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.

 

 

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

4.30.17 In-the-Making

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“We are all saints in the making.” – Unknown

Recently a friend of mine defined peace as, “Being whole. If you can stand yourself for that entire twenty minute commute without music or any distraction, you have peace within yourself.” I felt it a genius thing to say. Because truth? Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes my quiet company is all I need, and other times I’d do anything to rid myself of the chaotic thoughts that crowd my conscious like a room too filled with people. 

Over time I’ve noticed that my level of inner-calm is not directly connected to the things this world associates with peace. It isn’t related to lavender, or bubble baths, self-help books, massages, or meditation. Though there is a definite place in my life for all of those lovely things, they do not sustain me. My faith has helped me realize that I am most tranquil when I am being of use to others. Being still is important, but I’ve found my spirit is most at rest when it is engaged in loving others. 

I often think of the words of Teresa of Ávila who said, 

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.”

Regardless of anyone’s background, of their religious position, you’ve gotta admit that Jesus’ one request, “Love one another,” was a pretty straight-forward imperative. It wasn’t, “Love those who are easy,” or “Love those who believe what you believe.” One another included everyone. Can you imagine that kind of love? That kind of peace? 

I most tranquil when I’m actively loving others, because only then are my “soul” and my “self” aligned in purpose. I’m carrying out my commission. And isn’t it just like God to heal my anxious spirit by encouraging equanimity in others? 

That same friend, went on later to say, “We should have peace up, and in, and out.” I’m thinking, for me at least, that OUT is the most important part. Because when I reach out, God reaches in, to lift my spirit up. I am certainly no saint … but it is an unequivocal gift to know that I am – you are – we all have the potential to be – in-the-making. 

Elle

4.23.17 More

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More

I am more than a sum of achievements

I am more than the things I have done

I am more than my mountain of losses

I am more than the times I have won

I am more than the fears that have chained me

I am more than the weakness I’ve felt

I am more than just simple emotions

I am more than the cards I’ve been dealt

I am more than how others might see me

I am more than reflections in glass

I am more than what I can’t accomplish

I am more than the time that will pass

I am more than my insecure moments

I am more than the world’s pain or schemes

I am more than the limits I set for myself

I am faith.

I am hope.

I am dreams.

 

You are more too.

Love always,

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

 

3.26.17 Perfectly Imperfect

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Perfectly Imperfect

Do you know your imperfections might be my favorite part of you? That the little things that no one would ever notice, are the things I look forward to seeing most?

I love the way you talk too loud, and how no matter sacred or silent a place we find ourselves in, the decibel of your voice never lessens.

I love the way you always want your hair to be wild and free. That regardless of how meticulously we brush it, within two hours it will become a dreadlock-mess – just the way you like it.

I love how you try to make mischief, but don’t even really know how to be anything but the goody-goody you are deep down.

I love how you create in chaos, with markers, paints, crayons, and scissored bits laying in heaps all around the table. Your glitter-encrusted hands brightening whatever they touch.

I love that you refuse to wear collared shirts, even when they are my favorite, but then replace them with grey hoodies zipped up tightly like I won’t ever notice it is not what I laid out for you at all.

I love that when you whine and pout, you absolutely know you will not get your way, but you still default to it anyway … just-in-case your daddy and I temporarily abandon all of our parenting beliefs for this single, tantrum occasion.

I love how smart you are at everything, but how you never act as sure as you have every right to be.

I love how even when we ask you, and ask you, and ask you not to leave the table at dinner, you find a way to suddenly NEED to visit the bathroom, or get another napkin, or refill your water cup, just as an excuse to stand and get out your wiggles.

I love how you are never tired at bedtime, but you know I desperately am, and you ask me to lay with you, and read to you, until I fall asleep beside you.

You are not perfect dear ones … but you are perfectly imperfect for me.

3.20.17 Like a Lady

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Whoever says that little girls should be seen and not heard has,

in my opinion,

no ear for beauty.

And whatever little girl has listened to such a sordid phrase,

has no hope of growing with a clear perspective of her own reflection.

Maybe that’s why so many try too hard … or not enough …

why women sacrifice their integrity –

in order to heal wounds from words that have already turned to scars.

And though thick and calloused skin has replaced the cuts,

they never notice,

because it still hurts.

I wish that every girl had a mother like mine,

who taught me to act like a lady …

because it is an honor to be one,

not a favor to the eyes of the world.

She taught me that elegance is the sum of grace and strength combined –

and that the only shame you should ever feel,

is when you cannot forgive yourself after God already has.

If there were a way to speak truth into the hearts of all the girls in the world,

to heal all the fractured, fissure-cracked self-images … I would.

I’d remind them that their identity is waiting to be reclaimed,

and that even if their childhood wasn’t golden …

even if they haven’t been treated like a lady in quite some time –

they still are.

It is their right to be respected,

to be admired,

to be listened and attended to.

I want the teenagers who cut to be noticed, screaming from the inside out to hear me.

I want the mothers who are losing themselves to daily routine, and can’t find the woman they once were to hear me.

I want the grandmothers who feel their beauty is disposable, and society has no place for them anymore to hear me.

I want the single women who haven’t accepted their own bravery to face this world alone to hear me.

I want the girls in school, masking their insecurities with name brands and makeup trends to hear me.

I want my seven-year-old daughter … who we adore, we dote on, we love, but –

who has already asked me if she’s pretty

who has already asked me if she’s fat

who has already asked me if she’s smart

who already questions if she’s enough to HEAR ME!

You are a lady.

You are grace and strength personified.

You are meant to be seen,

but most especially, my darling –

to be heard.

Do not ever quiet your voice … even if it only comes out in whispers.

1.15.17 Tell Tale

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Yesterday I had my will notarized.  It’s official.  According to paper … my death is in order.  I’m not going to lie, there’s something significantly disconcerting about having things “finalized.”  It seems like tempting fate in some way.  But, as the character Nate Scamander says in Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them, “Worrying means you suffer twice.”  So it’s probably better not to.  

As easy as it is to tell myself, it would be dishonest to say that the what if’s in my mind haven’t been kicked a little into high gear.  What if my husband and I don’t get to die together like we planned (I choose to be delusional okay)?  What if I died before I got to help my daughter pick out her wedding dress?  What if our four pets outlive us all out of spite?  What if my sister would go insane having to take care of my kids and her own?  What if, when I watch my life again with God, it ends up being a  total snore because the majority of my time is spent folding laundry?  Yes.  These are the things that run through my brain.  

When I’m being a bit more rational, (which I can be from time to time) thinking about death actually makes me think a lot more about life – about my life and what I’m doing with it, about the lives of those around me, and about the way we all process our own stories. Like the hundreds of books I have in my house, there are so many perspectives … so many genres … so many tales of heroes and villains … often portrayed by the same person – us.  I have to wonder about whether or not anyone maps the chapters of their lives like I do. 

What chapters do they sink into, reading slowly and savoring the memories of precious things only they know?  What sections to they skip past, too fearful of revisiting old demons?  What parts surprise them about themselves?  What parts enchant them?  Disappoint them?  Remind them to dream?  Make them feel most alive?  Do they think their stories are worth reading twice? 

Regardless of where you are in the process of looking back, or looking forward.  We’re all in the middle of our very own book of life.  I think the most important thing to remember is what Susan Statham said, “Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often.” It might just be me and my writer’s heart, but I believe there’s no such thing as a lost cause in a story … no matter how many plot twists yours may have.  Only you can rewrite the character of you … so what tale will you tell? 

Never lose faith, you are the hero after all. 

Elle 

1.1.17 Seventeen Wishes

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It is the first day of the first month of a new year, and let me remind you – anything is possible. People always say, “Happy New Year,” but I want to offer you more than happy … I want to give you my own personalized list of seventeen wishes for 2017 that have nothing to do with resolutions (thank God). Author Francesca Lia Block offered great advice when she said, “Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground.” So, from someone who believes in the power of a wish followed by a prayer … here are mine for you.

  1. I wish you the longest of weekends … and the shortest of Mondays.
  2. I wish you laughter – the kind that makes your belly ache, tears run down your cheeks, and your breath come in pants and wheezes. 
  3. I wish you luxurious baths, filled with bubbles so thick you can’t see your toes.
  4. I wish you coffee … coffee every single day in only the BIGGEST of mugs.
  5. I wish you clearance sales when you don’t expect them.
  6. I wish you loads of time for reading books that fill your spirit with the power of pretend.
  7. I wish you marathon movie nights with loads of buttered popcorn and M&M’s.
  8. I wish you adventures that lead you to discover you are braver than you ever thought you could be.
  9. I wish you loads of sweet-dream sleep, complimented only by the cool side of the pillow. 
  10. I wish you ordinary delights, like perfectly toasted toast, a full gas tank when you didn’t expect it, extra cheese on your pizza, and a day free of any computer glitches at all.
  11. I wish you ice cream on a weekly basis, especially if it involves peanut butter or marshmallow sauce, sprinkles and cherry juice.
  12. I wish you memories … the type that flit into your consciousness and make you smile almost before you register that they’re there … like a friend who came to visit, bringing you “home” once again.
  13. I wish you a chance to step into the ocean, to stand somewhere with a view, to lean into the wind, and to remember that you’re a part of a story much bigger than your own.
  14. I wish you the appreciation of others, even people you don’t know … I wish you relationships, both old and new, that stretch into friendships you’ll never outgrow. 
  15. I wish you poetry, not the kind you read, but the kind you feel beyond the page.
  16. I wish you the opportunity to nurture your curiosity, to imagine what ifs, to discover new places, and to create space in your life to play.
  17. Finally, I wish you undeniable, unquenchable, unrestrained joy.  I wish you much beyond happy … I wish you unmitigated delight in believing that this isn’t just another year … but another chance to find the best version of yourself. 

It is an honor to know that somehow, my words have found you. I pray that this year I’ll continue to have the pleasure of your company, whether in person, or here as digital friends.  Your readership is one of my greatest sources of happy … so please keep visiting me here, and share this blog if you think anyone else would like to join our weekly word party. 

Literarily yours, 

Elle

 

12.24.16 Winter Stars

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I love the stars at winter.  More than any other time of the year.  I realized, long ago, that even while we may shy away from the cold, the stars embrace this time of year, as if following the command of Psalm 37:7, “Be silent to the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”  Its as if they are frozen in the glorious memory of the purpose they served over two thousand years ago … to light the path to a baby, so that wanderers might no longer seek a destiny, but a person. 

Mother Theresa understood that finding our faith required attention to the details of life around us. “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … We need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

Well, the stars have always touched my soul – and I hope that this Christmas you find time to look up … time to let yourself be embraced by the glow heaven casts, and time to reflect on the wonder and majesty of the one who put them in place.  Merry Christmas to all.  I pray my words be a gift to you today, as your readership is such a treasure to me. 

Winter Stars

There is something magical about winter stars – the way they hang just a little bit
brighter, reminding us
somehow

that even at the darkest time of year, light will not be vanquished,
but distinguished in the heavens … set in place by divinity’s hand

Somehow, they know
frozen in the ancient majesty of what was, that still all these millennia later
we would need their company
their guidance each night
to reassure us that regardless of the chaos

some
things
stay

And so these winter stars
illuminate the inky depths with their promises of constancy immutably protecting all beneath them,
glowing more brilliant with the wishes they absorb
and the prayers they translate
to the one who listens above

Radiant of the skies, resplendent gift
glisten on,
and restore these dark days with a hope only you know