these are a shadow

…all that is worth remembering of life is the poetry of it

january steps

We have dreams with shapes, and we have dreams we can’t yet picture. The arrival of this year is stirring our hearts to move forward with some plans we have for change, in the hope of deep longings becoming true. Our hearts feel hardly more than inadequacy and fear, because all is hidden in the shadow of tomorrow and all we know is our smallness. We search for right paths, for the wisest thing, but it is hard when we still feel like children without a clue.


The chances of it all fitting the way we’d like to seem too slim, and we are tempted to cast off all courage. Waiting may be the name of this season, too. But still, we search, work, and try, and deep down we know the sureness of what God has said and done – about himself and for us – and that the unraveling of our handcrafted plans for the building of new ones is part of our lifelong journey of learning to take our hopes to his cradling, capable hands.


And it is a deep, cleansing breath when we feel the scribbled, frantic piles of our plans born away by the bearer of our burdens. As a good poet reminded me in the lines that follow, making my life story beautiful and right was never my work from the start.


Most blessings sprout not from the plans

We make, but from the soil of their sad ruin.

Watch their slow, unstoppable unraveling,


Their disassembly, the final shudder, and

Their collapse, and the dustcloud that follows.

Pay attention then to the way your heart

Breathes a sigh of relief when the work


That was never yours anyway is lifted

From your tired hands. Pay attention,

When you clean up the mess, to the treasure

That the wreck unearthed, and give thanks


For your folly and God’s favor.

  {Andrew Peterson, from “Paying Attention”}

to love, even today

Never before binding myself to my husband have I ever known such stretching of heart. I’ve felt pain and bliss as everyone does, but never this way. When love and marriage happened to him and me, so intriguingly fast and right, it was not how I had come to dream of it or expect it to arrive. We slipped into each other’s lives by surprise, and nearly without effort. Two starkly different souls with opposite histories saw that their lives were somehow heading in the same direction all of a sudden. It seemed wonderful to join the adventure of life side-by-side.

We met at the campground where prayer nourished the ground and the Creator’s praise energized every game and hiking trip. Generous hearts and homes helped us, guided us, and looked out for our good and growth. I stepped from that valley to the church in another one – a perfect May day where love and gladness beamed from all faces. There we made our forever covenants with God and each other. It was unforgettably perfect.

And here we are today, one year and one month later. The newness and thrill of being married comes and goes with the hard, ragged tries to live in step and understand one another. But there is never any doubt at the end of each day that we belong this way — straining and learning to love each other without condition.

Who would ever have thought that a self-righteous perfectionist with a religion degree would be fitting herself with a former drug addict and emo punk band lead singer that got kicked out of high school? He’s still silencing the calls to “come back” and the lie that he’s a failure — I impatiently bruise him when I attempt to fix his wounds with rules and Law, (which is often my urge instead of tenderness and still more grace.)He’s impulsive and a little sloppy –I’m a planner who needs every painful detail, obsessed about straight lines and mental order. He carries the weight of diabetes and seasonal depression –I’ve never known any suffering worse than menstrual cramps. He’s a joker and a goofball — I take every word at its value and get hurt easily. He’s easygoing and social –I’m fighting off painful self-consciousness and fear of people. This is just the start of our complexities.

This first year has brought so much delight over being one, sometimes it seems our hearts will burst with the wonder of it. It brings great pleasure to see how our differences fit just so brilliantly — how two so very opposite people can find home and healing in each other. But somehow it seems that this year has just as often shown us the dark, shadowy parts of ourselves, and the ways our differences can be used to hurt one another. We find ourselves frequently uttering pained, helpless cries to God, (or even struggling to pray at all) because we’re discovering more of how deeply we’re broken and cannot save one another. The temptation to throw up our hands grows strong, as we feel so fiercely our inadequacy to love the way we really need it.

With a sigh of thankfulness, we can say with confidence that these shadows have not shouted loud enough to break us, but have helped us fall hard on the only one who can save us. Jesus is the sinless spouse who daily bears with us, the most disappointing, frustrating and opposite people. We abandoned him, and still: he went after us in love. Even now, he is tenderly with us to the end.

And that is how I can hold tighter to Seth each day, even when we can’t seem to find any hope, even when we’ve hurt each other the same ways again after so many promises, even after we’ve uncovered an even deeper, uglier wound we’ve never seen before and can’t feel the love we speak. We’re being held all along the way, and all the pain of learning love is drawing us deeper into light, and making us glimmer just a little more brightly with peeks of what we’ll be one day. We’re stretched and we weep, but in our expanding we are better filled with Jesus and deeper breaths of grace. In belonging to Him, we are free to lay down our lives for one another and be honest without any fear of being cast out.

And we can be brave enough to face today and say:
“Oh, darling, let’s lift our heads and keep on. I love you forever.”


I most crave the words when I most feel the mess,

                because order comes through the sorting of things,

                even when baring and searching take me to tender places

                where I’ve let it get murky.

Truth and light pierce, but needfully and healingly so,

                and when my word-work falls beside other necessaries or excuses,

                I feel the search in me.

It finds me in the pages of other’s labors,

                and calls me to take beauty from today, which usually involves

                a call to make beauty for today.

I know this doesn’t mean good words from every pen on every day,

                some souls have other ways of light-bearing,

                and some days need better ways of love-giving,

                but for today, from me, words.


The sun lives again,
(sang slumped bones and grey minds today,
weary of winter’s endurance.)
It called me early from my bed
to where it pierced in most,
the window with the roses on the sill.

Wind swirled without the bite –
the golden beams kissing each bluster
with warmth enough for our lungs to expand
and breathe deeply without a shiver.
Snow mountains shrank into streams
and roof gutters did what they were made for
almost gladly, spraying droplets in
bursts of thrill for the thaw.

Hearts, too, have felt frozen,
though cooped indoors.
They’ve stirred against the dullness,
wanting to see glory in still (even [more]) snow blankets –
but so needing the sun and a grand melting away
for starting again.
Yours and mine leapt
for the hope of certain springtime
and believed in the promise again.


Our mother was the barren, weeping, waiting one.
She quivered and laughed in her time
to believe that something could be made of
her emptiness.

It is taking so long. We must be forgotten.
Abraham’s strength must make our child another way,
in a more fertile womb

And so came Ishmael of the slave, of the flesh
that sawed against the everlasting goodness of
God’s oath with Himself.

But Yahweh was tender and spun Isaac’s
human frame in the right place and time,
against the odds of
reproductive powers as good as dead,
silencing the rage and splintering brought by
doubt and human hands.

And we know Father Abraham as righteous
apart from things he’d done.

As Abraham’s,
we believe,
even when we can’t see the ram yet,
even when our very skin needs assurance,
(Again and again, Yahweh stoops.
Now, in bread and wine.)
even when we struggle
because we forget that we are not slaves,
but free, and righteous another way,
by believing God’s yes against the strain of our ways.

As Sarah’s,
we look to her city dancing above, Jerusalem the free –
while we finish here,
being born from nothing for that glory,
children of the promise.

of tea and open doors

We started sending invitations:
“Come and drink tea, come and sit, open doors for you this weekend!”

Soon, they became habit and needed, these small college gatherings, every one with their own story and mix of souls. We then welcomed friends of friends, and always (bravely) a particular boy or two we’d like to know better. Over time, the regulars grew to know they’d probably end up with a floor seat, or a center of the rug seat, or a closer-than-we’ve-ever-sat-together seat. But there were no cares, no weights of time (other than the leave-by-midnight rule for the gents), and no knowing who would knock. Those who never drank tea any other time would do it tonight. Those who had too much homework would at least peek in and meet the new faces. Those who were timid in normal circles felt safe in this one. There were always stories, laughter, and antics to take in. It could have been too much noise and chaos, but our mugs, slowly sipped, kept everyone anchored and together and quiet inside.

Other times, we’d theme the night. Those tended to be more sparsely attended; perhaps we were too eager and silly. But they held their own importance and helped us not take ourselves so seriously. 80s dance night was the least popular, but that didn’t keep us from living it up and running around campus to share the neon with those who had better, more responsible things to do. The redneck themed party was a bit more successful. One guy dressed up, although he did come wearing some overalls we had just seen in the women’s section of the Salvation Army earlier that day. Maybe clothing sections don’t matter to rednecks. I wouldn’t know.

College kept us busy, kept us studying. We needed these nights to lay aside the books and grades and enjoy simply being. Being here. Being family. Being welcomed in, as we were, no exclusions. We were occupied with becoming grown-up, and here is where could at once practice it, and still dance in the happiness of being young and not knowing what we were doing. I pray it was a gracious haven for any who ever came. It was for me.

Maybe these spots of fellowship even sparked something lifelong and good. One admired fellow began to come when we invited him, and soon one of us fell in love and is now sharing life and hospitality and tea with him every day. (Heidi and John, you are sorely missed.)

Don’t let it die, friends. It may look different than it did, because our lives ever shift. It may be harder, as I’m finding, to start over in a brand new place. But we need open doors for the opening of hearts.

changing and still

I’m sorry, my world is spinning again
And I need to hold on to you harder than I did yesterday.
You are standing so still and strong,
Your arms wrapped around my shakiest parts
Where I need to know most that I am safe.
I know you are weak, too,
Holding me because you need to right the wrong.
Yet, you are here with me, and
This tells me that you and I cannot be snatched, because
There are even stronger arms.

I am afraid of the rocking and churning of
Inconsistency and the sharp edges of
Our broken pieces and the tender, deep pain of
The spots we’ve been wounded.
We hurt, and we hurt each other more.
We get sick with the falling down and the lifting up,
Our sea legs wanting the firmness of the
Everlasting hills, but still wobbling with the
Chaos we’ve been taken from.

We are being moved by wise hands that love us,
Not the unruly depths we nearly drowned in, remember that
Awful unrest? That will all be swallowed up in life, and
We’ll soon be fit to run, even to the highest mountain,
Where all is real and right.
There our changing will end, and be
Glory to the Eternally Same.

O Lord! My heart is sick,
Sick of this everlasting change;
And life runs tediously quick
Through its unresting race and varied range;
Change finds no likeness to itself in Thee,
And wakes no echo in Thy mute Eternity.
– F. Faber

this is new.

I feel more like a child than an adult, most days. All this feels new, all this takes more trying.  Feeling ignorant and a bit silly, I think I move in awkward, trembling fits and starts rather than smooth, bounding bravery. Then I hear someone say (probably you), that change is new, and new tries take failure most times, and that doesn’t change the beauty and goodness of it all, so breathe easy.

Sometimes I feel lost without a structure, without someone spelling things out. Now, there is so little of that, and I don’t know what to do with this extra movement. My living never was very rigid by its looks, but it seemed there was always some sort of grade or rubric at the end of it all to check-check-check and pass with flying colors. If not on paper, then in my head.

Now, do I still judge by inward obsessive tendencies (on their way out of me, but still there, fighting the light and the sturdy Door.) Or by trying to shape a confident-worker-woman look, so detailed that I start to believe it? Or by how many times my husband complimented me today, as compared with other days? Or by making it through a grocery shift without ruffling customers or letting bosses see me weak or faulty?

Or… need there be a judging at all? Do I need routine, or sameness, or comfortable, padded living, tiptoed through, so nothing can pierce me? So no change can knock me? So no self-construed red pen can mark against me? I need a different anchor, a different judge of me.

I think there’s slow peeling going on, a shedding to my raw parts, a salve of the Heavenly Father’s violent, tender grace touching me to the quick, as I unfurl colors you haven’t seen in me yet. (Some not worthy of the word “color,” but they hold their own hue just the same.) You are helping it, too, I imagine. Don’t stop the good exposure, even if I flinch. We’ll look again and smile in the future days, when minds and things aren’t so shadowy. Especially when that best harbor and shade make us finally glorious. When we’re finally you and me and home.

But I will need your hand, I will need your praying, because risk is a frightful word. Leaping and stretching and filling a space is daunting. Believing is hard. Tell me again, if I forget, that I can’t know or make the end, but it is okay to live partly seeing, partly knowing, yet brave to the uttermost, because grace is steady and enough.


At the front window,
I found purple puddles
in the lot.
They showed me a sky,
severally hued
and singing of the storm’s end
as it swayed into night.
I gasped in the screen’s bold allowance of
cool, better air for my small lungs,
and felt soothed of trouble.

(I couldn’t fix it all today,
and my creations, my tries,
fell limp and sorry with the spilled
Goldfish. Or so it felt.)

Mozart played next. With another shivering
sip of rain’s vanish, I stood and heard:
“Move and dance with the sky, darling.
Your shadows do not undo the light,
or shake your place there.”

Moving, belonging, relearning of
the rightness, being made —
the goodness, even now —
the freedom, really mine.

two making home.

This place, here,
It is becoming home.

We are taking root, for the time, in this corner of Locust Street. It feels sweeter with every day’s learning what our life is and can be. The familiarity of things is deepening, and we welcome it and rest better.

We are learning to love and live as one, he and I being two vastly different souls yet profoundly united and same. It is nearly like starting life from infancy. I make new steps, mostly wobbly, unsure, but the graceful, steadier ones are taking over. Only now, he is with me in the stepping, and my giving to him is one with my taking from him, somehow. Our hearts are in the open, together, and we realize the weight of words and looks and wounds and grace. They are intertwined, these hearts and the rest of us. There are two who must balance now, two who must face what is deeper-down when those stumbles peel more skin, and two to pick up the mess, soothe and heal.

So we are stepping into a liturgy, for the inward dancing in the outward goodness we have. We are forming frames and rituals. And they are not rigid, but freeing. They give fluidity to our dance as we slow down and perfect our steps, because these are the parts that time returns us to, the parts that are turning into normal (but yet are sacred beyond knowing.) These help us hold on to our promises, and even face the bigger things.

Not all of these parts have been chosen by us, but they are just right for fitting into life together. Parts like the late work nights, making our two-to-ten sleep schedule a new normal, and noontime still appropriate for breakfast-eating. Or the ten dollar load of laundry at the Depot every Wednesday, while we catch up on our internet interactions at the chained-up tables there, then debate folding styles for t-shirts and whether or not you even bother with folding underwear. Or the forever pile of dishes we wash, sometimes grumbling right after praising that we have eaten again, holding full plates and full stomachs. Or the late-night open-Bible readings and wonderings, the haven where we rest our confusion and hold on to certain things.

And it is because of these shifts nearer into oneness, nearer into love, that we embrace this touchable place where we live the everyday. Home is being made.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.