30 Week Poetry Challenge

I was inspired by my mom recently to set some clearer goals in my writing than I have for a while and to create a challenge for myself, specifically connected to my blog. For a long time writing has been a very personal way for me of expressing and understanding, and something I do for myself. It’s not something I pressure myself about, or set deadlines for…it just pours out when it’s ready.

But I’ve decided that I want to challenge myself and try new things to grow as a writer. I write poetry a lot, but have not stretched myself in that area very much, so what I decided to do is to try a new form of poetry every week for the next 30 weeks. Sunday afternoons are my writing afternoons, and those are the days I’ll write my poem for the week. Any other time I find to write during the week will be spent researching the form and analyzing examples. Then on Sundays I’ll have a whack at it! I don’t have a particular order, and so far my list of forms is at 26, leaving me a couple of spare weeks for the tougher forms I might need some more time to work with. I’ve also got a couple of my own ideas/forms I’ve experimented with and would like to continue developing.

I expect to be challenged by the deadlines and short timeframes and that I’ll feel that I’m moving on before finishing or perfecting my pieces. I not only want to broaden my horizons in the poetry I write and to experience different forms of this art, but also to accept and embrace the imperfection that often holds me back from trying new things and taking risks. I’ll probably be putting out a lot of poems I’m not completely proud of or pleased with, and feeling self conscious about sharing that – and I think that will be good for me!

My goal is to post something every single week, even if I didn’t get the time I wanted to really work with the form, or really don’t have anything finished, or hate what I do have, to make sure that I keep going. Each week I’ll share the poem I wrote, a bit about the form I used, and some reflections on the challenges and epiphanies I experienced while exploring each form. I’m excited to start this journey!




And oh what an adventure it is! For the eighteenth year in my life, it’s another first day of school, only this year is different for me because this time…I’m the teacher! At the end of the day I was reading through some things my students had written, and one responded to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with “a veteran.” His answer made me laugh, and though I’m not quite sure what he meant by that or if HE knew what he meant by it, it made me think. I think this is actually something we all struggle with at some point in life. There are inevitably things in life that we see and think, “I wish I was like that,” or “I wish I had that.” But so many of those wonderful things we see and dream of are end goals that we often don’t see the long, grueling journey behind. Think about a military veteran. Veterans receive awards, honor, respect, compensation, and benefits, and are people we often look up to. But think about everything in those men and women’s stories that we would never want to go through. For me, I look at veteran teachers and wish I could do things as cleanly, efficiently, and effectively. But…it took them years of experience and hard work and challenges to get them there and to learn those things. I think of a strong and fruitful marriage that so many people long for, but also of the effort, intentionality, and struggles that build that strength. I think of the ways that I’ve grown strong and the challenges that are the very things that strengthened me. Those are things we don’t see when we see things we wish we could be. We want strength, joy, peace, love, happiness, wealth, success…but we often want to skip right to it. We want to be veterans. But being a veteran comes from putting in the time and work. Wanting to “find” happiness, wealth or success is as silly as an eight year old saying he wants to grow up to be a veteran. If he wants to be a veteran, he needs to first be a soldier. If I want to be successful, I need to first be a hard and dedicated worker. If you want to be wealthy, you have to invest wisely or work toward a high-paying career.

But it’s also a wonderful thing to see the end reward of what you do, and know what you are working toward. To want to be a military veteran means you can see the reward of the sacrifice it takes to get there and to be dedicated to committing a considerable portion of your life to it. Wanting to become a veteran teacher means seeing how I want to improve and knowing that my growth as a teacher isn’t finished just because I’ve graduated, earned a degree, gotten a license, landed a job, and begun teaching a class of my own. Look at how much my students are already teaching me! I know there are so many ways we will all learn from each other this year, and am delighted to begin the adventure together. And when I grow up, I want to be a veteran too.


I just found something I wrote a long time ago about something I’ve run into consistently with people. This helped me understand it in a different way as well as articulate it in a way that uses my culture to help others understand it more clearly. Which made me think about making meaning with cultural contexts, but that’s another topic 🙂 here’s a little poem: 

I’m like a weak wifi signal – 

I struggle to connect.

And when I take too long, 

I’m just another network

They push a button to forget.

It’s a Friday in May. It’s another end of a college semester. Only it’s not just. It’s my last end of a college semester, because tomorrow, I graduate.

I have spent four years six hours away from home in a new state near a big city at my small school.

Around this time of year people start getting nostalgic, especially those of use who are graduating. We start reflecting on our time and memories from college and what’s ahead for us. There are a lot of lasts and a lot of goodbyes. Lately I’ve heard and read a lot of fellow graduates’ thoughts on how they changed during these last four years, and how they are different people from the freshmen just beginning this strange middle ground of not-quite-adult-yet. And a lot has happened in these last four years. But as I’ve been reflecting on my time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a different person from who I was when I moved here.

During my time in college I’ve been stretched and challenged in many ways. I’ve had to work harder than ever before to have academic success. I’ve met a lot of people and had amazing and challenging relationships. I’ve had the privilege of having many amazing experiences out in schools, in the jobs I’ve had here, and in volunteer work. I’ve gotten to do some cool things in the city. I’ve been able to be involved in leadership at my school. I’ve grown closer to God and seen and been involved in some amazing work of the Spirit. I’ve done a lot of things I’d have never thought I could, and I can see that I have grown in many ways. But I don’t feel different from what I was four years ago. I feel more.

I don’t think I have changed much. I think I have become more of what I already was. Sometime last year I realized that there’s a lot that I hold back, that I’m not willing to risk. A lot of things about myself I’m scared to fully be. And in the midst of wishing that I could unapologetically put my full self forward without shrinking back, this phrase came to mind: someday I’ll be all of me.

These last four years have been spent becoming stronger, more confident, and better at being me. Not only have I more fully realized and understood my passions; I’ve been able to live them. Not only have I decided what I wanted to do with my life; I’ve started to do it. Not only have I identified more of my strengths; I’ve had opportunities to use them. I’ve discovered more of who I am supposed to be, and I’ve become more of that. And now, more than ever, I believe that I will continue developing, continue discovering my gifts and how to use them, and find the right place with the right people to give those gifts to.

These last four years taught me that people make me stronger and hard things help me learn. Darkness never lasts and shadows always shift.

I’m fearful about my next transition as I leave what has been my home for the last four years and step forward into the most alone and unknown period of my life so far. But I’m also excited and thankful. Because now, more than ever, I believe I’m more than I once was, more than I thought I could be, and will be more than I am now. I’m the same me that I was four years ago, moving my things in for the first time, as I am now, moving it out for the last. In fact, I’m more of me.

And someday – someday I’ll be all of me.


I took this picture because I was loving the sunset. I didn’t even notice the sign. But when I was looking back through my photos I loved this one because of the sign, as I started considering the word. Yield means to surrender or submit. It’s something I’m being challenged to do lately, as a lot of things are out of my hands and a lot of things seem scary and unknown. But yield also means to produce or provide. And I realized the yielding in my life is a bit of a quid pro quo – one that I’ve seen over and over. When I let go of what feels safe and open up my hands and hold out the things they hold – my experiences, abilities, hopes, and efforts – I make connections with others, receive opportunities, invest in important things, and develop and grow. But my life won’t yield any of those rewards until I’ve yielded what I have to give.

Shortly before I took this picture I was walking through a field listening to my swirling thoughts and found a wistful patch of dandelions. I wished on one, and do you know what I asked for? The first word that came to mind. Life. Because I’m about to build one for myself from the ground up, and there’s so many things I’m unsure of. I don’t know what to make my foundation out of, how to design a structure that is both safe and beautiful, or what tools to use. But I do know that the yield of everything we long for comes after we yield the things we are tempted to hold onto most tightly. And then we find life. True, real, vivid life. So when I see the need in my life to yield, it’s not only a reminder to surrender what I have to give, it’s also a sign that I will soon have a life-giving harvest.

This sign is a command, but it’s also a promise.

Water Color

I heard this one night while watching the sun set over a pond.


The golden glow is rippled

By shifting, flowing pixels

That take the sun and flip it upside down

To paint it in a liquid picture.



It all used to be like this –
Open sky, open land,
All untouched, all uncharted,
Every eye saw every star.
Now some never see and some are never seen.

Were we made to explore,
To be pioneers?
Were old lands meant to be new frontiers?
Or were we made to be grounded,
To be settlers?
To find our place and cultivate,
Instead of constantly trying to recreate
Newer, better worlds?

It’s shifting away from this –
Closed-in skylines, polluted light,
Blanketed cities, clouded minds.
Every star is overshadowed
As if progress was all that mattered.

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