onbruisedknees

"Tell your story. Tell it on your bruised knees if you must, tell it at the risk of madness, scream it at the top of your lungs." –Andrew Lam

Category: coffee

Church

Church Steeple Sunrise Silhouette

via pinterest

Moving has taught me dozens of things—gratitude, most of all. I’m working on a list of all I’ve learned. In fact, I’ve recently concluded that the reason we haven’t received our transfer home yet is because we must still have some things to learn up here. God must have more to teach and reveal. And learning always involves growing pains and bruised knees. It’s the only way the healing begins.

One thing I’ve learned about moving away from home is that Sundays are hard. At home, I lived inside the nostalgic country song “That’s What I Love About Sunday.” You know, “Amazing Grace”, chicken for dinner, cat napping on a porch swing, new believers gettin’ baptized and all that. But up North, I dreaded Sundays—sometimes they brought full-on panic attacks. I knew I needed to be in church, but so many churches felt wrong.  “Where’s my warm and fuzzy community?” I wondered. Or “Where’s a community who won’t judge me for what I wear or for not having kids yet and for planning on immunizing those kids and for not planning on homeschooling?  And more importantly, “Where’s God amongst the drama and the Sunday school gossip and the legalism and all that unnecessary background noise?”

I church hopped. I did. I church hopped until I could feel God. And I think that’s okay.

Today as I sat by myself in my new northern church, I remembered I was missing Little Prairie Christian Church’s homecoming. I’ve been so refreshed and recharged by this new church the past three Sundays, but I can’t lie—I sat down for a few seconds during worship and cried (and not just because I was missing the amazing potluck of southern food).

I’m thankful for my many Little Prairie memories. It’s the place where I first sang special music with Josh. And its parking lot is where we had many fights, made up, broke up, and got back together. And eventually, I walked down its aisle, lined with pink rose petals, to my groom.

Little Prairie—that church body—those are my people.

It’s the place where Jack Kelsey handed me an index card with scripture written in his handwriting about where real beauty comes from (not from outward adornment). The sweet man said the Lord told him I needed that verse. I did. I was sixteen and had some very mixed up ideas about beauty. Little Prairie’s the place where Bible studies convicted me and stretched me and where I learned that women can be real with one another. It’s the place where Danny Lankford cheers me up without fail.

I am the product of Lorna Mann’s Sunday school class, Brian Maas’ high school youth group, Bible Bowl and Bible Busters, and Sunday movie nights at the St. Ledger’s. Little Prairie’s the place where I was on the prayer list and prayer chain for months. Where I can count on a card from Angie Garrett for every occasion and know I will not be forgotten. It’s where I knew Jesus with my head and rejected Him with my heart for years until Matt Johnson, who never gave up on me, took my anger and showed me God’s grace, took my sadness and showed me how to trade it in for Christ’s joy. It’s the place where I can count on seven or eight hug-like-you-mean-it hugs. I cherish my home church, but I got comfortable there. I had built-in things to do, ways to serve. I didn’t have to try or deviate from the plans set out for me. Children’s church. Worship team. Sit in my regular comfortable pew. Eat my weight in potluck food.

I’m proud of Little Prairie for many reasons, but most recently for their Block Party on the Bricks outreach yesterday. I heard it was cool. I heard the food was free, the bounce houses drew in all the kids, and the singers and musicians worshiped God from the very top of the pagoda. I heard random people walked up to see what the party was all about. Maybe they’ll check out this whole church thing. I hope so. I never paid much attention to “outreach” until I moved seven hours away and yearned for some northerners to reach out to me. “I just need people,” I said honestly and without inhibitions, to the lady standing in the row behind me.  Now, I feel like outreach could be a passion for this introvert. I’ve been a secure and comfortable member of a church…and I’ve been an uncomfortable visitor, a seeker, a girl so scared to get out of her car and walk to the door. A dear writer-friend of mine wrote an essay about sitting across from a church every Sunday for an entire year before a church member invited her into all of the love she found inside.

I have some tips on how to welcome new people. Firstly and obviously, please invite people to church. I wouldn’t have found my current church if two separate people hadn’t persistently invited me. Gather some people to stand near the entrance/parking lot. That first Sunday I found the courage to walk up by myself, an older fellow met me halfway down the parking lot, shook my hand, and introduced me to the others standing near the door. I felt so relieved that I had tears in my eyes. That same man said hello to me today. He remembered my name.

Show them where the coffee is. Coffee makes people comfortable. Coffee is a miracle. Tell them where the restrooms are. Do not allow visitors to stand awkwardly with their hands in their pockets during “greet one another” time. Visitors know that you can see them. They know they stick out. So really see them. Walk up to them. Acknowledge their presence. Invite newcomers to small groups and Bible studies. Personally invite them, don’t just assume they’ll read the bulletin. Exchange phone numbers. People just need people. Get to know another human soul.

And scan every single car in the parking lot.

Because it’s ok to need…

I hate needy, clingy, high-maintenance women. I also hate that I am one of those wives. Because he was in the academy for the newlywed phase. Because schedules do not allow us to spend appropriate allotted time. Because I would like some normalcy. Because I hate that we were transferred. Because I know certain self-injury behaviors scare him and worry him and I cannot do them. Or I might do them. If I want attention. If I want to simply not be alone on a bad evening.

And he uses every stolen moment to cherish me. To ask if I’m ok. To Gesture of every tenderness. To show me love is a verb. I wonder when did I become so selfish?   

I could tell you it’s hard to be a law enforcement officer’s wife. A state trooper’s wife, in fact. But, heck, it’s hard to be anyone’s wife. Amen, sisters? Amen?

Does he want food, I wonder? Is he coming home for personal time? What shift is he working? When is overtime again? When is court? Is he actually off work or “off work” but working a seatbelt or drug detail? What were those sirens? Where? What county or counties or zones is he working tonight? Did I tell him to be careful and safe? Did I say I love you and kiss him like I meant it? If I call him right now will I break his concentration during a time when he should be concentrating on driving during a high-speed chase or reaching for his gun to stop a lunatic with a gun so he can come back home alive to me?  Will he ever come to bed? Will he EVER come to bed?

Fine. Then I will sleep in the living room floor. So that at the first eye-blink of morning I will know if he is home. And when he’s not working, I will sleep with him on the living room floor as he watches intense criminal-cop television shows too loudly and puts my nerves on edge even as he is physically beside me.

I will wait on him. I will wait on him to wake up so we can do something, anything that makes me feel alive and not trapped in a house with the blinds down and curtains drawn. I will leave the coffee brewing in the morning. I will move with him. I will listen to police politics, to crazy DUI stories, to tales of stupid citizens.

 I will adore him. I do adore him. For being others’ protection and hero and helper and defender and truth. And for being mine. I love him for what he is and does and believes. That you are not entitled. You must keep your kids safe in car-seats and safe in their general well-being. You don’t get to put others in danger. You do not get to bully. You do not get to try to pull any sort of crap.

My husband said to me, randomly, “It’s okay to need things.”  I’m not really sure what he meant. But I repeat it often, a little sweet incantation to myself. Okay to need people. To need some kind of healthy, not harmful fix to get through the day. Currently mine are caramel lattes because my appetite is zero. Currently it’s talks with Annie, my warrior. Currently it’s that snappy “Ho Hey” song from the Lumineers and a couple of too –truthful songs from The Band Perry’s Pioneer. It’s okay to need to call someone from back home and stop worrying about being a bother or wondering what to say.

Ok to need sunlight or a walk or a drive or a puppy. The need to lean way back into the solidness of him against a farmer’s fence at nightfall. And listen to the thunder and the heartbeats. And the wind. And the turkeys talkin’. Ok to need. Therapy or medicine or doctors or sex or Jesus or a good book or THE Good Book or people or an electric blanket or a really tight hug.   

Today at work, I needed. Something. So to see if it would help, I sat outside with the store’s phone in order to not miss any telephone orders and took out a bucket of starburst-colored roses and a handmade sign. Roses. $2.50

I felt like a kid with a lemonade stand selling some freshly squeezed J-O-Y.

And the northerners smiled. I people-watched happy customers spill out of the café.  Some spoke. Said hello. Talked about the sunshine. I said hun and darlin’ and sir and ma’am and southern phrases with extra twang. And they probably thought I was half charming and half crazy.

 I wheeled a homeless man across the street. I opened doors. Paid for a prom corsage for a special young lady.  Told myself I would look for opportunities to do something purposeful today. I’m not bragging about good deeds and believe works naturally spill out of grace instead of earn it. I’m trying to understand that whole ‘small things with great love’ idea. Trying to understand an extravagant grace. I’m trying to take care of others so I don’t harm myself. So that I take good care of myself. And that is Not. Selfish.  

And the northerners?  They’re a little different still. But humans can’t help but admire God’s beauty in those vivid bloomed-out roses. Older folks and young lovers and dog walkers and runners and passersby and mostly wide-eyed sweet latch-key kids stopped to admire. At least they talk to me. Look up to me. A role model until they ask about the boo-boos on my arms and I have to lie.

 I say feel spring in that warm breeze? Smell the good earth?  I kick off my shoes. Hopeful. I need bare feet. Such a long winter. They kick off their shoes, too. Sit with me on that little stoop.

We all need real light.

It’s okay to need grace. Did you know that’s why I named my puppy Gracie? See, I learn more about grace from her than I do under a steeple. My Grace leaps—leaps– into my arms. And how can she be so sure I’ll catch her? She attaches herself to me like a little puppy hug around the neck. Covers me and licks me clean. Finds within me favor and mercy unconditionally. When I get lost, she finds me. Grace. Amazing.       

Unravelling

For a few weeks, I haven’t been able to sleep. And when I do, I drift into dreams of cleaning out never-ending closets. Throwing items out. Always purging. And I dream of getting lost in a huge school, always arriving to classrooms after the bell. Where sometimes I’m the teacher who can’t control the class. And sometimes I’m the student who can’t find room 413 or the gym and can’t remember my locker combination. It’s back-to-school time, the world announces. And I’m simultaneously relieved and in a fitful panic. And sad. Just sad. Afraid I wasn’t as thankful as I should have been. Afraid there’s something, must be something wrong with me.  

My friend who understands me tells me this time is healing time. The healing season. So I’m surrounded by healing flowers. Healing music. I sip healing coffee. I brew tea to warm my insides.  And I unravel; slowly uncoil all of the knots of expectations and money and careers and questions of purposes and principles and disappointments and aches for a classroom. My classroom. For home. For a baby. For time. For who I thought I’d become. And as I unravel, I can breathe deep enough again.

And I see so clearly that things are better when I’m outside. When we’re grilling. Eating real food. When my dog’s by my side. When Josh and I are playful with each other. Smiling. When we kiss straight on the mouth. Again, again. Kitchen smooches. Tid-bits of gratitude. His hand finds mine. Or my shoulders, my thigh, my feet. When the air feels alive with magic and autumn. Acoustic hymns and good Pandora stations. When I’m creating. Anything. I like the struggle of the creating—the birth of the idea.  

And I like when I hear kids in my yard. Giggles. And happy barks from my dog finally getting attention. And I watch the dance. The end of summer dance. From my window.  While I’m cooking spaghetti and Josh stops at home for dinner. And I’m smiling. And words come again. Uninhibited. Finally loose enough to laugh. And I let go of the ache just long enough to dance again too.   

169-236 i hope you dance….wildly, joyfully, undignified

169. how he mows the hard parts for me in the yard (steep hills, around the obstacles, etc.). teamwork.
170. wet chapstick kisses
171. the way he looks in that uniform. sigh.
172. quick trips in the truck
173. the way stella’s knows my usual– veggie omelet, wheat toast instead of hash browns, lots of coffee (and i get the coffee as soon as i sit down).
174. frappes from e-town coffee (maybe i like them a little too much).

175. friends of all ages; bonds with all ages ❤
176. my kids i subbed nearly knocking me over in a group hug at the ballpark.
177.  1$ ice cream and nineteen flavors to choose from
178. the fact that the northern townspeople don’t look like strangers anymore
179. funny faces

180. rain. and sun.
181. farmers markets
182. toddler in a store who ran over to me, reached up her hands and said, “up.” so i picked her up. because what else was there to do? i have no idea who she was, but she was darling.
183. finding things to be thankful for whether i’m with josh or just by myself or with a whole group of people. starting to feel comfortable in all of those different scenarios and knowing i need a balance of all of them.
184. call from a speech coach (and the sweet woman who passed my name along to him!) so excited to be involved with speech again.
185. blaring carrie underwood in my car.
186. when girls from church don’t let me sit alone in the back all by myself.
187. chilly night wrapped in blankets around firepit with friends. i. felt. so. cozy.
188. i want this simple testimony (like enoch had) for my own life: that i pleased God.
189. heart stirrings
190. cowboy boots

191. kid grins

192. Tate’s bridge, old memories
193. the Case sister-in-laws. i may not be a Case, but they definitely make me feel like a sister. and i adore them.

194. seeing a lightness, a peace, and a joy in a dear friend.
195. wedding vows and reception speeches.
196. sitting on his lap
197. the loving questions my nephews ask.
198. Jovie and Josh playing basketball. jovie went nuts.
199. “Aunt Melissa, will you scratch my back? I don’t care that I’m eleven.”
200. goodbye hugs that turn into 3 and 4 and 5
201. when grandpa Earnie calls me Missy
202. big blue bows, white dresses, tiny pearl bracelets

203. yellow
204. encouragement that makes me believe (from the beautiful kristi glover).
205. my sister-in-law’s baby belly (!). my first niece is coming in a few months! i’m already in love with her. and yes, i’ve already bought her outfits.
206. clever sweet children’s books
207. my big and tough brother-in-law who wants pink and frills and bows int he hair of his first baby girl.
208.my sister’s determination during therapy to get her knee back in shape. she’s kickin’ butt.
209. double dates.
210. long front porches
211. pork chops
212. vibrant green–the way the leaves canopy the backroads.
213. four wheelers, jeeps, go-karts

214. “i’ll stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.” that song and especially that line gives me chills. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooZonYCkz-Q
215. story tellers. even when they are stories i’ve heard many times before.
216. taking our dog down south with us.

217. a very well-behaved jovie at the vet!
218. sonic cherry limeades (it’s like summer in a cup)
219. book in my lap, dog at my feet
220. the sound of a waterfall

221. lightening bugs
222.  hearing “you look good, well-rested, refreshed” and more importantly, feeling well
223. lemon bars and cherry pie
224. the exotic landscaping and relaxing world-of-its-own oasis tucked away in bone gap, IL
225. lake passes
226. sneaky ear piercing shenanigans in church bathrooms

227. a one-year-old’s face smeared with chocolate cake

228.  sweet peas
229. country chic shindigs
230. watermelon
231. tennis championships
232. artsy photography http://alishasims.com/ check out her site! you’ll be enchanted. i’m super impressed by her creativity.
233. the south
234. sisters

235. the way home is just in us…and reawakened often
236. dancing with joy. with wild abandon. “i will dance, i will sing…nothing, Lord, is hindering this passion in my soul…and i’ll become even more undignified than this.”  

41-64

(find the joy)
41. watching kids help one another during study hall. when and how and why do we lose this *desire to help* as adults?
42. a warm bed. the man I share it with. open windows. listening to the wind and rain.
43.  any opportunity to learn, to be a student again.
44. farms, friends, new experiences, apple cider, wide-eyed wonder, organic everything
45. a friend’s engagement– congrats Court and Nathan!
46. lambs, calves, chicks, ducks
47. kindergarten silent dance parties in the hallway. they were in line waiting to go to p.e. i demonstrated a funky dance move. they mirrored every funky dance move. the only rule was that they had to be quiet. (tip: turn everything into a game. it works.)
48. listening to kindergartners read expressively. such animation!
49. story time. when I get to read to them.
50. watching the kindergarten students play “school” during their free time (instead of leggos or play-doh) and hearing them say and do the exact same things i said and did while teaching their lesson.
51. listening to middle schoolers sing that “hey, soul sister” song in choir practice.
52. pretty coffee mugs. and the warm delicious liquid drug inside.
53. the wisdom of ladies in my sunday school class. i think the age range is about ten-seventy. oh how they teach me.
54. a spiritual mentor from back home and the way she lovingly convicts me, challenges me, encourages me.
55. visitors coming this weekend, going home soon for a special wedding celebration, plans for dear friend visits in the future. things to look forward to.
56. hearing my best friend talk to her baby while she’s on the phone with me. and hearing him squeal with delight. because life is delightful-squeal worthy.
57. God’s power to heal, to prove doctors wrong, to defy a diagnosis, a prognosis…to be the holder of time and how much we have of it. to be the only holder of time.
58. His comfort. reminders of faithfulness. His patience with our questions.
59. singing Johnny Cash (and June) songs with my husband in the car. for an hour.
60. words. writing. chances. writing chances. (you’ll hopefully know about my exciting writing opportunity very soon! and you’ll support? you have been so good to me.)  🙂
61. the first grader in pigtails who told me, “you have a pretty voice…(but it sounds kinda funny).” oh how i love the honesty of children. i simply explained, “i’m from the south, sweetie. (bless your heart).”
62. reconnecting
63. feeling tired and satisfied at the end of a day. because i sucked the marrow from it.
64. a crossed-off entry on the bucket list.

Decaf. Skinny. Extra Whip.

credit: (via pinterest) tumblr.com

Today I stepped inside every shop in Galena. I roamed into the popcorn store, the chocolate kitchens, and the spice shops just to breathe distinctive scents.  My senses: so awake lately. I browsed the boutiques and antiques and books. I ogled at art. I wanted to buy a purse the color of sunshine and wanted to fill my walls with the entire Kelly Rae Roberts collection. Instead, I bought Jovie a nice leather leash and some dog treats at a unique place called New Earth Animals. The owner was beautiful—exotic, with a heart for creatures and a voice of grace. She’s a writer, too, and she invited me to a gathering of the local writer’s guild. I felt that Godwink down to the soles of my feet.   

My senses, so accustomed to “flat,” bask in the beauty of a landscape that rolls and changes and flows. My black lab and I will explore the streams and bluffs which Josh and I discovered at the state park this weekend—the state park just seven miles from my door with its meandering paths where crossing over a bluff could mean you’ve placed your foot onto Wisconsin soil, but no official signs can say for certain. You know only you’re on the edge of beauty on either side.
I also live midpoint between my new two favorite cafes. They both boast tin-punch ceilings and an ambience that begs, “Write.” I ordered my caramel macchiato. Decaf, ma’am. Skinny. Sugar free. Extra whip, please. The barista smiled. I sat in my special nook and realized my coffee order describes me. An oxymoron. A contradiction. A….woman. A woman who can shoot a pistol, quote Shakespeare, catch bluegill, live lovely, love stubbornly. I am a woman who had to leave to find what she wants. I am a woman who can’t help that I need art, words, and culture. I need cafes and cobblestone pathways, fresh markets and bakeries. I need husband time; I need alone time. And I need sunshine and a creek and my dog. I need this melding of new and old, town and country, the midpoint. I need the freedom to indulge and luxuriate while living uninhibited and frugally. In this place I did not know I would be, I love wildly and stubbornly this life that is organic, authentic, free.