Last night in class we had to think about our obsessions, things that haunt our writing. One of the things I love to, have to, write about is people. We free-wrote for a while about this. Here's what I came up with:

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.


preparing to be a bride

Today I was doing my Beth Moore bible study and it was entitled "To Be a Bride." It was all about preparing ourselves to be the bride of Christ and what this means both now and then. It got me thinking not only about being the bride of Christ [what a glorious and beautiful and exciting thought] but also about being the bride of Brent. I think about getting married a lot these days, but never without thinking of marrying him. So many women these days miss this, I think. The wedding preperations are fun and finding the right dress is good, but these miss the point. I remember shopping for my dress and I knew it was the right one not because I thought it was beautiful or because my mom said she loved it but because when I looked in the mirror all I could think about was that I wanted Brent to see me in that dress. I didn't try on any more.

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 :)]


friends and poetry

I was able to go home this weekend and what a blessing it was. After a very long week at school with tests and payments and errands and meetings etc, the rest and comfort that comes with being home was just what I needed. There really is a medicinal factor to pulling into my driveway. And Brent even surprised me and was able to come up for a day, which was great. My friend Cody was home from Afganistan ["the stan" as he calls it] on leave and so I got to spend some time with him. Saturday night he came over with my other best guy friends, Brandon, Derek, Jonathan, and Brent, and we had a campfire and roasted marshmellows and caught up. I think it had been about 2 years since all of us had hung out together-- it was such a blessing.
I have a lot of homework I need to get done now, so I'll just post a couple older poems of mine that a lot of you probably haven't read. Have a great monday:
living on the farm
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.”
An Ordinary Day in Corporate
(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,
families combustible.
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…
sometimes i wonder

about us
about you
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
last today

but then all i can think of
all i can do
all i can hear
all i can breathe
is you
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


the 25th...and baker's hardware store

Each month when the 25th rolls around I grimace. Or cry. Or both. It's the day that approaches too quickly each month that requires I walk over to the business office and write one more check for way too much money in order to continue my college career. This is when I grimace. After I leave and start to figure out where the money is coming from [or not coming from, most months], I usually cry. Today was no exception. I'm sick of the constant uphill. With 5 more months of payments to go, I wonder where it will come from. After my "breakdown" today I went to the park to have my devotional time. The trees here are phenomenal right now--brilliant shades of oranges and reds and yellows. Seeing them and thinking about the God that had the power to change them like that, I knew I could be at peace. I knew I could be, but then I had to decide to be. I know the money will come from somewhere, somehow and I know God is bigger then this.

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.


it is well with my soul

Somedays are easier then others, but most days are like this day... and I miss him. I've realized the richness in having a long distance relationship [although most days I feel like it has me] and I've also realized the cycle that has become a part of my life these past four years. My amazing, God-sent, roommate Renae is also in a long-distance relationship/engagement and we have discusses and agreed on this cycle: It starts after first departing. Having just seen each other you would think this is a good part of the cyle-- but this isn't so much fun because the memory of being together is so fresh you realize how your day-to-day life isn't what it should be without the other. Then after a week or two, you settle back into the routine of not being together and although you still miss each other, you're okay. This lasts a day, maybe. :) Then you start gearing up for the next time you will see him, which is inevitably not soon enough. The 2 weeks before you see each other are miserable because you are anticipating it so much and yet there is so much standing between today and that day. And then you see each other...and then you leave and it begins again-- thus, the cycle. The title of this post is it is well with my soul though, and it is. There is a great quote: Wind is to fire what distance is to love, it extinguishes the small and enflames the great...and so, it is well with my soul.

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.


need a warm story?

On a cold day like this I think it's only fair I revisit Jamaica. I was able to travel there for two weeks this summer and now I find myself missing it with these Iowa winds. Although it seems like a long time ago since I was in Kingston, Jamaica, there are experiences I shared there that are as vivid today as when they happened. One is as follows:
Her mom was in the apartment braiding the other “white girls’” hair to earn some American cash for her trip to the states. A little over 2000 Jamaican dollars was the price for a full head of braids. This meant 25 U.S. dollars. This meant the difference in our worlds.
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.
Though this is just one brief story of my experience in Jamaica, this trip challenged me, encouraged me, and humbled me. I was challenged by my teammates and how I was able to see in them the truth and beauty of the body of Christ. I was challenged by the events that occurred, such as the story above. I was encouraged by my Jamaican brothers and sisters and their willingness to invite me into the privileged spaces of their own lives. I was humbled by a God who is transcendent and yet near—who is able to be in the midst of the life we all live and share as believers, both in the States and in Jamaica.
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.

joy and sleep [not necessarily in that order]

[I got up early to study before my test. I think it went okay...I'll keep you updated. This is why I'm thinking about sleep though.]

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.


easy mac mondays

Mondays... they always roll in unexpected, and yet come with annoying frequency. Today was a good, model Monday. It started off with my alarm clock going off just a little too soon [but my roommate was great and shut the window when she left for class...this helps me get out of bed because I normally like to be cold/bundled up when I sleep and if these factors are in place in the morning I am nearly impossible to get out of bed. So Renae has started shutting the window when she leaves and by the time my alarm goes off, the room is warm enough for me to take my covers off and stumble out of bed--no doubt after hitting the snooze at least 4 times.] but I got out of bed and had time to make a cup of coffee to take to class with me, which is always a bonus if I have enough time to do that. First thing to greet me in class was a quiz, then a long lecture.

After class on Mondays I get to babysit Ollie--which makes Mondays a little more bearable. I always stick in a pack of easy mac to take along so I don't have to bundle the little guy up and haul him over to the caf [for something that is probably not near as good as easy mac!]. Today he only spit up on me once and was in a good mood.

I then took a brief nap in order to make it through the rest of the day [20 minutes]. Did a quick Taebo workout [ha!], showered [even more surprising], and then headed off to the library to study [until 7:30].

Tonight I had a "strength's quest" RA inservice meeting, and each staff dressed up in a certain color [my staff won! dessert!]. It is actually a pretty neat thing because we all take the test and then we talk about what our top five strengths are. They usually seem to fit the people pretty well. My top 5, in this order, are: - W.O.O. [winning others over], Positivity, Developer, Empathy, Communication.

Now it's back to studying for the test. I have to memorize the first thing we have recorded in our "language"--old english, which really isn't english at all: "Nu shulon herigean, heofonrices weard. Meotodes meahte and his modeathanc." The test is at 9:25 tomorrow. Pray for me.

Sorry this post probably left much to be desired. I probably could have gone without posting today but I don't want to slack off this soon. If I have learned one thing as an English major it is this: write, write, write. even when you think you have nothing good to say. [hence, this post].

but the good news is, tomorrow is Tuesday, and better yet, the next day is Chicken Patty Wednesday!
[note: the picture at the top is from my freshman/sophomore year, but it could have been taken today.]


musings from a chilly sabbath

I just woke up from my Sunday afternoon nap and am enjoying a cup of coffee. On these days I always think about home and how important Sunday afternoons were growing up. I thought about my family when I sat down in the caf, and although I ate with good friends and we laughed, it wasn't the same. I thought about Brent's dad, Beck, when I poured my cup of coffee before I let the whole pot brew [he doesn't approve of that]. I've always gotten a little homesick on Sundays since I arrived at school four years ago. I don't know quite what it is but I just appreciate a good rest, and it seems like that is hard to come by when I'm on campus-- there are always papers and tests staring me in the face, books that need to be read, meetings that need to be attended etc. The other day I wrote about this missing home and how home is a part of me forever. It seems applicable to share this today:
Her head is empty right now because her heart is full. She had heard once, in her human anatomy class, how blood will rush to the vital organs to keep them warm when the body is exposed to cold. This phenomenon leaves the fingers and toes cold, but the heart keeps pumping. It is like this for her now, in the northern part of Iowa at a school far from her home. She is finding it harder to concentrate in her classes because her heart is focused on not forgetting.
In her Senior year, she has been away from home almost four years now. Her freshman year, multiple people tole her time and again taht this place, this college, would become home to her. That time and circumstances here would change her. It was at this point she made a promise to herself that she would never call this place home and she would always smile when she crossed the Missouri-Iowa state line going south.
And that is why now, in her senior year, it is getting harder to concentrate-- not becauseshe no longer cares to learn or that she has grown tired of her college friends--it is simply exhausting to constantly crave to be somewhere else. She is body and soul tired from missing Missouri.
Sure, part of what she misses are the people-her mom and dad, grandparents, friends, even her fiance. But she also misses the rivers and creeks, the huge oak trees and the flowering dogwoods. She misses the bluebirds perched in these trees and the whitetail deer and turkies that inhabit the fields. She misses the almost-there-southern-drawl, the smell of laundry dried by the sun. She misses the roads that curve with the land and make square-miles simply a figure of speech. She misses the excitement and tension in the air during hunting season and the sound of rain on the tin-roof porch that was added to her family's new house just for the purpose of hearing the rattattat of that melody. She misses the springtime and the fall, which are distinct and ushered in with reverence and beauty.
She misses being able to speak of home with a smile on her face, rather then a lump in her throat.
And for these reasons she can no longer concentrate when away at school-- because all her blood rushes to her heart to keep it pumping with these memories--to keep it beating with thoughts of hom.
She was cultivated with the land around her and one day she will return so that she can hear again-- so that she can start to listen with her heart once more.
My coffee is getting cold and there is homework waiting. By the way, it's 50 degrees and windy right now and supposed to get down into the 30s tonight! Brrr.... We haven't had a very pretty fall so far. A few trees changed/are changing...but I think most just gave up and dropped their leaves.
Happy Sabbath.


my thoughts exactly...

My sister finally convinced me to join the blogging world. She said that her blog was a great way to get her journaling again [last time I checked she had two posts up...you can go encourage her at http://www.kalijohnston.blogspot.com/] So, here I am, after about 20 minutes of trying to come up with a good title for my page. But then I remembered something I had read from the poet/writer Pablo Neruda in one of my writing classes not to long ago. It's entitled The Word, and I find it beautiful and a little haunting-- I find it describing things I have tried to describe. This is where my title came from, words that sing, and so I wanted to share the piece from Neruda. I think it is a fitting first blog post [for me anyway...]:
...you can say anything you want, yessir, but it's the words that sing, they soar and descend...I bow to them...I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down...I love words so much...The unexpected ones...The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop... Vowels I love...They glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish, they are foam, thread, metal, dew...I run after certain words... They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem...I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish,...And then I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them, I let them go...Everything exists in the word...An idea goes through a complete change because one word shifted its place, or because another settled down like a spoiled little thing inside a phrase that was not expecting her but obeys her....They are very ancient and very new....

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.