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Why Kindergartners & Your Grandpa Both Make Me Cry.

Photo of my nephew Ezra & niece Piper, taking life really seriously this winter.

Photo of my nephew Ezra & niece Piper, taking life really seriously this winter.

This weird thing’s been happening lately, in which I find myself teary anytime I see or read stories about children or the elderly (stick with me here, non-sappy, children-apathetic friends). And when I say lately, I mean for several years – and most often since I’ve been in my 20s. Over the last 24 hours, I was overwhelmed to a point that I decided to sit down and really ask why, thus the fruition of this blog.

What I came up with: Fragility. Something about the fragile state of new lives and worn ones deeply moves and inspires me. Children and elderly are different from us in the middle, us in our 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. They have a way of engaging and a sense of reality that is less affected by the world’s standards and inhibitions. Whether cradled or seasoned, they teach us something important about the base of life: it is fragile!

And not the type of fragile that makes me want to fear risks and keep my head down, or stay in my comforter cocoon and bolt lock my doors (although my mother would sleep better). Instead, the type of fragile that makes me not want to waste my days doing anything less than what God’s designed me for. The type of fragile that pushes me to want to love deeper, to dance like music was actually made to move us, to share hope-filled moments and tiny miracles (like the first crepe myrtle bloom outside my bedroom window come spring), to serve people more extravagantly, to invite more people into my home and around my table, to weather the cold for someone who may need a kind word and a pair of hand warmers, to behold and point others to beauty, to laugh at myself, to celebrate silliness and to tell more of the truth.

Just think. If we take notice and listen to the thoughts, candor, giggles and wrinkles of the children and the elderly in our lives more often, we may find they’re on to something. I’ve found that I cannot ignore their wonder and wisdom, and that I am more often than not entranced by their fragile state. In fact, this is where the tears come in; I weep not in despair or because of girly-feely-stuff (estrogen, if this were a science paper), I weep in adoration and gratefulness for the perspective they gift me. The elder and the child’s eyes behold all the things we sometimes lose sight of in the middle.

So next time you see a kindergartner do the happy dance after a satisfying snack time in front of all their peers, learn from him. Next time you pass an elderly man limping in pain by you on the sidewalk who looks up to greet you with a warm and thoughtful smile anyway, learn from him. When your niece tells you why she likes her best friend or your grandmother shares with you what she learned from being a florist for twenty years, listen.

Life is a pair of fragile wings daring us to fly. Pay attention to those who soar, then join them.

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In the Blue.

For as long as I can remember, the Blue Ridge Mountains have been a part of my story. In their northeast Georgia pocket is where my dad was raised and my grandparents took me in for a week each summer and most holidays. I remember getting car sick as a kid, winding through the mountain roads, feeling collapsable under miles of tall pines. But it was always worth it to get to the gravel driveway of Mamaw and Papaw’s house, to the red wicker rocking chairs out front, where you could sip a coke float and spot ridges of blue peaking out for miles. This was also where I wrote my first poem.

But most of the time I was running through their yard, chasing fireflies, up onto hay bails, to the tire swing and down the gravel path to my grandfather’s little grocery. I had no idea what those Ridges would come to mean to me. 

Fast forward to my senior year of high school and I’d chosen to attend a college on the eastern tip of South Carolina. I honestly knew nothing about South Carolina, and geographically, I’d yet to notice its true significance. I knew I was only a couple hours from home. I visited, once. I noticed you could see the mountains, the campus was nicely landscaped and I’d heard a few rumors they had a lake somewhere. It seemed like a decent place to major in frolicking, so I went, not knowing a soul. 

I soon realized I’d been planted right at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and before every college football game we’d sing an alma mater with the line “where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness,” adding to these mountains’ continual poetry and nostalgia in my life. I spent the next three years being stopped in my tracks, in the midst of midterm papers and juggling commitments, by the beauty of those distant ridges with their graceful steadiness in the sky. I spent weekends taking hikes into the Blue with friends, all the while being reminded of Mamaw’s fried okra, of Papaw’s warm kisses on the cheek, of long summer days and of coke floats.

I think I’ll always be drawn back. Those layered shades of blue awaken something only they know how to in my soul. They’ve imbedded a magnetic pull on my heart that relentlessly brings me back to them with each season change, to remind myself of where I’ve come from, who I am and who I’m becoming. 

Today I’m feeling grateful for a weekend back that’ll leave me breathing in this life a little deeper for weeks to come. Ah, to behold the Blue.

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Keep a file.

Over the last month, it seems the only lullaby I know is the tap of these keys in a word processor. I slip into bed, open up this laptop and start telling the truth; I let the things that are hard to admit feeling and even harder to admit in writing be written anyway. (Mark Twain preferred this method of writing in bed, too - so I think I’m onto something, or maybe just lazy - hard to tell).

Even as I’ve made late night drives home, I’ve found myself recording more memos on my phone, desperate to capture unanticipated moments of clarity – for my sanity and for the reminder that God is not silent. I then run upstairs to my bed, eager to feel the physical rest of my sheets while letting my thoughts color this screen. I’ve had a strange new reel of emotions to process, while also feeling woven within a much larger, mysterious process taking place around and before me.

Ultimately, all of this has actually made me more thankful for the retracted and the unknown. Sure, life’s been a little less comfy – I’ve found myself feeling hurt by stuff I don’t want to feel hurt by and some of the lies I let myself believe in seasons’ past threaten a sequel. And just as I’m tempted to throw a pity party for the answers I don’t have yet,

I remember I’m not entitled to them. And that sometimes no answer is an answer enough. With that realization, I become healthily desperate to be filled by the Most Sufficient. I’m suddenly humbled by forgotten and new graces. I’m able to clear a spot on my passenger’s seat window to see the roadside views are only getting better. But maybe best of all, I’m more vulnerable – giving myself freedom to write from a place deeply rooted in a desire to resonate about this whole human-condition-with-greater-hope thing with others.

So, I write to you. I write you to say thank God for conflict, for our stories that are still being written and for the redemption that finds its way into our epilogues. I hope you’re letting yourself feel the painful stuff, and then taking the time to jot down the moments where God speaks or a window flings open right in front of you, letting in a breeze that allows your weary heart to float – even if just for a minute or two. These are the moments worth holding tight to the chest and tucking away in a file for later reference. Because life will continue to break your heart and throw you ESPN-Top-10 curveballs and dare you not to keep moving forward, and you’ll need that file close by – for reference.

Re: Faithful. He is good, he always has been. And I promise you, dammit, he will be.

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Character is beautiful.

Surface beauty is but a prominent bloom, while character’s beauty is found in the intricate plant as a whole: weaving its roots through the earth, waiting steadfast through the seasons—unafraid of rain or long winters, drawing its strength from light, and creating the foundation for a garden. 

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Passion.

"That’s all there is really. It’s passion. Passion is what makes for good treaties, good relationships, good pizza, good friends, good everything." -Leslie Knope

Thanks to my dear friend Laylaarguably one of the most brilliant and clever eighteen year olds out there, for exposing me to this wonderful quote. These words reminded me of why I'm a self-proclaimed celebrator - because passionate people and work and perspective reveal a variety of good in a world that is otherwise decaying, and that will always be worth celebrating. 

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