Beginnings over and over again


Military life has beginnings and endings bumping into each other over and over. When I was a child, I never moved. Others came and we became friends. Beginnings over and over again. I felt so full. Meeting new people from other places; I wondered what it was like to move. Then college and jobs, those were my branches out, to reach further than what I’d always known. To live and work in places other than my home.

Next marriage to a military man began a new path. Starting in a new, unknown place and continuing to move and move into an unknown. Beginning in a hotel, apartment, houses, and back to an apartment, yet each were starting over, and between each always included hotel stays of waiting. Waiting for stuff to come, waiting for a place to live, waiting for connections to new people, waiting for a place to serve, waiting for new adventures to explore, waiting to hear from friends from before. Waiting to know why I am here at this time and place. Waiting to begin again.

Sometimes in beginnings, I feel lonely or lost. Not knowing people in a room as I scan for a familiar face. Others not knowing me, or my name, can be a new beginning too, to try new things and stretch in new ways instead of placed in the same mold with my name as everyone knew from before. New places and new beginnings can be a reset button to reign in an over-scheduled life or refocus on what God’s purpose is for me for Him.

God continually gives me new beginnings. Each day is a new beginning. Knowing He is with me, comforts me when the journey fades away an ending; I step out in courage and hope to start a new beginning. I am home with Him not matter where I wander. I step out in courage and hope, to start a new beginning. I am home with Him no matter where I wander.

My current beginning has brought us to Germany. We are too far for family birthday visits or passing along outgrown items to cousins. We are too far to just get in the car and drive to celebrate the life of my last grandparent as he enters Heaven. But the ending of our last duty station to here, is the beginning of adventure and exploring. With courage we step out from a train platform and watch the green fields and hills rise to mountains entering the Alps. With determination we climb the winding stairways up monuments, buildings, and churches. To look out and see over the busy star of streets radiating out across Paris. We gather with strangers to admire rows and rows of beautiful tulips and other flowers that have been developing for much longer than we stop to look and snap the pictures. We walk through Kings’ homes and wonder how they felt. Was that palace a beginning or an end? I return home from trips around Europe and remember my beginning here is to be an ambassador for Christ at any unknown. To be intentional in every day because soon our time will end here and we will move to begin again.

Author: Anna Van Horn


Coming soon…November’s edition


The first time…

Sometimes it feels to me like nothing is new anymore. Each face I see reminds me of another. Each feeling I have seems like an echo of another. Each moment seems like it’s filled reverberations of every moment before. In the mundane swirl of life I loose my grasp of the magic that dances all around us.

The beauty of children is the opportunity to see through their eyes the wonder of experiencing something for the first time. Things that long ago lost their appeal to me become new and marvelous again. Take a minute and explore the magic of a first time:

Begin again in Ferguson


I live in Clayton, Missouri, a fairly affluent suburb just outside the city limits of St. Louis, and also 14 miles from Ferguson. When I watched the TV coverage of the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown – the peaceful and not-so-peaceful protests, and the varying degrees of police response – I realized that I could’ve been watching from anywhere. Was this really happening so close to home? I often watch tragedy unfold on TV. Sometimes I’m relieved that it’s happening far away. I often wish I could help. Usually, I’m at a complete loss. In response to this event in Ferguson – what could I do? Where would I even begin?

I’m a social worker by training. I have an MSW, and I worked as a school social worker for six years, before I had my first child. I then became a stay-at-home mom for 12 years, and recently went back to work part-time. Less than a week after the shooting, my church posted a call for pastors and counselors to spend time on the streets of Ferguson, where the shooting happened, to talk and pray with people who may need comfort. I contacted my pastor and told her that I would be willing to go, but that I wasn’t sure if I would be appropriate (not being either a pastor or a licensed counselor). She encouraged me to go, and said that she would find someone from the church to go with me. So, I signed up for a morning shift on Tuesday, August 19th, 10 days after the shooting.

fergusonIMG_3732I was emailed the address, and told to find a sign that said, “Clergy and Counselors 9:00am – 9:00 pm We are here if you need to talk”, and position myself nearby. When I pulled up to that address, with Jenn – an MSW student who arranged to go with me – I realized that we were arriving at Canfield Apartments, and the exact location where Michael Brown was shot. We parked, walked to where the people were, and found ourselves looking at the memorial of flowers, signs, stuffed animals and posters, placed in the middle of the street, where Michael Brown had died.

During my two hours at Canfield Apartments on that Tuesday morning, I met people who lived: in Canfield Apts, in Washington DC, in South St. Louis County, in St. Louis City, in other parts of Ferguson. I met: residents, passers-by, pastors, teenagers, college students, young parents, and social workers. While I was there, a Barnes Jewish Hospital mobile health bus pulled up, and a mobile home filled with food, personal items, and school supplies arrived. I watched and became involved with several prayer circles. I had many conversations with people who had varying degrees of involvement with Ferguson and with the Canfield Apt. community. I met a young man from Canfield who explained that in September he was leaving for training with the National Guard. He said he wanted to “protect his country AND his community”.

I went to Ferguson on that Tuesday morning with some trepidation, but an open mind. I wasn’t sure what I would experience. I left, though, as a changed person, in ways that are almost impossible to describe. To say that I was out of my comfort zone in Ferguson is an understatement, When I got there, though, I realized that nothing about being at Canfield was scary. When I stood on the sidewalk, looking at the Mike Brown memorial in the middle of the street, my perspective changed. I was forced to think about what it must be like to live in these apartments, to have a black teenager of the community shot to death by a white police officer, and to see him left in the street where he fell for four hours, just steps from the front door.

I was not scared for myself. I was heartbroken for this community.

The next day, I heard about an organized, peaceful protest happening in Clayton at the courthouse, where the grand jury would hear the case against the police officer who shot Michael Brown. Along with living in Clayton, I also work there. On my way to work on Wednesday afternoon, I stopped by the protest. I felt the need to show the protesters that there were people from Clayton who supported their efforts. I began a conversation with a well-dressed, soft-spoken African American woman, holding a sign that said, “Step Down McCulloch”.

After we talked for a while, she said to me, “Thank you for coming. It’s great for us when white people show up.”

“I hope so.” I responded.

“Oh yes!” She said, and added, “Do you know about the underground railroad?”

I said no, because I thought she was referring to a location in St. Louis, or a newspaper, or something current.

Without missing a beat, she started describing the original Underground Railroad – the one in the mid 1800’s that included secret routes and safe houses to assist in the freedom of black slaves. I interrupted her, because I obviously knew about that Underground Railroad. She then responded to my interruption, “Oh, ok. “ she said, “well that couldn’t have happened without the white people, the abolitionists.”

We were interrupted then, by the announcement that it was time to form a prayer circle. I move around, and ended up holding hands with two women I had never met – one white, one black – bowed my head, and listened to several people ask the Lord to be present in this protest, in the courthouse, with the people of Ferguson, and with Michael Brown’s family. After the time of prayer, I had to leave. I found the woman I had discussed the protest with, said goodbye, and headed to work.

As I walked away, I reflected on our conversation, I thought to myself, “Really? Are we really talking about the Underground Railroad in 2014? Did she really think I might not know what that was?” I realized in that moment that the question was not just“Where do I begin?”, but “Where do I fit in?” and “How do I begin again?” This conversation goes on and on. The struggle continues.

Between 1865 and 1870, three amendments to the US Constitution were passed. The 13th amendment (1865) abolished slavery, the 14th Amendment (1868) defined citizenship in a way that included blacks born or naturalized in the US, and the 15th (1870) gave blacks the right to vote. ( Before that, though, the underground railroad, which “reached its height between 1850 and 1860”, allowed thousands of slaves to escape to safe places in the North, “with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.” (


On Wednesday, August 20th, 2014, I – a white woman – had a conversation with a black woman at a protest, in which she thanked me for “showing up”, and referred to the Underground Railroad, a system of moving slaves north to freedom, which was in its height over ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY YEARS ago. The thought of this almost made my heart stop. I could not wrap my mind around this fact! What makes one person’s life and perspective seem more important than another’s? Why, after all these years, is there still so much discrepancy between the black experience and the white experience in St. Louis?

Where do I fit in to the change that must happen? How can I begin to engage in this conversation more thoroughly? These answers don’t come easily, but what I know is this: I entered a community, which was grieving the loss of a young black man at the hand of a white police officer. And I was embraced. I was changed. I felt the love from a hurting community to a person who cares.

Every interaction with someone whose life experience is different than mine, is a chance for me to join the conversation again. So, here is the final question – the challenge: How can I increase these types of interactions in my life?

I implore you to think about this too. Let’s do it. Let’s increase the number of contacts we have with people who are different. Let’s join in the conversation. Let’s listen. Let’s begin here. Or begin again. Over and over until we get it right.

Author: Laura Pierson


Finding free


The thought of moving litters my head with a laundry list of less than happy thoughts:


boring contracts

walking up and down too many steps

a last minute garage sale

haggling over utilities


weird smells


more steps

falling down the steps

awkward hellos when you’re dirty, tired, and hating people

Speaking of, why am I always wearing a stained t-shirt and have serious doubts about whether I’ve brushed my teeth when Betty Bundt cake from three doors down wants to be neighborly?  [Questions for therapist: Am I agoraphobic? Why does the word "bundt" bother me so much?]

Anyway, despite negative associations with moving, my husband Geoff and I have moved four times in four years. That sounds a little crazy when I see it in print. The first two were within our hometown, while the third took us to the Chicago suburbs and the fourth brought us to the heart of downtown Chicago.

There was a lot I could have disliked about the latest move. Let’s see… I was 36 weeks pregnant and on bed rest. We had a precocious 16 month old exercising his every right to toddle and talk all at once. Very wonderful, but a lot to keep up with. We barely survived the Polar Vortex of 2014; I missed the memo about needing an ankle-length North Face down coat (read: wearable sleeping bag) and Hunter boots. Oh, and did I mention I was 36 weeks pregnant? I mean, I might as well have donned a sleeping bag around my uber-pregnant self because I could not zip a SINGLE coat.

If not for a saint-of-a-husband, I would have gone MAD [said with a British accent so it sounds more posh and less crazy-coo-coo].

So imagine my surprise when, as we settled into our new home and into the parenting chaos known as “two under two” still in the grips of a relentless winter, I felt incredibly….



Yep, free.

Now, some of this is due to the fact that I instantly fell in love with downtown Chicago. It’s a lot easier to manage sleepless nights when you can see the lights of Navy Pier dance in the distance and a sherbet-streaked sunrise over Lake Michigan. Wait – are they actually dancing or… nope I’m just that exhausted. Moving on. We also treat Grant Park like our backyard and visit Shedd Aquarium several times a month. Viva la Chicago! But there’s more to it than loving where we landed.

At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but luckily many 4am feedings later, I’d had plenty of time to reflect on the odd peace that had taken hold. I came to realize that with each move, we gave up more stuff and broke off more ties to an over-scheduled life that once was. Don’t get me wrong, I loved soooo many things about our former life, but I also found that once we said yes, once we took on one more responsibility, once we bought yet another gadget from Brookstone…we never let go. Of anything.

Our life was beginning to feel like a passive accumulation of what we should do and have, rather than a conscious selection of what we wanted to experience and enjoy. 

This is probably the point where far more enlightened individuals might sell the remainder of their earthly possessions, travel the world, live off the land (except no wheat – it has gluten!) and later write a book about it all… subsequently making everyone around them feel really inadequate. Lucky for my friends, I’m a way-too-pragmatic-first-born who relishes in the worldly pleasures of the occasional corn dog and Big Bang Theory reruns so my story doesn’t take quite the dramatic turn.

Instead, as we’ve gotten comfy in our downtown condo with maybe a quarter of our previous belongings and several weeknights open to do… I don’t know… whatever… we’re enjoying the freedom of starting over, in a sense. We’re consciously choosing how and why we get involved in new things and with whom, which sounds very pretentious and weird (like a branch off the ol “consciously uncoupling” Paltrow tree), but I swear, it’s pretty simple. At the heart of it is making sure that whatever we do, we leave time for us as a couple, time for the family, and prioritize experiences over things.

So far, I like how this is working for us, but also realize frequent moving is not exactly the answer, especially if it’s to run away from responsibilities or conflict. I think that’s just called running away from your life.  [Question for therapist: there’s a fancy label for this, right?]

Instead, I hope my husband and I can sow some roots here while keeping some perspective. I hope we can step back every now and then and ask, “If we moved away tomorrow (and could only take the essentials), what wouldn’t we miss? What would we be happy to sell or give away? What obligations or ties would we be happy to walk away from? Conversely, what and who would we miss? Perhaps this is a decent guideline to make sure we’re consciously cutting out the crap and leaving margin for the people and experiences that matter most. Perhaps it will make the difference between living a full life and a truly fulfilling one. It’s worth a try…

Here’s to living FREE.

Author: Susan Rothman

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Welcome home

Who actually meets their spouse through a website peddled by a grey haired grandfatherly gentlemen who promises true love if you’ll just fill out an endless questionnaire?  Me.  Matched on Halloween, we’ll label it a treat, and one year later in a grand spectacle that would rival a Cirque de Soleil performance, we walked down the aisle amongst 250 of our closest family and friends.  A worship band and a Native American soloist for the ceremony.  Folklorico dancers, Mariachis and a DJ for the reception.  A good time was had by all.

A honeymoon up the California Coast was in order with a long stop in San Francisco, one of my previous temporary homes where I had left my heart.   On the trip back a conversation of how difficult it would be to go back to real life after such a great escape.  Then I also may have mentioned that I thought we should offer to adopt my new bride’s great-niece.  Pause for effect.  She agreed.  Pause for panic.   A few phone calls ensued as we drove, each confirming what our hearts had somehow already known long before our heads.  Were we crazy?  At least one of us was certifiable.  We were about to embark on a wild ride that neither of us could have foreseen.

One of the best things about a wedding is opening all the gifts.  The day after arriving back from the honeymoon we headed to the parental units house where the loot had been buried pending our return.  Wrapping paper flew and champagne flowed.  At some point amidst the celebration I asked my mother if she was excited about being a grandmother some day.  She beamed.  I asked how she would feel about it being very, very soon.  I don’t want to say that the brief glance she shot back at my wife and I was momentarily accusatory or judgmental, but I’m not going to say it wasn’t.  After assuring them that Julie was in fact not pregnant, the details of our possible adventure were shared.  My dad shotgunned an entire glass of champagne.  Mom look bewildered.  By the way, we need a few thousand dollars for a lawyer to get things rolling if you could get out the checkbook.  After the smelling salts were found and the initial shock wore off, the unconditional love and support that I had always known and relied upon arrived without hesitation.

I’m a Southern California native.  They don’t teach you geography there.  I had no knowledge of any location in the US east of Texas, except for New York because I had been there once and it was a cool city.  Rest assured I had no idea where in the hell Kentucky was on a map, nor had any reason to go there previously in my life.  Yet there I was on a plane three weeks after my marriage, my destination was a place called Wilmore.  Sounded fake, and it almost is…according to some.  My wife had arrived several days before me and I really didn’t know what was ahead of me over the next two days.  It seemed frivolous to try and guess.  The next two days are somewhat of a blur, although some moments do remain etched in my mind.  One of them is walking in to see the most beautiful little bald eight month old girl I had ever laid eyes on holding on to a coffee table to stand up and giving me a grin ear to ear, proud of her accomplishment with an imp in her eye.

After two days of events that demand their own short story, it was time for me, my wife, and this baby girl to board a plane to Los Angeles.  The court documents gave us permission, her birth parents did the same, but what about our own heads?  Too late now, the engines roared and we ascended.  I remember sitting holding her in my window seat, feeding her a bottle that Julie had just mixed.  As she gulped it down I looked over at my exhausted bride and now brand new mother.  We locked tired and scared eyes, smiled, and then started to laugh. Maybe it was pure exhaustion.  Maybe it was the unspoken understanding that only we could be in this very situation on this very day on this very plane.  Probably both.   I think I said something to the effect of, “what are we doing?”.  As we gathered up the amazingly unnecessary amount of items we had dragged on to the plane, a woman from across the aisle leaned in to comment on what a beautiful baby girl we had.   She was right.

For some the beginning of their family story is marked by their first date, their engagement, wedding, or moving into their first home.  For us, I think our beginning was walking into the baggage claim area at LAX for the first time as a new family and hugging my teary-eyed sister who could only get out the words, “welcome home”.


Author: Michael Martinez

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The end


August 21, 2014 will forever be engraved on my heart. It’s not a holiday, or any of my four children’s birthdays, it’s not my wedding anniversary, or a Federal holiday. As a matter of fact it’s just an ordinary end of the summer day for most. In my life, however, it was an ending.

For the better part of 18 of my 37 years on this planet, I’ve been a Mommy. Diapers, creatively presented meals, play dates and birthday parties with coordinating invitations, decorations, and perfectly frosted cakes have been my specialty. I would almost go so far as to call myself a mommy ninja. I know all things, hear all things and fix all things that fall under the jurisdiction of my home without anyone even noticing I’m there.  Also, ninja black is a sliming color.  I can truly say the whole of my adult existence has been maintaining carefully placed, intruder repelling boundaries around four little humans. Four little humans who upon entering this world, each took large pieces of my heart and placed them within themselves forever.

So when on August 21, 2014, one of them finished unpacking her last box, hugged her Father, brothers, sister and I goodbye and closed the door to her dorm room behind us, my whole world seemed to be one big “ The End”. I felt an ache that I couldn’t put into words.  What we had just done made absolutely no sense to me. It was contrary to my 18 years of mommy ninja training. You never leave a man behind or unattended, you just don’t. Even though my nest would still be full for quite some time with my 3 other children, I somehow felt a hollowness wash over me in what felt like 15 foot waves as we drove off of the campus. The car ride home was fraught with pouting, tears, a short tantrum and some complaints about being hungry, but the kids actually did really well and sat quietly in the back seat until I was able to compose myself.   This ending was so hard.

Over the next few days I tried to cope with the idea that one of the biggest parts of my life was done. My baby was out in the world and there were no more boundaries or fixing of scraped knees that I could set or make better for her. I had to somehow try to let go. Now as a mother, one of the cardinal rules you learn the day your baby is put into your arms is, “You NEVER let go”. It’s like a bad scene from Titanic where instead of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio gracefully standing on the back of the ship with the wind in their hair pretending to fly, it’s you and your child in the same spot except you’re clawing and grabbing at them to get them down because they actually believe they can fly off of the back of the boat and you need to get a coat on them because it’s too windy out.

Daily I would obsessively check every electronic device in my possession for a text message, email, direct message, anything at all from my girl. The first week she was away was hard for both of us. She was homesick, I was sick because she wasn’t home, we were both a bit of a mess and I was ok with that.  It renewed my hope that my job was secure, she still needed me. Then as the weeks went by, I got fewer calls and messages, and when I did hear from her, it wasn’t about how she missed us or was sad, it was about all of the fun and exciting things she was doing, the people, specifically boys, that she had met, and how much she loved living in the dorms.  I was so torn.  She was living out everything that her Father and I had prayed her college experience would be. But she was doing it without me or my help.  I thought to myself how unfair it was that my mommy job had to end for her to have her beginning.  That’s when the light bulb went off, I finally got it. My job as mommy to this beautiful, precocious, tenacious, amazing little girl had come to an end, but it was going to be ok because the end of that job became the beginning of my new job as mother and friend to this beautiful, tenacious, intelligent, amazing young woman.

I was finally able to apply the notion that all new beginnings in life have to commence with the ending of something else to my baby girl going off to college and growing up. In life what we know best is “The End”. It’s how bedtime stories, movies, cartoons, and all good things all wind up, right?.  I remember as a little girl dying to know what happened to Cinderella after she married the prince. The end and happily ever after couldn’t be it, it drove me crazy!  What was next for them? Where did they live, how many children did they have, did she ever get another pair of shoes, because glass slippers couldn’t be all that comfortable.  There were too many questions, things left open for me for it to just to be the end.

So what I learned to do through this seeming ending I was going through with my daughter was to change my perspective. Ask the same questions I had about Cinderella when I was a little girl, what’s next?  Rather than dwelling on what I felt I had lost to the ending, rather than letting in overwhelm me and hollow me out, I decided to look toward what I had and would gain from the beginning. What new adventures would I get to experience, what new things would I learn and be able to share stories about?  What was my next? So from now on all of the stories I tell will not finish with “The End”, they will finish with, “The Beginning”.


Author: Roge Rupp

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Desperately seeking new


It’s a little bit amazing (and maybe a little frightening) how tempting the urge to walk away is sometimes. To close my front door firmly behind me, take one step after another, and push the pavement beneath my feet until it is unfamiliar.

Start over. New friends. New family. New job. New life.

It’s not that my life is so bad. It’s quite lovely, actually. I am a thirty-something, single girl with the kind of family that loves each other enough to fight through things together, friends that love me beyond my introverted neglect, and a job that pours favor on me well beyond my merit.

No, it’s not that life is bad. It’s that my brain and my heart get tired. Tired of working through another conflict, examining another doubt, planning out another budget, facing another confrontation, weighing another huge decision, grieving another loved one lost. My mind, once a playroom to explore dimensions worlds away and investigate the meaning of time and reality, these days seems a hoarder’s storage closet at best. My heart, once delighted to house hope and joy for those I love, now sits heavy with the weight of their pain and grief. There are days I find myself avoiding both my heart and my head for fear of what might fall in on me when I open the door.  I’d rather find a new beginning with an empty room.

I’ve learned, after reaching this point repeatedly, that my desperate clamoring for a new beginning is a sure sign of this one truth: I am incapable of clearing the clutter and starting over on my own. And that truth begs this truth: I don’t have to.

So I say, “Lord, can we try this again? Can we empty out this mess that crowds You out and closes me in? Are You strong enough for the heavy lifting of these boxes of heartache? Can You find a place to put this fear of what’s ahead? Do You have space where I could just get away from all of this and start fresh?”

And He says, “Yep.”

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)

Start over. New mercies.

Now, I remember. I don’t need new friends, or a new family, or a new job. What I need is new mercies.

Sure, there are times that the clutter is so deep, I forget there’s hope for any different. Sometimes I go days on end, too embarrassed at the mess I’ve made to bring myself to ask for His help. But the reality is, whether I acknowledge Him or not, He’s there, mop and broom in hand, waiting for me to just let Him do what He does. Not because I’m a dreadful ruin that can never live up to His standards. Not because He is sighing in disapproval at the fact that my heart and head grime up so quickly. Nope. It’s because my God loves me, and He knows how desperately I need a new beginning. So He just gives me one. Every day. (What will I do with this one?)

Forget all that – It is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, NLT)


Author: Loisa Wright

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Front porch beginnings

porch 1It all started with the purchase of a patio set. You see, I decided last year that I wanted to make more of the square footage of my house, and I realized that a good portion of that was actually on my porch. I live in Southern California. The weather is beautiful 90% of the year. Why was I wasting all of my time sitting inside my house when I was home? My little 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow didn’t even have a dining room. Sure, there was a little breakfast nook off of the kitchen, but I mostly used that space as an office anyway. Plus, it could be kind of fun to have an eating area outside.

Thus began my search. I hopped on Craigslist and looked at what was available in my area. I found an adorable little round table and 4 chairs that was just the ticket. And the seller even let me negotiate the price. Within a few days, I had acquired my new patio set for the bargain price of $75. Not too shabby! When I posted this photo on Facebook, a friend of mine, who is an antique dealer, asked, “Do you know what you have there?” Turns out I had found a very sought after vintage set, and he offered me $400 for it. I turned him down. The fact that it was worth a lot more than I paid for it just made it all the more special of a find. There was no way I was going to give it up.

porch 2I posted these photos over the next week. After I had my first guest, a Facebook friend jokingly suggested that my porch needed a hashtag. What happened over the following weeks was truly incredible. I started getting all sorts of comments on my posts from friends who wanted THEIR turn. Before I knew it, #wendysporch had kind of become a “thing.” I had people I barely KNEW asking to join me on my porch. Friends that I hadn’t seen in 20 years wanted to reconnect. A dear friend who lives in England even made a visit. My aunt said, “I want to be on #wendysporch, and I want to be on Facebook. It’s on my bucket list.”

I didn’t plan on it. But once I started hosting 2 and 3 times a week, I realized that I’d better come up with a better way of doing things or I was going to go BROKE with all I was spending on groceries. So that’s when I decided to start what I call “Porch Parties” and there are 3 requirements of each guest.

  1. You express desire to come.
  2. You bring food and/or drink to share.
  3. You get to be yourself.

porch 3

My main desire was to create a space for community to flourish; to give a place to tell stories, to laugh, to cry if needed, to offer encouragement to each other, but most importantly to help people feel known and valued. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that we’ve also shared some pretty amazing meals together! It’s been a little over a year since I started hosting gatherings on my porch and, as of today, I have had 68 Porch Parties. I just counted. Oh! And that same Facebook friend, who suggested my porch needed a hashtag, made me this adorable guest book. It won’t be long before it’s completely filled.

porch 4Some beginnings require a lot of thought and planning, knowing that there is always the risk of failure. And you sign up for a class, say ‘yes’ to a new relationship, or make a big move to a different city. But other beginnings happen more organically. Some seeds get planted by a bird that drops them as he flies by, and it rains a little, and next thing you know some beautiful little flower starts to grow. And then you realize you should care for the little life of that plant, and you get some fertilizer and water it, and pull the weeds. But it looks a little lonely, so you make a trip to the Garden Supply and come home with a bunch of other flowers to plant around it. Next thing you know, you’ve got yourself a charming little garden. However, you know that its existence wasn’t all of your doing. That Someone knew you were the right person to cultivate that growth, because you needed its beauty as much as it needed yours.

porch 5


Author: Wendy Hinkle

A new beginning every 2 years


I am a traveling gypsy. In my 39 years, I have lived in 12 states and 2 countries.

Most of my moves brought an air of excitement and anticipation. New jobs, new homes and new adventures filled me up with a sense of freedom.

I find myself confident, independent and edgy due to my adaptation skills; like a new age hobo, riding the rails.

My outlook on relocating has become turbulent since having children. Loading up my two seater Honda with a couple backpacks and a cardboard box containing t-shirts, potato chips and mixed tapes is now a thing of the past. The freedom of the open road and my nonchalant attitude towards clean restrooms and seedy truck stops has been traded for plotting, planning and prayers.

Making a road trip with 3 kids and 3 dogs is something I dread. I do my best, as a mother and leader of my troop, to refrain from vocalizing my concerns in front of the kids. I put on a big smile, talk up the new location and tap into my pioneering spirit.

As a military family serving our country, we receive “orders” every 2-3 years and prepare our next big move. I am the queen of positive mantras and inspirational quotes. My six year old now holds her breath waiting for us to unfold the map and highlight our new assignment. She always says, “That place sounds lovely”, bless her heart, her optimism isn’t always contagious.

I repeat the, “bloom where you are planted” saying with every chirp of our cuckoo clock, as we unload boxes in our new place. The clock is a staple for us, the first thing we unwrap and display w with each new abode. It lets us know we are officially “home”.

I research and visit schools, circle the town square looking for locally owned coffee shops and register with the spouses club and mom groups in the area.

I put my best foot forward and try not to talk too fast or too loud when approaching our new neighbors. Even after 12 moves, I cannot control my nerves or silence my anxiety.

We spend months visiting churches yet always seem to feel most comfortable worshipping at the tiny chapels on base.

We have been In Oklahoma for 2 years now. We have made several new friends, found peace behind the gates of our base housing and practiced our tornado drills, which include a quick shuffle to the shelter beneath our garage. We are comfortable and settled.

Our new orders should arrive by Christmas. We will once again prepare for a “new beginning”, somewhere on the globe.

I will do my best to once again chalk it up as an adventure, yet birthing my last baby here, watching my children blossom at their one room school house and fostering some of the best friendships I’ve ever had will take a new mantra, a military mantra that should help: Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened.

I may need that embossed on a shirt or placed on my bumper, to make it through this next move. We have 10-15 more years of this; maybe a tattoo would work best.

Wish us luck.

Author: Heather Podnar

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