Year of Writing

8.21.16

I write because I have to say these things from my heart.  I write because sometimes it is the only thing I have to turn hearts.  I write because I cannot say these things to you, these truths, bluntly but have to let you discover them for yourself.  I write because I have to reach the world with this message.  I write because I have to give name to these feelings and beliefs.  I write because there is no perfect word or phrase that adequately captures the thoughts tinged by complex feelings and moods, but I have to try.  I write to understand.  I write to see things anew.  I write to find the truth.  I write to make you fall in love with words and poetry.  I write because I have fallen in love.  I write to speak of love.  I write for freedom — to free others still bound.  I write to release.  I write to change.  I write to reveal myself and make myself known.  I write so that others can see my heart.  I write to transmit beauty and celebrate the wonders of creation and the God who is remaking it into something new, always.  I write because I can, because I have been given the ability to capture something and bring it before others.  I write sometimes for the compliment.  I write because it is a part of me.  I write because it gave me a way to grow out of myself and into the person I need to be for the world, for God.  I write because I want others to know the love and affection I have for them.  I write because I am for them.

 

8.21.16

If I could free you from your captivity,

lead you out by hand from that cage

and see your heart free –

free to love like you were made to,

free to grow into the person you were made to be,

so much more that what you expected out of life,

-If I could see you free and alive

and full of joy.

My friend, that is the life for you.

And it is worth letting go of all else to gain it.

You are worth it.

 

8.21.16

And sometimes we just need

someone to remind us who we are,

to hear them speak our true name,

what it is that makes us

who we are.

 

8.7.16

It was something like

reaching the end of a cassette disc:

the last notes of the song

had faded into the background

and reached a quiet resolution,

leaving only the whirring of the disc

to set back into its original resting place,

this re-orientating to begin again anew.

 

7.30.16

Isaiah 62

You have given me a new name

spoken out of love.

You have seen me and know me

through and through

and will call me Your own.

For it is You who have given me who I am.

You are the only one

who can speak my name into existence

for I am Yours,

Yours for You to love.

 

7.9.16

There are two cracks in my front windshield

reaching down to each other

like God and Adam in the Sistine Chapel.

The summer has temporarily stopped their progress,

and they are frozen in a dance around each other

like twin lightning strikes coming down from the clouds.

 

6.14.16

I’ve stepped out of my old self

too heavy to carry that dead weight any longer

I must leave it behind

to tread the path that lays before me

a path that was chosen and laid

not because I am able

but because it will require my true self to come alive.

 

6.5.16

Lk 7:11-17  The son-less widow

God is unpredictable.

Who could have foreseen that He would be moved with pity

at the sight of me

enough to stop death with the touch of  his hand

and give back to me

the life that had ended.

I can see why Mary Magdalen

could not take her arms from around

the love she thought she had lost,

but kept clinging to this man that was restored

to her, to the world.

Unpredictable joys

because of the mercy of our God.

 

5.22.16

Romans 5

So let me then boast of my afflictions

that have formed me into who I am

and grown my hope.

Because I would not part with any one of them

for a lesser version of myself.

The loneliness and heartbreak,

the rejection and confusion,

the loss and pain,

and the wondering if it will ever end —

Through these my depths have been

filled over and over again until

I have learned to hold this Spirit

and trust in the proven character of God

enough to risk it all again

with the confidence

that through the mayhem and chaos

of a life out of my control,

my choice to place my life in His hands

will never leave me unjustified.

 

5.7.16

today I ran past a pair of geese

tucking their beaks into their feathers

like they had something to ponder

or a mystery to unravel as they sat beside the water

and in the background runners paced around the lake.

My hair is not long enough

to bury my face in it,

though I sometimes will bring a strand

up to my nose to smell the remnants of my shampoo,

arms crossed and head resting on them as I think things through.

When I was ten and my youngest brother was a toddler

and sitting in the car-seat next to me in the family van,

I was looking out the window when he reached out

and touched my hair ever so lightly,

pulling back in embarrassment when I turned around.

As soft as a feather run between your fingers,

my hair is fine and the color of caramel,

and outside of the sticky hands of a two year old

it has not had the pleasure of a nose nudging into it.

Which would not be so bad if I could forget

that our necks were not made to

swivel around and rest in our own feathers.

 

5.6.16

like a stone

you have set me

in this place to wait

a sure spot

to build upon

am I

the foundation of a house

yet to be formed

I carry within me a beginning

and only You can see its completion

 

4.22.16

He hadn’t realized that he had stopped speaking

when he turned to listen to her voice.

Sitting a few rows in front of her,

he had turned his head so that his ear

could better take in the sound of her vocal chords

lifting up so musically her silent intentions in prayer

while the group droned on, plowing through the afternoon devotion.

And she sat gazing out the window,

she, with the soulful eyes,

head cocked as if listening

for a silent answer,

searching the pines and sky

as if she could see beyond

into the very heart of the universe.

 

4.17.16

Come on out of the grave.

Standing at the bottom of this rocky staircase,

you can tell that it will feel good to finally use your legs.

Like a dream where it is so hard to speak

as you conscious and subconscious fight for control,

the decision to act is the one thing holding you back

as the new air drifts down, teasing your lungs,

and makes you wonder why you have been down here so long.

Tomb is such a strong word, you say.

Cocoon sounds so much nicer.

Nevermind that you’ve slowly grown to dislike

the filth and can see the decay behind the facade of boredom

that covers the walls.

Nevermind how your heart began to hope

when you first heard his voice.

 

4.3.16

hovering like a hummingbird,

moving furiously to fly in place,

trading sixty mile per hour speed

to draw you out

sip by sip,

spending each ten heart beat second

getting the best of you

 

4.3.16

the other day I passed a red wheelbarrow in the middle of the road.

a semi truck was stopping in front of it

like a puppy who doesn’t know what to do when a toy is placed in its way,

staring quizzically at its owner and a little helpless

the semi didn’t quite know what to do with the overturned garden prop,

such a strange vehicle

the state trooper in front of me,

that had been so faithfully maintaining a speed five miles below the speed limit for the past seven miles,

and who I was too afraid to pass,

veered into the fast lane

and used a service entrance in the median

to turn around and come to the truck’s aid.

I didn’t envy the college student

who had pulled over seconds before

to run around to the back of his car

where his trunk was flapping open

and bungy cords streaming in the wind.

 

3.18.16

I remember my first trip to Pensacola Beach:

the sand squeaked under my feet like baby seals.

The grainy white snow on the ground one morning this week

reminded me of those days-

of hurricane breaks and birthday eves,

of campfire songs and retreat walks,

of inside jokes and nights under the stars.

But as nice as the sand felt beneath my feet,

as soft as it was,

I prefer the rocky heights of wisdom

and a firm foundation to build my home.

 

3.18.16

There’s an outdoor chapel in view from my window at work.

It belongs to the property of the reception center next door.

But for most of the winter it’s been buried under snow,

the slats of the sides of the bridge to the site

the only things visible against the white backdrop.

In the summer stringed lights surround the space.

But now there is nothing there to draw my eye to it;

no wedding guests traipsing up and down the path,

or couples exploring the grounds to gauge their use of it,

and I’ve forgotten that it waits in the little valley below.

 

3.15.16

‘O sacred head surrounded by crown of piercing thorn’

‘God has crowned his Christ with victory.’

 

The victory was the crown of bleeding thorn.

The fight was already won

when Christ suffered to wear the marks of derision.

Not the resurrection but the death was the end.

And now He crowns me with the chance

to make my own end of …

 

3.8.16

The earth looks like skin

after a bandage has been taken off

that was worn for months at a time,

only it is because the sheets of snow

that were once wrapped around it

have finally slipped off under the sun’s steady gaze.

A friend was telling me the other day

that the longer the ground stays buried

underneath the packs of snow,

the better the yield from her garden that spring.

And I know that the best harvest, the sweetest fruits,

come from the hardest winters when it seems like

the snow will never leave,

and you begin to doubt

that those things planted so long ago

could never have survived such a long wait.

Oh the beauty of shoots rising up from the soil

and breathing in the fresh air.

 

 

3.8.16

I miss the sound of the rain falling on

the roof of the porch

the large drops splashing

each one a millisecond shower

and puddles forming in the crevices and sunken places

of sidewalks and parking lots

and the allowance to look out the window

and let thoughts slowly percolate

to the steady rhythm of the rain

 

3.6.16

sitting in a coffee shop that sounds like my dad

remembering long drives in the car

and his old tapes playing over and over

while the rest of us slept

or float trips with his family

and the guitars around the campfire playing songs

I didn’t recognize, too young

but the band in the coffee shop

looks about ten years older than my dad

or maybe I remember him only

at a set age, not much older

than fifty, with only a few grays

in his hair and it just starting

to thin on the back of his head

I’m still surprised

every time I see him on visits home

with the visible signs of age progression.

I’m not ready for him to be old.

I sometimes worry

that he will leave this world

much sooner than my mother.

I’m sure we would find another way

to take care of her,

but after all she has been through

I wouldn’t want her to lose this too

a love that follows through

when sickness becomes a long term reality

and test of the vow.

 

3.6.16

a crown of snowflakes

sitting on my table

is meant to decoratively hold a candle

the cold metal somehow

adding beauty to the flame

it reminds me of the delicate stars

waved on the head of the child Lucy

the Brave in the Chronicles of Narnia

the immortal gracing a life so young

and yet such a crown did not seem

indulgent, manufactured, or too make-believe

‘we are all princesses.’ Sara Crewe proclaims

with invisible crowns

but sometimes you can see them gleam

in the beauty of the brave and confident

who love the world unafraid

when the purity of a soul is lit within

and the edges just catch the light

 

2.28.16

The Fig Tree

one last year to invest and pour out myself

one last chance to show the change of life and growth

to see if seeds planted so long ago

took root to bear fruit

or never found soil strong and rich enough

to sustain in times of trial and drought

 

2.25.16

“Just keep following the heart lines in your hands.”  -Florence & the Machine

 

as if the creases in our hands

formed from even before our birth

could hold the secret

to the pathways of our lives.

and yet each of our fingertips

are unique to our own souls;

each of our hearts

knows its own journey;

and each of our fingertips

trace back to the center of our lives

where the most important change happens.

 

2.20.16

an apples so sweet and crisp

presented so innocently

was his downfall

 

2.17.16

Today I ate a sandwich with spinach leaves on it,

and the spinach leaves tasted suspiciously like

the leaves from the trees in my parents’ backyard,

the kind you eat on a dare

or just to see what it tastes like,

curious as you are as a kid.

when was the last time you ate a leaf

just to taste it on your tongue,

to take in the taste of autumn

 

2.14.16

a broken heart offered up

was my sacrifice to you [up on the mountain]

and now I know how to lay my life down

 

2.10.16

when life feels like a night spent out on the sea

with empty nets in the morning,

and you tell me

to put out again to deep waters,

will I have the courage to plumb the depths

looking for a different answer,

will I trust that you can do something new in my life,

make me more than I ever could have imagined,

or will I stay in my defeat,

leaving you empty-handed,

and turn away from you

and all that you could pull out of me:

enough and overflowing

 

2.10.16

sometimes life feels like there is a one way mirror

between us; I know that you are there

but I can’t see your face

when all that I want is to see your eyes

 

2.3.16

Sarah

I laughed because

after all these years

with this strange god

I could not believe that the time had finally come

I laughed because

everything before

had always been a time of a new understanding

and not the realization of my own desire for this life

I laughed because

I had forgotten

how to hope with confident eyes

 

2.1.16

remain in me

as the branches of a tree

but it’s hard to tell

when I am reaching out for more

away from you

and when you are pushing me out

pointing and extending my breadth

towards the new and untouched

 

1.31.16

snow bloomed on the trees

as beautiful as any cherry blossom

covering the branches in soft circles

and drawing my gaze to the rows of frozen strands

a strange spring

full of newness and paradoxical truth

standing there, breathing in the keen air

a mystery left to be unraveled

I could only marvel

 

1.31.6

with a ring that sips off of its own accord

the temptation is to leave it off

too loose to hold the promise anyway

or maybe this love needs to be resized

to hold tighter and more secure

 

1.31.16

how lonely the life of a prophet

never believed and walking alone

but called from birth to speak

to be strength and surety

when all others doubt

to know God and continually seek Him

leaving so much behind for this life

that is always on the move

but never out-wandering

 

1.27.16

The grass crunched as I walked through the field

frosty and stiff

they looked like the branches of our family Christmas tree

the white one, that we inherited from my grandmother

white, and then off-white, and then spray painted white

with glitter

we threw the branches away little by little

I remember standing on the back porch steps

holding the branches away from me

the paint freezing the needles

into sparkling

 

1.22.16

David

Torn clothes and dirt on his head,

this boy kneeling before me

is one I will never forget,

and these details are engraved on my heart forever.

In my mind’s eye I saw myself in him,

kneeling before Samuel as my brothers looked on,

oil dripping from my hair

down onto my shoulders and into the sheep’s hair

left there from a lamb I had carried home.

I hardly knew what was happening that day.

But looking at this youth I knew.

I knew too much of how my life was changed.

Torn myself by grief and loss

but filled with the spirit of the Lord as it all rushed upon me,

I knew that this was His will,

that suddenly the way was clear.

I was king.

 

1.21.16

Today the trees looked like summer,

and with the blue sky behind them

you could almost pretend that the light

was the softer light of spring

and the breeze a sigh of the quiet notes of a wind chime

 

1.18.16

I love Colorado but

I have yet to see a Cardinal bird here.

The best of friends with winter,

they flaunt their red feathers

as if to say,

‘look here, winter,

you may have your drab and brown branches

and your gray and overcast days,

but you cannot take away my joy.’

But in the home of three hundred days of sunshine,

what need is there of bright red jewels

to carry hope as easy as feathered flight?

But I sill look for them anyway

as if for a familiar dear face

that has been away too long.

 

1.17.16

I have loved

an epitaph

if I can say only this about my life

that it is enough

I have loved

and it was enough to change me

it is the one thing I could do to honor and imitate

the one who has loved me with an everlasting love

for what else did he say with his life than

‘I have loved’

 

1.17.16

There’s a sign across the street

that reads, “we have moved”

in all capitals

but every time I look up

I think it says, “we have loved”

could we so boldly proclaim to the world

and so simply state our purpose

‘we were here

and this is where

we have loved’

a stand for the people within

a protective arm around them

the quiet knowledge of the better and harder path taken

we have loved

and it was enough

 

1.17.16

When I run out of joy and strength to give to the world

you are always there

to change me into the best of me

to make me better that I was before

because this is your joy

for my sake you will not be silent

until I shine with the light of your victory behind my eyes

you will keep changing my heart

removing all else that is not for my good

and placing  your spirit where I was meant to come alive

 

1.15.16

the weight of living

the weight of glory

when you are really living

there is no weight on your shoulders

because you have been freed of all that

and are free to live

and give glory

 

1.12.16

there you are my sunshine

a first happy light of greeting

a spark of hope and rest

you are here within my sight

and that is all that I need

to put away my old self

and find myself renewed and ready

to face whatever is next

 

1.11.16

I just wanted to sing my song to  you

but the words became a cough in my throat

I tried to keep the melody

but my voice gave out

and only half words and syllables escaped

I couldn’t even sing to myself a little hymn

or hum a love song in the middle of the day

instead my song stayed inside

and waited for a day when i could

sing full throated

 

1.9.16

chocolate shavings hanging

from the ceiling like flowers

 

1.9.16

the fullness of beauty

the fullness of suffering

the fullness of glory

can a heart contain these all?

only one

and though my heart

only holds a fraction of these things,

He keeps growing mine and expanding

the doors and windows

pushing out

a master builder, creating rooms and

archways, genius feats of architecture

making my heart like His

and though sometimes I think my heart might burst

from holding too much–

too much pain

too much joy

too much gratitude and love

these are the times when He is measuring

how much further I still have

to grow before I am complete

and His work is done in me.

 

1.9.16

I didn’t need to see the mountains from the airplane

to know that we were near the Rockies.

The land was changing below,

showing the full force

of tectonic plates bunching into each other,

creating widespread irregularities

and beauty.

The tidy squares of farmland

were invaded by ripples and larger ridges

that made usefulness of the land impossible.

I didn’t need to see the mountains to know they were there.

Snow was filling up the hollows

 

1.9.16

I slept through a meeting last week.

The hotel room that I was sleeping in

was not the kind with outside windows.

Behind the large thick curtains of the one window

in the room was a view of the hallway

and a slight glance down to the floors below.

With the lights off, there was no way to tell

what time of day it was,

so in my sleep-filled brain

that neglected to hear my alarm going off,

it was still night if the room was dark.

But the day had already begun without me.

My coworkers were gathering levels below,

wondering where I was,

while hotel staff served customers

and readied rooms for conference attendees.

But I slept on in my ignorance

with no light to inform me of the truth.

 

1.9.16

Flying  back from Dallas to Denver

the ground below turned back to brown

from the green it had been even in winter

and from the plane window I watched

as flat farmland started to ripple.

Small waves at first, closer together

and rolling in the same direction,

and then larger mounds that interrupted fields

and made neat squares of land all but impossible

until the whole earth below was

snow-filled craters and hills cut by snaking creeks.

It reminded me of those atlases in gradeschool

that showed the different heights and elevations of the country,

until I realized that the cartographers who made these maps

were only trying to show the world what they had

seen with their own eyes from their airplanes.

And aren’t we all trying to show everyone that we meet

what it is that we see.

 

12.28.15

Oh to have the simplicity of a shepherd,

who accepted with peace an angel’s word,

whose faith could see that the glimpse

of a mere babe would satisfy the longings

of hope and salvation.

Oh to not have to need to know

just how exactly everything will be taken care of,

but to trust in the mercy of God’s plan

and rejoice with confidence

in the fulfilling of a promise,

even if it is only the beginning.

 

12.26.15

Elizabeth

Long before the infant in my womb leaped for joy,

I had a song of thanksgiving all of my own.

Already dear to me was the Holy One of Israel

for his goodness and faithfulness to me

during my long walk of barrenness.

(No one could know the beauty I found

along that desert walk

when all they saw was empty dryness.)

But God was with me with every step,

soaking up any bitterness

and flooding my heart with life and love.

They couldn’t know the fullness

of a life emptied out for God

and a journey of ever-growing strength.

And yes, they rejoice with me,

but I have a song of my own,

for God’s ears alone.

it was there, in the hills, in my heart,

that he first gave me joy,

and it is there that I will first sing my song back to him.

And this son of mine

is not for my honor,

but for God’s.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

12.23.15

Somewhere in the middle of Kansas

the sun began to set.

That was where I first noticed

that the fields were green again,

though the clouds above them

were the same shade of gray

as dirty, three-day-old snow.

Not much later the shadow of my car

stretched before me on the road

while the blinding sun

chased me in the rear view mirror,

catching signs and the back of

semi-trucks in front of me

until just the tops of the Flint Hills

reflected the tired orange light

and the clouds grasped a bit

of the pink flairs of the sun.

 

12.20.15

finish what you’ve begun in me

until this good work is complete

and my heart is ready

to see  your throne

just as one day

Mary was made perfect

all along and through

her life of sorrows

so you are making me

into who I am meant to be

in your grace

finish what you’ve begun in me

 

12.19.15

the glory of the Lord shone around them

what do you suppose that looks like

and would you know it if you saw it

or do you need the eyes of faith to see it

in the first place

is it like that saintly glow

or halo depicted around the holy ones

in paintings and pictures

not in the sky, stars, or angels

but around the very shepherds themselves

as they came to know of the desire of all human hearts

and what does that look like within your heart

glory, a source of honor for God

and what happens to a heart

when it sees and know what it was made for

to know of the love that powers the universe

 

12.18.15

waiting and watching

asleep in prayer in the garden

or wide awake outside a desert inn

your coming and going

always highly anticipated

what were you watching for that last night?

was  it that same drop of truth

that we look for today,

that word that will set our hearts at ease

just to know that is to be done

just to see the Father’s plan unfold

 

12.13.15

The upholstery of the booth in front of me has vertical columns of horizontal stripes that look like high rise apartment buildings or opposite moving walkways commonly found in airports.  It reminds me of a waterfall structure in one of the malls in St. Louis where I grew up.  It looked like a Sears tower in miniature with streams of water flowing down opposite sides that you could reach out your hand and touch if your parents let you or if they weren’t paying attention.

Can you imagine if they actually built a high rise apartment building that had a thin layer of water like glass moving down the sides? You could peer out the windows and see a slightly blurry, watery city. Always a separation between you and the world, hidden behind your waterfall, the light reflecting on the walls in the movement of the water.

 

12.11.15

Tracing the pattern of leaves in my coloring book

with a green fine line marker

made me think of how

our bodies will be traced in the pattern

of One who has been made new

and how right now

we are just the inner vein of the leaves,

one line at a time stretching out

and giving shape, making room

like the propping up of a tent.

but these lines have been engraved

in hearts,

marks that will not fade

for this first Example

was made into a glorified state

by the permanent marks

that stretched out hands and feet

and showed the outline of a heart

made great.

 

12.10.15

sometimes when I say, “but how could I ever leave the mountains?”

I really mean to say, “why would I ever want to stop looking at them?”

in the same way

that you would never want to stop looking

into the face of the one you love

to see such beauty that you would never want to turn away from it

is to see the face of God

 

12.9.15

and sometimes strength is not what we need

but just to be held

how can you tell my soul

to fly like a bird to its mountain,

to soar

when strengthening weak knees

and drooping arms

seems like too much

when I would rather hear

the steady beating of your heart

than the rush of wind in my ears

 

12.8.15

Hot chocolate with cinnamon

slowly drains out of my cup

it smells like a chocolate snickerdoodle

and leaves behind ridges

of chocolate powder like

layers of dirt or tree rings

sediment

telling a story

of each thought swirled around

and every quiet sip