12.5.17 Believing Anyway

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“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” Hamilton Wright Mabie

It was over a year ago now, that much I remember, when I fell asleep crying because I knew that someday, I’d have to tell my son the truth about Santa Claus. I remember it distinctly, because the moonlight was bright, and my pillow was salty and damp with heavy tears continuing to stream and soak in as I silently continued to weep. It was the idea of someday that pained me – the idea that someday I’d have to make him grow up just a little bit more … and it hurt, but I carried on and calmed myself with the solace that “someday,” was not today.

A few days ago, “someday” came. As a child I never understood the term bittersweet, or when people tried to tell me that pain could be beautiful. But now? As a mother? I understand.

He came to me on a Friday night, after school, after piano lessons, rumpled and boyish and wonderful. “Hey mom?” he hedged, “I know that Santa is real, but I just wanted to ask you, because … well … he is right?” And as much as I wanted to, as many times as I had before, this time was different because this time, his eyes begged to dispel a truth he already half-wished he didn’t know. Every time I’ve ever had to have a difficult conversation with my children, I’ve prayed God would just let me know the right time – and this was his.

In a series of too-short moments, I explained that Santa was a real and wonderful man. I spoke of his history, and his mission, and the way that he helped people believe in the beauty and love of giving. I said I believe in Santa, because I believe in his mission, and the magic and wonder of his mission lives on through us.

And he cried.

And I cried.

And I lifted that beautiful, long-limbed boy into my too-small arms and cradled him for just a moment. In the stretch of tears and sniffles, he turned to me with a weak smile on his now, somehow older face. “I understand mom,” he said, “and I believe in his mission too.” Then his expression shifted to something of worry and he asked, “But last year mom, when I got the new video game system – it was so expensive … I’m so sorry!”

And I cried again. Here this boy. This wonderful, God-given gift, who I would have done anything for just to give him one more day of believing, was selfless enough in his own heartbreak to worry about our bank account. After telling him it was nothing, that we gave from Santa’s spirit of giving, he looked at me with his deeply-watering eyes and hugging me said, “Thank you so much.”

I have experienced many a treasured Christmas, but this understanding, his ability to love beyond disappointment – that was a gift beyond words.

Wherever you are in the realm of the magic of Christmas … of first wishes, fond memories, or once-upon-a-snowflakes, I wish you the delicate, yet miraculously shatterproof love that keeps a broken heart beating … a tear-streaked face smiling … and a spirit believing – anyway.

Elle

 

 

11.13.17 New Creation

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Today was a little tough. Okay … a lot tough. There was nothing particularly awful, no singular tragic event or definitively difficult set of problems. It was just the sort of day that left me feeling defeated, deflated, and a little worse for wear. Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across the passage in 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says, “You are a new creation.” What a beautiful thought – a new creation. After days like today, after strings of monotonous moments that didn’t go according to plan, I wonder, at times, what God designed me for and if I’m very far off from his original blueprints. 

Was I really created for deleting a string of unwanted emails? For buffering stress-inducing conversations and scenarios? Is my purpose to have less time than I’ve ever had before to be instead of do? For some reason, I don’t think so. I don’t think that was meant for anyone. In his infinite wisdom I don’t believe that God handcrafted us with unique talents just so we could waste them in the pursuit of mediocre days where one is indistinguishable from the next. 

So how do we downshift? How do we recycle and reclaim our spent hours? Honestly? I have no idea. But I think it has something to do with attitude. In her infinite wisdom at ninety-five, my grandmother said, “It’s just so easy to be happy.” And you know what? She’s right. No one, not one single person on this earth has it easy. We are all struggling with past pains, present dangers, and future fears. There is not one among us who is unscathed or scarless. We each have crosses to bear and burdens we cannot share. Still, I agree with my grandmother. Even with the weight of your own small world on your shoulders, it is possible to be happy. Happiness is an action, a state of being, and a calling on your life. So. Be. It.

Right now, right here, writing to you … the hour is much too close to tomorrow. My blinks are drawing themselves out, my eyes burn beneath sleepy, lavender lids, and my body has begun that tingly stage of quiet revolt against another long day that isn’t done. Still – I decide, here and now, to be that “new creation” I think I was designed to be.

She is confident, this version of myself, and her smiles are given freely. She is stronger than she looks, but sensitive enough to know when to be real. She is creative and caring, and she never lets the opportunity to make someone’s day go by, even if it costs her the most precious gift she has – time.

She is happy, this girl in the blueprints. And even now, so am I.

Be a new creation, and introduce me to who you were designed to be! I can’t wait to meet you. Can you?

Elle 

 

 

9.30.17 Let Me Be Aware

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About ten or so years ago, I came across a poem that said everything I should say to my husband on a daily basis. I printed it out, and put it somewhere “safe” and then we moved and I lost it. All I remembered of it was a line … “Someday I shall wish … more than all the world, for your return.” And I remembered thinking that I never wanted to have that feeling, that relentless ache of NOT saying what I should have. 

Fast forward ten years, and miraculously, a friend gave me a stack of quotes as a gift. One of the quotes, as you might serendipitously guess, was the one I’d been searching and combing the internet for for all of these past years. I immediately looked it up, and this week, I was so very, very glad to have it, so I could read it to the man who not only has my heart, but has fiercely protected it since we met. 

Please share this video message, this poem, and this life with someone you hold just as dear. 

9.18.17 At Least We Get to See Tuesday

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“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” – Sigmund Freud

I feel like honesty is one of those things that people say they want, but shy away from when people give too much of it. They want to know things, but only enough to stay in the know. Well honestly … I think I’d rather really know you, really understand what you’re going through, than pretend to know the version of you that you pretend to be.

It is this very reason that I find teenagers are such good company. Having taught and mentored middle and high schoolers for most of my career, I find this stage of humanity so inspiring. Teenagers are too fresh with their feelings to know how to tamper them. They cannot quell their emotions because their emotions are too new to be tamed. When they’re happy, they are positively overflowing with it. When they’re angry, you can feel the heat roll off of their auras. When they’re scared, when they love, when they celebrate, when they’re sad – every emotion comes in tandem waves of give and receive. Teenagers cannot be near anyone for long without imparting some of what they feel into the surrounding atmosphere. 

And what a relief. 

What a relief to be near the unguarded reality of raw emotion. It is so much more appealing than so often trying to read between the lines of what you think someone said, versus what they meant, or deciphering between one placating smile and the next. Can I be honest? Sometimes I am sick of the dance. I am exhausted at the effort of sincerity directed at the insincere. I wish that people, like those precious teenagers, would just feel a little more, and let feelings, instead of pragmatism decide their course of action. 

I found out tonight that one of the best of these … these hearts that are ruled by feelings and not neutrality, passed away. She was a music teacher and would literally giggle, dance, laugh, and fume at her students in turn. She was wonder-filled and real; cancer, unfortunately, didn’t know her as well as those it took her from. Non-distriminant to the end, that disease – but if cancer had a heart, it wouldn’t exist.  

Thinking about her, though it might seem like the most insignificant of details, I realize that I have written her a Christmas card for the last twelve years. Somehow the reality that this year I will not immediately dimmed my spirit. It is as if a small bulb has burst, and now my string of lights will never be quite as bright as it was before. 

Honestly? I’m sad. I’m sad that a husband who loved his wife beyond the ability of most marriages is now alone. I’m devastated at the thought of children who have to grow up even more now that their mother is gone. I’m angry that anyone, including me, has the right to be anything other than grateful for this mundane, exhausting Monday – because at least we get to see Tuesday. 

I know that these words aren’t the sweetest. Like Mary Poppins I like to believe that if I had a spoonful of sugar to spin I would share it, but sometimes I think honestly might actually be the best medicine. I wish the world would try at it just a little bit harder. Whether it is happy or sad, angry or enlightened, easy or difficult to swallow … I wish truth and transparency for you today and always. 

Where are you? Honestly? I’d love to know your thoughts, and I will surely add you, my readers, to my prayers … because if I’m being honest, I am ever-so-grateful for you.

Elle

8.28.17 Through My Eyes or Yours

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“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:18

As much as I believe in love, I have to admit that this is not the easiest command. I hope you take a moment to laugh with me at this sometimes awesome, sometimes awful, always amazing life. Please take a minute to watch and share your own love stories! Through my eyes, or yours, our perspectives should always be focused on what matters most … one another.

Carry each other through!

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

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

5.14.17 A Mother’s Love

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“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” – Abraham Lincoln

When I think about my life, I can’t rightly imagine it turning out anywhere near the way that it has if I didn’t have my mother. In the chaos of my life, her voice has been the constant, soothing lullaby in the back of my mind, hushing my anxious thoughts, and setting the tone of my heart. I know full well that she is a rare gift, and I try never to forget just how blessed I am. When my own two children sweetly say, “Mom, you’re the best,” I know just how short-changed they are, because no one could even compare to what I have.

A few years ago, my mom and dad moved to another state, and not just another state, a state that is a fourteen-hour drive away from me. I’d be lying to say it didn’t wreck me just a little … maybe more than a little. Because of course, I’d planned to have the kind of life I grew up in – the kind where we saw cousins and aunties and uncles each week, and had brunch with grandma every Sunday. Not so it would seem. And while it has been so hard to be away from the family I crave, I will say that God is pretty awesome at filling in the broken places of my fragile heart.

While we may not be together daily, my mother and I talk often, and lift one another up even in absence, and for that I am grateful. But Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said, “The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenly Father.” Aside from being an undeniably beautiful thing to say, I think it is the essence, the idea that motherhood is more than one person or one relationship – it is a form of love personified.

I realized some time ago, that if I believed this to be true, then the love of a mother, the love God bestowed for us is available in many places. And though I am lucky enough to still have a mother I run to, I would be remiss not to mention the other places my heart is restored.

I feel a mother’s love in the frantic phone calls my sister and I exchange. When we pick up one another’s broken pieces and gently put each other back together.

I feel a mother’s love when I witness the unconditional devotion of my mother-in-law to her husband. To her children. To me.

I feel a mother’s love in the late-night-textathons between my cousin and myself. When we laugh at our blunders, rant out our problems, and leave the conversation ten-pounds lighter than we came in.

I feel a mother’s love in the friendships that find me right where I am. In the conversations with women I do life with, and who invest their effervescent wisdom and beauty in equal measure.

In teachers. In neighbors. In strangers roaming the aisles of the grocery store who share an exhausted smile with me at ten PM. I feel a mother’s love in every place there is openness, gentleness, acceptance, experience, laughter, and encouragement.

So while I wish everyone a mother like I have, I know that cannot be (because I’ve already got her). Instead, I wish each of you open eyes and willing hearts, to accept the love of all the mothers around you, who are just waiting to take you in.

Be loved,

Elle

4.9.17 Love for the Sake of Loving

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Sometimes I think that of all the words we can fill a conversation with, it is the smallest phrases that often have the most impact – phrases like: I trust you, I believe in you,  I love you, thank you, you mean so much to me, or please don’t go.  I don’t think we use these phrases enough. I don’t think anyone does. And I come to wonder what state this world might be in if we all heard them just a little bit more.

John C. Maxwell once said, “A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.” Though I’m sure I am oversimplifying, I really think that most problems in the world could be avoided if people just felt that they were needed … appreciated … wanted. If everyone felt even one of these things, how could feelings of ineptitude or desolation even exist?

So often I feel like I’m chasing an ideal version of myself that may never exist. I seek the writer who is able to be sustained by her craft of words. I chase the teacher who is no longer in the classroom, but who is instead sharing her wisdom in workshops or assemblies. I imagine the wife and mother who is able to do-it-all without becoming a ragged mess in the process. I desire to be the friend who always has time to write that card, answer that call, or meet up with everyone that matters to her. In reality – I am none of those things yet, maybe ever. But I wonder if that’s the point? From a handful of experiences recently, I am starting to think it might be a whole lot easier than all of those lofty ambitions.

This past week, a friend of mine was having a rough day. I didn’t have time to go out and talk for hours, but I brought him a coffee and recommended a great song to listen to. He lit up … his face filled with relief like giving oxygen to a drowning man. I didn’t deserve that response for so simple a gesture, but it was given regardless.

There’s a little second grader who hugs me in the hallway every time I see him. I am not his teacher.  Aside from giving him a nickname and passing on easily earned smiles … I cannot say there is much he could know about me; yet he hugs me still. I happened to chat with his mother the other day, and told her how much I loved his hallway hugs. She looked at me – eyes intensely focused and asked me if I had any idea what that meant. Pressing on, she told me that he is never affectionate. That he rarely hugged anyone, including his own family members beside her, and that a hug from him was the ultimate gift he could bestow. It took me a moment to catch my breath at that motherly admission, and I was humbled by the richness of lavish, undeserved affection.

There was an old man in the grocery store with the clearest blue, smiling eyes I’d ever seen. My kids and I were in his aisle, and I couldn’t help but offer him a smile and a chat about the day. His aged face became a beacon of delight. He proceeded to tell my children that there is only one place to get the “best mints” in town. He said that people called him, “the candy man,” because he loves to share a sweet and a smile with everyone he meets. After hearing about his bowling schedule and plans to make “poonchkies,” we were on our way. On impulse in the checkout, I grabbed a new bag of mints, purchased them and ran back to him, telling him that he needed to keep his pockets full for all the other friends he’d meet. He glowed. “I only give this to the most special people,” he said then, pulling a dark chocolate bar from his coat and snapping a piece off for me and my two children. Odd as it is, sharing that moment of melted chocolate and warm wishes felt as holy as communion.

And so I am left to wonder if that version of myself I’m trailing isn’t a bit of a waste of time. I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not the whole person, or the whole life, but the moments where you lean into living in the best way that make the difference of a lifetime. Jane Wagner once inquired, “A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential?” Funny thought. Maybe it isn’t what I have accomplished at all … my resume, degrees, and accomplishments seem of so very little importance in comparison with the memories of being in the moment when the opportunity to love for the sake of loving came about.

Lean in, and love.

Elle