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: dreams

Boxed Contentment

My husband asked me a loaded question. He asked me when I will be content. And happy.  I told him I was quite content in my job before I had to leave it. At my best. Kicking butt. But I wasn’t wholly content with life. And everyone knew it. The students. The teachers. My husband was away. I didn’t have him to come home to at the end of the day. Now, I’m content in my marriage. Hold it sacred. But I am not wholly content in life. And everyone knows it.

He always wants to know if teaching makes me so happy then why am I never happy to put the newest teaching resume and application in the mail? I told him I just put in the mail an awesome letter of interest and the most beautiful recommendation letter from my former colleague and one of my dearest friends. I told him I also sent along a copy of the stunning valedictorian speech that one of my favorite students will give this weekend (and will make you rise to your feet in ovation) because it was the best thing that could ever explain the special place I come from and what I’m all about and what that place is all about than anything else could.

Through the eyes of a student. I refuse to play politics. I refuse to play them in Edwards County and I refuse to play them up north. Why? Because what we do should be all for the students. And I want special. I do. I want a special place again.

At my church back home, a lady in Bible study never specifically mentioned her prayer request. She simply asked for the desire of her heart.

The desire of my heart? To speak to people. Full rooms. Auditoriums.  Classrooms. Singe souls. Face-to-face holding a coffee mug gulping cup after cup of grace and love. Or speaking to people through a book. My truth. In writing. Helping them find their own truths. THE truth. Dreams do not simply dissipate. If I feel I was created to do something big and I cannot let it go, please do not put me in a room and leave me to peel away at yellow wallpaper. Because if you’ve read that short story, then you know how it ends. For most people, “the little things” are what breed contentment. But I’m not most people.

“God is contentment. Learn to be content in all circumstances.” Well that’s just the easy answer, people. And the hard one.  And the real one. I know. I KNOW.

She had a baby.  In “The Yellow Wallpaper.”  And in the Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan was a silly little fool who had a silly little fool of a daughter too. And sadly, they weren’t content. But I’m no fool. I know babies fill a certain void of contentment nothing else can. My sixth sense Holy Spirit twitch tells me the women I love who most want to be mothers will be mothers. And my best friend since birth? She’ll birth another miracle this winter.

I see it more for them than I do for me. Always. A few Sundays ago I held my niece through church and I adored. Adored. She smiled. Touched my face. Danced to the worship songs. Fell asleep as I kissed-kissed the top of her head.  And my preteen nephews? Hugs. When they are eighteen and twenty, I will still get those same hugs. Because I’m Aunt Melissa. Because they were already mine at baby and two. Because there are no other two boys I could possibly love more.

I looked up our baby name—the name we agreed on years and years ago. I very well could have still been in high school. I love the meaning of names. I gasped when I read the name’s meaning: “bright and shining light.” I don’t have my shining light yet. Because we are not home. Because I am not healthy. Because I dropped fourteen lbs. and don’t know why. Because my meds are switched constantly. Because my body is screwed up. Because I can’t seem to handle anything. Because I have a Master’s degree to start and finish. Because I have higher-paying jobs to land. Because. Because I’ll screw it all up. Yet somehow, if God gives her to us? She’ll be true to her name. Light. What I’ve quested all along.

And maybe my contentment. Or my green light at the end of the dock. But I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on the girl. Her life is not merely for my contentment. It’s for hers. Are you listening, parents? I lived it. I saw that kind of hurt in the eyes of my students.

Once, I made my Themes class give speeches about their most important message. What did they most want the world to know? I think I assigned these speeches right after we read Fahrenheit 451, a book with an obvious message. Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for your message. It’s a message that got stuck in our minds and never left. Why did I assign these speeches? Honestly, I was stalling. I hadn’t finished reading 1984 and didn’t know how to introduce another novel with such huge themes. Prophetic themes. Themes of life. The name of the class.

Some of the speeches were dull. Eating right. Exercise. Being a good person. Blah. Snore. Some students rambled so much that I couldn’t even pinpoint the message. And that’s ok. Because I don’t remember if I gave them much direction and probably didn’t give them a rubric. So I’m sure I gave everyone a good grade.  But some of these students? Their props were meaningful. They spoke eloquently. They interacted with their peers. Made me gawk and gape and wonder what kind of presence was I in? These kids were geniuses.

And one speech I remembered in the middle of the night, four freaking years later because its truth literally woke me and ironically reminded me of how everything I want right now was everything he warned against.

After he spoke, I was so inspired (and he reminded me too much of the unconventional, caged-in high school-me) that I made the students (those who wanted to) run or gallop or skip back and forth down the basement hallway, loudly proclaiming the specific ways they wanted to express themselves and get out of their comfort zones. I’m also pretty sure I got in major trouble for that one. Ah, well. You remember it though, don’t you? Stepping out of your boxes.

This student is in some city right now. He’s a talented playwright, a director, an actor. He impressed me from the moment I met him, and he will be famous. Brilliant.

He began his speech with an analogy and drew a street map of Lincoln Avenue on my whiteboard. Basically, he told us what drove him bonkers, and he said it with a lot of passion:

“You can be born at St. Mary’s. You can go to elementary school at St. Ben’s. On the very same street, you can attend high school at Memorial. You can go to church on this street. You can hop a block over and get your college degree from the University of Evansville on the same street.  You can have a nice Catholic wedding ceremony on this street. You can rent or buy a house on this street. You can do something during the in-between, and then you can go retire at the little nunnery place down on the very same street. And then you can die. And have your funeral. A nice Catholic wake.  On the same street.”

And that is exactly what some people do. And other than becoming a nun because I am not Catholic, I would be perfectly content returning to Lincoln Avenue. I’d happily return to teach at Memorial and then become a professor at UE (some professors in my subject matter departments are getting up there in age, God bless them). I could have my coffee every day at Coffee Cottage. And Barnes and Noble is right at the end of that long street! I could do book signings. I could browse the titles until I went blind and my fingers bled. Bliss, I tell you. Bliss. And my biggest dream ever since Ms. Felling took our class to see Twelfth Night at the May Studio Theater. Magic. I felt magic. I felt home.

I was told that if I can’t talk about a place without crying, then I have issues. I’m constantly told that Memorial is not the pinnacle of success. I’m reminded of law suits that should have been filed and of everything that was unfair and how it sucked everything I had in me right out of me and the retirement is pitiful. I’m reminded UE parking sucks, that we’re still paying on the ungodly tuition, that it is not Ivy League.

The street? It smells like sewer and it floods.

Shit. I just put myself in a box. I would live in a box. I would live in a box on Lincoln Avenue. And I would maybe or maybe not be content.

English: A square open cardboard box. Based on...

For My Tigers

People snicker, ‘Those who can’t do, teach.’ But, oh, how right they are. I could never, ever do all I dream of doing…while having only been given one thin ticket in this lottery of life! In the recessional, as I watch them, mine, the ones I loved, I overflow with the joyous greed of a rich man counting coins. Wrongly I have thought teaching has lessened me at times, but now I experience a teacher’s greatest euphoria, the knowledge like a drug that will keep me…It’s an almost psychotic feeling, believing that part of their lives belong to me. Everything they become, I also become. And everything about me, they helped create –from Educating Esme

Dear Almost-Graduates,

I remember our very first home room class downstairs. And for those of you not in my homeroom—I remember our epic English classes. Every. Single. One. I remember you. Every. Single. One. I didn’t always know what I was doing, obviously, but we learned. And we had fun. And I thought it was so cool both those things could occur at the same time. I was happy you were mine. Blessed. We grew a lot together, didn’t we? You taught me. And I think, with the help of genuine friends and coaches and mentors and teachers, you found the courage to become yourselves. I hope so. I hope you at least started the process.

See, my first real class is graduating college now. I have a very special chunk in my heart that belongs to them, but you were my fresh start. My joy. You made me want to drive the fifty-seven miles. You were so purposeful to me.

Without you, I went crazy. Spent fifteen months just aching.  Doubted myself and God and His plan. Spent lots of time hurting myself. Haunted by you. I didn’t know who Mrs. Kiefer was without the teacher part. Didn’t know how to be just Melissa.  Had a major, terrible, unhealthy identity crisis. I never want you to have one of those when change and transition come. And change is coming. So please let me tell you who you are. You are a Tiger. Capital T. Forgive me for being a little cheesy and running with this metaphor.

We all came to be Tigers somehow. We were meant to be. And every experience you have had in the past and will have in the future has a purpose. The purpose is so that you can help others or help yourself. God intends so.

As Tigers, we are fierce and humble. A hunter of dreams. Noble, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We might travel the country and the world, yet we are territorial of Evansville, of MHS, of home, of our tiger pack. I’m still working hard in therapy and praying hard and loving hard and learning…and slowly remembering and accepting that I am still a tiger. And you taught me how to be a fighter for all the good and right things. Ferociously, we fight.

Maybe I was too young to teach. Maybe I found too deep of friendships with you. Too many things in common. I’ve always felt a little too connected to you. So maybe it’s no accident that you are beginning something new at the same time I am starting a journey new. We can compare notes if you want. Discuss literature. Share ideas. Buy backpacks and notebooks and those nice flow-y pens. Be nerds together.

I’m starting a new school in a new place, too. I feel many of your same emotions. Excited. Anxious. Thrilled. Afraid. Are we enough? Yes. Yes, we are enough just as we are. And we have more to learn. I’m thrilled to create projects instead of assign them. I get to write instead of grade. I never have to use my mean voice!

Through the Kiefer Café’s, the quotes on the board and the door, our talks on the floor, the way I watched you struggle and overcome—you inspired me. Your drive. Your passion. Your determination. Your wisdom. You depth. Your blank slate. Your unfolding and brilliant future. Your hope. I want to write about you. And I want you to someday be able to say you are as proud of me as I am of you.

You are prepared. So light-filed, so strong, so intelligent, so passionately curious. Life might not end up the way you planned. It’s ok. God is so good and knows what He’s doing. I’m proud of you. What beautiful human beings you are.

“What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.”

Just wanted to end with some wisdom above from Mama T.

Love, Your Mama K ❤

Kicking at the Sides of Life

Special intentions—such a sweet Catholic Memorial High School phrase that I gladly sprinkled into my vocabulary.

Today all of my special intentions are saved for Boston. Peace. Peace be with you.

Since we moved north, Josh’s dinner prayers have been filled with special intentions for our loved ones back home. Because we painfully miss them. Adore them. Ask for their protection.

And he prays special intentions for me. Sitting right there beside him. Because he sees this assortment of pain, too, in me.

“Please help Melissa find something fulfilling to do up here—a chance to live her calling”

And my private prayers went something like, “Ok God, let’s You and me do something big and special and important. I know I’m meant for it. So let’s go. Get movin’ Time’s a wastin’.”

In fact even before we moved, we believed God would bless me for choosing to follow my husband and for leaving all the rest behind. For what we thought must be a special, purposeful, bigger and better and new Plan. I look back now at how foolish the expected blessings sounded. The blessing was in the following. The together.

We spent some time together with dear home-friends recently. They brought The South to me. They brought me homemade chicken and noodles (to warm my bones, E said, because she knows I’m always cold) and homemade cinnamon rolls and four wildly precious children who chased puppies and colored pictures and wrestled and snuggled and lifted hands up to be held. Jesus, someday give me a little one whose arms reach up to be held.

E and her family marched joy into my house. Anointed it with hugs and laughter and washed it pure with good tears. As I held tightly to my coffee mug, she told me to hold tightly to Christ and loosely to everything else in the world. I love how she naturally convicts me to check priorities.

“How like a mirror, too, her face. Impossible; for how many people did you know who reflected your own light to you?”

The priorities that really matter? Loving. Agape loving. Carpe Kairos-ing. Blessing. Inspiring. Truth-telling. Mask-unveiling. Helping others feel secure in who they are. Those goals hit the deepest part of me.

I feel change coming. And I’m seriously thinking about alerting my doctors at the behavioral health clinic today that I have a sixth sense. Or maybe just that I can feel change in the wind and in my heart and in my bones.

My person, my K, the teacher who taught across the hall from me, assigned her students creative essays about what animal or season or element they were. Not which one of those things they liked the best, but instead which one they actually embodied, encompassed. I freaking love out-of-the-box assignments that push students to think in different ways, so obviously K was meant to be one of my very best friends. We always argued, though, about my element. I always insisted I was fire. Now, ironically, I have fire-scars to prove the burning.

It was a pleasure to burn.” To feel warm and tingling and in control and to concentrate the chaos. It’s like that old saying about how pinching your arm will make you forget about the pain in your leg. And a great reminder. Of punishment. For being me.

K is stubborn, though. She knew her element was water and she persisted long ago that my element was not fire but wind. I think she said I was a refreshing wind in a desert. The wind that makes you alive again. And changed. And stirred up in your soul and in your ideas and words and emotions.

I experienced such sweet-breezes these past four days.  We do need people. We do belong to each other. North. South. East. West.

When I felt as a friend and a tutor and a woman that I am not doing enough or helping enough or seeing expected results or being enough, I needed my northern mother-spiritual- mentor-truth-teller-guide to tell me with so much firmness and authority that I am not allowed to entertain that thought. Those thoughts are lies.

I don’t think I’ve ever been told such remarkable words. Or ever really heard them. Or believed them.

 I needed her to tell me she prayed me here. That kingdom purposes and plans look different from world successes and look different from what I thought purposes and plans and bigger and better would look like. And I realized I’m a little bit blind.

And now, wind shakes the branches and clouds darken and I wonder about rain splashes and flashes of electric light. Part of me wants to hide. Part of me wants to run outside. Naked and warrior-like with arms outstretched and looking at the exquisite sky.

I’m still crazy. The rain feels good. I love to walk in it.”

I live in this peculiar dichotomy between passionately wanting to feel and not feel.

And maybe this is manic-me. The one who wants to run outside with hair blowing in her face to feel the change and the refresh and the alive and the renew. And scream, “I’m still here with my bruised knees kicking at the sides of life!”

Or maybe I’m just the romantic proposed to during a thunderstorm. Or a little too much like Clarisse from Fahrenheit 451.

And in the rain and darkness, I thought about how favorite college friends are having babies and buying houses. I’m so happy for them. So waiting for something important to happen to me.

I heard the voice that said I’m dumb and not worthy and instead of making people feel inspired and secure in who they are, I make prom corsages and casket sprays and make sure a flower is the exact-whatever shade some city bride demands.

Then E’s voice came back to me and said, “Oh honey, that’s just your day job. Don’t let yourself be defined.” And my northern mother-spiritual-mentor-truth-teller-guide echoed, “You are enough. I prayed you here. You are not allowed to entertain those other thoughts. Those thoughts are lies.”

Josh and I went on a date to expand the good weekend, the good vibes. He tries to get me out of the house but not push me too hard so that it actually seems like my idea when I poke my head out of my scared little hermit-hole. We sat in the movie theater and the preview for the new Gatsby flickered on that larger-than-life screen. I whispered in his ear, “I taught the hell out of that book, husband. I’d never read it and didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and I still taught the hell out of it. And Fahrenheit. And most of the others.” And he said, “I know, baby. I know you did. Even that Shakespeare crap.”

And when he was embarrassed that I did a happy dance upon finding Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton in a bookstore, he also smiled and told me one day that would be me on a book tour. And I replied that on that book tour, I want to help take the hell out of peoples’ life. And replace it with water and wind and good light. And tie the book up in a rope and lower it down all the hermit-holes. And put it in the classrooms. And the behavioral health clinics.

My sixth sense Holy Spirit twitch tells me change is coming, but I don’t know what the change is. Maybe returning home? I don’t know for sure, but I know there will always be a fish-hook in my heart for home. As soon as I’m comfortable in a place, as soon as something has healed in me and been surrendered, life shakes up again. It’s what I’ve always known. It’s how I’ve always grown.

“But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again.”  

A Thousand Daughters

Love woke me up this morning.

Love and puppies.

And knowing at work today new plants would be delivered. I could get my hands in potting soil and roots and bulbs. And knowing I might buy an African violet and eat a slice of carrot cake from Stella’s.

You must find things to look forward to, he says.

I’d paint jars sunshine yellow and make a wreath in the shape of a square. Because sometimes it’s fun to be a different shape than what others expect you to be. I’m not a circle, am I. No. I have a lot of angles. I might be an octagon-trapezoid-isosceles. Something irregular like that. (I was never any good at geometry).

Funny things happened this morning while getting ready.

The first funny thing is I actually got ready.

And the second funny thing?

The sun was shining. Full on shinin’ instead of doing its little peepshow tease. Full on shinin’ instead of acting drunk in the sky. So I actually washed my hair. Actually applied makeup. And I wrote…in my head. I never write in my head. I’m a walking ditzy dum-dum until I have paper in front of me.

And while I painted a pop of peony-pink on my lips, thoughts swirled like yesterday’s snow. Jumbled. But feels so good.

To think again.

To feel.

That movement.

You know?

I started thinking about flocks and shepherding

and the quote that says, “I’ll live as though I have a thousand daughters.”

Sons and daughters, I had. Had a door to stick post-it notes of encouragement. A whiteboard to write quotes and song lyrics. Stories to expand to life. Characters we turned into humans. Heart-to-hearts about parents and dreams and relationships and lust and love and struggle and God and hope and being who we really are. Café days where they found their voices. An avenue. A stage.

A whole big flock.

I was the young one. And so they followed me.

My heart’s kind of sticky that way.

So what’s a shepherdess to do?

I tried to find new sheep when we had to migrate.

But they weren’t mine.

They weren’t mine to tell them it’s possible to be in the world and still not of it. Not my place to give advice. To tell them what worth and holiness are most certainly not measured by.

To talk to them like young adults. Or say they should be in school. They should get to live–at least a little bit–the way they want to.

It’s not up to me. This is not the same place as there.

I don’t get to tell them what to see. I don’t even get to tell them the place to look and let them decide what they see.

So I had to back up. Back off. Back away, far away.

Then found myself in a season where my own heart had to be tended to.

In that place again–

Made to feel like my truth is just not a good example.

Not a lifesong.

Ugh, better to be fake. To be reserved. Not the wild-hearted you that danced with abandon.

Oh, but the gritty and the grace. Your own deep truth, daughters.

That’s the melody. Makes the song worth singing.

Tone down good passions? I can’t. I just find other ways. I’m sick of the way we give into the lies that we are too much. And not enough.

When love wakes me up in the morning, I want to…write. Write again.

And tell all the daughters.

I may never get to have a daughter of my own–though I have named her.

But I will write for my daughters. I will write as though

I have

a thousand daughters.

Heart on a Plate

 

When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know. “Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said. “She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.” — The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

 

 

 

Last week I filled out several scholarships with questions about involvement in high school and college organizations, leadership positions, volunteer service, work experience, and awards won. And I couldn’t remember them all. Why? Because I used to be fabulous. Fast. Track. Impressive. Sparkly and shiny and stellar. I think I used to poop glitter. Now I just shit.  
And now I’m trying to understand what it means to just be me. That girl with all the passion and ambition….what woman does she turn into?
Well this woman, in the height of her quarter-life crisis (stop laughing), applied to graduate school for creative writing and got in. I can’t afford more education (hence the desperate need for those scholarships), but here’s why I’m scared and why I ultimately want to go anyway: 
The Fears…  
I look back at old essays, I see how awful and cliché they are, and I’m ashamed. I worry that I’m still awful in the present and don’t have the future perspective to see clearly. And I know I have to pass that stupid “SO WHAT” test that all the professors warned about.  Do I?
            I love real and raw writing, writing that feels so…human. But the problem with being human is that being human comes with so many mistakes. I’m not perfect. I’m not polished. I have not read all of the books. I make typos. I like stylistic fragments. I don’t know all of the grammar rules and often break the ones I do know. On purpose because I feel like being a rebel. I am painfully and ignorantly human. Flaws stitched together with good intentions. Mismatched pieces of scrap.  
I’m overwhelmed by the mystery of editors and agents and query letters. How does one’s manuscript get on a bookshelf? I don’t know. I think it’s hard work. And magic. So I want to learn more. I was always so jealous of my students. For the fact that they got to be students. Because I hated being in charge. Because I wanted to write the papers instead of grade the avalanche.  
I read in a magazine that younger adults shouldn’t use the valuable time and money for an MFA program (especially in creative nonfiction) because they aren’t ready. Too early. They haven’t had enough life experience yet. Probably the only thing bad that’s happened to them is the death of a grandparent, the experts say. But people also give me the advice, “Go back to school now. Get whatever degrees you want before kids so you’ll actually complete your goals.” So I’m confused.
 
And I DO want to write about my dead grandma. I also want to explore her marriage to an abusive angry atheist and hope it passes the so what test. And I want to write about my other grandma who is literally insane and covers it up so damned beautifully.
Grandmas aren’t the only thing worth writing about from my twenty-six years. I want to write about my husband and our own intense love story that began when I was only fifteen. I want to write about my too-intense love for students. What teaching gave me and took from me. About the whole education system. And religion. And about God despite religion. I want to write about a unique view of feminism. About moving and people and north and south. About a ridiculous village called Woodbine. About mother-daughter relationships. And sisters. The teeter-totter of losing my hearing, gaining, and losing again. I want to write about childhood and high school and marriage and learning and panic disorder and crippling anxiety. Dear experts, respectfully please go poke yourselves in the eye because I have plenty of writing material. And I will continue to write into motherhood and new careers and more losses and other victories and changes. I want to show you what it all looks like, make you nod your head, “yes.” Show you you’re understood.
Why I must try anyway:
I have a fierce and urgent need for truth—a need to expose the fake, reveal the hidden, see the whole of the experience. I want to sculpt words of clay into a masterpiece without forgetting the masterpiece is of mud. I love confessional writing, the mud of everyday life, and I believe the specific can be universal. Stop pretending, I want to scream at everyone. And myself. 
This need for authenticity is why I’m so drawn to creative nonfiction. Ezra Pound echoes “Make it new.” Truth is ancient and timeless but also a daily discovery, a growing thing.  Real life has enough layers to keep me fascinated and busy peeling. Enough questions to keep me curious. There’s enough grit there. And enough grace.
Writing is prayer to me….it’s always some sort of prayer. Even filled with curses. Even about non-godly things. The release of clenched fists. I tutor a girl who fascinates me and teaches me about herself and myself at her age and myself now and God. She possesses a beautiful and challenging duality. She doesn’t speak much. Communication seems slow and imbalanced and pulled and simple-minded. But she is anything but simple-minded. Her writing is poetic and symbolic and filled with misspellings and shockingly brilliant and scary and complex and genius. She lets me read her prayer journal sometimes.
 Her journal (much like the one I wrote in at her age) is the only thing that softens all the hardness in this heart. She understands the release of writing. I have to start with the tool of writing to get her talking.  Keep turning the knob on the faucet. And the faucet just does a little drip…and then a few slow, weighty, seems-like-forever moments later…it does a little drip-drip again. And then. And then ten minutes later the whole sink overflows with a gushing flood of creativity. Words that are special and different, poetic and so…worth the wait. And oh, how I understand her hesitation. And I will gently draw out all of that inside beauty. Because God’s right there in the details. And writing is a holy act.
Betsy Lerner says that writing is like handing over your heart on a plate. So true. Fears of not being adequate in my writing make me feel like I am nothing. Fears make me hesitate to admit what I want to be.  But the art of writing, the humanness of writing, allows me the chance to be everything. And to be everything is simply all I’ve ever wanted to be.


 

 

 
 

 

 

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.   

Words from Woodbine

I live in a village called Woodbine. A dear friend thinks the name would make a great title for one of the novels I dream of writing.  Woodbine consists of about eighteen houses, three odd antique shops, and a neighbor who chops wood daily and owns a penned up Saint Bernard, a turkey in his shed, and some chickens.

We also boast bee keepers, a shade tree mechanic, farmers, and piano composers. We have Belted Galloway cows, a mean German shepherd who terrorizes my puppy, an abundance of rhubarb plants, a Christ-filled church, and a Pepsi machine. In my backyard, there is a championship golf course and a clubhouse. Yes, in my backyard. Yes, in the little village.

This morning I put on my shoes; I needed a transfer of energy– more movement in my body and more stillness in my mind. I walked the golf cart path on the course for the first time. I simply followed the pavement without having to think. So easy. No choosing. No hesitation. No questions. Oh, how I’ve complicated the paths by wondering and wandering. My prayers have been simple lately. ‘Thank you, thank you. Help me, help me. Lead me. Lead me.”
Lead me.  

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.”  

65-88

65. My classy grandma Mabel and feisty, kind-hearted grandpa Earnie
66. the surprise gift of a sweet summer dress from my mother-in-law that makes me feel special (I plan to wear it with my cowboy boots).
67. little pick-me-ups, like new yellow shoes, that make me feel sunny

68. pretty old quilts and the hands that made them

69. gerber daisies

70. strangers who became friends who reach out to me when I’m being weird and unfriendly
71. my one friend who is my person, who gets my weirdness, and who knows I’m not actually unfriendly
72.  HIS VISION
73. cool evenings on the stoop with Jovie and Josh

74. pretty, colorful, preppy prints

75. My barn (it’s not actually mine; I just call it that) that says “To God be the Glory.” Amen, yes?
76. my latest best discovery which I slather on every inch of my body (and smells awesome):
coconut oil
77. coconut shrimp. and lobster and crab legs. and plans to go to Maine someday and eat the same.
78. husband hugs. I feel like I’ve loved him for a thousand years. and would love him for a thousand more.
79. walking into a middle school now and feeling like a celebrity (waves, excited hellos, invitations to sit at every table). yet when i was a middle school student myself? the cafeteria terrified me.
80. asking a special needs kid to teach me sign language. i remember….about five words. but he loved being the teacher.
81. warmer temperatures. thank you, thank you, thank you.
82. knowing we get to visit home soon and having lots to celebrate there
83. seeing pictures of my beautiful ladies and dashing gentlemen from memorial’s prom. so grown up. and feeling like their mama again. all proud and teary-eyed.
84. OL memories. realizing just how much they created me. I wrote about it in an article that will be published later this month. Remember how we sat for hours duck-duck-goose style? you made me feel, for the first time, like i was more than an awkward timid ugly duckling. i want to look all of you in the eyes right now and not say anything. and make you understand how much you are still a part of me. that was my becoming.
85. hearing from my sis
86. art.
87. words. words are an art. ❤
88. the fact that I’m not steering the ship. but also the fact that the ship is not left in harbor. that’s not what ships were meant for.

More Joy

26. peonies, grapes, raspberries, and asparagus in my yard. in. my. yard. ! oh, spring. *be still my heart.
27. recess, enthusiasm, sitting with jr. high kids at lunch..and eating a few bites then rotating so that i sit with as many tables as possible 🙂
28. singing while learning. during grammar. during math. it helps, ok. (and it is more amusing to junior highers than it ever was to my high school students).
29. pictures, drawing, notes (especially ones that say Mrs. “KEEFER” Rocks)
30. blueberry pancakes
31. country drives
32. echoes of mercy, whispers of love
33. TRUTH and the reminder to fill myself back up with truth (i.e scripture) because the world and my brain skew my perception of myself every day. oh, you too?
34. 2nd chances. To be able to rewrite and revise in articles, columns, (and in life).
35. learning to deal with constructive criticism. And making it work.
36. baby animals.
37. the sound of water. fresh air.
38.  reading Hosea. understanding that I am Israel. thankful God takes me back. again. again.
39. a job interview this week. (technically i need a masters. i don’t have one. hmm, we’ll see).
40. the trust that God knows what He’s doing in this little life of mine. and just wanting to be a vessel that allows Him to shine.