Restoration.

And then one day, I woke up and decided I wasn’t going to be sad anymore. And just like that, I wasn’t. I wish I could tell you there was some miracle cure, a song I heard, a book I read, or some advice I received that changed me. But there wasn’t. It was completely, unequivocally, no doubt about it – Jesus. For a long time I think I felt like if I stopped being sad, everything that had happened would lose its value. All the memories, the love, the experiences, would stop being meaningful. The sadness that overwhelmed me was somehow keeping those moments alive and real. I was so afraid that by moving on, I would diminish their worth.

It is only now that I am stronger, or at least braver, that I realize that the opposite is true. By allowing my heart to break over and over and granting access to a spirit of grief to live inside of me, I was ruining myself. True, I may have been holding on to those experiences more closely by reliving them every day. But I was depreciating their worth by connecting them with my sadness. The feelings and memories I have clung to should be celebrated because God specifically gave those to me. He chose me and only me to experience those moments. When focusing on the pain of my loss, the anxiety of my present and the fear of my future, I am left with nothing. I know now that though the season has passed, the joy should remain.

It is only because of my struggles and trials that I am truly beginning to understand the importance of trusting God’s plan. Regardless of what we spend our time thinking about, God’s will always triumphs over our thoughts. Nothing we say or do will change the plan God has written for us in his book. It is so much better that anything we could plan on our own. However, by being faithful, we can avoid so much of the pain and heartache that comes along the way by trying to fix, understand, and regret the things that happen to us. Mark 10:9 tells us, if it is God’s will, no man can separate what He has orchestrated and put together. Be confident in knowing that if it’s meant to be, it will, and if it’s not, something better is on its way.

There will still be days when my heart is heavy and my soul weary with the regret and wonderment of what “might have been.” But the difference is that now I can take a deep breath, close my eyes, and allow God’s promises to wash over me. Peace will flow through my veins, hope will fill up my lungs, and gratitude will overtake my heart. I may not be healed completely yet and it may be a long time before I am. But I am restored. Revived. Rejuvenated. Renewed. And the best news of all? God isn’t finished with me yet.

The Truth About Heartbreak

I don’t care what anyone says. Heartbreak hurts just as strongly, just as deeply as physical pain. The sobs that rack through your body, causing you to hunch over as you clutch your hands together. Your lungs collapsing in on themselves as you gasp desperately for breath. A heartbreak cuts just as deep as a sharp knife into your flesh. The crushing feeling in your chest is comparable to being squeezed into an overly tight straight jacket, arms bound, unable to break free from the constriction. Your throat begins to close up as if invisible hands are wrapped around your neck, threatening to suffocate you from their unrelenting grasp. Your eyes fill with tears that stream down your face, over and over and over again, until they hurt so badly that you’re sure there couldn’t possibly be another drop of liquid left to surrender. Your head pounds in agony from your incessant weeping and your nose feels raw and full from excessive blowing. You feel broken.

And finally, when you’ve sobbed until you can’t any longer, a new feeling encompasses you. A feeling of loss. Most of all, you feel empty. Like everything that once sustained you and kept you full, has been drained from your body. The small pools that remained have dried up like a puddle in the desert sun. Your hands shake with fatigue. Your lips tremble. Your mouth is too dry to speak. You are exhausted and weak. Numb and dispassionate. Your once lively soul feels dull. The light that once shone brightly from your aura has dimmed to a mere flicker.

However, for anyone with a broken heart, there is good news. It may not happen the same day or even the same week but if you pray, if you surrender it all to God, if you believe, something amazing will happen.

Quietly, in the depths of your sadness and despair, something will stir. A faint shimmer of light will cascade down into the darkness where you lie. As you crawl toward the light in wonder, you will realize your body is no longer as weak as you once imagined. You breathe deeply and feel your lungs fill up with fresh air that replenishes your blood stream and quickens your pulse. As you pull yourself up onto your knees, you notice that your chest and arms are no longer tightly bridled and your strength is returning. You force yourself to stand and the pounding that once resided in your temples has vanished and your head is weightless and clear. Your heart beats rhythmically, in sync with the beautiful melody that has overtaken your soul. You are healed. You are whole. You are free.

God never created us to live as broken people. There will always be both good days and bad, happiness and sadness, joy and pain. While these may seem like mere emotions, they are immeasurably powerful. We should never discount a single feeling, passion, or experience no matter how slight or how unimportant they may seem. For every single one of them contributes toward shaping our character into the person we will ultimately become. It’s important to realize that you are not the same person today that you were yesterday. Nor are you the same person today as you will be tomorrow. We are constantly changing, growing, and developing.

Be confident in knowing that when you experience something like heartbreak, whether it be from the passing of a family member, the loss of relationship, or the betrayal of a friend, everything has it’s purpose. Ecclesiastes tells us, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Whatever you’re going through right now, understand that it is preparing you for the next season. Don’t lose faith because you’re in a difficult period right now. Trust in God’s will and be vigilant in your faith. He has something more extraordinary planned for your life than you could ever plan on your own.

Be patient.

True Value

If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?
You wouldn’t.
So why do we insist on beating ourselves up and feeling unworthy?
We tend to focus on our flaws, our regrets, our guilt. We hurt ourselves with our innermost thoughts, torturing our hearts with feelings of inadequacy.
More often than not the “inner me” becomes the “enemy.”

In Psalm 139, God assures us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
He formed us perfectly in our mother’s womb and carefully wrote out every single day of our lives in His book. If we look inside ourselves, we will see that HIS Spirit lives inside. His loving, forgiving, faithful presence. When we allow it to shine through from the inside out, He will be all that anyone can see.
Now, if that isn’t proof of our true value and worth then I don’t know what is.

“When it rains, it pours.”

There is saying that goes, “When it rains, it pours.” Over time I’ve been learning that despite the storms, God will never let it flood.

Often times when we are in those stormy seasons of our lives, we feel so overwhelmed that we begin to lose hope. The rain pours down around us in vicious sheets, causing us to be temporarily blinded. In addition to the rain, we feel like chunks of hail are pelting down, painfully sharp and unrelenting. We feel under attack by our problems and soon we are tempted to stop fighting and just sink. Allow ourselves to be swept away by the heavy downpour, slowly drowning in the swift undertow.

To be honest, I’ve been in this season lately. But this week, God spoke to me. He told me I’ve been looking at it all wrong.

Sometimes as the rain comes in, He watches the storm brew silently instead of intervening. This isn’t for a lack of care or love for me. On the contrary, it’s for His abundance of such things. He is watching the water cleanse me inside and out. The rain washes away the outer layer of dirt I’ve allowed to collect. It seeps into my skin and detoxifies all the impurities that have built up inside. The harsh winds whip around me, causing me to sway, in order that I can stand taller and strengthen my stance. The jagged rocks of hail beat down upon me, chipping away all of the excess I’ve accumulated that is outside of the mold He is shaping me into.
But more than anything, He is allowing that storm to water the seeds He has planted inside of me. They’ve been there all along, but without the rain, nothing can grow.

While the storm you’re in may seem ruthless and unyielding, don’t lose hope. It’s weathering you for a major transformation that is about to take place if you’ll allow it. God is breaking you down to prepare you for a break through. We may not understand it at the time, but one day we can look back on this storm and realize it was watering the seeds of an extraordinary harvest that has since flourished and multiplied.

So for now, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and put away your umbrella.
A rainbow is on it’s way.

Writing Prompt on Writing

Hey friends! I know it’s been awhile, but I’m back. I am going to try out a new book I got recently that is filled with writing prompts and exercises designed to strengthen and improve your writing. Please feel free to leave comments, questions and constructive criticism below!🙂

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Writing Prompt: List the positive messages you’ve received about your writing or about any creative undertaking. What did people say? How did they say it? Then, write about times when you felt good about your writing, such as when a great idea zipped into your mind or when you finished a project that turned out well. Keep these messages and memories handy. When you’re feeling stale or want to berate yourself about your work, read about what you’ve done in the past and know you can do it again.

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When I was in first grade I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Robertson. She was a short, cheerful woman with short brunette hair and permanently rosy cheeks. Mrs. Robertson realized right away that I was too advanced for the reading that the rest of the class was doing and began to send me out to the hall with a classmate named Ben to read chapter books instead. At one point my grandmother even came down on and off to volunteer with us since we were so far ahead. Mrs. Robertson told me and my grandmother than I was an excellent writer and that I should pursue my talent. This is my first memory of wanting desperately to become a published author.

I learned to read when I was four years old. My grandmother and granddaddy read books to me all day long and then when my Daddy would get off work each night he would read to me as well, picking up on a book we were reading together. Usually he read to me from The Happy Hollister series, one which I loved with all my heart. I truly believe that this experience helped fuel my deep desire for reading and writing and significantly impacted the person I have become.

In 4th or 5th grade I won a writing contest for a poem I had written. The poem was about a race and how even if you fall, you should get up and keep running and finish the race. I wish I could find a copy of that poem. I got first place in the poetry category and got to attend a special recognition event at the Tulsa Superintendent Office. There were a lot of other kids there who loved writing as well as a distinguished author who presented us our awards. My interest in writing continued to increase. Also in 4th or 5th grade I was runner up in the school spelling bee. My grandmother used to quiz me with word lists from the front of the dictionary and I was spelling at a high school level already. I was so close to winning but I missed the word “immense.” I spelled it with an “e” instead of an “i.”

Throughout elementary school I was obsessed with the movie, “Harriet the Spy. She wanted to be a writer and carried around a black and white composition notebook to jot down ideas as well as information she collected about people she knew. I loved this idea and immediately made my Dad buy me a similar notebook and began journaling. I started my journal the exact same way which was by describing things about everyone I knew. It was silly and mostly gossip but I felt accomplished.

Soon my journal became a place to jot down my feelings, things that had happened, and gush about my current crushes. I can’t remember which teacher, but someone told me to never stop journaling my entire life. She urged me to buy notebook after notebook and that I would be thankful when I was older. I continued to journal all through high school, though definitely not as often as when I was younger. I was afraid to share as much as I got older in fear that someone might find and read. Typical teenager, right? Sigh. I stopped journaling in college, simply because I couldn’t find the time or motivation. I’m sad to say that I lost my spark for writing for a few years after graduating high school and it took quite a while for me to find it again. I still journal from time to time and would really like to become more consistent.

More recently in college I have encountered some amazing people who have encouraged me to start writing again. One professor, Teresa, has had an incredibly powerful impact on my writing goals. She is the kind of person who everyone is immediately drawn to and lights up a room just by walking in. She is a ball of energy that never runs out and I don’t think I have ever seen her without a smile on her face. She is so incredibly supportive of her students and their writing and I was no exception. Whether it was as a courtesy or from the heart, she made me feel like what I had to say was worth reading and more than that, it was worth continuing to write about. Soon I was writing short memoirs of my life and exploring fiction and poetry. Though I have graduated now and am working on my masters, we are still close and she continues to push me toward my goals and encourages me to enroll in writing workshops and meet with authors. I really don’t know if I would have started writing again if it weren’t for Teresa. What an absolutely wonderful woman.

Currently I am taking an Honors Writing Workshop through TCC with a professor named Josh. Although I have only shared my writing with the class once, Josh has been extremely supportive and has urged me to continue the novel on. He said that he used to work for Amazon reading synopses for books that were trying to be published. He said that I had definitely written a story that was publishable and it had all the right components for a best seller. I received incredible feedback from my classmates that night. One person in my class critique circle even told me that if they picked up my book in the store and started reading it (from what I shared in class which was chapter 1 and part of 2) that they would be immediately intrigued enough to buy the book then and there! Wow, talk about an amazing compliment. I was smiling from ear to ear driving home that night. That happened exactly a week ago and I’ve decided to become serious about my writing.

By beginning to do these writing exercises on a regular basis, I am trying to remind myself that not everything I write needs to be an incredible, perfect, piece. I am learning that everything I write strengthens my ability a little bit more and piece by piece I will fully embrace the talent that God has given me. If you have a passion for something, yet fail to actively pursue it, you are denying yourself great joy. Don’t put it off for even another day. Start now and prepare yourself for a blissful life.

Worries of the Mind and Soul

Hey guys!

First off let me apologize for not writing all summer, I am a bad, bad writer in that sense. Please forgive me?

Ok whew, now that we have that behind us, how about some good news?! I started Graduate School last week! Woo! It is going to be a whole new world for me but I am excited!

Today I think I will share a piece that I may later add on to… or maybe I won’t. I haven’t quite decided so I figured my readers could help me out. Comment & let me know what you think & whether I should continue this story or move on! I will probably post lots of things like this for your input, so be ready🙂 Here we go…

*Chelsey*

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Worries of the Mind and Soul

Lisa    

I sat back against the worn leather seat and stared out of the plane window into the dark night. An overweight man with greasy black hair and a long thick beard partially blocked my view with his heaving chest, already fast asleep. I sighed to myself and cursed myself for not paying the extra money to upgrade to a first class ticket. For at least the tenth time that day, I questioned myself about whether I was making the right decision of attending the international conference for my company that weekend. My husband, Gary, had been acting more distant than ever in the past few weeks. All the signs had pointed to him having an affair but I couldn’t convince myself to confront him about it just yet. I wondered who it was, Cindy his little, borderline anorexic secretary, or maybe Tonya our single neighbor. She always had given him that “look” that made me uneasy. What a tramp. I let out a deep breath and tried not to think about it. This was going to be a long flight from Chicago to Denmark.

I studied the people in the seats around me who would likely become my greatest source of entertainment for the next 8 hours. In the row in front of me I could see the back of two blonde heads, one looking to be a woman in her 40s with huge curly hair, and beside her, a younger version girl with long ringlets and hot pink hoop earrings poking out between her curls. A small child squirmed between them, bouncing up and down and causing the seat in front of me to shake. I wondered if the toddler belonged to the older woman or teenage girl; either one wasn’t a far-fetched assumption these days.

I glanced over my right shoulder, wondering if I would have any luck finding a chat buddy in any of my fellow passengers. In the row behind me sat an Asian couple wearing large hats, who seemed to be arguing about something intensely in Japanese. Beside them sat a young boy with huge headphones wrapped around his head, probably no more than sixteen. His eyes were closed as he nodded his head violently to the music, playing an invisible set of drums in front of him with a couple of colored pencils. His sketchbook was still open on the tray in front of him which displayed a perfectly drawn depiction of my now snoring neighbor, complete with a drop of drool trickling into his wiry beard. I giggled and turned back around before he noticed.

A young girl in her 20s made her way back from the bathroom and took her seat in the empty chair to my right. She had been gone so long that I’d forgotten she was sitting there. Inspecting her now I realized that she was shockingly beautiful. Her chestnut brown hair had an unkempt look but shined beautifully, falling down her shoulders in long, natural waves. Her green eyes darted up at me as she slid into her seat and I noticed that her cheeks were flushed, and a light mist of sweat coated her forehead.

“Are you alright?’ I asked her softly, not wanting to intrude.

She nodded quickly and leaned back into her seat, carefully draping her pale yellow cardigan across her body as a makeshift blanket before closing her eyes. She looks so peaceful drifting off to sleep, I thought to myself, kind of like the way actresses look when they sleep on TV, not like normal snoring, drooling, people such as my hefty neighbor to my left. I smiled at this thought and settled into my own seat preparing for the long ride. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

 

Matt

I still couldn’t believe my parents were sending me off to Denmark to spend the entire summer with my grandparents. I mean so what if I’d skipped a few classes last semester and tagged up a few walls with graffiti. They don’t understand my love for art and probably never will. I sighed deeply and dug my headphones and iPod out of my backpack. The Chinese people beside me were yelling at each other right in my ear and I was starting to get really annoyed at the whole ordeal. I turned up my Pearl Jam playlist and began to sketch a picture of my Rottweiler, Ranger, who I wouldn’t be seeing for at least two long months. I wish I would have brought a picture of him with me but the only one I have is on my phone and I’d better not turn it on or the plane might.

I rolled my eyes and turned to a fresh page of the sketchbook, looking around for something interesting to draw. A beautiful, young brunette girl was sitting in front of me a little while ago but she’d been gone from her seat for a while now. There was a pretty woman seated in the chair next to hers, probably in her mid 30s with rimless, modern glasses and straight, jet black hair. As I examined her expensive looking business suit between the cracks in the seats, I noticed her check her diamond studded gold watch. Yeah, I agreed with her silently, it was going to be a very long 8 hours.

I decided that the man beside her looked like the most promising subject for my artwork. I studied the huge hairy, Italian man with his hair slicked back in an attempt to hide the bald spot peeking through the massive amount of gel that sat on top of his head. A raspy snore escaped from slightly open mouth, allowing a stream of drool to leak down into his bird’s nest of a beard. Perfect, I thought to myself grinning and began my drawing, taking my time on his caterpillar eyebrows that seemed to crawl together with every breath he took. About halfway through the sketch, my favorite song came on my iPod and I closed my eyes, drumming my pencils in the air, already yearning for my beloved drum set that would undoubtedly sit unused in my room for the entire summer.

When I opened my eyes I saw the cute brunette returning to the seat in front of me. She was prettier than I’d remembered and I wondered for a brief moment whether I could pass for a few years older and hope for a summer fling in Denmark. I quickly dismissed the thought from my mind, knowing I would never have the courage to say two words to the girl, let alone strike up a conversation that could cause her to become interested in me. I watched the seat in front of me lean back as she settled in to sleep and wished I could drift off as well. I had just returned to my drawing, carefully shading the circles under the man’s eyes when I heard the pretty woman with the jet black hair let out a high pitched scream of terror. I jumped up from my seat and my jaw dropped open and the sight unfolding before me.

Anna

A week before the trip I had just lost my job of five years which I loved, my boyfriend Danny, who was the only man I’d ever truly loved, broke up with me for an 18 year old exchange student, and my parents finally admitted that they were giving in to their Marriage Counselor’s advice and considering “friendly” divorce. I couldn’t have imagined then that a week later I would be on a plane, flying halfway around the world for no particular reason.

I should have known the night before last that something was wrong. I had been having a nightmare in which Danny was calling to me from the top of a snow covered mountain. I climbed and climbed but I wasn’t getting anywhere and the top seemed to be getting farther and farther away. Suddenly, I lost my footing and began to slide recklessly down the mountain, tumbling over rocks and shark ledges at full speed. As I made my way down, my thoughts began to run together and jumble in knots, making me unsure of everything I thought I knew. It was as if I could truly feel every jolt of pain as I tumbled downward and my head began felt like it was turning into part of the mushy snow itself. This seemed to go on for hours and when I awoke, I was shivering and confused. I had no idea where I was or why. I knew I was me, but somehow I was even unsure of who “me” actually was. I wandered around my apartment in a disoriented daze and finally lay down on a couch and tried to return to sleep. Was this my couch? Was this my home? How did I get here? The questions had flooded my mind until I drifted back into a baffled sleep.

The next morning I felt groggy and my brain seemed to be covered in a thick fog. I went on with my day and felt a little bit better after eating my breakfast and walking my dog, Tiny. I decided not to tell anyone about what had happened. My parents would just worry and I didn’t want anything to interfere with my spontaneous plan to visit my dear friend and oldest pen pal, Anastasia, in Estonia.

The morning I was to leave for my trip just about everything that could possibly go wrong did. I somehow missed my alarm and woke up with a splitting headache. The cab was late picking me to go to the airport and halfway there I realized I had forgotten my passport and was forced to ask him if he could kindly turn around in morning traffic for me to retrieve it. Once I got to the airport I was chosen at random to have the extra security measures performed on me, since a 24 year old girl wearing sweatpants and a Hello Kitty t-shirt obviously looked like the Unabomber. Finally I made it to the gate just in time to grab a plain coffee from JavaJoes and dash back to the line of passengers filing onto the plane.

As I stepped through the threshold onto the plane, a large man in desperate need of a shower bumped me into the flight attendant with his monstrous belly. The coffee went soaring and landed hard on the floor between us, splattering steaming hot, brown liquid all over my favorite sweatpants. A couple drops must have landed on the attendant as well because she gave me a burning, laser stare that would likely kill someone if this were a Star Trek movie. My stress level was at an all time high at this point and I felt like I was going to throw up or bunch someone, possibly both. I dropped off my bag at my seat and rushed to the bathroom at the back of the plane. During takeoff, two different attendants pounded on the door, insisting that I must return to my seat. I refused and told them I would certainly vomit all over their plane if they forced me to leave the bathroom. They didn’t knock again. Alone with my thoughts I felt like a wild woman. My hair was soaked with sweat and my mascara was smeared beneath my eyes. I felt dizzy and weak and wondered if I had remembered to put my Xanyx in my carryon bag.

When the captain made the announcement that we had reached a safe altitude to move about as we wished around the cabin, I heard the first knock at the door. I sighed and knew I would have to return to my seat no matter how bad I felt. The person outside aggressively knocked again, sending me into an angry frenzy as I busted the door open and stalked to my seat. I settled into my seat and heard the woman beside me ask if I was okay. I’m far from okay, I thought, but nodded vigorously in her direction and closed my eyes. I felt for a pill in my bag and popped it into my mouth hoping it would help me to fall asleep soon.

When I woke up I was in a different seat on the airplane, surrounded by paramedics. They were shining a light in my face and I felt the blood pressure pump tightening around my arm. The lights above me seemed to move around strangely and everything was colored with an odd reddish tint.

“Are you with me sweetheart?” A voice beside me asked. I stared at him but no words came out. I looked to my right and saw the woman who had asked if I was okay standing with a teenage boy. Their faces were white with horror as they stared at me. I shook my head trying to clear it as a doctor in front of me placed his cold hands on my shoulders. He brought his face close to mine and said very carefully,

“It’s important that you don’t move your head around Anna. You’ve just had a seizure.”

The Power of Freedom

Good Afternoon! Today may be cloudy and rainy but it is a wonderful day nevertheless! Why, you ask? Because…

1) It’s Friday!

2) I am finished with all of my classes & finals!

 3) *drum roll please…* I graduate on Monday!

So there ya have it, Life is GRAND. Also, now that I’m finished with school, I will have much more time to work on my writing as well as update my blog.  I do have a memoir which I will be sharing with you all today, but first there are a few notable things that have happened in my life this past month-

–For one, I got to meet best-selling author, Alexander McCall Smith. He was in town to speak at an event at my college and my Mom and I were lucky enough to identify him at the pre-event reception and corner him for a quick chat. He is a very kind man who you cannot help but admire. The way he speaks is so gentle and eloquent that you feel yourself hanging on to every word, not wanting to miss anything he tells you. He encouraged me to never stop writing and reminded me that J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books, was rejected 9 times before her first book got picked up to be published. His public lecture that followed was absolutely phenomenol and I think I laughed more that one evening than I have in the past six months. If you haven’t heard of him, I strongly suggest that you pick up a copy of my personal favorite book from him- *The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency* (It is not at all how it sounds! In short, it’s about a woman in Africa who starts her own detective agency in her village and is hillarious and thought provoking to say the least)

–The second thing worth mentioning is that I had the opportunity to attend a Writing Workshop that was lead by another wonderful author, Wade Rouse. He writes detailed memoirs, which I can promise you, will have tears rolling down your cheeks from laughter. My mom attended the workshop with me also, as we have recently decided to become filthy rich, best-selling authors sometime in the near future. The workshop was very beneficial and I wished it could have lasted all week instead of just a few hours. At one point during the session, Wade asked that everyone take out some paper to do an exercise. He asked us to write about something that we have been afraid to write about up until now. While some people wrote comical pieces about aging and regrets of their past, I took the assignment to heart and wrote about something deeply personal. I was shaking by the time I had finished and my face was flush from pouring out so much emotion in 20 minutes. Surprisingly, Wade walked by my table during the break that followed and said, “Now you want to read, don’t you?” pointing at me. I was shocked and scared and quickly shook my head at him. He smiled and said it was okay and moved on to talk to other people. When we resumed from break, a few more people shared their pieces and he looked around the room and asked if anyone else might like to read. For some unbekonwnst reason, my hand raised up into the air shakily to volunteer and he of course grinned and called on me. I was the last person to read and by the time I was finished with the 3 page memoir, my eyes were blurry with tears and my heart was threatening to beat out of my chest. He applauded my courage and told me how moving and beautifully written it was. After the workshop was over, I spoke to him and he told me again how much he enjoyed it and encouraged me to keep writing. After taking a picture with him, a couple other members of the class came up to me and told me how moved they were by my piece. One woman told me she had never heard anything so powerful in all of her workshops she had attended and begged me to publish it somewhere, anywhere. Though I was terrified out of my mind that day to write something I thought I would never have the courage to put down on to paper, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. I somehow now feel “free” of the experience, free and strong.

I know many of you will be disappointed when I tell you that the piece mentioned above is not the one I will be sharing today. Though I am proud of that piece and have since revised it, I’m just not ready to share it here yet. I hope you all can be understanding it that and I can promise you that one day, it WILL be shared, somewhere, somehow. Here are a couple pictures from the events-

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My Mom & I at the Harwelden reception where we talked to Alexander McCall Smith

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My signed copy🙂

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Alexander McCall Smith at the lecture

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Me with Wade Rouse

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Writing away at the workshop

🙂

As always, thanks for being patient with my inconsistent posts. We as writers all have to start somewhere!

-Today I will be sharing a memoir I wrote about growing up playing in my grandmother’s side yard. The years I spent in that magical yard were some of the best  of my life thus far. Enjoy!

*Chelsey*

 

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My World of Freedom

 

      In my elementary school years, the world was a simple place filled with monkey bars during the school year, sleds during the winter and swimming pools in the summertime. When I wasn’t stuck at school, my days were typically spent at my grandmother’s house, more specifically in her side yard. Every day after school, I would scarf down a quick snack and race outside to that magical yard. It wasn’t just a side yard for me, it was my special place; my world of freedom.

      Sometimes I would climb to the highest possible branches of one of the two apple trees and just sit, taking in all the sights and sounds of the world around me. Other times I would spend the afternoon throwing a baseball into the air and quickly smacking it with my bat while racing around the yard, using the three trees as bases. Almost daily, however, I would find myself swinging on the rusty green jungle gym that had stood firmly in the middle of the yard ever since my dad and aunt were children who played on it themselves. I would do pull ups and flips, frontwards and backwards, twisting and turning from bar or bar until my hands were stained with green rust from the crackling paint. No matter what I did in that yard, I was almost always singing. Church songs, songs from movies, radio songs, and even songs I made up were heard by every bird, squirrel and insect that inhabited the yard. Singing helped me to feel free.

     Along the red brick wall near the side of the house there were a few vegetables that had been planted in the shade. These hopeless plants were inevitably crushed in time from my relentless racing during my fantasy baseball games and track sprints. A bit farther down the wall, bordering the backyard was a chain link fence covered with beautiful Concord grape vines. I can’t even count how many times I would search the vines on a mission to find the perfect grape that the birds hadn’t yet touched. I was always disappointed when I would bite through the skin that released a bitter, sour flavor to leak onto my tongue. The granny smith apple trees weren’t much better, as the countless light green apples that littered the ground were full of wormholes and decay from the hot Oklahoma sun. Anytime I did have the good fortune of finding a couple that were somehow untouched; they usually shared the same tart flavor as the grapes.

     Many summers my grandmother would present me with the special job of gathering up the good apples for her to make apple pies with. The smell of the sweet baking pies always made my mouth water as I impatiently paced the kitchen, waiting for our delicious treat. I never did understand as a child how those bitter, sour apples could be turned into such a tasty dessert. One summer my grandmother decided to take on the difficult task of making homemade wine from the grapes along the fence. I remember seeing dozens of tubs of thick, dark purple grape juice scattered around the garage covered with nets and wraps. They were usually surrounded with more fruit flies than I had ever seen. She let me taste the wine when she was finally finished and, to my surprise it was even worse than the grapes, tasting sharply bitter with a strong pungent aftertaste.

I spit it out immediately exclaiming, “Oh Grandmother, there is something very wrong with the wine!”

She laughed and told me it was supposed to taste that way. Shocked and disgusted, it was that day that I firmly vowed to never drink wine again. This vow would hold strong for the next ten years until I discovered my long lost soul mate, Shiraz.

     There were many other adventures that happened in the side yard, several that I wish I could return to and relive. My grandmother had neighbors in the cul-de-sac who had a daughter named Lauren. I called her Laurie and delighted in annoying her on a daily basis. She was 4 years older than I was and much too “cool” for my favorite dolls and Disney movies indoors. On the days that I was able to coax her into coming over to play, we would often run through the sprinkler pretending the soft grass beneath us was hot lava. Other days we would torment my grandmother’s cat, Goldie, by making the world’s longest strings out of shoelaces and ribbons and letting him chase it around the yard until he would yawn and saunter away bored with our game. Sometimes I would work up enough courage to run full speed across the next door neighbor’s driveway to get to Laurie’s yard. The house between us contained nothing but a chain link fence to separate the long driveway with a terrifying, barking German Shepherd behind it. I was positive that this particular dog was constantly ready to leap over the fence and tear off my face at any moment. Most of the time after weighing the dangers, I would conclude that jumping on Laurie’s trampoline just wasn’t worth the risk.

     My favorite memory in my grandmother’s side yard was when we were rewarded with at least two feet of snow, which resulted in the best snow day I had ever had. My daddy took off work early that day and surprised me by joining me in the yard to play. I told him very matter-of-factly that I wanted to build an igloo, since snowmen were so boring. My grandparents raised their eyebrows and tried to tell me that I was asking too much, but my daddy set to work without a word. A few hours later our igloo was complete and big enough for both of us to crawl inside and sit. I have pictures of this day that warm my heart every time I come across them. I’ll never forget that igloo we built, it is one of the best memories I have. 

     Even though I am no longer a child spending my days in the side yard, I think back to my childhood often and am immensely grateful that I was raised on apple trees and igloos instead of cartoons and video games. As an adult, I walk through the yard now speculating on how high I could climb into the trees and whether or not I would still be able to round the bases with a good time. My grandmother’s cat, Goldie, is now buried under one of those apple trees and the jungle gym has long been gone, unable to withstand anymore love upon its  rusty bars. Regardless of how time may change the scenery, I will forever keep those memories in my heart. I truly hope that one day I will have a side yard of my own for my children and grandchildren to grow up in as well complete with apple trees, fantasy baseball games and sweet summertime songs of freedom.

 

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