A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}



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Two weeks ago I watched as the endorsements deadline for my first book came and went. I watched the deadline pass, knowing seven authors hadn’t responded.


Endorsements are the pithy accolades that appear in the opening pages and on the front and back covers of a book. Two months ago I learned from my publisher that it’s the author’s responsibility to ask other writers if they might be willing to take a look at the book and write an endorsement. The emails I dutifully typed to more than a dozen authors were among the most awkward I have ever written, because when it comes right down to it, asking for an endorsement for your book is asking for praise, and asking for praise places you in a position of vulnerability and weakness. Not my favorite place.

I waited. And I cried tears of relief and joy as I read some of the early endorsements that came in. I felt a little like Sally Field at the Oscars. People like my book, they like it, they really like it!

Until, that is, the endorsements stopped coming, and the deadline passed.

They’re busy, I told myself. They have their own deadlines, their own jobs, their own families to feed and socks to match and dry cleaning to retrieve. It’s not all about you.

Rationally, intellectually, I knew this was true. But emotionally I tumbled fast, head over heels down the slippery slope in a blur of self-pity and sorrow.


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I had always assumed that once I passed a “certain point” – landed an agent or sold a book or achieved a certain number of readers or blog subscribers – I would miraculously be able to let it all go. I assumed the insecurities would diminish, comparisons would fade away, envy would subside. I assumed I would reach a point of satisfaction, of enough.


But that hasn’t been the case for me. Because there is always the next thing.

The week the deadline passed and the endorsements didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight. The following week, when the endorsements still didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight.

“Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? …Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”(James 4:4, 4:8)

I needed to read these words again and again, to hammer them into my mind and heart. I needed to awaken every morning and read these same words because I knew I was losing the battle, succumbing to temptation, letting my desire for worldly achievement win. And I knew I couldn’t save myself.

Friends, hear this: nothing will cease the cycle of not enough — not your next achievement or your next success; not the fanciest accolade or the highest praise. Nothing will haul you out of the pit of self-pity, not even the one-pound bar of dark chocolate your husband brings home from Trader Joe’s.

Nothing, that is, but God.

The Bible isn’t a quick fix for me. That’s why I have to read it every day. That’s why I have to read the same verses for fourteen days straight. My Bible is not a balm, but a hammer — pounding , repeating, forcing the hard, beautiful truth deep into my mind and heart one verse, one word, one syllable at a time.

I received one more eleventh-hour endorsement for the book on the morning it was scheduled to go to press. The remaining endorsements never came. And I won’t tell you it didn’t hurt; I won’t tell you it wasn’t a crushing blow. But I will tell you this: I came closer to God in those weeks of waiting. His truth was hard; it stung. But as I came closer to God, he pulled me closer to him. And then he shored me up and gently pushed me back out again, armed with new courage and fresh strength.      






A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at michellederusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star, Prodigal Magazine and The High Calling. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, will be published in April 2014. She hangs out here on facebook and twitter.



Hey–isn’t Michelle awesome? I *so* love her honesty, y’all. Do you struggle with this as a writer? Or just in life in general? Let’s discuss this in the comments! 

**This is a series–I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of February (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! **{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}












       
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Dream With Audaciousness, Daughter {An Abstraction on Hands}



Driving on the interstate in the dark, we’re speeding toward the huge bookstore chain in our little clunker of a van, better known as my husband’s work van. I would prefer a small, local bookstore, but they’re the only ones open late at night for a spontaneous, must-have-this-book-tomorrow trip. I’ve got a hankerin’ for some coffee shop goodies; this little expedition needs to be worth it.

She is small in the passenger seat next to me, her face hidden in the shadows as we bumble along, the old van making strange noises I just ignore.

We pull into the parking space, and I throw on some lip gloss. She explains, with a little laugh, when I look at her, I’m sorry, but I look horrible, as she quickly dabs on mascara.

I wonder where she heard that? I watch her with a smile, thinking how quickly she’s grown, and did I do everything right, and should she really be wearing mascara at this age, and oh my god, she’s so beautiful. 

We walk into the store, and they don’t even have the book we drove the twenty minutes for, and sometimes I feel like an idiot of a mother who gets everything wrong, and sometimes I have my shining moments of glory, because tonight I get to be her hero.

Earlier back at the house, I’d called her, and she’d slowly come toward me, letting out a deep sigh and an umph, and I gently corrected her because I could tell she was in a bad mood. But the gentle correction pulled out the real problem. Her lips crumpled, and with tears in her eyes, she told me she had just realized we had forgotten to get the literature book she had to have for school the next day.

Tears running down her face, I told her I would take her to get what she needed. I heaved myself up off the couch, shuffled into the kitchen in my slippers to let husband know, and after sliding back into the same clothes and pulling on the riding boots I’d just taken off after returning home from town moments before, we were off. Just us women becoming.

In the bookstore, the smell of coffee is strong, and the warmth of the books all around, feeling like friends, they envelop me. We don’t get to walk out with the book, but all is not lost, because we sit down at a tiny round table by the window to dip grasshopper mint biscotti into a chocolate caramel de-caff latte, and then pick up a Harry Potter movie to watch together on the way out, and we climb into the van with talk of ordering that book on Amazon.

On the way home, spiraling there in this chaotic sort of way, weary to get into bed, it must have been Nelson Mendela’s book she’d asked about in the store that got her thinking. She says to me hey Mama, what about that letter I got about the summer trip to Europe, the one where we go and get experience and help people–am I still doing that? 

Because I think I’d like to be a missionary. And I think it’d be good for me to get the experience. It’s good life-experience, you know?

The world seems to just stop spinning, and the old wheels of the van’s still turning at lightening speeds, but my heart stands still and my breath catches.

I reach over, slide my hand into hers, hold on tight, and tell her Wow, those are some amazing thoughts you’re having. I breathe shallow, wait a few beats, then– and I totally respect that, so very much, Lorna. I wish I could see her face, shrouded by the blackness of night. I can feel her smile.

She goes on in her hurried talk as if she’s blurting it out before she loses her nerve. I want to marry a man with money, so that we can build a business, and go to Africa. 

A rich man, huh? I look at her out of the corner of my eye, a sly grin playing on the edge of my mouth, and she glances at me, the smile jumping over and dancing on her profile in the dark. I wish for light, but it’s almost better this way, whispering secrets of our hearts to one another in the velvety-black of sky and stars whizzing by. I think it makes her braver.


I will build a hospital, she says, and give each family all the medicine and help they need to be healthy. I want to travel from town to town on the whole continent of Africa, building houses, hospitals, schools, and wells for the people so they’ll have clean water. 

I grin from ear to ear and in spite of life’s hardships that make me forget how to laugh, and remembering too often my failings as a mother, not sure if I’m getting it right, my heart fills with such hope at her words.

Those words make me know that just maybe I haven’t messed up as badly as I think.

There is nothing better on this earth than a child. Purity. Innocence. Beauty. Wildness. Courage and bravery. Audaciousness. Unconditional love. Curiosity and appreciation for the world around them.

In that moment, holding her hand in the grey van, as it squeals its way toward home, I feel God’s glory. Yes, He is right here with  me, in the form of a child. I see Him in her face, in her brave words, in her giving heart, in her fierce care for others to have clean water, strangers to her, living on the other side of the world.

She makes me see how we’re all holding hands, how God looks down and sees us all at once, and seas and distance and race and time and prestige and position and money and power and good deeds mean nothing to Him. He sees all of us, his children. He could scoop us all up with his mighty hand. We are much closer to one another than we think, much more connected than we believe.

We slide out of our seats once we’ve pulled up in the driveway, and I start up the steps, only noticing the footsteps right in front of me. But my daughter, she’s looking all around her, and says Woah, Mama, the stars! I can see all of them, so beautiful!  

I look up, really seeing for the first time. This is what she does for me. Glory. They burst, and glow at me, saying something. We’re all connected across the miles. I can see the big dipper! she points it out.

And those in Africa tonight, so can they. So can they, dear child. Dream with audaciousness, and with all courage God’s given, daughter.

His Kingdom has come, here on earth.

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber Haine’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is HandsGO!


**{This link up will run until Sunday, the 2nd, 11:59 pm, giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted. I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On Monday, Feb. 3rd, the prompt will be *Dirt*.}


A Hand in Your Own {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}


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“Some good words from my pastors this morning,” I smirk as I enter the room where my husband is sleeping. The word “pastors” is slurred into paaaastuers and I’m facetious at best. Not exactly sarcastic, but then, what do I know of the response he’ll muster? This one who I’ve watched wear the title and then discard it (and all its clinging tendrils) when it ceased to fit properly.

He opens one sleepy eye.

But the silence sits on me hard. And I pause. “No. There’s something wrong about that,” I shake my head and squint at the flecked gold knob on the closet door, bending down to untie the knots in my running shoes. He knows I’m not referring to preaching ministers at a church when I say “pastors,” he knows I mean the men and women whose writing I read online and the ensuing conversations which I have come to cherish as part of my spiritual food on a near-daily basis. The threaded laces are stubborn beneath my fingers, but pulling on them somehow loosens me in all the right ways. Suddenly, there’s lightning, “I bet they wouldn’t like me to call them that …”


“They’d rather me call them ‘friends.’ “

I slide the closet shut around the words. His work boots oppose me, sticking their toes toward the cracks, but a shove does the trick, and she’s closed. I turn around and lean against it. Letting the words that just escaped my lips saturate my soul.

********

Maybe I’m the only one who has been wounded by the power-plays so common among the leadership of the church and the name-dropping and the ladder-climbing. Maybe I am alone here, still feeling the prick of loss when followers of the Servant-King use position as a means of personal gain. Those who, instead of gently guiding their flock, are fleecing them blind for the allegiance they give. For the control that is surrendered … Maybe. But I doubt it.

And internet writing is a messy, tricky thing. We bring our own back-story and half-healed scars to every piece we read. I can’t say that many out in the great cloud of witnesses called the blogosphere have been “pastors” to me in any holy sense of the word, but here and there in a thousand private messages and a million blog comments and a handful of face-to-face meetings, are a good number of those who I would consider to be “friends.” And since we’re all straddling the overlap between writing and faith – a place brimful with its own brand of power-plays and name-dropping and ladder-climbing – I’d say that’s not such a little thing.

In fact, the writers I love to read are men and women who write their posts and sing their songs and live their art not for the respect they can earn or the title they can solicit or the money with which they can fill their pockets. They have a heart to walk alongside. They are knowable, relate-able. They tell their stories with dirt under their nails and southern drawls dripping heavy from their honest, unedited lips. They write from the deep and the burdened places we all know – and they write it real. As real as a hand in your own.

Somehow they seem to grasp intuitively that the greatest gift they can give to the world has a whole lot more to do with sharing the specifics (even the gritty ones) of their personal stories than by quoting the worn-out platitudes or theological moral-isms by which they might exalt themselves over their readers.

No. If that’s what “pastor” means, they are never that to me.

I repeatedly watch them take the low road. They don’t live for the pedestals or the red carpets. They’d just as likely hug your neck and share a beer as shake your hand and hold your baby. They’re not untouchable. They’re not perfect. And – by far the most rare – they’re not afraid to come out of hiding and let you know it.

**********

And the shower steams hot. While I let muscles relax in the aftermath of my run, I remember my own limitedness and the finite experience of life within this skin. But I also feel the plea for human connection that rises up within my own story, asking to be made known. Why is it easier to give someone a formula to fix their aching heart than it is to get down into it with them and feel ALL THE FEELINGS alongside? I can’t say I know. But that is what makes a writer – a professional – cross the bridge into becoming a friend. The telling of the secrets that we think are only our own is the exact reason why I’ve come to relate deeply to so many whose breath I’ve never smelled and whose tears I’ve never wiped, who live worlds away from this mid-western farmhouse.

We are wired for connection, not only perfunctory answers.

For bearing each other’s burdens and holding close the broken, not for sanitary scripturized cliches.

Because love is always more satisfying than being right – hard as it is to believe sometimes.

It’s true for all of us: the gift of our lives to this world community is not given in spite of our humanness – as if that takes away from the poignancy of the message – but because of it. Because of the Babel places where we try to climb to God on steps of our own making and our Damascus roads where we are blind to all but the frightening light of a hairy paradigm-shift. Because of our willingness to accept ourselves and the dirt under our nails and the ins and outs of our messy narratives.

( … which might sound a lot like a tiny little mystery known as the Incarnation, if we listen long enough.)

There is a beautiful one-piece garment that transcends the in spite of’s and because of’s and waits with bated breath for the way redemption will shine through cracks in the one who dares to bare the soul: Whole.

And here I want to turn to you, dear reader, dear writer, dear friend, 

I want to say that in the kind of moxie that it takes for YOU to tell your tales and tell them real, I find my own story. Your secrets are mine. Your fallings and failures and glories. It’s there that I finger the edges of making peace with myself and an expansive hope comes just into view right next to a love that tears down walls. If beauty bursting through is true for you, couldn’t it also be true for me … ?

All of us belong to each other in this very way. Oh, how the world needs your wild.

Because this is the kind of courage that gives birth to a deeply personal bravery; this is not only the discovery of our humanness – but the necessary making friends with it; this is the kind of being known that inspires the greatest and least alike to call vulnerability out on her dare; to surrender all the ways we try so hard to impress everyone around us with our words and our art …

And to live as friends.



“I have called you friends … Now, go and do likewise.”
-Jesus of Nazareth






Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences “home” so much as when she is with her best friend – who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with their seven blue-eyed children. You can catch her hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, or see more of her astounding words at her blog, chronicles of grace






This is a series–I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, I’m going to have a link-up for you to share your own stories of what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. What are the issues we face and deal with? This is not a place for maligning anyone in our writing and link-up or to debate in the comments. No mentions, please, of other blogs, quotes from other blogs, etc. These are the requirements for the link-up. Please keep this theme and discussion in mind, and think of how you’d  like to begin writing your own story, or journey of blogging. I’d love to hear it! I’ll choose one story to be featured here the following week, and on social media! 

In Which I Invite *All* of us to the Table {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}



You know these lines that seem to sometimes be drawn hard? They make me heart-sick, make me long for Home. I’m talking about up there, in the sky, where there is no camp of beliefs, there is no side, there is no arguing, there is no pushing others out for the sake of our own theology. I think this makes God very small, not that it changes Him, but who He is to us and them almost becomes obsolete, something we so easily discard for the glitz of new-fangled theologies and shoring up our traditional beliefs that have taken a battering.

There, where there is no camp, where He sits on the throne, and His Son, the darling of Heaven, illuminates everything, there will be no darkness in us and we’ll see clearly.

G.K. Chesterson said “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair”.

If religion really is about the way we love God and people, following the two greatest commandments our Saviour asked of us, how can we live this out?

Do we get too caught up in wrong and right, black and white? Do we divide and separate, hurt people in the pursuit of being right in our own religion?

When it comes to our brothers and sisters who are creating art alongside us, are we judging too harshly what others are bringing to the table because of our own likes, dislikes, beliefs and experience? Are we in actuality, because we believe our highest calling is to honor truth and religion as we see it done correctly, pushing the chair back in, and excusing people from the table, leaving them nowhere to partake in the body of Christ?

Are we making them feel uncomfortable in our piety, or by telling them that the pie on the buffet table they just dug into was special-made by a caterer for a church meeting and cost $20?

Our words, and the way we use them at any given time, can be so damaging to people’s hearts and dreams, and we need to be careful how we use those words on social media.

Have we broadcast a party, off in our secret corners, and made them feel uninvited? Have we made it for the elite only, for the rich, for the clean, for the holy, for the ones like-minded?

Does God want more from us?

There have been times I thought for sure I’d happened upon a community of believers that was for me, a place where it was safe, until I found, of course, that it was not safe, and hurt happens everywhere, and hurting people hurt people. It’s been hard for me to navigate the sometimes treacherous, sometimes loving, but always the very human waters of community.

I don’t know much, but I am sure we spend way too much time scrutinizing one another’s art, words, and lives, and not near enough time just loving.

I’d love to see us read, share and write in such a way that we look at it as exploring the many faces of God, because he has as many as there are on this great, spinning orb at this very moment.

I want to pay attention to every life I come in contact with, because they may not be here tomorrow, and they were the face of God for me, uniquely, in a way I’ll never get the opportunity to see again.

Why do we feel the need to be God, to call someone out, to correct, to criticize, to stifle their creativity? Whatever wrong we are so convinced we see in their art, or their lives, through our own filter, when we question their theology, their motives, their calling, we have become self-important and we take on a role only God was meant to have–the role of just judge. And we ask them to quit, tell them they aren’t good enough. We humiliate them, assault their human dignity in the name of truth telling.

Friends, this is the basest form of love, which really isn’t love at all. It’s more akin to apathy, because we’re serving our own purposes.

All I want to do is bend low and wash feet.

When walls keep getting thicker and higher, and lines keep being drawn hard, sides are taken, it becomes harder to wash feet, doesn’t it? If we’re honest, it becomes impossible.

I can’t help but walk around with this ache, thinking this isn’t what Jesus wanted. And this ache, it has no description.

I don’t have a church because I just don’t know how to anymore. I get online to find some community and I see my people scrutinizing one another, talking in whispers, off somewhere in a seemingly private corner, but oh, we must remember, everyone sees, others hear, and it hurts. It’s painful, y’all.

Let’s not whisper in corners. Let’s be bigger than that.

Can we be people who heal?

Let’s not ask one another to quit asking the hard questions. Let’s not ask one another to change theology in exchange for love and acceptance. Let’s not ask one another to quit writing, or creating, or living life audaciously. No, lets’s tell one another the sky’s the limit, because really, it is.

And please, for all that is holy, let’s not excuse someone from the table. They are the face of God, and we need God at the table. I beg of us, to be reverent, to be kind, to protect one another, to be the face of God for one another.

I beg of us to love.

During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples: 

Take, eat.

This is my body.

Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them: 

Drink this, all of you.

This is my blood, God’s covenant poured out for many people
for the forgiveness of sins.  

I’ll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that day when I’ll drink with you in the kingdom of my Father.” –Matt. 26:26-29; The Message

A Faithful Witness Established Forever {An Abstraction on Evergreen}



Take my hand, and let’s walk together, baby. See the evergreen, how it stands tall and sturdy like our love? It withstands the wind, the cold, and somehow the conifer’s rolled-up needles remain green, the life harbored deep inside its reservoirs, and the sun’s rays captured and trapped inside tightly wrapped folds, protected there.

 No winter can harm it.

The leaves beneath our feet, this path we trod, it speaks of a dying, a decaying so that new things can be re-formed. They aren’t completely new creations in and of themselves, because the blooms that die, their seeds remain and from those old parts of us, come a re-birthing.

You know I’ve always felt I was the one getting the better end of the deal, because you were kind, and patient, and I was the passionate, floundering one.

Only recently did we both ask the question, Did God really mean for us to be together? Why is this marriage thing so hard? And it seemed our world turned on its head, when daily life was so different from what we though it should be, and some very hard knocks came our way.

You know that time we had to separate for a bit, and divorce seemed to loom heavy and thick in the air, threatening to crush everything we’d always known to be true? That time seems so far away, because darling?

I’ve decided something in our thirteen years of marriage, and you know me, when I decide something, it’s concrete, set. What I decided is this: You’re mine, always. I want to keep you forever, no matter what hard winds come calling.

And you know, when vows are made, they tumble out easily, but the living it in human skin every day, the days all stretched out until they pull taut toward eternity, a horizon spread out with no end–that is quite a different story.

You ask me to not get dressed, and I giggle giddily when you come near. I put my hands in your hair, run my hand down along the side of your face, cup the jutted curve and concave of cheek bone and jaw. I look straight into your eyes, and touch the wrinkles around your eyes, run my finger along the soft crevices, and your skin feels like my favorite old leather chair, soft, warm and inviting, familiar and holding me.

Outside our window, the evergreen pines, their tops sway in the moonlit, velvet blanketed sky, and that glowing orb, she winks at us from her watchful place, a faithful witness in the sky And she’s established forever, by his hands, and so it is with us, a continuing line, held by Him.

At the touch of your skin, everything in me spins and I’m infatuated and breathless at the thought that though you are old and familiar to me, like the hallway rug worn down over years of sneakers and boots, your nearness excites me.

And babe, I’ve always told you when I’m angry with you in the middle of hurt, that when you touch me with your hand, the slightest touch, there on my shoulder, it melts me completely in spite of myself. And I tell you, you’re using your power over me, melting me with your touch. And you just laugh, and the painful, troubling moment is lifted with that alluring elixir.

You always say that it’s so surprising to you that I’m able to forget so quickly what’s happened in those moments, and I can just lean into you, wrap arms ’round, and hold tight. But darlin’, what you don’t realize is that I have no choice; I’m helpless when it comes to your love. And it’s a good thing, too, because the best kind of marriage is one in which two people are very good forgivers. This I’ve learned.

And we are witnesses too, darling. Take my hand, let’s do it together, you and I.

I know I’ll get lost in the nearness of you forever, though the crevices of your skin may grow deeper with time. I’ll reach up and run my finger along the lines of your face, and we’ll always be hidden, wrapped up, our life protected in Christ on high, stretching ever high as that evergreen in the star-banged night sky.

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is EvergreenGO!


**{This link up will run until Sunday, the 19th, 11:59 am., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 19th, the prompt will be Hands .}


For When the Romance Has Gone Right Out of You {An Abstraction on Fire}

Standing on a drafty, cold wood floor in the pink and white striped furry slippers he bought me, I’m stirring yellow cake mix, and the pot roast juice. I stick a fork in piping hot, bright orange carrots to see if they’re tender. The fork slides fast, all the way through. Red glows back at me from the stove top, its only use to create some heat in our one hundred year old kitchen.

I whip around to check the towel and footie pajamas in the drier for a cold, bath time straggler.

In a flurry of expectations, like a pressure cooker, slowly the steam begins to shoot out, forcefully, and I let words spew out.

I can be a hot tempered woman. I come from a line of them. Perhaps it’s the German and Indian blood, the German that came overseas about four generations back, the Indian that’s as close as my great-grandmother. I think I must have gotten a double or triple dose in the womb.

I so easily get all stirred up sometimes, and he knows me so well. He doesn’t mind at all that I’m passionate when we’re together alone, and the kids are all in their beds, warm, their footie pajama-ed feet all tangled up together at the end of my great-grandmother’s antique hardwood bed.

But this–this is different. This kind of passion requires much patience from him. He says a few words, and Lilly looks at us, and suddenly I can feel the weight of the room, and am aware of how my tongue is causing tension.

I tell him I just need a little understanding because it’s not easy to be at home 365 days a year, and have nothing to do but snuggle on the couch all day just to stay warm in the freezing cold.

I can see the mixture of incredulous disbelief, humor, and sympathy on his face. Incredulous disbelief and humor because getting up at four am in the eleven degree weather to drive to work in the dark, staying at home snuggling on the couch all day would be nothing short of heaven for him. Sympathy, because my statement smacks him in the face with honesty and the masks are off.

I feel badly for complaining as soon as I say it, but I need him to know the struggles that are difficult for me to speak about. It’s all a bit hazy, the way I see him, myself, the day we said our vows, now, the past, our future.

Things are not what I thought they would be. When we started out, I thought there would be all this fire, passion, that he would grab me for no reason at all on a sidewalk somewhere and swing me around, my feet would lift off the ground, and he’d kiss me like I was his forever.

But here in the freezing cold kitchen, with my four year old watching, all I feel is the numbness of this everyday tug-o-war, and I’m battle weary. I don’t feel the passion I think I ought to feel.

There is no fire to warm me as I look into his eyes and see a person that I love so fiercely, it can seem like hate.

The next moment, my head is buried in his chest, and it feels so warm and solid, holding me up and like I’m free-falling all at the same time, so peaceful, eyes closed. At his heart, I’m a baby curled up, such nurturing, such grounding I know there, if only for a moment before he turns away, so shy about intimacy.

My man, he does get me. He tells me to pour myself a glass of wine. Then I know everything will be alright. He’s caring for me; how that settles me, makes my heart beat slower. I take a deep breath, watch the red slosh gently into the glass.

I tell him I can sort of tell he’s irritable and I know what’s bothering him. Wives are intuitive like that. I tell him I’m going to cut his hair after supper. I say, you have to do something for me, though, because my legs are hurting and I need to rest. 

So he fixes the supper plates, and my daughter brings me one. They stay in the kitchen for a while, talking, apparently, about something very important. I slide under the heavy quilts and hand-crocheted afghans on the couch and go to sleep. I hear, fuzzily, as if in a distant dream, him helping the kids brush their teeth and getting them into bed.

He wearily makes his way into the living room, and Lilly is frowning. I ask him what’s wrong and he says she didn’t want to go to bed, so for tonight she’s lying with us. We all sidle up next to one another underneath the covers, sleeping on our huge couch because the bedroom feels like the arctic north, and our little heaters just can’t crank out that much heat.

He says he can’t even move his legs, the blankets are so heavy and we laugh. I ask him if he’s upset about his hair not getting cut, and he shakes his head.

I fall back into the pillow, thankful for grace, and Lilly and I are sharing cheek and nose rubs when he lifts his head, looks over his shoulder at me, says his goodnight– I love you.

I blink. Pleasantly surprised at my quiet man of so few words, I whisper, You do? 

I kiss him on the cheek, leaning over our four year old, and say You know the romance has just gone right out of us. Look at us–I wave around at the child between us and the blankets piled high and the cold living room, he turned away from me.

He half sighs, half laughs at me, because he knows why I say it. But the truth is, the romance never left.

It just took on a whole different look than I expected when I wore two veils and a tiara, and a cathedral trained dress fit for a princess.

Lying there, his love warms me head to toe, though the child is between us. Our bodies so close, one breathing, living organism, rising and falling of chests. The poetry of us, the grace, the love when we want to be irritable, the laughter–it’s so romantic. And everyday, I learn this fact all over again.

His love, the making of supper plates, the running to the store for sandwich bags and creamer, the saying nothing when I’m moody, the putting those rambunctious, energetic children of ours to bed, and the getting up at four am every. single. day, no matter what–it moves me, it makes me feel cared for, and it makes me look at him with adoration.

There’s fire between us, the literal product of our love-making, sandwiched right between us, a happy baby burrito. We love her and she loves us, and we love one another, and there is so much romance a Hollywood movie falls damn short.

“We are like butterflies who want to keep moving, keep flitting around and be free–but freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.. what we want even more than freedom is to be loved, and we can only be loved when we are truly known. It takes a  lifetime of tears, laughter, arguments, loss and conversation with another human being to be truly known. We have to be patient. Marriage is dogged, determined patience. It’s also one of the only ways we’ll ever truly know ourselves. Because to know ourselves we have to stop flitting and face our demons in the face of another person who serves as our mirror. Who reflects the best and worst of ourselves back to us…. love is not something to wait for or hope for or look for–it’s something to DO. Do not measure your marriage by how much love you feel today–measure it by how much love you’ve offered today. When you don’t feel love–DO LOVE. Feelings follow doing, not the other way around. Lasting, True Love is not about being swept off your feet. Sometimes love is just sweeping the kitchen and being grateful that there is a kitchen and a partner who is contractually obligated to share it with you forever.” –Glennon Doyle Melton

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” –Ruth Bell Graham

“It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain.”–Ruth Bell Graham

 ——————————————————————————————————————

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Fire. GO!


**{This link up will run for until Monday, the 13th, 7 am., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted that day. I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media on Monday, the 13th. On the 13th, the prompt will be Evergreen.}

For When You’re Cynical and Can’t Find Faith for a New Year {And a few blog posts I love}



The north wind blows hard down south, coming in and seeming to pick me right up off the ground. It whips all around, and I can’t tell from whence it came.

It’s like that with the Holy Spirit, how He whispers quietly, What are you doing?, and it makes me pay attention.

I’m not always sure where He came from, when or how he suddenly showed up, if He was always there, and I just didn’t notice, or if it’s really me talking to myself crazy, and I’m not hearing right.

The New Year can blow in hard, and it can seem this big impossible thing to tackle, this mountain that can’t possibly be moved by this iron shovel in my determined hand, much less a mustard seed.

One thing I’ve learned in all my short thirty four years, is that I can’t make hard lines for myself in the sand, stout immovable resolutions that don’t leave room for me to mess up, for him to pick me up gently with grace, or for Him to whisper quietly when I’m going the wrong way.

Christmas came and went, and I was so confused and dismayed and unsure at what my convictions were or where my faith was at all. Faith can seem so small next to the grandeur of Christmas and the Christ child. And Christmas magnifies what we are feeling.

I just could. not. feel. my faith.

And so I just gave into it. When the Holy Spirit whispered gently on the frost bitten chilly breeze, What are you doing?, I just listened.

I pondered. And I tried to be reverent.

I thought about storing the treasure of Him up in my heart. But my heart was conflicted, sore, split right open, calloused and cold to hide the blood pumping soft and warm underneath.

I gave myself over because it’s all you can do when you don’t know the way, and you aren’t sure in your human depravity who it is speaking, whispering, nudging. All you can do, is place that mustard seed in His hands, and say Here, this is all I’ve got. Do something with it, Father.

So 2013 was hard, and in the same cynical fashion, I allowed myself to keep snowballing, thinking the new year is going to be even harder, and Who cares if the numbers change, because it all still feels the same to me, and I’ll just mess this up too.

One continuous cracked, fragile failure after another turned avalanche, and the momentum seemed it would take me under.

Until… Until God.

Until I listened long enough and pondered enough that I knew, I just knew He was telling me You’re not made for this, no, I have created you for *this*, this thing here, see this thing? How beautiful, how right you are for it, and you know, daughter, you have worth too?

He showed me Hope.

And He kept whispering to me that it’s okay to embrace who he made me, my talents, my skills, all of the silly, wonderful, quirky, crazy, amazing things that he wrapped up all in one person and called it beautiful.

He just kept whispering and I just kept listening until I believed it.

I would turn away, afraid to believe, afraid it was all a lie, and a trap just to hurt me again, like in the past when I believed I could do something and went out on a limb, only to be ridiculed and humiliated by those who should love me the most, His own. My own brothers and sisters.

And therein lies my greatest faith struggle and my greatest setback to all the dreams He’s called me to realize.

But even though we turn away, He always gently cups our face, and pulls us back, and he gently whispers again, a lover wooing his bride, coaxing her to just give into love.

He just kept whispering it, you know? Like the beat of a bleeding heart, a drum that thrums over and over and over again, and with every beat of his heart, I found mine as I continued to listen to his pulse for life, and for me, and for all of creation.

If we listen quietly, long enough, we can hear it.

It’s all around us, the thrumming, drumming, pulsing beat of his heart for us. 

It’s grace raining down, and it’s a father picking up a child when they’ve fallen from their bike, and it’s the light in a newborn’s face. It’s the sacredness in a family holding hands around the table, and it’s the breathtaking holy in mom and dad and kids all laughing like heck because there’s only one life to not botch up, and it’s the gentleness in the cashier’s face at the quick stop, it’s in the kindness of the stranger behind you who pays for the difference when you’ve gone over.

Can you see it?

The rough callouses of his hard working hands, and her old, wrinkled, clasped hands, as she fervently prays.

It’s in the special need child’s understanding grin and affectionate hug, it’s in the hospital staff’s genuine care during a very difficult stay, it’s in a body of believer’s just being there when times are tough, it’s in a child’s first acceptance of Christ.

The father’s smile when he wakes from heart surgery, the trusting conversation between men of different races, the mutual respect between heterosexual and gay friends, it’s the baby dedication when an entire body vows in unison to assist the parents in raising children who love God,

the rise and fall of lovers, the searching and exploring of hands and lips.

It’s in bubbles blown, fragile iridescent orbs popping in summer breeze, and gold light spun out across the floor and the piano’s gleaming pedals, calling you to play, and it’s in your child’s voice, luring you toward the trampoline and their cheers and giggles when you mount and begin to jump and enjoy life,

the warmth of hot chocolate going down and it’s in the steam of a hot bath and the cool of fresh water from the arcing spout of a hose in the middle of July.

It’s in the howling wind, and the night sky banged out with a zillion stars combusting so many light years away, but shining in brilliance here and now, in this quiet moment, and it’s in the mocking jay’s echoing song, and in the leaves that fall, and in a coral pink sunset that he paints across the sky if we’ll only notice. It’s in pines that sway tall and swirl with pleasant earthy scent, it’s in the soft, snowy buds that flurry and fly off the wild plum tree in spring, it’s in the warm, giving hug of a child, and it’s in your daughter’s prophetic encouragement, Don’t worry, Mama, when I have babies, I’m sure you will be the first to hold them, upon sensing your sadness at the baby growing up so fast.

And in all this, God is whispering, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. I’m in the innocence of a newborn babe’s face, I’m in the Catholic priest’s quiet, disciplined communion, and I’m in the African American’s wild, freedom dance.

He’s telling us with each pulse, each beat, in this throbbing, thrumming, quiet sort of constant love All of this is for you, can you feel me here amongst you, do you see my creation, know my grandeur and glory, recognize me as Father?

He peels back the thick crust from my eyes, and He gives hope. He lets me know I was made for more than this doubting, this believing I’m nothing, this unfeeling life, numbed to faith.

He gives hope, and I see him. I grab on with a fierce grip, let him pull me back up. I hold on tightly, though the cold wind of doubt blows hard right through me.

Open your heart to really see, open your eyes to wonder… the right way for us to gain perspective in the middle of doubt and cynicism… His thrumming, constant love for us all around, heard around the world, if we listen. He loves us, we have a hope, a reason to hold on, to believe…

Some posts I’ve enjoyed lately, some new things I’ve happened upon. Check them out.

Outside the City Gate {even lepers have a colony} I love, love, love this. *And* it happens to be headed up by some amazing, head on their shoulders, down to earth, friends of mine, Kelli Woodford, Diane Bailey, and also Tammy Hendricksmeyer, who I know through writing as well.

From Chains to Keys an amazing write by my friend, Kelli Woodford. You must read this, if you ever felt the things of the past haunting you.

My One Word 365: Dwell Alia does it again. She blows me away with her writing, and her heart.

She Loves Magazine: Manifesto: Let Us Be Women Who Love This is beautiful.