Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Struggle of Art

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

He turned the stars into swirls of beauty on canvas, yet his own life was a personal hell of mental illness.

The seeds for my budding obsession with Vincent Van Gogh started a year ago. While every kid does a rendition of "Starry Night" in art class, painting and artists weren't something that stuck with me in the years since. It actually started at a writer's conference, when a presenter, to illustrate his talk, showed the Doctor Who clip where the Doctor and Amy Pond take Van Gogh to the art gallery. Watching the moment where he gets to see the success he never saw in his lifetime touched something deep in my core. At the time, it gave me a deep desire to watch Doctor Who (which I have since indulged.) Since then, it has developed into something more.

Sometime later, a Facebook Memory popped up that I had forgotten about. It was an article about a movie releasing called Loving Vincent. The movie had been entirely hand-painted in the style of Van Gogh's paintings (phenomenal!) but I forgot about looking it up. Turning to my local library, I found it was actually available to check out on Hoopla. It follows a fictionalized story of the son of Vincent's postman trying to deliver a last letter to Theo Van Gogh, while investigating the mysterious details of Vincent's death. I came for the art, enjoyed the actors (Aidan Turner of Hobbit and Poldark fame is in it) and loved the way they turned this into a historical mystery about his life. As a side note, there's also an intriguing making-of documentary which I just discovered this morning and hope to watch asap.

After that, my interest in Van Gogh was firmly fixed. Perhaps it was just the interest of a human soul; perhaps it was the combination of his artistry, his mental illness, and the unfulfilled yearning of his life. Either way, I wanted to read a biography next, and I thought it would be best to start with children's books. Children's books are wonderful because they give you the basic facts to get a foundation under your feet before jumping off into the deeper details and themes. Our local library offered several contributions, which I enjoyed.
  • Vincent's Colors offered a simple presentation of some of his paintings with extremely brief lines describing the colors in his works. It was good to thumb through to get familiarized with his art. 
  • Vincent Van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind presents his biography along with a gentle, subtle portrayal of his mental illness. It is wistful, and I loved picking out the portrayal of his and his brother's personality differences through the picture on the first page. While his death is alluded to, the word suicide isn't mentioned. 
  • Vincent Van Gogh, by Patricia Geis, was by far my favorite. This interactive book has pop-ups, things to lift and open, and helpful information about the style of painting he was influenced by. It felt like a tactile discovery of his life. I loved this book so much that I hope to order the other artists in the series to keep learning about more of them. 
My latest installment in an obsession with Vincent came when a Facebook friend posted a link to a documentary about him starring Benedict Cumberbatch (OK, the actor was a definite draw, because normally documentaries are not my cup of tea.)  I couldn't believe (but it's true!) that the producer, Andrew Hutton, had posted the entire documentary on Vimeo to watch gratis. Vincent Van Gogh: Painted With Words, is an 80 minute production in which the actors give word for word renditions of letters and conversations from Vincent's life. (Side note for Victoria fans: Frankitelli makes an appearance acting out the lines of the only man to give Van Gogh a review in his lifetime.) This documentary is wonderful. It explores his episodes of mental illness, his ill-advised moments of compassion, and the solace that his art brought him, as well as his frustrated relationships with family and friends. It tugged at my heart to watch him struggle with mental illness without much real, fruitful help as he tore from one relationship and place to another. But I also found it fascinating to see his journey as an artist as he imitated and then abandoned different favorite artists in his own work (including Japanese art.)

The next thing I'm hoping to tackle is a full length biography. This will be a step up (Van Gogh: The Life appears to be an exhaustive look at his journey.) The audiobook clocked out at 44 hours, so I chuckled and put the print copy on order. Whether I'll finish it or not, we'll see. But I'm looking forward to learning more.

Even though this journey has nothing to do with WW1, historical fiction, writing, or an art form I hope to practice, I still love exploring it. Not all art has to feed directly into one's work (according to the excellent advice of Austin Kleon) and this journey has expanded my mind with new knowledge, new beauty, and a new landscape of a human soul. I am the richer for it.

What have you always wanted to explore? Who's someone you'd love to read a biography about? I'd love to know!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Swing By the Shore {agatha christie and austin kleon}


Sometimes, it takes until you're twenty-four to learn how magical a swing is.

There's a beach, and a Sunday afternoon, and waves that have crept up on the shoreline year after year. A swingset perches on the sand just yards from the water. I've never sat there; never thought about it. Most Sunday outings I make a beeline straight towards a swing in the shade and stick my nose in a book. But today--

Today a dark-haired friend slips up on a swing, and in the spontaneity of the moment, I follow her. There will be time enough for Egypt and murder and Agatha Christie in an afternoon traffic slump. For now, we swing back and forth, back and forth, and slowly the rhythm returns. I pump my feet to gain height. Gradually, I realize she leans back on the downswing to gain even more height--an old memory from the past that went to the memory dump long ago. I try it, my gauzy skirt fluttering pink in the wind and the sun. My pointed toes reach out--out towards the blue water and a boat on the horizon. A weight presses down on my heart. This is a beauty I never knew about before, the magic of swings by the shoreline. It is the weight of a heart crying without tears because in this moment there is an unquenchable draught of satisfied Sehnsucht, and moments like that should stretch on for an eternity.

We wind our way home, intent on a downtown photo shoot, and as we sit in traffic, Poirot and I continue our reacquaintance in Death on the Nile. I picked it because of the upcoming movie, after being enchanted by Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie and I have a current feud, one I still nurse good-humoredly, about trying to see whether I can beat her prowess or whether she will hoodwink me. When I read on the jacket flap that this is one of her favorite mysteries, I'm even more determined to win. Christie's mysteries are perfect for a mind eager to sharpen itself with a new hobby, following the twists and turns of an investigation, but also relaxing enough to give the mind some rest in the middle of summer vacation. The characters emerge from the shadows. A rich American heiress; an adoring husband; a sullen young woman; a conniving lawyer; a mother and her son. Slowly the shadows fall away and I see the missing puzzle piece. Though I don't get it all this time, I'm proud of myself for catching some parts of the solution, and I want to try again.


A book for leisure provides an undercurrent of challenge and indulgence to the week, but a book for artistry provides something else--soul food. "You should read Austin Kleon," my mom tells me, as I agonize over homework about author branding and how to stay true to my heart while learning useful industry trends. So I pick up her new library book, Keep Going, in the middle of an enforced week of making my mind not obsess over questions. Instead, I read Kleon's thoughts about creativity and mind nurture. They're simple, interspersed with art and poetry, pages of profound mentorship tucked in a tiny square of a book.

While the questions about writing direction buzz in the back of my mind, I go to another coffee shop to drink a life-changingly yummy blend of pomegranate kiwi boba tea and plot another story. It's a spur-of-the-moment challenge. "We should all give each other a prompt," we say, and scuttle off to Pinterest to find something slightly weird and wonderful to inspire each other with. My picture has a man and a woman on the beach with a crack running through them. The story plan that comes out, scribbled on the back of an old letter, doesn't fit in a schedule, a genre, or a line-up. It's a fantasy about a Greek Orthodox female scientist who loves stargazing and pipes and purple hair. I don't know when it will be begun or if it will be finished, but the joy of blending disparate elements into a living, breathing character are water to my soul. She is mine, and I love her.

It is a week of story binging, both individually and together, as our friend introduces us to Marvel. (We clear seven movies while she's here.) Sometimes there is nothing quite so healing as prayer time and a story binge when my heart is tired and frail. In between stories, we experience the joy of cityscape photo shoots in leather and softer photoshoots with pink and sand. Of window shopping, that ends up with respective prizes of jewelry-making supplies, sushi and macarons, and big, pink peonies. Of nights talking about Enneagram personalities and a Bible study of how to walk through hard life emotions.

These are the smallest graces that weave together into largest grace. They are straight from a kindly Father who has led us into desert and promised land this year in equal measure. This week, as in every week, he feeds my mind with truth and my soul with beauty and my heart with gladness. This week he touches everywhere my eyes see with joy.

Perhaps I have underestimated too long the magic of a swing by the shore.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

You are the Hearth Fire {a birthday tribute}

A birthday tribute to Ben from War of Loyalties, a WW1 spy novel available on Amazon

Image by Jörg Peter from Pixabay

Hey, man.

We're a few days late celebrating all 127 courageous years of you, but I suppose a day doesn't matter when we've been friends as long as we have. It was you and I and a beat-up orange folder writing on a childhood bed we got rid of years ago. And it was all a joke once when someone asked what I kept in there--a boyfriend? I suppose in a funny, platonic way it kind of was, but you and I aren't each other's type, and I gave you a much better girl.

I don't remember when you first came, but it was somewhere between twelve and fourteen, so at the very least you and I have known each other for ten years. It's ten years' worth of quiet perseverance. I hope we're friends until I'm ninety-nine and you're old enough to need a calculator that I don't have the time for.

You measured up through each bloody, gritty draft that polished away the funny edges of our childhood. And we got tired trying to figure out this spying business sometimes, but it was a good, bone tired that showed up and tried again the next day and never looked back. And we're still showing up until the last spy is captured. We're going to see this thing through together.

You were quiet, and never much wanted to talk about yourself--more awkward than brave. But you never walked out. You never get annoyed with the people who matter most to you. You're a safe person in a wide world. And everyone fighting spies with you knows they could knock on your door in the dead of night and always find a refuge. Even though you're not real, I would fight anyone to say your love is real. We know.

It made me glad when there was pie in the fridge on your birthday, waiting. I didn't even remember. But grace showed up around the corner like it always does. Your actual birthday was one of those stretches where life punches you in the teeth and then kicks you again in the stomach and you only remember celebrating when you're too tired to do it. But I've seen you kicked in the teeth multiple times, and someone funny and wise once told us that brave will run itself until we get back on our feet again. And you and I, we have all these good people helping us sort life out. We know what that funny, wise person said is absolutely true.

Here's what I admire most about you: You chose kindness and courage when you got the metaphorical slap in the face. There's nothing you hate more than taking up a reproach against a friend. And you've proven over and over in this draft that you'll swear to your own hurt and won't change. I think your 127-year-old self can look back on your 26-year-old self and know that in spite of the earth giving way under your feet, you will not be moved.

I know you want nothing more than home and peace in your world. It isn't time for peace yet, or that little house with the dog you always wanted, but maybe someday there will be a Shire in Great Britain.

You're the anchor that keeps all these spies in order, and you're the hearth fire that wild hearts come home to. And I don't know, but I think I was the luckiest girl in the world to end up with a friend like you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Feast of Summer


Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

It is midnight, and I cannot sleep. The grades for the school year are all nicely turned in, the work for the week is done, and my mind, free of normal responsibilities, runs at a wild pace. So I stumble downstairs to where the bookshelves are.

Bookshelves. Quiet, simple, sometimes perhaps a little stuffy standing there in prim, orderly rows. But just underneath the surface, they are the Tardis of the real world, crammed with joy and fear and imagination. Much bigger on the inside.

Like any sane person at midnight (cough, cough) I scan the shelves and allow myself the delicious experience of pulling off anything that grabs my eye. The school year is over. It is midnight, and I cannot sleep. Why not do it? Voskamp slips to a stack on the floor. A devotional on trust joins her. A book about story writing merrily befriends this baby TBR. And last but not least, a thick, black-clad volume of the complete Richard Hannay novels dwarfs them all. They are set during WW1, spy novels, and perfect for research, I tell myself.

Creating a new book stack is delicious. I have rarely been able to make it all the way through lists. Some idealistic stacks (looking at you, Winter TBR) never really get off to a healthy start. But perhaps it is not always the finishing of them that really matters. In the first breath of creation, there is only the fresh, wild intoxication of a blank slate, a suspended moment of time, and a mental thirst that demands quenching.

Slipping from book to book in the midnight hour is akin to eating a stolen feast. This is a rich spread of history; of intrigue; of spiritual counsel and practical how-to. And here, here is why the beginning is as important as the ending. Because after a season of steady faithfulness and pouring out (essential pillars of the adult life) one must snatch--force--bend--time to make room for a season of dreaming. This is not the time for application. It is time for rest. For renewal. For feeding those "little gray cells" that have been exercised so intensely in writing final papers or finishing a deadline at work, or ending a busy season of shipping orders, or publishing a book. One cannot always be planting and watering and harvesting. One must sometimes sit down to the table with a full plate and a groan-worthy array of good flavors, and a deep sense of joy. So it is with the brain. One cannot always be honing and polishing ideas, learning new concepts. One must sometimes read for the discovery, for the exhilaration, for the freedom.

The beauty of the summer is the joy of the feast.

It does not always look like piles of nonfiction by midnight. Sometimes this feast turns into gobbling down an Agatha Christie in bed on a Saturday (scandalously late morning, I might add) rejoicing in the redemption of picking up an author that anxiety and mental illness shut out years ago. (It's a long story, which I'm happy to talk about via message.) I might add that I guessed the murderer correctly.

i was going to throw a tantrum if i didn't. 

Sometimes the feast means looking at another book when you've started six new titles and thinking, This--this too looks good. I need to read this. It doesn't always have to be in bed, either. This afternoon I gulped down the introduction to Sarah Clarkson's Book Girl, full of courageous, full-blooded ideas of womanhood and scholarship that fertilize dreams already shooting up buds and leaves in my soul. That feast was enjoyed standing on an exercise mat, sweating during surreptitious breaks from leg lifts.

They may all accompany this Book Girl all the way to the last page. Or they may not. It does not even matter. The point that matters is that they are the feast for the moment, and whether that feast is pages or chapters or the entire book, it will give my mind, weary in the pursuit of good endeavors, the rest and fresh heart it needs. After a season of output, the nutrients are depleted and the brain is starved. Sarah Clarkson touches on it in Book Girl, stating when you're stuck, go back to the books you love most (pg. 25). Another student mom I talked to said the same thing about physical health. Your body knows what it needs. And last Friday, between the hour of midnight and one, I found this to be true. My eyes and hands sought out the pages] my soul most craved.

So here's to the feast of summer. May it be gentle and glorious.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

of cake and jane austen and joy {currently}

Hi friends! I've missed you so much. Shall we have a cup of tea and chat for a bit? I'd love to hear what's been up with you for the last few weeks!


Image by Надежда Дягилева from Pixabay
reading 

Persuasion. I've been meaning to read it and host a read-along for years. I don't know if I'm knowledgeable enough yet to host a read-along. But I have been enjoying it immensely. The small observations about human nature. Realizing I don't think any of the movie adaptations quite match Captain Wentworth's sense of youthful joyousness (even though Amanda Root makes a wonderful Anne.) I think there's a sense of young, vigorous manhood about him coupled with a slight inexperience in regards to relationship navigation that isn't captured by Ciaran Hinds' crip authority or Penry-Jones' introverted reserve (though I love P-J, too.) I kind of want to see another version of it now.


Image by peachknee from Pixabay
learning 

In the mornings, I fill a mug with cereal and milk and bring it downstairs to my office/den. There, in the middle of ungraded papers, I wrap myself up in a fleece snowman blanket and wake up to face another day--sometimes with a Bible and The Valley of Vision. Sometimes with quiet. Sometimes--to my shame--with my phone.

I've finished catching up on random BSF lessons I missed throughout the year. Proverbs. David. The life of Solomon. One of the things that stood out to me from 1 Kings chapter ten and the questions we are asked is that in the midst of the list of Solomon's building and exploring, worship is also mentioned. Projects must be wound in and through worship. As I face school books to read for next year and dreams further in the future, worship cannot be lost. It must be the refrain, winding in and out. The accompanying plumb line of faithfulness. The companionship with a heavenly Father that, without which, all this learning and dreaming would be meaningless.


Image by peter_pyw from Pixabay
watching 

So much goodness. If you sign up for the McConkey Press newsletter, there will be a missive chock-full of historical fiction goodness coming in movie recommendations, as well as updates on research for the Folkestone Files. So sign up (see the top of this page on the right-hand side) and get even more fun chat there!

But the day I finished teaching for the year, we made stuffed crust pizzas and checked out a DVD of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

It made me feel alive. It was pure and good and beautiful. It was a story of adventure, of taking risks. The little scenes at the beginning of the movie set up for big plot moments at the end in satisfying mirror moments. Watching Clara made me feel as if I was watching a conglomeration of my creative writing students, who I deeply love, as she struggled for her place and who she was. And in a way, it makes me feel as if it is me, too. At twenty-four, I am looking for what my place in this season, and I love how Clara found hers. It was full of creativity and chivalry (the mouse!) Of friendship and yearning. Of love (the mother!) and of purple color schemes, which is my very favorite color.


Image by Amna Sayeed from Pixabay

celebrating 
My dad's birthday. We tuck cinnamon rolls into pans and layer cream cheese frosting over spice cake and give surprises that fill us with joy. It is a milestone birthday, and it is a day of rest, just being together and taking a breather from everyday work in a glorious long weekend.


loving

The realization of things that I enjoy. Figuring out how to scrub a dirty cement floor. Folding peanut butter frosting over a double-layer chocolate cake. Turning up Disney song covers and baking brownies and cookies. Which kind of delights my soul as it reminds me off odd hobbies I love. They are beautiful in themselves for the sheer joy of creation.


Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
listening

if you fall // It reminds me that in the midst of tough love, tough love is still worth it.

fall on me // Could any lyrics sound more magical? This is on repeat as I type, filling my heart with beauty so deep it hurts.

speechless // I don't know what to think about this yet, but it provided adrenaline for paper grading, which was a kind of grace.


Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay
eating 

The most amazing peanut butter trail mix that a student gave me as an end of year gift. It's gone now. It had pretzels and peanut-butter m&ms, and rice squares coated in a peanut butter coating. It was incredible. Another student gave me a package of Apple Jacks, and there is nothing sweeter than a package of Apple Jacks from a student. I enjoyed them immensely.

schuyler, this whole post is delightfully full of cake and peanut butter. why thank you, darling. i thought so too. 

waiting for

Painful things. A sense of freedom. A sense of security. A sense of enough. A sense of restoration.

This pain controlled by the hands of a very compassionate Father is teaching me good things.


Image by Anastasia Kuleshova from Pixabay

dreaming about

All the books I want to read this summer: biographies about Vincent Van Gogh and Mary, Queen of Scots, and L.M. Montgomery. Books about stargazing and enneagrams and chess strategies.

All the ways to grow as an author, thanks to a fabulous course by Katie Phillips. (Do check it out!) I'm studying authors in my genre, who I am writing to, and how to set clear goals for a business.

Writing a magazine article about hygge. Taking a road trip later this year. Seeing For King and Country in concert, Lord-willing.


Image by freestocks-photos from Pixabay

grateful for

Passing a test. Free nights to sit under twinkle lights and write and text and watch the last episode of Les Miserables again. Sunshine in the mornings. Counseling that digs into hurt. Summery white skirts. Chances to give final words of encouragement to students. A bouquet of purple flowers. Chick-fil-a sauce twice in one month. Hard conversations with a very patient God. Cozy nights visiting with family and eating burgers and potato salad. Octonauts on a sleepy Saturday morning. Naps under a fluffy gray and pink comforter. Encouraging messages from a blog follower. A comment from a stranger who enjoyed War of Loyalties. So much goodness here.

Will you tell me what's happening in your life right now? I'd love to know! Feel free to grab one of these prompts (or more!) and answer them in the comments! 

(prompts taken from here and here)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

War of Honor // sneak peek II



War of Honor is coming, slow and sure. Camp NaNoWriMo added another 25k words. 

Here are some of them. 


The girl got up, still holding the object in her hand. It dangled down, a string of beads that flashed in the light of the moon, with a heavy cross underneath it. She paused at the foot of the steps, and he could hear clearly enough to make out her words now. “Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grâces.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
She grasped the cross firmly and pulled something else from around her neck. Ben pressed further back, ignoring the ache in his heels.
It was time to reach for the gun now. 
//


“What is the end of it all?”
Jaeryn. Charlotte. Matthew. Terry. An earnest, dark-haired girl in France.

There was no happiness in this for all of them.

//


When he came the next night, Terry sat on the edge of his mattress smoking and looking in a dreaming sort of way across the room. Jaeryn followed his gaze to a polished wooden baby cradle standing alone in a shaft of sunlight. He choked. “What is that?”
“It’s for babies to sleep in, doc. You’ve seen ‘em before.” Terry grinned and blew smoke.
“But why do you—please don’t tell me you promised to look after a baby for someone.” 

//

He picked up the chair and smashed it through the beautiful stained glass in a rain of tinkling ruin. The blue and yellow shards fell like a shower and Gina ducked, throwing her arm over her face. Jaeryn smashed it again and dropped the chair, then picked her up by the waist and raised her to the sill. “Get out and run. Don’t let them see you.”


//

Far away in the grass, a boy tumbled with his golden puppy, shrieking with laughter. Ben’s face softened as he watched him. If he had a son with curly hair like that, and he could come home after work to family and a puppy and unadulterated joy—
It would be wonderful. 
//

He dropped the crusts into the crumpled brown paper parcel and pulled something else from his pocket—something worn and smooth and wooden, beads that had been between his fingers since he stood in church on tiny legs, looking up at the gray-haired, imposing hero beside him.
Sé do bheatha, a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta,” he breathed, “tá an Tiarna leat.


//

Closer to the house, a gray cat sat on the porch as the cab pulled to a stop, crouched into fighting stance with Percy. Percy crouched low, his fur melting over his paws and shoulders like blue-black ebony. Jaeryn ran up past them both, causing them to break their glare and hiss at him.


//

He took her out to the cabby. “I may need you to kidnap someone. Or break in somewhere.”
Gina shot him a sideways glance. “When have you ever known me to have a compunction about kidnapping?”
Jaeryn smiled in spite of himself. “Never.”
//

Ernest picked up the basket and threw back the lid. Inside was a wooden box, two thin books, a dirt-stained hand trowel, and a Browning handgun. He picked up the Browning. The chamber was empty. His eyes met Nathan’s, and Nathan glanced again at the precious bundle of exhaustion lying on the bed. Wordlessly, Ernest picked up her hand and kissed it. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” he whispered. “You are worthy to be saluted.”

All words copyright 2018 by Schuyler McConkey, McConkey Press. 

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Of Books and Breaking Points

via Pixabay
Our pastor holds a stick during the introduction of his sermon and places it against his knee. "Apply the right amount of pressure," he says, "and there's a breaking point." (Watch here.)

This season has been a season of pressure and breaking points. In early January on the way to work, I banged into the back of another car. It left pocketbooks lighter, a sense of innocence lost, and our family without a second van.  (The poor dear was too old to sustain injuries.) That day my employer kindly picked me up and took me home.

One month later, I was in another accident on a busy evening. While no one was physically injured either time, that has been harder to recover from.

I spent the day before the second accident with a book; looking over one dear to my childhood and thinking about using it in a 4-6th grade class. The Black Stallion held an iconic, endearing friendship that I've never forgotten and a sense of wild independence that the Jaeryn deep down in me relates to. That evening I can't remember what I did, except I was sitting under twinkle lights with my computer, crying. The stiffness in my arms went away in a day or two. Sitting in the back seat traumatized when drivers have to brake or turn has not.

When Elijah headed into the wilderness, exhausted and emotionally depleted, our pastor pointed out from 1 Kings 19 that the Lord fed him and he slept. These physical needs were what he needed in the moment to heal his spirit.

The next days after the accident I slept more than I had in a while, trying to find a sense of balance in the tailspin. I had already started a collection of Spider-Man comics the Sunday of the time change, and I read them on my phone in between sleeping, too numb to grade homework. Spider-Man comics don't have much to them, though I was surprised by the emotional depth of his battle with the Lizard. But in spite of that, they were a kind of grace as I swiped through them and found rest.

That week my favorite Christian book store hosted their Customer Appreciation sale. In some ways, it felt irresponsible to go after everything that had happened. In other ways, it felt like I could not take more loss and wanted to stem it somewhere. I had already saved some money, and bought a brand new copy of Stephanie Morrill's historical fiction, Within These Lines--a tale of America's Japanese internment camps during WW2. I started it the next morning, and it is beautiful. That was one of the books. Joanne Bischof's tender Sons of Blackbird Mountain was another. I binge-skimmed it the following morning when both parents were out and the house was quiet.

ain't never heard of binge-skimming, schuyler

They are both beautiful, and the kindness of my mother helped that and another book find their way into my basket as well.

The next day I take my first ride to the library to get a research book--one of the first simple drives I took as a young driver. Later again I go to the store. Both times are hard. It is almost impossible to comprehend how something you did for so long will ever feel feasible or comfortable again. But while that is still broken, there are other moments of grace. A student who reads the bio on your book and promises to bring you a chai latte. A conversation with another student who expresses such a hunger for writing well. Time to pray before the school day starts that never would have happened before the crash. Warm tea and writing in the car on the dark, early mornings of teaching days. Reassuring texts and emails from friends saying hurt is understandable, and to take grace and time to heal.

Sometimes I listen to music and cry. (Scars by I AM THEY and Fear No More by The Afters both touch a tender spot.) Sometimes I cry a lot. It feels like a regression, and it hurts. But out of the brown grass of spring, green shoots of dreams are spreading strong roots, and other root wants that need to die are being tugged at by the Holy Spirit. And just as my paster taught us that God brought comfort to Elijah through nourishment, conversations, and his presence, so I have received comfort through my parents, my sister, extended family, and friends--and being able to talk to Him.

We all have breaking points, my pastor says. But as he speaks, he reminds us of God's tender care and comfort in the breaking points. We are finding this to be true.

On our drive home that Sunday, a man and a woman pick up sticks in their front yard. To me, it's a picture of grace.
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