A Year in Color


A friend asked me, “What color is each month?” So I replied:

January is pale, not quite white. Maybe a pale grey. 

February is an icy, snowy blue. It freezes your bones and chatters your teeth. 

March is a budding, washy green. 

April is the bright pink of first tulips and the purple of hyacinths. 

May is yellow, sunshine-bright. 

June is a hazy, feathery blue, with the warmth of summer and the smoke of barbecues setting in. 

July is fluffy color, rosy pink like cotton candy or golden like elephant ears. 

August starts to become bronzey, like late summer heat. 

September is all primary colors with school in full swing. 

October is gold and burnished. 

November is pumpkin orange and the mahogany of a cornucopia. 

December is a deep berry red and warm evergreen glow, reminding us that nature’s springtime glory needs sleep but will be back. Winter will bring its own beauty, and Spring will come again. 

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The Joy of Evening


Friday night, as my little family left Target and we loaded up the car with our after-dinner shopping, I admittedly dragged my feet a bit as I returned to the cart to its corral. It had been a long while since I had experienced evening, and I realized that I had forgotten how beautiful it is…and how much I love it. That magical time between day and night. Friday was now just a thin golden line along the horizon. The air and dome of the sky above was a heavy blue that was quickly darkening with waning daylight. Lamps in the parking lot were coming on, the shadows around them rising and deepening, and the air cooling from the day’s heat. The evening felt rather the refreshed sigh you give when entering an air conditioned room from the summery outside.

I’ve missed evenings.

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You Can Be Who You Are, Not Who You Were.


This week,  I began reading Jen Hatmaker’s new book Of Mess and Moxie and, from the first chapter, she has my heart by the ear.  In the first chapter, entitled “Unbranded”, Jen asserts that we don’t have to be who we first were. In other words, no matter what we have experienced or gone through, triumphed or failed at, we are not stuck.

I was in therapy once and by once I mean for a few months. It was during my second year of my teaching career and the job was rough, let me tell ya. Therapy did me good, I think. It probably would have done me more good had I stayed with that therapist longer. But I did offer some clarity on a few issues that I was dealing with. I also have numerous friends who have been through or are currently in the process of therapy or counseling. I have talked friends into getting counseling. I have been a de facto counselor myself (if you can call it that when one is in high school). I know that there are depths of ache and pain and trauma that friends and dear ones have experience that I will never fully understand. I also know that there are depths to my own self that I am still (constantly) learning, barriers that can be harmful to cross, and depths of my heart that are scary to explore.

I’m saying all of that to say, especially to you dear ones who are in the midst of this experience right now–in the midst of getting help, in the midst of taking those small steps every day towards healing and better–it’s okay. It’s okay to acknowledge that you need help. It’s okay to get help. It’s okay to see your damaged parts. It’s okay to start working to heal and repair them It’s okay to be working toward being someone different than you were. That season that you were in, those experiences you had, you don’t have to be that person anymore.

That early version of yourself, that season you were in, even the phase you are currently experiencing–it is all good and purposeful or at least useful and created a fuller, nuanced you and contributed to your life’s meaning, but you are not stuck in a category just because you were once branded that way. Just because something was does not mean it will always be. (Hatmaker, Of Mess and Moxie, 4)

Yes, some of the things you have experience in life may have been horrible, traumatizing, soul-rendingly painful, or even top-of-the-mountain triumphant (so-much-so that you wonder how you’ll ever live up to it from here on out). But they do not define you, dear one. You are not stuck in their category, their branding doesn’t own you. You may have been a victim; now you can become an advocate. Maybe you excelled; perhaps, in time, you’ll be the encourager. Where you were traumatized, you can be come triumphant (even if it’s the smallest victory over your pain).

You do not have to be who you were.

There is no shame in the work you are doing. The work to heal, get better, discover you again. The work you are doing is good work. I would even dare say that the work you are doing is holy work. The work of the mind, heart, and soul, to build a foundation on solid rock and the next chapter of your life atop it. You are doing good, dear one. I can guarantee you that.

You are doing good. Keep going. Keep doing. Give yourself grace as you do the work, too. The smallest step forward is still a step forward. The smallest victory is still a victory. Hold fast. Have courage. Breathe. Step forward. You can do this. And we’ve got you.

 

**Many thanks to Jen Hatmaker and her beautiful, heart-filled writing. You can pick up her newest book, Of Mess and Moxie, from thomasnelson.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or wherever you buy your books.**

Becoming One of Those Secrets


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How often do we laud someone for what they do rather than who they are? Why do we call someone “great” because of their success, their accomplishments in business, their accolades, rather than the qualities that they exhibit throughout their lives? Why do we ooh and ahh and admonish people that they “just don’t know how beautiful they are”? Why do we not encourage them, “Do you know just how rare your level of empathy and kindness is? Keep that stuff up!”   When I was growing up, I heard what people said, even when I pretended not to. I was lauded for being a good Christian girl who listened to her parents, attended and participated at church, excelled in my school work, etc. Often, though, I questioned whether or not people would actually like me if they really knew me. Was who I was as important or as good as what I did? What if I no longer did all of those things, for one reason or another? Would I no longer be loved, no longer be considered a worthy of a good reputation?

How did you get so deeply conditioned as to not recognize our own God-given worth, the good of our actions, that we doubt the sincerity of others when they do? Why do we answer “I’m glad you think so” (or “I’m glad you think so”) when we are called wonderful, kind, compassionate, etc.? Yet we are trained to say a demure”thank you” when our looks, the attractiveness score we were born with and have grown into, is complimented? We don’t want to appear rude or self-centered, after all, do we?

How can we change this? How can we open up and share the amazingness of these people (and we are included in those people) who really are so epically marvelous, gentle, generous, courageous in love, selfless in action, and tireless in caring? What can we do to let these awe-inspiring secrets know that they are just that: awe-inspiring? How can we laud who they are?

I believe that one of the ways we can manage this is with specific thank-yous. Not just “thank you for being awesome”, but “thank you for sharing that encouragement with me; it was just what I needed in that moment”. Thank them for reaching out, for holding your soul and heart gently when you were having a rough spell. Thank them for the meal they sent over when you grandmother died. Thank them for the post that turned your tears into laughter. Thank them for the thought behind their actions. Thank them for their generosity in giving that surprise gift. Thank them for their courage when you know that it took a goodly amount of it for them to stand up and disagree with those around them.

As we progress through our generation and rear the next, I think that we might be able to agree that we want ourselves and our children to be known for our character, not merely our accomplishments. We want the actions we take that stem from character integrity and a desire to better the lives and the world around us to be a guiding force. We are more than our successes or failures, our triumphs or losses. We are who we are and, if we decide it, who we are can be beautiful. No, not every secret needs to be told, needs to be outed. But can we learn–and then teach–what it is to be one of those gentle-holding, best-kept secrets? To be the best who we can be, as well as acknowledging those who are doing the same. Because the world could definitely use more secrets of that type. I’m going to keep working at it; you are not alone in this endeavor, dear one.

School Year’s End: Being Gentle with Goodbyes


The school year is almost over. There are three full days of school left after this one, our finals end tomorrow, and grades are due before I leave the building. I am ready for this school year to be done. I am ready to walk out those doors and not have to come back for at least a few weeks (I do have curriculum to write this summer, after all). I am ready to have my time be mostly my own again for a little while (I say mostly because my pre-K girl will be in daycare three days a week during the summer).

I am ready.

But, in the midst of all this readiness, I found a soft thought nudging my mind:

Say goodbye gently.

These junior high students have comprised the majority of my life, concern, and time for the past nine months, and now it is time to say goodbye. Next year, they will be freshmen. I will not see them every day, will not hear their laughs ripple through the halls, hear their franticly-rapid conversations in between periods, call at them to get to class, instruct them on the finer points of grammar, writing, or literary interpretation, or remind them of what it means to “have courage and be kind”.

Underpinning these thoughts, all that’s going through my head is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “One Last Time” from Hamilton: An American Musical, where George Washington admonishes Alexander Hamilton, despite protest, to help him say goodbye properly to the fledgling American people and to teach the latter how to move on to new leadership. I am feeling the urge and leading to say goodbye to my students gently, to teach them how to say goodbye. 

To this end, I have had them writing letters to their favorite elementary and middle school teachers, to give commendation, encouragement, and thanks to those who have worked so hard to prepare them for the world that they will enter in the fall. My pile has been rather small this year compared to years passed but, honestly, though my pride might twinge a little, I’m mostly okay with it. Other teachers need to know how much they are appreciated by their students; it’s vital for a teacher’s soul, I feel.

To this end, I will do my utmost not to shoo them out of my room when all is said and done but to take my time and say goodbye to as many of them personally as I can, shake hands and even give hugs if they like. I will endeavor to say goodbye gently as my students move from one world to another, from the familiar to the different and, probably, somewhat scary. I want to send them off with as much courage and kindness as I can.

HAMILTON:
Mr. President, they will say you’re weak

WASHINGTON:
No, they will see we’re strong

HAMILTON:
Your position is so unique

WASHINGTON:
So I’ll use it to move them along

HAMILTON:
Why do you have to say goodbye?

WASHINGTON:
If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on.
It outlives me when I’m gone.

Don’t forget, my dear scholars:

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Art and lettering by @joshuaphillips_ (Instagram)

Featured image by: @katchulaa (Instagram)

Yes, Today is for You. (A Gentle Happy Mother’s Day)


It’s Mother’s Day. Yes, it’s for you, too.

It’s for those whose children who will bring you breakfast in bed.

It’s for those whose babies wake up screaming or whimpering in pain in their hospital bed.

It’s for those whose babies wake up screaming or whimpering in pain in their hospital bed.
It’s for those who are just getting off third shift to kiss your kiddos good morning.

It’s for those who are just getting off third shift to kiss your kiddos good morning.
It’s for those who will lay flowers at a headstone with dates all too close together.

It’s for those who will lay flowers at a headstone with dates all too close together.
It’s for those whose arms were so close to being full and whose tender hearts are slow to healing.

It’s for those whose arms were so close to being full and whose tender hearts are slow to healing.
It’s for those whose arms are still empty and whose full hearts ache.

It’s for those whose arms are still empty and whose full hearts ache.

It’s for those with no children of their own but who spend their days caring for and loving on those others.

It’s for those who take little ones not of their own blood into their homes and hearts. Yes, they are yours.

You are mothers, all of you. Today and every day, I salute you.

For those who have loved and mothered me throughout my life and who now love on and mother my child while I am at work, today and every day, I thank you.

For those who are sharply missing your mother, today and every day, I love you.

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The Depth of “You’re Welcome”


Often when people say “thank you” to me, I respond with, “No worries” or “My pleasure”. It’s a particular thing when I say “you’re welcome”. When I say “you’re welcome”, I mean exactly that. I mean:
You are welcome in my space.
You are welcome to my time.
You are welcome in my thoughts.
You are welcome in my world.
You are welcome to my interest.
You are welcome in my arms.
You are welcome in my heart.
You are welcome to speak truth.
You are welcome to be you.
You are welcome to have good days.
You are welcome to have bad days.
You are welcome to be okay.
You are welcome not to be okay.
You are welcome in your skin.
Just as you are.
You are welcome.
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