Throwback Thursday: From the Road (Age 16, 2004)

My sweet Grandma Katherine keeps journals. She has for years, and she recently told me she calls all of her musings “Nuts and Nuggets.” I adore this humorous lens she has taken on her own writings! I know a lot of my own ramblings are of the nutty variety, but every now and then, a golden nugget surfaces. The following little nugget was found in one of my tiny spiral notebooks from age 16. It was written during a family road trip from Tennessee to Texas in January of 2004. I thought it would be appropriate for Throwback Thursday, as I am currently on the road again, enjoying a splendidly unconventional honeymoon (Road Trip Moon :). It seems that, once again, there are some lessons I could learn from my younger self. — “Lindsey,” I whisper for the umpteenth time, “kick mom.” We’re smushed in the back seat of the Camry on our way to Dallas, Texas. Mom and Dad have been taking turns driving for 11 hours straight through the night. I keep watching Mom because she has to slap herself and bounce in her seat to stay alert!!! It’s funny, but a little nerve-racking too. After yet another sign that she will conk out any second, I whisper, “Mom, I can drive.” “Just rest,” she replies. Just rest? I can’t! I’m afraid she’s gonna run off the road… I mean, is risk really necessary?   That’s when I hear the echo of Your words to me, Lord. “Come to Me all you weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Why are You driving my life... read more

Road-Trip Moon

  It’s 11:04 pm. We’ve spent most of the day driving through the lovely hills and pastures of Kentucky, and I’m stretched out in the back of the Runner while The Bear drives us on to South Bend, Indiana. Today was the first full day of our Road Trip Honeymoon, and what a stark contrast between this multi-week, car-camping excursion and the restful retreat we took in Newport, Tennessee for 2 days after the wedding! One might be inclined to ask why a gal such as myself would even want to take such a nontraditional trip for her honeymoon. I may have asked myself this very question a few times today. It definitely takes some getting used to… maybe even some self-convincing. So here is a list I’m forming for myself as much as for my curious readers: Top 5 Reasons to Rock this Road-Trip Moon 5. I’m stretched out in the back of the Runner writing. I’m doing my favorite thing, and it just happens to be from a mobile hotel that takes me to all these interesting places that have infinite inspirational potential. 4. After months of moving home to Tennessee and planning and throwing a simple yet nevertheless exhausting wedding celebration, this trip forces me to literally rest: to sometimes get out of the Runner and explore, but, so far, to mostly sit and watch the beauty on all sides as we pass through breathtaking landscapes. 3. This trip gives my Hubby Bear and me a chance to establish our values, priorities, and routines before we let the everyday business of setting up our new life together distort... read more

Throwback Thursday: Whisper (Age 15, 2003)

One of the coolest things about moving home has been discovering my old journals. Apparently, I’ve been writing since I was a wee little lass of 9 years. It’s likely that I was writing before that, but we had a house fire the year I turned 9, so I guess anything after the fire is sitting around in boxes in my old room or my parents’ garage, waiting to be found and folded open. So, I’ve decided to institute a periodic addition to the blog called Throwback Thursday, in which I type up something that I wrote as a girl or teenager that has some common theme with what I’m writing about currently. The other night, I found a poem I’d written when I was 15. It’s called “Whisper,” and when I read it, I got choked up – mostly because it reminded me of what I had felt when I was up on that mountain watching the fireflies. If you haven’t read “The Story of the Silent, Sparkling, Synchronous Fireflies,” go back and read it after you read this poem. Or maybe just read it again. It’s amazing how 13 years later, I am learning the same lessons. — Whisper Ashley Katherine Denning Feb. 8, 03 My child, I know your lonesome way – I’ve been there once before. But I have overcome the pain That you might trust Me as Lord. I know your heart is beating to A rhythm of defeat. I know you miss the time you’ve spent Thriving at My feet. But I’ve not left you, Little One, To bear your pain alone. Open... read more

The Story of the Silent, Sparkling, Synchronous Fireflies

Just a few weeks ago, I drove 800 miles from Texas to Tennessee and pulled up to my parents’ house on a Tuesday night. It took all of one day to get up to the Smoky Mountains, thanks to the Bear (also known as Nate Croft). He took me to dinner on Market Square in downtown Knoxville on Wednesday evening, then we decided rather impulsively to drive an hour east and see if we could catch the synchronous firefly phenomenon that occurs for 1-2 weeks every year in the Smoky Mountains (I knew nothing about it until this week, so here is a link from the National Park Service: The Bear is the kind of person who would just up and drive anywhere, and with the wonders of nature involved, I must say I was rather excited myself. We hopped in the Runner and headed for the hills. I started looking for an address and quickly learned that there is no address for Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There were, however, GPS coordinates. We plugged the numbers into our map system and proceeded to wind our way through the dark, twisting roads, not even sure if we would find what we were seeking.   The directions took us straight to the Elkmont Campground, which we drove through slowly, asking a few campers about the fireflies along the way. After some helpful tips, we found a parking area which looked promising. As soon as the Runner’s engine was shut off, the trees in front of us came to life with the most unique thing I’ve ever seen. I... read more

Of Stuffed Cars and Knowing What’s Good for You

  And I say, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.” – Psalm 55:6-8 On Monday, June 8th, 2015, I stuffed Sofia (my Corolla) to the seams and hit the road. I was returning to my hometown of Knoxville after what has begun to feel like a seven-year exile. There are so many things (mostly deeply-loved people… and cornfields… and 1418 Coffeehouse) that I will miss about Texas; but everything in my being clamors that this is Home, and it is time to be here. It is probably confirmation that I’ve been in Knoxville for about three days, and all the health problems I’d been dealing with for over a year are just gone. I’ve gained about 15 pounds since January, and this is a good thing. For a while there, the numbers on the scale and the clothing tags were an obsession. Then the year of misadventure carried with it so much stress that losing weight was just a natural consequence. It felt amazing to reach a goal I had previously thought impossible… and then to go beyond it. But that’s when the health problems set in. I felt weak constantly and couldn’t run the way I used to. The bizarre symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomenon had flared up: blanch-white fingertips when I was cold and under stress. This is one of the main reasons I knew that Tennessee soil would be good for me. It was... read more

Learning to Lose

Another thorn keeps poking my brain as I embark on this writing project. I believe wholeheartedly in the good practice of finding beauty in everything around me. The littlest things end up bringing me so much joy! One of my favorite places to go is this cozy coffee shop in Plano, TX called 1418 Coffeehouse. Their sugar free vanilla latte tastes like a warm, liquid marshmallow. It’s. Amazing. But if my sense of meaning feeds only on delicious lattes – or even if it arises from capturing all the wonders that arise in the light of the golden hour – I’ve missed the point. My joy wrestles with a current of guilt that keeps surging in to make its presence known: How can I spend $5 on myself – rather frequently – just to enjoy that smooth, sweet sensation while hungry children walk this planet? I think this guilt-current is a healthy one, born from the shift in my value system that started over the last year and a half. I’ve gone from a 5-bedroom house with my dream floor-plan to a one-bedroom apartment with a greenbelt view and an abundance of happy cardinals. I used to buy $100 jeans; at the moment, everything I’m wearing is second-hand, except for some sandals from Target. The possessions of my former life weren’t evil… just more than I really needed. I was spending too much money and time on what didn’t really matter. As Ann Voskamp writes, “Your days never fail to betray your priorities.” Then grace came in a whirlwind, picked me up, and placed me elsewhere. Maybe the wrestling will... read more

Looking to Name the Unnameable

“What fortune lies beyond the stars, Those dazzling heights too vast to climb?” – Hillsong United, “Touch the Sky” What hides behind the moments, the matter swirling around us every day? Am I the only one whose ache to encounter it is relentless? Sometimes, things are great, and I have everything I need. But something still whispers of more. And when I find myself with all the comforts of a daily norm stripped away, my need to know an Author of this story waxes acute. Rainer Maria Rilke refers to the Divine as “you drifting mist that brought forth the morning.” In another poem, he calls God darkness because, unlike the light that excludes everything outside its circle, the darkness embraces everything. What if what we have named God wasn’t at all attached to the myriad connotations that turn people away in frustration? What if the true One was everything our souls have needed, the Something we already love deeply but cannot name? This Divine Infinite One is in all the moments beautiful. I know because my heart has nearly broken with the weight of a glory greater than all this lonely planet. And I have also seen this One in the waters cold and dark, when hope seemed lost. I know because the water – though fast rushing over my head – was never too much. This Divine, Infinite One – Author, Artist, Mystery, Truth, Love – was more, and swelled inside me, and I was not... read more

Designed Departure

So, when tragedy and misadventure sweep in and you find yourself sitting on a patio in the middle of a shopping center in Suburbia evaluating all your hours, a surprise blessing sometimes comes creeping in on the heels of their destruction. In my particular case, this came in the form of a chance at a clean slate. How often can a 28-year-old woman change everything about her life – career, city of residence, hours and hobbies and pursuits? The only earthly thing that really mattered in my life was now out of my reach: the six sweet children I had the privilege of sharing my life with for three years. Out of love and a desire to be kind to their family, I feel it best to leave the details in the past. The truth of how blessed I was to know them burns still, however. I will never forget them, and I carry them with me in my heart. The reality on that patio last fall stands stark like a photograph: I was alone, and the ache was an abyss. Sometimes this is the only time in our lives when we are open to change. Sometimes it’s the only way we could ever be persuaded to consider the rhythmic harmonies of our lives and, if dissonant, make adjustments. Last week I mentioned reconnecting with Nate Croft through social media. It was January, and my parents were visiting from Tennessee and staying in my little apartment here in Allen. My mom and I were curled up on the futon looking at Nate’s artful photography. We quickly noticed that he was using... read more

Confession Time

I’m impressed to admit the angst I regularly feel about the dichotomy between my blog’s lofty endeavor and the fact that I live in Suburbia. I’ve only recently discovered the fun times of Instagram, where I’ve been inspired by the likes of the Boyink and Longnecker (#bareneckers) families who have sold everything and are #ditchingsuburbia for life on the road. Perhaps my biggest Insta-hero is the man whose gallery really made the app click for me: Nate Croft, a guy I actually knew about 9 years ago. When I ran across his feed, it was immediately clear to me that this scruffy guy road-tripping across the country and rocking #vanillatothegrave was an adventure-magnet version of the young man I’d met that summer of 2006. The confession gets down to this: All the varied, breathtaking shots on Instagram strike a chord with something that has been growing in me for some time. Tragedies and misadventures have a way of making you evaluate your hours, and the year I’ve just traversed has put me in such a place. One night last autumn, I sat on a patio in Fairview, TX, and made a list:   This page was folded up and shoved to the bottom of an unused pocket in my purse. I found it again in the new year, glossy and creased from the time spent in the chasm that I call my fathomless leather accessory. It might be hard to read, so I’ll rewrite #2 here: Nature! – Sunsets, Mountains, Blue Skies, Walking, Hiking, Stargazing, Tennessee in the Fall More than ever, my heart feels an ache for the wild mystery found... read more

A Narrow Escape and Hidden Treasure

What does modern-day treasure look like? Such a word as treasure was the farthest thing from my mind as we trekked away from the highway, following the path indicated by some vehicle’s tire marks. The golden hour was settling in, and The Bear and I, hungry for photographs and adventure,  had pulled the Runner over next to a field with an abandoned building. A fence lined the field where it met the highway and along our side of the perimeter, so we started exploring the surrounding woods, following a decently-worn path. The green quiet around us was lush, and I felt a need to reign in my exclamations. Cardinal chirps accompanied us as we reverently wound our way back and farther back. Then the clearing opened before us: an old shed, anciently vibrant with graffiti tags on its rusted face; a burn pile surrounded by blackened trees, twisted metal enigmatically thrusting up through its ashy heaps; and the skeleton of an old hen house. The hinge dangling from the hen house door frame looked like the end of a forgotten garden hoe at first. But I strode closer and discovered its true identity. The hinge didn’t seem to merit the camera’s attention at first. But something in its quirky character jutted into my mind and called me back. I snagged the shot, and we moved on to photograph and explore the clearing. That’s when we discovered the end of the fence. The large field – the one with the abandoned structure that looked like the storefront of an old west town – was now trespass-able. Now, to be clear, we were careful... read more