Opening the Door for the Year to Slip Out (NYE 2017)

Today is the end of 2017. As we close out this year, I know it has been a terribly hard one for many personally. Terribly, terrifically, desperately hard. We as a society have lost a goodly amount of progress and soul under a leader who is out of touch with life and decency. Many people have seen 2017 tear away their security, faith in leaders, their resources, and even their very families.  Still, they and others have risen up in the midst of it, voices raised in defiance and truth and a call for rights, help, and protections for all.

This reminds me that good is not gone from the world, and, for that, I am imminently thankful. There are good people. There are people who will live and fight for others, for their rights, for their survival. There are people who will hold up their fellow man and woman, hold them gently and close, and speak for those who have no voice. There are people who love and love fiercely, as God has called us to love, and nothing will stop them in their course of action. Good is not gone from this world and it will never go silently away.

In this year, there have been wonderful moments, beautiful moments, silent and glorious moments. There have been moments of incredulity, of misunderstanding and pain, of facing a hard truth and then walking in the light of it, however it may blister. There have been moments that felt so terrible that all I wanted to do was hide away from the world forever. But I didn’t.

I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I didn’t then, and I won’t now.

As 2017 makes its way out, I won’t wish it farewell with great fanfare or warm its way with a Molotov cocktail (though it feels like it’s surely earned something of the like in more than a few places). Instead, I’ll simply open the door and let it slip out into the dark night of midnight, consigned to oblivion. Similar to Shakespeare’s own words: “Then, window, let day in and let life out (Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 5).” We will never see this year again, never see its moments again. All that lies ahead is new. The moments ahead that await us are precious and painful in their own right; they can stand on their own two feet and need no help from the past.

But, as I open the door for this year to leave, I let the new one in. Shiny and blue and looking around bewildered by the expectations that already settle on its shoulders, the things that are enacted and put into place upon its birth. I will do my best to brush those expectations off 2018’s shoulders like so much snow off a coat and just…let it be for a bit. For a few hours. For a moment. I will kiss my husband and child. I will pray peace and good and restoration over this year. I will call my still-awake dear ones and text my slumbering ones and wish them a Happy New Year. I will sip from my glass and blow out the candles.

I will welcome 2018. I will straighten my shoulders, look it in the eye, and meet it with all the love, courage, fierce gentleness, and soul I can muster. And I pray that for you, too. I pray for courage, grace, peace, restoration, and hope for you.

Happy New Year, dear one. May it be blessed.


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.


The Light Around the Door 2014

2015 is two days away and I find myself sitting in contemplation of the year gone by. There has been a lot of happening this year, so bear with me as I suss at least some of it out.

Firstly, a huge thank you to you, my readers, for sticking with me over this year and lending me your time, hearts, and minds in your reading of these paper bullets of my brain. I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have writing it, however scary it was at times.

One of the most notable occurrences is that I have become a contributor to The Well Written Woman, which has been an absolutely wonderful experience! I have had a fabulous time working with the talented ladies at TWWW. They have allowed me a great freedom in exploring subjects in my writing – fiction pieces, personal writings, works on faith and social matters – and I have greatly enjoyed getting to know co-founder and editor Camicia Bennett. Thanks so much, Cam!

I took college courses for the first time since graduating with my Masters in 2006 and entirely online. I was very nervous about how I would handle it and being a mom at the same time. It was hard work, completing two graduate courses simultaneously in five weeks, very stressful and tiring. But I had amazing help from my in-laws, my parents, and my husband; I found ways to enjoy it; and I succeeded, earning A’s in both classes. A personal triumph and big weight off my back as those grades allowed me to renew my teaching license for the next ten years, should I choose to return to education when Elizabeth heads off to daycare/preschool eventually.

Speaking of Elizabeth, my daughter turned two years old eleven days ago and she is an absolute force of nature. Even my mother had to admit that when she was here to visit. As such, I sometimes do not know what to do with her, but we are doing our best. Our Bizzy is smart and bright, talking more every day. But she is also clever and cunning, though thankfully I am still more so just yet. She is artistic, skilled with anything technological (similar to her mother), creative, fun-loving, energetic, and loves the outdoors. She is also sweet and loving, giving affection to those in her life, tight little hugs and sweet kisses. She loves her Marie (The Aristocats) and Katarina Kittycat (“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”) stuffies – they go to bed with her every night – and she is never as happy as she is watching “Daniel Tiger” (unless she is outside exploring). She loves to be read to but will also insist on “reading” to herself. She has started to take her own ‘me time’, climbing into her rocking chair in her room to rock by herself for a little bit with a book, her tablet, or just her stuffed buddies. She may still be little but she has gone from a baby to a little girl in the space of a year, and I am constantly amazed by her.

As I have been writing and also continuing in my position as the wife of a Quaker pastor, I have had the opportunity to sit and think seriously on what I believe and how it affects my life, or how it should affect my life. I am well aware that there are some, or many, who disagree with my faith or even what I believe in particular within that faith. And that is OK; my faith makes sense to me. Lately, I find myself drawn more and closer to its core tenet of “loving others” (Matthew 22:37-40) and “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). I want to do that: love others in whatever way is needed, whether it is a listening ear, a requested explanation of what I believe, a note to say hello, a little gift, prayer, or just my time. And maybe I can help someone find/experience a little bit of peace, even for a short amount of time. I have learned some wonderful lessons from a writer whom I discovered this year: Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa is a wonderful woman who manages to speak to my heart without ever knowing who I am. Her devotionals, books, and faith-based writings have spoken to my soul as I have worked through several issues in my life this year, and I have taken several of her teachings to heart as I work to build myself an even stronger foundation and keep my emotions from becoming “unglued”. One that has been the closest to my heart this year is a reminder that our feelings are indicators but they do not need to be dictators of our behavior or actions. I can choose to act out of high emotion or I can choose to act and speak out of love, grace, and gentleness. The latter is most definitely what I want in my life, and I have some wonderful examples of these to follow in this.

Always, but especially this past year, I have been astounded by the loving natures and kind hearts of the people in my life. My family and friends are simply amazing! My life is constantly blessed by them and their generous souls. There are days when a card in my mailbox, a text popping up on my phone, an IM chiming on my computer, or even a surprise package waiting for me has been just what I needed, just the uplift and tender touch that my heart and soul required on that day, the thought or those words just what I needed to give me the strength to take another step forward. Even those words were simply, “Hi. I was thinking about you.” So, to them I say, “Thank you!” from the fullness of my heart. You are more than I could have ever dreamt for. You hold lines to my heart and I am so grateful for how gently, honestly, and lovingly you handle them.

As this year’s curtain descends, there are indeed many things that I wish I had done and ever the more that I wish I could do. This year has been full and I am thankful for all I have been able to do, accomplish, and witness this year. I know that this next year will be full of its own miracles and hardships, triumphs and challenges. I look forward to it and am nervous for it, too. But, again, that is life and it continues on apace.