Saturday, November 14, 2015

if these are our days

The shock carried through the evening hours.  I am certain many of us around the world did not sleep in ease.  Here, we didn’t feel especially motivated to do much as we watched the events unfold, streaming in from the screens of all sizes.  Stillness in solidarity.  God be with Paris.  God be with us all.

An ocean between us, but we paused to pray for peace, for protection, for the madness in this world to just stop and let us catch our breath.  We prayed that hope would begin to ease the fear and wash away the bloodshed.  We whispered the words of St. Francis, where there is darkness, let there be light.

And whatever connection we each feel to this city of lights, whether the darkness that was thrust upon our brothers and sisters or something special, or a deep love of the culture, the language, the food, the history.

 Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.  (Where there is sadness, let there be joy.)

The reality we face in the days ahead feel dazzling and frightening.  A quaking world surely groans in turmoil.  We do not lose our hope in the one who has written the end of the story, yet we feel the shaking of the earth below our feet.  Evil often seems to be unstoppable and we feel unprepared and uncertain.  

I just finished reading a novel, about two brave sisters in WWII France.  I am always captivated by this era, whether on paper or screen.  Always in the beginning, we witness the cautiously optimistic conversations of neighbors gathering outside the market,  moments in time when the world is on the brink of change, when the lives they lead would forever be marked by the events looming ominously in sight.  We see how they dressed daily in hope and faced every uncertainty. 

These courageous souls did not know their stories would be pillars in time, they just lived, because giving up was a poor alternative, and survival is the birthmark of the natural world.  The fight for goodness and truth marches through eternity and we are all players.

I don’t know what lies ahead or where we are in the grand unfolding in the life and times of man.  None of us really gets to be certain, but the miles shrink away in our streaming world.  It’s all too real.

This morning, I whisked cornstarch with egg yolks, melted chocolate and warmed cream for a chocolate pie. Standing in the kitchen, my mind was thousands of mile away and I began to wonder, if these are our moments in history to face with courage and hope.  We hold our babies and kiss their heads while the future rumbles with discord and trouble.  We wonder what kind of world they will know, what tomorrow will bring. 

In this moment, I felt a kinship to the sisters of the days we have not forgotten.  In their perfectly coiffed hair and cotton dresses, with market baskets and little ones trailing near. The ones who worked endlessly, prayed fervently, and faced every trial while fighting against the fear at bay. Our sisters who bore grief, devastation, and loss and celebrated triumph, beauty, and courage. The styles and relics of each period only distinguish a mark in time, but we are not so different. 

If these are our historic days, let us dress daily in courage, stand fervently in hope, and unceasing in prayer.

Monday, October 19, 2015

on seeing hell

I sat in the bank parking lot with my children as a man stormed from the ATM. A cloud of fury rumbled in his every step, anger fumed out of every unkind word that he yelled at the child by the car, at the woman inside it. A cyclone of brokenness  just 10 feet away. I turned up the music so my kids wouldn't hear the wealth of vocabulary. I kept my face still, but my soul ached over the slamming of doors and the way they hurled despair at each other like knives glistening in the afternoon light. 

One door wouldn't close properly, so the man stomped out to close it and he continued to berate her for daring to need more than the $60 he gave her last week. The child never spoke, but he wouldn't have been heard. The engine took two turns of the key to start. As they roared away, the exhaust muffling the battle of words, I felt heavy in the seat of our old car. It's not beautiful or terribly clean and we are hopeful for the day we get to replace it with something larger, but it's our and it runs. Really though, what does a steel machine matter? 

Someone wrote a book and dared to question the wide spread understanding of heaven and hell. An all-out assault was launched at his daring ideas, but if you ask me, I might agree with him.  Do we dare to see that hell is now, right here on this earth, every breathing moment of  existence for far too many people.  Would you dare it look for it?  It won’t be hard to find.

Check the eyes first, that’s a good start.  Outer shells of humanity strutting and fretting about the stage, like Shakespeare wrote so long ago, drudging through the rise and fall of the sun.  Shells so empty from the soul sucking despair of their realities, can it even be called a life?

I sat in my car, my kids being so noisy and happy. My husband walked out the doors and got inside.  I told him what I had witnessed. 

The sea of troubles is great, the quaking world is ripe with terror and despair, but Jesus said that the Kingdom of heaven is here. I don’t think it matters if we really understand what that fully means, but I don't think the religious people liked that either.  I don’t think it’s about doctrine or theories, but I think it’s simple. The light that pierces the darkness, every single time. 

So much of what I hear from the church world feels like chaos and noise, except for the part that brings hope and feeds the hungry and comforts the broken. The part were we come alongside the weary and say, let's walk together. The part were we remember what kind of kingdom we are hoping to build. The part where we take the little bits of the Kingdom of heaven we've been given and do something about it, instead of just holding out for the rest.

Because yes, if you dare to look, hell is all around us, but so is the kingdom. It glows and sings and radiates and dazzles.   Do you see it? Do you feel it too?

It's a mad and quaking world. Romans reads that creation is groaning, and oh how loud it echoes throughout the land, roaring from the deeply broken souls. And if we listen closely, a voice is asking, what shall we do about all this hell?

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. 





Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trees on the edge

Hours pass and still the rolling patchwork fields of green rest under the bluest sky. A spilled container of marshmallow clouds is
scattered and hang far beyond what my eyes can see.   As the minutes tick away, tree lines are page breaks in the endless corn that stands tall slightly golden in the August sun.  My eyes catch silos and delight in grand old barns. There is something so incredibly disorienting about this space. The fields go on and on like markers on a map constantly announcing how we’re deep into uncharted land.  I’m certain change has never been so startling. 
Fences run along the interstate that once sliced through farmland in the name of progress.   Queen Anne’s Lace, Black-Eyed Susan's and a delicate purple flower  adorn the roadside.  The occasional cluster of bursting green trees on the edge of the fields stand boldly against the squares of sameness. I’m reminded of  the thin, spiny trees that grow with their roots exposed along the jagged cliffs of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Eastern Redbud with its pale lavender blossoms that softly hang in juxtaposition to the dark shadowy lines of rigid rock.
The trees on the edge express a language that I understand the most.  I welcome their presence in this season, like a dear friend standing in solidarity.   I feel the vulnerability of the winds that sweep across the vastness and the rattling that reaches so deep. I feel known.
As we drove all around Kansas City this past weekend,  my eyes caught sight of a bedroll and backpack high in an underpass of the busy interstate.  I’ve seen it before, countless times, especially in Los Angeles, but that green sleeping bag is still vivid in my mind. And as we drove away, I lingered in the stark air of displacement. Place is such a powerful character in our story. It’s been three weeks and I haven’t a clue where I really am.  I can tell you the zip code. I know that if you take two simple turns out of the neighborhood, town is just down the road, but I’m lost somewhere in this setting of fields and farms under the great open sky.
I picture a farmer gazing out at his land, a plot of earth so familiar.  Knowing where the sun will burst forth each morning and the silhouette of the trees that it will illuminate.  Aware of how all the living things tilt when the winds blow from the west or the habits of a summer storm. His eyes detect when the fields reach the perfect hue of harvest.  His connection to the land so sacred and true. In this great world, he has found his place. And where he finds belonging, I feel an expanse of uncertainty and bewilderment. 
Far from the edge, where the sea roars and greets my wild.  Distant from the rising and majestic mountains that reach high to heaven.  The sky feels bigger here exposing every hope and fear. The winds sweep over the land demanding surrender.  I cannot stand in this place unaffected.  It’s terrifying out here in the open.
And I’m ready to consider that the home I seek cannot be found.
To be continued…

Monday, August 3, 2015

the one with grace

We sat on the deck as the sun dipped below the trees and farther still.  The air was warm and not heavy.  Four green Adirondack chairs were arranged in an oval and the baby, the one who is eager to grab a hand and stretch those little wobbly wings crossed back and forth.  

It’s been a day.  A two hour attempt to remove tiny splinters from the hand of a six year old boy, who is as still and stubborn as Everest  Another day of that whole unsettled game, where the kids ask when we’ll go home and where is our new home. How do we really make them understand time and the process of it all.  Their questions turn up the volume on our own, where is our new home and when will we get there.  How do we begin all over again? The temporary housing isn’t bad, ever so sweetened by adoring grandparents, but is the loss of home already such a strong feeling at ages four and six and one. The flood of emotions is constant as the sea with high tide and low tide.  Help me Jesus, it’s been mostly high tide these days. 

I think we always forget this part, because a portion of us is always dangling in this semi-uprooted existence, while softened by the rhythms of our days which play out within the walls filled with our things and ways. However, for our babies not yet plagued with the gift of the restless adventurer, there’s no place for those feelings to go, so we catch them, and keep them afloat the best we can while treading water.  

We went to the beach one last time before leaving the East coast and the waves were so beautifully fierce that we had to clutch their wrists with all our might to keep them from folding into the power of the waters that pulled upon the shore.  It’s like that, but if we are honest, the waves shake our footing, too.

We forge on with eternal optimism because what else would we do, there is no other way to play the roles we’ve been given, that blessing curse that beckons us onward.  Hoping that the emotions of now three young children will go easy on us.  Surely, they won’t, but we’ll make it through. We’ll make it through, we always do.  Surely, we’ll do it again, right? 

All that and it’s only just bedtime.  Three kids who woke early and barely napped must be wrangled into bed, all in the same room. 

Will you read us a story? He asks, you know I was kind of hoping to skip it. Will you read us a Jesus story?  He asks, not well enough versed in the rhetoric to call it a Bible story.  I like it better that way, don’t you, because don’t all the stories point to Jesus. Even the story of today with its trials and heavy clouds of growth and faith.  Especially those.

Sometimes when I read their children’s bible, the poetry of the words catch me off guard and I almost feel him reaching out to us.  Adam and Eve were sent from the garden, that perfect home, propelling all of humanity on a painful journey, catapulting us into an existence of searching for home where our hearts are whole again.  Now all our days and labor and yearning and creativity cry out to the only one who holds that which we seek.  Sure, they disobeyed God and trusted the snake, but this human story is no tragedy, because all our wanderings are marked with this, I am with you, wherever you go. 

I finished reading. The baby was already asleep, how exhausted she must be.  I sat on the edge of his bed until his eyes were small slivers.

 But, mama, how come we can’t see God?  Where is he? 

Well, baby, he’s everywhere. 

But, how? 

I don’t really know, but I know he’s so big and so great that he’s everywhere. 

You mean, he’s by the ocean and the jungle and in America? And outer space? You said he was in the waves, but we can’t see him?

I told them how there are special places where we can see and feel God the most.  I told them that there will be a special place where they may not be able to explain it, but will feel God so close that seeing isn’t important.  I said that God has a special story for you to live and it’s going to be wonderful and brave and creative.  I told them I can’t wait to see what that story is.

What will that story be, mama?

I don’t really know, but you’ll see.

The dark room was silent, two little heads with eyes half open, fully alight with a world of thoughts more radiant than the sun. One little baby in footy pajamas closing out day 364 of her sweet life.  I could have kissed their heads and left the room, but I didn’t dare move from the presence that needed no introduction.  No one spoke for minutes or was it seconds?

I don’t really know what that story will be, mama, but I think it will be good.

Grace clutches our wrists, as we take those first wobbly steps. Grace holds us in the crashing waves and carries us through the story.  I don’t really know what the story will be, but I think it will be good.






Friday, July 24, 2015

The Tale of Mama Bear and the Block Tower, as told by an idealist

My darling,

Today we went to the Children’s Museum for the last time. We’re moving this weekend and if you kids were stuck roaming the house full of empty walls and boxes one more day, it may have been a horror story--for me.  You needed a change of scenery, things to climb, and tools to create. 

We played near the baby pond, a soft area for babies to be safe from the whirlwind rodeo of children who move without awareness.  You began to build this elaborate structure from the soft blocks. A mother and her young son approached.  Clementine threw blocks out of the circle.  Harper practiced her ballet along the sides.  The little boy wanted the blocks that you were, but his mother saw how your head was reeling with a plan and she asked him to wait for you to finish.  I thanked her with a smile. 

Just as you were done, a reckless storm blew on the scene in the form another boy.  Almost instantly, his sent your walls and tall arches to the ground. You watched in devastation as tears welled in your eyes.  I looked at the boy, who was already bored with his surroundings.  His mother and her friend watched him without the slightest raise of an eyebrow or mischievous smirk.  They didn’t shrug their shoulders, suggesting that boys will be boys.  They didn’t even react.  They were gone.

Her blank face caused  a fire to grow inside me.  I held you close in your sadness and saw the first mother and son, who witnessed the whole event.  Their faces were heavy with the injustice of it all.  I wanted to confront the thoughtless villain of the story, I really did. Sadly, even as an idealist in a full mama bear moment, I don’t think it would have mattered.  Instead, I wiped your eyes and took a deep breath.

Baby, I hope you always create amazing things.  I love the way your eyes glow as your mind works.  I wish I could see all the greatness that is happening up there.  We only get a glimpse out here.  I hope you never stop seeing the materials before you with unlimited potential to become something new.  Never stop building.  Pour your heart into your work, let it dazzle everyone with imagination and truth.  Creativity is our gift that changes the world.  I know this to be true.

And just as easy as we can create, we also have the ability to destroy with that same great force. It’s huge and otherworldly; it’s powerful and fierce. The world is full of people who will take one look at your masterpiece, all your heart and passion and stomp it to the ground.  As sure as breath flows through their veins, they will ruin whatever they find.  I can’t yell at them all.  I wish I could. We can’t always take up arms against the sea of troubles.  Some battles are not worth fighting, although many are.  This is something we keep learning our whole lives. 

That child didn’t pause to see what you were doing.  He didn’t notice how each block was placed with intention.  He didn’t imagine what it could be or ask to join. Maybe his world little room for potential and possibilities, a mere existence, a force of survival.  We can’t always know the story, we only get to live ours.  Let it be one of awareness, goodness, and heart.

My son, our sadness can be a gift, so that we remember how it felt, so that we don’t bring that same feelings to others.  I can’t keep you from sadness.  I can’t stop the thoughtless destroyers, but I can tell you this, so that maybe on the hardest days, when you need to find the good in the world, you’ll have these words planted somewhere deep.

The world is a beautiful place, but it’s also pretty ugly.  You’ll meet all kinds of encouraging people who will help you along the way.  Remember them and be like them.  You’ll meet all kinds of people who have yet to discover how their power can be used for good, it will be heartbreaking and sometimes, they are hard to forget.   They’re actions and words will stick in your head for years.  Don’t let them win. You may want to give up, so many times.  You may wonder if what you do matters.  Sometimes, I ask those questions too, but think about this, light eradicates darkness, that means, if there is even a sliver of light, it will penetrate the darkness.  Like the stars that shine so boldly in the huge sky above us.  They look so small from where were are, but they are bigger than we can imagine. So when it all feels like a big, dark night, look for the stars.  And if you look everywhere and see only darkness, take something into your hands, tell a story and create the light you need.








Monday, July 13, 2015

these little field notes

You know the familiar image of a person crawling to the finish line, panting for air, struggling to take just one last breath. Today feels that way.  I just put the last kid to bed and the door opened approximately two minutes later, with someone hoping that my answer for a bedtime snack had changed. It had not. 

I sit in a clean and quiet room, a small pile of boxes in the corner.  The light is fading from another day of hot July heat.  I hear rumbling in the air.  Rain, if only for a moment, so I move to the porch swing and rock in the breeze that ushers the heavy drops that fall from the sky. That electric air is magic to me. I hope the lightning doesn’t find me and my computer.  But, these days that feel so crazy require dramatic acts of survival. So I sit and feel. The rain slants to the left and mists over me.   A bolt slices zigzagging light in the air and a crack that makes me jump sends six birds into the air.  The trees full of  leaves shake to the crescendo of the storm.  In the wild commotion, I am soothed.

Tonight, I stood in the middle of their bedroom, after kissing freshly bathed heads and taking all the deep breaths that summoned any reserve of patience that may be hiding.  I sang the words of To Make You Feel My Love., a favorite lullaby in our home. I pretend I sound like Adele and that I’m as poetic as Bob Dylan when he first penned the words. It’s these words that always get me,

The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret.
The winds of change are blowing wild and free,
You ain't seen nothing like me yet.

I don’t even mind the use of “ain’t.”  Bob Dylan gets all the exceptions he wants. They are something between an anthem and a prayer. 

We got home from the beach yesterday.  It was an unplanned trip, but one we desperately needed.  One of us mentioned it and not in a casual way, but in a way that “we should go to the beach,” meant “I really need to meet God by the water, do you think we can make it happen?”  We made it happen.  It was a proper and bitter farewell to living four hours from the coast, knowing that our next home is every bit land locked.   So many words were left unspoken that last morning as we reluctantly returned to the car, with feet covered in sand and hems of our shorts soaking wet. Words we didn’t really know how to say were replaced by the whining children who either never wanted to leave or wanted to be home that instant. 

When I was a young girl, we would spill out of the car and run down the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.  The waves were most often mild, but if you were lucky, they reached 4-5 feet.  We would wait until just before they came crashing down on us and jump into them.  The force would knock us off our feet and we would sink below the surface.  Rising to the top again, we’d shake the water from our eyes and anticipate the next swell that would soon follow.

At the end of the day, toasted in the sun, our bodies would feel so exhausted and so free.  We didn’t understand then how the power of the water beat away those extra things we carried. I am now trying to conjure up the difficulties of childhood and find them comical. But thankfully, the waves still hold that magic, so I handed the baby to my husband who already had two little kids clinging to his legs and waded out for a few brief moments.  They were much too small for the waves this day,  I needed to do this on my own.   In the book, All The Light We Cannot See, one of the characters stands on the coast of France spellbound by the ocean and says, “I think the sea is big enough to contain everything a person might feel.”   I’m glad of that, I have many feelings. 

The swell rose higher and higher and at the just right time,  we collided.  I lost my footing and stumbled to stand.  Salty water covered my face, I wiped it from my eyes.  I tasted it on my lips and squealed.  I could have done it for hours, but the luxury was not mine this day, so I grabbed my boy and carried him out.  We didn’t go as far. I held him tight.  We let the water jolt us.  We were shaken and filled with laughter.  I never let go.  One wave met us when we weren’t looking and we were separated.  We stumbled about, I quickly found his hand even though my footing was not secure.  His face shined half with delight and have with trembling.  I think that’s a good place to live though, brave and so alive, just past the comfort and safety.  We crawled to the shore on our knees.  His little sister begged for a turn. We took turns, the parents, holding the baby, and switching children. 

Our North Carolina baby giggled and cooed a little melody that mirrored the rushing waves.  I think it was a love song. Some things require no translation. 

On the shore, I held them close and said, do you see how big the ocean is?  No, I can’t even see it all, they would answer.  Well, God loves us even more than the ocean.  They were quiet and didn’t speak.  Yet, what could one really need to say to that?

I collected all these moments in my head, these little field notes.  The way Harper always flocked to the waves. The peace and restoration glowing on my husband’s face as he stood holding her hand, not moving from the spot their feet were planted, letting the water wash over them. How Hudson would gravitate to the gentle tide pool abounding with treasures to discover.  And Clementine always trying to get in the water, to dig her fingers into the wet sand.  These bits of wild, I’m tucking away for safe keeping, preserving all the magic and truth and light and life. Because life is a brilliant mix of crashing fully alive in the waves and crawling along, hoping with reckless abandon to make it through the day. 

It’s dark now and these treasures have worked their magic, like the crashing waves, to shake off the heaviness of a long day.  The storm has rolled on and the earth is hushed, drinking in the provisions left in its wake.

When we were driving home from the beach, all three kids with their necks in uncomfortable looking positions, sound asleep.  We talked of life and dreams and the usual. The way that road trips and sleeping children allow for conversation is a beautiful thing. I don’t remember what I asked, something about eight years of marriage, but he answered, I like what we’re building here, motioning to the space in our Corolla, filled to the brim.  I smiled in agreement, captivated my the summation of that sentence.

Oh, there’s so much I don’t know about the one million uncertainties ahead, but I keep hearing these lyrics in my head, (and I’m not even ashamed to say I was a big fan of the Dixie Chicks, not one little bit.) 

I said I wanna touch the earth
I wanna break it in my hands
I wanna grow something wild and unruly

And maybe, just maybe, that is exactly what we’re doing. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 16, 2015

9 AM.  Light filled the silent room. Three children still asleep after a couple late nights filled with friends, swimming, and treats. Soft white curtains frame the three windows and the ties hang unevenly against the window that is without question set in the sunken wall.  The bricks on the sealed fireplace stand in an understated charm.  Resting below them, a small basket is filled with toys for the baby, but she’s happy to get into anything at all.

Six weeks left.  This house has been a wonderful home with its sweeping porch and enormous second bathroom.  The fenced, mostly private yard for the kids to play.  Our rectangular haven in the middle of the city.  The crepe myrtles that line the street haven’t bloomed yet.  I desperately hope their radiant pink blossoms with bid us farewell before we go.

The neighborhood is as eclectic as ever, noisy, unusual, splashed with quirks and questionable activity. And yet, it’s been a safe and pleasant place to be.  I’m sure Rose and her cats will continue to lurk the streets for many years. Certain residents will always grumble about the neighborhood falling into shambles because of the drug culture.  Ambitious mavericks will come and stake their claim in the up and coming scene.  The family next door will never leave and remain in their chaotic dysfunction.  Who will enjoy the abundant harvest of Warren's tomato garden?  That was a lovely surprise.  And will the debate ever be settled over whose fence is really falling to pieces between this house and Ophelia’s? 

The church bells ring at eleven on Sunday mornings, beckoning all who will come. In the winter, when the trees are bare, the steeple stands tall in the tree line. I think my husband will always suggest we should have attended that old church down the street.  We didn’t.   When we moved to North Carolina, we debated between two cities and the other day as we drove home from seeing friends, he questioned what would it be like if we had moved there instead.  We didn’t, but how can you know such a thing?   It’s not with regret, but pondering as we prepare to march bravely onward to the next chapter. All the things that didn’t happen.  All the decisions that we did or didn’t do.  You can’t change them. There’s no ability to know how these years would have unfolded when loaded with if scenarios. 

So, what has it been?  Important.  Every season is.  Kierkegaard said, Life is lived forward, but understood backward.  Special. For the time and memories made.  Crucial in the pursuit of God and dreams.  Crucial in the formation of who we strive to be. And finally, unexpected, because life always is. 

I’m particularly fond of understanding meaning.  With each move and each new state, I get lost in the wild madness of its significance.  What did we learn?  What did we lose? What did we gain?  What did we become? How do we go forward?

There are things to miss about everywhere.  I miss gathering around Ma Bell’s kitchen in Tennessee. I miss California sunsets and its coast line and all the “carnicerias,” because I love to say the word “carniceria.”  I miss the great lakes and the ten thousand lakes of Minnesota.  The culture of Minneapolis.  Those particularly divine pulled pork tacos at the farmer’s market. The wild winds on Lake Superior’s rocky shore.  And now adding to the list, North Carolina’s finest.  The coast, the mountain vistas, the barbeque, the beer, and most of all the handful of people who will be the hardest to leave. 

I don’t pretend to know everything and  I admit it is not always easy to be the ones who have not settled in and found home.  You don’t hear the wild beckoning that roars inside us, the whispers that call us to follow this winding trail for reasons we don’t always see.  And that’s just fine.  It’s a complex and mysterious world. 

My six year old tells a lot of stories.  I started to write one of them down, and this is how it went.

Chapter One- The Beginning.

It starts with a little ending. 

This is a story about a clown dinosaur who meets a cow with horns.  He can protect himself from predators.

He told me that it was going to have lots of chapters.

And that’s kind of genius and true.



Friday, June 5, 2015

June 5, 2015: all the things

I found my sunglasses in the folds of the stroller, the very last place they could be.  The world was extra bright for those two days, the sun blinding my light eyes. The only sunglasses I could find were a pair with golden glittered rims, a sweet gift from a friend, when we gathered with our families over brunch for dinner and celebrated motherhood with mimosas, donuts, and sparkly glasses.  I put them on and they turned the world three shades brighter on an already dazzling day.  That wouldn’t work.  I gave them to the kids.  When a person walks in a room wearing glitter rimmed sunglasses, a smile is certain.

This Friday afternoon is still, the girls nap and their brother is enjoying his hard earned reward of video games, his favorite time of the week.  My four year old  eagerly agreed to pull the large weeds in the yard for two dollars.  She pulled the wagon around, wearing blue gardening gloves, plucking every last one from the ground.  Finally, she’s acquired the money she needs for that Dora book, she’s been wanting it for months.

The baby is afraid of the grass, so she plays contented on the blanket in the shade.  I know that season won’t last forever, so as she is increasingly mobile, I celebrate that little fact.

I think the big things in life are always suddenly.  Perhaps all the things are gradually coming and going, but there is one defining moment when you vocalize the words. There it is.  Yes, that’s it.

I remember when we lived on Maple street in Tennessee.  Standing in the hallway  of an old house turned apartments, full of character and surely mold.  It had been a long season of job loss, unemployment, endless provisions, and searching.  In that instant, we faced each other, looking deeply for peace, looking deeply for any clues at all.  Let’s go to Minnesota, he said.  Our one year old son slept in his room with floor to ceiling faux wood paneling of the most hideous variety.  We didn’t move and didn’t speak.  The words saturated the air and then peace.  Our searching eyes locked and still, only peace.  Okay, I said.  Okay, he said.  Just a month later, we left the first place that was truly our home, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  It was time to go and yet, it will always feel more like home than everywhere we’ve been since.  Minnesota for three years.  Next, North Carolina with its own moment, less simple and more ambitious.  Let’s go.  Two years and three months later, it was time for another defining moment. 

For all the things we hoped this place would become and didn’t, it’s alright.  For all the things it has been, they are important too.  I will never regret these years of living near some of my dearest friends, helping in times of need, celebrating life, and gathering for no reason at all. Hands down, that will always be my favorite part of this place. 

And so, it happened in a similar way, when we heard the news that no one wants to hear, we knew then too, we would go.  We would not regret the decision to be near his family as they faced this unforeseen season of sickness.  No one seems to have words to say how they feel or what to do, so I won’t waste any trying.  Life doesn’t always have to be told in words.  Sometimes, life is in the silence or exchanged glances in empty halls. Follow the peace, my friend Stacey says.  I feel peace best in the silence.  Follow the peace.  I think that’s a good story to live.

Life is suddenly.  Suddenly understanding the things you’ll miss: the medical clinic with the nicest people, the grocery store you look forward to visiting, dinner with friends on Thursday night because someone you all love is in town from across the country, and more.  But, they are the sweetness which paints your memories of each place.  There is always something to miss about everywhere and there are always new possibilities.  New coffee shops to love.  New places with amazing pastries.   New connections that will encourage and inspire.  This collected life is a rich one with unending opportunities.

On this Friday afternoon, I set out to read my book.  I read two beautiful paragraphs and then set it down.  I reached for my computer to write.  Not because I knew what to say, but because I could feel all the things that wanted to be said.  And here they are. 

Life is never without a transition, is it? At least, it’s true for me. All the things gradually coming and going until suddenly.  So, here we are again, another move.  Clean out the excess.  Take down the pictures.  Fill the holes in the walls. Survey that which you want to keep.  Realize what you’ll miss. Let go of what you no longer need.  Feel all that this place has been.  Decide that is has been good.  Begin the process of detaching from another set of rooms and walls that has been home.  Linger in the here and now, in the way the light stretches down the hall.  Look forward with a brave abandon to keep living this beautiful story.



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Anthem for an Army


On the evening of my 31st birthday.


To the artist, the poet, the writer, the dancer, the singer of songs, the one who molds clay, the crafter, and the storyteller, and you with your beautiful trade. 

To the ones who dare to create, to the ones who are almost brave enough to try, and the ones who still seek. 

I write this for you, but also for me.  Today, I almost gave in to the corruption of comparison.  I nearly set foot down the dark path of self-pity, the one that robs us of our spark.  It happens, you know this too?  The creative life is like walking a tight rope, so many tricky steps and such awareness of the risks.  It is terrifying and empowering. And perhaps more than being the path not taken, it’s one greatly misunderstood.

Do not let your scream be silenced.  Your voice is authentic and rare, not to be lost in the chorus of another’s song.  Your words, your dreams, the light in which you see this dazzling world, shine it in the darkness.

The opposition is strong and often deafening. Stand tall with the tools of your trade in hand and fight valiantly the battle against the mundane, the fraudulent, and the ordinary.  Forge ahead knowing that you do not stand alone, but belong to a an army of minds who have dared to change the world.  Among them, the ones we admire today who were so overlooked and unknown in their own time.  Yet, did they not leave their mark?  In song, in colors, in words, in thought.  Carry on.  Climb to the top of the steps they’ve built and keep going.  For together, we are bright.  We dare to believe that we have something to say. Let us illuminate the earth with the gifts we’ve been given.

The rippling fields, the roaring waves, the towering mountains, and more await our noticing eyes.  The souls that live and breathe are our characters. The earth is our scene.  The days are our stage.  Let us splash our hearts across them without fear.  Let us chant our songs and send them riding on the winds that sweep over the land.  Let us fill the empty spaces with colors and stories that tell of hope, truth, beauty and goodness.  Ask your questions. Scream your fears into the thunder. 

When you are empty, stop and be refilled.  When you are lost, close your eyes to see the way.  In confusion, stand under the stars.  In fear, dance to a really good  song.  If your dream is too big, write it down anyway.  And when you are full and spilling over, create, oh please create.

Bring who you are and what you have.  Dare and dream.  Cry and pray.  Mold. Scrap. Sketch. Write. Imagine.  Create, yes please, create!  For we are given these days and we are entrusted these tools.

This place is our cathedral.  Let it burst with light.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Lady in Waiting

She stands tall in the open spaces as the light pours out around her.   She is brave in the waiting.  She is fierce in hoping.  In elegance and grace, though she is shaken by the deep rustle of the leaves, she is determined.  The lurking shadows are only visible because of the dazzling light.

She is the lady in waiting.  For what does she wait? For what does she hope? For the unfulfilled and the absent things of life.  For the longings felt on every exhale, for the whispered prayers that roar into the open spaces.  She is brave in the waiting. She dares to dream in the empty spaces that surround her.

I remember it clearly, like it was yesterday-- as the saying goes, but it was long ago and it was just yesterday.  Maybe you’ll understand it this way.  When you are scared, overwhelmed, uncertain, lost, or confused, feelings have a way of transporting you through time and space to a specific scene.  That place for me, I will dare to write.  Keep reading.

I’m twenty one, freshly graduated from college. Any plans I had for with my life had turned into a blinding fog. I knew less with certainty than I ever had. I’m sure it was untrue, but it felt that all my friends had at least the next step arranged, marriage, internships, apartments.  There I was at the conclusion of three and a half amazing years about to be thrust into the world.  With a degree in hand, I felt like a young chick nudged out of the nest, not knowing if I could even fly.  All around me, the people who had become my family were parting with tearful and dazed goodbyes in a mix of excitement and terror. 

After prolonging the inevitable, when job interviews didn’t pan out and the extended celebratory trips and travels for weddings ceased, I finally returned to the place that was once my home.  I didn’t want to.  I didn’t want to more than anything in the world.  I returned to this foreign and familiar place where remnants of my life lingered in the broken fragments of my own family. It stopped being home the day I left for college.  It was definitely no longer home after the divorce.  I suppose I’ve been searching for home since then.  Everyone was just trying to survive, adhering their oxygen mask first.  The safety net was severed and more like the ruins of a war-torn land.  I was a refugee that fled before the worst only to return in the end, to what.  It was desperate and bleak.  Could nothing else have worked? Could those job interviews have lead me elsewhere?  Could I become a nanny in a foreign country to a wealthy ex-pat family?  I tried. Anything would have been better than moving back and getting another job at a restaurant.  Surely, this was not my life, the one full of dreams and ambition.  Where were the beautiful possibilities in which I believed?  Where could I safely land?

It was a vast and paralyzing feeling, one that I wouldn’t actually be able to put into words until just last year when Matt and I watched the psychologically torturing film experiment that you may know as Gravity.  Yes, the one with Sandra Bullock.  He thought it was a pretty cool movie.  I held a blanket close, to feel it wrapped around my body. I tried to remember to breathe. I did not move once during the entire film.

You know those scenes were she is spinning hopelessly and frantically out of control through space?  Actually untethered and moving alone in the great, endless universe. There is no safety net.  No one is coming to save her.   Well, dear God, that will unravel even this free spirit.  Matt thought I was a little dramatic when I said I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep that night.  As it turns out, I may have an irrational fear of free falling through space. 

And maybe it’s not the actual space beyond this planet, I don’t have plans to board a rocket any day soon, much to the disappointment of my six-year-old son. That movie is the best way I know to describe those immediate days after college, I’m Sandra Bullock and gravity can’t save me.

Maybe you’re looking at me differently right about now, maybe you’re sending a therapist friend, but wait.  Maybe you’re a stranger and I just told you one of my greatest fears.  It’s okay, keep reading.

I survived those early months. They were not pretty, but some parts were better than others. I stood in the waiting. Sometimes, I hid under the blankets in waiting, and cried, that’s brave too.  And I learned how to thrive in the free fall of life.  Are you questioning if I lost my faith, I’m not afraid of  your questions. God isn’t either.  I don’t think all our days are planned or determined and I don’t know much of theology of such matters.  But if life is this wild, dazzling, breath-taking free fall, then God is the tether that will not break. Often, we think He is invisible, but if we are looking, He’s everywhere.  He is the creator of the space and the days we live, the giver of our breath. He is not the bad that happens, but the good. He is and will always be.  We’re just small players in a mystery beyond our comprehension.

Perhaps the idea of a free fall interferes terribly with your sense of security, but I wonder, aren’t the many forms of security we cling to so utterly false?  Life, plans, jobs, money, health, systems.  Gone in an instant?  C.S. Lewis writes in The Great Divorce that everything we can fathom is smaller than a blade of grass in comparison to the eternity of heaven.  Isn’t that so comforting?  No job or life or health or system is invincible to an instant of change.  So, there’s that.

I think I’ve found peace in the free fall, although the reality still terrifies me (As was evident when I recently watched Interstellar. Space movies must not be my thing.)  I’ve learned that jumping is scary and overwhelming, but worth it.  That’s what my story has told in these years since college.  I took a jump and fell in love and then we dove into a dazzling existence together and began a life.  We’ve had a few kids and lived a few places. We’ve followed our hearts and listened to the still small leading. We’ve learned to trust when we cannot see.  We’ve dared to dream again and again-- even when all our plans disintegrate, we don’t lose hope, because the beautiful invisible has materialized in countless ways.  The most unexpected goodness has cushioned many startling landings. 

In my most overwhelming moments, the feelings of 21year old me sneak in, even ten years later.  And yet, the life I’ve collected and the course I’ve taken is abundant with his presence, lingering in the unknown.  He’s there in the fears and questions. In the victories and defeat. In the smooth times and the mind-numbing frustrations.  In the cool winds that brush across my cheek, in the roaring crashing waves, in the gentle silence of a baby sleeping in my arms.  He meets me with the brush in my hand, when my fingers hit the keys, in that first deep inhaling of a freshly brewed coffee. He is heavy in the air when voices in unison sing the haunting and healing words of Be Thou My Vision.

If  this life is a free fall in an endless world, then he fills and fills and fills every last place. 

The lady in waiting stands tall in the howling winds.  She waits bravely in the open spaces that surround her, because they are not empty, just unseen.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tired Kings Swimming in Gold


Give me all the daring winds that shake the trees, launching the flight of the maple seeds down, down, down.  Give me all the rolling hues that stretch across the sky, greys and blues--the clouds, light and dark.  Give me all the roaring and the booming and the rustling winds that hold us captive.  Let me stand beneath it all as the whole earth declares his glory. Let the spring rains fall, I won’t mind. In the wildest weather, my soul delights. In the wildest weather, how can we not feel so beautifully alive?


The song that reaches in and stirs the deep, fueling the fire that moves my brush.  It sends my fingers dancing upon the keys as if they were a steady rain healing the earth. The earth of my mind. The flow of words colliding on the screen, making a home, finding sense in the stillness of the day’s end. A cool breeze sweeps over the hours well lived and through home well used. 


The family gathered over French toast for dinner and the baby sits with one knee raised, her face covered in a purple puree.  She laughs at something, it could be nothing. They laugh. Our eyes meet and we laugh too.  The cycle begins again.  Laughing at the laughter.   At her. At them. At us.

We might as well be kings swimming in gold. 

Tired kings swimming in gold.

Gold disguised as teaching lessons, making lunches, working hard, standing in the wind, and having so much to love.

It was a Monday.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A brief prelude to the show.

The air is electric. Blades of grass and infant green leaves shake with anticipation.  That smell, the one that reminds you that you are so deeply alive.  The scent more intoxicating that almost any other thing, it calls us one by one.

As far as the greatest scents, I argue the following: brewing coffee, cookies baking in the oven, onions simmering in butter, old books, and the sea.  But this is a magic so fleeting.  A brief prelude to the show. Nothing we can ever contrive.

Stop the baths. Stop the dishes. Get out here already. Scoop up the clean baby with fuzzy hair in ducky pajamas. 

We gather on the swing, on the rocker just her size, on a white, wooden chair.  Another stroke of grey darkens the sky, pressing in all around us. A butter yellow in the distance, but for now, rolling grey.

A rumble booms and sends delight through our souls.  The children jump in a blend of excitement and uncertainty. They run inside and return just as light slices through the air.

Children shriek wildly.  Eyes twinkle.

It’s getting closer.  Do you feel it? 

A hat! A hat! She decides that alone will protect us all, as we sit under the large covered porch. 

The baby, she doesn’t know what is happening, but all the living creatures feel the magic in the air. All of us living creatures feel the power of our maker rumbling and shaking the places we exist.  Her little body flutters in the playful wind like a butterfly, barely contained in my arms. Her eyes fill with a radiant light.

My head on your shoulder, my favorite place.  We rock gently as the grey spreads, like a wash of saturated watercolor leaving no fibers untouched. 

One more giant gush sweeps up all the branches on all the trees announcing an arrival. 

And in unison, in a song, in a rhythm that sustains the world, drip drop drip drop drip drop.

We’ll go about what must be done, washing dirty faces and dishes.  But  we pause to breathe in the moments that usher in the rain, to wait in anticipation with all the natural world, once again finding our place among creation as electricity dances in air, declaring the creator.

And in unison, in a song, in a rhythm that sustains the world, drip drop drip drop drip drop.



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thoughts on an alley

The tree across the street is sporting new green buds. Set against the dark spiny branches, they look almost neon, dazzling the gray spring morning canvas.

I have a thing for trees. I don't think I'll ever tire of looking at them, the way they bend and stretch, always in their own unique way. The other day I was strolling through a local garden and this glorious creature stood donned in a pale pink. The blossoms draped like a willow, the branches resembled an abstract painting. If trees had personalities, which I fully believe they do, I'd want to be friends with this lady. We'd have tea and pastries in her very exotic garden, probably filled with gnomes and statutes. She'd tell me about her travels and almost love affairs with Italian men who made pasta and of Vespa rides through the ancient streets, when the lights danced across the river and music filled the air. She's a hopeless romantic, of course, and the real world hasn't tarnished her at all.

In the backyard of one of our old homes was the tallest, grumpiest grandfather of a tree. So many knotty branches, all twisted and broken. Something pale and green grew in the places where the bark wasn't peeling. I imagine him as the kind of old man who appears distant and uninviting, but if you won him over, he'd tell the very best stories and always come to your defense. I would sit in my chair as the kids played in the cluster of trees and study him. Strong and silent, it was as if he watched over us. Maybe he was dying, but he wasn't letting go of him gumption.

Right now, we live in the city, the only trees on our property are the Great Myrtles that line the street. Soon they'll burst into a marvelous pink and make the whole place will feel a little more charming. It's one of those up and coming neighborhoods not far from the trendy parts of town and equally close to the places you'd be wise to avoid in daylight or dark. In my opinion up and coming is used with great optimism, is it not? In the front yard jutting out of the ground is a grand stump, the kind that children could hug and their fingers would not touch. We looked online once and saw the house sheltered in its expanse. I wonder why they chopped it down, I feel like the reason is never quite good enough.

However, we are surrounded by trees. They line the alley and stretch across the fence lines, segmenting properties into square domains. The alley as you might expect is not given much attention. Brushes and rouge limbs droop over the dirt road. You'll pass gardens, a small shed once used by an artist, still full of tools and paint. There's a large fence that houses an unfriendly dog whose name, according to the haphazard spray paint is Tupac. Garbage blown by the wind collects against the fence of one yard amidst the towering weeds. In the opposite direction not too far from a tree of interest is what might be the making of a very legal car junk yard and other very legal activities. Then on another side is a wooden fence with a welcome sign and flower pots with living, thriving plants. All this is the alley of one city. Ours is the yard nestled between privacy fences that we try to keep clean, but is usually scattered with toys. It would be easy to only see the questionable parts of our little neighborhood, but did I mention we have the front porch of our dreams. It doesn't overlook a mountain or sparkling water, but when sitting on the swing you'll catch all the best breezes and there's some excellent people watching.

And if you stand in the alley and look beyond the overgrowth and the arching tunnel of trees so thick that the light doesn't break through it. Beyond Tupac and garden flags and backyards that could be a flea market or used (stolen) car lot, the light shines upon a resilient white door set in the one hundred year old walls of a red brick church. The stonework of a craftsman arches above and three small steps rest below. On top a steeple is encircled in light as you look down the alley. Whether gray or blue, the sky is brilliant in contrast to the tree line. It's so easy to miss for all the stuff. It is even easy to miss when trying to avoid the deep potholes that might ruin your car, but there it is, every single time.

I never want to be a writer who draws out the deeper meaning and beats it to a simple mind-numbing and catchy pulp. There is a need for that, but never here. Readers must find their own understanding.

So, I will end this rabbit trail of thoughts on trees and alleys, on shadows and light. And maybe, my words carry a sparkle, something reflective of something greater.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Understanding life by the stone bridge

“This is the place of all our firsts,” she said.  We sat on a concrete bench just off the trail.  Runners and dog walkers passed.  Professors and students stretched their legs and cleared their minds in the middle of a Tuesday. 

Two babies slept in the two strollers, one on either side of us.  My oldest daughter climbed rocks in her natural fearless way.  Jumping and pouncing, so free and unaware of the high chance of smashing her head into the jagged stones and or slipping into the water.  Tragedy never came, but there were close calls.  Always close calls. She laughs in the face of those.  She ran through the leaves of last year, hunting the largest rocks to drop from the little stone bridge.  Sometimes a heavy one splashed her face and she giggled.  To say “don’t get wet or messy” is a waste of words, so instead, I suggest that her feet not get too wet because we didn’t have other shoes.   Her clothes were already a little dirty, since we got dressed in the dark.  To be honest, there is always a bit of dirt somewhere on my Harper girl, smudged on her face or knees, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve decided that I have more to live for than spotless children.

A reddish-brown hawk landed on a light post, clenching its lunch.  On the menu was mouse, all the way dead.  We stopped to watch.  Its wings were spotted black and white.

The air was cool and an early spring grey lingered.  Our feet were slightly chilled, because we had dressed optimistically rather than practically.   The woods were not yet green, clinging to the hues of last season.  The little brook trickled over the rocks and rippled as  breezes swept through the clearing. 

Next week, my friend and her little family sets off on a new adventure.  Here in the richness of these hours, we talked about this place.  I happen to know a few things about moves and new adventures, I’m rather fond of that genre.  To reflect on the way that leaving brings a great understanding of what a place has been is a beautiful thing. Chapters close. Stories advance.  It’s not a finality that comes with the end, as all the ends of our days just bleed into a new beginning, until the very great end which will lead into the greatest eternal. So, what is the end really, but a small word we use to make sense of that which we attempt to define. 

We paused as the runners ran and walkers walked, as another rock splashed in the water, and the babies snored.  Little feet stuck out from blankets.  Having faced similar experiences in this season, we celebrated how we were eternally grateful for the lessons and growth, because we would never be who we are today without those obstacles.

Sometimes, we take roads less travelled and not because we’re more amazing, it’s simply because not everyone needs to take the same path.  On my journey, I won’t face the same troubles as you may, but there will be times when our ways cross and then we will lift each other off the ground, shake the dust and continue onward. My greatest trials may wear a different mask, but bravery and hope are the same within us all.   We are shaped and refined.  We contribute what we have and who we are, which is always enough.

The ones who stay and build.  The ones who risk and question everything. The ones who float about with no place to belong.  The ones who encounter new lands and claim them as home. Home, belonging, mission, and purpose may sound different to us all, but bravery and hope are written in all our stories.  We must recognize them in our own lives. We compliment each other.  We need not conform. 

On most days, I question what everything means and what happens next, not out of discontentment, but because I will forever be paying student loans for that English degree.  Give me a good book and I will happily praise the most beautiful words and draw out themes and meaning. How does this character grow in light of their challenges?  How does this experience shape the story? I don’t just want to read a story, I want to explore it and understand each part.  I’m not into the casual, light read that is tossed aside and forgotten.  I suppose that’s also how I want to live too, always with meaning and connection. 

Here amidst the towering trees so bare and exposed by winter,  we rested in the beauty of truly being understood by each other, in the comfort of friendship, hearts and souls safely unveiled and vulnerable.  We speculated and dreamed about what lies ahead, naively though, because how can we know.  I won’t pretend I do. 

Over  warm coffee and a bag of cookies pulled out of nowhere, we celebrated the closing of this first chapter for my friend.  As we walked back to our cars, the sun sliced through the thick blanket of grey that had lingered all morning.

In a story, we call that foreshadowing.





Sunday, March 8, 2015

To begin

“You have everything you need to begin.”


I read the words once, twice, three times and my soul uttered an inaudible yes.  This is just what someone might need to hear. The words simmered all day, and I considered just how it might encourage a person just waiting for the right sign.  I thought all day about the depths of the sentence and I never once considered how maybe it was only for me.

I’ve been in the midst of an internal battle, to write or not to write.  The question itself is foolishness, is it not?  Honestly, the only problem here is why I’m still asking that question.

I can give you approximately 400 answers, none of of them very good.  I’m not writing because I’m painting like a madwoman. I’m painting the best art I’ve ever made.  I’m not writing because I have three children and my baby has made it her mission to solely interrupt the consistency of my beloved sleep.  Because homeschooling and motherhood and life are wonderful, brain-numbing challenge that requires my all.  Because, I need a succession of stillness and silence for words to form in any remotely eloquent way and because three children are so very loud.  Because I want a new name for the space where I write and share online, but can’t think of a single thing. And perhaps, if I’m being honest, I’ll throw in the good old standby, but what would I write anyway? 

No need to appease these excuses with any response.  They are valid, but not good enough to stop me.  Except, sometimes they do.

I had a dream a few weeks ago, starring the faces of some majorly influential people in my life standing in a room.  I could only make out one thing from a single person, these words, “Now is the time.  We need your voice.”   I still feel the emotion and poignancy with which they were said.  Dreams are annoying, sometimes, because most of the time they are bizarre madness, but every once in a while, they are very important.  I’m not saying that my words are the missing piece to a great puzzle or that I should have a spot reserved on a bookshelf next to the greats. I do know, as I’ve always known that words are a gift I’ve been given.  When I was younger I said them all, so I’m told., I filled notebooks with stories, poems, and journal entries.  I destroyed trees in college with endless papers and an English degree. Now I think more than speak, because my children are always talking. 

Words are power and life.  Words hold create hope in the darkest places, a pause in the rush of life, truth in the midst of madness.  Always words.

2015 has launched me into what might be my most creative year yet.  I’m pushing past the limitations that I carried for so long as an artist.  I can not even begin to explain this renaissance of art, so I’ll let my paintings speak for themselves.  I’ve always found that the ebb and flow of my creative energy is either writing or painting and for so long I’ve let that become the final word.   However, in this season, the more I paint, the more I unblock all the thoughts just floating in the damned waters. 

I wrote a short story for children in December.  It’s not only for children, because I think certain messages span all stages of life.  I poured some energy into further steps for it, but I didn’t feel like it was time.  I’ve learned strongly to trust that inner voice.  I have it close by for safe keeping.  I started another story, but maybe it was just an exercise.  So much of what we think is important is just an exercise for something else.  I suppose all of life is that way. 

What I’ve learned already in two months from pushing past all the things I thought I could never paint was that I actually could, if I tried.  You can do hard things.  I tell my kids everyday.  And every time I do, I’m reminding myself, because being a mother is a lot of hard things all day long.  I was forever terrified of painting people.  So, I never did.  Now I love it.  I was terrified of faces, I only painted them from the back, which also lends to the feeling of thought and reflection.  One day, though, I woke up and knew I was going to paint a face.  It took so many tries, but I did it.  Last week, I finished another painting with a face that made me jump up and down with delight, right in my kitchen.  It’s a far cry from the Mona Lisa and her eyes are closed, but chasing down your limitations is magical thing.  I don’t know what flying feels like, but I imagine it’s similar.

The thing is, I’ve lived and breathed certain creative dreams for so long, many fall aside, serving as stepping stones and they are important.  Only now am I seeing a mere glimpse of where it has brought me.  Not in a way that I know exactly where I’m going, because I have no idea, but in seeing how important it is to bear the heavy dreams we carry.  When they feel so heavy. When they feel impossible. When they feel ridiculous.  Those things you carry that light a fire in your soul, don’t let them go. Don’t.

You have all you need to begin.

I thought it about 200 times before I realized that it was for me.  I don’t need to know what book I will write before I start writing.  Oh that taunting idea.  I don’t need to know, but I have to write.  Words to share here.  Words for the safety of my journal.

Tonight it may be foolish to admit to anyone who will read this, but if I can paint a face, then perhaps I can write and paint together.  Perhaps the two will fuel each other.  Even if my baby won’t sleep.  Even if silent minutes must be seized. 

And perhaps, you can do that very hard, challenging thing too.

I have no idea where this year will lead me, where these dreams will take me, but if my dreams are uttering the message and the art is rushing from my fingertips, then  why not.