hot sundae

once i got started down memory lane, i HAD to go back and fully immerse. it's better than i ever realized.

the six varied leotards (belted, turtle-necked, thongotardical!), the tramp-o-cise workout moves, the camera angles/fade throughs. goodness me, this is an entertainment gold mine of epic proportions.

i found that a great way of making friends in high school was to perform a little bit of this choreography...instant popularity and laughs. especially while wearing my underoos on the outside of my volleyball spandex in the locker room. yes, my social-ladder climbing skills were positively machiavellian.

and or course, like van gogh, hemingway, and spears, this level of artistic brilliance ALWAYS come at a price.

B-buh-B, buh-buh-buh-B, go Bayside!

top to bottom

changed the blog layout and color scheme today. i like it. feels like a bit of electronic spring cleaning. i am still tinkering with making it all less cluttered and more streamlined, but it already feels lighter to me.

i totally dominated some HTML code stuff through nothing but sheer luck, but have decided instead to take it as a sign that i am a gifted computer programmer. i will be dodging bullets and bursting through the binary makeup of evil agents in no time. (i think that's my second matrix reference this week. no more for at least a month. "no way. no way.")

and you know i have to do it: tonight at the stroke of midnight (mountain time, i think, since that's where melly is based) your handy dandy 20% coupon at crochet melly expires. i panicked that i would never again find prices this great and bought about 6 hats yesterday for my kids' futureheads, thereby spending the recent etsy income i have earned before i have even fulfilled the orders. dangerous game, that one.

raise your hand if you are tired of hearing me talk about crocheted hat coupons.

photo credit: judah dukes

sweet judah gave me the booty-flu that his kept him out of school all week (the week BEFORE spring break...so not helpful since that means 2 weeks in a row having to juggle kids and childcare so we can work) so i am going to find a happy place and meditate on the delicate balance that is the human GI tract. and promise myself to never ever take it for granted again.


my 20

i have been swamped with etsy and friend orders lately. 2 weddings' worth of bridesmaids gifts have been the big time-consumers (in fact, my poor friends' orders have been neglected because of the etsy orders that all came on the same day).

it's so funny because i pout and get all insecure when no one is buying anything from my etsy, but when things pick up and i hit a spell with a bunch of orders, i get so overwhelmed and stressed. i am trying to find a balance. just being content either way would be great...damn these lady parts that seem to make everything so emotional and extreme.

i have some posts i am really looking forward to writing about: democracy, HSD, cussing, skin, and more, but i am feeling pretty wrung-out lately and everyone in my life seems to be paying for it. so before i make things right with bloglandia, i need to recalibrate things in my heart with my king, and in my home with my family, first and second-most.

ironically, my ever-muse, raechel, just did a lovely guest post on finding balance in a jam-packed life that would be like vitamin D to my winter-paled skin. i just can't seem to open my shades enough to absorb it. and the book i mentioned that i am reading and loving, one thousand gifts, also goes on at length about not stressing your way out of missing jesus and the beauty he gives us in the small minutes of a hectic life.

if i could just get all of this awesome wisdom downloaded into my brain, i could kick some serious butt in the matrix. but alas. it stays surface-deep. so figuring out how best to do that is at the top of my list of things to do. right beneath the other 5 orders...

at least the finished products are eye-candy.

i LOVE when customers pick fabrics i haven;t used before and all different ones. and i love it even more when i get to pick the zipper and ribbon colors.

i love iterations of the same thing in different colors and patterns.


opened wide, and i say AHHHH

i even shelled out $3.89 and made myself 100 professional-looking shipping labels. my vulture-scrawl (even worse than chicken scratch) handwriting did not convey the image i was going for. that black line is not part of the design, i assure you, and the font underneath it looks great, but on the off chance that someone wants to stalk me, i blacked out my address (and whited out my customer's). so if you want to come lurk in my bushes, you'll have to order something first.

off to figure out how to have it all. something tells me the answer is not caffeine pills, "i'm so excited, i'm so excited! i'm so, i'm so...scared." hold me, zach morris.

p.s. tomorrow is the LAST day to use your PUTAPUREDUKES 20% off discount at crochet melly's shop



there was one more sneak peek picture posted. 12 megapixels of tiny ham.

line up for smooches

*yes! thank you jamie for the reminder: this was NOT a planned picture at all. none of just-judah were, but man that kid just magnetizes the camera. we were trying to get layla ready to take a picture WITH judah here, and he was being captain pouty lips because he didn't want to hold her. it was much less dramatic of a pout when he naturally delivered it, but brenna loved it so much that we started asking him to do it again and this is what mr. subtlety came up with. blue steel.

he's been honing this look for almost 2 years now.


oh, you guys...

all the stress and having to put in mach-12 efforts to make us all presentable and coordinating for another photography session ALWAYS proves worth it. the pictures just get better and better as our family grows in number and size. here are the sneak peeks our photographer, brenna, has posted from our friday session.

on a whim on thursday night i sewed a button to a piece of elastic to make the flowers from layla's crochet hat into interchangeable headband pieces. a stroke of brilliance. i LOVE it. and this picture. oh man. they are locked IN on each other in love. pitocin, 4th degree tear, sleepless nights, pregnancy hemorrhoids. i'd do it all over again for this.

he was given many gummie bunnies to keep giving kisses.

first and last nakie animal skin rug shot, if you dont mind, layla. LOVE it at 4 months old, though

big lady in the bloomers pushing UP!

ok, this a little saucy. he needs to tone it down. it looks like george constanza's posed pictures for the photo-shop girl. man i love this kid

what could make us this happy???

yup, that'll do it!

i have no words. just burn it into my heart.


snarfing up some beauty

still down for the count. every morning begins with a systematic flushing of about 2 kilos of monstergoo from every crevice in my head. i am the most annoying person do be around because i can't go 30 seconds with a sniffle, snort, blow, throat-clear, cough or hack. why do all the trees have to get frisky at the same time and rain down their amorous leftovers on us?

as an added bonus today right after i get home from work, we are walking back out the door to do layla's next round of pictures. don't get me wrong the finished products from brenna are ALWAYS worth it; but coordinating outfits, wrangling babies, fighting the elements AND attempting to look halfway decent myself is a task even when i have full health points.

but gird up my loins, i shall. this is still the best life i could have never imagined. full of grace and beauty and hilarity. so a dash of snot and stress thrown into is NOT going to rob me of today.

i have ann voskamp's one thousand gifts (i know, i know, EVERYONE is this book...but, for a reason!) to thank for helping me to see past and beyond the less than perfect recently. to find jesus in the ugly or uncomfortable. my husband bought it for me because, you guys, he just gets me so well.

the tagline for the book is "dare to live fully right where you are." thanks ann, i think i will. even if you are an artsy-talking mennonite who is about 80 times smarter than i'll ever be. i think you are challenging me and my relationship with jesus in big ol' ways. ways that aren't fun or easy for me, but that look a lot like the ways christ challenged people in the bible: through [figurative] booty kicking, wacky-talk, shocking love and always pointing back to the Father.

upward and inward, friends.


one week warning blast

this is for your benefit. i do NOT get anything as a reward for reminding you to GET YOUR HATS from crochetmelly. the 20% off coupon (PUTAPUREDUKES) is good for just one more week. we got another package (our third...) from her today and i am flipping! so in love!

you guys, i am telling you: the price, quality, selection and speed of these you will not find anywhere else. and that's BEFORE the 20% off. if i didn't have kids i would be buying them for my future ones. i may or may not already be buying some for future ones. ahem. maybe.

layla in the button beanie with new butterfly accent and judah in a newsboy cap

her outfit doesn't come close to matching but i HAD to get the hat on her and take some pics to show yall

twins. and butterfly close up.

newsboy close up

"why would anyone pass up this deal?!?! these hats are the dizzly!"


my wombfruit wearing my loomfruit

well, not technically loomfruit. but the superfly wordplay was too good to pass up. but maybe one day i will weave my own textiles.

here is a sampling of what i made with raechel. i am still blah sick so thats why no clever wordy post.
2 looks in one. i got hooked on this pinafore pattern from heidi & finn. totally easy, totally reversible. totally addictive. perfect for letting in lots of breezes and tickles during a scorching hot summer. even better when paired with ruffle bloomers.

another unisex hoodie for judah. also by heidi and finn. made almost entirely during one of raechel's crack naps and from a pair of 3X "just my size" sweatpants from wal-mart (with enough leftover to make oliver one too). used wooden toggles instead of buttons. this was supposed to be a 3T and it fits him perfectly now so i am thinking their sizing is off (raechel's was too small too before you say the fit was my fault). i finally got the sleeves right this time though and am happy to report that they don't cut off blood flow like my first one. but i didn't learn my lesson about coordinating thread so it looks way home-sewn. so close!

layla modelling another pinafore. i actually have matching bloomers for this one, but they weren't quite finished at this point so she looks a little less than ladylike with her diaper showing. you can see the alternate fabric on the flipped up hem of the first pic. i can't wait to put it all together.

parting confession: i used all the etsy earnings in my paypal account and bought a serger. after seeing raechel's, named sergio, in action and actually using it myself, i found it irresistible. and anyway that's what my etsy shop is for, right? funding further sewing adventures! she had promised me that sergio would both thrill and terrify me every time i used him and she was right on. bonus points for winning it $30 cheaper on ebay than on amazon? it arrives today. brace yourselves.



you know how i like to take inspiration from raechel? her ideas, style and projects just ring my bell. well, all of this borrowing from raechel had to have a downside eventually. and i found it. it's germs, people.

i got raechel's virus and i am down for the count. speaking many mysteries in my completely lost voice, making out with kleenex upon kleenex and generally being a miserable lump. the thought of a entertaining a houseguest, cooking or sewing right now makes me want to cry. so now i REALLY appreciate the lengths she went to to make HSD happen. trooper!

she did her post on how the weekend went. find it here.

just before she coughed directly into my mouth


coming soon...

...a post that attempts to capture the amazingitude that was my HSD weekend. to borrow a favorite phrase of raechel's, "it was everything."

just in case you think the delay is because i am a big fiction-head, here's some proof that at least layla went. i didn't take many pictures as it were, because, hello? when you go over to martha stewart's house, you don't offer to arrange her flowers.

finding my feet + fruit of my womb. hello, alternate universe.

hahaha a 12 month old and a 4 month old. pretty much the same size.

this will require an explanation later.

a few quick facts i learned during my blissful stay (complete exposé from my undercover investigation to follow):

1. raechel is shorter than i expected and somehow even more gorgeous than she appears on her blog.

2. i hadn't really lived until i got behind the wheel of a serger.

3. a run-in with the police is a great way to cement an-hours old friendship

4. oliver is impossibly charming and utterly adorable and i might broker an arranged marriage between him and layla (neither would mind based one what i have seen)

5. hazel is a sassy little nugget of adorability (even though she was a little sick all weekend) who may be part howling-wookie.

6. telling a graphic designer that your website's elements were all designed using microsoft word and screenshots is a good way to get judged.

7. three of my "best of my life" spots have been newly-filled by things i discovered at the myers' house: best french toast (raechel), best mixed drink (ryan), best sandwich (ina/ryan/raechel).

like i said. it was everything. (please note that the tag "BFF's" was used for this post. that's right. i just went there)

giveaway winner

we went to the trouble of writing out 40 slips of paper with everyone's entries on them, putting them in a [crochet melly] hat, and videotaping judah picking one out and then refusing to announce the winner. unfortunately, the video cannot be shown because i am wearing a skirt today and am evidently the least lady like person ever. rest assured that, much to my mortification, the video exists, though you shan't see it before jesus comes back.

luckily judah wasn't being super cute or i may have been tempted to scorch all of your retinas and post it anyway. but he just darted his hand in, grabbed one and then refused to say the winner's name when i read and whispered it into his ear. so what was i whispering?

the del angel family!!!

congrats! i will let give melanie your email address so she can contact you for your custom hat!

so now that you know you didn't win (ugh, that's the worst. i was so happy that the del angels came out of the hat, but simultaneously so bummed that all the other 39 entries didnt...giveways are hard on my heart, i want everyone to be happy) you can go buck wild in the crochet melly shop with your 20% off coupon code, PUTAPUREDUKES, until the end of march.

confession: i have already placed another order with her using my own code. is that pathetic? well i dont care. i got 3 more flower interchangers for layla's beanie and a butterfly too! soo stinking innovative. and if it's not cold again before she can wear them al l(hello, high of 83 today, BARF!), i 'll just keep them and get a larger button beanie base next fall and they will fit perfectly on that.

if you have an idea for something you like but don't see it, just send melanie a message, she was awesome working with me on a custom hat for judah. happy shopping, campers!


great destinations

i decided to extend the deadline for entires into the awesome custom crocheted hat giveaway until sunday. SO MAKE SURE TO ENTER!!!

i extended it because i wanted to do a real drawing with slips of paper and let judah pick out the winner on camera, and i won't be able to do that until sunday because layla and i are leaving to go out of town in about an hour and will be gone all weekend.

we are going to tennessee.

to stay with a friend.

who happens to have a little blog of her own.

called "finding my feet."

cue my squeals of beiber-fever proportions. dogs 3 counties over can hear me.

if you can't understand why this is so epic to me read here.

...and now that you know how i feel, you are probably wondering what on earth raechel is doing telling me where she lives, much less inviting me inside. i don't know either. i assume a lapse in judgement or an excess of alcohol was involved, but i am not even pausing to let her reconsider.

that's right, my bloggy buddy and often-muse invited me up to her house for a weekend of HSD (hardcore sewing delight). my reaction was like those ladies in oprah's audience when she went all "YOU GET CAR! YOU GET A CAR! YOU GET A CAR!" jumping up and down and scratching my own eyeballs out in hysterical glee and disbelief.

keep it together, keight.

this is the first time i have taken my sewing on the road. i can't wait to show off everything that we make this weekend. and just in case you never hear anything about it again, just go ahead and assume i blew it somehow and that a restraining order is finally involved. jokes. but i am super nervous because it feels like we should really, really get along just from the emails and everything, so all that's left is to blow it by taking this into real life!

like meeting my eHarmony match for the first time.

i am a flutterbomb of nerves and excitement! here we go!!!!

this video accurately portrays how i feel about today. luckily, i'm the only driver so i don't have the dilemma of "which seat can i take?"

me and raechel: we we we so excited. we so excited. we gonna have a ball today


don't blink

something tells me that this:

becomes this:

really fast.
hold on tight, jesse! don't let her go!


an etsy gem + a giveaway

it was really scary publishing yesterday's post. it's easy for me to be authentic when the topic is pregnancy gas, cellulite or how hot i think my husband is. not so easy when it's time to take a hard look at the dark and dingy corners of my heart. i was literally exhausted after writing it. so much so that i forgot to add the few pics we took. i may go back and add them for a visual later on. maybe.

so since that was an emotionally heavy kind of post, i want to make today's post all funsies and starshine. you GUYS i am so so so excited about this.

i was hunting on etsy (aka the playground of my wallet) for some cute crocheted hats for layla's upcoming pictures. there are TONS on there. but i wanted a specific style: the kind with the earflaps and the long pigtail looking strands hanging down. plus i wanted a flower and the ability to pick my own colors. control, much? yes please.

well for lots of the big, well-known shops, you are talking a good 25-30 bucks easily for one of these plus the turnaround time before shipping is usually at least a week because of the number of orders they receive. well through some clickety rabbit trail i followed while on this search i found crochetmelly.

this shop, run by the mommy, melanie, of an adoable little girl (the model of most of the hats) isn't the biggest, with only about 40 sales at the time, but i LOVED her styles and prices. but sometimes on etsy these kinds of stores are too good to be true and you get the runaround or a cruddy product in the end. no ma'am. she was SO responsive to my questions about style and color choices and assured me since she wasn't backed up with orders that my 2 hats would ship fast. i ordered on saturday night, ya'll. she lives and utah and i got the 2 custom-made-for-layla, completed hats to my georgia doorstep on TUESDAY! um, hello!?!

i was so incredibly impressed with her product, value, speed and customer service that i wrote her and begged to let me promote her shop here on the blog. not as a sponsorship, just as one seriously impressed customer using my meager podium to spread the word about an awesome craftswoman!

well she was totally on board and even offered some bigtime bonuses for all of us (tease...read to the end).

you may have already seen the earflap hat i picked for the first hat in a post last week. i had to get major color counseling help from raechel because melanie has color selection out the yin yang, which i LOVE, but of course i stink at putting cute combos together by myself and tend to way overthink things. but here are some more shots of that beauty on my beauty.

triple-deckered soft rose flower, solid cream hat and true gray trim. and lots of flash-lighting

a dainty little bomber pilot


now my second choice was actually this little teddy bear hat with a crocheted bow accent instead of a flower (i just asked if she could do it even though i didn't see the bow in her shop and she whipped it right up!). but it turned out to be too small for gigantor-layla's head so i picked another one. in the meantime she had added a new style to her shop that just makes me bonkers it's so genius so i had to switch styles:

so yes, it's an adorable navy blue beanie with a cute brown button accent. what's so special about that? well, what if i told you that 3 crocheted little flowers of YOUR choice come with it too?(baby not included with purchase...BYOB)

and then what if i told you that the button is the anchor that the flowers go on and they are totally interchangeable?!?!

and then i just straight lost my mind. a 4-in-1 custom crocheted hat for $17 and in my hands faster than believable?!?!

"omg. mom! the colors, the craftsmanship, the value! i can't believe it"

even judah wants to stop and smell these flowers. slightly creepy. i think he was going for a kiss

but wait, there's more. FOR Y'ALL!

"more?!?! how could it get any better?!?!"

melanie is giving away a hat of any style/color/size combo to one lucky winner of a giveaway. so if you have or are expecting a little one, or just know a kid with an adorable head, this is for you!!!

in addition EVERYONE gets 20% off their entire purchase in crochetmelly's etsy store from now until the end or march when you enter the code PUTAPUREDUKES at checkout. um, do the math on that! that is an amazing deal. layla still can't believe it:

it's true, little one!

yes, the weather is getting warmer, but new itty bitties need to wear hats even if they're born in the summertime, plus some places are so air conditioned in the summer months that they end up just as cold as winter babes would be outside!

or you could plan ahead for next fall and winter for your little one and order a size up for your kiddo.

and baby girls arent't the only ones that can play...melanie makes these for heads up to 10 years old! and she has colors and styles aplenty for the fellas too!

how to enter the giveaway:

one entry: leave a comment on this post with which item you love the most from the crochetmelly shop and who you'd love to see sporting it.

bonus entry: add her shop to your etsy favorites and tell me you did so in a SEPARATE comment

third possible entry: become a new follower of this blog (i had to get in on the action) and tell me you did so in another SEPARATE comment here.

so that's 3 possible entries total! i will close the comments on friday night 3/18 and announce the winner soon after. then everyone can stop holding their breath and go wild with the 20% off code PUTAPUREDUKES all the way until the end of the month!

just to reiterate, i wasn't given anything for doing this post, i am not bigtime enough for that. i just want everyone to have adorable, custom hand made stuff and to support awesome merchants like melanie. good luck!


a case of the uglies

we had about 15 teenage boys over to our house for a cookout on sunday. we've done this before, with jesse's youth group kids, but this sunday was much different.

honesty: no one who goes to our church looks like this.

jesse isn't a youth pastor anymore. he works for his dad's ministry and is following a very strong call from god--and the cry of his own heart--to make it his full time job to bring the gospel of jesus christ to life in an extremely real and tangible way. (he'll have to go into more detail on that later, but the general idea of his passion is starting missional communities).

this has NOT been easy for me. this decision was made on october 1st of last year, to be effective january first of this year. we had layla on the way, me going on decreased-pay maternity leave, and 3 months of steady paychecks ticking down before jesse's salary would become completely support-based.

as, in asking for donations. as in, what missionaries do. as in, humbling much?

we have always always given to our missionary friends and supported them, their ministries and families with joy. jesse's family has been funded 100% by his parents raising their salaries for about 30 years now. with 5 kids and oodles of grace. i have never had one fraction of an ounce less respect for people who raise their salaries through donations than for those who "earn" them in the traditional sense (in fact, i have more); judgement maybe when i see a missionary we support rocking a better phone than me (working on that particular piece of ugliness in me). but when all of a sudden i found our family completely on the other side of that question mark, i was straight embarrassed.

it sucks to face feedback like, "why can't he just get a real job to support his family?" and "i dont understand, he's a georgia tech grad, why does he have to take other people's money?" it is really crushing. but only crushing to the parts of me that need to get crushed anyway. the prideful, "look at us world, we are doing it all by ourselves!" parts. the parts that tell us how great our life is because of how awesome we are. good riddance. except please let us keep tivo and old navy wardrobes. ok, fine, those too, if necessary.

but i still want to scream and rage at these people that he is so smart and capable and could totally get a normal job and dominate the hell out of their asses if he wanted to. jesse is a wildly intelligent graduate of a fantastic school. he had a full academic scholarship the entire time and graduated with a double major with highest honors. he finished in 4 years, including an entire year abroad (half in chile and half in spain, doing campus ministry and taking classes). so cram it in your cram hole, LaFleur! but right, that part of me is busy being crushed and shouldn't speak so loudly. (but my boyfriend could totally beat up yours...if he wanted to! nanny boo boo)

so the much deeper emotion going on in me, that is often sadly obscured by surface stress, worries of what other people think, and doubts, is glowing love and respect for my husband. who stepped out in faith when he heard his King say it was time for him to do so. admiration for a man that has such trust in his God that he will lead his family into a place that we (i) are too scared to take ourselves knowing that we have already succeeded, been taken care of and overcome. and not just in a sunday school way, but in a very real way. in a my kids may have to skip meals or lose health insurance, and we may even all die ridiculed and starving, but we will have never been forsaken, in fact we have already been rescued out of the only disaster that could have jeopardized us eternally and been redeemed into everlasting splendor sort of way. funtimes.

we've asked hard questions in these first 3 months. jesus has showed up HUGE in many ways and jesse has been working his butt off to help spread the vision of this dream and gather a support base so he can start DOING it (you have to have 2/3 of your full support raised before you can begin your ministry full-time).

i will be the first to say that the hardest part of this for our family has been me. putting pressure on jesse to hurry up, to send more letters, schedule more meetings, make more spreadsheets (those ALWAYS help). when it gets really bad i play the low-blow card: accusing him of failing to provide for his family. this is a big no-no of a thing to lampoon men about in general and i have done it to my amazing husband. but he is faithful and much better at seeing the provision as the work of god's hands more than his own. yes, he is doing the legwork, but in a very real way, god is providing for us. we were stupid to ever think he wasn't even when the paychecks came without asking for them.

even when support raising is going well and he can do some ministry stuff, i get my big ass in the way. this brings me back to sunday.

we live in an interesting and diverse neighborhood. for instance, the house that the opening scene of fried green tomatoes was filmed at is in our town. but right across the street are several sets of government housing projects. we have very rich old white people and very poor young black and hispanic families. we have rednecks, preppy families, retired couples and even a snotty, entitled blogger or two.

when jesse first realized that all those cookie-cutter houses were actually projects, he started asking more questions. he found an existing ministry that works with the kids of these neighborhoods in an after school program that gives them tutoring and a snack. he found out that almost all of these kids have no father figures. they are either in jail, absent, or completely unknown. the men that are around are prisoners to alcohol almost down to a man. when their schools are out for the holidays, the kids don't eat those days. did you catch that? they do. not. eat. half a mile from our front doorstep are children whose families cannot meet their caloric needs for the day without a public school lunch.

so this is jesse's first land in which to sew the seeds of the love of jesus christ. sounds awesome right? well, he invited the older boys, 15 and up, all over to our house for a cookout just to show them where we live and to let them know that we love them and that our door is always open...

this is hard for me. i HATE having people over. i mean i love it, but i hate being a hostess. even to our best friends. my house growing up was never the fun one to play at. being educators, my parents were very tired of other people's kids after a long day at work so home was their refuge where they spent time with just their own offspring. i totally get it. i am the exact same way. i enjoy community and time spent in it, but i think i am just wired that way: being around people leaves me tired afterwards rather than energized. i thought for a long time that this just made me a hermit bitch but jesse informed me that i'm just an introvert. a loud, outgoing, TMI-sharing introvert.

so my house has become this closely-guarded, rarely-shared commodity of mine. it's mine, all mine and nobody else can have it. filthy hobitses may not enter the precious. only me. charming, no? and completely outside the realms of a kingdom-centered life.

so i put on my big girl panties (inside out, as i do about 75% of the time...brilliant) and i said, okay, let's have them over. but can we do it outside, maybe? i'm not quite as nusto about the yard. little steps.

stoically not spazzing out about all the people in my little fiefdom.

so here comes the fully honest, unattractive, jesus-and-jesse-getting-in-the-way-of side of me. wait, did you think we had already started that portion? hahaha. there is much worse to come. feel free to defriend.

so at about 5:30 on sunday jesse and i and 5 of our awesome friends welcomed 15 or so teenage boys as they rolled up to our house. they were supposed to have arrived at 4:30. they were in various stages of undress, it being about 75 degrees and them having to bike or walk to get there. most of them were black, but there were some white and hispanic kids too. every single one of them would have me fighting the urge to lock my car doors if i pulled up in traffic next to them (honesty, remember?).

driveway shenanigans.

but i tried to push down and shove away those urges like all the clothes in my "too fat for right now" drawer. i gave the kids hugs and squeezes on the arms as i was introduced. orlando, CJ, christian, brendan, d'andre, b'darius, terry, decorius, john, snook and more i have already forgotten.

we were grilling steaks. this was my own personal, prepare-my-treasure-in-heaven-cause-i'm-so-awesome idea. jesse mentioned a cookout a few weeks ago, hamburger/hotdog style. i said, let's give them steaks because thats what jesus would want to give them. to spoil them and show them that they were honored guests. right idea, wrong person getting the glory in my vision of the day.

kids table. judah with our awesome friend valerie (ADORE!) and her son gabriel (ADORE!). (make a mental note of the huge steak knife sticking up across from judah at 4 o'clock)

well it was really fun. i wasn't too uptight and was really enjoying serving the kids. they had a blast chasing and getting the junk scared out of them by our dogs, and by riding jesse's hand me down road-bike with the baby seat on the back. for kids who ride bikes everywhere, this was just inexplicably hilarious to them. i think the skinny wheels was what was so weird to them.

HIGHarious. i dont get it.

we tried to get them to talk to us, but mostly they just cut up with one another and plowed through the food. they kept saying thank you, but i totally felt like a teacher whenever i tried to talk to them and they would clam up or get a look like they thought i was going to put them in detention.

i went inside to get some more sweet tea at one point and when i came back out there was one boy right by the door with corn on his forehead. i started to make a joke as i passed by and then i got a reading on the social temperature in the air. it was buzzing with malevolent intensity. i was standing there, holding layla, with jesse and judah the only other two people near me, in between a fight about one millisecond from breaking out.

scene of the crime: the chair right under the window, a few minutes after this was taken

they had started messing around as the meal wound down and it went too far and one of the kids chucked a piece of corn cob at the other one's face. hard enough to make it swell. the victim got super pissed and chairs were pushed back and grills were gotten up in; threats of impending beatdowns growled back and forth. it was an alpha male showdown of pure dominance-assertion and the 4 of us dukes were right in the middle. suddenly serving steaks that required KNIVES to be scattered all over the place and within reach was not my most brilliant idea ever.

my very favorite boy: terry, with the weapon (he wasn't involved in the actual incident)

immediately all thoughts of being jesus flew right out the window. all i could think, is "get the fuck out of my house and away from my kids, you monsters. how dare you stand there and threaten violence when my children are two feet from either of you?"

i became everything i hate and decry in so much of entitled christendom: just looking out for me and my own. all that matters is the people i care about and to hell with anyone who threatens my safety or paradigm; damn the muslims, write off ignorant white trash, blame the single black mothers, send the hispanics back where they came from. they've all gotten themselves in bad situations and make ME pay for the repercussions and i just want them all gone away from me. i purport to HATE these unloving, prejudiced attitudes and all those like it, yet that is instantly where my mind and heart went.

UGGGGGGGGGGGH!!! shame sprial.

through divine intervention in my heart, my holy spirit spidey-senses recovered before either of the boys had backed off. my entire little family was still right in the middle of what could get super ugly at any moment, but it wasn't the same anymore. i wasn't mad at them for acting this way around my family. i was heartbroken and dumbfounded that two members of my family could turn against each other so fast. of the awful patterns that had been laid down in these kids' lives such that a silly food fight could trample pride and ignite division so fast. that the only tools they had for handling this were bluster, insult and violence.

i don't think my righteous sirloin and sweet tea combo is gonna be enough.

b'darius and a weird-looking layla. let's hold babies, not grudges!

i couldn't shake this horrible feeling after the party. the boys bolted as soon as the food was finished, and all illusions of that meal leading to them trusting us and forging deep bonds that would lead to healing relationships with jesus dissolved before my eyes.

i was pissed at them. like a petulant little brat. i thought so highly of myself and went so far outside of my comfort zone that i thought they would have to be wowed into submission (to christ, of course, not me. no, never. hmmm). dammit, they should have been humbled by my awesomeness and my willingness to cross socioeconomic lines and hang out with them. somehow they weren't overawed by me as much as they should have been.

father forgive me for being so prideful.

jesse was outstanding as usual. he said it would take time. lots and lots of time. these kids aren't just in need of one great flashy meal and a snooty white lady, gasp, letting them use the guest bathroom and the fancy soap. they are in need of a place that they can bring their stories. where they can unload the dirtiest and most mangled pieces of themselves, and of christ-modellers who will wash their broken feet with tears rather than just cringing when their dirty sneakers scuff my swiffered floors.

i just don't get it. i talk the mouth talk but can't seem to walk the heart walk. i flee from the cross with my scraps and rags when i should be clinging to its riches with every fiber of my being.

i'm so not there yet. but i know someone who is; the first one who ever was. and i pray that He will take over in all the many places that i fall so short of carrying his message. that he will give me strength to give his people crumbs for their bodies while somehow pointing them in the direction of the bread that was made for their hearts.

thankfully, i worship a king that got down off the cross, came roaring out of the grave and relentlessly tracks my wretched, cowardly, sin-soaked--if sometimes well meaning--heart back down again and pummels me with never-failing love, acceptance and light and who lets me shine, flawless, with him as a worthy daughter. may i be humble enough to shine. amen.

dont give up on me, guys!