Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Just Write: Here on the floor

Since moving into this home, I've especially loved our kitchen.  Snug and cozy, warm with light and vibrant with color, walls of white cupboards that feel fresh and farm-like, a window peeking out at mountains on a clear day.  But lately, I've found a new reason to love our kitchen - and it has nothing to do with the joys of cooking and the ambiance of home.

I find God here on the floor.  

God, here, in my favorite room, is my favorite part of home.  And he serves up the best food. 

I sit here, with only orange glow of streetlights seeping through semi-closed blinds.  I feel my back against the wall, and I feel him.  Sturdy against my back, propping me up.

I come to this kitchen and I empty the contents of me, spill them out on the floor.  The belly of my soul rumbles in hunger, and I wait to be filled.  

Two nights ago, I sat up in bed, in the dark, unable to sleep.  So I did what any normal person would do: I went to the kitchen and I sat on the floor and I emptied bitter tears.  

Sometimes, I feel it in my gut, that I'm drowning in failure.  Failing dreams.  Failing friendships.  Failing marriage.  Failing as a daughter.   Failing as a writer.  Failing to love.  Here, a big fat "F" is rotting in my belly and I come hungry for real food, for real life, because I know the one who feeds me here, in this place, has something more than this rotten fare for my soul.  And I need to sit here, on the floor, and hear it in order to digest it. 

He whispers, Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.  Fill it with good things.  With true things.  With redemptive things.  With grace.  With love.  With all that I Am.  

Here on the floor, he erases that report card with the column of big red "F"s, and he says to me, You're enough, because I'm enough.  

And I'm no longer thinking of my failures.  I'm lost in the vastness of love and acceptance and grace that is him, so sweet and satisfying that each time I taste it, it's both oddly familiar and utterly new to the senses.  

And I beg him, oh I beg him, to teach me.  For it's as clear and crisp as a blue October day in Seattle: I don't want anything else in life but to love like this.

*Joining up today with the Just Write community on Heather King's delightful blog...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Five-Minute Friday (Take 2): The voice of grief

 Disclaimer: After posting on the topic of "Voice" with Five-Minute Friday, I couldn't get these thoughts out of my mind.  Gritty, raw, unedited, but for some reason, this is the "Voice" I wanted to write out earlier but wasn't brave or clear enough to do.  This is not a woe-is-me post, and I hope it's not read that way.  It's just, well, honest - and ultimately, grateful.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I sit huddled on kitchen linoleum, knees to chest like a diver falling forward, somersaults in mid-air.  I open my mouth, then shut it, afraid to hear my own voice.  Afraid if I let it out, it will sound like a car alarm in the night that the neighbor won't shut off.  

So I suffocate my voice in a wad of blanket, until my face is all wet, until my whole body shudders for its release.

And I let it out.  

And it's not pretty.  It rises and heaves, cracks and whimpers, wails and whispers.  I press into a corner hard, as if I could disappear into drywall.  As if I could flee this sorrow, flee this voice.  I don't want anyone to hear or see.  I don't want to be alone.

And I know I'm not.

There's just one who can see me like this.  Just one I trust to still love me, still love my voice, to not turn away from this puddle on the floor that is me.

How many times, I ask, have I known these arms that I've never seen, wrapped around me like a Papa?  How many times have I leaned in weary breaths against this chest I cannot feel, but somehow know is real as the wooden shelf I now rest my head upon? How many times have these scarred hands cupped my face and whispered grace and peace?  I cannot count.

I know no true relief but this.

This one who I cannot hide my voice from.

Five-minute Friday: Voice

Hey there.  I'm linking up again (on Friday this time!) with the community of Five-Minute Friday-ers at Lisa Jo's blog today.  Each time, I marvel at how little I eek out in five minutes and wonder if I shouldn't "cheat" by adding another five minutes to my exercise.  I guess the whole point isn't to adhere strictly to a time frame as much as to free us up to write without over-thinking, over-editing, and possibly (probably), over-writing.  Often times, less really is more.  But if I get on a roll today, I just may break the rules, and I hope that's ok.  The most important rule of this gig, however, is to visit the blog of another writer linking up with FMR and spread some good cheer.  That, really, is the coolest part.

So, here we go.  Or I go.  The prompt today is "Voice."


I'm one of those.  You know, the girl who has to speak to God out loud.  It's how I know I wouldn't make the perfect Catholic.  

Sometimes, I wonder if it's not just to hear my own voice.  Those prayers that aren't exactly prayers, but long-winded monologues that counselors hear behind closed office doors, with clients stretched out on a sofa.  

Sometimes, I know it's because so many things brewing inside don't get voiced with any other soul.  For God's ears alone.  And that's a comfort; He alone knows all the nuances of my voice, the things said and unsaid, the birth of words from anguished soul's vapor, grappling for release.  

And sometimes, I just need to say it out loud to believe it - or to discard it.  Whatever it is.  Often, it boils down to trust.  It's not enough for me to "feel" trust or to "feel" gratitude.  For me, these things must be voiced.  In fact, not until they are uttered aloud do I often feel them enforced in my heart.  Words force me to stand behind my voice.  And the irony is, God knows all the complexities and hypocrisies, the desires and deflating of desire, the hunger and the indifference, the jockeying for love and acceptance, the deep ache within, all without saying a word.  Without hearing my voice, he knows.  

And still, he delights to hear my voice.  He said this through a poet's voice, and slowly, I let it tumble out, until it's a flooded stream.  And maybe, O God, let it be, when I empty my voice I can finally sit still to hear his.


[Ok.  I confess, that was a lot longer than five minutes.  And yet, about the same length as the average writer produces in a third the time].

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just Write: Between poetry and plain

I've been writing in poetry lately.  I've been wanting images to do the speaking for me.  Because there are times I just don't want to say it plain.  You know, as it really is.  It's at least a little prettified and artsy with colorful imagery and photos and sparse, succinct words.  Sometimes, I prefer that.  And I've been wondering, why.  Not really the poetry itself, but why this forceful pull back to simpler times, back to childhood - memories of Papa, children's books, the lingering there in nostalgia, as if I've reverted back twenty years and want to stay there awhile.  Is this just the autumn season, or is it more?

But of course, I can answer that, in part.  I am, after all, educated in psychology and counseling.  I know enough what lies beneath all this.  And I still don't want to write it.  I, who am prone to introspection; I, who am painfully self-aware, observant; I don't want to dive into this pool.

Heather wrote this on her blog today, too, in her own story.  About that pit of anxiety, ever-present, that she walks around, picks up, puts down, comes back to, each day.  She didn't write the whys.  She didn't write the shame-on-yous.  She didn't write the I-need-to-pray-mores.  She just wrote the trail of thoughts, the thinking about thinking, the wrestling and wrangling to stay present in the moment, to breathe, to look, to see what's right here, even if the anxiety lies just a breath beyond.  And oh, how I relate to all that

This is all so cryptic, I know.  I fight the urge to wrap this up neatly, but I can't.  My writing today, I'm afraid, is not about understanding or enlightening or making plain what is.  It's simply admitting that it's nice, sometimes, to hide within poetry and pictures and children's books.  I'll come out in awhile.

And here, let me finish by indulging, yet again, in a picture.  

We were at the pumpkin patch on Sunday, Ricardo and Mom trailing behind me in the fields while I hunted for the "right" pumpkins to take home.  And the child Amber just couldn't walk past this one, couldn't leave it to rot in the fields alone (as if a pumpkin's "feelings" need to be validated, I know). 

As I type this, an old man sits with his wife here at a table in Starbucks, spooning chocolate drizzled whipped cream into his mouth from the top of his mocha, his translucent, wrinkled hand shaking.  A baseball hat rests on the table, beside him, with the words "Holy cow, I'm 90!"across the front.

There are things about us, too, that don't need to change with age. 

*Joining up today with Heather's blog and all the writers at Just Write...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Five-minute Friday (on Saturday): Look

Yep, I know.  It's not Friday.  I'm still going to squeeze this one in, however, because I don't feel like it but I think I need it.  And I think it might be more of a soul-spilling sort of post, so we'll see where my words take me today, in five minutes (or maybe seven, because I'm just a slow writer).  Join with me, a day late, at Lisa Jo's blog for the Five-Minute Friday free write.  The prompt today is "Look."



above the rising sea level;

one step ahead, not at your feet,
or at the cloud of dust behind;

behind this painted wooden face, sometimes, reluctant puppet;

beyond this nose and all its cares;

beneath the piles of words;

between the dog-eared pages of story;

into the silence;

away from the fear;

straight at the face of the only one who knows
exactly how to look at you.

See him here.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Just Write: A hundred thousand heel lifts

My soul ponders words of an ancient poet,
"To everything, there is a season..."

This is a day for words to make space for pictures to speak truth.
God whispers of beauty,
and light,
here, in nature's art.
A doorway in the night,
a crack of light
yawns into darkness.


This vibrancy in death,
it speaks in balmy breeze across my cheeks,
in colorful illumination,
visible only with the light on.
Everything, beautiful.
Everything can grow.
Even here.
 In birthing and dying, 
in changing of seasons,
in weeping and laughing,
in mourning and dancing,
in keeping and throwing away,
in breaking and building.
My physical therapist speaks poetry and doesn't know it -
how healing comes to my ruptured achilles,
now repaired,
in one hundred thousand heel lifts.
It comes to broken hearts much the same.
"A time to break,
and a time to build."
The rhythms and seasons of life,
ever ebbing and flowing.
And here,
God turns on the light,
creates a cozy haven of rest,
and says,
Sit with me awhile,
and I'll tell you a story of redemption.

*Joining up today with the community of Just Write, on Heather King's blog.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Five-minute Friday: Race

Friday is almost over, I know.  But still, I'm joining up with Lisa-Jo Baker and the Five Minute Friday gang over at her blog, Gypsy Mama, for a little free writing.  Everyone is given a prompt to write on, with little or no editing, for five minutes only.  It's amazing how little I can eek out in five minutes, while others can pull out so much so quickly .  As with so many things, though, I'm a slow starter.  Writing's no exception.  And so, the prompt today is "Race..."


Words race in blue scribbles across paper, keeping pace just behind racing thoughts.  Until thoughts tire and slow to a jog and my trailing words tumble into their hind end with a skid... thump.  I didn't know until I picked up pen and let ink flow how these thoughts would spurt through an ever-widening hole in a dam plugged up.  I let them flow until they drain, until they trickle, until all is quiet but the racing of my heart as it pumps blood back at me, written in my own scrawl.

How I find my voice here, in this racing, is sheer gift.  Writing has always been my cheapest therapy.


Photo credit

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Just Write: Berenstain bears

Something about this time of year, the way the seasons turn colorful pages, digs up buried treasure from childhood.  Nostalgia courses hot cocoa and marshmallows through my veins, and I gladly surrender to its surge.  And we all know, don’t we, that nostalgia is rarely an accurate storyteller of the past, but more so, the past that existed in our dreams and imagination; a patchwork quilt stitched through The True and The Hoped For, bound together by the same threads.   

Saturday I walked with a friend to the local thrift store, browsed on my knees through shelves of children’s books, in search of a few treasures to take home.  I’ve started a collection, what I hope will be a legacy of stories and love of books passed on to children one day.  My fingers slide down the spine of a tall hardcover and my eyes light with recognition of old friends - The Berenstain Bears.  And this, an almanac of seasons according to the Bear family, from 1973, eight years older than me.  The bubbles of letters are filled in with pen and a few scribbles mark the book as well loved.  I happily take it home.


As pages turn, I turn back to younger years, and my heart remembers the feelings evoked more than two decades ago by these pictures and stories.  The longing for life like this, in a hollowed out tree house with curtains in the window, black night skies with yellow stars, an owl in the tree above my window, a family sitting down to meals together and friends in the tree house across the field.  Even as a child of ten years, or less, I knew.  Life isn’t like this; and still, I tucked this dream in my memory. 

I bring home other treasures Saturday, both hardback and paper, Spanish and English, to stow on my shelf.  I follow the urge to gather leaves, to paint and laminate, and create my own autumn inside our home.  As a child, I always hoped to preserve leaves forever, scattering their beauty throughout our house, only to watch them dry with brittle edges after a few days on display.  We didn’t have a laminator then.  So instead I constructed ghosts out of Kleenex, drew smiley faces with black marker, and hung them from our light fixtures.  These would last from one year to the next, stowed in my Nona’s old wooden bureau.

Ricardo and I make a trip to Target last night and I stall near the entrance in the bargain section, always on the hunt for more treasures.  A pair of turkey tea light holders, two painted wooden pumpkins, a set of plastic bowls with happy turkey faces encircling the bottom.  All silly, I know, and still they set my heart giddy happy, and oh, how my husband loves me, smiling love at my enthusiasm and just going with it.  

And what, really, does growing up mean, if not growing my heart wider and deeper, both childlike and wrinkled, but hopefully never brittle and withered.  I grow up and I grow away from sophistication, leaning back in my chair to those days of Berenstain Bears and houses in trees and collection of leaves.  And I think I prefer this because real life is everywhere and I see it with eyes wide open and I try not to hide away, but sometimes we need to preserve a cozy haven of nostalgia.  

*I'm joining the wonderful community of writers at Heather's blog today for Just Write...   

Friday, October 5, 2012

Five minute Friday: Welcome

I'm trying something a little new today.  I'm joining up with Lisa-Jo Baker and the Five Minute Friday gang over at her blog, Gypsy Mama, for a little free writing.  Everyone is given a prompt to write on, with little or no editing, for five minutes only.  So the prompt today is "Welcome."

Here we {GO}.

I'm traipsing through a shag carpet of leaves, cloth bag slung across my body, bumping soft on my hip.  Thirty-one year old woman turned ten year old girl, age no longer matters.  I am simply collector of beauty. 

Summer is passing the torch to autumn in a blaze of glory, and here I am to gather treasures from the ground.  The trees shed their clothes, bleeding out crimson, persimmon and gold in piles around their feet.  

And I awe, girl-child fully alive in my woman body.  I am these trees, too.  Bleeding out color, always in transition from one season to the next.  Life and death and budding and blooming and bleeding and falling and barren and waiting.  

Welcome autumn.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Just Write: Pondering pirates and poverty

He breezed through the library like Johnny Depp, a modern version of his Captain Sparrow.  Long, stringy braids threaded pink at the ends swung down beneath a red stocking cap.  He wore a pink sparkly backpack with a girl from one of the many teeny bopper shows on the Disney Channel, a neon green reusable grocery sack slung across one shoulder.  With his arms covered in pink argyle sweater gloves, the kind that stretch all the way past the elbow, he flipped through rows of CDs, bangles clacking around his wrists.  Simultaneously, he’d reach a leg back to kick a wayward chair back into place with his pirate-booted foot.  Anything out of place seemed to be a personal nuisance to him, and so with gloved hands and booted feet he pushed or kicked them back into their rightful place in his universe. All the while, muttering occasional words under his breath I couldn't decipher. 

I stared in blatant fascination.  I couldn't help it.  He seemed out of place in downtown Bellevue, whereas he would have blended in up on Capitol Hill.  The people watching isn't often this colorful here on the Eastside. 

I'm still getting used to a different landscape, traveling east across the water from Seattle.  It's an eight minute drive to downtown from where I live, traffic depending, but a world away.  Life is more homogenous, at least on the exterior.  Lots of SUVs, BMWs, Mercedes and Volvos.  Lawns that look like gardens tucked in lush forest or perched overlooking Lake Washington.  There's admittedly not much in the way of shopping, and upon moving here, I had to adjust to the virtual absence of eclectic boutiques and hole-in-the-wall cafes.   We do have one delicatessen hot spot that oozes local charm and culinary goodness, Stompsky's, the only place on our island I know of where I can stop for a cup of non-Starbucks or Tully's coffee.  Stumptown, to be exact, which makes me very happy.

But I think it's safe to say we have more parks and baseball fields per capita than our neighboring Seattle.  The first month I lived here, when I was able to explore my new surroundings in running shoes, I was constantly stumbling upon hidden parks.  What surprised me was how refreshing it was, the experience of these discoveries, compared to the thrill of stumbling upon a new cafe.  After ten years of living in the fast pace of the city, my whole body craved the peaceful stillness of the outdoors, and I didn't even know it until my life transplanted here.  I leaned into the simplicity of having little in my tiny part of the world but trees, lake, mountain views, trails, parks and quiet neighborhoods.  

When I look at my soul's reflection in the mirror, I wonder, sometimes, if the same girl that inhabited this body five years ago is still staring back at me.  The girl who possessed the energetic zeal to fight many battles I don't care enough to fight any more, partly because my priorities have changed.  I'd barely passed through Mercer Island before moving here, adamant that I would never live in a place like this, let alone here, sputtering the words with a righteous contempt.  How many "nevers" have come back to knock on my door, I'm not sure. - but lots.  And this "never" turns out to be one I've gratefully embraced in a season of needing rest.  God knew I needed this place, at least for a season.  Now I'm the one whose reply of where she lives elicits raised eyebrows and awkward jesting from resident Seattle-ites: "Oh! Reeallllly. Well, excuse me!"  As if I've crossed over from Zooey Deschanel to Paris Hilton with a move across the water.  It makes me chuckle now, because I get it.  I used to think that, too.  I used to think a lot of things that have now escaped me.  

And still, I doubt some of these changes.  Am I ok, I wonder, or am I sell-out?  Is it alright that my dreams have evolved from wanting to raise a family in the most diverse, low-income part of the city to hungering to make a home on a small piece of land, just far enough from the city to catch our breath, with animals and a garden and space to run without having to drive in our car to get there?  The older I get, the more I crave dirt, wide open skies, fresh air and stillness.  I crave sanctuary.  I loved these things before, but I never let myself want them.  I felt I needed to sacrifice them on the altar of "urban ministry" and that I could never really love "the poor" from here.  But as I read on another blog today, "the poor" don't exist in a class of people, but in individual stories and faces.  They are not a destination or a part of the city or a certain group of people.  Could it be that my definitions of how to love and live life have more than changed - but expanded - to include a type of life I never allowed myself to want before?  Could it be that I can actually love people from all different walks of life just as well outside the "inner city" as I could within, if I'm willing to be intentional? 

My answers to these wonderings tip back and forth, the tension of a scale suspended in frail balance.  Yet as I peer into that mirror, I see a hazy reflection of me staring back, more as I really am, unclothed in zealous dreams, just a woman poor.  I am the poor one and my heart is the inner city and I need transformation.  And here, in this corner of my soul, is where I know true riches, where the potential for beauty shines luminous and pure from a source other than me.  I'm the one who needs a Savior.   

I see, too, that at least one thing has not changed.  I am still a wrestler. 

*Joining the Just Write community today at Heather King's blog