The fussy toddler wears poop
right close to his bottom –
you can tell he has for a while.
Hot unwashed bodies carry
unique scents like pepper, fermenting fruit,
soaked and dried again towels.
Final days have ways
of making a person think extra long
about things like this.
The press of pungent humanity is
much easier to romanticize
when riding the number 8 is choice
for a time and not grocery shopping,
Walking downtown streets to the law office
for my last Tuesday,
I see that young man again, just a kid
with a skateboard,
face bleeding drugs at the
same corner by the Square where
the man with the dog propped his sign
that said “Feed my human.”
There’s a piece of glass
in my foot from walking barefoot
in our basement storage.
I thought I got it all,
but today I lilt to the left
in my wedges,
remnants reminding me of
how we’re all limping.
I exit the elevator onto
the 8th floor and the
sticky thick of shared spaces,
mingling smells of
yesterday’s food and perfume,
corridors only vaguely connecting
here to there
before air conditioning cuts
with its comforts.
We draw to the close of another school year, and I can’t decide if it feels like nine months have passed, or nine days. The way time suspends like a hammock, the way it marches forward like ants in a line.
Sea foam sizzles and waves rumble,
and both call me right to the edges
because I feel no choice but to see life
in contrasting metaphor,
how Love is thunder and a settling
into sands, gentle dance of bubbles in glass
Pelicans hover over waters
as on our honeymoon 17 years ago,
and it is a breath-catching gift, this sight,
because we’ve never seen them
on our stretch of Pacific
We watch birds skim waves
like prehistoric creatures until they catch
a glimpse, make their bodies arrow slim,
dive below the surface,
gulp up beakfuls of fish and invisible things
with soup ladle mouths
We recall pre-wrinkles, pre-midline pooch,
pre-almost everything that would be us,
how we could not tire of watching these birds from
our veranda on the Bay of Zihuatanejo
so many Aprils ago,
the artfulness of their lingering and plunging
because we saw the metaphor
We choose to plunge over and over again,
don’t we, love,
hovering over everyday before piercing surfaces,
sometimes shocking each other with our
sudden mouthfuls and
water streaming from corners,
and you’re right close to me
when we pause on the rocks to share our catch,
bones and all
In mid-April, I served as the speaker for a women’s church retreat at a camp called Twin Rocks. This was my fourth time at Twin Rocks, a beautiful gathering of cabins, meandering grounds, dining hall and welcome center located on 120 acres at the Oregon Coast.
The first time I visited the camp in the small coastal town of Rockaway, I was a sixth grader, feet big as they’d ever be, smile unmistakably huge, and afraid. So afraid. I carried fear of rejection on me like a shaker-knit sweater. I thought I did a fair job hiding my skin beneath, but those girls could see through the gaps to my soft spots. Middle school girls have a sixth sense for this sort of thing.
When I was a kid, I owned a journal that sat on my nightstand. A plain gray one personalized with a few tulips in grass, a rainbow across the top, the word journal written in my own floppy third grade cursive.
This may have been my only journal until adulthood because, though my heart stirred with the potential of writing, I only let the words flow from mind to page a handful of times. I’m an extrovert and a helper, so those pursuits kept me busy, but more, I did not ever fill that or any other journal’s lined pages because I knew that with so many long spaces between, I could never catch up. My allergy to not being thorough and complete chilled these writing hands.
It’s been more than a month since I’ve written here, and it feels like twelve years because I don’t know how to possibly catch you all up. And I can’t, so I won’t.
Yesterday morning, I lay down on the couch to wait for my phone’s timer to let me know the French press was ready for her plunge. I wished that these few moments could stretch to an entire day to be still and write, but it was another work outside the home sort of day for me.
So I took my minutes and placed my head on the red pillow on the couch’s left arm where I always stop in the morning to be still. The early sun shone so warm on my face and so brightly through the front window that even closing my lids did not diffuse the rays. My eyeballs felt the heat.
I opened my eyes and shielded them with my hand, and I smiled like one in the arms of her love. Dust particles kicked up by yesterday’s pre-company cleaning danced like stars, let loose like free women.
I miss blogging and the freefall of ideas, the connecting with you here. I never thought these last months would be a period of so many long separations and breaks from this place, so much else needing tending. And they are good things, and there are a lot of them.
I have a new job working (while the girls are in school, two days a week) at a law office, helping clients through their personal injuries, their recoveries from car, car-striking-bicyclist, car-striking-pedestrian collisions. I like my role and adore the people (longtime friends) with whom I work. Each time I leave the downtown office to catch the bus, I watch cars extra close — looking askance at their speed, the way they chomp at heels, waiting to make turns or accelerate through the light — and I am aware of how we are so fragile, these hearts, muscles, flesh and bones.
Also, I still work one day a week in the same office where I’ve been for nearly nine years, supporting a team (of close friends) who are real estate agents. I love these ones and their commitment to serving, and I savor my view on the office courtyard, watching people be people through the one-way glass in which they often check their reflections or pace back and forth with cell phone to ear. When the courtyard is empty, I sometimes look up from my work to catch glimmers of clouds and light bouncing off mirrored glass across the way, refractions that are breaks and turns.
I spend much time preparing for the women’s retreat I’ll be leading in a few weeks, soaking up the truth of Isaiah 55, letting it sift and shift and settle down deep, taking God’s hand as he leads me on new journeys to places I do not know, so I can share with others what he’s shown me. And it is mundane and sacred labor, like labor is. This creative endeavor has required nearly all of my writing energies lately.
When you wake in the morning with first thoughts of
fear for tender lives in your care,
or with the day’s tasks
racing past your face on a hopped-up assembly line,
or with pain over that relationship
or horrible misunderstanding,
and all you can do is sort of groan-pray-worry;
when you sit in the dark quiet and feel your own
weakness press like a heavy hand on your chest,
and you wonder how you’ll muster this day;
This morning, I’m pleased to share a piece I wrote for Sunday Circle Group — a new collective for which I’m a contributor — about meeting God in the bathtub.
Sunday Circle Group is an extension of Outside the City Gate and is made up of “a team of artisans: wordsmiths, musicians, poets, visual artists, who collectively bring us together for a Sunday post that is quietly delivered to those who are displaced from church community, feel lost in their own, or for anybody who needs a circle of faith builders in their lives with a community of dreamers.”
You can click here to become part of the circle, which is open to all.
After going through a painful church transition just over a year ago with my family, and feeling the loss and sorrow of displacement, I felt a special nudge to join with this team (as a “wordsmith” — love that word) to come alongside those who might feel on the outside or are simply seeking God “on the backroads of faith,” as they say at Outside the City Gate.
Here is my offering this morning. I wrote it several weeks ago, and so it is a sort of prelude to my thoughts on fearlessness Friday because receiving rest and the truth of my belovedness do precede my being able to walk forth in courage. Perhaps that’s true for you?
I’ll be contributing to the Sunday Circle every six weeks or so, but if you want to receive these small and encouraging Sunday emails, which include visual art, photography, poetry and song, please do go here to subscribe. We’d love to have you!
“It’s like I’m being remade on the inside,” I told my friend this morning at the end of our walk, standing in front of my house in the crisp winter air, just past the reach of the crabapple and its naked, low-hanging branches.
“I know it’s really good work that God is doing, and I’m also so, so tired,” I told her, and she nodded, tenderness in her eyes. I referred to many things in that moment, and she understood that, too. This doing the next thing and then the rapid-fire next, this taking courage while literally shaking fear, this choice to believe what God says moment to moment when well-worn pathways of self-condemnation and worry feel like home.
An hour later, I returned to a quiet house after taking my girls to school, ideas and responsibilities clambering, and I sat with a cup of coffee and some favorite words, recognized anxiety doing its thing in the fibers just below my skin.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” I repeated Julian of Norwich’s words to myself – this recently reemerging as a favorite mantra, along with “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
When you’re being remade, you talk to yourself a lot, putting on truth like clothes, seeking to claim life that shines through lies.
I looked through the window to the bright blue sky and thought of all I needed to do, about the push-back I’ve been getting on a big project and how much it all makes me want to rest. And I spoke from the thinking-out-loud-mixed-with-prayer place that has become regular for me during the weekdays, now that I’m regularly alone at home for the first time in nearly 13 years (my three girls all at the K-8 school down the street).
“I need to take a shower and get ready, so I can have a fresh start on the day,” I said. “It just sounds so nice to get into a hot bath with a magazine,” I added, sort of longingly.
And I clearly felt God say, Do it.
Now, please. You are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Receive my rest.
With all the big risks of my past year and the many ways I feel poured out, it took me by surprise how risky and lavish a filled bathtub seemed.
For more than three years, this place has been a sacred one for me, where we listen and respond and share and hear “me too” in the comments and pay attention to the small ordinary moments as a way of seeing through to the bigger ones. I’ve missed joining with you here over the last few weeks, and I just had to check in this morning, though I’ve only got a few minutes.
Since I last wrote, I’ve been in the midst of projects and stepping out on foreign lands. I speak before a group of women tomorrow for whom I’ll be leading a retreat in a few more months. These are the biggest speaking things I’ve ever done.
I’ve been praying and writing and writing and praying and living and remembering God is a god of abundant supply. I am trying to open my heart wide, not hoard my energies or my gifts, and it feels most everything is tinged with newness, including the faces I see in front of me.
I’m learning to say, “God, I can’t wait to see how we’re going to do this together,” rather than “God, how will I ever be able to do this?” (Thank you to the wise one who gave me those words. They are so woven into my fibers over this last month that I don’t even know their origin anymore.)
I’ve been undone and stitched back together during this time, these last weeks, and though I’ve not had opportunity to write it here, I’m journaling my way through and plan to share more soon.
Friends, God is so faithful. Those aches of your heart, those resigned pains, those monstrous fears, those insecurities that leave canyons straight through your center….our Creator wants to heal. He is mighty to save. His presence is peace, his yoke is light. Your Maker is faithful to keep you when you feel you’re going to break and when you receive a new layer of healing and the bandages are peeled away and when you take the next step you know to take.