A brightness flows out from all sides of forgiveness
A brightness that would be silly if it were not true
A brightness because the weight of bitterness has no claim anymore
A brightness because humility begets empathy and grace
A brightness that speaks a language of peace
A brightness that is joy in suffering
Oh a brightness
A brightness that reflects the heart of the King
I build my own pigsty and wallow.
But, daughter, there is Kingdom work to do.
I wrap myself up in deflective material.
But, daughter, your heart is for feeling.
I swallow my tongue and hush up.
But, daughter, your words are for testimony.
Daughter, I continually choose you.
Daughter, I continually love you.
Daughter, I continually call you Mine.
Daughter, I know your wounds and heartache and pain.
Daughter, I am with you in your dark places, with you, and calling you into My light.
Daughter, I tenderly care for your heart.
Father, I will trust You.
Father, I will believe Your love.
Father, I will listen to and obey You.
Because, Father, You are totally good.
I am short and the youngest of five
So I have spent abundant time looking up
The line for inspiration and wisdom and humor
Confidants and critics and caretakers
These people with blood like mine are there
As legends in my eyes and as dear friends
Siblings with strengths diverse and specific
To balance and sharpen each other in love
Sharing joy and sorrow and the mundane
Given to one another at birth and choosing
To stay given we champion our kin in growth
Hold snuggly in grief and laugh oh we laugh
I am the youngest and I have learned much
Through seeing and being well seen
What privilege it is to be fifth
The manner in which we go matters, dearly,
And there is a special grace in going together
Through the mire and meadows of humility,
Embracing our strength and our fragility.
There is a meter in the music we run to,
Even in its variances there is a quality true
And unchanging, which will inform our route,
Our pacing for that present passing time.
Time transitions, so we must stay attuned
And watchful. Running in a pack prompts attack
From that divisive mindset, dark comparison,
So we must be smart and diligent in our care
For one another. Honor as sister and brother
Learning to be dependable co-runners
Who recognize each other’s pains and walk
Without guilt-tripping and talk with honesty.
On the path to being made perfect we none
Of us have yet achieved the goal so our role
Is to be genuine in our need and unbelief,
To allow ourselves to be brought into the tent
Of the medic who has run, is running, will run
This race through and who knows completely
Our insufficiency and so draws us to himself
Through one another so he may bind up
Our wounds and renew our road-weary spirits
As only the medic-creator can: with fullness.
Oh this medic is attentive, gracious, unafraid
Of our lack and brokenness for he can mend
Muscle and heart string and soul and his hope
Is that we will invite him to, so we may grasp
His hand as we learn to run again, healing,
Eyes trained ever on him, no fear of death.
It is in our continually maturing dependence
On him that his melody and rhythm sync our
Movement with his, pulsing out hope to those
We meet who share the invitation to come,
Follow where he leads. We must be active
In our welcome, in our encouragement,
In our calling forth and seeing one another
As he does. We must run in such a way.
We are sprinting at omniscience
But we cannot fathom the cost
To our sanity, to our humanity,
When we neglect rest for our thoughts.
Too much too quickly and the overwhelming
Overwhelms until we are numb to the news
Of another tragedy, triumph, or mundane
Moment. Numb. We’ve seen it all before.
Still we are sprinting, dogged in our lack
Of restraint. We are hysterical and bleeding
Out, yes that is a blood trail behind us,
Dried dark blood mixed with the bright new.
At war with ourselves and this mad pacing,
Crashing through the barriers and thickets
Which were never on the true path to begin
With, but we will have it our own bloody ways.
Dearly beloved, when we cannot agree how
To move forward, we side-step and we trip
And we blame every single one but our own
Person. Shame will not untether us from this.
Shame will have us drip dripping in dross,
Hearts too oily to get a grip on ourselves
And appreciate the things that are good,
For shame seeks to disenfranchise gratitude.
And there is much to recover, to restore.
If we would just pause to consider the weight
Of our daily decisions and words and thoughts,
We may be slower to run towards false gods.
For we are makers in the image of the grand
Creator, but our grasp has limits and our soul
Will bear the consequences of this ragged
Racing, this untrained, haughty motion.
Contemplation is not tantamount
To complacency. Our empathy will not be
Productive without training and discipline
And a therapeutic sense of humor. Hold.
Gather your breath and your dear thoughts
And hold them in place for a moment there.
Just there. Consider their substance. Listen.
Wait. There is grace for the moment, now go.
King Peace, you hold these fractured pieces
still. In authority, you hold them still.
When the world rattles, incomprehensible,
You are in and through all things, sustaining.
We would smash our bones our minds
our souls to breaking and you, King Peace,
feel the weight of our aching and offer rest.
You are not like the gods we worship in our
angst and boiling, for you are self-controlled
and clear in your purposes and will.
You do not manipulate or beat into submission
because your character is that of justice
and freedom and mercy and love. You will not be
false to your nature because it is the highest good
and you are honest. Still.
King Peace, let my heart be still before you,
trusting and faithful and honest. Oh still.
Safety is being surrounded,
Surrounded by life and held safe
In the arms of the King.
Safety is being seen through,
All the way through and still loved.
Safety is being welcomed
And encouraged to grow and to rest.
Safety is empathy and listening
And sharing in sorrow and joy.
Safety is honesty and discernment
And wisdom in relationship.
Safety is a willingness to be held
And met in real, deep places without fear.
The day before my twenty-second birthday I got dressed and ready and started an ultra-marathon race in Colorado. I had not prepared well enough at all, so I walked the first 10 miles of the route, then tapped out and hitched a ride back to family with the race organizer’s husband. I was both a little humbled, not being entirely surprised that the altitude and magnitude of the race were too much for me, and proud of myself for doing a 10 mile hike in the mountains all alone. On my birthday, we relaxed and had some delicious ice cream. And thus began year twenty-two.
June blurred past. My grandpa was hospitalized and the diagnosis got progressively worse, then better, and then one day I was at work and got the call no one wants to make or receive: “Come to the hospital to say goodbye.” I had not prepared for this either. He always recovered before. And when I got there, my words of gratitude and love for my grandpa didn’t flow. I froze. I cried. But when I met him in the eyes, his love for life and his family were evident in his deliberate gaze. He was seventy-nine, very close to eighty, so this day was not fitting in well with his Hundred-Year-Plan. We gathered, we prayed, we stayed together. Late in the evening some of us left to get some rest and I was on a pallet on the floor by my parents’ bed when the text came that he was gone. He had joined the ranks of Heaven and was in pain no longer.
His life was celebrated at churches in two different states because his ministry and investment were significant in both places. We his grandchildren heard stories of his Christlike, optimistic care for people we had never met. His life had been full because it was so poured out and dedicated to people. What a legacy.
Summer kept moving. It was the first summer since 2013 I was not at Laity Lodge Youth/Family Camp and I felt somewhat displaced. I read East of Eden. It exceeded my expectations. Roommates and I enjoyed summer nights seeing a play or watching movies on the Magnolia Silos lawn. My college roommates/best friends visited. I taught in the first and second grade class at church on Sundays. Summer came to an end.
People asked how my summer had been. I said, “Good,” mostly because you don’t just casually say, “My grandpa died and I’m still figuring out how to process that loss since I’m close with my grandparents and this is new for me. Grieving this way is new for me.”
Fall arrived on the calendar, the weather didn’t quite follow suit, and I was Stage Manager for a fundraising event for Waco Civic Theatre and I took a short acting class and I signed up to participate in a community art and poetry event focused on mental health and I began a course on world missions at church and I was still teaching Sunday school and the fall was busy at work. Life was full.
I journeyed to New York City to see my dear friend and a Broadway show and it was quite a good trip. We had a grand cousin reunion in Iowa in October and then it was November and I began Stage Managing for Baskerville and recited a poem of mine at Ekphrasis and gradually got behind on my reading for the Perspectives class at church and then it was Christmastime.
I agreed to take on a speaking role in a small play that was set to run in January. January came and we began Baskerville round two in Killeen, which meant late nights and carpooling and laughing and being sort of exhausted all the time. The Autobahn show got moved to February. My brother got engaged (wooo!!) and Baskerville ended and I got an ensemble part in Three Musketeers, performed in Autobahn and somehow it was March. And then it was April and Easter and wow I had been absent from lifegroup for months, but could now return. The friends there took my weary self and hugged me right back into the fam, and I wept.
The busyness of the past months had been full of wonderful new friendships and stepping into roles I was built for and all kinds of growth, but it had also been full of loneliness, unease, and a feeling of not quite reaching my potential. The months were also ripe with turmoil in our nation and world and shifting of family relationships as siblings’ lives adjusted to their new normals and wow look another Facebook friend is engaged and no, there is still no special man in my life, and yes, I am still in Waco working. I process strong emotion through writing and it was a prolific year for me. Stressful moments met with contemplation and a sincere hope that Jesus is really in control when the near things and the huge things seem hopeless and depleted.
When spring came and I made room for rest, He continued speaking, as He had been all along, and I finally began to listen. Whether directly or through conversation with friends or music I’m sure was crafted to speak straight to my soul, Jesus is continually holding my heart and soul and looking me directly in the eyes to remind me of His love. He crafted my heart for intimacy. He gave me the gift of feeling things richly and the bent to express those rich feelings in words. He set my mind up to care about doing my work well and with integrity, and through His miraculous sacrifice and resurrection life, offers me the chance to accept grace and humility when I don’t meet my own expectations. He calls me daughter, beloved, and asks that I keep my focus on Him.
For Mother’s Day I had the honor of standing with my mama at my home church and reading some of my poems as part of my mama’s sermon about God’s heart for His children and the unique love and the calling of motherhood as a mother in the Kingdom. Then we did Baskerville again for a third (and final?) time at an art center in Clifton, Texas and it was a joy-filled reunion run. I’ve stepped into a Director role in the World Changers kids ministry at my church. I am slowly working towards learning what it means to sing and play piano (wish me all the luck and patience).
I am looking into my twenty-third year with an abundance of peace and awe and giggly joy and hopefully an increasingly humble spirit because the Holy Spirit is within me. I have locked eyes with the King who crafted me with care; He is moving and speaking and breaking through shadows and strongholds. He is generous and loving and so much more than enough.
So to year twenty-three: Welcome! I’m open to all the adventure and rest and growth you may hold.
The great mane is just before me, the piercing eyes and the awesome teeth, with his mouth wide open as if to consume, and I am powerless to face him, the lion.
It has been cold for so long, always winter, and my heart has fallen numb to the old hopes, to the stories of sun-warmth and celebration, which spread forth in the presence and wake of this king-lion from across the seas. I have never seen him, only heard the tales from the stubbornly faithful keepers of the prophesies and memories of this lion, who is said to be both fearsome and good. But I have never seen him, and it has been cold for so long.
The queen is here in power, in a show of force, in physical form. She controls the weather, the forests, and she provides tempting delights. She is tangible. So I have turned to her service, to surrender the deceived believers and help maintain the cold. But I meet a light full of wonder: A child, honest and searching, and we have tea. This light, she believes in holidays, in joy within the cold season that I have never seen, and the numbness of my heart melts to an aching hope, but I must turn her in. But I don’t. I let her go. And the queen, at the first word of my fickleness, tears my humble abode to shreds and traps my heart, my full self, in stone.
And now the lion I never knew, the lion I scarcely believed in, the lion whose heart I betrayed, has sought me out and stands before me with his mouth wide open as if to consume. And, instead, he breathes and my self awakes from its stone sleep, transforming to flesh and bone and spirit. I am released to move, to dance, to run, to celebrate, to eat, to laugh, and to fight alongside him for holiday and for spring. He whom I dared not believe in, he came for me, before I could even think to ask for pardon.
King-lion, I cannot understand your mercy on me, but I feel it in me and it speaks true. I will follow you.
What will you make of yourself
in this world, friend?
Something, I hope, for your sake.
For this world tips dismal and bitter
with a wind whiff and we’re helpless,
we’ll all stumble, but for grace.
Grace: It tears our pride down, mightily,
and rightfully, and when our guard’s down,
ooof it hurts so good to be seen
in all our mess and still embraced
with sincerity and clarity by a God
who wants to meet us face to face.
Face Him and glory be those eyes are honest,
the strongest and most gentle all at once,
He says I’m loved, cared for, set free
if I’ll just drink from this living source I’ll see
and know that He is good and my liberty
comes from surrender: not what I make
of myself, but what I let Him make of me.