A Different Kind of War

A Different Kind of War

It is a different kind of war we wage when it comes to love. For in finding our center of gravity we also let go of everything that ties us to the floor of certainties. We don’t realize how many puzzle pieces are missing until we find the soul who owns them. Within this completion is a sense of peace unheard of. Within this wholeness dwell the innermost truths we never dared to whisper out loud, but only dreamed we would actually feel someday. And within this orb of unheard truths we step forward together, hand in hand, heartbeats syncing. We don’t know what is around the blind corners, but nevertheless, we do not let go of each other. Because if nothing else we have discovered that the world makes no sense if we aren’t together.

It is a different kind of war we fight when it comes to love. There are monsters behind those corners, and they attack our orb of pink gold light with weapons made of shadows. But I will fight back to back with you against these attacks and the dark places, those innermost truths my weapon. And if our light sputters and we lose some of the battles, we still press forward hand in hand: always stronger together. Perhaps a day will come when I am not strong enough to fight. When thick gray fog rises to obscure the intricate ties that bind our hearts and souls together. If this should happen, please find me again, and hold me in the home of your arms. Until the beat of your heart beside my ear heals all of the broken parts and makes all of those ties even stronger.

It is a different kind of war we face when it comes to love. As we continue forward we will glimpse peaceful cities and rolling fields so vibrantly green, and perhaps we’ll jump into rivers and dry off again under brilliant rays of sun. We will not always have to fight shadows and monsters. But if a day comes when we enter a dark wood and you should lose your way, remember that I will find you. Or if you find yourself facing an impenetrable wall on all sides, know that I will not stop until I conquer the wall brick by brick. And if it should happen that you fall inside yourself, trapped at the bottom of your soul, never forget that I will always reach for you and pull you back towards the light. One day there may be problems I cannot fix. But I’ll hold you as close as I can while I fight ghosts that haunt you. And keep you safe until morning.

It is a beautiful kind of war we declare when it comes to love. And we know it isn’t a constant war, and in the end, the plenty will outweigh the famine. Perhaps there will be days when I wear a white dress that tickles my feet, and we’ll visit hilltops or orchards of apple blossoms. Or perhaps we’ll find a peaceful library with a nook containing just enough pillows. You’ll read something French and I’ll stick to the Postmodern. And the days like this will make it easier when the white turns to red, and we find ourselves in battle again.

I visited a cathedral once. And saw rows of standards taken into battle. Flags that had seen so much death, and had somehow made it home. Now they hang in places of sanctuary and God. A testament to their victory, to the preciousness of what the fight was for.

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Hide & Seek

As number eight of ten children, I have played a fair amount of hide and seek in my lifetime. There would be games where there were six or seven of us all playing hide and seek together throughout the house. And let me tell you, even though hide and seek sounds like a tame pastime it was not. It got wild. In fact, at one point my mother had to officially ban hide and seek in our home, and from then on we had to ask permission to play it.

boardwalkMy brother’s favorite hiding spot was in the very top of the linen closet in the hallway. It was a giant closet full of the ridiculous amount of linen it takes to maintain a family of 12. And he would climb to the very top and hide among all the blankets and sheets.

We had a window seat in the hallway with a bench you could climb into. That was a popular hiding spot if you could get somebody to help you rearrange all the cushions and pillows back on it after you hid inside. The sock basket in the laundry room was also a very popular spot. It was exactly what it sounds like: a gigantic basket full of the number of socks it takes to maintain a family of 12. (We have long since upgraded to a different method when it comes to socks.) But again, that took cooperation from your fellow players.

Can you see now why my mom banned the game? I never got it until I was older.

It was usually fairly easy to find the first few people. But my older siblings were always the best at hiding, of course, and so if it ever began to take too long to find somebody we’d have to shout, “Give me a hint!”

It was then the privilege of whoever had picked such a good spot to make whatever noise they deemed necessary to lead us to them. It was usually some variation of a high pitched hoot.

I’ve been thinking for some time now about all of this, and about how life can seem very much like a game of hide and seek sometimes. I think that, as humans, we tend to get caught up in the fact that we’re all looking for things. And how we can’t always seem to find them right away.

And the entire world is stuffed to the brim with cliches about how life isn’t about always seeking and you should enjoy the journey and blah blah blah. Not that I am knocking these cliches. It is my firm opinion that cliches exist for a reason. So don’t disregard the cliches.

However. The older I get, the more I come to realize how individual life is. We are all lighthouseconnected in so many ways, I believe much more than we know. And yet life isn’t a “one size fits all” type of thing. It just isn’t. Everybody’s story is different. I believe that there are lessons each one of us needs to learn. But we all learn them differently. And thus, nobody’s life is exactly the same.

Another thing I have learned is that in so many situations you have to do what is best for you. That could mean a lot of things, but at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself. Your personal wellbeing is what is really important.

I think that in today’s world this idea can get over exaggerated to the point of selfishness. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about living the life you’re supposed to live and waking up every morning knowing that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.

And the thing about life is that we all make mistakes. We all do things that we sort of regret or really regret or crazy deeply regret. But that’s just the way it is. Our tendency to do human things doesn’t change the truth of what is really in our hearts and souls. We are so much more than a bundle of substances. You only have to look deep into somebody else’s eyes to see that.

I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I was the worst seeker in the hide and seek game between my siblings. It seemed like it took me hours to find everybody. And life feels like that sometimes, too. You feel like you fail over and over again to find something or get somewhere you think you should be. But the reality of it is that you’re just living your life, walking down your own path. And that’s going to look different for you than it does for others.

I heard it said once that if we could hang everybody’s troubles up on a clothesline you would choose your own every time. I have always found this very interesting, and yet very true every time I really think about it.

As a general rule, I think that we tend to be our own worst enemies. And that isn’t fair.

I was told recently that a lot of my views would only work in an ideal world. It hurt me pretty deeply until I thought about it some more. And then it was pointed out to me: shouldn’t we be striving for the ideal? We are imperfect people in an imperfect world, italybut shouldn’t we always be trying for something better?

And I think that’s the key. You may feel lost or you may feel that you can’t find your way. But if you do your best, whatever that might be from day to day, then you’re striving towards the ideal. And it isn’t always enough to tell yourself that everything is going to be okay. Even though it absolutely will be. You are okay and you are enough today. Right now. Just as you are. Any steps you take should just be in order to illuminate what is already beautiful.

Darling, Just Hold On

I have drafted this post probably ten times. Each time gets more confusing and way more wordy than it needs to. The idea I’m trying to convey is not a complex one. But for some reason, it has been hard for me to accurately explain myself.

There is a trend in humanity that I am not fond of. I have thought about it quite a lot, and collageI can’t decide if it is a product of our times or if it is a product of being human.

It is the idea of cutting people out of your life.

To be completely truthful, I almost can’t go a single day without seeing something posted somewhere on social media about how people are toxic and you need to cut them out of your life. About how people wrong you and make your life horrible so you need to cut them out of your life. Good grief, I could probably write a novel on all of the things that people say about other people and how they aren’t good for any of us.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have a fairly long list of people who used to be in my life who are no longer actively in my life. I understand that this is a thing that happens as a product of living. We grow apart from people, we don’t live nearby them, life takes us in different directions. Whatever the case may be, there are a million things that happen. But this isn’t what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about that moment when you look at your relationship with somebody and have to actively decide whether or not you are going to keep them in your life.

Of course, many of you are probably thinking that I am referring to romantic relationships, but this can apply to any relationship. I have at least three people on my mind that this post applies to, and all of them are very different people and have very different places in my life. So apply it freely. Take my experiences for what they may be worth in your life and realize that what has proven to work and be true for me may not be what you need. I understand that, too.

But sometimes we just have to hold on. darling

Because haven’t we all been there? Haven’t we all been the toxic one at least once? Haven’t we all been the one that our friends or partners or family probably would’ve been happier without, even for a little while? We all make mistakes because we are all human.

There are times when walking away is completely and totally the overwhelming answer. There are experiences when it is the best thing for you to do, the only thing that will make your life better, happier, and more fulfilling to live. I’ve had experiences like that, too.

I guess what I’m saying is that you need to know the difference. You need to be completely sure. Know when you need to walk away, and know when a person is absolutely supposed to be in your life regardless of the hard times that may develop feel like homebetween you.

There are going to be times when people do things that hurt us. There are going to be times when it feels like it might not be worth it. But for the right people, the people who bring a foundation into your life or the people that help throw back the curtains of clouds to let the sun shine or the people who feel like home, it is always worth it.

So, darling, just hold on.

Not-So-Open Notes

Dear L.P.,
Please stop sliding into my DM’s unexpectedly.
A small sliver of my heart wants you to stay there.

Dear Rosebud,
Let yourself bloom, baby. I can’t wait.
The world’s not ready but that doesn’t
matter. You are.

Dear Team TB,
Get out of your own way. Don’t be afraid
anymore. Just shine.

Dear JH,
I get you. Not everybody does.
Not everybody will. And that’s
okay. Forgive and grow. Be brilliant.

Dear Fellow Fangirl,
I love you more than all the things. I
love watching you conquer the world.
Don’t stop, okay?

Dear JHH,
It’s okay to feel. You’ll never do it. You’ll
never be that person. And that’s okay.
Keep being unashamedly you. But someday
I hope you understand that if you do feel its okay.
I love you.

Dear Former G.I. Joe,
I just want you to have joy. Real joy. There
is a difference between fun and true joy.
True happiness. And someday I want you
to remember that the truth isn’t easy,
but it’s worth it.

Dear Track 10,
Just shaking my head for many reasons. And
smiling.

Dear Pocket Square,
Hope is never lost.

Dear Superhero,
Everyone falls. I know you can get back
up. The little girl in me still fearlessly
believes that you can do anything.

Dear Dreamer,
There’s a reason you’re here and that you
are who you are. Please don’t doubt the
beauty and goodness in you. You know how to
fix anything. It wasn’t a mistake.

You’ll Bring Me Home

For the entirety of my university career, I have lived either three hours away from home or 30 minutes away from home. Neither of which is an exceedingly monstrous distance.

Interestingly enough, I actually went home much more often when I was three hours away than I do now when I’m 30 minutes away. I think that has to do with a combination of factors, age most likely being one of them.

It’s strange because as the black sheep of my family, I have most definitely spent a lot of time feeling like I don’t belong as a member of it. (Don’t tell anyone, but my family is so large that I usually refer to them as “the nation”, rather than “my family”.) Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of similarities with many of my siblings. I am very close with most of them. But I also happen to possess a lot of differences from the rest of my family. I won’t get into them here, because at the end of the day they really don’t matter. I am a member of my family and that is that.

Today I want to talk about home. And reality. And how they relate. I was going to do the thing where I write a huge post and make my point at the end, like always, but I’ll just tell you the point now:

Reality can be a very strange thing. And sometimes we have to realize that reality is different than we think it is.

I don’t have this experience every time I go visit my family, but it happens often enough that this observation has hit me again and again and again. So many times when I take a break from my crazy college life to return home and see my family, everything slows down. Everything stops to take a breath. And I realize something very important: that is REAL life.

The house a bit dusty at the end of the day because we live off a gravel road. My nieces and nephews raiding the pantry or begging for chocolate chip cookies because they know my mom always keeps them in a bag by the fruit. My younger sister playing with her dog before she makes him settle down for the evening. There is a stability and flow to the way things happen at home, no matter what different paths life takes us on.

And so often I get jolted out of my mindset. And I realize that so often the life I live at college isn’t real life. It isn’t what really matters. The acquaintances that come and go, the friends I may or may not know in years to come. So much of what makes up my life isn’t really real life. It isn’t the reality I’ll be living for the rest of my life.

And in many ways, that is what makes college special. It is a time for you to embrace that not-so-real reality you experience for a few years and see if you can get life a little figured out. It’s a chance for you to shake things up and see where you land.

But when all is said and done, and when all the dust settles, you’ll find yourself in real life. Experiencing what truly matters and what truly lasts.

Don’t See Me! I’m Sneaking!

In the days when my family was very young, my parents lived in a double-wide trailer on the family farm. I have vague memories of this house, which we now refer to lovingly as The Blue House. It was situated at the bottom of a hill which held two massive rock piles we aptly named The Big Rock Chuck and The Little Rock Chuck. Back then I thought they were completely massive. (Age and perspective, as well as later visits, have assured me that The Big Rock Chuck is, in fact, quite massive. The Little Rock Chuck, not so much.)

mountainsMy mother had a rule that we were never supposed to play on The Big Rock Chuck, which was a rule we obeyed most of the time. When I was that age I imagined that these huge rock piles had once been a medieval castle. The home of a great king who ruled the land with power and influence. I even imagined once, when I found a formation of rocks that looked rather like a chair, that I had found the ancient location of the throne room.

And this was the playground of my youth. In front of the house was a stunning view of the mountains and a wheat field that was brilliantly gold in July and August. It was absolutely stunning. A very rare place to have a very rare childhood, I now realize. But as beautiful as it could get in the summer, it was equally beautiful in the winter. The entire land is covered in a thick blanket of snow until you can’t really remember where one field ends and another starts, and every here and there telephone poles jut out of the blank canvas. It’s lovely.

But there were dangers.

In the summer, the biggest danger was always rattle snakes. Oh, we got super good and hearing them and running away really fast to get help. If they were far from the house we would leave them be, but if they were close to the house my dad would come home from work long enough to kill the snake and dispose of the head. (It’s still very venomous and dangerous even after being separated from the body.) It was something he’d been trained to do his whole life, as shown by the little green jar of rattles he now keeps on a shelf behind his desk.

But in the winter, the danger was the ice and snow. On the farm, the winter can get exceedingly brutal. Very high winds, unheard of low temperatures. You name it. Winter as epitomized in every “I’m-lost-on-a-mountain” movie ever made. Winter is kind of scary at the farm.

It is in this context that one of our very favorite family stories occurred. The characters of this narrative are my mother, angel that she is, and my older brother Jud. He was about two years old at the time, which means that I was not a being who yet lived upon the earth. However, this is one of my favorite stories that we bring up as a family.

One snowy day, my brother Jud wanted to go outside and play. However, my mother wouldn’t allow it for one reason or another. Probably because we lived in the North Pole, or close to it, anyway. I think the weather was particularly harsh that day, and so for obvious reasons my mother didn’t see fit to let her two-year-old go outside and play.

This, however, did not stop Jud.

One thing it is necessary to know about Jud is this: he gained the nickname Mowgli. mowgliSome of you may immediately recognize this name for the character in The Jungle Book. Jud became Mowgli early on in life, and to this day he still responds to it occasionally. Why was he named Mowgli, you may ask? Because he never, ever, ever kept his clothes on. He ran around in a diaper or his underwear until he was fairly old, but I’ll keep those details private for the sake of his modesty.

So, on this very snowy day when my mother informed Jud he wouldn’t be able to go outside and play in the snow, she discovered him only moments later at the back door trying to open it. Wearing a diaper, boots, scarf, and hat. At seeing this sight, my mother asked, “Honey, what are you doing?” Jud turned around, facing her with wild eyes as he responded:

“Mom! Don’t see me! I’m sneaking!”

When I was three years old my family built a house in town. We now lovingly refer to this residence as The Town House, even though it was not, in fact, a townhouse. Merely a house that was located in town. For many years we moved back and forth between The Blue House and The Town House. Blue House during summer and potato harvest, Town House during the school year.

When I was probably about eight years old we began living permanently in town, as we’d given the use of The Blue House to my aunt and uncle. That was hard for us, but a few years later we moved back to the farm permanently to a different house and have been very happy with that choice.

Now, in this time of life when we lived permanently at The Town House, I was what you might call a daddy’s girl. I spent as much time as possible with my dad. We were the very best of friends. Which also consequently means that I probably got away with more things than I should have.

One night I remember very clearly. My older siblings, rebellious teens that they were at the time, had all been banished to their rooms. For reasons I do not know and can only attribute to my status as the favorite daughter, I was not forced to go to bed. I was sitting by my dad’s chair watching a movie with him and my mom. When very suddenly, a major rule was broken.

audreyOne of the bedroom doors opened. And one of my siblings emerged.

Completely unheard of under the present circumstances of: go to your room and go to bed. Do not come out until morning.

It was my sister Jessie. Ever the bold one.

She emerged from her room wearing a huge, poofy blue parka with fur around the hood and a large pair of sunglasses (very Audrey Hepburn). In this disguise, she walked through the living room and into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and then went back to her room.

We. Laughed. So. Hard.

My dad literally could not be mad at her. Her disguise was everything she needed to gain access to the kitchen and a drink of cold water. Mission accomplished.

What I absolutely love about both of these stories is how blatantly obvious, and quite hilarious, the “rebellion” is. Jud was very clearly not going to last out in the snow in his diaper, boots, and hat, and Jessie was obviously recognizable despite the parka and sunglasses.

But they tried anyway. One successful, the other not. Both equally funny.

I’ve been thinking about these stories today, and what they mean in several different contexts. And interestingly enough, I have found a parallel between these stories and something else. Something that makes so much sense to me.

God knows us perfectly. Completely and perfectly.

It is like the story of Jonah and the whale in the Bible. Jonah legitimately thought he could hide from God. And while Jessie didn’t legitimately think she was fooling anyone in her disguise, but she knew she had humor on her side. In Jud’s case, he was just fiercely hoping he wouldn’t get caught.

I know that I have done similar things a million times.

Sometimes it can be so hard to understand that God knows and loves us perfectly. Sometimes we try to hide away from Him, disguise our lives, or sneak away. Sometimes we have experiences where we just want to move in our own direction, in our own way, and throw behind our shoulder, “Don’t see me! I’m sneaking!”

But even though we are intelligent beings with our own minds, our own plans for cherishedourselves are never as amazing or perfect as God’s plan for us. Surprisingly, though, it takes a fair amount of humility and courage to admit that we shouldn’t be sneaking into the snow storm.

I love that these stories brought me to this spiritual parallel because both of them are some of the funniest stories in the family repertoire. And when compared to our relationship with God, it helps me remember that He loves me completely and perfectly. And yes, He can see through my disguises and see me sneaking, but He always loves me.

He knows.

Perhaps that can be ominous, but for me, it is the biggest comfort in the world. I don’t have to hide anything from God. Because He knows me. I can be completely honest and transparent with Him because He understands. He gets it.

So while the world may be confusing at times, or even a place of turmoil, I never have to be afraid.

Reputation: Themes in Taylor Swift’s New Album That Changed Everything

coverI am a Taylor Swift fan. I will neither deny it nor apologize for it, and there was a time when I might have done both. But I have been on the Swift team since the beginning. Since the “Teardrops on My Guitar” days. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

A few years ago I wrote a post about Taylor’s last album, 1989, and how it was just what I needed in my life at that time. I wrote about how it helped me start over and heal and begin again. Today I want to do something similar with Taylor’s most recent album, Reputation.

Reputation is definitely Taylor’s edgiest album. It brings to light a lot of her struggles and highlights a lot of things that she’s usually very private about. It lets us into the darker sides of her, and the darker sides of what she experiences as a result of who she is. But like the true artist that she is, Taylor somehow manages to turn that darkness into light.

From beginning to end, Reputation is a journey: each song taking us through a different phase and highlighting different themes. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve settled upon seven major themes throughout the album that have come to mean everything to me. Themes that have changed the way I look at life and helped me see my own experiences in a different light.

Theme #1: The Fall From Grace

Even if you aren’t a T Swift fan, or don’t know much about her either way, it is pretty much common knowledge that she went through the ringer for a while there. As an ardent fan, I feel like I should know all of the details and have a very strong opinion, but honestly, I don’t know all the details. I really don’t know a lot about what happened. What I do know is that it hurt her, and she disappeared for a long time. I do know that it was a very hard fall for her.

Haven’t we all been there? I know I have.

We’ve all been through that point in life when we fall from grace and become very familiar with the feeling of a cold floor against our cheek. And quite frankly there is nothing worse than this kind of brokenness.flowers as thorns

This theme is highlighted in a couple of different songs on the album. “Call it What You Want” and “Delicate” are a few. Lyrics like: “My castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gun fight”, and “my reputation’s never been worse” whisper a little bit of this feeling.

Theme #2: Because You Break Them

Sometimes the people in our lives do stupid things. They do things that hurt us deeply. Things that confuse us. And while that isn’t fair, it is a part of life. What is interesting about this theme is that it is something we’ve all seen, and it can usually lead us down a couple of different paths.

If we have been deeply hurt by others, sometimes the healthiest thing to do is just move on. Leave it behind and start over. And other times we have to acknowledge that the pain changed us, and maybe not completely positively. Pain can do dark things to you. Again, that’s just the way it is sometimes.

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Look What You Made Me Do” talk about this idea.

Theme #3: I Did Something Bad

Obviously, I can’t speak for everybody, but I think that most often the theme/phase that follows is usually the rebellious one. It was for me, at least. If we’ve been hurt sometimes we lash out. Sometimes we have to go through a moment in our lives when we do things we might regret later.

bikeThe song “I Did Something Bad” is the poster child for this phase. The lyrics say, “You say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good?” This is an entirely accurate summary of how it feels to do something bad. It is an interesting look at the difference between good and bad or right and wrong. But the cold, hard truth is that sometimes doing bad things is fun.

But I will be the first person to say that staying in this phase really isn’t good. It’s not healthy. At some point, you have to realize that sticking your middle finger to the world is hurting you more in the long run.

Theme #4: In The Middle Of The Night, In My Dreams

One of the things I love most about this album is that while there are heavy themes of brokenness and rebellion, there are also very strong currents of hope and rebirth throughout everything. I love the words, “In the middle of the night, in my dreams,” from “…Ready For It?” because they start off the album with this idea of hope and dreams. The kind of dreams that you saw break into a million pieces against the floor. The kind of dreams that you slowly begin to dream again, piece by piece. The kind of dreams that are so precious you only dare dream them in the middle of the night, when the world can’t reach them.

Theme #5: I Know That It’s Delicate

When you start to begin to dream again, that is when it gets scary.

Picking yourself up off the floor, or letting people pick you up, is one of the hardest, scariest things you will ever do in your life. Because there is a certain comfort in being that broken. When you’re that broken you may be completely miserable, you may be in so much pain and darkness that it is unfathomable, but at least it can’t get any worse. At least you’re there now, not fighting to stay afloat. is it cool

So the process of standing up and walking back into the light is slow and scary, and very delicate. It’s very piece by piece, moment by moment. And somehow it can be the most reckless thing in the world to even fathom the idea of hoping for something again. But you do it anyway.

“Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate … isn’t it?”

Theme #6: My Broken Bones Are Mending

“King Of My Heart” is one of my favorite songs on the album, because it is such a blatant celebration of healing. It talks about how bad things happen, and we do find ourselves on the floor sometimes, and it is the absolute worst. But then healing can happen, and it does happen. We just have to believe in it. Even a little bit.

“Is this the end of all the endings? My broken bones are mending.”

I don’t care who you are, these lyrics are iconic. There is a bit of mystery to it. Like she can’t fathom that she’s healing. As if she’s watching it happen in disbelief. Another song has a line which says, “I woke up just in time.”

your midnightsAs if she emerged from her brokenness just in time. As if she threw the darkness aside in an act of wild faith and hope and passion and it was the best thing she ever did. Because now she is mending.

Theme #7: But I Stay

I love the song “New Year’s Day” more than I love many things on this earth. It ends the journey of Reputation on an incredibly beautiful note. It is a foundation song. A remembering who you are song. A grounding song.

I love this song because it is very simple. It talks about standing beside somebody through thick and thin. It talks about a very deep and abiding love. Something very powerful. But also very real and human. The kind of love that holds you through a dark night or helps you clean up after a party.

It is the song that says, “I know I’ve been through a lot of darkness. But somehow I’m still me. I’m better and stronger. I didn’t stay broken. I rose.”

Reputation is an incredible album about rebirth. There is so much to it. I could write a million more words about it, and extract countless other themes, I’m sure. These are only a few. Just some very powerful things that have changed my life and helped me in my own journey.