To the God of Hagar

 
 To the God 
 of Hagar—
 God of wandering 
 people 
 in wilderness
 places—


 We know
 that you see—
 but we are having a hard time
 believing 
 what we are seeing
 and seeing it—
 still believing
 that you see.
 
 
 God who has seen 
 all violence done 
 upon the earth—
 who sees the mothers
 and fathers fleeing—
 their babies in their arms
 only to arrive at safer shores 
 that do not want them. 


 God who has seen
 every innocence stolen
 by the hands of wicked men
 some who claim
 your name
 while inflicting 
 unspeakable pain. 
 

 God who has seen
 every victim silenced 
 by lies and deceit 
 and the idolatry 
 of the comfort 
of lies so much
 easier to swallow
 than the bitter 
 draught of truth. 
 

 God who has seen
 every genocide,
 every leader drunk
 on power and prejudice,
 who values not 
 what you called holy
 —the imago dei— 
 of all of human kind. 
 

 God who has seen
 the ruthless grip of 
 natural disasters 
 tearing houses
 and lands 
 and peoples 
 apart.
  

 God who has seen
 the ravages of every kind
 of sickness and disease;
 we know this is not the first 
 pandemic you have seen. 
 

 God who himself
 has felt the sting 
 of sickness that leads
 to death—
 the tears of grief
 for your beloved,
 Lazarus in the tomb
 and for the moment
 out of reach. 
 

 These times are not 
 “unprecedented”
 to you. But
 we are still
 afraid. 
 

 We need 
 to know—
 do you see us
 here?


 Do you see
 every lonely heart
 turned lonelier 
 by pandemic 
 isolation?
 

 I had days 
 where I was scared
 to make contact— 
 to smile, to wave 
 even to those 
 a street away.
 The distance 
 has felt more
 than social.


 But God,
 these are 
 small things
 I know.
 

 What about
 the family members 
 saying goodbye
 with nothing but 
 a lousy internet connection
 connecting them
 to a parent
 a child
 a loved one—
 dying in the ICU?
  

 Do you see
 how the fingertips
 ache to be squeezed?
 to be held 
 one last
 earthly time?
 

 Do you see 
 the fear 
 in our eyes—
 that we 
 (or one we love)
 could be next
 to die alone? 
 

 Or what about the cries 
 for justice God? 
 You’ve been hearing 
 some version of the these 
 for millenia—
 the oppressor always 
 has his boot pressed
 against the neck 
 of someone unable 
 to fight back. 
 

 Some of us 
 are just now beginning 
 to understand this is 
 not the promised land.
 

 This is the valley of shadows.
 

 I’ve known it 
 since I was seven. 
 And despite
 all you’ve done 
 to heal and redeem—
 some days 
 all I can say is:
 “I hate it here.”
 

 Like Hagar
 running 
 through the night
 her heart beat 
 slamming
 her short breaths
 burning
 her shaking lungs. 


 forced into service
 forced into her master’s bed
 forced to carry the burden
 of the patriarch’s lack of faith
 and her mistresses’ abuse—
 she fled.
 

 But where 
 could she go?
 

 Where can we find shelter
 in a world that seems
 to be tearing always 
 at some new seam 
 we didn’t know
 was there?
 

 Do
 you
 see 
 her 
 God? 
 

 See the tears
 track down her 
 dirty cheeks?
 See her face, pale
 with fears her heart
 cannot hold?
 What more 
 can she take 
 God? 


 (What I mean to say is
 what more 
 can we take?)


 Is there a spring 
 after all?
 A spring rising up 
 in this wilderness—
 water bubbling
 like the sound of joy
 from the ground?
 

 Would you speak
 as you once did
 to Hagar—
 to ask us 
 where have you been
 and where are you going? 


 Will you give 
 to the wounded,
 outcast,
 abandoned,
 lonely,
 bleeding heart—
 promise of a blessing?
 

 Can we name our sons
 Ishmael—knowing 
 you have heard
 our affliction?
 Knowing you have 
 your eye upon us
 even still? 
 

 The chickadees
 in the barren lilac
 out my window
 always have enough
 to eat—
 will you feed us
 even here Jesus? 
 

 Will it taste
 like bread
 and water
 to know 
       you
       see
       us 
       still? 

Photo by Tess on Unsplash

Cleanse this temple too

 They were angry with you
 when you turned over  
 those tables. 
 

 The coins clattered
 in the courtyard
 and you could hear
 the cries—the bleating, 
 cooing cacophony 
 of the sacrifice-for-sale.
 

 The offerings offered for a price
 that seemed payable
 that seemed enough perhaps—
 but missed the heart.
 

 Your heart beat hammered 
 human in your chest
 as you, the righteous God-Man
 ransacked the place.
 

 Wrath is reserved especially 
 for we who have eyes 
 but refuse to see.
 

 They were angry.
 They called you a thief,
 a menace—a disturber of the peace.
 They said the prince of darkness
 had paid to have your soul
 

 But you were the One
 who spent 40 days with nothing;
 a wilderness wandering, 
 just so you could return
 and wonder of wonders
 give us a world in yourself—
 the Word.
 

 How many tables 
 have you toppled this year? 
 How many images did we imagine
 were worthy of you, 
 but we see now are rotted,
 rusted with all the rest
 of our earthly treasures?
 

 How many idols 
 of security,
 of normalcy,
 of the easy & good life,
 you have shattered—
 scattered at our feet like coins 
 from the money changers.
 Like the dung scattered
 from the sacrificial sheep?
 

 Who our true gods are 
 has never been more
 obvious.
 

 Where we put our hope
 in the midst of crisis—
 the thread, the shred
 that we hold that helps 
 us sleep at night.
 

 LORD, if it be not 
 the edge of your robe
 then turn it over 
 again—
 

 Turn us into children
 hungry for you,
 O Bread of Life—
 who thirst for water
 that quenches 
 the soul. 

Header photo c/o KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

Ash Wednesday

 1.  Ash Wednesday 
 

 Leaves burned last fall
 just when yellows and reds
 should have swept us away 
 with the colors of flame—


 Instead aspen leaves dropped charred 
 from the sky dark at noon.
 They crumbled to dust in our hands 
 while smoke made it hard to breathe.
  

Thoughts of our own mortality 
 have never been nearer 
 than these masks that hide
 our faces but not our fears.


 Ashes to ashes
 and dust to dust—
 fears coming nearer like the lines 
 the fire fighters drew to protect the houses
 the roads, the school campus 
 in the mountains burning down. 


 Like the lines marked
 every six feet with signs
 reminding us to keep
 our distance. 


 But it’s the loneliness 
 that weighs me 
 down the most
 

 Most days I stare out the window 
 and wonder—
 who are the faithful friends?
 the one’s who’ll weather
 this storm too and stand
 by my side again—
 when spring finally comes
 when fresh leaves
 emerge from aspens 
 scarred by flames 
of last year’s destruction?


 It’s Ash Wednesday now
 a time to think about
 all that perishes—
 and what remains. 


 what Beauty 
 is already standing sentry 
 when the pine seeds 
 are sprouting  
 in glorious resurrection?


I know the answer 
like I know the sound
of his voice—


 In this life so full of loss
 and lack that burns
 like smoke in my lungs
 there is only One True 
 and Lasting Beauty:


 One God who put on 
 fragile flesh to kneel 
 in the dirt,
 to plant himself 
 like a seed sown in tears 
 in a borrowed tomb.
 

 Like a pine seed, 
 awakened by 
 the flames

 just waiting—
 to burst forth.  

This poem is the first in a series I will be doing, one poem for every Wednesday of Lent. I hope you follow along and that these poems of lack and longing meet you where you are this Lent. To receive updates in your email, click here to sign up for my email list and you’ll be sure not to miss a thing, even if you take a step back from social media for awhile. 🙂

Blessings on you Dear Reader, wherever this Lenten season finds you. And may the only True and Lasting Beauty—meet you there.


Grace Kelley

*Header Image C/O Malachi Brooks on Unsplash*

Abandoned Places

I have this fond affection for abandoned places. It’s weird, and feels misplaced every time it pops up, but there it is with the run down old house in need of love (and a roof) on the busy interstate. I feel it again at the sight of a leaning old tree; dead and grey wood worn down by weather and life. I remember the day that old tree finally fell, and that place on the highway felt lost without it.

There’s an old cinderblock house on Highway 287 north that I wrote a poem about. It needs a roof I think, but my engineer husband thinks it needs a bulldozer. He’s probably right.

There’s an old brick victorian house on three neglected acres just north west of the I25 entrance. It has painted green shutters, the window on the upper level is cracked, and sometime down the road someone seems to have built on a ply-wood addition to the side and spray painted it black. The NO TRESPASSING signs don’t intimidate me. I see the place as perhaps it once was; built with love and attention, facing a southern sky, the land around it filled with growing things nurtured and tended by loving and wise hands. There would have been a barn there for the horses. A carriage house perhaps. It would have been on the edge of the town-turned-city; our ever-expanding home. And no one would have dreamed of throwing a rock through the window, or building on a ply-wood addition and spray painting it black.

Last year I went to see my Grandaddy’s farm for what will probably be the last time. One portion is under-contract for sale; another holds a few head of cattle and the fishing pond my great-grandaddy built when he bought the land in the 1930’s. There’s a small shelter nearby where we park that was probably used for hogs I’m told; but now it’s covered in ivy and only holds the click-click-click of the generator for the electric fence. My father points out the field where they used to plant sweet potatoes. I can still remember in my mind’s eye the sight of the old farm house where my Grandaddy was born and raised, which has since been demolished after it became a danger. He shows me the acre where they planted the family garden, and tells me how they shucked corn every 4th of July for as long as he can remember, to put it up for the cool North Carolina winter months.

This all brings with it such wisps of my own childhood memories; like the time when I was young and my Daddy took my brothers and I fishing at this pond. He left the boys with their lines in the water at one place, and took me around to a different corner of the pond. I’ll never forget how he leaned down in my ear and whispered, “This is the best spot. Don’t tell your brothers.”

I remember how when I got older my Dad told me how he used to pull up old wine bottles from the bottom of the pond; relics of my alcoholic Paw-Paw’s day. I remember how my Dad told me Paw-Paw would say, “I’m going fishing,” in the evenings, and how everyone knew what that meant even if they pretended not to. When I asked him if he drank it, he said it had all turned to vinegar by then.

Places left unattended seem to become wild; they go to entropy without some greater force sculpting them towards order and harmony. Like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden—I am drawn in by the abandonment of these places. All the memories they hold, both good and bad, past and possible future flash before my eyes as I catch sight of a house nearly drowned in ivy on the side of a North Carolina highway. I can’t help but wonder; Who lives here? Who owns this? When did they leave and why? Is there hope for its restoration? What would it cost?

The neediness of a place draws me in. Perhaps it’s partly the solitude these places seem to afford; like the ghost town of Independence, Colorado—a small abandoned mining town at the top of a mountain pass where once gold was found, and then just as quickly, it wasn’t. I read on the internet that the town was mostly abandoned by 1890, and all but one remaining person left after a massive blizzard in 1899 left the town cut off from supplies. I wonder about the last person who stayed for thirteen years alone at the top of a mountain pass, almost 11,00 feet above sea level. I wonder how he felt, as he watched his neighbors and friends flee to Aspen on homemade skis that February 1899. How did he (or she) survive? By 1912 the town was completely deserted, and I wonder if it was as a result of the death of the last remaining resident, or if he too eventually realized that there was nothing left for him there.

Maybe the reason these places pull me in is because I’m so hesitant to ever believe that there’s nothing left worth saving. Maybe it’s because I don’t want anyone to think that about me. Perhaps I feel a kinship to these lonesome and broken down places; perhaps its the Imago Dei in me longing to bring order and dominion to every lost and abandoned place. Perhaps it’s because I know my heart can’t take any more abandonment myself.

When I was seven years old I lost my church and all my friends in one fell swoop. As a homeschool kid those were the most significant connections I had apart from family; and it’s an ache I still carry around with me more days than I would like.

I don’t like telling you this; for fear you’ll see the broken porch step, the dirt pile under the welcome mat, the loose wiring in the living room, the broken tile on the kitchen floor. The truth is, that I was sexually abused by the son of an elder at my childhood church; and when instead of offering some measurable assurance of space to heal and comfort and justice we were told to simply “forgive and forget”, we left. Sadder still—no one followed us.

Abandonment feels like the sharp sting of acrid smoke in my nostrils; and it has haunted me so thoroughly for most of my life that sometimes I imagine I can smell it when it isn’t even there.

I have been guilty of looking at my friends with a sideways glance—wondering if they are about to dart out the door. I look at my husband this way too; this wonderful man who promised to love me forever ten plus years ago, and hasn’t ever done a single thing to make me doubt his commitment to me since. I play out the scenarios in my mind of how it will happen; how I’ll share too much, be too much, take too much—and then it will be too late.

The fear of being left alone haunts me; I worry about who I’ll disappoint when I don’t have things as together as they think I should. I have seen the looks of fear on faces when I express feelings of doubt in the face of my lifelong faith. I think they think that if I express doubt that maybe I’m lose my faith in God; but the Truth is that I have my eyes and heart so wide open on my best days, that I must continually wrestle the darkness that I witness into the hands of the loving God who is himself everything light and lovely. But it’s a fight. I wrestle constantly it feels like sometimes; and there are dark days when I just don’t even know how to believe in a good and loving God anymore. But he always brings me back—and I’m learning that that is the more important piece.

I know he’s going to mend that porch step in time. He’s already got the broom out to clean under the welcom mat. He’s planning a kitchen remodel and the new tile is going to be so much more beautiful than what has been cracked and broken and left to rot in me. And I believe he longs to do the same in you.

But if you’re like me, perhaps you find it hard to see that God really loves you; that he really wants to make all the broken down and bleeding in you whole and healed and new. Perhaps it feels impossible—because if you weren’t valued when you were young and innocent, how could you be valued now that you’ve grown up and screwed up more times than you could count?

I still wrestle with these doubt too, friend. I get it. But I want you to know something—no matter how abandoned you have felt, you have never walked alone. These broken parts are pieces of your story? They are making way for an eternal weight of glory.

I’ve seen it. I believe it. I know that it’s true. And my prayer for you Dear Reader, is that you would begin to know it too.

A Prayer for our Abandoned Places

Jesus—

You see all that is broken and abandoned in me. 
You see where I have placed a pot to gather rain from the leaky roof—
the rugs I use to cover the holes in the floor—
the peeling paint beneath the stack of books on the window sill. 
Thank you for making your home with me, even still. 
Teach me to trust the shuffle of your soft footsteps on my squeaky floor boards.
Thank you that you love me as I am, yet you love me too much to leave me this way.
Do your work in me O LORD—

Amen 

The Anvil

 The Anvil
 

 I.


 Loss is like
 an anvil
 sitting silent on my chest.
 The only noise comes
 when I try 
 to breathe.
 

 The creaking of my lungs
 fighting to expand in this 
 weighted world 
 sounds like the rattling
 of chains softened
 by padded walls.
 

 Words pad the cell:
            “She lived a good life.”
             “It was her time.”
             “She was ready.”
 

 AND IF I COULD ONLY STAND 
 I’D RIP THAT PADDING OFF THE WALLS 
 AND DASH MYSELF AGAINST THE COLD AND SOLID REALITY 
 THAT DEATH IS ALWAYS AN UNINVITED AND GREEDY HAND 
 AT THE TABLE AND THERE IS NO EXCUSING HIM.
 

 I have tried to move 
 the anvil 
 by ignoring it.
 Pretending that I believe 
 padded words 
 are enough to quench 
 embers burning
 a hole in my chest 
 where my heart used to be.
 

 But 
 surprise, surprise!
 It didn’t work.
 

 After sitting in the numbed silence
 for 100 more years I took another 
 rattling breath—my lungs like a bellows
 on the embers of a heart gone
 almost cold as I whispered—
 

             “I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
 

 And the anger lifts the anvil—
 throws it broken to the ground.
 And I do as I said I would;
 tearing padding, dashing
 every part of me against the cold 
 hard stone until
 either my bones 
 or the wall 
 must break. 
 

 

 

 II.
 

 Blind and wounded
 is this how we come?
 Crashing through that solid
 wall of reality
 my bones turned to powder
 my eyes gritty
 my nostrils full of dust
 & funeral ashes. 
 

 Lying under a bright
 & open sky—
 the beauty sharp
 like grief—
 at first felt worse
 

 than the anvil
 that sat on my chest
 1000 years—a weight 
 where my heart 
 used to be. 


 And now this!?
 

 As I crashed through the walls
 to the truth that death 
 was always just a door—
 out of the tower 
 out of the nightmare
 out of the Shadowlands
 

 to Here—
 where air is breathed
 just for
 laughing. 
 


(This poem is an excerpt from my poetry chapbook As the Sparrow Flies, a collection of poems about the various forms of grief that come with love.) 

    Header photo by Yang Shuo on Unsplash 

Where I’ve been

It’s been almost six months since I’ve published anything in this space.

Like everyone else, 2020 kicked my butt in so many ways. From the fear caused by everything from the pandemic to the election—to the too-close-for-comfort wildfires that made the sky turn black at noon on labor day, to the deep loss caused by the deaths of two of my grandparents, to the more mundane losses of any kind of social life, and the fact that I haven’t been to church in person in almost a year.

It’s been a year of grief, a year of stripping away, a year in which I have questioned so much of my life and the way I choose to live it. It has also been a year for making art: for a poetry chapbook that is nearing completion and was almost entirely written during this difficult year (the subject matter: grief.), for silly short stories that will never see the light of day, and the first draft of my first ever novel written during November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

This is the year that I lived in a vacuum in so many ways; it was a year that showed me just how much I use the good opinions of others to prop up these under-inflated lungs. No wonder in this year when the main people who could appreciate me, don’t (my kids still don’t realize that I’m actually an amazing cook 😉 ), I had many days where I felt like I could hardly breathe. It’s like I’ve been on a ventilator of other people’s good opinions of me, and 2020 weaned me off of them. This year God began to teach me how to breathe on my own; with the breath that he breathes into my lungs. Breath that has allowed this year to be a year of incredible creativity; a year of pushing the boundaries of who I thought I was, and what I thought I was meant to do.

This year I began to dance in my kitchen.

This year I started writing fiction.

This year I realized that who others think I “should be”, and who God is calling me to be, very well may not match up. And that’s okay.

I’ve known for the past few years that if I was really going to be able to live into the calling that God has given me, I was going to need to put my people-pleasing to death. Easier said than done; in fact, I realize now that there was literally no way that that was going to happen without some sort of massive Divine Intervention. I have certainly not arrived, but I’m learning. God has had his work cut out for him, unwinding the years of false narratives with which I have surrounded basically every part of my life.

I constantly need to reevaluate my life. Am I only valuable when I am making things? When people notice and aknowledge my hard work or giftings? What if a season of illness or inability keeps me down for months at a time—am I still lovable then?

These seasons keep me honest about what is actually motivating me on a daily baisis. They keep me humble as I must constantly remember the truth: that my value cannot be added to or taken away from by anything I do—I am valuable soley because God values me.

In this prolonged season of grief, I have needed to step away from many of my usual modes of expression; the blog, my instagram, etc. The need came on suddenly and without preamble, but I could feel it in my bones: I needed to take time away from a writing that included external pressures to produce. (Even if those are mostly constructed by me.) There were weeks in a row where I hardly lifted a pen at all; but even when I was not able to write the stories down, God continued to remind me that these stories are still being written on my heart and in my mind.

Dear Reader, I have stories to tell you. So many stories. And someday, I’ll get to share them in ways that befit their beauty. And you have stories too. True narratives that are just waiting to be unraveled from the pain, chaos, and uncertainty that these strange days have held. I hope in the coming days, to be able to create more of a place for us to hear each other stories in ways we haven’t yet before—between a rock and a hard place, there is also The Rock and a Holy Place—a place where we are transformed.

The snow is falling softly outside my bedroom window, covering the thin and craggy branches of the 50 year old lilac like a layer of cream on my summertime farmer’s market strawberries, and I am dreaming of the Colorado peaches I hope the frost does not destroy this year. I am dreaming of finishing a revised draft of my manuscript. I am dreaming of letting go of expectations and of perfection. I am dreaming of embracing the beautiful moments of my right now life, even as I try and take the next steps to prepare for what’s ahead. I am dreaming that hope will become the predominant string being plucked in my heart, that the strings of anxiety and fear will be silenced—and eventually, torn out altogether.

I dream of making art that matters, and I dream of making art whether it matters to anyone else or not. I want to make beautiful things, and I want to encourage you to see the beauty in the midst of your own life’s difficult circumstances, that we may daily be awakened to the goodness of God, and the incredible power of his total redemption of every difficulty in our lives.

All that to say, some changes are coming to this space, in greater reflection of changes that have come to my own heart and mind this past year. I’m not really sure what it’s all going to look like yet, but I hope to continue showing up in this space as more fully myself, and that God will bless these loaves and fishes offered here and make them more than enough.

As I share the salt and sweat of my own wilderness places, I hope you will journey with me as we find that there is a river here… in fact it’s been here all along.

So that’s a little bit of where I’ve been: where have you been dear Reader? I’d really love to hear.

Header Photo by Ilyuza Mingazova on Unsplash

Beneath my Shed Skin

 I am shedding my skin—
 the old broken down shell
 is cracked and sloughing off
 my shining shoulders. 
 

 I am letting go of the girl 
 I thought I was last year
 two years ago, definitely ten.
 Would she recognize me?
 Would we be friends?
 

 I’m letting go of those questions
 too. They have no place in this pool
 where I wash the soot from my body 
 and watch the way the moon gleams 
 on my brand new skin.
 

 This coal mine cave turned tomb 
 For minerals, miners, and me.
 Presented to the heat, the flame
 as a sacrificial offering. 
 For what god—I wasn’t sure.
 

 I felt the flames lick my heels
 and I screamed until the air gave
 out—I couldn’t breathe
 and I collapsed as the cave 
 collapsed and crushed me. 
 

 But now I am stepping out
 of my skin cracked and scared
 like the granite of the mountain side,
 and I see the new underneath—
 shining hard facets sparkling
 in the light of a young moon.
 

 I realize it then: it takes defiance 
 to believe in joy—to hold both
 happiness and sorrow 
 in your hands at once—
 to believe in hope 
 when the dark is caving in.
 

 I didn’t know it till 
 the sorrow buried me alive.
 I didn’t know till I heard
 the canary sing—
 reminding me that somehow
 there’s still air down here.
 

 Still air in my broken down lungs 
 crushed beneath worlds of weight
 beneath bodies of gods existent
 in the image temples of my heart
 where I worshipped perfection, 
 performance and outward shows 
 of grand love to be praised by man—
 Where I bowed to the love of a god
 who only loved what I had done 
 lately and not who I always was beneath
 this skin I am shedding. Not who I 
 was when the cave roof collapsed. 
 

 And Oh what Wonder!
 the dust clears and I can see
 now these were no gods at all, 
 only toppling stones crashing 
 before the refiners fire licked 
 my heels and made me clean. 
 

 Now upon the banks of a pool 
 on the mountainside, 
 I shed my sodden, sooty skin—
 I wipe the dirt from my neck,
 and my chest thrums with a new
 more solid beat.
 

 Now, beneath the light
 of the young moon, beneath 
 my shed skin, I can see clearly
 what I was always meant
 to become. 
 

 

 

 
 Photo C/O KT on Unsplash 

How Grief leads the way to Deeper Peace and Greater Clarity

“When the old way is dying, we can cling to normal or we can let sorrow lead our search for something better. This is the summer of imagination… Today I pray that instead of grasping for what you used to have, you let your empty hands clasp in prayer. Optimistic clutching for normalcy only can give you temporary relief, but you were made for more than the normal you had. Only grief can grow your imagination for the goodness of the kingdom you belong to.”

—K.J. Ramsey

I’ve been to two funerals in the past month. The first was a memorial for my Grandmother who passed away in March, the week that everything in our state shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The second was for my Grandaddy who passed away at the beginning of August, and because of slightly fewer restrictions, we were able to have a small, mask-wearing-service at his home church in Fuquay-Varina North Carolina.

Aside from the season of fear and anxieties and generally vague grief that this pandemic has brought us through, some of you, like me, are also experiencing the sharp grief that comes with deep loss. Loss of a loved one. Loss of a job. Loss of money you had been saving in a 401k—we are all grappling with so much, but some of us more than others.

But it’s in this season that I am remembering and re-learning, that allowing ourselves to grieve over these losses, makes way for more peace. The kind of peace that is independent of circumstances, but that is rooted in something realer than what our eyes can see. The kind of peace that allows us to see our lives with greater clarity and imagination, showing us that our hunger for rightness in not foolish, but a good hunger that will lead us to our greatest satisfaction.

God’s Kingdom is here, and it is also coming. Every broken thing will be restored. The dead in Christ are only the seeds waiting for the proper time to grow into a new and fuller life. Our King is here; and He is coming.

The tension of the already-and-the-not-yet can be a difficult place to live. In the months following my Grandmother’s passing, before her memorial service, I found myself trapped in a grief I didn’t feel like I was allowing myself to process. The pandemic pushed pause on so many things, and I found myself being forced to grieve in different ways. In May my Grandfather gave me a box of my Grandmother’s hair things; brushes, clips, hair ties, combs—because he didn’t want to just throw it away—and I found myself staring at the grey hairs in the hairbrush she had probably been using for 20 years or more, wondering: Is this all I have left?

The question haunted me right into the grief I had been avoiding. I penned an angry poem or two, and that’s when it began to happen. Quite by accident, or quite by the Holy Spirit, my eyes began to clear and I saw what I had been missing. In my attempts to push aside my grief I had said things to myself like, “She lived a good life. She was ready. She’s with Jesus now,” all of which are TRUE and GOOD things to say and believe. But I was using them like a tourniquet and not a bandage. I was circumventing the grief, trying to cut it off at the source, by saying things that I knew to be true, but didn’t really feel or believe in my heart.

The reality is that death is always an unwanted and greedy hand at the table. My loss is great. My mother’s loss is greater. The grief I felt at waking up the morning that I heard the news, knowing I would never see my Grandmother again in this life, was crushing. And why wouldn’t it be? When I finally penned the angry poems and let out all my feelings of pent up rage and frustration, it was then that the clarity came. Crashing against the cold hard reality of death, I broke through into the realer-reality; her glorious eternal life. Grief was the path that brought me there.

Two funerals in a row is a lot, but it has given me time to practice. After my Grandmother’s memorial, I felt the peace that comes with a little bit of closure, and many tears shed with loved ones who also loved the one we lost. When I visited my Grandaddy for the last time a week later, I knew that though sorrow would come with the night, joy would come in the morning. The memory of the peace that would come through grief was recent enough for me to have not forgotten everything I learned for once; and for that I am so very thankful.

Dearest Readers; I know the burdens you carry are heavy. There are so many of you walking around with griefs much heavier even than the loss of a Grandparent or other loved one. The anxiety threatens to crush you some days. The little sorrows pile up and feel heavier than a wheelbarrow full of lead. The weight of uncertainty in this season, and whatever season will come after, adds its weight too.

But I want you to know; there is peace on the other side of this thing you are grieving, when you grieve it in the presence of God. Circumventing your grief with platitudes and comforting phrases (even when those phrases are TRUE), is not the way forward to a lasting peace and a clarity which sees the Kingdom of God at work even in our most deeply devastated and broken places.

This is your written invitation: Let yourself grieve. It’s okay. You are not alone. Your losses are not insignificant, nor do they go unnoticed by our heavenly Father. He is not looking down on you. He is not waiting for you to be stronger. He knows your frame; that you are dust, and He cares for you as His beloved child. The way to the joy of the morning is the sorrow of the night. The grief that needs to come, the tears that must be shed to wash your eyes clean so that you may rightly see what you cannot see right now.

The day my Grandaddy died, I told my husband I needed the beauty of the lake. We packed a picnic dinner and went out kayaking and paddle boarding at sunset. But I got sunscreen in my eyes and they kept stinging my whole way across the lake. I kept wiping them with the corner of my shirt until finally a wave of grief hit me and I began to cry. Later I realized that it was the tears that cleared my eyes from the sunscreen that had been stinging and clouding my vision.

May it be the same for you.

Go in peace friends. The way isn’t easy, but it’s the way we’ve been given—and it is good.

*If you need someone to pray for you, leave a comment below. You can tell us what you need prayer for, or keep it between you and God, the choice is yours. And if you feel led to pray for someone, would you reply to their comment and let them know that you are lifting them up? Grief is done best in the body of believers.*

Now you are the Seed

Now you are the Seed
for my Grandaddy Roy

Now the soil is carved
to make way for hands
that handled seeds with care 
all their earthly days.

                Now you are the seed—

Once you made space 
for what looked like death.
For dried soy beans &
shriveled corn—
dusty field peas & string beans
turnips, collards & more.
(even tobacco seeds—for better 
or worse)

                Now you are the seed—

Once, you sowed faith
small as grains of mustard
in three small children’s hearts‚
                 and by grace like rain
they grew.

Once, you held grands & great-grands
in your weathered hands—
and by grace like rain, 
               we will grow to sow faith 
like you.

                Now you are the seed—

Now, I need the faith
of a farmer like you
to nestle you gently 
in borrowed earth
like Paw-Paw’s sweet potatoes
so carefully arranged—
to plant the seed of you
beside the one for whom you tended 
gardens & roses & feeders full of hope
like birdseed. 

Now, I need the faith 
of a farmer like you
to disbelieve what my eyes 
have seen & believe instead
in fields of glorious green & songs
of eternal spring—the land
from which no sparrow
falls.

Now you are the seed
in the hands of a Farmer
even older & wiser than you—

                and he knows 
                the time to plant
                and he knows
                the harvest
                is coming.

Now you are the seed
we sow in tears—
                but we will reap
                with shouts of joy.

To my white brothers and sisters; if you think racism isn’t hurting you—think again.

We have all been either in the headlines or the sidelines these past two weeks—observing and participating in what will certainly become a historic moment in our countries’ history. The blood of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others joining the groans of Emmet Till in the injustice and rampant racism surrounding their deaths.

If your peace is defined by your stable walls of a home, and stores being open when you need them, and no one chanting of holding signs or crying out for justice from the streets—perhaps these weeks have been peace shattering for you. Perhaps in your heart of hearts you wish you could go back to the way things were a few weeks ago when *all* you had to worry about was a pandemic.

Perhaps you think this has nothing to do with you. But it does.

It has everything to do with us. Because sin destroys everyone involved—Satan doesn’t want to only steal, kill and destroy our black neighbors; he wants to destroy you.

When lives are stolen in the name of hatred and prejudice—Fathers ripped from the arms of little girls, and you look away in complicity, it is your humanity that is being stolen.

Your compassion went up in flames long before you saw your neighborhood Target burning to the ground.

If you see a black man killed brutality and shamelessly, but you insist you need to know “the full story”; it is your God given sense of justice that has already been put to death in your heart.

If the destruction of property bothers you more than the destruction of black lives and livelihoods; a story that I’m told is sad, but far from new—it is your heart that is bound to an unjust scale. Don’t think for a moment that this weighing of the lives of our brothers and sister of color as less than things you hold dear hasn’t destroyed you.

Do you really think that you can see someone made in the Image of God as less than—and it not affect you on the very level of the soul?

Of this and so much more, I repent.

If you think you can check your social justice box because you are “pro-life,” think again. Because God cares about ALL life womb to tomb, and your witness is defiled if you think you can care for the unborn and not care for the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the tribe forgotten on the reservation, or your black neighbor.

Our unity is not for uniformity. Our unity is for the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood to stretch deep and wide beneath our varying perspectives and experiences; the Gospel big enough to hold us all in our deepest brokenness both white and black—

O CHURCH REPENT, the Kingdom is at hand!

Not a kingdom built on an uneasy peace won by silencing the voices screaming from injustice. Not a kingdom built on selective care of those made in the Imago Dei to those who only look like us, talk like us, or don’t directly inconvenience us. But a Kingdom in which we all can turn and be healed—healed by the scars of a brown skinned man living under authoritarian oppression, unjustly and torturously executed for crimes he did not commit.

The Pharisees were afraid of the stir he would cause; and we are to be like him. Not sacrificing “one for the many,” to keep the uneasy power and the uneasy peace. But laying down our lives, our rights; our privilege, all of it—for one another; that the bonds of unity would run deep and wide like the river of baptism washing all of us clean in the Gospel of grace.

O Church repent!

Repent of your White American Gospel; and hear the cries of the slaves in the fields singing from the depths of the suffering our ancestors put them through. Hear the stories of their suffering. Listen to their grief. See how the Lord has carried them, and love him for it even as you repent of your complicity in it.

I didn’t want to learn the truth last year when I learned that my ancestors owned slaves. I wish I could spit the taste of the shame from my mouth—of these sins I have inherited—Lord make me clean!

LORD HEAL OUR LAND! May we not wish this moment away. May we not stand idly by waiting for it to pass. May we see that we are here for such a time as this.

The church is being sifted; the differences between the sheep and the goats is becoming more and more clear. Do not listen to the voices that lull you back into your comfortable sleep. The world needs you awake.

Repent O Church!

Awake with new care and compassion! Do not be threatened by the past, only turn from it, knowing that grace is big enough for you too. You don’t have to justify the sins of the past to be set free from them. Only look them in the face, and do just the opposite: acknowledge the part that you have played in all of this, and let the grace of the Lord Jesus who has already lived perfectly for you heal your wounded soul. The Gospel is still the good news you need to hear.

O HOW WE LOVE YOU KING JESUS!

In his house there are many rooms. And in his Kingdom neither moth nor rust will destroy; nor thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19), they shall not hurt or destroy on his Holy Mountain for the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). And there every tribe and every tongue and every nation will worship him as the LORD.(Revelation 7:9)

Until that day, we bring his Kingdom here—asking God for his grace and forgiveness, repenting of the ways we have stumbled into a prejudice that blinds us from seeing our brothers and sisters for who they really are: beings made fearfully and wonderfully in the very image of a Holy God.

May our hearts be changed by God’s grace, and for his glory, amen.

Even so, COME LORD JESUS.