Gentleness in the Chaos


The end of the fall semester is fast-approaching (much faster than expected in some ways). Everyone knows what this is like. Everyone knows what the stress and weariness and just general chaos are like. Vacation is drawing nearer but so, too, is the academic gauntlet that must be run in order to reach it. Tests must be studied for (or, in some cases, crammed for the night before), projects must be finished, presentations given, and papers written. The end of an academic semester is hardly the gentlest of times for either teacher or student, speaking as one of said teachers.

As we head into this hectic time, gentleness is paramount and oh so necessary. Gentleness with ourselves as well as with others. You are allowed to be gentle with yourself. (yes, I’m saying this to myself as much as to you, dear one). You are allowed to let yourself get sleep. You are allowed to feed and water yourself liberally. Whether it is end-of-semester or Christmas prep, you are absolutely allowed to keep yourself from running yourself into the ground over the next few weeks.

As the days wend closer to those dreaded final exams, I can see the tension mounting in my students–in the way they hold themselves, in their behavior, in their speech–and I have to be on my guard, reminding myself of the necessity of gentleness. I have a responsibility to my students: to make sure that they are knowledgeable and prepared for the end of the semester and the final exam that awaits them. I want them to be confident in their knowledge, confident enough to hopefully offset any nervousness. However, I know that such a thing is unlikely to happen; nervousness is always part of the equation, even for the most seasoned student. But that unlikelihood will not stop me. Chaotic times need gentleness and kindness even more. In the midst of all the studying and the prep, I will do my best to encourage my students, to remind them that they can do this, that they can succeed.

You can do this, people. Time to HERO UP!

finals-are-here-and-so-are-the-memes-15-photos-26

Advertisements

A Long Way From Home, Day 1


Yesterday was a long day: early morning traveling, frantic connection in our first stop, keeping up with my girl and keeping her close in the airports, and getting everyone and everything where it needed to go. Then, once we were established and fed, I set about unpacking while the hubby went to sleep and my girl played with Grandma. I didn’t find my rest until late last night when I opted to go to sleep rather than watch some late-night Netflix.

Today is Sunday, the day to see and be seen by the most people at any one time. To be covered in the flowery perfumes of the church ladies I’ve known all my life, deposited by enthusiastic hugs and Oh-my-sweet-good-to-see-you’s. Church is the place for us to be seen and shown off and delighted in by my parents. The educated, successfully-married daughter, the devoted, intelligent son-in-law, and the bright, bouncy, pretty granddaughter. I hope we do in fact make them as proud as everyone says we do. Admittedly, coming home and going to church can feel very awkward for me. I feel like everyone’s looking at me and weighing me against my former self. I know that this is likely merely my (incorrect) perception but it’s a difficult thought at times because there’s no way of divest anyone of a wrongful notion in two hours.

The more I come back, the more I realize how much where I live has actually become home now, rather than this place where I spent the first seventeen years of my life. I will always be a visitor here now, or at least that is how I feel. The school I went to, while the structures are still there, feels massively changed. The pastors are once again those from my childhood, but the staff of the church and the school is composed of both familiar and strange names, though mostly strange, death, illness, and circumstance having taken or moved on many of the people who were flagstones of those formative years. The church building that I grew up in is simultaneously the same and entirely different. The building is brand new, only 10 or 11 years old, a completely different edifice from the one I knew.  So this church really isn’t home anymore. I’m even too afraid to even touch the (grande) piano that sits on the platform. It’s not the piano on which I learned my scales or triumphed in my senior recital. It has never known my touch and so the entire building often feels alien and fragile to me.

My bedroom in my parents’ house is no longer my room. My bed is not my bed, but–quick sidenote–it is a marvelous bed! Beautiful dark-wood four-poster frame, elevated just enough that I actually have to climb into bed. A queen mattress to our full at home, I can also safely sprawl out in it and yet not disturb the hubby with my limbs all akimbo. Glorious! I may never own a King-sized bed but this is definitely the next best thing. End sidenote.

I love my family, and I am very glad that I have the opportunity and privilege to see them as often as I do. At one point this afternoon, there were two of my mother’s sisters in the house and one of her brothers on the phone, which we were passing around (as he lives up Lousiana-way). My girl was in raptures over the hand-me-down toys and sundries that one of her great aunts had brought her and I informed my uncle that he had best not get rid of his partner or kid about it since the family agrees that we like her better than we do him.

So today was a touch pensive but enjoyable, things to think about and others to rejoice in. Except for the part where my daughter was up at five-thirty and is only now going to bed at nine with nary a nap between. It’s enough to make a mother follow suit.

4817aaac7e354cbc121b168b7bac76ef--sunday-morning-quotes-younique

Gently Returning to the World (Gen Con 2017 sum-up)


“Let me explain! No, is too much. Let me sum up!” — Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

It’s Monday evening and I just finished one of my favorite weekends of the year: Gen Con! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend all four days of the convention because school and teaching have already begun, but the hubby and I made the most we could out of Saturday and Sunday.

Friday evening and night, I ate, indulged, enjoyed, and laughed. We had dinner with a friend at one of my favorite restaurants, shared delicious dishes, desserts, and wine. It was lovely. And then we Netflixed and chilled. No, seriously. Pjs, snacks, a laptop plugged into the hotel room’s television, and “Criminal Minds”. The next morning came with a long, hot, uninterrupted shower. (Sidenote: Why is hotel water so gorgeously silky?)

Saturday was a gloriously active day. I cosplayed. I belly danced. I walked. I reunited. I laughed. I hugged. I honestly had a really good day. I got to meet a favorite author, Mercedes Lackey, and she made my story-loving heart very full. A little child recognized my cosplay as his favorite superhero (“Mommy! Mommy! She’s Iron Man!”). I got to enjoy being raucously joyous at the dance with all the other geeks and new friends. I got to be bold, fierce, daring, loving, and unabashedly me.

By Sunday, my body ached but I was determined to show up in all my geeky glory. I got up early and ate a little breakfast at the hotel while I contemplated all that I had done so far over the weekend. Once we reached the convention, we found some very fun stuff (yay for TeeTurtle grab bags and The Baby Bestiary) and saw a few more people. By the end of the day, my feet, back, and ribs ached horribly and I was glad to sit down at Steak and Shake with Ben for a late lunch.

Next year, there are some things I will do differently. There are some more intricate cosplays that I want to do (Hogwarts, Trill science officer) and I will take more time in the preparation of them. I will also get myself some super comfy shoes for every occasion. There were some people with whom I had dearly and deeply hoped to spend time but it just didn’t work out. Not their fault. Next year, I will plan better to spend time with dear ones. On the whole, however, it was a good weekend. A really good weekend. Perhaps that is what makes the next part so difficult.

I don’t know if it is solely the weariness or not but the let-down feels heavier this year, more brutal. I know part of it is energy expulsion and the weariness that comes from it. I have to admit that another part of it is likely disappointment over what I didn’t do and people that I didn’t see. Perhaps I built up hopes/expectations that didn’t pan out; it happens, no one is at fault. I’ll plan more carefully and earlier next year so I can be sure to see those dear ones. Nevertheless, the out-whoosh of joy and enjoying-energy and freedom is proving very hard. I love this time with my hubby and with my delightfully geeky friends. Why can’t the joy last longer?

I miss my people. It always boils down to this. I deeply miss my people. Today, I have left dear ones to rest rather than poking them about their weekend experiences and all else, because I know they are tired and in need to rest and recovery of their own. They need a gentle return, too. I love them. I can wait.

All that said, Gen Con is in the books and I’m always glad for the experience. 

Foxy Nerd out!

GenCon 2017

 

Growing into My Bigness


I have written before about being small, about feeling like I need or am expected to hide myself, make myself less, be less. However, I was hit with something several weeks ago as I again sat thinking about it. Being small is not as sudden a thing for me as I thought it was. As I sit and think and reflect, I can actually see the different lessons and admonitions towards being small that I have been given all throughout my life, not just in the past decade. It’s not as recent a thing as I thought it was. I’m looking back over my life and finding points along the way where I was taught to be small, to take the blame for others’ dislike. I learned that I needed to be small, that if I were too big, too bright, too…whatever, it was my fault if people got upset or didn’t like me. It’s kind of jarring to realize that it’s not as recent an emotional/behavioral habit as I thought it was.

I was taught to be small as a child. On school awards nights, I was taught by my peers to feel embarrassed by rather than proud of my achievements. My classmates would turn to me as I returned to my seat and tell me, “You should just stay up there [on the platform]. You’re gonna get everything anyway.” I felt the snide remarks all the way down to my bones, whether to be snide intended or not.

In middle school, I was taught to be small by the cute boy who pretended to like me and be my boyfriend for an entire week. Then, mercifully(?), a “friend” outed the joke. And it really was a joke because, seriously, who could ever like a nerd like me?

As a teenager, I was taught to be small because my fashion style was dressier than other girls in my social sphere and it might make them look bad. I was taught to be small when classmates rolled their eyes and made fun of the books I read, that I took solace in, and when they grumbled because I could play my part in concert band, even though their inability was a result of their lack of practice and nothing on my part.

In my twenties, late bloomer that I am, I was taught to be small when I perceived that I could not shine or revel in my own beauty because it would make others feel less happy about themselves, even though I had absolutely no control over that. If I could just step back upstage a little, not be quite so much in the light, that’s it…right there on the edge, that’s good. I can see it in photos now, recognize it for exactly what it is, and it hurts.

There are people in my life who have taught me to be small with the same breath that they used to admonish me for not “seeing how beautiful I am”. I’m sure they never realized or considered that that was what they were doing but it was. It’s sometimes hard, very hard, to hear “you’re beautiful” at the same time as being told that you make others jealous or unhappy. Suddenly, “beautiful” becomes not quite such a good thing; “beautiful” becomes something that brings pain to others, to ones you care about, so, obviously, “beautiful” is something that I should try to be less of. Me is something that I should try to be less of.

Though I have made progress (and I do mean quite a bit of it), I still battle the perception that I need to be small, less, duller. I question, I temper, I demure, I stick myself in a corner and keep quiet. Being small became a habit, born out of a desire to never hurt anyone, to be the cause of hurt, or a bone of contention. And so, sometimes, I still fall into its trap. If you have been taught to be small, believe me: you’re not alone. But you know what? We can “grow into our bigness”, as a dear friend once put it. I am growing into my bigness, into my role in my own life. I can stand. I can shine. I can strut. I can star. It is okay to be big in our own lives. It’s okay to be comfortable in our skin and unapologetic for it, to be unapologetic for our selves in our unique beauty and us-ness. Sure, we have our cracks, our flaws, our problems. But those do not negate us or our humanity or our worth. They do not make us monsters or beings who can be nothing but less-than. All that makes us is human. Humans, men, women, who do not have to be small. We are who we are, made as we were, and we do have something worth being, worth giving. Bigness doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a growing, like when we were children. It’s a process. But we can get there, you and I. God made us for big things; things that only we can do or be or create or give.

Even though you and I might have been taught to be small, we don’t have to stay there. We don’t have to believe that we have to be small or less. We can grow into ourselves,  rise up into our bigness, and we need not fear it.

76a343c71f9a6f2cb79e22a64701df25.jpg

My Holy Discontent


Last weekend, I listened to speaker Bill Hybels talk about passion. One of the questions he asked was, “Where does your passion come from? A beautiful dream or a holy discontent?” I was more than a bit fascinated by the phrase “holy discontent”. Can discontentment be holy? Then Mr. Hybels explained. Sometimes our passion can come from a complete and utter discontentment with the way things are, along with an inability to leave things the way they are. We simply must do something about it, so our passion is born in and borne out through this discontentment.

I realized that I live in a state of holy discontent. That is where my passion wells from. I am utterly discontent with how much of a lack of love, mercy, and grace there is in how people treat each other in our world. I cannot let things stay that way. I see people hurting, pieces of hearts broken off, cracks gaping in souls. I cannot let things stay that way.

I cannot let those who are hurting remain in their pain alone without holding their hand and telling them that they are safe to feel as they feel.

I cannot let those with broken hearts suffer without knowing that they are loved, cared for, and considered worthy.

I will not let those with gaping souls go hungry without telling them that God calls them good, wonderful, and beloved. And so do I.

My passion for hearts, my soul for people, is born out of a holy discontent. I believe that God has allowed this particular seed of discontent in my soul with the aim of fueling me to fulfill the purpose for which I was created: to love big. God has filled me dissatisfaction in seeing the lack of love in the world, and He pushes my heart to offer it. Day after day, as much as I can: love, encouragement, mercy, and grace.

There are people who walk around each day, dear ones and strangers, with broken hearts, cracked souls, and empty eyes. People who think themselves failures, unlovable, alone, and bereft. People who are suffering, and I cannot stand it. The heart that God has given me yearns to see souls, people, dear ones, strangers, live loved.

I want to help others breathe a little more easily and deeply.

I want to respond with grace, gentleness, truth, and love.

I want people, you precious people whom God has made, to know that you matter, you are significant, you are beloved, and were created with a unique purpose in mind. Yes, each of you. You are here on purpose.

My passion is not one that is big (well, it is–to me. But not like attention-getting big, I mean.). It is not one that is loud, will make me famous, or maybe birth a movement. I do not lead workshops. I haven’t written books. And that’s okay. I do what I do. I post, I call, I listen, I write, I pray, I hold hands, and I give hugs (and mugs of coffee/tea/hot chocolate). These are small things, but please don’t underestimate the small things you can do. They can effect monumental change in a person’s life and soul. I am living proof.

What is your passion in this life? Where does it come from? Are you working towards a beautiful dream or are you striving to change the source of your discontent? And, yes, these things that you see wrong with the world: that is indeed a holy discontent. Perhaps you feel that your passion is not that big. Not big enough for people to pay attention, not big enough to make a difference. Please, hear me when I tell you this: it is! Your passion is big enough. The small things you do are big enough. The steps you take in your passion are big enough. Yes, they are! Keep dreaming, keep doing, keep stepping.

My passion is born of a holy discontent. A discontentment with a world lacking in goodness and love. I want to find it, highlight it, give it, infuse it. I want to change the world. I want to see love change the world. I want to be a love that changes the world. Let love be the overwhelming response to and result of my holy discontent.

Hidden Behind the Ripple


“I’m fine.” We are all familiar with the lie of “I’m fine”. There is a myriad of reasons for not admitting when we aren’t okay.

We don’t want to be a bother.

We know that others “have it much worse”.

We don’t have the emotional spoons or energy to explain everything.

We are embarrassed or ashamed by whatever is going on in our head or heart.

So we say “I’m fine”. We join in the conversation, join in the laughter. But laughter can hide so much. It can hide pain, hurt, betrayal, despair, loneliness, heartache, and the list goes on and on. It’s amazing sometimes just how much can be hidden behind the ripple of what should represent joy and pleasure.

We have all been or known someone who hides behind the smiling mask, lost in such a dark haze that laughter becomes anathema to its original point and becomes just another reminder of pain and little else. Sometimes it easy to tell when laughter is naught but a smokescreen and a hiding place. Other times, though, it is not so easy to see. But gentleness is still possible, I believe, even when we don’t know. Knowing this, can we not see our way to holding souls gently? To not insist that they “smile and be happy” if they aren’t feeling it. To sit with them in quiet and commiserate. In the Bible, Proverbs 14:13a says, “Even in laughter the heart may ache…”  How true is this! Isn’t this all the greater a reason to hold and treat each other gently?

{{Author’s note: Ironically, I finished and posted this on a day that I was most definitely not fine. Thank you to all those who held me gently and held space for me in my not-okayness.}}

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.

let-your-gentleness-be-evident-to-all-quote-1