Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is it Lent?

In last week's post, The Stump House in the City, you met my awesome brother Jason, sister-in-law Krystal and their adorable little girl Tessa the Besta.  

Well.  Every year awesome brother Jason goes on a facebook fast for lent.  Krystal too.  Years ago, I was not so sure about the facebook trend, and came in a little late in the game.  It was Jason who made convinced me to do it.  I thought, "Okay.  We can play type racing games, and I can beat him...and pet games so I can Sara can decorate little pet houses and dress them up. I'll have six to ten friends and keep a low profile."  Wrong. Well, right about the pet games and type racing games...and candy crush...and farm and zoo games...and all the other fb time wasters I allowed myself to get suckered into.  But wrong about the low profile.  That is not the nature of fb.  Six to ten friends...pssh.  But one thing remains. My favorite posts on fb are the ones from Jason and Krystal...especially of Tessa the Besta.  And it makes my day when Jason chats me from work just to say something. the just anything kind of somethings.

That to say, lent equals not a happy time for me.  He made highly encouraged me to sign up for a gmail account for those times.  This way he can still at least chat me the anything kind of somethings from work.  I only use that account during lent.  for him.  Yes. We love each other.  (this is the part where Jason says "don't touch me")

I shared last post that the girls and I are currently on one of Siri's medical trips.  Here we stay in a large house, shared by families who have children undergoing medical treatment. This is our eleventh trip. The stories leading up to how we arrived here are pretty incredible in themselves. We've come to cherish our time here, and now anticipate these visits. Siri stays in her best health, and some pretty great friendships have developed.  We meet families from all over the world. The beach is about a block away, and our daily walk, a few miles along the ocean is one of Siri's favorite activities. Mine too. Sara, not so much.  More family memories are made with every trip.

There have been so many post ideas for the blog spinning around in my head.  I couldn't wait to have the free time here to get to them, envisioning putting the girls to bed, then staying up in the evenings to work them out on the computer.  

Lent came early.  or late.  something like that.

The internet crashed the day we arrived here at the house. This is the second time in the week I've been able to quickly get on the volunteer computer to check and respond to some messages.  So what I thought would be extra intentional story time, turns out to be an internet/blog hiatus. a Jason and Krystal lent of sorts.

It seems like if I'm going to be off internet, it would be much more impressive to be on a self-imposed, deeply meaningful fast or spiritual journey.  Where instead of putting in time online, I choose to go listen to the waves and sing a few rounds of Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying. Become a better person kind of stuff. But instead, I go to bed earlier.  I guess that's being a better person. Mostly it's because the girls and I share a room, and Siri sings/babbles/happily screeches very loudly, very early.  I don't know.   I miss Pinterest.  Next thing I know, everyone is going to wearing coral and mint colored skinny pants. and I'll be left alone, unaware, in my boot-legged jeans.  Oh wait, that's happened.  coral. so. two. years. ago.

I did go jump in the waves today with Sara.  Her eyes light up and she giggles and is full of that child-like joy. The nature of child-like joy is so attractive isn't it?  It's one of the beauties that can only be experienced in relationship, and not always with a child.  Adults with that same light are the ones I find myself wanting to get to know a little better...my bestest friends have that light within them.  And I find them to be so very beautiful.

Any. way.  Although our so far trip has been full of interestingness, the photos taken and stories I'd like to share with you, must for now remain ideas in my head.  Please don't give up on me during this season of lent forced upon us.  I may eventually give in, drive to a Starbucks, and pretend to be cool. I'll sip on tea tips harvested in Antarctica, for hours at a time, while Sara reads 180 more books and Siri wonders how her life has come to this.

How are you making your today beautiful?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Stump House In The City

Sixteen years ago, as part of a missions training program, my brother Jason moved to the city. Some of the program participants decided to begin a church there, so after two years of mission work he moved back to the city.  They began to buy or rent houses in amongst the community.  There he met wife Krystal.  And although many of their friends have moved on, and the training house no longer exists, there Jason and Krystal are raising their family.  They own two neighboring row houses, combining them for more living space.  
When traveling up north for Siri's medical treatments, we anticipate our visits with them.  I make an intentional effort to arrive before dark.  That's the kind of neighborhood they live in.  This weekend we walked to see the city fireworks, and brother Jason said, "Why would you bring your wallet?  Do you not know where we live?"  Then I was like, "Why are we bringing our kids out if we need to worry about our wallets?" and besides...why would I worry when you are brave and strong and look like this?
They live in the kind of neighborhood where strangers walk up to you and say things like, "Do you have some money?"...but they're not robbing you.  Well they could be, but so far in my experience they are not.  They may even preface it with "Are you Jason's sister?"...and then ask for money...or a cigarette...which I don't have.  They live in the kind of neighborhood where I learn new and colorful word combinations while carrying our suitcases in and out of the house...where the older kids practice writing their signatures on houses and fences.
They live in the kind of neighborhood where they post this in the front window.
But Jason is the kind of creative who finds a winding slide on craigslist and installs it in his house, so kids can slide from the main floor, ending in a large ball pit in their basement.  He is the kind of creative who takes the back of a row house junky place, overgrown with ivy and poison, and turns it into this magical wonderland of beauty and life...
In the middle is their stump house.  He designed it as a way to take care of this overgrown tree.
It's brilliant. 
The mirror makes it easy to see around to the other side.

Here are sister-in-law Krystal's gardens.  They brought in dirt and replaced lots of ivy with sod.  There are tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, basil, apple mint, oregano, black raspberry and blueberry bushes.
 Here the ivy grows on an old, partially existing fence.
Hidden in the ivy is a monk statue, a gift from us for their garden years ago.  Jason painted it to look weathered. There's also a hiding ivy dragon.  Now they really are weathered.
These are hardy hibiscus.  This photo was taken when they were planted.  Now some are as tall as me.  They'll bloom soon, (flash forward...check them out in full bloom here) and
are perfect for a storybook garden.
Jason cuts back the neighbor's overgrown shrubs, as they begin to make a natural arbor and shady spot.
He was able to get this vintage seahorse free from a former preschool.
a few elements of whimsy...
and a robot.
My niece especially enjoys her wonderland...when we're relaxing and playing in the backyard, it's fairly easy to forget what's just outside the gate...well, almost. Sometimes the music is difficult to ignore.  Except when we're hula hooping.  Then, if we're lucky enough to get soul funk, it's pretty much perfect.
Beauty potential is found in unlikely places, unlikely communities.  Jason and Krystal use their imagination to then create their reality.  Using the resources around them, they work with consistent dedication.  They make their world beautiful.  While drug transactions are happening a house or two down, their home is filled with goodness.  The community they live in is impoverished, but Jason, Krystal, and Tessa remain wealthy in kindness and in love.

Love knows no limit. It welcomes light in seemingly dark places.

Tessa's artwork...
Tessa's parking garage
 Tessa's worm digging hole
(She's sitting in the hole.)

How are you making your today world beautiful?

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