I am From–A Poem About Place

I am from doughboy pools and homemade Barbie houses

from Huffy bikes and Helms Bakery donuts.

I am from three sisters to a room and broad green bermuda lawns.

I am from bright sandy beaches and weeping willows

whose drooping green sheltered me from California’s sun.

I am from Coppertone and Sun-In

from Helen and Wes and John.

I am from belting out a tune and scribbling in the dark

from roller skating and tree-fort-building

from fighting at the top of my lungs and finding quiet at any cost.

I am from Bible stories with Mrs. Cluck and anywhere-you-can-take-5-kids-on-a-Sunday.

I am from the Hebjums and Lindseys, a Best at heart with an adopted name

from porkchops and sauerkraut, applesauce and meatloaf

from a father two generations back that made a grown girl flee

and a mother who lived chasing beauty wherever she could find it, rich or poor.

But mostly poor.

I am from luaus and carnivals, beach trips and berry-picking

babysitting and in charge at age 12 and hiding with a book to make it all go away.

I am from those moments of running, singing, writing, hiding, lying in the sun

but never far from the watchful eye of an invisible Father

held in arms more real than scratchy lawns and doughboy pools and donuts and

roller skates.

A Father more present than my own skin, closer than the sunshine on my bright brown hair.

Lover of my soul who was there every meandering minute, keeping time until I came home. 


I had the joy last weekend of participating in a gathering called “What’s Your Story? Discovering the Gift of Hearing and Telling our Stories.” Guest speakers were Cornelia Seigneur, founder and director of the Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference, and Velynn Brown, mentor and speaker. They are both from the Portland area.

I’m grateful to Velynn for sharing her “I Am From” poem with us and modeling how to write our own. The original form and idea comes from George Ella Lyon, writer and teacher.  If you’d like to write an “I Am From,” there are resources and examples on Georgia’s website. Mr. Google can also oblige.

Why Gray is Better than Black and White

“It is possible to enjoy Me and glorify Me in the midst of adverse circumstances. My light shines most brightly through believers who trust Me in the dark.”   Sarah Young, ‘Jesus Calling.’

I grew up in Southern California, the land of pavement, palm trees and perpetual sunshine., All that blue and bright color became a backdrop for the clearly delineated cultural, political and religious landscape of the ’50’s and ’60’s.

But times have changed. Oh, they have changed.
Lines have blurred, been redrawn, moved again.
We have no longer a common vocabulary, no shared reference point for the weight of a thing–cultural, political or religious.

The word “President” has been reduced to caricature. When I say “church” it calls forth a non-committal body without bearings, bereft of power, often innocuous in its offerings. (Not the church particular, but the church as a whole.)
When I mention “truth” the connotations are a free-for-all. The center has moved, knocked from its pedestal.
Glancing at the January gray outside my window I can see much better than on those golden, blue-sky mornings of Summer or Spring. When the beauty cracks open, color and light stealing the stage.
All the bright green things–it’s very distracting.


Maybe in these gray days we can see lies better, black against the sky.

We must keep our eyes focused on the horizon, the goal of what matters beyond politics, religion or culture. See the truth as an incandescent bulb, a lighthouse before us as we make madly for the shore, rowing in the dark.
We have to contend for the Light, my friends. We have to keep rowing.
There is only one beacon breaking through the clouds.

It is the God things that matter. The God things.

sharing with Lyli and the Thought Provoking Thursday link up


What It’s Like to be Married Forever


My husband and I are busy empty nesters (although a college grad with a whiz bang journalism job is renting our furnished basement apartment). We look forward to our Sunday mornings which hold the promise of worship and fellowship which feed our souls.

One recent Sunday while my husband was in worship, I hung out with the kids in Sunday School and played with dish soap, food coloring and milk.  We were each ministered to (being with kids energizes me) and looked forward to the rest our day.

Instead of stopping at the grocery store—‘Second Church’ where it seems we always meet a handful of fellow believers in the cereal aisle—we came straight home. We had Nothing Else to Do all day long.  What a glorious Sabbath Sunday indeed.

The cooler, gray Northwest weather wrapped around the morning like a warm wool sweater. All we wanted was a comfortable chair and a cup of coffee.

Whenever there’s a wide-open-with-possibilities stretch of time ahead of me, I mentally fill it up with way more activities than there is time in the day.  Maybe you can relate?  The upside to that is there are choices; the downside is I never know where to start.

I love words and books—reading and writing are my two favorite indoor pursuits.  Three book stacks were calling me, there was a poem to work on, letters to write and maybe I’d take this chance to have a crack at the memoir I’d started.

Of course it follows that sitting at the desk in our study is my number one Happy Place (except for the garden; but cool & gray, remember?)  I relished the idea of quiet time to type, write, read, whatever. Ahhh…the small joys of a room of my own.

I retired to the study with coffee in hand. Several lines had been written, a poem revised, I organized the story line for my memoir. Such productivity; I was basking in the just-me time.

Then my husband came in and sat at his desk.

Oh, shoot, he’s probably going to want to talk—Mr. Verbal Processor. Please, God. Maybe he could just sit at his computer and read emails. To himself, not out loud like he usually does. Please, God.

Computer pings on. No talking. At all.  I’m cautiously optimistic that my author zone will continue uninterrupted. Our backs are to each other, desks on opposite walls. I can’t see his computer screen but I hear a video of a worship song he enjoys (Casting Crowns). I like it too; I silently sing along under my breath while I focus on my work.

Next is another song by the same artists—the LIVE version.  Hard to ignore; okay I’ll just hum along, but NO talking or my desk time will be gone for sure.

He queues up Video Number Three. Now I turn around in my chair; clearly my alone time is over. Husband wants the airspace to worship and enjoy the music.

At this point I had two choices—grumble and moan about how I had been looking forward to working undisturbed just this once. Complain about how he was being inconsiderate playing the music so loud.
Asked him to mute it or use headphones.  All of those may have been a justified response.

But this is his Sunday, too.

For a retired person he works way too hard Monday through Saturday; he needed a place to do what ministered to his soul just as much as I did.

How would I respond?  Number one, I changed my attitude and decided to rejoice in his little soul-care decision. Why not be just as happy for him that he was doing something he enjoyed?

Next I brought my work—my laptop, books and poetry clipboard—into the living room. Then I went and got a cupcake to go with my lukewarm coffee—there are limits to being inconvenienced—and sat down in my favorite chair.

May I just say that it has taken me a  l – o – n – g time (43 years on July 14th) to learn to be anything near accommodating and accepting of my husband’s quirks and equally endearing ways?  I call that small Sunday miracle. 

Just ten years ago I would have been quite vocal about his choices, accused him of being selfish and unthinking, would have yelled at him about “my” needs and “my” space and on and on, completely ignoring that this house is his sanctuary, too.

Instead I decided to find a room with a different view, my own quiet and (my own cupcake) and left my husband to enjoy his Sabbath alone, in his own way.

I was delighted to be in my comfy, quiet chair in the peace and quiet of the cool, gray Sabbath Sunday. And I rejoiced—with a bite of cupcake—at God’s glue and my husband’s patience to keep us married almost forever.

Happy Anniversary, honey. 

Love, your word processor.


Linking with Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursday

and Ms. Jennifer Lee for #TellHisStory


Summer is for Listening

“My soul, wait silently for God alone; for my expectation is from Him.”

Psalm 62:5

“How slow many are to learn that quietness is blessing, that quietness is strength, that quietness is the source of the highest activity–the secret of all true abiding in Christ! Let us try to learn it and watch out for whatever interferes with it.  The dangers that threaten the soul’s rest are many.”  Andrew Murray, “Abiding in Christ”

      I suppose it is a foolishness to think things are quieter in the Summer–school is out and children romp and play outside my window, noise floats in as games are won and lost in the streets below our house. But Summer vacation also means less push and stress, less have-to and more want to. My want-to includes some quiet (er) time of listening to God in this season.

The push back is all the noise–even good “Christian” noise.

Don’t get me wrong but I think we (by “we” here I’m including myself) are quick to crank up the praise music before we spend time with our own words praising God in the silence. Bible studies and Christian living books are a way to learn, but sometimes I think we lean on them instead of the Holy Spirit to speak directly to us.  The internet is a 24/7 stream of everybody else’s opinions on what is godly, but it often draws us away from the Source–the voice of Jesus and God’s word.

Why not, instead, make this season a time of doing nothing, reading nothing (I know–sacrilege!) and just spend time listening and recording in a journal what you hear God say?

There might be revelation or resolution of an issue percolating below the surface that you’ve carried around and worried about for months. Years.  Perhaps there will be a healing touch from God’s Spirit, or simply a wonder-filled moment as you catch the joy of God in His creation.

To help you in the process, may I share some notes on the how-to of the process? These are taken from my session at our Glory Writers Abide Retreat in the Cascade Mountains last year. (I used the same notes for our church’s Women’s Retreat last May.)

Perhaps they will help you discover some glory of your own in God’s word to your heart.e80ce-viewfromthebackdeckjune2012

Notes on ‘Listening as a Spiritual Practice’, inspired by “God in the Yard”, L.L. Barkat, TSPoetry Press

Stop and make a space to listen 2-3 times a week, 20 or 30 minutes—start small  NOTE: Listening as a Spiritual Practice or Discipline is really about letting go & making room, more about absorbing & receiving from God than about my outcome or producing something. More being, less doing.

  • Examples of Spiritual Practice PERSONAL WORSHIP, PRAYER, praying in the Spirit, BIBLE READING
  • SIT where your eyes can be still, preferably outside with a view to something living; resting your eyes brings peace to your mind and soul and you can LISTEN BETTER
  • Don’t Read your Bible-this is not devotional time, it is time to listen…you can talk to Jesus, sing, but resist the temptation to DO SOMETHING; just WAIT
  • Remember: You have the Holy Spirit as your teacher and guide (Jn. 14:26)
    • If you ask God to speak, He will. If you ask Him to show you something, He will.
  • Here are some prompts for thought:
    • What is your deepest source of current pain, and how is God trying to meet you there?
    • Where are you finding joy with God?
    • What does the world around you say about God’s relation to you and your relation to Him?
    • Here’s what the Holy Spirit might do as you listen:
    • First, you’ll discover something—(see it—‘wow, I didn’t know I felt/knew that’!)
    • Then uncover it—(name it—‘oh, THAT’S what that is…’)
    • Then recover it—(live into it, like new skin) NOT fix it (as in patch it up)

      Don’t worry about what to do with your discoveries. Simply listen to what the sounds are telling you and offer them as an expression of truth to God then write them down.

      If you are not a person who keeps a journal, this might be a good time to start.

Writing down your story can bring healing to you and life to others. Our stories are a way for others to hear where God is meeting us now & where He has met us in the past, especially when we share them.

And most of all, when you look back over the entries, whether several weeks or several months or years, there is powerful encouragement of God’s faithfulness and care to you as His child.

      I hope you take the time to get away from the noise and ask Jesus to speak to you in way that’s like no other. He is so happy when we ask!