Yesterday I had a nice treat though as I was able to spend most of the day at Aunt Linda's. What a blessing that place of refuge has been to me these past 4 years. More than once have I just freaked out and needed a place to go to take a bubble bath! Her and Uncle Al have always been so accomidating to Brent when he comes as well. I have no idea how much food of theirs I have eaten over the years or how many loads of laundry I have done...but I'm sure I owe them forever now! :) I worked on my portfolio during the afternoon while I did laundry and then shared a pizza with Aunt Linda for supper before we headed to Sibley to see Grandma Schoon. We sat and talked for awhile and I read her some of my writings and then we even sang some Christmas carols. It was a nice evening.
But now I'm off to the library. Wish me luck!
Last Sunday evening my roommates Renae and Amy and myself [who all lived on the same wing freshman year], decided to have a get together for everyone who was once on that wing with us as Freshman [surprisingly there are still 15 or so of us o n campus!] It was super fun and about 11 or 12 people came and ate cookies and listened to Christmas music and reminisced about our freshman year. One girl, Raeann, even wore a Santa costume for old times sake [she did this our freshman year once] It was fun to get together but a little sad realizing we'll all be parting ways shortly. Whether we've remained friends or grown apart over the past four years, it will be sad to see that group of women disperse. That year was so formative for all of us and for a short period of time we allowed each other to laugh and cry with us. It really is a unique thing. Some pictures from the get together:
I need to get back to my project I'm working on but I thought I would share a poem I wrote the other day:
Last night I laid in bed
and words poured through me
a poem about waking up
to an overzealous alarm
and hitting the snooze
and rolling over to find you
of course it wounded better
and i repeated it, line after line
in my head so i would remember
when i woke up
the last line was wonderful
something about awakening to the
[this is where the beautiful words were]
i was so warm and tired
i didn't want to roll over and grab
a pen and paper
and this morning i woke up to my alarm
hit my snooze 4 times
and i rolled over and was awakened by
the absence of beautiful words
why do the muses torment me
at niht in bed
when they know i'm lazy and tired
when i don't want to be a writer
they whisper to me
right now at my desk
i'm drawing pictures
but i put a pad of paper
by my bed
to trick them tonight.
and now... doubt:
Doubt. For Christians this word is sometimes the culprit of nightmares, waning confidence and, here on campus, homesickness for a place where one feels secure and did not have to wrestle with his or her beliefs, nor deal with people who didn’t have the same. It creeps up on us all, though. Whether through a discussion with our roommate, a book we’re reading outside of class, or from something our religion professor said in class, doubt can leave us wrestling with some pretty tough issues at the core of who we are as Christians.
Doubt is an integral part of life, and it is something that I believe God not only allows, but something He intentionally created. Doubt keeps us in our place. We are not called to know everything. This does not mean we should no longer seek knowledge, it simply works to keep us humbly in God’s service. After sitting through a discussion in Theology or a literature class, I often stumbled across doubt in my path and I realized that certainty is not a gift that God has chosen to give his creatures. Our knowledge of any “absolute” is only partial; it’s distorted because we as humans are distorted.
I believe doubt also allows us to love others more of the way Jesus hoped we would. When we can stop trying to convince those around us of our theology we are able to begin real conversations—conversations that will be flavored with love, honesty, and openness. Our interactions with each other will stop exhausting us and they will start teaching us. Our attitudes toward our own doubt and the doubt and questions of others, are more significant and will bring us nearer to the Kingdom of God than our idea that we know everything about God.
I am constantly reminding myself that my doubts do not make me less of a follower of Christ, but they allow me to possess an essential ingredient in my pursuit to love others and become more like Christ: humility. Our attitudes toward doubt are more significant than our actually having doubt. I believe we are not called to be certain of anything, but that this does not undermine our commitment to and our faith in a God who is infinitely bigger than our tiny, often too proud, too confident minds.
So next time you’re having a conversation, or listening to a speaker during chapel or praise and worship, don’t stop listening because doubts are starting to arise. Don’t judge from what the speaker is saying and ask, “Is this guy even a Christian?” No, you don’t have to agree with everything he or she says but you can glean from it—take what others tell you and use it. Whether you agree or disagree, you cannot discredit them as a person or as a Christian. Be humbled by your disagreements with others, be humbled by your doubt, and hold onto the promise that God is bigger than it all.
It was such a wonderful break. A brief overview:
- I was able to spend the first weekend with Brent, as he was willing to drive all the way up here to wait for me to finish classes on Monday and Tuesday. Then we were able to ride back home together and, although I slept and drooled most of the way home is was a fun ride.
- Tuesday night we went to his house and got to spend time with his parents.
-Wednesday we picked up the boys [Hawkins, Dawson, Luke] and then hung out with them for awhile. Then we made a quick trip out to my Grandparent's and saw the table they got us and are refinishing! It is so great. Then a quick trip back to my house for a [busy] supper with Paige, Torri, and two kids my mom was babysitting. It was also Brent's 22nd birthday so that was fun as well :)
- Thursday mom, dad, brent, and I got up at 4:30 to make it to the airport for my flight to nashville. The trip went well and I was in Nashville with Dan and Kali by 10! [Flying is weird].
You can go to
and read about my time there. It was absolutely wonderful to get to spend that time with them. They were so good to me and it was a great break. Although we missed being at home for the holidays, we really enjoyed the time together. [And Micah was even able to come up and hang out for a day which was fantastic as well :)]
I'm off to babysit now for several hours. Finals in a week and a half...i'll try to post more but I can't promise much these next two weeks :)
In other news, I got my packet for student teaching last night at a meeting. That was weird--not the meeting so much as getting the packet. In this packet are 3 folders for teachers I will be working with, containing observation reports and checklists and requests for letters of recommendation [yikes!]. The reality is setting in that I am really going to be doing this...I am really going to be teaching soon.
I know deep in my being that this is what I want to be doing...that this is what I'm meant to be doing. I have videos of me teaching when I was 8 years old, alone in my room with stuffed animals and a chalkboard [these are really funny to watch]. I know how much I love being in front of students and how much it means to see them "click" with something.
But there is a part of me that winces when I think about turning in the pink sheet in the back of my packet--the pink sheet entitled "Record of Student Teaching" that I was informed, last night, is vital to my graduating. Why is this? I think it is several reasons...I think it is knowing that this part of my life is done. This part that I've hated and loved and wrestled with and grown through--- When I hand in that pink sheet I am in turn handing in a part of my childhood.
I know I will be a good teacher and I think to go into this profession you must know that one simple truth. I know it might take me a little bit to get there, but I know I am capable. And I know I want to be a teacher. And I know I will let go of that pink sheet at the last possible moment.
I was reading in the Psalms today while I ate my lunch, the obsessive November wind licking at the window. I was eating my noodles and the words and letting them happen to me, the way puberty happens to a person.
I put down my fork and read Open up your mouth and He will fill it and I took a sip of water and read again open up your mouth and he will fill it. In the margin I think to write beautiful so I will come back to this page and read it again and see beautiful written beside it and think beautiful again. But I don't. I stop my pen and I don't write because I want to stumble across this psalm again and I want to feel the beauty instead of thinking it.
Open up your mouth and He will fill it and I wonder what this means and I pray it will become a part of my marrow. And then, in my mind, I am there, in the simple living room with all of them: Brent is at my right side, Derek at my left on the rose colored couch, and in the blue lazy-boy is Jon, kicked back. Cody lays on the floor in the center of the room, stomach down and Brandon sits opposite me on the cream couch, a throw pillow behind his neck.
I come back to this moment wit hOpen your mouth and He will fill it knowledge and I hear our conversation anew. Derek tells us he will definitely be going overseas in the near future and shares a few stories from his last trip to Africa. Jon then enters the conversation and says he will marry the girl he is now dating. Brandon asks if she has a sister and then asks Brent what they're going to do for his bachelor party. Brent says he just wants them to take one last small road trip together. I ask if I can come and know I will only get facial responses. We all think Cody is asleep but he lifts his head and says he is hungry-- and that he's pretty sure the girl he could marry is mad at him because he didn't call or write for four months.
Open your mouth and He will fill it in those moments in the living room when your conversation is not meant to be prayer.
I look back and I realize these moments of nothing were so full of the things of God.We sometimes tried to be intentional about having conversations concerning theology. We never realized these things of God were happening to us when we stopped thinking about them long enough to let them.
These memories are sweet on my tongue, like the juice from freshly squeezed apples. I now realize the beauty of moments with friends and how when you let them happen to you, it's like letting a psalm happen to you. This happening fills your mouth and becomes prayer-- a deep kind of prayer-- a prayer that happens with every memory of a living room conversation.
Open your mouth and he will fill it and things that are not prayer become prayer and moments that are ordinary pierce us and fill us and we become holier because of them.
I thank God for these friends of mine, but I know I thank Him more when I send Derek a card or give Cody a call. I know I thank Him more when I let him fill my mouth.
Water. Yes. Drink water. Sustenance. Bread. I pour water into a mug--my favorite mug with two geese on the side and the quaint saying, "home is where you hang your heart"-- a thrift store find for sure. I stick a piece of wheat bread into the toaster and wait, cupping my mug with both hands because this is how you are supposed to hold mugs. And my toast comes up and I get too excited and I burn my forefinger slightly on the newly deep brown crust. Butter. Real butter-- not fake "I-can't-believe-it's-not-butter" butter, because I can believe it's not because I was raised to appreciate the good, rich, fattening taste of real butter.
I sit at the table, buttered toast, goose mug. And I try to silence the pounding in my head. It's now at the front, on the side-- my temporal lobe, I was taught in human anatomy.
I get a book to take my mind off of this thing in my head that is screaming at me. The pages seem blank or at least utterly void of anything that makes sense and I put the book down by throwing it across the room, knowing my fellow English majors would consider this complete blasphemy. Something. Something. I need something.
The t.v. and I turn it on and I crunch my buttered toast and I don't even know what I am watching because my head is screaming and my hands are shaking and I look at the melting butter and it says "you don't even appreciate me right now" and I try to assure it that I do-- that I-can't-believe-it's-so good, but I can't. I can't taste it. I haven't tasted anything for this entire week.
I turn off the t.v.
I lay down. I abandon my toast and butter and goose mug and water and lay down. No time to make it to the couch. I am on the kitchen floor and I am laying down and my temporal lobe is the son of a drummer's boy and I am closing my eyes but I can't stop seeing, thinking, pounding, shaking.
I sit up.
I want to cry, but don't for my roommate's sake. I am rolling on the floor. I am taking Advil that I know won't help and I finish the water and the toast.
I am cold inside and my body is mad at me and I am mad at me for bringing me here in the first place.
Here--detox, this place of endless waiting. I will never be the way I once was. I now live the life of an addict and those addicted always need something. Something. But toast, even butter doesn't work. Not water, the purest of all. Not modern man's medicine. Not even the book flung across the room. Words are empty. Days, emptier still.
And I break. I get out the beans. I get out the grinder. The smell alone is beginning to bring me back and soon the pot is brewing and my heart beat is becoming regular and my body is already drinking it in through my pores. I refill my goose mug and pour, slowly, deliberately, passionately.
I sit and I drink and I do not shake. Yes, my detox from coffee is a place of endless waiting, and it is one of which I am not patient enough to reach the other side.
I will try again next week.
Can people necessarily be considered an obsession? I think so, the way I feel when I"m describing them, turning them over and around in my mind.
I feel his cheek against mine when I describe it and it makes him come alive again, here, here he is not. Trying to describe his laugh is impossible but it won't stop me.
And then there is her who I can't not write about. Her hair, her eyes-- everything--not flawless, not perfect, but right.
And the little one, who speaks with wisdom and simplicity and incredulity. I need to write about how round his face is right now and how hugging him is like hugging warm cookies.
I have to write about these people that mean so much to me and who have haunted me with their presence. I want to hold them and laugh with them and I'm here and I can't and I must, so I write.
And they are mine.
People forget that you don't just get married...you get married to SOMEONE- and I want to be prepared for that. It's not just about the wedding but about a relationship and sharing that beauty with those who have supported it. One of the songs Brent and I have chosen for the ceremony is "Come and Listen" by David Crowder and it is for this reason... it says: "Come and listen...let me tell you what He's done for me, what He's done for you, what He's done for us." It's about sharing in this and praising God for what He's done for us...you, me, us.
I cannot think about being married without thinking about Brent. I won't just be part of a wedding, I will be his bride, his wife.
Likewise, we cannot think about being the bride of Christ without thinking about Christ. We won't just be part of the ceremony, we will be His bride forever.
Just my thoughts for the day.
[and also, I am at a coffee shop, with a laptop typing this...I feel so literary and college-y :)]
After Jack Gilbert’s “Scheming in the Snow”
there is a time after what comes after
being young, and a time when she thinks
that she should have known better, been prouder,
been more careful. remembering the shoes,
shiny black, making the noise which only patent-leather
can make. remembering the day she went shopping
with her weathered mother of eight.
paying with the green income of beans and corn.
the shoes gripped tightly in her small hands,
not unaware of the unusual luxury or the love they proved.
moments later, after finishing her small lunch and
returning to the farm, she noticed her empty hand
and thought of the stool that had supported her shoes at noon.
when she confessed, heartbroken and tears running
down her young face, her mother said,
“don’t cry. I’ll get you something better.”
(after Charles Wright)
Under the skyscrapers, the business suits walk
Over the earth that is no more
Liability, commerce, inflation
Words caught between flashing streetlights,
unlike the sounds of silence
Whose sight we’ve lost and let scream away.
Meanwhile, the offices
Fidget about their business,
Unconcerned with personalities,
Downpour from the corporate wheel,
In the thin marriages—
Love, we think, marvelous love, everything starts in love.
Or so they say. We like to think so
Ourselves, feeling the business
Ladder into our blood stream
A bit more each year,
Tasting the lust on our tongues,
Watching the children oblivious,
Hearing their chant, come play daddy, come play…
about this thing that has become
wonder if it can be forever
wonder if it can
sometimes i think that maybe
you will really see
that tomorrow you will see
this thing i carry
this habit i can’t break
this word i always use
this obsession i can’t undo
sometimes i wonder if tomorrow
will be the only tomorrow
i have with you
if yesterday’s tomorrow is the
but then all i can think of
all i can do
all i can hear
all i can breathe
and this love
and tomorrow fades into yesterday
and my wondering becomes
and as your words touch my ear
and your hand the small of my back
and i surrender to it
on my mind
Lord, I saw what you did to the trees this fall, and I need that kind of beauty to happen in me.
I think I needed to get away for a little bit, and so I wrote about a place I loved when I was little. It's nice to be able to get away sometimes:
"Mr. Maker" we called him, our childish minds full of hopes when we stepped into his store. He was always there, sometimes on a little balcony inside that was within view of the rest of the store. His old office desk was up there, and probably scattered paperwork from over the years. Many time he was down on the hardwood planked floor, mingling amongst the paint chips and hand saws and nails. Or he was helping a customer looking for the right birthday card.
He had created quite the little hardware store, complete with school supplies, cooking utensils, yarn, lawnmowers, garden hoses, and toys. A basement full of toys.
That is why my sister and I would walk across town on those hot summer days and jingle-jingle the door open to be plastered with the cool air and Mr. Maker's friendly greeting. We would hustle, without running because we knew we weren't supposed to, to the back of the store, down the first flight of stairs and take a sharp right.
First, there were coloring books-- loads and loads of coloring books. Jumbo thick ones and magic marker ones and crossword ones and over sized ones. And then on the shelves along the wall were stuffed animals and baby dolls and action figures--most of them, out of date at least a decade or two.
Our favorites were the neon dinosaurs that made a horrifying noise when their bellies were squeezed just right. There were usually four or five and we would try to get all of them going at the same time. After the encore we would make our way to the back wall. This was the puzzle place. Barnyards and flowers and kittens and sesame street characters cut into odd shapes and sizes. 100 pieces or 25 or more. We were never too interested in these and would move to the shelves in the center supported by the beams around them. These were the game boards and the "trendy" toys-- the ones that were "in" that season. Our fingers ran over the pieces, wondering if we would, if we could, ever own such prizes.
I don't remember what was in the corner of the basement under the steps, because all I remember was that it never interested me too much. I think it was possibly the more trinkity things. The plastic things you could get out of a vending machine. The things our mother had taught us not to be attracted to.
When we had our fill of polly pockets, puzz-3Ds, and plastic cowboy hats, or, more often, when we ran out of time and knew we should have already been 3 blocks from home, we would breathe in the plastic, electric air around us, set off the dinosaurs one more time, and giggle our way back up the stairs. As the prehistoric neons groaned, we'd leave Mr. Maker's and throttle ourselves back into the thick summer air, our hearts groaning with them.
Yet we knew they'd be there when we returned.
I hope that trip to Baker's was as refreshing for you as it was for me. Quick note, last time I went down the basement about two years ago, there were still 2 or 3 of those dinosaurs smiling at me from their seemingly-permanent spot on the shelf....
and I squeezed them all.
and now, a story, concerning me and a certain someone :)
A date. Yes, it was just that. A number following a month. A day that was simply assigned a numerical value. But then he put on cologne and asked and it became a date (the type of thing you write in felt tip pen in your planner).
I am eighteen. Not the typical age one is before her first real date, which only increases the churning in my stomach that is now moving to my outer extremities. This is something I shouldn’t have procrastinated. I should have stopped hanging out with guys and I should have started dating them to avoid the awkward 18-year-old-date-thing.
Except I hadn’t, and now he was here—he being the guy who had put on cologne and who had the guts to actually ask out the girl who was “one of the guys” and who didn’t wear perfume until this exact moment. He being the guy who was always one of my best friends…and the churning begins again as I use the past tense was as the lines have been blurred and I fear to use the is.
But as I step in the car the is gets in with me and helps me recognize that his freckle is still in the same spot, slightly off-centered on his forehead, and his laugh is still at an octave I can’t quite comprehend and his hand is still as tender as it brushes my left arm.
Not too long ago he and I have had a discussion in a cold car in February. It was February 8th, but that date was not a date and I didn’t know it would lead to this date. He told me what I feared and hoped and desired and pushed away. I’ve liked you for about 3 years now, he said in his parka, eyes looking through the windshield.
Now it’s April and I’m here and nothing had been official and then there was that day he wore cologne. And now I’m looking out that same windshield.
After a cheap dinner we decide the date thing to do is go to the park. Under a gazebo, with ducks floating in a pond nearby and rose buds showing on the bushes around us (I wish some of that were made up—it sounds too much like something that should be made up). He holds me innocently, the is of our friendship making the embrace more passionate somehow. And then it begins to rain and he kisses me (I swear I’m not making this up). No guy will ever have a chance now. As I kiss him back I want to pinch all this between my thumb and forefinger, saving it as a bookmark for a novel I may one day read.
The shower is not a gentle one and it forces us inside and he softly says I hope it never stops raining. And in his ear I whisper promise and hope.
The awkwardness of being 18 then still hits me sometimes, right in gut, as if someone has run for miles simply to punch me there. This blow now comes in the form of me being 21, still looking out that windshield and feeling like this—the same as that time he kissed me under the gazebo but scarier.
This day is a date but it has lost its power to be italicized and romanticized and now we are just two old people riding in the same car, touching each other’s thighs. I still pull out the bookmark I made between my fingertips that day in the park and am refreshed by the smell of rain and promise.
He takes me to the church where we first met in junior high and leads me to a picture of an elderly couple. Sometimes all I remember is the simplicity of the woman’s blue jumper and the time-washed denim of his overalls, the gate half open behind them. Today all I remember is my heartbeat, feeling his cologned presence behind me, knowing what I would find when I turned around and wouldn’t be looking in his eyes—knowing he would be on one knee.
I don’t remember which to remember, and as he slips the ring on my finger I realize I am 18. I still fear and hope and desire and push away, but I still look through that windshield and I know I will always fear, hope, desire, and push away. And that it will always be with him. I know we will fight, but then I will remember the way he smelled when he asked and the is of our friendship that will never be a was and the beauty and fear of his whisper in my ear.
I only had a few braids done. The pulling had begun to give me a headache and I made my way out to the pool. That’s where I met her—nine years old.
It’s funny, but true, that most Jamaicans can’t swim. I say funny, but I mean ironic, their location being an island. But she wanted to learn how to swim, and as we flitted around in the shallow end, I realized my English teaching degree wasn’t going to be able to help her learn.
And that’s how we started talking and that’s why in this pool in Jamaica, she asked to pray for me. She held my hands, the water rippling into her chest, and she prayed with the force of a southern Baptist revival pastor: and dear Father God, I just ask that you would walk with Kelsey, and dear Father God that you would show her the way…
She used “Father God” liberally and frequently, like my mom uses garlic. Her Jamaican accent added rhythm to the otherwise routine words. I was impressed by her maturity and the way she spoke with such authority. And then my world hit hers abruptly: and Father God I ask that you protect her, Father God, from anyone who would want to murder her, Father God, from any one who would want to steal from her, Father God, protect Kelsey and her body from someone who would seek to sex her up…
The water around my waist was different now—it was a meeting place for me and her. It was common ground that showed us there is no such thing as common ground between wealth and poverty. I have never sat trembling in a closet at home, scared a strange man might come in at any moment…
I hugged her tightly as she said amen, displacing the water between us. She smiled up at me, Can you teach me how to back float?
Too much was happening. This was Jamaica after all—it was supposed to be like Florida with an accent.
Now nothing made sense.
She ran inside to get a snack, and I began talking with two of my teammates. We didn’t see her come back and we didn’t see her jump for the life ring in the deep end and we didn’t see her miss it and go under.
She’s under the water, her sister said, not as frantically or loudly as she should have. In some span of time that I can’t remember being short or long, we had her out and coughing up water on the edge of the pool. As her breath came back she said, I opened my mouth to say ‘help’ but all that came in was water.
This happens more in her life more than she realizes. And I wonder if anyone will ever be able to teach her how to back float.
When I returned to campus this fall, the first week I was here I met Derefe… from Kingston. We’ve become good friends and when I gave him a winter coat and gloves he hugged me and said, “Kels, I know you got a lot out of your trip to Jamaica—but I really think you went for me.”
Before we left, the leader of the trip said that it was a trip about us-them. God has shown me that to follow Christ and to love like Him does not mean giving handouts—it means giving hands.
Kali posted yesterday about happiness vs. joy and what she's been thinking about joy. I found this interesting because I had been reading a few things C.S. Lewis [or as his friends call him, Jack] had to say on the subject. I know in Mere Christianity he says that God designed the "human machine" to run on Himself [as opposed to running on happiness]. In God in the Dock he says the following: Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best. ... as you perhaps know I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that." This last one really got me thinking because I find myself often turning to God for this kind of happiness-- not because I am depending on Him solely, but because I am depending on Him in order that He will make me happy.
Interestingly, Lewis describes Joy as a type of longing in most of his writings-- that after one experiences it, it then fosters "intense longings...this hunger is better than any other fullness; this poverty better than all other wealth. " In this we see that possibly, on this earth, we are never fully satiated with joy but filled with a deeper longing for it which we will one day find. I think Lewis' best word picture of this is in The Weight of Glory, he says: ...We are half-hearted creatures, folly-ing about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. If this is true [and from my experience I know it is], joy on this earth is not unattainable...it is simply something to which we don't attain. [these are ramblings of my thoughts, Kali's was much more thought out and better articulated.]
now comes the part where I sleep...
I think I'll post some more of my writings later today, as people have been prompting me to do so.
And there it is [in part]. After we read that in class my professor asked us to write our own infatuation with words. me:
In the beginning the Word was with God...and I know it is true because something so beautiful had to have a source that flows and gives. Sitting on my father's lap, I would first draw pictures in my little Mead notebook--only 75 pages long. Eventually though, I learned there were symbols for the things I said and I loved to capture these in my notebooks, as if writing down words would help them dance.
Pages 1-10: mostly my name in creative swirls and squiggles, but by page 15 stories were forming and by page 75 I needed more space. I needed an untamed notebook of opportunity.
There was more, but maybe later...
This is enough for now. This is enough to explain my title: words that sing. This is enough to say that maybe this [blog] can be, in part, my untamed notebook of opportunity. Thanks for joining me.
Now it's time for me to eat a few green beans I just made and then head off to the local coffee shop to do a little studying. I have two tests this week [Linguistic Perspectives and Human Anatomy!]. Hopefully a good cup of coffee will provide me a little solace.