Wednesday, September 5, 2012

just what I needed to hear

I only spent three years with this group of people, but I fell in love with them.  They became my family.  I left them to move to Charlotte seven years ago.  Each year, I try to visit them and they visit me.  This time, we spent the weekend together.  We hosted the community meal, gave away book bags, shared stories, worked on projects, ate, and hung out together.  When it was time for them to go, I didn't want them to leave.  I felt like saying, "Don't go!  I don't want to do this alone.  Stay!"

And then he said just what I needed to hear.  "Helms, we are proud of you.  We are praying for you a lot.  You are doing good work.  Don't give up.  Keep on going."

Thanks, friends, for reminding me that I am not alone.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

August 14, 2012

Tuesday, August 14th

Jason called at 1:30am. He saw police cars. Greg went outside. A shooting. Later, the news said a teenager had been shot.

7:30am- Dave called. Jane Bass died. Cathy was headed to Hospice.

I hopped in the shower and headed to hospice care. Greg was taking boys to the babysitter and then going to work.

When I arrived, Cathy met me at the break room. We walked together into Jane’s room. A candle was lit outside. Music was playing. I hugged Jon’s neck and walked toward the bed where Jane’s body lay. I don’t think I have ever seen a dead body before it went to the mortician. I thought I’d be scared. I got closer and worried I’d show my fear on my face. Jon touched the body. Cathy kissed her. I couldn’t. I couldn’t touch her. I wanted to. I wanted to touch her because I thought it might be a healing experience for the family. I wanted not to be scared and creeped out. But I was. I’m ashamed of that.

I reached out and placed my hand beside her, on the bed, and said, “We loved you very much, Jane.” What I really meant to say was, “I loved you very much, Jane.” And I did. Jane was just what I needed at the right time. She was blunt and honest, but caring and compassionate. She was spunky and tacky and funny…sometimes not meaning to be. And I liked it. I liked her. I liked how she made me feel loved. I like how she listened and chewed on what I was saying . She let me know that she took seriously what I had to say. I loved that she came to my craft sale and bought some earrings…and those things were so tacky! God love her!

Then, Cathy and I chatted in the room while we waited for the funeral home to get there. She retold some of the stories of their time at the Hospice house. DJ came in and was happy to see me. I was wishing we’d seen each other at a different time. It felt awkward to have a happy reunion in the middle of a death bed scene. At some point, both Cathy and DJ left the room. For that split second of time when I was by myself with Jane, I wanted to go over and say something to her, but didn’t want to at the same time. I was worried I might get too upset and was a little afraid. So, from where I was seated, I looked over at her and whispered, “thank you.” I got choked up with just that little whisper and had to reign myself in. I wanted to tell her that she reminded me of my own grandmother and that I loved that. I loved that she had little to no pretention about her. I loved that she spoke her mind. I loved that she sometimes made people feel uncomfortable because she was so brash. I loved that she hugged me and gave me kisses on the cheek. I loved that she welcomed me in and acted like she wanted me to be there. But, I didn’t say any of these things because…well, I’m not sure why….maybe it is because she wasn’t there to hear them. Maybe it is because I didn’t want to get wrapped up in my own emotions. Maybe it is because I should have said it when she was alive.

The processional that Hospice does in order to move the body to the funeral home is very meaningful. They asked us to leave the room and they moved her body to a stretcher and but her in a body bag. They allowed her face to still show. Then, they came and got us and led us all down the hall. All the staff people were in the hall, standing silently. DJ gave the prayer shawl to Cathy and the “herb of remembrance”, rosemary, to Jon. He said a prayer and we walked the rest of the way with Jane’s body to the vehicle. Music was playing in the hallway.

And then, we went back and got the rest of our things and left. I was in the car getting ready to leave the Hospice house when I called Greg.

I knew Greg was going to tell me who was shot. I’d sort of prepared a list of people who might have been the victim. I was ready, or so I thought. Greg said I needed to stop the car. I did. He said the person who got shot was Khalil and he was dead. I was in a total state of shock. I couldn’t say anything. I hung up the phone and dropped my head on the steering wheel.

This can’t be happening. It just isn’t possible. Khalil isn’t one of the ones who’d be out late at night. He’s not a bad kid. Quite the opposite, in fact. Khalil is a very good kid. He’s happy and playful. He’s compassionate and helpful. He’s friendly and smart. He wanted to go to college. He was getting good grades. He was in our youth group. He took care of me and my boys and all of us. How could this be?

I took a moment and then began to drive home, sobbing the whole way. Groaning in pain. Moaning in agony. What in the deepest hell is going on here? Why was he out at night? Why didn’t we hear the shots? If only I’d heard the shots, I could have been there to hold him, to comfort him. I couldn’t control my own voice. I tears were streaming down and my insides sent growls of anger and pain out that even I didn’t recognize. Oh, I was angry. Why Khalil? What in the world are we doing here if not to save boys like Khalil from dying on our streets? What kind of world do we live in where 13 year olds bleed to death on sidewalk corners? Why does a 16 year old have a gun? Why does anyone have a freakin’ gun!

I drove in the driveway and Greg was on the front porch. I practically crawled out of the car and only made it halfway to the house before stopping. My body shook, my mind turning in circles. What is going on?

Greg met me.

I changed my shoes. We walked up to the corner. Not even 20 steps. Khalil’s blood on the cement. My baby’s blood on the cement. It was true. This is horrible. This is grotesque. This is evil. This is too much.

Shoulders dropped and head hung, we walked in a grey cloud down to Tyler and Felix’ house. We wanted to get to all the youth and talk to them. We gave hugs. We listened to questions. We left. Back at the corner, a large group of family arrived. Flowers marked the grave. A song was sung. Words were spoken. Weeping, wailing.

Neighbors, friends, youth came. We gave hugs. We listened to questions. We cried. Time passed and Khalil was gone.

Myra sobbed. She doubled over in agony. She was so angry and upset. She didn’t want anyone to touch her, but she needed something to hold her in. I pulled her to me. We were hurting, the both of us. She couldn’t stand that his blood was on the sidewalk. Neither could I. I determined I would be the one to wash away the blood.

Bucket, brush, and water in hand. “There is a balm in Gilead…” On hands and knees, I scrubbed the stain from the pavement. “…to heal the sin sick soul…” I felt like one of the women at the tomb. The washing away of the blood felt like a prayer, a release, a commitment,…it felt sacred and pure and holy.

We heated up food and opened up the clubhouse for youth. We put out markers and poster board and a banner and paints. We let them make what they needed to make. We talked and asked questions. We wrote our thoughts. We hung our thoughts on the fence. Others came and added to our creations.

Folks from outside the neighborhood called and came by. They helped take care of children, make food, and stood present with us.

With the youth’s ideas, we organized a vigil. 300 or more came. We listened as folks shared and remembered. We released our prayers into the sky with balloons. I felt like I was being released from Khalil. It was a relief. I had felt like he’d been on my back all day…following me…talking to me…bothering me with his silly annoyances. Letting him go was helpful …and sad.

We will continue to walk with neighbors. We will continue to walk with the Schroeder’s and Jane’s family and friends. This week, we walk the life’s journey all the way to the end, at death, where we are reminded of our Maker, redeemer, and Savior who can wash away the horrors and sins of this world.

Lord, give us your grace.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why I almost didn't vote AGAINST Amendment One

Let me be clear.  I voted against Amendment One.  The Amendment is discriminatory and wrong on many levels.  I never would have voted for it, but I almost didn't vote against it.  Here's why:

* You can't take a stand half way!
All of the sudden, people started coming out of the woodwork, ready to talk a lot and raise their voices to fight against prejudice and discrimination.  Where were these people when Melody Ann was told she couldn't get a job at Kmart because "we're not hiring people like you?"  Where were these people when Raeshawn and I were being verbally attacked by a police officer because he had dreads and I was challenging the officer's words?  These people are up in arms because of discrimination, yet they discriminate against people of color and lower socioeconomic backgrounds all the time.  They are coming out to take a stand, yet they're not willing to stand in the line at the Family Dollar or Quick and Easy on Freedom Drive.  They are shouting words of liberty, yet they'd never think of putting themselves in a situation where they'd be shouting cheers for their children as they play on a team at a school like West Charlotte High school.  They wouldn't dare send them there.  These folks are posting signs in their front yards; yards that have fences and security systems to keep every stranger away.

*Church and State
Who cares what the state does?  We aren't the state.  We are the church!  The church can and should recognize marriage.  The church and and should provide care and resources to her body.  The church could, if she wanted to, provide an environment of support, nurture, and even benefits to her people if the people really invested in the church.

*Church People (And I'm one of them)
They talk, but they don't act.  They point to the problems, but don't fathom themselves as the solution.  They pray prayers that they could answer if they tried.

* Privileged people (And I am one of them)
People of privilege took up this issue.  (That always makes me leery.)  And they get angry when others do not.  What they don't realize is that others got a whole lot more to worry about than voting and politics.  Some people are ignorant because no one of privilege has taken the time to educate them.  Some people aren't educated because no one of privilege has stooped so low as to learn a new language and speak within a different set of cultural norms.  Why didn't some people vote against?  Because they live in a different world than you do; speak a different language, worry about different issues.

*The people you care about (Am I one of them?  Is my neighbor one of them?)
When you were standing up and shouting out, you were paying close attention to Brooks and Pat, two middle class white ladies who love one another.  I like them too.  I think they are important.  But you forgot to mention Mary Ann and Nate or Joe and Shondella.  They aren't married for several reasons.  Social services benefits are better for them when they aren't married, church people have turned them off and away, no one is married in their family and they don't even know all the steps how or why to get married.  These people have faces too, just like Brooks and Pat.  But you don't see them.  You don't know them.  You refuse to venture to where you might see them unless maybe you might ignore their faces as they bus your table or mow your lawn.

Why now?  Why weren't you shouting before?  Is it out of convenience?  The safety in numbers? 

*Self Righteousness (of which I have a tremendous amount, unfortunately)
"Look at me.  I am radical.  I am taking a stand.  I say things to stir people up.  I want to be very public in my proclamations.  Everybody, see and pay attention to the fact that I say I believe this way."  That kind of mess gets annoying.

But, I did vote AGAINST and will hope that the good fight will be not just against the Amendment, but against all these other things as well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


A creepy man tried to get me to come over to his truck the other day.  I was walking down the street and saw him at his house, in the driveway.  I try to make an effort to acknowledge everyone I walk by.  His dogs were barking and had scared the man in front of me off of the sidewalk and onto the other side of the road.  Following in the other walker's tracks, I spoke to the dog owner jokingly saying, "They're doing their job, aren't they?"   The man didn't say anything back to me.  He just gestured for me to come closer and pointed into the back of his pick up truck.  I looked with crooked eyebrows and said, "What?"  He said, "Come here.  Do you want some of this?" And then he pointed at something I couldn't see in the back of the truck.  I looked at him with a grossed out face that probably said something like, "You've gotta be kidding me!"  He figured out that I was uncomfortable and shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm just kidding.  I just wanted to say 'Hello'."  He moved a little closer and I moved further away.  I said, "Hello, then." picked up my step, and got out of dodge.

GROSS!  Yuck!  Sick!  Bleh! Cringe! 

the things you hear

Yesterday, I met someone new.  Come to find out, according to him he was one of the "originals" that took to living together and extending their home to homeless folk on the other side of town.  I hadn't met him before, but I'd met some of the "originals", so I said something like, "Oh really!  Well, we know them.  They've been over here several times and we've talked.  Our friend used to live over there with yall.  I'm surprised we hadn't run into each other before."  And his response is, "Yeah, I'd heard there were some older people doing community over here, but had never had the chance to stop by and visit."  I burst into laughter.  Older people?  Are you joking?  I'm 34 years old!
He goes on to explain that he looks a lot older than he really is.  He has a degree, but it is a two year degree.  He's not old at all, he's 21.

Well, I won't go into how I felt at his "accusation" of me being old or how I am sort of annoyed that somehow he heard through the grapevine that there were older people doing community over here.  The thought of several people talking about us in a way that leads others to believe that we're old...and in this instance, he made it sound like old wasn't good ( or else why wouldn't he have come to visit sooner?) just rubs me the wrong way.

24 hours later, and I can't get the comment out of my head. But what's bothering me more his lack of manners and sensitivity is his...and maybe, potentially, other's perception of me, us, our community.

So we're not hipsters.  We don't wear tight pants and have visible tatoos.  I don't use hair product or know how to use all the apps on my smart phone.  Does this make us old?  Bad?  Not cool?  And then there's the fact that we don't wear baggy clothes and we don't have dreads, we don't wear potchouli.  Does this make us less than cool? 

And if people are talking about us in a way that seems to include some language that describes us in a not so popular or pleasant way, could this be one of the reasons why we haven't managed to gain committed community members. 

I know there are things about ourselves that others cannot see.  Are we old? dated? uncool?

I honestly thought we were living radically, doing things differently, being creative, and making our best attempt at being faithful.  I wanted to think that people thought we were cool but just couldn't buy into the radical nature in which we live.  I wanted to think that the reason we couldn't gain in number was because personalities clashed or the neighborhood or community just wasn't the right fit.  I can swallow these thoughts, though they are not pleasant.  But, if what this guy says is true, then there are people who are making attempts to live radically and they are doing things differently, but they are choosing not to do it with us...evidently because we're old, dated, "mature in our faith" is what he tried to smooth things over by saying. 

"Wise, experience, and seasoned," I'd much rather be described by these adjectives.  But, then the question still sits there...if he knew there were people living in intentional community and offering their homes as places of hospitality, much like him, then why didn't he make the connection earlier?  The only thing I can figure is that we weren't...enough.  I can't really think of it any other way.  To be a communitarian means to be in touch with and in partnership with other folks, especially those who are doing the same work and living similar lifestyles. 

We'd had contact with his folks (and others) because we respected what they were doing, wanted to show our support, and valued the perspective they had.

I know it's not the best place to land and that I might not be able to see all the sides of the story, but I'm left with a feeling of, well plainly put, not being valued. 

No body likes that feeling, including me.

I don't think the guy meant to say what he did.  It was probably a little slip up.  But it spoke volumes to me. Now I've just gotta figure out what to do about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What I want/need

At this stage, I'm not so sure I can tell the difference between what I need and what I want.  Everything seems so pressing and urgent, it feels like a need.  But, in the big reality of life, these things maybe aren't necessities at all.  I also have a hard time recognizing the difference between a personal need and a Hyaets need.  The line is so blurry and crooked- moving this way and that for different people.  I'm not going to worry about which one's which.  I'm just going to list them.  Time will tell:

*A couple really good friends that I can call without feeling like I'm interrupting something or intruding and speak honestly without worrying about hurting feelings or sounding ugly.* For some of the things on our Hyaets Wish list to be completed by a generous soul or group of souls so that we can feel like it is ok to start wishing again.*To find the right people to collaborate with on several projects- people that'll be creative and open and make things happen:  Youth partnership with other youth groups that are demographically similar for things like camp, mission trip, retreats, etc; Small business ideas (personal and Hyaets related) that may be helpful in supporting neighbors/ministry * Space and Time for creating things (without feeling guilty) * dining room painting party helpers * dining room table painting party helpers * publishing software that makes photo edits and calendar making a breeeze * someone give me an ipod with all of my favorite music on it and a bunch of stuff I've never heard but will like with some headphones that are bigger than pennies * a different couch &  a different chair- ones that actually fit in our living room * a couple (maybe three) community members that I can really relate to and feel supported by * 3-5 discerning students who are passionate about service and simple living who would come and live and minister with us at Hyaets * the rural Hyaets inititiative to get started and cleanly break off with happiness and excitement about all thatthey could be * an outdoor shower * a screened in back porch * W/D upstairs rather than in the dirty cellar that you get to by going down the stairs of death* One car that fits at least 6 people that is cute, safe, and efficient* someone to redo the floor in the clubhouse so that it is not constently attracting and keeping dirt * lead based paint removal*  window replacement- but I want them to look like the ones we have now*  preschool registration to be decided on and followed through with*  dental appt for JTJ to be scheduled*  taxes to be figured out*  Z's SSN to finally arrive (he turns 2 in June, people)*  financial planning session with someone who does not believe in hoarding and consumerism*  a coach*  a group of people to take my ideas to who will give feedback and "buy in" with action to the ones they feel interested in....I'm sure there's more.  That's a good list for now.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Who I want to be

I want non-neighbors to see me as: faithful, dedicated, creative, smart, hard working, sacrificial, loyal, honest, thoughtful, compassionate.

I want neighbors to see me as: a good listener, friend, helper, cheerful, resourceful, welcoming, open

I want to see myself as: artist, mother, minister, gardener, good neighbor, host, leader, creative, productive

Other qualities that seem important for one reason or another: cleanliness, order, being a non-anxious presence, being able to see places that need improvement, being able to notice when my values don't line up with my lifestyle and making changes to line them up more correctly, having friends/support group, making space for beauty

What I want to do


6:30am- boys wake us up

7:15am- go walking around neighborhood

get dressed, eat breakfast

8:30am- leave the house (Greg stays with boys on Mondays, I stay with the boys on Thursdays. On Fridays, we are both home)

9:00am- Church office work (We are together in the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

2:00pm- return home for chores, catching up with Greg, Hyaets administrative work, work in garden, rest for a minute  Sometimes I wish I could run some errands in the afternoon, but due to babysitters and feeling like I am "supposed to be home", I come straight home.  I like this time for chores and so forth, but sometimes I feel bad if I'm not "working" at this time.  And sometimes when I feel like resting, I don't because I feel bad about it....or if I am resting, I feel bad about that.  I'm almost always exhausted during this time, so I have to force myself to get moving.  This is not my most productive time of day.  If the boys are not napping well, they may be awake at this time, making it difficult to "get things done."

4:20pm- Neighborhood kids show up for afterschool hang out (this amount of kids may vary between 2-10). We provide an afterschool snack, supervision, help with home work, entertainment, and conversation. Work in garden, play outside if nice. Dinner prep  I don't mind being here every afternoon, but sometimes I wish I could be gone without feeling guilty about leaving the kids high and dry.  Kids just come by, they haven't signed up and they are not required to be here.  So, it varies as to who comes and how many.  I am terrible at homework help, especially with the kids who are terrible at reading and math.  I think that the afterschool program across the street would provide better help with home work than we can.  I'd like to use this time for various things: neighborhood walk about, maybe volunteering with the neighborhood afterschool program, visiting with parents in the neighborhood, in depth relationship building with the teenagers.

5:30pm- Dinner: Either the Tuck house or the Parkway house provides and prepares the meal. We switch off. Usually, our house provides the meal on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and half the meal on Thursdays. On Wednesdays, more kids come over and we provide Dinner and Devos. We have a couple of volunteers that help us so that we can split the kids between age groups. We do games and then a "lesson" and prayer time. Kids leave on Wednesday between 7:00-7:30pm. Neighbors eat with us on M, T, and W. On Thursdays, neighbors do not eat with us. We often bring food to Thursday night meals, potluck style. We commit to eating dinner with our Community. On occasion, we have to miss dinner due to other obligations.  I really like Dinner and Devos.  I don't like that I'm so committed to dinners that I don't feel like I can meet with friends on occasion or go out with Greg on occasion.  The imbalance of food provision is not really that bad, but sometimes the Thursday night meals are not very appetizing or healthy since it is a modge podge.

6:15pm- Community prayers, if we aren't too hectic and we remember. Thursday prayers for sure.  If this was done one way and one way only, that'd be a bit easier.  The fact that it is always switching around makes for unsettling feelings.

Kids usually leave the house no later than 6:45pm on M and T.  I don't like the eat and run mentality, but I also go batty when the kids stay around because they tear up the house and need total supervision.

Evening Stroll around the neighborhood or visit to the rec center, entertain children, work in garden  I love the evening stroll and wish our neighborhood were more visually interesting.

8pm- boys in bed

yoga, chores, screen time, Hyaets administrative stuff, book time  At the end of the day, it feels like I have to squeeze a lot of stuff into 2 hours.  I feel like I HAVE TO exercise as much as possible, at least 30 minutes.  These two short hours make me feel so frustrated because I so many more things to do than I have time for.

10:30-11:30pm- Bed

Variations: First and Third Fridays of the month are reserved for Community Meals. We coordinate with churches and provide food for 30+ people. We try our best to introduce ourselves to everyone at the meal and keep all the children safe and entertained.  I have absolutely no capacity to have in depth conversations during Community meals.  I'm so concerned with logistics and kids, I end up running around the whole time.  I don't mind this, so much as other people don't expect me to be working on in depth relationships during Community Meals.

If CMS is out of school, M-F, we provide lunch and an activity to neighborhood children (avg 15 during school year. Grows in number to more than 30 in the summer)  This often interferes with our work schedules.  We have some helpful volunteers, but inconsistently so.

Saturdays: farmer's market, yard work, errands, interact with neighbors, church related activities, and more.  Saturdays feel like, "productivity day".  If we don't get everything done on our "to do" list, then we worry that we won't get them done at all until the next Saturday.

Add to this: weekend retreats with neighbors or church folks, Sunday evening meetings with church folks. Greg might play a gig sometimes in the evenings.

Possibilities that may "help" some situations: better childcare options, partner with the afterschool program, appoint an "off day" from meals every so often so that we can go out or do something outside of the norm.  Note other ideas in previous posts.

What I do

It occurs to me that I might should write out what my current weekly routine is like.  Then, I might could figure out what want my current weekly routine to look like.  I'll also, hopefully if I get around to it, try to flesh out who I want to be to myself, neighbors, etc.  This should help work out some thoughts.

I'll begin with What I do.

Let's Start with Sunday:
6:30am- boys come and wake me up
get ready for church
8:30am- almost every other week, there's a meeting at church
9:30-12:30am- Church...sometimes meetings till 1 or 2pm
Greg goes to jazz orchestra rehearsal and I play with boys
Play with boys
boys to bed
veg out/screen time

6:30am- boys wake us up
7:15am- go walking around neighborhood
get dressed, eat breakfast
8:30am- leave the house (Greg stays with boys on Mondays, I stay with the boys on Thursdays.  On Fridays, we are both home)
9:00am- Church office work (We are together in the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
2:00pm- return home for chores, catching up with Greg, Hyaets administrative work, work in garden, rest for a minute
4:20pm- Neighborhood kids show up for afterschool hang out (this amount of kids may vary between 2-10).  We provide an afterschool snack, supervision, help with home work, entertainment, and conversation.  Work in garden, play outside if nice. Dinner prep
5:30pm- Dinner:  Either the Tuck house or the Parkway house provides and prepares the meal.  We switch off.  Usually, our house provides the meal on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and half the meal on Thursdays.  On Wednesdays, more kids come over and we provide Dinner and Devos.  We have a couple of volunteers that help us so that we can split the kids between age groups.  We do games and then a "lesson" and prayer time.  Kids leave on Wednesday between 7:00-7:30pm.  Neighbors eat with us on M, T, and W.  On Thursdays, neighbors do not eat with us.  We often bring food to Thursday night meals, potluck style.  We commit to eating dinner with our Community.  On occasion, we have to miss dinner due to other obligations.
6:15pm- Community prayers, if we aren't too hectic and we remember.  Thursday prayers for sure
Kids usually leave the house no later than 6:45pm on M and T.
Evening Stroll around the neighborhood or visit to the rec center, entertain children, work in garden
8pm- boys in bed
yoga, chores, screen time, book time
10:30-11:30pm- Bed

Variations:  First and Third Fridays of the month are reserved for Community Meals.  We coordinate with churches and provide food for 30+ people.  We try our best to introduce ourselves to everyone at the meal and keep all the children safe and entertained.
If CMS is out of school, M-F, we provide lunch and an activity to neighborhood children (avg 15 during school year.  Grows in number to more than 30 in the summer)
Saturdays: farmer's market, yard work, errands, interact with neighbors, church related activities, and more.
Add to this: weekend retreats with neighbors or church folks, Sunday evening meetings with church folks.  Greg might play a gig sometimes in the evenings. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What about???...

I hesitate putting too many specific ideas out into the world wide web for several reasons:  What if someone steals my idea and makes it their own?  What if someone doesn't allow me to pursue the idea?  What if it isn't a good idea? What if someone reads an idea typed out on a blog and things that the draft on the blog is the final product and makes quick judgments about something that is incomplete?...but I'm going to resist the urge to keep all the ideas to myself and I'm going to push myself even further not to claim the ideas as mine or take posession of them.  Thus, here are some of my specific ideas for the future of Hyaets:

Find some entreprenuers.  Ask them to bring their business to Tuckaseegee Rd.  Provide references for potential  neighborhood employees.

Start a small group in the neighborhood for adults.  The purpose of the group is to share with one another the needs we see among our neighbors and our thoughts/action for caring for our neighbors.  This is not a neighborhood association or a complaints meeting.  It is all about acknowledging that each member serves as a caregiver to the neighborhood.  We form a group identity and know that we are the Care team for the neighborhood.  We help each other help others and each of us does so knowing that we have the support of the team members.  Graft these team members into Hyaets at some level of membership or partnership.  Meet once a month or once every other month to talk about what's happening with the people we are caring for, how we might support one another, and what needs we see for the whole of the community.  Maybe we could use the shepherding language?  Or Caring language?  Not sure what terms to use, but can already think of a core group of 4 or 5 people who might be on a team.  Not religiously affiliated.

Instead of starting a microbusiness that requires teaching a skill to neighbors that they do not already know, build off of what they do know: hospitality. Utilize the new house (once purchased) partly (ie. mostly, if things work) as a bed and breakfast type of place.  The bed and breakfast (inn) is advertized as a perfect rest stop for musicians on tour (gigs).  Use the Milestone club down the street as a helpful connection.  Due to the hours that musicians have (late nights), the schedule for "work" would perfectly fit with neighbors' schedules.  Neighbors work as the hosts.  Maybe ask Johnson and Wales to provide some small amount of training or interns.  Neighbors run the inn: food, lodging, cleaning, security, upkeep, etc.  In the shed out back, there's a part art part music studio.  Musician may "pay" for part of their stay by teaching a lesson or two to kids in the neighborhood or providing other services at the studio.  Recording capabilities and relatively regular jam sessions would be happening at the studio, providing interest, networking, and amenities to musicians that they could not find at the typical motel. The fee for stay would be less than a nice motel's stay, but more than the local roach motels nearby.  Musicians could choose to lengthen their stay and provide a livingroom concert to neighbors.

Community life:  We're going to need some adults that are relatively close to our age and stage of life, I think.  It just helps to be able to share life with folks who "get" what's happening with our lives.  But, finding those types of people is not easy.  I spent 5 years working with college students.  Greg's really really good at mentoring interns and so forth.  We really like the idea of providing discerning students or recent grads and opportunity to minister in our neighborhood and live in community.  Students could engage in a short term partnership (1 year) with the option of extending it longer or more permanently.  These students, like the rest of us, would work for Hyaets and participate in community life.  I'm not sure about payment.  One trick is that the Tuck house will still have a mortgage that must be paid monthly, so we'll have to have people in it that can help pay that mortgage.  So, if a student wanted to be paid for their work and if Hyaets paid for their lodging, we'd have to find some grant funding or something of that sort.  But, if a student (are there any like this?) were to choose to live and work for free...and gain not a whole lot of monetary income but quite a bit of experience, then we'd happily accept them. :)  Mine and Greg's role would be something like an Abbot or Abbess within our community.

Change the afterschool program to no afterschool program, sort of:  Greg and I are very ready to make some drastic changes to the ministries that we are engaged in.  One program that has served a helpful purpose, but we seem to no longer have passion about is Afterschool care.  Our afterschool system is not alltogether that structured.  We are always home when school lets out.  We have afterschool snacks on hand at all times.  We interact with children and help them with their homework.  We entertain children and try our best to keep them from tearing up our house, yard, or the clubhouse.  We break up arguements and rangle kids.  The amount of participating children varies.  One day it could be one or two, the next day it could be 10-12.  Some kids bring homework to do, some don't.  Some need one on one attention for homework, some don't.  We've tried all sorts of tactics, incentives, and activities.  We are now ready to consider handing over the afterschool program to someone else:  someone who can do it well, with support staff, and with more structure than we're able to provide.  We've thought about somehow encouraging all the parents of the kids that we interact with to sign their kids up for the afterschool program that takes place at the rec center through the police athletic league.  (a blog about the role of police in our neighborhood and why this idea doesn't settle with us very easily might need to be included)  Our idea is that we would really really encourage parents to sign up for Afterschool at the center.  We might even be able to help provide partial or full scholarships for each of the kids.  Then, we go to the center and we provide ourselves and other church partners as volunteers at the program.  We get the parents to sign a waiver saying that we have permission to sign their kid out of afterschool.  This way, we'll be able to take them out early when/if we want them to come over for dinner.  We'll also be able to take a couple here and there out for some one on two time with us.  We won't feel like we have to be at home everyday afterschool.  We won't feel totally incompetant when we can't figure out how in the world to teach one of the kids how to read or do their math because there'll be other staff support.  We'll volunteer at the more structured afterschool program, make relationships with folks at the center and PAL, and have an opportunity to opt out of afterschool on occassion when we need to do other things like run errands, talk one on one with a neighbor, spend time with our children, etc.  This, in time, may lend itself to partnering with the PAL summer day camp program as well which has quite a bit of potential.

Hope Chapel:  One day a week this summer, the kids will go to Hope Chapel to work on upkeeping and repairing the building.  I wonder if there are possibilities for further partnership and growth in this area.

Jewelry Making:  Very informally and infrequently, we gather a few women or young ladies together to make jewelry.  We take that jewelry, on occassion, to speaking engagements.  Half the sales go back to the jewelry maker and half goes towards the supply costs.  I'd like to expand this into other art.  I'd also like to use the kiln I bought to experiment with fused glass jewerly or precious metal clay jewelry.  I really really want to turn the House to Home shed into an art studio for this purpose.

Thrifty Mama:  What if we asked all the supporting churches to collect baby clothes and items and maternity clothes and we opened up a thrift store for new moms.  We could hire women from the neigborhood to run the store.  The inventory would come from church people donations.  I know that when I was pregnant, I wished that there was a maternity consignment close to us, but they are all totally across town.  We could also provide, maybe, some pastoral care or counseling for new moms. (maybe) and maybe doula services/connections as well.

WE HAVE GOT TO FIND A YOUTH CAMP that is better geared toward our youth.  Economic class and race is so very evident in the planning of the camp that we currently go to.  I really really wish we could find a way to partner with some like minded ministries and groups to plan some sort of meaningful and unique discipleship and fun experience for our youth.  I've tried to reach out to a couple of camp organizations and people about this, but no bites.

More to come...maybe...hopefully...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More thoughts on the future of Hyaets

It is important to us that we base our daily activity and choices on our values/ideals. We know, though, that we won’t ever be able to match our values/ideals with our lives. Certainly, we haven’t included everything that is important and we won’t perfectly match our ideals, but it is at least worth a try.

In the six years we have lived in community and co-directed the Hyaets ministry, we have experienced many good times. We have also experienced quite a bit of difficulty. We are not under the illusion that any changes will keep us from experiencing difficulty. In fact, changes will inevitably involve difficulty. Without dumping all six years of history onto the world wide interwebs, I’ll make my best attempt to flesh out how we came to discern our needs, voids, or opportunities for growth/change.

It seems that the amount of residential community members affects the stability and sustainability of our Community. For six years, there have been 4 long term adult residents. Children have increased in number. Temporary people (interns and “year long discernment” folks) have come and gone, but have not stayed. There was one occasion when an intern stayed for some parts of 2 years, either in our own home or in a close by residence. The Resident Year Discernment Year process has always been very flexible and unstructured. The rule and routine of our community almost always changes in order to adjust to the new people who come. Personalities traits and habits probably have something to do with the lack of commitment from discerning folks, but I think more than anything else, the reasons for the not-so-working discernment process are unclear expectations, wrong assumptions on both parts, unclear definition of membership into Hyaets community life. I personally believe that unclear expectations, rule, and routine have also made it difficult between residential members and possibly have caused the current disconnect/decision to start a new community. Though the newest effort and way in which a new community has been a difficult pill for me to swallow, I do agree that this might be the best possible option.

I’m very excited about the potential for newness, growth, and the opportunity for following new paths. I’m eager to grow our little urban community and to discern new ministry possibilities. Dreaming and visioning is fun. We also need some change. The life we have formed thus far at Hyaets has been rewarding and meaningful, but there have been times when we have sensed there was room for improvement. Too often, we have felt unsupported, isolated, and overwhelmed. This opportunity to make changes might allow for some of these feelings to be overcome.

I think that something like regular and routine community spiritual direction/coaching/or counseling would be helpful. When things have been difficult, we have turned to a counselor, but I think regular and routine direction would be a necessity. This way, we may be able to vision, discern, and reevaluate together with outside perspective on a regular basis. Also, it would help us as individuals to hear insight from an outside-of-the-community supportive person who has some understanding of how we live and interact.

It seems that numbers have something to do with sustainability and support. The more people, the more shared labor, yet too many makes for too much. I’m not sure what the “perfect” number would be, but I think that numbers are important to consider/aim for. It also seems that physical presence is not enough. Emotional presence is key to relationship development and community life. Personality conflicts, depression, addiction, and communication seem to be key influences in community relationships.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What if...?

Things at Hyaets will be changing soon.  Jason and Joanie have developed an interest in community living with another couple and are persuing starting a new community in a rural area.  Their hope is that this new community will be a branch off of Hyaets.  The potential for Jason and Joanie's move has made us rethink a lot of things.  We ask ourselves, how will we function without another family here to rely on?  Where will we get the man power to do the things we currently do at Hyaets?  What areas of growth or change do we see?  How will we recruit community members here in the urban place?

Greg and I have been talking about the possibilities.  We have been brainstorming and writing down our ideas and we're ready to hear thoughts and ideas from a few other people.  So, we've invited some folks over for breakfast on Saturday with the hopes that other voices might be able to contribute helpful ideas and brainstorming.

Here is a sketch of what we've been talking about:

Our Values, they influence how we function as a community and ministry:

- Order our lives around the rule and routine

- Cooperation

- Hospitality

- Some version of economic sharing

- Communal prayer

- Communal Meals

- Communication about practical/calendar, emotional, spiritual concerns

- ???not sure how to word correctly or which to include: children, peacemaking, nonviolence, conflict resolution, racial reconciliation, faith/discipleship, simplicity, downward mobility, creation care

Places/times that we sense a need, void, opportunity for growth or change

- Emotional/ Physical/ Spiritual support

o As individuals, as a family

o Shared “labor” of ministry

- Ministry as conceived is not sustainable/non sustaining us

o Hard to see results

o Big concerns we cannot address/help to address (of neighbors, of community interaction/life)

o Repetition to the point of stagnation, can feel mundane

 If this was felt as worthwhile (saw results) being mundane may not be a problem.

o Ideas/thoughts about changing, growing, but difficult to change course

- New projects coming up

o Potential for new problems

o No new people to help

- No clear leadership/rule/routine in place anymore

- Attempts to grow community have not been successful

o We want to write things down to make things more concrete and structured.

- Change is coming, but not arrived

- Timetable is unclear for change/J&J’s move

- Transition plans not worked out yet.

Hyaets urban ministry brainstorms

What needs do we see? What problems/issues would we want to address?

- What is life giving? What can we do and sustain?

o One on one relationships, depth of relationship with neighbors (ex: Dabria, Jamar, Demarcus, Dayna, Marquell). Esp. young people with whom deeper friendships were formed- not necessarily with intentions of homework

o Incentive trips are good

o Walk about the neighborhood, going to the Rec Center, interacting with others

o Relational stuff with adults is important- esp. for neighbors to know/support each other

o Non-neighbors developing meaningful relationships with neighbors

o Youth Group Meeting once a week

- Some things that we value, but can’t quite seem to make work with regularity; if we could figure out how to make them work, they would be really worthwhile.

o Peace week (spring break) activities

o Creativity, art, expression

o Drumming

o Open table at meal time

o Neighborhood Association or at least relationships

- Possibilities that we’re interested in

o Jobs for neighbors, esp 18-20 year olds who need experience (possible FreeMoreWest connection)

o Gardens

o Inn on Tuck: bed and breakfast type place at 2908 Tuckaseegee that musicians use for lodging before/after gigs. Maybe recording studio space in shed. Neighbors are hosts, provide hospitality.

o Art

o Being more present at the Rec Center, developing relationship with Afterschool program and other programs at the center. Becoming regular volunteers at the center.

o Community-cargiver- Hyaets“partner” level for neighbors

o College student interns or community

Possibilities for Rule and Routine

- What has worked for us and/or things we prefer

o Routine prayers- when there are more people, we can have them more frequently (3x a day is our preference) we like the idea of ringing a bell three times a day to pause for prayer. 10am, 3pm, 8pm?

o Liturgy for prayer content- common prayer book, repetition with openness for variation and conversation

o Ministry business meetings- when shared labor is equal and all participate with presence of mind and energy

o House functions as a space of welcome

o “Official” times when we can be free from obligation to community, “vacation” from obligation. 1x a month? Holidays? 2 weeks after summer busyness?

o Sharing things/resources- putting money into some kind of common pot was helpful and challenging, agree upon distribution

o Giving and receiving of individual’s gifts and skills for the benefit of the other and community at large. (ie: childcare, handywork, extras)

o Shared labor within ministry of Hyaets- differing roles, but all have a role

o Ministry of hospitality

o Shared space- proximity- live within 2-3 minute walk from BRTC

o Statement on addiction (not sure what or how to say this)

Things we hope for:

• End of week Examen Sunday night

• Weekly check-in, bring calendars, head’s up for the week, coordinate schedules/cars/resources each Sunday night

• 1 Community member’s retreat per year led by someone other than ourselves

• Send ambassadors to other communities regularly to learn and bring back lessons learned. Maybe one or two times a year

Things to work out:

• Heirarchy/leadership/ structure

• Official rule and routine: very clear and concrete, expectations defined

*relationship with rural community

The evils of facebook and horoscopes

People can be mean.  People using facebook can increase their meanness, intentionally or unintentionally.

For example:  I can go throughout my life making a good attempt at forgetting bad memories and hurt feelings.  But, facebook "friends" post pictures of themselves having a great time at a great event with other "friends" of mine and the feelings come right back up again.  Not cool.  I don't want to unfriend, but I don't want to be reminded of what I'm not invited to, what I'm excluded from.  I need a button that says, don't show me fun things that I was exclude from. 

I happened to read my horoscope this week:
Aquarius: Aspects are not the best for the Waterbearers at this time. You may feel isolated or as though no one around you can possibly understand who you are. In some way, life circumstances may be preventing you from communicating. Turn off the inner critic and make peace with yourself.

I don't really believe in horoscopes, or at least I don't really want to believe in them.  But, this week, the horoscope is right on target.  Ugh!  Greg was out of town all weekend.  My Mom came up for the day on Saturday and that was great.  But, I was mostly alone with the boys the rest of the time (I realize "alone" and "with boys" don't match up.)  I didn't have a whole lot of interaction with adults, that's for sure. ("Isolated?"  Yes!)   And I have so many thoughts lately: vocational discernment, visioning, dreaming, practical task list making, self improvement challenges...that even if I started getting all these things out there, I wouldn't even make a dent before sundown.  And since the abundance of ideas and things to say are overflowing, it is hard to figure out where or how to get started.  So "circumstances may be preventing me from communicating" in more ways that one.
Make peace with myself.  Oh yeah, I'll get to that just after I do the laundry and feed the ducks.  You've gotta be kidding me!
Now, I read the horoscope before Greg left for the weekend.  Did I make the horoscope prediction come true or did it come true because of the stars?  Or is it really true at all?
"Go and sin no more."  eek!
I'd like to say I'll quit facebook and horoscopes, but I'm guessing that won't last real long.  I've gotta see what's happening with my "friends" and I'll likely just happen to skim over the horoscope on the way to the crossword puzzle.
For give me for I know not what I do. ;)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Minute clinic

Waiting my turn at the minute clinic. Pink eye will be diagnosed and medicine given.  What about all the other places in my life that are in need of a refresh button? Is it possible that the minute clinic nurse is a super hero, able to cure all that ails?  It'd be pretty cool to walk out whole and healed and energized. I'd come back every day for that!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Feeling some kind of way"

I hear the phrase "feeling some kind of way" pretty often around my neighborhood.  I haven't been able to determine exactly what it means.  But today, I'm feeling just that...some kind of way. 
     After a several year bout with alzheimer's and a recent fall, my Grandmother (Nana) died on Thursday morning.  On Thursday, I kept relatively quiet about the news.  I didn't really want to talk about it and I really didn't want to hear people's condolensces.  I expected to hear words like "I'm sorry" or "She's in a better place" and knew that they'd only result in me being angry.  So, I just kept quiet about it. I was stressed, too, about the logistics of going home and so I just kept to myself until after our boys went to sleep.  
After a stressful converstation about when to go home and where to stay, we made our plans and resolved to travel to Raleigh on Saturday and stay through Monday.  The visitation and Graveside service would be on Monday afternoon.  Friday, I spent much of the morning looking through old pictures.  Unfortunately, this was a solitary exercise.  The kids were a little to crazy and the husband was helping with the kids.  I sorted through pictures and spent time remembering by myself.  Saturday, we packed and got ready and went to a friend's house warming party before going to Raleigh.  I was looking forward to spending time with family and hoped that sharing stories and spending time with one another would be healing and comforting.
     And it was.
     We went to my home church on Sunday morning and it was great to be home there.  We spent the afternoon and evening with family and I enjoyed visiting.  Monday, we walked down my Grandmother's Street and took pictures on her front porch before going to lunch and the visitation.  And it was all good and helpful.
Today is Tuesday, though, and I still feel some kind of way...a mixture of ways, really.  I feel like I want to see more pictures and hear more stories.  I feel like I want to ask questions to get at the mysteries a once child-now adult does not understand about her grandparents.  I long to have a token, something to hold onto that was Nana's, to keep in my line of sight and remind me of her.  I want to grasp onto an idea or practice that will help me to commemorate or honor her life. 
     Going back to a "regular" day of work and living is strange.  I see the long list of things I wish I would do: dust, clean, sweep, reply to emails, make phone calls, write letters, read the new magazine/book/blog, unpack my suitcase from the weekend, put up the laundry, fix the couch slip cover (again), plant the new begonia.... but, I can't manage to get up to do much of anything at all. 
It doesn't help that I'm tired from traveling and staying with two toddlers in a hotel room.  It doesn't help that it seems I have pink eye.  It doesn't help that it is just cold enough outside to make me want to stay in a ball up in a blanket.  It really doesn't help that the list of things I should be doing seems so long and so unattainable that it feels like there's no point in even starting at all.  And all these very practical things might just be the reasons why I'm feeling some kind of way.  Maybe it has nothing to do with Nana's death.  Maybe this blah feeling just comes from the moutain of uninteresting and unmotivating things I wish were done.  Or maybe I'm feeling some kind of way because this week I lost my maternal grandmother.  Either way,I'm ready not to feel this way.  I'm ready to feel differently: alive, healthy, whole, motivated, energized.  But, I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle that to do list.  Can't someone do it for me?   I'm ready to feel some closure, but am not sure how to obtain it.  Can't somebody give me the answers?
     I will have to say, after experiencing the death of my own Grandmother, I now know better how to care for others in their time of difficulty.  The favorite things I heard (and the things I wish I had heard) are:   "Helms, i am sensing that you are going through something.  When you want to talk about it, I'd like to listen."  "Tell me the stories about your grandmother."  and when I asked someone to pray for her, they wrote a prayer to God and sent it to me to read.  The pastor who peformed the ceremony was Jack Glasgow.  He certainly had a way of listening and caring for us.  I was grateful to be cared for such a comforting person.  And, folks, you are right that she is in a better place and that it is better that she is not in pain, but that kind of comment doesn't feel good.  It may not feel good simply because our Pastoral Care professors told us not to say it and it may not feel good because it isn't the best thing to say.  Either way, it doesn't feel good.  What did feel good was to be enveloped by our family and friends as we stood together at the grave.  What did feel good was to have Nana mentioned with love and admiration.  What did feel good was for friends and family to remain in our presence, not saying a word at all.  What felt good was to turn around at the visitation and see that one of the flowers was sent for me.  And it felt good to have someone who didn't know my grandmother at all send a gift in her honor solely because the giver knew and cared for me.
     I learned through this how to be a better caregiver to my peers.(Do I have any?)  Not a single one of my peers came to the visitation or graveside service.  I didn't expect them to come, but I did sort of watch at the door just to see if someone'd surprise me by coming.  And I'm not hurt by their absence, but I have learned by this that I want to be there for somebody else.  And I don't care if they won't be there for me or if they aren't the kind of friend I want them to be for me.  I want to be for them a healing presence.  I hope I don't beat myself up later on when I can't attend every funeral or be at every visitation, especially when it is a good distance away.  But I do want to creatively think about ways in which I can extend a spirit of care and comfort to my own peers; not just my parishoners, but my peers.
    Some things I still long to hear:  the positive ways in which I am like Nana,  the secrets no one was willing to tell that helps me to know more about who I am and why our family acts certain ways.  And I wish we'd recorded one of our family jam sessions.  And I wish I could play in her dresser again.  And I wish I'd been given something of hers to cherish.  And I wish I had a really good picture of her.  And I wish I'd recorded her voice and bottled her smell.
    There are more things to reflect on: being at my home church and remembering the joy and pain I experienced there, being with my family as they stayed relatively stoic and quiet throughout the few days, things I remember about Nana...more to come.

Be uncommonly good
 "And deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome some day, by God's grace, by helping the seed of the kingdom grow in ourselves and in each other until finally in all of us it becomes a tree where the birds of the air can come and make their nests in our branches.  That is all that matters really."
~Fredrick Buechner
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Be it resolved...

Enuma Okoro in Reluctant Pilgrim writes, "It felt like the sadness you feel after you finally decide to stop trying to make a bad relationship work-- defeated resignation tinged with stabs of relief and momentary freedom." 

Before recently, I don't think Okoro's words would have resonated with me, but I read them today and say, "Yes! I know exactly how that feels!"  Maybe part of the reason I can relate now and not before now is that it is only recently that I have ever given myself any sort of permission to stop trying to make a bad relationship work. In fact, my typical way is to try hard to make almost every relationship work. And when I say hard, I mean hard: withstanding rejection & emotional manipulation, saying no to inner passions and sense of calling...

In the past few weeks, I have felt at peace about letting go of some of these relationships.  Of course, the nagging nelly or maybe even voices from the Bruderhof visitors we recently hosted whisper in my ear, "What about brotherhood? What about unity? What about unconditional love?"  I'd like to answer saying that I can still love the childhood friend who does not return my affection without trying so hard only to be rejected. I'd like to hush the whispers by explaining that I can still love my coworker without engaging in heated debates and hurtful emotional drama. I can work with them without being their friend. I want to tell the nagging voice that it is ok to just let that family member contact me rather than fret about making some sort of strange feeling and forced connection.

I'm not convinced of my own reasonings and excuse,though.  I am convinced that it feels right to let go.  Right, with a little sadness mixed in. And so, for now I will do just that.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wash over me

Driving down a city road
The past washes over me
Suddenly I am 17 again
Friendships are being made without me
Slumber parties, inside jokes, bonding
And I am not a part.

Everyone witnessed
Everyone knew
Trusted adults, childhood pals
They let it happen without me

What was it about me
15 years later
Asking the same question
What is it about me
Driving down a city road
The feeling washes over me
And then it is gone
For now

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