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So, why the long internet silence? What has been happening these past months of shuttered web-windows? Well, all the things I mentioned above. Also, hitting pause so I recognize the blessing of Afterwards

The most obvious reason for my long blogging silence was the looming manuscript deadline I faced at the end of August. I know I’ve mentioned it before; I’ve been working on a book with Mercer University Press as part of their Food and the American South series. It’s a book about the Texas Tavern, a local restaurant here where I live in the mountain south. Only it’s more than a restaurant. It’s an icon. For sixteen months, I explored the questions: what makes a place more than a place? What makes it an institute or even an icon to its community? And, how does a hamburger, hot dog, and chili joint reveal the larger place of the American South? You’d be surprised the amount of work it takes to tease out answers to such questions. Or even possibilities of answers. Nearly eighteen months; a file box full of interviews, research, stories, drafts and photos; lots of Tavern time; and 130 pages of manuscript later, I turned in my best effort at answers to my questions. I believe I could have never finished contemplating those questions. I still wonder about how and where I eventually landed with it all and think how there are endless ways the questions could still be considered.

It wasn’t the book deadline alone which kept me offline. There was also our family’s trip to Japan. We went at the end of June, into the first week of July. Talk about a powerful cultural experience. There is no end to the things I could tell about Japan. Now that it’s forever embedded in my heart and mind, I’m sure Japan and my experiences there will become red threads woven through other wonderings I share. For now, it seems enough to share these two things: First, it was incredibly disorienting being immersed in a post-modern, technologically advanced society, which appeared ‘westernized’ from the outside (down to the Starbucks, 7-11 stores, and Gucci handbags) but operated in a way opposite of all–I mean ALL–my ‘western’ instincts. Second, there is a culture of silence I kept encountering while there. It is powerful silence, carrying both positive and negative connotations, depending on the interaction. It was a silence perpetuated by the language barrier. But it went beyond the language barrier, too. It reminded me of the irony held in silence. Silence is always communicating something. Silence is never really silent.

Which brings me to the most powerful reason for my long online silence. My husband and I took our second son to college. I’ve written about this thing before: launching a child into the world. I won’t revisit it here. It was another hard and holy parenting moment. In some ways I found it even harder than taking our first son to college. Kind of like the second time you jump from the 25-foot cliff into blue water below. The first time you jump in ignorant bliss, knowing nothing of the terror of free fall, the glassy blue speeding at you, the crash of lungs with water, the terrible seconds of scrambling up for air. These things are only imagined–if that–until you do it. The second time you know. You peer over the ledge fully aware, fully remembering those acute sensations of dying. The fact you are still alive to repeat the feat isn’t nearly as powerful as the feelings associated with impending doom. And so it was with sending son #2 off to college.

Yet, in all these things is the blessing of Afterwards. There’s a comfort in looking back and realizing, Wow, I’m still standing. More importantly, everyone around me is still standing, too. Thriving even (for the most part).

This, I think, is one of the many ways grace shows up in my life. In any life. In the blessing of Afterwards. Oh, that we would only slow down long enough to recognize it.

(Next week…coming home to children’s literature)