Monday, December 1, 2014

A Wreck.

I am in a season of wreckage. This sort of splintering is not your typical kind. Though, I have been hurt -- I wake up some days with the hurt swelling over me like an angry rain cloud threatening to gush precipitation upon me. And this season has not been devoid of the rolling feelings, the tidal waves of emotion that hold my heart captive, vice gripping the joy right on out.

But we were never promised unfractured circumstances.

My anxiety has kicked itself back up, again. There is a chance that the self-medicating I do with caffeine does not help to prevent this . . . and yet I feel abnormal without the tightening of a chest chord from time to time.

I was slayed this morning by a Bible verse; it was one of those moments where I slurped in the last hot swallow of my morning brew and glanced down and held the coffee in my mouth so as not to spit it across the table -- because there He was, again, standing His ground with me and lovingly proving just how intricately He laced and knows my heart.

"And don't be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there." (1 Corinthians 7:17 (MSG))

WOOF.

Because how often do I wake up in the morning and wish that I wasn't in my single girl house, in my single girl bed?

How many times do I wish for someone else to inhabit my house along with me?

Can I count the number of times I've wished for someone to watch that sunset with me, hold my hand while I cry, just be in the room with me when I receive good news? I'd certainly need more than just my two given hands . . .

I was not called to wish away my time with how I think I could improve it . . . let's get down to the breaking bones of it all and admit this -- we were not imprinted with the capabilities to improve our present circumstances . . . because we are designed for just this time.

This was a welcome reminder. It hurt - stinging as I swallowed it down and resigned to the fact that it's not up to me, it never will be.

I wake up in the morning in my single girl house, in my single girl bed, because I was brought to this opportunity. I've been given the time to make the walls my own, to really get to know my heart -- and it's blindingly beautiful to be given that chance. Because please let me be clear -- it was something I was given.

I came to Dayton a girl who did not like or appreciate or desire alone time - all people, all noise, all the time -- that was my heart's cry. And it wasn't there - people were not around whenever I wanted them. For this, I am thankful. I learned how to like being with myself. That is a gift.

Those sunsets? They are not made more magical by being shared with another person - He decorates the sky each night because He chose me., and He chose you, too. Because He loves this Steph right here. Not Steph plus one. And I have hands to hold and ears to share the good news with-- and all of those things are good, but I am not required to bring them in accompaniment to receive His love.

"Where you are now is God's place for you."

Right here - in Dayton, Ohio, after having drank milk and danced in my kitchen to Taylor Swift, I am where I need to be.

Right here - with a snoring, smelly-breathed dog next to me, I am where I need to be.

Right here - not knowing what will become of anything, only knowing He is sovereign, I am where I need to be.

It's time to stop wishing away these moments that were threaded delicately like lace just for me and start living, obeying, loving, and believing that whatever isn't meant for me will miss me and whatever is meant for me will not pass me by.

A peace like perfume settles into my pores to realize the comfort to be found when we trust in the One who has our best interests at heart.

This is a wreckage to become acquainted with.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

To Belong Among the Wildflowers

Wildflowers. I keep dreaming of wildflowers; waist deep and pungent - miles and miles of purples and burnt orange, of fiery pinks and cream whites - as far as the ye can see.

I can almost smell them - feel their gripping greens against the loose fabric of my skirt; they're asking me to stay, begging me to dance. I close my eyes.
I think they've fine-tuned this language within me that no one else can quite grasp the accent of; a reverberating question exists - beats against the cage showcasing my heart - 'just how do they know?'

Happily ever after litters the pages of a book about a tiny mouse - my fourth graders snicker - because love is funny and icky to the nine year old still searching . . .

Just what is happily ever after?

This world is conditioned to constantly change and morph - it spins, begging to be adored, only to change the direction of its wind once we fall. . .

I used to thrust myself against the course of change. I could quickly execute tantrums to rival a slew of toddlers - change was not welcome. Never welcome.

Change does not concern itself with your dinner invitation.

And so I succumb - and French braided with the going under of a life thoroughly planned to the last second comes the shift of what happily every after is designed to be.

Against all defiant-clinging stances I've taken, I am a creature of habit on a trajectory for change.

Brave knights and frilly dresses were once on the docket for my kind of happy ending . . . I quickly realized corseted living was never going to work for me, anyway.

And so it all shifted; marriage is in there somewhere, but keeping a job I love, having a porch to watch the sun waltz into and out of the sky from, to finally master the art of cooking and finely pick that banjo whenever I please - they're high on a list woven yearning. . .

Even more than the continual cycle of altering what a future looks like, what a future may hold, is the wing-thin differences in what, daily, would put final touches on the closing scene of a life.

And today . . . it all whirls and swirls and lifts and sways around wildflowers.

Maybe it's just a desire to exist wild - all the restless and anxious and unknowing racing high toward a certain gathering place.

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world. -C.S. Lewis

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hear Me, Girl (A Letter to my Mommy)

It was one of those perfect days -- the sky shone clear and blue, the sort of blue that could never manage to muster sadness, if that were what it was attempting to accomplish. The sun shone bright and fiery promising.
We had just finished our day of errands and she was leading me, twisting and turning, down roads I'd never traveled before -- I am quick to forget these stop lights ran, compass infused, in her bloodstream. I came to a stop sign and she told me to go slow and then pointed.

"There it is," she whispered. Tears pushed, racing and tearing, down her face - her big, brown eyes glowing lightening live with the memories of a time I will never share with her.
"That's my house."

Seeing where your mother was raised is not easily described; my heart beat fast - imagining the bedroom where she cried quietly at night, not wanting anyone to know the loneliness that crept in and camped out in the arteries of her heart -- never knowing, then, she would come to produce, raise, and shape a green-eyed girl who lived lonely loud - laced in the pulse with wild trying its hand at breaking out.

I imagined a young, dark-skinned version of her drinking coffee early in the morning with her mom, hanging on every word; it triggered, somewhere down low, the realization that there are infinite amounts of information I will never know about my momma.

She can tell me her favorite color and her favorite meal prepared by my grandma; she can tell me about her first crush, her first best friend, the fact that she was never invited to a prom dance, but I won't ever know --

I won't ever know the reverence in her voice when she whispered to her mom, goodnight. I won't ever understand the emotions cultivated early on toward her father and his habits, his addictions. I won't ever know the young girl whose muscles ran lean and strong in a chlorinated pool on sticky, hot summer days.

I pray her giggle danced then like it does now -- across my memory, linking itself deep into my bone marrow, never to be forgotten.

It is within the deepest parts of my fractured heart that I fling hope, high and fervent, that her mommy knows just how much my mommy loved her - just how much she misses her every single day.
I watch the tears roll, yearning and heat riddled, down her cheek and squeeze her hand.

I intake breath, deep and fast, and the brain won't quit - it's just always dancing . . .

I didn't always make it easy on us, mommy love, but you always fought for me and championed me for the world to bear witness.

You've taught me life isn't always fair and sometimes the eyes' environment is just downright dark, but there is light - ever gleaming and continually searching us out.

You are a woman who laughs with me and holds me afloat when I've thrown myself against that brick wall just one . . . more . . . time . . . 

I don't know of what scars childhood left on your eternally bronzed skin and there is so much of your history I just won't ever be gifted to have as my own. . .

but you are my history.

My history, you are. And the keeper of secrets and the forever sounding board and the lady with patience as long and constant as the succession of breaths taken in and pushed back out -- you are gold, pure and true and treasured.

I don't know what all you learned long before I came along, but there aren't words to be uttered that properly portray how every minute of all of my days is woven with the knowledge you invested in me so long ago . . .

We belong to each other, you and me.

If I could tell your younger self the ways you would grow up to change the world I hope I would muster the courage to whisper sure and sound --

you will do nearly all of it just exactly right
please, girl, don't listen to the anger surged voices that tell you otherwise
 --
you will be a lighthouse in the handmade darkness of a young girl who laughs like you and argues like you.
you will do nearly all of it just exactly right
hear me, girl, because you will make promises and you will keep them (keep them accurate and right) --
you will be the warmth when she needs it and you will be the strong voice of reason when she needs plucked out of messes of her own making.
you will do nearly all of it just exactly right
understand, girl, that by giving rules instead of hand-outs and not giving in to shrieking, laced with fury, fits you will be a momma first and a friend second
 --
you will make her stronger in the face of a world that wants her weak and damaged.
you will do nearly all of it just exactly right
I hope you're grasping, girl, what is being said
 --
you will do nearly all of it just exactly right

You are doing all of it just exactly right
--
because you taught me right from wrong and then gave me the freedom to move around within both.
--
because you loved me stronger and fiercer than any other soul in this world and you still do.
--
because you saw our differences and you taught me how to dance within them, not against them.

Girl, if I could tell your younger self the ways you would grow up to change the world, I hope I could manage the clout to whisper again and again and again --

Please listen, you are doing nearly all of it just exactly right and you are changing the world, you are
--

because you cultivated the wildness in me and taught me the pertinence of remaining true to my caged heart.

I would tell you, solemn and deep and mixed high and low with emotion, that you would grow up to change the world
--

because you taught me how to thrive.
because you taught me how to love.
because you taught me how to smile.

Girl, you will grow up to change the world because, differences and tantrums and hard to love circumstances aside, you never stopped trying to give me all I could want in the world.

because you changed my world.

(October 27th is my momma's birthday -- make sure to wish her a beautiful, happy, and blessed one.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Letter to the Inner Critic

I caught sight of my arm's reflection tonight in the screen of my laptop. I was writing down a poem I had heard about cyber bullying in my journal and a dimple in the wrong place gathered my attention.

I proceeded to bend and unbend my arm -- a distinct line of where the excess fat of my arm shouldn't be appeared when I bent in.

My elbows have dimples . . .

There's always been this fight, you know.

I look back at pictures of myself before college began, before I realized how much he wouldn't fit into the future of who I would become, before I was acutely aware of how clearly able I was to do things on my own.

I look back at them and have to decide, whiplash quick, whether I will sob over the truth of the matter or laugh hysterically so as not to weep . . .

I thought I was such a big girl then.

I shudder to think about what I might say about pictures of myself, from this time in my life, in five years if I do not gain some semblance of control over how I fuel my body.

It is a vicious, cyclical, caution-taped area I live in.

People will handle any number of pitches from this life in any number of ways - food happens to be my cure-all for each molecule of feeling passing through my bloodstream --

Food is a comfort whether I truly require comforting or not.

I flirted with the skipping of meals in my teens and early twenties -- realizing quickly that control was designated for my schedule, for my pseudo-healthy relationships, for with whom and where and how I shared my body -- but never for how I cared for my body.

Hours poured over computer screens, weeks and months and years passed of me giving freely, even in the midst of self-hatred, simply to prove that I had something worth giving.

And for what?

So that I can come to be a functioning, working, responsible (albeit awkward) adult woman who catches a reflection of herself and ends up spiraling into panic and verbal self-mutilation?

Oh, no.

I'm tired of living in a world whose culture is seemingly defined on how many likes and followers one will acquire in a set amount of time.

I am exhausted with having to face the reality that looks will likely determine how approachable females are, as a sex.

I am devastated by young girls finding their fuel for the day, the week, their life, in what they're wearing, who they're talking to, whether they 'belong.'

I am bent over, embarrassed and terrified and grief-stricken, that I was, am, and probably always will be a woman who must face these demons head on.

I am guilty of seeking approval, of grasping for worth, in others. In relationships. In social media banter. In whether I belong to someone, to a group, to myself.

I got tired of seeing my reflection in the laptop screen --

So I picked it up and opened a blank page to scribble some words on . . .

It is my deepest desire to know my students won't grow up to be women defined by what other's believe her to be and men who get glory from being the definers.

It is from the bottom of my heart that I hope each sister I come in contact with in this life knows just how remarkable she is and that each brother I know is man enough to tell the women in his life just that.

From the very center of my soul, where I seem to feel all the feels just a touch too much, I hope fervently and without restraint that one day I may come before my reflection and not immediately begin with critique.

Maybe it's just time we all start believing in ourselves a little more and bringing roadblocks down on how we don't measure up.

Perhaps we stop living vicariously through comparisons and begin to vivaciously champion one another.

Let's put a damper on the hate filled language littering our 'feeds,' our screens, and our minds and begin crafting love letters to our bodies and thanking them for making it this far, bringing it this long, and continuing to move through each day.

I could yell obscenities at the dimples in places they don't belong or I could figure out a strategy to make myself better and love every stage in the process.

The choice is ultimately up to me.

No one else's permission is required for each of us to love ourselves.

(I just want to become more focused on loving the skin I am in than on who I need to be hiding all my skin from.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Set of Walls Left Empty

I am a proponent of vulnerability and transparency. I believe there is deep, bone-true strength in admitting weakness; that being said, I never thought this would be something I posted about publicly for everyone to read and walk through with me . . . I suppose you could say I am in the midst of a season I never imagined for myself at all - familial, emotionally, physically, or personally. But here we are.

Decorating my new home has been a great sense of joy for me since I moved to Dayton on a cold February day. There is, though, one room that I left relatively bare.

Aside from bookshelves to house the covers that shaped my adolescence and a bed to fitfully sleep in each night, I left my bedroom empty. Like the walls of my heart, the surfaces of the four walls housing my bed were left plain -- imagined memories and pictures and d├ęcor filled my mind for both, but I could never gather the strength to put life into my room.

I never wanted to be a 27 year old woman that decorated the bedroom of her house alone. I had always been under the assumption, living in the wild and precious hope, that this process would require my husband's opinion. So, my very personal space in the house sat relatively empty - because I am a 27 year old woman with no husband, no other opinions to consider or consult.

Color schemes were not heavily discussed, I did not paint any of the walls that housed my bed and a few of my books -- it is all very simple, honestly; I sleep there, I run the fan at night, I rarely make my bed.

No one sees my bedroom -- when new people come to Morton Avenue, the tour skips the upstairs completely; no one needed to see the cluttered mess of my bedroom -- there was, and is, no reason to reveal how very sad my bedroom made me. I was never supposed to be nearing my thirties and sleeping alone. It was an open and closed case - I struggled. I am struggling. The idea of a naked bedroom left me wide open, stripped raw, and deeply saddened.

I can't tell you what changed. I needed a new comforter; the one I had moved in was fraying and stringy and messy.

What started out as a Sunday evening return to Dayton and putting on the new comforter so I could send  pictures to my mom ended up being me digging through drawers for art that had been purchased but not displayed yet.

I got out a screw driver and screws.

I collected doilies my beautiful Grandma Jo  hand-stitched.

I began to allow myself to pour a little soul into my private space.

I never thought I'd be single and unmarried at 27. I also never thought I'd live in Dayton or have to say goodbye to as many people as I have. I never thought I'd be proud of those corn fields I grew up in or ache, at least once every day, to return to them.


I never really banked on living the life I am currently living. But if we are all honest with each other, who is living the life they had dreamed up perfectly, as a younger, less damaged version of themselves?

I think the point of it all is that we aren't. I'm not. And that's okay.

But I can't continue to allow a deeply punctured heart to leave my space and my soul vacant.

So I put out my new bedspread. I took the hand crafted steps two dear friends made for my dog and turned it into my nightstand (because Addy refuses to use them.) I lit up my walls with words and art and memories that make my spirit catch alight with passion. I allowed myself to put myself into this space.

One day I might have a husband and we will decorate our bedroom together -- it will probably have less yellows and ruffles and lace doilies -- and it will be okay. It will be good.

But right here? Right now? All the yellows and ruffles and doilies (and beautifully, weird art that makes my soul dance) are okay. They are all good.

I can still dream and hope and pray for the day I won't do all of this on my own, but right now, I am here.

And it's just really time I stop fighting back so hard, so wide open hurting, and really be here. In my home, in my bedroom. Just, really, all in.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Queen of Broken Glass -- A letter to the Dark.

My car got broken in to sometime between Sunday evening around 7 PM and Monday morning around 7.15 AM. I opened up my front door to retrieve something from my car and saw fragments of my window hanging from the seal at the top.

This is just a string of the ways this world has proven to me, time and time again, recently, just how damaged and dark it can remain to be. I stood at my screen door and went over and over within myself when something went right that I could readily show to anyone who asked.

So I became one of those people I'd always silently felt pity for when passing on the interstate or a back, country road - I took trash bags from my bottom kitchen cabinet and rummaged through school supplies to find a roll of masking tape and I manufactured a makeshift window to keep the rain out. Even the skies felt dreary and drained over another Monday morning coming and going.

Today my mom called and informed me that grams wasn't staying in Columbus, after all, due to counts that were much too low. I busily made dinner for myself with the phone propped between my shoulder and my all too oily, especially prone to breakouts here lately, cheek.

"Oh," I heard myself say. It wasn't until I had fixed an entire plate and sat down at my kitchen table that I realized I wasn't hungry - did not want to go through the exertion to bring the fork of food to my mouth; it wasn't until I was sitting before a plateful that I realized just what that all meant - that instead of my plate full, it was my heart - full of weariness and anger and every one of my solitary thoughts never reaching completion before a quick countdown of the days until I could return to the farm house surrounded by fields in the midst of harvest. Just where was I and how long until I could leave - escape - and oh, yes, Addy, you have to go out, come here . . .

Just, come here.

-----

I got out of my car tonight - returning home from work and telling myself, internally, not to lock the door, because the window is finally whole, again; I opened my passenger side door and looked down at the curb - at the jagged, fractured, misinterpreted reflection of my face against a bipolar sky - caught between weeping and rejoicing - in the thousands of slivers and cuts of glass from my window.

All for a leather bag.

I looked down at all those pieces - broken and beginning to wear down from the weather and the traction of traffic and I let a sigh roll deep and heavy loose from my mouth and thought to myself --

Queen of the broken glass.

Because here's the deal -- the particular point I am waltzing with right now -- this world is broken. It is fractured and slivered and jagged.

And I don't like to give it much credit, but the Dark - he will sneak up on you quick and stealth in the midst of lapping victory. He swooped in and got a hold of the health of one of the most important women in my universe - but he will not win out.
He took hold over whoever decided to crack open a piece of my safety - but the rejoicing is not for him.

The day my car got broken in to my phone exploded with messages. Bible verses, words of encouragement, sweet check-ins -- and some were from people I don't talk to regularly. I don't know how they could've known what my morning was like; most likely they didn't, but they came in roaring with Truth.

Listen up, darkness, you sneaky and adolescent and patronizing specimen. You try to bring me down - try to make me think I don't deserve something greater or that I do deserve what I get; make an attempt at breaking my spirit and pulling my focus; spend your time toiling over what next to try to break me down with.

You will NOT win.

In the end, at the close of each of my nights, you will lose; victory is not yours -- it never will be. You were not designed to be the victor.

I am the queen of broken glass.

I am broken, period.

How else would the Light get in?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Unknown Wild

It is with some of the greatest trepidation that I sit before this computer screen tonight . . .
Life, as it is prone to do, has handed me some curveballs in the last weeks of humid air dancing swiftly with the crisp fall spurring of leaves.

Unexpectedly, our family was asked to say goodbye to a dad, a grandpa, a great grandpa, and a great-great grandpa. I say unexpectedly because he was one of the most disciplined, healthy men I knew -- he was also the caliber of man that I had convinced myself would never pass on. The universe and its Maker have swift ways of reminding us just how human, how temporary, we are. I found myself in the business of hefting around heavy loads of refusal at standing graveside, yet again.

Possibly not even a week before he was called home, his daughter (my gran) was diagnosed with Leukemia. I will go on record and say that Jesus is good - immeasurably so - and cancer, of any form, is a giant, hope dimming bitch. I won't apologize for feeling so negatively towards a disease that, regularly, chips pieces of our hearts away.

Cancer is never really something I wanted to have to handle by any degree.

"It's just a touch of cancer," she said. Words that will make me forever want to cradle the woman who started it all for my family.

It's been a couple of weeks - of teeth gnashing, tongue biting, soul searching, mistake making reality - and I feel I am simply not up to the task

As if I have a choice. 

Before and after and swirling all around the disease and the death that riddles life on this earth, I took a phone call.

You see, I read this book called Let's All Be Brave not too long ago - and I read a lot - but this book? It shook my soul loose. It made my hair a little crazed. It stirred my heart to rattle fast and hard against its cage.

A call to live out our bravest selves - a call to examine just what it was, and why it was, we were not answering a call for the sitting frozen, frigid, frightened in the shadow of fear. It was a call to go dancing into the unknown wild. I started to think about this - and then promptly stopped because I was sure-fire positive I wasn't going to like the answer He provided.

And I did not.

Here's what you need to know -- in the middle of the losing and the weeping and the hating exactly where I was, no matter where I was - I felt a nudge to say yes to something I had always thought no to. I felt a nudge to be obedient.

I don't like to sweat. The only time this seems even remotely reasonable is if I am at the gym - and even then I'm concerned of to what degree of beet or tomato I may look.

I don't like curry. Well, I actually don't know if I like curry because I've never had it, but I'm not a fan of the range of spice.

I've never flown on an airplane without a family member. So I'm a twinkie, what of it? I've seen London and Paris; I've stood on a sidewalk and looked up, up, up at the colorful bulbs of Times Square, and I went to Georgia for the first time when I was around 7; but a mommy or a gran were with me every time.

My heart is for Dayton. Or that is what I had convinced myself of before I read this book; before I knew Jesus more; before I decided to prohibit fear from making the decisions of my life for me.

It is with some of the greatest trepidation that I sit before this computer screen tonight . . .
Because once I click the mocking post button, there isn't much of any going back.

I am going to India.

In the middle of mourning and trying to care for my people when I'm an hour away - in the middle of trying to remember why it is I no longer what to be the girl I was at 17 - in the middle of realizing just how hard being an adult is (get up and go to work no matter how your heart hurts) - in the middle of trying to push away and being pulled closer, still - in the middle of all of the things that make this life stupid beautiful and crazy painful, I decided to show obedience in a way that is unfathomable.

I am going to India. To try to figure out who this girl is that Jesus keeps sticking around for; to meet the orphans He loves wildly and all the way true; to push the boundaries of a heart long lived in fear and restraint; to love.

I am going to India. Because He asked me to.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Art of Goodbye

This past weekend it came to my attention just how easily a heart can break over the use of words in the past tense; "he was," "we played," "he loved" can take a sun-drenched day in a back room dubbed the "Florida room" and create small and deep pock marks that no amount of positive focusing can erase or diminish.

This world can be heavy. It can be hard and it can steal your breath and the most frightening thing of all is that it will. This world is guaranteed to share its darkness with its inhabitants.

I sit here now, enveloped in such darkness.

When people move on - to rest and dance whole, again, the people they leave behind are the ones that the funerals are for. It is for those still breathing in and out, in and out, remarkably, that pictures are combed over, memories are lobbed back and forth like a tender egg on the cusp of cracking. It is for those that are left to sort through the closets and chest of drawers, that words are spoken at graveside services and luncheons are prepared in the local church.

It is for our own hearts breaking that we cry when those gun shots cry into the spotless, pore-less sky on a fall day.

My family had to say goodbye to someone this weekend - we've had to say goodbye a lot over the course of my life with them and yet I sit here reeling over the cruelty of comfort being removed.

So, I'll write. Because it's the only thing that makes sense to me; because I hope from the deepest recesses of a fractured heart that he will hear my words; because it might be one of the only ways I'll ever be able to honor him truly...

Because I have come to convince myself that there must be an art to saying goodbye.

 
I've been thinking a lot about how much we don't know the people we love the most and who are at the root of the foundations of our stories.
There is so much, likely an uncountable amount of facts and tidbits, I will never know about my grandpa Floyd.
 
In the most simple concepts of time, I will never know the sort of son he was - I only know he was born to Lottie and Bertram in a time I can only imagine into existence or comb through history books to partially understand.
 
I never knew him as a teen, as a young adult; at 27 myself, I wonder how his heart felt when he fell in love for the first time. I will never know if he was the sort of man who opened doors for women - I will never have the chance to listen to see if he was the type to whistle when he was deep in thought.
 
I won't ever behold my grandpa in a uniform or have the privilege to see him in shined, black shoes and a black suit.
 
It is for certain, because I came lower on the family tree, that I will only hear stories of the love he and his Jo shared; I will never know the excited, fevered whispers of two people falling in love and beginning a life together.
 
The ways of his fathering - the way his face lit up when he held his first son, his only daughter, will remain a mystery to me for the rest of my days . . .
 
But for all of those things that remain partially or fully hidden by the mere layout and fabric of a life lived well before my time, there are things I do know - the way I know my heart has fractured over the loss of this man.
 
He loved butterscotch pudding, and Cool Ranch Doritos, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. He always called me kid or Stephi and he loved all of his grandkids, great grandkids, and great great grandkids in a quiet, but steadfast way.
 
He married a woman named Jo and together they instilled a love for family, education, and service into the ripples of generations to come after them.
 
Sugar cookies, Slap Jack, and Florida seashells will always make me think of him - and will be a quick and steady reminder of the man who laughed quietly and dryly at the head of the dinner table; who always passed out calendars every Christmas day; who sent $10 on every birthday, no matter how many times you had circled the sun.
 
I don't know the stories of Grandpa as a boy, as a love-struck teen, as a young man serving his country; I only know such things as these - he was strong, he was brave, he loved us each well - in his way - and we loved him in return. He was ready to be with his bride in his final days; he was patiently waiting for Jesus to call him back home.
 
Floyd Resler was a son, a father, a grandfather, a husband - and he lived this life well.
 
This world is a shade duller for the loss of this man, but when we consider what we might or might not know, we can rest assured in this - he now sits with his sweet Jo and alongside the Lord and that is a comfort we should all cling to.

Monday, August 18, 2014

To Age.

Come Thursday evening around 8:30 PM, I will have circled the sun another year. I find myself, as a new birthday comes around each year, thinking more and more about where I am at that moment in comparison to where I was on the last birthday.

To say my twenties have been years of change and growth and pain and lessons learned would be an anticlimactic understatement. I remember turning 25 and writing a post about my quarter life crisis and have to laugh right out loud at what I said and what I thought and what I thought I knew. The coming years after that post was written were all situations of a hot mess. In all my 'I'm a graduate, hear me roar' musings, I had no idea who I really was - no idea who I really was supposed to be; so I guessed at who the world might want me to be and I went from there. I made poor decisions, I put myself in dangerous situations, and I found every opportunity to make fun of myself so as to distract people with laughter from the actual mess I really was.

Twenty-five passed and then came twenty-six. And I had learned some lessons; I'd even grown a little. But I just couldn't have fathomed a guess at what this last year would mean for me.

I met Jesus, again. Or, rather, He found me - wading waist high in deep shame and confusion over where I was and who I was supposed to be and nowhere to really turn to in order to figure that all out. He reached down and lifted me up and He took the fires I had been sleeping in, living through, and being scarred from and repaired this broken sinner's heart.

I moved out on my own. I moved out of that large corn field that had found me scared and scarred and running and directed my steps to the city. It was the scariest thing I've ever done - leaving behind my mom and dad and brother, sleeping in a house alone at night with only the traffic outside the windows to sing me to sleep, spending time alone - no TV, no internet, no noise to quiet the doubts swimming, smelling out weakness like bait, in my head.

I said no. I said no to settling and premarital sex and giving in to what I want over everything else. I said no to the girl who had long been fighting to resurface - for male attention and to become someone's wife and to not have to learn how to handle the sadness that creeps in dark and heavy without hesitation. I said no to habits that were trying to break above water, but needed to die. I said no to the girl who always talked about changing but never cared to really do much about it.

I've allowed forgiveness into my vocabulary. Steph, I forgive you for the sheets you tangled yourself in, for the risks you took with this one life and heart of yours, for always saying this would be the last time and, deep down, knowing it never would be.
I began to forgive friendships that had been left open-ended, but never rejuvenated. I began to forgive myself for being at fault for them. I forgave myself for loving someone who wasn't right for me, and what's more, I forgave him for not being who I needed and still coming around. I am forgiving - because it helps me to breathe deeper. It helps me to live, not merely exist.

In Anne of the Island LM Montgomery writes, "That's one of the things we learn as we grow older -- how to forgive." and I just couldn't agree more; life is too short to sit around holding things against people or making mountains out of inconsequential events when we should really be holding each other up and pushing each other forward.

I used to fear growing older. Admittedly, I still do. I often find myself trapped in the confines of a perpetual thought cycle that tells me I will have failed if I've not accomplish x, y, and z by the age of 30. And so that is my prayer -- that I would realize I shouldn't fear growing old - as it is a privilege denied to many; I pray that I would realize the beauty that comes from aging because there is beauty in knowing yourself better each day. Rachel Maddow says it well, "My life is better with every year of living it."
Surprisingly I find it difficult to disagree - standing here, mere days from another birthday, I recall the girl I was at 16, at 18, at 21, at 25 and I must fight off a shudder; there are still fragments of those girls resting within me now - I may find myself taken by surprise when a tidal wave of adolescent emotion gains the upper hand, but it will settle itself accordingly. I must not forget that to erase each piece of who I was then would be to devalue who I've become right now.

Ann Voskamp, my favorite blogger, wrote a beautiful piece and posted it today and she said something that just held my breath from me for a moment: There comes a time when your world gets quiet enough that all you can hear is the beating and the breaking of your one heart. You'd better still long enough to learn the sound of it and let it teach you. Or you won't know the rhythm of your only life (emphasis mine.)
I think that is what 26 has been for me - my world growing so quiet that all there is to hear is the splintering of a heart and the realization of the why's behind it; my 26th year has taught me to listen a little better - to what my soul needs, not to what the world will demand of me; to what will heal my heart best - not to what will make everyone else the most comfortable; to what my Savior says I deserve - not to what my 17 year old self desired. 26 found me wounded and broken and bitter and needy for the approval of a world that has no right or knowledge to give it; 26 leaves me repaired, on the mend, searching for the sweet nectar that is at the core of this life, and needy for the only One who can truly see me for exactly who I was, am, and will be and who chooses to love me wildly and without restraint anyway.

Come Thursday, I will not know what to expect of year 27 - only that there is this - change is okay, aging is exquisite, and there is soul shaking freedom in the letting go.













Monday, August 4, 2014

When Saying No is Bravest of All

Words have been on my mind a lot lately - but to be fair, words are typically in the swirling, wade pool of my thinker; the walls of my home are decorated with words - words to inspire, remind, to leave you wondering - to confirm just Who it is we belong to in this ever changing, sometimes hurtful world.

You see, for as long as I can remember, words have mattered to me; I am a self-proclaimed over analyzer and words are often at the very center of what I am over analyzing. In the growth of my love for words I found that it was through the medium of them that I would best be able to express myself -- however writing them always came much easier than saying them aloud.

As I have grown in my relationship with Jesus, I have come to understand how important words are to Him, too. Annie F. Downs says it better than I probably ever could in her book, Let's All Be Brave:

Our words always matter. If we go back to the book of Genesis, where the world began, we see that God started it all with words. He spoke, and things became. Light. Land. Lizards. All with a word.

Proverbs 18:21 explains it in a pretty rad way, too.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (ESV)

And Proverbs 16:24 sheds light on the power of a word, as well.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. (ESV)

So, yeah, words are legit. They hold power -- to destroy, to lift up, to restore, to turn a world upside down.

Admittedly, I prefer the sort of words that raise the spirit of a heart, that lend a face to smiling, but we do not live in a world in which words exist merely on one side of this spectrum.

I have lived the last 26 (soon to be 27) years of my life under the false assumption that bravery went hand in hand with being a 'yes' type of person. In fact, I spent the majority of my twenties in a perpetual state of nodding affirmation. Yes, I will stay in this relationship, even though it's damaging us both, because it's comfortable. Yes, I will talk back disrespectfully to my father because I am woman, hear me roar. Yes, I will share a bed with you, and you, and you -- because I'm grown, I'm an adult, I am fearless, I am worldly, I am experienced. And, why yes, of course, I will come when you call, I will ignore all the ways you are wrong for me, I will shed my clothing, and along with it, my dignity - because saying yes means I am braver than I've ever been before.

Yes can be good, guys. Yes can most certainly be brave. But there are distinct moments of my life in which saying yes was, unequivocally, the weakest, poorest word I could have uttered.
I can tell you about a time, when 25 found me beaten and broken and bruised, when saying yes was to pull myself up and let Someone show me that victory had been purchased on my behalf.

But instead, let's talk about saying no. What about saying no is displaying bravado?

But brave people learn to say no. Most people wouldn't think of saying no as a quality of someone brave. Saying yes is certainly the more heralded option, but sometimes saying no can be the tougher choice by far. (Annie Downs)

The last month of my 26th year has left me slayed open. I was given the opportunity to say yes to something I've long been in prayer for; I have spent countless hours crying on a grey pillow case and furiously filling journal pages with the desire for a season to change in my life. I had been given the chance to say yes to a relationship - one that would lead to marriage.

My heart wanted to accept joyfully.

Every fiber in my soul wanted to shake my head frantically in an up and down motion - yes, yes, YES! Yes to all this that I have prayed so diligently for.

Only, it wasn't exactly the sort of offer I had been in prayer over. And so, my lips whispered a word that didn't lace many conversations in the last few years of my life.

No can be brave. No can be the most painful, heart-wrenching, treacherous word a young, single woman will ever utter. This no was all of those things - backed up by hard, shoulder shaken, ugly cries, sleepless nights, and literal hollering out to the Lord.

But, it was brave.

I said no to honor the woman I've become and still am becoming. I said no to not shove hypocrisy over the face of every prayer I've uttered and penned. I said no because I am not a 17 year old girl any longer and it's really time I start behaving that way. I said no, and it was brave, because there is nothing comfortable or soothing about denying something to yourself that only feels right.

This no is brave because I am not only putting to bed my first love, my first sexual partner, the first boy who ever took a piece of my heart and kept it --

This no is brave because I am putting to death the girl I was. I am mourning the loss of a 17 year old girl who foolishly put all her hope in the hands of a boy incapable of doing anything remotely productive with them.

I am graveside at the burial of my former self.

Words have power -- they hold life and healing and hurting. They leave a mark far longer lasting than any scar of the epidermis.

No packs bravery. Within the no of this last month before 27 is the knowledge of Who I am saying yes to.

And therein lies everything.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Arise

So a lot seems to be happening in my life lately -- not of the new job, new man, new life variety, but changes all the same.

You see, I've been actively trying to NOT run to my mom and my girlfriends and food to fix the deep craters a broken world will leave on a heart.
Anyone who truly knows me knows that I am a talker -- vehemently against the silent treatment and avid activist of the 'let's talk it out' variety, I will typically talk any turmoil or possible high in my life to absolute death. I will talk and talk and talk in painful, swirling, over analytical circles to everyone before going to the One who can actually comfort me or heal me or help me.

But something has recently changed... I've been hitting my pen to paper before I hit my finger tips to a phone's touch screen. I have found myself closing a journal and Bible and feeling physical relief for a circumstance or pure, unwavering hope for what may, or may not, come.

I have come to realize that my heart wants and longs and desires and it will beat on in this rugged way with the same intensity I've seemed to have acquired since birth -- and if my heart's desires are fulfilled then glory be to God. & if my heart does not receive its desires then glory be to God, even still.

Because here is what has taken 26 long and longing and anxiety-ridden and love given and laughter inducing years to realize

{He knows what's better for me anyway}

I am a creature of habit and one of 'want it now and want it my way' -- & I've been given the privilege of years in order that I may look back and see that that attitude - had I have gotten this heart's desire now and my way - would have landed me deeper in a valley left wanting.

So these days, I tell Him what I want - because it's good to talk with your Father, but I realize, a little more each grace filled and grace given day, that if I don't receive what I so desperately want --right now-- there will come a day laced with tears and laughter and an 'okay, I see You, I really hear You, too' where I will see why, while every desire is deserving of being whispered in the ear of my Savior, it is not always detrimental to the furthering of my story. {because it all turns out for His glorious way, anyway}

Recently I met with a family to hear of their story and something the momma said has stuck with me:

"Everyone has pits they end up In - sometimes we are pushed into our pits, sometimes we're the ones digging the pit deeper, sometimes we start to decorate the walls of our pit and nestle in - but no matter what the circumstance of how we came to be in the pit, we should all be crying out loudly to be pulled back up."

I have carried the shovel around that founded my pit -- there are days in this life that I wear that shovel like an accessory around my neck for the sin-wrecked world to see; I have decorated the walls of my pit - quick to frame the promises I was too weak to call bluff on and then allowing them to mock me into a puddle of self-pity. I dug the holes so that I might climb deeper down - no one pushed me into the valley I so long called home & there was nothing comfortable about resting in my self -depreciation, yet I always brought my pillow and blanket and a snack.

But there came a day when hitting the snooze button on rising above what i had done and who I'd been was no longer an option. I screamed right out loud -- I'm still crying myself hoarse  --

& and I'm finally starting to see the puzzled fractures of a siren red and wanderlust violet horizon.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Raise Your Glass to Saturday Nights

I have heard before that if you want to make God laugh, you just need to tell Him your plans....

At 21, if you would have asked me what the end of my 26th year would look like, it would certainly not have included Saturday nights on my back porch with sangria and buttered carrots while my wee one of a dog ran around barking at every noise natured conjured up for her. But that is where I am.

In my days of college I remember bargaining with the Almighty, almost attempting to call His bluff on the regular - "Lord, you surely won't allow me to be single past 22." The statement remained the same with the age changing every year. At 25, it became 30; year 30 - that far off land of age where the entire world ends if one has not accomplished x, y, and z. And it's looming closer... And there are still moments where I stand - deer caught in the smoldering headlights - as I mark off all I've not accomplished and take a shaky, anxious breath at what lies before me and is left unknown.

I was never supposed to know what rejection would feel like, what quiet Saturday nights were made of - I was never going to be the sort of person who enjoyed a glass of wine by herself and, at times, craved the silence of a house with only the candlelight dancing; I was going to always be surrounded by people - the reason for laughter and joy and, of course, I would be someone's wife -- because I wasn't ever going to have to wonder why I was not being pursued.

I can hear the belly laughter of my Father from South Park right now. He is not mocking me, of that I'm sure - only wondering when I thought I got the memo that this life of mine was left in my charge. It never was.

I realize, as I sip sangria and let it roll hot down my throat, that if I had been given reigns to guide this life where I thought it should go, I would be a vastly different person than who is sitting here today -- I would have made poor choice after poor choice and found myself deep in a pit, probably asking myself, just where did I take a wrong turn?

You see, my twenties have turned out to be exactly NOTHING like what I had anticipated; I would be lying if I said there weren't stretches of hours, days, weeks of me disliking every moment - but I also have come to realize that the fractured times of crying out, getting pissed, and eventually hitting my knees were all a part of the plan to begin with.

I cannot regret the nights of quiet aloneness and I cannot begrudge my best friends who are a part if a couple and happy and I cannot, for one solitary moment, say that I sit in a state of joylessness.

God is good, gracious, great, and glorious. He is the same Father to me as He was to Ruth. He took care of His kids then and He continues to do it now.

I am ever changing and He is never changing -- Glory be to God.

So, cheers to you, quiet Saturday nights  - for what you've taught me, where you've brought me, and for what is yet to come.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Searching Secret Riches

"And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness - secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am The Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name." -Isaiah 45:3

The days have been long - the beginning of summer has brought back pain that is yet to be defined - so my days are a cacophonous repetition of shaking out Advil from a white canister, flattening a bag of frozen corn to press against the hurt, and whispered cries, while flat on my back, for the pain to subside.

Still, I believe there is purpose in everything. {we must live life to experience a restored life}

In the midst of healing a searing pain, I am waging war against matters that I simply cannot contain, fix, or handle with my simple, human hands. The days are heavy.

Still, I trust in a Savior who does not leave the beloved behind. {Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.} 

I do not have answers - there are times I do not have the questions, either. Only a trembling fear of what wilderness I might need to wander through in order to come out of the woods.

Still, I fling mumbled, fumbled sentences and breathe, sigh-relieving, because only One knows the true language of my heart. {never once has our God left our story unfinished and unredeemed.}

I review the desires that lace a corset around my heart and I think of the tight yearning whispered and cried over when pen meets paper - and I consider those treasures, hidden in the darkness || as my house remains standing and guarded over and a caramel colored pup snores lazy and raspy at my feet || and I breathe deep in the waiting and count out five treasures I can graze with the tip of my fingers...

The days are long, the air is thick, and the eyes puff over tears shed and worries remaining and i slowly chant out into the darkness

{Christ comes to us, takes the mess of our lives, and makes it mean something.}

It is here, where the flesh is weak and failing, that the Spirit steps into the gap and raises you and me up.

Because Jesus wins. He is the victor.

{Hallelujah}




*italicized print (in order of appearance)  She Reads Truth, Ruth 3:18, She Reads Truth, She Reads Truth.*

Monday, June 9, 2014

See the Colors of Another Sky

I looked down at my feet in front of the perfect, white chapel and felt my breath hang caught in the middle of my throat. The air was sugar heavy and heated as it swirled with the mosquitos around my head. I felt like a small child seeing a new place for the first time - how was it that I had traveled to Georgia so many times before and never taken note of the red hues of the dirt that covered the land?

I put the toe of my sandal down into the dirt and traced swirls and curly q's over and over, again - just to see that the red was intentional and meant its color.

A family gathers in a wood floored chapel and a girl in white says "I do" to a boy whom she loves deeply. I recall looking over my shoulder behind me and seeing generations of families collected together on creaking, wooden benches and thinking about all the vows that have come before this moment; I think about the grandparents that aren't able to sit among their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren as a brunette girl with blue eyes whispers vows to that blonde boy in the coral bow tie.

Fans swat the warm air back and forth, back and forth across foreheads glistening with Georgia heat and I wipe tears threatening to rip down my face - and I see, for the first time, perhaps ever, that this is such a gift worth waiting for.

I think back to the red dirt at the foot of that church in the middle of this state I know so very little about - and I think about the pink and purple, candy colored sunsets I grew up looking at, but never really seeing, and how about those snow-filled Christmases and humidity-laden summers and here I am wishing away the now to get to the next part and just what exactly am I so hurried for? When that dirt is red and those sunsets are water colors in a sky and who exactly do I think I am to try to rush the One who created all these things and created each if us with such purpose - what is the dang gone hurry?

I sit in Dayton now - in a room with four walls that I have made my own and I am still thinking about that dirt; and I'm thinking about a tree that Mal and Casey poured soil into from each of the places they've called a part of home - and I remember that preacher's words - saying something fit and true like this tree would grow from the soil of the places that built each of them to create something new and of their very own. And isn't that just what all our lives are littered with? Moments of greatness and agony and the soil beneath our feet to help us remember where we came from and that will always compass us to where we need to go ...

The same God that breathed life into my lungs, has my name written on His hands, and gives me new chances each morning is the same One who paints the sky each night in a slew of hues of orange and pink and purple; He is the same God who made the dirt in Georgia red and  the air in Colorado dry; He is the same God who brought Mallory and Casey into each other's stories and He is the one who started my whole story with a high school senior named Max and a high school freshman named Sara.

Each night, He calls out the stars one by one, and they listen. And He closes doors for us that allow new beginnings to flourish and He is always writing, writing, writing and He never changes His mind.

I swirl my foot in that imaginary dirt and remember the soft melody that carried a new Mr. and Mrs. back down an aisle and I smile at the picture of all of us together - and this is what makes the world go 'round - this is want makes the world all right, again.

The one who can decorate the sky in sorbet-colored promises is the same One who can heal a wounded spirit and bring pieces of a heart from all over the states to one piece again. He made the cornfields grow and the dirt that deep red.

And while He was doing all of that and while He keeps it all thriving, He managed to change the map of a weary, broken heart - and He gives hydration to a dusty soul. And He will keep on fueling this broken world and allowing it to spin.

I'll sit in Dayton and dream about that dirt and smile at memories snapped by a camera and remember that a day should begin with intentional recognition of just all He is capable of - with wide-eyed wonder and pure glee at what He accomplishes.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Revelations in the Rain

Raindrops splatter and tap dance across the windshield of a van with Pennsylvania plates. Mother moon has kissed sister sun goodbye and the stars have been called out one by one -  75 South has never felt this smooth, this solemn.

Raspy voices stream seamlessly into the canal of my ear, singing of hair decorated with flowers and shadows on the walls. The man next to me used to be a boy with a clean shaved face and cowboy boots always on hand. With each mile marker we graze past I am reliving his maturation and shifting.

Semis hover too close and sleep plays hide and seek with me - it ever hiding and I ever seeking. It is too dark to read of dysfunctional families in the blackened van's interior and I find my thoughts wandering toward faces and expectations.

Who knew this is what the end of 26 might look like for me - but I am here, riding in a van with a family I no longer live with, but love and miss in a deep, aching chasm sort of way.

Mere months ago a long, darkened trip like this would've led me to think fondly on experiences that did not deserve the pedestal with which I had so gently, so gingerly placed them  upon. But this June has brought new breaths of life, new waves of thinking, and the same God to believe in, but with a  completely transformed trust to kneel before Him with.

I may remember blue eyes and roughened hands, but with a sense of complete removal - they no longer create longing and loneliness within me - they are simple a part of a past  that was the catalyst for my present.

Southbound on 75 and the windshield wipers slap a rhythm only the night can keep time with. Strings and drums and creaks of a voice fill my eardrums and my eyelids flutter and then are left wide open. I can't tell how many miles this white van has laid down, but with each new exit sign up ahead I succumb to the humidity dancing outside of my window and exhale a little easier knowing I can only move toward a mind clearer of lies and confusion.

Each mile marker we graze past I realize I'm less of that little girl who sought so much in places and people who could only give a little. Hallelujah.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Letter to the Mourning

You rise with me most mornings -
You rise with me and then you rise within me; the most crushing aspect of this truth is that I allow this of you.

As the sun kisses the sky hello and then lets loose her long, buttery hair you sit in the bottom of the pit of my stomach and stretch out your sharp handles and wrench into that section of feeling that seems to convulse through my body. And I let you.

Through the routines of packing a lunch, buttoning pants, the brushing of hair - my reflection begins to take note of the effects you have on the pallet staring back - with each stroke of a brush I feel you making yourself at home within my property - though it is not for rent. I do not hit you with a notice of evacuation.

Your colors are dark - vibrancy isn't something that is attuned to the image you wish to maintain - I can mask you with every shade of coral and yellow I own, but the heavy cloak of your presence still bleeds through.

Some days I find the courage to snuff you like a menthol laced cigarette - and a sort of warmth begins to embrace the back of my throat - like the swift, but consoling, burn after a shot of tequila.

You're there in the evening, too . . . Often times biting harder and sharper than in the light of day - and my defenses are down. So you usually triumph over me; I imagine you dancing fine tangos across the fractures of a battlefield responsible for pumping life to the extremities.

I've let you dance - soft and slow, then fast and hard - and so often, I must fight the fingers from hitting particular numbers as you are the victor over me.

Did you know you did that to me?

You sit in the nest of my collarbone - feigning comfort and solace, but really you're the taxi driver of my strength and sanity - I watch as I realize you're heading toward a cliff.

You are similar to a sound proofed room - somehow I lose track of words of comfort and affection because you vibrate in the drums of my ear so loudly - 

Your survival depends on my belief of fallacy.

I'm catching on now - are you frightened? I wish you would be . . .

You may rise in the morning, but prepare yourself for a duel.

I will no longer wear your uniform of breaking - you've played house for much too long...

I'm corrupting this system and the rules you've set up - the rules I've blindly abided.

You don't get to steer the course anymore - you've outstayed your welcome. The comfort you provide no longer satisfies - and we may meet, again, but I will no longer sit in the bottom of this well - 

Because I've been asked to cry out.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Adjustments of Silence

It is quiet here, in this space with hard wood floors and naked walls. In the in-between of shuffling from room to room humming to myself and triple, nay, quadruple checking door locks and dead bolts before I retire to the evening - it is quiet. On chance that one would look into a window, they would find a girl carrying around her cellular device with music turned to the loudest decibel.

All the same, it is quiet here.

And those shades that we decided on for their inexpensive qualities - they fell last Thursday morning - or perhaps it was in the midst of the night; perhaps right as the moon kissed the sun goodnight and shone brightly in all his fame and glory, my front window  shade fell down and I did not hear its crash because I was listening to something to aid falling asleep. It is quiet here.
So there lay the shade that next morning - baring the bare living room for all who wanted to see, to see, and I panicked. These windows, they're tall and old and creaky and just the sort of look I like in my windows - but they are tall. And I, I am not - and I panicked. The sense I have acquired over the last year of my independence and my life and the beauty that may unfold if I merely allow it flew, like a lonesome, caged bird, right out the window that was now baring my living room innards and I made myself comfortable in a pool of pity.

It is quiet here, as I fold memories into picture frames and put them on display, as if to remind myself in the quiet, quiet, quiet, that I am not alone, I am loved and I am a friend and a daughter and a sister - it is quiet here, but I light a candle and breathe its vapor and I -- breathe.

I burnt my first batch of cookies, ever, in this foreign oven in my foreign kitchen with the teal tile that makes my heart heat up - and it was quiet here - even with the wailing smoke alarm and my stupid, embarrassed chuckle at what I may look like swinging a cookie pan around to air out the smoky remnants of those cookies; cookies I probably didn't even need to bake in the first place. The wailing and coughing and chuckling, but I promise - it is quiet here.

Even now, Claire de Lune plays in the background and the heat of a candle flame flickers as my hot chocolate cools and the tap-tap-tapping of a keyboard shows mastery of typing and it is quiet here - I am here, in this quiet, and I'm thinking and knowing and wondering so many a thing; how long has my humming been so off key? might my neighbors hear when I sing in the shower like  I wish I was Adele? is it as quiet across this street and down this corner and just next door as it is here?

It is quiet here . . .

It is quiet here and I am here and these spaces will speak the volumes that are missing.

It is quiet here. But here I am.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Rejoice - Because I said I would.

How was your countdown last night, dear one? In those final moments of 2013 - those 5-4-3-2-1 moments, what were you thinking? What were you feeling? Were you making resolutions? Were you excited at the prospect of a kiss or a hug? Were you in the warmth of a home or in the heat of a crowded dance floor? Did you whisper a prayer of hope or shout a cry for help?

New Years seem to be all about resolutions - what's your new year's resolution this year? I have been a perpetual cycle of "lose weight," "get healthy," "eat less fried food," and the list goes on and on and on. For most of my adult life I could be counted as one of those crazed women who ran to the gym for that shiny, new membership to FINALLY get fit! Only to stop going with such intensity about one month in and then stop going altogether at about month marker three.

So as 2013 drew to a close this December I began to think about what my resolution would be this year - what dutiful promise was I going to make to myself and spout to the world, to only awkwardly manufacture lousy justifications as to why I left said resolution crying for help in the dust as I made strawberry cupcakes in my stretchy pants?
I began to think about 2013 in a review-like fashion and considered what it had done to my heart and how that might reflect my upcoming resolutions . . . Here's what I came up with.

2013 was probably one of the most, if not THE most, life changing years of my life. I slugged through valleys that I had never even imagined before; I made myself vulnerable to a group of people I barely knew; I let my heart hang out outside of my body and stood by and watched as it got scratched and ripped and tattered; I gave my body to men who didn't deserve it; I got a job that will be my career; I get paid to write; I made new friends; I'm moving out, on my own; I stood up for myself; I gave my heart to the Lord.

So as a result of all the changes, in honor of this transformed heart of mine, I resolve to make my year of 2014 about one word - rejoice. I will stop letting the weight of everything I don't have in my life keep me down and I will begin to wake up every morning filled with the promise of a new day and everything that I have been given.

I resolve to stop talking about what I'm going to start doing and begin to stop doing some things . . .

In 2014 -

I will stop deciding what the perfect jean size or scale weight is and just be happy in my skin.

I will stop listening to the enemy when he tells me I'm going to be alone forever, that I don't deserve anything, that I might fail and just remember that my Father has never failed and He won't fail now.

I will stop procrastinating on writing and just put my hind-end in the chair and my fingertips to the keys.

I will stop saying I'm going to learn to play the banjo, learn another language, submit work for publication, run a mile without stopping and just actually learn, submit, run.

I will stop being too tired to rise earlier in the morning to spend time with Jesus and just get up.

I will stop remembering all the hurtful things that have been said to me, the relationships that went wrong, the number of years it's been since I've had a boyfriend and just fling affection to all - no matter if it's reciprocated.

I will stop the fat talk, the put downs, the picking apart and just pray that I can begin to see myself the way God does.

I will stop worrying so much and just pray more.

I will stop defining myself by these culture's standards, by what my friends have accomplished, by where I think I need to be at 26, 27 and just be still.

In 2014 -

I will be a little more kind, I will laugh a little louder, I will push myself off the cliff of my comfort zone, I will REJOICE.

Here's knowing ya, 2013 - thank you for rocking my boat, breaking me down, shifting the plates of this heart, and filling me with skyward bound whimsy.

And here's to you, 2014 - to praying more, learning to cook, following through, and living much, much more encouraged, inspired, louder . . .

because I said I would.