Thursday, December 13, 2012


new puppy
christmas tree shopping
new job
my lovely
thanksgiving breakfast

with the beginning of winter season, i have begun the seasons of engagement, a new job, and a first dog. with each passing decision i wonder what i have gotten myself into. i've never been happier. i've never been more myself. being in love is finding a home, and only then realizing that you were homeless. it is a resting place i never knew i was missing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

joyeux noelle

cold and gloomy days bring forth effort from us, in that we must search for comfort. and when that comfort is found, we withdraw into ourselves, which should be a truly treasured time. introspection is a necessity for the self, for there is no other way the self can grow. 

it is easy to love the biting cold when your hands surround a ceramic mug made by your sister, and the steam winds its way to your nostrils. when your grandmother's afghan is swirled below your neck. when you hear the satisfying grating sound of a match being lit, and you watch the wick so faithfully carry that same light. when the wood cracks and collapses, and when cedar and pine fill your home. 

in my own life, i have easily learned to love what seasons bring. and each one is good. i grew up with experiences i was later to find foreign for many of my peers. i shucked corn in july and shelled pecans in december. i made hot chocolate mix with my mom
 every winter. i enjoyed a living room of homemade potpourri on the wood stove. i also filled the rooms with daffodils and lily of the valley every march and day lilies every june. i enjoyed pears in august. i took long walks every day of the year in rain, heat, chill, and snow and sat down to a homemade meal every night.

as i have gotten older, i have realized through the unfamiliarity of such practices by others, how for granted i have taken each of those moments. and i realize this even more in recent months with my addictions to pinterest and instagram where we can all pretend to be martha stewarts and professional photographers if we want to. i realize this in the now-trendy ways of recycling your glass jars and composting your vegetable scraps. in wearing grandmother clothes from second hand vendors. and i take pride in that i grew up in an environment way ahead of all this and later realizing that this was done because of low finances, not because it was cool. and then i become angry at the phonies.

but let me tell another reason why i appreciate the beginning of every season, because in the change that seems to take too long to happen, i am forced to scrutinize it in my impatience. and in such scrutiny, i see all the details. and in all the details, i learn to savor each and every small thing because it is all i have as i wait.  and for those who want to live in such hippie ways, this is how you will find those who truly understand it. i will never be able to go too long without a computer or my phone, but i know well how to understand the priceless and matchless experiences of a simple something involving neither of those things.

i also can recognize when it is time to leave the computer and the phone off and make that effort to find the comforts i saw in the virtual others. it is time to knit and water the christmas tree. it is time for the sun to start setting earlier and sending us inside. in our newly confined quarters, we will learn to savor the simple beauties the season made us acknowledge. the way his eyes roll upwards when he is uncomfortable or bored. the way she stares through the window wishing to be a part of what the humans are doing. the way she folds the edge of her pages. the way sticks his chin out when watching something. the smell of steam wafting through the house after someone's shower. the sound of the trees tapping the roof.

Monday, October 15, 2012


i first understood the notion of place when i rented an apartment beneath the home of a local mother of four. this home of mine stretched from the front of the house all the way to the back, but only on the right side. the other side contained two much smaller studio apartments, and in the back was an extra two car garage that stood under another apartment. the family's residence dwelt on the second floor of the main house.

my memories of the year spent in this place remain in my thoughts with nothing but fondness. the house was old, and it was falling apart in places, and it was not always conducive to energy efficiency in the wintertime. however, there is not a single moment spent in that home that i would trade. i remember weeks in december spent curled up under the window unit reading Anne of Windy Poplars and listening to the ep Poison and Wine on repeat. i remember sitting at my desk writing letters to various friends because the romance of written correspondence can be replaced by nothing. i remember sitting at the kitchen table on lonely mornings staring out the window with my french press coffee. i remember playing host to old friends and making blueberry muffins in the mid mornings while they lazed in my bed reminiscing in giddiness like preteens waking from a sleepover. i remember long conversations with a special ginger friend about life over tyson chicken patties and pasta. i remember writing final papers and exams in the wee hours of the morning with The Half-Blood Prince rolling in the background as we needed to be prepared for the soon-to-be-released 7th installment. i remember knitting on the borrowed pullout couch while movies entertained. i remember the cold early morning walks down two blocks to work. i remember the countless treks across the street to class every day. i remember becoming more myself than i ever had before as each corner of this place closed in to familiarize itself with me and mold me.

our hobbit hole is what we called this place. the ceilings were surprisingly low, and like a tunnel, it wound its way to the back of the house lined with carpet, tile, paneling, and plaster. this is where i lived when my views of the world and my perceived responsibilities in it as a Christian were drastically remodeled and became unrecognizable by my younger self. this is where i truly felt at home, at my home, as the walls and features reflected my being. 

much of the time, the world looks at the envied life of a globe-trotter, those few with the fortune, the smarts, and/or the luck to be able to travel from one place to another, never settling for long before the next adventure pulls. and the world views those lives as amorous and charming. and for those who truly feel the calling to live such a way, and can do it with the peace that is necessary, they are doing what is right. and sometimes i myself desire such liberty. and perhaps the moments will make themselves available for a season or two. however, there is no other kind of peace that can replace the peace of present permanence. in my year of residence in the hobbit hole, i knew sooner or later i would be filing out with all of my possessions, but for the time i was there, i could not think about that. i had to be at home should that truth of home be for one year or for many years. 

photo by Rachel Guerry
place is as much a part of who we are as humans as anything else that makes up our days and memories. place is to be treasured and loved as an old friend would be. 

i should like to continue this journey through the notion of place in future writings.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

does my stuff have a story?

in the last two years, i've learned more about the personal effects of globalization than i've ever known before. and i don't know that much at all. i had always been familiar with the tags that say 'made in china/honduras/indonesia/taiwan/nicaragua/panama/vietnam' but scarcely gave much thought at all about what that really means. and then i started to notice that 'made in the usa' was rather rare. and then i realized that the themes in zoolander were actually serious themes that were not made up at all. i once read in the book that triggered my recent thought on these issues that instead of asking 'what am i wearing?' we need to be thinking 'where am i wearing?' it doesn't take more than one story about a child who was hit in the face by his employer for not working on clothes fast enough, clothes that would eventually be shipped to my state and sold in the department stores where i buy christmas presents for my family. and then i think, that can't be a daily reality for every single worker in every single sweatshop in every single country. but how do i know that? i'm not there. i see pictures, and i can say that i would never want to live that reality. and then i say that they have it better than they would otherwise. they get food and clothes and a job, i say to soften my pillow at night. but what if it were me?

would i want my reality as awful as it is to be ignored or glazed over so people in the 'first world' can cure their consciences and continue as if my reality is not the reality and theirs is?

in our spare time we create blogs that document asians sleeping in libraries and tweeting about our #firstworldprobs and complaining because our iphones take too long to update. i mourn the evils that prevail in the many facets of this world, and i buy a pair of shorts at jcpenny. that's too small to make a difference, maybe. but i am interacting with the problems that exist outside my door, and it is not an interaction that makes them better. i have bought into the injustice with my purchase, and it's fifteen dollars, not even a scratch on the surface of the whole issue, but in my life, i have been polluted. it's not just about how i supported the horror. i have tainted myself. 

christians are supposed to be different. people are supposed to notice something odd about us. perhaps for me that difference begins with refusal of certain purchases. the truth is, i didn't need another pair of shorts anyway. 

i just found out there are people here who can roast their own coffee beans. and i can knit my own scarves.

Monday, September 24, 2012


the mornings are colder. and the trees wait for the edges of their crowns to yet again spread in death, and to give way for this death to once more have its due grasp on our world. and yet this very season, this in-between we must live through every year, this expectation of the coldness and the bitterness that nature holds in store for us has always been, for me, the most inspiring of all. no other spell pulls me from my tread to lay me down and let the time pass over me as wistfully as it pleases. in our world of do and have, the change calls me to be. i've learned through each year, as autumn re-enters my life, to anticipate. but such anticipation happens with waiting. i wait for something. i don't know what it is. 

but more than anything, autumn brings up things i've forgotten. summer is the lull for me, but my daydreams and plans keep me as busy as anything, and in the past, my autumn came with new learning and knowledge. a new year of getting back to work. getting back to routine. getting back to what i know. getting back to the familiar. i remember the things i miss that i once had. i am reminded of the things i miss that i never had. but this year, they never left. this is my first autumn as a graduate, and i don't feel as accomplished as i hoped i would. i fear the world takes off without me sometimes. and then autumn sweetly tells me there is always a change ahead. autumn sweetly tells me that if the world should take off, then let it take off. 

the world will always come back around. 

one thing i mourn the west for lacking is the understanding of cycles. in our linear perspectives, we know birth, life, death, the end. but in another  mindset, time is cyclical. a chance gone is not a chance lost. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Some thoughts on an election.

Shel Silverstein is a brilliant author and artist whose words and pictures will be a staple in my children's lives. In his book, The Missing Piece, he writes of a creature in search of something missing within himself. Once he finds this piece, he discovers that his happiness was in the search, not in having what he wanted. The valuable lesson here is that if we are too satisfied or complete, there is not much need for interaction with the outside world. If we have all the answers, if there is nothing to learn, what's the point in living?

An election year is always going to cause nervousness among citizens because we all know how those we elect can make decisions that can likely trickle down to affect our daily lives. Some of us have experienced it in negative ways, some of us haven't been affected enough to be too concerned. This is the first election year where I'm not as concerned as I used to be, and my reason is because I know that the world's problems will not be resolved when our only choices are two very flawed parties with candidates more concerned with representing their party than the people. I have read a lot lately regarding many current heated political issues, and the comments on these articles are as educational as the articles themselves.

But the main discouragement for me came when I realized that the passionate ones are unfortunately the oblivious ones. I don't just mean oblivious of the facts, which is very common. I mean oblivious of the person. If someone has disagreed with me on what I believe about something, what I would like is for that person to ask me why. Ask me what my story is. Ask for the reason behind why I believe what you think is wrong. If you make it your goal to love me more than you love your ideals, you will be surprised to find your ideals make more sense. If you make the person your concern and put the issue aside, you will find understanding.  You will understand the person, and when you discover their reasons and their values, you will understand yourself. And through that, you will understand the issue much better. There is no way to lose when you put people above politics. Because if you don't care about the people, than what are you fighting for?

Another discouragement is the pride among many in these discussions. I don't care how much you've read or how many people you've talked to, there is still something you don't know. Part of what it means to be human is to be limited. Limited in our understanding, our views, our sight, our knowledge. There is always something you will not get, because there is always someone whose mind doesn't work the way yours does. There is always someone who has experiences you will never have. There is always someone who will never be able to express their passions in a language you both understand. When you recognize that, you have no choice but to make concessions for others in their beliefs. You cannot argue what you do not know. But if you care more about the person than about being right, your relationships will be better, and what is your life if you have none of those? 

Please remember above all else that while our political figures affect our lives, they are not the ones who will be bringing you meals when your loved ones have gone or when you've lost your job. I believe that what goes on in the government is worth our attention and our voices, but when what they do affects you, they are not the ones who will be there for you when you have to deal with it. It is your neighbors, your family, your coworkers, your friends.  

I know there is much to learn and much in my current beliefs to cause concern among some, but I don't have everything figured out, and I don't ever intend to. But I will keep learning and I will keep asking questions and I will keep searching, and if I'm right, then that's just wonderful. If I'm wrong, I'll keep learning. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

'i just believe in putting kindness into the universe'

Three and a half weeks of travels, and I still don't feel like I've seen the world. I guess this hunger is only temporarily satisfied like my normal daily hungers. I love every new experience now that it's all in hindsight, but I was all too ready to return. And I surprised even myself with that.

I think often of what makes life full and meaningful. And what I just did certainly ranks at the top of that. But I fear that many will too quickly assume extravagance and heavy expense are necessary. But truthfully, fullness is, the majority of the time, found in candles and fresh flowers. Food prepared by familiar hands. Live musical sounds. Invigorating conversation by those drunk on the excitement of being together. An afghan and the written word. 

I find my life unsettling in its awkward position of the in-between. Contentment and desire. I choose always to be happy where I am, but I always want more. I always want to see something else while I want to stay home and sleep.

And now, two weeks after those travels have ended, I can't believe that so much of what I have been working toward has finally happened, and I'm left with the only thing I know how to do now, which is to ask: now what? There are too many things that I want to do in my time in this world, and I've mentioned many of them here before. But if there's anything I have to do, it is to keep writing. And through that I will hopefully find a way to all those other things that I want. I would love to one day lose myself in the titles of librarian, teacher, editor, writer, bookseller. But at the same time, I have piles of yarn, cookbooks rarely opened, journals still unfamiliar to the pen, a guitar case collecting dust, tennis balls somewhere, and I swore to myself that I would learn to french braid and drive a manual before I died. I would also like to master chess and sourdough bread. I have patterns and fabric waiting for me, and if I believe about the world the things I say I believe about the world, I better learn how to make my own living. And I mean make my own money as well as make my own food and clothes and gardens and sugar scrub. 

That was a bit of a rave. But it brings me to my next point which is a bit of encouragement. Go to your local farmer's market before you make a trip to Walmart. When your clothing rips, don't buy new ones right away. Make a friend who has a sewing machine. When you meet your copains, don't go out to eat, make a mess in somebody's kitchen. If your house is stuffy, try to plant something before you pay too much money for the Febreze plug-in. These are only a few of the many places and moments where community sprouts, and through that, I believe one can find that life is full, because everything you think you need and all the things you weren't aware you needed are hidden there.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When we had winter in July

it's heavy today
this sense of loss
the dark of the sky
and the cold of the brick
and the coarse, brown grass
remind me of your constant absence
though you left on a sunny summer day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poverty 101 by Martha FrizLanger

A note from the poet: Two years ago, our church opened its doors and began serving meals to our community. The immense and overwhelming feelings I felt scared me and so I penned them in this poem. Working with the poor among us has been eye-opening and has really pushed me to re-evaluate my thinking and life, for which I am immensely grateful.

I hate poverty
and I blame the poor
with their unclean bodies
their stale sweat smell
their tabacco breath
their rotting teeth
their unkempt clothes
their self inflicted tattoos
their unshaved chins
their lack of manners
their constant need

I hate poverty
and I blame my mom
with her tapes in my head
saying, "Go anyway
Do what is right
Put on the mask
Smile and engage
Start conversation
Control your thoughts
Sit at their table
'til it comes naturally"

I hate poverty
and I blame myself
as I judge on the inside
and feign interest outside
as I secretly mock
and puff up my righteousness
as I believe deep down
I'm above, they're below
as I look at the clock
and hope this encounter will end soon
as I lie, lie, lie

I hate poverty
and now I blame her---
the one across the table---
who claims she recognizes me
"Aren't you your mother's daughter?
Isn't she my cousin?"
How can I sit here
at the table of judgment
when the woman sharing bread
is my kin
offering me hospitality?

I hate poverty
and I blame you, Jesus
as you bless the poor
and invite me in
and wash my feet
and offer me bread
and look at me
when I deny you
"No, I don't know him."
or ask
"Am I my brother's keeper?"

I hate poverty

Monday, February 27, 2012

I had a dream

"I was a little girl
alone in my little world
who dreamed of a little home for me

I played pretend between the trees
and fed my houseguests bark and leaves
and laughed in my pretty bed of green

I had a dream
that I could fly from the highest swing
I had a dream"

I discovered this song in mid-June of last year, loving it so much and listening to it on repeat. It was in my head all through my time in Zambrano, and I hummed it to myself constantly.

The song reminds me of when I was a small lass of ten, and I used to roam the green pastures of my childhood and daydream... I remember when my life was simpler, though it didn't seem that way then. And I'm all too certain that in another ten years I'll look back on my life now and perceive it to be simpler now. I will only gain more in the way of knowledge and understanding as I grow older, and that makes the mess of my mind feel so much . . . messier. But of all the new things that I learn, one thing that I'm realizing more and more since I've left my teens is that the things that were at the forefront of my everyday ideas of what mattered really don't matter at all. Like the amassing of things. The need for a lot of money. The plans every child unknowingly makes that involve good grades so they can get into a good college so they can get a good education so they can get a good job so they can make good money so they can have a good family so they can raise good kids to get good grades to go to a good college and so on.

The American Dream is something I'm looking at and wondering if it aligns at all with the dream Jesus had. It is defined as the opportunity for prosperity and success according to ability and achievement, and I'm not so sure that's exactly what Jesus had in mind. It's not a sin to own your own home, but Jesus was homeless. It's not a sin to work hard to provide income, but Jesus lived entirely off of the generosity of others (specifically rich wives, but that's beside the point). When I look at the system that has been set in place as industry and time swiftly proceed, I begin to wonder if the faces that are left behind were worth the price. And I shutter when I think that I have been a part of leaving those faces behind.

I look at the food in my pantry, and I wonder whose hands were responsible for growing what made that food. And do those hands get to rest as often as mine do? I look at the clothes in my closet, and I wonder whose child's hands were responsible for putting them together. And did I really need half of those clothes? Many of us would look at our full closets and pantries, and we think we are blessed, but when I realize that these blessings were borne on the backs of cheap labor and exploited humans, I begin to wonder if they are really blessings at all. God has blessed America, we say, but by torturing the workers of other countries? I have realized that my failure as a Christian was not so much that I bought a cup of coffee, not sure who was rightfully paid for it or that I have helped to keep Old Navy in business. My failure was that I succumbed to the belief that this is the only way of living. This is what is offered to me, so I have to take it.

And I then realize that an even deeper failure exists beneath all that. It is the failure to believe that as a being of God's image, I have the ability to create, meaning that my imagination is to reflect God's imagination. I have failed to believe that God's imagination for how we are to live is way bigger than, and not limited to the ways of living that are so infused into our society. I have been given new eyes to see that the way of Jesus is possible without leaving others behind, with our scraps and leftovers - if we've left any. Jesus had a dream where the kingdom that he was/is building would be a kingdom open to everyone, and that has to start with me. Everyone deserves a full life, and so much is required for that: food, education, medicine, friendship. There is no reason why everyone in the world cannot have that other than those who have too much will not give to those who have none. I read once that the only way to make poverty history is to make affluence history. I don't need ten coats and thirty sweaters. Especially when the majority of my neighbors have none.

I would like very much to wake up every day and commit to a different path. A path that excludes taking part in a lifestyle that has abused someone else along the way. And I know that I will fail many times. I will still buy Hershey's chocolate at some point, I will still pay four dollars for a cup of coffee, and I may buy a garment at Wal-Mart. But what I have decided for today is that I'm tired of stuff. And I really don't ever need what I think I need. What I need is to extend my hand as it holds what I've been given, and offer what I know to the sweatshop workers in Honduras who made my hoodie, or to the immigrant farmers in Florida who put the orange juice in my fridge, or to the many, many children who can't get to school because they can't afford the uniforms or the supplies. The world that Jesus dreamed of does not have to be the world I live in, and I certainly won't succeed in making it that world when I'm still stuck believing that the old way is the only way. While I miss being ten years old, and my biggest concerns were how much I hated it when people still called me "little," I am glad that my dreams have expanded as my knowledge has expanded, and I can't say for sure that I'd like to go back.

My dream now is that I will be able to look at everyone and see the image of my God reflected in them, and I will be able to clasp my hand with theirs, not as an American, but as a Christian, a sister whose familial love exceeds national, economic, societal, and racial borders.

Monday, January 30, 2012

love sorrow

The times are hard, they always say. The days are dark and bleak. And the world greets us every day broken and splintered. And one by one, the grievances accumulate. The sharp edges of shattered ideals and wishes. The realization that the love lost is never coming back. The grey skies that wake you in the morning instead of your faithful sun. The thought that your efforts were futile. The pain of knowing your feelings meant nothing. The loneliness of being left behind or forgotten. The weight of your chosen path. The confusion at why you are where you are and not somewhere better.

And the worst of it all is that the desire to make something of it has left with your optimism. The desire to use the tears to water and heal the dry ground. To use the darkness as a much needed prayer closet. To continue the momentum of tearing down the much-tended-to dreams you once had so something bigger and better can be built. How does one believe in a God that only means good for the world when good has yet to find you? And how do you find that good when the bad walls up so strongly around you?

But when I look through the backpack of my past and I see the tear-stained pages and the smeared words, I realize so much more than the fact that I made it through. I realize that each moment of despondency was only one of the many dots that form a connected line to get me here. And here is also just another dot.

We know that a person can all too easily become so absorbed with an end goal that the present is all too forgotten. And so our teachers and self-help books counter with the urge to live in the present and enjoy the moment. But just like all the other pieces of life advice, this one too becomes a pendulum. It is all about the journey, they say.

No it is not. Didn't your teacher tell you to NEVER use universals? To imply that ALL meaning is in the travel alone will also teach that the destination is either dramatically lessened in importance or completely erased of it. My journey is important, but it is still a journey, meaning that there is still a goal, and I cannot lose my concern for it.

Although, I will do my best to revel in my circumstances. That's all I can do. And my bad days cannot be excluded from that. I will gently tend to what I've been placed with, for whatever my lot, I have been entrusted to care for it, and care for it, I will.

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,
what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so
utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment
by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,
as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.
-Mary Oliver, Red Bird