Category Archives: general

Help Save R——e Youth Garden!

Unfortunately, the landowner who runs the community development corporation decided not to allow our friends to continue with the project and start their own 501c3. I’m heartbroken for them, but I also believe in their gifts and our call to love our cities in tangible ways like youth gardens. I know that this sort of experience feels like failure, but I believe God uses our humble efforts to build his kingdom, sometimes in ways we cannot see. So I’m going to leave this post here, to remember steps taken in faith that end up feeling futile. Even if they seem to be steps in the wrong direction, they are still steps steeped in redemption. -Kristen, 4/26/2012

If we had stayed in Birmingham after Michael graduated, we were praying about moving to R——e. One of the things that made me most excited about living in R——e was community development work like the youth garden.

Our friend Keith (husband to the girls’ amazing Spanish teacher, both pictured above) took two vacant lots donated by the neighborhood community development corporation and turned them into organic gardens where he employed teens (both working in the gardens and selling the produce at farmers markets) and generally involved the neighborhood from planning to getting dirty to enjoying the harvest.

The funding that made R——e Youth Garden possible has fallen through. I rarely promote causes on this blog, but I’d encourage you to think about making a donation. R——e Youth Garden provides access to fresh, organic produce, education about food, and a sense of hope and pride to youth in this community.

Yesterday Kate and Lexi saw me looking at some pictures on facebook and said, “That’s Farmer Keith in his garden! Remember when he showed us all the worms? And let us water? He grows the best peas on earth there!”

(Kate holding out some peas she gleaned from the youth garden last spring. They really were exceptional.)

Keith is patient and kind, the perfect person for this sort of work. He delights in little things like lifting up compost and helping kids find worms. He is a good teacher and listener. As a bonus, has a background in accounting and did an internship with Jones Valley Urban Farm. If we hope for urban renewal, we need a lot of Keiths, investing in neighborhoods in our cities. There’s so much work to do, it can feel overwhelming at times. But we have an opportunity to save R——e Youth Garden, or at least, help it through the summer while they restructure, fundraise and plan for the future, so they can continue to invest in R——e and empower that community.

I really wish we were in Birmingham and could give our time to help in the garden. If you are and can, contact Keith, he’ll put you to work. One simple way to help: if you shop at Pepper Place Market Saturday mornings, look for R——e Youth Garden and give them your business. Tell others to do the same.

If you don’t live in Birmingham but are moved to help, I’ll sweeten the deal. If you donate $25 or more to R——e Youth Garden, I will make you a free custom design from my etsy store. (Offer good to the first five people who ask, and follow through on the donation end.) Let’s work together to help each other do good and love our cities.

Little Things

Sad I won’t be at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin this weekend.

Common graces in pop culture that have been cheering me up:

A lot of good new music has been released so far this year. Here are some of my favorite songs.

I am a World Book Night giver and tomorrow I get to pick up 20 copies of The Book Thief to give away to people who don’t currently read for fun.

Sherlock. Catch up on netflix before the US series 2 premiere in a few weeks.

Vulture kindly compiles funny moments for us in Last Night on Late Night.

We All Like Sheep, etc.

Up on catapult today, thoughts on shepherding inspired by conversations with Kate: We All Like Sheep.

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From around the internets:

Great article from the Atlantic: Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Combining two things that make me very happy: Downton Sixbey.


I Like Their Title Better

The editors of the City project at Christianity Today saw my blog post from last week and used it on their website. Glad I could contribute to their project, I’ve found it really encouraging.

Odds & Ends XII

+ A Slow-Books Manifesto was very thought provoking, what would your reading manifesto say?
+ For the first time, I’m suffering from seasonal allergies. I am open to any and all suggestions.
+ Holy Week starts Sunday, check out this post if you are looking for suggestions for observing at home.
+ I was very moved by this story from All Things Considered: Unlikely Advocates For Teen Killers: Victims’ Families.
+ The rationalization for why I will be headed to Starbucks tomorrow to get some work done tomorrow. It’s true for me.
+ The return of Mad Men has made me really happy. But how long can “zoo bisou bisou” stay stuck in my head if those are the only words I know?

Truth, Complexity, and Other Things to Ponder

On their popular youtube channel, Hank and John Green often note that the truth resists simplicity. When you are thinking about economics or politics or international issues, it’s a good thing to keep in mind. The world is a complex place. People are complicated, and the more people involved, the more complicated it can get.

The 24-7 news cycle seems to perpetuate over-simplification. More news doesn’t equal better news, in fact, in the race to get some analysis on the air, journalists often lose necessary nuance and perpetuate stereotypes and misinformation. The decline of print media means we have less informed people taking the time to understand situations before they report them, and that’s a loss we all feel.

Complex problems require complex solutions. For example, the problems in Central Africa are much larger than Joseph Kony* and making his capture the #1 priority for the region in Western minds probably doesn’t reflect what most Ugandans feel would make the biggest impact. For example, there is a great deal of development needed in Northern Uganda and also a health crisis called nodding disease, that has affected thousands of Acholi children in the past few years. I was very moved reading about women in Kampala tying themselves to trees yesterday in protest of the government’s failure to devote enough resources to this devastating disease.

But this problem of not engaging the world complexly isn’t new. We’ve always struggled with it. We find heroes standing for truth, beauty and goodness, and are heartbroken to learn they are narcissists or adulterers. We think of wars in terms of good guys and bad guys. We simplify even knowing that we ourselves are not simple, and our motives and actions are rarely pure.

That’s probably because the truest story we have is very simple. It’s a story where the good is immeasurably, purely good and the hero has no skeletons in his closet. It’s the story we want all our other stories to be like. And so we try to fit all the other stories into a simple narrative of good vs. evil, where evil will be vanquished and everyone will live happily ever after. In a fallen world where the characters are made in the image of God, our reductionistic efforts will fail. But if we look at these human stories as part of the big story of cosmic history, we can know that good will triumph over evil, and there will be no more suffering or sorrow or pain.

That doesn’t mean we can’t, or shouldn’t work for justice. I believe it is good and right for us to do so. But we can’t expect our human efforts to have heavenly results. There is no magic bullet, except for the coming of Jesus. It’s freeing to know that we can’t fix everything, so we can focus on doing the best we can, where we can, in ways that bring shalom.

*If you are interested in #Kony2012 in particular, I would recommend the following links:
This round-up of 10 African reactions to the Kony 2012 campaign
Kony 2012 — Why the Backlash Matters
Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things) from Foreign Policy magazine’s blog.

Odds & Ends XI

+ Added this continental US map you can personalize to my etsy shop.
+ Really appreciated this Atlantic article addressing the Memphis-Shelby County school merger.
+ Hannah from Very Vanilla made a delicious looking version of my chocolate bread pudding for Valentine’s Day with a rum caramel sauce.
+ I found this article from the NY Times Magazine about how companies learn our secrets fascinating (and a tiny bit scary.)
+ Kathy Keller on why the city is a wonderful place to raise children was an encouragement to me.
+ Also encouraging: how many people found this blog last week searching for lent related topics like “lent for toddlers” and “keeping lent at home.” Way to plan ahead, Christians.
+ I am in denial about Downton Abbey’s season finale this Sunday. I would have to despair about no new episodes if I gave it much thought, and defeatism is so very middle class.

Odds & Ends X

+ The New York Times ran an article about the Cameron Crazies losing their enthusiasm. How embarrassing! Their team isn’t even that bad this year. UNC students loyally went to games when we were 8-20 while I was a student. I vividly remember watching us lose to Davidson from decent seats. It was awful. But they are my team, win or lose. Get it together, dookies.
+ Veritas Press is giving out $5 gift certificates, and when you sign up they give you a referral link so any friend who signs up, you get another $5 added to your certificate. Sweet deal!
+ If you or someone you love plays Settlers of Catan, you should read
this article from comment about the evils that lurk within (and then this response from Christ & Pop Culture.)
+ So excited for Birmingham today between breaking ground on the new ballpark and Alabama Gives… we miss you, magic city.

Fall in Love with Memphis 2012

We moved in July, and I’ve spent most of my new-to-town energy getting the girls settled and getting to know people. I have a strong sense of place, and I need to get to know Memphis better to really settle in. I’ve been to Overton Park locations (Zoo, the Brooks) several times. We’ve ridden the Downtown Trolley loop and walked to Mud Island Park. We found a BBQ joint (the Bar-B-Q Shop) and a Mexican place (Las Delicias.) At the suggestion of a friend, I read a book about the yellow fever epidemic which prompted a visit to Elmwood Cemetery. A decent start, but I’ve got a long way to go.

So, the new year seems as good a time as any to declare the start of my “Fall in Love with Memphis” campaign. This is my tentative to-do list. Locals, please make (inexpensive) suggestions!

Get my driver’s license, aka become a legit Tennessean.

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studios, the Stax Museum and the Rock & Soul Museum. Get some culture at the Dixon. Think about spending the big bucks on Graceland.

Eat Breakfast at Bro. Juniper’s. Have Gus’s Famous Fried Chicken. Find some good local family and cheap date restaurant options. Find a coffee shop, aka stop pouting. Go to Muddy’s when depressed as a reminder that Memphis wins that category.

Take the kids back to Shelby Farms to the super cool playground. Take them to Lichterman Nature Center and to do the labyrinth at Audubon Park. Discover other cool places to play. See something at the Orpheum.

Find some team spirit: Grizzlies, Red Birds, Tigers… not that choosy about which one.

Odds & Ends IX

+ Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! It’s a good day to practice generosity, recite the Nicene Creed and punch a heretic in the nose.
+ Chuck DeGroat’s excellent post on Advent Disappointment is worth contemplating.
+ I finished Start Something That Matters, and I really liked it. It’s a simple, quick read that will inspire people to follow their dreams, start small, and give. You have a few days left to win your own copy here.
+ The girl scouts were right, “make new friends and keep the old.” I have felt loved and known in the last few weeks, and that gives me a little hope that Memphis might start to feel like home. In the meantime, good conversations with old friends are still so precious they can buoy several days.

Start Something That Matters Giveaway

I love my TOMS. They are ridiculously comfortable and even kind of cute. (I am waiting with great expectation for the ballet flats that are coming out this spring and REALLY cute.) But what I love most about TOMS is that they got our girls excited about the concept of one for one. TOMS were all Kate wanted for her 7th birthday because she really wanted a child who needed them to get a pair of shoes, too. It’s not perfect, it’s not the end to poverty, but it’s an innovative, exciting idea. Blake Mycoskie started something that matters, and he’s written a book about it so you can too.

In Start Something That Matters, Blake Mycoskie tells the story of TOMS, one of the fastest-growing shoe companies in the world, and combines it with lessons learned from such other innovative organizations as method, charity: water, FEED Projects, and TerraCycle. Blake presents the six simple keys for creating or transforming your own life and business, from discovering your core story to being resourceful without resources; from overcoming fear and doubt to incorporating giving into every aspect of your life. No matter what kind of change you’re considering, Start Something That Matters gives you the stories, ideas, and practical tips that can help you get started.

I was given two copies of this book from the publisher, I can’t wait to start reading mine and send one to one of you as well! If you’ve never used Rafflecopter, it’s simple and easy. (Though, occasionally you will have to refresh the page if the widget doesn’t show up below.)

Light in the Darkness

As someone with very disordered sleep, I dread falling back. It takes away an hour of daylight when I am always up (and there truly are not that many hours of the day that’s true.) Insomnia is a lonely condition and the light of day is a comfort and cheer. However, November is not all bad. I made a little list of all its joys to compensate for the dreary darkness.

College basketball season starting. Crisp weather. Sweaters. Pumpkin everything. The blissful Starbucks period where Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Peppermint Mochas overlap. Autumn colors. The spirit of gratefulness. Thanksgiving food. Wool socks. Homemade hot chocolate. Advent.

This week I have baked pumpkin muffins and cast on a new scarf for Kate. I will take a walk and breathe in the crisp air in the daylight, while drinking something warm and wonderful. I will finish my Thanksgiving menu and make Lexi a costume for her Thanksgiving feast. I will cheer at a basketball game. I will finish my Jesse Tree ornaments and start writing some thoughts on Advent to share with y’all. And I will make the best I can of the short days.