again. It’s not about the place, or the house, or the neighborhood, either. Those things are nice but home is something inside, a notion that dwells within. It’s about being able to remember who Christ says I am, and for me that’s easiest to do when I think about who I was as a kid. I wasn’t weighed down by shoulds and have-to’s and didn’t hold back my love.

I am home, again.

Home again.

Jiggity jig.

 

 

I’m curious; how do you find home? Is it a place or a time? Does home make you brave, too?