They grow, they emerge.

Gifts blossom like seeds into flowers,

and sometimes they burst out like an explosion.

Fears creep up like vines and work into their walls because

they are still porous, still hardening into what they will become.

And in a pack of four,

one shades the other and one leaves water for the bigger one,

like a forest where the trees all look out for each other.

And I can tend and rake and pour and prune,

but the weather comes from God above and I am rooted into one spot too,

and those saplings move away with the current of the earth as it shifts.

I see one stronger,

there’s a weaker one there, one bends harder in the wind and one is solid as an oak.

To think I never would have known the smell of the leaves or colors of these mixed trees

Had they not been born or grafted here.

They are glory

to my eyes.

And I like for

people to see them.


Even If

There’s that place that I think we all show up at least once in our lives, and we feel the way a creature hunted finds itself at the edge of a cliff, and the pursuer isn’t far behind. That place where there’s an ugly choice that we have to make- ugly because we never thought it would be like this, but it is and this is our life and there’s no one to take it on for us, no place to escape to anymore.

I remember sitting in my bed upstairs, throat swollen and raw from a tonsillectomy when the thought stabbed me like a sword:

That maybe all my tissue-thin faith and those prayers of frail expectation, would not make happen what I hoped would happen.


What if I had told God of how I believe Him now, how I want to love Him, and what if it was all laced with the expectation that He would behave reciprocally and heal my mind – and He didn’t?

He had prodded my spirit with the question and my life hung on the answer, a choice that was mine to make.

Will I love you, God, even if the bad thing happens?

Will I love you, God, even if you never bring again to my mind that steady simplicity of never having fear wash through it like a flash flood blasts through a forest canyon?

Will I love you, knowing that you can take it away, but you don’t?


You know, the very moment we decide that even though it might cost us everything, we will choose to love Him,

even if,

I believe He plants that seed of love right then and there to get watered by soul-tears for a little while.

The soul-tears cause love to grow best sometimes.


And that seed, put in the place that we used to keep our precious expectations for how things ought to go, becomes the smell of life to us as it germinates there.

To be able to say even if, I will love you, is that love bursting through the sticky film of expectation and into the sunshine of true hope.

To be able to say even if, I will love you, is a tunnel dynamited under that scraggly mountain of entitlement and clears the way to love other people because they don’t have to measure up either in order to get it too.


Even if, I will love you, is the very prayer of the terror

and ecstasy

of obedience.


My Front Porch and Theirs


The first guy I met there got nabbed as the serial rapist in this town not long after. He sat on the steps across the street and looked out as the evening lights kept cars running up and down and both ways through our intersection here, like ants under the midday sun.

Then there was Houma. Of course that wasn’t his given name, but I can rarely remember details like names. There are more suitable things to call people in the privacy of your own mind and that’s where he said he was from, so that’s what I called him. He’d see me in the corner of my wide front porch as he came out onto the front steps of his house to smoke. He would smile real big and wave at me and come jogging my way and into the yard and up onto my porch, talking just nonstop in that accent thicker than the Louisiana air he was born into. The way he chatted and glanced at you sideways with that smile after saying something you could tell he thought you would like, you never could trust him to speak truth to you without some tailored-to-you extras attached, just for flair. You had to like him though. He sat in the porch rocking chair beside me like he had known me since we were kids, said he borrowed money from his “Babeh” one day and asked her her favorite color. She said blue, so he got her name on his neck that day and airbrushed all in blue around the cursive black letters. He told me another day when I pulled up in front of the house, that he had just burnt up his car and the tools he had borrowed from my husband with it. The look of surprise on his face overcame the usual enthusiasm he wore, but even so, I didn’t believe a word of it. As he talked I didn’t quite listen and instead mentally made plans to stop by the pawn shop across the tracks on my next trip into downtown to look for them.  I then glanced across the street and at the same time caught the end of his story and, indeed, there was the burnt shell of his GMC with some wetness underneath it testifying that what he had said was true, fire truck dousing it and all. The heavy plastic toolbox I had bought my husband for Christmas a few months before was melted into itself in the backseat. He moved out into a trailer with his “Babeh” a few months later, and my husband helped him carry some furniture out.

There was the gal who wanted to make a little home there I could tell, but the meth had rotted the teeth out of her head and the sense right out with them. The only time I’ve ever been afraid to get out of my car when I’ve pulled up in front of my house was when some fellow meth users were standing at their car parked where I usually park. I pulled in behind them, they tried to stare me away. I stupidly, stubbornly held my ground and got out, shooed the kids into yard, and walked to my front door keeping the kids ahead of me as if I didn’t have a care in the world. The whole time my gut was yelling at me for getting out of the car in the first place, as it should have. She got behind on her rent or maybe she got caught dealing meth, who knows. She left, and while I liked her, I hated the presence of that drug on my street and was glad to see it and the people who used it go for good.

Next a quiet, thin older man moved in. He was up early, like me. After a smoke would bicycle off to work, and sometimes would get a ride. We never made eye contact, he seemed too weary and I too wary anyway after the last tenant of that place. But he did his thing day in and day out, even got taken away in an ambulance once and when he came back, he moved slower and walked bent over, holding onto things. He moved out one Sunday morning with some help and a few federal marshals showed up on my porch the next day, asking who he was with and what they drove and other such questions. He didn’t notify his PO of his change of plans I suppose, but as weary and slow as he looked, what did he have to lose at this point? I think he went home, wherever home was for him.

There may have been others in between, but the next regular presence on those front steps I can think of was Cowboy. He wore a hat and drove a truck, and he was likely still on paper too. He helped another tenant of that building when her car wouldn’t start with her baby in a carseat in the back. He occasionally gave a wave when my husband or I would drive by, and always left us our unofficial parking space in front of our house even when his was taken in front of his.  We came home from being out of town for a few weeks, and he was gone. The cops were looking for him too was what I heard.

And lately there’s the Felon, and a guy I call Beach, and maybe another guy and another one, I’m not sure as the rest all look alike to me. The Felon knows my schedule as well as I know his if he pays any attention at all. When my light goes on first thing in the very front room upstairs and I open the shades to let the sunrise light in, he’s there on the steps with a cigarette lit in the semi-dark. These quiet early hours are my favorite ones on this side of town. They are like a secret cove I’ve discovered and sneak away to upon waking. I confess I share this view of the street with him a tiny bit begrudgingly these days, like you are disappointed when another hiker comes up to your hard earned vista after a long day of climbing but it’s theirs to enjoy too. So more than begrudging him, I find myself glad for this stranger to enjoy the peace. It’s some of the only quiet I get in my day, perhaps it is in his, too. It certainly is on the street.

I expect, of course, that he or any one of those guys will go on the run one of these days and another cop will show up with questions, and I still won’t know their right names let alone which way they went.

I can always tell when that day is getting close- they don’t sit outside anymore and I get my front porch and my early mornings all to myself again.

For the lonely, the lost, the leaving… will You bring them home?


_DSC2778-57Where the sunrise sang a quiet song of joy this morning

I will choose to do the same.

Here’s my story:

_DSC2763-42My husband worked a full day yesterday and I helped the girls with their lessons. I drove the suburban from one end of town to the other and back, and canned all afternoon. Then a weeks-awaited dinner out with just my husband, both of us eager to talk of the next few years and where we should make them. My wide-mouth lid to regular-mouth jar ratio badly off, so there’s another few quarts of tomato sauce waiting in the fridge to be put up today.

_DSC2726-5It is Sleep In Saturday in this house, which this morning means early instead of very early but I have grown to love these quiet hours, when the drunks have gone to sleep in the grass of the park just a block away, and the buzzed parked their vehicles that always seem to lack a muffler out on the street a few hours ago.

Industry hums through my window but so do the colors on the sky.

_DSC2722-1I set out some breakfast for my husband, packed his lunch, made him a pot of coffee and set a cup of it out for him. The rest I poured into that thermos that looks like a tall silver bullet and he will sip on it as he walks those windowless hospital halls today until it gets dark outside again. We don’t usually spend that time together in the mornings but I was glad to have it today.

It was me procrastinating a little bit. There was this problem I needed to wrestle out before I could respond to the boys’ room light on and sound of toys coming out, all signs to me that they are awake and would love to eat some breakfast now. That they want to do it all again today.

 I am not at peace with my mortality today. I need to be reminded of why I do this.

Then the daily reading came from 2 Corinthians chapters four and five.

-So we do not lose heart-

When I and people around me chronically get it wrong? 

-as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen-

Is today a measure for what I’m getting done just so, for who is acting towards me just the way they “ought”?

-For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling-

Yes many days I groan. I get disoriented in this body, in the daily work.

-so that what is mortal may be swallowed up in life-

Where mortality is a daily defeating process and I am in a body made up of it…

it is not fully who I am.

Yet it all has a purpose- the dishes, the laundry, the doctor work of prolonging life just a little bit longer and giving in to death when you can’t anymore, the tantrum that happens again, the flowers that bloom then fall, that raising of a child who could be taken from me or could leave me someday and step on everything on their way out the door like it was something that needed to be smashed and forgotten.

-He who has prepared us for this very thing is God-

He’s good, the very best good. He’s prepared me, so it’s okay.

Life is no daily accident that I have to scrap all my ingenuity together to fix.

-we walk by faith and not by sight.-

Faith is knowing that what I see and do with my hands, and feelings that fill my lungs like a gas, are not the full spectrum of colors that are real.

They are often just like that wall of dusty sandstone rock to the south of my house- it glows when the sun hits it just right. 

It stops me in my tracks every time because that light has a place to land, has something to transform.

For all the dark and dingy things today, You alone make them shine and so praise goes to You for that treasure of a sight. The sun learned that song long ago, didn’t it?

Going Into That Thing That Terrifies You

DSC_3550-14I was writing a friend just now, and I told her of a too recent situation where I had to keep my word to a girl who put my family through the most difficult year and a half we have gone through together, when it seemed easier not to.

DSC_3556-20But this girl is also the reason we have four kids.

Life is so complex sometimes, isn’t it?

Sometimes we have to go toward the very thing that fills us with dread.

Right into it.

So that God can show us that there really is another side.

I’ve done it before so I know that it’s true. I know that He is true when He says that not only is it in His hands, but that those hands are loving and good, so trust Him.

Walking right into that hard thing is like stepping out of the boat to walk on the water towards Jesus, like Peter did. And how good it is to get beyond arm’s reach of that boat! To walk towards that loving face without regard for the  “what-ifs” that paralyze us if we let them.

Will He let us drown if our faith wavers and we panic and succumb to the terror of the very idea of our feet not being on the ground like we are used to?

He loves us too much for that.

But oh the things we miss when we’re panicking, thrashing back towards that boat; when we wouldn’t let ourselves get too far away from it to begin with.

Stepping out into the thing that looks as if it might swallow us a hundred feet under oxygen and sun, when it means that over there is closer to the Master, might actually be the step that takes us above, just like He said would happen.

No we won’t drown if we hang onto that boat, but there is a heck of a view, and an unmatched closeness to the Saviour Himself that comes when we step towards Him.

For a love for You that fixates our desire  on the thrill of being in Your presence- no matter what…

How To Really Make a Memory

_DSC3114-268A memory is just a photograph, framed in that place where your mind overrides the rest of your body, that hair’s breadth of a second before ration or emotion get their bearings enough to have a say about what just happened.

It is half intuition and half discipline to see that passing moment and quickly line it up to get the impression as it really is. To be true to that impression, your ration and emotion have to be on a tight reign and know their place, and that takes a lifetime of wrangling for some of us.


Taking a photograph and ordering a memory are both a process of experiencing first, then choosing what to hold on to about it.


Sometimes ration says to wait for the pretty places, the pretty people. Trouble is, those run out right quick. Then emotion says it’s all a wash, press that shutter exactly where you’re at but don’t bother to change the settings on the camera because even though it’s dark here, what’s the use of trying anymore? Then the darkness makes you panic, but maybe your anxiety really began when you ran out of the pretty subjects and places that were your desired memories, your desired photographs.


Then you hear that voice, the only one clear enough to discern through the ceaseless prattling of that ration and emotion, and He says:

“Wait for the light”.

The very best photographs are made by the light. 

Not by just the “right” subjects and compositions.


The most ordinary subjects are transformed by it,

are made alive by that light. 

And so when things happen like they always do, and ration and emotion want to process (albeit skimping on truth) and ready themselves for the next thing, perhaps wait for just a bit. Wait for the light to expose what’s important and shade where it needs to be dark. Then package that photograph up, file it away, and when it comes out again someday, it will be something of joy, even if the subject was dark.

The light will make it worth seeing again.

Loving People For the First Time

Another post for another day is about the months when I asked God to help me to love Him.


He broke me that year.


And I love Him for it.

Because of that year, I’m learning with the slowness of a child learning how to sound letters into words-

We can’t love people fully if we don’t love God first.

There’s no room for both love and [laziness-jealousy-bitterness-self promotion to others-grasping at my thoughts and clutching them deep-fear].

And aren’t all of the things at the front of the brackets rooted at the bottom in fear?

Fear of running out, missing out, being left out, being found out.


But here’s the connection: Perfect Love casts out fear.


And God is Love.

And it was Perfect Love who cast out the fear, cast out demons, cast out the guilt of sin and said, “Your sins have been forgiven, go in peace.”

He casts out in order to fill up. 

So what about those days, years, and decades of making a mess of loving people? Where so many feeble tries at it were spiked with motives that we shut our eyes to at the time but now come back to us hard like a swallow of bad liquor at first tasteless, then burning hot and foul?

Trip Lee says, “… remind them of the gracious gospel of Jesus. You could have [sinned] every day for the last 500 days and Jesus has not run out of grace. That same cross that you heard about the first time is the same cross that can forgive you now.”

When He casts out the sin, and the guilt that sits right on top of it, He brings in Himself. And He is the very presence of Love.

It is only when we love Him first that we can begin to love people rightly.


How Can Humility and Introspection Co-exist?

CS Lewis said that “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.


What if you desire to be humble, but God made you introspective to begin with?


What about darn introspective at that?


How do you wake up one morning, not thinking of yourself a whit, and just begin to plunk away at your thing after a lifetime of explosive mulling and feeling every fleck of color and shade of shadow as deeply as your mind can feel it?


Deciding that today will be that day of humility is like sitting behind a team of horses that has run on wildly for years, and whether you feel exhilarated or exhausted or despairing, or even curious about why they go like they do, it doesn’t matter much and never has to them, because they are going to keep on running every which way no matter what. You don’t just decide to stop a team like that in one day and have anything come of it just because you wished for it.


Nor do you just think of yourself less, all in one day.

Especially if you’ve been given a constant, run-amuck mind like I’ve been given.


So what is the antidote?

How does an inner cave dweller like me turn my mind inside out?

Perhaps, just perhaps, the Sunday school answer, “Jesus“, finds a home in that question.


Because if I think on Him, there isn’t room to think on myself at the same time.

I think about five things at once, all of the time.

There are five hundred thousand things to think on, anytime, when I turn my thoughts towards Christ.


Feelings, curiosities, things that unbendingly are, colors and lights, stories, problems to be worked out, and remnants of lines I have read on those pages of His that flutter in and work around everything else, like a quilter’s thread making sense of it all.

Not basic linear sense, but useable sense of it all.


If I think on Him, there is brute force behind that desire to think of myself less.

God’s Word is the only weapon I have, the only muscle behind the desperate whisper for change that has to begin with the interior structures of my mind.

Soundness of mind sometimes begins with disassembly of its parts so it can be built square this time, with the Cornerstone in the right spot.

For grace to meditate on You, to hold the line when I want to rest my head back into the familiar pillow of my own little thoughts and feelings…


Once upon a time, a little girl thought life somewhere as natural and wild as her oddly curled hair would make her happy.


So she explored barefoot and hatless, feeling all that she could feel from the Louisiana sun hot on the top of her head, the sun and forests and pastures of Germany warm around her body, to some Ohio mud cold and slimy between her toes, to Virginia and Carolina and all the way to Montana.

DSC_9729-11.jpgBut still she wanted more.

Someone to explore with would make her happy, she thought.

DSC_9732-14So she married a man from Appalachia who was dark and ruddy, like an American gypsy.

DSC_9730-12He moved her all around like one too, loved her sweetly, and gave her blue-eyed baby girls, and she loved them and all the new places they would go.

But even together, still she wanted more.

DSC_9734-16So she prayed and searched for some brown-eyed boys, and the ones she found didn’t come home with her but two perfect ones did.

And she named them and loved them, but still…

DSC_9741-23she just had to have more.

It was like hunger, constantly whetted, but never filled.





more of something.

DSC_9743-25It wasn’t more land, more house, more critters, more people, more food, more skinny, more coffee, more time, more wild, more beautiful, more need, more calm.

DSC_9745-27She only had more,

when she had enough.

DSC_9744-26The day she realized she has enough

laid her flat and curled her tight and made her cry like something new was being born from a place deeper than her heart, mind, or gut knew was even there.

She has enough, and she is blessed among women for it.


that Black Hole

Is nothing but Fear,


painting a tunnel onto a rock that looks so real,


so dark and endlessly deep,


that you dig in your heels hard and desperate and


when that doesn’t work, you


 thrash in your spirit thinking you’d rather face bodily death,


even death, than go into that terror, that Black Hole just ahead.


Open my eyes to see You between me and It.


Your servant angels bearing me up on their pinions,


gently staying my runaway train on


the track where it rises up, higher and nearer 


To the Light of Your everlasting presence.