Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The battle and the great exhale

The end of the school day. Some days are full of interest and wild electric brain activity and some feel like a battle against an army three times larger than my own. 

Sure, our lives are just one continuous cycle of changes and adjustments since the beginning of the summer when we packed up our home to live with family for a while to find a new home and live there for a bit, only to have major water damage and renovations and then move into a hotel for another undetermined amount of time. So, we eat breakfast someone else makes and receive clean towels each day, but whoa, I vaguely remember the beginning of this year that was a creative explosion. in a house we loved. Everything felt normal and familiar. 

North Carolina. Iowa. Missouri.

June, July, August, September, October. 

My little one now leaps out of my arms to trot after the big kids. She bounces with pride. Her face is alight with pride and mischief each time we almost reach the hotel room ,when she will, of course, run the opposite way as fast as her little legs will go, as soon as the door opens. 

This weekend we had to move everything from the lower level to the upstairs for the repairs, so we’re half moved out again, five weeks later.

All the while, the education of young minds must continue, so we gather around the table to learn.  I’m taking longer to start these days, because I need more coffee and prayers for reinforcements. Strength for this day. Patience when I am a record skipping on repeat and when writing letters is impossible and addition is torture. 

The other day, my husband called the minute we finished our work. I almost couldn’t speak for the fact that I wanted to fall to the ground in defeat.  But, that day we overcame struggles and frustrations and deposited important lessons to the bank of these little ones who are growing to be adults.  That’s the thing we’re trying to do here, right.  It’s a long, slow race.

I did collapse to floor that day and while I was there thinking how dirty the carpet might be, I realized that is was not at all defeat. NO. It’s quite the opposite.  The day was a raging success, because we overcame.  It was not magical or picturesque by any means, more grueling and bloody—minus the blood,  I think.  But, damn it, we did it. We did it together and we lived.  So, this week and for all the days to follow, I will claim victory in my great exhales.

Victory is not the absence of struggle, in fact, what would victory be with a fierce challenge?  We set out to learn and be kind and work hard and that’s what we’re doing.

Yes, life is laced with magic, so we suck the marrow from those glorious bits, but if there is one thing I know, all the good stuff is won when the battle is hard and we keep at it. 

Perhaps this season of life will extract the wanderer out of me, I doubt it though. Maybe we’ll be back home in time to pull out the holiday decorations and bake up a storm.  We’ll savor all the scents and cozy feelings.  And we’ll exhale a great battle of a season from our lungs, just in time to face whatever lingers around the corner.—because life is that way, I’m pretty sure.

So, exhale and fall to the floor.  Hide under the blankets.  Pray all the prayers and drink all the coffee.  We’re doing it, friends.

I’m going to learn so ninja moves from my son, I might need them.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Introducing: Bandersnatch

Oh, how I believe in the written word, in story, and in the beauty of creation.  That these stories we live day in and day out are connected to a greater story, one beyond our understanding.  Today, I have the privilege of  introducing a guest into this little space and after you read her words, make your way to the bookstore to pick up her new brand new book.  There are voices of light and truth in the midst of the roaring and rumbling sea of madness, one of those belongs to Erika Morrison.



“In July of 2000, when my husband and I got married, I was the ripe old age of nineteen and he was a seasoned twenty-four. Six months later I found out there was a baby in my belly, not on purpose. Then shortly after, another baby got in my belly not on purpose; then even less shortly after another baby got in my belly not on purpose.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: somebody needs to check the date on her birth control! But I promise you that nothing short of a medieval chastity belt with a rusted-shut lock could keep this Fertile Myrtle from getting pregnant. I don’t even trust the vasectomy my . . . never mind, I digress.

When our last boy was born in the left leg of my husband’s pajama pants (I should probably mention I was wearing them) while we rode the elevator up to the labor and delivery floor of Yale-New Haven Hospital, I had just birthed my third baby in three years. I’ll go ahead and do the math for you. I was twenty- three years young with a three-year-old wrapped around my thighs, a sixteen-month-old in one arm, a newborn in the other, and a godforsaken look of “Help!” writ across my face.

It was about this time that, as mentioned in the previous chapter, our marriage dove headlong into mess, we lost our income for too long to hang onto our home, and we experienced religious restlessness and a whole heap of other life challenges. Those early years redefined my own terms for what it meant to be drowning in the lifeblood leaking from every pore on my body. My internal equipment just wasn’t mature and qualified enough for my external reality, a reality that was demanding more of me than I could bear

What happened to me is what some psychologists call an identity crisis, a term coined in the early 1950s by Erik Erikson to refer to a state of confusion and unhappiness over one’s sense of self. If anyone had thought to ask me “Who are you?” in my good and lucid moments—which were few and far between—I could’ve answered with just about nothing.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the pain of not knowing who you are or if you feel that pain right now, but what can easily happen in that place of ache is that you start looking at other people, extracting the qualities you like about them, and injecting those qualities into your person as a substitute for what you don’t understand about yourself.

This is no bueno and that was what I did. In my naiveté, I saw the people around me as more inherently gifted than I was, so I decided that self-fulfillment meant adopting their God-given gifts as my own. I looked at this person’s way of socializing and that person’s version of hospitality and another person’s artistic expression and began mimicking their nuances. Before I knew any better, I had squeezed my shape into several different ill-fitting molds at once, while cramming my own personhood into a tiny, overlooked corner in the nether regions of my body.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how devastated my spirit would become under the influence of everyone else’s borrowed qualities. Other people’s gifts and character traits are designed to enhance, enrich, and complement our own, but never act as substitute for them.

A healthy sense of self-identity seemed to be a luxury I didn’t have the currency for . . .”

(Excerpt from Erika Morrison’s book, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul.)


The cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate.

None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.

But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that--like snowflakes--no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God.

(If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU--your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity--will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?)

So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.

And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of man made definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not, “The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” ~Frederick Buechner

So, let me ask you. Do you know something--anything--of your true, original, shimmering self?

I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama.

Those are your interests and investments.

I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?

Who are you before you became a Jesus lover or mother or husband?

Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?

I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God”, either. What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?

I can’t resolve this question for you, I can only ask you if you’re interested.

(Are you interested . . . ?)

Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.

Come with me? And I will go with you and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for your own and only God-given glow?

If you’re interested, you can order wherever books and eBooks are sold.

Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.

All my love,


Sunday, September 27, 2015

On displacement, again

We are buckled into our seats, surrounded by bags and pillows—things we have decided we need for another night not in our home.  Just minutes away from our cousin’s home, the baby throws up.  She woke up with a fever.  It covers her, the favorite blanket, and car seat.  A sick baby isn’t up for a weekend of being guests in someone else’s home.  She needs me always and I stroke her forehead, it’s so hot.  I hold her close as she shakes and cries.  She doesn’t chase the fluffy little dog that always makes her laugh.  She doesn’t follow around her siblings or attempt to scale the tall stairs.  At night, when she wakes, I collect her from bed and bring her to the cot in the living room.  The rest of the family stirs at her discomfort and most likely, the rest of the house does, too.

The week is long and frustrating.  Sewage backup, an endless stream of insurance calls, plumbers, restoration workers, and landlord communications.  The exclusion at the bottom of a policy that leaves them without responsibility and us overwhelmed.  I want to scream all the words I only say in my head. I want to splash outrage across everything we see.  Because, tell me how I’m going to manage living in half our home for the next month as the rest is rebuilt.  Tell me how a functioning kitchen is not a requirement for a “livable” home. Tell me the point of insurance, if it doesn’t help. And yet.  I bite my lip and sigh a lot.

Just last month when we lived with my mom, I was struck with such a feeling of displacement.  All the endings and beginnings of the season left me startled and bewildered.  I began to see it everywhere.  The green sleeping bag under the bridge in downtown Kansas City.  The thousands of souls fleeing their homeland at all costs.  If they go, they may die, but if they stay, they certainly will.  Look at their desperation and dare to feel displacement. Just dare.

A sick baby is loaded in the car seat, because we have to go here and there, we can’t go home to snuggle on the couch, to notice every whimper, every little shudder from the chills.  One more stop until we return to this home of ours.  Half the walls are stripped bare. The floors are torn apart and exposed.  We’ll endure the construction and be intentional with simple and prepared meals.  We’ll enter more restaurants than usual.  There will be many challenges, but I cannot utter the word suffering. 

Suffering, I do not know.  The mother with a child in arms, carrying all that remains of their material belongings.  The baby is hungry, because there is no food or warmth or rest.  They must press onward. They must get on the train.  They must be let in the gates.  And the baby becomes sick, her cries are great, joining in the heart breaking chorus of the many who are broken and afraid, desperate with survival.  There is no rest in survival.  A little body burns with fever, but they trudge on in a place they are not welcome. Everything is unknown and bewildering.  The mother strokes her forehead, gives her a sip of water, from the bottle that is nearly empty.  Every drop matters.  Every step must be taken. There are long, staggering conversations considering the limited money in their pockets, a debate over lodging and food, travel or medicine.  One or the other? What can we forgo?  If we can just get there? If we can just…

Exhaustion seeps into every desperate word. All around them, the foreign and unwelcoming world does not care for the weeping small ones, for the strong and weary others pressing on for their lives.  Displacement is oozing and smells fowl.  It settles in and dulls shining eyes.  Embers of darkness and fear begin to glow. Who can be trusted? Not many.  Who will help us? Not many.  What will we do? I don’t know, but we have to try.

We unloaded the car and turned the key in the door.  A deep sigh acknowledged the reality of these next few weeks.  An exhaustion served atop the move half way across the country heaped on top of the process of it all.  I gave her medicine to ease her symptoms and placed her gently in bed.  My baby rests now, under her favorite blanket, next to the handmade bunny that we made in anticipation of her life and a teddy bear from daddy on the day we first saw her beautiful, big eyes.

I walked down the stairs to a mountain of boxes labeled kitchen. I do not know where to find the trash bags.  I can not find the kettle that will brew water for coffee, but in one cupboard that remains on the wall, someone was thoughtful enough to put our paper plates, plastic silverware, and the half empty bottle of spiced rum.  I laughed.  I put a simple lunch on paper plates and bring to my family.

Our inconvenience will feel great.  Yet, it is not suffering.  No. Suffering, can we even imagine theirs? Inconvenience is merely a rain drop in an ocean full of wandering souls with no place to return and no place to arrive.