The squirreled-away baguette’s crust is so hard you can smack it on the counter and it won’t break. It is like a crouton — one big, long, stick of crouton. It has not bred worms and it does not stink, but you can’t eat it either. 

In your real life, you like to stock up, relying on your own ingenuity and foresight. Wince as you try to break the baguette one more time. Maybe right now you’re in Paris, dining while sitting down, saving butter for the morning, learning to count to five, but probably you’re just the same person, wherever you are, same fear, same neuroses, same old tired you.

Then, all at once: a miracle.

In order to reconcile myself to the difference I feel between Mr. Berry's observation of the world and mine — at my own risk, according to his prefaced warning — I listen to him as I would a prophet rising to an appointed calling, announcing judgment to all transgressors, calling us to change the way we live in order to be spared. He is a surly prophet, but better an ornery prophet than unmerciful judge. I would not want you, Mr. Berry, as my judge. You seem too convinced of my guilt before hearing my story.

Dirt, Chicken, and the Reimagined Rose

Jesus spoke of a way of rightful being and living with God, people, and place. He gave it a name that the people of the time would understand — the Kingdom of God, and then He turned their notions of kings and kingdoms upside down and inside out. His talk of the Kingdom was not a once for all, clear as a bell theological declaration. It is, however, a creative means to reorient, even reestablish, what it means to be God’s kind of fully human person. That is, a person alive to a healthy relationship with God, His people, the land and all that is in it.

For a long time, I did not love poetry.

I read poetry. I memorized poetry to get me through a job that left me weary from boredom. I tried to understand poetry. But I didn't love it.

I loved words. Any words. Words in books, words in songs, words on the shampoo bottle. I loved stories long ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones. I loved metaphors. I even loved select poems. But I did not love poetry.

Love Never Fails

We’re giving ourselves to these things, piece by very tiny piece. But before and amid all of that we’re giving ourselves to God and to each other. We’re relearning that we belong to each other already, that all things and people are connected. We’re creating space where we can remember who we are and whose we are — where we know we’re not alone.

In the Name of the Father

I did not know then nor do I know now the full nature of God. No one does, but we’re given glimpses through the revelation of nature, the testament of history and its saints, and especially through the ordinary people who love us and mark our days. As a child my earthly father represented whatever goodness, safety, and unconditional love there was to be found in this world. And that has everything to do with why I call myself a Christian today, and can still refer to God as Father, problematic though it may be for me as a 21st-century woman.

Keeping the Feast

It was a world — a life — that disappeared with divorce and vows gone wrong, as the garden did under the parking lot. With it went the abundant veggies and flowers, the girlfriends' nights of canning and freezing the harvest, a certain style of gathering friends and family around the walnut table.

 All the more richly strange that anyone should gather — in both the old way and the new — at the walnut table nicked now with thirty years of feasting which, though it has changed styles, continues. A table hosting faith and doubt, pain and joy, betrayal and commitment. 

I find it hard to sit with people.

I wish I meant that I find it hard to sit with people in a cramped room with a broken A/C or in a bad jury trial or even in a hospital waiting room. To my mind this is more understandable. But I mean I find it hard to sit with people in general. Like at a diner for more than half an hour. Or at a party. Or at the dinner table. Or at a park. Or on a walk. My social self, though, operates pretty adroitly, and I can spend hours at a diner or a party or a dinner table and have a pretty good time — it’s just that after awhile, something under my skin starts to crawl. 

I did not choose to become a mother because I had dealt with all of my fears. We say yes to new life not because it’s logical, not because we believe we are prepared to handle the brilliance of the pain and the complexity of the relationship. We say yes because of love, which as Pascal said, “has reasons of which reason knows nothing.” Our yes means accepting mortality, feeling life and its frailty in our very bellies. 

In the midst of all of this, I overheard the old saying: That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It stuck with me, turning over in my mind as I held Dad’s hand in the hospital or rubbed my daughter’s back as she hunched over a bucket by our bed.

The reason I kept thinking about this cliché is that it rang so hollow to me. I do not feel that these hard days, these stresses and sorrows and challenges, make me stronger. At the end of these three weeks, I feel profoundly weak and vulnerable.

Mothers, Daughters, and Meatloaf

For the last year I’ve been trying to understand my mother in a deeper way. I’m confused by so much, even my inability to see things for what they were. I don’t have a lot to help unlock the mysteries, so I hold tightly to the things I do have that represent her life and tell her stories: the photo albums and scrapbooks, an interview I did with her in 1976 for a college class, and the recipes.

You don’t have to have a sidewalk to take a walk. One side of the street will do. A dirt road will do. The edges of your neighbors’ lawns might do, depending on the lawns and the neighbors. But those have other purposes. A sidewalk is a zone between where we live or work or shop and where we move in vehicles. It is made for walking.

People were made for walking, too.

Talking About God in Public

Out of belief comes life and all its attending stories. I have, over the last ten years deliberately chosen to keep some of these stories quieter or even private. Other than a few interviews and the occasional post here and there, I’ve required of myself what I’ve so often hoped for from others — a little reserve, maybe even silence. And so, on the topics of God, People, and Place — interdependent topics I’m very passionate about — I had gone mostly quiet.

I Believe in Messy Vans

There were many strata to the debris on the car floor, but the base level was dirt. This dirt originated from various locations — from the Little League diamond (my brothers), soccer fields (whole family, at the boys’ insistence), and hiking trails (the whole family, at my father’s insistence). Even though soccer felt like a chore to me, there was something I appreciated about the relational politics of the game. Like new seating arrangements, new teams aligned our loyalties in random configurations. There would be at least one athletic kid on both sides, one “delicate flower” — a third of the way into the game, she’d need comforting — and one parent.

 Infertility is a story of unrequited love. But God wrote that story. A parent who deeply desires a relationship with His children? Yeah. He gets that. He loves us. He desires to place all of His love squarely upon our heads. He is waiting for us to awaken to the truth, for us to take our first spiritual breath. 

Every step merits intentionality and reevaluation. I have learned that a way to assess whether or not I have remained in rhythm while crocheting is to compare the row of stitches I have just finished to the foundational row with which I started. With every turn of the corner, I raise up the work and see if it is still in balance. If it is, I keep going. If it is not, I unravel just a few stitches back and adjust accordingly. This is how a blanket gets made, with ever-present intentionality.

We may ask ourselves, how are we Christ-imprinted? What is God calling us to do and be as we stand awed and fearful before some significantly burning bush? What needs to happen for us to receive some kind of stigmata some signals that mark us as Christ’s own. Not, perhaps, the bloody wounds in the palms of the hands, but the pure, open, joyful, and contrite heart that God has promised to claim for Himself, to not despise, and to count as more valuable to Him than any human accomplishment and success.

A hammock of flimsy web that should rip apart, but doesn’t. A hammock anchored to thin twigs that should break, but don’t. You climb in and hope it holds. I like to wonder about the nature of all this unseen support that offers not only the safety of the curl but the strength of the swing. I imagine the catch of angels; God’s infinite palm; the unknowable, immeasurable, yet nevertheless concrete woof and warp of divine will and presence. 

Then I look around. 

Nearly every step of the slow DIY building project was a step-by-step trial by fire for me. Though untrained and in anti-possession of any legitimate carpentry skills, the one trait I have going for me is that, though slow, I am a willing student. When someone reacts in response to seeing my now complete dwelling, You are so handy. I could never do that, my inner, if not verbal, response is, I have no idea what I am doing. If I can do this, anybody can. And I absolutely mean it.

As I interact with children of every age, I am convinced the one common thread to maintaining a child’s natural curiosity is that we allow them to be explorers. And most of the time, exploration looks like play. Play remains the most valuable learning tool children use, and they never tire of it.  As children play, they collaborate, problem-solve, wonder, discover, risk failure and learn to persevere.