Tag Archives: winter

Another Year, Another Lent

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Winter is a stark time. The snow on the baseball field glints in the light from the street lamp, I bang my boots in the doorway to dislodge the brown sidewalk sludge, the old woman next door calls desperately to her lost dog, looking under bushes, her cries reverberating through my bedroom wall.

Winter is harsh, so it is no wonder to me that the Lenten season begins at the coldest time of the year. My soul feels barren right around now, and the earth mimics that emptiness. The Greeks had it right with the myth of Demeter and Persephone: only the most desolate yearning of an abandoned mother could depict the earth’s brokenness in hibernation.

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There are places you feel safe, and you forget for a time that it is not true. You feel in control, like the queen of a kingdom that is small but significant, and you rule it with love and little bit of self-aggrandizement. Then, one morning, you wake up and realize this kingdom of yours is out of control. It is full of rebellious and thoughtless citizens who — even though they may care greatly — do not have your best interests (or those of the kingdom) at heart.

You blink.

You don’t feel safe anymore.

You desperately try to gather up the pieces that are left. It’s okay, let those ones go, they weren’t dedicated or committed enough. Cut them lose. Soldier on. Create community with what you’ve got left.

So you celebrate Shrove Tuesday with Flatbread pizza and meeting new people.

You honor Ash Wednesday with sushi, connecting with your once-called “city-friend,” and remembering the Ash Wednesday of 2015, complete with a cross on your forehead and German beer with Jewish men.

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You try to remember who you work for. Who you teach for. Who you love for. Because if there’s one thing this week has taught you, you certainly can’t do these things for just another person. People are fallible and weak. There’s a switch they flip so they stop caring when they need to. You wish could find that switch inside yourself. Your co-homeroom teacher wishes you could find that switch inside yourself so he didn’t always need to be the calm yin to your crazy yang. There are benefits to turning it all off.

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But I’ve never been able to do that. I tried for years and fooled a few people, but I became a caricature of myself: critical and nit-picky and closed-minded. I don’t want to go back to that place, but I’m not sure I can survive here in this emotion-filled but also-empty place.

Last Lent, I went through a similar season, and Henri Nouwen spoke balm to my soul. I opened the slim book again this year, wondering at the gift of the church calendar, and I felt like Nouwen was sitting in the room next to me, speaking to my moment in time, to my pain in time. It didn’t matter that it was only black words on a white page.

I am constantly surprised at how hard it is for me to deal with the little rejections people inflict on each other day by day…This atmosphere often leaves me with a feeling of being rejected and left alone. When I swallow these rejections, I get quickly depressed and lonely; then I am in danger of becoming resentful…

But maybe all of this is the other side of a deep mystery, the mystery that we have no lasting dwelling place on this earth and that only God loves us the way we desire to be loved. Maybe all these small rejections are reminders that I am a traveler on the way to a sacred place where God holds me in the palm of his hand. (Gracias A Latin American Journal)

God reminds us of things even when we don’t want to be reminded of them. I would much rather feel both loved and accepted and supported on earth AND in heaven.

There is little to be learned from comfort.

Even as I write this, the sky is turning pink over the city skyline. I hear birds in the bare trees below my window. My roommates are waking slowly, the floors creaking under their morning feet.

I am grateful for seasons on the earth as I am grateful for seasons of the church. I can’t imagine a world where our inner workings always stood in stark contrast against the evergreen world or the always-joyful church.

The promise of spring holds more meaning for me as an adult than it ever did for me as a child. I see the greenness of the old pine tree even beneath the crusty snow.

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A Blossom in February

IMG_1696You know that moment when you think: This person is going to be good.

My midwestern friend, the one whose marriage we celebrated with dancing last summer, is good. After three years of separation, three years of poetry-writing, slaving over images and words and form, she has become a poet.

Our senior year, as our friendship was forming, I remember wanting desperately to have her gift. Her sensitivity to acknowledging the small, her ability to work within structure. I thought she knew what she was doing then, but now?

Now, I see growth and shimmer where there was only the hope of it before.

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[I bought two copies of a friend’s book of poetry last week, and they arrived in the standard yellow mailing envelope. Two, thin chapbooks. A Bow from My Shadowit’s called, and my pride over knowing such gifted and hardworking poets makes me give that extra copy away, a gift and an acknowledgement of artistry.]

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For two years after college, I wrestled with what to do next. I wanted so badly to get my MFA, to write and stay in the world of creativity and critique. Part of me still wants this – still longs for a group of people who will force me to put thoughts on paper and shape those thoughts into something remarkable.

[I go to my writers’ group every other Thursday. I read to them these things I’m hoping are poems, and I eat up their praise and critiques alike. Better writing is happening because of these thoughtful, diligent friends.]

When I listen to my friend talk about her program, I am proud and jealous, happy and wondering.

Did I make the right choice?

[The same friend whose book I just bought said to me: “I write best when it’s not all I do.” And I knew this was true of me, too. I didn’t do my best writing in college, when it was forced from me. Sure, the revising and peer editing helped, but now? I am inspired by so much. When I doubt, this is what I cling to.]

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And so, on this gray February Sunday, I watch as my friends blossom into themselves. I read their words with quiet joy and a pen. I write that poem that’s been bouncing around, and I begin the research for my Classroom Management class, because my path is shaped differently than I ever dreamed.

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Snow Thoughts

There were no eggs in the chicken house this morning, and I wasn’t surprised because it’s been so cold. Now, in late afternoon, the snow is falling thick and the window reflects back my Christmas lights. I’ll probably leave them up for awhile because why can’t things be cozy even after Christmas?

I love when snow sticks to forgotten summer screens.

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I love when cardinals and blue jays, chickadees and juncos feed on the porch, leave their prints in the snow.

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[Children are laughing outside in the snowy dusk. Imagine the coldness of the backs of their necks, the raw ring between the sleeve of their coats and their mittens, the wind-burned cheeks.]

Winter Rest?

I look out my bedroom window and see a row of newly-planted blackberries. The wooden posts are easily three times the height of the twigs that promise fruit in the spring. They’re surrounded by browned-up leaves and it’s hard to imagine the spring of 2014 on November 11, 2013.

A few days ago, one of my tenth-graders asked me, “Do you like your job?”, and I was caught off guard because a student has never asked me that before.

“Yes, I do,” I said, and it was true. I left out the part about “You guys drive me crazy!” and “There’s so much stuff behind the scenes – so much planning – you people have no idea!”, because really, I do love my job. She looked at me, her head cocked in cheeky questioning, because I don’t think she believes it possible to like school. Who knows? I might get her to change her mind come spring.

I’ve counted down the days to Christmas and it scares me how quickly it will come and go and I’ll be unceremoniously shoved into 2014.

The musical will go up in mid-December. I’ll be consumed with writing my unit for grad school, writing a research paper, directing Aladdin, Jr. with patience and creativity (yes, yes? right? patience?), and then *blink!* Christmas, and unless I get my act together, my family will suffer from lack of planning and “I love you, but I’m sorry! Shopping is hard for me! Sorry!”

(Maybe I write these posts as a warning? “Heads-up, guys, my gifts might be less-than-awesome”? Or perhaps as a way to force myself to plan enough time to get just. the. right. gift. Either way, I hope it works.)

The girls have slowed down as the days are shortening – we only get about eleven eggs a day, which is barely enough to fill our orders. I coax them with sweet singing, but alas, they are stubborn old birds. The light in the henhouse extends the day, but there’s something about the cold they just don’t like.

This is what is running through my mind as I look at the bare twigs out my window. Not much is expected of them right now: just lie there, dormant. Come April, though, little leaves will unfurl and a winter’s worth of rest will fill my belly with sweetness.

I may not have a whole winter, but I do have today.

Blizzard of ’13

The brothers and I went for a night walk in the storm. We used to do this a lot when we were little – bundle up in layers and wander around in the glowy-darkness that only happens when it snows.

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I liked it better without the flash, even though the images are dark.IMG_1253

This picture looks like it could’ve come from the 1950s, with the Coca-cola machine and the clock.
IMG_1256 Kindly posing.
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The plows were the only vehicles out. They probably thought we were crazy. And we were, a little bit, singing Neil Young and Jim Croce songs at the tops of our lungs.

By the end of it, our cheeks were burning and we couldn’t look straight ahead because our eyeballs were getting sliced. “We’re like Laura Ingalls!” I said, laughing. Except, I realized, she would’ve thought we were pretty stupid, choosing to be out in a blizzard. Probably would’ve shaken her head and muttered something about 21st century wackos.

[Did I mention we had a snow day? I think I was more excited than the kids, waiting for the notification, staying up too late because hope is strong. And it paid off! A whole Friday to fill!]

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This is the world I woke up to.

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I love it when the glass gets covered in icy snow.IMG_1300 IMG_1298 IMG_1297 IMG_1296 IMG_1293

Spending my morning in front of the fire. It’s quiet, at least til everyone else gets up. Trying to make a dent in “Cost of Discipleship,” but it’s not exactly a quick read. I guess it goes with the territory – “cost” doesn’t sound easy, and neither does “discipleship,” really.

Writing a letter to Switzerland, wondering what the world looks like from there, trying to share what’s been going on in this corner of it.

For someone who was ready for spring, I am certainly enjoying this wintery place.

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[thoughts on february]

February is one of my least favorite months (March taking first, I think). I know I can join the club on this one – there’s just something about the post-Christmas-ness of February, the bleariness, the seeming-longness. One of my coworkers has been trying to convince me that in fact, February has a lot to offer. Her biggest argument is a little subjective, though: “Well, my birthday is in March, so February’s great cause it’s right before March.”

Hmmmm….

The days are, indeed, getting longer, as another coworker reminded us via a mass email. There was math involved, and the math seems to show that the sun is with us a full hour more than in December. I am trying to believe it and rejoice accordingly.

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I was asked to babysit on Valentine’s Day. It was innocent, a quick text sent: “I’m sure you already have plans, but…” She doesn’t know that I promised myself last year: Never babysit on Valentine’s Day AGAIN. I love children. I love these particular children, especially. But there is something oddly demoralizing about watching someone else’s offspring while they do such enjoyable things as eat at a fancy restaurant, coo at each other, and makeout. This happens on a regular babysitting evening, too, but it is inexcusable on Valentine’s Day.

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It doesn’t help that when I look in the mirror, I wonder if my skin could get any more translucent.

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When I went out to do the chickens this morning, my fingers stuck to the metal waterer. Just for a moment (not quite the drama of A Christmas Story), but just enough that I got a little jolt of “oh!” and realized that I am entirely and completely and unapologetically ready for spring.

That being said, a huge snowstorm is on its way. I love snow. I love storms. I love being cooped up in my house with a hot drink, a good book, and good company.

But after this one? Bring on spring.

IMG_0501Please and thank you.