where the heart is.

‘home’ is the thread that tied up my weekend so i was already planning on writing about the subject for today’s post.

but then this morning, rain pouring outside on this fall day, i created a ‘lucy kaplansky‘ radio station on pandora and ‘this is home’ was the first song to play.

when i got in my car to run errands for work, blake shelton and miranda lambert were singing ‘home’ on the radio.

as i continued listening to pandora, i was aware that ‘home’ seems to be a recurring theme in folk-ish music.

so, i’m sort of thinking i was sort of right in thinking that today’s post ought to be about ‘home’. what do you think?

a few years ago, i was struck with the onset of the ebola virus. (do you remember that? when everyone got it? and you just threw up for days and days? there are few things i enjoy less than vomiting. like eating glass. or poking my eyeballs out with a fork.) it was christmas eve and my sister and i had made our traditional spaghetti dinner at the Big House for my dad and his best friend’s family. and the crackhead.


later that night, i woke up sick and spent christmas day running between my couch and the ceramic throne. alone. i drove to my mom’s the next day. (that part of the virus lasted only 24 hours and then, about two weeks later, THE DEVIL MANIFESTED IN MY DIGESTIVE SYSTEM FOR TEN DAYS.)

i decided then that i never wanted to wake up on christmas morning again and be anywhere my mom was not. in our home growing up, we would start listening to christmas music in july. by labor day, we had watched ‘white christmas‘ only about 76 times since the fourth of july. our house was already decorated for christmas by thanksgiving, which was only our deadline because uncle lindy & aunt trillis didn’t start selling christmas trees at amity church until then but you best believe that that is the only reason we didn’t have our tree up by the first day of school. the day after thanksgiving, my sisters and i would play hide and seek for about 2 1/2 hours while my mom and dad looked for The Perfect Tree, which they always managed to find year after year. my mom has frequented and knows well every christmas shoppe along the eastern seaboard.

christmas is one of my favorite things about my mom. she is home to me on christmas morning. my mom is christmas.

this weekend, my sister and i took hanners to tweetsie railroad in the mountains with a childhood friend and her little girl. we drove up to our hometown of chapel hill to spend-the-night with them on friday before leaving on saturday morning. upon crossing over from i-540 to i-40, i suddenly had more energy and sat up straighter in my seat. it felt to both of us like we had crossed the threshold toward home.

hg, and therefore i, woke up at 5:44 the next morning. when i realized i couldn’t convince her that, in fact, it would be a sunny day but, in the meantime, it was still dark outside and ‘everyone in the whole world is still sweeping‘, we decided we would love our friends well and went to get breakfast for everyone from across town. on the way back to our friends’ house, i rode down the street where we grew up to show hannah grace the house where ‘mommy & kk & aunt mah-yan’ lived when we were her age (which, incidentally, is on sale now for the very low, low price of a gajillion dollars which evidently means it was sitting on an artesian well we apparently didn’t know about. that or they renovated. whatever.)

i have ridden through that neighborhood a hundred times since we moved out over 10 years ago. i have long since grieved that loss. but that house is very much home to me; also, the Big House.

and i guess those places are still home to me because they are the location of my memories (the ones i still have, anyway – i have forgotten so much as i have gotten older!) it’s where i associate my grandparents and christmases and taking prom pictures and creating barbie villages in the creek and double dare obstacle courses and making forts and haunted houses in the playroom and where our cats and dogs are buried and where i accidentally put the car in reverse and almost drove into the creek when i was three and where i learned to ride my bike and play the piano and my dad cooking out on the front porch and my mom truly making our house every bit a home for us and all our friends.

when the girls and i journeyed up to the mountains on bad brakes on saturday morning, i with my cowboy boots on, it was definitely fall. it reminded of how each fall when we were little, we would go to tweetsie railroad and then stay at the swiss chalet in little switzerland where sarah hope thought clouds were really ghosts coming in on our veranda and into our room to get us. this is probably my favorite vacation spot of my childhood memories. and even though we didn’t make it as far as little switzerland this trip, i don’t think tweetsie railroad will be an adventure soon forgotten by hannah grace, either. we had The Best Time Ever. (sh said she thinks hg loved it more than disneyworld…which one is forced to wonder if it’s not because her Favorite Aunt was there this time. just saying.)

another one of sarah hope’s childhood bff’s lives there in the area, so she met us in blowing rock yesterday for lunch. there’s something about old friendships that continue into one’s adulthood – you just know each other, there are no pretenses, no false ‘heeeey! how arrrre yooouuu!?‘s’. you don’t have to spend too much time catching up because, even if you don’t talk all the time, you know their grandma recently died and you can’t believe how big their children have gotten even as they themselves look exactly the same as they did in the third grade and whatever happened to so-and-so? you just know each other. you get one another. you are home for each other.

we went into a shop in blowing rock four a few times and it was very much…us. artsy, ecclectic, homemade, grassroots but still very fine. the door stayed open, there was a sweet autumn breeze, colorful leaves the backdrop outside the windows, folk music was playing, the girls were free to play on the floor while we tried on. i felt so alive in that little space (and, no, sadly i didn’t buy anything). we agreed that this little store located in the resort town where we were visiting felt like our home. our hometown, that is.

when we got back to chapel hill on sunday night, we met molly and john who had come home on a whirlwind trip. we met them at the carrboro music festival to hear one of our hometown celebrity bands play (which, incidentally, john co-founded with another native son with whom i went to preschool turned high school crush – see? home.) we ran into people we hadn’t seen since high school and it was like we had seen them just yesterday. hugs were exchanged, kisses on kids’ heads, we danced in the rain and were free because we were at home…in that place, with those we love most who know us best.

it is always that way when i visit our cute little town.


we didn’t even care how late we got back, we were just so happy and our hearts were so full to be in the place that raised us alongside those with whom we were raised. it just felt right and it felt good. we were just. so. happy.

do i want to end up back in my hometown? oh, man. yes, very much so. at some point. i have no idea when that will happen. for now, with the exception of john & molly, my immediate family (and then some) is within a 30-mile radius. home.

and i have to confess that i have to fight hard for my creative, gypsy spirit to stay inspired here in my ‘new’ town (‘new’=going on three years). but i am so, SO thankful for this place because it has given me the best community i have ever had ever, particularly with my wednesday night bible/book study girls. there is not one thing in this world i would trade for the friends i have made and the community i have found here, and there is a whole lot to be said for that even when found in a not-so-stimulating environment.

home for me is also among The Favorites – each of us with different backgrounds and beliefs, but who know and get and adore each other and who can make me laugh harder than anyone i know. home is the stage where i found my place and discovered my voice with these girls fifteen years ago.

{home is when or where i can sink back in love like a big, comfy couch and transcend time and space and just…be there. with you.}

because i guess the truth is, i am at home wherever i am if i am comfortable in my own skin and resting in god, resting with you. when i trust the lord and his heart for me and don’t try to run too far ahead of him or too fast.

when i can just be still and feel my feelings and listen and am surrounded by folks i love whom i know love me, i am home.

for me, home is both the people and the place, the dwelling and the indwellers. the place where my heart is free and my spirit soars.

and where there is lots

and lots

of laughter.

and really good music.

and, always,

dancing in the rain.

where or what is home for you? who dwells there with you?

compassion: guatemala

As a member of Compassion, I received this email from Shaun Groves, the Blogger Manager. Sorry to interrupt my regularly scheduled post all about  me. Some things are just more important. Like starving children.

Four Compassion bloggers are meeting a few hundred of those children this week in Guatemala (September 8-11).
Please support them this week by praying daily, reading along, leaving an encouraging comment on their posts, sharing their words on Facebook and Twitter, and linking to them from your own blog. These blogging trips release hundreds of children from poverty and wouldn’t happen without the support of our entire Compassion Bloggers family. We need you!

1. Safety: Severe flooding over the weekend and continued heavy rains have caused mudslides in Guatemala that have claimed the lives of at least 100 people and displaced an estimated 110,000. We are altering our travel plans slightly for our own safety. Please pray for the safety of Compassion’s families and the whole of Guatemala.

2. Family: All our bloggers are leaving behind friends and family for the week. Please pray for the protection and comfort of these families while apart.

3. Writing: It is very difficult to have your heart broken and inspired so tremendously every day on these trips and then sit down at a computer each evening and put it all into words. Pray for God’s guidance and courage.

4. Re-entry: Begin praying now for each blogger’s re-entry into life back home. Coming home to the average American life after spending even a short time in the developing world is difficult for many. Pray that our bloggers return forever different and able to bring that difference into the same life they knew before.


With your help, MANY children in Guatemala will be released from poverty this week in Jesus’ name! Thank you.

-Shaun Groves
Blogger Manager

hope for tre.

Is there hope for Tre? A black kid who only knows his dad through pictures and rumors. A dad who has been in prison instead of in the life of his son. Is there hope for Tre? He’s seen so much. Has he seen too much? Crack heads caught in the act. Me: How do you know that guy’s a crack head? Tre: Cause I seen him lightin’ a crack pipe behind my house. Me: Dang.

He’s only twelve years old, but he seems like he’s been around for ages. His eyes are hard but they run deep. To look into them is to see a painful awareness that cannot be twelve years young. It’s like he’s been disappointed so many times that he’s developed an immunity. It’s still possible to let him down, but you gotta wake up early. He lives close to the ground so that the next broken promise doesn’t leave him far to fall.

Is there hope for Tre? He knows so much. Does he know too much? Has he been so long exposed to the broken dealings of broken adults that he has no more capacity to imagine? Is he damned to be a cynic for all that has flooded his mind before his mind was ready to make sense of it? He wears his anger like a birthmark. Not like it’s the result of something that happened to him in life. More like it’s the result of something that was waiting for him at birth.

Is there hope for Tre? Can the tender tears that he has shed give rise to a creative rebellion against the half-life that he has been handed? In a rare moment of defenselessness, one thing is made clear: he hopes that there is hope.

Is his hope for hope enough?

-guest post by Josh LeRoy

josh leroy is one of god’s greatest gifts to the world. he and his family have been a part of my life since i was in high school. his granddad, dad, two brothers and he are all ministers within the wesleyan church. they are the kind of folks who just move people wherever they go simply because they love like jesus loves. he and his precious wife, laura, started an inner-city movement called the bridge project in asheboro, nc.

sheer genius.

when my parents were my age, i was four (almost five) about to start kindergarten. at this time that year, my dad would have been 33 and my mom 32, almost 33.

molly anne would be starting the third grade and sarah hope would have been in nursery school.

the story goes that one day, not soon before the first day of school, my mom found me reading the newspaper. line by line, word for word. i was suddenly just…reading. by myself!

on another day, i realized i could tie my own shoes. alone!

no one taught me how to do either. i just…i could just…do them. both! i simply just…knew how!

i know. you don’t have to say it.

i can’t believe how brilliant i was either.

as the offspring of my proud parents and the prodigy of mrs. jackie hines’ kindergarten class, i would sometimes be excused from ‘centers’ to go read clifford books and amelia badelia books and books about the berenstain bears to my sister’s third grade class, where mrs. butler was her teacher. i was SO proud of myself and wanted so badly for molly to be proud of me, too. after all, i was really only showing off for her.

(it’s tough being so humble.)

one day i brought in the clifford joke book. i would ask the third graders questions and they would deliver the punchline. i’m not sure what the joke was, but i once replied to a boy named waylon farrington with, ‘i’m going to shove this book up your butt.’ i can still see the look mrs. butler gave me when she looked up from her desk.

…now that i think about it…i don’t remember being invited back after that. huh.

anywho, i was in three spelling bees when i was in elementary school, my first one in kindergarten. i got out on the third round when i was presented with the word ‘does’ because what child thinks of that word outside the context of a sentence and, in that case, who wouldn’t spell it ‘d-u-z’?

and that’s where the genius ends, folks.

ah, the good ol’ days…

have you ever been humbled by your own genius?

p.s. i’m totally doped up on cold medicine and high off of disinfectant this morning. forgive me.

it’s a sunny day!

one thing that b l o w s me away about my sweet niece is that she has


much .

P E R S O N A L I T Y!

she comes by it honestly (hello, have you met my family?) but what boggles me is that she had personality before she was old enough for any of us to give it to her! she is seriously the cutest thing everrr. not to mention, she is hiiilarious.

and she’s only two-and-a-half!

i may or may not fall asleep next to her every a few nights a week. there’s just something about snuggling with someone so cuddly! and cute! and sweet!

we have no idea who taught this to her, but she has started going to bed at night and waking up in the morning saying, ‘it’s a SUNny DAaay!’

even on days when it’s raining! (i think. wait. we haven’t had many rainy days here lately. huh. well, let’s just pretend for the sake of the message.)

and, seriously, it changes me. oh, what that child has done for our family! (no pressure or anything, hg. just keep doing what you’re doing.)

and i wonder…

what if that were the message in my heart every night and every morning?

what one person or phrase (or two or ten) has changed the way you approach your day for the better?

{and, really. let’s just be honest here. have you ever seen a cuter child than my hanners? just be honest. you haven’t, have you? (it’s okay, i won’t tell anyone.)}

from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the lord is to be praised. (psalm 113:3)


this is my new little girl, felista. she lives in tanzania. she is seven years old. i adopted her this past weekend while i was at a conference in charlotte. i say ‘adopt’ because it fills a need in me of scooping up all the children of the world who need help. the more appropriate way to say it, though, is that i became a sponsor through compassion international.

the cost to sponsor a child is $38/month (up from $34). i bought a pair of shoes from tj maxx for $42 last week (that i need to return). my gym membership is $38/month. when my gas tank is empty, it has cost $36.94 to fill it up the last few times.

wages in tanzania are $8/month.

i live on a tiiight budget, paycheck-to-paycheck. but i feel so strongly about this cause that i just knew god would work it out somehow, especially given how much he loves these children and created them in his image.

just like you. just like me.

i couldn’t not come home with a child.

today, i emailed my property manager because my lease would be up in a month so i just wanted to make sure it would be okay for me to stay in my apartment. when i signed my lease last year, i had to agree to a second deposit that would be spread out over the course of the year, which will now be diminished. the amount?

$33.00. it didn’t even occur to me until i looked at her picture just now that this would be the money i will give to felista each month. (i think i can manage to wriggle the extra $5.00 from my shoe budget.)

felista has two siblings and lives at home with her mom and dad. but as soon as i signed up, felista became my child.

compassion is not paying me anything to endorse them. in fact, i asked my new bff’s shawna & laura how i could become a compassion blogger, and i don’t even qualify right now (and may never because it requires 50,000 blog hits to get noticed). those of you who know me know that i cannot blindly promote anything; for me to endorse something, it must be something in which i strongly believe. i will get no special attention for telling you about my new relationship with compassion and felista.

the only thing that may happen as a result of this post is that you may be moved to sponsor a child of your own.

and if that does happen, please prayerfully consider the impact and reach of just how far $38/month will go.


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