New Home!

Hi friends,

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering what I’ve been up to. Well, the short summary is that Brad and I successfully moved into our new home in Chicago. We LOVE our apartment, our neighbors, living in the city, and living near family (who have recently gotten us out of several binds). Not everything was smooth sailing but the move and settling in has probably gone as well as it could.

I spent last week applying for one job (it was a five-step application) and finally got an offer on Friday! So I am going to be working with an after school program in a neighborhood on the south side with one of the highest rates of poverty and crime in the city. I will have twenty-two kiddos to love on and care for. Don’t worry: I will share more details about our move and my new job in the future.

Most of all, I wanted to point you to my new site: justsimplicity.net. I’m hoping to make this a more focused blog on living simply and promoting social justice, so invite your friends to read. I’m going to be posting there every day – God willing – with practical ways to make the small steps to impacting the world. So check it out! I’d also appreciate any suggestions of things you would like to read about!

I’m hoping to keep up this site too and write about more personal topics here.

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Absolute Chaos

For everyone who’s wondering where I’ve been at, I’m knee deep in sorting through all our stuff for a big moving sale this weekend and then for the move itself. So I may not get back to posting regularly for a few weeks. But I will give some updates here and there. Wish me luck!

Currently…

Watching

TED Talks. My husband has been watching these for months and I was apparently not listening very well when he was telling me about them. I only started watching them a week or so ago, and I’m absolutely riveted! Basically, TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) is a gathering of thousands of the world’s smartest people. The talks are 15 minutes long, and most of them are absolutely fascinating. Some of my favorites so far:

Listening to

Pandora. Very cool radio website. Type in your favorite band or artist and Pandora will find other similar artists. You can approve or reject songs and teach your station what you like. Nice.

Wearing

Well, I’m actually not wearing this yet but will be eventually will be. The goal of Fifty Thousand Shirts is to raise $1,000,000 in relief aid to help those affected by the earthquake that occurred in China on May 12th. Each person who buys a shirt gets their name added to the online wall. Plus, you get a cool shirt to wear. I love buying t-shirts with a purpose. Get yours.

Riding

My awesome new Specialized Crossroads bike that we bought used from a friend. I finally realized that my cheapo Wal-Mart bike is just not going to cut it. Ironically, Brad also has a Specialized Crossroads bike (which is gold, not blue like mine). Awww…won’t we look so cute biking together? It will be great for biking in Chicago.

Speaking of which…

Doing for the next four weeks

Packing! Selling furniture! Setting up the lease on an apartment…in Chicago! That’s right, folks. It’s finally happened. We got an offer on our house yesterday and accepted the offer this morning. Just a few details to work out, a home inspection, and we will be moving out on July 10th!

I’m very, very, very excited (I knew all I had to do was start the vegetable garden and it would happen)! But I’m also a little nervous about taking care of all the details as well as saying good-bye to all our great friends and moving into such an entirely different environment than the one we’re living in now. I know that God is leading us, and I’m just trusting that He’ll take care of all the details.

More Waiting

So I haven’t written for awhile, and it warms my little heart that people have noticed my absence and perhaps even missed my random writings. I do have some wonderful friends. I will try to do better, folks.

I was in Chicago last week looking at apartments, but mostly I haven’t written because it’s been kind of a down time for me. Okay, maybe a little more than “down.” I have been practically weepy. I was trying to think of a title for this post and the first thing that I came up with was something along the lines of “The Nothingness that is My Life.” I decided against this title because I don’t want people to worry about me. However, my life does feel largely empty right now. I am stuck in that place between wrapping up the place I have been for the past couple of years and moving on to new things. In my mind I am already in Chicago, but apparently God has other ideas. I keep hitting one closed door after the other.

It’s been a week of stumbling. First, Brad and I decided that we can’t move until we sell our house so that kind of puts me back into the just waiting game. Then, the family that we placed Reina with returned her because she didn’t get along perfectly with their puppy. The washer died, and no one showed up at our open house (which my mom and I spent three days cleaning and scrubbing for).

So that’s all the junk. I’ve mostly decided to stop trying to clean the house spotlessly before every showing. I’m just going to keep in clean like I did before, doing a little every day rather than trying to do it all the day before someone looks at it. I’m absolutely sick of cleaning, so maybe that will save my sanity a bit. We did lower the price on the house, so I’m really hoping that that will appeal to buyers. I keep trying to remind myself that it’s an awful market to try to sell a house, and there is nothing more I can really do. I just have to wait. But it still is a very discouraging process, one that I’m not planning on repeating any time soon.

Some of the positive things: Reina is currently staying with another family who is trying her out to see if she will get along with their dog. She has been there since Saturday and I haven’t gotten a phone call yet, so I’m hoping that they might want to keep her. Also, my mom spent two days scrubbing my white cabinets and they look much better. Now, I don’t absolutely loathe them. It’s probably more like a feeling of disdain and tolerance. And yesterday, we spent the afternoon at Lake Wedington with the whole church family. The weather was absolutely perfect and it felt so nice to get out of the house and into some fresh air.

So I’m trying to stay positive and keep chugging along. I just hope that I will find an open door to something soon. This patience thing is pretty hard.

Tying Up Loose Ends

In preparation for our big move to Chicago, I have found myself rather scatterbrained. It’s hard to know what to tackle next. I can’t really pack until I know when we’re moving, and to know that, I need to find an apartment. To know what price range we are looking at for apartments, I need to figure out if our house is going to sell any time soon. It’s somewhat of a cyclical catastrophe. Tomorrow – otherwise know as the DAY of Apartment Hunting – I’m looking at at least five different apartments. Tonight, right after I fly in, we are driving to Logan Square to go to an open house (or…open apartment, I should say). Then, after all that, who knows?

Through all this, I find myself thinking about God quite often. One recurring question I have is: “With all the big problems out there in the world – genocide, torture, slavery – why would God care whether I get this apartment or that one? Or whether my house sells now or three months from now? Is it prideful to think that this issue even matters to Him?” Certainly, I know that God cares about us, but what about the specific apartment that we live in for the next two years, while the Josiah Community is developing?

I’ve ushered a lot of little, one-line prayers to this effect: “God, guide our footsteps.” But it is hard to know exactly how that guidance will reveal itself. Scripture is full of the stories of men and women, all including a God who is intimately involved in the background details. I have to believe that He is likewise involved in my story.

Today has been a rather sad and discouraging day, but also hopeful. First, we heard back from the second apartment we applied to: we were turned down from that one as well. Then, we placed our largest dog with a new family. She spent the night with them and they called this morning to say that she got along great with their dog and they wanted to keep her. We are so excited about this, since we didn’t want to leave her at a shelter, but it is also a little hard to say good-bye to a friend we’ve had for almost three years. We still have our three other little beasts to keep us busy, and we are happy that Reina is going to be in a great home.

Change is an interesting journey. I personally enjoy change, even with the difficult parts, because I know that I am growing through the experience and I hope that I am listening to what God is teaching me.

Social Frays: Gentrification

As Brad and I are looking into our options for moving to Chicago, we have had a lot of good discussions about gentrification. This all started when we were listening to a segment from This American Life where a Lawndale (yes, the Lawndale we want to move to in Chicago) resident complained about gentrification in the area, specifically noting that she could tell that Lawndale was gentrifying because of all the white people walking their dogs. And I thought, “Wait. I am white. And I have dogs. So if we move to Lawndale, will the residents just see me as one of those people.”

Wikipedia describes gentrification this way:

Gentrification, or urban gentrification, is a term applied to that part of the urban housing cycle in which physically deteriorated neighborhoods attract an influx of investment and undergo physical renovation and an increase in property market values. In many cases, the lower-income residents who occupied the neighborhood prior to its renovation can no longer afford properties there.

The last thing that I want is to be a part of a movement that is forcing low-income residents out of their homes and into areas with even higher rates of poverty and crime. There are, however, lots of different viewpoints surrounding the issue of gentrification. Some people say that by bringing in businesses and wealthier homeowners, the economy of the neighborhood is improved: people can find more jobs, schools improve, crime decreases. Often times, the government provides grants and low-cost loans so that current residents can move into newly built/remodeled houses or condos. On the other side, as I originally said, many of the residents are forced to move to a new neighborhood because they cannot afford the higher rent or property tax.

This history of gentrification all begins with the creation and design of cities. Many of the neighborhoods that are currently being gentrified were originally built for the middle class and blue collar workers. The idea behind cities in general is to create a lot of housing and public services for a large concentration of people who are intimately involved in the local economy. After the end of Word War II, with greater number of people owning cars, it became less important to live near one’s work. Suburbs were created, and with them, the phenomenon of white flight.

Starting in the ’70s and ’80s wealthy young adults of all races began rejecting the suburban sprawl for the appeal of the city. Their return is gentrification. This is the position Brad and I find ourselves in: we know that we want to live in the city rather than the suburbs. That kind of lifestyle, closeness of resources and neighbors, and public transportation appeal to us. We also know that we don’t want to isolate ourselves from lower-income neighbors. We would like to live in a lower-income neighborhood in order to be an active part of that neighborhood. We don’t want to separate ourselves from the poor. But we also don’t want to be seen as part of the problem that is increasing poverty for our neighbors.

The best solution may be living in the neighborhood and fighting for quality, low-cost housing. The Lawndale Christian Development Corporation builds low-cost housing for Lawndale residents. The Stevens Square Community Organization has built $70,000 lofts in Minneapolis. I don’t think adding a Gap and Starbucks to Lawndale is going to help much, but change can happen if so-called gentrifiers truly become neighbors.

More about Gentrification:

Flag Wars: a PBS documentary about gentrification in Ohio

There Goes the Neighborhood: a book about racial and social tensions in four Chicago Neighborhoods

Gentrification a boost for everyone: a USA Today article discussing whether or not gentrification really forces large numbers of people to leave their neighborhoods

Apartment Update

We didn’t get the apartment, but I’m not too disappointed. At least we know. And we had an excellent, excellent showing of our house today and the people are coming back on Wednesday. So if our house sells, that’s even better. We’re still looking for a good 2-3 bedroom apartment in Logan Square/Wicker Park/Humboldt Park (but mostly Logan Square) so if anybody knows anything, send me info!