More Heart and Less Attack

My housemate Amanda shared an interesting devo with us this past week that has snowballed into something she never expected.

The devotion started with the idea of No Complain November.  She had been reading a blog in which a lady had decided to try not complaining (out loud) for a whole month.  The idea was that complaints tend to add to negativity rather than add anything positive to our life situations, and that we should therefore work on turning our gripes into gratitude.

This idea reminded me of a former McCreary housemate’s devo in which she had asked us all to refrain from saying anything unkind for a week (or was it only a day?).  Being a lover of sarcasm, I (of course) had to ask:  “Do comments count as unkind if the person is joking?”  Kate said yes.  To which my response was (naturally) “But………….I work with Mike.”  Despite the complete legitimacy of this plea, it was denied.  Thus, the next day when I was walking into the office and Mike hit me with a snowball (for no reason), I said nothing unkind in response (although in this case I think it may have been completely warranted).  I told my Jackson housemates this story and they decided that it might be cool to give this No Complain November thing a try ourselves by trying not to complain for a few days, just like we tried to not make unkind comments in McCreary.  This whole trying it idea very soon turned into a competition for who could complain the least, complete with a scoreboard to keep track and a punishment for the biggest complainy-pants:  extra dishwashing duties.


This of course, is all in good fun, but it was actually very interesting that Amanda had chosen to pick this topic for a devo because it was one that I had been thinking about.  Lately, I’ve been pondering the idea of being overly critical.  I am a very organized, routine sort of person who likes things done a certain way.  And I feel this sometimes makes me more critical than perhaps I should be.  This thought occurred to me, oddly enough, at a KFC.  Well, not just a KFC.  The original KFC.  In my old haunt of Corbin.  I made the comment while I was there that I thought the place could be better kept up, considering what it is.  And one of my fellow volunteers asked me to explain why I felt this way.  And I found myself thinking “You know, does it really matter?  Was my harsh comment necessary?”  And I realized that it really wasn’t.

I think that I am also really super overcritical of myself.  I want to be the best that I am capable of being at whatever I am doing… and when I fall short of that…I fret over it.  A lot.  I’m not going to lie:  This past winter, when I was unhappy with my job situation, I would literally have days where I would get home from work and just sit and stare at the wall, thinking about what a piece of sh*t I was.  And I’d like to say that this terrible lack of self-confidence is something new, but it definitely isn’t.  To make a long story short, I think too much.  And I beat myself up WAY.  TOO.  MUCH.

I came across a song a couple weeks ago that hit home.  It describes trying to approach life with more love (heart) and less criticism (attack).  It’s about letting go of negativity – of selfish desires – of past problems – and being more Christ-like.  And that’s what I’m working towards.  And yes, old habits die hard.  But I’m going to try to approach everything with more heart and less attack.  (And also, try not to lose that competition so that I don’t have to wash all of those dishes!)

The more you take, the less you have

‘Cuz it’s you in the mirror staring back.

Quick to let go, slow to react,

Be more heart and less attack.


Kentucky Roads

I am becoming reacquainted with Kentucky roads.  Reacquainted with curves and dips.  With sharp turns and guard rails carved from rock.  With quiet valleys and plummeting views.

I say reacquainted….but really I am getting to know them better than ever before.  The big reason that I was placed in Jackson County this time around is because they needed someone who could drive the truck.  And, somewhat humorously (yeah, driving isn’t exactly my favorite activity, but it’s part of life…well, that is, until I get my horse and buggy), I am that someone.

When I was in McCreary, I walked to my workplace, and I really only had one regular driving destination.  My road trips were fairly limited and the area where I was living/working actually had pretty nice roads because it was near a tourist destination (and tourists gotta have nice roads, now don’t they?).  Kentucky roads were the first roads that I ever discovered that could give me motion sickness.  When I first traveled them, they made me a little bit nervous – “Those rock walls…didn’t pieces fall off them sometimes and land in the road (or – eek! – on your car?)”, “These curves – don’t you think you might be taking them just a leeeetle bit too fast?”  But as I became more familiar with them, I started to see the beauty in them as well.  Just hearing the Switchfoot song “More Than Fine” takes me back to riding the curves of Beulah Heights, watching the sun rising against the hill where the little herd of beef cows grazed, and the kids at the orphan school headed out to do chores.  My old housemate Janet once said that over time she had discovered that there was something that felt very comforting to her about driving these roads.  A soothing rhythm that appealed to her like a child in a rocking chair being sung to by his mother.  I never felt that myself, but it made me think…and I think, just showed how much Kentucky had crept into her bones.

Now that I am in Jackson County, things are quite different.  First off, I can no longer just walk to work.  I have to drive to Gray Hawk, where the office is located.  Then, I might have to drive to the Housing barn, or the building supply, or a participant’s house (which can be quite a drive, depending on the person).  Or, as is most likely, all of the above.

Most of the roads that I drive on are not of the sort built for tourists.  Many of the roads are very skinny, necessitating a slow down and inch over whenever you meet a fellow passerby.   The locals, of course, are much more accustomed to this lack of space than me, and much better able to judge whether or not they have enough room.  This was apparent on my way to church last weekend.  A truck was parked in the road, where two men were throwing feed out of the bed and across the fence to some mules.  I, seeing this, slowed to a stop, because my Michigan eyes were saying “Uh, don’t think I can get around these dudes without getting stuck in the ditch.”  (I use the term “ditch” lightly…in most spots in the road there is no ditch…this part of the road just had a drop off along the edge).  But the two men in the truck waved me to come forward.  So, I, nervously, but trustingly, inched my way past their truck with my van, hoping that I would neither (a) Fall off the side of the road and get hung up or (b) knick mirrors with their truck.  And I made it, as they knew that I would.

There are also points on these roads that I would compare to driving in a Michigan snowstorm.  There are certain times in Michigan when you are driving in the snow and you can’t see in front of you and you can’t see anything around you.  You’re not 100% sure if you’re on your side of the road or even on the road at all.  You are quite certain that if someone comes along in the other direction, you would probably hit them.  But you pray to God and hope for the best (and drive slowly and carefully), and it usually turns out alright.  The same is true of some of these narrow Kentucky roads.  The curves are sometimes so tight and the road so narrow that you know that if someone happened to be coming around the curve in the opposite direction, you would probably very well hit them.  But, you go for it anyway, and it usually turns out alright.

As part of my duty as the Housing truck driver, I am also discovering the joys of really steep driveways and backing into spaces (as a general life driving rule, I never back up into any space, but I am having to learn differently here).  Yeah, I kind of stink at it, especially since trucks are large…like, you know, bigger than cars…and require more space.  But practice makes perfect, right?

But with all of these trials and tribulations, I have found a lot to be happy with on these drives of mine.  The Jackson County topography agrees with me more than that of McCreary.  And there are so many cattle farms around!  There’s nothing quite like seeing a field full of happy critters whilst driving to work.  In short –


There is something –

something about these roads

that soothes.

A winding, rocking,

silent lullaby.


But then –

there is something –

something about these roads

that sickens.

A sliding, plummeting,

narrow way.


The road may sooth,

and it may sicken,

but it’s best to take

this narrow way

with windows down

and mouth corners

turned up.


The Sweet Side of Life

I celebrated my second Kentucky Halloween this past weekend.  My first Kentucky Halloween, three years ago, I borrowed a red sweater from Deanie and Hot Shot’s clothing closet (Hills and Hollers) and a red cape from the collection of SPARK Halloween costumes (which, by the way, I think also originated from Hills and Hollers) that had been used for Family Fun Night.  I twisted my hair into pigtails and climbed into a van with (among others) a princess and a Mainer.  We drove to Mt. Vernon from McCreary County where my Little Red Riding Hood self sat on a sofa and gazed into a fire.

On this, my second Kentucky Halloween, I pulled costume pieces from a pile accumulated from Camp AJ and past Jackson House members, and cobbled them together just to pull them back apart.  I settled on a combo of a clown suit and a mini witch hat that my Grandma had sent me in the mail the day before.  I climbed into a van with Taylor Swift, Mini Mouse and a female Zorro (Zorra).  We followed a van toting a walking bag of potpourri, a doe, a rubiks cube, and a polaroid picture en route to Miss. Connie’s house.  Miss. Connie works at Camp AJ.  Miss. Connie also lives in the sticks.  Twists down one-lane gravel roads in the dark led us to her front porch, where she greeted us in a clown costume.  Her husband took a group picture of our costumed selves, we were offered sweet treats and warm drinks, their pup chewed at our feet.  We found companionship and what it means to be a good neighbor on a chilly end-of-October night, before turning our headlights back onto gravel.

The next morning dawned with an unexpected blanket of snow.  We headed out on a planned hike anyway, climbing to the Pinnacles with trees dripping snow down onto our hooded heads and gloved hands.  The snow and the brightly colored leaves combined to make a beautiful contrast.  I once said that November is a month with two faces, and this day was living proof.  Our destination was a flat section of rock that looks down onto the land below.  Mountain tops dusted with snow.  Tiny cars winding down pavement.  A doll-sized dollar store.  This view is worth chilled fingers and toes.  This view is worth the chagrin that I felt in the morning on discovering that winter had arrived far before I was ready for it.

The snow was melted by evening, when we headed to our final Halloween festivity, a party at a volunteer house in Mt. Vernon, much like the one I attended three years ago.  In truth, I wasn’t really feeling it.  I nixed the costume and somewhat wished that I could just stay home, but I went anyway.  The costumed volunteers at the Rockcastle Volunteer House greeted us with smiles and cupcakes.  Dirt pudding and embarrassing stories.  Conversation and pizza.  I did not regret coming.  We drove home with the stars blinking above us and talked about many things.  Mennonite donuts and short shorts.  Bow and arrows and a cat named Albert.  The early November night and the warmth following us from the well-wishes back at the Rockcastle House settled into our bones.

There is sweetness to be found in entering open doors, in a van stuck in a driveway, in an unwanted snowfall.  And we are here to taste it.

Halloween 2014 Polaroid Picture