Back Porch Conversations

When Dale and I first met, he was dating a woman in Canada and I was engaged to marry a guy in Virginia. Nevertheless, we found ourselves easy conversationalists despite our prejudices. Mine: 26?! Golly, he’s old. His: Her poor fiancé!  We were thrown together over lunch to meet and talk, just an afternoon.

Or so we thought. But when God paces you, never assume you know the next chapter.

A few months later, I had broken off my engagement (you can read that story in Ruby Slippers) and Dale was renting a room from my parents. I was finishing up my final year at the University of Virginia. Home on break, we painted the walls of his new room together and talked. I found him one of the few unguarded, unpretentious, unpushy men who could also keep pace with my conversation. We bounced from topic to topic, from Perelandra by C.S. Lewis to the weight of glory. We talked about gay marriage and ontology. We didn’t know we were having our first of thousands of conversations together.

Though I claim the title “artist” Dale understands the most important things that all artists work so hard to illuminate. Dale has two degrees in interpretive arts, which means he can read a poem or passage of Scripture so that you understand the meaning behind it. Just today at lunch, he re-created the story of Genesis when Abraham meets Melchizedek using just his fingers as puppets and his voice inflections. The boys and I were cackling and when he was done our eleven-year-old asked, “Can you please do that again so I can record it?”

Performing for his audience of three, Dale is also an artist, interpreting the meaning in God’s story.

The songwriter, the painter, the architect, the actor all try to remind us of these important things. We try to help people feel that they are alive, that they have this elusive gift that must not be squandered.  We try to hold onto the goodness God painted into this world and illustrate it to others who have lost their way.

Dale and I have recently been unpacking old books as we move into an old home on the Seacoast of New Hampshire. Dale found a copy of Tennyson’s poems among his treasured C.S. Lewis collection. Dale has the character and habit to stop and study the ideas in the books. One day before lunch, he came down and shared how he had just read Tennyson’s L’Morte de Arthur out loud to himself in his study. He reminds me to notice these lasting artifacts of what it means to be alive and human in this world.

Together, we still talk about the weight of glory over cooking and cleaning. With our children around, we still wiggle in a little bit of uninterrupted adult conversation about how to be in this world but not of this world. And there is beauty, but also so much evil to name: the corruption revealed in the world governments who overplayed their hands during COVID-19, the bankruptcy of public trust evidenced in rising inflation, the mental health epidemic, the normalization of everything a child could call out as wrong. No one seems brave enough to call out, “The emperor is not wearing any clothes.” But I see that Dale is doing just that.

So finally, after years of having these conversations with Dale in private, we are recording them. These conversations across our kitchen table, on our back porch are now packaged for you.

Introducing our “BackPorch with Dale and Jonalyn” podcast. Pop the champagne, pass the turkey and stuffing. Let the feast begin!

We talk about making our lives count, we talk about friendships and living well, we talk about parenting, the headlines, and sexuality. If you followed us at Soulation, this is an extension of helping people become more fully human. Except now, we are being our back porch selves. If you’ve ever had a meal with us, you know what to expect. We’d be glad to have you listen in.

Subscribe here or on your podcast app. Search “BackPorch with Dale and Jonalyn”.

I always leave conversations with Dale with more clarity. And that is how I see him, a man who climbed up a higher rock and is explaining what he sees ahead. He can read the signs and hear the rumble further off than most people. And he has the clarity and wisdom to explain solutions, not just articulate the problems. So when I bring my anxieties or concerns, I find he’s ready to face them with wise listening and careful thought.

So, for Thanksgiving week, something I’m thankful for: good conversation around the table, on the back porch.

Let me leave you with a few sample podcasts to enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Be sure to click the “Content” tab to see all our episodes (see pic).

Expectations: Right or Wrong? Are expectations the problem today? Dale teases apart expectations from obligations. We discussed how expectations are actually a life-giving part of all our friendships.  My favorite line: “God expects us to expect everything from him.”

Resilience in the Public Square: How do you stay steady inside when there’s so much conflict around us? Dale explains how one year he decided to steady himself and follow God’ s invitation for him into the worst of the news. He shares his tools for walking into the hard places of politics, human rights, and social media. My favorite line: “We say we don’t believe in slavery, but we do. We are so content to let slave owners take our property and money, tell us what to put in our bodies, what thoughts to think, what words to say. This doesn’t bring resiliency.”

How to be the church: What makes us different as followers of Jesus? Is it just church attendance or something more? Dale and Jonalyn talk practically about how God wants more wholeness, integrity and unique living from us. My favorite line: “Why do you expect your pastor to be the leaders on so many things? Jesus is the head, not your pastor. Follow Him.”

 

 

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I have wanted to paint a portrait of Dale for years. It’s always harder, though, to paint someone you know well. I tried to show the kindness and the years in his face as I see both of those every day.

It’s always challenging to paint white hair, in watercolor especially. I wanted to capture that salt and pepper in Dale’s hair. I mixed this grey with three primaries: Cadmium Red, French Ultramarine, and Raw Sienna. I’ll be continuing to try different grey combinations as I keep painting him over the years. I look forward to those years.

I enjoy portraits very much. If you’d like me to paint someone you know, click to my shop below.

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This piece was wonderfully honoring to Dale— I’m grateful for you both.

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