Soul Scarred

I look across the room and wonder

What pain lies hidden in each heart

And what would be the weight of collected pain…

If all the pain could be collected.

I resist the awareness of your pain

Wondering would I be able to stand under the weight

Of yours,

plus mine…

I feel as if

You knowing my pain

Would make it come alive

And I could no longer be

In Denial.

And I wonder if we did share the pain

Would we simply collapse under its weight

Or would our own pain instead be more bearable

Knowing that another carries it too.

And could I carry part of your weight while you carry part of mine

Like a yoke of oxen plodding.

Bright Spots

It’s the little things that make up the big ones and it’s the little pieces of happy strung together that make the good life and sometimes it’s not so much having the moments of happy as it is noticing and holding on to the moments.

Here are my happy moments.

I’m finding happy moments in the winter.

Please congratulate me.

1. That spot of sunshine that comes in my window perfectly onto my desk. In the afternoons when I’m tired and have a headache and I still have to grade aalllll those papers, just at that moment the sun angles perfectly in through the window and I remember that the world holds sunshine after all.2. Seeing a new podcast on The Rubin Report featuring Ravi Zacharias. I literally smiled for like 15 minutes and the phrase “inordinately happy” came to mind. I don’t know why it made me so happy really. It just did. I love things that feed my mind.

3. When my students sing with all their heart. I am sad to admit that this happens far too rarely and there are many mornings when it sounds more like croaking and they are all half asleep. But sometimes… Sometimes everything synchronizes and comes together and they all SING. I love it.

4. Sunrises from the mountain top. Over Christmas break a crew of cousins and one brave uncle climbed the three miles to the top in the predawn darkness. Gold spilled across the mountain and melted into pink, and orange and gradually turned into soft light and we could see the Powell Mountains in front of us and far in the distance the hazy Smokies. It couldn’t have been more worth it.5. Handel’s Messiah. I mean I’d listened to it before but I’d never been to a live performance and being there with the music dancing and swirling around you and watching while each musician plays his own part perfectly to produce one overwhelming whole. I am not the same.6. Coffee. Any hot drink really. I love to hold a cup of warmth in my hands and know that it is will become part of me and I will be warm inside because of this simple cup I hold carefully in my hands.

7. John Green. I just finished reading Turtle’s all the way Down and before that it was Looking for Alaska. I may not agree with John Green on a lot of things but sometimes I just need to think about something that is far removed from life right here and John Green is perfect for that.

Seven is the number of completion and that’s the end of my happy list. I’m more happy than that but you don’t really want to hear about my awesome friends, my amazing family or my favorite food.

But be happy.

Courageously happy.

In the moments.

Courage is…

Several years ago I read about a lady who, instead of making a new year’s resolution, chose a word to live for the year. I liked that. Last year I chose joy, realizing that unless I intentionally looked for joy, I would miss it. This year I wanted to choose triumph. I meant to but somehow I couldn’t. The word I kept coming back to was courage. Courage is hard to define but here I have tried…

Courage is the trembling voice breaking the cold silence, it is silence in the midst of a jeering mob.

Courage is a set of bleeding hands, holding on when everyone is screaming to just let go, it is letting go when everything in you is crying to hold on.

Courage is pounding on closed doors with hands that drip with blood. It is also walking away from the thing you want most, towards the thing you need most.

Courage is choosing to be happy in a world who encourages you to be the victim. It is weeping quietly for a world who will not weep for herself.

Courage is soaring in spite of the weight you carry on your shoulders. Courage is growing deeper roots in response to rising winds.

Courage is standing tall with your head up and your shoulders back. Courage is falling to your knees in humility.

If hope is the thing with feathers, courage is the thing with roots.

We fly with hope but we grow with courage.

I think courage may be on the way to triumph. We’ll see.

Christmas Child

For my sisters, Sharon and Meg, whose children spend today and many days to come with their other mother. You are brave.

You have the heart of God.

Who sent his child

-A child of innocence-

Into a world, uncaring.

You watch him go

With eyes and heart abrim.

He will be hurt, scarred,

And you will watch

But from Afar.

You have the heart of Mary.

Favored. Blessed.

A sword will pierce your soul

And you will ponder deeply

In your heart.

And weep for him

Who is no longer yours.

You trust an unknown plan

To Him who plans it all.

A Christmas day with empty arms

Is fitting.

Another holds your child.

Now hers.

Joy to one means sorrow for another.

Your privilege feels like pain.

And yet…

You know what few can know:

The heart of God.

Puzzle Pieces

/Would you be poured out like wine upon the altar for me? / Would you be broken like bread to feed the hungry?/

It’s a question Jesus asks in so many different ways. Will you be His sacrifice? Will you be broken? Will you let Him use the pieces of your life?

Those jagged, cutting edges.

Those pieces that never seem to fit together no matter how hard you try?

Those thousands and thousands of pieces. So many.

You can do nothing with those pieces. Try and you’ll only end up in tears. It’s hopeless.

We begin to wonder if Jesus can really do anything with the pieces.

What if we are doomed to broken pieces forever.

Here’s the key.

We don’t know the picture.

Only Jesus knows exactly what the finished masterpiece should be like.

Only he can see which jagged edge fits where.

He is not confused. He knows exactly what he’s doing. His fingers bled, putting your puzzle together. He’s not about to give up now.

Because you are His masterpiece.

Created by Christ Jesus.

This Girl

We drove through the darkness with the snow blowing against the windshield.

“I just need to think,” she said.

The darkness weighed down on me. I always grope for the right words while knowing that really no words are the right ones and at the same time any words that are full of love are the right ones.

She’s seventeen and pregnant. She doesn’t need a lot of words. She needs someone to care.

“You have my number,” I say. “Let me know if you need anything”

She says thank you. We chat about her boyfriend and her mom and the GED she is studying for.

“We just don’t know if we can keep the baby or not” she explains.

I am surprised by how much I love this girl. By how hard it is for me to drop her off in front of the dark house.

What does her future look like, -this girl with thoughtful eyes?

What does the future hold for the baby that she loves?

There are tears in my eyes and prayers in my heart.

This life is Mine

I have a confession. My drafts folder holds probably a hundred half-finished blog posts. Everything I write turns out sounding too personal or then boring. Maybe both. Each time I begin writing I think this time will be different but halfway through I stop. Discouraged. I’ve done it again.

Partly it’s just the craziness of life right now. I can’t sort out the thoughts in my brain into smooth sentences. This spaghetti brain of mine tangles everything together.

School. Kid’s club. Church. Family. Friends. I love them all. They all deserve so much more than I can give them. My dream would be to always be the person who CAN do it. To be able to say “yes”. To be the person who is there.

But most of the time I fail miserably.

Most of the time I’m so far from the person I want to be that the two aren’t even comparable.

And I get frustrated. I don’t think I would be considered a perfectionist and yet in one sense I think I am. In the sense that I never feel like I’m doing as much as I should. I’m never enough.

And that’s of course.

I’m not supposed to be enough. Only Jesus is truly enough.

Courage, I wrote recently, is holding on with hands that are torn and bleeding with the strain. Courage is also letting go when all that is on you is screaming to hold on.

And I think about this and about how things can be the opposite of themselves and how I understand nothing about life.

And I wish that just for ten minutes I could stop thinking. Wouldn’t that be a blessed relief? Why do I have to think all the time?

And I feel like somewhere in all of this, God is asking me to just let go. Of what, exactly, I’m not sure. At least I can’t verbalize.

And so I think about letting go and and about life and how, if we hold on to life too tightly, all we see is clenched fists and white nuckles.

And I pray for strength to carry life beautifully, with open palms, for all to see.

Like a butterfly held in my hands.

Free to fly.

Not crushed within my fist.

2 A.M.

Medium night.

This is no stretching of the morning.

Nor lingering of the night.

Minutes here are fathamable

And seconds countable.

Tiny flitting ideas

Build word-nests in my heart.

And here in utter darkness

I am understood.

Sunday Afternoon

I drive country roads.

Green arbour overhead,

Gravel crunches under tires.

Sunlight dancing across my windshield.

I drive country roads.

Windows open.

The scent of fading summer drifting

Butterflies flit through open meadow.

I drive country roads

Thinking old thoughts.

They float through my brain

Like butterflies or like sunlight.

I drive on…

When Roads Divirge

My brother and I and a friend took a flying trip this weekend. My friend is getting married. One of my oldest friends from my childhood.

And the trip is dredging up all the thought and rethought thoughts of my childhood and the life I was born into.

I am unapologetically anapabtist. I love my heritage and all it has given me but I stand divided by love of my tradition with the realization that I have been formed and molded by living in a visionary environment that challenged much of the tradition we are known for. Visions that triumphed at times and failed in others.

I was born into a tiny mission church, my father a soon-to-be pastor. We were “Amish”, but we spoke English. We drove horses and buggies, but we made exceptions if neccessary. We lived in a termite infested house on a goat farm. We went to school in a one-room school house.

And oddly enough we were happy.

I cannot imagine a happier childhood.

My father was, in many ways, living his dream. He was building a business, spending time with his children, and the church was a beautiful mixture of people from every background imaginable.

He was young and energetic. He was up for a challenge.

And then it fell apart.

And we left. Following the advice of well-meaning pastors. Leaving behind our beautiful farm, the people we loved, and the community we had built.

We have never been the same. For better or for worse, the dream that was yanceyville died.

I was only a child and I was heartbroken.

I wrestle with the wondering. Who would I be, apart from this back-story? I don’t think I will ever leave yanceyville. It’s grown into me, formed me. Made me who I am.

And I am thankful.

I wouldn’t wish on anyone the journey my parents have made for their family but I am profoundly thankful that my father has always taken “the path less traveled”

It has made all the difference.

Several times recently I met up with other yanceyville people in my travels and each time I have something of an identity crisis. I have for years now been part of the mainstream anabaptist culture and sometimes now I can convince myself that I belong, but when I meet these people, the people who were there. The ones who walked this steep and winding trail.

Then I remember.

These are my people.

You can take the girl out of yanceyville but you’ll never take the yanceyville out of the girl.