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

Living Water

In the old southern farmhouse, the cistern once went bone-dry while I was in the shower with my head full of suds. I was mad. The dry cistern represented the heap of inconveniences I hated just like I hated his heap of dirty laundry on the floor. I despised setting mousetraps and killing spiders with my shoe. I loathed the tiny kitchen with no counter space to make a sandwich and hated the stove’s burners that quit in the middle of stirring the gravy, frying pork cutlets, boiling potatoes. I hated the stupid dead bush in the yard. I hated that he worked third shift and was never around to get rid of the stupid dead bush in the yard. You chose this, the dead bush mocked me. I chose this: marriage.

My mom tells the story of her first married Christmas with my dad. They lived in a tiny upstairs apartment. The Christmas tree toppled right on top of them on Christmas morning. Once, the grocery bags broke and tumbled down the three flights of stairs. My dad worked in a factory for nearly nothing. My mom worked in an office for even less. “We were poor. We had each other. We were happy as larks,” she says.

We had each other, too. Together, we hauled the water. And later, his arms encircled my waist while I washed the cups and scrubbed the frying pan. He turned me around, leaned me back for a kiss, got my shirt all wet with dishwater. I chose this. I chose it because it was worth the real passion, the country drives, the pink sunsets, the little sweet corn patch, the black-as-midnight Labrador I adored standing guard on the porch. We guarded marriage, would not let it topple-tumble-fall.

In this old northern brick house, his thumb strokes the length of my foot, sends a tingle down my spine. A stolen moment before bulletproof vest goes back on. He kisses me goodnight at two in the morning, stops in to say hello-goodbye to me while I’m at work at four in the afternoon. My heart still doesn’t know how to handle him in uniform—his shell I can’t quite get through. Handsome. Protective. Bravado.  I chose this, though moving has changed me—made me, all at the same time, brittle, broken, hardened.  I run errands solo, take walks by myself, attend a new church alone. I do not have a day-to-day companion. “I forgot to tell you,” We often share important bits of news three days late. No morning coffee, no evening programs, no nighttime prayers. Instead I’m carried through the day by faith knotted together by fidelity and a patient love, a love that cannot be self-serving.

“Don’t let the difficult circumstances dry up this marriage,” I pray. I kiss him hard, tell him to be safe. He is my one-person support system, and I have to share him because he protects the rest of the citizens, too.  I wait for the sounds of Velcro, the sigh as he takes off his duty belt, and the click of the radio cradled back into the charger. Then I can breathe again.

It’s all worth the sweet stolen moments, the organic love, the take-your-breath away hills and canyons, breakfasts at our favorite café,  the talks on the living room floor, the floppy-eared golden pup with paws too big for her body. Two Labradors now guard the yard while he’s at work. I watch the dogs from the window as I stand by the kitchen sink and stare at the faucet’s steady, gushing stream of living water.

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.”  

Attachment

My Labrador, Jovie, nurtures nine joyful puppies. Four yellows, three chocolates, two blacks.

I have secret names for them all–Biscuit, Nugget, Nella, Scout, Boo, Georgie, Pip, Sassafras, and Honeysuckle–just as I have human names for real children. Just as I remember every student I had by name. I cannot call the nine-day-old dogs Pup 1, Pup 2, Pup 3. I couldn’t even discipline their mama when she was a pup.

Because I wanted her to love me best. I wanted to be her favorite. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

I check on them, I do. But not every hour like husband does.

See, I’m more in awe of mama instincts. The delivery process. The bath-time licks and constant nursing. The arranging and rearranging and safekeeping and keeping warm. Instincts I don’t know if I possess because I’m so inside my own head. Because when I don’t know what to do I go into shutdown mode.

I see more of me when mama barrels out of whelping box, finally free. Poor thing needs a little space.

But as soon as she hears the yips and yelps, she returns. Puts up her paws. Waits for me to hoist  her up–back to her babes.

Mama dog is calmer now. Rests her chin on my knee. She’s a little blue. Exhausting, pouring out love. Somehow she must know six more weeks are all we get.

I can tell you which one has a little white stripe on its chest, which one looks most like its mama, which one has a tiny patch on its paw, which one is chubbiest, and which three pink noses are turning brown.

I can also say I want to be indifferent.

Because I do not get to keep.

Because with investment comes the inevitable process of detachment.

And to me, there’s not much difference between puppies and places and friendships and children and students.

Award Season

The lovely Courtney from http://dressupandtwirl.blogspot.com nominated me for the….

Thank you! Courtney’s blog is definitely one you will enjoy, so be sure to visit. The neatest thing about this experience is the opportunity to discover other bloggers and connect. How rewarding it is to read the words of honest human souls.

I love questions. I love living my way to the answers. This award required answering questions and following rules that I (mostly) obeyed. Fellow nominees, you must answer the eleven questions, ask eleven new questions, and share eleven things about yourself. (Since I thought the questions I asked were stellar, I decided to answer them for myself instead). The last step is to nominate eleven other bloggers for the award and let them know you’ve nominated them in a comment on their blogs. So let’s pretend I’m all dolled up like Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars except I don’t fall. (Actually, I’ve tripped up stairs several times before, and–let’s face it–this blog is about bruised knees). It’s okay to fall.

Without further ado, I bring your Courtney’s thought-provoking questions and my answers:

1.Describe your perfect hot drink. You have a warm mug of something… what’s in it?

A “frost on the pumpkin mocha” if it’s autumn and a “snowflake mocha” if it’s winter both made with whole milk and whipped cream. Absolute perfection.

2. What are your morning rituals? This question made me realize how much savor my slow, quiet mornings. I tend to wake up with a lot of adrenaline and anxiety.  When I taught and had an hour commute, I woke up in a tizzy, panicked because I usually didn’t have enough fuel in my tank, ate dry cereal right out of the box, attempted to apply makeup at stop lights, and listened to K-love for a full sixty minutes in order to get calm enough and filled up enough to teach. Now, I wake up before my alarm. I put on a pot of coffee, check on nine puppies and mama dog, work on whatever Beth Moore study I’m doing at the time (right now it’s James), read blogs, wash dishes, take a bath, and then drive a short distance to either work at the floral shop or tutor (both places are incredibly enjoyable and have even more coffee).

3. If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, which color would you choose?

Deep purple. Or coral. Or…my yellow shoes always put me in a good mood. Can I wear my yellow shoes?

4. What have you secretly believed you’d be really good at if you were given the chance?

I think I would be a good literature or creative writing professor. I admire three strong female professors at UE who made classes more than just lectures. They taught in an exciting interdisciplinary way that always stayed relevant and sophisticated. They taught with personality and allowed us to get to know them as people. The result: inspired students who looked forward to their classes and remembered what they taught and how they made them feel. With my high school English teaching background, I think I can do that too. I would love to have the freedom to teach the way I want to teach without worrying about standards and rules and parents. I love the campus atmosphere. I want to be a lifelong learner.

5. What one thing bothers you most about the world?

Bullies. Gossip. Entitlement. Censorship. Standardized tests. Apathy. Judgment. Hate. Hypocrisy. Mixed-up priorities.  A lack of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

6. Facebook or twitter?

Facebook. I know this makes me sound old and out-of-touch, but I don’t understand twitter.  I am, however, an idea girl….so I adore Pinterest!

7. Describe your perfect Saturday.

A morning Bible study at Little Prairie with great conversation. Laughing with my sister. Visiting all of my loves in Evansville. Reading a book in a hammock on a sunny day or sitting in an artsy café writing on a rainy day. Taking my dog for a walk. Fishing. Enjoying a delicious meal (I’m such a foodie). Sitting around a campfire with friends.  Doing anything with my husband—if I get to spend time with him, it’s a good day.

8. What is one habit you are trying to change?

Oh goodness. I have so many bad habits. I’m scattered and messy. I forget to write down the balance after I record a check. I also worry too much. I’m a people pleaser. I crumple during confrontation. I’m not the best communicator. I jump to worst-case scenario. I have an inferiority complex. I leave all my froo-froo hair stuff and lotion on the bathroom sink (sorry hunny). I bite my nails. I procrastinate. I don’t know how to grocery shop/meal plan. My mind seems to always be in the future or the past. I’m socially awkward. I can be really stubborn. I’m trying to get better at all of these things.

9. What is one of your God-given gifts?

I hope one of my God-given gifts is writing. I guess we will see when I start my MFA this summer. I think encouragement is maybe the biggest gift. I hope to fill up holes in hearts by giving people what they need to hear so that they can have confidence to become what they are capable of being. I especially have a big heart for teenage girls who need to understand their potential and beauty and worth.

10. Polka dots, stripes, floral, or leopard-choose one and tell me why

Polka dots are so fun, but I can’t seem to pull off that look. I choose floral because I love flowers, my favorite scarf is a floral print, and I’m really looking forward to spring. ❤

Now it’s time for my own questions and how I would answer them.

1. Favorite beverages: water (I guzzle it constantly), raspberry-peach bellini tea, coffee, moscato d’ asti, diet coke

2. Favorite book(s) of the Bible: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes

3. Describe the perfect tattoo: It would be small, on my middle left side right under that area where the side of your bra would hit. The tattoo would read, in fancy letters, “Fuoco nelle vene” which is an Italian phrase meaning “fire in the veins.” Because that phrase describes me.

4. Favorite word(s): peace, dwell, savor, haven, grace, passion, creativity, sanctuary

5. Favorite places: The South, Dale Hollow Lake, Barnes and Noble, Coffee Cottage, Florida, SoIL, Nassau, The Cozy Cabin, around any campfire, on almost any lake

6. Favorite scents: perfume: Burberry Britt, Very Sexy Noir, Amber Romance. Candles: Ginger Fig, Sweet Woods.

7. Favorite body part and why: My left ear is deaf. It is my curse and blessing, my lack, my testimony, my story to tell. So-called flaws are interesting. I like my blue-grey-green eyes when they are bright and happy. I also like my barely size 5 feet and my back. I like eyes and backs and shoulders in general; I think those body parts are beautiful and strong and seductive.

8. Favorite time of day, day of week and month of year: Morning. Thursday. May/June and September/October.

9. Where do you want to travel? Italy, Greece, Australia, Africa, Ireland, England, Canada, North Carolina, Maine, Vermont, Texas, California

10. Describe your best memory. Four-wheeler riding with Josh during a storm (the first time when I was fifteen and then the deja vu time he proposed in the same conditions). Night swimming. We Care circles at UE. And my sweet Memorial send-off.

New nominees, you also get to answer those same questions. Here they are again:

Favorite beverages

Favorite quote

Favorite book of the Bible

Describe the perfect tattoo

Favorite word

Favorite place and why

Favorite scents

Favorite body part and why

Time of day, day of week and month of year

Where do you want to travel?

Describe your best memory.

And those new nominees are (drumroll, please)..

Courtney at http://vintch.blogspot.com

Tobi at http://huntingforbliss.wordpress.com

Miss Ashley at http://copiousmusings.wordpress.com

Jeanine at http://nakedgirlscout.blogspot.com

Jennifer at http://jenr1313.wordpress.com

Micaela at http://theundergroundmicaela.com

B. Lilly at http://totameawolf.blogspot.com

Barb at http://imhookedonbooks.wordpress.com

Other must-read blogs?

http://or-so-i-feel.blogspot.com

http://www.aholyexperience.com

http://momastery.com

http://www.kellehampton.com

They’ll inspire you, too. ❤

Check out all of the above links and get ready for several onbruisedknees posts tomorrow. We need to catch up, don’t we. May you savor your weekend. Happy reading.

Academy Award

Academy Award (Photo credit: Wikipedia)