Carl and Teresa Wilkens: Spokane, WA

I am very proud of my aunt and uncle.  And while I'll start there, I'll specify that this is the kind of pride built through relationship when a kid is young--you know, when you're so proud to have your aunt and uncle out there at your birthday sledding parties--careening down the back hills together, barely missing trees;  when you're so proud to be a part of their many, many made up games, which were potentially so-not-fun, but were ALWAYS SO fun;   when you're so proud to have them come to your Christmas play, your fiftieth rinkadink harp concert, or whatever other insignificant, yet very significant thing that might be happening when they visit town.  That's where the pride roots itself, in relationship, but I've found the pride realizing itself more and more in these past years as I've come to understand more of their story.

My Aunt and Uncle were living in Kigali in 1994 when the genocide in Rwanda began.  My uncle was working for ADRA, a development-aide organization in the valley where he and my aunt were raising their three young children.  As the expat community and most of the relief organizations began evacuating, my aunt and uncle made a decision together that my uncle would remain in Rwanda.  The question of, "Why stay?" is one I've heard many people ask.   And this would be an incredible segway to introduce to you his book, "I'm Not Leaving."  Rwanda through the eyes of the only American to remain in the country through the 1994 genocide.
My uncle writes, "While the stories written here happened during the genocide, this book is not really about genocide. It is more about the choices people made, actions people took, courage people showed, and sacrifices people gave in the face of genocide…"

And as he writes, he takes you with him into the homes where people are hiding in closets, to the water spigots under sniper fire, into the gates of the overflowing orphanage, takes you in under the roofs of killers and into the offices of corrupt men of power, and through all of it, there is a strong sense that our decisions matter and how important relationships are. And it was these truths that so deeply impressed me, that left me inspired.

Now, my aunt and uncle travel around the world speaking about inclusion and emphasizing relationship. They run a non-profit called, World Outside My Shoes, which is an "educational and professional development organization committed to inspiring and equipping people to enter the world of “The Other”. “The Other” may be under our own roof or on the other side of the globe."

Pick up their book!   Just click over HERE and put a donation into the PayPal button on the side reel.  Then, when PayPal asks for a purpose, simply write "Books" and they'll ship it on over to you!  My uncle is an incredible speaker and this translated right into his writing--moving, personal, and profoudly insightful!   

If you get to meet my aunt and uncle in person, you'll find them laughing and asking you questions; you might hear my uncle ask my aunt to please play him a song, as my aunt can ignite a piano; you might find them taking walks or riding their recumbent bicycles.  I know you'd love them.  :)  Meet Carl and Teresa:

Carl:  "I re-purpose my daughters' hair bands to hold my credit cards and drivers license in a wad."
Teresa:  "I re-purposed a full length mirror into a decorative table top!"


Jana Detrick Judd: Pasco, WA

I met Jana just a week ago where she opened for the Sara Groves concert in Pasco. Jana grew up in Western Washington as a pastor's daughter in the small town of Chehalis, and then moved to the Seattle area for college, studying ministry at Northwest University. She stayed in that area for 5 more years working on staff at churches and doing outreach until she got married in June of 2010 (to her best friend for 20 years, Chris who is the guy singing in this song below with her!) He was the worship pastor at Faith Assembly in Pasco, so she moved there, and well, opened for Sara Groves?! Pretty neat. She has been a "professional volunteer" all over the place and takes substitute teaching jobs while working as a vocal coach. She writes, "My calling is to help people who are hurting and I love to try and do that through music."

I appreciated Jana's connected-ness to us, the audience, as she opened for Sara Groves. She was personal, and humble, and since the concert was in her home church, I could feel that there was so much support for her as she sang.  The song below is one she and her husband wrote together for a friend's wedding before they were even dating--they wrote it in a Starbucks!  Haha!  Check out more of her music, HERE. Meet Jana Deitrick Judd:

"I re-purposed two antique crates, stencil-painted one of them and made them both bookshelves for my devotionals and other books I use frequently.  Here are some pictures of that."

Our Way Back Home by janajudd

Victoria: Loma Linda, CA

Tori is my long time, rock-solid, so-down-to-earth, snowboard-wild, crafty, caring friend.  We went to high-school together--she was a year behind me but skipped her junior year and we graduated together in 2004.   Now, she's married to Aaron, her high-school honey (that was fun to write), and works as a dental hygienist while Aaron is in school to be a nurse anesthetist.  I LOVE Tori.  

I remember one night back in the dorm, I'd decided to sleep over, and the fun hallway havoc sucked us in.   Somehow, Tori and I got laughing and fighting/joking.   Tori threatened to spit on me (haha, real mature Tori...oh but just wait), and I told her very seriously, "If you spit on me, I'll get you back ten times as bad.  Not joking!"   She must have thought we were still joking, because she went ahead and spit at me.   We laughed, but she knew she was in for it.   She ran off, up to another floor of the dorm, and I went to prepare for retaliation.

I took a whole bag of pink bubble gum, and distributed it to the girls on floor two and three.  Then, in a very systematic sort of way, I had all of the girls chew the gum, and then all spit some pink saliva into a coffee mug.   I went around until the coffee mug was pretty full.    Then, I tracked down Tori.

I found her, and there was a bit of a chase if  I remember right, but the chase ended with me dumping a whole mug of spit on her head.   I know many of you are going to think of me differently now, but let's remember, this was in high-school, and the legitimacy of my word was at stake!!!   Tori was not happy.  And I actually felt a ton of remorse.  I don't know if she finally is able to laugh about this memory...for a long time, she would only glare at me!  Hahaha

I spent the day with Tori recently, and I am reminded of her contagious spirit, her steady, faithful heart, and of the value which I place on our friendship.   Meet my good friend Tori:

"I re-purpose scraps of material for bows on presents, veganaise and tomato sauce jars for canning applesauce, old belts as handles on homemade purses, material scraps for hair bows, brown grocery bags as wrapping paper, shall I go on?"

My Mom and Dad! Spokane, WA

Meet my parents--no, really, I hope someday you actually get to meet my parents because they are the best people I know.

My mom's name is Joyce and she has been my inspiration and teacher when it comes to thrift store shopping.  In fact, when I was young, she told me she would buy me new clothes any time, as long as they were from the thrift store, and with that kind of motivation, I learned to be a mean thrift store shopper, moving quickly and completely through everything in the store in order to find the couple things which I'd pay nothing for, but were worth a ton!  My mom recently had a beautiful book come out called, "Teacup Art and Reflections," in which she has photographed teacups in super unique and creative ways--go CHECK IT OUT! (It would make a great Christmas present!).  My mom continues to be the most selfless person, and brings creativity to everything she does.

My dad gets done at the office, where he sees patients everyday, and then changes into this green jacket he's had since high school.  Yesterday we split wood.   Other days he goes to his garden.  He's an awesome listener and great at balancing life.   While my dad likes traditions, he is by no means traditional--I mean, he'll sometimes surprise me in the best ways--like last year, he jumped in Priest Lake every month of the year, and if you're from the Northwest, you'll know that's fairly non-traditional living!  My dad re-purposes more than most people I know.

Oh man I'm getting long, but IT'S MY PARENTS!   And they are such important people in my life--people who enrich my perspectives, support my dreams and have really been there for me.  Can you tell I love them?  Meet my parents, Joyce and Keith.

Keith: "After we got rid of our horses, I re-purposed the fence from the corral and used the wood to make a porch deck."

Joyce:  "I like to get old oil paintings at thrift stores and rework them, or sometimes just paint over them completely!"

Sara Groves: Minnesota

Sara Groves has, for a long time, been my favorite singer/songwriter!  Before last night, I didn't know Sara outside of her music--but the thing is, she has let so many people in so close through the lyrics of her songs that those of us who have listened to her share through music over the last 10 albums, have come to feel such an appreciation for her as if she was a mentor or friend.  There's a quote by Anne Lamott that says,

"We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you'll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you've already been in. Most humans are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer's job is to see what's behind it, to see the bleak, unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words—not just into any words but if we can, into rhythm and blues."   

I think that seems to be one of Sara's biggest gifts--pulling meaning out of struggle or difficulty, and calling herself and others to refine an attention to the beauty in the precious things of life.  She's doing really neat things through Art House North, and also partnered with Food for the Hungry in Rwanda.  Last night, at her concert in Pasco, she took the time to model a shirt and share something that she re-purposes. She even bought this shirt she modeled to support the project!  Meet Sara!

"I love to re-purpose old pillow cases and table-cloths into aprons that I give as gifts."

Her new album is called Invisible Empires and if you want a place to start in the album, my favorite songs are Obsolete, Open My Hands, and Precious Again.   If you have not listened to Sara Groves, there are so many of her previous songs that I want to point you off to, and here are just a couple of buy any of her albums, click on over HERE. 

It's a sweet, sweet thing
standing here with you and nothing to hide
light shining down to our very insides
sharing our secrets, bearing our souls,
helping each other come clean
--Different Kinds of Happy

There's a lot of pain in reaching out and trying
It's a vulnerable place to be
Love and pride can't occupy the same spaces, baby
Only one makes you free
--Loving a Person

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know
--Painting Pictures of Egypt

Tyler and Jenny Music: Nashville, TN

This past weekend, we listened to Tyler and Jenny perform in concert with Sara Groves.   They had such a sweetness between them and brought a connected and inventive set to the concert--really engaging everyone by the way they carried the music with such energy and attention!  All of us really, really enjoyed their music, and I wish them the best!  After the concert, they so kindly said they'd model a couple shirts.   Go read about them and check out their MUSIC--they have some free downloads and between the two of them, they play a whole set of instruments--banjo, guitar, tambourine and more!   Not to mention this suitcase drum they play--it's so obvious they are people who re-purpose in their lives constantly. In fact, Jenny kept telling Tyler that the list he was making was probably long enough, as he just kept thinking of more things!  (Like the dryer-lint he's collecting in order to someday be able to fill a whole pillow! Haha)   Meet Tyler and Jenny on Tour:

"We like to use old socks for mic cases, an old suitcase for a kick drum and bad audio cables for clothes lines!"

Elise: Walla Walla, WA

We miss Elise too here in Spokane!   Elise always came along with her brothers, Nolan and Evan, even when she was quite a bit younger than all of us and she could keep up on the ski hill--she could blaze down the ski hill.   Elise is now in college and a darn amazing pianist, talented athlete, and a super fun girl to be with.   I really like her!  Meet Elise.

"I cut off the ends of sleeves to old t-shirts and used them as head bands when I was on a mission trip in Borneo!"

Karalee: Rathdrum, ID

Karalee is still uncertain what she wants to be post college--good thing she's a freshmen!   She however, is not lacking in talent at all.  She's crafty, musical and adventurous!   I can't tell you how many times Karalee and I get confused--people thinking we are the same person, twins or at least sisters.   Can you see the resemblance?   Can you tell who is who?  Well, if you can, then meet Karalee.

"I re-purpose old coat hangers to shape into bubble wands.  You dip them in soap and make big bubbles!"

Wafia: Walla Walla, WA

Wafia was my piano teacher for a while when I was younger.  She teaches music in Walla Walla where her husband is a pastor.   Their family and our family are good friends and they used to live in Spokane.  We miss them there very much.  Wafia is also the mother to these three kids--Nolan, Evan and Elise.  Meet Wafia.

"I re-purpose paper by cutting it into squares and stapling them together into tear-off note pads."

Nelita: Walla Walla, WA

Nelita is my sister's sister, which makes her simply my sister.   :)  She is about to have this beautiful baby boy named OLIVER!  Really, he's due TODAY, and when he's born, I think I might just have to make him a little baby re-purposed shirt.   Nelita has got an electricity in her bones and there is NEVER a dull moment with her there.   She and her husband David live in Walla Walla.   Meet Nelita!

"Amma and I took apart an old I just took a vinyl roller shade, took it apart and made a roller shade with suit fabric!"

Pop-pop, Spokane, WA

We've called my grandpa Wilkens "Pop-pop" since we were young, and it doesn't sound funny to me at all, but I know it reminds other people of soda pop, or pop-corn or a nick-name for a puppy.   Well, meet my grandpa, John.  I love him so much, and you might find him riding a tractor, out in his barn, or helping refugee families get situated in Spokane.  Most people know him for a contagious energy and joy, and I would, "Oh yeah!"  to those kind of assessments.  Meet my Pop-pop.

"It was twenty years ago when we bought this farm and there was junk scattered all over in the yards.  There was one particular piece that I saved and this past year I set it up in against my garden fence--it's a sign with a big sunburst on it, was probably an overhead sign at a gasoline station maybe sixty years ago."

Justin: Spokane, WA

Justin is like another brother to me--his family, like a second family.  His family has this huge gift of hospitality--anyone who knows them will tell you that, and Justin has the gift too.  He's a dreamer, entrepreneur, and a person who can make most people feel comfortable.  Justin is a business major, graduating this year, with the whole world wide open.  I wonder where he'll go.  Meet Justin.

"I re-purposed this metal broomstick handle by using setting it between the two back car handles and then hanging my dress close there when I go on trips.  It was just the right length."