"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: spring

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.       

joyful, joyful 141-168

141. cracking crab legs, butter running down my chin–the way eating can be an experience that is joyful, sexy, messy.
142. good clear test results.
143. Apple Canyon State Park, and my beautiful solace thinking spot by the water
144. crying. fighting. communicating. healing. relief.
145. the warmth, comfort, and realness of a friend’s phone call. instant warmth.
146. a husband who protects me and keep me very grounded.
147. lunch invitations. any invitations. especially from kids. i completely melt.
148. grocery runs with the husband. only for snacks. it makes me feel like we’re teenagers.
149. whispers in church. (but i promise we’re still listening). hearing him sing beside me, that deep richness. the way, so different, we blend. while singing hymns. while doing life together.
150. bluegrass special music nearly every sunday. yes, i’m serious and yes, i know how awesome it is.

151. pops of hot pink.
152. tennis. it’s really fun. i like to pretend i’m venus williams. or serena. or anna kournikova.
153. that euphoric high after a run.
154. the fact that i can actually breathe the air here without suffocating. it’s so much lighter than down south. i keep breathing fully, deeply, and enjoying air that you don’t need a shovel in order to inhale.
155. diet cranberry lime juice. on the rocks. with extra lime.
156. drinking everything in mason jars. all summer long. with a bend-y straw. because it’s fun.

157. lemon water. with lots of lemons.
158. mojitos with sprigs of fresh mint.
159. cooking shows.
160. motivation to organize, try to find employment up here, and write a lot.
161. more LA Family articles coming up. You are the reason why I secured my weekly column, Imperfectly Grand. You rock. Thank you. In my next article (which comes out FRIDAY), i talk about….my butt. gotcha curious, don’t i. if you have any ideas of things i should write about/places i could write for…send anything my way. 🙂
162. the anticipation of getting to see my sister soon. knowing we’ll do crazy interpretive dances and shop for swimsuits and laugh. knowing she’ll fill my sister-time void.
163. seeing my favorite women in the world soon, my soul-friends from Evansville and E.C. and my favorite nephews. 
164. finding Josh’s Eagle Scout essay in the basement while sorting through his junk and reading the part about his future career goals. and the fact that we’re living it, finally. right. now.
165. joyful, joyful we adore thee on a piano played by a six-year-old.
166. a four-year-old wearing her mama’s reading glasses in church. and turning around to look at us.
167. jovie’s shenanigans.

168. all of the shenanigans we’re about to experience in sweet home southern IL.  


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. ❤

89-105 "His presence is fullness of joy" Psalm 16:11

89. cards in the mail from grandma mabel and calls from grandpa earnie.
90. supportive family, friends, former students, and online friends who read my article and hopefully will continue to read, like, share, and comment (next one should come out Saturday on LA Family). I owe you, I need you, and I’m overwhelmed by love. thank you. (and writing for a magazine is another check for my bucket list!).
91. feeling calmer. when i’m more crazy/anxious/nervous than not…the calm days feel so good.
92. the way he always sits beside me instead of across from me in a booth. and orders tomatoes on the side so that i can have extra. and i take the lemon from his tea. and give him my croutons. little rituals. (that have gone on for a decade).
93. the way our house always smells like coffee.
94. not getting the job. yes, you read that correctly. because it wasn’t right for me. and God knew it. and i’m still a darn good teacher. and God knows that, too.
95. how he always tells me i’m pretty during moments when i’m not. during moments when i’m doing unpretty things like running. or running errands. or washing dishes or the tub. or waking up. maybe “pretty” is something else entirely from what women think it means.
96.  the way jovie stretches after a nap. like a yoga pose she holds for several seconds. and i can’t help but say, “strrrettttchhh”every time. and then i stretch because it looks like it feels awfully good.
97. morning walks.
98. hot cocoa in the cool evenings
99. little invitations from people in the most welcoming community i’ve ever known.
100. beautiful roadtrip to prairie du chien.

101. having our own fire pit, finally. ahhhhhh ❤ i promise we’ll get so much use out of it.
102. sun on my skin
103. comfort of knowing i’m his. he’s mine. we’re us.
104. the comfort of having a really, really good tell-it-all-to friend who always feels close though she’s four hundred miles away.
105. the way every breeze feels like refreshment. newness. it sings a new song.

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. 

J is for Joy Dare

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I loved Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I’ve been telling everyone I know to read it. Her words are still resonating with me. The ugly-beautiful. Eucharisteo. The fact that we can’t give thanks and feel fear at the same time. All is good, all is grace. To know God loves me and lavishes me with good gifts. And the way I can bless back is to caress Him with thanks. “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul.”

The real Joy Dare and Ann’s healing, convicting, Spirit-filled words can be found on her blog, http://www.aholyexperience.com. I don’t follow the rules, though, because I don’t follow rules (as I skip around on my letters again for the A-Z blog challenge). I just offer spontaneous thanks, which I think is the real purpose. I write the specifics down so that I can remember, and so that I don’t fall into the habit of blanket prayers of gratitude which can become a going-through-the-motions act filled with no real gratitude at all.
My list of joy (which will become a thousand things and then a thousand more):
1. Kind old man I met on walk carrying single white daisy home to his wife.
2. An always happy-to-see-me companion in my dog who has been through moves and changes with me. And adapts. And keeps her joy. And happily explores it all. (I could learn from her).
3. My husband, the eye that beholds me and sees beauty in my flaws, forgives me in my craziness, knows what I need, and loves me with an unconditional love. It is this small glimpse that allows me to open my eyes wider and understand the love-dance of Savior and Beloved.
4. Hymns. A back-to-basics simplicity that I needed. Those words! That richness!
5. The chance to be around kids again in whatever capacity. And all that they teach me.
6. Josh getting out his guitar. Singing together on a random Tuesday night.
7. The words, “Let’s go fishing.”
8. Friends who keep in touch.
9. For the breaking of winter and the emerging of spring. Colorful beauty. Growing life.
10. For breaking me apart. For slowly putting me back together better.
11. For Josh’s excitement in his work. For God’s faithfulness and timing.
12. Herbs on windowsills.
13. Glowing fires in the night, the circle of lawn chairs around the warmth
14. Formed family, community
15. The way there is always coffee in this community. And music, always music. And laughter and children.
16. Wise and spunky older man. A kindred soul. The way God gives me “grandpas”
17. Again–little. kids. The way they are shy at first and then suddenly not shy at all. And for baby fever and for having it. Sort of. Almost.
18. Basketball. High fives. Celebratory dance moves.
19. Witnessing kindness. In all ages.
20. Feeling young. Energy. Excitement. Dancing. Refreshment.
21. A jog that felt so needed and so good.
22. A full day to write. Soothing words. Soothing pot of tea.
23. Falling asleep together.
24. Morning. Sun.
25. The promise.

So, what’s on yours?

F is for Fishing

Obviously, I’m skipping letters in this A-Z challenge. Oops.

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F is for Fishing.

I love fishing trips—spontaneous and planned. The “let’s leave the dirty dishes piled high in the sink and not mow the unsightly lawn for one more day” brand of spontaneity. Because it’s more important right now that we go fishing. It cures boredom and restlessness and bad days. It connects boyfriend and girlfriend and now husband and wife. Because our best talks were in our boat. And outside of it—in the actual lake—because one balmy summer night while coyly dangling my feet in the water, he dared me to jump in.  
I catch fish. This southern girl can bait her own hook and finesse a fish and take the fish off and is not afraid of minnows and worms and slime and stink bait. But I enjoy more than the excitement of a bite. I bask in warmth of sun. I exhilarate in cool refreshment of evening. I am calmed by the cure and quench of water, rocked like a lullaby.  
“F” is for fishing with friends on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, the guys cleaning and filleting while Lyss and I discussed, with flour on our noses and hands coated in Kentucky Kernal, about what it meant to be the women of these men. And we danced to the sizzle of bass and blue gill. And we all feasted on tomatoes and asparagus casserole and golden fried fish and corn on the cob. And then we left dishes to go on a jeep ride. The stars. The love, the lightning bugs. The not caring about anything. Else. But the fish. And the vibrant memory. And the family you find in friends and lovers. And that fullness of life.  
Dale Hollow Lake. Realfoot. Okeechobee. Fly fishing in Gatlinburg. The Shale Pit. Rivers and lakes I don’t remember names of. The farm ponds. The fun drinks and scent of sweet cigar. The old sweatshirts when the wind turns breezy. The freckles sprinkled across my nose and cheeks from sun. Picnic tables and dinner prayers in the dark, bowed thankful faces illuminated by citronella candles. The faces of favorite people.   
And when we feel far away, either from home and friends and family or from one another, we grab the dog and the rod and reels and tackle box, we leave behind the un-mowed lawn and dirty dishes, and we explore new places to go fishing, to demonstrate the perfect cast, to dangle toes in water, to find the peace in water and one another.

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Do you have any favorite fishing memories? What does fishing mean to you?

B is for Bucket List

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My go-to first day of school activity as a teacher has always been to make my students create their bucket lists. I wanted them to do something meaningful. I wanted them to think. And I wanted them to keep it, to someday dig up what they doodled down in their Justin Bieber and Twilight notebooks and realize that what they penned as sophomores might have been their purest dreams from their truest selves before rationality and responsibility crept in and stole away from them. But I have a confession: I have never made my own bucket list. This tease of spring has me restless and overwhelms my desire to do it all, see it all, and learn it all during my one wild and precious life. I want to suck that marrow. I’ll probably “kick the bucket” by sucking so hard that I choke on the bone.  Perhaps I’ve been encouraged too much in my life. Am I delusional, punch-drunk on dreams and hope and “Yes, I Can”? Am I a failure if I don’t accomplish what the world thinks worthy? I panic as thoughts whirl wildly. While contemplating cereal choices in the grocery, I wonder if crossing items off a bucket list can be as simple as drawing a line through a shopping list. While researching random summer jobs to supplement income, I wonder if a retail job–hands on clothes–will fill me like hands on human hearts can. So many expectations, but what are mine? Some so big, some so simple, some so silly. But the purpose? To make me come alive again.

*Revised 1/1/13

-Be in a play again
-Speak in front of a huge audience
-Direct a play
-Go on a girls’ trip
-Go on a trip with our oldest, dearest friends and their beautiful families
Write for a magazine 
-Publish a book(s) of creative nonfiction
-See that book in bookstores
-Go to Italy, England, and Ireland
-Go to Greece
-Go to Hawaii
– Go to Australia
-Eat lobster in Maine
-See Vermont in the fall
-Fish in Canada
-Go back to Dale Hollow Lake
-Line dance in Texas
-Catch a really, really big fish
-Be a mama
-Own horses
Bottle feed a calf
Have lab puppies (a kennel, possibly)
-Sleep under stars
-Have a big wrap-around porch, a screened-in summer room, an old fashioned bear claw tub, a fireplace, a library nook
-Do a writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg
-Earn my MFA in Creative Writing
– Make a foundation for Meniere’s disease
-Make pottery on a wheel
-Fill my house with beautiful art
Write meaningful letters, give meaningful gifts
Bring others to Christ (it’s what life is all about, people)
-Baptize someone
-Start a library in my name in a poor foreign country
– Have my own brand of stationary or greeting cards
-Own beautiful quilts
-Go on a trip with my sister and cousin Elise (NC or SC, possibly–because that trip is long overdue)
-Someday own good furniture
-Teach college literature or writing
-Speak at the NCTE
-Start and host a book club
-Own a cool, quirky, cozy cafe (I have so many ideas for this)
-Own a real photographer’s camera. Learn photography.
-Have an amazing flower garden (learn to grow beauty like my grandma could)
-Have an outdoor dining area, host fall and summer dinners
-Read to nursing home residents
Take dance lessons again

I’ll let you know when I add or cross off. What’s on your bucket list? Share with me.

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