Friday, June 28, 2013

where i have been

For the past week I have been up on the mountain top with one hundred and three junior high campers (including Wylie,)  twenty-seven  hard working college and high school age counselors and interns, half a dozen kitchen staff who made meals too yummy to be called camp food, a fun and pun loving  (and exceedingly kind and generous) priest, two dedicated camp directors, one great friend,  four dogs, countless spiders, no high-speed internet or wireless access and Miles Greer himself.

The camp took place at Camp Mitchell, and our theme was #OccupyHope.
On Sunday we anchored ourselves to the mountain and begin the #OccupyHope movement that carried us through the week.
We yarn bombed (=finding hope in unexpexcted places)
We chalk-graffiti-ed giant blackboards (=speaking out for hope)
Played a rousing (and wet) game of Capture the Hope (=our version of Capture the Flag, an example of not giving in to hopelessness, fighting on for hope.)
We learned how to work together as teams to overcome obstacles-and bring hope to others.
We raised the flag of Hope over camp.
We wrote messages of hope on The Van in order to encourage those in our homeless communities to not give up hope, and to urge all those who see The Van to help care for our neighbors.
We practiced seeking hope when all seems lost.
We prayed, sang, shared, and celebrated the  HOPE that Christ has given us at every turn.
We laughed, cried, played, ate, slept (a little) and sweated (a lot) together day after day.
We shared the sharpie love and sang a ton of  really silly songs. We went on night missions to the pool, composted our scraps, weeded the garden, drove a yarn-bombed golf cart, walked in the wildflowers and ate way too many late night snacks. 
I got to watch my boys blossom in new ways, I completely forgot all about blog statistics and book sales, got to share my love of camp life with Sweet Man and felt God's abiding love wash over me time and time again, as a hundred and forty adults and campers sang these words, in the tradition of Taize, as we went to bed.

Bless the Lord my soul, and bless God's holy name
Bless the Lord my soul, who leads me into life. 
(psalm 104:1)

I seriously think I could live at camp. 
(But I would need to fix the wireless issue.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

big sky desires

Looking back over the remaining pictures from the Illinois trip, I keep coming across pictures that are supposed to be of something else, but really just end up being about the gigantic sky that hangs over that part of the country.

 In Illinois, the road stretched straight ahead into infinity. Big sky above, Fields on either sides. Everything is so open. If people in Illinois have secrets, they must be hidden indoors, because there is no hiding anything outside where everyone can see every bit of your business. The land is too flat to provide cover, everything is exposed and in response everything is also extremely neat, tidy.

By contrast, most of Arkansas, at least the part I inhabit and travel around, is a curvaceous and lush. Thick, overgrown vegetation lines our highways, a curve in the road will suddenly give way to a breathtakingly high ridge that over looks the greenest valleys. Taking a road trip in Arkansas will take you through a wide variety of terrain-from the flat, stark delta, to the mysterious twist and turns of the Ozarks. There are plenty of secrets around these parts hidden in along the rivers bend, in the twist of a dirt road, behind a crevice on the side of a rocky incline. In this part of the South this land -and the weather- is unpredictable at best and a little too much of everything all the time; Too green, too curvy, too hot, too messy, too wet, too dry.

Lately I have been chewing on the idea of desires.  Not the "I want to run away with Gerard Butler" kind of desires. And not "I want a bigger house" sort either.   I mean  bottom of the heart, unspoken, perhaps even unrealistic, desires. What I affectionately -and occasionally frustratingly- call: crazy dreams.  And I have been wondering what it might look like to name those desires out loud. To stop laughing them off as crazy. To own up to them.  To let them float up, and out into the world, like dandelion seeds caught on the wind. 

To see if once they are released,  into the huge expanse of sky and possibility,  if they will land and take root, or if they will just sail away forever. I wonder what will remain of them at the end of the day, after the breeze has settled and the sun has set and the cicada's sing their summer song.

Some of these desires seem impossibly lush, curvy, and wild. The road, in the wake of them,  does not appear straight and obvious. There could be untold ridges and valleys and overgrown vegetation all along the way. Currently I will only acknowledge them in half-whispers to myself in the twilight of the evening. The extravagance of their existence both excites and repels me, like skinny dipping in the lake at night. The temptation great, the depth a bit murky.

I worry that I will sound silly, selfish, ungrateful, foolhardy, discontent, if I talk about them. If I give them proper names, if I release them into the world.

(And oh how I loathe the thought that I will sound ungrateful or discontent. And why is that that I think I have to choose? Where did I get that idea that desire and gratefulness are incompatible? That following  inspiration, a thought, a dream, a calling that does not come with a clear itinerary means I am discontented where I am? Isn't this the very intersection of beauty and mess?)

While we were in Illinois we kept seeing all these huge, massive windmills, and you might say that my mother became enamoured, even, a tad bit obsessed with them.  Every time one came into view, we would both exclaim "there's another one!" as if we had discovered gold.
And then we saw the farm.

Sunday morning, an eight hour drive ahead of us, we did the only thing that made sense.
We took an unscheduled detour off the interstate and onto a country highway in search of a way to get as close as possible to the Windmills, landing eventually, serendipitously in a cornfield behind an elementary school full of windmills. Abandoning the car, and ignoring the No Trespassing signs, we got as close as we could without tromping on Mr. McGreggor's fields to the ginormous beast. We may not have been close enough to touch them, but we were close enough to hear the deep baritone of their rotation, sing it's song: Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

Going through the pictures I was struck by the role desire played in all of this. The idea of windmills in cornfields, in harnessing the wind, in creating new types of energy.
Someone had the desire to see these ideas come to fruition. 
Someone said out loud, "What if we put huge windmills in the middle of cornfields? Wouldn't that be something?"
And now, perhaps a decade or two later, there are windmills in cornfields, and my mother says to me "What if we could get really close to those windmills? Wouldn't that be something?"

Later, after the windmills, came the rainbows. Two huge ones that followed us for miles along the interstate, bridging all the sky in between the lush green ground and the thick full clouds.
I had to fight the urge to abandon our chosen path and chase them down.
To see if they too ended in a corn field somewhere down the road.

And then after the rainbows were the sunsets, amazing big sky sunsets.

And I am right back where I started, thinking about these things called desires, and what to do with mine.

In the end, (or perhaps this is the beginning?) I decide that the only sane thing to do is to release them. Name them. Share them.
It is a humbling and vulnerable position to take.
There is no magic formula after all.
No promise that these desires will take root and flourish into anything more than seeds on the wind.
I do not believe in that sort of voodoo Christianity.
I do not believe that my action will force a reaction from He Who Is Holy; That God and I are playing some sort of elaborate game of tic-tac-toe, the only options being win, lose, or draw.
Nor is this is some sort of entitlement card I am playing, like my children after they have completed a common daily chore "Look! I obeyed! No fuss! Now, what is my reward?"

But to leave them- these crazy dreams, these unrealistic desires,  in the safe, dark, place I have been keeping them, would mean to continue a distorted sort of  self-protection; a walling off of my heart.
It would mean willfully choosing to silence the call I feel - have always felt-  deep in bones, (a call that it is as much a part of me as my breath.) And in turn abdicating my unique way of living on this earth as part of God's creation, and all of the wildness and wonder thereof.

And somehow, that just no longer seems like an acceptable way to live.

as always, cheers and blessings,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Grateful Mobile and a Giveaway!

I am excited to announce that this summer we will be doing a few more book related blog tours and giveaways. Hurrah!

To get things started, I am blogging about how to make a "Grateful Mobile" over on the At Home in Arkansas blog today.

This craft did not get as many pictures in the book, so I thought I would show it off a little bit, and give people a chance to ask questions about how it was made, or to clarify some of the directions.
Also, this is a pretty simple craft that is a good fit for hot summer days when you are looking for a way to keep little hands busy. 

At Home in Arkansas will also be giving away one copy of A Homemade Year to a lucky reader, so get on over there today and enter!  The book is full of summer and fall crafts and party ideas in addition to all the Christmastide and Easter celebrations.

So get on over to the At Home blog and check it all out. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Urban Cottage Farm Update

Things this past Spring were a little bit slow going in regards to our little Urban Cottage Farm. But this weekend we did a lot of catching up.

For Father's Day, all Sweet Man really wanted was for us all to take time to work in the garden together. So that is what we did.
It has taken me 16 years of marriage to realize that Nathan would rather do chores- like gardening, cooking, and grocery shopping- as a family, and risk taking twice as long to get the chore done than to divide and conquer - getting multiple chores done in the same time frame. (The latter being my preferred choice of course.) 
This was a bit of a funny realization because we tend to label me as the relational one and him as the loner.
Turns out that I am just more social. Which is not really the same thing as being relational.
It is an odd little discovery that we are still sorting through and is changing some of the dynamics in our home- for the better.

But back to the garden. 
First we weeded our very-overgrown garden bed.
And then we got down and dirty, finally planting our Edamame seeds from my Bean 2 Blog day

I am not a natural-born gardener, but when it came to planting the edamame I knew my stuff.
We dug our rows, added our fertilizer and planted those seeds.
Now we will just have to see if they actually come up!

 We also tended to our tomato plants, which we grew from seeds that my parents gave us for Christmas.
In the beginning these plants were labeled, but when we transplanted several of the varieties from the starter boxes to the garden, we forgot to transplant the label sticks as well.
Will be interesting to see what variety of tomatoes we end up with.

Every farm -even Urban Cottage Farms- need a truck. And we finally found the perfect one for us.

A 1986 Ford 150. Yeah baby.
I heart every rough and tumble part of this big white hunk of lovin.
Some people dream of sports cars.
Some people dream of luxary sedans or oversized SUV's or tinsy tiny British toy cars.
Me? I dream of a big, old, slightly-worn-out, boxy pick-up trucks.

A million years ago, when I thought I was going to go to graduate school and study Southern Women's History, I had daydreams about teaching at a small southern university, dressed in denim overalls, arriving each day on campus in an old pick-up truck.
Well, I am not a university professor (or writer-in-residence, oh the dream!) but I do have the overalls and the truck. Two outta three ain't bad.
And let me tell you, driving her is even more fun than I could have ever imagined.

Even though we bought the truck primarily to use in practical ways (trips to Lowe's, deer camp, to haul loads of mulch,)  I might also have big plans to take her garage sale-ing on Saturdays,  to the lake for picnics in the back, and maybe even a photo shoot or two... Just maybe. Could you blame me?

The final update is this windmill in the front yard. My in-laws recently moved to Louisiana (which I am in a bit of denial about,) and we inherited lots of goodies they didn't feel like hauling across the state line. This windmill was one of them. It is a little too rustic for my taste like it is, so I am planning on painting it.
 Right now I am divided between red (like our front door) or sky blue (like our mail box) or just going rogue and painting the whole thing mustard. (Please cast your vote in the comments!)

So that is what is happening around our little Urban Cottage Farm.
What is happening in your neck of the woods?

Praise Bag Winners!

Congrats to the Praise Him Bag Winners:

#4 - Hedy King who said I was that weird kid who wouldn't leave home, so camp was out. But as an adult I have been to many, many workshops, conferences, confabs that were just big old camps for big old kids. I love the warmth of sharing my thoughts with other women and lilies listening to their unique experiences. And there is always a tote bag....and that one rocks. Thanks for sharing. PS, I gotta get to Arkansas someday. Beautiful pictures.

#14 Life with My Sweeties who said Went to girl scout camp when I was very young and had a great time! And now my oldest baby is going off to camp! Can't wait to hear about her adventures!

Send me your address (jerusalemgreer at gmail dot com) and I will get these bags sent to you pronto!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

For my father

Me and my Daddy.

From my father comes my love of words, my love of music, my love of movies and books. The ability (and desire, truth be told,) to be alone with my own thoughts for hours on end. I can trace my sweet tooth back to him, as well as my impatient tendencies, and my desire to have the dishwasher loaded correctly.  His ongoing belief that I am capable of thinking for myself and choosing my own path is perhaps the greatest gift he has ever given me. 

I love you Daddy. Happy Father's Day!

(PS-I apologize for any and all grammatical errors.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

when it is about something more

First, here is a little glimpse into the  Homemade Year tent area -all set up and ready to go.
Crafts from the book all on display.

Palm Sunday Apron

Books for Sale!

Box of crafting supplies for deomonstrations

Michaelmas Bunting

Easter Paschal Candle

New cards stand at attention

Holy Cross pillow, Old Joseph Cards...

Patchwork Wreath, Lenten Sampler Tote

One of my little helpers

Tension holding things together

Sunflowers from my sweet hostess

Southern Voodoo Punch for thirsty shoppers and vendors

Grateful Mobile waving in the breeze

A few things I am grateful for

Eva, my little helper drew pictures of things she was grateful for.
This is a picture of Bread.
Love it!

My constant companions

Paper chains left over from the Homemade Hootenanny

And then, just like that, it was over.

Last weekend was my last stop on the Homemade Book Tour Spring '13.
I cannot say that I am sad.
Like pretty much everything else related to the birthing of A Homemade Year, book events have been a huge learning experience for me. 
After doing just about every sort of even-speaking, signing, craft demonstrations- I have figured out what suits me best. 
What works well in conjunction with my daily life.
Which activities are life-giving, and which ones are mostly just time consuming.
Which ones make my heart full, my skin tingle, and my hair stand on end from shear joy and which ones just leave me exhausted and depleted.

Going into all of this I thought that all of the events would be equally fun.
I also thought that the crafts and recipes were what people would enjoy the most when they read AHY.

Turns out I was wrong on both accounts.

What I have found, through all this trial and error and success, is that what most people seem to love the most about the book, is the same thing that gives me goose bumps when I talk about it:
The stories.
The need to share our stories. The blessings that come from connecting our stories to the stories of others and then to God's story.
The common threads through all of our stories-   joy, disappointment, redemption, love, failure and hope- that binds our hearts together, and helps to erase the false belief that we are alone, that we are the only ones who have ever felt this way.

I thought I was writing a book about cute crafts, yummy recipes, and fun parties with some messy faith stories mixed in.

As it turns out, it is the other way around.

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