Buried breaths and baby steps…

By Michele | August 3, 2010 |
i want you
She’s been on my mind for thirty three years
but I’ve never seen her face
in full bloom.
I remember only the weight of her
presence on my tummy and soul.Her head was bruised
from the forceps that pulled her
from me.

My heart was bruised
as I signed papers with grown-up words like “unfit” and “relinquish.”

I was sixteen; her eyes never met mine.
She was quickly shuffled away into deserving arms.
I remember how tightly her slender fingers clutched mine before they took her.

Today I sit down to write another of many letters
I’ve been allowed to send her these past three and a half years
(words, until recently, confined to my heart and journals).
It’s a dream-come-true that they reach her at last.
A miracle, really. And I’m grateful.

I’ve written her earliest stories…all of my whys and ways taken,
shared everything I imagine she may want to know about her birth mother
…carefully ladling generous portions of my heart into her bowl.
It’s like choosing Christmas cookies to place in a too-small mailing box,
each one stuffed full of love and hope that she smiles and feels it.
I wrestle over which ones to include and which to leave out.

The package I gently wrap in respect for the person she is and the life that is hers,
for the woman who is her mother and the legacy that is hers,
and for the choice that is my birth daughter’s: to respond…..or wait…..or do nothing at all.
I’ve released her; my love will not wobble with her choosing.

And I ride the brakes of my own heart until it’s burning and smoking and reeking
with the smell of ancient ache and the muzzled voice of my younger self
as all of the loss and longing and love come screaming from shut down places.

As I pick up my pen and begin to push it,
slicing off another serving of the tender portions of me,
I bleed out words to Dear Amanda,
and arrange them with hands that shake from holding back the surge
of my long ago voice,
silenced and buried alive,
that erupts with such fury
my heart rips a bit with each pulse.

And as my swallowed words tumble onto paper,
un-forbidden and staring back with fiery rebellion,
I let them be
…..let them say themselves.

And I feel them…..feel them all the way down to my broken places
until I’m spent with their leaving.

Then I wad up that paper and start with a clean one
that will be filled with grown up words…….sturdy ones that lift and carry my voice
grown bold and strong.

I’m grateful for this grown up voice
and use it now to give wings to the words I couldn’t say before:
I wanted you.
I WANTED you.
I want you still.

On behalf of the child I used to be, I hurl those words into the universe
and with pain soaked in joy
I begin to write….

Buried breaths and baby steps…

By jennifer | August 3, 2010 |
i want you
She’s been on my mind for thirty three years
but I’ve never seen her face
in full bloom.
I remember only the weight of her
presence on my tummy and soul.Her head was bruised
from the forceps that pulled her
from me.

My heart was bruised
as I signed papers with grown-up words like “unfit” and “relinquish.”

I was sixteen; her eyes never met mine.
She was quickly shuffled away into deserving arms.
I remember how tightly her slender fingers clutched mine before they took her.

Today I sit down to write another of many letters
I’ve been allowed to send her these past three and a half years
(words, until recently, confined to my heart and journals).
It’s a dream-come-true that they reach her at last.
A miracle, really. And I’m grateful.

I’ve written her earliest stories…all of my whys and ways taken,
shared everything I imagine she may want to know about her birth mother
…carefully ladling generous portions of my heart into her bowl.
It’s like choosing Christmas cookies to place in a too-small mailing box,
each one stuffed full of love and hope that she smiles and feels it.
I wrestle over which ones to include and which to leave out.

The package I gently wrap in respect for the person she is and the life that is hers,
for the woman who is her mother and the legacy that is hers,
and for the choice that is my birth daughter’s: to respond…..or wait…..or do nothing at all.
I’ve released her; my love will not wobble with her choosing.

And I ride the brakes of my own heart until it’s burning and smoking and reeking
with the smell of ancient ache and the muzzled voice of my younger self
as all of the loss and longing and love come screaming from shut down places.

As I pick up my pen and begin to push it,
slicing off another serving of the tender portions of me,
I bleed out words to Dear Amanda,
and arrange them with hands that shake from holding back the surge
of my long ago voice,
silenced and buried alive,
that erupts with such fury
my heart rips a bit with each pulse.

And as my swallowed words tumble onto paper,
un-forbidden and staring back with fiery rebellion,
I let them be
…..let them say themselves.

And I feel them…..feel them all the way down to my broken places
until I’m spent with their leaving.

Then I wad up that paper and start with a clean one
that will be filled with grown up words…….sturdy ones that lift and carry my voice
grown bold and strong.

I’m grateful for this grown up voice
and use it now to give wings to the words I couldn’t say before:
I wanted you.
I WANTED you.
I want you still.

On behalf of the child I used to be, I hurl those words into the universe
and with pain soaked in joy
I begin to write….

Oceans of grace….

By jennifer | August 1, 2010 |

summer

White clouds calling out
across land gone flat
and dipping towards the seasummerlike a downramp
for offloading
my frettings and frenzies

summer

into oceans of grace
to be swallowed by the tide.

Oceans of grace
to you
this August!

Show me your face…..

By jennifer | July 30, 2010 |

art
It’s been a wilting-on-the-vine sort of hot this week. The daytime usually finds me planted right in the middle of the sweltering so I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the coolness that washes over body and soul when I come in at day’s end. In fact, it would be accurate to say that this hormonal woman LOVES air conditioning.

So it was no small trauma this week when the precious pump that generates deliciously cool air…. frosts it and then puffs it gently into my living spaces….. suffered a violent end. A loud, shrieking death. The friendly whirring that once soothed the summerness from my home was replaced by the whining of little fans complaining that they’re unfairly outmatched. An unhappy, moaning sound pressed down on me while the air grew hot and syrupy, determined that sleep not find us.

During the long sticky night, heat and humidity scrambled my brain and then went to work on my emotions. I slid deeply into debt, borrowing all of the trouble from tomorrow that my overactive imagination could sign for. Miserably, I tossed myself for hours in the angst until thoroughly marinated.

(HOW was I going to be able to be “on” tomorrow? What if I can’t pull it off? What will they think? And my asthma is kicking in big time…I don’t like the breathless version of me. And HOW will we pay for repairs? WHAT if the guy says we need a whole new unit? What if parts have to be ordered and we have to wait? What about the dogs….we can’t stay somewhere else.
What if I can’t take this? What if I fall apart? What if I look as weak as I feel?)

Of course, I tried to talk myself down off of this slippery slope but fatigue stripped away the pretty pretenses until I was left with bare bones honesty. I was honestly afraid. Of not having enough. Of not being enough. Of being vulnerable to the things that can take my breath away.
Of being vulnerable……period.

My head was sore from trying to find PEACE….to figure it all out enough to park my racing mind for the night. I kept circling the runway because I couldn’t accurately see enough pieces of the puzzle to create a picture that would satisfy (even temporarily) my need to know.

I realize how often I settle for peace that COMES from understanding (even if it’s an illusion) rather than opting for the peace that passes it. Trumps it. Overrides it. “Lord, help” I asked.

Help came as the memory of a song(as if whispered but not really) settled over me like a breeze. I’d heard it years ago when Don Potter, the songwriter, sang from his heart and mine melted in response “Show me your face, Lord. Show me your face.” I shared his longing for connection with One who would thoroughly see me back. I had asked….again and again……and my identity began to be shaped at times, not by how I performed, but by what I felt I saw in His eyes.

(Had I completely forgotten or was this just another layer of the onion….a different set of closed doors in my deep places that needed to be swung open to light. No need to know……just show me your face, please, Lord.)

And you know, the AC didn’t pop back on. No bright lights or dramatic displays. Nothing that would be of notice to an onlooker. But I began to see, in the eyes of my imagination, the way a treeline brushes the sky when the wind stirs the leaves. It felt as if love brushed back the damp hair from my sweaty forehead and took my chin in hand, looked at me, and smiled. It was enough. My soul grew quiet and still as my mind pulled again into this simple, life-giving parking space……………show me your face.

Radishes and reasons

By jennifer | July 22, 2010 |

light and free
A thin, baby radish covered in grit changed my life when I was five. It was the first thing I ever pulled out of the ground to munch. Eating dirt made me shudder but I ate those radishes until my stomach turned sour. It was like swallowing joy.

I was mesmerized watching my grandma pick peppermint leaves from among the pink phlox and milkweed in her rock garden and pop them daintily in her mouth, chewing like a tiny wad of gum. It thrilled me to follow suit, rolling the minty leaves around on my tongue until I felt their surprising coolness on my throat.

I remember summer evenings padding through a family friend’s garden picking young lima beans, slitting the pods open with my thumbnail and tasting their tender, buttery tartness. I felt connected to a warm, comforting energy…… where my own wild things were.

After stumbling through my high school years and coming out broken on the other side, I again felt drawn to the healing earthiness of planting and caring for growing things. During my college years I immersed myself in greenhouses and gardens, wearing brogans and overall jeans and smelling of patchouli. One of the “horticulture hippies” on campus, I spent my meager paychecks on plants and pottery. My husband jokes that I came with alot of greenery. I’m still happiest surrounded by flowers and plants, my house brimming with oxygen!

I can’t figure why, but I’m turned on by the deeply honest journey from seed to fruit and flower.
The way green things, with no striving or straining, open up and receive the moisture, light and care they need with no apology. I love the dailyness of it, too…..the whole becoming process. Without drama, growth happens. Then without ceremony, they begin to bloom. What a beautiful legacy: just exactly what was inside of them becoming visible and available and enjoyable…..light and free as air.

God, I wanna be like that….to fully become the most organic, unpretentious, colorful version of the authentic me. No hype; just fruit.

Red wagon rumpus…

By jennifer | July 17, 2010 |

flyer wagon
Years ago we moved to a large city in order for our three children, then in middle and high schools, to attend an artsy school that focused on freedom
in spirituality and creative expression. The teachers and students were an eclectic mix of interesting people with fascinating lives; we were excited to
have our kids share in their journey. The cost of tuition was more than our family could absorb, so during the interview, I found myself blurting out that I’d love to teach in exchange for some of the cost. The principal studied my eager face and asked, not about my qualifications, but my passions.

As if in a dream, I heard myself spilling over with enthusiasm about teaching elementary art. Art? Yes, they’d just lost their art teacher and a replacement was needed. I was qualified to teach creative writing and public speaking, but here in this surreal whirlwind of unfolding circumstances, was signing on to bring weekly art classes to each elementary classroom in a school characterized by their support for the arts. I’d officially gone mad.

While driving the several hours back home after that interview, I went cold with pure, raw fear.
WHAT was I thinking back there?!?!? What could have possessed me to suggest such a crazy arrangement……and what was wrong with THEM for agreeing with it??? I wrapped each valid question in prayer and left them to percolate…..wandering again into that place in my heart that had dared to suggest such a thing. I had felt REALLY alive back there…..something rose up inside me and danced all over that room until we were all believing the music.

In the days that followed, ideas and insights would bubble up from that ridiculously joyful place in my heart as I packed and cleaned and hustled through the details of moving a household. Soon, exhausted by busyness and goodbyes, it became harder to duck each time chilling accusations taunted me: “WHO do you think you ARE?” My knuckles white on the steering wheel, I traveled the road to my new home with a resolve grown thin with fatigue and anxiety. My hidden buttons were going off like a switchboard.

Within a few days, school began and students and parents began filing into a large gymnasium for the opening assembly. New teachers were introduced individually. When I was announced as the new elementary art teacher, loud expectant applause jolted me like an electric shock. I almost died of intimidation. Art classes were a big deal to these people….if I was going to fail and disappoint, it was going to be in a large way, embarrassing my children. Good Lord, what had I gotten myself into?

My husband headed back home to continue with his job and prepare our house to sell. I felt very much alone in a new city with a small rented house, three transitioning teenagers and a terrifying new job. There was also an intoxicating sense that I was uncurling cramped wings and spreading them wide until damp feathers began reaching to catch an updraft. I prayed for huge, enormous, massive grace. It came…..bright red and on wheels.

My shiny red wagon soon became my trademark. Rattling down sidewalks and hallways, buckets of paints, markers and supplies jangling and clattering in a tipsy tumble of happy potential, it seemed to clamor loudly “anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.” God himself seemed to call through the clatter “Your worth is not on trial here; it’s settled. No more hunched shoulders, cringing and waiting for the ax to fall. I’ve got you…..I’ll cover you.” And He DID in amazing ways…..and gave those kids (and me) an education that birthed so much more than pretty pictures. There was rich, raw life in it; creativity was released in the rumpus.

The noise and rhythm of red wagon grace helped me to slide into that childlike place where all the best stuff comes from….that playful wonder where impossibility becomes fingerpaint in messy, hopeful hands.

Years have passed since those magic-filled days. When we started our business, the red wagon came along, helping me carry my tools to dig and plant new gardens. The waters beneath me seemed deeper and more dangerously churning now. There was more to risk. More to lose. And again, fierce more-than-enoughness covered and kept me.

I recently found myself feeling drawn to pull out my wagon again. This morning I sat down beside it and ran my hands over it’s worn, paint-spattered surface still smelling a little of cow manure compost. I got the funny sensation that it’s ready to set out on another adventure, like I used to feel with my guitar when a new song wanted to be born. It’s full of stories now….just waiting to see if I’ll find the courage to tug them out and write them down. Taking another deep breath, I grab the handle and start to pull….leaning into letting the wild rumpus start!

Room for my heart's true music…..

By Michele | July 11, 2010 |

sing I’ve been gingerly placing some fresh boundaries around spaces for my writing and art….saying some new “no”s……giving less time to situations that sap my energy.

The pain of un-meeting expectations leaves my soul burning like a forest on fire. No, like the whole of California and surrounding dessert ablaze. White, hot unrest, like ash from well-burning coals, is toasting some soft spots in my comfort zones until I feel singed and charred. The blaze gobbles up old, familiar air.

What’s worse, I know I can put out this fire if I suit up, grab myself by the appearances and begin spraying the fireline with fresh apologies, obligatory phone calls and re-scheduled visits.
I could arrest these flames~could control this~with some approval-seeking gifts and explanations. But unruly winds intent on my freedom keep raging…jumping the firebreaks my inadequate sacrifices have carved.

I’m a people pleaser in an awfully awkward position: I want to stop. To let the fires inside me rage and tear through the structures I’ve built and maintain at great cost to my heart’s true music. I’ve already lost too many precious minutes dancing to the tune of other people’s expectations~some real, others only imagined. I’m in a death-roll with my own unrealistic expectations, as well.

I want to lose them ALL~to lose the yoga-in-tight-jeans constriction that siphons off the joy of moving and breathing to the unforced rhythms of grace. I’m longing to really love, instead… wholeheartedly and fearlessly. From a place of rest and realness. Not enslaved, resigned, and far too polite.

Pine cones drop their seeds because of the heat of fires that destroy other trees, consuming the deadwood and underbrush. Am I brave enough to let this uncomfortable blaze burn unchecked, trusting that new life will push through the charred ground and become the song my heart longs for?

Going down~ knees to the ground~ I say yes to the fire and flame~.and yes to what will remain
after the burning’s done.

Room for my heart’s true music…..

By jennifer | July 11, 2010 |

sing I’ve been gingerly placing some fresh boundaries around spaces for my writing and art….saying some new “no”s……giving less time to situations that sap my energy.

The pain of un-meeting expectations leaves my soul burning like a forest on fire. No, like the whole of California and surrounding dessert ablaze. White, hot unrest, like ash from well-burning coals, is toasting some soft spots in my comfort zones until I feel singed and charred. The blaze gobbles up old, familiar air.

What’s worse, I know I can put out this fire if I suit up, grab myself by the appearances and begin spraying the fireline with fresh apologies, obligatory phone calls and re-scheduled visits.
I could arrest these flames~could control this~with some approval-seeking gifts and explanations. But unruly winds intent on my freedom keep raging…jumping the firebreaks my inadequate sacrifices have carved.

I’m a people pleaser in an awfully awkward position: I want to stop. To let the fires inside me rage and tear through the structures I’ve built and maintain at great cost to my heart’s true music. I’ve already lost too many precious minutes dancing to the tune of other people’s expectations~some real, others only imagined. I’m in a death-roll with my own unrealistic expectations, as well.

I want to lose them ALL~to lose the yoga-in-tight-jeans constriction that siphons off the joy of moving and breathing to the unforced rhythms of grace. I’m longing to really love, instead… wholeheartedly and fearlessly. From a place of rest and realness. Not enslaved, resigned, and far too polite.

Pine cones drop their seeds because of the heat of fires that destroy other trees, consuming the deadwood and underbrush. Am I brave enough to let this uncomfortable blaze burn unchecked, trusting that new life will push through the charred ground and become the song my heart longs for?

Going down~ knees to the ground~ I say yes to the fire and flame~.and yes to what will remain
after the burning’s done.

Restoring robin-hood…

By jennifer | July 10, 2010 |

take these broken wings
This Spring, my son John found a struggling robin dangling from a branch by string tangled around her foot. Her head was pulled down onto
her chest by more string knotted around her neck. She flopped around helplessly after he cut her down,
trying to escape.

After much patient pursuit, he and my husband caught her. We used manicure scissors to snip away the tangles that were binding her. The process was tedious but happily successful (SO thankful for my wildlife biologist husband at times like these!). Once released, she rested….her neck slowly rising with each heaving breath.

When she finally stretched out her wings and flew away, the music of her freedom rolled across my outstretched heart until it got inside me. I went limp with it, wondering just how often I make nice with my chains in order to avoid the intrusion of hands stretched out to help me.

Her reluctance and resistance-even in the hands of tender mercy-reminded me of many someones I know. Especially…well… me. Now her sweet form keeps finding it’s way into my art. And as I remember her, I let go and trust a little more the One who holds my struggling heart in his hands.

Radiant hearts….

By jennifer | July 8, 2010 |

radiant
Been thinking about hearts and all of the ways they get broken, sick, heavy, cold and hard; grateful for all of the creative ways love can heal, restore, warm, lighten and lift them.

I can hardly believe I get to wade in these waters….the brilliant, lovely hearts I encounter in this nourishing blogging community. I’m growing to so love and appreciate each one of you
and the beauty pouring from the lives you share.

Every garden has a face; this one makes me glad to the bone:)

May you all be drenched in encouragement….hope pounding on your chest and breathing life into
your deepest, dearest dreams. Sending big love and prayers for rest, refreshing, restoration and resilience to all of your radiant hearts!

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