Holding the Days with Gentleness

2016 is almost over and what a year it’s been. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it now that I sit and think about it but I will try to put word to thought.

This year, my watchword was grace—to give grace as well as to recognize it when it is given me and to also give it to myself. I have spent this year trying to be mindful of opportunities to show grace, as well as to accept it when I receive it. I also worked to be mindful of opportunities to study and explore grace and its facets. This year, I spent my NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in November centering my writings on grace. I explored what I knew, what I have experienced, though, and considered, and even found new levels of thought on what it means to give grace, experience it, choose it, and even to be graceless. It was, honestly, one of the best writing experiences of my life and it renewed a desire in me to write, and I am determined to write as often and as much as possible in the coming year.

This year, I went back to teaching full time. It was a quick decision after many, many applications, interviews, and then coming to terms with being home with Elizabeth for a final year. I got a call, interviewed, and made a decision all in two to three days. I had to sacrifice some things, such as seeing my baby off on her first day of daycare/preschool, but I knew that it was the right decision for my family. Has it been easy, such a quick and large life transition? No, not really, and it has taken me almost the entire semester to feel as though I have found my feet or that I belong in teaching again (still not entirely sure on the latter but for now, functional will do). I am still struggling a bit to find a life balance again—to find the correct levels in time for daughter, husband, my self-care, and my writing–but I have learned and am learning a great deal from the teachers and students I am working with now. At the same time, my girl is enjoying school and missing her friends now that we are at the tail end of Christmas vacation. She is doing wonderfully, growing quickly, learning so very much, and I am thankful beyond measure for that.

My husband has just completed a leadership development program, which I am buttons-bursting proud of him for sticking with. I know that it was a testing for him and I am ever so proud of his perseverance and determination to get everything out of it that he could. He works hard each and every day and gives all he can as a teacher and a pastor and I am constantly awed and inspired by him. This year, we celebrated ten years of marriage surrounded by friends and full of laughter and good food. It was the best method by which to celebrate (well, that and the new Star Trek film) and I am so glad that we were able to do so. I love you, darling, today and every day and even beyond that.

As 2016 ends, I have been thinking and praying about a watchword, a word of intention for the coming year. This year’s word was grace and the year before was intentioned by courage and kindness. So far, the word that has come to me is gentleness. What does it mean to be gentle? To act and react, listen, speak, and be with gentleness?

With all the fear, the worry, the anger, the darkness, what does it mean for me to be gentle? How can I be gentle with the hearts that are afraid and hurting? How can I be gentle with those who do not understand or don’t want to?

How can I be gentle with my dear ones? Gentle with their feelings, their thoughts, with honesty, in my reactions and discipline as we raise our daughter, with my loved ones’ precious hearts and souls?

How can I be gentle in my job, with my students and coworkers, with their humanity that may break out in difficult ways sometimes, much like my own?

How can I be gentle in my faith, in speaking love and kindness and giving grace to others? In following the example of the God I claim to believe in and the Jesus I claim to follow?

How can I show gentleness in my craft, in what I write and how I post on social media, the corners that I build in the world around me, both real and online? How can I be gentle and bold and courageous at the same time?

I want to hold what people give me, what they trust me with, gingerly and carefully. I want to be gentle with souls, with words, with trust, with hearts and feelings. I want to do this for others because I know how much I want it for me. I want people to be gentle with me, with my thoughts, feelings, words, hopes, dreams, heart, and soul. Just as I know how much I need grace and so I try to give it, so it goes with gentleness. I know how much I desire it; why should others not be the same? Why should I not try to give the reactions that I would want to receive?

Everyone is going through or has gone through something; everyone could use some gentleness in a world so rough and tumble. This year may be hard, this year may be scary, but I will not let that stop me. I will not let it harden me either. I will not let it take my softness away but, if anything, I will let it increase, let it seep into my touch, fill my words, prompt me to listen more than I speak. May this coming year find me holding others with gentleness and radical love, continuing to act in grace, having courage, and being kind.

Farewell, 2016.

Welcome, 2017. I call you blessed and look forward to what we have to learn together.



On Down the Road (or The Road Goes Ever On and On…)

Fourteen years ago this month, I packed up my life and headed off to college at the tender age of seventeen. I was excited. I was ready! I had visited the campus over the summer and had instantly felt at home and now I was here on a permanent basis (except summers) for the next four years. I was so ready! Ready for a new environment, new challenges, new friends, new life.  As the fall progressed, I was met with an entirely different style of learning than I had grown up with, challenges in the literature that I was reading, and the task of creating a whole new life and existence for myself.

I fell in love with the English department at my university, spending what free time I could spare between classes, homework, activities, and friends in the little lobby or in the office of my favorite professor, seeking his sage wisdom on a myriad of subjects or just having wonderful discussions. Dr. Larry Caldwell encouraged my discovery of Oscar Wilde and my love of Tolkien, we spoke in Elvish, sang in Rohirric, and honestly just enjoyed each other’s company. He was my Maiar in tweed and I still think he is just a wonderful person altogether.

I also embarked on the journey of making friends with complete strangers. During freshman Welcome Week ice breaker activities, we were told to find someone we didn’t know and hug them. I turned and hugged a young woman named Sarah, whom we would come to call Kietzie, who would become part of my integral circle of friends, composed mainly of a group of girls also in the class of 2004. We soon became known as the Freshman Gaggle or Catastrophe, depending on who you asked. Several of us were education majors, some Biblical Studies, and other areas of service, so we would see each other in class, in between, at meals, or just pop over to say hi and hang out. I loved that! Our doors and hearts were always open to each other in my large circle of friends, a hospitality that I have never forgotten and, I hope, learned from. There spontaneous trips to the movies, midnight shows to see Lord of the Rings before we all parted for Christmas break, snowfall ultimate frisbee, silly string pranks, shooting action movies around campus, and rewritten Christmas Carols.

In Student Christian Fellowship, I found a home for my faith and for my heart.  The servant family there took me in to their hearts and arms and became some of my dearest friends. The time that I spent on Focus Planning Committee was some of the best of my life, growing and laughing and serving with my friends. We spent Mondays planning and early evenings on Fridays setting up for services and then eating dinner together before everything got started. These people became my mentors, companions, my fellowship. And I have never forgotten them. Several of them and I are still in pretty frequent touch and see each other every few years. Life has taken us on our own paths, of course, but that doesn’t mean that we forget.

There are moments on the campus that were wholly unto myself. Like napping on the benches on the circle in between classes in the middle of the day (the bells would ring and wake me up in time, PLUS, I got to see Trent Tormehlon). Sitting on a blanket in the sunshine on the lawn behind Morton and Brentano, weaving a crown out of silk flowers and green pipe cleaner for the end-of-year costume party. Hurrying through campus on the first day of finals, the fog still on the flagstones and grass, dropping off bundles off cookies, still warm from baking, here and there for professors, friends, ministers, and mentors. Heading outside during the first snowfall my freshman year and just walking in the quiet night. Buying flowers to be delivered in secret on Valentine’s Day, sneaking into dorms to leave presents, or hurrying to the campus mail box that I knew was picked up first in the morning so I could send out notes of encouragement, cards, funny letters or what have you. These were moments I didn’t often talk about (though I’m sure I did once or twice) but they were precious to me and have stuck with me through everything. I smile just thinking about them.

Those four years in Evansville were some of the best of my life – the learning, the growth, the adventures, the challenges, the joys. I remember those years fondly and enjoy going back to U-of-E whenever I can. I can only pray that, when my daughter is grown and should she choose to attend college, that she will have as wonderful an experience as I did.


Back in 2004. Some of my awesome friends, who are still very awesome today! ^_^

A Notion of Fear

Cross-posted from my “academic” blog – The Mind’s Vale

studying-watercolor1The day after tomorrow, my summer courses begin. It has been six years since I have undertaken graduate coursework, and I find myself becoming very nervous. I am in a completely different situation now. When I was in college and graduate school, I could devote my full attention to my studies, without work or anything else that necessarily required my attention. I had my hobbies, friendships, and a romantic relationship, of course, but those were choices. Now I am a wife and a mother and those are high demands on my time, whether I like it or not. School must come second, naturally, but it must also be completed. I have five weeks in these two courses and all the expectations that come with graduate work, which will – most likely – include two 20-page papers at the end of this road. Not to mention that those papers will come due right when I am supposed to leave for my anniversary trip with my husband; so, naturally, I will need to finish them early.

So, altogether, this means that I will have to be focused and hardcore AND dependent on others to help me. That last one is not a trait with which I often like to truck. I am very independent and like to do things myself. However, I KNOW that I cannot amuse a toddler AND pay attention to a lecture on video or read dry academic writing and have it sink in to my brain  and memory satisfactorily. At least, not without losing my sanity. So, for five weeks, I will have to be dependent on my husband, my in-laws, and maybe even my friends to help me carve out the necessary time to myself to get my classes done and even to get ahead on my work. To those wonderful people, I say thank you in advance for your help.

I’d also ask ,though, that you keep me accountable with my studies. This is not an option; it is something that must be done, that I will be graded on, and I want to, if anything, push my GPA ever higher. So it will require attention, focus, and hard work on my part. This will not be easy, I am very nervous about being able to do it well, but I will do it.