Practicing Prayer

Last Saturday, one friend prayed for me over a Whatsapp call, and another sent me these gorgeous flowers. I am moved to consider how I can follow the Spirit in turn. This weekend, we celebrate Pentecost. I love to think about the feminine qualities of the Holy Spirit, how He broods, hovers, nurtures–and infuses with incredible power. I wonder how living with the Spirit’s flame resting on us could be seen in us, in me.

I’d only talked with her once, last fall, over breakfast,

Between catching bites falling off her little girls’ spoons.

On Saturday, over the phone,

Our second conversation,

She was as vivacious as I’d remembered,

As thoughtful and generous

As we planned how we’ll plan

Our time together next month.

At the end of our 22 minutes,

She asked if she could pray for me now.

She’s the missionary, the busy mom,

She’s the one who needs care and support

But she prayed for me, and my day was better by her words.

That was Saturday.

Today is Tuesday, and twice

Since then, in conversations, I felt a nudge

To pray right then for the friend beside me.

Shoulder to shoulder,

Weakness beside weakness,

I got to talk to God on a dear one’s behalf,

To beg for His strength in fragility,

Wisdom in questions,

And declare my handing them into

His great care.

I love them dearly but can never save

Or give what they need most.

But I can hold them and remind them

Of what is truest and best in this

Awful, wondrous universe.

Prayer is a surprise at the end of a Whatsapp call,

An innervating string of words,

An example to follow,

A gift to speak at the Spirit’s nudge.

He hovers over us

With white wings that shade and comfort

As prayer gives wings to words

For each to fly.

Pain and Goodness

On the second night of February, I’d been working late and was walking home in the dark at 8:30. I was excited about having wrapped up a writing class, and was oblivious to how the temperature had dropped drastically after the day’s rain. That meant there was smooth ice on our gravel path and before I knew what was happening, my feet shot out from under me.

On my back on the ice, I thought to myself that usually when one falls, it hurts their knee or shoulder or head. But nothing hurt except my wrist, with a blinding pain I’d never felt before. I howled and rolled around in pain on the snow beside the path and found a way to get back on my feet. My housemate was gone for the weekend. The house was dark and when I walked in, my wrist had an egg-bump. I cried and googled what to do for a sprain and found frozen cranberries to put on it. Surely it was just badly sprained.

I wanted to call my neighbor friend to come help me but she was gone for the weekend too, so I cried more, not sure if the tears were from pain or from being alone. I knew I needed to sleep more than I needed to spend the night in the ER. So I managed the shower, pain pills, a pillow to elevate my arm while I sleep. (Managed became the operative word for the next months.) I slept decently, which seems like a miracle.

The next morning, I managed to walk to work in a winter wonderland. My coworkers said I need to get the wrist checked out. My doctor said she’d call the x-ray order in to the medical center because she doesn’t want to ask me to drive to see her first. It was one of the blowiest, snowiest mornings of the year and my friend took me in her car and we crept into town on bad, hilly, snow-covered roads. It was a nightmare. But we were kept safe.

In the waiting room, I bumped into sweet Omani friends, which was a lovely distraction. Waiting for the results, I asked the receptionist where I could get a drink of water, and she brought me this tall glass of cold water–well beyond her line of duty, I’m sure. And my coworker friend went beyond her duty to stay with me the whole morning, plus hand me a package of salted dark chocolate on the way home.

In the waiting room. I deeply feel the irony of the book title in this context!When the x-rays and CT scans were read, I learned there were two diagonal breaks at the tip of the radius. Maybe that explained the terrible pain. Maybe it was double the pain of one break. It was too late to go to ortho for a cast, and because it was Friday, I had to come back Monday for that. I spent Saturday chasing the sun in my house, studying to lead prison Bible study, and playing big, sweeping Christopher Tin music from the next room so I wouldn’t feel so alone. I cried because I had to cancel the next months of piano lessons and was excited to pack an overnight bag to celebrate a cousin’s 30th birthday party. The harrowing weekend was the beginning of months of paradox: managing so much pain AND being given so much goodness on every side.


At ortho, the specialist didn’t seem super confident or competent. I need my wrist and I was terrified he’d miss something and I’d have to live with a damaged wrist. He said I’m not out of the woods for possibly needing surgery, which terrified me more. The first day with my cast, I wrote Bible study notes on my fingers to take into jail. The notes didn’t work great but the motherly Jehovah Witness lady who always goes in with us helped drape my coat around my shoulder because my arm didn’t fit into my sleeve.

The rest of February blurs into memories of pain pills, a cold arm, voice-dictated emails and Word documents or typing with one hand, working extra hard all day to get less done than normal. I couldn’t even do Ctl+C or any other shortcuts with my left hand so I got used to doing them with my right.  I didn’t do anything for Lent because my cast was enough suffering. I’d collapse on the couch in the evening and manage to get back to work every morning. And I drank lots and lots of tea. And I was very thankful that I’m right-handed, even though that hand got so, so tired doing all the things. Sweet cards from friends came in the mail, wishing me quick healing. One friend sent a box with all kinds of treasures squished into it. My housemate tied my shoes for me until I learned how, and did all the house chores that required two strong hands.


After two weeks, the specialist I was dubious about said I didn’t need surgery, which seems like an enormous miracle, the way the breaks slanted.


There were sweet moments of beautiful reprieve sprinkled throughout the month. Two nights a week, I joined a writing class on Zoom with a teacher in Thailand. We crossed 12 time zones and bonded over beautiful words and still stay in touch. The classes helped to keep putting words on paper instead of spiraling down into pain and boredom. At the end, our teacher wrote verses about each of us, and mine seems to say more than she knew.




I  got to go to Lancaster to a writers and artists’ conference and met one of my favorite poets. I don’t have words for how special it was to love Malcolm Guite’s poetry, and then to hear him recite his own poems and give some of their backstory. He was uncommonly gracious and accommodating. “And you hurt your arm,” he commented after we posed. I’m proud of this picture, except for the plastic bag. Hearing him speak about the way he respects words and lets them do their work was a concept I want to keep. The warm experiences of my old and new friends sharing that rich weekend still gives me deep joy.

After three weeks in a cast, my wrist swelled and my fingers got tingly, and I was terrified about nerve damage. Orthopedics assessed it and after a technician sawed off the cast, she motioned to a sink and told me I could wash my hand, and then she left the room. I washed and washed, and wiped and wiped the weak, wrinkled hand and arm for a long, long time. It felt like something rubbery that could maybe come alive again. They sent me to an occupational therapist who fitted me carefully with a removable brace. The therapist was the most delightful, positive, helpful person I’d met in that department. She made my whole month better.

I had the brace for five weeks with instructions for no weight-bearing. The tingling went away, and the daily exercises went better every day. I’d sit on Zoom or in classes practicing my stretches and fists. And I could type with two hands! I could get so much work done with so little effort! I kept the arm elevated as much as possible every day and every night. It made for many praise sessions in the car as I drove. If your hand is raised anyhow, it’s a good time to pray and praise.

But the body remembers, and many times as I walked home on the gravel path and across the little dip where the ice had been, my gut felt shivery and shaky, remembering the spot where the trauma happened.

The day the specialist signed off on me and said I’m good to go, I got a large Coke to celebrate. I wanted to cheer for my brave little wrist that was able to hold a whole full glass all by itself. The golden arches in the mirror was a happy accident.

Gradually, I wore the brace less and less. My wrist still catches me by surprise: my left hand can open a whole heavy door all by itself! I can carry a laundry basket in one hand and a laundry rack in the other. This is a remarkably efficient way to do laundry. I can wash dishes and sweep the floor again, and my hand does what I ask it to even though it’s stiff and aches every day.

One of the first weeks free from the brace, I was washing dishes at a friend’s house and broke THREE cups with my uncoordinated left hand that crashed things. I still feel awful about it. I kept thinking about stroke victims and others who have to build a life around a dysfunctional limb. I had learned ways to manage my handicap, but it took enormous energy, focus, and creativity to compensate. Plus, after that first terrible weekend alone, I had willing people around me to help with anything I couldn’t manage.

I hesitated putting this story out there because it could seem too much like a great-aunt’s organ recital. But the nice thing about a blog is that no one has to read it and no one is watching you delete it from your inbox. But for those still reading: I haven’t come to profound conclusions and life lessons about this story. For now, I’m acknowledging the crazy mix of hard and good, loss and gifts poured out, privilege and disappointment.

Apparently, life is never all one or the other.

Comfort and Forgive

Recently I’ve been lingering in Psalm 25, particularly verse 18: “Look upon my affliction and my distress [I need comfort.] and take away all my sins [I need forgiveness.]” This pairs with the gospel song with line “He took my sins and my sorrows.”

At the cross, we find both comfort for what’s been done to us and forgiveness for the wrong we’ve done. Beyond that, there’s more at the empty tomb, which I’m still exploring.

Last week one morning, this acrostic poem seeped out of my pen. And yes, I’m reading The Hobbit right now, so that found its way onto some lines as well.

Come closer, friend and savior Jesus
Or I will
Move off the path to where
Foul goblins lurk to
Overwhelm my heart. I want to walk with You to
Rivendell where
Time slows and music lingers in the leaves

And cake and wine heap up but
Not too much to long for more.
Desire and dust

Fill my mouth and still holy water
Offerings will never ever wash or
Rinse the dust and
Grime and wrinkled skin of
Inconvenient, stubborn
Except you hold my hand and clean and caress each crevice.

After Saturday Night

Photo by Łukasz Łada on Unsplash


He saw me first.

I saw a garden hand

With grass-pressed tunic,

Soil on toes,

Eyes at ease with a job well done.


He saw my tears yet didn’t flinch—

No garden hand had ever asked me

About that water swelling

In stormy cataracts on cheeks.

They’d taken my Love—He’s

Broken, stabbed, now stolen.

My love is gone, is gone, and

I would wail and run

Five thousand furlongs if only this garden man

Confides to me the hiding place that

Holds my love, my broken love.


He said my name, my truest word:

Mary, once bitter, now sweet.

He was a garden man, but

More—the one I’d lost. I knew

Him by that voice and by

Those eyes, new, knowing.

They caught the morning light and

Calmed my own frantic, swollen ones.


Where had He been? What ablutions

Rinsed crusted blood and water from olive skin and linen?

What had He seen and how did this morning’s Father

Turn toward yesterday’s forsaken Son?

What words had made my sad untrue?


Quiet mystery surrounded, hovered, haloed Him—this

Garden-loving, light-bearing frame of holed and holy clay.

He didn’t tell me where He’d been. (He never tells me everything.)

The rose-gold sky back-lit His frame.

My Love

Found me


The Awl

Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

Some months ago, I was in a battle of wills with the Almighty. One Sunday in share time, a brother reflected on the ceremony of the awl and the pierced ear. He said, “That slave must have really trusted his master to be willing to stay with him the rest of his life.” I knew then it was mine to trust, not fight for my will to be done, and I went home and wrote this poem.

Then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. Exodus 21:6

He stands at my shoulder,

Awl in hand.

His eyes speak what His words

Have always said and what

I know is truer than true.


I voice my yes, so I can hear tomorrow

When my heart wanders:

“My Master, yes.

Yes to never owning but always having enough.

Yes to living under Your roof over Your furniture.


Yes to safety You’ve proven these seven tenuous years.

Yes to plenty and to peace, to eating like a child at home.

Yes to Your care and not another’s, to a home not my own.



My eyes sweep over His turbaned head and out past tiled rooftops,

Mountain Hermon, the Jordan, and towns beyond.

But it’s here He invites me to stay and I say


In His weathered doorway I lean

After the awl,

Hole held in His fingers that

Drip blood.

A Benediction for Your Weekend

Because I believe that Christians should be people of benediction (bene: good + diction: speaking) here’s one for your weekend. I hope to be dropping benedictions here and there (blog, social media, cards) the next while.

May sweet, glad birdsong surprise you on your walks. May golden light highlight greens and whites, and if golden light isn’t happening today, may it fall on you sometime this week. May you eat enough fluffy carbs to make your soul happy, and enough protein to make your brain strong.

May your bones not break, and if they do, may you receive so much support and care that it makes you cry. May your grey hair stay well camouflaged, and if they spiral out in odd angles, may you remember all the goodness that brought you to this good age. May you take time for at least two naps.

May your heroes be people who love God supremely, love you like Jesus, and make you a better person. May the skin tones you see and the languages you hear give you a sneak peak of our eternal home and the wedding feast that will never end.


Writing Poetry

A charming shop front in St. Malo, France when I visited in 2009.

For a long time, I admired poets and felt they breathed rare air. I had the words and the emotions they had, but felt that if I’d write poetry, I’d shatter. 

Then in the summer of 2020, my friend in England killed herself. During the next ten days, there was another suicide, a teenage cancer diagnosis, a mom with brain cancer, an adoption process stopped, all connected to people very close to me. The sad bad tragic news felt relentless, and I spiraled down into a blackness that lasted for about a year and a half.

That initial spate of summer tragedies fell right during the time that I was taking a five-week Creating Writing course. Every day, we were assigned to produce two writing projects, and the next day we’d share one of those projects to the class for their critique. That class was the most wonderful narcotic in my devastated, awful season. Every day I’d walk into the classroom and for ninety minutes I was in a parallel universe that felt light and airy and delightful. We played with words, read beautiful lines, gave suggestions to improve words. We laughed and cried and sometimes we still talk about Jonny’s “polysyllabic flamingo” because his flamboyant phrase, created in that class, will never die.

I started writing poetry because it was an assignment. I thought the textbook looked boring. I might be justified for feeling this way:

But the book was fascinating, accessible, and gave me endless ideas. Then I surprised myself and enjoyed the challenge of writing poetry and liked some of my lines. I was told I need to keep writing poetry. And instead of shattering me as I’d feared, writing poems started healing me, started bringing back pinpricks of light.

I’ll never be a great poet because I’m too impatient to work long and hard at it. But what’s greatness? The point of poetry is to communicate in a specific, concise form, and while most of my pieces are pathetic and will never be public, I feel more whole and at rest when I let a poem dribble itself onto the page—especially when I’m troubled, sad, or mad. I’m not proud of this, but I can be very articulate when I’m angry.

Early one morning last month I scratched down sad, angry lines and felt better all day for it. Maybe it was a seed of hope planted. Maybe it was part of self-regulating. Maybe it was only inked long-hand scrawled on every other line that will never see daylight.

Poetry is a viable outlet for lament, I’ve found. Lament is hope, and to lament in poetry on a page embodies, for me, my answer to the mysterious, alluring call of hope. 

Poetry also lends itself to exuberance. Think of Miriam, Hannah, Elizabeth, and the forms their joy took in dramatic declarations and vivid word pictures. 

My poetry hasn’t become exuberant yet. It tends toward lament, abstraction, or reflection, which is what this last blog post was. Incidentally, that poem was from an assignment in the class that introduced me to writing poetry, and the idea of an abstract poem came from that boring-looking book.

More lines may or may not appear here on the blog in the future. Don’t hold your breath, but don’t be surprised.

People of the Dash

I came home last night after two weeks of volunteering with Anabaptist Refugee Committee at an army base in Wisconsin. The base housed 13,000 Afghan refugees in August. Many have resettled, and approximately 6,000 are left and hoping to be resettled in their new homes by the end of February.

It was a wonderful two-week stint, spending time with these beautiful, brave people who have lived through more devastation than anyone should have to, and who are attempting to start a new life in a new country. I lost my heart to the children and teens, so lively, so bright, eager to learn, respectful. I wonder what schools they’ll land in, how much support they’ll get, and if they’ll come to love this new world.

If you or someone you know can spare two weeks between now and the end of February, and can comply with the newly-mandated vaccination needed to work with refugees, consider applying now with ARC!

I wrote this poem months ago when I first heard the term “people of the dash” but I feel it more deeply now. This post has no pictures because it’s illegal to share them publicly. But I saw people who looked like relatives of the sad, beautiful Afghani girl in famous National Geographic cover photo. Their effortless beauty and liveliness took my breath away.

People of the Dash




People-of-Care from Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar.

People of the dash

Live between worlds,

A hyphen of time without home.


Stories of full lives behind

And hope for life ahead

Are the only sure things they own.

They exist on the cramped short line

Between empires with tapestries of legends and lore and

Today’s mercy (or none)

Of authorities who speak a new language:

Food line. Documents. Tent. Blanket. Permission. Quiet. Stop.

Their sleep cracks with violence and staggering loss.


O Jesus, Man between worlds

Who also had no pillow,

How long until the crescent wave of your justice

Washes this groaning globe

And ushers your beautiful, broken people of the dash

To their long home, carrying their spangled splendor?


How long, dear Jesus,

Once homeless God-Man,

How long can you wait?

Advent Jewels

This gentle turning of the season into gray and cold and sometimes snow has been lightened now with words and music and berry trees. I want to share the wealth, be the town crier, tell you about the gems that sparkle for me. If they don’t shine for you, it’s ok. Words, and songs, like books, are for seasons that are not always now.

These mornings, I’m paging through Circle of Grace by Jan Richardson: a book of blessings for the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Epiphany. I find the verses thoughtful, infused with Jan’s experience of deep grief and hope.

I come back again and again to this favorite from Malcolm Guite: “O Emmanuel.” Guite plays with words and allusions with holy playfulness. The layered meanings of each word and line slows me down and fills me with awe at his skill. My favorite line is the second line: O long-sought With-ness for a world without. I love hearing artists talk about their work, and this podcast on Spotify has the author reading all seven of his Advent poems and some of the backstory of each. Go to 30:00 to hear him read this one:

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

While I love all the carols of the season, (not the chintzy songs about chestnuts or holly!) Advent songs meet me right now like nothing else. I’d like to sing #121 in the Mennonite Hymnal every Sunday: “Comfort, Comfort Ye, My People.” For the glory of the Lord now on earth is shed abroad/And all flesh shall see the token that His word is never broken.

Two pieces on repeat these days:

  1. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Voces 8.
    LIsten to the long, plaintive first “O,” how the tenor voices shimmer throughout the song, and the strong, desperate quality of the voices calling.
  2. “O Radiant Dawn” by The Sixteen
    I heard this live twice last week, and each time, I couldn’t stop the tears. It’s raw, longs for light and justice, and calls COME because there’s nothing else to say.

A friend gave me this card, a painting by Liz Hess, because she knew I’d like it. I keep it on my desk because so much love how the kings of the earth are bringing their glory to the lion and the lamb at the manger.

Last year pastor John showed me what he was making for his daughters and I was cheeky enough to say I’d love one too. Soon one morning, I found this on my desk and of course I cried. I love its simplicity and these days, Mary’s arms are empty.

Blog post
Every year about this time, I reread and share this blog post by Lanier Ivester. I found it years ago during an especially dark season, and it gave me hope and light and a giant shift in perspective.

The sorrow had just never been so tangible, so odiously unavoidable. And my thorn had such an ugly name: Barrenness. It takes a good, stout Old Testament word to express the arid disgrace of it: the Bible is painfully good at looking things in the eye and calling them what they are, and those first faithful ones certainly knew a desert when they saw one.

The blog post also introduced me to the beautiful words attributed to Fra Giovanni in 1513: There is glory and beauty in the darkness, could we but see! And to see, we have only to look.

Advent is a season of waiting, watching, preparing. We light pink and purple and white Advent candles every week, and we wait for many things but I often think we know nothing of waiting like the Jews did for their Messiah and deliverance, or like refugees wait for their papers. But we still wait. The whole earth waits, weeping for justice and goodness and beauty.

This year, more than I could last year, I can enter into the season of hope in waiting. I’m ready for light to seep up from the horizon, ready for smiles to grow strong and confident, ready for faith to become sight. Ready.

Filters & Personas

Photo by Teigan Rodger on Unsplash

I wonder why

People cry for authenticity

Honesty, transparency

But use

A million filters

In their stories.

This glow,

That persona,

Woke lingo.

I reach for clarity

Tempered with grace,

Steel and velvet

In their place.

Glory and agony,

Diamonds and shards.

Real. Liminal. True.

The best

And highest moments

Never reach IG

Because they sparkle IRL,

Real-time, not reels where

The expanse of reality

Stays screen-flat,

A likeness, not life.

But dopamine hits

And the scrolling thumb

Is running from—

From stab and throb?

From pine and pungent mist and moon?

From laughter, questions gone soon?

Be still, the poet said.

Ask the pulse

Its hunger,

How the drug of choice

Lifts higher than this moment:

That leaf’s blaze,

This shimmering chord,

Those dimpled grins.

Be still.

Be here.

Silence seeps

Its sweet tang.

Pleiades stills

A raucous brain.

Flicker, flame,

Shine, tune

Sigh, pine.

Vast sky expands,

Woos, implants

A yen for more

And grants it.