Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Of Things That Have Been

I finger them mindlessly most days,
These tokens of thanksgiving.
In some familiar corner of my brain I am
aware of their weight and
the anorexic string that
keeps them connected to a well
But something has shifted
inside of me and
I can’t remember
how to see.... 

To keep reading this poem, please follow this link


I am writing today over at my beautiful friend Elizabeth Marshall's home, 
She extended a gracious invitation to several of her friends that write poetry and I am honored to be included in that circle.

Elizabeth and I have a history of mingling words and images and stirrings of the heart.
Together, we created Adagio, a writing "pas de deux" of sorts where we wove our words together to pen poems. 
Quite a bit of life has happened between that last project and now, as well it should have. But we are both very excited to join together again in the new year. It is our hope that you will journey with us.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How To Make a Life

Her absence rings most empty at the breakfast table.
Every morning, my dad starts the coffee maker, drops his raisin bread in the toaster and slowly opens the blinds covering the window over the sink. Squinting through the glass, he takes note of the temperature outside, the amount of bird seed left in each feeder, the slant of sun on the deck.
At various points along his morning choreography, when an observation worth sharing arises, he feels it—the slight hesitation of breath, the parting of lips, the turn of his head to catch her eye. And then, in a suspended moment of remembrance, his heart and mind swirl confusedly, and then settle.
She’s not there.
It’s difficult to abandon sixty years of morning rhythms that are redolent with unforced grace.
When one half of a whole goes missing, every day becomes a step towards restoration. And when wrestling through such holy work, it’s difficult to emerge without a limp.
I'm writing over at SheLoves Magazine today and would love for you to follow this link so that you can read the rest of this story.

SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love

Photo credit: Nicole on flickr

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Murmuration of the Body

I remember the first time I witnessed the beautiful choreography of a flock of starlings in flight.
It was a sharply cool autumn afternoon and I had just finished spinning in circles, arms spread, hair flying. As I came out of my twirl I crumpled onto a clump of thick grass and felt the earth sway wildly beneath my splayed body. When I opened my eyes I gazed dreamily at the polished sky.
They entered my field of vision from the left. Like a swarm of gnats hanging angrily in the summer heat, they presented thick and dark. I saw them before I heard them. But as they drew closer, their cackling caught up to their riotous numbers and they soon overtook the entire sky.
Their form was, at once, epic and ephemeral. They ballooned into one grandiose bell shape and then, like chimney smoke caught up in a gust, they turned direction and bellowed wide and constringed.
Again and again, they swelled and contracted, bulged and narrowed. I was awe struck.
I behold this phenomenon twice a year now, when the birds arrive out of nowhere and alight on the branches and fields surrounding my house. Still, but tittering, they pulse with an energy and then, at the striking of some ethereal cue, arise as one. Most times, I drop whatever I am doing and race outside to catch their appearance.
I am often struck silent as I stare, even when accompanied by my children. Some experiences need no words. Sometimes, lessons are garnered in the quiet spaces broken open by the miracle.
I'm writing over at SheLoves Magazine today and I would love for you to join me in the comments. Just click here.
SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love

Photo credit: Richard Smith 

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Curriculum of Compassion

As you may or may not know, we are a family that has chosen to "do" school here at home (and in the car and on the road and in the grass and under trees...). As you also may or may not know, this endeavor has been the source of both great joy and personal angst. 

Throughout this journey (officially seven years but, in reality, twelve) I have struggled with maintaining autonomy in our learning practices, all the while not succumbing to the demon of comparison, approval from others, or a general yet, ginormous, fear of failure.

It is true--homeschooling is not for the faint-hearted. But neither is parenting so I'm not so different from any other person who has chosen to walk with young people.

Oh, how I need these hands to hold.

Additionally, I bring to this educational endeavor all of my mixed up, conflicted selves -- The good girl who likes to please those who are watching as well as the rebel who will do what she wants anyway. I want structured chaos. I want to disciple and detox. I want to set a course and then take the fork when it presents itself. I want to showcase and shelter. I want good behavior and wild abandon.

But most of all?

I pray that my scattered deposits into the lives of these gorgeous people will be my gift to the world. I hope that our journey in loving and learning will be a polestar for my children and that its light will always fall across their paths.

Generally, we are very relaxed and eclectic in the way that we do school. I've always shied away from curriculum in a box and, if pushed, have just let go and handed over the reins to my boys. My oldest son prefers that approach anyway. He has declared, on more than one occasion, that he would rather "just be in charge of [his] own learning", thank you very much. But then time will pass and I will look around me and I will wring my hands over the fact that we haven't mastered times tables or spelling and suddenly I become all business.

It is this hemming and hawing that feeds the angst. This has been the cycle.

And then last October I had a baby and in April my mom died and suddenly I find myself staring down an entire year that has spun wildly off its axis. Navigating the last eleven months has been like stumbling around in the dark and all I want is someone to turn on the light and point the way. But here we are, almost to September, and I need to hunker down and lay down some semblance of a map for us to follow.

Even if all I have are some crumbs.

And then #Ferguson happened and, once again, there is that wild spinning...

And I am forced to lay it all before the One that knows it all. Because, if I know anything at all, it is this:

I cannot, and will not, 
separate our slow steps forward 
from the truth that is #Ferguson.

This "learning" that we do?

If it is to be all that I desire it to be, if it is to leave marks that cannot be rubbed away from the hearts of my little men, if it is to offer anything to the globe upon which we dance--then it must open space for the suffering and lament of others. Because, in the end, all we have is each other, friends and so we must enter into the hard places. Together.

It came to me in the quiet of the morning, in that corner of space that gives birth to light and dew drops and revelation.

From now on, from this day forward, in this spot of a place that houses boys and weeds and love, we will study a curriculum of compassion. It will be the sound of our feet stepping into the suffering of others that will tune our hearts to what changes the world. It will be our willingness to hang everything of value onto the framework of brokenness that will cut open our shuttered hearts and make us open vessels for renewal.

This must be. I know this with a certainty that belies my usual conflicted self. This must be because this is the way to glory.

The truth of my heart doesn't want to walk that way. Not really. But the desire of my heart is to walk in this way and I want my boys to walk this path. I want to grab those hands of theirs, squeeze tight and confess that I have no idea what I am doing--what we are doing--but here we go anyway.

Because to continue on as if #Ferguson was just an anomaly and not indicative of a greater experience for an entire group of people is to purposely choose the garb of privilege. I'm ready to risk my position and call out the Emperor. I will no longer pretend that the clothes fit.

Instead, I want us to choose threads colored by sacrifice and suffering, humility and hospitality, love and loss and weave them into new wineskins.

I want my boys to learn that nothing in the Kingdom is earned. Not a single thing. Life together is about grace upon grace and mercy untold. The value of a person is not based on how forcefully they pull up their boot straps or under whose roof they are born. No, this Kingdom living? It is directed by how well we share our weaknesses, how willing we are to reveal that which we do not know, how empty we are willing to get. This is where we must begin. This is where love is born.

So this weaving we will do? It will begin small.

The weft and the warp threads will be set through the silent and often unseen actions. We will fill the bird feeders and water the zinnias. We will continue as a family to read aloud books like Wonder and A Long Walk to Water and then sit with the difficult questions that stir up from their truths.

But my prayer is that we will keep walking forward, into the foggy valleys. I want us to hone our vision so that our eyes become keen to the needs of our community. I hope to move closer to an "us" mentality rather than one that hisses "them." May it come to be that we seek to grow smaller so that others can grow taller. We will study History by listening to all of the voices--Bauer, Zinn, Douglass, Steinem, AND Schweickart--no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel.

But most importantly--I need your help. I need your voice. Every last beautiful one of you. Because this course of study is a river and it is fed by many sources. You and your life? Please speak into ours. Let us ripple into each other.

"It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." 
-- Robert F. Kennedy

For such is the way of peace.

Photo credit: Andrew Hyde

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dinner With The Magician

She called just a day before she would be rolling through town, hope dripping round the corners of her question. Was there a chance I might be available for a visit when she passed through? It would be a quick stay, just overnight, but wouldn’t it be lovely? Gratefully, our days are wide open as of late and I had just washed the sheets and whose heart doesn’t smile all Cheshire-like when old friends come calling?
I hope she heard the joy in my response because, although I was excited about our reunion, it had been quite a number of years since last our eyes had met or our arms had encircled. Childhood friendships can run deep as the ocean but years apart can also seem to magnify the wide expanse of those sacred waters and such a gulf has the potential to swallow you right whole.
She arrived with a bottle of wine under one arm, a loaf of crusty bread under the other and a laugh so strong as to unshackle fear in any heart. Oh, how I remembered that laugh! How it was both winsome and inviting, how its genuineness removed all self-effacement. Smiling, I took her offerings of bread and wine and placed them on the table and I felt something let loose within me.
We set to the task of preparing dinner, each of us stationed across from one another. She sliced cantaloupe, I cut vegetables and, together, we began the slow dance of catching up on lives lived apart from each other for years. At first, we revisited what was familiar. We recalled favorite memories, we reenacted infamous moments. All that we held in common became burnished to glowing by our careful curating of memory.
I'm writing over at SheLoves Magazine today and you can find the rest of this story by following this link here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Litany of Next Things

I am forcibly willing myself to sit in this hard wooden library chair.

Right now, as I finger this keyboard, the sky above my roof has been cooled to a deep cerulean and is being occasionally scrubbed to gleaming by wave after wave of cloud stuff. Every tree is heavy with leaves and shadow but, hidden deep within each, is the glory of birdsong, trilling like so much music.

This day is one I will not soon forget. It is just too beautiful to let slip into the ether, as if it was nothing remarkable that the sun broke free of the horizon and unleashed this beauty on all whose eyes fluttered open this morning.

This day is the sort from which dreams are spun.

So to purposely sit here, in this chair, on this day means I am trying, with all of my might, to finger the threads of thought that have been fraying frantically in my head for months. These last weeks and days have often felt unmanageable, heavy with grief and bewilderment and seeming idleness. I have done my best to muddle through, pulling on joy when I couldn't handle the dark anymore and praying that sleep walking was better than standing still.

But the honest truth is that I have often felt as if I was screaming, mouth wide open, throat scraping raw, screaming. Silent and piercing, all at once. The core of me, the one that must write to figure out what she is thinking, has felt imprisoned by grief.

If, a year ago, you had tossed out the question of how I might one day deal with the pain of losing my mother I would have, most assuredly, said: writing.

So, when confronting the reality and heartbreak of my mother's actual death, I've hardly penned a word in response? Well, it has been disconcerting, at best.

And the longer the break, the more days that pass and words fail to appear?
The more I
have felt
as if I

I have felt like a glass jar full of silt shaken and left alone, shaken and left alone, shaken and left alone

That is why today's clarion beauty has felt like such a gift. The morning's lighter air and gentle rippling set a precedent and the waters upon which chaos floated have started to settle. A separation has begun and I am beginning to distinguish sand and rock and crystal. What used to be only a muddied swirling now contains flecks of gold dust.

This might just be where the words have been hiding.

All of today has been like one slow remembering. I realize that grief has kept me from noticing like I used to notice. When you are trying to simply put one foot in front of the other, you don't often bother to spend time studying vapor trails or listen to the way grass stretches as each drop of dew slowly evaporates. You just seem to focus on the next thing.

But today gifted me with a litany of next things and I have discovered that the gnarl of frayed and woolly thoughts languishing in my head have begun to spin. Along their edges there seems to be a thread forming. The beautiful and terrible things of this world are working together to draw out the fibers in my mess and the twisting and whirling of the last few months don't feel quite so in vain.

I think that, tomorrow, I will follow the beauty.


Monday, May 26, 2014

When God's Face Is A Technicolor Zinnia

In ways familiar and comforting the Earth has tilted just so these last few weeks. 

At times, I have stood quiet, feet planted still, eyes peering into the woods just across the way. The barren tree limbs—skeletal and brittle, worn from a winter long and brutal, bark stained ebony against the leaden skies—they began to pulse. And deep in the hidden places, there was a quickening, a return to life.

I watched as naked branches swelled with promise, and like outstretched hands with fingers unfurling, the tips glistened as they caught the deeper shafts of sunlight. Their buds, like strings of pearls, gave way to festoons of leaves and in a twinkling, the woods were suddenly verdant and alive.

The seasons of the Earth, they are saving me these days.


The rest of my words can be found today over at SheLoves Magazine. Join me there by clicking this link?

SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love

Thursday, April 24, 2014

After your leaving

The days spin silently
and I am vacuous
in their wake
mindful of the practice
of living
but bereft 
I was not aware 
the depth of
minor rituals
and how our speaking them
to each other
pulled taut
at my sacred spaces
hemming me in
behind and before

The morning sun
falls flat 
stretching just long enough
to find the dirt smear
on the tile
I rub it halfheartedly with my toe
but nothing changes

I heard about the hummingbirds
how they have returned
seeking nectar 
how they eat just enough
to fuel their flight
each minute

So I retrieved the feeders
their red bases 
faded from so many days
in the sun
and I filled them to the brim
sweet and dripping
A small but mighty

The land of the living
is full of such sacraments
Soon I will walk
Until then
I will just gaze upon my


Monday, April 14, 2014

On the passing of my mother

She is from a white clapboard house with a wraparound porch, claw foot tub and Dove soap smack in the middle of Macon, Georgia.
From the streets of Madison and Carling, up and down Coleman Hill, where she walked to Whittle School and the Public Library, and boldly asked for a library card at the age of 5.
She is from playing under fig and pear trees, soft scented pines and shiny leaf magnolias, red clay staining her bare feet and the smell of paper mills filling her nostrils.
She is from Berry and Sallie Belle, Wiley, Sister, Doris, Roger and Jimmy.
She is from strong as oxen Shero aunts who farmed cotton and worked in pants plants in Wrightsville, Georgia.
She is from the Depression and Tuberculosis and a family that took in folks who were down on their luck. From fish on Friday and First Street Methodist.
She is from picnics on Stone Mountain, Finchers BBQ, NuWay hotdogs and LaVista Catfish.
She is from poise lessons and perfect posture and words dripping honey sweet from her mouth.
She is from a hair-brained idea involving a midnight double date rendezvous to Aiken, SC, a half drunk justice of the peace, and a 4th of July celebration that included one very busy rotating fan.
She is from moves to Indianapolis, Indiana and then St. Louis, Missouri that took her from her beloved South.
She is from north of the Mason Dixon line where she took it upon herself to soften the edges of every nasal accent in the Midwest.
She is from bacon grease on the back of the stove and dog bowls at the back door
and champagne bottles that toasted births all lined up in a row. She is from Boston Ferns and summer deck parties.
From coffee and cherry chip birthday cake and hands that smelled like onions.
She is from chuck roast in the electric skillet, onion soup mix brisket, Jello salads, massive pots of spaghetti, liver and onions, green enchiladas, asparagus disguised as green bean casserole, sweet tea and Hallelujah banana bread.
She is from “I love you a bushel and a peck” and “Gimme some sugar” and, perhaps most famously,  “Tim Smothers, you will nevah, nevah, evah drive that Aspen Station Wagon again!”
She is from Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, the Johnny Mathis Christmas album, Dionne Warwick, George Carlin, Flip Wilson, Bill Cosby, Cheech and Chong, Fiddler on the Roof, James Taylor and that Classical Music in the background.
She is from You Are My Sunshine and Everything Is Going to be Alright.
She is from “To Thine Own Self Be True” and “It’s Your Mama.” From “All Is Well” and “It Is What It Is Grandma” and “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.”
She is from dancing jitterbugs across linoleum floors and slapping her knee at every guffaw.
She is from birthday cards and notes in school lunches and throwing kisses and standing at the door until your car was out of sight.
From “psspsspsspss” and “chum on” and “doodlebug” and “Honey Bob.”
And forever and ever and ever, she will always be from shooting stars and fireworks and every smile shared by those that loved her best.


There you have it. The world as we have known it, all the days of our lives. We were molded and shaped and created from that celestial brew of whimsy and joy and strength.
We have never known ourselves or our world without our mother in it.  I am here, my brothers and sisters are here, because of her.  We are who we are, because of her.

Our mother was a curator of a welcome life.
To live in the orbit of our mother was to always be invited, received, entertained, accepted.
But perhaps above all, to have known my mother was to have been loved.
Her life was a lesson in loving.
What she taught us all was to always run hard after love. In all circumstances, by every means necessary, even when we screw things up or we do the exact right thing--we need love to be what is standing between us and everyone else. When love is what we choose to weave in among the fibers and snags of our everyday life, when love gilds the edges of tired joy or stretches across the chasms of unspoken fears then we become Love lived on purpose and that breathes life and one can catch glimpses of glory come down.

In the wake of my mom’s death, we are sad, yes. We feel carved out and empty and the truth of what we are left with actually aches in ways deep and long, yes.
But this, too, is also true:
There is still life, despite the loss.  There is still love in the world, despite the severing.  There is still light, despite the darkness.

And that gives me hope.

Because, if it is true, that we are who we are because of our mother...
then it means that this whole dance, all of the goodness and light spun dizzy with all of the defiance and angst, all of the ways that we continually fall down and help pick each other up, all of the beautiful and mundane, the fascinating and the trivial, the whole and the half?

It's part of us too, now, tucked away in the obvious and secret places, planted in soil made rich with her love and care for us.

It is through loving and singing with our own children or grandchildren, by partnering with kindred souls or living alongside people that challenge us...all of it ripples on and on and on.... people are continually made and remade because we are in their lives...which means that our mother lives on.

And I pray that one day, when the pictures are pulled out and the chronology of our becoming is on display, the one thing that will have leaked out all over, dripping from the corners of our eyes and the edges of our smiles, is the amazing truth...

that we were loved by her.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I’m cooking dinner and
only because the days are getting longer
does the light still filter in
through the clouded window that
needs replacing
The pane is nearly opaque
but not muddled enough
to keep my eye from catching
the fluttering of a bird at the feeder
repositioning himself
to find more seed

While I cut broccoli
the baby sits on the counter
flapping his arms
like the bird outside
screeching with glee
drool dripping like honey
from his mouth
the bud of a tooth peeking
out from swollen gums

I set down the knife  
and sip my wine in the pause
while through the tilted glass I can see
the edges of the room stained
crimson and swirling
catching light


The rest of this poem can be found over at Elizabeth Marshall's beautiful blog
where Elizabeth weaves wonder and whimsy on a regular basis.
Elizabeth and I collaborated on Adagio: A Poetry Project,
an experiment in writing across the miles, twining words and heart thoughts together.
You can read those pieces here, here, here and here
I am so very thankful for the opportunity to share, once again, with Elizabeth.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Folds of Grace

Some days just ring hollow
as if all the hopes I’ve thrown long and wide just
swirl round and round
slower and slower
from the weight borne upon them
And then there are days
that the black bird returns
flash of red upon his wing
his call creaky like an old iron gate
causing me to squint upwards
into the still bare tree limb in silhouette
the strengthening sun finding new fire
behind it
Some days roll in atop the
pink foam of fitful nights
and the sandy grit bristles hard
against the murky glass
leaving an etched line that will take
hours to polish out
The rest of this poem can be found over at SheLoves Magazine where I am writing today. Follow this link and join me there? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, either here or there.
SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Saving Daylight

I caught sight of it as I passed the window yesterday
down the driveway thick with mud and gathered puddles
Three birds in silhouette
the afternoon sun flooding them from behind
taking a bath

My lips curled skyward
and I stood motionless
for five whole minutes
the audacity

The day before that
you pretended to be Huck playing in the bulrushes
and you brought me handfuls of cat tail fluff
my palms opened to the offering
and you glowed

The dark earth, moist with thaw
has begun its heaving heavenward
pushed from below
until, split open like the body
it becomes broken

Then, today
I turned that last corner out of the woods
and came up on the lake
glimmering with a thousand
salvos of light

And I'm clutching all of it
with an unbecoming fierceness
hell bent on gathering glory
as if it wasn't raining
right round

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In the end, three things remain

This quote appeared on my Pinterest feed a couple of weeks ago and, like a chill breeze that steals in under the warped door frame, it has descended down deep into my marrow. For you see, I have been awash in brackish thoughts of late.

With a few exceptions, I have taken a step back from my online presence the last six months. Five months ago, I gave birth to my third son. Three months ago, my mother began another round of chemotherapy. My withdrawal from the non-stop traffic of the internet was both a conscious and inevitable choice. I do not regret my decision but I would be lying through my teeth if I didn’t admit that, ever since, I have been at battle with doubt and envy.

My biggest frustration with the world of writing and platform building and influence is that what it requires seems so far removed from a life that bears the fruit worth reading about—a life of depth and stillness and meaning.

Writing, for me, has always felt like an intimate dinner party, hemmed in by golden light and the clink of dishes, measured in the crumbs stolen away on fingertips and the slow warmth from poured wine. There are the moments of sure knowing just as there are the heavy silences that come from the unknowing. But always, there is the table-- worn and steady, wide and open.

But my attempts to translate that way of being to the online world feel antiquated and stilted, at best.

It feels like sidling up to a busy counter with a bustling lunch crowd. Bread is broken and laughter distilled, yes, but the din of conversation is confusing to this ambivert who simultaneously wants to try new dishes and run out the door, hands pressed over her ears.

I'm sharing my words over at sixinthesticks with the brave Nacole Simmons for
 {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}.
Join me and the discussion in the comments by following this 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Small Acts, Great Love

The house is quiet now.
All day there has been this swirling of vagrant leaves and fluttering of bare branches and it has been enough to make me wonder if all of heaven and earth might just be on the cusp of some arcing change. Perhaps winter’s icy fingers are beginning to crack and splinter in the hidden places. Perhaps there might just be a Spring after all.
It’s in the hushed evening that I remember what I read once about frost seeding. How a farmer can scatter a pasture with seeds while the ground is still frozen. Then, as the soil freezes and thaws, space is opened up and the seeds fall into the space that is created. All throughout the winter, with each new round of bitter cold, the process continues and the seeds become more and more a part of the soil. After each storm, each seed is better positioned to germinate once the temperatures rebound and stay consistent.
It is in this remembering that I think about my fall and winter. I think about how my life has been flipped on its head, how I am mothering an infant once again, how those dear to me are sick and in need of attention and how, right in the middle of it all, I am earnestly practicing the sacred art of balance.
Click here to read the rest of my words over at SheLoves Magazine.
SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

This Mortal Coil

The words pierce through the late morning light that hangs
drowsy and dust filled and glistening
and just like that
there is no way to breathe

Instinctively I fly to touch him
memorize his lips and jowls and fingertips
trace the shadow of his profile
hear the cadence within his chest
be sure of him

Whenever Death runs past
a vale of tears cuts a gorge
right through the center of
all that was known or promised
and we become wild and frantic
for life

I eventually settle and draw in
what is left of the day
seizing moment after glorious moment
like a greedy beggar
my heart keen on wanting it all

As the sunlight stretches long across the room
I feel the pull of weathered thread
that winds then meanders then weaves itself
through the fingers of all my loves
The one that holds us fast to earth
and to each other
has weak spots

I know this
yet I want to pull all the tighter
draw in the goodness so I will have it
entwine the bright colored thread fast
around the faded one
to keep it from shuffling off
this mortal coil

Friday, January 31, 2014

Running hard after love

I've wanted to escape to this space for weeks now. To get lost in that suspended place of word and thought that swirls like so much wood smoke, evoking both memory and revery with each bend and jump. Here is where I come to figure out what really is ... to remind myself of the ground that holds me up and the sky that pulls at my chin. It is here that I remember how to breathe.

But I have been living the last two weeks at my parents' house and despite the fact that I have all but completely withdrawn from my regular life, the days have been fuller, stuffier, heavier than most. My mom is in the thick of chemotherapy treatments attempting, with all that science and positive energy can offer, to fight a disease that alters the makeup of her blood. Rather than work for her, her cells have declared anarchy. And she is tired.

We are all tired.

And although we may be chipped and cracked a bit, dizzy drunk from all that is working around and in and through us, we are not defeated. Nor have we lost hope. Never before have I been more in tune with the song of the Gospel that sings over me, every day. That although we walk a tenuous line between faith and fear and every step seeks to hand us over to death, life is rising in us, as well.

I witnessed this truth laced through I spent at my parents' house.

I didn't always see it while I was a child in their house. I was too busy living wildly off of the fruits of their diligence and gracious caretaking then. It has only been since returning as an adult, in a strange juxtaposition of caregiver and care receiver, that my eyes have been opened. It is only now, when the days seemed numbered, that I see the ring of light that circles the dark.


My parents do everything with care. My mom keeps a very tidy house and my dad keeps the whole machine running smoothly. Such has been their dance throughout 59 years of marriage and they still do it beautifully. The glorious thing about it all, however, is that it never was, nor ever is, at the expense of hospitality or graceful living. Neither of them has ever answered the door to surprise guests only to exclaim, "Forgive the messy house!" Instead, doors were thrown open, arms were outstretched and visitors were ushered in with squeals of delight.

My parents are curators of a welcome life.

You can imagine the difficulty, then, when illness enters the room and, despite a willing heart, the body can't always comply. The tenuous line is drawn and its diaphanous form etches itself across the floor, like a crack in plaster.

But, over and over, I watched my parents, my mother, especially, tilt towards life.


I always thought that if I was ever faced with a severe illness that I would, of course, take up arms and run into battle. I would not go down with the ship. I would rise above, stand defiant, go out kicking and screaming.

After witnessing the horrors of chemotherapy, however, I'm not so sure. The idea of fighting death with destruction doesn't settle well in my deepest places. But neither does quietly walking away from a life that I love. I don't know how to keep company with those who sing songs for Jesus' speedy return in order to save us from this swirling orb of humanity.

I want to live.

I want to wake up every day and gaze upon those that I love. I want to plant zinnias every summer and smell wood smoke trailing from stone chimneys. I want to eat gooey butter cake and lift weights at the Y and take road trips to the Rocky Mountains and cook bacon on Saturdays. I want to laugh at silly jokes and hear, once again, the stories that make our family its own brand of crazy. I want to hold fast to the hands clinging hard to mine.

I don't want any of this to ever stop.

I'm learning that the way to embrace a death sentence while simultaneously allowing life to rise in me is to run hard after love. In all circumstances, by every means necessary, even when I screw things up or do the exact right thing--I need love to be what is standing between me and everyone else.

When love is what I choose to weave in among the fibers and snags of my every day life, when love gilds the edges of tired joy or stretches across the chasms of unspoken fears then that cloudy glass is rubbed a little cleaner. Love lived on purpose breathes life and one can catch glimpses of glory come down.

I saw it most keenly the night I lay in bed alongside my mom. She was three days into chemo and every one of her body systems was in revolt. In that darkened room I quietly held hands with my mom and hung lavishly in that place of holding and being held. Our bodies formed a circle and I longed harder than ever that it remain unbroken. And then she whispered her thanksgiving, for me and my boys and my just being there. Her words, her naming the gifts, breathed life into my weary soul. It was love that floated between our souls in that moment and it became clearer than ever.

This speaking love into each others' lives? It is life.

Friday, January 10, 2014

In which there is Poetic Justice, for God is a Poet, but there is also Mercy

I am honored to open up space today for the words of Anita Mathias. Anita and I first connected in the comments section of a piece I wrote for SheLoves. A few months later she asked me to write a guest post over at her place. Clearly, we share an admiration for each other's words. Please join me in welcoming Anita to 
A Lifetime of Days.


Even while Esau was out hunting his father’s favourite wild game, Jacob and Rebecca slaughtered and cooked two choice young goats-- which Jacob served to Isaac, pretending to be Esau, stealing his blessing.

A cruel deception.

And, uncannily, years later, in his own old age, Jacob’s sons sold his favourite son into slavery, dipping Joseph’s precious robe in the blood of a slaughtered goat, claiming he had been killed by a wild beast.

Tricked with a goat, just as he had tricked his own father with a goat.
* * *

The seeds we sow, we reap, measure for measure. They lie dormant in the earth, sometimes for years, then yield their harvest.

The good we have done yields blessing, and the evil we’ve done conjures shadowy forces against us.

And that’s scary if we have sown bad seeds, have said and done less than luminous things, things we are now ashamed of.

* * *

But we do not live in a mechanical universe. We live in a just universe, shot through by mercy like a golden cord.

The law of sowing and reaping is the deep magic from the dawn of time, in C. S. Lewis’s phrase.

However there is a more powerful force still: the force of mercy, unleashed by the willing victim who bore in his body the punishment for all the bad seeds we have ever sown.

And so mercy triumphs over justice. The deep magic from before the dawn of time.

Jacob recovers Joseph; Esau was, in fact, blessed.

* * *

For myself, I want to sow good seed for the rest of my life.

But the bad seed I have sown? The things I am ashamed of? The things I did because of my small, bewildered, wounded heart?

I confess them.

I ask God’s forgiveness. I ask Christ’s blood to cover them.

And I step into the waterfall of mercy, the mercy that triumphs over justice because the One who loves the world is good.

I ask him to let all the bad seeds I’ve sown, which are still dormant, die.

And I ask him for grace to overplant much good seed to crowd out the bad seed.

And I ask him, the ultimate genetic engineer, to somehow, even now, change the DNA of the bad seed I’ve planted, and bring good from them.

And I place my life and future in His hands.

(Photo credit: Jenny Downing)

Anita Mathias is the author of Wandering Between Two Worlds
(Benediction Classics, 2007). She has won a writing fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts, and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The London MagazineCommonwealAmerica, The Christian Century, and The Best Spiritual Writing anthologies.

Anita lives in Oxford, England with her husband and daughters. She blogs at Dreaming Beneath the Spires. You can find her on Twitter @anitamathias1 or on Facebook at Dreaming Beneath the Spires.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Thing With Feathers

I grew up in a family that loved birds. As far back as my mind can remember, I have opened my eyes each morning and quickly found a window through which I could spot the birds already bustling about the yard.
My childhood house had a tall window over the kitchen sink and just outside there stood a sweet little redbud tree with heart-shaped leaves. It was just tall enough for its limbs to reach to where we stood inside and from one branch we hung a modest little feeder. Most of the time, however, we just threw bread crusts and stale crackers on the ground. I think the birds liked those the best.
My dad taught me the name of every single bird that visited. His eyes always lit up at the flighty dance of the chickadees or the flashing red of a cardinal and with every new arrival he welcomed them by name, like old friends returning from a lengthy absence.
That is how it always felt when the juncos appeared. We called them “snow birds” because they always arrived on the cusp of cold weather and were nature’s gentle reminder that winter was on its way.
Over the years my dad’s vast ornithological knowledge gradually seeped into the corners of my little head and, to this day, I can still name every bird I see. It is one of the greatest gifts my father has ever given me.
+ + + + + + + + + + + +
You can read the rest of my words by following this link over to SheLoves Magazine.
SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love