Sunday, December 30, 2018

Salt and Shadow

Sometime recently, I was sitting in the shop kitchen with a couple of compadres1 when one of them said, 

"Sugar:  I eat too much, I'm good for a minute, but the downer that follows is way down."

And joking, I said, 

"When I go to the doctor, they call that manic depressive."

"Joking," I said.

I don't think they call it that anymore, even in good fun,
And you don't need to know my medical history, anyway.

But as long as we're on the subject, 
let's talk about extremes for just a minute.

Pattern recognition is a peculiar hobby of mine ~ I've recently realized ~ and one of the patterns that's recently caught my attention is my own system of a down.

I'm UP
and then

I'm way down.

The cogs that turn this wheel are many and weird,
And also, not what this is about.

more (on that) later.

It seems that I am either going to talk way, way too much,
Or I'm not going to talk at all.

My system of extremes.
My tic and toc.

In that light, be it known that this season has been one of the downest that I've had in a very, very long time.
So much that even if I'd wanted to talk, I've known better than to put some of this out there into the ether.

But the Ether already knows.

I've been living(ish) for Jesus
don't freak.  he told me to be true.
for most of my life.

As I now also work for Jesus, 
every single thing that I say 
may be, 
should be, 
will be 
by the everlasting light.
by the Everlasting Light.

And that holds me up to a high standard, which is
Good and bad.
Encouraging and exhausting.

So, as I've spent this season trying to say zero 
stupid, or 
embarrassing words, 
I've turned completely in on myself.

I've talked (only) to myself until I'm blue in the face!

My deeply intentional words to people in grief are that 
you must not 
under any circumstances 
or for any real or perceived reason
go radio silent.

So thank Jesus for the radio!

When I cannot or will not say words, the radio (often) says them for me ~ and I'm not sure I'd even know where I've been this season were it not for my playlist, which I've maintained in (mostly) silence.  

So as I emerge now from the desert 
~ (Lord, I pray) ~ 
here is the path I've taken:

some of these have bad or difficult or triggering words.
as with everything else I say, listen at your own risk.

"I am early in my story, but I believe 
I will stretch out into eternity, 
and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, 
these days when it seemed God was down a dirt road, 
walking toward me. Years ago, 
He was a swinging speck in the distance; 
now He is close enough I can hear His singing. 
Soon I will see the lines on His face." 
Donald Miller

Swimmin Time
Coping Mechanism
Robert Creeley

dam’s broke,
head’s a

"I've been told there is a power in the blood
Is it enough to carry me back 
from where I am to where I was?"
Everything Now
No Hard Feelings
I Will Survive
Not Waving but Drowning
Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

As I drafted all of this out this morning
~ not realizing that's what I was doing ~
I had a vision of the woman washing Jesus's feet with her tears.2
And then I saw my own face, my own tears.
And I felt his hand on top of my head
And I felt in my hurting heart
How much he loves me
In spite of all my extremes.
My salt and my shadow.

And that's all I have to say about that.

1 this happens a lot, and I just had one of my really great ideas!
1a and also, why do I keep saying, "compadres"?
Forgiven Much

Monday, December 24, 2018

Untitled Twenty-Four

Fair warning:  I've put this where it's least likely to be seen.  
I need to say it, but you don't need to read it.

Sometime in the last few weeks, two of my favorite friends and I wound up sitting together in the shop kitchen, each of us Decked Out in total festive absurdity.

FF1:  I hate Christmas.  I don't know why, but every single year, I'm just more depressed than the one before.

FF2:  I know exactly what you mean.  It's like you put your chin down and just pray your way through it.

ME:  I know exactly.

Remember that very-nearly-the-end Matrix scene where Smith finally catches Neo unprepared, and inflicts not only the mortal wound, but just keeps firing and firing, and Trinity can only watch as Neo finally relinquishes?  

That's what this last year has felt like.  
Or the last couple of years.  
Or the last whatever.

I've heard more than one person say that they just don't understand how anybody could feel this way or cope that way.  I've encountered people who either can't or won't believe that it's possible for somebody to look normal ~ festive, even ~ and still be ...  not.

So if you do happen to be reading this, 

and if you do happen to know exactly, then,
chin down, 

prayers up, 
and remember:  
Neo does make a comeback.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Not Mine, But Yours

Last week, my youngest girl graduated from a drug rehabilitation program.

As she ran toward the rope climb outside the building where it happened, she explained to me, "I own these ropes.  I used to climb them when I was 16."

No longer a child, but still under my roof, under my care.  
Not yet grown, but still my kid, my responsibility.

As if it were a lifetime ago.

Did it start before or after 16?...

From the start, Em's life has been so dramatic and "different" from other lives that it would take me ~ well, the internet doesn't really have enough pages for me to share all of her history ~ but as she is beginning her New life, and because I must share in ways I have not shared before, I will start where the "seriously scared witless" began...

Monday, June 2, 2014

can we just call this poetry?

the incessant barking
that morning i walked to your place
two days before you would be gone to who-knows-where
to check on you for what may or may not be the last time 
(may or may not is always the thing with you) 
could not pray
could not concentrate
could only hear the dogs barking
and wonder
if i would remember that sound two days from now
May or may not ~ really and truly ~ has always been the thing.
Would she?  Wouldn't she?
Maybe.  Maybe not.

She was living literally around the corner from us when I made that post,
as she was being evicted from her apartment,
having nowhere to go,
one day before she would come to me in tears to ask if she could stay with us,
when i had to answer, "no,"
as if I had no heart,
two days before she made the exodus,
and literally, all hell broke loose.

I still hear the dogs.

Two days later, I finally came out with it.  Came out, that is, to the broader audience, to the whole world, I suppose, as I sought desperately for what to do, how to live with what was happening.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

For The Zombie Mommas

I’ve pondered writing this for a long time but have a host of reasons for having not. I’m doing it now for this reason: I am not one to look back with regret; rather, I look forward and wonder what I’m going to regret.

That said,

I care little for the zombie culture.  For me, it’s just one more manifestation of a desensitized society.  (But you go ahead!)

I’ve had this really weird theory about the coming zombie apocalypse and how drug addiction will be its genesis.  Turns out, this is not one of my less plausible theories if you have a look at some of the latest drug trends.  Which I don’t actually recommend doing.

But I’m beating around the bush.

I’ve re-written this paragraph forty hundred times, trying to decide what to say, how to say it, whether I have a right to say it, whether it’s a good idea to say it. Finally, I’ve decided to say simply:  It seems I’m losing one of my girls to drugs.

That’s a sentence I’ve put off writing for a long, long time, thinking that I’m breaking some kind of hipa law, or at the very least, I’m disrespecting my girl by telling her business.


She came through me.  I raised her (right or short-coming-like), and fought for her for all her years (realized or short-coming-like).

She is my girl, my daughter, my child.

And it seems that I am losing her.

It seems that we are all losing.

That’s all I wanted to say.

And needed to say.

Because I have no idea what else to say.
Or what to do.
And I know there are other zombie mommas out there, also not knowing.

So I’m raising this like a banner and a prayer for us all.
Thank Jesus, we did have her boy in safe keeping, though we'd had him already, and we may or may not discuss until Jesus comes back how much this had to do with the unraveling of events.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fade To Black

I looked up to see a teenage girl in the street, bags scattered around her, her pacing and watching nervously until a vehicle came around the corner, and she threw her things into it and rode away.  Several hours passed before it occurred to me that she was probably somebody else's zombie daughter and that I might have made a difference in that life somehow.  I might have just opened the door, stepped out into the yard, and asked her, "babe, are you about to make a regrettable choice?" Instead, I'd just watched the whole thing as if in a stupor.  

It's the same thing I do most days. 

Regrettable choices.  How many have there been now?
I'd ask who's counting as if to imply that nobody's counting but somebody is.
Somebody's always keeping score, at least in the game that I'm not even playing.
I'm losing, by the way.
Even though I have the most points.

I saw the girl through the window as I was sitting and staring, wondering what it's like to become a zombie, in fact.  Is it a slow fade?  Do you snap into it the same way that people snap out of things?

Like, I don't know ... denial, maybe.  Sometimes you snap out of that and what you get is a bite of red-hot reality.  I'm not really in denial.  I just really like the way that last bit sounds and sometimes I say things just because I like the sound of it.

But the real truth is that some parts of reality bite and I am regularly watching in stupefied wonder.  There are some situations still not getting better, some people still not coming home.  There are some places that I would bleed out if I thought it would make things better but I know better.  Knowing better might be making me bitter.  Just a bit.

I'm obviously writing mainly for myself now.  Except for the others like me.  I do know you're out there.  I saw your daughter yesterday in front of my house.  I'm sorry, so sincerely, that I didn't help her.
It seemed to take the entire next year to fade completely.  November 27 was my sister's birthday.  On 11/26/15, I spent my last Thanksgiving with my sister.  Em had been arrested the day before.  My sister died while my daughter was in jail.  Those days ~ my God, those days were dark.

However, as is often said of folks once incarcerated, or once some other means of rock bottom is met, those days in the clink ~ and maybe, just maybe my little sister made a little impact ~ gave my girl some time to dry out and to think.

Here again, I'd like to spend several pages writing about all that happened over the next two years, but I'm already writing outside the margins.  Suffice it to say that she took the reigns of her own life, her own fight, and she fought for her recovery.

[(I must share this from a sense of pride:)  she could have been out of jail and on the streets within a couple of months; she could have gone to this rehab facility or that; but what she did was Insist on getting a chance at Path of Grace, a place that I will henceforth refer to as a "life recovery home."]

(musical interlude as I step back into real life for a few...)

"Do you snap into it the same way that people snap out of things?  Like, I don't know ... denial, maybe.  Sometimes you snap out of that and what you get is a bite of red-hot reality.  I'm not really in denial."

The next couple of years ...
I just can't.
Win some,
lose some.
Good days,
bad days.
We all
through it.

And got us to graduation night.

There were about 50 people in the room, mostly women currently in the program, some previous graduates, a few board members, her sisters, Pop and me, a couple of nieces, her son.

Em sat at the front as we passed a token around the room, each sharing words of encouragement, love, and well wishes.  (I could write a page about just that:  all.those.women. speaking to my daughter ~ to the grown up Em, who is her very own self in this world.)

Normally, what's passed is a rock, but in this case, we passed a prayer coin which had been given to Emily by a man ~ one of our people ~ who'd begun to feel some years back that he'd been given a very specific responsibility to pray for her.

The room was full of tears and laughter as people took their turns sharing their personal history with Em over the last two years:  "you were scary."  "you were mean."  "you gave me the stank eye."  "you have grown, have changed, have overcome, have demonstrated love and sincere care, have helped so much, so often, have saved so many animals!"

Then an older gentleman took the coin, and was several sentences in before I realized how prophetically, poignantly he was speaking.  He began by telling that he'd studied the meaning of Emily's name, and that he'd found she had origins in Scotland, Ireland, a bunch of places, but he somehow wove a path back to the Israelites.  Once there, he explained one of the ancient Hebrew practices of ritualistic bathing.  He said that he'd watched Emily during her time at Path of Grace ~ watched her spiritually cleansing herself of the old ways.

There were several more hands that held the coin before it got to me, my other daughters, and then almost last to speak was my oldest granddaughter, McKenna.  I snickered at first when she said, "Aunt Em, I've listened to what everyone else has said, and all I have to say is, 'just keep bathing, just keep bathing.'"  One of my other kids had to nudge me and point out that it was a Finding Nemo reference that pointed back to the older gentleman's words.  It was suddenly one of the deepest things I've heard in my entire life.

It took me a few days to start this piece, and I am finishing it now, almost exactly two months later.

But if there's really an end to this, it's that there really is no end until Jesus finishes the work He started.  Until then and forever after, they are not my children, but His.

Not my will, Lord, but Yours.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


i must have been eight years old the first time i saw Aslan. i'd already experienced several girlhood crushes, but the Lion ~ he was my first great love. and it was the terrifying, wrenching, insurmountable kind of love that you might put away into some unlit corner for a time because (wrench) the pain of it, but you could never, ever forget it.

oh God, the Lion's eyes as his mane fell onto the stone. the painful but determined resolve with which he laid himself bare!

i didn't know.
i did not know allegory at eight years old.
i did not understand sacrifice, or the precarious nature of life, or what it meant to give your life to the service of others.

i cannot speak for my sister who watched with me ~ she, five years old ~ we, holding hands in stunned silence and solidarity ~ both of us hating the cold white witch, and surely understanding in the depths of our created hearts what it is to be tempted.

i cannot speak for my sister because she must speak for herself, albeit from the other side now, where surely she has found Aslan alive, has touched his mane, has been healed of every hurt, every crush, every temptation to turn away.

Tonight we will function like women.
The snow has gone away, the ice with its amniotic glare.
I clasp my sister’s tiny hand.
We will not turn away
Though spring, spring with its black appetite,
Comes seeping out of the earth.

The lion was sad. He suffered us
To touch him. When I placed the bread of my hands
In his mammalian heat, I was reminded
That the world outside this world
Is all vinegar and gall, that to be a young girl at the foot of a god
Requires patience. Timing.

The White Witch has mustered her partisans.
Because I am fascinated by her bracelets strung with baby teeth,
I will remember her as the woman
Who grins with her wrists. From my thicket of heather
I note that in her own congenital way
She is pure, that tonight she ushers something new into the world.

I cannot stop it. I cannot stop it just as in that other place
I could not keep the planes with their spiked fires from coming.
Though in this closed realm the smell of camphor is overwhelming
I have nothing but my hands to use
In ministering to the dead. Here too
My hands must suffice.

Hush now while I testify. They are shaving him.
The corona of his mane falls away
Like pieces of money. In the moon’s milk light
Her bangled wrists grin as she raises the blade.
Something is diffused. In whatever world he comes again
There will be women like us who choose to.
i wrote and re-wrote this until it spoke my piece, and then i checked the publication date of the bbc production, the one to which i refer.

it was nineteen-EIGHTY-eight, which means that i was eighteen and not eight, that my sister was fifteen and not five.  it means that i had a one-year-old daughter, and that i'd known more than just a few "childhood crushes."  it means that i knew a lot more than i did when i was eight years old.

but there's no changing this.  i wrote exactly what i see in my memory, exactly how i feel in my heart.  i was eight; she was five; we were holding hands.
in the first months after my sister died, i was searching one day for someone else to say for me what i couldn't.  it was a quick find, something i've known ever since was not an accident, and i go to her still when i don't know what to say.  Grief by Richard Brostoff via T.  whoever she is, she is also my sister.

if it seems i've followed her lead, then yes, absolutely.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Publisher's Clearinghouse

Remember several weeks back, after two weeks with a desktop fan in the bedroom, after three months of the clickety-clickety sound of the ceiling fan, after nearly a year of its hanging by wires and without globes, when, whilst my husband was at work, I single-handedly installed the new ceiling fan?

Last night, the new one started clickety-clickety-ing.
So I fixed it.
Now the light won't come on.

And that's how we got here.  That's how I know it's time to stop and clear another space before going back to putting the house back in order.  [(Which I've been doing for a week at a manic pace.) (Inference.)]

Relatively speaking, I expect this to be a post of few words, which is especially weird considering that this, by necessity, will cover a span of several years' worth of unwritten words.

In various places, at various times, I make references to THE ANNUAL YEAR-END POST that's been so traditional, so important ~ the one with the family picture...

But the truth is that, while I've taken the picture for more than several years now, I've only made the post two times.  For each of the last few years, I thought I would do it, and that I'd tie everything - all the missing stuff included - together with some neat-o words of vast importance, something that would stir your heart, inspire you to change your life.  blah blah blah.

By now, though, we all know that I do this more for my own self (and gosh, I hope with at least a smidge for Jesus) than for anybody else.

[(I just don't know why that doesn't make me go faster, use fewer words, worry less about sentence structure.) (Never mind, it's me we're talking about.)]

Ready?  Ready.

This was the first such picture and post, taken on Christmas Day, 2013.  As noted pretty clearly within, A Picture's Worth says much about how little you might know from just a photograph.

The next year, within hours of taking this Trigger Happy picture, I was being diagnosed with pneumonia.  The weeks that followed were just plain weird, but the thing I remember most about this particular morning, about this entire span of time, is the wondering if my youngest girl would be with us the following Christmas.  These were my Zombie Momma days.

2015.  No post for this one.  My youngest girl was incarcerated ~ which turned out to save her life!  But this Christmas morning was the day after my sister succumbed to her long, though very private battle with addiction and depression.  I was with her on Christmas Eve, at home to make breakfast and take this picture the next day.

Christmas morning, 2016, was ... I hate to keep saying, "weird," ... but I don't know what else to call it.  It was my first without my sister, and my family was still in the midst of so many battles.  That's all I have to say about that.

And now, This Christmas ...

Not everybody is here, but what you can't know just by looking at this is that we're still all together.  Ethan, Joshua's brother, is holding a ninja turtle.  I am wearing my sister's boots.  But these are merely photographic representations.  My sister, my grandbaby, all those I've held dear but have lost ~ they are in my heart.  No picture can completely show you that.

Still, I will still take pictures.  My husband rolls his eyes and huffs nearly every time I say, "hold on, let me get my camera!!"  And every time, I'm like dude! bro! brah!

How could I not take the picture?!

And with that, I finished (so I thought) and published this!
Remember how I said, "post of few words"?

Later, in another conversation (I was having with myself), I noted that I'd really not prepared to write this one.  (Forget that I've had the last two years to work it out!)

It seemed to me that I had just collected all these sentences in my head, shlumped them into a pile way back in a corner to gather dust, and that they just needed to be smoothed and laid out, first to last like a train, and that once I'd completed that arrangement, I would be relieved of their weight.

And sure enough, after I published, the pile began to burn off.

2017 was a $#?+ year, to say the very least.

It should have been one of my best so far, being that in '17, I moved from employment (keeping books at home) to vocation with my heart's place of ministry.  And truth is:  it was one of my best years in that way.  And being there, being where my heart is, with people whom I love, and who have returned much care and ministry to me ~ it's a great big part of what got me through the other stuff.

I know that I am not the only one who went through other stuff, who suffered loss or trial or Good God, what is happening?!! in '17.  Some of what went on, I saw, even if through a pixelated haze.  Some of it ~ honestly, probably most of it ~ I just plain missed.  In any case, I owe some kind of apology to those of you to whom I should have reached out but did not.  [(excuse, evident.) (but no excuses.)]

In another conversation (I was having with myself), I quipped, "dates don't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. you'll write " '18" on your checks now, but what else has changed, really, if you haven't?"


That date matters now.  A lot.  And always will now.

And it's like everything else, at least for me.  I move along through the days; I drink my coffee, do my work, sometimes write things down.  It might all seem pretty ordinary on paper.  It's just a life.  An ordinary life.

But life is extraordinary ~ everything about it!  I cannot look at anything around me without seeing the holographic nature of it.  This life ~ where numbers and colors and "first to last" mean more than just the first glance would imply.

So, here now.
This will be the end of this.
This pile, cleared and published.
I am changed now.
But not yet done.

I pray the same for you.