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

4.21.20 Tenacity

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“Carry each other’s burdens.” Galatians 6:2

My favorite illustrator and great friend, P. Marin, once posted her word of the year … I fell in love with it and, after seeing it, asked if she could illustrate my favorite word on commission. Thus, this delightful little creature was born! P. Marin said, “It’s you,” and I’ve never been so flattered!

So … from her and I … hang on friends … this won’t last forever and we believe you’ve got all the grace, moxie, and tenacity to carry on. If you’re feeling weak or overwhelmed, send me a note and I’ll send some words to shield you. I’m hanging on, and until you can strengthen your grip, let others help carry you. All my love.

Elle

 

4.9.20 Just for You

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There is too much noise

sometimes –

always.

Too much talk and chaos,

too much static in-between perspectives bent far

too right

or left.

And I wonder if we are losing our ability …

to value the wisdom in silence –

in the word not spoken,

in the opinion not shared.

How much greater is a story with an audience intent on listening to it –

taking it in for what it is,

and isn’t

as opposed to a version of that story …

twisted and conformed to a standardless society.

I wonder … do people even want the truth?

Or just truth according to a circumstance they can rally behind.

Amazing how little the world changes …

even after spinning two thousand times.

There was too much noise then too,

too many voices of people intent on holding power

just to keep others powerless.

In the chaos of following traditions

and superstitions …

they missed it.

They missed Him.

The orator who spoke stories that stirred the Spirit to action.

The gentleman who remained silent in times He could have condemned.

The brother who was paradoxically the hero called villain

in an attempt to protect.

How do we stay so confused when we have answers?

How do we remain so hazed in the season of hope?

There is too much noise

sometimes –

always. 

But if you lean into the stillness …

if you seek the whispered stories …

if you trace the living history …

the wisdom of silence will find you.

And you’ll fall into a truth

lived just for you.

2.11.20 Damsel in a Ditch

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“I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day!”

– Meg, from Disney’s Hercules 

So I very, very rarely post twice in one week let alone two days in a row, but today warranted a post my friends! Trust me.

I love the picture above because it is the story of my life. No … there’s nothing wrong with your eyes, it is a blur, because that is the speed of life, and in my experience, trying to focus for even a second doesn’t really seem plausible. Today was no different. Maybe someday my memories will be in focus, and when they are, I hope I remember today.

So I dashed home from work to get home on time for my son’s personal tutor (he wanted to learn Japanese … GO HIM! So we hired someone wonderful to come once a week). She was pulling in as I was pulling in. He had lesson, and as soon as she left, we needed to get to soccer – but my daughter wasn’t done with her shower on time (she never is). Then, she was ready but he was “getting his socks.” That took another five minutes and so we were running behind.

Fast forward to thirty minutes later … we are nearly to the soccer field (new place, far, far away) and Google Maps tells me to do a U-turn. No. I did not miss my turn, this state I live in just has the absolute WORST road infrastructure and U-turns are as common as turning right or left. Let me back up and tell you now, most practices were canceled today because of the EXTREME rain we’ve been having. There was no track, no after school sports, no girls’ soccer … but oh yes. We still had boys soccer. Back to the road. I take my U-turn, knowing that my wheel will dip a smidge past the asphalt to the grass, but I see a few tire tracks and assume (yes, I know what assuming does) that it’ll be fine. So I get a bit of grass in my wheel.

Nope.

I got stuck. BIG TIME! My left-front wheel immediately sinks in about three inches below the lip of the asphalt. I try. And try. And try some more, furthering my predicament at every acceleration. My son, at this point says, “Oh no. Mom. Don’t worry. Are we stuck? Should I text my coach?” I told him sure, not knowing until later that he texted the entire team, “We are in a ditch.” Awesome. I’m that parent. The “ditch” parent. The “we-were-already-going-to-be-late-and-now-we-are-late-from-being-stuck- in-a-ditch,” parent! Here comes the damsel!

While I don’t like playing this role in the least … sometimes it is just true. Everyone needs help sometimes. This was my time. And you know what? God delivered. I wasn’t there more than two minutes when an angel in a Subway t-shirt walked across this suburban street. “Hey there,” he said, “I saw you through the window of my house right there,” he pointed behind him, “and I thought you might need help.”

I told him I wasn’t sure what to do and he said, “You get in and I’ll push.” He tried and tried some more and asked me if I had anything like a book or magazine I could put under the wheel. I gave him the one flimsy magazine I had, but nothing doing. Then he said, “I might have a piece of wood back by my house, I’ll put it under for some traction.” He just wouldn’t leave me alone and I could have cried. At that moment, a truck pulled up and another man jumped out and said, “I have some rope if you want, I think I could pull you out.” Then he signaled another truck filled with guys he worked with.

In a matter of minutes there were six men pushing my car up over that lip. I never wished more that I had something to give in my astonished gratitude. A whole host of angels descended and graced me with smiles and “no problems,” like they saved damsels every day. I promised to pay it forward and this is my first attempt to do so.

Be strong enough to accept when miracles happen – they’re among us, in Subway t-shirts, and muddy work boots. In tired, over-worked faces of men who stopped simply because they knew a damsel when they saw one, and had too much integrity as gentlemen to stand by and watch.

Thank you to my heroes.

Thank you God for miracles.

Thank you life for making me a damsel in a ditch.

 

Go be someone’s miracle today,

Elle