June 25, 2010

Chocolate and Limes [jana]

You name me. Chocolate and limes, bitter
and bitter, two kinds and two rhymes.

I need to know: how is the bitter made sweet?
Is it dancing along a Venetian street?
Floating on cushions just at water level?
Roses and oceans of wine and unwind a little?
Barren as desert compared to these hills
Childless and broken,
nameless and homeless,
void and waiting on crucible change.

chocolate and limes
and me...a poisoned well?

Only true when I fail to remember,
Remember barren is also to be free to love, challenging
the bitter in me to transform, turning sweet; ice to water.
I find my children in faces around me.
Rock in river, step for tentative foot,
Brief hold, refuge for the half-drowned.
Each contact strengthens me, too
Remember, remember, to be an island is not the same
as to be a desert.
O my soul,
An island, not always a desert.

...continue reading...

My Husband Says Now I Know How Brett Favre Feels [olivia]

You had to wear black, didn’t you?

With your soft, high palettes
With your white hot pitch
With your buttery dissonance
With your bright eyes and smooth skin
With your hammock of sound strung so tight that your notes
broke my heart

You sang at my funeral
You sang at your funeral
You had to wear black

...continue reading...

June 22, 2010

Considering the Lilies [vanessa]

I am so weary
Of this game of hide and seek.
I can't find You here.

My daughter, consider the lilies.

Can You see me here?
Can You hear my anxious pleas?
Are You listening?

My daughter, consider the lilies.

That's it, I'm finished
I'm tired and I'm done with this
Game You are playing.

My daughter, consider the lilies.

I wish that You would
Give up on me in the ways
I give up on You.

My daughter, consider the lilies.

You don't, You can't and
You won't. Why do you love me?
I don't understand.

My daughter, consider the lilies.

Are You speaking now?
I hear something, but I can't
make out all the words.

My daughter, consider the lilies.

You are telling me
To look out of the window?
All I see are birds.

My daughter, consider the lilies.

Wait, I see something...
The birds are plucking out worms
From the warm, moist soil.

My daughter, consider the lilies.

They look so peaceful.
I can hear them singing now -
Such beautiful songs.

My daughter, consider the lilies.

Have You told them where
Your secret hiding place is?
Will you tell me, too?

My daughter, consider the lilies.

Let me make sure I
Am hearing You correctly -
You were always here?

My daughter, consider the lilies...

...continue reading...

Winter Wonder(land) [annie o]

The following are excerpts from a larger piece on my relationship with winter.

Early 1990s

I sit straddling a giant snow ball, which has obliged my imagination and is now actually a giant caterpillar, upon whose back I ride through the air in a never ending story of my own.

Since it is dark out I think it is very late. I think it might be nine o'clock.

November 19, 1996

We are lining up for hot lunch and the power goes out. Everyone talks about it, but no one changes their plans because the power will come back on soon. It always does.

After lunch I go to Challenge group in a room with a skylight. Out of habit, my math teacher puts a slide on the overhead projector and flips the switch. We are confused for a moment when it does not turn on.

After school Christine tells me she got to come home early; there were not enough windows at the high school so they had to send everyone home.

We want to watch the news to see what is wrong, but the TV won't turn on.

My father, coming home from work, knows it is an ice storm and everyone is out of power. We will be out of power for a long time, so he has bought logs at the grocery store and we use our fire place for the first time. We huddle in the living room around a battery powered radio near the fire.

It is dark and cold outside. It is dark and cold inside, too. The house, yard, world has been encased in ice and everything, everyone is freezing. The world outside is a giant, interactive Ansel Adams photograph. Delicate crystals of ice cover every surface like lace: the trees are dressed up for a wedding or a first communion. A few trees cannot bear the weight of ice and snow and fall aimlessly on power lines and homes.

We play board games at the neighbor’s house to occupy our long dark hours. Playing Life, someone lands on a square I have never noticed before: Tree falls on house, Pay $15,000 if not insured. We laugh darkly, remembering the white evergreens in our own yards.

That night we sleep in REI sleeping bags inside our house. We shiver through the night. The next night we contemplate sleeping at my Dad's office, where the power has already been restored and there is heat. Once we begin to pack our sleeping bags, the lights come on.

Everyone is excited, but I am secretly disappointed that the adventure is over already.

My siblings tell of their friends who live farther out in the country, whose power is still out even until Thanksgiving. My siblings are glad to eat a hot turkey when the day comes. In my mind the power is still out and I must learn slowly to live by candlelight and batteries. But when we sit down for dinner I am glad for turkey as well.

December 19, 1998

The thermometer outside reads six degrees Fahrenheit. Instead of canceling our plans, my family and I pull on long underwear, wool socks, extra shirts, thick ski coats and small black gloves so we can walk our skis and ski boots to the car. We bring an extra layer of gloves, hats, fleece neck- and ear-warmers, and ski goggles.

We drive north. We drive up a mountain. We listen to the radio broadcasting the House of Representatives, who have just voted to impeach President Clinton. I am shivering in the back seat.

The mountain is empty except for ski lift operators. It is colder than it was back home. We buy lift tickets and are first and last in line to get on. I pull my goggles over my eyes and my neck-warmer over my nose. At the top of the lift, my family gathers looking down the hill.

We are too cold to notice that from the top of the mountain, on a perfectly crisp clear day that is too cold for snow, all the mountains surrounding us are glistening in the sun, shining pristine white, black-green pines showing their year round color for miles. We don't notice that the world is upside down, and we are among the clouds over the bright blue ocean of sky above. Instead we feel each breath sharply stinging our throats, so we point our skis down the hill and race back to the lodge. We sit in the lodge for an hour, where we thaw and discuss whether or not to go home.

We get on the chair lift again and ride through painful slices of cold air. At the top, my parents urge us not to wait for them: Go to the lodge. We are huddled over and speaking into fleece, struggling to understand that my father's glasses fogged up under his goggles, and the fog has frozen over. He bravely bares his face to the weather; my mother bares her hand with fingernails to scrape the ice. And the way the wind beats them, and they huddle and hide, we might be on Everest.

My siblings and I slice through snow toward the lodge. I keep my skis parallel the whole run: I don't slalom, I don't snow plow, I don't slow down for anything. I artfully dodge trees and sisters and moguls and powder, and with Olympian speed and grace find myself nearing the lodge. I have never skied like this before. I will never ski like this again.

We spend another hour in the lodge thawing. I mention that I'm hungry and my mother reminds me of the granola bar she gave me to put in my pocket. I pull it out and remove it from its silver wrapper that claims it is a chewy granola bar. It is too hard to bite. Frozen like me.

Perhaps the air is too thin to think clearly, or the coldness has slowed our synapses, but we make one more run today. One more gloriously cold, skis-straight-down-the-mountain, faster than fast run. It is the last run of the day, but we must thaw in the lodge again before traipsing all the way to the car.

December 25, Early 2000s

We sit around the tree opening presents. Outside the grass is green, but I am still dreaming of a white Christmas.

We sit among crumpled wrapping paper, ribbons, and boxes, and eat cinnamon rolls for lunch in our pajamas when the snowflakes begin to fall.

December 2004

It is my first finals week in college. It is midnight and I have a test at 8 am tomorrow, for which I am almost ready.

Someone walking by my dorm room declares that the northern lights are outside; a rarity this far south. I drop my books and notes and grab my ski coat. I venture outside into a clearing in the woods behind my dorm. What little snow there was has melted, except where it was scraped into piles along the parking lots and roads. I lay on a friend's blanket she has laid out on a muddy patch, watching the white lights flickering and dancing like fire across the black sky.

After an hour everyone else has gone inside, complaining of the cold. I am under the spell--Abracadabra, Aurora Borealis--and I stay.

...continue reading...

June 18, 2010

The Battle Inside [liz]

The Battle Inside

The battle is certain
In every decision, reaction
I fight inside and out

There are those who want to mare and hurt
They want their way, and want me out
They spit their venom and watch it work
It is my strength, it is my weakness--
I am not immune to aggression

My opinion is one
A friend claims another
Yet together we fight, and still we fight each other
Opposing positions, practices, and power
I saw the fire, burned inside
And felt the beast within

Is it enough to not lose my cool?
Is it enough to just stand my ground?
Or is it all made loss if love does not abound?

I am in a battle
I will falter, but will not stop
To love my enemy, friend, and Maker

He first loved all.

...continue reading...

Blood and Bread [justin]

“It’s sacrilegious, I tell you, feeding the precious flesh of Christ to ducks. We’re probably bringing curses upon our parish because of it, you know.”

Henry always listened to my Monday morning rants while catching up on his Sunday paper. He took his coffee black–I knew this–but for 35 years I made it with a half teaspoon of sugar–he knew this. Black coffee connotates something strong, which Henry was, but he was also something of the endearing kind.

“It’ll be okay, Maggi. Besides, it's better than throwing it away and wasting it.”

Right after Henry served his time in the service, we got married and moved to the south side of the city. It was a more rundown part of town at the time, with little to do besides church events, porch dwelling, and the occasional 10-cent matinee where Cary Grant or Rock Hudson would keep us company for a bit, but we liked it. It wasn't long before my Henry was asked by the 5th Street parish to do some light janitorial work in his spare time and to also prep and set up the communion elements once a month.

Every second Saturday afternoon I would go with him to the market to pick up some low-alcohol content wine from Ginny's and then walk across the street to the bakery for some wafers. The Rector had specific instruction on what to buy, from whom to buy it, and how much to get. It would take only five minutes but be drawn out to nearly an hour as we talked with Phylis and Paul and Mabel. We only saw them once a month and this was our time to catch up. Nothing much changed in our stories, in fact Henry had a knack for attracting conversations that we had heard ten times before, but that others didn't remember telling. My Henry always listened as though it was the first time, even though it was rote to him, able to say it better than the originator. He did that with a lot of things in his life. Afterward, we went back to the parish, made sure everything was set for the morning and then took our place on the davenport in the sitting room for a moment and sat quietly before going home. There was something about the church that made it seem alive when it was only the two of us sitting there.

Back at breakfast I continued my discourse. "I just don't understand why Reverend John insists on the same amount of wafers every month. He knows we don't use half of them."

"Maybe he's hopeful that more people will come one communion Sunday and join the church. We wouldn't want to run out on them. How would we feel if that nice young couple who just began coming showed up and there was no supper for them? That wouldn't be very hospitable. Besides, the ducks like the bread." Henry said this with his half smile that would make me want to pop him if it didn't look so good on him.

"Henry, you know as well as I do that as soon as a family joins the parish, two people die within a month's end. The congregation has been the same size for the 35 years we’ve been there."

I remember this conversation because it was the last one I had with my Henry. He shuffled to his part time job later that morning and was hit by a car who never looked back. The injuries themselves were bad, but in the end it was the loss of his somewhat rare blood type that took Henry away from me. The doctors could possibly have saved him if they had more of the type in storage, but they didn’t. We didn't even get to say goodbye to each other. That's all I have to say about that.

Once things settled down from the funeral and family visiting, Reverend John thought it comforting to hand over the communion setup to me. Around this time he also decided to change from wafers to bread chunks, saying that he liked the imagery of the pieces all knowingly coming from one loaf, a very unifying symbol that we share in the same body that is Christ. All I know is that it was two dollars cheaper for a tedious amount of extra work.

Just like the what, whom, and how much, there was now a certain way to cut the fresh bread, according to the Rector, into “perfect sized” chunks; if too big it would take more than one bite, if too small it would be difficult to dip in the communion cup and not enough wine would be present. On top of this, no crust was to be present (that would require extra chewing, God forbid) and the bread was not to be smashed in the process as to make it more dense. This is how communion was prepared and served for the next 20 years. In a church like ours, it took some time for the parishioners to make the change, but once we got used to it, it was like it had always been this way.
Until today.

I sat alone in the second last pew on the east side of the building where the stained glass window of Jude, patron saint of lost causes, illuminates about mid morning and, like clockwork, right around the time we sing a hymn of response to the message. Communion starts and people slowly go to the front to partake of the wine and blood, the bread and flesh of my Jesus. I look down and to the side, as though I’m meditating or praying, but am really focusing out of the corner of my eye, noticing the reactions to the bread that is cut bigger than usual.

I notice multiple faces with strange looks on them, knowing something is off, but not quite sure what it is. I see a few people make a gag reflex or hear a cough signifying that the flesh of Christ was too hard for them to swallow today. They keep themselves well composed as to not disturb the service or bring embarrassment upon themselves. We all got used to the blood-soaked bread going down easy after one chew. We didn’t expect it to choke us; we did expect it to follow routine.

All of this, though, was mere shenanigans, an appetizer to the main course.

You see, Bill Simeleck was a deacon at the 5th Street parish. He was a mostly well-mannered, lifelong bachelor who owned his own paint business outside of town. We went to high school together, though never really knew each other except for the time or two he tried to get in my trousers. I always had the feeling he had a something for me. Henry would say, “Of course he has something for you. You’re beautiful Maggi.” He stopped making any subtle flirtatious moves once Henry passed.

About 5 years after the accident I heard by way of the Main Street Hair Parlor gossip that Bill Simeleck was in the hospital and wasn’t doing well. Apparently, for religious reasons, he was refusing any blood transfusions, though “it probably didn’t matter”, according to Betty Sue, who worked at the hospital, because “of his rare blood type.” He ended up recovering fine, but I later came to find that he had the same type as my Henry. I put two and two together and figured out that if Bill Simeleck wouldn’t receive blood, he wouldn’t give any either.

When you spend any decent amount of time with a person, you pick up on patterns and nuances of life. This goes the same for a small group of people if you pay attention close enough and this attention to the parishioners is what started the main course on its way.

I knew that Mary wouldn’t be here today because Friday night bingo was a blowout for her and she wouldn’t have money to put in the offering plate. I knew that the Checkets were visiting their son’s church this weekend, and that the Murphys were on vacation. I also knew Phillip wouldn’t take communion because he weaseled his way into a few extra pain meds at the pharmacy last night while I was picking up milk. Even weasels have consciences. There was somewhat of a guess as to how many other oddballs might be missing. I simply chose one hoping to be right.

I also knew that I wouldn’t be taking communion that day.

All this mattered because Bill Simeleck was always the last one to take communion. He waited until everyone else had gone. Some type of humble pride in putting others before himself and letting others know.

I stopped counting after the first few people, and just listened and watched those before him wrestle with the enormity of communion that day. Then, on cue, like a stage play, it happened. Bill Simeleck looked into the bread basket and exchanged views with Reverend John and everything fell into place. Still composed but confused, the Reverend leaned in and whispered, “I’m sorry William, there’s no more left for you.” Nobody else noticed, but the verbal damnation is crisp and clear to me in perfect view of the pronouncement from lips to ears.

I look toward Saint Jude and touch my lapel where the broach that Henry bought me for our first anniversary resides. My rings no longer fit my withered hands, though I can still feel them at times. The service finishes as usual and I sigh to myself that I’m tired of this place. I want to go see my Henry.

Reverend John makes his way towards me now, in no such rush.

“Good morning, Margaret,” he says in his nice, normal, pastoral tone. “Would you mind having a word with me in my office?”

I’m going to miss feeding those ducks this afternoon.

...continue reading...

June 15, 2010

Fear Not [kory]

She is fighting so hard

Why not let go?

It just seems too easy

Please! Damn it! Choose peace!!

Torment and torture

Tears of frustration

She wakes to look through me

A deep chill in my soul

I just want to miss you

The hustle is over

Your place is prepared

He’s calling you home

Alone in the darkness

Tears warming your grey hands

Prayers for an ending are raised just for you

I have to go home now

My kids need their daddy

Now run toward the light

Sweet lady, go home.

...continue reading...

Two Dreams [annie m]

It's a dark evening in the middle of an inner city neighborhood. There's a mystery afoot and my friend Heather (or someone who feels like Heather) and I have decided to follow a man that we believe to be involved. We don't feel any danger and we walk along leisurely, chatting and laughing as we follow this unknown guy. Little "I'm-gonna-be-four" Liam is with us, running ahead and then back again, kicking and throwing the beer cans, and jumping off concrete blocks that are lying around. I see that he has a runny nose and call him over.

"Alright, blow."

He barely blows his nose.

I smack him in the back of his head.

"Liam, blow hard!"

He does. Through his mouth.

I smack him in the head again.

"Liam! Blow through your nose!"

He does, and snot gets all over the tissue and my hand. Nasty.

At that point, the mystery man walks back past us.

"Does he have a fever?" He asks over his shoulder as he passes.

"No," I snap, trying to clean off my hand.

Heather looks at me. "Yes, he does! Look at him!"

I do. His little eyes are glazed and red-rimmed and his cheeks are flushed. He's cheerful, but he very obviously doesn't feel well.

"Oh, my baby! I'm sorry, Sweetie! I didn't notice!" And I pull him to me and hold him.

I wake up. Weird dream. My soul is really troubled, but I don't know why. I get up and suddenly the tears start. I'm crushed by the realization that for the last year, I've missed my son. I've ignored him and pushed him aside, waiting for the time when I have other things in order to pay attention to him. Other people have seen in him things that I haven't even looked at. He's been the bright sunshine in my life, and I've been annoyed. The thought of how I've behaved toward him sickens me. I tiptoe into his room, seeking comfort and forgiveness. He is so beautiful. The light from the street filters in through his window, making his pale skin glow. A good picture of his heart. I've never met anyone so completely Heart. Looking at him only increases the pain and I leave the room so I don't wake him with my crying. I go back to bed, but the regret and sadness are overwhelming and I just sob. I try to tell myself that it was just a stupid little dream, but my heart is not convinced. Gene wakes up, puts his arms around me and speaks words of comfort and forgiveness. We talk until, exhausted from emotion, I fall back asleep.

It begins in a farmyard in a Zelda-inspired world. I have a mission to accomplish. I figure out how to get out of the gate and start on my journey.

Just as I am coming to the final scene, two witches attack. I try to run to the goal, but there's no way - the witches are standing right behind me. So I turn toward them.

They observe me, casually.

"Yeah, we were wondering why you were running. You can't make it."

They summon two enormous snakes that bear down on me.

I call for my horse.

He comes, but the sight of snakes paralyzes him and I can't get him to go. I try to outrun the snakes, but trip and fall. Crawling backwards, I scream as one of the snakes opens its mouth and lunges.

"Sweetie, you know if you're really sorry, the curse can't touch you."

Startled out of terror, I ask blankly, "What?"

The witches are looking at me, unconcerned and matter-of-fact.

"Yeah, if you're really sorry for what you did, they can't hurt you."

I somehow understand that they're talking about Liam.

"I am!" I exclaim, sincerely. "I am so sorry! I'm so sad that it happened at all. I wish I could undo it!"

They shrug, "Then the curse can't touch you."

Completely shocked, I watch the snakes slither away.

The witches then turn to me and wave their wands. I am turned into a hen - a golden hen - and returned to the farmyard.

I awake completely at peace. I don't understand it. Another seemingly stupid dream,
but I feel free. Released. Someone is standing by the bed and I roll over to give Liam room to crawl in. He smiles at me and snuggles in. Comfort and forgiveness.

...continue reading...

Good [rachel]

I’m tired of writing about tears.

I don’t mind experiencing them,

But making them public--

Enough for now.

Instead I will write about the robin

I saw

Hopping on the roof

In the sunshine

The echo of child laughter

I heard


On city streets

The sound of cello music

The taste of little donuts

Peace, love

The smell of paint

On canvas

The sight of a smile on

His face

Her face

Your face

That I will see in person

So very soon.

...continue reading...

June 11, 2010

Id Est [judd]

You take me to
The update bar
And leave me there
A little far
From where
I was a while ago
But closer not to

You go
But I wait upon the night
Trash cans guard
Beneath pole lights
Slinking shapes.
Is that Bob?
In the dark landscape
He calls to no one
And they reply

Sometimes I wonder if my sole trait
Is to bend what you’ve made straight

...continue reading...

June 10, 2010

The First Fight [jay]

He moved slowly, edging his way to the left, seeking to gain an advantage over the longer reach of his adversary. Rimmed by fellow victims, he imagined himself to be a tiger leaping at its prey. He moved in quick and hard, hoping to land a quick body blow to the lower ribs followed by a straight jab to the nose, just like Dad had told him. With guard raised, the initial execution of his plan began perfectly.

As the fight began, everything moved into slow motion. The long, dirty bangs of the bully were shrouding his eyes, masking their fear and hatred. The antagonist’s underarms were wet and his feet moved slowly under the weight of his stocky frame. Never before had the enemy experienced someone answer his challenge. Always a bully and never a fighter, fear gripped his heart at the sight of the fire in the eyes of the boy two years his younger. Never before had a second grader had this kind of guts.

“You better back off,” the bully said.

“Never,” the boy said, his blue eyes blazing.

“I’m gonna kill you,” the fourth grader threatened again.

The boy didn’t care anymore. Sick and tired of the bully, he had prepared for this moment, the point in time when resolve conquers fear and courage is born. He stepped in quick and hard, his eyes focused on landing that punch to the nose. As he rushed in, the bully kicked him in the groin with all his power.

Nauseated and doubled over in pain, the boy fell to the ground. His eyes filled with tears and his ears filled with the laughter of the bully. Trying to choose between throwing up and getting up, he just couldn’t move.

Things moved from slow motion to standstill. What would his friends think? Would they laugh at him? Is this what courage brings you – embarrassment? What about justice? What about the code? What would Dad say? Why is it that when you try the hardest you get beaten down the most? This was not fair.

But Justice was watching.

The rules of the playground had been violated. Everyone there knew that what had just transpired was one of the dirtiest forms of cheating. His friends gathered around the boy and helped him up. The bully stood there laughing, waiting to see what he would do next. The boy faced him, hunched over with his hands on his knees, staring at the bully, surrounded by his friends – all of them glowering at the bulky fourth grader. And then they turned and walked away.

No one picked on the boy or his friends ever again.

...continue reading...

June 8, 2010

I Tracked Mud in On Purpose Because . . .[mike]

I tracked mud in on purpose because.

I tracked mud in on purpose because I.

I tracked mud in on purpose because I missed you.

You’re all grown up now. You live in your own house and you visit us on our birthdays and most holidays.

I just heard this song playing in the background and it made me think of you so I went out to the backyard, right in the middle of the biggest rain storm you’d ever seen, and I stomped in place until the spot beneath my feet became brown and squishy. Then I walked straight into the house, across the white carpet, through the kitchen, down the hall and into the living room, leaving gi-normous footprints behind me. I turned around and stared at my work of art.

Pretty dirty.

I didn’t get upset like I used to when you were little. I didn’t throw my hands in the air and shake my head either. I didn’t even mutter a curse word beneath my breath. You know what I did?

I smiled.

Then I grinned (which is bigger than a smile).

Then I started to laugh. I laughed louder and louder and louder until Mom heard me from upstairs and came rushing down to see what was so funny.

“What on earth are you doing?” she said with this concerned look.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” I bellowed, “I’m tracking mud through the house!”

“Why yes, I can see that,” she replied. “Why, may I ask, are you doing this?”

At this point, Mom was looking me up and down with a look only reserved for a person who’d completely lost their mind. She kept glancing to the trail across the carpet behind me, then back to me, then back to the trail.

I stopped laughing and pulled myself together. Then, I collapsed in the chair by the front window.

“I miss them,” I said. I smiled at her. She looked at me for a second and then she smiled to. I could tell by her expression that she felt the same way.

“Me too,” she groaned.

“They weren’t kidding when they said ‘it would go by too fast,’ were they?”


“We have amazing kids don’t we?” I said.

Mom smiled and nodded. “We sure do,” she replied. “And we had a ton of fun watching them grow. I wouldn’t trade a moment, good or bad.”

I agreed completely. “Me either,” I said. “I smile when I think of all those years.”

I looked up at her and leaned in and softly kissed her cheek. “You have to admit it though babe,” I said with a goofy sounding voice. “My artwork is a masterpiece right?”
I waved my arm toward the footprints like I was introducing a new car on the Price Is Right.

Mom rolled her eyes. “It sure is,” she said sarcastically. “You’re a regular Da Vinci.”
She patted me gently on the shoulder and stood up. As she rounded the corner and I heard familiar words.

“Make sure you clean up your artwork at some point, please.” She chuckled and continued on down the hallway. I stared again at the footprints across the carpet. I thought of you and all your brothers and sisters. I thought of your innocent faces when we would scold you for things like getting mud on the carpet, or fingerprints on the walls, or food on the sofas, and I smiled again. Although you did grow up learning to respect your house, and each other, and your mother and I, you were still creative and daring and adventurous. You were pure kid, through and through. When Mom and I would panic and fear that we were screwing up, or being too harsh, or not harsh enough, God knew what He was doing. He knew what He was going through us and in you.

That truth fills me with unspeakable joy and passion. I’m so proud of the people you’ve become. I’m so proud of the paths you’ve chosen. They’re filled with creativity and dreams. I’d like to think that you tracking mud in or dragging Mom’s craft drawer out and making a mess on the kitchen table all those times had something to do with that. Maybe it did.

I guess what I really want to say is ‘thanks.’ Thanks for teaching me that life is meant to be enjoyed, not monitored. Life is meant to be lived carefree not confined by boundaries. Boundaries are very important, yes. But if we live and die by them we’ll miss so much that life offers. We’d miss the freedom of it.

Thank you for teaching us this.

So yes! I did it. I tracked mud in on purpose. I tracked mud in on purpose because……because I missed you. I miss your muddy footprints. The carpet looks too clean. I miss your sticky fingerprints. The walls are too shiny. I never thought I’d feel that way, but I do. So now you know….if you ever come over and see muddy footprints across the carpet, you’ll know that you’re missed….and adored….and loved….always.

...continue reading...

June 4, 2010

How I Find Out [hannah]

My mom doesn’t come to pick Sarah and me up. As we’re sitting on the porch of the lodge with our suitcases, Jared’s car pulls into the parking lot. I’m kinda bummed when I see it. The air-conditioning in his car sucks. I grab my bag and throw its strap over my shoulder. I see Jared’s door open. He steps out of the driver’s seat. The passenger door opens and his friend Charlie steps out. It seems a little weird that Jared’s here. He’s not usually the kind of brother to drive two hours to pick up his little sister. I can’t even imagine what my mom had to do to convince him to come.

Sarah and I carry our bags down to the parking lot. Jared smiles at both of us. Just with his mouth though. The rest of his face looks too tired or bored or busy to smile.

“Hey,” he says.

“Hey,” I say back. “What are you doing here?”

Jared reaches for my bag. “Mom needed me to come get you guys.” He sounds weird. Nice. Not the way an eighteen year-old would talk to his little sister and step-sister. And I don’t like the way he’s still half-smiling at us.

“What’s going on?” I say.

He doesn’t answer. He pops the trunk and pushes my bag into it. He takes Sarah’s bag from her and shoves it in as well.

I don’t understand why I’m not getting any information from Jared. I look over at Charlie. I don’t know how Jared conned him into driving all this way with him. I didn’t even think they were that close of friends.

Charlie’s watching Jared, and then meets my gaze. He stares at me for a second, then smiles. His smile is still hanging on his mouth as he goes back to watching Jared shut the trunk.

Jared heads back to his seat. I look over at Sarah. She’s frowning after Jared. At least she can tell that something’s not right. It’s not just in my head. We both stand there for a second. Jared and Charlie are already back in the car.

Sarah moves. She walks to the seat behind Jared and climbs in. I grab the car door and slide in behind Charlie. He’s watching my brother again. I can see a fraction of a smile still lingering on the corners of his mouth. Then Jared starts the car. He pulls out of the parking lot. He accelerates onto the freeway and clears his throat. Charlie looks forward.

“I have to tell you guys something,” Jared says.

My stomach drops. My skin tingles. I’ve heard people say that when something bad happens, the world slows down. But it doesn’t right now. Right now it’s the opposite. It’s speeding. I see that whatever is about to happen is horrible and I want to stop it. I feel it rushing at me and I can’t figure out how to pause it.

I see Jared glance into the rearview mirror. His eyes meet mine and then Sarah’s. I try to yell, I don’t want to hear it, but I’m not fast enough.

“It’s Isaac, isn’t it?” Sarah says.

I’m so mad at her for saying it. I want to scream at her to shut up. I just want it to stop.

Jared looks at us in the rearview mirror again.


Sarah bursts into tears.

No. Jared, stop.

“He’s gone.”

Sarah wails. My face burns. Hot pain rips through my throat. Jared’s eyes turn back to the road.

This isn’t how things work. Your life can’t change this fast. You can’t go away for a stupid retreat, and lose part of your family.

With just a few words. With a glance in a rearview mirror.

I think I’m crying now. I’m not sure. All I feel is something clawing its way through my throat. The pain is suffocating me. Or maybe I’m just suffocating as it is. I can’t breathe past these knives slicing through me.

Sarah’s sobbing fills the car. Flooding over all of us. Loud and shrill and sloppy. Jared’s quiet. Charlie stares forward.

I wonder how much time has passed in this car. Twenty-five seconds? Thirty? So short an amount of time I should be able to undo it. Go back somehow. Wake up from this nightmare. It can’t be real.

I don’t want to, but I see him. His face. His ugly naso-gastric tube taped to his cheek. His giant blue eyes roaming around without focus. The vision of my baby brother ignites a pain that throbs in my head. I grab it with both hands and lean over my lap. The pain swells outward on my skull. It pulsates with Sarah’s sobs.

The visions come faster now. They fly through the dark behind my eyelids.

His hands folded in front of him.

He watches them from the corners of his eyes.

His wisps of blond hair.

His skinny legs.

His half-smiles.

His machines, that fed him and medicated him, and couldn’t save him.

“What happened?” Sarah screams.

Shut up! I don’t want to know what happened. If she could just be quiet for a second, I could figure out a way to undo all of this.

Jared doesn’t answer her. He just looks at her as she rocks back and forth and weeps. He looks at me. All I can see in the mirror are his eyes. Quiet and broken.

I know I’m crying now. I squeeze my eyes shut harder and harder with each sob. Grab my head and try to will this moment to never have happened. The cries grow stronger. Like they’re not from me; they’re some creature living inside me. Mutating. Gaining power. Taking over more and more of my body. Wrenching me into a ball. Crushing my stomach muscles together. I feel myself disappearing into them. I open my eyes to escape.

I look up and see the back of Charlie’s head. He stares forward. Blond hair past his ears. His neck has red splotches in it. He sits in a car with three siblings who are falling apart.

I forget myself for a second and wonder what he’s feeling. How he can stand sitting there with Sarah’s wailing and Jared’s silence?

I wonder what it feels like to be stuck with us.

Trapped in a car with us. Trapped in a memory we’ll be desperate to forget.

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June 2, 2010

Invisible Babies [jake]

I had a vision of an
invisible baby—
formless, empty. An idea
of a blink
in the eye of a ghost.
Unseen, forgotten by some,
but not all forgotten,
not forgotten by all.

There are so many,
I thought.

I cried out to You for the
invisible babies!
You give them form!
You fill them up! I know
that You, of all, have not
them! You have not

(My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance.)

I cried.

We are all invisible babies.

...continue reading...

June 1, 2010

I Remember This Feeling [steffeny]

I remember this feeling.

Oh this familiar feeling. I remember it well. Though it’s been long since I last felt it.

That feeling of quick release after being so stuck. Still stuck. But that moment of quick and quiet release.

It happened in Africa.

Stuck in Rwanda. Hard questions. Hard sights. No answers. Stuck. We were stuck there.
Dead bodies. Curious children. Crying babies. Machetes hacking. Hacking. The cold. Detached unfeeling feeling floating in the air. Ever present. Pain. Pain. Brokenness. How do we deal? Where was God? What is justice? What is mercy? This is too big. We’re choking. We’re choking. We aren’t breathing.

And so we escaped. Girls piled on a small bed. Piled on top of one another. Arms linked and legs intertwined. In a pile we laid there. Staring together. Together staring at the small screen of a laptop.

Grey’s was our salvation. The moment. The one opportunity to escape this world of questions. And answers. Solutions. And stuckness.

Oh how we were stuck there.

And here I am. In this house. In this house in St. Louis. Stuck. The drama of the medical show helping me to escape for one brief moment the questions. The feelings. The confusion that I have. Giving me reason and permission to shed a tear that has been stuck. Giving me distance and some sort of perspective on all of the things that are so in my face. So zero-ed in on. So inescapable. The things that make me stuck.

What are these things? I don’t even know. They’re too close. So close. Only after this show can I even realize that I am feeling my feelings. Help. I’m afraid I can’t make it. Why am I here? What is Jesus doing? Is he still leading me? Is he still loving me? Even when I look away and put things before him? Even when I act like a loser and forget the most important things? Im forgetful. Im not on track. Im not making him happy.

And slowly. Slowly by feeling my feelings, I can start to feel His too. You see, that’s where I was wrong. I am making him happy. Just by resting. By watching this show. By hearing and reconnecting with my heart. By feeling. By embracing the human condition. We are forgetful. We are, at times, not on track. But oh how we make him happy. We make him so so happy. And that’s something we shouldn’t ever forget. He loves you and he loves me, just because we are. Just by our nature. Just because of who He is. He can’t help but love us even when we’re disgusting and covered with mud and boogers. He loves us sooo much. And if watching Grey’s or Private Practice or whatever helps me to remember my heart. Or my humanity. Or who He is. Then that’s the way my heart at that moment in that place is called to worship. Who knew watching prime time television could be a way for this heart worship?!

Thank you Jesus for who you are and how you care for us. Dad, my heart feels lame and limp, weak and waning. Oh how I need you. Teach these eyes to be fixed on you. I love you Oh Lord, my pops.

Aww sweet shalom.

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