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: exploring

Caramel Apples and Depression

Like toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my stiletto, a string of failures follow me. Any hotshot in a fancy dress looks ridiculous when she leaves a trail of Charmin.

Ridiculous and human and taken down a few notches.

I still haven’t landed any northern teaching jobs. Failure.

The state of Illinois requires me to take a math test filled with algebra and geometry before I can teach Shakespeare and grammar (although I’ve already taught for four wonderful years in Indiana).  I can’t pass it because I spent high school math classes daydreaming and writing poetry. Failure after Failure.

I thought graduate school classes–filled with writing and literature and all topics I’m used to succeeding in—would be easy. It’s not easy. Writing means criticism. It means struggling to type a single word for fear it’s not graduate quality. Writing means going to battle with the blank page. Sometimes it means losing that battle. It means many, many Failures.

These failures, along with the fact that God’s will is still not synonymous with going home to the south, sunk me. What was the point of getting out of bed? I used to be a perky morning person. I was the teacher who was so peppy at 8 in the morning that my students thought I was on crack.  But now, I panicked at the thought of a new day. What would I do with myself? How would I fill up so much empty time?

For weeks, I needed to get groceries…but the thought of shopping overwhelmed me to the point of tears. I just wanted to sleep and avoid life. I was paralyzed under those covers. Wounded. I was failing at everything that used to make me confident. And I was taking life too seriously.

While I was inside (my house and my worries and my own head), I almost didn’t notice that outside was autumn-crisp and bursting with pure beauty. Golden hours. Big-sky blue. Crismson-orange-yellow leaves. I had quit my joy dare and filled up my prayers with little complaints. I had bones to pick with God. But it’s gratitude that can make a grown girl fall to her knees. And its gratitude—this is key—that can lift her face back up again.

This weekend, I bought a caramel apple. I ate it with such gusto that caramel smeared all over my cheeks and somehow got up my nostrils. And I laughed at the sight of myself. Joy. Messy joy. Like a child. I was wondering where my joy went.

Feeling better starts with laughter. It starts with forcing yourself to do things that feel stupid. It starts with buying a pumpkin for my porch and making a wreath and buying an apple-pumpkin scented candle. I have to create my own cozy. Even if I don’t love where I’m at. I can save up all my decorating ideas and wait until the day when I have the house in southern Illinois with the big front porch or I can put a big fat pumpkin on my little stoop. I can tie a burlap bow around a mason jar full of sunflowers and bittersweet. I can adorn my table with festive five dollar place-mats. I can stop coveting what others have and start working with what I’ve got. And I can stop listening to depression’s lies, the ones that tell me “What for? Why try? What’s the point?”

The point is that even though it’s cliché, there is joy in the little things.

I can’t bank all of my happiness on going home. If I do, I’ll miss out on all of the little northern good things. If I wait for perfect timing, I’ll miss out on the life that’s happening. So I’m savoring the season– with caramel dripping down my chin.

I’m taking chances. I’m meeting people. I’m connecting.

I walked into a new church by myself and didn’t feel scared or lonely. I just felt God again. God’s presence dripping with grace. I was wondering where He went. (Although I know He never really left).

I spent time with a friend who also lives the police wife life. And she understood everything. She invites me over when she knows it’s not a good night for me to be alone. She crushed depression’s other lies: “No one understands. You’re all alone.”

I think I’m going to take that trail of toilet paper from my shoe and TP my yard with it in the spirit of the season. With gusto. I’m going to try to celebrate all of life’s seasons, knowing that God works all things together for good and knowing I must try my best to make the most of it all in the meantime.  Happy Fall, Y’all. Have a caramel apple. ❤

The Peace Place

I thought we’d be home by now. I thought we’d return home well before another brutal northern winter.  I thought we’d reunite in time to sit with friends around the fire pit, girls laughing, snuggling into flannel blankets, sipping spiced cider.

 I thought we’d build a little house with a wrap-around porch on some wild piece of land where Edwards County kisses Wayne County. And I’d never miss a Sunday chance to go to Prairie Church. I’d teach again. My heart would swell with words and purpose, and my abdomen would stretch and swell with miracles. I’d go on walks where dreamsicle sunsets stretched out before me, and my dogs would run, ears flopping, unleashed. I’d feel as free as they did. I’d remember how to breathe again.

I cried hard. I shook and sobbed until I couldn’t breathe over broken expectations and a broken identity and a dark dread that convinced me this world cares nothing for me anymore. I dropped to the bed and began to feel the familiar paralysis of a heavy and hard depression.

“I’m grieving,” I said. I’m grieving home—the place, its people. Leave me alone. This is what acceptance looks like. I’m getting there. I’m trying to get to that place of acceptance.

Husband said, “Enough. Enough grieving. Real acceptance is making peace with a place.”

Real acceptance is discovering the good, counting the joy.

 So we make a point to feel the land. We dig hands into this new earth, get the grit under our fingernails. We grow corn and squash and tomatoes. We drive the truck, aimlessly, to make me feel lighter, light enough to almost laugh again. We drive with windows down always, drive the back roads until their curves and canyons feel as familiar as his hand hooking into mine. We notice the same doe with her twin fawns in the bean field. They become familiar, too. Ours. We ride the four-wheeler over the hills and through the trickle-streams. We feast at the restaurant on the little cove at the lake.  I look out from under our umbrella and see the sun glisten, the water ripple. Tomorrow could be dark again, but today I’m drenched with grace.   

Nowhere and Somewhere

The best part of the book I just finished reading? The first page. The first page captures something I’ve felt since moving north and hadn’t been able to put into words. The author of A Wild Ride up the Cupboards describes the Nowhere Place, a spot coined by her autistic son, which is actually the distance between the Minnesota sign and the Welcome to Iowa sign. “We’re nowhere now,” she writes. “We aren’t anywhere in the world.”

Author Ann Baur continues, “Because even then Edward knew, as I did, that a human being can be knocked off the continuum of this ordinary, sweaty, oxygen-filled existence into the locked stillness of nowhere….I came to believe it was our momentum, traveling sixty or even sixty-five miles an hour, that anchored us and kept us safe. And that if we were to stop between the signs, all three of us might just tumble out of the car and out of our lives, into a nameless expanse of space.”

No other passage could more appropriately describe the odd little village in northern Illinois. It’s meaning holds more than just the space between Chicago and Dubuque or the expanse between Wisconsin and Iowa and Illinois. This time is also the “nowhere” time in our lives. The waiting area. The holding cell. We landed in a dystopia. A twilight zone. Limbo. The nowhere place. I had lost the momentum which propelled me, kept me exhausted and productive and smiling. Like Alice, I fell down a rabbit hole. I somersaulted into weirdness. I crashed into the wonderland of Woodbine.

I spent many days wishing to disappear. And the people I love most told me to disappear, hide, cover up the scars and the reasons for the scars. They even told me to stop writing. But burns are different from other ailments. In order for a burn to heal, it should not be covered. Burns need air for cell division and regeneration. Burns must breathe in order for new skin to grow.

Several weeks ago, I went in for some blood tests. I collapsed. The needle left a bruise that stretched from my armpit to my inner wrist. I lost control of my body, a helpless feeling I do not want to relive. While dabbing my neck with cold compresses, nurses encouraged me to open my eyes, to take a sip. I didn’t want to. I was lost in unconsciousness and echoes—a nowhere place.

Upon awakening, I examined the damage. The bluish-purple-green bruise paired with the pink-gray burn scars reminded me of the arms of a drug addict. In that moment, I realized the world would hurt me enough as it is without the added pain of harming myself, and I vowed to never hurt myself again. I also vowed to eat food and nourish my body.

I am a stubborn, stubborn girl. I must get to those points myself. Must feel the lowest low and wallow in it for a moment. Must decide, then, what to do next. Move on. Finally, I hit the low that would allow me to move on.

I decided I do not like the mental distress and despair of “inside.” More claustrophobic than normal, I am restless. Inside feels like caged confinement. I do not like the itch and crawl of sedentary, stationary, artificial light and plastic plants. Suddenly, outside is safe and free. In summer, inside is cruel and dark and dangerous like waiting rooms and cancer wards, windowless classrooms and coffins and prison and the last week of school.

I decide that, like a burn, I need air. I get a free sunrise and sunset every single day. I need them. I need the space between the sunrises and the sunsets, too.  I don’t even want to go inside for meals. I’ll partake of food in open air, the burst of sun-ripened tomato on my tongue. Skin kissed by this sweet tingle of sun. Do enough trails exist? Because once I start walking, moving this body, I don’t know if I’ll ever get my fill. I wander in the Nowhere Place. I take a step and breathe. And breathe. And inhale. Exhale. I learn how to breathe in the Nowhere Place.

And when we are home, eventually, I’ll look back at the Nowhere Place and see that it was actually….somewhere.

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.

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.   

"Where? Down in my heart!" 237- 255

237. all-ages whiffle ball game
238. eating a hot dog under a white tent
239.  bluegrass on the porch
240. policeman visits (my policeman)
241. swimming invitations
242. fruit
243.  the clarity of knowing at least who I am not and what I am not supposed to do. and the hopeful waiting that who I am and what I am supposed to do will be revealed
244. sunglasses at night
245. sweet introductions
246. Sunday journal buddies
247. new Sunday school material
248. standing in my kitchen flipping pancakes
249. forgetting the world now and then
250. wild blue Wisconsin flowers by the roadside
251. cards and crafts from our favorite six-year-old
252. love reminders
253. the love that wilt not let me go
254. new friends who thoughtfully ask me to come along for the ride
255. slow steady rain 

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.  

the one where i write about going home. and coming back.

click on the link, ya’ll. Wide Open Spaces:
http://www.lafamily.com/life-after-college/imperfectly-grand/wide-open-spaces

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.”  

106-140

106. kid drawings–that creative determination, the grip on pencil, the furrowed brow.
107. little kid malapropisms. ❤
108. jazz. it stirs my soul. i must move. must dance or i will burst
109. falling asleep on the living room floor. a lover’s fort, a camp out of sorts.
110. transparency of beautiful people sharing with me (thank you so much for showing your hearts on the la family page. next article should come out saturday).
111. the way he pauses often to check on me in life. to sweetly caress. to let the truth of his words fill me and sink in.
112. four-year-old birthday parties and Rapunzel ice cream cake. especially when adorable four-year-old wears adorable cupcake headpiece sporting four candles. count them: one, two, three, four.
113. great neighbors who are “the more the merrier” types. kind. welcoming. generous. sweet and genuine “all are welcome” vibe.
114. church.
115. treats. random hubby lunch date. a chocolate shake.
116. making up for so much lost time.
117. our mutual joy and admiration for kids.
118. noticing talent and making people feel good about it, feel possibilities.
119. the way he makes the perfect pot of coffee.
120. he always shares with me.
121. strengthening and establishing my heart while waiting. the work that happens in the waiting. the healing. the finding. the becoming.
122. casting anxieties upon Him. He accomplishes all things for me.
123. bonds. soul-sister bonds. ❤
124. blanket in a patch of sunlight, Bloom by Kelle Hampton, banana boat
125. limes. and lemons.
126. this: Job 42:12 “and the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.”
127. pink cheeks from sun
128. “will you come play with us?”
129. trampoline in the rain, tennis, softball
130. puppies
131. the way it feels to deep clean a kitchen. and to deeply pray. and deeply play.
132. crock pot aromas (and easy dinners!)
133. the chance to be a more-present wife for a time. even sometimes rejoicing in errands and chores.
134. lipo-flavonoid plus (a vitamin supplement that is amazingly helping my meniere’s. majorly. i feel better than i have in ten years.
135. watching josh attempt to train jovie.
136. blooming peonies.
137. blooming where i’m planted.
138. stretches and full body breaths. on top of a hill. with view of nineteen beautiful horses. and sky. that perfect-shade-of-bright-blue sky.
139. my memorial loves are graduating. i’m still remembering. still cherishing. still such a proud mama.
140.  bare.feet. ❤