writing. these days.

“I know you love words,” my co-worker said the other day as I struggled to properly pronounce a particularly long and awkward medical term.

I do love words.

My earliest memories of words are of pouring over storybooks and McGuffy Readers and learning to pronounce words all on my own.

Learning to write words was even more fun, balancing pencil lead between headlines and baselines, forming circles and script, dotting “i’s” and stringing them all into sentences and paragraphs and poems and papers.

Now words feel scary to pen.

Words have become weapons.

Words are cancel culture and damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t, and what once was a means to painting the world with a pen has become a tightrope of should I or shouldn’t I and if I do I’ll get it all wrong.

Even a poem about the ethereal green of my backyard seems precarious, these hard and awful days.

Virus of hate

Virus of color

Virus of the lungs and the world and

the heart

make everything a risk.

These days.

Storytellers and poets, painters and dreamers, those of us who tread between the real and imaginary, the ideological and the broken, we are the hearts that long to battle and bridge the warring world,

and now

words are hemmed in

by the righteous and self-righteous, and the freedom

to explore

feels like a trap no matter

the heart-

intentions.

And so I am left spent to say,

Lord

Jesus

come

into this mess

like You do best.

Create

in us a clean heart.

search us and know us when we don’t

know ourselves or which way to go.

Show us

the blackest smudges that need erasing in our souls

and wash them clean as new ruled paper,

plain and empty and ready

to write

what the world needs to heal.


“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:19-21‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Quarantine journals: April 30

When I was younger, I had a terrifying, recurrent dream. I can’t recall the circumstances, only that we were standing in a line at a school waiting for MREs, our only source of food. It was the sort of dream where your conscious is telling you in the midst that “it’s only a dream,” but you are so scared that you fight your way awake in the middle of the night.

This morning I drove by a local elementary school, and I was struck by how much it looks like the one in that old dream.

I know, it’s ridiculous, right?

We’re going to make it through this, right?

Some moments of my day, usually when I’m building or painting something, I don’t think about the virus. I don’t think about my patients at the hospital who were sick and anxious enough without COVID-19 to worry about. I don’t think about how so many of us are months, or weeks, or even days, of needing help to pay bills and get food.

But many moments–too many moments–I do think about it.

I wonder if my grandparents and great-grandparents felt like they were free-falling when the Great Depression hit. Because that’s how I feel–like I’m free falling. Like I’m in a dream and I know I’m in a dream, only this time, I can’t make myself wake up. I can’t make it go away.

I want to be able to get my nails done again. I want to get back to the treasured Saturday morning breakfasts out with my husband. I want to hug my patient who just received devastating news. I want to hug my friends again. I want to know that we aren’t headed toward bread lines and MREs and another Great Depression and things won’t get so bad that we’ll have to sell our house or go bankrupt or lose everything but the shirts on our backs.

I had anxiety and PTSD before all this, and I just wish it would all go away.

Now, I’m fully aware that a lot of the things I listed above are #firstworldproblems. By and large my family and I are doing okay. But everything is relative for everyone. A crisis to one person might appear as a blessing to another. We can’t judge the things that make each of us unravel.

We can only acknowledge that we are, each of us, unraveling about something in the midst of this madness.

So what can we do?

There are the obvious: acknowledge that your hurt and worry are real, and more importantly, valid. Seek mental help–most doctors are taking virtual visits, if not seeing serious cases in person. Do things–even one thing–to take care of your soul, whether putting up a bird house, reading a long-neglected book, trying a hobby you’ve been putting off, taking a bubble bath by candlelight.

One thing is for sure: We are not all in this together.

Some are suffering significantly more than others. Many–too many–are dying.

But we are all in this with God.

He has not changed.

He has not left us.

He has seen us through wars and famines and plagues. He has never promised us escape from these challenges, but He has promised us victory over them–either here on earth or in Heaven.

“…fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

The other day, I had the privilege of being at my cousins’ dairy farm when they opened the north pasture to grazing for the first time this season.

The gate opened, and the pretty jersey cows with their big, brown, puppy dog eyes just stood there, blinking, ankle deep in muck.

“Go on now,” the farmer hollered, encouraging them.

Still, they stood there and stared.

It’s as if they’d forgotten all the springs before and the freedom and sweet, honey taste of the emerald green pasture.

“Go out before them, walk all the way back over the bend of the hill,” my farmer cousin said to me.

The cows blinked some more, postures guarded, as they watched me walk farther and farther out into the pasture, my legs shin deep in the lush, green grass.

But then slowly, one by one, they walked toward the pasture.

They picked up their pace, little by little, until one, and then another, started to run–skip, really–their impossibly enormous frames light with glee when they finally realized what the farmer was offering them.

Freedom.

Honey sweet nourishment.

Goodness.

Love.

It was a Malachi 4:2 sort of day:

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

The sort of day the Lord has in store for each of us, when this winter, this virus, this season lifts.

Be safe, dear friends.

Know you are loved and beloved.

Know that you are not alone.


 Lead Me Home is a novel inspired by my cousins’ dairy farm. It’s a story of two families and a town faced with immeasurable loss,  and how they find hope in the midst of it. You might like to give it a try, if you’re looking for the same:

Quarantine journals: April 23

I’ve always love the number three.

Three sons.

The three best things of my whole entire life.

If you know anything

about me

it’s that I adore my Dad and he is

a carpenter.

He spent the time

and helped

my three sons

make these bluebird houses a few years back.

My part of the job was to find poles to mount them.

And I failed.

At least for a time.

But

THIS TIME.

Quarantine. Social distancing. Ruminating over past and present and things to come.

Somehow it all makes me want to finish

everything.

And so I found these precious birdhouses

my dad

and my boys

made with their own hands.

And finally we mounted them and we are grateful and

we wait.

The bluebirds will come.

New life will come.

Healing and hope and seasons and gatherings and community and

LIFE

will come again.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!

Lamentations 3:22-23 TMV