12.31.22 Hopeful Expectancy

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“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me … Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 

– Shel Silverstein

Here upon the dawn of a fresh new year, I wanted to write you poetry. I wanted to write you dreamy, sweet, recollections. But yesterday, I called my sister in tears, and so instead, I decided to write you truth. Here it is. Being a dreamer … a wisher … a doer, is sometimes overwhelmingly heavy. Waking up each day with stories you know need to be told, but don’t have the time to tell–stepping into new days and weeks and months that pass without your permission or intention–finding that there were so many meant-to’s still in a wishful pile of haven’t done’s … it’s a lot.

This year, I have been a mom to two teenagers. I’ve been a wife (albeit one who owes her husband about a million date nights). I have started a new job teaching an entirely new level of (high school). I’ve continued my blog. I’ve been a guest speaker. I’ve written for my favorite magazine for another year. And yet, oh friends. Yet, I am the farthest thing from satisfied that I’ve done enough.

So I called her, my sweet sister, in tears. I’m not much of a cryer–until I am. Then, it seems, I have no choice but to let it all out. I called to confess that I have so much more to do, so much I’ve not done, so much I started without finishing. I told her I wanted to be someone my kids could be proud of for chasing and pursuing and “making” something of herself. I asked her why I have so many words in my mind, spinning and itching to be sent and spoken. I asked her why I can’t get farther. I asked. And I cried. And I muttered, “Why can’t I get farther?”

“Oh, sweetheart,” she said. “It’s because you’re not arriving. You’re already there.” She went on to explain (in the patient way that only sisters can) that the standard I hold myself to is not the same version of me the world sees. She told me that my children, my husband, and my family are already proud of me … and that the only one who isn’t, is me.

The truth, it would seem, is just as heavy as all of those other feelings. But where self-doubts seem to weigh me down, this spoken truth, was more of a blanket statement … settling over and comforting the parts of my heart and mind that are so often restless.

Dear ones. I wish you many things in this new year. I wish me many things too, but more than anything, I wish you truth and hopeful expectancy. May you hear the words that need to be said. May you feel the prayers that need to rest on and stay with you. May you allow yourself to be loved exactly as you are, not as you think you should be.

Here, on the eve of a brand new shiny turn about the sun: my fears have been cried, my tears have been dried, my wishes to heaven have been sent, and my busy brain has begun plotting and planning without strings attached. Maybe things will work out … maybe something better than my own plans will come to be … maybe nothing what-so-ever will change. No matter what, it is with a tenacious heart and winged-spirit that I step into 2023.

Ironically, or not so ironically, this particular verse popped up on two different apps of mine, two days in a row. “God’s timing is perfect,” Ecclesiastes 2:11. Work on believing it with me.

Delight and unabashed joy for what was, what is, and what will be, or won’t. Regardless of circumstances, sparkle and shine. Smile and trust. Love and be loved. Peace and optimism and effervescent hope be yours!

Elle

12.26.22 Gold, Frankincense, & Myrrh

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“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak a Christmas message to a group of mothers. I was so honored to be able to reflect on the joy of the season, and also the night Jesus was born. As a mom, I think that mysterious night … that holy night captures my imagination, and pulls at my heart. I think about the ways that I utterly adore my children, how I loved them before they were born, and how, the moment I became a parent, nothing was the same.

What I often try to reflect on, that I really struggle with, were the gifts of the Magi. As a new mother, everyone brings you gifts that promise hope, and a future filled with fun and love – but those weren’t the kinds of gifts Mary received. She received gold, a gift fit for kings; frankincense, a gift offered to the gods; and myrrh, a gift offering for death. Regardless of your faith, of your religion, of whom you dedicate your life to … I wonder if just for a moment, you can imagine this mother’s heart. Can you imagine the weight on the shoulders of this young hope-filled girl knowing that her child was destined for things she couldn’t fathom?

I think there is so much we as people can learn from this story, about ourselves and our place in this life. There are gold, frankincense, and myrrh moments we all face. I invite you to watch my speech on these things, and I’d love to hear any thoughts you might want to share on the gifts you face in your life.

GOLD LINK

FRANKINCENSE LINK

MYRRH LINK

I wish you and yours a beautiful and blessed holiday – one filled with life, and light, and hope. You are all worthy, and known, and loved. I appreciate you so much in my life … you are who I write for.

Elle Harris

9.3.22 An Inch Away From Forty

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“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

– Sophia Loren

So this week, I am going to turn forty … and like anyone approaching a milestone, it has caused me to reflect a great deal. Upon my rumination, I’m ashamed to admit that I am still riddled with insecurities. I think it’s easy, as we gloss over one another’s lives by an Instagram scroll or Facebook feed, to imagine that everyone’s got it all together. That our days consist of nothing but the polished, filtered photos and bright string of smiles tying one story to the next. It’s not often we get to hear the truth of what complexes lurk beneath the surface of each other’s digitized reality. So, I figured a bit of honesty was in order.

INSECURITIES:

I worry about my accomplishments, and how much farther I think they should be – whether or not my writing will reach the right audience.

I worry about my waistline, and my hairline, and my wrinkles. I am afraid I won’t be able to see past them, and then I am ashamed of myself and my vanity.

I worry I’m not smart enough.

Or relevant enough.

Or interesting enough.

I think about all the things I should make time for, but haven’t, or know I probably won’t.

I’m not great at cooking, or plants, or fixing things.

I wonder if I’ll ever feel like I’m “there,” like I’ve arrived … or if I’ll always be striving, and searching.

It’s a lot – enough to keep my mind spinning and reeling and honestly, I think I thought that by now, I’d be a lot closer to resolved on most of them. But then, I think about the three things I actually am secure on.

My faith.

My family.

My friends.

And just like that … the litany of my previous, ever-growing list doesn’t seem so daunting. There might be a lot that, at forty, I still don’t have figured out, but I know, imperfect and insecure as I am, there are a few things that I do.

12.25.20 Nostalgic

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“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.

8.11.20 Prayers of a Teacher

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So aside from writing I am a teacher, and I teach because, quite simply … it inspires. When you’re an educator you have the amazing privilege to see the future … to know that it will be bright because you see who’s in it. Today, in a prep meeting, our administrators asked us to write a letter to our students explaining our, “Why?” I am sharing mine with you both to show you a side of myself I rarely speak of, and also to prompt you to pray for the educators who are around the world being asked to do something very hard that they’ve never done before. Whether in person, masked, and six feet apart, or digitally and even farther … teachers are trying to prepare, engage, and love on kids without their usual modes of communication. We teachers are huggers. We are high fivers. We laugh and we joke and we cry with our kiddos. We are relational, conversational, of-course-I’ll-explain-it-again, and sure I’ll walk with you at recess kinds of beings who are now forced into separation. While I know safety is everything, please pray with me and for us that our hearts and minds creatively: heal the gaps, make the connections, and continue to champion the future leaders of this world.

My Dearest Students:

When I was eleven, my parents moved me from one school to another in the middle of my sixth grade year. I was nervous and awkward. I had terrible bangs, huge glasses, and a smile full of braces. As I navigated the uncomfortable transition, there would have been no way that I could have known at the time what an astounding blessing that decision to switch schools was for me – because that same year I met my two best friends and they are STILL, more than twenty years later, my best friends today. 

When you are “stuck in the middle” sometimes people look down on you … they equate middle school to be the leftovers of childhood … but I disagree. Did you know that your age is the first time you are able to metacognate? HUGE word, but it means, “thinking about thinking.” What an amazing new superpower, to not only hear what you’re told and commit it to memory, but think about it …  feel about it. I always tell my students that it is not my job to teach you what to think, it is my job to teach you HOW to think, and my darlings, no matter how you come into this year with me, you will leave it more confident, articulate, and most importantly, loved. I love you … already, because you were chosen to be mine, and together we are going to find a way to make this year something spectacularly and singularly yours

When I was a Freshman in high school, my history teacher had a quote on the board from the philosopher Spinoza that said, “Whenever I have confronted that which was unfamiliar to me, I sought neither to praise, nor to condemn, but only to understand.” It’s kind of heavy, but what it means is … I want to be open minded and open hearted. A lot of people think I’m crazy when I say I teach middle school, and maybe they’re a little bit right, but a brilliant man named Oscar Levant once said, “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.” So it will be a crazy year my friends, but if you open yourself to the possibility, it just might also be genius

All my love, 

Mrs. Harris

8.4.20 Shattered Jar

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I am missing some loved ones a great deal lately. This piece is short, but sometimes … feelings don’t translate well to the language of words. This is my attempt at translation.

Death is picking up a shattered jar

and seeing each

translucent piece fitting into a whole

that can never

be put back together …

But sometimes

when you look 

very carefully

you’ll see it –

the reflection of a memory 

the glint of a golden moment

you’ll single out and pick up

even if it’s broken

Because painful as the piece is to hold

somehow keeping it

keeps you

from shattering too

7.14.20 Beyond the Brink

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There has been an edging darkness

a coming storm

that just

keeps

coming

Thick clouds spiral emotions that

pour and pound

persisting and insisting on pushing us

to a brink we can’t see beyond

to a reality we don’t recognize

Inconsistency is currency

as the powerful veil truth from the powerless

ever searching with blinded eyes

ever listening with deafened ears

eager to climb, to cling or comply

to anything that offers more

than the absence we’ve now intimately known

There has been an edging darkness

a coming storm

and it might keep coming

But The Light is still behind each laden cloud

and gilded margins become radiant sovereigns

when given their chance to rise

So whether or not you believe you can carry on –

Do

Whether or not you see the end –

Stay

If you can’t see … feel

If you can’t hear … imagine

Defy the ache and the ebb

with audacious joy

with ineffable hope

with resilient conviction

Until you wake to the glorious morning

after the storm

7.4.20 Dear America

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Dear America,

Hello beautiful.

Happy birthday. I know you have had a really challenging year, and you might not feel very much like celebrating, but I celebrate you still. I celebrate your tenacious heart and the spirit of what you strive to become, even if you’re not there yet. None of us are. Be gentle with yourself precious … look at what you have accomplished and focus on where you are headed. In your short life you have achieved so much and idealized a dream of freedom that embodies the hearts and minds of every individual that calls you home. Whether indigenous or adopted, you desire us all … to love and live in unity as one family, even when we fail to listen – even when we misunderstand what you try help us be. You say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We misunderstand and abuse and distort … but that is on us America. Please don’t abandon your ideals for our misgivings. Help us. Wait for us. Keep us close in mind. Hold us while we fall. Pick us up as we fail. Trust us, even when we don’t deserve you.

I know it is a lot to ask, but I love you. I believe in you, and I know you, in your star spangled glory, will rise and rise again, echoing the anthems of ages … listening to every voice that yearns to be free.

Stay strong dear America, and please know I’m so, so proud to be yours.

5.15.20 If My Mother Taught Me Anything

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If my mother taught me anything … and she taught me everything … but nothing that mattered so much as this – to have faith. It is perhaps, paradoxically, the easiest and hardest thing to do. On one hand, I have found that life without it, to me, is depleted of meaning. But on the other hand, sometimes faith requires oh-so-much more courage than I feel I have. Still, silently screaming, I hold on as tight as I can to this truth … believing with the wishes wished on a thousand stars, with the prayers offered up of ten thousand prayers, that faith will be enough.

And it has been. Life has never left me hopeless, because it is not only this life I hope in. People have never disappointed me to the point of despair, because it is not only their love that I cling to.

I pray you too … in the midst of everything, of anything, can hold tight to faith. If you cannot find some, you may borrow some of mine. My mother taught me that too.

Elle