Thursday, September 25, 2014

this one's for me

"the breeze is orchestrating a complicated ballet
between the leaves.
the dance is on."

the leaves swirl and crackle
spinning up and circling 'round, like shaping some invisible structure outside my window.
the winds of fall
the circling of earth and seasons

my heart is softened in the midst of change
whose isn't?

i'm often surprised how much lasts through these changes
like the old lamp to my left,
like the rings on my finger.
the past is sometimes more present than we think
or realize.

like how stories can affect us so,
surpassing time and culture and the separation of a screen
with actors retelling what has been.

my heart is softened
by pictures of family far away.
family ...
it makes me rethink my own wanderlust
and my priorities of self.

where would I be without their love?
I would not exist without love.
None of us would.

this is what I come back to in the swirl and circles of change.
I am here for love,
I'm not without anything
if I have love.

and this love is beyond what I think it is
it is beyond feeling, even.
it chases us through the past
into the present
and beyond, into our promising futures.
love comes both before and long after us.

it will never end.

"all the world is
conspiring for me.
the dance, the dance

everything everywhere nourishes my growth
the dance is on.

let it be known
i can hear the music in all things.
today it's on,
this one's for me."

{ Mamuse, Garden Song }

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"indeed, in every life there is some wound that continues to weep secretly, even after years of attempted healing..."

[ john o'donahue ]

how do I explain my sadness?

I don't know, but it needs to be shared. we need to talk about sadness, sit with each other in sadness, so that we can continue to move on to hope. but sometimes, hope is far away, or not in our sights at all. and sometimes, it's going to be awkwardly long, because I can't just arrive at hope without having swam through the sorrow. and swimming without a shore in sight is just plain exhausting.

it was here, in the swimming (or drowning) and the tears, where I heard a new voice.
a voice that seemed to flow from a place where pain was understood, not cured
and where questions meet questions,
not simplified answers.

She said,

remember when you read about being beauty-full
how you can absorb all of these miracles into your being
and let them fill you?
why not try it, my dear?
why not take in all that surrounds you?

as I took a breath, I saw the stars above
and the trees right in front of me
and I heard the crickets singing around me
and I imagined all of the precious little creations that fill my yard
and my garden.
... all of the many gifts of my life.

It was no magical cure to my sadness, but it was what I needed -- to be reminded of how connected I am to everything. that I'm not alone.

Go find some place beautiful
or just simply sit where you've sat a hundred times,
and listen
and look for all the beauty that is already surrounding you.

"& may all that is unforgiven in you be released."


Monday, April 28, 2014

"what if I never let you in & chase you with a rolling pin? Well, what if I do?" (marriage: A)

i married you
in the wildness of april
the snow drifted softly
over & into our yes.

a year later
in the howling wind
this almost but not yet of spring
we live together
side by side
shining and dark
billowing and steady

our love is
a branch near breaking
a bud,
new yet strong
a drop
sliding down
free falling into
a sea of obscurity.


One of my favorite relationship songs is Ingrid Michaelson's, Giving Up. I've appreciated the melody, but now I find myself living the words. This is where I am a year into my marriage:
constant surrender.
Waking up every morning & going to sleep every night with a mental, emotional, and spiritual posture of open hands, an open heart.
Sometimes weeping, sometimes laughing, always desperately trying to stay open, regardless of feeling.

Because I don't know what else to do.
Because maybe there's nothing else I can do. 

This is a complete paradox to me. It seems that my marriage is what I should cling to, not release -- that it should be the one thing I do control. Yet this belief has already caused me heartache.

I am not in control.
Of anything.

Yes, I make my own decisions. I choose my attitude. I choose how to respond to my emotions. Yet if I look closely, really, the surrender and acceptance is much more prevalent than the mastery.

Giving up.
Giving in.


Several weeks ago, our community participated in lectio divina together. As Katie read Ephesians 5:1-2, we listened, paying close attention to the words & phrases.

he didn't love to get something from us
but to give everything of himself to us.
love like that.

These words have stuck with me for years -- the love like that command, which is more like a blessing. Loving like this, giving all without getting, is painfully hard. Have you tried it? It feels like dying. And I think it is, in a metaphysical way. I think that's why we're told to do it, because it kills what we cling to -- selfishness, fear, hurt -- everything that keeps us from healing, from seeing past ourselves & moving past our pain. 

Let it go
& love like that.


In an email conversation with a friend, she shared a desire to hear and to know the reality of marriage -- for people to mentor singles, in a way, by sharing the raw, the real, the all of their relationships. Everyone's marriage & relationship is a sacred place, a secret place. There are things we don't share, or could not possibly share for the mystery and depth that it is. Still, we can be real about our lives, and that's what I want to do here.  I want to be one who accepts the challenge of authenticity & transparency. We're only a year in, and if I'm honest, I'm already a different person. I did not (& do not) enjoy the process of change, and even so, I am grateful to be in the tension, to feel the movement from who I was to who I will someday be. I love this change, and at times, it majorly sucks.

Every day, we say yes. To everything. There are kisses that leave us weak. There is beauty in making meals together, sharing beers and showers and a bed. And there is pain in unawareness of need, lack of remembrance, distance of bodies and turning off of lights and emotions. 

We say yes to everything

& we keep going
keep living & loving
like that.


"We are here essentially to risk ourselves in the world,
we are a form of invitation to others and to otherness."

-David Whyte

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Smells of Good Food"

by Saint Catherine of Siena 

"Truth never frightens.

 I remember once walking out in the winter
to greet my father as he returned from work.

He was a little late that night
and I waited by the street corner near our house.

The cold can enliven thanks, my wool coat
became a sacred robe,
how happy I felt to be alive.

I waited in a world of magic,
smells of good food,
the street lamps, the smoke coming from chimneys,
the candles burning in the windows,
the snow.

Angels feasted, as I did, on existence
and God kept saying

"Have more of what I made."

I saw him coming. We ran into each other's arms
and he lifted me as he so often had -- 
twirled me through the air
his hands beneath my arms.

That is what truth does:

lifts and lets us

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

ashes // what my mama always said

it was two days before Ash Wednesday,

on one of those windy, harshly cold days. She needed directions, at first. Then she moved me over, out of the walkway, and said she actually needed more than that. All I could offer was a ride, and she graciously accepted. It was in the elevator where we exchanged names, and I opened my heart. She spoke of generosity, of us belonging to each other, and I opened my heart some more.

Weaving through downtown, I told her that I really wanted to be sure she had food that night. She waived my request and said she'd be fine, not to worry. Her life preached, in a way. She asked permission to smoke in my car, and I said sure.

She told me a bit of her story, asking me if I had kids, that all hers were grown and it was only her now. Her finding her own way. I told her no, but I was almost a year into marriage, to which she chuckled and said, "Well, them kids are comin'!" quickly following the prophesy with advice about keeping my legs closer together. Then I laughed - hard.
We were fast friends.

When I dropped her off at the Salvation Army, we kissed the other's cheek like family. I wanted her to come over, but she had other plans.

I could smell her long after she left : perfume and ashes.

I felt like one of those ignorant hosts, despite being told to be ready with a meal or a bed, for some have extended hospitality to angels without even knowing it. 
As I drove home, I thought about how much my life would change if I understood helping and kindness as an interaction with heaven itself.

Something my new friend said to me in my car stuck like superglue -- the kind that burns a little when it interacts with your soft skin. She said that I was good because I followed the rules & my parents must be so proud of me.

And my heart broke open wide.

She, like so many I have known,
like myself,
believes one of the worst lies of them all ... our worth of love, grace, and acceptance depends on how well we can follow a set of rules.

Yeah, these are my ashes, too.

Her mama always said that you get back more than you give. That's what Jesus said, too.
And all of this talk reminded me of what I had experienced a couple weeks before, sitting with a group of women exploring our ashes, still searching for our beauty.

We read this together:

as for those who grieve:
God has sent me to give them a beautiful crown
in exchange for ashes
to anoint them with gladness instead of sorrow
to wrap them in victory, joy, and praise
instead of depression
and sadness.
People will call them magnificent
like great towering trees
... and they will rebuild this place from its ruins.

in the exchange,
it's hazy.
It makes eyes pour and voices shake.
The rebuilding is happening.
And it hurts.
But we're doing it together.

We're rebuilding ourselves from the destruction of our own beliefs,

all of us smelling of perfume and ashes,


Friday, January 10, 2014

ready or not : 2014

2014 means door, 
like an invitation,
 she said.

I was graced with an answer to the question bouncing around in my mind for weeks after a conversation with my dear friend & co-worker.
What is the theme of this next year? 
It was haunting me. No matter how many Google searches I strategically typed, I could not find it. Of course, my answer was to come in a more beautiful, intentional way - the way that so many answers and realizations have come to me over the past few years: via my community. Specifically, the community of women I am so privileged to journey alongside. We sip coffee together, cry together, and go deep together every other Sunday morning. And I'm convinced it's heaven on earth.

This specific Sunday, when my word was divinely delivered, we were having a Christmas party, reflecting on last year and sharing our themes from 2013. My first thought was struggle. It had been a heavy year of struggling through new things, like marriage and a parasite, and old things, like family and the continuous questioning of WHAT THE HECK DO I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE?! I experienced an awakening of sorts during the year of 2013. Circumstances and situations aided this soul transition -- getting married, moving into a new house, reading books, finding blogs, joining a writing e-course, my own inner unrest and discontentment. I had breakthroughs and total breakdowns. I let hard conversations happen and actually engaged in conflict. [ That's huge, y'all ].
I am now a consistent blood donor, thanks to wonderful friends who have made it fun. I never thought I could be so brave with blood and veins and needles. Ok, enough of that.

I proved my strength to the only person who should be convinced of it : myself.
I have connectedness (strengthsfinder - yeah!) and I delight in this strength, especially while reflecting on life and how it is that I am where I am in this very moment. I can see the weavings -- the little nudges and conversations and prayers that have forged this path through unknown and doubt. It seems like so much has prepared me for this year of invitation.

A favorite message of mine from Upper Room in 2013 was based on John 1:37-39. Jesus asks a simple question to two men who started following him -- What do you want? Which is a legit inquiry if people had been walking behind you for a while, without saying anything. The two men ask where he is staying, and he responds with (wait for it ... ) an invitation:

Come and see. 

These words set up camp in my heart, along with a question asked during that same series. What do you want? This question was repeated again during my closing Story Sessions call, where we were not only asked what we want, but given some time to scribble things down, giving names and voice to our tangible and intangible desires. I LOVED this. Reading over my list gives me butterflies; another reminder that I am on my way to what is true and good and right for me. It also makes me feel a little sick and shaky, the way she might be feeling, too:

image from Pinterest

Maybe if she heard this song she would feel a bit better up there. Maybe she would swallow her fear. Maybe she would finally release the need to know the outcome. Maybe she would sing along in her shaky, little voice ...

"sink or swim, I'm diving in
where the river starts rushing
where my heart starts beating."

One of my fav.s, Glennon, wrote these words:

"I am unsure of what your lack of readiness has to do with the fact that the world needs the little miracle that only you can perform. The world needs you to use your gift - ready or not...
Jump, honey. Do it.
Sometimes you'll belly flop and it'll sting and everyone will laugh, and sometimes you'll do a perfect screwdriver and everyone will clap.
But after a while, you will learn that you don't jump for everyone.
 Everyone doesn't matter.
You jump because at the end of the day, when your head hits the pillow,
you want to be One Who Jumps

That's all. That's everything.

Don't wait 'til you're ready. Nobody's ever ready. Just jump now."

Cheers to invitation, opportunity, newness.
And jumping. 


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A hundred years ago I was a pastor and read stuff like that,

said the (not so) stranger in the seat next to me, while the 9P barreled us through the gray streets of downtown. He didn't speak until I had closed the book, Becoming Human. This intriguing dialogue began just as he reached over to pull the line. His stop was next. He ended the conversation with thoughts on what happens to people's online accounts after they die, and then he walked away and went to work. 

And I have felt for two days that a very special human to human conversation was missed -- the exact conversation I long to engage in with people I meet for the first time.

What's your story?

Every story is meaningful.
Every story is gold.

And sometimes, our stories are a burden that can only be lifted by a listening ear.

I can't hold the whole world,
but I can hold your story.

& I would be honored if you held mine, too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"to begin, begin."

Oh I'm gettin' kinda rich
on the sight of any soul

(alpha rev)

It's safe to say that this all started a few months ago when I received an email from a blogger whom I respect so much, Elora. She invited us into an e-course that is more like a community of women exploring and struggling through the same things as me: faith, art, creativity, writing, the joy and pain of our stories. Not too long after I signed up, scared and completely doubting my competence and even my love for words that has existed since about the age of 14, I saw this quote online:

to begin, begin.

A simple phrase to any other Pinterest passerby, but to me, it was a divine message. Or more like a divine command. Creative desire has been swirling around inside of me possibly all my life, but I've just become painfully aware of it in the last year. It often fights to escape in random thrift stores, through crafty projects, during the decorating process of our home, and when I'm staring at my closet. It's also sparked by blogs and books and songs. It's like my whole being responds to this creative longing, this need for designing a lovely space, a fun outfit, or putting soul-wrenching words on a page. 

I know what I need to do. I am choosing to let my creative self go free. I am beginning. 

because I want to unfold, be vulnerable, be authentic.
because I want to know beauty and feel empowered to offer it from my own depths.
because I love connection and community.
because I understand that ignoring my internal struggle will not make it go away.
because I am pursuing my gifts.
because I am haunted by the word artist.
because I want to be fully alive.

because I know in my bones that God is the creative being that breathed all of this to life - all of these intricate flowers and fruits and gorgeous humans - and he has breathed life into me, created ME. 
I often wonder what I'm supposed to do with that ... I have these Donald Miller-ish "why" questions about the universe and how it's all here and we know about it and what are we to do with all this knowledge?! And then ... then, as I'm walking across the busy downtown street to order a coffee, I see a gorgeous human who seems to have forgotten his beauty & the beauty at work all around him. Maybe he lost it a long time ago, traded it, or maybe it was taken from him purposefully and hatefully. It's not my place to know these answers, but I do feel compelled to help him find his beauty again. To share a beautiful smile that might, just might, bring out a beautiful smile in him, a hint that there is always, always hope & that love never fails.

I know it's not my place, either, to pursue perfection. I know how easy it is to see only the good things and feel the sting of self-pity because another's life seems better than your own. This is why you must know my story. This is why I must know yours. We must pursue the real together -- we must help each other have eyes to see and ears to hear, not just the things we want to, but all the real things about us, about the world, about God. And then we must branch out beyond our stories, because the danger of a single story is real, too. Maybe you and I are too much alike, so let's go beyond our similar worlds and enter into other worlds full of stories that are much, much different than anything we've ever learned. 

Somewhere in all of that, restoration will happen. 
I believe it. I have seen it. 

Restoration will continue it's work in me. Reconciliation will come to our world. 

Oh yes, I remember why. I must enter into this because of the story that has continued from the very beginning. Because "everything is waiting for you." Because we're all being called, summoned, beckoned forward, whether we hear it or not. We are invited into more. 

And I want to be part of it all.