8.14.17 Boxes Because: A Bella Grace Post

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Surprised? Me too! I just received a message telling me that Bella Grace Magazine’s blog Grace Notes picked up a piece of mine that I’ve been wanting to share with everyone for some time, Boxes Because. From a trunk of letters to a tiny box only big enough to hold a secret, you never know what delight they’ll hold.  I hope that you click on the link and respond what “fills” you. In the mean time, I’m going to be trying something for the first time!

Brian Tracy once said, “You can only grow if you’re willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” I’m heeding this advice by feeling very awkward, and uncomfortable! Below is my first VLOG! A video-blog snippet. It’s only one minute, but it is a start. Remember that boxes are only beautiful when you are filling them – not trying to fit into them.

Can’t wait to hear from you.

Elle

 

7.24.17 I Shall Cannonball

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I am an imperfect parent. Did I ever mention that? I’m pretty sure that I have, because as much as I love the picture-perfect-moments I might capture for Instagram, I in NO way, EVER want people to think that these snapshots of my life mean we don’t struggle. We do. I do. All the time.

Yesterday was a beautiful day through and through. My family’s only plan was to be together. I made chocolate-chip pancakes. We got coffee. We went to a trampoline arena. We ate out at a favorite restaurant. We got caught in the rain and quite literally danced in it. Splashing and sloshing and carrying on. Then we took bubble baths. We watched a new movie. We had our cake and ate it too … literally! It was awesome.

But then Monday happened. My husband went to work. I started prepping my classroom and got more nervous than if I would’ve just left it alone. I was instantly overwhelmed at all I needed to accomplish that I didn’t have time for. Then, I had a few stressful phone calls, and a few more stressful texts. My son had a momentary melt-down, (he never melts-down) my daughter snapped, (she never snaps). I got so sick of the mess in the living room that no one but me cleans up that I threw a tiny stuffed animal across the room and it (of course) hit my son’s milk cup which poured all over him. Did I mention he had just gotten out of the shower and had on the cleanest of clean clothes? Sometimes days kinda suck, and as important as it is to acknowledge the amazing days, is as necessary as it is to admit – NO – today wasn’t the best, thank you very much!

I was at the pool with my kids, headed to the bathroom alone, when a random kid stopped me. “Hey!” he said brightly.

“Hey,” I smiled back.

“Have you gone down the blue slide yet? Because if you haven’t you should and then curl up into a ball at the end and you’ll go in like a cannon ball,” he said in a totally serious dish of vital information.

“Well okay. Thank you for that tip!” I replied.

Can I say that I loved every second of that one minute conversation? Because apparently, I still look like the kind of adult who will plummet down a slide without my children just for the fun of it. I loved his faith in me that I would, and sometime before the summer is over – I will. I must!

So the truth is, we are fickle beings. The melancholy way we humans bounce between emotions is much akin to pinballs lighting up the different bands of color. Happy, happy, frustrated, sad, angry, happy, frustrated, happy, tired, tired, happy. I don’t necessarily anticipate that these whims or “pings” will change, because as life happens, so will moods. Toby Mac once said, “The only one that can truly satisfy the human heart is the one that made it.” So, in this life, at least, we will bounce between dispositions fluidly. It’s okay. You’re imperfect. I’m even more so! But, for today at least, I will hold true to the fact that yesterday, we danced, and someday very soon, I shall cannonball off of a bright blue slide.

Go jump in,

Elle

7.17.17 Than Me

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“I promise you this, no matter who enters your life, 

I will love you more than any of them.”

– Clarise Fuentes

For ten years boy, I have known you

and I would say I have loved you,

but I believe I loved you much longer than that.

Before you were even mine,

before you were

blue eyes,

and tousled hair,

tan skin

and scraped knees,

I loved you for the dreams I imagined you might be.

And now that I have you

and see you

mischievous dimples,

and too many opinions,

lanky limbs,

and curious mind,

I know

without a moment’s hesitation,

that I will love you longer than ten lifetimes,

because your spirit is of my spirit,

and the memories you give me outweigh even the most significant ones

I ever had before you.

There is power in that kind of love

you know?

There is power in knowing that regardless of any

heartache,

or mistake,

problem,

or bad decision,

you can know with certainty that you are always wanted –

you are always enough,

because you are the very fiber of what family means to me.

There is nowhere you can go,

no height you can grow,

and no place in the world that will ever be far from me,

because you carry the best of my heart within each beat of yours.

And though I will mess up,

and make lots of mistakes,

and even make you a little bit crazy sometimes –

know that I’m trying my best,

and please be patient with me –

because there is no one who will ever fight for you,

be more proud of you,

or live more for you,

than me.

To my son … Mommy loves you.

Elle Harris

7.7.17 Publication News

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I wrote this piece some time ago with the hopes that someday it would find its way off of the shelf, and IT HAS! Live today on Bella Grace Magazine’s  blog Grace Notes, you can read my newest publication, Love Letter to a Single Friend.

I pray that you will share it with everyone that needs to hear it … because they do … they need to know how singularly they are loved – how treasured they are to you, and to this world that needs their spirit so desperately. Help me spread this appreciation, help me gift this love.

With all my heart,

Elle

7.3.17 To Be Free

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“Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” – Benjamin Franklin 

To Be Free

The will to be free is innate

and though we honor in days

in commemorations

and spectacles of light and color

the truest form of celebration is that of the soul

When your spirit is enraptured with light,

with peace

and with the tranquil understanding that

nothing can tether or tie you

but that which you choose to bind yourself to

By lifting your humanity to heaven

by humbling yourself to divinity

you will come to believe in the worth you were born into

Finding you are not owned

you are not enslaved

you are not ensnared by the grip of this world

not to conformity

not to addiction

not even to self-persecution

not to worry

not to acceptance

or a nagging fear of what may be

There will always be wars

and the battles will be endless

Some will be won

and in turn,

many will be lost

But freedom is not to be purchased into

or sold out of

To be free

is inherent in the plan of creation

and its grace washed over you with the light of your first breath

The genuine gift of freedom

is realizing that though life may assign you a value,

priceless

is the only identity

you have any right to claim

 

 

 

 

6.26.17 It’s a Good Thing I Don’t Believe in a Bad Summer Day

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“Dear Life, when I asked if my day could get any worse, it was a rhetorical question, not a challenge.” -someecards.com

So, I am a fan of the belief that every day has a silver lining. There is always a bright side. And that nothing is ever as awful as it seems. But some days still kinda suck. It’s summer, so I know that this cannot be, because the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the wind is tickling the leaves and making them dance. I don’t believe in a bad summer day. And yet, here I am … a list of “are you kidding me” moments making up my morning, and afternoon. It is late now, and if this day wants to redeem itself, it sure better hurry up and change quickly, because the sun is well past halfway to setting.

It started off with waking up … feeling cramps … and going back to bed. Waking up for real a short while later, I discovered that the laundry fairy didn’t come (though I dreamed and wished for her to) and began to sort the precarious, leaning tower of doom. I emptied the kitty box (because my husband DIDN’T even though we agreed I’d give the cat her medicine if he would do the litter), only to walk out to our garbage and see that  a raccoon had torn into our bins the night before, scattering God knows what all over! Then, my dog decided to loot this treasure and display its remnants all over my yard! I hobbled over (still in my pjs) put on some gloves and dug in. Sometimes I think I’d like to ignore dirty messes and pretend I don’t see them so one of the other members of my family will do it but then I know (from past experience of having tried) that they will just shout to me when they do find it.

After the garbage with the garbage, my kids and I took a trip to Hades, I mean, the post office (which I’m pretty sure is the same thing). I must tell you that I loathe the post office, not because of the office itself, so much as the instant downfall of my children the moment we enter. It’s like the second we go in, some magnetic pull from the automatic door messes with their moral compass, making it spin haywire, simultaneously turning their usual, awesome composure and manners to wild monkey status! He began with spinning the card display, and the red-faced, white-haired postal clerk asked him to stop. I, of course, looked like a negligent mother, blowing hair out of my face to look up as I hog-wrestled packaging tape and a box to the ground. He later got yelled at by the other postal clerk for writing on the desk tablet. “What on earth?” I looked at him with dagger eyes.

“I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to,” he replied.

“Really? You didn’t know you weren’t supposed to write on a desk? Do you write on a desk at school?”

“No.”

“Well then what the heaven!?!”

“I don’t know why I did it.”

Wrath.

Some cute old man came in, and I could see him smile at both of my kids as I flustered about with another box and more packaging tape. (I think that if there were video footage of my box packaging, I could send it in to the professional wrestling organization and instantly make the team.) Usually, I would stop, and chat with someone like this cute old man, I’d take all the time in the world to make a connection, but just as I thought about doing so, my daughter needed a kleenex. I didn’t have a kleenex. She began to drip. I took the edge of her sleeve and … well … you can paint the rest of that picture yourself. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty judged by said old man, and he shuffled off with a look.

When I got to the counter, I mailed a package to Pennsylvania, and the clerk said that because it was three pounds, I needed to either pay $35.00 or it would take four weeks to get there! In four weeks I could walk to Pennsylvania and deliver the box myself! I mailed a package to Georgia. “That’s not the right zip code.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Oh wait, it is. But what does the address say?”

“Busbee.”

“Is that a place?”

“I guess so?” I said, showing her the address slip.

“Oh, yeah,” more typing into her computer, “I guess it is.”

“I hope so.”

$59.50 for TWO BOXES that weighed less than five pounds together!

More wrath.

Later:

My sister and I finally stop playing phone tag – the doorbell rang.

I had a meeting with a house repair man – my dog jumped on him.

I was trying to have a professional conversation – my allergies flared and I couldn’t stop sneezing.

I made my kids lunch  – my son shoved his elbow in the peanut butter.

I told my daughter not to do something – she cried.

I was feeling super bloated and gross –so  I ate more!

I have a no solicitous number – Honda called asking me to trade in my Kia!

The dryer buzzed – all the clothes were as wet as when I threw them in!

I told the kids to play outside – they hit balls over the fence.

I told my daughter to look before crossing the street – she said, “Wait both ways?”

I have a tummy ache.

I am tired.

And though we’ve only been home for two hours, it is now time to leave again.

Suffice it to say … it’s a good thing I don’t believe in a bad summer day – otherwise I’m pretty sure I’m having one.

So here’s to the moments you will laugh over later (probably, okay maybe not even then). I hope your summer day is everything a summer day should be, and nothing at all like mine.

Elle

6.19.17 Thank you Daddy. Thank you Dad.

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It has taken me a while to write this post. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but rather, too much. How do you put into words what your father(s) mean to you? How do you even begin? My father, and my father-in-law, have been the most influential men in my life aside from my husband. Married at 21, (and dating for three years before that) we have grown up together, and I feel that we have two full sets of parents that have blessed, influenced, and molded us. 

I realize that most of the world does not have the experience of a father the way I or my husband have. Often (especially in the lives of my students) I am exposed to the painful truths that most children experience some version of cool complacency with a father who was never really there. And for this … my friends … I am so sorry. I wish you could have had my childhood – one that was filled with encouragement, faith, and the safety of knowing you are well and fully loved. 

One of my favorite memories was falling asleep in my father’s arms at a Summerfest concert with Rod Steward wailing away. I must have been three or four-years-old, and I distinctly remember the feeling of curling into my dad, amid all the noise and chaos, and not waking up again until he was carrying me out of the car when we got home. It might seem a trivial memory, but to me, it was foundational. It was the beginning of my daddy nurturing my dreams, literal and otherwise. Since before I could even recognize it, my daddy has been growing my hope, teaching me to wrestle with my imagination, and pushing me to demand more of myself than I would have thought I was capable of. He is the hand I hold in the storms, and the nudge forward when I want to escape. He sturdies my resolve, and pushes me ever on. 

When I met my father-in-law, years and years later, I hoped to love and respect him, but didn’t think I’d need much, as I never had a void in the dad-department that required filling. I was wrong. Throughout the years, my relationship with my father-in-law has become one of a true, dad/daughter bond. When I first met him, his love language was that of service. Doing things like washing my car, and fixing broken things around my house were his way of telling me he loved me. Now he uses words, and oh, how I savor them. A lover of memories, like me, he writes treasures for us kids to savor – listing out scrapbook stories and pieces of childhood I almost feel like I was a part of. He listens to me. He reads everything I  write. He is proud of me as his daughter, and has long since adopted me into his family for real. 

One thing I have learned from both of my dads is what Marie Beyon Ray once said, “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.” They are live-in-the-moment men. Stand up, get knocked down, and stand up again men. They are I’m here for you, I’ll provide for you, I’ll show you how to do the same men.

I wish the world had more men like them. 

Both have epitomized bravery and courage to me. Whether battling occupations or health concerns, finances or relocations, they have remained men of faith and character. Neither has compromised his integrity in times when it would have been so much easier to take the “easy way.” They believe in hard work, in dedication, in family, and in this one, precious life the Lord gave them to live and journey through. I cannot imagine my or husband’s life without their guiding light and I am eternally grateful that God placed them as the pillars of strength in our family. 

Thank you daddy. Thank you dad. 

Elle

6.12.17 13 Years

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who met a boy with eyes the color of sea glass.

I cannot say whether he found her, or she found him, or whether the stars, the tides, or the winds from the four corners of the earth arranged themselves just so – but find one another they did.

Her curious spirit tended his intelligent soul.

He kept her grounded, and she set him free, and they found home within each other’s company.

Days stretched languidly into years and soon the boy asked the girl a question she only needed one word to answer.

Lengths of grace and lace and light accompanied them on the day simple words became divine promises.

And he had, and she held.

Since that time, in their story, there have been days of better, and days of worse … spans of richer and bouts of poorer … occasions of sickness, and stretches of health.

He has loved her, and she has cherished him.

In time two new heartbeats echoed the sound of their own. Two sets of hands swung between theirs, and two sets of feet stepped close to dance.

A new season brought sunlight-filtered smiles, sticky kisses and always, a golden glorious mess. In their most exhausted moments, he smiled a tired, secret smile, which she returned in a sleepy, happy daze.

Every day is imperfect, and beautiful for its mistakes. And every day the girl, who fell in love with the boy with sea glass eyes, is grateful for knowing the safety of his love.

This story has no end, only chapters that edge closer and further toward the brink of forever.

 

 

6.4.17 Voices

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“The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.” – Picasso

This past weekend was a first for me. I was asked to speak at a high school commencement. Apparently, I was the senior’s “first and only” choice. I feel that this honor was beyond what I should have been given, but I am so very, very blessed to have been able to speak twenty minutes worth of words. I pray they will arm these amazing young people with the ability to walk into the unknown with confidence. The theme of their year was “Voices.” I wrote this piece for them and ended my speech with it. May we all remember that words have power, and voices are meant to be heard. I love you class of 2017.

Always,

Elle

VOICES

It seems as though with every voice

there is a choice inlaid between

Of who I was, of where I am,

of how I feel, and how I seem

And though my heart may know the truth

foundations built as they were laid

I’ve often wondered if it’s His

or my own thoughts when I have prayed

I know heaven speaks in whispers

but my ears are set to shouting

So although I know He hears me,

I still end up lost and doubting

Like an apparition’s presence

all reflections become haunting

And I cannot trust my conscious

because suddenly it’s daunting

Weighted down with life’s decisions –

my mind a game of pitch and toss

Now the answer lies behind me

under the shadow of a cross

And in silence, when I’m broken

my healer finds and tends my scars

Knitting me right back together

atoning light, beyond the stars

A breath of life, His words redeem

and wash my spirit clean to light

There can be no more fear of dark

when truth has shown me what is right

Drenched with grace I know I’m worthy

raised in hope, my faith has grown

Treading bravely toward the future

the voice I’ll trust will be my own

5.29.17 Perhaps

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Perhaps I feel the way I feel because of the season of life we’re in. Or maybe it’s due to the time of the year. (I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the time of the month). But regardless of the specific reason, there are some days that I think we as parents need to celebrate NOT going insane.

This may sound a little crass, but I’m perfectly serious. There are moments, breaking points where I’m pretty sure that our last nerve, the last straw, and the last word are each cast in turn, and it takes every fiber of our being not to snap.

Last weekend my family and I were headed up to my grandmother’s ninety-fifth birthday party. What should have been a smooth, reflection-filled two hour drive, was instead a test of my will and character. There were multiple times on the drive that I wanted to pull over, get out, and walk –ALONE! Mary Francis Winters once said, “Don’t become too preoccupied with what is happening around you. Pay more attention to what is happening within you.” Well, I’d argue that what was happening around me was in direct correlation to what was happening within me!

Perhaps I sound dramatic, but you know what? Some moments ARE dramatic, and if you don’t share them dramatically you’ll be ruining the whole dynamic effect of the story. So here goes … imagine a Kia (because that’s what we have) filled to the popping point with gifts, coloring books, ninety-six markers (with which to color in said coloring books), driving activity cards, an overly-tired nine-year-old boy, a super-chatty seven-year-old girl, and a husband who has NO desire to talk, at all, even if it is our only chance that day to do so.

The boy is tired, and as such – grumpy. His reply to everything is equal parts mischief and sass. The girl’s conversation is a low flying plane set to circling. She is neither discussing anything of import, nor is she running out of gas anytime soon. I was (naively) looking forward to some mellow music and a bit of brainstorming, but either at the exact moment I was able to form a coherent thought or my daughter actually stopped talking, then SOMETHING would inevitably happen to interrupt my thoughts.

            “Where are our snacks?” she asked, starting it all.

            “Didn’t you pack any?” I asked my husband (who’d been in the car first, waiting for me with seemingly nothing to do but honk from the driveway to hurry me up).

           “No,” I retorted. “I was getting gifts together, why didn’t you?”

           “I didn’t think of it,” he said blithely, “and you normally do.”

At this point I could literally feel the blood blush creeping up my cheeks.

           “What about water?” my son asked pathetically. “Did anyone remember to pack us that at least?”

           “No,” I said again. “Why didn’t anyone else grab it.”

            “You usually do,” my kids said together.

So we figured we’d grab some when we stopped to get coffee. Of course that was another debacle. The ever-growing line behind us would just have to wait for him to choose which kind of bread he wanted and her yelling at me to put the whipped cream back on her order because SHE likes it, HE doesn’t, and I needn’t take off her whipped cream just because he doesn’t like it.

         “So …” the guy on the other side of the ordering counter droned on. “Was that whipped cream or no whipped cream then?”

About ten miles down the road, my son piped up with, “Hey, didn’t we get any water?”

     “NO! We didn’t!” I practically shout. “You’ve got a smoothie.”

     “Yeah,” he says unfazed, “but I need water when I’m eating lemon bread.

     “Well you’ll just have to wait.”

     “That’s fine. I need to go to the bathroom anyway – now,” he said with casual urgency.

This is where I’m pretty sure my deodorant started working overtime. Angry and annoyed, we stalked into the gas station to use the bathroom. The girl’s bathroom was “out of order,” and traumatized as I was, I knew we’d never make it to the party if I started letting my germaphobia take over.

About five minutes later, my daughter, who’d been waiting for my son to get out, came to me with indignant tears, telling me that just when he’d finished and it was her turn, he pushed her out again and said, “I’ve gotta poop.” After another ten minutes of wandering around the gas station that didn’t so much as have a birthday card, (which I still needed for the party) my son came out – a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and my daughter, blotchy-eyed, pushed past him. Ten more minutes, and I quietly knocked on the door, asking her if she was alright.

        “I went number two mom, but then I feel like I need to go potty, but not yet, so I’m waiting until I do.”

Now, I actually, physically started to tingle. My heart was drumming inside of my chest with the passing of time … time that was meant to be on the road gaining distance, not taking a museum tour of a dirty gas station while my daughter and son “enjoyed” the facilities.

Finally back on the road, we encountered utility vehicles, Sunday drivers on a Saturday, construction, wrong turns, and a quick stop to purchase candles that said “95” on them. Sweaty and anxious, we dusted off and took a few deep breaths before stepping into the loveliest party I think my grandmother has had to date.

Surrounded by family, friends, and numerous great-grandchildren, her hazel eyes glowed with pride and memories … of which I cannot be sure. The rest of the party was filled with double-slices of cake, cousins reminiscing with bubbling laughter, skipping rocks at the lake, and all the joy that comes with too many kids on a playground.

Perhaps it was the fresh air, or the fresh faces, or the fresh perspective I gained when I  saw the product of a life so-well lived. But the ride home was sweet and calm. He was coloring. She was sleeping. My husband was driving, and all was well enough in the world for me to daydream – and just like that, the balance of life was restored. Another day of keeping my sanity. Thank the Lord for that because, as Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Elle