while it is still dark

before golden light crests the hill behind my house,
I see a dozen small sparrows hopping through the shallow snow
in the predawn dark of my backyard. 


they are bold—almost cheeky, as they peck their way
through the dry grass & weeds & shriveled crabapples
that have fallen from our tree.


I have heard that He is aware of every feather & flap  
& not one has fallen apart from His notice.
I realize He must know which weeds provide the best seeds
& He plants these in summer’s abundant heat. 


these dozen small sparrows do not wonder 
who will feed them their daily bread.
it is still dark while they sing their songs of joyful trust,
knowing a feast has already been prepared.  


then there’s me—with my tear stained face  
pressed to the ice cold window pane
hoping & praying, for a small sparrow’s faith. 





Header Photo c/o Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

let me hope like dandelions

let me hope like dandelions—
obtrusive and resilient, resistant to a fault.

let me resist all that tries to divest me of my joy,
of my glory in future songs. 

let my hope spring careless of road sides,
or dung heaps, or patches of dry grass.

let it rush up from the tiniest seeds
carried on winds or birds wings. 

let it overwhelm everything else. 
let it dominate all that now grows wild. 

let it creep in under cover of darkness
and sow itself in places least expected.

let me hope like dandelions
and nothing (I mean nothing), could ever stop me. 







©Grace Kelley 2022

Photo by Олександр К on Unsplash

(I must have missed) Dancing

I want to find
my way back
to the girl 
whose lust for life 
made her splash
in rain puddles

whose love 
made her free
as all the birds 
she watched 
flying south. 

Lately, 
I’ve been dancing 
in my kitchen. 
And I say
it makes me feel sexy,
but what I really mean is
that it makes me feel alive. 

	Have I
	been gone
	so long? 

A dead heart
in a chest still breathing?
forgetting 
how to laugh—
forgetting 
what it means
to exist where both 
joy and sorrow do? 

I knew that girl once: 
the puddle dancer
always laughed 
at lightning. 

	& I loved her—
	for all her joy
	full innocence.
 

Then I was made to watch 
as the rain 
drowned her out.

All at once it became deep
too deep
to splash in. 

For one
terrible
moment
	she went under.

But now,
through clumsy steps 
on my kitchen floor
I find I’m teaching her 
to live again. 

Now I find,
I’m teaching her 
                         to dance 
           upon the waves. 





(Image c/o Dyana Wing So on Unsplash)

Glory’s Overshadowing

(an advent poem) 

Look there! 
Through the trees
Glory’s overshadowing
covers those living
under the shadow of death— 
& the One who conceived 
constellations & comets—
giving them birth with a shout
of joy is himself conceived & formed
in a womb he made out of dust. 


See now! 
He who labored to lay low
ocean floors & raise up horizons
lay low in the pelvis of a woman 
laboring long amongst the ewes 
bleating with their newborn lambs
these other mothers of sacrifice.


Hear how her sighs 
signaled the shattering of sorrows
as he who was emerged at last—
in water, blood & vernix
swirling like the milky way.
Mary’s tears of relief
—a prophecy of longing & of joy.


Listen!
His first cry signaled it was safe 
to hope again, as he lay 
in a feeding trough
the cut grass beneath him 
smelling of both life & death—
of a sacramental feast.
Like the bread of life rising
from grains crushed to dust—
like the stars long dead 
still shouting in the silence
	“GLORIA! He’s here!”


You could hear them for miles!
The great hosts of heaven 
belting with a boom like thunder
	“GLORIA! He’s here!”
		How terrifying!
these songs of glory & peace
must have sounded to these least of these 
shepherds stood aghast
until at last, they too saw the babe
wrapped in swaddles as foretold.
		the holiest in the lowliest—
and you could see it 
in their awestruck faces
		this story is too strange 
                to be a lie—
		who could conceive it?


Watch them bolt through city streets, 
their feet pounding out 
the sound of joy pouring out 
of their dry lips
	“GLORIA! —He’s here!”


who could conceive?
of God wrapped in fragile flesh—
	“GLORIA!
	He’s hereat last.”

(Image c/o Grayson Joralemon on Unsplash)

What the skin of my belly knows

As I look down at my ever expanding belly—at the marks which stretch across my skin like red lightning bolts, joining with the other silver marks from earlier growing seasons with other children—I can’t help but think about how love is always expanding us. 

I think when I was younger, I was afraid that if I loved with all my heart any one person, there wouldn’t be anything left. There wouldn’t be any of me left to give. And of course there is wisdom in knowing limits and setting boundaries; but this does not apply to those I have been given to tend, to love, to grow. 

It changes based on the season. Before I had kids, I was a young married college student with a Mother’s heart—and God told me I didn’t have to wait to be a mom to nurture and nourish those in my life. 

So I began inviting people for dinner, and cups of peppermint tea. I carried Ibuprofen in my backpack in case my headache prone friend from Pilates class forgot hers at home. I began seeing people more clearly—because the truest heart of a Mother is one who sees and understands the child better than anyone else. She is first and foremost a student of those for whom she is given to care. 

***

Yesterday my daughter was out of sorts. She had been short with her brother’s all of breakfast, she was getting annoyed about the tangles in her hair and was convinced that she didn’t have anything to wear. (She’s 7.) And in a moment of wisdom that I wish was more common than rare, I asked her to sit by me and tell me what was really bothering her. I boiled the water and made her a cup of black cherry tea, and I tried to listen to the heart in front of me instead of only seeing the irritating struggle and unpleasant behavior. 

It turns out, she was under the weight of grief. For some reason that morning she was worrying about the day she would someday move out and leave home. She was telling me that she didn’t want to leave me, that she was afraid to go out into the world on her own. I told her, I thought that when the time came she would be more than ready, but that I would never make her go. 

“You can live with me as long as you want,” I said. “You can go to college from home, you can live here into your twenties when you have a job—you can stay as long as you want. It’s not my job to kick you out—as your Mom, my job is to let you go when you are ready.” And there were tears in my eyes of course as I told my highly independent daughter that the day she moves out will probably be one of the hardest days of my life. This seemed to comfort her, as a love strong enough to break a heart always does. 

As I find myself thinking more and more about the Mother Love of God lately, I think about moments like these. Moments of wisdom and tenderness; the reassurance that comes from being heard and your heart held. I think about how God has already been preparing me to do the hard work of letting go. 

My mother’s heart attaches easily to those it cares for. My college-pre-kid days are no different than now. The people I let into my deepest heart’s circle, the place I reserve for those for whom I truly and deeply care, have had to leave me often. Be it a job change across country, a drifting apart that neither of us can seem to control, or perhaps a more painful rift that has broken between us—I sometimes feel like a woman who has lost too much. It makes me want to close down. To shut the door. To stop letting the love and the loss pour in and out like the tide.

But I’m learning that whatever the season, perhaps it is my job to love without constraints, no matter the pain. To dish the soup and pour the tea. To cut the sandwiches in triangle halves and pick out any less than perfect grapes—and still be the one standing on the porch waving with a smile, and tears in my eyes saying, “Come back anytime. You can come back anytime.” 

***

These loves don’t make me less me. These losses hurt, but they don’t take away from who I am. Because true love expands. Love grows us and stretches us beyond what we could hold before. And yes it leaves us scarred—but not in the way you think. It leaves us larger as we remember that we too are the child being fed and held; the soul God loves and listens to with patience and attention. We are the ones coming and going, our Father & Mother God on the front porch waving with a smile and tears in his eyes saying, “Come back anytime. You can come back anytime.”  

The skin of my belly knows, there is power in a love that is strong enough to break you—like flashes of lighting cutting through gathering clouds in the hot and humid summer sky. 

Photo c/o Arteida MjESHTRI on Unsplash

What love looks like

“I love the way you salt things,” he says to me as I stand over the heat of the cast iron pan at the kitchen stove. “It’s so cute. You’re like a chef.” He gives my shoulder a rub and passes by me on his way to settle a sibling dispute.

Later, he rubs my sore lower back while we watch an old sitcom in bed and says, “I love you pregnant. You’re so round and beautiful.”

I look over my shoulder at him, rubbing a hand over the two hearts and two sets of fluttering feet in my twin belly and say “Really? You really think I’m beautiful like this?” He smiles and nods and I say, “Well good. You’d better keep thinking that though, I’m not sure my body will ever be the same after this.”

He laughs and says “I will.”

“Do you promise?” I say with mock sternness, but real hormonal tears budding in my eyes.

“I promise,” he says without humor in his blue eyes, and the kindness in his smile reaches the new lines by his beloved eyes. And for once, I think I may actually believe him.

This is what love in year eleven of our marriage looks like. When we married, we were kids who had begun to grow up together, like two small trees reaching towards the great blue sky, not knowing how high it really was, not knowing where they’d end up, but letting our roots weave together deep in the earth—inseparable and intertwined, for better or worse.

We’ve seen both; better and worse. We’ve broken our promises and made them anew. We’ve hurt each other and failed to love well when push came to shove. We’ve pulled away and numbed, when we should have pulled together. These years have not been without their pain or struggles; in fact, they’ve been chalk full of them sometimes—so full we didn’t know how we’d ever be able to carry it.

I am not the girl my blonde haired blue-eyed husband married eleven years ago. The darkening of his hair and the growing of his beard is not the only change in this man I married eleven years ago. But our love has grown and changed and healed us in ways that have brought us closer to Jesus, as well as to each other. This is the grace I’m seeing now—when I look at a photo from us nine years ago still in our newlywed years and think; I loved him so much then. But it’s nothing compared to how I feel about him now. Even though there were times over these past eleven years, when I wondered if we really loved each other at all.

Now our love looks like me telling my husband that all his open tabs on our shared laptop stress me out, because I’m not sure which ones he’s okay with me closing and too many tabs makes my mind swirl with anxiety—and a few days later I open my computer to see a tab at the top: “Willy’s Tabs 🙂 ” under which are hidden from my easily overwhelmed eyes, the plentiful research he has been doing to know how to replace my mini-van’s busted alternator.

Our love looks like my husband buying me a new hose attachment to make watering my flower beds easier on my pregnant back. It looks like me picking up a six pack of a favorite beer from the store for him to enjoy with the first game of the NHL playoffs. It looks like me cooking dinner, and he doing the dishes. It looks like being the one to volunteer to clean up the toddler’s pee puddle off the living room floor. It looks like my husband reading pages and pages of health insurance legalese to see if we can afford to have one of my midwives attend what is now going to be a very expensive hospital birth. It looks like me reading the bedtime story, and him telling me not to climb into the boy’s bunk beds anymore because he’s worried I’ll hurt myself.

It looks like a few moments of quiet conversation over steaming cups of coffee before the day begins. It looks like emoji hearts sent in the middle of a hectic work day, just so I know he’s thinking of me. It looks like a simple text: “I wish we could meet for a lunch date today.” Even (and maybe especially) when we can’t.

This love doesn’t look a thing like a thought it would when we started out, young and in love and not yet seventeen. But it’s better. It’s not loud or boisterous or even overly romantic. It a love that folds laundry late at night. It’s a love that builds a life together; with threads of deeply earned and honored trust. It’s a love that holds us steady, when it feels like everything else might be crashing down around us. It’s a love that lets us dream of the future days, even as we seek to be present in these intensely beautiful days we are living in now.

It’s a love that plans a garden; that’s not afraid to get its hands dirty. It’s a love that plants seeds together, watching and waiting for them to grow in their time.

It’s a contented love, peaceful with itself. Okay with not being flashy or showy. It’s the kind of love that lets us get away for a weekend before welcoming two babies at once to our family, and we know if all we do is talk and sleep and eat together in blissful silence; it will be enough to give us a breath before this next, very intense plunge of our lives.

It’s a love that chooses every day small actions, instead of big ostentatious airport displays of affection. It’s a love that sticks with it—that rearranges the furniture as many times as it takes to make the room work.

It’s a love that makes room, in our home and our hearts for what’s next—whatever that looks like.

It’s a love that trusts that the good God that has brought us this far, will bring us through whatever challenges lie ahead: by His grace and for His glory.

(Photo clearly taken pre-twin pregnancy)

(God our truest) Mother’s Day

On mother’s day 
I rise early
to ask the viola’s 
how they slept.
To see the marigold
& verbena shining
velvety with morning dew.
To ask the snapdragon 
& the daisy if they have
enough room.

I listen to the chatter
of the birds singing 
glory to the maker
of the morning
(as they do every day)
without question
without fail.

I think of how the earth 
knows better than I do
how to receive the love
of a God who is both 
Father & Mother—
words I am only just
learning how to say.

In the morning light
this day does not feel
tangled up as I know some
(perhaps most) people
feel it to be. 

Here there are no
mothers abandoning 
their children.

Here there are no 
empty wombs.

Here there are no
harsh words spoken
with anything less than
utterly devoted love.

Here there are no
tiny graves;
no buried children
of any age.

Here no arms ache
for the love they used
to hold.

Here there are no 
women deceived 
or forced into life’s 
most terrible choice. 

Here there is only
dew on fresh flower faces
& light 
& grace
& the God who says
he loves us—

like a mother hen
longing to gather us
beneath protective wings—

like a nursing mother
who cannot forget 
the son of her womb
because of the ache 
in her breasts—
the nourishment
she must pour out 
she cannot keep it
to herself.

And perhaps what I want 
to celebrate today
is not me;

someone privileged to be 
a mother 
to earthly children;
who holds five hearts in her hands
like the abundance
she knows she doesn’t deserve.
A kindness to which 
she is neither entitled
nor guaranteed. 

Perhaps instead I want 
to celebrate like the birds
the King of Creation—
the God of the morning—
who loves me like the child
that I still am.
Who loves me so much 
it would hurt to turn away.
Who loved me
to the point of death
 & life again.

The Mother God 
who is even now
preparing for me 
a feast of welcome 
& celebration 
when I have done
all my wanderings
in these shadowed
lands.

I catch glimpses 
of this & more in the shining 
dew dropped faces 
of the violas in sunshine.

In the tears I know 
our truest father
& mother sheds
for the ache
of us all. 

let me be/ your breath

let me be/ your breath
a poem by Grace Kelley


grow in me—


all that is
new & tender
the unseen seems
more real with each
fluttering sign
of presence.


(the flutters 
gave them away
 after all)
—how I knew
they were two
& not only one. 
Now my desires
are more refined
than ever.


so grow in me—


until the pain
makes it hard
to rise from my sheets


until I’m 
stretched & marred 
far beyond
my capacity


until red stripes
mark my belly
full & heavy 
with the weight 
of the glory 
of you.


grow in me—


until sleep
becomes 
a stranger


until breaths 
feel hard to take—
for the crowding 
of my lungs
is no less Holy
than singing 
praises to the God 
who made you.


grow in me—


until you are ready
to breathe 
with fresh lungs—


until the sweet echos
of your first cries 
tear open places
always meant 
for loving you. 


Until then
Dear Ones,
grow in me—

& let me be
your breath. 

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

The Twin Pregnancy I didn’t see coming

I didn’t see this coming. 

But when I saw the two of them on the ultrasound monitor, kicking and waving, dancing and playing—I felt like I had known them all my life. 

Willy and I were talking last night about taking a trip sometime after they are born, and as we talked about taking “the whole family”—all SEVEN of us, instead of feeling only the over-whelm of having not one, but two tiny babies in the car along with our older three kids, all I felt was a sense of rightness—of completion. 

“This is our whole family,”I said, “these babies are who we have been missing all this time.” 

My husband nodded wordlessly, with a slight mist in his eyes, and I knew he felt it too. The sense of rightness—of an adventure on which not one of our members would be missing.

I should have gotten my first hint from my mother-in-law; but I wasn’t at all ready to hear it. Upon telling her that we were expecting for the fourth time, she almost immediately said, “This time, I think it’s twins.” 

I wheeled on her with shock and probably a little bit of anger and said, “Don’t say that to me!” The overwhelm was immediate, and all I could see in that moment was the birth center birth of my dreams crashing and burning in the wake of a high-risk pregnancy. (Not to mention the fact that these babies were conceived naturally, in my 29th year, and we have no history of twins in my family that I knew of.) 

Northern Colorado has needed a free standing birth center for as long as I’ve lived here. Eight years ago, when I was expecting my first child, I even considered driving to Denver or Boulder to have that midwife led, natural birth experience I had always longed for—but in the end the drive was too daunting, and those centers filled up very quickly. Last year when I saw they were making the final preparations to open a birth center in the middle of my town, right next to our favorite coffee shop and brewery no less, I knew I was ready to have a fourth baby with the kind of compassionate and personable care that would never say to a woman in labor—“Well, do you want to stay pregnant forever?” 

Yeah that happened. 

I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve read it many places—the way a woman in labor is treated will impact her for the rest of her life. It’s a vulnerable place that can very easily become traumatic or ecstatic, depending on the kind of care the woman receives. 

My first born daughter came just 30 minutes after my gentle female doctor with the soft voice and the long brown hair streaked with grey had to go to the clinic for her regular office rotation. I was at the point in my labor when I really couldn’t care less that some guy I had never met would be delivering my baby instead of the doctor that I loved, but the way he came into the room filled me with a confidence I didn’t know I was lacking. He admired me, he encouraged me, he made me laugh and lit up the room with his joyful demeanor. When my daughter emerged at last, he encouraged me to pick her up and lift her to my chest myself. When he knew she was small and would need to be checked for IUGR, instead of making a big fuss, he said, “she doesn’t look too big,” with a kindly smile. And even though this very doctor ended up needing to do some extremely unpleasant things to me within those next thirty minutes to help my “pain in the butt placenta” detach and make sure there was none left inside my very-unmedicated-body—I still have a tender feeling towards this man who delivered my daughter, because he treated me like a person worthy of dignity and respect and not just a body with a baby in it. 

My second two experiences were not nearly as pleasant as the first. My second child born via an un-planned and borderline emergent c-section after ten excruciating hours of labor; my third via a successful VBAC with a doctor who seemed more like she was making fun of me than cheering me on as I pushed with all my might against the fear of what would happen if I didn’t do things her way. I carry these experiences with me; the good and the bad. Whether I want to or not, each of these births has left its scars on me, just as each baby has left me with a few new stretch marks and a few extra pounds.

I brushed off my Mother-in-Law’s well-intentioned comment, until at 18 weeks pregnant, I knew for sure something was different. My belly button had already begun turning inside out, and my uterus wasn’t even supposed to be that high in my abdomen at that point. Then I started feeling the flutterings—those welcome signs of the new life within me—on complete opposite sides of my abdomen, at the very same time. For a baby that was supposed to be the size of a sweet potato, that seemed unusual to say the least. Then, I had a dream of a boy and a girl—twins. The girl was smaller than the boy, with a sweet and mild demeanor. The boy was a bright burst of exuberant sunshine. And when I woke that next morning I could feel it in their kicks; the differences between these flutterings on opposite sides of my abdomen, like the differences between alternative rock and classical radio stations. Two nights later I woke up at 5:30 with a start—and I couldn’t go back to sleep until I had decided on a name for the boy baby. 

I heard it in the silence and the dark—from the mouth of God, a name for the son I still wasn’t even completely sure I had suddenly emerged. A name I had never considered, but loved immediately. Finally settled in my mind, I went back to sleep. 

A few more weeks went by, with days in which I was sure there were twins in my womb, and more days in which I wondered if I had just really messed up my dates somehow and that’s why I was so much bigger than I thought I should be. My sweet husband tried to comfort me by saying; “It’s just one really big baby.” Somehow though I didn’t find this at all reassuring.

The week of my ultrasound finally came, and Sunday morning I woke up full of emotions about what this week would hold. My parents had our other three kids for the weekend, my husband was going to be drumming at our church, and I myself planned to attend the first in person service I had been to in over a year. As I rested and prepared that morning I spent some time praying about the pregnancy and in the depths of my heart I heard the Lord chuckle to me;

“You’re just waiting for science to confirm what you know I’ve already told you—”

The fear welled up in me, but then I heard him again, “I am giving you a double portion.” Like a lightning flash my perspective shifted—not to the weight of the burden I was already beginning to waddle while carrying, but the weight of the blessing. A double portion of children—where I had only expected one. And with it I knew would also come a double portion of provision from the God who gave them to me. 

The peace that enveloped my heart that morning carried me into the week, but by Wednesday evening I was anxious just to know for sure. Then came the text message from the receptionist at the birth center—something had come up with the tech, and they needed to reschedule my ultrasound appointment. 

I felt like an overtightened harp string that had been plucked on a sour note, and the melt down ensued. All that evening and the next day I walked around in a fog, hoping upon hope that the midwives who would be doing my regular pre-natal appointment would be able to tell me something. Just something to confirm that I wasn’t in fact, losing my mind thinking that I might be having twins. After having spent the whole previous evening being angry at God and feeling like he was pulling a prank on me, I felt him inviting me once again to trust him—that I would know what I needed to know, when I needed to know it. 

I have never been more grateful to be in a practice where they actually listen to me and care about my heart. Hearing my whole story, my lovely midwife examined me and confirmed that, yes in fact, I was measuring at 29 weeks, when I was only 21. Yes in fact, it did seem like there was an awful lot of baby in my belly for 21 weeks. And yes in fact, it did seem like there were two heart beats when we used different dopplers on different sides of my belly. 

I felt affirmed, but without an ultrasound, how could we say for sure? 

That’s when the lovely midwives decided to just use the ultrasound themselves, not for anything technical, but just to see if they could see two babies. A short parade down the hallway, some cold jelly and a thousand button presses later—there they were. Two babies, in two sacs, kicking separately from each other. The child on the right, which I was pretty sure was my son, squirming and kicking up a storm with his tiny feet. The child on the left, who I was pretty sure was my daughter— mild and placid, sucking her thumb. 

I wept tears of relief and joy, said something along the lines of “I’m not crazy!” and looked at these babies I wasn’t expecting and felt my heart grow big enough for two more. 

A mother’s love knows that there are things worth giving up your dreams for, things worth fighting for, things worth dying for. And as much as I mourned the loss of the birth I had been hoping for, I rejoiced that in the span of four more months, we will have not one, but two more beautiful babies, God-willing. And whatever comes, I know already that they are worth it all. 

Why do you seek the Living among the Dead?

Starting into the fire pit last night I found myself thinking back on the disciples. On the grace of God that left the disciples grieving on the Sabbath.

When Jesus died that Friday night they buried his body hastily because it was almost time for the Sabbath. It was their weekly day of rest and there wasn’t time to prepare him as properly as they would have liked. I imagine them sitting around fires and tables that Holy Saturday, wondering where it had all gone wrong. Spared from making plans, from trying to decide what would be next for these who had followed this carpenter preacher around for the past three years. Spared for the moment by the rest they were required to take on the Sabbath day.

I imagine Peter’s grief and repentance at betraying Jesus with his words. And the vacuum of guilt and condemnation that consumed Judas. The tears that John the beloved disciple wept with Mary, Jesus’ mother. Was it hard for them to eat that day? When the last meal they remembered their friend and teacher had told them that true feast was his body broken and blood shed for them. Did they remember how he had tenderly washed their feet? Did all his words suddenly come in sharp relief—his commands to love one another. His words about where he was going and how they could not follow him—at least not yet.

Around the fire pit last night I kept thinking that if the disciples had actually had time to prepare his body properly on Friday, they would not have been back at the tomb on Sunday. How it must have irked them to leave his body less than prepared for a proper burial! How it must have burned, and felt like a betryal. Like the last thing from common decency. Yet, this was the very avenue by which they were to discover his resurrection.

The dark of that Sunday morning, as Mary rose in the dark to go to the tomb of her beloved teacher and friend, she had no idea what awaited her. Perhaps she wept the whole way there, Jesus’ other female disciples with her. Hurrying along in the dark, worry about what they would say to get past the Roman guards stationed at the tomb. Hoping no one stopped them from doing what was the least they could do for this man who has somehow changed everything ever since they had met him.

And then to discover—the stone rolled away. The body, nowhere to be found. An angel sitting outside asking them the strangely obvious question: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, for he has risen, just as he told you.”

How his words must have returned to them in sharp relief! The lightning bolt of the revelation that their Lord wasn’t there—that while they thought every circumstance pointed to him being dead and gone from their lives forever, the very opposite was true.

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, HE IS RISEN.

He is Risen indeed.