Thursday, August 15, 2013

On Being Rescued from a Quarter-Life Crisis (give or take a year)

Yesterday I turned 24. At first I wasn't too excited about it, which is odd because I've never not been excited about a birthday. But no one prepared me for how old 24 sounds. To me, twenty-FOUR sounds like mortgages and full-time jobs and all things that involve too much responsibility, whereas twenty-THREE gives you wiggle room not to have to act so grown-up. 

So, my wonderful family + Francis took me to Charleston for the day to remind me that life can always be filled with adventure and fun no matter how old you are if you can keep a healthy perspective. 

First. We all piled into the car, which only holds 5 so Dad had to sit in the boot. It being my birthday, I got shotgun. (I did try NOT to be a prima donna about it all, but really, it's my birthday) Anyway we stopped at Cookout for lunch, and it rather excitingly almost ended in blows with the car behind us in line, but it wasn't our fault the voicebox wasn't working or that they didn't give us the cajun fries or lemon with our tea that we had asked for. 

After munching on our greasy goodness, we made it downtown Charleston and meandered around. It was so lovely and we walked down the old streets and looked at all the old buildings and graveyards, and everything was just so beautiful and old (which strangely made me feel better about growing older, because I realized I have a general affection for old things) Mom and dad showed us where they got engaged a bajillion years ago at Battery Park, which also was comforting. Two people can meet and fall in love and grow old together and still end up loving each other very much. I liked that. 

We walked down Bay Street and Rainbow Row and went to the market and Mitchell got me some prints from an artist I really like. We were having such a good time exploring when all of a sudden out of nowhere this giant storm rolls in and starts dropping buckets. Dad had gotten the car and we made a run for it, but we all ended up soaked anyway. Except my prints (Thank goodness).

I had wanted to go to Sullivan's Island and hang out on the beach, so we drove over there while the random monsoon half-blew the car all the way there. Luckily it rolled over long enough for us to get out for a bit, so Nat, Fran and I headed to the beach with towels on our heads. Well we messed around in the water for a few minutes and it started thundering again. Huge booms every few minutes. But I was determined to get a decent amount of beach time so we turned toward the ocean and shouted Titantic and Mulan lines out to sea. 

Which now looking back on that moment, it seems odd--because here I am this tiny little creature caught in between a giant storm with thunder booms and a magnificent ocean with crashing waves, and I'm shouting "I'm king of the world!" It's ridiculous. They're so powerful and I'm so small, and so it would make more sense for me to shout "You're king of the world and I'm just here getting to experience all of your grandness." But that's a mouthful and sounds weird.

Well of course the rain started coming down again and it took everything in me NOT to push Natalie underwater, and we headed back to the car. It was too early for dinner and I wanted to stay on the island to eat at Poes, so we drove around the island for a bit. We drove through Fort Moultrie twice and gazed at beach houses we would never be able to afford, and finally decided we might as well sit down and eat and wait for the rain to stop.

So we had beer and burgers and watched football and it was marvelous. Unfortunately the rain did not stop, and we headed back early. And although we got stuck in frustrating traffic and Dad pretended he was being kidnapped because we shoved him in the boot, we had a great time singing loudly to the Avetts and eating Krispy Kreme all the way home. 

We ended by watching Duck Dynasty and playing Lord of the Rings Trivia, the ultimate test of family nerdness. I almost won but that's okay, you can't have everything on your birthday. Needless to say I feel much better about being one year older, and perhaps next year I'll be more prepared for maturity. But I highly doubt it. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

No Good at Goodbyes

I am no longer the nanny of the magnificent trio that is S, SB, and H. And I can't say that I'm not heartbroken. My fingers keep expecting to grasp around little hands in parking lots and there's an ache in my chest that can only be from the lack of surprise attack bear hugs, spontaneous dance parties, and tear-inducing giggles from tickle time. I miss them dearly.

I know that it was time and that I made a healthy and wise decision to leave. There's a peace I have found in the quiet; I'm discovering a rest of spirit that was impossible to uncover in the midst of going from work to school to dinner to soccer practice to swimming and on and on to the never ending busy. It is good and sweet to be still.

But it's not easy. Sometimes I feel like I'm being selfish or that I've abandoned them. I feel like a jerk for investing a year of time and energy and love into their lives and then suddenly pulling back and leaving. But I have to believe that God placed me there for a season, and that He loves them so much more than I could ever possibly imagine, and is dedicated to their best. He desperately wants them to know the majesty of who He is, and is very much capable of revealing Himself to them with or without me. 

And when I think of it like that, I am humbled. Because I see how God used S, SB, and H to reveal Himself to me. In every temper tantrum, bad attitude, and straight-up determination not to trust, I saw a reflection of my true nature. I think I know what is best for me, just like SB. I get angry when I things don't go just the way I want them to, just like H. I am a stubborn child in my responses to a loving Father. And if I, in my brokenness, can still love three children despite their "badness" - if I, a sinner, can love not because the objects of affection are in any way worthy, but simply because they are in need of love - if I can do this, how much more capable is a Perfect Father of loving me? 

Very much so. One evening, SB, H, and I took Riley to the park. The air was heavy with the freshness of spring and the promise of summer, and we were just giddy. We ran along the paths looking for adventure, uncovered treasure beneath the large oak roots, and tried to catch the fading sunlight as it danced between the leaves and the trees. It was so perfect that I almost couldn't breathe. On the way home we picked up ice cream and sang songs at the top of our lungs with the windows down and the wind blowing in our faces. By the time we got home they were fast asleep, and as I looked at their little bodies breathing heavily, I felt so intensely full. 

I think of that day often, and I am so grateful. Sometimes I think God wraps up pieces of heaven and hides them in the corners of spring days for us to joyously uncover like children playing treasure hunt. So thank you S, SB, and H for sharing the adventure with me and for letting me love on you. I hope to uncover many more stories with you.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Coffeeshop Exposé

I've taken to hiding in coffeeshops and corners. Writing has been so difficult for me lately, I can't seem to dig out the performance piece in my creative expression, and so my goal lately has been to find an unknown space and let the writing seep out of me. And if it doesn't, not a problem, I'll have at the very least enjoyed a good cup of coffee and an hour of people watching. Last night I was sitting watching different customers come in, and I was overwhelmed by how many different stories people must have. And this is what I thought...
We’re all just made up of moments. A myriad of a million moments that turn into memories and we hold them in our hearts until they become markers of who we are. And in these moments of being and breathing, of heavy shoulders and wistful sighs, of sharp tongues and empty hands, of soft lips and full hearts – in all of these we are so very much alive. 
And God forbid we forget. God forbid we forget that our hearts are beating and feeling and thumping and pounding in our chests. Because we are alive, we are abundantly alive. And when we forget that we have been given all of these moments, we forget that others have been given them too. We forget that the girl serving our coffee is also alive, and her heart is beating and thumping and feeling just like ours. Just like yours. Just like mine. 
And when we think of it like that, there’s no room for harsh words or empty promises. Because although we’ve already had a million moments we only have so many more. And what a pity it would be if in our moments, our precious moments, we forgot we were alive and instead lived our moments out in lethargy or legalism or jealousy or vanity – and not love. 
I think we have forgotten how to love. How beautiful it would be if we remembered. What if in all of our moments – in our breathing, touching, speaking, feeling – what if in our smiles and glances and handshakes and gestures we were able to communicate a multitude of warmth. What if in the myriad of a million moments my thumping heart could somehow communicate to your pounding one that even in this mess of brokenness there is beauty yet to be uncovered.
That's all really. I still can't write without critique, because I read this again and find it too sentimental. I think all great writing is a healthy balance of sentiment and reality, and I find I am always on either extreme.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Libraries and Literature Snobs

I go to the library to get lost. I can completely lose myself weaving in and out of the rows and columns of books, stepping into the imaginations of a million different minds.  I get overwhelmed when I think that there are thousands upon thousands of stories and dreams bound up and stacked high to the ceiling. Many are probably boring or raunchy and not worth my time – but I always know there’s a gem out there waiting for me.

It’s almost like a treasure hunt. Sometimes I close my eyes and run my fingers over the spines, until I land on one that I feel might be good. I’ll explore the cover and even read the first few pages, but normally I don’t commit. There’s just something about a great book, once you find one you can’t go back to those of lesser quality. Call me a literature snob but I just don’t want to waste my time reading something that doesn’t move me, or cause me to actually think about life, and love, and beauty. And I can’t stand books that leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.

All of that being said, and although I completely enjoy the thrill of getting lost in a pile of books – by the end I often find myself wanting some type of direction. So this time I consulted various librarians and good reads, and I’ve yet to discover if their suggestions are good or not. But for those of you who, like me, would like some direction, here’s what I’ve been reading lately.

Radical Womanhood – Worth the read. Christian single woman’s perspective on feminism and the church. Leans heavy complementarian.

Great Divorce – Typical C.S. Lewis, which means soul-wrenchingly wonderful if you can grasp the depth of his meaning.

Brothers Karamozov – Quite long, but worth it if you can get through it. Strongly developed characters and goes deep into understanding the human heart. Made me want to read more Russian literature. Anna Karenina you’re next!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – I don’t think I actually need to review this because of course it’s magical. Favorite part this time around Harry choosing to trust Dumbledore despite reason. Tear jerker.

Blue Like Jazz – I know I should stop reading books I’ve already read but the end of the Romance chapter is so well said. Just go read it.

Gilead – So far writing is excellent, love the imagery. Haven’t quite finished though, but it has great flow. Letters from father to son.

A Praying Life – Very, very good. Praying like a child! Unfortunately left it at my grandmothers and haven’t been able to finish.

A Holy Wild  -  Mark Buchanan, a bit over the top, but some excellent points on rest and trust. Writes about the thrilling and adventurous side of God’s character, which I like.

The Sun Also Rises – My attempt at Hemmingway. Someone told me his writing was enticing, and I can’t remember much of Old Man and the Sea so I thought I’d try again. I think they actually called it sexy but I feel like that word can be taken a bit out of context.

I am very much behind on my reading goal for this year. But when I go to the beach for the week I plan on reading at least 15, so that'll catch me up real quick. I'm ambitious to a fault it seems.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Savannah and the farm - pictures!

Conversations at Panera with a 4-year-old

H: Abby, I'm so glad to go to school today.

A: You are? Why?

H: Because... I am going to see Tucker and Ethan and Smith (pronounced "sniff") and all my friends.

A: Oh, well good. Are you going to see Grantley? (H's girlfriend as of Monday)

H: (Smiles, turns red and sinks down into his chair) Yes.

A: Are you embarrassed?

H: (Sinks lower) What does embarrassed mean?

A: It's when your cheeks turn red and you have a silly feeling in your tummy.

H: (Completely under the table now) Abby, I'm just girlfriend sick.

A: (I have to laugh, it's too cute) Why's that?

H: Well, Grantley is also Walden's girlfriend too.

A: She is?? What?

H: Yeah, she's my girlfriend and Walden's.

A: Well, why do you still like her?

H: She's just so sweet. And she likes to give me hugs. And always plays with me. Abby I just love her.

A: H, you are the most adorable little boy ever.

H: Oh, I know! Now watch me, I'm going to make my bagel eat my nose.

I can't handle all the cuteness. It's too much. Even when they are terribly naughty they somehow know the exact things to say to charm their little ways into my heart.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Conversations, generations and a few pots and pans

I always enjoy trips to see my family in Savannah. When you have three generations of women under one roof for a weekend, there is rarely a dull moment. Our conversation has consisted mostly of…

Well Mama I just don’t know”
Honey, you need to put some meat on your bones
Here’s your wedding present now because I’ll be dead by the time you get married
      and my personal favorite...
GINNNGGGEERRR!!” hollered all the way from the bathroom to the kitchen. It may be annoying and personal and blunt, but I love it.

I like that in moments of forgetfulness my grandmother goes through all of her sisters, daughters and granddaughters before she gets my name right. I like that she and my mother argue about the way they cook ham, but their grits taste exactly the same. I like that we all enjoy watching the birds out the window in the morning, we all like figuring out a good puzzle, and we are all terrible at sitting still. There is no doubt that I am my mother’s daughter, and she her mother’s daughter.

I wrote a poem about Savannah once. It wasn’t very good, it was for an English project and I had to use an example of alliteration. Maybe I’ll go find it and post it later. Anyway every spring a few lines of it get stuck on repeat in my head.

“Savannah, sweet Savannah in the spring
Sing softly to me sweet Savannah.”

Creative, right? There’s just something about the rows and rows of blooming azalea bushes and the Spanish moss drooping down from the new green trees that make me long to visit every spring. It’s soothing to me. In all honesty, Savannah is old and dirty, but somehow come spring all of its mystery creeps back in, and I just want to roam the historic streets for hours and get completely lost.

Today we drove down those oak-lined streets and my mother and aunt and grandmother pointed and remembered…

Your Aunt Wauweese started her loan business down that street.

I was only 12 and those girls pulled my ponytail and I screamed and they chased us all the way to that theater.”

I used to catch the train out here when I worked in D.C. during the war and your grandfather was deployed in France.

What gets me about Savannah, and here on the farm – is the depth of history. And not just any history really, it’s the history of my family. The stories scattered across this land are as countless as the seeds my grandfather would plant every spring. They’re timeless, piling up year after year way before I ever existed, and yet I am strangely connected here because of them.

Tonight my grandmother went through all of her dishes and gave me the ones she doesn’t use anymore. Some of them were her mothers. And I felt a strange sense of responsibility grow inside me as she pulled out drawers and dug around for pots. Perhaps I’m being nostalgic or romantic, but seriously how many meals have these dishes seen? All prepared by well-worn hands to feed hungry bellies over generations.

I know they’re just pots and pans. But call it what you will, heritage, birthright, legacy, whatever – I feel honored. And grateful that someone has the decency to give a young single woman some cooking utensils. It’s a bit ridiculous that you have to be getting married for people to give you free cooking supplies. I feel like most men would prefer their future spouses to know how to cook before they get married anyways.

Am I right? Yes and a bit sarcastic. (sorry!) All of this to say, I am grateful for the men and women who have gone before me and proud to be who I am today in part because of them. And I do hope I learn to cook half as good as my mother so I’ll have something to pass on to my daughter besides a few burnt and blackened pots.