(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 Table

I didn’t know
what you meant
by  “kingdom”
the words
felt foreign &
meaningless
in my mouth.


Perhaps I pictured
the caste of some fairy tale
aspiration—foreign 
to my modern mind.


Perhaps I pictured 
something archaic
something that cost
more than it was worth.


Perhaps I pictured
a moat & drawbridge
full of beasts
snapping at the heels
of those who don’t
belong.


Perhaps I envisioned
those streets of gold
the palace with your robe,
the temple full of smoke—
But nothing else. 
No true life,
no blade of grass,
no creatures
(except those terrifying 
ones) setting themselves
to sing your praises
for all eternity.


But then I saw it. 
A picture of a long table
on a mountain top.
Cushions littering the ground,
linens & lovely place settings,
a breeze blowing the soft grasses.
I could almost smell
the aroma of a feast
being prepared—


& I knew 
I had gotten it wrong.


The Kingdom is 
a table—


Where those who were
enemies become friends 
with each other & the God 
who made friends 
with us all. 


Where the hungry eat
without price—
	wine & milk
	honey & marrow
in abundance.


Where we dwell
in your presence &
soak it in—
like the lush grasses 
beneath my feet 
in summertime.  


We are not forced
to praise, 
with harps of gold
on nimbus clouds—
rather, praise flows 
from our lips like wine
as we see you
as you are. 


Today, I think
about the last supper
& how you washed
the filthy feet 
of an enemy 
who betrayed you &
dined with friends
who did the same.


Can I help but marvel
at the God who 
still prepares 
wretched sinners  
a table
in his presence?


A table 
that will satisfy 
all the lack 
& longing 
we have felt 
for all these
painful earthly 
years—
 

Where all at once, 
we will be full 
of joy &
satisfied. 

Photo c/o Stella de Smit on Unsplash

How I have longed

I know 
your heart
is full of anguish  
& longing —

      mine is too. 

How I have longed
to gather you
beneath my plumage;
as a mother hen 
gathers her vulnerable 
chicks—shielding them 
from all that would seek
to do them harm. 

I would treat
your wounds
with the balm 
of my presence &
cure your sorrow
with the sound
of my laughter.

        Oh if you only knew
        how I delight 
        in you.

But you have been 
wayward sons & daughters—
Jerusalem the Holy City 
slaughters the prophets
& those who are sent 
to seek and save it. 

         Yet 
         I would gather you
         even still;

—children who cannot 
believe a promise 
only because it 
isn't the way you
imagined it.

—children who cannot
believe my words
because your eyes
have yet to see 
them come true. 

         But it was for this reason
         Beloved
         that I have come. 

Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

Just his hem—

Those who said 
they would help
have only hurt me
more. 

The blood 
won’t stop
coming & all
these wounds 
refuse to be
bound.

But I heard a rumor 
yesterday—
it caused my heart 
to leap inside 
my frail & aching 
chest. 

They say:
a man—
a prophet—
a healer—
has come to Israel 
again.

In the crowd
I hide my face
behind my shawl.
I hope no one 
recognizes me—

I don’t belong here. 

All who touch me 
are unclean &
in this crowd 
I could pollute
dozens—yet do I really
seek to touch him? 

Not him 
I say to myself 
just his hem—
if I can just touch 
the hem of his robe
I know I will be healed—

After all this time 
walking alone 
perhaps I could be
a mother—
a friend—
a daughter—
again. 

When my fingers
graze fabric I feel
the Power working.
My body feels 
more whole 
than it has in
twelve long years,
but with the joy comes
like a lightning flash
both awe & terror.

What have I done? 

But before I can slip 
away anonymous &
unnamed his eyes
turn toward me. 
His gaze is searching
& he’s asking;
“Who touched me?”
And I, shaking 
in a body only 
moments made whole, 
confess it all 
before him. 

I thought 
he would 
chastise me
for making him
unclean—
instead I feel 
his hand beneath
my chin, lifting
my eyes to his gaze. 

He looks at me 
like he knows me 
from the top of my head,
to the soles of my feet.
He calls me daughter
& says my faith 
has made 
me well. 

If only everyone 
could be seen 
like this—
his loving gaze
made well 
parts of me
even miracles
couldn’t heal. 

Photo c/o Luca Lawrence on Unsplash

For the days it’s hard to breathe—

Sometimes the heaviness 
	here 
makes it hard 
to breathe. 

When my lungs 
are burning
for breath
I close my eyes
& think about 
the wedding feast.

The long table, 
laid with fine linens &
fruits of glorious labor—

beloved faces of those
I have wept with,
rejoiced with,
& grieved—
all shining 
like the glassen
sea’s surface
in summer. 

I hear the wind
blowing fragrance
through the trees
in the orchard.
Joy overwhelms 
me & I know 
	he’s coming. 


I lift my eyes
to meet his own &
when he smiles,
I feel it to the soles
of my bare feet
where they plant
themselves in 
warm grass,
like a tree
who knows
where she’s
growing.


He laughs 
easy as breathing &
like the sudden break
of dawn over mountaintops
I breathe in 
the reality that
this sound could fill
every crack,
every lack
every longing 
of my whole life. 


I open my eyes,
shining with unshed tears
& my heart breaks 
to find myself
	 here
again.


But the burdens
feel lighter 
with his laughter 
to buoy me. 



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*

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