Friday, March 28, 2008


all my little word-children
are playing here with you.

they are prying with chubby fingers
into the places you have forgotten
with your grown-up

they are pirates and princesses
in great clomping shoes
double-daring you to

they are hop-scotching
across your rules.

they are finger-painting
with your fear and pain.

they are hiding-and-seeking
with your shriveled hopes,
and calling~
come out
come out
where ever you are.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

being jeni

One of the really odd and wonderful things that blogging has brought to my life is the connection I have established with people who live hundreds or even thousands of miles from me...some of them live on the other side of the world. One of these connections has been with a woman in Australia who is suffering from stage four colon cancer. Jeni is a single mom struggling with dignity and passion though issues that are beyond my ability to imagine. A group of women, including my friend Bella, have gotten together to raise money for her care by hosting an auction on ebay. You can read more about it here. I hope you'll consider participating in some way.

Jeni asked a question that's been on my mind ever since I heard it. She asked anyone reading her blog to consider writing a piece detailing what they would do if they only had one year to live. (Jeni has been told that, in all likelihood, she has less time than this.) I've read many of the responses that were posted in the weeks that followed, and I've been holding this question close to my heart. The truth is, I don't think it's a question that anyone can really answer until it's real. I have no idea what I would do or think or feel if I knew that my time was so limited.

I do, however, know what I would hope for. I would hope that I would shed every bit of non-essential baggage in my life so that what remains is simple and good. I would hope that love would be the motivator behind every decision and movement in my days. I would hope that I would be fearlessly devoted to the things that are important to me and that I would find the courage to be exactly where I am. I would hope that I would listen with sensitivity to God and to the people who are close to me, and I would want to choose my words so that they would leave behind a wake of blessing and hope. So what prevents me from doing all of that right now, apart from a death sentence? Nothing, really.

In this moment I want to have the courage to be Jeni, holding all of my love in the palms of my open hands. I am speaking a blessing to anyone who is reading these words. Thank you for your presence here, and for listening to this little story. I hope you will be Jeni too for a moment, maybe long enough to correct the course of your life just a tiny bit in the direction of goodness and love.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

come out, come out, wherever you are

First things first: I'm sorry. I've been pretty silent the last couple of weeks, and I would never want any of you to think that I don't care. I do.

I'm not really sure what's going on with me lately, but I'm having a terrible time finding my little word-children. I think they're all playing an extended game of Hide-and-Seek with me. I'll catch a glimpse of one of them in my peripheral vision, but by the time I turn my head, it has scurried to some dark corner of my mind. But I have managed to tag a few of them.

I grabbed a hold of anxiety as she was darting between the sofa and the closet. I tagged withdrawal on the back of her heel as she was diving under the bed. I stumbled upon overwhelmed deep under the layers of my bedding. I think I even saw the toes of sadness poking out from behind the thick red drapes in my living room.

I'll let you know more about this after I've gathered a few more of them together. Maybe we can play Ring Around the Rosy instead. I'll hold the hands of my tentative word-children, and dance with them in a circle with that music throwing open all of the cupboards and closet doors. They'll come running from their hiding places when they hear those familiar notes. They can't resist those lyrics.

All fall down.

Friday, March 7, 2008

music for screaming

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like I'm living in crazy-world. I'm plugging along and the first thing I notice is that I'm starting to disappear. Too many losses, too much pressure, too much chaos, too many emotions that are much too strong. My knee-jerk response to this is generally to just keep going and hope it will get better. I swallow really hard, swallow everything, and squeeze my eyes shut until no light can get in. I hold my breath. (You'd think that as a counselor I would be a tad more skillful with this.) Anyway, it gets to the point sooner or later when I just snap.

I have this old song that has played an important role in my life for the last thirteen years or so. I was listening to it today on the way home, full-blast, singing the lyrics at the top of my lungs. It always helps for reasons I don't quite understand. It helps me to scream. Sometimes that's just exactly what I need. And even though I am always alone when I do this, it helps me to feel like someone has heard me. I've heard me. God has heard me. It's like this weird, screaming prayer I pray when I'm falling off the edge of the world.

So, I'll share the lyrics with you. I don't know why, but I'm wondering if anyone out there might be able to relate. And maybe you'll pop this into the stereo in your car sometime and listen to it full-blast. Maybe you'll feel a little bit better when you do. It's from Toad the Wet Sprocket's Dulcinea CD.


well i wonder
do we learn?

seems we're making

the same wrong turn.

call you sacred,

call you obscene,

call you faithless,

call you anything.

call and you listen




i'm the liar,
so it seems.

my desire

could justify anything.

so is there nothing

that lies in between

this cold silence

and a scream?




caught in headlights-
we are frozen,

cannot hide.

there's no break,

no time.

if you can, i might listen.

call and you listen




Monday, March 3, 2008

breathing is hard

Early Friday morning, my uncle was on his way to work when a drunk driver hit him head-on. Just like that. From one moment to the next, lives skittered across the icy pavement. Not just Keith's life, but everyone who is connected to him. My aunt, her kids, me. We're tethered together in the wreckage. In the ICU, I watched the ventilator push air into his lungs, his chest rising and falling mechanically, and this felt familiar to me. Breathing is hard.

I've been telling you about all the warmth and blessing of my time in Mexico, but I haven't told you about the other side of this coin. I don't know if this is something peculiar about me, but whenever I allow myself to really notice the goodness around me, I immediately notice something else. I notice that these things are temporary. Maybe it's because I have experienced some terrible losses. I know, in a way that is not theoretical, that children die. I know, in deeply experiential ways, that death does not always announce itself so that you have time to prepare a room for it. Sometimes it knocks in the middle of the night and makes you rearrange all your furniture.

As I was drinking in all the beauty, the love of my family and friends, I felt a pain somewhere inside me, like my heart had stopped beating, like it might never beat again. I imagined death like an intruder watching my home, waiting to come in the night when I am dreaming of safety, waiting to steal away things that can never be replaced. My mind searched for a way to push this thought out to sea. I wanted to pitch it over the balcony and watch it break open like ripe fruit on the stone pavement below. But the more I tried to wrestle it over the edge, the larger it loomed above me. So I finally let go.

I opened my arms and released my husband to God. I loosened my grip on Danny and Joey and Janelle. I lifted up all my loves to the Lord and asked for forgiveness for the ways that I had possessed them. I understood that it was possible to invite death to teach me something about life. I don't own anything here...not even my own body. Everything around me is borrowed treasure. I opened my hands, and let it all go. And then I let it go again in the next moment when I noticed a temptation to take it all back. This is my life, this dance between grasping and letting go. I will always be a beginner, tripping over my own feet, learning the steps.

I'm confident that Keith is going to be OK. He's got a long road ahead of him, and I appreciate prayers for him and his family. He's struggling to find his way back to the world, and some day he'll struggle to find his way to the next world, hearing the name that is a secret between him and God. Every single soul who is precious to me will die. I will die. Sometimes it's hard to breathe in those moments of knowing. Sometimes the only thing moving the air in and out of my lungs is the assurance that there is a world where my true name will be spoken and all of my lost love will return to me.