"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: thanks


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.

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 good stuff

Apple blue cheese salad with grilled chicken, Auntie Nancy’s manicotti from Vinny’s, when friends know you need a text or an email or a message (my friends have the best, God-wink, God-inspired timing), snowflake mochas, white chocolate mochas, fancy cupcakes, new worship songs, Friday night breakfast dates at Stella’s (and Friday night breakfasts at home). I love cooking together. I feel lonely in a kitchen without two or more people. Kitchens are for dancing. And romance. Bacon, biscuits, sausage, eggs, and pancakes at midnight and coffee at the perk of morning. Mother-in-law advice and soul sessions with favorite friends elbow-deep in sudsy water while scrubbing pans. My best memories are made in kitchens. sister chats, Pitch Perfect, the encouragement from readers who value vulnerability, a haircut finally, gardening plans, fishing trip plans, The show “Restaurant: Impossible,” books (currently reading Praise the Human Season, Mended, and Her Fearful Symmetry), Isaiah 43:19, pilates, new bras (and throwing the ratty ones away), homemade blueberry muffins with butter, new books hanging on my doorknob(!), eos lip balm, matte neutral nail polishes, the Wisconsin/Minnesota hills (but not the frigid tundra temps), Mayo Clinic’s professionalism and thoroughness and service, his comfort, and His comfort, too.  

invincible summer

thankful for…within me, an invincible summer in the depth of winter

The tender. The best bacon and eggs. Jovie’s new trick (she can now rest a treat on her nose until commanded to eat it). The way Josh praises her. Looking forward to fishing trips and planting a garden and spring. The way Josh always has my hand and always leads me (when I’m off-balance and weak or blind. He is my senses, my bearings, my safety. Always has been). Getting to have Jovie for a dog. ❤ The decision of daisies and the purchase of a dress. Tutoring. Finding a rhythm to life again. Thursday coffee.  how good a home feels. how lovely the people I work with are. The way Josh helps cook now sort of a little bit..I never asked him to. I just rewarded him with lots of praise and gratitude (and sex). steamed broccoli, raspberry walnut vinaigrette, zuppa tuscana, fresh salads, homemade macaroni and cheese, Memorial’s new spring musical, purple and pink, messy braids, invitations, burberry brit perfume, caramel mochas, student messages (love how you guys keep me in the loop..sorry I’m so behind in writing back to everyone. Forgive me. I adore you.), WCRC, preppy floral print scarves, random compliments, the boy in high school who is not my husband who taught me the true meaning of valentine’s day (obviously this kind gesture has stuck with me) and sent me a flower when he knew I thought no one cared and wrote on the card, “A true friend is closer than a brother.” doing things I did not know I could do, imperfect progress, new connections, the sweet woods Milkhouse candle I bought at work yesterday (a little obsessed with this brand) that reminds me of the smell of home (yes, they somehow managed to put southern Illinois into a candle), stargazer lilies, be the good bracelets and the story behind it…check out the Anne Made facebook page and etsy shop. The way working at a floral shop is getting me through a dreary, frigid winter. Surrounding me with living, growing things and vibrant color. And it pulls me back from the dark place.  And I’m so thankful.

grace and peace be yours in abundance

credit: via pinterest homedesignspins.com

my abundance:

my niece’s overly large bows and elaborate headbands and tutus..she looks like a ballerina or an indian with a headdress most of the time. russian wedding cakes, aunt linda’s sugar cookies, hot dip that scharlene makes just for me, shrimp, the newness of a new year, my cool new earmuffs, nice travel bags in a cheery yellow, dad’s tradition of getting me the best books ever, mom’s tradition of finding me beautiful and special cameo pieces, jewelry box with music that reminds me of grandma K’s, jovie and klyde’s sweet puppy love, The Game of Things, games with family, cousin talks, the hope josh reminds me of, latin dance workouts with jess, the book Bossypants, boots lined in a row, hands filled with mugs filled with hot drinks, the soundtrack from Country Strong, bringing the four-wheeler back with us (oh, how I’ve missed it!), watching a new little romance form, diet gingerale, dom’s snowflake jammies with the feet, starbucks packets from grandma mabel, my awesome victoria secret pjs and robe, plum colored nail polish, josh in the kitchen right now preparing deer meat for supper, reminders of what really matters, dad hugs, getting to talk to grandma this morning before she went into ICU, a new strength I didn’t know my mom had, the way writing connects people, sweet kindness, standing on grace   

good tidings

here’s my comfort and joy…

family game nights, new purse, comfy boots, invitation for cinnamon rolls and coffee, the always warm welcome from a school that will always be my family, inspiration to create my own cozy with whatever I have and whatever I can make (doesn’t have to be perfect, doesn’t have to match, doesn’t have to be fancy), facebook Bible studies, duke and dolly, horses, target practice, kennels, dogs, sunshine, rocking to sleep, psalm 27 (my nephew’s favorite), beginning to dream again, vanilla mt. dew, dimaggios twice, 7 hills, carhartts, finishing paperwork, k’s happiness, when friends pray for you in front of you (so powerful..and I always cry), starbucks with sister, hearing “mama, mama”, hearing what they plan to do in the future, birthday messages from students, lavender chamomile sleep aromatherapy luxury bath, farmer’s daughter restaurant and bakery, pasta, Christmas shopping finished, birthday lunch with mom, happy babies, hand kisses, cousins coming south for Christmas, rustic exposed wooden beams, sexy showers (giggle), chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, “say ‘cheese fries,’”a safe trip home despite the fog, the scent of ginger-fig, primitive present wrapping, the movie The Thomas Crowne Affair (ok, not an entirely appropriate movie…but I love wit, and I love art, and I like those actors), making our house and the flower shop merryfestivejoyfulbright (love adding special touches), being on an organization kick, breakfast invitations (thanks, annie!), extra time with josh, a re-stocked fridge (sort of), fruit and nut trail mix granola bars (I keep about three in my purse at all times), watching dvrd grey’s while sipping my coffee before work, “season’s blessings,” sweet customers, stella’s cherry pie, wreath-making, a new computer (because joshua spilled coffee on my old one…merry merry Christmas to me), black leggings (do I ever have to wear real pants again?), the movie Great Expectations, the book Great Expectations, real balsam Christmas garland and wreaths (yeahhh, Stockton!), African autumn tea, mumford and sons, pinecones, communion, simplicity           

thankful over yonder

via: cindyeckhart.com
continued thanks:
sister texts, wine and movie nights, jovie belly rubs, mom shopping trips, fettuccini alfredo, raspberry peach bellini tea from olive garden, banana republic sweaters, mulled apple cider, southern breakfasts, the flags on the square on veteran’s day, taco tierra…twice so far (fairfield’s my favorite), grippos, pink Browning huntin’ socks, smell of coffee, persimmon picking, book reading, frailing the pecan tree, watching my niece sleep (and smile and kick and simply look around), the thanksgiving usuals, my mom’s cooking is my favorite, nice messages from people i work for and with, simply being able to come home for a bit, soft blankets, old quilts, the movie The Blindside (I want to be thatkind of mama), seeing Milo and Kathy, how country feels, some long awaited good good news (it’s about time, you two!), peanut-butter ritz almond bark cookies, the sweet nonverbal connection i’ve always had with josh, the verbal connection I’m learning to have with others, the special connections (God given, certainly) i have with favorite friends, students still, my grandpa earnie, my sweetest nephews. the big sky morning, the trees, the pond, stopping in the middle of the road because josh sees someone he knows and needs to catch up on the stories, the men in the coffee shop who know who i am.
i didn’t care before. turned my nose up at the folks, the swamp, the bottoms ground. but it’s beautiful…i know now. and my throat tightens because i miss it. the wild undone. the far and thick and deepest holy place that taught me exactly where yonder is.

all the way back where i belong

Oh, home. I’m here for awhile.

I will

Drink in the blue sky, the big sky. Take long walks. Four-wheeler rides and pickup truck drives. And sip hot soothing drinks. Write. Reconnect with family and friends who are family and my husband and God and my church. To feel worship again. Worship not measured by rules and what’s proper. No judgment, no competition of holiness. To think and not think. And sleep soundly again. Food. Take in all the nourishment that is food and not food– suck the marrow of This South.   

And holy is here. Unforced. The real and raw. I’ve almost, almost found it again. In conversations. In the mess. In water-eyes.  In the way nothing changes between soul-sister-friends. In a children’s book that taught me more than any other book I’ve read recently. A new song that made my heart sing a new song. In inspiration. Knowing I’m not numb. I still can feel.

Yes, I’ve returned to all my gritty-authentic-holy places.

In college, I would sit on Neu Chapel’s steps. When the questions came. Sometimes I’d even go inside in middle of day or middle of night because the chapel had no closing time. Hear echoes of Wesleyan hymns. Something ancient. Wood beams strong. Take naps on wooden pews.  And pray and write. And I would find. Solitude. Presence. And peace.

And Little Prairie’s parking lot…God is there too. Where I’ve always went when I didn’t know where to go. And where Josh always knew where to find me. After he’d given me space and time with just God. Prayers and fights. Stars. And gravel under the tires. Gravel that held my earth together. Touches and talks and tongue kisses that undid me.  But they were holy too somehow. Like coming home. Like the Lord proclaimed, “Here are your blessings, child. I’m right here. I never left.”  

I’ve missed, I love, I’m thankful for:

Country lullabies. The way my husband talks to his niece. My nephews. Getting to know my now all-grown-up little cousin and her dreams and tastes and favorite things. Sunshine and seventy degrees. The melody of little southernisms. My sister. The feeling I get in my gut when I know I must speak and have no choice. The way the sky looks huge because the land’s so flat. Our other two dogs, Duke and Dolly–they still know us, still love us. Manis and pedis and marker tattoos. Exploring Barnes and Noble. The weight of overflowing crates of books. Three hours at Coffee Cottage. Latin and Italian phrases. Porches and my Jovie.

Feels like I’m all the way back where I belong.

To My Womenfolk

I don’t apologize for being grouchy in my last post. I did not name this blog “On Cushioned Knee-pads.” It’s okay to be real, people. But it’s also important to find the good. So while my posts and moods seem as shifting as this Illinois weather, here’s the good:  

The way a hot shower feels at night.   Clean wet hair.    Hoodie to snuggle in.

Naps with josh.   His sweet comments.              

The peace that comes from the new morning and better perspective after a bad day when I felt all

wrong and down and out of whack.  The fact that He understands a heart as crazy as mine.
Amazing news from my favorite group of cousins: one is having a baby, and one received a good report at his cancer checkup!

Piper’s smiles.          Getting better deals on shoes because my feet are so small that I have to shop in the kiddie section (yep, I can fit into a size four…but must dig to find styles that don’t include HelloKitty).                   

 A new whiteboard for my attic —my writing notes feel more organized. Milo is ONE (and I get to see Milo and his mommy in a month!). 

 Coffee on the stoop, coffee at E-town, coffee at Stockton Floral and Gifts, coffee anywhere. 

 Stella’s Café (because they share my philosophy that food should be an experience…and I think they are secretly a little bit southern).

Jovie (I know I mention her every time…but she really is the best dog and lives up to her name which means ‘joy’).

My mustard yellow Savvy scarf.                              The way Josh deserves an award because he never stops trying to understand me.                Getting over myself.  

Home soon…home SO soon.            Caramel pecan E-Town good morning danish. Ohmylands. Sweet friends. (makes the pastry even sweeter).
And here….I must elaborate, must give a shout-out to all the womenfolk:
God bless the women who know what pick-me-ups other women need. Who just know. In my life, it’s been the giving and receiving (mostly the blessed receiving) of many things: post-it notes, poems, messages, cards, photos. Haikus. Nights in, nights out, dance parties in kitchens and bagels on Wednesdays. Lunch dates and spontaneous trips. Cupcakes, a square of chocolate, the biggest possible diet Mr. Dew. Coffee, department  potlucks, deliveries. Books, the perfect songs. The pouring of moscato. The hugs and tears and Tylenol. A surprise left on a desk or sent in the mail. The hospitality of a home. The grace. The listening. The encouraging. The offering. The ones who show you the beauty of your flaws. The “Please tell me something to get me through the next hour.” The “Please give me truth.” And “Please make the truth not so bad.”  God bless the women—the genuine ones–who know sometimes it takes a little extra somethin’-somethin’ to get through the day, who dress the wounds of bruised knees. It’s a tough world out there, ladies. And just like Meredith Shepherd and Christina Yang, we all need a “person”.  Femininity. Embrace it. Celebrate it. And don’t forget to count it when you count your joy and thanks.     

"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