October 10th, 2014



This past week, I called my friend Jeanenne and asked (after months of missing her but not seeing or talking to her) if the children and I could come to San Antonio for an overnight at her house since they had off from school. She said yes, and so we went.

When I was starting out in my 30s, I met Jeanenne and she quickly filled the role of a mentor in my life; now, these fourteen years later, she is the dearest friend and more — like a grandmother to my children and to me a loving older sister.

Often, after spending time with close friends, Mathilde tries to sort out who is just a friend or acquaintance and who is more than that, closer to family. We are graced to have many friends who are familial, sharing a space in our hearts where trust and faithfulness are paramount, as is a history and shared life together.

This visit, I delighted to watch Liesl sit on Jeanenne’s lap and learn how to make a shark tooth necklace together, and later to watch Jeanenne teach Liesl to play Scrabble. I am grateful for her and the way she pours love into people, including my little beloveds. 

I also enjoyed soaking in the company of her friend who is a chaplain at a veteran’s hospital. This woman has a light and a brightness that is rooted in the Holy Spirit, and she left me (through the course of ordinary conversation — because that’s who she is) with two passages that Jesus spoke: 

Matthew 11: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” And Matthew 12 and Luke 11 wherein Jesus tells a parable about demons and reveals that we are all occupied with something.

With the first, I recalled how I have stumbled and fallen away on account of Jesus when I didn’t like the circumstances of my life and was tired of submitting to them. With the parable, I’m stuck with that image of being occupied with something, and how empty of God, “… the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

It’s hard to leave heavenly places, but we did today, and we drove home from San Antonio to Austin to make an afternoon appointment. Tomorrow we go for another one-night stay; this time camping. 

September occupied me with a bit of melancholy that resisted the change in my children’s days and development. A tinge of fear grips me there as I don’t live in the moment of who they are now but in the wondering over who they will become. October, and I submit.

And I think of another verse, one that speaks of the power of God to transcend what’s seen and to occupy — “…to give unto them beauty for ashes…”  Isaiah 61:3



Photos (from top to bottom): Spotted last week, Liesl’s handmade bookmark; Liesl and Jeanenne at Scrabble, and coloring with Mathilde; a splash of milky, sugary coffee for Mathilde as we left Jeanenne’s today; “My coffee is mo better than your coffee,” Mathilde said.


September 30th, 2014

Psalm 32


When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.

We went to West Texas earlier this month, and though the trip was a few short days (some of which were occupied by a car ride or by my duties at work), the wide landscape and the dark, dark sky opened up my heart a bit, echoing the openness of the land itself.

Walking on the hiking trail at the Davis Mountains State Park, the sight of a mere rock with volcanic elements became a meditation in and of itself. The knowledge that the area’s volcano-formed mountains are 35 million years old makes me — perpetually tall in pride — feel appropriately small. What is man that thou art mindful of him, you who created all this and more? The same sense of worship arises when I hear the post-doc explain her hunt for galaxies 9 billion light-years away. How can we exist in a universe so vast and a land so old? How can we, who are little more than ants in scale next to all this, boast of anything? The curiosity that takes us to new frontiers of science and art is itself a gift. God bless the scientists and artists. We need them and their stories.


Creation shouts glory and praise, and I felt inclined to shout it on this trip. Seeing flowers I do not know the names of and hearing birds who are small and also nameless to me put my mind outside of myself and onto the one who created it.

For awhile there, Mathilde would be going about her day and ask questions like, “Did God make that building? Did God make that sign?” She was seeking to know the boundaries of her world and its origins. What does God do? What is humanity’s contribution to this world?


The night we returned from our trip, our eighteen-year-old cat Yuki-Chan died. He was an old man and had for a long time been inconvenient in the way he made messes around the house due to incontinence. I, for the last few months of his life, was pretty irritated about his presence in our home. When he was dying, I felt repentant of all that and realized once again how much I orient my life around convenience. Love is not convenient, and I am not much in the business of love.

The silence of anger, of resentment, and of envy is one that eats through bones and soul in a most decaying manner. I drove, was it yesterday or today?, and thought in an epiphany that I needed to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with the Lord himself. I need to tell him that I am tired of all this — all this that is outside my control to change. For I cannot even change my own heart. But I still need him. No matter anything else.

The glory of the volcanic rocks are in the same place where I saw them two weeks ago. All that glory still exists. And the best I can do is to name glory daily, as I name my sin, even as I go about that which is mundane.

A last thought, last night at dinner, Charles and I had a conversation with Liesl and tried to convey to her how much we want to hear about her school day and even more than that — we long to know her interior thoughts and desires. She is not forthcoming in stories about her life, and we want her to be so with us. It was a difficult conversation, for her and for us, and I felt as we pressed her that love is the gate for being able to know her. Constant corrections and a harsh tone (both things I fall prey to) will keep that door closed.

My bones wasted away when I was silent about my sin, or when I was angry or unforgiving with others. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing. ..

September 9th, 2014

Time and distance

Last night I returned to a poetry group that I had started attending when Liesl was around the age of two or three. When I became pregnant with Mathilde, when all the life went out of me, I stopped attending. I didn’t have a single brain cell to spare for anything that seemed extra.

I didn’t attend during Mathilde’s first year because I was the mother of a newborn, and I was tired as she stirred and nursed through the night. I didn’t go back the next year when she was two and Liesl was five, nor did I return the year after that, nor after. So I did the math, and give or take the occasional time I popped in for a lone workshop, it hurt to realize that six years have passed since I was a part of the group.

It is never hard to receive the criticism for my poetry and writing because I’m so aware that I have much further to go. It’s harder to hear criticism about who I am or how I am in the way that such criticisms come up between persons. Still, it’s ridiculous that I think I’m ever defensible. I don’t think any of us are. I have a friend who recently broke up with another friend (or did the equivalent of that, anyway), and seeing how we tend to quit one another when things get most difficult makes me think we show our least or most humanity in such times. Least because who among us doesn’t deserve being quit upon from time to time, and most because we are so feeble when it comes to doing the kind of loving that requires real persistence and effort.

I feel grieved in the way this plays out societally through media and the life lived out online. We all live in glass houses, and so many are throwing stones.

Perhaps it was no different in Jesus’s day, when Jesus himself broadcast a message in the sand for some pious men to see. It was a word to be considered before they strung up a woman they deemed to be unworthy of respect and deserving of their judgment. Those on the left are as guilty of doling out the judgments these days as are those on the right.

Last night, the poem I brought to the workshop to be critiqued was one I wrote in May that I had titled Fireflies. It felt clunky to me, even as I chopped it down to half its size for the workshop. The poem is about how small things bring light or reconciliation. 

Condemnation looms large, laid down from a distance without intimate knowledge of the who, what, or why of a thing. Lovingkindess is small like a breath, and is knowingly spoken. In the biblical Hebrew, lovingkindness (chesedis used only in cases where there is some recognized tie between persons. It’s not indiscriminate; neither is it fleeting nor sentimental.

Six years have passed. And even more time than that. 

But I've got a girl in the war, Paul
The only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music
And pray that she makes it through.
—Josh Ritter