Pausing to Rest


As I tipped the trash bag into the hopper and let the lid fall, I paused on my shuffle back to the house over the icy drive and just stood still. I let the silence of the winter night, the temperature rapidly dropping, settle over me and just…rested in it for a long moment.

Have you ever listened to the world freeze over? I did. I could hear the creak of branches under the weight of the freezing snow and the muted boom of expanding ice birthing cracks and potential potholes in the streets. My eyelashes sparkled with shimmering snowflakes that fluttered to spangle the black of my sweater as they swirled and winked in the arc of light cast by the fixture beside the backdoor.

I remembered a night similar to this, almost twenty years ago, when I tripped merrily home from a campus formal. I recalled the dusting of snow on the sidewalk glinting like fairy dust under my feet and the hem of my gown in the blue moonlight and how beautiful I felt in that moment. Smiling at the memory, I just stood there, drinking the peace of a winter night, its stillness, its deep, slow breathing, and its call to rest.

Then the single-digit-chill wind decided I needed a nudge back to reality and gusted up to cajole me on into the house. “Before the cold catches up to you…” it seemed to whisper, dusting one last sparkle of snowflakes over me before I turned to go inside.

A moment’s rest can be just what you need, especially when it leaves you with a pleasant little shiver.

The Rest After the Step


It has been a long few weeks that have left me far more tired than I had anticipated. The biggest factor in this is something that I have told very few people about. Two weeks ago, I applied for a position outside of teaching. My husband heard about the posting from some of the ladies who work for the nonprofit that posted it (benefit of your office building sharing space with other groups). He then immediately passed it on to me, with the insistent assurance that I would be perfect for the position with my abilities and skill sets. At first, I was dubious, as I have been in the past, but I have deeply prayed over the past few years for God to show me the next chapter He has for me, to help me find my next right thing (thank you, Emily P. Freeman and Queen Anna!). So I decided that I would update my CV and send it in with a letter of interest. You guys, I cannot count how many revisions those two documents went through over those few days! I have always been a perfectionist when it comes to documentation like that; and it had been several years since I had even contemplated a position outside of teaching, so updates were definitely needed. When all was said and done, I said a prayer, clicked “Send” on the email, and that was it. Then I had to wait. So I waited. And waited. Then, all in a rush, I received an email last weekend saying that they would like to interview me over Zoom! We managed to wrangle a day and time that would work for everyone, mindful of time differences for those traveling, and so it went.

The interview went well, but, in the end, it turned out that the timing of the position just was not going to work out. They needed someone to be able to train and slide into the full-time position by the end of February, and I did not have peace about up and leaving my teaching position so suddenly and abruptly. I did not feel released to do that to my principal and students. So…needless to say, when they answered my question about the timing, I felt a sinking in my soul.

“Well, that means this interview is over,” I thought. But I still asked some questions about their nonprofit, in an effort to not have things end on an *extremely* awkward note. Just a moderately awkward one.

After the interview, I finished out my day, but, once the kiddo was in bed and Ben and I were alone, I flopped onto the floor with an “UGH!” that would have made Charlie Brown proud. When I was finally able to verbalize what I felt, I realized that I had become far more hopeful of that new position, that change, that new chapter, than I had realized. And I was disappointed. Disappointed that it wouldn’t work. Disappointed that I wouldn’t get to try something new. Disappointed that my stepping out in faith seemingly wouldn’t be rewarded.

As this week has gone on, however, I find a thought has been whispered to my mind and soul and repeated when I haven’t been looking.

“You have stepped. Now rest.”

Rest. It’s my word, my intention for the year. Rest. I stepped out in faith, praying for God to lead me aright. And He did. I stepped out in courage. Now I need to rest. 

Rest in gratitude that God kept His word to be with me and guide me. 

Rest in faith that He knows best. 

Rest in peace that where I am is my next right thing for now.

Rest in hope that, when another opportunity comes along, I will heed the call to step out again.

I have stepped; it was a lot of work–mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Now it is time for me to rest my feet, recover, and allow Him to refill those stores. There is another big week ahead, but, for now, this is my immediate next right thing. I even have a scratchy, tired voice to enforce it.

Rest.

My Storied January, Part 2


A bee. A key. A sword. Several months ago, those images began filling my Twitter and Instagram feeds. I knew what they heralded and was practically beside myself with each new post and peek. I had been waiting for eight years for a new world from Erin Morgenstern to step sideways into, ever since I was so exquisitely enthralled, ensorcelled, and enraptured by The Night Circus. I have never recommended or passed on a book as often as I have that one. And The Starless Sea was no disappointment. A story molded and folded, fitted and tide-locked with other the stories within it. Stories that mix and mingle and connect and rend. When I first received this beautiful book, it took me several weeks to read even 70 pages. That was agony for me. When all I wanted to do was to dive in and devour it, I was being forced to savor it. I found it creeping into my days, my dreams, my daily drive (thank you, monthly Audible credit!), and even my work. I used it as an example entry for my 8th-grade students’ silent reading journals. 

Photo by The Ridgefield Press

Needless to say, I tumbled into a world of keys and swords and books, of Doors and bees and stories. I will not claim to understand everything…yet. It will no doubt take several readings and listenings to unravel all the paths and side-quests and cues within the gorgeous labyrinth held between these gold-embossed black covers. There are lines that still linger in my mind, lines that I have quoted and enigmatically posted. Lines that wrap themselves around my wrists and elbows like golden ribbons, words dangling from my fingertips like keys and glowing in my chest like embers. Morgenstern has not disappointed in any sense; once again her world-weaving has carried me off over golden waves.

My fictional world is, as it seems, full of books and Doors and stories right now. I am chasing after books come alive in A.J. Hackwith’s The Library of the Unwritten and running headlong through ten-thousand Doors in the most gorgeous epic by Alix E. Harrow (The Ten Thousand Doors of January). To my delight, I am led and shepherded everywhere I look in these tales by characters of color. I am also seeing bits and pieces of myself spread out among them. A hero with eyesight as bad as my own. A Librarian with locs and a fierceness to match the angelic host themselves. A girl with mocha skin and a bronze-furred dog. Her friend with a body the color of coffee who would be perfect standing side by side with the Librarian in battle. Zachariah, Claire, January, Bad, Jane. I marvel at finding myself surrounded by these characters, taken by the hands and led–sometimes thrown–through their adventures, failures, discoveries, and downfalls. It is intense. It is emotional. It is fascinating. It is painful. And every second is worth it.

This is my storied January indeed, and I am loving it!

My Storied January, Part 1


This has been, thus far, a storied January. In the space of the past two weeks, I have been filled to the proverbial brim by two of the most glorious tales, thus my “storied” January. I will begin here with tale the first.

On a recent, rare, free Sunday, I took myself on a date to the movies, alone, to finally dive deep into a childhood love. I settled myself into my seat and nervously waited through the previews (which I usually enjoy but that day they only tortured me by prolonging the excitement) for the beginning of Greta Gerwig’s long-anticipated adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

Finally, with a flash of a red leather cover (reminiscent of Dickens’ first edition of A Christmas Carol), the title and author embossed in gold, I was dropped in behind Saoirse Ronan’s Jo March as she paused before the door to the Daily Volcano Press and the imposing Mr. Dashwood. And so it began.

For the next two hours and fifteen minutes, I cried, chided, laughed, fumed, and rejoiced, enthralled to be once again in the world of March Sisters and their beloved friends and family. I was alternately charmed by and incensed at Theodore Laurence, my darling Laurie, played so beautifully by the compelling Timothee Chalamet. And, in my aged prime of almost thirty-seven years, I am more certain than ever of Jo’s wisdom in turning him down. (The fact that I married my own teacher of German, as Jo married her sweet German professor, has absolutely nothing to do with this, by the way.) Jo’s lioness-fierce, protective love for her darling Beth was every bit as moving as it has always been, as was Beth’s own deep, unabashed love for her family and her abiding shyness, which made one want to fight off anyone who would dare to distress her dear, sweet self.

Emma Watson’s Meg was so honest that I adored her to new depths, a great surprise as Meg has never been a favorite character of mine. The struggles she faced between her desire for delicate, pretty things, the oft-harsh reality of her circumstances, and a bone-deep yearning to be content and good were so poignant and real and quintessentially Alcott that I was thrilled to my core. I could practically see Polly from An Old-Fashioned Girl detaching herself from Meg’s inspired skirts to embark on her own stories and struggles along that similar path. I love Watson’s emotional range and the genuineness of feeling that she brought to Meg’s internal struggle. 

I left the movie theater glowing, though a pinprick of disappointment was there. Disappointment that I hadn’t carved out the time to take my own Marmee with me to see this film when she visited for Christmas. 

(Never fear, Marmee! I shall buy it and we shall cuddle up with kettle corn and blankets and tissues together when you visit later this year.) 

This is the first story in which I have gloried this January. It made my heart so very, very full, that time alone with this beloved tale. Not two days later, I found myself hovering over the end of another beautiful story, excited yet chagrined to turn the last few pages.  But that is a story for another day and another post. (Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait long.)

Nestling into the New Year


Two more days left in 2019. In these days of limbo between the 26th and the 1st, I am trying to embrace the quiet, take in the silence before the new year. I am trying to rest intentionally before the madness starts all over again.

I have also been trying to think of my word for 2020, a word to guide my thoughts, work, and growth, as well as my writing, for the year. So I have been considering what it is I want to accomplish in 2020. I know that I want to recreate my relationship with Winter, with its silence, bleakness, and dormancy. I want to find the ways to benefit from this season, which is necessary to the process of growth: a restful time. I want to re-learn how to rest.

Is that my word then? Rest? Rest for my body. Rest and peace for my soul. Resting in faith, contentment, and gratitude. Taking moments to step back, to embrace quiet and rest in the midst of all that is going on and all I am striving for.

Rest.

I will admit that, when this word first came to mind a few days ago, I resisted it. “Rest isn’t a goal. Isn’t an intention!” I told myself. But what else could it be when even the plants and animals bear witness to its necessity? We human begins are the ones who have bought into the idea of hustle, of constant going and work and striving. Of shoving quiet and stillness to the side, cursing them as unproductive or lazy. But how can we do our best without a chance to rest? How can I?

I need rest. And I have already begun! In the past few days, I have risen in the quiet of my still-sleeping household. I have embraced early-morning, snow-deep silence. Even today, I have sat here in my hushed living room, the only soundtrack the crackling fireplace flames, for the past two hours. It hails windily outside our little cottage, but, within, my tree twinkles sweetly and an amber candle fills the air with its warm scent, drawing my senses and spirit down into relaxation. I have been nestled on the couch with blanket, books, pen, and coffee–reading, praying, writing–while my beloved daughter takes her fun upstairs and has been miraculously quiet herself. Our house has been full of rest this morning. And, as I look back over my writings for the past weeks, I see it. Subtly hidden or staring boldly out at me. I see my desire for it, my need for it, writ plain on my soul.

Rest.

Yes. In 2020, I will re-learn what it means to rest. To seek and find it, to gift it, and to create an atmosphere of it in my small spaces of the world.

That is my intention. That is my goal.

I will rest.

The Work of the Dark


“Winter reminds us that everyone and everything needs some quiet time.” – Katrina Mayer

Tonight will be the longest night of the year. The long dark while the world makes its turn and tilt towards the light again. Winterdark. I always feel as though I want to mark this night, the beginning of Winter but, at the same time, the eventual advent of Spring and green and warmth. I have no Yule log, my greenery isn’t real. How can I mark the beginning of Winterdark? Moreover, some might ask, why would I want to?

I want to because there is work to be done in the dark, in the cold, and in the barrenness that Winter brings. I have been reading a great deal about the work of Winter. The need for the silence, the stillness, and the bleakness of the season. As a woman raised in perpetual light (ie, the Caribbean) for the first half of my life, this weighs heaviest on me about Winter of all its traits: the darkness. Rising in the dark, driving to work in the dark, being inside during whatever wan light comes during the day, and then, if I stay too late, driving home in the darkness once again. It is often very hard to think of that darkness, that silence, that bleakness as necessary, never mind thinking of it as good. But it is good. 

Just like the trees, the grass, and other plants, we need a pause in life. Growth cannot be continuous; rest is needed. Winterdark is a time for slowing, for pausing, for quieting down. Life doesn’t stop, of course, no. Not at all, but the long dark can remind us of our need for slowness, for catching our breath, and letting our pulse relax for a bit. I am not the best at slowing, pausing, and resting. The past few weeks have been a flurry of must-do’s in order to finish the school semester and all that comes with it before I left the building yesterday. And then there was the Christmas and birthday prep and officially moving my daughter into her new room upstairs. No…I don’t do “slowing down” very well. But I want to.

This Winter, I want to re-learn how to rest and how to embrace the slow and the quiet. I want to learn the work of Winter, the work of the dark, and the restorative properties of dormancy. I want to re-learn quiet. I want to re-learn care. I want to re-learn peace. Beginning tonight with Winterdark, I want to reclaim this season.

Tonight, after the bustle of the day, I will sit, bundled and warm, with husband, mother, and daughter. Then, later, with book and journal and pen. I will sit in the glow of my Christmas tree when the house is finally calm and quiet. I will reclaim and embrace silence and stillness, the work of Winter and the long dark as they begin.

Will you join me?


Courage to Face the Holidays


As November draws to a close, I can feel my anxiety ramping up with the approach of the Christmas Season proper. Much to do and the list grows ever longer and time ever shorter. I have three weeks left before school closes for Christmas break, along with all the work comes with them. I have my daughter’s birthday to plan, not to mention our work on finishing her new big girl area upstairs. Then there is decorating the house for the holidays, wrapping gifts, and managing the actual day of Christmas. I can feel myself getting tired and achy with just the thought of it all.

As I hid away upstairs with the most recent edition of Bella Grace on Thanksgiving evening, I read about “sacred graces”, taking time to notice those little beautiful things and to hold space for them in my life. I will, uncheerfully, admit that I do not do this. I know I did at one point, though. I marveled over the sweetness of an apple. I would run back inside to grab my camera to snap a picture of the mist lying silvery and soft in my backyard. I haven’t done this in a long, long time. I find that busyness has stolen and does indeed steal my wonder most of the time. I am tired of that.

I desperately do not want this Christmas to pass by with only busyness to mark it. I hate coming down to Christmas Eve–when we are home from church and I finally stop moving–and feeling as though I have nothing of note or meaning throughout the entirety of the Season. I miss Christmases of viewing beautiful lights and displays (there was such magic in that for me as a child), going to concerts/shows, enjoying well-beloved movies or specials on television (Mom and I planned days in advance not to be busy on those particular nights), journaling by the lights of the Christmas tree. I feel as though, every year recently, I end up apologizing to my husband. Apologizing that our Christmas hasn’t been more special, that we haven’t donated more of our time, made more memories, taught our daughter more about generosity and the meaning of Christmas. I really enjoy the Christmas Season, and its fast approach scares me witless.

          Right now, I feel like it is going to take an inordinate amount of courage to face the Holidays this year: to face the demands but to also seek out the graces, the sacred spaces. I do not want to spend the next four weeks being irritable, snappish, and unpleasant to be around.  I do want to find and savor those special, sacred moments with my dear ones.

Watching my husband lift our daughter up to put the star on the tree, as he has every year since she was born.

Looking at the intricate designs of the ice on the windows in the wan light of morning.

Turning on the Christmas tree lights as I come out into the living room in the morning.

The profound quiet that fills the world as snow falls.

Tucking cards and gifts into the mail for friends and dear ones.

The Holidays will take courage. They are often not easy, I know, for one or another of a myriad of reasons. I want to breathe in the sunlight spilled from Aslan’s mane, hold fast, and step forward. One day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time. One kindness at a time. One gentle word at a time. The Holidays will take courage, from you and from me, but we can do this. Let’s have courage for the next step, dear ones. Courage for the next right thing.

I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath
This next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing

“The Next Right Thing” – Frozen II

Red Like Courage


Today, I joined 15,000 other teachers, administrators, counselors, community members, and students who flooded through downtown Indianapolis to fill the grounds of the statehouse. With friends, coworkers, and my dearest love by my side (himself a teacher of thirteen years), I donned my red, cheered, and marched to advocate for better conditions for public education, educators, and, most of all, students. For the 150 students that currently sit in my classroom day in and day out, the one young student who lives in my home and whom I call ‘daughter’, and all the other students who will pass through my classroom and those of other teachers over the years.

I know the narratives that are out there. I know what people often think of teachers. I know what is “expected” of us. I know what I do day in and day out. I know what I pour out and what I give. I know the prayers that I say over my classroom every morning. I know the students I gather into my arms when they come running. I know the hearts I am trying to help soften that souls I am trying to help grow. I know my standards; I know what I am supposed to teach. I also know what I have to teach, what my soul demands and what my vocation–what love–compels me to teach.

So, today I gathered, I showed my face, I used my teacher voice. I SHOWED UP. It was scary; it was encouraging; it was amazing; it was a first; and, if things do not improve, it will not be a last for me. I AM SO HERE FOR THIS! #redfored #youmademeusemyteachervoice #forourstudents

The Courage to Look Backward


There is an avid debate over whether the Memories feature was a good or bad idea on Facebook’s part. I, however, have found it to be at least useful in one particular case. As I have been looking through them each day lately, I have once again seen–surprisingly plainly–just how God has been preparing me for a reflective shift in my life. As you know, Dear Reader, for this month of November, my writing and reflections are centering on courage. It’s striking to see just how God has been brick-laying in advance.

Inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s daily practice on Twitter, I post daily good-mornings and good-nights on my personal FB page (and, sometimes, on my blog page), in an attempt and the hope of of encouraging my dear ones. Looking back through those previous posts, I am seeing more and more how they, too, were focusing on courage. A full year ago! Look at You, God. Way to prep!

It takes courage not only to look forward but also to look backward, to look at the past and see just how we have gotten to this point in our lives. Yes, sometimes, looking backward is hard or painful. Sometimes it can make us wince to see where we were then or to re-experience what we were going through, even when a year removed from the actual experience of it. For me, it is a comfort and a relief to see this evidence of preparation, these next places being made ready for me…when I have the courage to look forward again.