Red wagon rumpus…

flyer wagon
Years ago we moved to a large city in order for our three children, then in middle and high schools, to attend an artsy school that focused on freedom
in spirituality and creative expression. The teachers and students were an eclectic mix of interesting people with fascinating lives; we were excited to
have our kids share in their journey. The cost of tuition was more than our family could absorb, so during the interview, I found myself blurting out that I’d love to teach in exchange for some of the cost. The principal studied my eager face and asked, not about my qualifications, but my passions.

As if in a dream, I heard myself spilling over with enthusiasm about teaching elementary art. Art? Yes, they’d just lost their art teacher and a replacement was needed. I was qualified to teach creative writing and public speaking, but here in this surreal whirlwind of unfolding circumstances, was signing on to bring weekly art classes to each elementary classroom in a school characterized by their support for the arts. I’d officially gone mad.

While driving the several hours back home after that interview, I went cold with pure, raw fear.
WHAT was I thinking back there?!?!? What could have possessed me to suggest such a crazy arrangement……and what was wrong with THEM for agreeing with it??? I wrapped each valid question in prayer and left them to percolate…..wandering again into that place in my heart that had dared to suggest such a thing. I had felt REALLY alive back there…..something rose up inside me and danced all over that room until we were all believing the music.

In the days that followed, ideas and insights would bubble up from that ridiculously joyful place in my heart as I packed and cleaned and hustled through the details of moving a household. Soon, exhausted by busyness and goodbyes, it became harder to duck each time chilling accusations taunted me: “WHO do you think you ARE?” My knuckles white on the steering wheel, I traveled the road to my new home with a resolve grown thin with fatigue and anxiety. My hidden buttons were going off like a switchboard.

Within a few days, school began and students and parents began filing into a large gymnasium for the opening assembly. New teachers were introduced individually. When I was announced as the new elementary art teacher, loud expectant applause jolted me like an electric shock. I almost died of intimidation. Art classes were a big deal to these people….if I was going to fail and disappoint, it was going to be in a large way, embarrassing my children. Good Lord, what had I gotten myself into?

My husband headed back home to continue with his job and prepare our house to sell. I felt very much alone in a new city with a small rented house, three transitioning teenagers and a terrifying new job. There was also an intoxicating sense that I was uncurling cramped wings and spreading them wide until damp feathers began reaching to catch an updraft. I prayed for huge, enormous, massive grace. It came…..bright red and on wheels.

My shiny red wagon soon became my trademark. Rattling down sidewalks and hallways, buckets of paints, markers and supplies jangling and clattering in a tipsy tumble of happy potential, it seemed to clamor loudly “anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.” God himself seemed to call through the clatter “Your worth is not on trial here; it’s settled. No more hunched shoulders, cringing and waiting for the ax to fall. I’ve got you…..I’ll cover you.” And He DID in amazing ways…..and gave those kids (and me) an education that birthed so much more than pretty pictures. There was rich, raw life in it; creativity was released in the rumpus.

The noise and rhythm of red wagon grace helped me to slide into that childlike place where all the best stuff comes from….that playful wonder where impossibility becomes fingerpaint in messy, hopeful hands.

Years have passed since those magic-filled days. When we started our business, the red wagon came along, helping me carry my tools to dig and plant new gardens. The waters beneath me seemed deeper and more dangerously churning now. There was more to risk. More to lose. And again, fierce more-than-enoughness covered and kept me.

I recently found myself feeling drawn to pull out my wagon again. This morning I sat down beside it and ran my hands over it’s worn, paint-spattered surface still smelling a little of cow manure compost. I got the funny sensation that it’s ready to set out on another adventure, like I used to feel with my guitar when a new song wanted to be born. It’s full of stories now….just waiting to see if I’ll find the courage to tug them out and write them down. Taking another deep breath, I grab the handle and start to pull….leaning into letting the wild rumpus start!


  1. PaperPumpkin on July 17, 2010 at 12:58 am

    I imagine you, not pulling that beloved red wagon, but sitting in it now, grinning, while spirit pulls you for a wild ride.

  2. Mary on July 17, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I loved reading this!!! I wait with anticipation as to what "splendid adventure" 🙂 God has in mind for you!!!

    I am so glad our paths have crossed!!!!

  3. rachel awes on July 17, 2010 at 3:11 am

    "who do you think you are?",
    dear jennifer…
    it is you in your fully fullness,
    your dreamiest imaginings,
    your most splendid wagon trips
    with all the messy colors along the way
    & all the quiet space in between.
    i am intrigued about what you will
    venture into & what is dwelling within you now.
    what i do know is being sure it is beautiful…
    it is your wagon, after all.

  4. Hindsfeet on July 17, 2010 at 4:35 am

    I *love love LOVE* this, Jennifer! "Oh the places you'll go" : ) …

    …and I *loved* this bit…

    "something rose up inside me and danced all over that room until we were all believing the music."

    unstoppable Life!

    (a little sidenote…I play guitar too! And I know *exactly* the sensation you're describing, when a new song is bubbling up inside, asking to be written and sung….I get the same feeling with my writing…)

    Here's to kindred spirits and thickening/unfolding plots….

    Have a sweet weekend, J…


  5. Butterfly Works on July 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    As I was reading, I caught myself being pulled into all your emotions and bouncing all over the place…what a gift of writing you have….

    Now for the red wagon, I can't wait to hear of your new adventures that God has planned for you. So glad I found your blog…..

  6. Bren on July 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Oh Jen, you have to do it, you have to take out that red wagon full of grace and creativity and write your book, and get your stories out there. I'm sitting here crying with everything inside me so moved so inspired by your story, your life of reckless abandon to the birthing of new things in your life! This story needs to be released to touch and inspire other little red wagon's who dream but don't quite launch….

  7. LeeAnn on July 17, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Oh Jennifer, you have brought me to tears of joy over listening to your story and your bravery. Doing it afraid!! Yes! I know that we limit what God can do through us many times. Your adventuresome spirit is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful words with me.

    I'm going to quote you in a post sometime if that is okay re: "Your worth is not on trial here, it's settled." So powerful.

    Keep pulling that little red wagon! Can I go for a ride in it?

    Lee Ann

  8. Patricia Thebeau on July 17, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Wow! What a gift, what a ride, I am so excited for you. That grace, being spilled out of you. Just makes me a little envious, but so happy for you. A friend of mine sent me your blog and I am so glad she did. Hope you don't mind, me tagging along on your journey. Can't wait to hear more.

  9. Kel on July 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Hi, I am Bren's sister Kellie, and the funny thing is that the other day I came across the link to your blog in an email that Bren had sent me – it was for "Black Water Willies", and when I read it again I bookmarked your blog so that I could come back to it this weekend. Then she sent me the link to your blog again today! I don't think it was a coincidence. I absolutely LOVE your writing; it strikes such a chord deep within me that I can hardly put it to words. I admire your bravery, and wish I could live every day of my life like that. I've had those "stepping off the edge of a cliff" moments a few times in my life, and it is the scariest, most exhilerating feeling in the world. Go ahead, take that next step…that red wagon is waiting!

    Bless you; can't wait to hear more!


  10. Francois on July 18, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Good good stuff.
    Brenda posted your page on her blog and I was enticed to come and see for myself.
    I can just imagine the rides that red wagon has been on and if it could speak what a tale it would tell.
    Your story reminds me of some of the off the cuff things I have done and later said "What was I thinking!"
    You are right though in letting God cover you for the ride to work out.
    I only hope I can someday give God the option to do the same for me before I take off on my own and blunder into oblivion.
    Great story!

  11. dulcy on July 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    "What was I thinking?" the great phrase that can start so many wonderful adventures (or, sometimes not so wonderful….). I love this post! It's so cool when the unexpected pops up and we just go with it without a lot of thought,that gut feeling that is always right and keeps us on course. It sounds like the perfect job, and I bet the kiddos just loved it when they heard your wagon heading to their room. I taught elementary school for 23 years and it's the best job in the world!

  12. The Dreaming Bear on July 19, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Hello from Iowa! So happy to find your gorgeous blog! I found myself nodding, smiling and feeling the excitement, imagining the little red wagon rumbling down the hallways of school! Good for you! Can't wait to hear what's next!

  13. S. Etole on July 20, 2010 at 4:53 am

    There's just something about little red wagons that beckons the child to come out and play …

    Appreciate so much the comment you left earlier.

  14. Relyn on July 27, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    I adore the word rumpus.
    I adore art teachers.
    I adore leaps of faith that have been egged on by passion.
    Hey! Look at that. Looks like I adore you.

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