Savoring shells and squirming in skin…..


Spring 1979.
A cold Topsail wind whips my tears along the sand in the early morning dark,
where I’ve been driven by a dream that had me jumping from my sleep
to lift a crying baby I couldn’t find.
She’s several weeks gone and my heart feels sprained
by sudden stabs of fear that she’s lost in the crowd of this big wide world
and I think I’ve done the best for her but I feel only this vicious sense of coming up short,
and don’t recognize the me that’s left in the after.
As I cry my hurt along the water’s edge,  something large rolls up against my foot.
A perfect conch.  On a beach of broken pebbles.  Somehow it washes up a warm and soothing grace,
this treasure from the deep – feels like “I’ve got this” – a wink delivered on the waves.
I take it home like a token given and keep it to rest my eyes,  my hope carried through the years.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It’s hers now – I sent it along to whisper love
and finding Allison this warm September last feels like another shell to hold;
I love this window.
Like when I’d rest my head against the doorframe to breathe in the wonder
of my littles asleep in their cribs,  so full up and tender for these tiny bundles of light wrapped in skin
It feels a little like that again,  and while Autumn is our busy season
and life doesn’t slow or gentle down for me to linger,
sometimes in the night I get up and pad down the hall to have a loving look and
it’s a beautiful thing that I can.  Another gift given and I know it.

But I don’t hear back
and as the leaves begin to fall,  an old chill comes over my soul like a fog rolling in.

I’m glad she doesn’t do fake just to make nice,
glad she’s living authentic and true,
and I support her in the story that’s her own to live and tell.

But why doesn’t she want me?

There it is, the haunting pain,
and this question doesn’t stand alone
because shame comes seeping up from the floorboards of shut off places
like a backwards flush and I feel the drag on my soul…..

“What’s wrong with me?”

weeping waters
We’ve all felt it,  this burning kind of shame –
accusation that haggles with your worth until it talks you down,
your defects discovered – you might have been loved but this is a dealbreaker.
And if you say or show or let on or get found out
you’ll be put out in the cold where you belong
and so you hide your love away and go small and smaller still…..
It pricks me sharp but I’m fighting to show up and stay.

It’s coming on Thanksgiving and I feel it like a fever that I can’t shake
but I open to some outlaw grace and get inspired to reach out shaking anyway.
I’ll write her every  Monday – say the words I couldn’t say,
unfold the cramped legs of what I want to give her – at last I have a way.
I plunk an easy,  newsy note into her box each Monday night,
a little heartpour sent off grinning with a prayer,
something she can count on – a love that’s always there and this is joy to me,
even with the disappointment-hangover that happens in the afterdays as she doesn’t respond,
and I grab on to the beauty that I  find and let it steele me in the keeping true.

  I’m thinking that if I feel that something needs to happen
or be in order to repair what feels broken in me
then maybe it’s gain when it doesn’t go down that way,
because insecurity gets flushed out from where it festers hidden
and as twinkle lights begin to light up the December nights,
the stuff in my basement gets dragged from where it hides
and with every “have you heard?” I squirm in my skin as shame storms down on me.
My chest goes tight now when they ask.  Please look away.  Please don’t see
me standing naked in the glare of her no thanks.

I feel so much “I’m sorry” rumble up from the deep,  not for anything I’ve done
but for what I don’t know how to be.

The longing and loss are valid – I feel it an ocean,  the grief.
But something’s not true in this shadow.
It’s easier to call the bluff on lies that others believe,
but I’ve got some bleeding blind spots – needing help myself to see.
And as Christmas comes and goes with no response still,  I’m rumbling inside to get free….


“There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers
than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.
With skinned knees and bruised hearts,  we choose owning our stories of struggle over hiding,  over hustling,
over pretending.  When we deny our stories,  they define us.
When we run from struggle,  we are never free.
So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye….”
– Brene Brown
(Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted in her Rising Strong)

If you’re still along for the ride,  I’ll tell you right now – this chapter doesn’t have a fairy tale ending.
It’s a love story,  and real,  and there is beauty to unfold still
but it’s messy and raw and and soaked with pain and grace;
maybe this is just exactly the stuff of getting free
(the best is still to be)


  1. Elephant's Child on August 7, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Of course I am still along for the ride. Aching, wincing in ruefull recognition, crying, applauding. And in awe at the size of your bruised, battered, and gorgeous heart.

    • jennifer on August 7, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      Thanks for sharing the bumpy road, Sue, and for that way that you have-so encouraging:)
      I love your words. Grace is so freakin’ amazing, isn’t it:) Such a wild and generous grace:)
      I appreciate your here-ness, Sue! So much.

  2. Julia on August 8, 2016 at 8:31 am

    What a roller coaster ride this is Jennifer I find myself holding on tighter as it squeezes the breath out of me on each ride up and down.

    It’s like your heart is being kneaded into dough that rises and falls with the punches. I’m still following because your story is so very compelling.
    Warm hugs

    • jennifer on August 10, 2016 at 7:31 am

      A roller coaster ride worth taking, for sure:) Hands in the air!
      Learning how to hold my palms up and breathe thanks for the twists and turns
      of learning to be completely in love, out of control and at peace.
      Baby steps, baby:) I really appreciate your words – that image of being kneaded into dough
      really speaks to me. Thanks, Julia. So much.

  3. Barbara on August 8, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Thank you for sharing your journey, Jennifer. I think you are so right when you say it might be best when we don’t get quick answers or resolutions, because we need to go through that process and feel the squirm and discomfort in order to grow and be at peace. Blessings to you, sweet soul!

    • jennifer on August 10, 2016 at 7:27 am

      Show up and be at peace – yes! That’s so it. The journey of a lifetime:)
      Thanks so much for your company, Barbara:)

  4. gotham girl on August 8, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I really don’t know what more I can add to the beautiful and thoughtful comments made by others…just know I’m squirming right along with you…xo

    • jennifer on August 10, 2016 at 7:26 am

      Your company along the way is pure gold and I thank you more than words can say:)

  5. gotham girl on August 8, 2016 at 11:10 am

    p.s. sorry for extra post…I wanted to include though…that first image…what a piece of art. Just gorgeous!!

    • jennifer on August 10, 2016 at 7:26 am

      Thank you! I appreciate:)

  6. Kathy on August 8, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Everyday, every Monday…every year. You show up strong. I am praying for you and I am in awe of you. K

    • jennifer on August 10, 2016 at 7:26 am

      Grateful for the awesome grace that’s holding and keeping us in such a big, generous way:)
      Thanks for your kind balm -it’s a beautiful thing, you being you over here with me:)

  7. LISA MORELAND on August 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    this…”And if you say or show or let on or get found out
    you’ll be put out in the cold where you belong
    and so you hide your love away and go small and smaller still…..
    It pricks me sharp but I’m fighting to show up and stay.”
    This speaks profoundly true to the pain of many who live without their child, for whatever reason, who struggle valiantly between silence or the backlash of proclaiming their heart. I am learning from you. I’ll read till your words run out.

    • jennifer on August 10, 2016 at 7:25 am

      I love that you’re here, Lisa:) We’ll walk down this road ’till it runs out
      Thanks for your encouragement,

  8. Susan on August 9, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Oh, the outlaw women & mamas, I love us all so much … smack in the midst of the struggle to make amends right now from those screw ups I made years ago, wondering if I’m strong enough to not turn away. But you, dear girl, and so many others who show up with their hurt hearts and stories to share make me want to do the very best I possibly can. Thank you, once again, for being here and for that gorgeous image at the top there.

    • jennifer on August 10, 2016 at 7:24 am

      It’s learning to do our best, but not more than our best, that’s the tricky wicket for brave mamas:)
      Learning to not step into someone elses space. Making tracks. Being gentle and generous with ourselves.
      It’s how we grow and thrive:) I love having you along for the ride.

  9. ladyfi on August 9, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    I feel your pain and love so much.

    • jennifer on August 10, 2016 at 7:22 am

      Thanks for the encouraging listen, Fi:)
      I appreciate your visit. So much:)

  10. Cathy on August 10, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Bless you me sweet cousin we had no idea the road you traveled after giving birth to Amanda. We knew it would be hard to give her to someone else even though you still had growing up to do yourself. (((((( BIG HUG)))))) to you with lots of love surrounding it!!!!

    • jennifer on August 14, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      (((((big hug back to you, sweet cousin:)))))
      Lots of love surrounding you, too:)

  11. Anne on August 10, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I have no words to string along beautifully for you, my friend. I will say that my braveheart can feel yours and that I love you. Remember, God’s promise to you in James is that Mercy triumphs over judgement! I pray for His fresh mercy to flow over and through you fresh each and everyday washing away that judgement.

    • jennifer on August 14, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      I love your brave heart:) Thanks, Anne, for being a listening ear and loving heart to me for so many years.
      You’re a treasure – and I hear those words and thank you.

  12. Cindy Long on August 10, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Such a heart wrenching tale of true! Your vulnerability is cherished Jenn and held with loving care! Such a privilege to see your story…the unfolding of its twists and turns and gut wrenching painfully long moments! In the meantime, I’ll be waiting…to see the next turn in the road…💖

    • jennifer on August 14, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      I feel that loving care and am over the moon in love with the hands that hold us safe:)
      We’re surrounded by faithfulness that blows my mind:) Thanks for twisting and turning with me
      as along the way we go. I love your company on the road:)

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