Late Night Adventures and Little Girl Kisses

There’s no better opportunity for sharing random memories than a 15-hour road trip, and nobody better to hear them from than my mother.  So this one is hers.

“One night, when I was about 5 or 6, a couple of years after my Daddy died, I was mad at Mama about something. I guess I had gotten in trouble or something — I don’t remember, and I doubt she even remembers this — but anyway, I was mad and wouldn’t kiss her goodnight.  But after I had gone to my room in a huff, I looked out the window and saw the flashing red and blue lights of a police car down the road.  I guess I kind of forgot that I was mad, and I called her in to come look.  She asked if I wanted to drive down the road to see what it was.  [My older sisters] were already in bed, so we left them at the house and went on a little adventure, just the two of us.  I don’t remember if it was a car accident or what, I just remember that we had our little adventure and that when we got back I gave her a goodnight kiss, and all was right again in my little world.”

It reminded me of one of my own earliest memories, when Mother was already aggravated with me and I was supposed to be in bed.  I called her from my bedroom for probably the 2378th time, and she marched in threatening to punish me if I didn’t go to sleep.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  “But Mama, you don’t understand…see, there’s a bunny in the yard, and it’s hopping closer and closer to my window.”  She immediately softened and came to look out the window with me, exclaiming in delight.  At least, that’s how I heard it.  It occurs to me now that she was probably still really annoyed and not at all interested by the bunny, but she pretended to be interested, and I beamed with the pride of sharing my discovery.  I wasn’t punished, and I gave her a kiss goodnight, and I went to sleep happy.

My grandmother doesn’t remember driving down the road to look at police lights, and my mother doesn’t remember the bunny-watching.  So I can’t say why these memories stick out so vividly for us, except that perhaps while bunnies and police lights are meaningless, it’s those little (yet oh-so-big) moments of validation that define our sense of self.  It’s the fact that our mothers, our role models, were willing to pause their important adult lives and be fascinated alongside us.

What is of little consequence to you, may be one of those snapshot moments your child remembers forever.  So remember to slow down enough today to make memories.  Take your child out for ice cream and ruin his dinner.  Stay up late playing and having big girl time while your youngest is in bed.  Think twice before time-out and show a little unexpected grace.

And don’t forget a goodnight kiss.

Adventures and Goodbyes

I’m sitting here with a cup of hot tea, missing bonny Scotland.  This is not unusual.  Not a day has passed in the last two months that I haven’t thought fondly of Scotland and missed it.  Most of the time, it’s a conscious thought, like, “Oh, I miss Scotland.”  But at other times, it manifests itself in a very tangible, even physical way, in an odd sort of pressure on my heart and an ache deep in my stomach.  At times like this, it’s hard to think in words.  Instead, I catch fleeting glimpses of my own heartache and can only sigh as every part of me longs to be there.  In these moments, I am emotionally present there while physically present here, torn in two different directions 4000 miles apart.

I can almost feel the brisk and exhilarating chill of the snowy air, almost hear Bernard’s familiar greeting of, “Hello, love!”, almost feel Adam’s hug and see Amy’s smile light up her face, can almost hear that adorable accent calling, “Love yoooouuu!”

Scotland was a beautiful adventure, but with all adventures come goodbyes.  While you say goodbye, though, you never really leave.  The memories take root in your heart and last a lifetime.

Now I’m getting ready to embark on a different adventure for the summer as I head to Miami, Florida, to work with a youth group down there.  I’m crazy excited, but to begin this new adventure, I have to close another chapter and say some more goodbyes.

I’ve finished out my junior year of college, and with that came the necessary emptying of the dorm room which I called home for a year.  The pictures came down from the walls, the carpet was torn out, and every trace of its uniqueness was swept away to make it clean and cold and white once more.  I’ll never see that room again.  I hugged my sweet roommate Morgan goodbye for the summer and tried to hold back the tears — the first of many.

The next round of goodbyes was to my small group at Grace Chapel.  It’s been an incredible year, and it’s been such a blessing to be a part of these girls’ lives and watch them grow.  When one of them buried her head in my shoulder and cried, it nearly broke my heart.

The family goodbyes were even more difficult.  Last night my family met in Nashville to have a last dinner together before I leave, and I hugged my big sister goodbye knowing that by the time I come back, she’ll be gone.  There won’t be any more trips to the thrift store or random movie nights.  Everything is changing.  Adventures are beautiful…but also heartbreaking.

At the end of two months in Miami, I know it’ll be just as hard to come back as it was to leave.  I’ll spend every moment I’m there forming new relationships, knowing that I have to say goodbye at the end of the summer.  I’ve left my heart in pieces all over the globe, and I know more pieces of it will be scattered far and wide as I live and love and adventure into the unknown.  Yet somehow, I know it’s all worth it.

Adventures come with goodbyes, but they also come with new beginnings and new experiences and new relationships.  They come with laughter and hope and youthful idealism.  And often, they come with an entirely new perspective on life.

You see, there’s one last goodbye I’ll have to say before I begin a new adventure, for one never comes back from an adventure unchanged.  I’ll have to say goodbye to myself.  It always feels a bit odd, really, realizing that I won’t come back the same person I was when I left.  I never do.  But it’s all part of the adventure.

My heart is heavy tonight, but not in a weary or burdened sort of way.  It’s in a very full sort of way.  I’m full of memories from my previous adventures, and full of excitement for what is to come.  I’m full of love that I’ve poured out and received back tenfold.  And perhaps most of all, I’m simply full of life.

Published in: on May 29, 2013 at 1:37 am  Comments (4)  
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And the World Turned

Disclaimer: Listen to the song before you read the post, or you’ll be totally lost.

I love this song and its beautiful blend of simplicity and depth.  I love how it tells a story, how it relates the pain of loss, the struggle with self-worth, the difficulty of letting go, and the bittersweet closure that comes.  My favorite lyric is the simple line, “But instead she tossed the locket in the cool blue water.”  It’s the point in the song where everything turns around, where she makes the decision to let go of the past and pursue the future.

I was thinking about that line a few days ago, and I just now realized how beautifully applicable it is to the New Year.  What memories do we have hiding away in lockets because we can’t muster up the strength to get rid of them?  Instead of controlling our emotions, we let them control us.  We let them consume us.  We let them dictate our lives.

The girl was at a crossroads; her grief had consumed her to the point that she couldn’t continue to live this way.  So she had two choices: she could throw her life away, or she could throw away what was keeping her from living her life.  The water below was equally ready to take either.  At first, she considered falling to her death and taking the locket with her, letting that faded picture control her even to her grave.  “But instead…” She let the locket fall, saving what was of infinitely greater worth — the potential of the rest of her life.

And the world turned, and the world turned, and the world turned.

What’s in that dusty locket of yours?

It’s a new year, and the world is turning again.  You’ve got a choice to make.  Are you going to hold onto the past and let it keep you from better things?  Or are you going to drop the locket and start living the rest of your life?

Home for the Holidays

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never too old to lick the beater

Because the title of this post probably inspired visions of heartwarming rhetoric, I probably owe you some of that interspersed with its real purpose, which is merely a lighthearted glimpse into my personal life and the awkward moments that we love to capture when my family is home for the holidays.

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what a perfect shot of my brother.

I stayed in Nashville to work the week after finals, as I did last year, and halfway through the week I realized that I had just squandered valuable college Christmastime happiness.  So I was super excited to come home Saturday night, getting in just minutes after my brother did, and we excitedly told tales of work and finals and life as we chomped on junk food and snapped awkward pictures of each other.

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me! being domestic! and making pumpkin bread!

Christmas Eve came in with the hustle and bustle and excitement of baking, baking, and more baking in the warmth of a wood stove-heated kitchen with a pot of potpourri on the eye.  We turned out one tasty treat after another: chocolate-covered pretzels, messy squares, sausage balls, pumpkin bread, the tradish Calvin family bean dip, and all sorts of mysterious aluminum foil-covered casseroles to be uncovered on the morrow for Christmas dinner.

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the cherished family favorite, made by yours truly at age 8

When my sister and her husband burst through the door at about 9:00 Christmas Eve wanting to join in the fun of awkward pictures, all was complete.  My whole family was together again in the home we’ve always known, around the live Christmas tree that we all still insist on each year, and laughing at the ugly ornaments we made as children.

True to tradition, we each picked out one gift to open for Christmas Eve and retold embarrassing stories of my sister invariably choosing a “boring” one and crying year after year.  We played Farkle together, noting how the print on the wrapper has worn off because we’ve played it so many times, and adding a few more awkward and ridiculous rules to our collection.  Example: if you farkle in one roll, this is called a “supernova”, and it requires that you throw the lid on the container from six inches away. If you make the shot, you get 1000 points and a free root beer.  Not that we ever stock root beer, and not that it would matter if we did, because it’s impossible to do.  No one has ever gotten the lid on the container.

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me, looking like a cross between gollum and a small catfish

When I was younger, I always thought that there was something special and magical about Christmas Eve.  I thought maybe something wonderful would happen, like a unicorn prancing up on my front porch and my parents letting me keep it.  (I eventually got a horse, which died the week before Christmas, years later.)  When I got older, I thought maybe Prince Charming would come waltzing into my life.  (Ironically, the first time I ever broke up with someone was the day before Christmas Eve, years later.)

In spite of these mishaps, I never seem to stop hoping for something exciting and out of the ordinary.  This year, I couldn’t help hoping I’d get a job offer.  Funny, how my view of “magic” has changed over the years.  The magical Christmas job offer didn’t come (at least, not on Christmas Eve…I’m still biting my nails), but I’ve come to find that perhaps magic is found simply in the joy of Christmas: in the baking, in the laughter, in the awkward pictures and in the incredible 3000-point roll I scored in Farkle.  Perhaps the magic of Christmas is found in the ordinary things that make up the bigger picture of the abundant life that Christ came to offer.  And it’s because Christ was born that our celebration isn’t over on December 26th; each day is an opportunity to wake up and smile and love life.  Whether I ever get a unicorn, or Prince Charming, or the internship I want, the beautiful magic of Christmas is a reality that is present in our lives every day, transforming us.  It lasts long after the Christmas tree, long after the New Years resolution, even long after our lifetimes.  The magic and the hope of Christmas last for an eternity.

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Mother and Daddy

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One of the many awkward pics of my brother and me

The sister and bro-in-law!

The sister and bro-in-law!

Published in: on December 26, 2012 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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To the Memory of Panthea

I have a weird love of cemeteries. Most people find them creepy; I find them almost peaceful, hushed and bittersweet. When the birds sing in the trees above the gravestones, their songs seem almost melancholy. Yet I love to read the inscriptions, get to know the meanings of the different engravings, wonder who these people were and what they were like. It makes me feel a little sad at times, but it’s a good kind of sad. A reflective kind of sad that makes me think about my own life and what people will say about me after I’m gone. Anyway, enough of the eloquent musings.

One memorial stone that I have never been able to get out of my head is that of Panthea Adams Carter, laid to rest in an iron fence within the Bethsalem Cemetery on the top of a lonely hill just outside of Wartrace, Tennessee. I think about her, but mostly I think about her husband Charley. And the tears come to my eyes as I imagine his pain, but I know that he too is long ago passed and mourned and reunited with his beloved Panthea and their son, whom he had with him for far too short a time. In the poem he wrote to be engraved on her tombstone, you can hear the bittersweet aching of his heart as he struggled to find words that conveyed his grief mingled with the fond memories of the woman he loved.

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Erected to the memory of Panthea and the little infant, Charles Murat, that sleeps in her arms. She was the wife of C.C. Carter and the youngest daughter of Daucey and Martha Adams: Born in Halifax Co., N.C., Dec. 28, 1828.  Married Dec. 22, 1851 and died March 23, 1856.  Aged 27 years, 2 months, and 21 days.

I loved her when the bloom of health / Was fresh upon her cheek / I loved her when her kindly voice / In gentle tones would speak / I loved her when her sunny smile / Was lighting up her brow / Her voice is hushed, Panthea’s gone / I love her memory now.

I loved her when I saw the rose / Upon her cheek decay / I loved her yet I knew that she / Must shortly pass away / I loved her when beneath life’s storm / I saw her meekly bow / The storm is passed and she is gone / I love her memory now.

One hundred and fifty-five years later, as the world rushes madly by in their vain pursuits of wealth and pleasure, unaware of this dearly loved woman sleeping beneath the last poem her husband wrote her, she will not be forgotten. For I see the stone and read the inscription and remember Panthea – and now I’m sharing the memory with you.

Published in: on December 10, 2012 at 11:32 pm  Comments (2)  
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the creativity of childhood

In a time before 8-year-olds had iPhones and Xboxes, childhood was magical in its simplicity.

I sound like I’m getting old…but after all, I’m nearly 20, or I will be in 10 days. Happy early birthday to me.

But the truth is, being a 90′s kid, I’m part of the last generation to experience the wonder of imagination and creativity. I would live for the coming of spring and the first warm day when the daffodils were just beginning to peep through the winter layers of leaves, when I could run outside in my little dress and bare feet and feel the sun kiss my face. “Let’s go exploring!” my siblings or I would suggest. “To Treetop Fortress!” we would exclaim as we ran through the soft spring grass to the glorious fallen tree we called our fortress. When we would come in at lunchtime, our mama would kiss the tops of our heads. “You smell like sunshine!” she would tell us.

We lived for adventure in those days. We were constantly coming up with new ideas, some better than others. There was “towagoning” — the term I coined for riding a wagon down the hill. That was a good idea. Riding my bike off the end of the old carriage block was not.

Little wild strawberry things grew in our yard, and my brother and I would coat them in sugar, freeze them, and eat them. That was a good idea. My sister’s water-and-onion-grass stew was not.

We made miniature clothes out of leaves with clovers or the little wild strawberries as corsages. We built forts with random objects in our shed which we may or may not have had permission to use. We ate honeysuckle and drank dirty water out of the garden hose. We got some old lock pins from our dad (ooh, shiny!) and hammered them into pieces of wood to make colorful mosaics. We climbed trees and played dress-up. We chased lightning bugs till it was too dark to see.

And as we got older, after Treetop Fortress was finally demolished and tears shed, we decided we needed to move on to more realistic, grown-up fun. So we made elaborate plans to take over the storage room that was the old smokehouse on our property. We worked long and hard to turn that place into a second home. Looking back now, I’m still impressed at what we accomplished. It became our clubhouse — and a darn good one if I may say so. We had a little white table with a red checkered tablecloth. Pictures on the walls. Squares of scrap carpet that became our rug. A loft with a mattress where we actually all slept one night when the cousins came to visit. And best of all, a record player, where we would play Dolly Parton and Christopher Cross and The Hard Travelers for hours on end. We spent the majority of our days out there reading books or playing with Barbies or just being awesome. Our dad even installed a heater so we could keep playing out there in the winter. When we got really ambitious, we even tried to turn it into a cafe, with our signature dish being Chef Julian’s “pizza” — microwaved whole grain bread with ketchup and sliced cheese. (I said some ideas were better than others.)

Sometimes, when I walk in there, I can still see it. Oh, it’s since become a messy storage room again. There are pieces of furniture covered with ghostly white sheets and boxes of Christmas ornaments, my horse’s old saddle and that little white table forgotten in the corner. But if I listen, I can almost hear the whispers of little children and the familiar music that characterized those days gone by. Those were the glory days, when dreams were reality and boredom wasn’t a word. I may have suffered more cuts and scrapes and bee stings than the younger generation, but because my childhood was full of joy, my adulthood is full of memories.

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We’re all grown up now, but through the years we have stayed close, and none of us has lost our imagination or our desire to dream. Charity works at The Preservation Station, an architectural antique place in Nashville. Creative as ever, she makes coasters out of fireplace tiles and earrings out of keyhole covers. The one who took charge of cleaning up our clubhouse and made us Barbie clothes is now a domestic housewife and seamstress and a fabulous cook who always wants to try a new recipe. Fortunately the onion grass has not put in an appearance. You can check out her blog here. Julian, always artsy, is a very talented piano player and composer, and spent his summer in Europe playing at a music festival in Orvieto, Italy. The two of us haven’t lost our randomness — a few weeks back when we were both home from school, we decided to sing everything in opera for an entire day. This made for an awkward moment when Charity called and I had to answer the phone operatically, but she understood. And I, the one with ten thousand spiral notebooks of unfinished stories, obviously still love to write, as well as doing photography and scrapbooking. You can check out my photo blog here. Still too adventurous to settle down, I’ve changed my major multiple times. Also I still love shiny things.

In the future, some young child will ask me what I did when I was a kid. And with a nostalgic smile and faraway eyes I will tell them of clover chain crowns and wood mosaics and fallen trees. And with cell phone in hand and text messages waiting for a reply in a busy world that forces maturity too soon, they will respond in confusion, “Whatever…”

I can only hope that if I ever have children, they will always come in smelling like sunshine.

Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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a summer at deer run…the view from the other side

This summer I met some amazing people who have loved me, supported me, and changed my life.

Over the course of the summer I was blessed with 67 precious kids that God entrusted to me to teach and to play with and to love.

I jumped off the 30-foot Leap of Faith.

I conquered the 45-foot climbing wall.

I played lots of Gaga ball.

I let my kids dress me up in crazy costumes and performed talents that they decided on.

I danced a lot.

I played paintball.

I got to worship every night.

I prayed with kids to receive Christ and got to see one of them baptized.

I told a kid who had never been to church before who God is.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and grown in so many ways, and God has been amazing in bringing up the same themes over and over to reinforce these lessons. What was theoretical knowledge before is experiential now — I’m not spouting off cliches anymore because I have lived out the truth in these lessons.

Theme: empty to fill. During training week, Mom led devotionals on that theme, and since then it’s kept coming up everywhere — at church, in song lyrics, in the way God has proved that truth to me over and over. I’ve learned what it really means to depend on God for strength and have faith that if I pour out everything I have, He will refill me with exactly what I need when I need it. There’s nothing like getting to the end of an exhausting day, high-fiving my awesome jr. staffer Brody and praising God together because we know that there’s no freaking way we could have done it on our own. One night a couple weeks ago I was sitting in the back of the camp store having a meltdown between dinner and worship. After I’d calmed down I went to the tent where worship was starting, and Caleb was leading a song we’d sung all summer long. It was the thousandth time I’d heard it, and to be honest, I’d never given it much thought beyond “oh, it’s a fun song for the kids that they can dance to.” But the truth of the words struck me in a completely new way. “I’ve got a river of living water, a fountain that never will run dry. It’s an open heaven You’re releasing, and we will never be denied.” Even when I’m running on empty, God’s strength will never run dry, and He will always give me what I need. And that kinda leads into the next theme. But when I was leaving today, crying bittersweet tears and thanking God for an amazing summer, I was listening to Casting Crowns and a line from The Well jumped out at me: “And now that you’re full of love beyond measure, your joy’s going to flow like a stream in the desert. Soon all the world will see that living water is found in Me, because you came to the well.” That’s such a beautiful way to express the transition we’re making in going back to our normal lives, and how God will continue to work through us as we empty to fill.

It is God who arms me with strength — Brody and me and the Y-Babes

Theme: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” I wrote that verse in my journal the night before I left for Deer Run. Like every other theme, it’s shown up in so many ways. One of my favorite songs we’ve sung this summer has a bridge that says “I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God, You never will!” I’ve learned that it’s okay that I can’t do everything on my own. My whole life I’ve felt like everything was up to me, and I had to somehow prove myself by taking on way more than I could handle. This summer has really taught me to trust and rely on my support group, how to ask for help when I need it, how to accept and even embrace my own weakness. I don’t have to hide or be ashamed of my emotions. I don’t have to pretend like I’m fine when I’m not. For the first time in my life, I’m really…okay with myself. Which leads into the next theme.

Theme: I am who I am, not what I do. And I am okay with that. This summer, all the support and affirmation from my wonderful coworkers has shown me the value in myself. I didn’t have to prove anything to these people to be loved, and I don’t have to be someone I’m not. First, for something as small as a tube of mascara or a powder compact, makeup is a huge thing to let go of. Two months ago, when I looked in the mirror without makeup, I thought I was hideous. Last week, I actually thought, “Hey, I look cute today.” What?! I’ve actually managed to get to a point where I’m so used to my real face that I feel like I look weird with eyeliner. The other thing that was hard to get over was fear of inadequacy, of what others thought of me. When I couldn’t make it to the top of the climbing tower during training week, I was absolutely mortified, especially when several of the other girls did it with no problem. So halfway through camp when I finally conquered it, I thought I would feel amazing. But…I didn’t. I wrote in my journal later that night, “I’m glad I can say I’ve done it, and now I know what it’s like, but honestly it didn’t make me feel that different. I guess I’ve learned to place my worth in other things.” Oh, and that kind of leads into the next theme too.

Theme: God is enough. I can live with very little. And even when that little falls apart, it’s okay. Not worth stressing over. I brought 4 pairs of shoes to camp, and only 1 pair escaped unscathed. The sole came off my first pair of Chacos, so I had them replaced. When the sole came off the second pair a week later, I shrugged and Brody and I wrapped them up in bright yellow duct tape. What would have infuriated me 2 months ago, I laughed about, because I’ve truly learned that security is not found in possessions. I’ve written a few posts on materialism, because it’s bothered me for a long time, but I never knew how to make a change while I was stuck in the environment I was in. Well, camp gave me an opportunity to escape that environment and cut my dependency on stuff. So I’ll hopefully be making a trip or two to Goodwill before I get sucked back into the vortex of greed and have the chance to regret it.

It’s been an incredible summer and God has blessed me in so many ways. This hardly scratches the surface of how deeply Deer Run has changed me. There’s no way I could ever explain everything that’s happened, but it’s truly been an experience I will never forget.

Published in: on August 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm  Comments (3)  
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Snapshot from Passion 2012

Of all the incredible experiences I had at Passion back in January, of all the things I learned and the people I met, one single snapshot has stayed with me. It was really random, but it burned itself into my memory and I can still see it as clearly as I did that night.

It’s of a guy, a few rows in front me, during the Hillsong concert.

He has his phone out, recording the song. I don’t even remember what song.

As the music and the singing grow louder and more intense, his phone shakes and blurs the image as he raises his hand in the air, unable to remain still.

Then, almost frantically, alive with excitement, he gives up and slips his phone back in his pocket.

Freedom.

Up go his outstretched hands, high above his head, reaching, reaching for God. His hands, now open, now closed, now covering his heart, move with the music and the beat of the drum, emphasizing his surrender, punctuating his praise.

It is as if he is about to explode with worship so powerful he can no longer contain it. In that moment, his love for God is passion defined.

The intensity of emotion I see brings tears to my eyes.

Still.

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 12:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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