“they say a storm is coming”

A Poem by Guest Poet Jennifer Gafford

they say a storm is coming
radar shows 100%
severe lightning
downpour
dark skies
damaging winds.

but the current climate shows,
him cuddling before bed,
and he sits in my lap after dinner
receives my corrections with grace
is friends with his whole 2nd grade class
he passes the ball on the field
and reads to his brothers.

so for now,
I will enjoy the warm sunshine and
cool breezes,
the life questions and need to be near
the sweet air before the storm. 

Jennifer is one of the first people I met my freshman year at Miami University. Her enthusiasm, passion, and light-heartedness is contagious and we became quick friends meeting up for lunch often my first year. She was a couple years ahead of me in school, and she and her besties (including my future sis-in-law, holla!) helped make college feel smaller and more familiar to me just by being present.

Now the mother of three boys, she lives with her husband and family in D.C. She’s an active writer for Light Workers, where her life-giving nature exudes from all her articles. I highly recommend you reading more from her link in her profile @jegafford.

Thank you so much for your poetry, Jennifer. Let’s find the bits of happy in Monday, friends, even if the storm is coming.✌🏼❤️*

My Favorite Fiction and Nonfiction Reads from 2018 AND A Giveaway!

I am so excited to share this pile of books with you. These are my top fiction reads of the year (I’m cheating and including Educated here) and they feel like such mile-markers for different parts of my year. Here’s a little bit of why I loved each one:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche: I’m basically devouring everything she writes over here. This book was my favorite of the year. It was honest, gut-wrenching, and timely. She has a way of weaving in social critiques while captivating you in a well-written narrative. Jaw-still-dropped kind of awe over here.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain: I love classic literature and had the privilege to teach this in the spring. I had never read it before my prep for this class, but I have read Huck Finn several times through and still marvel at it. It was playful and bedtime-story-like, but also held so many culturally-relevant themes that apply still today.

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Conner: I read this alongside some of my girlfriends who had just recently moved (hey, CoMo), but as a writer, I was drawn in to the progression of her stories. They are ordered chronologically, and the first story she rewrites years later, which felt like balm to my soul to keep writing and that everything is a work in progress.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: As someone who faces her anxiety regularly, I felt so connected to the protagonist in this novel. She has high and low moments, which can be hard to read at times, but in hearing her work through them it helped see even more ways anxiety can flesh out. The beauty of a shared story, right? Green handles her with honesty, grace, and a huge dollop of hope.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: Good grief. This book I flew through. There’s poetry. There’s a strong female lead. There’s injustice, prejudice, suffering, friendship, empowerment. At times I felt like I was reading To Kill A Mockingbird—it was that good.

Educated by Tara Westover: Also a page turner. This is a memoir so probably should be in my nonfiction pile, but so many times while I was reading it felt like a fiction story (or maybe that’s what I told myself to get through it). It is intense and crazy at times, yet redemptive in the most unexpected of ways. Has a similar vibe as The Glass Castle.

Here are my top nonfiction books from the year.  In all honesty, I went through a phase right after college where I predominately read nonfiction and it draaaained me. So I took a long (three year hiatus) from most of it, but am just starting to dip back in.

These books were incredibly (surprisingly?) life-giving to me. They didn’t preach. They didn’t shame. Let me explain why they stuck out:

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adich: this book is hard to sum up. Filled with nuggets of wisdom, I felt like she opened my eyes to some beautiful misconceptions like by being a full person doesn’t mean “doing all the things” that women can easily do to themselves.

The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch: While we didn’t implement every piece of advice (I doubt that’s what he wanted), this book helped us rethink how we layout our home and brought about a lot of good conversations between my husband and me.

Half the Church by Carolyn Curtis James: I’ve read others of hers this year but this one is my favorite. She discusses the issues of the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate and speaks from a world-wide perspective of women inside the church. She says, ‘From what I can see, women and girls are a rich and largely untapped goldmine—a powerhouse of blessing and gifts for the church, of strength and wisdom for our brothers, and of enormous good for the world.’

Surrender to Love by David Benner: If you haven’t read any of his books, you 100% should. He’s refreshing and provides a balanced look at what it means to love and be loved by God. He is brilliant and gentle, which makes you want to know God the way he does.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: I found myself slowly becoming addicted to this book. Her view and adoration for creativity is contagious. She makes want to keep creative work fun and forgiving when it doesn’t work out.

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore: This was so incredibly beautiful to read and made me appreciate her even more. And also wonder if she is the “Never Been Kissed” character in real life? Her childhood, how she became a reader of classics, her parenting, all alongside her career and friendships was such a gift to peek into.

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillin Smith: I read Marie Kondo’s minimalist book this year too but really gravitated more towards Myquillin’s take on it. And will buying a new house, I found myself reading it so fast so I made sure to get the rooms right the first go around. Super insightful about how to decorate, and has left me with boxes to goodwill, happily. 

Now the best part!  The giveaway!

I’m giving away my favorite candle, Starbucks gift card, and one book of your choice from my fiction list of 2018.  Contest ends Saturday 12/15/18 at midnight.  To enter, go to my Instagram account @pocketsoflovely for more information!  Happy Friday 🙂

**This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with WordPress, Instagram, Twitter, Starbucks, the authors, or anyone else.  Just want to give away some of my favorites to treat yourself for the holidays!**

A Musing on “Snow Day”

A week ago I was on a subway from Brooklyn to Wall Street to get bagels with a dear friend. I’ve been to New York City a handful of times before, but it wasn’t until this trip that I finally started to get the hang of the subway. Any guesses on how I learned? Yep.  By getting on the wrong one (multiple times).  But after a few days of slowing down, trying again, watching that blue GPS dot like crazy, and rewalking blocks in the other direction, I left the city proud that I didn’t get lost more.

Yet now that I’m a week back into our new life in Cincy, I’m realizing that grace with myself must have missed the flight home. Looking at the calendar, it’s barely been a month since we’ve moved in, yet I’m restless to learn this area and find the places we will visit more than once and meet the people that will be with us in the long haul. On the harder days, I want to just hide in our home until it somehow all falls in place for me.

That’s where I was when I wrote Wednesday’s “Snow Day” poem and honestly, it took me these past couple days to even realize what was going on when I wrote it. But after sitting with it, I’m realizing New York City gave me more than just the secret of the subway system. It told me to keep moving, even if it’s in the wrong direction. But it wasn’t until the snow fall a few days ago, reminding me again, that I began to listen.

Snow Day

By Abigail Rudibaugh

The snow comes

right on schedule.

He doesn’t hesitate

wondering

if anyone will like him.

He works with what

he does well:

Powdering trees,

hiding grass, then,

resting on the roof.

Chimneys and gutters

holding the same

layered diligence—

whiter longer because

shame in not being noticed

can’t reach that high.

 

What a hassle for the heater

that feels the cold encroaching

and wakes from his nap huffing

warmth back through the floors.

 

What a hassle for the mother

so tired from her day

now fetching more blankets

to cover everyone this night.

 

I can’t even begin to mention

the squirrels hiding in their den

now busy rationing their reserves.

 

What a hassle it is

to set the world in motion.

A Hundred Prayers

I wake up early (most) morning, lock myself in a corner of the house, and stare out a black window with my black coffee in hand. I spend time in silence trying to catch the running rabbits of anxious thoughts one by one. Writing to do lists and prayers and reading scripture and poems, each adding anchors, slowing me to watchfulness and silence and surrender.

But today, sitting up for my chair for a second cup of caffeine, I notice new light from my window, reflecting off the new snow, and the relief from seeing brightness, when I’m used to so much dark, felt like a hundred mornings of prayers I didn’t know I was praying.

“What Gratitude Does” Thoughts

IMG_6920

When I originally wrote yesterday’s poem, it was more of a confession about how confusing giving thanks can be. This has been one hell of a year for my family, but we seem to be on the other side of it, and that feels like an incredible still-takes-my-breath-away gift. But to not receive that gift lightly means also to realize not everyone else can say the same.

And to be honest, I don’t understand this. Why the Lord gives and takes away as He chooses. Why some survive and some don’t.  Why some are safe and some aren’t. Why some have so much and some have less than little.

This juxtaposition punches me in the gut and makes me long for a day where we will all have shelter and shade. It makes me want to sign up for every act of goodness but then hide in my bed because I know it will never be enough.

But giving thanks for what I’ve been given, naming it, unapologetically, is admitting I didn’t earn it, but I get to have it. I get to sit at dinner with my family and pass food that will keep us full and listen to one daughter sing a song on her ukulele about unicorns while the other bobs her head along with her cheesy smile.

In not taking these gifts lightly, the Lord lightens the heart. He takes away the fear of not knowing about tomorrow because, look at all that has been provided today. And when we glimpse that, practice it, say it out loud, how does it not change us?

What Gratitude Does

by Abigail Rudibaugh

IMG_6909

Humility, wearing that itchy
Christmas sweater, meets my
folded arms walking past
Salvation Army bells
for late-night groceries.

Why do I get to decide
if I want to donate? When
did they become “others,”
(and not “brothers”) who
wait across the city hope-bent
that people will share?

“To whom much is given,
much is expected” and
I long to know what,
because neediness knows
every corner, and faith,
becomes too heavy to lift.

Shame, so good at telling us
distance is much safer,
inventing ways we are not
the same, letting us forget
all we possess
has always been given.

But Gratitude pulls open
the closing walls of division
with its claws. It pries
our arms wide open to hold.
Generosity—
warmly welcomed in this cold.

After Dinner Writing

by Abigail Rudibaugh

IMG_6701The end to the day is the child
sweetly dreaming by 8pm.
There is a diligence, and a frustration,
when it takes longer than expected.
Rewind to 4 in afternoon when
the baby’s sleepy eyes wake from a nap.
Only ninety more minutes to explore and
build until the day turns into routine:
Cut the asparagus, bring the chicken out
of oven, and set the table for three.
Pass potatoes and retell the day
until the “all done” hands raise.
Wipe faces, pour toys into the warm
bath, and help find the set of pjs.

The familiar rhythm carries you
toward lavender lotion, and hair combing,
and promises of bedtime books.
Pull out the step stool and brush
each tooth until it tickles.  Tuck you
and baby into the suede arm chair
in the corner and read Goodnight Moon
and goofy Dr. Seuss. Pray holding
tiny hands—curled inside yours.
When you switch the light, decide
how many verses of “Amazing Grace”
you need to sing.  Let white noise
conclude with the crib of blankets,
Bunny, and a sleeping child soon.

When I think about the writing process,
it is much the same—
Preparing for the close of day and
preparing what you want to say.
Rewind to the morning at 10:15
when you see a tiger play ball
behind the zoo’s glass. Her power is
radiant, but you also glimpse
her loneliness, and you ache over
misconceptions just now coming
to surface—how maybe too much
power can isolate—you hold tight
the idea until it is strapped
to a folded notecard you carry with you
just in case. Jot down a few words
and hope they ignite into something
far more complete, later.

Tonight produces words on paper
and a heartbeat in punctuation.
The day can take minutes or months
as you slow to taste the possible words,
looking for the right flavor in your retelling.
You let the water rush onto your page
as the foam letters move and take
different shapes.  You clothe in a set
that fits you best: comb, rinse, and then
let it sit.  Read other writers until
you feel calm enough to turn off the light,
letting lullabies lead you to the pillow
you can finally rest your poem.

What Makes Marriage Beautiful

by Abigail Rudibaugh

marriage

What makes marriage beautiful
is your spouse pointing out—
after ten years together—
that you rearrange furniture
to cope with your stress. Or that,
you realize she really likes not
having a plan, but you having one
that she avoids until she needs it—
and you already know, she will.

What makes marriage beautiful
is that neither of you likes to sweep
and empty the trash once the kids
are asleep, but you both still do
because you both still know
it’s better than worrying over mice.
Or that, despite the redundancy,
it’s nice to be on a budget, and,
it’s also sometimes nice, to break it.

What makes marriage beautiful
is that time changes the things
you choose to pack into small boxes
as you move across states together.
But when you unpack, popping the wrap
and pulling off the tissue, you remember
how you also packed each other.  How
it’s easy to wrap each other up so safe,
and forget, not to leave yourselves there.

What makes marriage beautiful
is that you take time to find each other
(again and again) in the pile.  You help
her twist out of the never-ending tape
of who she used to be, watch her push
through dull cardboard ceilings of what
she used to think, noticing the bend
of the box as it buckles under growth.
You remind her, and yourself, growth is good.

What makes marriage beautiful
is that you take turns learning,
in the midst of new jobs and old flannel,
how the other keeps changing.
What makes marriage beautiful
are the opened boxes now in the corner,
the open conversation over steeped tea,
and the silent reassurance that
you don’t need the other to return there.