All posts by ehalvey

So… Now What?

Donald Miller wrote this about writers, in Blue Like Jazz:

“Writers don’t make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don’t work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck’s book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil Jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man’s stupid words. And for this, as I said before, we are paid a dollar.” (187).

I smelled a book today, and it wasn’t until after I did it that I remembered this passage.

Anyway, I finished my six weeks of two online classes! So what am I doing today (besides avoiding the massive clutter in my house that brings me to desperate tears every time I try to find a place to start cleaning it, and smelling the books I want to read in my leisure time)? Well, I am logging on to my classes that have ended and reading the remaining end-of-class assignment posts. We are supposed to read ALL posts for the class after all, and I am a rule-follower.

But when I’m not doing that, I am planning, calculating, daydreaming about enrollment for fall. I knew this would happen. I am thankful for these two weeks without any pressing, stressing assignments due, but I am confident that by the end of two weeks I will be itching to get back into the game. That’s just how it goes. I think, given my current goals, it’s a good thing. Last week I wrote, but never posted, this:

Guys, I need you to do something for me. This is important, and I need to know that you all have my back. If I ever insist on taking two online classes at the same time again, I need you to stop me. If you are not willing to grab me by the shoulders, look me in the eye, and declare with confidence and sincerity, “Elaina, you are a rock star, and I know with all confidence and sincerity that you can do this – you have to do this – you were BORN to do this,” then slap me across the face and shout “STOP IT” like Bob Newhart ain’t got nothin’ on you. Well maybe don’t slap me, but say something like, “remember the philosopheech!”

 Because that’s what it is to me right now. It’s all blurring together – philosophy and speech, speech and philosophy and metaphysics and cognitive disssssymposium… and epistemolopeech and metapersuasionistics – and I kid you not, the authors of my speech textbook must be analytical philosophers who write books about public speaking as a hobby! It is messing with my head, and I should be reading. Reading reading reading reading reading. Or gathering an audience of at least five people for my final speech due tomorrow – which is most disconcerting because of the fact that it means I have to be dressed and have makeup on. Again. Or doing something of the million things I have to do in this LAST WEEK. But I can’t focus. So really, writing this is therapy. Stress relief. I hope.

 No really, though. I totally love school. It’s hard to tell electronically, but I’m being sincere. I love school. This is me loving school. This is why I try not to dislike things – because this is me loving something.  

P.S. Pray for me.

It was a low point.

But this week, those classes have ended, and I am calculating how many classes I will be able to squeeze into next semester in order to make aggressive progress toward my degree and still be able to fit in that class I really want to take because it fits into my passion, but not necessarily into my degree focus. But then, does my future focus, beyond the Bachelor’s, warrant a few “extra” classes? Am I finally starting to form a future focus? And if I am, does it align with reality? Does it align with God’s plan? Can you tell one of my last classes was a philosophy class? Obviously, there is much to be discussed and decided, but my fingertips are itching to enroll and order more textbooks (it’s a sickness).

I’m not sure there’s a point in this post, other than a really long way of saying “hello.”

So what’s on your minds, my friends?

Oh, and I found a post I wrote for Christmas time – complete with pictures of my Christmas tree – but then life happened at Christmas time and I never posted it. Do you guys want to read it? Christmas in June? Or I could save it to forget about next Christmas?

 

Works Cited

Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz, Thomas Nelson, 2003.

“Take this Speech Class,” they said…

Well, I really should write something here. It has been quite a while. I have been busy though – which is true, and also the excuse I am going with for having nothing of interest to write about for the last month and a half. I have tried – I have a file on my hard drive with five or six uninteresting false starts on blog posts – uninteresting being the key word.

Anyway, most of you probably know that I am in two online classes right now. That thing I said I wouldn’t do because that would be super crazy with the intensity of the workload for online classes and, you know, a family that likes to see the front of my head (AKA my face) sometimes. Well, one of those classes is a speech class, so now I am extra tired to boot. That’s because we (me and my lovely (and supportive!) assistant, Joel) were up past 11:00 last night trying to film my second speech for speech class. Oh, and 11:00 is late for us these days, okay? We’re old. And we like to try to wake up before the kids do so we can get in a morning Bible study before Morning-Mom starts thrashing about in response to the first sign of non-calmness. Mornings are hard. Anyway, here’s how it went down.

The assignment was a 4-6 minute informative speech. Since I chose to do my speech as a how-to on giving a relaxation massage, setup meant Joel hauling my massage table up from the basement and setting it up for me while I dealt (futilely) with hair, wardrobe, and makeup. After propping the computer on top of the purple plastic Halloween bucket that won’t leave my living room, to get a decent angle on my “set,” I nervously took my first go at it, and it went alright. I made it all the way through with my dignity intact. I mean, I had practiced it numerous times, so it seems fair that I would be able to make it all the way through on the first take.

So, after one complete filming in which the webcam wasn’t actually recording, and a subsequent false start because the webcam could only endure 14 seconds of my on-screen persona before freezing up in horror and dismay, we had to revisit our filming strategy, settling on clipping my phone with Joel’s phone clip to the top of the computer screen. This ultimately necessitated the indecorous Scotch-taping of my phone into the phone clip because the two are not compatible with one another. (I don’t know why we didn’t just film it on Joel’s phone, so don’t ask.) However, it turned out, unsurprisingly, that the phone’s incompatibility with the phone clip, and my webcam’s incompatibility with webcam-ing are nothing compared to my incompatibility with successful speechmaking.

It was only a 4-6 minute speech, but oh the irony, discussing the importance of comfort in a massage while my patient languished to his 1000 degree metabolism between the flannel sheets on my massage table for at least twelve entire recordings. Twelve takes (roughly speaking) to rediscover what I already knew, that some people are just not meant to be on camera. It is, and long has been, my deepest desire not to ever see my side profile. Yet, on camera last night, this was devastatingly and repeatedly unavoidable.

Twelve takes, and I could still barely make it through my introduction and conclusion. Twelve takes, and I did it all. False starts, stutters, and long awkward pauses that might have been less awkward if my facial expressions hadn’t been sending out postcards from La-la Land where brains don’t need to store intelligible speech patterns. Twelve takes, and in every one, right down to the very last take, I forgot my place, spoke with a lisp, made strange facial expressions, and unnatural body movements. Twelve takes, and in every one I flailed and fidgeted and spoke in my tenor voice with bizarre vocal inflections. Peculiar smiles; making eye contact with the screen, but not quite the camera; and trying to pretend I am comfortable with a speech topic that I actually am quite comfortable with… *Sigh*

Imagine my utter, genuine delight to discover that YouTube (the required medium for these speech assignments) has an option to publish videos so that they are only accessible to someone who has the link to access them. Now the path of destruction of my on-screen episodes is limited only to my professor and the poor souls with the luck and bad timing to end up in a speech class with me. You all get to partake in the written, adventure-recap version, to which I believe (and hope) I am much better suited.

A face for radio and a voice for 12-point Times New Roman meets the poise of a three-year-old eating Jello.

 

Hey, let’s give that awkward girl a video camera. It’ll be fun.

 

This Was Supposed to Be about Sharing a Prayer

I had a post to share, but it was in my head. It’s not safe in there. Inspiration hit after enjoying a baby shower on Sunday, and I was tickled pink with my cleverness and hilarity, giggling all the way to my one actual class this week, and then walking out of it with absolutely no recollection of what was so amusing. The curse of the mom-brain strikes again. Ask the two people I spoke to last week (separately, but on the same day) who both responded graciously, I should say, when I started a sentence and forgot the rest of it three words in.

Anyway, I’m off track here. I hope that post is still to come, but in the meantime, I was journaling today for my new online class, Advanced Spiritual Formation, and I think I’d like to share it. It started out as gratitude journaling, and ended up as a prayer. When I reread it, it was totally coherent and I thought hey, this would be a good one to share on my blog. So spiritual.

It’s funny because I just finished reading two chapters in Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline that both addressed the issue of our tendency to verbally justify everything we do. Whether it is a questionable act or comment, or a good one we fear could be taken the wrong way, we always feel the need to explain ourselves. We talk too much, instead of letting our actions speak for themselves. Hmmm.

It is scary that this is so true. Uncomfortably true, because here I am doing it again. This whole introduction is explaining why I’m posting what I am posting. Could I have just posted my journaled prayer and let it speak for itself? Hmmm.

Well, anyway.

 

Thank you, Lord, for a warm home that is strong against the Kansas winds. Thank you for your protection through the physical storms as well as the emotional ones. Thank you for a comfy chair, a spacious desk with two working computers, more supplies than I need, and plenty of items to remind me of how full and blessed my life is. Thank you for a mug of coffee to enjoy and a cozy electric blanket to keep me warm while I work. Thank you for my wonderful husband and beautiful children – patient, and kind, and unconditionally loving. Thank you for the future you have for me. Forgive me for trying to rush it or figure it out. Help me to see and trust the full perfection of your plan, even if it doesn’t include the elements I want it to. You have brought me to this place, which is better than I had ever imagined. Guide me. Make me sensitive to your leading. Let me hear, and grant me the courage to act on, your yeses and your nos. Thank you for redemption and blessing undeserved. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.

 

Oh, and I guess it’s obvious that I haven’t decided to shut down the blog just yet (explaining my actions again). I told you I change my mind a lot. But the idea isn’t out of the running. We’ll see when it comes time to renew it for another year. In the meantime, thanks for your support, my faithful commenters, and to the one person subscribed with the email address I didn’t recognize – thank you for reading, and thank you for telling me you do! I can’t even say how much that means to me. I am blessed to know that you are a part of this little community! I’ll admit, four responses is a small and humbling following, but you four matter, and have cared enough to encourage me, so I shall persist, my dear ones.

Now I must go. Did I not mention there are five required textbooks for this six-week online class!? Crack the whip. This old mule’s got work to do.

Stream of Consciousness. If You Dare.

Oh, my friends. I want to communicate with you. I do. I have tried, and my hard drive is proof, with several recent attempts at blog posts that are ultimately not fit for the light of day. Whiny posts about my own feelings of inadequacy and insignificance. Spacey posts about my struggles to decide how much class-load I can handle. All of them boring and self-centered. Plus, I am inexplicably exhausted and in a brain fog I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced before. Misspelling words like fule and matereals in the checkbook does not bode well for the essay I need to proofread and revise into a final draft for Monday.

So somewhere in there lies my issue… I have nothing to write. Nothing that adds enough value to life that I feel justified in putting it before your eyes to occupy your time and inbox space – even if it is only once every few weeks.

So really, I want to communicate. I want to say that I’m still here, but as I’m writing this I’m thinking maybe it is time to say goodbye to the blog. If it isn’t beneficial to my friends, I suppose I ought to just pull out the old journal to write down my thoughts. I think that any one of you who reads this can contact me directly for a dumping out of my innermost thoughts, if desired. I’ll even provide it in writing if you want. I think, or hope, you all know that you have access to my life if you want it, and if you don’t know, it’s not hard to find out.

I am torn, though. I desperately want to cling to the perceived connection of sharing my thoughts and random writings on this blog for others to read, but then it’s all an illusion, really. Let’s not look too deeply into the fact that of the 17 people subscribed to this blog, one of them is my dad. The illusion of connection is not enough.

I will admit (with great trepidation) that one of my great fears in life is being forgettable. Not necessarily the lack of fame or huge success, but forgettable to those who are unforgettable to me. I have been forgotten, overlooked, unchosen (I imagine we all have at one time or another). It always hurts, but worse when the feelings of “your heart, your love, your friendship are worth it to me” go unrequited. That being said, however, I like to think I am not actually forgettable, and to some of you I know for sure that I am not (after all, two of those 17 subscribers are my mom :-)). This blog, on the other hand, is entirely forgettable. So this little note I’m dropping to say I am still here is also saying this blog might not be for much longer.

I don’t know if it seems like I’ve made myself vulnerable on here. Does it? Maybe at times. But to many of you, I have made myself vulnerable. It is something that doesn’t come easily to me, so consider that if I have, it is because I love you – fully, deeply, often painfully, and probably dangerously to my own emotional safety. My heart aches, my tears fall, and my prayers are lifted for that love to manifest in God’s best interest for each of you. And when my heart aches and my tears fall, it is most often a result of that longing for the heart of another – to know it and to protect it. I under-exaggerate to say it is painful. But the openness to love is the work God has been doing in me for a long time, and I praise Him for it – even when it hurts. I long to do life with you, my friends.

Now I’ve gone and turned this into another one of those blog posts. Bear with me.

It may be the lack of sunshine lately, but I am weepy. Melancholy. My highs are high and my lows are low, and I deeply fear the backlash and rejection that may come from sharing them. But yours – I want. I will take them to the Father. I will rejoice with you, and I will cry for you when you suffer loss, pain, exhaustion, frustration. Stick with me – even when I shut down my purpose-lacking blog.

Those of you who are family, you’re stuck with me anyway :-), but even so you’ve chosen me, and I choose you. Those of you who are friends, you’ve loved me enough to stick around on that little subscriber list – very likely just to make me feel better about myself and my blog. I choose you too. Anyone else who takes the time to read this blog – whether subscribed or not, I’d like to know about it. I hope you’ll say something (I think most of you have my email or phone number to text). Thank you for that.

I change my mind a lot on things like this blog, what to write, what to do…so we will see. But I do not change my mind on those I have decided to love.

Tears and prayers and love. And sappy. Never forget the sappy.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Have Some Music.

Okay, I’ll confess. No matter how often I remind myself that I am complete in my identity in Christ, at least part of my identity is still wrapped up in social affirmation. Call me a fallen human. Go ahead. I can take it.

Anyway, regardless of how happy and content I am on any given day (which is pretty happy and content these days) thanks to the joy and peace of the Lord, His nearness, His speaking into my life, and His filling my life to overflowing with abundant blessings in the form of a husband – who makes me laugh, works his tail off without complaining, lovingly supports my whims, and shares my life goals – three beautiful daughters who are growing up to be more and more fun by the minute, my mom and sisters and aunts and female family through DNA or marriage who are my BFFs, a lifetime of memories with a dad who is so worth the pain of missing until we meet him again in heaven, a community full of weirdos who complete me in so many unique and irreplaceable ways, a community of classmates and teachers who challenge and expand my thinking (some of which may or may not also be in my community of weirdos), and so much more… I still feel lonely when I come here and find nothing other than half a dozen spam comments. *sigh* Oh, the empty promises of social media. (Never mind that I haven’t posted anything new in a while to comment on…)

But wait! Hold the phone! Does that mean if I feel lonely for a minute, maybe I’m not reaching out to all the people I love!?

Well then, if that’s the case, you all need to know that I love you.

Have some Valentine’s Day songs of my choosing, which may or may not be flavored by my semi-reformed-former-boy-band-fangirl musical inclinations.

(If you don’t listen to any of the others, listen to the last one. I will gladly take credit for your increased endorphin flow.)

1. Because “Ross Lynch Radio” is still my go-to Pandora station (and because this video is so adorable)…

(In case there was any confusion – I am too old and my kids are too young to have any excuse for watching this show.) But here’s the whole song, if you want it…

2. Because it doesn’t always have to be a love song (It’s not a love song, but you guys know I love you, right?)…

3. Because you guys have no idea how beautiful you are…

4. And, my gift of love to you…

I really hope you cranked up the volume, listened to some of those songs, and had a little fun too. Just to make it clear, I am not taking credit for any of these videos, they are all shared from other sites, so credit goes to their creators.

Also, just assume I’m still dancing like a gangly white girl when you read this. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#youcompleteme

 

For Dad

A eulogy, as delivered (more or less) on December 27, 2016.

I had to write down what I wanted to say today. I knew there was no chance that I would be able think clearly enough, standing up here, to adequately cover the 32 years I’ve known Leonard Francis Jenkins.

It remains to be seen whether I will be able to read.

There is never enough that can be said to feel like I’ve said enough about Dad. To celebrate his life and his legacy. But to borrow a thought from something I recently read, I’ll offer this.

In his memoir, The Making of an Ordinary Saint, author Nathan Foster proposes that upon his own passing, he would like his epitaph to simply read, “He loved well.” We are created by a God who is love in every depth of its meaning, so this is perhaps the greatest legacy any of us can hope to leave. Nathan Foster shares in his story what that legacy should look like in his own life, but I think it’s more than sufficient to reflect on what it looked like, from my vantage, in Dad’s life.

Dad loved by simply loving. He loved by telling us he loved us. He loved by protecting and providing. He loved by showing patience beyond ordinary patience – far beyond the patience I have often demonstrated for my own children, it would seem. He loved by spending time with us and talking with us. By never passing up an opportunity for a hug and a kiss, or to make a silly face at his grandkids, or to teach one of them how to give herself a wet willy from a thousand miles away. But maybe most lastingly, Dad loved by teaching.

He taught us the lessons we have carried, and will carry, through life. He never stopped teaching, leading, guiding. Not only his children, but anyone whose life he had an opportunity to improve by sharing the things he had learned in his years. He never failed to seize a teaching moment – to whoever was nearby to benefit from it at the time. I have been fortunate to benefit from Dad’s teaching moments consistently, over the course of an entire lifetime.

Dad taught me, as a good dad does, how to live. He taught me what it means to be loved, secure, protected, provided for. He taught me how to make good choices – starting with how to hold a pencil, when I asked him which hand I was supposed to use – and he taught me how to live with the consequences of the bad choices I would inevitably make from time to time. Dad taught me how to be an optimist, how to swing a hammer, and how to drive a car, even if my husband may say that last one is debatable. He taught me how to fold a paper wallet, and how to make myself absolutely no fun at all to pick on. In doing so, he taught me how to protect myself because he knew one day he would have to resign from his position as my protector.

Dad taught me that it was okay to by shy and sensitive – just like he was, and he taught me how to overcome the challenges that would arise. Not just today, but every day. Every challenge. He taught this by example.

He also taught me how to spell his name L-E-O-N-D-A-D.

But my daddy didn’t just teach me how to get by in life. He taught me how to embrace life – the good and the bad. Dad taught me to smile – a lesson he taught without ever needing to say it.

This is what he lived:

Smile every day. Smile at everyone. Smile when you’re happy. Smile when you’re sad. Smile to cheer someone up, and wear your smile until you can barely be recognized without it. Share your smile with everyone you meet.

I’ve been told once or twice that Dad even gave me his smile to share with everyone I meet.

Dad spent a lifetime preparing his kids to go out into the world and live, even when that meant letting go – giving away his baby girl to a young man who happens to be an awful lot like him, or excitedly and wholeheartedly supporting God’s call on our life to move to a tiny college town out in the middle of rural Kansas.

Now it is Dad’s turn to rest, to stop fighting and overcoming, to be held and comforted, and to live not with choosing joy every day, but with joy unshakable. The brave teacher, smiler, protector, supporter, optimist, and overcomer. It is his turn to rest in the arms of the One who overcame death so that Leonard Francis Jenkins could enter into His eternal paradise. While I selfishly don’t want to accept that my daddy can no longer be found on this earth to welcome a hug and kiss, to smile at me, or to make a silly pun. While I hope and pray that I won’t ever lose the sound of his voice in my head saying, “okay, Laino,” or still calling me his baby girl, I can’t help but imagine our Heavenly Father during this whole earthly ordeal.

I imagine Him having excitedly counted down every one of the 22,526 days since He put Leonard Francis Jenkins into his earthly body. I imagine the thrill of a loving Father, as December 21, 2016 drew near, that He could, at long last, hold His baby boy in His arms again.

While this day, this season, is by far the hardest of my life to date, it is immeasurably the greatest, the most worthy to be celebrated, for the man who gave me this life. As we celebrate his life and his legacy, we remember to celebrate Dad’s saying goodbye to his broken and dying earthly body, the broken earthly life that Dad chose to live with joy, and we celebrate his new life of smiling and hugging and loving face-to-face with Jesus.

So today we say goodbye to the first man I ever loved. Leonard Francis Jenkins. Len, Lenny, Uncle Lenny, Mr. Jenkins – and sometimes Mr. Pokey, Friend, brother, Grandpa, Daddy. Dad.

Goodbye for now, Dad.

You loved well.

June 1981 – Dad in his first year as “Dad”

July 2016 – Dad in Kansas 🙂

Give Me Back My Classes, and Nobody Gets Hurt

I had to clean the vacuum filter today.

I don’t want to talk about it.

My last online class ended early last month, and my next class won’t start until the New Year, leaving me plenty of time to go completely nuts inside my head without a productive outlet for my mental energy. (Sorry guys, you know I love you all – even my quiet friends who may actually be reading my posts, but don’t feel like commenting – but the jury is still out as to whether my blog counts as a productive outlet without Facebook to help elicit readers and responses.)

(BTW, Mom and Auntie N, I would be lost without you two and your willingness to validate my writing by responding in the comments even though we all know that I could share my thoughts and hopes and dreams with you directly through email or text.)

(God sure knew what He was doing when He created family.)

(Especially ones that like to read.)

Anyway…I didn’t intend to have this break from school, but it’s okay because God knew what He was doing again when He carved out an eight-week chunk of time in my class schedule. Life and recent events have proven such that the risk of getting behind in a class and the possibility of not performing to the absolute best of my ability as a student might have thrown me over a figurative cliff of hopelessness and despair. This, for once, is not an exaggeration, as the few brave souls who have seen this dark place and lived to question the decision not to shove me off the cliff themselves just shouted “Amen.”

But things have slowed down a bit now, for me anyway. So now I’m going a little stir-crazy. I could use some prayer for that, especially with the kids’ Christmas break coming up. I’m excited about Christmas and all, but the kids have eight and a half days off of school. Do you have any idea how boring it is to spend eight and a half days with me? We might all go nuts if the fun parent doesn’t decide to take some time off work and rescue us.

Second, I love being a student. It can be stressful, sure, but it’s a productive stress. It’s a challenge that I can work through and usually come out successful, instead of coming out discouraged and frustrated by trying to do things that I will never be good at and/or will have to redo within the hour. School is life-giving stress. That being said, I am still itching to push through it quickly, shave off some time, and see what the Lord has in store for me in the form of a life-giving career. Lord, please forgive me for my perpetual impatience.

Anyway, I find myself tempted to add a traditional class along with my online classes to keep things moving along. This is probably completely crazy and asking for trouble, but it seems less crazy and trouble-asking than trying to double up on online classes. (Crunching a semester’s worth of learning into a six-week class…times two…have mercy!). Adding an on-campus class might be a (hopefully) manageable way to move things along and fit in another one of the three classes I need that are all offered online in the same six weeks – which also happens to be after the kids’ school will be out for summer vacation. I would be completely insane to try to double up then. Besides, I am a suh-loooooow reader, and obsessive proofreader (and I still end up with errors in my work), so I cannot – CAN. NOT. – overload myself to the point of doing work that does not meet my own standards.

The good news is Joel is on board for whatever I decide, but still, prayers for the right course of action would be appreciated, since this is going to rattle around in my brain for possibly the rest of my life if I think I’ve made the wrong decision.

So, what’s a girl to do? And don’t say scrub the microwave, ‘cause I already did that.

Oh yeah, this post is no more than a glorified request for prayer and sage advice. Did I forget to mention that before you spent the last four minutes of your life reading it? Oops. But since you did, please pipe in with…whatever in the whole wide world makes your heart happy. Just talk to me. Did I mention the part about the stir-crazy?

 

Caution, the Blogger is Feeling Vulnerable: A Reflection on Love and Friendship

I’ve been thinking about friendship lately. I think about friendship a lot, actually, and I’m probably obsessed with love. Of all things with which I am or have been obsessed, I think love is a good one. God is love, and that’s the love I’m talking about, not Valentine’s Day love or Sweetest Day love (which I’m not sure either Joel or I have ever remembered to celebrate in almost 15 years together). That love (obviously) means very little to me.

It seems like love is most often linked to romance, but I think the love that really matters has more to do with friendship than with romance. My favorite and truest thing I have ever heard about love was preached in a sermon by the same pastor who married Joel and me. “Love is a decision and love is work.” That statement can be backed by 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, in my proverbial book, and it wholly applies to marriage too.

It was easier as a teenager – to have friends, that is, but probably harder to love. Maybe I had more confidence then. Or, at least, I had less to lose. It was easier to trust and to open up to someone when we could spend our weekends and our mad money together catching chick flicks and drinking virgin strawberry daiquiris at Ground Round. That’s a little harder to do with kids in tow. A decade of worrying what everyone thought of me – which pretty well describes my twenties – probably threw a few wrenches into making brand-new, real-life, grown up friends, too. Honestly, I don’t think I really knew how to love a friend back then anyway. I was never going to be okay with other people if I couldn’t be at least mostly okay with myself.

I couldn’t tell you why it changed. Maybe it’s this town – something in the water. It’s freeing, though, and can really only be credited to God, to look back and realize how much more okay I am with myself – glaring weaknesses, flaws, shortcomings, and all – than I was ten years ago, when, I might add, I had significantly fewer gray hairs, wrinkles, and battle wounds. And to be so much more capable of loving, the more I learn to accept His love and perfect orchestration of all creation – His peace really does surpass all understanding.

All I want anymore is the perfectly numbered and measured life God has handmade for me, whatever that will look like in ten years, or ten days, or ten minutes. Seeing other people also living the lives that God handmade for them, and getting to be a part of those lives, increases my joy in ways I had never imagined possible. That joy has changed friendship for me, and friendship has changed the way I love – my husband, my family, the strangers I meet in Wal-Mart. But still, I struggle.

I struggle when I have to remember that I’m not everyone’s “cup of tea.” It follows naturally that I struggle with judgement and with hypocrisy as I remember there are those – though few and far between – that I don’t relate to very well either. I think more than anything, though, I struggle with wanting to be chosen.

All that in spite of the fact that I am chosen – by God and by my amazing life partner, for better or worse, till death do us part. The blessing that any of us should both have and know such favor is beyond comprehension.

But humans want to be chosen by other humans too. Not always to be chosen first, above all others – each of us can only choose one person in that way, so I think it’s fair if we are only chosen that way by one person in return – but to be chosen above most others. To be regarded as special and irreplaceable in the lives of a few special and irreplaceable people. To be loved and treasured above the masses just because we are somehow irresistible to the precious handful of people we are meant to share life with.

I think we’re lucky if we find a few people in life with whom we really “click” – those few people that really get us, or at least some part of us, in ways that no one else does. With logic-defying quickness, someone who was just a really cool person yesterday becomes a part of you (sometimes whether they like it or not). These are the ones that you don’t have to know very long, or very well, to know that you’ve met someone you’re still going to care about even after they’ve hurt your feelings, even after awkward or difficult conversations. They are the ones that you don’t have to see, talk to, or even text for weeks or months to still feel like they are the closest to your heart, even though you can’t quite put your finger on why. I think we’re even luckier if we find people who feel the same way about us. Love first, get acquainted later is probably how it should be. But the most important thing is to keep loving, even when it’s messy.

Even from the beginning love was messy. Even between God and Adam and Eve. Even between us and God. But we can’t stop. We can’t put up protective walls and harden our hearts. Everything in me believes that God our creator – who is three in relationship as one, the God who created mankind to walk with Him, who created woman to be in relationship with man, who assures us that all we can take from this life into His kingdom are other people, who wants us to choose Him, and who created us to be like Him – is a God of relationship. Does anything else even matter?

I guess what I’m saying is this – I am blessed to have had a few of those hard and fast connections in 32 years, whether they are still active in my life or mostly lost to me (which has possibly not ever been by my choosing). I am blessed to have a few of those friends – some related by blood – who have changed, grown, loved, and built with me for years and decades, and have chosen me again and again no matter how ugly and judgmental I’ve sometimes been.

Maybe take a little time to think about those people in your life. It’s good for the soul. Maybe tell some of them what they mean to you. If they happen to thrive on words of affirmation, it might just change their whole outlook on life today. Friendship is, and people are, not something that should ever be taken lightly (bold words from a recovering hermit). I think maybe go ahead and go into it lightly, though. Go into it and love blindly, but never go out of it lightly.

But seriously, what do I know? I know that I am thankful for my friends, for all of you, in whatever capacity you have been my friends. Thank you for allowing God to use you in my life. Thank you for pushing me, testing me, and expanding my capacity to love in new ways. Be certain that you have no idea how thrilling it is to me, and be confident that my heart wants more of your heart. (That sounds creepy.)

I wish my stream of consciousness was making more sense to convey what I wish everyone would experience – what I wish I had experienced years ago by taking the risk to love more fully even though doing so guarantees I will be hurt more fully, and what I wish I could trust myself to continue in without faltering. But to finish on a Word that cannot be wrong and cannot be shaken, let me share one of my current favorite scriptures on love. It is one I am so grateful to know, because while I will often fail in unwavering kindness and patience, and abound in rudeness, selfishness, envy, wrong thinking, conceit, and all things imperfect – while I will often be a terrible friend – this scripture tenderly threatens of the stubbornness and ferocity of God’s love for me. That gives me hope that I might just be doing alright when it’s all I can say for the way I love the people in my life:

[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

-1 Corinthians 13:7, NKJV (brackets added)

or

Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].

-1 Corinthians 13:7 (Amplified Bible)

I like to call it ugly love. When I’m a jerk, and maybe you’re a jerk too, but I know I still love you because I said so, and if God says you’re too good to stop loving, then I should probably do the same because He’s usually (always) right.

I love you, my friends (and family/friends). Stubbornly. Ferociously.

…Creepily? 🙂

 

So that’s my point, I guess.

Marshmallow on My Face

Okay guys, that’s it. I’m skipping the intro. No intro. I’m throwing in the towel, scrapping it, crumpling it up and tossing it into the trash can while muttering, “she shoots, she scores, and the crowd goes wild…” I am washing my hands of my introduction. It is dead to me. I now regard it as no more than 1300 words on a page to take up space on my hard drive and my backup jump drive, and my backup backup jump drive. It’s over. You guys are getting Chapter One. 

Some of you have already read this. There’s a very good chance that I’ve changed at least something since you’ve last read it, but it will probably still be very familiar. So, to those, I apologize for the redundancy. I also thank you. Any improvements in my writing over the last few years can all be rightfully attributed to the handful of people who have read my work and offered both encouragement and constructive criticism (which, I should clarify, includes my writing professor – in case that inadvertently came off as backhanded or offensive). That being said, I still welcome both positive feedback and constructive criticism. (I am including a feedback form on this post, with the hopes of remembering to do the same for future chapters, for the sake of constructive criticism that does not need to be posted to the comments section.) But please do share your honest thoughts. Without these, I am lost and flailing in a universe of writerly doubt and indecision without an anchor or tether to the essence of community and forward motion which is, in fact, the real world.

See what I mean? Don’t leave me floating in space writing things like “the essence of community and forward motion which is, in fact, the real world.”

Besides, I’m stalling. Back to the book. I have a new title. If it’s stupid, you have to tell me. Or maybe don’t. But really, you have to. But you have to do it nicely and be prepared to offer useful suggestions. The new title is Marshmallow on My Face. It’s the title of this post (anti-climactic?). It probably doesn’t make sense yet. Which is why I tried to write an introduction. But since my introduction hates me, I’m severing all ties.

I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

Anyway, there’s a tagline too, but I don’t know it yet. Something about being caught needing more Jesus. Is that hokey? If you come up with something fitting that’s not hokey, please share. It could be a contest. There’s no prize, other than my undying love and affection, but some (most?) of you already have that.

Stalling again.

Without further ado (or further trading of one ill-fated book introduction for a bloggish introduction that doesn’t even  make sense), see Chapter One below.

Marshmallow on My Face, Chapter One:

When Did I Trade the Backstreet Boys for Burp Rags?

I lean over the counter holding my head in my hands.  Maybe if I hold it tightly enough, it won’t explode.  My elbows grind into the unwelcome mess of old junk mail, receipts and appointment reminders that have engulfed my entire workspace, but still I can’t remember what I came in here to do.

I’m in the kitchen, where I might as well set up camp, because it’s not like I’m going to be allowed to leave here any time soon.  Someone has to sort through this clutter; someone has to make lunch; and I’m not even going to turn around to face the mess that has devoured my kitchen table.  If I don’t look at it, maybe it’s not really there.

Why did I come over here?

I plunge my fingers into the hair at my temples, clench my fists around the disheveled locks, and give a good steady pull.  What was I just going to do?

Why is it so noisy?  I can’t think.   “Just a minute, sweetie.”  I can’t answer another question right now.  “Not right now, honey.” I can’t meet another demand.  “Be nice, please!”  I can’t break up another fight!  I can’t even remember why I’m standing here!  

I love my kids, I love my kids, I love my kids.  I think I might scream.

They’re just kids.  They don’t understand.  I’m so tired.  I just need two seconds of quiet so I can remember what   I   came   over   here   to   do!!!

What am I doing?

Look at me.  I’m a raving lunatic right now.

How did I even get like this?

WHY DID I COME OVER HERE!?!?

Just yesterday I was fifteen years old, still going by the name Elaina Jenkins.

 I was just “hanging out” in my room with my BFF, listening to my imported Backstreet Boys CD, and pulling pin-ups out of my latest Tiger Beat magazine to add to my homemade Backstreet Boys wallpaper.  We were just deciding which movie to see this weekend and who to invite, and at some point…I must have blinked.

It’s Elaina Halverstadt now; and now I’m a stay at home mom in rural Kansas changing cloth diapers and washing endless loads of pee-soaked sheets for my potty-training preschoolers.  Sure, I remember a few things that happened in that blink, like meeting and marrying a totally hot guy with lean, sinewy muscles and a distinct jawline covered with rugged blondish scruff perfectly suited to his youthful masculinity.  As if I’m going to forget that.

I remember moving a few times, and talking about having kids, but I’m having a bit of trouble with how it all actually happened, and so quickly.  I’m struggling with how it all seemed so sudden, yet so planned; and how I agreed to all of this without really knowing what I was getting myself into.

It did happen, and I’m a wife; and I’m a mom of three.  Hannah, Hailey and Heidi – three beautiful, healthy, rambunctious girls whom I love with every fiber of my being; without whom my life would be empty and meaningless, and with whom I want to pull out my own perfectly good, long hair.

But there’s no need for that sort of blatant masochism here; I have a delightfully irresistible eight-month-old Heidi who will happily rip it from my scalp for me, handful by tiny handful, with a vigor that is nothing short of spectacular. As painful as it is, the hair-pulling is fairly inconsequential on the list of ways I didn’t know my life could be more difficult.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Though I can’t possibly imagine being fonder of my children – three of the most amazing people on the face of this earth – I also can’t imagine what absence actually feels like.

I can’t remember what it’s like to shower without asking permission or making arrangements.  I can’t remember what it’s like to leave the house without a second thought, or eat something without sharing.

These magnificent little people don’t just live with me and follow me around.  They sit on me, walk on the backs of my shoes, and barge through the bathroom door just as soon as I close it behind me…

“Why did you follow me into the bathroom?” (Why do I even ask anymore?)

 “Because I have to go potty.”

“Well, that’s just rude!  Now you need to wait ‘til I’m done!”

(wince) That might’ve been a little bit harsh.

Even on my best day, I can’t begin to imagine why the loving and all-knowing God of all creation saw fit to give me not one, but three of His absolute most priceless and precious treasures; and I’m still trying to figure out what ever possessed me to think that I could handle this gig.  But I have an ace in the hole.  His name is Joel.

Joel is my husband, and he may very well be the only reason I ever thought I could live up to this challenging life.  Surely, if I could snag him, I could do anything.  Most importantly, with him as my partner, I could definitely do anything.

Joel is calm, collected, confident, talented, athletic, and resourceful. In whatever community we find ourselves, people really love Joel, and rightly so.  He’s friendly, respectful and capable; and he’s very good at hard work.  He does the heavy labor that others cannot do for themselves, or by themselves, and for that, they adore him.  Because of Joel, people love me before they’ve met me.  They thank me for giving up his time so that he can repair their roofs, fix their leaky sinks, or remove fallen trees from their yards.  They tell me I’ve got a really great guy and therefore I must be taking great care of him.  That is what you call “cool by association.”

But, none of this happened overnight.  Just as perplexing as the trade-offs that I don’t actively remember making is the blinding speed with which the years have passed.  I have noticed with little uncertainty that each year of life has passed more quickly than the last.  Forty-five minutes spent sitting behind a desk in history class at the end of a school year seems like a life sentence; but sitting behind the computer while my children briefly nap, forty-five minutes is but a fleeting moment. All the pressing issues of the moment that I thought might define my life forever are now no more than memories.

I remember my money being spent on movies with friends, and Bop magazines.  My main concerns were having fun and plastering my walls with pictures of the Backstreet Boys.  Life was carefree and exciting.

Obtaining my parents’ permission to get out of the house and do something fun was not nearly as impossible as getting my kids’ “permission” to leave the house now.  But at some point in life, without really realizing what was happening and without regret, I did make the trade.

I traded Backstreet Boys posters and concerts for burp rags and cloth diapers.  I traded a Trapper Keeper for a family binder, movie nights for budget meetings, sports bras for nursing bras, magazine pin-ups for wedding and baby pictures, an assignment book for a bill calendar, and Tiger Beat for Clean Eating – my pin-ups of black bean-edamame salads conspicuously failing to inspire giggles and swooning.

My favorite memories are no longer of concerts, festivals, and proms, but of nights spent in the hospital after the birth of a brand-new baby, crushed under the weight of a love that only just began to exist, and rescued by an elusive understanding that she’s mine, for now.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, life is no longer the carefree life that I wasn’t wise enough to recognize as such; it’s a different life, it’s heavy and burdened.  My life, my priorities, and even my personality are barely recognizable anymore from that of ten or fifteen years ago; and I haven’t fully decided which version of me I like better.  Though I sometimes miss that free and easy life and often wish I ‘knew then what I know now,’ I wouldn’t be who I am now without the story that I’ve lived.

I’ve picked up a few valuable items along the way – a family, a little bit of wisdom, plenty of experience in changing bed sheets; and more than a few lessons in diligence, humility, intentionality, and grace. When it comes down to it, I don’t think I would trade any of that back for my young and inexperienced, boy-band-loving self.

While ‘the moment’ seems to have arrived without warning, I know it didn’t really happen that way.  There has been far too much good in the past to gloss over it like it never happened; and there is far too much good in ‘the moment’ to spend it bewailing the passage of time.  All that’s left to do is to live in ‘the moment,’ anticipate the future, enjoy the children before they are grown and gone, and just breathe.

Because I still can’t remember what I came into the kitchen to do.

(Don’t forget to send your feedback or leave comments below!)

(since I received one legitimate feedback message and approximately 100 (not exaggerating) spam messages, I have removed the feedback form from this post. 🙂 – E)

 

“Please Hold. Your Call Will Be Answered by the Next Available Brain Function.”

Hey friends. You might remember more than a month ago when I, or someone claiming to be me, wrote a blog post implying that I might maybe possibly think about almost wanting to potentially have the guts to tentatively consider posting parts of my book to my blog? At the risk of stating the obvious, I still haven’t done that. Seriously, really, I mean it – I want to start posting pieces of my book to my blog. I just can’t.

Since there are those of you (I think) who take the time to check periodically whether I’ve delivered on my intentions, just because you care, I feel I owe some explanation. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good one. I even have a break from online classes through the new year. I have lots of (outdated) material to work with. A new potential title. And I won’t begin bore you with the details of how long my book’s introduction has been open on my desk top and how many times I’ve read it, stared at it, talked to it, changed it, re-read it, and stared at it again, only to decide I have nothing worthwhile to say, and walk away from it to read someone else’s book. Someone published. Someone with stuff to say. Good stuff to say. And well said, at that.

I can claim the excuse that life has delivered more pressing issues to occupy my mind-space, which is way true, but I’m pretty sure this is mostly stage fright. It’s writerly drama, but it’s a real thing nonetheless – one that’s amazingly difficult to process on my own. (Do actual writers have teams to help them process through this stuff? It seems like they should.) Anyway, boohoo. You are all cordially invited to my pity party. But seriously, feel free to tell me I’m a genius and everything I write is worthwhile. I might not believe you.

So I don’t know when my revised-but-never-going-to-be-good-enough book introduction will make it to the blog, but I haven’t forgotten.

Just chickened out.

A lot.

Don’t give up on me!