Spit-fire and Tenacity

In college I was in a sorority. I joined my freshman year at the urging of some upperclass(wo)men. I made quick friends with most of the juniors and seniors. There was another Shannon, and so the family nickname “Sedge” took hold easily. In true form, I lived into my personality of being charismatic, energetic, and a class clown of sorts. I can remember my first year at roast and wills, a senior send-off of sorts. One of my favorite pair of besties gifted me a Sig Chi Derby Days shirt because I was “Spit-fire Sedge”. And it became my mantra of sorts–sometimes it takes someone else seeing it in you for something to stick.

There was a point that I started loosing that spark, drive, joie de vivre. I can’t place exactly where or when that happened. In the last year or two I’ve worked really hard to get it back. It hasn’t been easy, and I’m not fully there yet, but the progress has been a good thing. Last year I led a book study for work on Brené Brown’s “Dare to Lead”. I decided to pick a word to guide my year. That word was “dare”. And it served me surprisingly well.

For 2020 I’ve decided to choose the word “grit”. There have been two posts swimming around recently in my sphere and it’s driven me to select that for my word. Hopefully it will continue to guide me, stretch me, and remind me of my core. I’m thankful for this “fad” of selecting a word for the year. New year, new mantra.

And the Scent Endures Forever

Growing up, our parents had a special hiding place for our presents. Somehow, my mom also stored some potent smelling candle in the same drawer. Every gift we received smelled like this candle. Even years after the candle had been disposed of, the scent still lingered in the drawer and on our gifts. This drawer isn’t used anymore–it was in my mom’s closet and my dad doesn’t use it.

Tonight two of my fabulous coworkers gifted me a homemade candle (in a tea cup!). I took a sniff and was transported back–the same candle smell. Took lots not to cry. Took lots not to laugh. It was a wonderful reminder that even in the most unlikely (dare I elude to our church sermon series and say “unexpected”) moments and locations–mom is still present.

I will treasure this gift from my friends. Not just because of their generosity but because it reminds me of my mama. Sometimes it’s the little things.

Bend Toward the Light

It’s been an epic year. Not only have there been many changes for me personally, but also professionally. We had our Staff Christmas lunch yesterday, and it was refreshing and hopeful and made me remember how much I enjoy doing ministry alongside these talented individuals. They make me laugh, challenge me, ask questions, offer support, and make me laugh (did I already say that? 😜).

Work has sometimes been an ebb and flow: moments when I’ve wondered if it was time to move on, situations where I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, feelings of stagnation. But, keeping one foot in front of the other, I’ve trekked on–largely because of the community and family that is my job and congregation. A few days ago one of the modern poets I follow on Instagram posted this:

And that hit hard. Touché. There is so much more to my story here: in this time and place. And I will keep bending toward that light.

Visioning2020 👓

If you read my blog regularly you know I’ve grown a lot in the last calendar year, spurred on by a class I taught at work on vulnerability (shout out to Brené Brown). It’s pushed me to think about what I want for my life longterm (hello grad school). It’s made me do a better job asking for what I need, or sometimes creating what I need.

Intentional time is one of my love languages. I get a lot out of shared time, retreats, camps, conferences, hang outs etc. at one point I dreamed of running my own girls summer camp and retreat center (that’s still a glimmer out there). I love being on retreat, being away at camp, going on mission trips. The intentional time is essential for me. The atmosphere is different than anything else. But the unique community created each time is so powerful to me. I’ve never been formally trained to lead retreats. But I have lots of experience: as a youth, college student, and adult.

Based on a blog post from a dear friend, I reached out to her to see if she’d ever be interested in co-leading some experiences for our local community. We dreamed a little, figured we should start small to gauge interest, researched locations, figured out goals, and set a date. Our first endeavor will be this January. It’s exciting to see the pieces coming together, to be creating space for others to do some of the work I did for myself in 2019, and dabbling in some side work that also fills my spirit.

Event info can be found here.

And the Seeds Grow…

I’m not sure what the future holds for me. Whether I’ll get married. Or have kids. I don’t spend too much time worrying about that. And nights like tonight remind me that it doesn’t really matter because I have a pretty fulfilling life where I am right now, surrounded by some wonderful people.

Tonight I had the opportunity to see one of my kiddos perform at their first big show at IU (okay, dress rehearsal but still). I’ve seen this young woman dance since she was in the 5th grade. Through in-class workshops, dance camps, The Nutcracker, competitions, Youth Sundays, open houses, Adult Hip Hop, Zumba, dance team, choreographing, and more competitions. I’ve watched her grow, strengthen, find her dance and performance “voice”, build confidence, teach and choreograph, and continue to learn and better herself.

Tonight took my breath away. It reminded me that you plant seeds, water them, tend them, and hope that they grow. Sometimes you don’t know right away what that will look like. Some seeds lay dormant for a time, some forever. But in helping plant the seeds you get to watch what blooms too–to see the flower turn out exactly as you thought, or become more beautiful than you ever imagined, or be firmly rooted with a sturdy stem.

I may not have kids. I may not ever. But I have lots of them–people to be proud of, to celebrate. People who give me chills when I see them doing what they love, when they are flourishing. People who I will continue to support and care about for years to come. I’ve watched my kids get married. Heck, one of my first youth and his wife just announced their family is expanding. It’s wonderful to be able to share in their lives. Their joy brings me joy. And for that I’m forever grateful.

Places Unknown

Our Advent sermon series at church this year is “Unexpected”. Today’s subject was Unexpected Places. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see God working in our lives. Other times we face those “small world” moments. It made me think of how I came to work at SCC/Tapestry to begin with–my dad found the posting in the print newspaper Classifieds. I kid you not. Unexpected place–uh, yeah. But that’s how God works.

I’m excited to see what the rest of this sermon series holds. Having a new boss has brought new energy and ideas and conversations. It’s like a breath of fresh air Things feel good, and right, and there is lots of joie de vivre floating around. It’s a reminder that life is full of unknowns. That often means you have to take a leap of faith, or many. Thank goodness for the leaps that got to this place, this point in time.

I follow the poet Morgan Harper Nichols. She posted the below earlier today and it resonated with me. It’s wonderful to feel like others get it.

And so today, I choose to embrace the journey–this journey. And that brings me peace.

The Once and Future Carpenter

My life is led by poems, quotes, and song lyrics. As a creative, I identify with an array of artistry. Just one of those is the written or spoken word. Hence, this blog is very cathartic for me. I often think “this platform is for me, but if it speaks to someone else, that’s just a secondary positive outcome”.

Today is a hard day. A day sure to be filled with the gamut of emotions. Mom’s birthday is a wonderful day of remembrance–of all the things she was (is), of what she taught me (us), of her interactions and relationships with others.

It’s our third thanksgiving celebrating without mom. One while she was in hospice, two after she passed. That first year was the worst–but we had our family all together. The next two we graciously accepted the invitation of some of our dearest friends, family really. But this year is different. Mom’s birthday is Thanksgiving. It’s happened a handful of times over the years. So we come together as a family again this year. Part of me is sad not to be with our friends this year–but I know that this is what we all needed (in different ways).

There are many things to be thankful for this year. For biological family. For chosen family. For the growth 2019 has brought me. For actually feeling like an adult some days. This year has brought lots of realizations about who I am, who I want to be, and directions for the future. It’s brought new dreams, new connections, and new learnings. And I am thankful for all of it.

Mostly today I’m thankful for supportive and understanding people in my life. For those who reach out. For those who might not fully understand but still keep showing up. For those who don’t let the little things go unseen.

I miss you, Mama. Forever on my mind and in my heart. And though I said things to reassure you as you neared the end, as we spend time with Sweeps this week I get teary thinking of the things that you’ll not be here to enjoy with us. And that’s tough.

And so I’ll leave it with these lyrics. Today they feel all too real, and close to my heart. I love the Avett Brothers–today and most days.

Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me
And when I lose my direction I’ll look up to the sky
And when the black cloak drags upon the ground
I’ll be ready to surrender, and remember
Well we’re all in this together
If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die

Family and “Family”

I’m a firm believer in making your own family–whether by blood, marriage, or friendship. There are just people you gel with, who’ve seen you at your best and worst, who know you to your core. These are the relationships I love and hold dear.

Today we got to spend the afternoon with two of our nearest and dearests. Time with them is always worthwhile, even when we are sitting in silence, watching the dogs in the yard, or cooing over Sweeps. They know my heartaches. I know theirs. They know my joys and dreams. And though not quite the same, I know some of theirs. We identify with each other over nerdy fathers, strong mothers, and the odd-ball choices our families make. We gossip. We play games. We make believe (more so when we were kids than we do now). We craft (boy, do we craft).

I am thankful always for people who knew Mom before she was sick–pre2016 really. But I’m especially thankful for the relationship that one of these two had with our Mama. Their own friendship and mentorship. I’m thankful for the way Mom accepted and loved both of them. And they way we all laughed and smiled and enjoyed time together. It makes me remember how much my heart longs for time together–it’s one of my top love languages. And when there are those you can’t spend time with physically any longer, it’s relieving to share stories and memories with those who knew them, no matter the stage.

A Very Happy “Un-Thanksgiving”

I have always loved holidays. Mostly, I think, because of the family time, traditions, and gobs of together time. I’ve realized this week that I am relishing the unique and non-traditional things about holidays now. Foods that are atypical. Activities that are a little off-kilter. This is what I thrive on now. But the family time (in the right amount of doses) and the chosen family time (when possible) is still essential. I am thankful for our time with family this week. And I am thankful for being together during a time with heightened emotions. I don’t want to do what we’ve always done anymore. Because with someone missing it isn’t the same and the tradition is lost and it feels flat, so to speak. And so we take on new holiday directives and experiences and surround ourselves with warmth, and light, and the people we love. And that makes me very, very thankful.

Through These Eyes

November is a heavy month. We roll into winter, often sooner than I’d like. The sky greys, the time changes, and everything seems to be starting its slumber. But the last few years I’ve been hyper aware in November. Watching for the Facebook memories to tick through some of the most grueling moments in my life thus far. Ticking through the moments of joy and celebration as well. An endless emotional roller coaster.

This year I realized I haven’t really been paying attention. I’ve been busy with school, and work, and working out, and trying to get my head on straight about all of the changes around me in different areas of my life. I haven’t been cognizant of my emotions or memories. I don’t feel like I’ve stuffed them down, but I definitively haven’t kept them at the forefront like I usually do. Not sure that is good or bad–it just is.

But earlier this week I was reminded about the anniversary of the passing of a dear family friend and it jolted me into my typical “November habits”. I texted Shelly one morning to let her know I was in a heightened emotional state (we have a “crying pact”). And I did some remembering of this family friend in hopes of sharing some solace with her daughter, which lead to this:

But I still hadn’t gotten to the point of fully embracing November. This year mom’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving. It happens every so often. So we will be together as a family. And a month or so ago I texted a handful of people and asked them to specifically reach out to me next week because I’d surely struggle (thankfully I have an even smaller handful that would/will do this without me asking). But last night I knew I wasn’t giving myself what I needed. I offered to do dinner with people in my cohort–most were unavailable or bailed at the last minute (totally okay). And I felt relieved, because I could just take time for me. I did. I went to the gym. Got tea for a friend and had a quick catch up. And went home and vegged on the couch with Shelly (who I’ve barely seen all week).

But I was reminded that I need to notice my emotions and the time of year. I need to consciously not forget. I woke up at 4am this morning. And I knew. I could feel my brain acting like a fly swatter saying, “alright, I get it. I see you. I feel you. I. Get. It.” Not terse, but tired. And so I start the remembering. Because she’s too important to forget. Because I’m fueled by emotions (the ups and the downs). Because I fully intend to be the same kind of spirit that tugs on sleeves, and wakes people during the witching hour, and refuses to be silenced. Because this is her time.

I see you.