1.12.21 Missing Light

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Her name was Lucy

which, not-so-ironically, means light.

And OH, but she was.

Fiery and feisty,

she taught me what it meant to be made of 

perhaps

a dash more spice

than sugar …

though her sweet tooth was never fully satisfied.

She loved life

and laughter –

so

much 

laughter.

She loved fancy

and flirting

and the color red.

When I was a little girl,

she taught me songs the world forgot,

but I remember still  … 

songs about “Elmer’s tune,” and “The Man in the Moon,” 

songs my children now know the words to.

I loved the way she called me “Dolly,” 

the way she didn’t over-apologize the way I do,

the way she shamelessly said

what-so-ever crossed her mind,

whether it was mindful or not.

Living nearly a century, with immeasurable loss,

she had every right to be hardened – to be jaded, or sad.

But she wasn’t. 

She lived in a world of her own making, 

dressing up her goodbyes as “too-da-loo’s” 

somehow making every parting more sweet than sorrow-filled.

She chose joy, 

and taught me that even now, even without her – 

because of her … 

I can too.

1.4.20 A Single Word

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I have never really been a person to start a year with a single “word.” I have favorite words … too many, and I suppose that is why choosing one to embody an entire year never seemed sufficient enough. And yet … I betray myself, because recently, I realized I do have a word. But before telling you what it is, I have one story, and one confession. 

A few weeks ago, I was in a cohort of teachers and was asked the question, “If you could speak any language fluently, what language would you want to know how to speak.” I listened to the others choosing beautiful languages that had always been on my list, but when it came to be my turn to answer, I couldn’t pick any. Surprising even myself, what came out of my mouth was “respect.” 

I went on to explain how I wish that I could speak the language of respect fluently to all people, because I have come to learn that as “alike” or “different” as I believe myself to be from anyone else, every single person in the universe speaks and feels respect differently. As humans we have nothing if not a consistent margin for offense, mis-intended communication and accidental conflict. It’s exhausting, actually … especially for those of us who feel everything and care perhaps a little too much.

Now, onto my confession. As I was thinking about my wish to speak respect fluently, a small voice in the back of my mind asked me very, very clearly … “Is respect the language you speak to yourself?” And guess what my answer was – nope. Not often. Not even once a day sometimes. Here I try and try and bend to the point of breaking to love and honor and respect others (albeit imperfectly), and I don’t even really try to return the favor to myself. 

I point out her flaws. I tell her of her shortcomings. I expect more and more out of her with less and less time, encouragement, and praise. I am not very nice to her at all. I am demanding and harsh and critical. Professionally. Personally. Physically. I tell her she is not enough. How’s that for honesty? I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but how will I ever become fluent in respect if I don’t start with telling myself the truth? So that is my intention this year. I hope to mend our relationship a little … or, a lot maybe. I want to give her a bit of grace, a bit of encouragement, and maybe even a long-deserved apology. 

My word for the year is RESPECT. I’m thinking it might take me awhile to get it right, but self … I’m sure going to try. 

12.25.20 Nostalgic

4

“Does it always hurt this much,” she asked.

“Yes, it does,” I assured her.

“I just love their ages so much right now … it’s just going too fast.”

“I know. And it will keep going. Just snuggle them up, and keep holding on.”

This was a recent conversation one of my closest friends and I had. I always feel especially nostalgic around Christmas … maybe because I have fourteen years’ worth of proof lining my window sills of just how quickly Father Time passes us by. This year, my son gave me coupons for favors, but the one that said, “A hug whenever you ask for one,” also said, “Never expires – can use without coupon!” I melted.

As I read the story of the very first Christmas to my family today, I realized I wasn’t alone. Twice the passage from Luke 2 said, “And Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Even the mother of God reflected on the precious and few moments and memories of her son’s too-short life. I can’t imagine the strength it must have required for her to know, even on the day of his birth, that his life was meant for everyone else.

I pray that you are feeling nostalgic, that you wish on the ancient light that led Hope to us all. May you dwell in the magic, mystery, and majesty of God’s greatest gift this Christmas and always. Rest in the love that heaven made incarnate.

12.16.20 Words

5

Words

can be frightfully insufficient things

especially when you need them to mean more

or less

especially in the wake of what you didn’t mean to say

or did

but wish you didn’t 

And whether you form them 

into long sentences that ribbon and curl with intention

Or punctuate them in short, sharp points you made

and can’t take back

they remain too much

they remain not enough

leaving you full

and somehow completely empty 

all at once

12.5.20 Loneliness Knows No Age

13

“All great and precious things are lonely.” John Steinbeck

I think people forget, sometimes, that loneliness knows no age. It doesn’t settle for the old, or the young but satisfies itself only in any and every. If this pandemic has taught us anything as a people, it is that we are not meant to be solitary creatures. We cannot thrive alone. We cannot survive alone. And we shouldn’t have to.

Though I don’t talk about it often, I am a teacher, blessed with 105 middle school minds this year. They are snarky and sarcastic. They are witty and wonderful. They are tired and grumpy, excited and funny. But most of all … they are lonely.

In a world where the satisfaction of an answer is instant, and the gratification of working something out over time doesn’t exist, it can be hard for any of us to feel value beyond the moment. When you are twelve and thirteen years old, your brain is first becoming capable of metacognition … of thinking about thinking – of registering your feelings and taking stock of what to make of them. Now imagine doing that when your parents are working, when you can only see friends through a screen, and your teachers aren’t only a hallway away. This is the reality we are in. Balancing safety with sanity. There is no right or wrong … only stuck – all of us in a purgatory of waiting for we don’t know what, or when exactly.

It is hard. It is hard not to hug. It’s hard not to squeeze a shoulder or toss a smile freely that isn’t swallowed up by a mask.

Nearby, there is a thriving retirement community … filled with amazing individuals with stories that span a generation. Tucked inside of brilliant minds, behind silver strands, are thoughts and wisdom just waiting to be imparted on any ears that would have time for a story.

My students were asked to write a letter, to take a chance on a multigenerational friendship. Now, over two hundred letters later … I am reading hope, personified. I am reading the curious questions of children who are stretching and reaching for answers from memories and hands that are willing to write them. From tales of what school was like eighty-seven years ago, to new and old book titles recommended. No matter how many letters pass through my inbox, no matter how long it takes me to read and send, read and send, I cannot stop smiling as each word, each hope, and each wish is shared.

Loneliness knows no age, and these sweet pen pals, some over eighty years apart, are forming friendships that also know no age. Author Tom Bodett says, “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Can I just say how blessed I feel to see that one assignment has covered all three?

Go love someone by giving them the time to hear a story, or share one of your own … no matter what their age.


11.25.20 Thankful, even now.

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“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:3-7

11.16.20 I Need You to Know

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Sometimes one spirit, 

one flesh

feels too far away when in two bodies

And your mind is a mess with stress

and mine is just

tired

And it amazes me just how possible 

impossible days come

and go

and come back again

Like a chill neither of us meant to catch

but caught

n  o  n  e  t  h  e  l  e  s  s

On days like these days

I can’t find you . . . 

though you’re right in front of me

you’re not beside

and your thoughts reside

e  l  s  e  w  h  e  r  e

And there is not somewhere I can go with you –

because you didn’t invite me

It’s not a burden I can help you bear

because you took it on alone

Still somehow I carry the weight

of waiting

for you to set it down

to look at me

to let me back in

I’m sorry

for offenses both real

and made real by believing I meant to offend

I’m sorry

for moments lost

and more

for moments thrown away

If I tell you that I love you

could it help?

Could it heal? 

because I know you know

but knowing doesn’t seem like enough

I need you to know

and I need me

to be 

e  n  o  u  g  h

11.11.20 Get Cozy

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Bella Grace Magazine’s special issue Cozy is out again! It is my favorite time of year because it reminds us to tuck in and surround ourselves with all of the warmth, joy, and spirit of the coming season. The stretch of days between the first leaves of Fall and the first snowflakes of winter are magical with anticipation. Cozy is just another way to celebrate them. I was excited to, once again, be a part of these ink and comfort saturated pages.

I hope that you will not only pick up your own inspirational copy, but also take the time to drop me a message of what you do to stay cozy on these cinnamon tea and hot cocoa days. I’d love to hear your own personal version of comfort. Hearing from you is my delight.

Stay warm,

Elle

11.4.20 Lost and Found

2

The worst possible reality was hers – she had just received the news that her daughter died. Had just gone through the funeral. Had just tried to return to something as “normal” as a soccer game … with the deep seated reality that nothing would ever be normal again. That was where I found her.

After the awkward, fragile niceties, I broached the impossible question, “How are you?”

“All I want to do is talk about her,” she said. “People don’t know if they should bring her up or not, but I want to remember everything. She was my best friend.”

I had nothing to offer her aside from my tears – my tears and a memory.

“I’ll never forget the first time I met her,” I handed over my words gently, wrapping the moment in my softest tone. I remember her eyes – hungry with hope, with desire for any fragment of a memory I could give her. “She climbed in my lap and touched my freckles. Then she told me I had a lot of polka-dots.”

And she laughed.

And I laughed.

And I knew it was the bereavement gift she needed.

I believe the most precious commodity we have to give, to trade, and most importantly to keep, are memories. The immeasurable value in giving a hidden chapter to a story you thought was over … what could possibly matter more than that? What could ever replace the value of another page? Another line? Another word spoken from a “voice” you never thought you’d hear from again?

I’m writing to ask a favor. Please share a memory … no matter how small or insignificant you think the interaction might be. Send the picture, share the card with their signature, and always tell the story. Keep trading the hope of memories lost, and found.

10.26.20 A Halloween Wish

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Once upon the mid of Autumn

when the leaves are crisp and bright

step by stomp and twirl by creeping

screams and giggles filled the night

And the streets were filled with wonder

creatures from each walk of life …

some enchanting, some were haunting,

some brought laughter, others strife

Whether fair and dainty maiden

or a bold and ghastly ghost

when feathered, furred, or filled with scales

each deserves what they wish most

When the stars begin their winking

and the wind unfurls its breeze

moonbeams with their shadows dancing

sway and hush among the trees

This is the extent of magic

wrapped in spirits present, past

and the hope of all the dreamers

is that time will not move fast

Let this night be one of many

where pretend can dwell and play

make-believe and just imagine

are invited here to stay

Once upon the mid of Autumn

when the leaves are crisp and bright

let them stay like this forever

believing with their hearts, not sight