What Makes a Home?

My husband and I recently purchased a condo in the Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater. Was this the worst possible time to attempt a home purchase due to the volatile housing market? Absolutely. Did we have any other choice? No.

Luckily, we were able to find a wonderful place at a reasonable rate. Once moved in, we found many unexpected projects that demanded our time, energy, and resources. While we found ways to memorialize and ritualize the move, the demands of life, the stresses of home projects, and the volatility of the economic realities of our time often distracted us from the overall blessings of first-time homeownership.

As a result, I found myself caught off guard during a blessing my parents offered when they visited from Omaha, Nebraska about a month after we moved. Borrowing the blessing from the 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life, my parents presented us with a fresh baguette from a local bakery, a container of salt, and a bottle of red wine. Reciting the words of blessing from the movie, my parents offered ‘bread’ so that our household would never know hunger, ‘salt’ so that our lives would always have flavor, and ‘wine’ so that joy would always be found in our home.

In this moment, I realized that our home is more than a physical space: it is a place from which love, family, community, and life can be nourished in our lives as a couple. Our home is a place from which we can find strength and grounding to go out into the world and enact that same love, community, and life.

For the first time, our new condo felt like a home from which our new lives could be formed. And all of this came from a little blessing of bread, salt, and wine, offered from the wisdom and love of parents.

Psalm 23 as a Gay Love Letter

My Lover is my Lord,

in him, I do not want.

He lies with me on clean linens

and wraps me in his sinewy arms.

He enlivens my body and soul

and leads me on pleasurable paths

toward mutual ecstasy.

With him I journey through 

the soft fleshy curves,

hard muscled edges,

and vulnerable tissues 

of our bodies.

In him, I fear no harm,

for his rod 

and my staff

are in the hands

of excellent communicators.

He prepares a warm cuddle for me

after the stresses and joys

of the daily grind;

he anoints my head with kisses

and my heart overflows.

Goodness and mercy

flow from our union

into all of the days 

and the ways

of our lives.

I shall dwell in the embodied home

of my Lord – my Husband – 

until death do us part

and we reunite 

in eternal embrace.

Showalter-Swanson: Coat of Arms Explanation

We are excited to announce that we are now legally…

  • Connor Alexander Showalter-Swanson
  • Grant Tyler Showalter-Swanson

Reason: Over the past four years of marriage, we have spent a lot of time discerning how we can (a) best honor our wonderful families through our family names and (b) create a unified last name for our family in the future. After much time of prayer, listening, and conversation, we have settled on the hyphenated last name: Showalter-Swanson. We are thrilled that this hyphenated last name enables us to be unified in name as we contemplate the future of our household and pay tribute to our incredible families who have poured into us, loved us, and formed us into who we are today.

Coat of Arms: During our name merging conversations, we noticed that four values from our families continued to come up that were not only deeply meaningful, but also came from both our Swanson and Showalter families. When we concluded that hyphenating our two names was the best way to honor our distinct family experiences, we also wanted to find a way to name and celebrate these joint family values. As a result, we decided to create a Coat of Arms in consultation with artist kerrysilkpainting / silkandtimber. We weren’t interested in a Coat of Arms in the traditional heraldry sense, but in the sense of family history, legacy, and four named values. The consultation process was amazing and allowed us to not only honor our families’ values, but think about how we, as the Showalter-Swanson family, can continue to embody and live out these values in our present and future.

The following is an explanation of the different parts of the Coat of Arms.

  • Shield: The shield is the focal point of the Coat of Arms since it memorializes the four common family values we identified in our family legacies, our upbringing, and in the familial future we hope to create together. 
    • Quadrant 1- Faith: Faith is a central tenet of our lives that was instilled in us by the Swanson and Showalter families and through our church communities. Our families taught us to pursue God’s goodness in our lives and in the lives of others. Faith will always remain a central guiding value in our lives. One of the places that this faith has shown up is within the United Methodist Church. Connor grew up attending a United Methodist Church and Grant’s grandfather and uncle were both United Methodist pastors. As we have grown together as a couple, we have found a church community and home at Urban Village Church (UMC). Grant is also ordained as a Deacon in the UMC. As a result, this quadrant is represented by the UMC cross and flame symbol. Additionally, we want to partner with the Holy Spirit in co-creating the Church as a place where all people can find community and church precisely because of who they are, so the flames include the colors of the progress pride flag.
    • Quadrant 2 – Love: The Showalter and Swanson families have always been places of love, warmth, and joy. This familial model has greatly impacted how we interact with the world as individuals, and as a couple. One of the ways that we have understood what we mean by this ongoing tradition of love is through Galatians 5:22-23: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Since the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ translates as singular, we like to interpret ‘love’ as the fruit of the Spirit, and ‘joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ as descriptors of this love. As a result, we can be attentive to the ‘fruit’ of our lives- individually, as a couple, and in community- to assess if we are being faithful in our commitments to God, one another, and our communities. As a result, this quadrant is represented by two tree trunks that have intertwined and bear the literal fruit of love. The two trees represent the union of the Swanson and Showalter families through us. 
    • Quadrant 3 – Hardworking/Trailblazing: Both the Swanson and Showalter families are extremely hardworking people. Both families are committed to putting in their best effort, whether in work, family, relationships, faith, etc. Not only that, but the Swanson and Showalter families have a tradition of being trailblazers: seeking vocation and occupation that fulfills their particular callings and giftings, whether there is a family precedent or not. Ranging from a rancher, pastor, attorney, mechanic, legal judge secretary, domestic engineer, prevention program specialist, and development director, there is a clear family precedence of blazing new paths in the pursuit of God’s call and vocation in our lives. We continue in this family tradition of hardwork and trailblazing as an educator, recruiter, and soon to be PhD student. As a result, this quadrant is represented by a bright and shining north star. Just as the wise men in the Bible made a new path pursuing God’s call in their lives by following a bright and shining star, and just as travelers used the north star as a guide to find a path out of now way, so too do we pursue God’s vocation and call in our lives with God as our focal point. Stars are also particularly important to us since we began dating under the geminid meteor shower and Grant’s proposal for Connor occurred at the Adler Planetarium. 
    • Quadrant 4 – Education: The Showalter and Swanson families have always placed great importance on the power of education. Education was modeled and encouraged at an early age. We have lived into that with a deep love for learning, 6 total post-secondary degrees (and one more to come), and a vocational call to the ministry of education. We have witnessed the transformational power of learning and feel called to be co-laborers with the Holy Spirit in the ministry of education. Connor has now been a teacher and educator for a decade and is a leader at his school and network. Grant taught for five years and is now pursuing a PhD to be able to teach at a post-secondary level. As a result, this quadrant is represented by an open book with flames coming out of it. The book represents learning and the process of education. The flames represent the transformation possible when ideas ignite through learning and the power of the Holy Spirit through pentecost. Also, the flames are shaped as hands, demonstrating that education is a ministry of helping and accompaniment between the relationships of student, teacher, community of support, and the movement of the Holy Spirit. 
  • Banners
    • The top banner pronounces our merged family name: Showalter-Swanson. The doves holding the banner both represent the Holy Spirit moving and guiding our lives and the desire for peace to be a fruit of our partnership together. 
    • The bottom banner memorializes the date of our wedding: February 18, 2018 
  • Crest
    • The crest begins on the outside with the two stars that symbolize two unique individuals coming together in one bond. As mentioned before, stars are particularly important to us since we began dating under the geminid meteor shower and Grant’s proposal for Connor occurred at the Adler Planetarium.  
    • Next moving inward on the crest are the olive branches, symbolizing peace.
    • The center of the crest memorializes our love of cats, particularly our cat Nessa. Nessa has been our fur baby since the beginning. She has brought us much life, joy, and love – traits that we hope to bring to those with whom we interact as a couple. The gray and white design mimics Nessa’s fur markings.
  • Border:
    • We love to travel. Being able to see the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, both in our front door in the United States, and around the world, is a particular passion of ours. For Connor, that love of travel is best represented by his family’s pilgrimages to the Ocean City, NJ seashore. As a result, waves comprise the bottom part of the shield’s border. For Grant, the love of travel is best represented by his family’s frequent trips to the Vail/Beaver Creek areas. As a result, mountains makeup the top half of the shield’s border. 

Where You Lead, Oh Lord, I Follow (Based on Psalm 138:1-8)

I rejoice in You, my Provider;

my heart beats with praise.

I raise my palms and lift my eyes

toward Your glory and wholeness,

in thankful exultation

of Your steadfast love

and faithful word.

At a young age, You called me;

I heard and followed.

But the Church and the world

conspired to silence Your voice

and extinguish my call

by moralizing away my belovedness

as Your child, oh God,

as a condemned and unworthy queer.

But, amidst these trials of human

malevolence and lies,

You journeyed with me,

never leaving nor forsaking,

waiting for a receptive heart

to remind me of my call –

not despite of my sexuality,

but because of it –

the experiences of expansive and just-filled love.

And now,

through my approval for Ordination

as a Deacon in the UMC,

You have brought Your Purpose to further fruition in me,

proving that Your radically inclusive love endures,

and expands,


Where You lead, oh Lord, I follow.