Barbeque grace and the words I couldn’t say……..


It wants to shut you up,  close you in,
set your peace on fire.
And it won’t be hushed until it burns your courage down.

I lean into the turn of the year with a hungry hope and my walking-forward shoes laced up brave,
I’m going looking for some shelter in this storm
but it becomes a hurricane
as I pull out into traffic in some group work and wreck my heart instead,
my past and present colliding with such an explosion of pain
that I’m propelled through the window injured,
but land soft in a healing place.

Edith calls to tell me she’s retiring and we speak warmly –
will she please mail the birthday package I’ve sent;
she’s not sure where Allison is right now; I tell her bold where
and she doesn’t flinch or freak and I hear smile in her voice.
We part well and I feel a chapter end.
This will be the the last gift sent where they will comb through my words to approve.
The training wheels off,  I’ll be able to look up her address and send love on my own
and this freedom is bliss to me.

I plan a heart trek to her hometown but pull up the day before
because I seefrom the cloud,  that she‘s there visiting right now
and feel it sure that this would somehow cross a line.
I couldn’t be that close and not run to her,  I know,  oh God
I want to go, but I watch instead from just hours away
as she togethers with the ones she loves and welcomes,
and I feel the thud of my un-belonging
and ache an ache that I can’t wrap words around.

Weeks later,  March 2016,  I’ve got a wilding to drive east tomorrow
to put flowers on her mother’s grave.
I’m headed uptown to a favorite barbeque place to make a foodie Friday gift
to our hardworking peeps and as I sit waiting for my bag of lemon pepper wings,
so near the street where she used to live,  I grin at the walls covered
with years of signatures and happy graffiti.
My eyes swim over to a map of our state and I feel my feet moving slow
from where I’m googling her hometown for tomorrow’s travels.
My eyes lock onto her name printed bold and pink,  right over where my google map points.
It feels like a sign and I take a picture,  kiss the wall,  pick up my takeout
and wonder at the bigness of this grace that’s holding us.


Her mother is two years gone this day and we travel there together,  my husband and I,
to at last be in this space and it feels a sacred journey as we pull into her town
and I roll the window down because I need to breathe the air and I cry somewhere inside
because it’s happening at last to feel the where that welcomed my baby home.
It’s a really good house,  the sixteen year old of me can see,
and we eat lunch down the street at the local barbeque place
that has served the community for decades and I taste friendly food
and the neighborly way and everywhere I feel the whispers of her face.

The woods hum stories as I stand beside her mother’s grave
and see how my fistfull of daffodils look a small drop in this space so wide
that I wonder can Allison ever hold space enough for the both of us.
Her mama loved her,  I can feel it.  I honor her that and as my fingers trace
her name I tremble  thanks for the home she made and the legacy that is hers.
If I could hold this woman’s  hand I’d squeeze it now and breathe peace,  nothing left unsaid.
I get up and wish we could stop at their house, climb out of the car,  knock on the door
and be invited inside.

But there is gift in the parting and I feel it at last
in a wrenching place where I stand with my arm draped around the girl of me
in front of the spacious yard where my daughter played football
with her people just weeks ago this day
and finally I know it right down to my atoms and cells
that I did not abandon my child.
There’s a roaring that climbs from my spirit inside to a courtroom false where I’ve often been dragged
and I see it as clear as the sun that sets in her hometown now
that abandonment was not in my heart,
but beauty and bests and safe pasture and love,
and yes,  shame,  that I wasn’t the one who deserved.
But I’m done buying into this sense that I’m less because I’m outside and not welcome in.

And as we drive back in the after of a powerful day
there builds up some brave to get ferocious with shame
and I feel a holy fury rumble up inside my soul
– where the winter wounds had closed me I feel my breath becoming whole.

(In the weeks to come there’ll be roller coaster waves
but I’ll crawl no longer beneath the dull weight
of all the words I couldn’t say.)

goodnight raleigh

“It is unearned love – the love that goes before,
that greets us on the way.
It is the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left,
when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking
and most charming charm have failed you.
Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze
that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others
who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.”
– Anne Lamott

So you see I’m telling our story – that part of us that aches to belong,
to be welcome,  to be seen and invited in.
In the only way I know, I’m dragging our shame into the light
and offering “I know” and “you’re okay” and “I’m with you and we’re alright”
Just a few more twists and turns through this, our season of the night.



  1. Barbara on August 14, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I’m so glad you reached a point where you could get ferocious with shame, where you could hear the voice of your sweet teenage heart acting in love and not the voices of those who look on from the outside and judge. You do speak for so many of us who have felt left out. Big hugs to you for your brave journey!

    • jennifer on August 16, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Much, much thanks, Barbara. I love your words:)
      Big hug for your heartshare,

  2. gotham girl on August 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    So happy to meet that brave and giving young teenage mother…here’s so chapter endings and new beginnings…❤️

    • jennifer on August 16, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Chapter endings and new beginnings – cheers:)
      I love that. Thank you Robin,

  3. Elephant's Child on August 14, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Of pride for you, of joy for thr realisation that abandonment and you are strangers, and tears for the long and winding journey with all its sharp places.

    • jennifer on August 16, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks for your kind companionship on this road, Sue.
      It’s been joy to have you along:)

  4. Julia on August 14, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    DearJennifer, I know very well you never abandoned your little baby years ago.You gave a precious gift to someone who loved and cared for her even though it was not your heart choice but my heart aches for your own needs in this drama. Such a cruel drama.
    Warm Hugs,

    • jennifer on August 16, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      But so much life and gift, too. I love where the road leads.
      Thanks for holding my story with such compassion. I appreciate:)

  5. Wanda on August 14, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    As always such powerful words Jennifer. Love the way your story echoes for so many of us who sought belonging in some form of another.

    • jennifer on August 16, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      I get just exactly what you’re saying – belonging in so many forms.
      Thanks for hearing me and for sharing the road, Wanda:)

  6. Lynn Wilkinson on August 15, 2016 at 1:46 am

    You dear friend are one amazing and remarkable woman. This summer story you are sharing has me sitting, waiting on the next page to come on Sunday evening.
    I feel your feelings, though never shares the experience because you have take such care to study your moves, your story so consuming…and my heart breaking and bending with yours.
    After each week, I wish I could hold you until you are steady and grounded… And I sit and wonder – and pray- for nothing near an ending, but a beginning and a peace and an open door. Oh, I do so adore and admire you!!!

    • jennifer on August 16, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      a beginning, a peace and an open door – what a generous and dear prayer.
      Thank you, Lynn:) This summer series has been a healing journey for me.
      I appreciate your listening heart; your support means more than you know:)

  7. Kathy on August 15, 2016 at 7:17 am

    I felt an empowering joy when you realized that you had never abandoned your child. What a long hard lesson but such a freeing one. I feel your strength, my sweet friend.

    • jennifer on August 16, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks for listening, Kathy:) Your words are balm. Always:)

  8. judy Hartman on August 15, 2016 at 7:50 am

    “And finally I know…that I did not abandon my child” – words I have been waiting and hoping to hear from you, Jennifer. This story of yours has me wanting more – a happy ending has to be around the corner. Such an emotional ride. Your enormous heart, full of love, MUST be rewarded in the end.
    And your photographic artwork has me blown away. So amazing!
    Sending you love, Jennifer.

    • jennifer on August 16, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks so much, Judy; I’ve been arting in some new ways. Really fun stuff:)
      I appreciate your kind words and listening heart. Just so much:)

  9. Catherine on August 17, 2016 at 8:07 am

    You touched me so much, your writing and your open heartedness and in a wonderful way I experienced a real grounding too. And your beautiful images, so soft and full of love. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

    • jennifer on August 19, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      I’m so very, very glad, Catherine. Thank you for sharing
      your kindness and heart:)

  10. Karen on August 17, 2016 at 9:35 am

    I am so loving this stroll with you. Heartfelt. God felt. He is your rock and always has been.

    • jennifer on August 19, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Always has been there, loving and listening and never letting go of my hand.
      You’re right:) I love having you along for the stroll, Karen. Big thanks and love,

  11. Joan Creasy on August 17, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Am SOOOOOOO thankful to see those words…..I did not abandon my child…..No, it was a love greater than life itself that released that precious little one into the caring, loving arms of those who had the gift and privilege of nurturing this dear one. She has been loved and prayed for by two families and thus, doubly loved. She will know that, too, one day. So proud of you, sweet, brave daughter!!

    • jennifer on August 19, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      Gosh, Mom – thank you. I love your kind, generous words.
      Big thanks and much, much love,

  12. Lisa on August 17, 2016 at 11:48 am

    My new cup of coffe grew cold as I was mesmerized by your gift of words and expression. What I love is the redemptive flow of your pen and all the profound words that are released into the time and space of all our hearts who read. You are releasing a safe and secure place within all of your readers to lay the heads of our own “shame babies” down to rest.

    • jennifer on August 19, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      Lisa, thank you. More than words can say. Your warm kitchen counter friendship and loving prayers
      have meant the world to me. I appreciate you and your big, beautiful heart:)

  13. gwen on August 17, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    O my are you so RICH with good friends! I enjoy all their encouraging words as much as your love story. 🙂 And I’m loving your art, Jennifer!

    • jennifer on August 19, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Rich, indeed! So encouraging and life-giving; I thank you so much for walking along
      with me and sharing your beautiful heart, Gwen:)

  14. Renee Clark on August 17, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Feeling deep compassion and appreciation for your journey. Thank you and peace.

    • jennifer on August 19, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      So much thanks, Renee Clark:)
      I appreciate your words more than you know,

  15. Susan on August 18, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    ~ sigh ~ I’m just in awe of your years, so many, of being brave and letting your toughness shine, too. The thought of carrying all that you have is remarkable to me but i know it helped make you this beautiful, special friend who is telling the story of us, for us.
    Thank you for getting here.

    • jennifer on August 19, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      “Thank you for getting here” – gosh i love those words.
      Thanks for being such an encouraging voice to my heart; your kindness
      means more than you know:) xoxox

  16. Cathy on August 21, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Love and ((((((BIG)))))) hugs to you!!!!

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      So much thanks, Cathy:)
      Feeling those hugs and sending mine for you:)

  17. Louise Gallagher on September 23, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Summer bloomed full and ripe and somewhere between wedding prep and my eldest daughter’s big day I lost track of time and story. And here you are filling my heart with wonder and awe. Again. As always. And in the end thT becomes a new beginning is always Love.

    Thanks for the inspiration, the heart-washing an d the loving fill-up.

    • jennifer on September 25, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      So glad you were able to come by, beautiful Louise:)
      I really love that we get to journey along and throw up our hands
      and wave hello over there, sweet spirit, I feel your beauty on the road:)
      And I so appreciate,

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