Open Floor: Join Us For Happy Hour

Calling all readers! Yes you, if you want. Tell me about a moment when you were happy, so happy you could hardly see straight. You couldn’t have been happier if you’d won the Lottery.

A few months into the blogging last year, I realized truth and beauty were what I was drawn to exploring on this blog. We looked at some hard truths this year. Of race, culture, boundaries, loneliness, guilt. I’d like to turn our attention to beauty. No matter the size of your blog or whether you even have one, you are welcome to submit up to 50 words in answer to my prompt. That’s just a few sentences. Those who’ve featured here are welcome back. I will post my favorite responses with a link back if you’re a blogger. Remember, what strikes me will depend on the other answers that come in. If you find yourself spilling over the word limit, you can take it up as a challenge to save spit.

Send your snippet to with HAPPY in the subject and a link to your blog. If you don’t end up on the grand list you can always run with it and share your memory on your own blog. =) I’m working on the guilt fixation. I refuse to feel bad for the stories I can’t take. No one wants to read a list 100 items long. If you’re serious about stepping up on this platform please send me your best draft.

The window for submissions closes 11:59 pm PST this Sunday, September 28. Please give me a week to get back to you. Comments are disabled because you will write me or you won’t.


st r u gg ling artist

                               so   i    decided
i am more than the answer to "what's for dinner?"    
     the unrelenting pile of dishes

i am more than the name i changed at the altar,
     and the ways i fail Husband

i am more than the boy i nursed 'til i was spent
and would give up my only breath for, more
     than the worry over the
     mishaps that visit children

caught. i feel caught  between
the rock of guilt   and   the hard place of time

as i push push my way through this beautiful life i don't deserve
for a chance to paint the helpless run of words

en route to errands i pop in an audio - Pooh's tales,
then settle back for the story that wants to tell in my head
and catch it on paper when i park the car

i race, i snatch and just the same watch
the minutes fall 
                                      hungry fingers

i am more than the faith that rose from my dead life
     because we are more than spirit but too, flesh and mind,
     borne of the Living Word that justifies our reply

what does it say of me as Wife and Mother, my grateful honor --

but that i am happiest
     (clap hand over mouth)

when my dreams find their light in the words
that come together, sometimes soldiers
in sharp line or ballerinas
in fluid form?

i realize it is never a burden, a fresh joy each time

i am the song of history and hope
(except the Greatest Women past and present have denied themselves)

through the fatigue in my bones, i delight through 
the hard, hard way to get it down    just so
so u can s e e    the art and grace    in the world that thrills me

i know the prince and the pauper are apportioned the same
hours but my time feels rationed

pl e a se, let me finish this thought, but
    -- the but --
                     incommodius conjunction, dissolution
of my right to self

i am more than the Kitchen i have loved but it needs taming 
because i am Wife and Mother and there i go to 
the unrelenting pile of dishes i am 
more than
I am indebted to my husband, to whom I dedicate this poem, for doing his 
darnedest to leave me to my words.

The Question of Human Suffering

MoonlightMore times than I can name, my wayfaring has been a desperate crawl. This is not a metaphor, as there were days I could not drag my broken body downstairs for the mail.

Jan 2003, Meningitis. The virus had taken itself up in my spine and lining of the brain. Journal:

At every turn of the neck, the world exploded out of stereos on max – inside my head. I could do nothing but weep driving home. Never had I known such blinding pain. I really did not want to live like this anymore.

That night, I plumbed depths of rock bottom I didn’t know were there. The pain was so great nothing mattered anymore. Not finding a job, making ends meet. I just wanted to drop everything and die.

An email from a cancer survivor:
Been processing resentment in my life. God is showing me how I’ve been building that up in my life and it affects my immune system making me susceptible to disease.

February 2003
There have been mornings I would wake and realize with wonder my eyes had opened. That I was given another day. The awe came with…disappointment.

Midmonth – exactly ten years before I would start blogging – I found a totally unexpected check for $500 in the mail on my 30th birthday. The bills would be paid that month.

There is no word for what God has done tonight other than that He “disarmed” me. For the first time, I was enabled to pray blessings upon those who have hurt me or whose blessings I have begrudged.

How slow I have been to learn the weightiest, simplest truths these 13 years in Christ: we are meant to grow not on wings of ease but in suffering, and this thing called faith is meant to be lived out with the support of others. The ABCs…..perhaps they are also the XYZ. I marvel that I have marveled at suffering.

March 2003, God wasn’t done breaking me. So He sent me $1000 this time. Through an anonymous donor.

While I have harbored suspicious reserve of my God and His heart for me in these maddening trials, the one I should remain suspicious of is myself and my resolve to change. Even my most genuine, sweetest moments of repentance may be but moments; I know my heart, at least in times of sanity. I know I am as helpless to sanctify myself as I am to justify myself.

Something breaks. In order to restore it, you have to know the intent of its maker in the original design. What is the object of our living? The two-car garage white-picket watchdog two cute kids?

Across the spectrum of distinct faiths, we find that those who’ve struck the purest of gold in joy and freedom are those who renounced themselves most simply and profoundly. Heaven’s for later.

We come to the most famous historical narrative on suffering. Job had lost everything we define our life by and legitimately treasure: children, home, possessions, wealth, livelihood, health. Oh, Job wept. He literally lay in the dust. Dr. Timothy Keller offers a deeply thoughtful treatment on the question of human suffering. He says the Christian perspective is entirely realistic. We don’t minimize the impact of tragedy and loss. When it sucks, we acknowledge it does (my paraphrase). We don’t try to zone out of it. We weep, enter its fullness – I would add, like Jesus. He didn’t meditate himself out of the agony on the Cross. He refused the wine offered him in his thirst, wouldn’t dull himself away. It was His surrender to the torment that redeemed both Himself and His bride, the Church. In the book of Job, our Maker does not apologize. Contrary to what many have imagined in times that strain, God does not lament here either – at least, in flummoxed helplessness. He even seems to go off topic when He finally presents Himself to answer Job. God’s own query points to the limits on our knowledge and strength.

The book of Job, Chapter 38, as I examined those early months in 2003:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off…Surely you know!
Who stretched…
Who shut up the sea……
Have you ever given orders….
Have you journeyed…

Have you seen…
Have you comprehended the vast…
Tell me, if you know all this.
Can you…
Do you know
Surely you know….
Can you bind….
Can you loose…..

Can you bring forth….lead out…
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up……
Can you raise…
Do you send…..

Can you hold him…
Can your voice…..?”

Chapter 42, Job’s reply:
“I know that YOU CAN do ALL things; no plan of yours can be thwarted…
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Why do we suffer? I, for one, realized I ate nonfoods my whole life and then petitioned friends for prayer when Natural Law kicked in. Whether in the way we mistreat ourselves or others, more of our troubles than we care to admit are manmade. Of course affliction visits lives that contributed nothing to it. And when fists shake at God, the Church offers a range of well-meaning answers that justify Him or us. But theology does not satisfy the cries of the heart. Job 42. Where were we when He rolled out the universe and furnished it in spectacle? Indeed we are but a vapor. Theologian J.I. Packer has said we must acknowledge the mystery of God. I don’t see that He would remain God were we able to unlock the secrets of His glory. In my book, a God who hangs his head in attrition or fits inside my fabrications and understanding is not worthy of my worship.

Once Upon a Ballroom

Once upon a ballroom
they noticed one another
in furtive glance of boy and girl

“May I have this dance?” he asked
permission to step into her
space and take her hand

She followed him out
circled her hips
swiveled and he smiled.

1-2-3-and-4, 5-6-7-and-8
He knew there’d be more ands
to the eight count and the turns

East had met West, Mars wooed Venus
but she was a cautious goddess
He eased into rhythm while
she tried to study her feet

They triple-stepped to Bobby Darin’s
Sunday in New York where she was from

Who knew eight months would bring
them back to that room in tux and satin ivory
to laugh and Sugar Push and spin?
For better or for worse.

Though she never did get the Shag and Balboa
now he, he says she made him ambitious

Over the years He learned
to stand tall, say No
She’s come around, to say Yes

And still he does not ask for much.
If he listens he’ll make out her
Thank You in the prosaic
music of the day-to-day

They’ve tripped,
loved     off  key
shouted for a different song

They’ve forgotten steps but the moment
she asks he will jump
to dance again.

In My Fantasy

1. I eradicate the flu, cancer, and the bad grammar virus.
2. I’m Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago. No, not talking about what lands her in prison. I mean the moves, her look, her zip and tang.
3. I wiggle my nose and the dishes disappear from the sink.
4. I sing jazz in a red dress. A Korean Ella Fitzgerald. Yeaah.
5. I’m a kick-butt Lindy hopper out of the 30s.
6. I finally get that PhD in language, literacy, and culture.
7. Time rolls itself out, an endless runway under my feet when I write. No interruptions.
8. I work on my books in a mountain cabin: poetry, my mother’s story
9. which Random House has signed me for
10. and there are no women around.
11. I expunge the Christian landscape of American contemporary worship ditties, I mean music.
12. I am editor-in-chief of a vibrant writers’ platform and host of my own TED talks.
(How stinkin’ awesome is that? If this is a dream, don’t wake me.)