october freewrite (hey there, it’s been a while)

At some point, you just have to start writing again. And it’s helpful to stop worrying about what you can’t do and ask what in fact you can do. And that applies to everything. Everything.

So hello there, little corner of the interwebs where I have written in the past. Yes, it has been a while. It’s hard to explain, but I think the new job is mainly to blame for the long hiatus. Yep, new job. And not just any job, but a job I felt barely qualified for and yet was hired for anyway. A job with the learning-curve-of-a-lifetime, another job where I’ll always work too many hours and make too little, but hey! I actually like it. It feels like a tremendously perfect fit for my self – skills, talents, all that jazz. And that is amazing.

I’ve been teaching 6th grade since August 19th. Twenty-one adorable infuriating 6th graders are my life companions for 30 hours a week. It’s delightful. Invigorating. Maddening.

And so on a night when I could be using this extra-long weekend to fit some extra planning in, I’m surfing the web and deciding to head back this way after quite a while.

I’m supposed to teach them how to write. But that’s difficult to do, isn’t it? And what do I really know about writing? We’re using this lovely curriculum by Lucy Calkins and in her teaching script, she insists on calling the students writers. She tells them, When writers like you do this-and-such, they often use this technique. In other words, I am channeling this epic writing instructor and speaking these confident words over children and myself – hey, y’all are writers! So do what writers do!

***

So we’re living in this weird slice of in-between life. We were both looking for jobs, then I got one out of the blue. He started school and is learning Latin names for plants and basic genetics. I’m relearning basic pre-algebra and the science of light and sometimes getting a little ahead, but mostly scraping together lesson plans as I go. We’re looking at houses, ready to buy if we find the right one. This is both scary and exciting. And we’re getting ready to move out of this house…but it’s unclear to where at the moment. There are a couple options. I’m commuting an hour and a half round-trip each day and listening to Spanish-language podcasts to practice my language skills.

We’re living together again in the same country, same house even, and it feels totally normal, except for sometimes when I realize I actually still don’t really know how to do this marriage thing well. Go figure. One friend is moving to Finland and invited me to come visit, another family member is moving to SLC, maybe to live with us. The holidays are coming right around the corner again and, yet again, I am caught unprepared, scrambling to weigh and decide on travel plans and gift ideas at the very last minute. My circle of friends and acquaintances is producing precious new humans at an unprecedented rate (at least in my experience), which is thrilling and heart-flooding and distracting. There are so many choices to be made each day and I hardly pause to wonder if I’ve made the right ones. There just is so little time.

***

And that’s where I am tonight. Maybe this will start a new season of a bit more writing here…

(96) belong {five minute friday}

This word – belong – it feels appropriate, meaningful, after weeks of being in and out of the homes of family and extended family and strangers-who-are-actually-family and friends. We’ve driven miles upon miles of late, through a handful of massive western states, and hashed and rehashed conversations, trying again and again to be the ministers of reconciliation that we’re called to be. Well, that doesn’t quite sound right. But that line from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has come to mind at least a time or two for me – isn’t that what it’s all about, the ministry of reconciliation? Ultimately reconciliation to God, but these past few weeks have been filled with many opportunities, some grabbed onto and others lost, for reconciliation between people.

What does it really mean to be part of a family? I’ve wondered this as well. I’ve married into this family I’ve been visiting and I’m still an outsider in many ways. Going through the photo albums means weeding out handfuls of pictures that don’t belong anymore because that person isn’t part of the family any more. (Divorce seems like such a terrible thing.) I’m a recent addition – just 3 years – and in some ways, I feel the shortness of that period of belonging. I hear the reminiscing, the stories, the nostalgia, the anger, the hurt, the bitterness, the resentment, the longing, and I know I have barely scratched the surface of this family’s collective story. But I want to belong and so I listen closely, I balance in the awkward tipping point between my comfort zone and their modus operandi. Going forward, I am part of the writing of this family story. I belong in it, even if I don’t quite all the time feel that I belong yet.

***

(After about a bajillion years of blog silence, okay, just a month, I’m breaking the ice with a post in response to the writing prompt courtesy of Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday writing challenge – 5-minute free write, free of editing and self-critique. Check out her blog at lisajobaker.com).

(89) on feeling uninspired

(a 5 minute free write on the wordlessness of the last month)

The thing is that the last post I wrote felt so beautiful to me and I want to match it. But sometimes the writing flows in a certain moment, sometimes the ideas are bright and fresh and drunk, spilling over with words, nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, all meaningful and exciting and perfect for expressing the thoughts and feelings within the words and behind them.

And then when life is ordinary and mundane and full of normalcy, the only place the words manifest is in trying to fumble through whatever I might be wondering about or wrestling with in conversation with another person. Yet even then, sometimes the conversation is stilted. I can say exactly what is true, but it’s in black and white, it’s as hard-edged as a file cabinet and just as organized, but not bursting with meaning and truth.

In the gap between returning from New Mexico and this moment, he and I parted ways again and I sank back into my normal life again for a moment before diving headfirst into the season of Lent, with all its challenge and intensity.

***

It’s odd, my five minutes ends and the words crash to a halt, vanish.

 

(85) write {five minute friday}

I saw this prompt last night around the same time I was poking through an old journal and came across a question my sister had asked me about a year ago: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” And then I answered it without thinking last night that I would write – write more, write bolder, write truth, write emotion, write whatever to get through the stuck spaces into the broadness of flow. I want to be a writer, a person who writes. I have a lot of words in me, I know this, and I want to share them.

If there’s pride in that, so be it. I’ll deal with it, but maybe later. In the meantime, I want to write. Maybe this is the path toward becoming more myself, growing into my body, toward intimacy with the world, with myself, with God.

It is scary that people read it. But that’s why it’s important. Because scary things are often good things in the end. They are the growing times, the good things, the beautiful things that remind me what is real.

The wind is blowing hard outside tonight and I’m here, inside, writing this, thinking about all the other things there are to write about.

 

**

Written in collaboration with Lisa-Jo Baker’s “Five Minute Friday” – a 5-minute free write on a one-word prompt.

(84) i hope it helps {flashback}

I press a bag with two granola bars and two bananas into his hands.
What is this? He looks confused,
overwhelmed by human contact perhaps.
I explain and feel embarrassed.
It’s not even lunch
barely a snack for a grown man
and it cost me less than $4.

I hope it helps, I say.
Anything helps, he mumbles
as if the words on his sign
have soaked into his soul.
I drive away,
heart heavy.

 

Originally written in my journal in April 2013.

(83) hero {five minute friday}

I’m lucky enough to know a few of them, those women who grip a little candle with white knuckles against the frightening darkness, who stand up to the experts, the white coats, the teachers, coaches and tell them the Truth. She is one of them.

I completely dismissed this friend, back when we were friends, but I didn’t even know if  wanted to be her friend. I snubbed her, felt that I knew how to live life better. But when she graduated college, it was more of a victory. School was easy for me, but hard for her. An extra year later and she triumphantly crossed the stage with her nursing degree. Not too many years later, she’s using it unexpectedly and she herself says that this must be why she has that hard-earned degree, that life-sustaining skill – so that she can handle endless nights and days of feeding tubes and IV lines and sterilization and complicated medication regimen and countless doctors’ visits and days and hours and months living alone in a huge city, far away from her husband, at the bedside of her precious firstborn who has fought so hard for life in just his first year of it.

I’ve asked her forgiveness and she’s been gracious enough to extend it to me. And I can see a little now that I was oh-so-wrong about her when we were roommates a handful of years ago.

***

a post that feels unfinished in response to Lisa-Jo Baker’s prompt for Five Minute Friday – five minutes of free writing, unedited, silencing the inner critic. Check out the other posts here.

(80) visit {five minute friday}

How many people have we had over for dinner in the past few weeks, couple months? It’s a lot and I’m really beginning to love this. It’s my sister who is teaching me how. I’m not sure where she learned it, but as it turns out we both have the desire within us I guess, to feed people, to invite them into the small space we have to offer, to talk and laugh and pray. I guess it seems like a good way to be human together. To know each other better.

I’m learning that hospitality is about offering and loving with what we have, with no worries about mismatched dishes, or using small forks because we run out of large ones, or our small house and tinier kitchen. No one seems to mind. Everyone always says what a nice time they’ve had and thank you so much for inviting us over. It doesn’t even seem to matter what food is served. I guess as people we just want to be together and when we’re offered an opportunity to be loved, to love, the external trappings of the event don’t matter as much.

I’m thankful for this. It is good for my heart, to be humbled like a child into giving from what I have and experiencing the delight when somehow that small gift spreads and returns joy to others.