Category Archives: poetry

Word-Paint: The Inside-Outside Conundrum {A Featured Story by Amber Cadenas}

I am so pleased to announce that we’ve chosen a story to be featured, a beautiful word-painting by Amber Cadenas. Kelli introduces her friend (and my *new* friend) below::

Amber Cadenas is a fellow sojourner with a penchant for all things creative, gentle, and transcendent. She calls her blog Beautiful Rubbish with a subtitle that could not fit any better: the everyday art of learning to see. Her writing is luminous and often reflects the bite of starlight in which it was conceived. Please welcome her voice as the final contribution to this series: The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging. ~Kelli Woodford

                                 photo credit 

“Can you be inside and outside at the same time?
I think this is where I live.
I think this is where most women live.
I think this is where writers live.
Inside to write. Outside to glean.”
~ Terry Tempest Williams*
Paint me a picture, I say to myself, of this tension of inside-outside living. So my pen becomes a paintbrush and I dip it in the colors of memory, splashing across a canvas of blank white page.
I am inside and outside, a woman on both sides of the looking glass.
* * * * *
I call myself a writer, most of the time, with varying degrees of confident assurance. I have a blog, where I air my words and my heart, one to three times a week. I surround myself with good books that inspire me in the craft. I have a group of writer friends who make me believe, at times I can soar on the wings of their prose, and maybe even on the wings of my own.
I am inside.
I hold my tongue, refuse to say this is who I am, because I am just not convinced. Maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe this is the last remaining, tattered shred of youthful idealism I’m clinging to and I need to let it go. How could I ever think I’m a writer?
I am outside.
* * * * *
I am inside the church where we worship on Sundays. Where we stand, sit, kneel, sing, speak, listen and hold the silence of liturgy. I am surrounded by people, many whom I don’t know, some whom I call “community.” We feast together at the table of communion, we share the same creeds of faith. We love the same Jesus.
I am inside.
I look up at the landscape of the front of the church sanctuary. Men leading us in worship through instruments and song. Men serving the bread and the wine. Men praying the prayers. Men preaching the sacred word. I feel silenced, disappearing in the pew.
I am outside.
* * * * *
I wear a wedding band, possess a certificate of marriage. We share the same address, the same car, the same bed, the same last name. We’re gradually crossing over for each other without losing sight of ourselves. He’s immersed in my culture and I in his.
I am inside.
We coexist, side by side. We give affection and we withhold. We sleep with a wall of fear, of silence, of weariness, of distant longing between us. I inhabit a place of hope deferred.
I am outside.
* * * * * 
I wrap arms around her and she buries tears in my shoulder. Our hearts are locked together in the ache of sorrow. She has walked through valleys of loss with me, and now, I set out with her. I would do anything to take this pain away.
I am inside.
I am not a mother. I’ve never conceived life, never waited through months of expectancy, nor delivered life into this world. I’ve never seen my body stretch to make room for another. I’ve never grieved a womb that was inhabited, now empty. I do not know this agony.
I am outside.
* * * * * 
I am breathing in rain-soaked air, heavy with cherry blossom fragrance. I am walking, running, standing still, listening to the songs of birds and the symphony of life that arises in my silent wonder. I am drinking in sunsets. I am inhabiting moments of beauty, moments of bravery, moments of failure, moments of being known, moments of loneliness.
I am outside.
I come inside, close the door, and set my hand to write, transferring words from head to hand, my paint across the canvas.

* * * * * 

Amber Cadenas is a people-loving introvert, who pulls espresso shots by day and writes the trail of glory-crumbs that is her story on her blog, Beautiful Rubbish. She is wild about nature, creatures of all kinds, books and spicy foods, and considers herself Mexican at heart, thanks to her husband. Her biggest ambition in life is to know Jesus and become someone who loves well.  

linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer 

**This here is the final wrap-up of a series on writing–the last week! Let’s all gather around the table in the comments and discuss and show Amber some love! I will still be writing about once a week (hopefully) about the issues we face as writers, and I’ll be encouraging you to be brave in your writing journey!

Other posts in this series below  

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table –Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace — Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough –Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain –a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community –Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries –a guest post from Diana Trautwein 

Walking With Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling, and diversity –a guest post from Lisha Epperson

Brokenness, A Grace-Bathed Thread — by Kelli Woodford and Nacole Simmons

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.}

The Rhythm of Rest {The Way of A Child}

I lie down in a grassy field, roll down it’s hills, and the rolling it could go on for days
for a child carefree
The sun melts me, revives me, sets me free
I love it’s light on my face
I squeal and scream and I hear the muffled squealing of her next to me
That the lumps and bumps mush up against hips and backs doesn’t matter
I don’t feel the thorns, just the rolling, the excited tremor
like waves, lapping against my legs, my face
the warmth of the orange orb on my face
I feel it always in summer time
How free I am
I relax in it’s rest,
Free fall into it’s arms and drift off,
like ripples gently pirouetting on a lake
I watch them keep rhythm
And the steadiness, it drums, and I hear the music all around
It’s humming me to sleep
The birds call as I pick spider lilies on the hillside,
I take them into my mother, with a smile and she mirrors me,
twinkles, and she gives them water, places them on the sill
I run back outside in a whoosh,
roll down the hill again. laughing.

How free she looks, friends. Can you see it, feel it? I want to be just like my kids when I grow up.

On Fridays, I link up with Lisa-Jo’s community of flash mob writers to write for five minutes, no back-tacking, no editing, just for the fun of it, to remember why I love writing, to not worry if every i is dotted and every t is crossed, to write like I mean it and leave it that way. Honestly, I’ve never had more fun–if you’d like to join in, or read more, look for Lisa-Jo’s button below and click.

“This is where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and sharing ’em over here.”–Lisa Jo

Today’s word prompt was REST.

Five Minute Friday

The Birthing of A Voice

My voice is somewhere in the deep, somewhere lost,
Somewhere silent.
I pray for words and no words come.
My voice, lost, it lets me know
It echoes from corridors and secret passageways of the heart
Tells me my heart is not still
And yes, my heart is weary, thumps too loudly, drumming in my ear
It paces, roams, back and forth, wary of the fight
Sometimes the cloud is too thick
The weight of glory too massive
Does that mean God is nearer?
Is He heavy on me like a lover?
When everything is pressing,
should I just know that He presses in close,
whispers sweet nothings in my ear?
Oh, to hear,
the deaf ear opened
I’m mute, dumb, and walk around blind
Is God near, calling?
Because I don’t hear Him
Is the church spotless and vigilant?
Because I don’t see her
I see nothing but decay
I need Jesus
His hands,
His touch
Messiah come
I groan with expectation
I howl in birth pains
I moan in quiet travail with all creation
so softly and inwardly no one knows
All this death and religion’s tepid, heavy cloak make me lie still
laid out, legs and arms splayed straight, air so tight, this box made just for me
It’s sealed all the way round
The howling wind sweeps through the cold place, and I scream but nothing comes out
And no one hears
I pant, gasp, pain shooting through spinal cavities
Eyes widen like a wild animal, afraid
I’m not sure what’s happening
And just when I begin to lose hope no one is there
The worst pains come and my hips spread some more
I can’t breathe and I’ve almost given up the ghost
And there it is, the voice lost brought up
to the surface, pressing through the birth canal,
gasping for air, wet-tissued passageways burning
howling and screaming in silent pain
blood vessels’ fragile wall breaking,
the red everywhere.
And I’m a bloodied mess
That red richness that speaks a better word
Covering me.