Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ford Ranch

It's taken me awhile to process enough to be able to write about this...but I need to. I need to mark it, to raise an Ebenezer, to remember, because it's a moment in our lives together that God is using and will continue to use to grow us.

Since about March or April, Mr. Ford and I had been in the process of purchasing the home that his Grampa Ford had lived in for nearly 40 years. It was the house that Mr. Ford and his siblings and cousins grew up spending time at...they built memories there and the walls are filled with the stories of a family and a legacy. Even in the garage the walls are literally marked with the growing up of the grandchildren that ran and played and learned and loved there.

In the garage...I so badly wanted to add my children's timeline to this history.

Mr. Ford and I had ourselves written countless pages of our own story in that house. It was where he was living when we met and so many of our early dates were in that house, around Grampa's dinner table - Mr. Ford, Grampa, and I. Even then we dreamed together of maybe someday carrying on our story in that place. So when the opportunity arose to make it a reality, (to be clear, Grampa just couldn't live there independently anymore...he is alive and well!) the dreaming became much more specific. We began to picture bringing our babies home to that front room, with the built-in bookcase that Grampa had built. We pictured our little chicken coop and vegetable garden on the back part of the lot, where Mr. Ford would teach our children all about gardening. We pictured ourselves sitting on the deck under the big oak tree in the front yard, after putting the kids to bed, and remembering where we'd been and dreaming together about where we'd go. I had a whole stock-pile of memories that we had already created there and memories that I had dreamed up there. We were grateful.

Mr. Ford chopping wood in the backyard...taken just weeks after our first date.
It was affectionately referred to as The Ford Ranch. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to breathe new life into it and to carry on the legacy and to continue to write the story of the Ford family within those walls. We believed, and I still do believe, it was not the "blessing" of a was a holy tasking to make that home a safe space for everyone in our lives to love and be loved, unconditionally and unequivocally. We were so excited.

The house needed some love and because of the kind of loan we were getting to give it that love, the process was taking a long time. But we were patient, certain that this was something we were meant to do and that in the end it would all be worth it. We poured blood, sweat, and tears into it and our little tribe of people rallied around us and showed up for us in truly remarkable ways to help us get there. 

Removing wallpaper and the infamous mirror at the end of the hall.
Then four days before we were supposed to close, after months and months of waiting and dreaming and picturing living and dying in that house, we learned there was a problem with the loan, that turned out to be insurmountable. We fought to the very end and did everything we could to not let the dream die, but in the end...there was nothing we could do. We had to walk away from The Ford Ranch.

It was a surreal week, the week surrounding that final decision. Just before we had the conversation that resulted in the resolution, a friend of mine, who knew the situation, texted me that she was praying for God's best for us in the situation, and it reminded me that He really does know better than I do. Mr. Ford and I sat in our car and prayed that same prayer aloud together and asked for quick and clear discernment as to what His best for us, and everyone involved, really was. He certainly answered that one...we knew very quickly that we needed to walk. For the sake of the family, for us, and for Grampa. I won't go into all of the details, but where we once felt confident that we were meant to be in that house, we were now confident that we were not meant to be.

That's a strange flip to make. We really did, and still do, believe that at the time, trying to buy that house was what we were meant to do. And I think that the point was not to actually purchase the house and live in it, but that the whole process was meant to teach us to dream again and to recognize what our true ministry is. The work we knew God was calling us to has not changed...we can do that work anywhere. And we will. But I think that He needed us to walk through this particular moment in our story to really get clarity on what that work is. This was the refining fire meant to prepare us for the mighty things He wants to accomplish through us.

God has loved us so well and so uniquely throughout this process. He has surrounded us with friends and family who have walked through every step with us; who have been excited with us, who have sweat alongside of us, who have prayed with us (I'll never forget the moment my mother was taking down wood paneling in the room that was going to be the nursery for our future babies, praying for them..the ones not yet even knit together, so very loved), who have cried with us, and who have mourned with us. 

We were heartbroken. We stood in that dreamed up nursery one last time, crying together and broken, at the death of that particular dream. We have been mourning that death, and so many others, in this situation, but the people of God in our lives have taken the command to mourn with those who mourn seriously, and we are forever indebted.

But we also know that God is good and He is faithful. He is orchestrating a dream that is so far beyond anything we can imagine and more than anything, I just want to live within the dream He has for us, for our life together. We rest in that and in the comfort of His embrace. We are at great peace, even in our sorrow and mourning.

Grampa in his chair, days before he moved out. So grateful for the time spent with him in that room.
The Ford Ranch is not a is that special place in the hearts and memories of everyone who spent time there and now we take it wherever we go, wherever we are, and wherever we honor the legacy and the stories written together in that home. I'm so grateful to have been allowed to be a player in the story of The Ford Ranch. I take up that mantle, not lightly, but with great passion and great reverence for everything that God has done there and will continue to do. 

Ford family, if you have a memory of The Ford Ranch you'd like to mark, I'd love it if you'd leave a comment here...let's raise this Ebenezer together and remember together. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What I'm Into - June 2013

My roommates and forever friends. Coming up on our 10 year Friend-aversary!

Well, it's been almost 3 months since last I blogged...what is that even about anyway? 

Probably has a little to do with laziness.
Or a little with a lack of any coherent enough thoughts to throw out into the wild west of the internets.
Or busy-ness (what a cliché).
Or just general malaise.
Who knows, really...

But what I do know is I'm ready to dip my feet back in it and I needed something non-committal, non-intimidating, and non-heavy. So, I'm gonna tell you what I was into for the month of June and link up with What I'm Into over at HopefulLeigh! I know you're just dying to hear it, so let's get going!

Books I've Read:

Oh my gollee, you guys. THIS BOOK. Dr. Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher and this book is chock full of insight from her research. I've been learning a lot about how dangerous shame is and how very much NOT of God it is the last couple of years and this book brought it all into clarity. It also brought me a defining moment of clarity about the "work" I'm meant to be doing. I'm still processing that one and figuring out what it will look like for me. this.

I mean, it shouldn't be all that surprising to see Shauna's name round these parts again, considering my last post was a review of her newest book. Just whatever, man. I'm fairly certain Shauna is my spirit animal (I don't even know) and I cannot get enough of her words. This is her second book and I'm devouring it, just as I have all of her others. In the middle of this one now.

Books on My Nightstand:

Maybe this one has something to do with my moment of clarity while reading Dr. Brené...maybe. But wouldn't you like to know?

She spoke at a women's event at our church and I kinda fell in love with her. And because it's physically impossible for me to walk by a table piled high with books for sale and not buy one...well, now this one is on my nightstand.

On My TV (by which I mean, my laptop screen):

I watched all four seasons in about three weeks. That may have something to do with why I haven't blogged in awhile (at least for the last three weeks). I am SO IN LOVE WITH THE BRAVERMANS.  I am also apparently fairly masochistic since the show made me cry every. single. episode. I just so appreciate that they tackle tough stuff and don't gloss over it. And that the characters are all flawed. Nothing makes me angrier than a "perfect" character. Plus, I heart Lauren Graham always and forever...even if she is kinda playing the same character as in Gilmore. Whatever...I don't even care. Anxiously waiting September for Season 5...fingers crossed for Sarah and Mark!

In My Ears:

A New Liturgy by Aaron Niequist
Yes, this is Shauna's husband. But that's not the point. The point is that these four modern day liturgies are transforming my prayer life and have become one of the places I can commune with Christ most honestly. The website describes "each Liturgy [as] a 25 minute journey of music, prayer, scripture, and space that helps open us to The Almighty in any location, season, community, or emotion". And that's exactly what they have been for me. This last month, I've been particularly focused on the "Lord, Have Mercy" liturgy as I've lit my vigil candle and cried out for mercy for a number of reasons and on behalf of a number of people. SO looking forward to Liturgy #5 being released in July.

Other Random Stuff I'm Loving:

-ice cold Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy...thank the heavens it's found its way to the West Coast
-sweet time with college roommates
-watching God's faithfulness revealed in the long anticipated marriage of my friends
-a weekend with my husband in OKC
-celebrating Mr. Ford's 28th birthday
-SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and Prop 8
-finally getting the bid for the work on the Ford Ranch nailed down
-walls coming down in the most unexpected places (figurative literal ones, yet)
-time and conversation with my Mom

I promise I'll be back soon with more to say...perhaps a check-in on my "OneWord"?

But for now, what about you? What have you been into this month?

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Come to the Table

Do y'all remember when I had the opportunity to test a recipe for a new cookbook that was yet-to-be-released?

Well, that book was released TODAY! If you love food, gathering around the table, or encouraging words in book form, Shauna Niequist's new book, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes, is one you want to pick up.

I was given the incredible opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to review and holy cow. I've always known Shauna and I were soul sisters, but these words in this book about this topic...blew me away. What I love most about Shauna is that she writes about things that I know to be true deep down in my bones and she puts them out there for me to read and then I know I'm not alone. The world gets a little smaller and a little less scary. Kinda like when you gather around the table.

Ah...the table. I grew up in a home where the table was the center of family life. As an Air Force family, my parents knew how important it was to provide a constant when everything else in our lives was changing every 3 years. The table was that constant. It was where we gathered at the end of hectic days to reconnect, to learn a little more about each other, and to remind one another that whatever else happened that day, you would encounter love and life-giving nourishment for body and soul there. That has carried our family through so many changes and life-moments, I wouldn't even know where to begin. To this day, with my sister and I both grown and living our own lives, when we gather at my parents table we find that same love and life. As Little Sister and I have expanded our lives, the table has expanded as well to include those we bring with us to it. That's always been the case at my parent's was never closed to anyone needing to encounter love and life and nourishment.

I suppose it should come as no surprise then that as I've grown into adulthood and begun to establish my own home that the table would be the center of that home. My life's ministry is to create an environment in which intimacy can flourish wherever I am and, for me, that starts in my my table. It is where I have encountered Jesus most frequently in the last several years...more so than in any church service. I say that because He shows up in the people sitting around the table - in their words, in their ideas, their hopes, and their fears. He speaks truth to me through these people and when I hear their stories, the pain and the joy of their lives, it is quite literally Jesus with skin on sitting there, calling me into real life. He calls me out of my own comfortable world and into their reality and I see the Kingdom begin to come to earth as it is in heaven. The beauty and diversity of it is breath-taking. Jesus Himself sits at my table, in the form of the person He sent me, and we all break bread together and drink wine and REMEMBER. 

Shauna gets all of this. Like, GETS IT, gets it. And she wrote it all down. In a book. And then I got to read it. As I did so, I shouted  "YES!" and "THIS!" and underlined furiously and read aloud passages to Mr. Ford who would, infuriatingly, reply, "Yes, I know. You say that all the time". And I would say, "I KNOW! BUT SHE SAID IT TOO SO THAT MEANS I'M NOT CRAZY!" 

She says:
"What's becoming clearer and clearer to me is the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God's presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table...It's about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another's faces, listen to one another's stories" (p. 13).

Um. Yeah, Hi! SHE GETS IT! I mean, I could keep going, quoting her, but really you ought to just grab the book for yourself and read these truths. You won't regret it. 

When I was offered the chance to read this advanced copy, I was provided several ideas for ways to engage the book. Since there are recipes throughout, following nearly every essay, they suggested hosting a dinner party and cooking through one of the menus provided at the end of the book. I LOVE a good dinner party, so I thought that was what I wanted to do...invite several people over and make it a picture perfect evening. But as it often does, life got busy. I read the book (okay, devoured it) and loved every word, but things got crazy and I couldn't find a time that would allow me to create the perfect evening I was envisioning. 

I did end up making a pan of Annette's Enchiladas for a couple in our small group that was dealing with some tough family stuff so they wouldn't have to worry about where dinner was coming from. Mr. Ford and I delivered the enchiladas and sat with them for awhile, and we looked into their faces and listened to their story.

We had some other friends over and I did end up making the suggested "Fiesta" menu, mostly because the suggested dessert was a Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee with Vanilla Ice Cream, and I know how much my friend loves salted dark chocolate. That night was so sweet...laughter and conversation and planning with two people that have quickly become confidantes and partners in ministry in countless ways. That time around the table came at the end of a particularly difficult day and brought a great deal of healing to my weary heart and soul. 

I used some of Shauna's tips on quick weeknight cooking and was able to whip up something delightful without too much effort to nourish Mr. Ford and myself after a long day of work for us both.

I made the White Chicken Chili to feed a crowd and the lingering that happened at the end of the night saw new friendships forged.

I made the Mini Mac and Cheese for Ladies Night Out with the women's ministry from our church. I had a total off night in the kitchen that night, wherein I mis-calculated my proportions for doubling the recipe and then dumped half the macaroni all over the floor (Tootles was quite pleased with that particular mishap). Then when I plated them on the serving platter and cut them into quarters to try to make them stretch, I knew that Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshi would have told me to pack my knives and go on account of the AWFUL presentation (total user error, BTW).

Basically, I've been cooking my way through the book for the last couple of weeks. Every recipe has been, not surprisingly, unbelievably tasty and pretty simple as well. But the most important thing I've learned in all of these adventures in the kitchen, is in large part due to one of Shauna's refrains throughout the book, that it's not a performance and it isn't about perfection. It's about nourishing the people I'm feeding, body and soul. It's about letting go of the need to be Martha Stewart and instead embracing the opportunity to create something with my hands and present it to the people I love as an invitation to holy ground. There we will usher one another into the Kingdom of God simply by sharing the bread and the wine. This is what Shauna says of bread and wine:

"I believe the bread and wine is for all of us, for every person, an invitation to believe, a hand extended from divine to human. I believe it's to be torn and handled, gulped. I believe that we can practice the sacrament of Communion anywhere at all, that a forest clearing can become a church and that any one of us a preist as we bless the bread and wine. And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day - no matter where we are, who we are, what we've done" (p. 252)

My heart soars reading those words and my soul settles itself down. I ache to remember Jesus truthfully and in a manner that is holy. When I break bread and drink wine with those I love, I find that I cannot be more truthful or holy than that.

In the final essay of the book, "Come to the Table", Shauna writes: 

"...if you can satiate a person's hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart....I want you to invest yourself wholly and deeply in friendship, God's greatest evidence of himself here on earth. More than anything, I want you to come to the table. In all sorts of ways, both literally and metaphorically, come to the table" (p 258).

God has called each of us, by name, to His table. Let us now call Him, let us now call others, to our tables and there remember that He is good and He is faithful and that we all have stories to tell.


I am grateful that Shauna has written so beautifully to remind us of these truths we already know. If even the tiniest portion of this resonates for you in any way, get your hands on this book. Just reading her words will nourish you. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Linger in the Ashes

Dear Erica. 1987-2011

Today I'm holding space and sitting in the ashes as I remember Christ's suffering and the suffering of a dear one that ended two years ago today. And the suffering that lingers for those that knew and loved her. 

I know the end of both stories...I know the hope that peeks just around the corner...but for today I embrace the suffering and the pain and the loss and I will not rush through it. 

The suffering matters. It is real and it MEANS something. And I will give it the time and space it requires. 

Allow yourself time to linger in the suffering experienced on and around the cross today. And if you are experiencing suffering of any kind...allow yourself to linger in it. And if you know of someone suffering today in anyway...linger with them. Quietly, without words of advice or encouragement. Just feel their suffering with them and sit in the ashes alongside them. 

I'll be in the ashes with some of the dearest ones of my heart today. And there Christ will be also.


Monday, March 4, 2013

In Which Mrs. Ford is Honored on the Occasion of her Birthday

Mrs. Ford will be the first to tell you that I'm terrible about writing Birthday Cards. I'm terribly inconsistent. Especially when compared to Mrs. Ford herself, who is easily in the top 5 card writers of all time (and one of my favorite writers of all, as a matter of fact).

But I digress. The point of this isn't to laud her note-writing prowess. Rather, this is to serve as her Birthday Card and a public declaration of my love and admiration for my wife.

My wife is, in all ways, a Woman of Valor.

She is brave.
She is strong.
She'll fight for what she believes and for what she needs.

This has been true since we first started dating, so many years ago. She knew what she wanted in a man, knew what she deserved and knew what I was capable of. She didn't let me get away with less when she knew I could do more, even when I didn't know it myself.

She has entered into each new phase of our life and relationship with this certainty and this bravery. She knew we would be okay, knew that God had our backs and knew that we would figure it out together. She's always been right.

That's not to say that she's never doubted or had questions. But therein lies the true courage, the truly valiant heart. When she has questions or is scared, she is unafraid to express it. She is bold in her outpouring of emotion. She cries without fear of being judged or dismissed. She has a tender heart and is unafraid to bare it to the world.

I know that I wouldn't be able to be the man I am today if it weren't for this amazing Eshet Chayil standing by my side and there's nobody I'd rather brave the dangers of the world with than her.

Side by side, hand in hand, mind to mind and heart to heart we face the world and the path God has laid out before us.

Happy Birthday, babe. I love you.

Your Mr. Ford

Friday, February 8, 2013

Oh, that one word...

God has been so faithful to us this last month. I don't know why I continue to be surprised when He is, because I've never known Him to be anything other than completely faithful. But there it is. I am still human after all.

Within about a 36 hour span of time, in the middle of January, God answered most of the questions we had about our more immediate future. Questions we assumed we'd have the answers to probably in April, May at the latest. God delights in surprising His children, I suppose, because He surprised us by giving us answers and direction and settling some unknowns in order to prepare us for things we would need to focus more of our attention on. All within about 36 hours. This is not a joke.

On a Sunday, we had lunch with the Pastor of our church campus and his wife, and the current Director of Operations for our campus and her husband. It was an informal interview for me to come on staff as the Campus Administrator so the Director of Operations could move into a new role for our campus. By the end of the lunch, it was fairly clear that if I wanted to accept the position, it would be mine. And I knew I wanted to do it. I felt God's call very strongly.

We walked out of the restaurant, got into our car, and Mr. Ford checked his phone and he had a voicemail from his mom. We called her, sitting in the parking lot, and learned that Mr. Ford's Grampa... the one he had moved up to Sacramento to live with for a time, the one with whom we spent a great deal of time in the first year of our dating life...was no longer able to live independently in his home due to his rapidly deteriorating eyesight. It was time to begin the process of moving him into an assisted living near Mr. Ford's parents. This was bittersweet news for us, and I think for most of the family. We knew he would be so much better off, but it was the end of an era and things that had played such an important role in mine and Mr. Ford's story. So we went to visit with him and being WITH Grampa on his new adventure began.

Monday morning, Mr. Ford received word that he had NOT made it through to the next round of the application process for the Foreign Services. We had assumed he would at least make it through this round and if it wasn't going to happen for us this time, we'd find out at the end of the next round, after a nice little trip to DC. In April. We were bummed, but okay. We had already come to a place of peace with either outcome so we allowed ourselves to feel our disappointment for a time and then were prepared to move on. 

That afternoon, not six hours after news of the Foreign Services, Mr. Ford was called into his boss' office and offered a permanent, full-time position at the company he's been contracting with since November. Again, we felt fairly confident that this would come, but not until his contract was up. In April. Are you seeing the hand of God yet? What provision, what care! Mr. Ford's (honest) response was, "Well, I'm not looking for anything else!" :)

On Tuesday, I officially accepted the offer for the position at the church. 

It was crystal clear that God had more for us to do here in Sacramento. Our work for His kingdom here in this city is not yet over. We have not given up on the dream of the Foreign's just been delayed a bit. We are just grateful to be used by God for His work, wherever that might be.

The beautiful providence of God here is that with so many questions that had been filling so much of our brain space answered, we were able to more fully devote our time and energy to being WITH Grampa during this transitional time for him. Again, God's perfect faithfulness and provision astound me. It was emotionally taxing on us...on the whole family. As these things are.

But the Lord always does you one better. We have been learning to be WITH Grampa and WITH one another, and I continue to learn what it means to mourn WITH those that mourn, and so many other ways to be WITH people. But God has revealed to us that perhaps what He wants to teach us through our OneWord for 2013 is that what we really need is to learn to allow others to be WITH us as well. 

The Lord has provided us with such an incredible community of faithful friends here. And I'm realizing this lesson of allowing others to be WITH us, is one more reason He has decided to keep us here for now. To learn to lean into that truth. To let our people, our tribe, be WITH us.

Our tribe has been amazing.

They have offered countless words of encouragement and prayers sent via text and Facebook.

They have pushed us to follow where we feel God leading us, sitting at a table in a dessert diner in downtown Sacramento on a Friday night.

They have offered hugs and an ear.

 They have stepped into our weaknesses and been willing to take things off our plates because they just know. They have sensed we need the help and they came riding in on grace and they have been WITH us. 

The faithfulness of His people have been His faithfulness to us. 

This is is so much more than a word. It is a way of life and of faith. It is how the Kingdom of God comes to earth, as it is in heaven. 

And it's only February. Hang on, Mr.'s gonna be a wild year. 

Friday, January 4, 2013


I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions. I don't really know why...the idea just never resonated with me. Lately though, I've been hearing of a movement that has really resonated. The OneWord movement? Have you heard of this?

Basically, you choose one word that will serve as a guide post for the rest of your year and open yourself up to allowing God to define, explore, and reveal the multitude of meanings for that word in your life. It makes so much sense to me as it's easy to remember and free from the guilt and shame that failure to follow through on a resolution can bring. 

It's hard to choose the right word, because I want it to be a Spirit-led decision. As I've thought about it and prayed about it over the last week or so though, one word kept rising to the surface and I have a great sense of expectation about this word and this year. 

Mr. Ford and I will experience a lot of change and shifting in 2013. There are several answers that will be provided to us this year that we've been waiting for and those answers will determine a lot about the path our life together will take. We are ready and eager for whatever answers God gives us. We have spent a lot of time praying and talking and coming to a place of absolute contentment and trust in whatever the Lord brings us. Knowing this, in large part, has led me to my word for 2013, because I think it is how the Holy Spirit wants to guide me through these answers.

My OneWord for 2013 is WITH.

I just finished reading Radical Hospitality (um, game changer) and I am bowled over by the difficult simplicity of the true heart of hospitality. It is basically about just being present. To be WITH people, to walk WITH them. In their pain, in their suffering, in their joy, in their difficult-to-love states. To look them in the eye and say "I am WITH you now, in this moment, regardless of where or what else I could or 'should' be doing". That repositioning and re-posturing is simple, yet profound. I want to be intentional about being WITH people this year.

I want to be WITH God this year. To be WITH Him in His word and in prayer and in my eucharisteo

I want to be WITH my husband this year and in all that God is sure to bring our way in 2013.

WITH my church as we grow and expand.

WITH my friends in deeper and truer ways.

WITH my family in new and more intentional ways.

I want to walk through my days WITH gratitude.

WITH grace.

WITH wonder.

WITH joy.

WITH tenderness and gentleness and mercy.

WITH expectation and trust.

WITH certainty in the hope and promise of God's faithfulness.

WITH a spirit of learning and a heart of giving.

WITH the sole purpose of being grace to all I encounter.

This word, WITH, is a powerful and profound preposition. It bolsters the action verb and is active, even in it's passivity. I don't claim to have a full understanding of the preposition now, but my prayer and my expectation is that God will use it to affirm what I already know, shake up what I think I know, and reveal what I do not know about the meaning of the word WITH

And so I enter 2013 WITH a guiding word and a guiding principle and WITH great expectation and excitement. 

Let's do this.