Finding My Glorious and Beauty Again


I turned thirty-four on Monday, and I found my beauty again yesterday morning. I stood before the mirror in the bathroom, going through my morning routine before work. Done with brushing my teeth and washing my face, on a whim, I then divested myself of every stitch of clothing before pulling down my hair to comb it out for the morning. As I did, I found something. A few somethings.

I found a sultry tilt to my head as I combed through my mahogany hair, now long again.

I found the seductive tumble and fall of my hair over my shoulders, falling  over the left side of my face like Jessica Rabbit’s famous red tresses.

I found the curve from my waist to my hip, not as sharp or hour-glassy as it used to be but still there.

I found the line of my jaw still strong, though I had sworn it was disappearing, much to my chagrin.

I was plainly surprised to find these things, these parts of me–to find me— beautiful, to think myself glorious after months of feeling utterly to the contrary. I was very surprised.

I saw my own beauty.

I found my glorious.

And I smiled at me.

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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.

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Do Not Wish Yourself Away


It’s amazing when you think about it. There are things in your life that you sometimes think you would wish away if you could. Memories you don’t want or that are painful, maybe experiences that are agonizing. But then, at the same time, you can’t wish them away. Or, rather, you might not really want to if you sat down and thought long and hard about it. While those memories may be hard or heartbreaking, or that experience or those people utterly awful, if you didn’t have those experiences or didn’t meet, be with, or experience those people, wrangle with those people, then I would posit that there are other things that might not have come about. There are people you wouldn’t have met, friendships or relationships you wouldn’t have, and beautiful experiences you perhaps would not have had if you hadn’t met these people or gone through what you had with those them, those contacts and happenings.

It’s what really what stops me a lot of the time from saying, “Oh, I wish this or that had never happened.” Because the truth is: if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be the woman I am now. Maybe I would be similar but definitely not the same. As much as or even more so than that, though, I wouldn’t have what I have now. I wouldn’t have the friends and the relationships that I have and hold dear. I wouldn’t have a lot of the beauty in my life, a lot of the challenging, sharpening things in my life, that I do now if it weren’t for these experiences. I know that I wouldn’t have the capacity for the important things that I have gained from them: compassion and empathy and mercy and grace, for example.

It is true that you can walk away from people in your life if that situation has become emotionally unhealthy for you or for them, but you can’t erase them. Now, there are absolutely horrific things that people have experienced–terrible, soul-rending things that I do wish I could erase. I do wish I could eradicate it from their precious soul’s memory, give them something wholesome and loving and up-building in its place, and erase the damage. That is really what I wish I could do: erase the damage. But I would never erase, or want to erase, the person.

In the latest film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (of Chronicles of Narnia fame), Lucy chooses to speak a spell that would make her as beautiful as (though she didn’t realize it would actually  turn her into) her sister Susan, whom she agreed was the more beautiful of the two of them. When she was given a glimpse of what would come of such a rash spell-speaking (namely, a world where Lucy Pevensie didn’t exist), Aslan reproved her in his gentle, breaking-open way.

Aslan: What have you done, child?
Lucy Pevensie: I don’t know. That was awful.
Aslan: But you chose it, Lucy.
Lucy Pevensie: I didn’t mean to choose all of that. I just wanted to be beautiful like Susan. That’s all.
Aslan: You wished yourself away, and with that, much more. Your brothers and sister wouldn’t know Narnia without you, Lucy. You discovered it first, remember?
Lucy Pevensie: I’m so sorry.
Aslan: You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.

I don’t mean it to sound trite or to trivialize anything, I really don’t, but it’s the truth, the real, unmarred truth in that everything we do ripples. Everything we experience ripples and builds on itself and it builds on other things. It is rather amazing, honestly…and scary, really so, because as much as I or you would like to pull an Eternal Sunshine, if you did, what would be lost would be so much than just those memories and just those experiences. You could very well lose you, the person who is being built and strengthened, sharpened and refined on the foundation of those ruins. And what a great loss that would truly be! Don’t wish yourself away, dear one. Live and learn and grow. With the necessary time and care and imperfect progress, perhaps you will be able someday to put regret in a box and bury it beneath the foundations of who are you are becoming. I will endeavor to do so, too, rather than let it become a wrecking ball that tears down all we have built.
Don’t wish yourself away. You are needed. You are significant. You matter. What you have been through matters. Let your people hear your voice, let us see you feel, be, and live life. What’s more, let us see who you are and who you are becoming and let us love you in it. It’s breathtaking to watch.

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Memories That Follow


From my personal journals, nine years ago today:

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Ben called me this morning at 7:40 and told me that I needed to see the sunrise today. So I went downstairs to the computer lab and looked out the eastern windows there. It was simply gorgeous! All shades of fire and twilight – reds, oranges, purples, and pinks. ‘Twas a beautiful thing to share with Ben. I loved it!

The Right Reason to Write…Or Not?


My journals since 2000, minus the most recent one.

One of the most interesting things that I will bequeath to Elizabeth (and other children we might have, if we decide to) is my stack of journals. I have ever journal that I have kept since entering college in 2000. I had one when I was a kid but destroyed for reasons I can no longer remember. I love writing here but it will never replace a paper journal. Which leads me to other thoughts.

Why do I need this? Why do I have the need, the compulsion to physically write down my thoughts?

I like writing. I like seeing the words flow out of my pen. Sometimes I don’t know my own thoughts until they are voice and, at the same time, I’m not comfortable voicing them to another living soul. My journals are the reliquaries for my emotions, for my thoughts, my failures, my joys, my despairs, my memories.

I write things down so I can remember them, remember that feeling in that moment for that reason. I wrote down the progression from theatre goer to script contributor for the American College Theatre Festival back in 2001 (though it’s not nearly as glamorous as it seems) because I wanted to remember every step. Every important date of mine and Ben’s beginning relationship is written down and my students were stunned to see that I could recite them all, which even on which date (first date, first kiss, officially a couple, engagement). I wrote down the date I first felt my daughter kick in the wee hours of the morning, the date that we found out that we were indeed going to have an Elizabeth and not a Jeremiah. I write these things down because they are important to me and so that, in my old age and inevitable senility, I can read back and, even if I don’t remember it, I can relive the warmth of it all just a little bit.

I write to hide. Like a friend wrote for his character not too long ago, “I know we’re supposed to feel, but feelings and actions are two different things…” he says. “Isn’t it better, sometimes, with some emotions, to stuff them away til later? Not forever… just til later?” I write to stuff those feelings and thoughts away so I can put on a happy face to the world or least one that doesn’t provoke questions and uncomfortable confrontation. (Oh, but I hate confrontation.) My journal holds those feelings, locked away from anyone else’s eyes. I’m a private person anyway and, though I am way past the journal-with-a-lock days, it is rare to never that I will offer you a peek at my journal. I always keep it near me and my mom was very good about reminding me to take it with me when I left the TV room and put it away. In my journals, My journal serves no other purpose than to keep my secrets and those parts of me that I wish to remain secret and private, ie, the perfect place to hide. Then, with the release valve hit, I can face the world with at least some bit of a lighter heart, maybe.

I write to know myself. Like I said, I sometimes don’t even know my own mind until I start writing it out. Sometimes I don’t like what I am thinking but it’s still does me good to find out just what that is.  And giving myself the space to admit that I don’t like the way I am thinking or feeling is helpful; there’s no one there to contradict me and I am able to be brutally honest with myself about myself.  I may not always be able to be so with people but my journal allows me a place to at least try to be honest about myself and learn about myself.

I’m not saying that there is feasibly no other way that I could gain a depth to myself without my journals but, for me, I think that this has been one of the best ways over the past 13 years. One that I don’t think I’m going to give up any time soon.