Monday, June 30, 2014

that string that surpasses generations

"My grandparents did these things. My parents, too. 
If I take the pattern and throw it out, what does that say about their lives? Or mine? 
From generation to generation, these rituals are how we remain... Connected."  
-Mitch Albom, have a little faith

It isn't often, or ever, that I start a post with someone else's words. But, these are so right, so spot on, so YES, that it seemed the only way to do this right. 
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That ink -permanently etched into his back and arms, into my arm and feet- is our connection. From generation to generation we share color, art, ink.  
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Some days I imagine what I'll say when my toddler comes into the kitchen after writing all over their arms in Crayola Washable Marker or, more ironically, Sharpie. How do I, Mama covered in ink, say no to them, baby covered in ink? 

Instead I will look upon those babes with the baby blues that were his, then mine, now theirs and think how it's in our skin. It itches for color, for art, for beauty. It itches for connection from him to me to them. And, while I'll wash them clean later, I'll enjoy that tie across the generations for now. 
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Some days I imagine what I'll say when my child now adult, legal and allowed, wants their own ink. How do I, Mama covered in ink, say no to them, adult seeking his own? My answer: I won't. 

Instead, I will remember my eighteen-year-old self sitting beside him in the parlor as our artists rendered our wishes and stenciled our skin and took to us with needles. I'll remember his patience over the four and a half hours he was poked and prodded and given ice creams with Coke Zero. I'll remember the way we both bled more than expected and the artists gave us grief. 
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Some days I imagine what I'll do when I look down at my arm and wonder why I did this to myself. How do I, Gran-Mama covered in ink, say so to them, the world wondering what such an old lady is doing with ink?

Instead, I will remember my youth, the way pain was made beautiful in both physicality and metaphor through ink, art, tattoo. I'll share those memories with my friends as we meet to play bridge, as we walk through the local mall, as we talk about what it was like growing up at the turn of the millennium. I'll remember the way his one turned to many so quick and how mine happened in just the same way.
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Some days I imagine what it'd be like with no ink. How I'd commemorate pain and emotion without such a permanent art. I imagine murals and graffiti and oil pastels. And I know those would never have been enduring enough. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

milking stool ministry: john 6







Now that I've talked your ear off, it's your turn to share. Yep, your turn!


And for your visual appetite, here's a few shots of my notes from the week: 
A moment of honesty, I hated the four square style of note-taking. So, that said, I'm not going to torture myself with it for another week. I'm going to do some old-fashioned writing down a verse followed by how it convicts me. Simple, back to the basics. I'm going to introduce a new note taking tactic next week, but for this one, do what you love while you venture through John 7.

Next week Friday will be the glorious and wonderful and favorite of my holidays: July 4th! I want ya'll to be celebrating and not hanging out around here so I'm going to post Milking Stool Ministry a day early, on Thursday the 3rd.
The verse of the week for you: 
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? 
You have the words of eternal life. 
We have come to believe and to know 
that you are the Holy One of God.”
-John 6:68-69

Lastly, encouragement for you babes:
Though this song is old enough to be considered a classic, it's been a favorite through many storms. (Casting Crowns)

Patience, patience young Grasshopper. Just because someone doesn't do it my way doesn't mean it'll ruin my life. (Deeper Story)

Help yourself to some morning pep talks from a sweet God-loving soul who's sure to start your days off the right way. (Julianna Morlet)

We're creating community here. A beautiful community. And I hope you're seeking it there in life. (A Symphony of Grace)

These words: beautiful like poetry, overflowing like puddles, running amuck in my heart. (Natalie Falls)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

opossums aren't pretty. and neither is tragedy.

There's nothing pretty about a opossum. Not one thing. 
Usually sighted in the gutter, post accident, the only fatality of a night time collision. Usually wet from run-off water, limbs splayed messily, eyes closed in the permanent rest of death. There's nothing pretty about opossums. 

Usually, that's how I see them: dead and gone. Until that one day I didn't. That one day when opossums went from all kinds of ugly to a little bit cute and a whole lot of metaphor. 
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Tragedy is like a opossum. 
Ugly, scary, dead in the gutter-ish. It's heavy and stinky and not a single kind of friendly. 

Sometimes I look around and life is made up of tragedy instead of thrills and frills and love and faith. I peer over edges, into nooks and crannies, under rocks and bridges only to find more ugly, less beauty. And it's then I wonder: is this what life is meant to look like -like a opossum, gutter-resting, ghost-faced, mean?
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There's nothing pretty about a opossum with a single exception: motherhood. 
Her fuzzy body covered in little mime-faced babies. All clinging to her back while she carries them: each and every one with a tenderness and caring not obvious by her ugliness. 

In those exceptional sightings, she whines, they load one by one onto the steady top of her back. She begins the trek from here to there slowly, bus-like, traversing terrain full of obstacles with not a single complaint. 
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Tragedy is ugly with one joyful exception: help. 
One hard month blurs into another. Tears and bellows drown out the sounds of spring and summer which fade quickly to fall, winter here, yet again. Years bleed into one another as dates disappear and all that's left is the pain like salt in a fresh, aching wound. 

Then comes help. Help that stops time, cleans up little bits and pieces of broken hearts, heals deep wounds within one's soul. Help arrives, loading up our troubles one by one onto its steady lap all the while patting our sore and tired back. Help arrives with a mission, with a desire, without complaint: it says I am here. Let me be. Let me do
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That Mama, she's determined in her role. 
Just as she's gaining momentum, making her way through the tall grass, a babe slips. It loses its grip and falls on to the turf of the the field below. She stops for that one, whines at him, reminding him of his place. The others look on with black holes eyes in their ghostly white faces. He struggles to catch up, pulls her fur as he settles in for the ride. 

Not one left behind, she thinks to herself. Every bit of these babes precious and dear to her despite when the open road, rubber tires, and human experience will one day say. Every bit worthwhile to her Mama soul. 
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Help, she won't accept rejection. 
Just as we've realized tragedy's gone and done us in, Help screams no. She lifts us up from that chasm in the sidewalk that's stubbed our toe and shredded our knees (and made holes in our favorite skinny jeans). She dusts us off, says we're okay, pats us on the butt to get us moving again. Loved ones look on tears in their eyes, fear in their hearts. Tragedy, it's not contagious. 

Loneliness no more is the motto in Help's heart. Every bit of life lovely and learning-ful to her despite our obvious frustrations. When the rubber meets the road, she's there, edging us in, keeping us out of danger's high beams, giving us space for each bit and piece of human experience. Every bit worthwhile to her motherly soul. 
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Opossums are ugly except when they're mothering. 
Like those babies, we are riding around on the back of life enjoying the cozy warmth of being surrounded by loved ones. Then Tragedy comes. It comes quickly and unexpectedly swinging its fists wild and chaotic, knocking us from our spot to the ground where all the air escapes our lungs in a fit. We lay flat, sad, scared, stunned. The tall grasses of life's troubles blow in Tragedy's wake and we can't see life as we recognize it. 

Tragedy is hideous until Help arrives. 
And Help, like a mama, always arrives. She slows life, reminds it that we're precious and dear, then whines for us to keep on where we were once keeping on. Help pushes us through the grasses of circumstance saying catch up. And we do. Because she said to.  
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This post is in conjunction with my guest post on Jaybird blog today. 
Visit here for more of my words, animal mamas, and thoughts on help.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Like the Movies, but Better



Jason,

The other morning I asked you, "are you okay that I'm so high maintenance?" as I applied my mascara and french braided my hair. You scoffed a little bit as you said yes.

You understood my unspoken comparison to the two women before me -your mom and Becky. The two women who were your examples of mom and wife and lady. You acknowledged my difference -my love for mascara, my collection of more shoes than should be legel, and my disdain for hiking.

We fought about hiking last week. How I hate it and you love it and aren't we supposed to do fun things -by fun you mean hiking- together? I said, fine, I'll hike. You said, just what I wanted to hear. Saturday came, I was tired and a little bit hungover and you said, "we're going to have fun today." So we hiked in a forest in the middle of nowhere.

You spent the duration of the hike saying over this hill the trees will give way and it'll open up into a field. Finally, after you made your claim for the tenth time, the forest did give way to open spaces where there were cows and giant jackrabbits and fields blowing in the wind. I rolled my eyes that you were right because, well, it seems you often are despite my desire for you to be wrong.

It was actually beautiful -that spot of stark comparison: lush greenness filled with more mystery than understood beauty with the open, honest expanse of amber waves. That's us. One overwrought with words and emotions and with more questions than answers; the other stable and humble yet overwhelming in immensity. Our marriage is that spot upon the hill where the trees kissed the fields and the transition from one to the other seemed just right despite the obvious difference a few steps made.

As we wandered from one climate to another, I was reminded me of the Hawaiian river on our honeymoon. That river in Hawaii where Indiana Jones heroically swung off a rope over the water and plunged into the current below. We did that. And I felt so adventurous and exhilarated. In the cool of the river dragging myself over the rocky shore, I thought how life is like a movie sometimes. Except better; like the movies but better. 

Daily I compare the way you love me with the way of the movies. I'd skip all those flowers and roses and staged make out sessions for the precious love you give to me. Movie love says that because we're married, I'll love hiking, we'll make out in those hills, and then you'll fill my mind with all kinds of mushy, sweet nothings while the grasses blow beside our rock-hard bodies.

Our love looks like us sweating while we drag ourselves through the forest then the fields to some rock that looks like an animal we can't quite see. It's a love that's stronger than my distaste for hiking, that's chock full of deep belly laughs and random accents in the rolling hills. It's a love that doesn't lay in the grasses (because snakes) but instead sits on the path tossing grapes into each other's noses because we can't hit each other's mouth.

Like I said, better than the movies dear.

Comparatively, Jason, I love you in proportions larger than my size can express,
amber
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These letters are the brainchild of Amber C. Haines and her husband, Seth. They write to remind themselves of points in their marriage, of moments in their relationship, and of their perspective of one another. I write for the same reasons, plus the chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds otherwise.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

right up on that platform. [doubt&devotion]

Welcome to another edition of 
Doubt&Devotion.
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
Mr. Thomas & Me
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
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"I realize that basketball is just a platform in order for me to inspire people and I realize that." 
- Kevin Durant
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Soapbox. Platform. Dissertation. Lecture. Stage. Concert hall. Basketball court. Book. Blog. 

Good news is: we've all got a platform to use for good, bad, and the in between. 

Kevin Durant talked about blogging in the midst of his MVP acceptance speech. He talked about blogging, jobs, sports, coffee dates. Not directly, he didn't. But indirectly he did. He said, we have influence in our space, in our circumstance, in our zone. Famous or not, basketball or blog, girl or man.

Influence means we have the opportunity to create community.

Upon which our community is created determines our scope, our sphere, our story. We can establish community on a foundation of mutual respect or interest in sports or love for crafts or hate for being on "my internet". Within that community there becomes conversation. Conversation about devotion and doubt and daringness and dreams. We have influence which sparks community which flares into conversation.

So, where's your platform?

And, most importantly, how are you going to use it? 



photo via Game-Face Photo

Friday, June 20, 2014

milking stool ministry: john 5













He's all over. Everywhere. In pursuit of us -you, me, every single one of us. Ever present, always seeking, knocking, hoping for your heart.


Next week we're going to tackle John 6.

We're changing up the note taking tactic to a way that's even new to me. If we're honest, I loved this way to look at chapter 5 and I'm hoping it'll be as popular with all of you beauties. Break your page into four sections and take a single verse (or piece of verse) then apply it.
Application is getting easier right? I realize that practice makes less effortful, something that's a blessing in my bible study time. When you're seeking to apply the verses to your life it's important to think less literal and more big picture. Here's a few helpful questions for you to ask yourself when gleaning application: 

1. What part of this verse feels "personal" and why? 

2. Of all the verbs contained in the passage which one sticks out most? 

3. Why is this sentence convicting? -Conviction usually means application is right there in the text
Being the fan of highlighting that I am, I chose to give emphasis to the words that felt the most powerful or effectual to me. 

The (piece of the) verse for the week for you: 

"I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." 
-John 5:33b

And a few encouraging links for the week: 

And if John 5 wasn't enough of a reminder of His presence, this song shall be. (All Sons & Daughters)

I have this post tagged as a favorite because the truth contained in it is, oh, my, soul. (Auspicious Adventure)

Harkening back to John 4 and Christ's acknowledgement of Him as sustenance. (Darling Magazine)

Adam & Eve was my first bible experience. This redefined it in the best of ways. (Hannah Brencher

And, once again, our Facebook group for y'all who haven't yet joined! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

he asked me just one thing.


One of our many secrets to successful marriage is check-ins. Check-ins about work, dreams, effects, hopes. We sit, usually side by side in the car as pilot and passenger, country music playing softly in the background, and give voice to our dreams and hopes and desires.We check-in to be sure we're fulfilled, purposeful, happy. To be positive we're reading the same page. To be intimate in the details.

Monday was one of those conversations. In the middle of the five hour drive home, we found time to talk, to check in. And we did just that. Addressing life before kids then life post-work, post-college graduations, life in retirement. No mention of the years in between because, well, that's what where we always focus.

He asked me just one thing: If I could change all the things I do each day, would I and to what? 

I said, yes. I said, I'd be a nurse. I said, in doing so I'd help so many people. I want to spend my life helping people, I said. I want to bless them, to change them, to provide them help. If I was a nurse, I know I'd do just that -bless, change, help.

He laughed. He asked, do you believe that's the only way you could help?

I said, no. I could be a pastor, a teacher, the President of the United States. I could be a doctor, a professor, the Mayor of our small town. I could bless, change, help doing any and all of those things.

He laughed. He said, you're right.

Silence. Moments of still conversation while Kerosene plays on the radio.

Then realization.

I said, I'm wrong. I lied. Mulligan. Redo. Cross out and start over.

I said, I meant no. I said, I'm a blogger and writer. I said, in doing so I'm helping. I am spending my life writing words to build communities, to inspire honesty and bravery, to change church into faith. I'm a blogger and writer and I'm doing it -blessing, changing, helping.

Yes. He said. You are

Though I'm not bandaging wounds, administering medications, providing physical and mental peace, I'm helping. Rather than working on the physical body, I'm writing for the proverbial soul.

Each post -filled with bits and pieces of me- drops into the pond in which I swim, creating ripples outward. Some ripples large, others small, travel out, out, out, making waves (mini they might be) in the people gathered around. Ripples that become waves as momentum is gathered, as bibles are cracked open, as prayers are lifted high. Ripples that become waves as movement is recognized, as we -the community- acknowledge our impetus and run with it far as the water will take us.

I'm helping, I said. I'm writing words about hard things, about sad times, about memories all the same. I'm giving voices to emotions, to questions, to ideas in hopes that my whispers can bring out louder, bolder conversations. I'm writing for the many, rather than the one -attempting to bless, change, help in ways written, not performed.

I'm helping, I write. Bless, change, help.
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This post is my entry in the Making Waves essay contest hosted by Jaybird Blog, All Things E, Near and Far Montana, and Tossing the Script -four incredible wave makers in my pond. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

fasts, froth, and faith. another coffee date.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd be making a tall mug of frothy goodness. I'd make you one too. Then I'd brag about how much, HOW MUCH, I love my milk frother. Every morning my coffee is crowned with the lightest fluff of half and half and it makes my heart soar (and my taste buds happy).

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you I'm taking another shopping fast. And for real this time. I keep telling myself that in the immediate feelings of guilt that follow another little online shopping trip. So, I'm doing it, for real, and it'll challenge me to look at the motivation behind buying, focus on saving for some bigger, better, more Team Thomas things, and stop feeling like I have too much to wear.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd say sometimes it's hard to keep all my shit together. Like some days I just want to cry and lay in bed and sleep a whole lot. I'd say I know life goes on, that I listen to a lot of hymns throughout the day because they lift my spirits, that I can do all the things laid out before me. But it's hard, I tell you.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask what you're reading. Nadine mentioned Rainbow Rowell and so I ordered one of her books, I'm half way through in just two days, so I've ordered two more. They're not part of the challenge but I couldn't help myself because Nadine and Rainbow are my kind of girls.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd gush about being really happy with my body lately. Something's happened and my arms are starting to tone up -I've never been able to say this before. It's fun to see a little tight bicep in pictures, though I've found myself staring at them over and over again the last few days.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share with you this quote from have a little faith which I read last week. 
"Faith is about doing. 
You are how you act, not just how you believe." 
I'd tell you that it's made me think about my actions a whole lot. It's true: our words and beliefs take up a lot of airspace but they don't really communicate anything.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd bring cookies. They might be flat like cow pies and sort of stuck together because I'm still trying to figure out my oven's quirks. It's been my oven since February and I've yet to get it's heating figured out. They taste good, I promise.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share my Fitbit obsession. I'd tell you how I bought the thing a month ago after reading Wildwater Walking Club (which I will include on my next book review) and that sweet summer read made me HAVE to have one. I like to get my daily 10,000 steps (actually I love to) and feel proud when I do so many more than that. I'd tell you you need one too.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd remind you how valuable you are to me. I know I don't tell you enough because that's mushy stuff, but you're valuable to me. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

a father and a Father [doubt&devotion]

Welcome to another edition of 
Doubt&Devotion.
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
Mr. Thomas & Me
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
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It's Father's day. A day that I've decided I will not let be hard and sad and too full of missing because, well, that's not a fun way to spend any day. I made that decision not to be fell of sad so long ago. I told myself I won't wallow in my missing or lacking or any such emotion. 

But today, I miss him. I miss his laugh, his dry humor, his tough love, his brute strength. I miss beating him in sprint races because I really was faster than him. I miss losing at cards because he was cheating. I miss butting heads because we both know how to do it the right way. Today, I miss him. 

But today, He's here. He's here and reminding me of how much he lives in me. He's here and filling me with strength and dignity and a sense of humor that'll go beyond all the sad. He's here and He's silently counting the tears that have been cried, collecting the little pieces of my heart that have chipped away, healing the wounds that feel unfix-able. Today, He's here. 

While I desperately want him, He's here. And for today, I'll miss one while feeling cherished so sweetly by the other. 
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Friday, June 13, 2014

milking stool meetings: john 4




Another week of bible study and another chapter down. How's it going for you girls?


Our homework for next week will reading John 5. The note taking part is going to be the same way we did this one, but with a focus on making our spin-offs applicable to our lives now. The bible is full of truth is as beautiful and lovely today as it was thousands of years ago -it's just a matter of working through the application.

Here's sample notes for you from John 4:


This week might be a little bit more challenging but you can do it. It might be easier using some of these techniques:

1. Relation - look at the relationships among Jesus and his disciples or the people he's talking to. How can the actions in those moments be related to your life? (think about the way Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman in John 3)

2. Direction - we know that each story is going to point towards Jesus but how. (think John 1 and the difference in how Jesus points and John points)

3. Circumstance - the happenings in each chapter are important because they're settings in which Jesus taught or performed miracles or revealed himself. (think to John 2 with the water into wine at the wedding)

4. Repetition - notice what's being emphasized over and over again. Like our parents and our teachers, the bible repeats things over and over again to place an emphasis on importance. (think about Christ's constant revelation of himself as the One they're all waiting for)

Verse of the week: 
 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him 
who sent me and to finish his work."
-John 4:34

Here are some lovely links to encourage you as you celebrate your fathers and our Father this weekend: 

A beautiful prayer for the week. (Annie Wiltse)

A blog post about pointing, pointing, pointing in graceful, gentle ways. (Wetherills Say I Do)

This song. It's intoxicating and beautiful. (Antioch Worship)

And finally, our Facebook group for y'all who haven't yet joined! 

This week I encourage you to bite off a piece of His work and pursue it, be nourished by the purpose for your life in it, enjoy the challenge of doing Him justice. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

grief is like the sea

Grief is like the sea. It comes in. It goes out. In tides it ripples along the shores of our lives sometimes low and nonthreatening, other times high and in wild pursuit of all the dry land.

Lately, it pursues me unruly and vicious. As we exit the elevator and enter the hallway of his unit, I feel it raising the hair on the back of my neck with a chilly breeze that says I'm here today. As the caregiver recognizes us and points us in his direction, those hairs react, standing, spiking like an urchin attempting protection. As we turn the corner and rouse him from a light sleep in the recliner, the breeze transforms and blows me right into the water -a boat capsized in grief.

Grief is like the sea. Offering refreshment and cleansing through an antiseptic burn.

The boat is flipped and I feel that burn at the back of my eyes. The burn that's similar to salt water kissing a fresh wound -refreshing and cleansing but still, a burn. The water, salty and cool, emerges. Dripping from my eyes, pooling on my mascara, running down the smooth sands of my rosy cheeks. It's a relief over the dry of the shores -physical and emotional. High tide is welcome by the sands, the sea animals, the beach dwellers. Only the sandcastles are threatened, but in their destruction comes the chance for new construction upon the shores.

Grief is like the sea. Pretty atop the surface and teeming with mysterious beauty beneath. The depths of grief hold life more unknown than understood.

Lately, I'm a free diver delving deeper and deeper into the pressurized darkness. But it's different this diving. It's illuminated in a new way where I can see all that lives despite the unfavorable conditions. Little silver schools flitting about flashing slivers of hope. Ugly fish with bright lights affront their rocky heads. Eight legs unified to propel one of the wonders of the sea. The pressure pushes upon my ear drums and, while I want to focus on the beautiful beings down here, distracts me. Oh my ears, they ache, yet I'm diving, holding my breath, searching for that one sight that'll assure me it's worth it down here.

Grief is like the sea -full of ripples from all that lives below its surface.

Despite the obnoxious air conditioning commercial that's playing on the radio, I miss him deeply as I pull off the road into the dirt where I meet the tractors and diesel engines and construction men. I feel small schools of fish bringing sadness to the surface like a bubble of air wishing to meet the atmosphere. The burn is contained in that bubble, it's attempting to once again cleanse my soul while washing away my mascara and reddening my lids. I long for the tide to wane, to move far from my sandcastle, to follow the moon out of my sight. While I sit on the shore taking in such an expanse of emotion, power, and depths, I believe that grief is like the sea -a body with equal parts beauty and mystery.

Yes, grief is like the sea. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

May Reads in Review (with GIFS)

As a child I fell asleep with stacks of books in my bed. I'd wake in the middle of the night squished by the spines with one book crooked between two of my fingers just as I'd fallen asleep in the midst of the words. Still at 25 I, more often than not, sleep with a book in bed after I've drifted to the point of slumber while engrossed in the escape that is words on a page. 

There's something about writing that's magical be it me that's writing or simple me enjoying someone else's words. It opens new and unique perspectives and worlds and personalities to us that might not grace us otherwise. So, in May I rededicated myself to reading. And I read a book a week. Whoa. (I'm impressed with myself at just this very moment). 

Let me do you a little favor and share what I read and how it affected me. Of course, what better way to share the goodness of these books than GIFs? Answer: no better way

via

Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger

Was this book really taught in school? I'm not sure how many times I asked myself that question throughout the course of this read, but really, the book is outlandish and hilarious and many times crude. Holden Caulfield, the main character, gives voice to all the things you think in your head but wouldn't dare let pass through your lips plus some. My only regret was that I didn't tally all the occurrences of moron in the pages of the book.

I chose Catcher in the Rye because it was written before I was born (the SCSBC criteria), it was a high school read that I didn't read (thanks Advanced Placement), and my  mom thought it was hysterical. It's refreshing to read this written in the 1940's and draw parallels between the different minor characters and people from your life. This is a work of literary people watching -giving Walmart a serious sprint for it's money.

via

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Kim Edwards

This book was like WHOA. I mean, WHOA. Every time I thought I had the next twist plotted Edwards would flip the whole script on its head and I'd be sitting in the wake of such madness along with her characters. Edwards deals with the difficult issue of care for those with Down Syndrome during the 1960's into the 70's. I enjoyed being able to see the realness in how far we've come (though I do believe there's still progress to be made) while feeling like there's a real life connection with the characters.

I found myself taken aback by the way the characters' lives continued to intertwine despite the many circumstances that seemed to ensure all kinds of distance. The way in which Edwards emphasizes the way in which our choices -best of intentioned or not- deeply and strongly effect the lives around us in ripples that can last lifetimes.

via

When We Were on Fire 
Addie Zierman
(she's a blogger too!

If there was a book written about the conservative church and small town in which I was raised, this would be it. From Praying at the Pole to after school youth group, Zierman does a phenomenal job detailing the difficulties of the 1990 and early 2000's conservative church while debunking (in a gentle way) the theory behind such teachings. After struggling with frustration through the first 100 pages wishing to be protective of Zierman's youthful wonder, I found myself refreshed by the way in which she addressed the damage that ensued post-conservative youth, post-Christian college.

Zierman's ability to illustrate the destructive nature of her own thought process in the wake of a heavy and strict childhood faith. While all of her trials didn't resonate with me personally, I could easily connect with the emotional turmoil such challenges posted in her adulthood. Zierman ends the novel with hope, not perfection, but hope and honesty.

via

The Fault in Our Stars 
John Green 

I was hesitant to read a book about teens with cancer. I thought there was no way I could love a book that deals with death because, well, I'm dealing with it. I thought I'd get part way through and break down in the sadness of it all. Instead, I read and heard our hearts echoed in the hilarious happenings and honest attitudes Hazel and Augustus (the main characters in the novel) handle their disease. From the initial chapter Hazel establishes herself as wise beyond her years and hysterical in her honest observations of the (sick) world around her. I want her as my own dear friend (not to replace my sweet Hazel-girl, but instead to supplement her). 

I laughed, I cried, I celebrated cancer-free moments, and I mourned the loss of all the characters as the book came to an end. Green makes his characters into beautiful, lively friends despite their age (high school) and their diagnoses. The dry humor and dreams come true throughout the novel had me rushing to read what could come next -really, I read the book in two days (both of which had me at work for 8 hours). 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Springtime is Sunday. [doubt&devotion]

Welcome to another edition of 
Doubt&Devotion.
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
Mr. Thomas & Me
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
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Puppies. Cars. Babies. Leather. Shoes. Carpet. Homes.

We love the way new smells. In fact, we love the way it looks and feels. Also what it means. 

When it's time for a re-brand, it's about getting a new look together. It's redefining oneself, realizing there's a new or altered mission around here, displaying that through new. 

Spring's awesome. Why? Because new life. Baby birds, rose buds, seedlings, fresh ground.

I know we're deep into spring. So deep, in fact, we're almost in summer. But lately there's so much freshness in our yard and our neighborhood and our city that I can't stop thinking about the beauty of spring.

Sometimes I wonder why spring is so beautiful. Then I remember in the moments of blooming roses, fresh green grass, and babies. It's all new and bright and lovely. It's refreshing.

Sunday's the beginning of a week that's new. It's new -right now. Sunday is Spring. And with Spring, let's focus on renewal, invite that freshness that we love about Spring to characterize our week, and bask in the blooms all around us.

Friday, June 6, 2014

milking stool meetings: john 2 & 3



How'd it go with two chapters? Too much? Or just right? Good news is next week we're back down to one.

But for now, the vlog:

And now that you've got my take on the themes and balance that make up John 2&3, it's you're turn to share:



In closing, next week we're going to be looking at John 4. The notes are going to be different in that it'll be focusing on a single verse or chunk and tear it apart. For those of you that love staying in those college ruled lines, this is going to push your comfort level.
We're going to take a chunk of text -in this case I used two verses (John 3:16&17)- write it in the middle of the page and then connect it to the truths we know of God and Christ. Basically, this is going to make the application of text directly to your life very undeniable.

Just like Christ was relevant to the world 2000 years ago, He is to you now.
Of course feel free to highlight, underline, bold, circle the things that you feel most moved by. I waited to highlight until the end as sort of a final review over the text. 

Doesn't it look fun?

And the verse for the week: 
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, 
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. 
So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." 
-John 3:8

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

4 Unexpected Observations About Blogging

It's been said many a time, blogging changes you. 

Anytime you put yourself out there vulnerably for others to read, critique, agree, all the reader-like things, you're sure to change. The way you approach the world, see yourself in relation to it, go out and do your damn thing changes. Some bloggers say for the better, some say worse. I say it's for the more -more emotion, more relation, more understanding, more of all things. 

My observations aren't going to make you famous, or money, or "big". So there's that. 

1. As much as it's about your blog, it's not. 

Writing has always been a passion of mine, something I do as a means of survival at times, it's where the processing of all things life happens. When I started a blog I was sure that people would just come and eat up all the things I write. And, well, you do. But more than that, so much more than that, you care for my story, for the people in it, for me. You care in a way that says I'm not just a character in an endless narrative of happenings, but instead, I'm dear to you. This is an immensely encouraging, beautiful, fun, not-enough-words-can-go-here feeling.

2. What really matters won't ever be captured by Google Analytics.

Maybe this is because I write about my faith and my dad's death and that begs for open conversations via email or twitter or all the social media outlets, but never has a stat made me as joyful as receiving a sweet, vulnerable, challenging email from one of my readers. Never. 

3. What you think is going to grow things will,
 but not necessarily in the way you expect.

I started Milking Stool Ministry with the hopes of capturing a larger audience. Never did I expect it would capture my heart and draw me into the bible, beg me to truly push myself to think through my process, encourage me to try new things. Yes, there's a community of women loving it, but more than that, I'm growing in the way that I bible study and seek and know Him.

4. Vulnerability is vital. 

That quality versus quantity debate is all over the place. It's something I haven't got much to speak to other than vulnerability trumps both. My favorite bloggers come to their space and write about the hard things, the beautiful things, the joyous things in ways that are honest and walls-down and vulnerable. In approaching their space so humbly, I don't care how often they write as long as I get to come back and read those sweet, soulful words again. 

It seems the moral of the story here is
Though we blog to bare fruit for our audience, 
our readers, our people, 
it ends up being more fruitful in our own lives. 
-that age old: I went to teach them and they taught me the most.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

can you have adventure in your hometown?


Last month I was responsible. I really, truly was responsible. In that, I read four entire books and am half way through two more. This is the best reading I've done in years and, well, I'm thrilled with how it's made me feel. I believe that part of being a good writer is being a better reader and consuming all kinds of genres, eras, language. So, I've done just that for the month of May.

And I'll continue to do so through June, July, and August because I'm taking part in the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge. My reading so far has been, for the most part, wonderful and worth recommending to other bookworms in my life. Here's the list of books I'm tackling (because they've changed a bit since the last check-in):
  • Read any book that is at least 200 pages long. (5 points)
    Bossypants
     by Tina Fey (288 pages)          
  • That was written before you were born. (DONE)
    Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (224 pages) 
  • Finish reading a book you couldn't finish the first time around. (halfway done)
    Have  a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (272 pages)
  • Read a book from the children’s section of the library or bookstore. (10 points)
    The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (208 pages) -the sole reread.
  • On The NYT's Best Sellers List when you begin reading it. (DONE)
    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (352 pages) 
  • Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe. (15 points)
    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (336 pages) 
  • Read a book another blogger has already read for the challenge. (15 points)
    Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (336 pages)
  • With “son(s),” “daughter(s)” or “child(ren)” in the title. (DONE)
    The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (401 pages) 
  • Read a book that was/will be adapted to film in 2014. (20 points)
    Wild by Cheryl Strayed (315 pages) 
  • Written by a blogger. (DONE)
    When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman (256 pages) 
  • Read a biography, autobiography or memoir. (25 points)
    What Remains by Carole Radziwill -yes, from Real Housewives of NY (264 pages) 
  • Read a pair of books with antonyms in the titles. (30 points)
    Mended by Angie Smith (224 pages) & She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (480 pages)
*Only one of my books is a reread. Mostly because there's so many on our shelves I haven't yet read.*
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And onto the month of June and lots of adventure. 
After hanging out with JJ last month, I realized that there's a whole lot of home town that's been missed by me. That I've lived here for two decades and, yet, haven't adventured through many of the beautiful things that make our town so lovely.

This means with warm weather, slower plans, comes more fun. June will be a month of adventure.
  • Try three new (never been there before) restaurants. 
  • Drink coffee at a local shop. 
  • Wine taste at two (new) wineries. 
  • See a show at the community theater. -scheduled for June 12th
  • Eat dinner at the historical bank turned fun Mexican restaurant in Old Town.
  • Run through our local golf course before it opens (all 18 holes). 
  • Hike the local nature reserve.
I'm taking up the attitude of being a tourist in my own town for the month because, yes, I love a good travel adventure, but I also love the place I grew up despite becoming complacent in my knowledge here.

Cheers to adventure and a month that feels easier (at least emotionally) than the last few!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

lukewarm for the soul. [doubt&devotion]

Welcome to another edition of 
Doubt&Devotion.
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
Mr. Thomas & Me
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Our shower dial is polarized. Most shower dials aren't, they give you a spectrum where you can adjust to cold, little bit cool, warm, a little bit warm, almost hot, hot. Ours skipped the spectrum update and is, well, polarized. It's freezing your ass off cold or hot as freakin' hell hot. That's it. Ass-less cold. Hellish hot.

I always forget that our shower dial is polarized. Always -every single morning sort of always. I turn to that spot that seems to say comfortably warm, let the water heat, then hop in. And burn in the hot as hellness of it. In one swift movement I jump out of the stream and flip it to cooler. But cooler means cold because, well, polarization. There's no such thing as lukewarm, or simply warm, in our shower. 

Lukewarm, now that I haven't got it coming through my pipes, got the short end of the stick. 
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When I got my tattoo, everyone wanted to know how my mom felt about it. Her friends, my friends, they wanted her to react. And, well, she did in a mellow, warm, way that moms do things. 

She said it's feminine. It's a piece of her dad and her life on her body. It actually suits her in ways that seemed impossible. Would she get one? No, not so public and easy to see. Does she hate it? No, it's not a love, but an appreciated quirk in her (not so) little girl. 

Her friends, my friends, they were disappointed. Her reaction was supposed to be BIG, bold, obviously emotional. And yet, she was warm. 
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It's not within our comfort zone: the spectrum of opinion. It's uncomfortable to say, I don't know where I stand on that. We have to know in order to be grown-up, in order to have convictions, in order to love God or to not. But do we? 

I don't know how I feel about all the issues surrounding gay marriage or gun control or abortion or tattoos or alcohol or church. Because there are so many. What I do know is I'm learning to say that I don't know. That I'm a Jesus-loving, God-fearing woman who just doesn't know how this is all supposed to look and work and feel. What do I know is that I'm allowed not to know. And, well, that opens the spectrum deep and wide (see what I did there?). 
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A sorority sister in college was worried about how she did on an exam because after ten weeks of studying the politics of the body, she had a view with more facets than her engagement ring. After completing our final we walked to coffee. Over steaming lattes she said, "Amber I wrote my opinion and it was from both sides. That's wrong, I know, but instead of sticking to a single view, I wanted to show that I know the world in all shades of grey." (We graduated before those books hit the stands.)

I don't know how she scored on that final -I do know she graduated with a degree-, but it didn't matter because she tapped into something profound -we know the world in so many ways, shades, shapes. And, quite possibly, we know it along the spectrum rather than from a pole. Maybe all the issues, all our experiences, all the surrounding circumstances and options feel warm and undefined. 
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Our culture, our faith, our approach to everything is supposed to be the same as the Thomas shower dial -hot or cold, fast or slow, up or down (see what I did there -again?). And, well, I don't think it's good for us. 

Instead of jumping into the hold, fast, or up, we could simmer, gain speed, grow. While there's little space for lukewarm just now, we can make it. Let's bask in the process of making our opinion rather than planting firm in one camp ready to fight off the other. 
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