to April

You said you were ordinary.

You did not know how spectacular your ordinaryness is. I want to tell you.

This post is to every woman; every ordinary woman. Dear April – for you are an April to somebody, probably several somebodies, – please know that people mean this all to you, just like I mean it to April.

to April: You thought you were ordinary. You thought you were skiing and snowshoeing and enjoying jokes and laughing heartily and being blessed and enjoying a snippet of winter. And sure, you were. But for each little “Darlin'” and “Lamb” and for each time you sat down next to me, or let me come skiing or snowshoeing; for each time you laughed uproariously and snorted that special, ridiculous little snort; for each time you frowned over a pine cone and saved it for later, when you had a pencil – your ordinariness was what I needed.

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I don’t remember the first time you called me Lamb or Darlin’. It was probably the first time I addressed you (which took a while; I was shy.) But you meant it, that first time. You still do. You mean it when you talk with anybody. That, my Dear Ordinary April, is the kind of ordinary we crave.

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I don’t know how often you snowshoed up here, or how often you took people with and how often you wanted to go alone. (I get that, by the way.) I don’t know how often you wanted to share the wonder of the woods with one of your darlins, but I do know that I loved it. I could hear – each time you mentioned how the carnivorous plants worked down in their Black Spruce Bogs, or pointed out the Leatherleaf sticking steadfast and up all through winter – I could hear how much you cared.

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We tramped (you tramped and I tripped over the super-sized feet I wasn’t used to) through the bogs and over the ridges and up the trickling gullies and you asked all about Colorado and my school and the things you knew I cared about. That’s the kind of ordinary that speaks, Love. April I don’t know how often you’ve spoken in front of a crowd, because you got all shaky and your little tears made tears on the rest of our faces too, but I know that you miss it here, and yet you went. You crave your winter and you humbly walked into a vacillating summer. You love those familiar bog plants and spruces, those carnivorous little traps and the frozen places you can only walk on one season of the year. But you left, because you care more about God than winter, and more about His work than familiarity, and more about God’s people than your people.

Bless you, April. You’re a quiet kind of ordinary. I don’t see you on stages, and we don’t chat about your Bible education because you’re not enrolled in any seminary. But for all the deep lessons I learn from great, God-filled sermons, and for all the new exciting teachings I crave at the hands of those being formally educated in things I may never know – for all that, April, your ordinary has made me laugh as heartily; it has taught me much love and how to snort a little when I laugh; it has taught me to care about people, not how they dress, but also how to wear fun colors (admittedly, “Jim”, you take the cake with color.) Gosh – I barely chat with you. Even here we weren’t talking all the time. Mama’s your best bud – you Lucy and Ethel duo.

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You didn’t know all this, did you? You didn’t know how deep you reach with that monosyllabic “Lamb”; you didn’t know tripping through brush on the banks of Black Spruce Bogs was a love lesson greater than any professor could cover in a quiz; you didn’t know laughing that singular laugh was gonna tickle me happy like life can go on, even when I’m melting in a place I wouldn’t have chosen to be. That’s your ordinary, April. That’s you just doing your ordinary thing. And you know what makes it extraordinary and spectacular and beyond anything I’d learn from a sermon or a classroom or a book? I see that you are ordinary and I can recognize that you have been with Christ.

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Now – you other Aprils. Sweeties, all of you.

Stacy: Psh, we still barely chat. But you let me pull you aside at church one busy night and ask you all worried and confused how one ought to do mission trips. And you, sweet seasoned veteran, helped. You told me what I needed to know, and you reassured me. Thank you.

Michelle: Gosh – when you walked through the front door (how terribly cliché the beginning of that sentence sounds!) I just kind of went “She’s coming! Yay!” and I honestly couldn’t even remember your name. I think you’re a little crazy. Your laugh just gets out there and makes a joke better. Still, you know how to lean in and look someone in the eyes and give deep true advice. Plus there’s a bunch of other things – like the whole crazy we-love-camping thing – that make you an epic lady. Oh: I am a lit major, so read that word “epic” for all that it is worth.

Esther: Them sweatpants though! Thanks to you, I was a few degrees farther away from actually freezing the … off.

Roxanne: Never once did you bring up that job I irresponsibly missed and here I was kinda shamed the whole time – but we just gasped and shrieked between the polar plunge and the sauna; we competed in broomball and whooped sledding down that supah-sketch hill – you just being all gracious and forgiving and forgetting and me just being all grateful. Thanks, lady.

Lacey: Okay, how do some people just kind of know what I need? Cuz we just practiced a bit that first night and then we came down the stairs and I did that little awkward walk-fast-so-you-get-away-without-saying-goodbye thing (gotta love my awkward, eh?) and you just said “Gianna,” and I turned around, “Thanks for being so flexible.” and you hugged me, and that was darned amazing. Yup. Do I sound like a sap? Anyway.

So, April and all you Aprils, Yeah. You’re ordinary. I’m ordinary. But people need your ordinary.

*I* need it.

Thank you for sharing your ordinary.

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coffee time

Ahghghghgh, he would say, and it would stick ever so slightly in his throat. It signaled the first satisfying sip of coffee in his morning. I love to hear it so much that when my uncle offered me a sip of the dark bitter liquid I would accept, even though my face wrinkled bitter every time. It happened many times. The loons would call out over the water unabashed by me – their breathless audience. The mist would disappear shyly when the sun smiled hello. My aunt would hand us washable plates while Uncle Loren shaped and scooped pancakes over the camp stove. And then coffee. While Auntie Londa did the dishes, Uncle Loren would sit on the tailgate of his truck, look me squarely in the eye and silently scald his tongue on rich, black coffee.

“Aghghghghghgh.”

I stared in awe. It must be magical – like Puff, the Magic Dragon he sang about.wpid-wp-1409085615547.jpeg

“Do you want to try a sip?” I could still hear the coffee on his gravelly, teasing voice.

“Isn’t it gross?”

“Best thing on earth.”

“Ok.” I’d burn my tongue for a day and my memory for year.

My first boss started me on cappuccino. “I don’t like the bitterness, but I need the caffeine,” she explained. “I don’t like coffee either,” I said, and we laughed confidentially at the world. I mixed cocoa in mine to take the awful taste out.

Meanwhile, latte-sweater-boots-campfire season set in. I took a test to avoid taking a college class, and I passed! I remember needing something warm, something wakey-wakey, something exciting-sounding, and something quick to celebrate with. Don’t ask me how a gas-station cappuccino fit the bill, but it was the sweetest drink of my life to date. They became a habit. Surely something else could be my rare reward, and gas-station cappuccino could be for work and weekends – the regular, happy times.

All y’all are laughing at me now.

Work and weekends? That leaves mornings, you say. Y’all are right. Mornings were the final step in the coffee-loving of Gianna.

It’s not a shocker to see me stagger into the kitchen looking a bit bleary. I imagine on this particular February morning I looked closer to dead than alive. (That’s bound to happen after fifty-some days of temperatures around negative twenty.) I looked wearily around the kitchen.

“I need coffee.”

“You don’t like coffee!” My brother and sister synthesized on this point.

“I’ll find a way. Today I need coffee.” I googled it. I made it. I made it taste good. I did it again the next morning.

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Now I like coffee. Iced. Hot. Mocha. I don’t like it black yet; I’m graduating in that direction.

Mmm. Coffee. Aghghghghghgh.

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just a monday like today

It was four weeks ago, but I can still feel unsettlement down in my tummy thinking about that drive.

It was any Monday, almost. A Monday of a new week, a hard day, a beginning day, a day on which to go love people and praise Jesus and try a little more to understand and pass on that marvelous love He keeps giving.

Also a motion-sickness Monday.

We were in India, eleven of us. Kolkata. We took Monday to go out to the village. The week prior we went to children’s’ centers and learned and loved and selfied with them littles (they love seeing their faces all caught up in a screen). This week we’d go see women and jobs and watch them reclaim dignity and claim Christ for the first time. So we bounced along past the underpasses and Victoria Memorial and some cows and a soccer game and fields of Jute. We ended out there in a green place with rocky paths and busted cement and sweet women, all learning to sew.

These women had stories like none I’ve had before. They had stories of terror and running away. Stories of pain and learning that maybe loved ones aren’t loved ones like they first thought. But they were sewing new stories. They were stitching stories of crimson and beauty and letters and chances and grace. They were stitching diligence and joy and education and stitching together their lives, because many weak threads make a stronger rope.

They sat down and we sat down and we admired those stitches, because those stitches represented standing up and healing and drying the tears, and sometimes letting the tears flow. Those stitches represented courage and walking tall and holding hands.

One story there was still unstitched into any fabric. This story was too recent. No soft healing pattern had set in gently, like a thread hugging its linen plane. She smiled softly at us and folded her hands and listened uncomprehending as English words took her story and put it where we could feel it and understand it; put it in our tears.

Tears she could understand, and hugs. We took her precious story and wrapped it in all the love we had to share. I promised her I’d bring it back with me. I promised her the pain and the wrong would be remembered and lifted up in another country a sea away, and she could feel known. I promised her that if she could only feel my arms around her for a few minutes, she could feel my thoughts around her much longer. I cupped her little face as long as I could, but I still keep that little throbbing heart cupped so gently in mine.

I still cry thinking of that sweet one.

Dear little sister, I miss you and I want to hug you again. I want to tell you about love so marvelous and pure it cannot help but heal. I pray for you, and I keep working for you. I work for all the girls like you here; the ones who don’t know how much better it can be, and the ones who smile sadly if they smile at all, and the ones with hearts so busted and piecey they don’t think there’s fixing for them.

Take those stitches, and let them help you. See how much beauty your untrained fingers can thread out, and think of the ties a heart can thread out. Think of that love stitching your pieces as your fingers stitch that crimson on that linen, and know it works. You pull fabric together and He can pull your heart soft and melty into one piece again. Tie that thread up tight and firm, and feel him wrapping and wrapping your heart in a love that can’t be untied.

Let’s hug again, sweet pea, up there when we can be all whole and lovely like He made us.

we did this stuff

I probably have several dissatisfied friends.

It’s rather like shopping together, and not coming out of the dressing room to model your sweet new finds. One does not simply travel and not tell everybody.

Did I mention all these people are praying for me and helping me go? So they deserve a story. The thing with India is that it doesn’t fit in a blog post. It doesn’t fit in two weeks or a month or a dream or a picture. Even the little, tiny, teeming India I met won’t fit in a blog post and a photo and a gasp. So I’m going to tell it in pieces. This piece, here, is the piece in which I tell all the things. The new things. Stuff. We did stuff. It was amazing.

We flew. There was a lot of flying. I love flying. Never have I ever been soaring over Greenland and wondered over the tippy mountains stacked all tiny below. Never have I traced the outline of Great Britain on an airplane window in my mind while imagining our track across it under the clouds. Never have I settled down into a French airport like a bird cupping its wings and settling.

wpid-wp-1415247639446.jpegHere is a thing about travel. You learn. So when I thought that two euros equalled about a dollar, I discovered that two dollars equals about a euro. I paid eleven dollars for this coffee. I paid eleven dollars for this coffee. It’s a story, I s’pose.

wpid-wp-1415247697724.jpegWe saw monkeys! I should qualify that. The whole monkey-seeing trip involved: carsickness, our first real Indian food, a view of the Indian countryside, and the Taj Mahal. Please, please don’t ask me to explain the Taj. It’s not wordable, really.

wpid-wp-1415247874525.jpegSuffice it to say… No. No sufficing, because it will not suffice to say. Ya’ll, the Taj was just darn amazing. My camera was dead. (Your bewailing will not avail – I’m already as sorry as possible about that misfortune.)

I did get a picture of it from Agra fort. Sorry for the terrible graininess.

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wpid-wp-1415385329649.jpegThis? This is the inlay work identical to what we saw in the Taj. Oh. How. Beautiful.

Hereafter is when the doings got dicey. The hellos were happy and heart-wrecking and the visits were wild and joyous and the names are precious and dangerous. I can’t share everything we did and all the people we saw, because I love them enough not to endanger them.

We saw children’s centers. Such sweet little kiddos! We hugged them and listened to their songs and selfied with them – they are selfie queens, I say – we held them and ate with them and told them stories and sang for them a bit ourselves. Then we prayed for them. We pulled the power of God out in words and silent hopes and we lavished all this love he gave us right back down on them.

We went out on our street and this diminutive lady grasped my arm and led me to her part of the sidewalk, where we got ourselves tats – tats drawn on in brown henna dye with tiny hands. You know, this silly little thing was happy, and productive. Our Indian guide has been establishing relationships with these ladies. She got to talk to them, and meet a niece of one, and maybe that niece will be in a children’s center soon. Small smiles and ink were part of the ministry too.wpid-wp-1415385533896.jpegWe went to a place in these little rickshaws! Ah, rickshaws. They’re silly! They sound and smell like weed whackers, and they’re three-wheeled autos. There are bike- and hand-pulled rickshaws also, but we took auto-rickshaws. It was exciting, folks.

wpid-wp-1415385817746.jpegThis haze, here? It was there everywhere. I don’t know what it’s from, but it made a nice airplane picture. I have too many airplane pictures. Many much love for flying, I have.

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So. I have a heart-lesson probably that I could share on each picture here, and I have a happy and sad moment, and hard ones, and laughing ones. But the stories, the heart lessons, they’ll have to follow. I’ll be back.

Use the Dusty Dreams

Well I’m going somewhere soon.

Far.

I’ve never left the country before. Now I am. I’m going to India. It’s a bit wild and crazy, and we’re not just going all touristy and happy to spend money and what. We’re going to learn about human trafficking and heart ache and sad things.

It’ll be hard, and I don’t know how much hurt I’ll come back with. I don’t know how I’ll have to handle that hurt, but I know I want to use it for others. Other people hurt and that’s why we’re going – to learn about their hurts and show them we care and to come back and do things to prevent and rescue and heal their hurts.

Anyway. Helping people’s a bit of a dream. Cheering and encouraging and all? It’s a happy thing. I love when I send a little text (in which I often look a little stupid) and seeing “Pahahaha! Laughed so hard I almost peed!”

It’s like a score. I made a laugh! I made something happy, and it cheered a person! I love that. Hopefully this will be something like that. I know it’s different. It’s tough and hard and old and strong and it breaks people. Trafficking breaks people. But God? He puts people together. I want to be part of that.

Dream, people. Make a goal and dream. Hard dreams are good. Do them hard things. It’s worth it.

Here – this video? It’ll maybe motivate you. Go pick that dream up and dust it off and make a plan for it.

Oh yeah. I meant to say – don’t look here too often in the next two weeks. Won’t be much, darlins. My jet-lagged, learning-busy brain won’t have time for the putting together of many words. But look on Instagram! I’ll be posting stuff there and trying to keep track of all the amazing things happening.

Do Them Hard Things

I had a happy moment last week.

I passed a test. The last test.

I passed the last test.

I still have some courses left, but I have finished the last test. That’s important because so many reasons. It’s college. (I love passing college tests.) I’m working so hard for a collegiate presidential signature to say I’ve learned lots of literature. I started a few years ago and put on my deadline face and worked to be done by this month.

I’m not. I missed a goal. This month came and I had fifteen credits on a spreadsheet tacked to my closet door, watching me even in my sleep. Now there’s less. There’s six. It’s not zero, but it’s not fifteen either.

(That spreadsheet there on the right? Yeah. It didn’t used to be highlighted, but now, what’s done is blue. It’s mostly blue. I’ve mostly shaken my blues. It’s a happy change.)wpid-wp-1411935570685.jpeg

This spring picked me up and threw my plan a ways off and said “Let’s take a ride” and wouldn’t put me down, so we went on a ride and I couldn’t quite reach the plan, laying down there where the dust was.

We were short-staffed at work, and I took a trip, and I failed a test and things were a bit hard and unhappy for a while. Studying was difficult and it didn’t always work, and I took a test and missed it, and I cried.

Now? Now things have looked up. I made a new plan and a new goal, and I’m meeting it. I picked a new graduation and pressed on and jumped wide and hard over the hurdles without skimming my toes on their paint or knocking my knees on their heads.

There was another hard moment too, a while ago. Back before I had my plan planned onto a spreadsheet, I cried and stressed and questioned about which college? And which degree? And in-state? And why would this be so hard on my soul and my happy and my tear ducts?

That’s gone now too. It’s there upstairs being alive and remembered and I’m not inviting it back. I know I’ll cry days and I’ll question days, but I’m not bringing that old furniture downstairs to ruin my happy, promising rooms.

Now I’m being an overcomer, and I’m going to keep trying things and doing things and being afraid of things, and then looking at that feared thing all wide-eyed and stupid-happy and doing it.

Imma keep being a Cliff-Jumper.

(That there rocky spot off my finger – I stood there and shook a wee and flew, and loved it. Photo creds to Bestie, right here.)

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It’s a Monday, and a hard day sometimes, and maybe it’s a Monday month for you, or year. Maybe you just hope it gets easier. It does. You will be ok. Don’t be afraid to jump, darling. So tell me:

What are you scared-silly and brave about?

So yeaaaaah it’s September

September! It thrills me from toes to tipppy top – gots the power to stand my pixie up, it does. It’s like the sky opens up just to make space for my wandering soul and things change colors to satisfy the craving I have for differentwpid-wp-1411535687956.jpegIt’s September’s wanderlust makes me want to make eat the apples just layin’ on the sidewalk, take photos of the swimming trees, and make acorn necklaces (ok, perhaps that was really truly Anni’s idea).

wpid-wp-1411606284811.jpegSpeaking of the girl, she came for a wee small visit last week. Really truly she deserves her own post, but (insert some lame excuse) so you see, I couldn’t. Or maybe I just selfishly want to keep my pictures of and with her in a secret, pretty place.

We grew up on playing lava-tag, and climbin’ up fire-poles, stepping across the bridge with pinched feet, and climbing up the slide. Why wouldn’t we do it again?wpid-img_20140917_165421978.jpgI didn’t realize how much this post will be full of people I love. Yay! So meet my brother.

Blog, meet Josh. Josh, blog. Also Josh, meet Cherry Berry. I may be somewhat sold on fro yo. It may be what I treat myself to whenever I pass a test (hint – I passed a test.) Lucky I, it was proctored on the campus where Josh attends. So I made him got him to like fro yo. He be like “I don’t like frozen yogurt. Well, I’ll try it. Oh, chocolate! Oh, Strawberry! Oh, it comes out SOOOO slow. Oh, sprinkles! Oh, M&M’s! Oh, brownie bites! Oh, skittles! Oh, chocolate chips!” I be like “I told you so.” But yeah, celebrating with a yummy something and a loved somebody is just a happy thing. Try it sometime.

wpid-wp-1411605236424.jpegI was in a city the other day, so I did a thing. I walked on a dike, and listened to a band playing Brown Eyed Girl and Sweet Home Alabama, and did some selfying with my shadow, chatted with my sister, … yeah. It was a cool day.

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I am here. Gosh that’s good to know! The things they didn’t tell us, starting out!wpid-wp-1411574287692.jpegI don’t know why I love this so much! Maybe it’s because the “When” is washed off – by rain (presumably.) Maybe it’s because it’s simple. Maybe because it’s so familiar, but it means something different when it’s all by itself. Maybe because it was just in the kind I don’t of park that needed sweet graffiti, and … well I read after a rain.wpid-wp-1411574495550.jpeg

I don’t like football. This lucky child still convinced me to come to her powder puff game. Gosh I love her. I feel old, thinking that the last pp game I came to was when I was a senior, and she wasn’t in high school even, then. She’s amazing anyway, though. wpid-wp-1411535300776.jpeg wpid-wp-1411535545272.jpeg

Dad, do you miss farming?

Sometimes.

Why?

I miss being able to look back at a day, and being able to see what I did.

Yeah, there’s a swath here, and another, and a field changes color once when it grows, and once when it ripens, and again after harvest and after being plowed. A whole piece of land rotates around and moves from one side of “to-do” to the other. All the time the sky watches and your fingers get wide and calloused and strong and your soul shapes to the clouds and something of the land grows and ripens and becomes something of you.

I think this and do not say it. I look at those calloused hands holding a steering wheel out of the corner of my sight and I think of me – we have the same need for sunshine and outside and breeze in the short-cut hair. We have the same need for putting something wild and chaotic into rows. We have the same desire to look back and see a field, and another, razed and bountiful and golden and done.

wpid-wp-1411606879769.jpegAnd how is September to you, so far?