Tree Pose

One foot

Roots leg to earth.

Toes clutch. Corners balance.

Thighs cinch. Wind blows. Arms shake. Heart bared.

Grit grows.

Poems have roots.

Writing poetry is like planting words into a fixed space or form, a plot of soil, or a pot, if you will, where words take root and grow up inside you. This poem is a cinquain (pronounced sin-KANE). Isn’t that a great word? A cinquain is much like a haiku, a poem whose form is determined by the amount of syllables on each line. 2/4/6/8/2 distinguishes this lovely little structure. To find more about the history of the cinquain, check out this week’s Tweetspeak Poetry prompt.

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My Hammock Moment in Israel {What’s Next? Week 2}

I sneak away from the kids playing games on their white sheets in the cabin and walk out into dusk’s pastel intoxication. Strolling down the dusty, rocky path, I pass gray cabins trimmed navy on my right and scrubby flowering plants on the left. A couple on their balcony smiles at me over their wine. Past the cabins to the south is the sea. The Sea of Galilee. In terms of seas, it’s small. This dusky evening it is blue and reaching, beckoning me to sit with it. I gaze down the rocky sand-colored hill. Nothing but straight sea blue, turning purple in the setting sun.

Over a seaside lunch in Caesarea, a friend of a friend said the hammocks were the bee’s knees at this resort. I see mine before me on a patch of grass. I hop in it with gusto, swinging my legs up and reclining as smoothly as a grown woman can who hasn’t been in a hammock in ages. I check to make sure no one is looking.

I put my hands behind my head, cross my ankles, and sigh.
“What’s next, God? After this trip, I mean. What are we doing? Do you have something big on the books for us?”
Dust and salt hangs in quiet air.
Enjoy.
“Excuse me?”
Shhh…
A cow bellows down the hill.
“What’s that?”
Enjoy.
“I thought that’s what vacation is for.”
No rush. No hurry. Enjoy.

So This is Trust, Unrushed

I lean back and watch the water miles away, seemingly still, unrushed, undoing me.

Landscapes do this. So do little birds on rocks chirping and twittering the joy of eating and being and living. What is it like to stop trying so hard? I wonder. To rest in God. To follow the way of Jesus, who walked these hills, skimmed these waters underfoot and told a sudden storm which cropped up, “Shh….” Is it enough to be with Jesus in this life?Tweet This

In Kansas? In suburbia? In the world? How and what’s next? And where are we going anyway?

I am no different from my kids pestering with questions as we travel. Instead, it’s me peppering God.

The words press into the air around me like an invisible blanket.

Enjoy.

Take.

Eat.

Drink. 

I stay a long while in the hammock as the Sea and the now-ness whisper:

Remember this.

Live.

Enjoy.

Join the Conversation

When you’re dying to know what’s next, what stills your restless heart?

What’s Next? is a series to help us discover joy in uncertain times. Join us for the next five weeks for stories, challenge, questions, and community. Read last week’s post: A Certain Guide for an Uncertain Journey.

 

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Trouble Loving My Neighbor in Suburbia

A Muslim friend once gave me a pair of hand-crafted crosses as a thank you gift. A Hindu family waited on mine, hand and foot, standing as we ate huge bowls of scrumptious vegetarian dishes from their kitchen table. I’ve been welcomed with open arms by Israelis and Palestinians and the recipient of amazing hospitality by Italians, Croats, and Germans. As I look around my corner of suburbia, I still don’t quite know how to love my neighbor well.

We wave and holler, “Hey, how are you?” across sprinklers and green lawns. We get each other’s mail and help each other mend fences from time to time. But more often than not, we don’t even see our neighbors as garage doors conveniently shut us off from troubling ourselves over someone we barely know.

I’ve walked past a neighbor on a stroll, not even realizing it was the woman who lived directly across the street. I’ve ignored the front door bell on more than one occasion and even hid in my own house from eyes peering in the window.

Did you know loving the alien is mentioned 52 times in Biblical Levite texts? (source) That challenges my socks off.

When my kids were little, they used to give away their most prized toys to everyone they knew. Without reservation. In kindergarten, my daughter donated a set of wooden animals I bought her in South Africa. She gave them freely to her classroom prize bin. Mentally, I still have a hard time letting go of those possessions, because I bought them specifically for her. But she intuitively knew what I continually miss: we bless when we give our best.

The neighbors who have welcomed me from around the world did so because they have all been aliens. They have known what it is to be displaced and alone. Sometimes I sit on my front step with open hands and ask God to give me eyes to see beyond doors and smiles.

A Resource for Better Neighboring

Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community by Amelia Rhodes

What helps you be a loving neighbor?

I wrote this post with my free-writing Five Minute Friday friends. Our one-word prompt was Neighbor, and they embody the word so well. 

What’s Next? New September Series

Uncertainty is a huge barrier to neighboring for me as well. Join me here Mondays in September for a series about questions, doubts, crossing categories, trust, and joy: What’s Next? Uncovering Joy in Uncertain Times. Check out the first post.

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Five Books That Rocked My Summer

Five Faves

I have to celebrate my summer reads, ya’ll. There’s something highly satisfactory about remembering what you accomplish in the reading department. It’s like writing thank you notes to your besties.

  1. Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge. I’m in love with her mystical writing brimming with spiritual truths. And its fiction! This book follows the almost mythical tale of orphaned Stella on the stormy shores of Southern England, her young friend who abandons his ship, and a mysterious priest. (There’s a strong sense of Poldark with this one.)
  2. Green Dolphin Street also by Elizabeth Goudge. Set on a windswept French island and New Zealand, this epic tale follows two sisters who love the same man and what they sacrifice for salvation. This book has the richest characters of any book I’ve ever read.
  3. The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness by Jerome Groopman. A study in the power of the spirit and mind to push past pain and live beyond our own strength.
  4. Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years…and Yours by Alicia Britt Chole. If you find yourself constantly trying to be seen and heard in a cacophonous world too, this book might settle you right down. The quiet years are preparing us with a peace that surpasses.
  5. Different: The Story of an Outside-The-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson. If you’ve got a kid who’s challenging because of personality or disability, this book is for you. It’s written by a mother and son who battled OCD, ODD, and ADHD together. It moved me to empathy and hope for the years to come with my two squirrels.

This Fall’s Stack ‘O Books

  1. At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider. If you’ve dabbled in taking your kids around the world (literally or figuratively), this book will give you courage.
  2. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Poetic prose, powerful perspective from a supremely talented African-American woman. We need more books like this.
  3. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith. A YA adventure novel about sword-wielding rabbits. My kids were fighting over it last night.
  4. Being Brave: A 40-Day Journey to the Life God Dreams for You by Kelly Johnson. Can’t wait to dive into this book as I brave some new personal ventures.
  5. The Joy of Poetry: How to Keep, Save & Make Your Life With Poems (Masters in Fine Living Series) by Megan Willome. (Reread). Memoir + poetry? Yes, please! I am using it for poetry workshop prep and to rekindle my own creative practice.
  6. The Bark of the Bog Owl (The Wilderking Trilogy, #1) 
    by Jonathan Rogers. I heard the author on  the Read Aloud Revival podcast talk about how this was the first complete story he ever wrote. The title is brilliant!

Find other books I’ve loved.

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Little Brown Bat, Pretending

Public domain via pixnio.com

Wing Envy: that’s the title of this week’s Tweetspeak poetry prompt. One of my favorite activities at dusk is to thank the bats. Circling our park and backyard, they rid the air of annoying insects. Frequently, our family points out to friends those winged birds are, in fact, bats.

I swoop the sky clean

So two-legged creatures below

Can see and take

Comfort from the giant night light.

 

I am not ugly,

(Though they would say otherwise.)

I can’t help

My beady eyes,

Nor cryptic mouth.

My stunted furry form

Spans hanglidered fingers

To snatch mosquito, gnat, moth.

I save the world from certain invasion.

They think me a bird.

 

I am quite beautiful, you know.

Doing what I was made to do.

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What’s Next? A Certain Guide for an Uncertain Journey {NEW SERIES}

“I want to let you know we’re about to walk through Damascus gate,” our guide says to our small tour group huddled around.

We are all wondering what’s next on the day’s overscheduled agenda. Eight hours speedwalking through Jersualem’s crowded stone streets in midday heat has left us a little light-headed. His words make my eyes dart to Bobby’s. “We were told not to go there,” I whisper.

“Yes, I know there’s been violence there, but I will not take you where I feel unsafe,” the guide assures. “We will move quickly. If I feel at all uncomfortable, we’ll turn around and leave.” Quickly must mean sprinting, I think. My long legs are tired. What about the kids?

As we begin this five-week series What’s Next? Uncovering Joy in Uncertain Times, I want to begin by asking a question, “What makes you uncomfortable?” Is it doubt? An unknown future? Not having all the information you need? Feeling stuck? Lost? Or purposeless? Maybe it’s a combo deal. Helplessness and fear. Disappointment and ordinary days boring you to death.

Known Danger Zone

Back to the story. For me, the news our group is about to race through an area where stabbings have recently occurred is a double-whammie of discomfort. 1. What if something happens to one of my kids? and 2. Can I trust this guide?

I don’t have a chance to question my trust more than two seconds. I’m pretty sure that was deliberate on the guide’s part. Before we can blink, he briskly walks away through the covered market. My 12-year old daughter is the first one behind him, then a couple from Michigan, next me, and so on. I can see her scarved head yards away as we weave through crowded streets and out into the sun.

As we reach a steep street, people in colors and robes press in on us. // My heartbeat thumps in my ears. I hold my son’s hand tightly and crane my neck. I can’t see Abby. All I can see is the guide. I yell to the man in front of me, “Can you see her?”

“Yes!” his voice is practically drowned as store owners’ loudly hawk their wares over and through us. I see a stone arch up ahead. The heat chokes me as I try to come up for air. I see the guide’s navy blue shirt, the back of his ball-capped head. She’s with him. She’s with him. I repeat to myself. I have no choice but to trust.

I look up, and we’re through. Through the door of danger, standing around a concrete stairwell. All of us. I draw Abby close. Dear God, that felt close.

Can I Trust You, God?

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you  –Deuteronomy 31:6 The Message (MSG) //

This is exactly what happened: I had no choice but to trust the guide God gave me. Not blindly. He came on good authority, but following him felt absolutely uncertain.

As we step into uncomfortable, slightly dangerous places of our hearts in this series, let’s ask ourselves first: “Can I trust you, God?” If the answer is yes, then there’s no time to lose. We’ve got to follow. He’s on the move.

What’s Next? is a series to help us discover joy in uncertain times. Join us for the next five weeks for stories, challenge, questions, and community.

Join the Conversation

When it comes to God, what does trust or certainty mean to you?  Does a verse or quote come to mind? Share it below.

Note: I’m linking this post up with the Five Minute Friday creative writing community. Our word prompt was GUIDE.

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