Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Thoughts on Wild in the Hollow AND a Giveaway

I haven't written much about my journey towards faith in this space.

It infuses everything I write, yes, because I am stained by its touch and born again into its glory. But sharing the journey before and during and after? I've been pretty quiet.

Perhaps it is because that part of my story is, at once, innocent and convoluted and fiery and fickle and it just feels too messy to wrap words around. There is definitely fear of judgement present. And not just from those who might read it.

Perhaps it is because I struggle to see where I am on the spectrum and I don't know how to trust the spaces where colors bleed, one into the other.

Perhaps I am just tired of trying to hold it all together and I don't trust that anyone else really wants to help me carry the burden.

But maybe that will change now that I have read Amber Haines' book Wild in the Hollow.

This, here, is why:

"There will always be ways I'm learning to let God love me, but maybe I inherited more than desire for the knowledge of good and evil from our Eve. Maybe I inherited her memory, the echoes of the garden. There was the faint memory of the cadence of his walk in the cool of the evening. There was the settled stride I remembered. Oh yes, I remembered that he had seen my freshest skin. He had seen my naked heart. There was a memory in my spirit that he had called me beloved. His smiling on me what always his original intention...
I saw this potential for others also. I knew God was everywhere and knew there were glimpses of him in all people, because he showed me his kindness and his mercy in all creation. Even in the great sin and shame of other, I saw him, or at least I saw the groaning for him. In this, I learned to recognize the hollow, the search for God, and the deep longing for him (for fulfillment) in the needles, the skin, and the bottle. I recognized his wooings in every metaphor. I saw the desire for skin on skin as the soul looking for home, for intimacy. I saw the body, made for God, as an original intention, as a belonging.
Our lives are made of metaphor, and we can recognize Jesus throughout creation and in those who have never heard his name. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1 that no one has an excuse. God is everywhere. Yoga poses and Gregorian chant, buttermilk cornbread, the Grand Canyon, and the picture of a rainbow drawn by the hand of my two-year-old all speak of him if we're looking. Don't make a mistake and hear that I worship those things; no, instead I worship the God of the universe who is. 'For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.' His scent wafts through tent cities, jail cells, granite kitchens, and marble palaces. He beckons us in all places. Where can I go from him? The echo of him in metaphor throughout the earth is undeniable when one wakes to him.
When I first believed, I walked around in a clumsy prayer, so awake, listening for God in the falling acorn, in everything. I was free to lapse into long spiritual metaphor simply by hearing my alarm clock. Some might accuse me of being led purely by emotion. Let it be so. It was the feeling of love, of very first love. Let it also be understood that I studied Scripture like a brain on steroids. I studied homiletics. It was a mind transformation, a decision as best as one knows how to make in the midst of being overcome. I was ridiculous really, and I didn't need cigarettes or anything else--not a cute tush, no nightlong blitzes, and certainly not a fella to keep me company.
I didn't have the language for it then, but I saw the Imago Dei everywhere and in everyone. I saw myself as a child of God, Abba letting me come to him, boldly and with ease, in the gentleness of relationship. I was confident, and I saw God as one who loved me completely as a good Father. And Jesus--he, my love, my brother--became my friend. He was becoming the only place that made any sense to me, the only way to see the world."
You see, Amber Haines' story feels like my story, in so many ways. The idyllic childhood wrapped in church culture, the rebellious adolescence, the rabid desire for significance and being known, the running to and falling away again and again and again.

But Amber's story never feels all cleaned up. And that, my friends, is the beauty of this book.

This book isn't just for those who know and love Jesus and have made mistakes along the way--although it will touch those folks deeply.

No. It's more than that.

I believe that this book can sing over those who are hell bent on living but are killing themselves in the striving. 

It whispers in the ears of those who desire connection and have reached for flesh on bone but come back empty handed, every time.

It cradles those whose arms are riddled with tracks that lead to dark spaces and smooths the hair of folks sick on bitterroot.

It shakes out the quilts of those who have wrapped themselves up so tightly with the hope that nothing will ever touch them. There.

This book invites.

"Come, everyone who thirst,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live."
Isaiah 55: 1-3 ESV

Wild in the Hollow is a book for those who long to be known in the way that we were created to be known--beloved, gorgeous, quirky, ripe, alive. I think that is why I couldn't put it down. I drank these words like a woman parched. I sat with the all of it and let the truths of God's infinite and lavish grace and love pool around me.

At times, I went under.

But I was not afraid.

This book speaks to places deep and important and it opens the door to much needed conversation about brokenness and redemption.

I would love to talk about those things with you in the comments:

How have you found beauty in the brokenness?

How has your brokenness actually led to your healing?

What have been your experiences with the church and how has that contributed to your brokenness and/or your healing?

Everyone who leaves a comment by Friday, August 7 will be entered into a drawing to receive a copy of 
Wild in the Hollow. 
Free copy of Wild in the Hollow has been gifted.
Thank you for your comments.

If you don't win a copy of the book, I hope that you will buy a copy for yourself anyway. Wild in the Hollow can be purchased here. To read more of Amber's beautiful words, subscribe to her blog.

In closing, I'll let Amber tell you about her book in her own words.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Take Your Poet To Work Day

Well, seeing as my home is the center for the majority of my work AND getting out to a coffee shop, much less a decent one, in my town is nearly impossible, I chose to just invite Rumi to my very own kitchen table. 

It seemed more than fitting, actually. This is where my boys and I gather for our Poetry and Tea Time ritual and this is where all the big, juicy conversations take place. 

So, I poured Rumi some strong coffee and offered him some Piroutte wafers. Clearly, he enjoyed them. 

And, just like that, Rumi is part of the family.


Linking up with Tweetspeak Poetry for 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thorns, Joy & Holy Braids

It's so natural, intuitive even, to settle one's vision on the rough parts of anything. It's the way we protect ourselves.

Whenever we know exactly what we are dealing with, we feel we are better prepared to fight against it or rise above it or bring it under our control. When there is an enemy, it is always better to have the upper hand. And the way to gain that advantage is to know every side of the evil.

So, we study it. We caress it's edges. We keep it close at hand so, in the moments between other moments, we can pull it out and remember how it wants us.

And oh, how it wants us.

Its pursuant tendrils silently wrap and curl into our shadowed folds and feed on the darkness. And the rough and the dark? They become silent, parasitic partners.

We believe we are armed for battle when, really, we are wasting away in our deepest places.


In nature, thorns are fortifications that protect a plant from being eaten by predators. A great many fruits and edible flowers are kept alive by the trails and rings of thorns surrounding them.

My life this past year? It has been rife with trails and rings of thorns. Walking alongside my mom through her illness and chemotherapy and eventual death was the most difficult thing I have ever done. And my default? More often than I care to admit, it has been to succumb to the vacuum of scarcity that Life's defense manufactures. Because when all I see and feel and experience is prickly and nettlesome, I can't help but feel shut out from the beauty.

But that's exactly the arc of the great ache--that our experiences that are often strewn with thorns are but stations on a path ringed with beauty and joy. If a thorn's design is to protect, then it follows that their presence is purposeful and necessary. They remind us that all the things that are true and noble and reputable and authentic and compelling and gracious are prized and sought after. They remind us that joy and pain are profoundly intertwined. 

For me, this is where my faith in a God of grace and mercy becomes manifest. For when I am willing to take the joy and the pain in both hands, God's immense love and care for me provide yet a third cord. Taken together, they become a holy braid that is not easily broken. 


Where are you, today, friend? Are you knee-deep in the pain and struggle? Do you feel wrapped in thorns, as if Life wanted to "protect" you from the good you see and that others seem to have in spades? Perhaps, your go-to response is bitterness, anger or, worse, indifference. What if there was another way?

I wrote today's post as a way of partnering with Margaret Feinberg and to help spread the word about her latest book Fight Back With Joy

This book began as an intense study of the over 400 references to joy in Scripture. Margaret was in the final stages of writing her book when she received a cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, all the sources of joy that she had discovered were turned on their head in the shadow of her illness. In an instant, her understanding of true joy was called into question. In writing Fight Back With Joy  Margaret "discovered facets of joy that no one ever taught me—more than whimsy, joy is a weapon we can use to fight life’s battles."

You can purchase the book at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Margaret has also created a 6-session DVD Bible Study kit that is available for purchase. 

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