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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
because of the mercy of our God.
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.
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.
like a stone
you have set me
in this place to wait
a sure spot
to build upon
the foundation of a house
yet to be formed
I carry within me a beginning
and only You can see its completion
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
‘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 …
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.
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
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.
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
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
“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.
an apples so sweet and crisp
presented so innocently
was his downfall
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
a broken heart offered up
was my sacrifice to you [up on the mountain]
and now I know how to lay my life down
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
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
I laughed because
after all these years
with this strange god
I could not believe that the time had finally come
I laughed because
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
I have loved
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’
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
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
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
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
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
chocolate shavings hanging
from the ceiling like flowers
the fullness of beauty
the fullness of suffering
the fullness of glory
can a heart contain these all?
and though my heart
only holds a fraction of these things,
He keeps growing mine and expanding
the doors and windows
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
telling a story
of each thought swirled around
and every quiet sip