When a Family of 5 Goes Rogue

3/29/17


We write our way into writing, my friend Laura says.

So I trust that if I just start hacking away at these cold keys, something's going to come of it.

It is with great joy, anticipation, and gratitude that my family and I announce we are moving back to Denton, Texas this summer. Making this move to Iowa in 2015 was our third marital attempt at leaving Texas, and danggit if it seems we just can't quit her after all. This whole Midwest experiment has only solidified the importance of Place in my finite understanding of the world, and it's a topic I'll likely write more about in the future. We are Texans at heart, it would seem, and maybe we're more loyal than we gave ourselves credit for.

But even though we both spent most of our lives in Texas, and even though Eric's parents still live there (and I don't have to explain to you the treasure that is grandparent proximity when you have three kids), I don't think we would be returning at this point if we hadn't spent the last 2 years of our Texas days in Denton.

Denton is 30 miles north of Dallas, if you're wondering, and is a smallish town despite the fact that there are two universities there (Eric got his Master's at UNT). My dad maintains that it's the ugliest place on earth, but she's a beaut to us. She's home.

We're returning to the Catholic Worker community in Denton that we loved so deeply during our time there. (You may remember that it was based out of our home for about a year, which holds some of the truly best memories of my life.) When Eric graduated, the option of staying was a tempting one but he couldn't find a full time job in the area and we desperately felt we needed life to be stable for a while. We had been through the ringer as a family and needed a soft place to land. Iowa has more than stepped up to that plate.

Our life here is precious. While it took Eric some time to get into the groove of his job, it's now one he has come to love. In addition to the ministry aspect that fills his cup, it's flexible and accommodating of family life. Alyosha's public school is phenomenal. Our parish is bursting with young families to be friends with. Our priest loves our children, and they can feel it. (The loss of that brings tears to my eyes as I type.) Our nearly 100 year old home suits us perfectly. We walk downtown or to school multiple times a week for much of the year. There's even a Catholic Worker farm outside of town.

It is the closest to a "perfect" life that I've ever pictured for us. And I am convinced that it was the goodness of God that led us here.

But I'm equally as convinced that we're not meant to stay forever.

Do we have the choice? Oh certainly. For the weeks that we prayed fervently about the next year, we felt assured in our spirits that either moving or staying would be good. There was no wrong choice, and we could make beautiful lives for ourselves in either location. But in our heart of hearts, we also sensed that there was a certain fullness of Life for us in Denton that would be very difficult to create here.


In Denton we were folded in to the beauty that had begun there long before our arrival. Community had already been forged between college students, the homeless, the voluntarily poor, the mentally ill, the farmers. Literally all we had to do was jump in. And we did. And who can return to the typical American dream after that? There has been a hole in our hearts here in Iowa that we haven't found a way to fill. No matter what we tried to get involved in here, it wasn't the same. It wasn't our people. It wasn't our home. And maybe, for all our wonderings and wanderings, that is simply how the Lord speaks to us.


This summer our family of 5 is going rogue. We're moving back to the Catholic Worker community, prepared to be the root system that it's needed. Eric is my hero for walking away from a comfortable, satisfying, meaningful full time job and embracing the stigma our culture assigns to a man who offers his family an uncertain future. He and I will both be working part time jobs so that we can BOTH truly invest in the work of hospitality for others, as well as the rearing of our own children.

Speaking of the boys, they have not been overlooked in this decision. Far from it. In addition to getting more time with their dad, they will also be surrounded by their godparents (both official and of the heart) who love them as well as a human being can be loved. They will grow up with people who are living out their faith in radical ways, and that will be their normal. They will be accustomed to things that are still surprising to us: being friends with people who sleep in tents by the river, being given gifts that people find in dumpsters. We will keep them safe, be sure of that, but we aren't orienting our life around safety. We believe that giving them a faith that extends beyond church walls is the best thing we could ever do for them. This kind of faith is the reason we're Catholic. Frankly, it's the reason we're Christian. If we can't impart to them the truth that the image of God is borne in all people, and that the Gospel destroys walls and social hierarchies, then what kind of faith are we teaching?



Will we be poor? Well it depends on your definition of the word but to some extent and by our cultural standards, yes. We are choosing to shed the privilege we were born with and dare to imagine a different kind of world than one of looking out for our own and climbing imaginary ladders. We will share radically, but make no mistake, we will be the recipients of others' sharing too, because sharing is the culture of the community. I have no doubt that we will have everything we need.

What will we do? We're committed to taking it slow. For the first year we will give ourselves room to find our way. We will rejoin the weekly potlucks in the park that a modge podge of people attend. We will soak up the weekly Lectio Divinia prayer times and have daily house prayer too. Our roommate will start a garden, and we will learn from her and hopefully feed people from the wealth of it. We will be a home of welcome to the stranger, to the one in need, especially mothers and children. We simply are looking to BE in the world: to be good neighbors, good friends, to live with arms wide open to those who feel their need acutely, and to be transparent about our own need for others. We will discern as we go what our long-term charism is, and we trust that God will lead us where He wants us to go.

Will I still be writing? You bet. You can't get rid of me that easily. I imagine I'll have a thing or two to say. *wink*

Thank you for traveling with us spiritually. Thank you for your prayers and well-wishes. Thank you to my newsletter subscribers who got the news over the weekend and responded with such joy for our family. It's an honor to walk with you.

Shannon

*I have installed a "donate" button on the sidebar that links straight to my PayPal if you want to make a donation to our work of hospitality. No pressure, ever, but it's there if you're interested.*

What I'm Reading, Spring 2017

3/19/17


Spring is officially upon us, you guys. Glory glory Hallelujah! I am quite likely the most cold natured person you know, and so I find the long Midwestern winter months to be rather... indoorsy. When we moved to Iowa nearly two years ago I had grandiose mental images of building snow men and sledding down powdery hills, but can I be honest about the number of times either of those things have happened, at least with me present in the frame?

Goose Egg.

Turns out I didn't magically turn into a snow leopard just because I migrated north. Eric actually thinks I may be part lizard considering my staggering ability to sit in the sun for a length of time previously unprecedented for a human. But I digress.

Back to books! I'll show you mine if you show me yours.


Just Finished Reading:
 





This book is a compilation of essays by various prominent Christians, including many of my favorites, on the Biblical call to a life lived in community. It will definitely challenge you uphill and down, but it rings so incredibly true that it's impossible to discount. I'll put out a little teaser and tell you that although we've had it in the house for a year (Eric's purchase), we have a fairly big life change coming up that prompted me to finally pick it up and read it myself. More on that in an upcoming post! (or subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to know! ;)





This one was recommended to me by an old friend and blog reader (Hey Kaylor, heeey!). Written by political journalist Ron Fourier, it examines the modern parent-child relationship and invites parents to shelf the horsecrappery and love our kids for who they are rather than for how they make us look. Fourier's son has Asperger's (on the Autism Spectrum) and many of the details of their family dynamics spoke to me in a deeply personal way. (Yes, fine, I cried a few times.)



Okay, I'll be honest- I didn't read this one cover to cover. My friend brought it to our recent Upside Down Podcast co-host retreat in North Carolina and I devoured as much as I could during the cracks and crevices of our four days together. Ian and Suzanne actually have an Enneagram podcast by the same name, and I've listened to several episodes and gotten a lot out of them. If you're unfamiliar with the Enneagram, it's a type of ancient personality indicator (for lack of a better term) that is incredibly helpful in understanding yourself and other people. I've done several personality tests in my life and am naturally interested about them in general, but the Enneagram is the most thorough and the most practically impactful, bar none.


Currently Reading:




Doesn't the hip cover make you want to run out and buy it? ;) Seriously though this book is a gem- don't judge it by the outdated graphics. I'm only a few chapters in but it is a prophetic clarion call for our time. The writing is both intelligent and accessible, and he really does a good job of meeting people where they're at.


Will Be Reading:
  
 




Has anyone read this? I've long felt connected to Dorothy Day and have always yearned to know more about her intimate, familial side. Specifically, as a mother myself, I've always been curious about her successes and failures as a mother so driven and dedicated to social causes. I expect this will accurately portray the very human side of this great Christian figure.





You know I had to have a fluffy one thrown in! I'm on the library waitlist for this baby and can not wait! I have major mixed feels about Gilmore Girls (remember that post a few months ago?), but I think this will be a pretty fun read. Only uhhh 7 people holding it before me at the library.


Kids are Reading:




You might remember the name B.J. Novak from his work writing for and acting in The Office, and if so then you won't be surprised to hear that this book is hilarious (even for the grown up reader, whom it picks on). I love seeing my kiddos giggle over good humor, and this one delivers.






This is the first book that we've bought in this wonderful series of heroic figures, but it probably won't be the last. It's incredibly thorough and very well done, and my boys have become fascinated by the trials and victories in Helen's life. I definitely recommend this one.



Taavi's current board book binge read. There is seriously something about this book, because all three of my boys have been crazy about it as babies and toddlers. Taavi's affection may take the cake though- at less than 10 months old he was bringing it to us to read to him! Hashtag prodigy, y'all. (There is a Global Baby Girls one too! And I should add that proceeds go to the Global Fund for Children. Win!)



Eric's Reading:


I've never thrown in Eric's current reads before (maybe because he generally has like 12 super heady ones going at a time), but there's a first time for everything!




The hubs reports that this is classic Richard Rohr: a worshipful look at the heart of a deeply loving God. It's specifically about the relationship between the three parts of the Trinity and the implications on our own lives, and Eric reports that it's voice is an important one.


Alright, party peeps. Your turn! Let me know what you're reading and recommending, in the comments or on FB!


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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS