the year of the minivan

we bought a minivan just a bit over a week ago, and i can’t hardly believe it. our car, the suburu we drove over from portland, has been breaking down on us, over and over again. the mechanic told us not to put another cent into that vehicle, and we believed him. we spent a Christmas break cobbling together cars from generous friends to borrow, getting the flu, trying to navigate the wilds of captialist Craigslist without getting yet another lemon. kind, generous people donated money, and for the exact amount they gave we got ourselves a swagger wagon, the opposite of every car i have ever driven. the man we bought it from told us about his sobriety, his kids. he was confused when we declared that the dvd player being broken was a good thing. we drove away in our safe, boxy, gas-guzzler, and i am so continually surprised and confused by this life i am actually living instead of the one i would like to tell you about.

many of our neighbors do not have cars. we are friends with many people who have large gaggles of kids, all of who get extremely bored in this crazy extreme-weather town where we live. in the past, we could only take 2 at a time with us as we went off to explore lakes and museums and pantheon of american consumerism (it turns out pre-teens really, really like going to malls). as we started to think about what beater car we will drive to its death next, the image of a minivan floated through my brain. no, no way, i said. i am a minimalist, i have a shred of credibility, how will i park it in our inner-city life? but it isn’t about me, it never really was, God is having a good laugh about that downward mobility girl driving her 2005 kia sedona around.

because there are somethings that are more important than the ideology i surround myself with, the ways i try to present myself to the world. my life is not about downward mobility, or loving my neighbors, or working and living with the urban poor.

my life is about being obedient, which is all so much harder than that.

and it is never, ever boring.


there is another reason we got a minivan. we sent off the papers last week, our application for fost-to-adoption. it doesn’t make sense in so many ways, the legion of which i cannot tell you here. but it’s the same thing, me wrestling through every single horrible, heartbreaking scenario, the voice saying this is not just about you.

nothing can ever be easy, is what i say in my bitter hours, as i fight my way through another day of chaos, as i long for routines and results, never fully expecting either. my next baby will not be grown in my belly, my next baby will be baptized into sorrows that took me decades to find. the next bend, the next year, will only further explore the broken aspects of my neighborhood, my city, my government. i will teach my class, be reminded every day of the traumas and life situations that brought me these strong, survivor-women who are only now holding a pencil for the first time. it’s the year of sending my writing off into the great unknown, of opening myself up for critique and criticism, of struggling to do right by all the people who got tangled up in my story.

none of this is about you, is what i hear, but i don’t know how to take myself out of it. all i know how to do is take the next step.

send in the application.

create my lesson plan.

write a chapter.

knock on a door down the hallway.

drive the damn miracle minivan to the mall of america, tired and grateful as the kids riding along with me.

try so very hard not to shut my heart down to all of it.

because more is coming.


i’m sending you off as a sheep among wolves, jesus told his disciples. in my mind i see the sheep, marching white as snow, great gray wolves cowering off to the sides. but what happened to his disciples? i think about it now, sobered and shocked by the actual metaphor: the wolves got them, and the sheep did not come out unscathed.

it’s hard for me to write this, because i know it is true. we are being asked to be the sheep, and it does not mean we will be safe. it means Jesus is sending us out to be wounded, because that is what happens when you open yourself up to love. you will get hurt, very badly. Jesus made it clear: you could die, you could be tortured, you could be beaten and imprisoned and all sorts of other things. and you will, most certainly, get your heart-broken.

as i pray and think about this next year, i am thinking about what it means to be like a sheep. to trust, to put one little foot in front of the other, to head straight for the pack of wolves.

the other words Jesus said, right before that part about getting torn up, was about going out and proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. i went back and re-read it today; that’s all he told his followers to say. nothing about doctrine or even that the messiah had come: just go out and proclaim the kingdom of God: healing the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.

and that’s where the wolves are–with the ones who are already beaten down by the world: the sick, the hurting, the addict, the broken relationally. the people and situations in my life that scare me the most–the scenarios looping in my mind as i close my eyes–those are the ones who need the most proclaiming. they are the ones Father God has his eye on, the sparrows who are falling to ground in droves, and he counts them one by one. he sees it all, and he is asking me to keep looking, to keep walking ahead.

because it’s the year of love, and all the sadness that comes with it. it’s the year of authenticity over ideology. it’s the year of sheep and sparrows, demons and wolves.

it’s 2014, you guys. it’s the year of the minivan.











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12 thoughts on “the year of the minivan

  1. Cassie says:

    thanks for willingness to “work through” this decision making process with your readers. it is super helpful! and congrats on the next step in building your family. how exciting!

  2. AWESOME! Have you heard of the Atlanta Dream Center? I went to their ministry school and they truly are all about following God and reaching out to the poor urban (ghetto) areas of Atlanta. They might be able to help you do more for your neighborhood. Just a thought. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Foster to adoption, wow. You are a brave and heroic girl.
    I have a mini-van too, bought in 2001 –and my downward mobility thing is that I am still driving that Chrysler Town and Country. (I like it, but not mini-vans, on the whole).

  4. annie says:

    oh man. good, good stuff.

  5. Liza says:

    You write so, so well! Keep it up, minivan driving, obedient sheep-woman!

  6. Echo Marie Johnson says:

    Beautiful thoughts. Thank you for sharing. This reminds me of the time my husband and I had recently arrived in Asia to serve as missionaries. We were ready to take on the world, to be those hardcore missionaries you read about in books. After a few weeks, my husband said to me, “You know, this is actually harder than if we had been sent to minister to isolated tribal people. That would actually seem epic and heroic. This just sucks.” Following the Lord will truly strip us of all our ideas about heroicism, won’t it?

    • brianameade says:

      Ahhhh, Echo, I can so relate to this, but mostly from my parents’ perspective. This is how they explain the first four years of mission work for them. They say that they arrived back on furlough “beat up” and in serious need of help. “This just sucks” was basically the gist of it! So interesting. As an MK, I didn’t experience all the adult decision, difficulties that the actual missionaries do/did.

      • Echo Marie Johnson says:

        Sounds about right, Briana! By the way, thank you for sharing your guest post. That was a fresh perspective. The brutal honesty in this community is wonderful. 🙂

  7. brianameade says:

    We are borrowing my parents’ minivan right now and it is about to break down, so my husband drives the minivan to work! (muahahaha). This would have to change though, if we had as many kids in the backseat as you will.

  8. At our church in Chicago, we had only three or four families who lived in the neighbourhood and had a minivan. They were incredibly generous in making them available to the church community, and speaking as the youth pastor, they were a godsend! Borrowing them for trips to activities with the youth, field trips with the after school program, youth weekend retreats, a week-long mission trip… Believe me, your obedience will be a blessing to everyone else.

  9. A 2005 sounds good. My 2000 Grand Caravan has 170,000 miles on it, and takes a quart of oil each time I gas it up. Minivans are awesome. Mine still gets 19-20 mpg.

  10. This hit me right between the eyes. Thanks, Danielle.


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