Category Archives: Full Disclosure

write a letter

write-a-letter

Dear self,

You have been quiet. Not just here, semi-publicly wordless, but in your notebooks and on your beloved steno pads and on your scraps of paper in the bottom of your purse. Your camera has rested snug in its padded bag. Radio silence and imageless days slipping by.

This does not have to be a problem. At any rate, the problem is not so much the words you have not written or the shots you have not captured. The problem is that,  as the days slide by, you feel farther and farther from the country where you have written before, where words are scratched and twined and shaped until somehow a poem rises from the page.  That land feels more and more like a half-remembered vacation spot, a place you have visited but never lived, and the details of the route there escape you.

This imagined distance makes room for fear, which is always curling hungry around your ankles anyway.  Fear that you cannot find your way back to where the writing is, fear that the words have dried up.  That you have somehow used your allotment of poetry up, and there won’t be any more, thank you. Take up something else, girlie, anything but a pen.

But let me remind you, you have frozen in this fear before, and that means you know how to free yourself from it.  One line, and then another. About something, anything, about breakfast or laundry or the weather in Paris, about Ferris wheels or the glorious golden rise of cornbread in a cast iron skillet. Word by word you will make your way back, you’ll clear your throat, the light will lie on the counter like a spill of buttermilk and you’ll hold the day in your palm, a warm brown egg.

The map you’re making shows the truth, that the words do not live in a distant exotic place, but they cluster in the corners of your kitchen, they’re pushing up like the bulbs in the yard.  Let’s go gather them.

Love,

Missy

 

Stretching toward spring with all my might

and with the prompts at Write ALM

 

 

 

return

return

Yesterday morning we went to church, but not our own. Our sons participate in Boy Scouts, and yesterday was Scout Sunday, when it is customary for Scout troops to express appreciation to the churches that host their meetings and support the program. So we found ourselves in a pew of an Episcopalian church, with fair linen and kneelers and and a flame that never goes out, suspended over the altar.

I was raised Lutheran, to the extent I was raised anything, and the rite of Holy Communion with which I grew up shares many passages and responses with the Book of Common Prayer.  And so I found myself rising and singing and speaking from some place beneath memory.

Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every-
where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of
heaven and earth.

Peace be with you.

And also with you.

For many good reasons, we are where we are spiritually, and it is home. It gives us a glimpse of God’s kingdom, God’s extravagant and boundless love in all its colors, shapes and sizes, that is hard to find in upstate South Carolina at eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning. We see grace, over and over, in a context that does not let us fool ourselves for a moment that we have it all together.

But in my return to those old old words and rites yesterday morning, part of my heart was returned to me. Only the barest whispers of these confessions and celebrations are part of our worship at Triune. Yesterday morning I was reminded, viscerally, that beauty and history in worship makes way for mystery. We are inviting a movement not of the intellect, or of the will, but of the soul itself. In the movement of psalm and confession, thanksgiving and feasting, I was refreshed, restored, returned.

 

Welcoming spring with fresh inspiration:

March Prompt-a-Day at Write ALM

 

a room of one’s own

aroomofonesown

We live in an older house, the four of us, with little closets and an unheated laundry room. We love Legos and books and warm throw blankets and the electric guitar and skateboarding and drums and photographs and our gigantic cat.

We live fully all over our house. The so-called guest room does have a twin sized bed in it, but also my whole wardrobe, drying racks for the winter time, the aforementioned electric guitar and an amp and our jumbo sized box of oatmeal from Costco. We make space, albeit in strange ways sometimes. We do schoolwork on the dining table, make art there too, create cards and pie crusts on the kitchen bar, crowd on the sofa for video games and studies and Mythbusters and books. Our bedrooms are big enough for sleeping and not much more.

So a room of my own is a place I often have to create between my ears, less bracketed by plaster and lath than by attention and increments of time. I read one more chapter or write a stanza while waiting for the bread to rise, or during independent work time for my home-schooled child. I try to breathe deeply and write in my head while my hands are busy with the warm laundry.  I roll out my yoga mat when the boys head for the woods or a Scout meeting. I iron to podcasts or Pandora. I sit quietly and just hold the cat, ten minutes of gratitude for the deep vibration of her contentment.

It is not ideal, whatever that is. And it will not always be as it is, with the noise and the mess and the joy of four people held together by midcentury architecture. I’m greedy I guess, because I want it all, with these boys and this man and their drumming on every surface and their Lego bin dumps and their schematics of skate park plans, and I want quiet and meditation and poetry too.

So every day I’m trying to make room for my room, for my window of time and space, to make what I can of this moment.  And though I’m not always successful, I try to do it without resentment of the gloriously crowded now. I pin photos of attic nooks with bright windows and a Shaker table and chair, spare and solitary, but I write from one swept corner here, with the tumble thump of the dryer for a soundtrack, and the timer counting down.

Seeking midwinter inspiration with other good folks

writing along in February at Write ALM

the first day of the rest. . .

firstday

Today feels a little like a launch pad, like the edge of the parking lot with the trail stretched out ahead, blazes winking here and there among the trees. The handful of days since New Year’s we’ve been moving toward this beginning.

My sweetheart headed back to work today, and elder boy to middle school. Younger son and I are tucked in here together, and his virtual academy resumes online tomorrow. Today we draw and make bagels and do lots of laundry. We exercise and add to the donation pile and make our beds. Nothing is tarnished yet, everything still bright in the cold cold sunshine.

Yesterday I asked, perched or poised? In thinking about this, what it comes down to is keeping this promise to myself, this daily date with words. Here, and in scattered notebooks and in the margins of my calendar. I make good on what I tell everyone else, but in the past I’ve handed myself a sack of excuses and an apologetic smile.

This year I want to be a woman of my word.

 

Still Here

IMG_1447

I started my first blog in January of 2007. In the nearly seven years that have come and gone since, the blogging world has shifted, grown and changed in ways I never could have imagined. It used to feel like we were all sitting around a kitchen table (a magic one that could add leaves to reach around the country or the world) and sharing our lives. One would offer a recipe, another something interesting gleaned from a good book, and perhaps a third would just share her hard day, and a hope for a better tomorrow.

That illusion of a virtual homey space, shoes kicked off, sounds pretty quaint now. As the blogosphere exploded in size, as stats and better blogging conferences and target audiences and product placement and book deals and recognition of blogging from other, more established forms of media grew, I slipped quietly out the back door. I just felt too daunted.

Maybe that sounds like sour grapes. Truly, it isn’t. I never mastered a posting schedule, or learned to follow the statistics and search engine optimization that helps a blogger drive traffic. I’m coming to realize that I’m just not called to that sort of professional self-promotion. Many bloggers have worked very hard to make their blogs work as a source of income, as a platform for speaking and writing careers. I’m called to quiet, to home and family, to making and baking and writing poetry and shooting photographs and trying to learn to listen.

But I’m still here at the kitchen table. I’ve made lots of false starts back into blogging, but always drawn back. I’ve asked myself what the point could be in offering my voice, given how it all feels now, so busy and loud and alien.

But there’s always a point to good conversation, to sharing a recipe that, against all odds, the kids gobbled up. There’s always a point to writing about friendship and aging parents and the beauty of nature or a perfectly baked pie. There’s always a point to putting more beauty, more joy, more questions and challenges, more wonderings and gleaned wisdom into the world. There’s space still, I trust, to share a good book’s title and a blessing.  A wink and a smile.

So, what would I tell my boys, if they came to me with something they wanted to do differently than others pursue it? I’d ask them if it was still possible to do the thing their way. And if it was, I’d tell them to go for it. I’d tell them to open their hands and male something old new again.

I’d take my own good advice, and hit publish.

 

Take One Step. . .

I have typed and hit delete several times, trying to formulate pretty sentences about what is going on in my life, how my inner life is merging into my outer one in some exciting and challenging ways. But the truth of it is that I feel I am in a season of feasting this autumn, sitting down to a rich stew of inspiration, opportunity, encouragement and grace. I’m learning the discipline of setting my place and picking up my spoon and tasting, perhaps, for the ingredients I might add.

So may I just share what is shaping up to be my recipe for this season?

  • a writing workshop and concert with this amazing woman, who has been breathing life into my ears for almost two decades  (Clicking on the link will take you to her site, and a chance to hear a new song called “The Speed of Soul.” You might give yourself the gift of four minutes listening.)
  • Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J Palmer. The book I’m cracking, the one I’m almost afraid to read.
  • a dear friend, who is asking good questions and giving gentle but intentional nudges. My reconnection with her is all gift.
  • A little yoga to start the day, which is making me feel stronger and more flexible, but kinder and more patient with my body as well.
  • Traveling through the parables with my dear friend above, and a few other members of our Triune family, trying to find what Jesus’ stories might reveal about our own.
  • poemcrazy. I mentioned it on Monday, but it bears repeating!
  • the cool mornings and evening quickening my spirit as they do every year. “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” –George Eliot
  • The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Nightly rescuing my sense of humor from the election season.
  • facing the blinking cursor, the blank page, the truly awful first draft Anne Lamott warns us about. And lots of coffee.

And finally, a few lyrics from one of the first Carrie Newcomer songs I fell in love with:

“I’ve been known to think too much
Get caught up in planning and choosing
I’ve sat down with my head in my hands trying to
Lose the fear of losing
But you can’t go back and you’re never the same when
Love’s left its mark on you
Whether stronger, bitter or better, or wiser it’s all up to you

Take one step a little bit closer
Take one step a little bit closer

I woke up yesterday morning I was smillin’ I was smillin’ wide
I heard wild geese calling
I called back and looked into your steady eyes saying

Take one step a little bit closer
Take one step a little bit closer. . . “

What’s filling your cupboard, your plate?

Better at Being

When I was a child, it was always about the next thing. My childhood was often unhappy, and the next thing was always the hope that it would be better. A cold silence would melt into words, open hostility would simmer back down to a lower boil. I’d get to the bottom of my pile of paperbacks, and play my Billy Joel records. And finally, I’d be grown up and not always leaning toward next.

But I ‘ve found the practice of presence in the current moment is not easy. I was wired early on to peer over the next fence, and our culture gives me a boost. It’s all about better and faster, more and more, and your body may be one place but your mind and heart, soul and spirit, aren’t necessarily where you plant your shoes.

But last night, I was where I was. Seated at a table with friends, sharing an impromptu crab cake dinner. We passed the dishes and ate, laughed and passed them again. There was good food, there were the faces around the table, and I was all there. With all my senses, with my thoughts, I wasn’t even leaping ahead to writing this post, I simply was. And it was good. When we got home, I gathered up our huge cat and cuddled her on my lap, petting her to hear her loud purr. And I was all there too.

The patient is getting better.

There is a place for my forward-looking, for planning and hopes for the future, for best-case scenarios and just-in-case arrangements. But I’m learning to long for more here and now, the grace of twilight coming into a kitchen  over dear faces, plates scraped clean and the last of the dark chocolate, melting on my tongue.

Back

I have that whispery, raw feeling you get when you have not talked for a long while, and the first word out doesn’t sound right, so you swallow hard, and try again.

That’s this post.

Something happened in the spring. Right after my fortieth birthday, I wrote a couple of posts, about the wholeheartedness with which I want to live out this next decade. In fact I had a whole series of posts planned about the practices I wanted to adopt to nurture this life, this brave pouring of myself into the days and people and places of my particular world.

And then they just didn’t get written.

Some of that was because I was out practicing those very things, instead of writing about them. I shot more photos, read more books, spent more time outside. I looked deeply into my loved ones’ eyes when they spoke and I answered. I spent some good mornings with a trusted friend, long talks over cooling coffee. I spent a great weekend of laughter and confession and pizza and grace with another friend.  We planted a garden and ate our own beans and peas and basil.

But lest you think I’ve been off on some odyssey of self discovery and enrichment, the truth of the matter is that practice is just that, and perfection is not on my radar. As we navigated the end of the school year, my mothering life was its own usual blend of joy and angst. (You may remember my standardized test rant from my one drive-by post from that season.)  Now that summer is here, our communal happiness at another school year well-finished has to share space with my struggles with body image and self-care, the questions always of what enough looks like, on the calendar, in the home, in front of screens, on the plate, in the living.

And always, the online questions, the ongoing blogging debate I have in my head.

What I think I have to admit now is that writing is one of the main ways I figure stuff out, one of the ways God reveals what God reveals of the design of my life, the calls on my time and energy. I write to make, and to discover what I’m making next. And here, the words can come together with my images, and together they are something new. Reading back over them, I discover what was not there before. Specifically, the way I often write, the short personal essay, gives new gifts, in the writing and the reading.

None of this should be surprising. I’m a Christian. The Judeo-Christian God speaks to create. I’ve plowed this ground before.

But maybe it is just time to admit, I am back here because I can’t, ultimately, not come back to words. And landed where I am, in 2012, this is a pretty great place to play with them, to weave and tear out, knead and shape, and then to bear them in my hands, or in the basket of an image, and offer them to you.

I don’t have a grand plan, a series, pages of notes on a legal pad. I’ve discovered those sometimes go the way of my all-or-nothing exercise schemes. But I’ll be back here, with some words about the pages and scenes and places and people that have been helping me calibrate better with my whole heart.

Wishing you every good thing of summer.

 

Next, Please

Yesterday was my fortieth birthday. This perhaps explains my restlessness and vague melancholy over the last few weeks. A quiet alarm at four decades gone, mingled with frustration that at forty years into life, almost a dozen into mothering, I’m still skinning my knees and asking elementary questions and chasing my tail around some of the same trees.

I’m finding that a milestone birthday is acting on me a lot like New Year’s Day or the beginning of the school year. There is the urge to make a list and DO, DO, DO. An exercise schedule, a writing schedule. Whipping into shape everything within range of busy hands. Inside my chest there’s an inner coach who looks a lot like me, whistle around her neck, barking, “Let’s make something HAPPEN people.”

But there’s another voice, softer but more insistent, saying that this is not the way, this is not what to make of these emotional and reflective days. Last week I dove again into the humor and wisdom and relentless faith of Anne Lamott, who assured me that help is always on the way.

I’ve found it to be true.

Yesterday my friend Jill took me out for coffee for my birthday. Time with her is always gift, with good conversation and laughter and lots to think about afterward. Yesterday was no exception. It helps that she shares my ambivalence about this particular number of candles on the birthday cake, and it helps that she asks good questions of her life and is making peace with waiting for the answers to emerge.

When I unwrapped my birthday package from her, she gave me more than she planned to. She knew I loved the lockets Liz Lamoreux makes, with messages, reminders, precious words pounded into them. Her thoughtfulness in remembering something I’d mentioned in passing and tracking it down in the wonders of etsy touched this often-bruised heart.

But as I wore the locket yesterday, I knew she’d given me more than a token of our friendship. She had given me an answer to what to do with this moment in life that feels precipitous, that feels like a weighted new beginning. Or rather, the right question to ask.

Inside the old brass are the words “whole heart.” We’d watched Brene Brown’s TED talk        together, and I’d felt stirring a desire for that kind of bravery, that really could give up the nursing of old hurts and insecurities and shame for the open-handedness of living vulnerable and free.

Jill’s gift has me taking a deep breath. In asking “What’s next, please?” I’m really asking, “What would it look like to live my forties with my whole heart?”

Love with my whole heart?

Mother with my whole heart?

Be daughter, sister, friend, with my whole heart?

Serve with my whole heart?

Create and write with my whole heart?

This is only a different way of asking the questions I’m always asking, about living the one-piece life. About how to be all real all here, looking and writing through the lens of a redemptive story without slapping a trite homily over pain and loss and grief. Remembering that faith requires, well, faith. Resisting the urge to jump to the “right” answers when what I need to do is to sit in the questions.

So I’m asking?

What does it look like to dwell in and live from, my whole heart?

Growing Dark, Growing Light

Somehow it always catches me by surprise, the way the days shorten so quickly. This afternoon I found myself, peering around like a mole in my dim kitchen at four thirty.  But we’ve lit one more candle on the wreath this week, predicting morelight and life coming.

It has been quiet here at the blog, while my hands have been busy making things I can’t share here, that are steadily being wrapped and tucked beneath the tree.  There’s been Christmas music and the creak of a needle, slipping in and out of tightly stretched fabric. And when the work is laid aside, there have been big, full moons and the muted kaleidoscope of the colored lights I’m glad we said yes to, soft on the ceiling.

For the first time ever, I shared my heart from the pulpit of our church home, encouraged us to sing of a true Christmas, of a God with us Whose story is told over and over in acts of love. I watched my older boy play an angel in that place a week later, and marveled at the gift of a place where we know and are known. The mornings and evenings we’ve spent there have reawakened my wonder in Advent.

As the boys’ school break draws closer, I am hopefully moving from a place of preparation to presence. This means letting go of many things, including my own vision of a perfect me, who has made it all and decorated it all and baked it all and, yes, prayed and contemplated and proclaimed it all. Even adding together the two women I am in these December days, you can’t come up with one like that!  There’s just me, a little more in touch with her limitations that usual.

But creeping in, even in the low light of these short days, is something better than perfection, something new this year. It is a sense of enough-ness, and, as the fingers loosen and let go, a breath of freedom instead of failure. Soup and bread, candles and greenery, peace and hope. The light is coming, and the darkness will not overcome it.