Of hiding and hunger and a low sound humming …

I was born into the anxious airbrush of a disapproving religion
and I was born into love and welcome arms and really glad you’re here.
Always the two danced together,  as they often do in an uncertain world
where life is fragile and being is messy and only rules seem safe when nothing else does.
Born to good people who wanted only goodness for me.
They’d been raised severe,  my parents.  Especially my mom,
whose own dad kept court with a southern baptist smoulder that could singe
the tender parts of curiosity and joy
until even they trembled fearful in the corner.

They were unmarried and in love and in college chasing dreams
when I came to be.
They packaged my presence in a lie
–  already they’d married.  Secretly.  Months before.
Now that I was on the way they quickly wed
and so began the family into which I shortly arrived.
The appearance swept clean,  we tidied up pretty good
except for the disease.
Deep running through the fault-line of all that I received
was this message of dark shame
and what we do to hide the beast.

I was a lively sprite of a child and this unsettled the conservative core of my parent’s sensibilities.
Oh we knew love and laughter and joy in our days,  especially after my little sister arrived just 13 months later,
but I was less compliant,  more boisterous,  willful and impulsive and sometimes “a little hellion”
which fleshed out my mother’s darkest fear:
that I had let a little hell in.
The chill of her childhood left scars that made my deep-feeling curiosity seem dangerous,
and this hung cloudy over me,  the child of her shame.
I felt it long before I knew it’s name.

And there was goodness and I’m grateful for the village that was my childhood and church,
rich with stories and friendships and music and meetings that sometimes felt like bright stars.
But I felt different from the other kids,  like I was somehow less;
all my hard-trying didn’t cover up the dark and don’t of me,
not even my scratchy Sunday best.

Into this hot lonesome came a sweet, sweet Love,
like a tall glass of acceptance to my apologetic heart,
healing balm for the shame I’d feel burned by
for the slightest infractions and failings,
not served up by my parents – please don’t hear that.
They were young and on my side.
The voice I heard was the sound of the lie
hissing over us all that there was something dark to hide.

I hungered to know more
of this God that loved the wild of me
and I began to travel roads less stained-glass and steeple’d,
looking for a safe somewhere
where my truth wouldn’t have to get dressed up,
a shelter where Love kept shop and togethering happened honest,
all the whosoevers and ragamuffins,
unguarded and at peace.
No fighting for scraps of attention.
No competition for who would love who.

I was a smooth bundle of nervous contradiction as I plopped down onto throw pillows
on the living room floor where I first learned how to be seen
in a way that soothed the hiding child of me.
Kinship group,  they called it,  and with the first soft strum
of the guitar humming low,  a lifetime of tears began to flow
as if I was taking off  ill-fitting shoes and discovering inside little rocks that I could dump.
I’d been holding my breath long and didn’t know.

 “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness
the astonishing light of your own being.”
– Hafiz

(this is second in a series I’m tugging loose….come along for the ride,  if you like;
I’m always so glad you’re here)

Of sinners, saints and seagulls…..

(Gosh,  I almost put out a cold tray of leftovers for you here again today
because I’m scared silly to wrangle free the words stuck inside.
But here goes.
Because a bad beginning is better than no beginning at all)

My life is a small one,
as lives here are generally measured.
My jobs have been many and unsubstantial and not even the measuring kind.
No fancy credentials.  No letters after my name.
My time here on earth unimpressive,
a barely glance-worthy resume,
if I had a resume.  Which I don’t.
If I were to muster one up,  it would be underwhelming.

And yet mine is hardly a wasted life.
In fact I like my weird little journey,
even when I trip over messages that I’m such an underachiever
that my time here barely registers on the value-meter.
But I’ll wrap back around to that later in this series.
I think I’m stalling:)

What I really want to start tugging my words loose about
is my Christianity.

There.  I said it.
Did your skin crawl just a little?
I understand the shudder.
Because we generally freak people out.
Christians even unhinge each other
unless we’re cut from the exact same strip of cloth
and sewed up tight and exactly like the next.
Which nobody is.
So it can be prickly business,
which is tragic since I think God is the least prickly being ever.

A few months back I brushed my words light across the story of my heart’s dance with God
and it was life to me to pour it onto paper.
Those were the easy pages.  The sweet beginnings and where I’ve landed.
I want to go exploring through the come-to-Jesus years,
the messy in between
because I’ve grown more curious about this thing called “Christian,”
how it’s tossed around and flashed and fought over like scraps flung to seagulls.

“How can you call yourself a Christian and……..”
Many of my people don’t even use the word anymore.
Somehow it’s come to name a hurtful thing.
I want to go exploring.  To tell my truth.  And maybe discover healing along the way.
Because healing is only ever what I’ve always wanted to offer
and I’m one of them,
odd though my flavor may be:)

So come along or wait this one out.
I’ll be back for the next however-many weeks digging up old stories,
looking for buried treasure and sharing it with you here.
With all the love I’ve got.

“As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do,  what we have,
and what other people think about us,
we will remain filled with judgments,  opinions,  evaluations,
and condemnations.
We will remain addicted to putting people and things
in their ‘right’ place.”
– Henry Nouwen

On sails of celebration…..

I’ve been a quiet sort here lately,  haven’t I,
my soul long squirming to stay still and startled grateful as the stillness found me instead.
I haven’t wanted to stir the deep quiet
because it’s been feeding me something I didn’t even know I was hungry for.

I do a little creative challenge each year and this time I’ve been sharing my daily
over on instagram  (jenniferripplespeak);  it seems to be fueled by the bit of juice
that I usually cook with over here
so I forget that I haven’t actually been blogging regularly.
I think I want to change that.
So here again I am:)

I’ve got another little series steeping in my heart
but it’s not strong enough for sipping yet
so I’m letting it brew.
Until then,  a celebratory snippet to offer up to you:)

~ “Let me keep my distance,  always,  from those who think
they have all the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say,
‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment
and bow their heads.”
– Mary Oliver

“Every day I see or hear something
that more or less kills me with delight,
that leaves me like a needle in a haystack of light.”
– Mary Oliver.

(thanks for being gracious to me about my gone-time;
i love and appreciate you big)

 

To be wowed and watching…..

Keep being wowed,
heaven blowing often kisses
and because you’re watching,
you catch and let them woo you

keeping palms up and heart open,
your romance with living alive.

Keep showing up to the table,
going soft to miracle and mystery,
to all the mundane glory
winking and whispering tender
from a place
of only love.

“Look up more than down.   See more than say.
Listen more than speak.
Hope more than dread.
Believe more than criticize.
Yes more than no.  No more than maybe.
Laugh more than cry.
Love more than hate.
See.  More.  See.”

– Tyler Knott Gregson

(A little something from the archives
because i think it fits easy and that we all need some simple right now)

Of hope and healing and hullabaloo…..

I don’t much care for riding buses.
There was one year of my life when i rode one every day to school –
my peers and I bused,  with the 6th graders in my city,
to an historic old building in a crumbling part of town.
What I remember most was the bus ride.
Having only ever walked to school before,  it was an uneasy adventure.
I loved the sense of going the same somewhere as everybody else,
always having craved community and it came built in this way – we were a little tribe.
I liked that.

But there was the whole being driven thing.  Going along because I was going along.
I wanted to belong but I also wanted freedom
and felt much freer putting my feet to sidewalk and taking it all at my own pace and pleasure.

Often I joined in enthusiastic with the hullabaloo at the back of the bus,
loving the camaraderie,
but I hated  it when someone was cruel,
taunting passers-by or a more vulnerable rider.
(usually the older-looking boys disrespecting a slower-grower).
It felt oppressive then to be “us” but not really.

Since then I’ve avoided buses.
and, to my sadness,  much of our country seems more and more
to be filing crowded onto two of them.
There are dearly loved ones of mine embracing both sides,  those I hear and respect,
but when I step inside each I feel crimped tight for air
and the sound bruises my sky-loving heart.

I love my country and her people.
I hunger and pray for a world where no one turns a deaf ear to any being in distress.
The Horton in me hears the Who’s of us and I wear my sleeves rolled up
to help create a place where we’re all welcome and safe to be.
I’m pro voice.
Even as the disrespect being voiced on both buses rakes sharp across my senses
and injures something inside,  I love the voices still.
But much of the rhetoric being hurled scalds my tender,  listening parts
and I have to pull aside to hear the whispers above the roar.

It’s what I’m seeing  through the smoke that gives me hope,
that winds of healing are coming,
releasing healers who will step across party lines and release love into the fray.
Healers, budding now,  like a field of wildflowers getting ready to sing.
Those deeply wounded by racism,  by exclusion,  by rejection and indifference
and misogyny and injustice…….these will the healers be.
The ones who have felt wicked the pain are the ones who seem to carry the medicine
once life gets some healing done.

The healers are being made even by the judgement being hurled at them now.
From both buses they’ll come,  those who bring the balm that creates the change.
Not blinded to context or played by their pain,
with a billion different faces of the unseen authority they’ve gained
to go into crisis and confusion and bridge division and bring solution.

They’ll release truth and kindness in a way that holds weight and shifts invisible things,
won’t hold in contempt or make assumptions from across the aisles
but will listen unfiltered and draw up solution from deep wells of grace.

I’ll hold this hope gentle-strong as these next days unfold,
trusting that each unkind voice will become one that helps heal us someday.
To both buses and also to those of us that walk a little on the out,
may there come wild surprise by the grace outstretched from each side
to bring healing to We the People,
each of us becoming conduits of generosity and justice
in ways that we don’t yet even dare to see.

I believe our best days are out in front of us still,
that we won’t mock or condescend to get there.
Grace to you wherever you are,
exactly as you are.
With the whole of my you-loving heart:)

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image
when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
– Anne Lamott

A new little word to celebrate…..

I’ve listened curious for my one little word;
it’s all I want to pack as I head into each new trek around the sun
and I like to pack light so I wait for the word like a gift that will come
rather than trying on a whole slew of them to see what might fit.
I headed out of the last year so exhausted that I really didn’t care
if another word popped up out of the frozen ground or not.
I felt spent.  Tuckered.  Thoroughly poured out.
Had to squint through the haze to remember what my word for last year even was.
Oh yeah ~  “All”  ~  Figures:)

This January has been a deep resting place for me.
I’ve relished every ounce of quiet.
In the past,  a word swirls in like a feather on a breeze.
No feathers this year.  No breeze.  No desire for either.
Just please let me be still a while longer,  wrapped up warm in a quilt
from everything I lost last year, still dinged and stinging from disappointment.
I just needed sweet,  healing rest.  Life offered, and I took it up grateful.
Then I woke up hungry,  as if from a long,  long nap,
and it seemed like the universe leaned in and kindly asked “so what are you hungry for?”
Usually it’s marshmallows:)

But what rumbled up from my deep was the surest word I’ve ever heard.
Celebrate.

I want to celebrate.
To really thrill and tell.
Not just notice and smile,
but to mark my pleasure in a counting-out-loud kind of way.
I don’t know if this is the same thing as being grateful or not
but it feels rather like a muscle that I need to use
and it feels good to put my weight into it again.

So,  celebrate it is.
I’ll be  sharing the daily on Instagram for the next 365:)
In each one of them I wish you joy
in mad abundance!
And then a couple of shots more:)

“Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time.
Let it be.  Unto us,  much is given.
We just have to be open for business.”
– Anne Lamott

 

 

The ocean in my cup…

And so I got a taste of something so good that my hunger gnawed away at any satisfaction
i may have found in other things.
Such a sweet-tooth for this God-thing that I chased intense experiences,
and when they didn’t fill me up,
I went looking to the experts to see what they knew,
the ones whose faces seemed flush with this light
– wanted to scoot up close to those who seemed to carry his faraway scent
and when I found a cluster of people whose believing seemed to give them joy,
I leaned into the process, drawn in and open.

I did Christianity as I saw it,
did it so hard that I blew out my be
wanting so bad to fit in that I followed along fearful,
determined to please God big so I wouldn’t be left out again.
Made myself so useful that I’d surely be noticed and not lose again
that something that I’d felt wash over me warm like a living breeze.
I did God the only way I knew – I do for you and you don’t leave me.

But,  damn my whoopsy-daisy ways,  I could never walk that line tight enough
or check enough boxes off neat or merit the joy that seemed reserved for the naturals.
The best I could manage was the little self-righteous rush that came with a longer than usual
run of good behavior.   Or with my spastic dance with good intentions.

My heart hungered for God but I got lost in the hard trying.
Religion can be a smoky haze that way,
how it chokes and bends the music of Love
until you get to thinking that you’re the one
who keeps your whole world spinning –
that you earn this grace
by what you do or give.

It was failure and frustration and an almost frantic striving
and all my hard trying couldn’t pull off a shred of peace
until I dropped down tired from all the don’ts and driven doing
and went palms up and sweet surrender and could you love a girl like me?

And then You flickered on my frozen world like a dancing flame,
a strong shot of light that warmed the cold steel of my pain
until my breath turned to embers and this heart beat strong again
singing love and laughter and longing for me
into my honest mess you came.

Not to punish
or control
or to toy with like some cat and mouse game
but to include,
to family,
to welcome real and safe and sane.

You broke the back of try harder
and busted the lie that we’re alone,
offered my heart the friendship that I thought I had to earn.
You didn’t want performance,   didn’t have a line to tow,
just wrapped me in your muchness and gave me rest I’d never known.

And now when my world quakes,
when love goes missing or un-returned
or leaves behind a stiff body that once thumped warm affection,
and my strong legs get pulled out from beneath me
and I quiver in storm,
you’re my harbor,
my hope.
All of my air is because of this.

I think back to those long ago starry nights and the love that bathed me in those branches
and I know now that it was you.
It was always you.
You wanted me first
the way you want us all
with a reckless affection that smashes religion’s bony finger
and draws us tender into your fierce and healing kindness,
lets us breathe safe again
in the being fully known.

To the One whose knowing is only always love.
With love:)

“I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a teacup
than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.”
–  Brennan Manning

This is the third post in a short series I’ve been doing,
a little love story.
I didn’t mean to be gone so long between.
Rogue waves.  Sputtering.  Catching my breath.
Thanks for coming along for the ride
and a beautiful new year to you and yours.
With love.  Just so, so much:)

 

To the dark and endless skies, my love

(second in a series….a little love story)

….There came a slow closing to my heart
with every prick of the lie;
each disappointment made up another story
as did the ugly stuff of life,
stories about the One who’d held me tender in the trees,
lies about his heart
that in time I started to believe
like the way a rumor slowly poisons
until you no longer see the same,
dark rumors about the price of deserving,
too high for a girl like me to pay.

A heaviness set in where I’d once known carefree light,
as if I’d sprouted something shameful,
something hard on holy eyes.
And as my limbs grew awkward and my body shot up tall,
had I become too much of something?  Too big to hold?
Outgrown it all?

There came to my soft places an edge of silent grief
where I’d once felt gently known,
seen generous by loving eyes so understanding and bright
that every drop of knowing was a kindness,
a sunbath of warmth over the very whole of me.
God,  what had I done to lose it?

I was a once-loved girl gone homesick,
feeling lost and  left behind
and I began to pick up speed,  running away reckless from the missing,
too mad to slow down and get quiet,
too lonely to stop and feel,
the lie whispered to me in that way that it does
“you are particularly alone.”

And so I closed my arms tight over my heart,
jaw hard and breath held short and quick like the runaway I became,
shutting out the One who’d brushed over my spirit and senses
like whisps of orange blossom and firelight and lightning over the sea,
with the tenderness and strength of a mother’s devotion
until my fear had melted like wax,
and now had the wax gone hard.

But somewhere down in my belly
there rumbled low like a bell on a breeze
“Come awake,  to all that is sleeping,
come awake, to all that is true,
in the lonesome of your heart
wake to the welcome, the arms still open for you.

“The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gift you gave
To the dark and endless skies,  my love,
To the dark and endless skies.”

– Roberta Flack

Dancing in the dark…..

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Before my skin grew tight around the noise and clutter of life,
before I felt sharp the heavy of shoulds and musts and deadlines and bills,
when I was young enough still for time to stretch long and spacious like the hallway
where I rolled pretty glass marbles to hear them clatter and ping on wood,
I fell in love.
It was this time of year and there were candles.  And deeply moving music.
And a tree brought indoors and decorated with brightly colored glass bulbs
and shiny strings of foil my mother called icicles,
although they weren’t frozen or even cold.
I lay for hours beneath that sweet-smelling tree
and  gazed up into the twinkling branches.

I also spent hours outside after dark,  even though it was barely evening.
The stars came out early to shine,  and the moon,
and it seemed the heavens drew near as I climbed my favorite tree
wrapped thick in the mystery of night.
I’d look up at the stars and wonder aloud who are you,
the One to inspire such beauty as this,
moonlight on bare branches and the songs and stories been humming in my heart.
I wondered at the love I felt poured out safe and warm like fireside
high up in that tree,
wondered would it follow me down and inside when I finally had to leave.

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I lay in my bed at night and felt it still,  when I would lean the turn of my heart
into this unseen light that still lingered like moonglow in the dark
and how my heart would dance.
Here I’d never felt so alright.  As if everything could only ever be okay.
These times of soaking in what I know only as God-love
lasted for a short season.  My first window.
A place where I could go, if I would,  and remember thick the presence I felt those winter nights
and somehow re-join the relish
in a room inside myself.

The rest of the world could feel harsh and cold.  And lonely.
We did church,  my family,  and I’d walk into that organ-smooth and dimly lit grandeur
and look up at the large wooden cross stretched sterile against the tall of the ceiling
and wonder if he,  too,  preferred the crisp air high in the tree.
Here I felt sting more than sanctuary.
An undercurrent of you better watch out.
A Santa sort of God who saw me,  yes,  but withheld when I was bad.
Or worse – withdrew.
And I was born a hungry sort who didn’t do well with rules.  Too fumbly and footloose.
When it came to things straight and narrow, I could pull off a piss-poor performance,  at best.
I knew I wasn’t that girl – couldn’t be good for goodness sake.

But oh my God I longed for more of this generous presence that lit my heart under those bright winter stars.
Had the air really been charged with such a kindness? What kind of love was that?
As I grew older and fell into step with demand for appearances and favors doled out,
I wondered had I only imagined?
No,  said the voices of my fears –
I’d simply stopped deserving,
the river just gone dry.

dsc02868edited
“We are suspicious of grace.
We are afraid of the very lavishness of the gift.”

“Holiness is nothing we can do.  It is gift,  sheer gift,
waiting there to be recognized and received.
We do not have to be qualified.”

– Madeline L’Engle

This begins a little series I’m doing as it’s coming on Christmas.
A love story.
My gift.
With hope that you’ll enjoy:)

The most creative thing I know……

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I’m grateful ~  so much ~ for creativity.
For the way it feels like flight and flutter and drift and dance,
and that free and airy feeling of stretching out your body
after being folded up closed too long,
or taking a mug of steaming goodness into cold hands
or digging like a child in the sand.

For me it is the feeling of when someone brings you flowers
or opens a window to let the stuffy out
– the smell of a freshly bathed dog
or sunshine in clothes dried fresh on a line.
It’s starshine and moonglow and getting caught up in a satisfying flow,
every shade and tone and color and the feeling of an open road.

Creativity feels like all of the ways that poetry happens,
that family happens,
that art and rest and friendship happen.
And the surprising lift of grace when all you could see was a long,  slow climb.

dsc08171

It’s ears to hear the whisper and beating heart to feel the pain,
the power to be gentle and the room we’re free to make.
It’s “I’m sorry” and “me, too,”
“I need some help.”  “I understand.”
It’s throttle down and rest
and that mistakes are a part of the plan.

It’s the artful gift of a friendly listen
and time taken slow to be heard.

I see creativity as less a thing and more a being;
a person to dance with;  a partner in collaboration.
It might just be the heartbeat of God:)

Someone asked me recently what’s the very most creative thing that I  know.
My first thought: LOVE –  love is a wildly creative thing.
All rivers and fountains and flowers and fields
and bulbs and seeds and stories and songs
and the gazillions of ways that it waltzes right in when hope holds open the door.
Then I thought how maybe the most creative act of love
might be reconciliation.

This one creative thing I celebrate today –
the way of hearts and lives becoming free and fitted back together again
in a healthy and life-giving way.
For this I fling thanks like paint with fresh passion,
and for you,  my traveling companions
– happy Thanksgiving,
with love!

borealis

How cool is this canvas we’re all given:)

“We’re on a planet.  At the same time.  In the universe.
Let’s do something great together!”
– Jeff Byington

“That cannot be.  Unless it could!”
– from Alice Through the Looking Glass

Thanks for coming by,  my creative friend:)
I believe your juiciest days are ahead.