waiting for birth

Poppy petals are strewn
across my childhood, white and pink,
tiny, wrinkled, torn
from pods to be examined,
and wilt and die.

Deep-planted seeds in my soul
root in dark, unhurried.
Hope is hard—trust,
when nothing appears to grow,
and beauty is slow.

But air and light and touch
would kill this half-formed life,
scattering pink petals
where there could have been
a poppy field.



uninvited she comes
binding tight
    in burial clothes.
Left to hang
     to rot
     to die.

But no–
death wraps crack.
Tight folded wings
     shimmering color,
legs long, and few
The beautiful caterpillar
     gone. And now who?

Am I to fly?



There is this beautiful deep down
         that is real
    like the kaleidoscope

you have broken parts
          raw edges
            of stays,

Quaking, shifting, shaking
    deep down
      who are you
      this shape emerging
    yet always there


Blessed – how sacramental reality brings peace

Yesterday my house was blessed.

Friends gathered. The priest came with stohl and holy water. We walked through the house, prayed words, crossed ourselves. And the house was blessed.

After everyone was gone, leftover cheese wrapped tightly, dishes washed, chairs set back around the table — after it all, I paused. And for one moment I felt the old anxiety. Did I mean it enough? Did I feel it enough? Is my house really blessed?

I was 10 years old the winter I was baptized. I stood in the pool, freezing. Said yes to the pastor’s questions. Emerged shivering and wet.

I was 10 years old. The following years were chaotic. Again and again I was questioned: did you really mean your baptism? Or did you just get wet?

How was I to know? I was 10. I was scared of hell. I wanted to belong in church. I wanted to please my parents.

Well, did you have true saving faith?

I searched my heart, my soul. I couldn’t find the answer. I did want to be baptized. I did want to be a Christian. Did I believe all the right things? No – but who does? I’m sure I still don’t have everything right.

Had you repented?

Of what? How thoroughly? I still sinned – a lot. There were some sins I just couldn’t shake. But I tried really hard to be good. Did that count? Was it enough?

After fifteen years of being questioned, of questioning myself, I gave up. If I hadn’t really been baptized – meaning, if I hadn’t meant and believed all the right things at the time I was baptized – then, I was repeatedly told, I needed to be baptized. If I had been baptized . . . well, I figured getting dunked wouldn’t offend God too much. So, at 25 years old I stood in a much warmer lake, answered yes to the same questions, and emerged dripping and relieved.

A year later I walked into an Anglican church. I watched babies get baptized. I smiled as little children cupped their hands to receive communion. I witnessed adults renew their baptismal vows. I joined with the congregation on the feast days, renewing our vows, receiving the sprinkled reminder of our own baptisms. Slowly, deep peace settled in me.

Sacraments are real. All the introspective diligence of my earlier years is unnecessary. Communion, baptism – they are realities independent of me, of my changing emotions, thoughts, beliefs and moods. Did I have all the right intentions and beliefs when I was baptized at age 10? at age 25? On the deepest level, it does’t matter. I was baptized. Such comfort!

It is to that peace I now return. My mind wandered yesterday. My heart did not fully enter into prayer. I was distracted, tired, distant. But my house was blessed. Neither prayer nor holy water draws its efficacy from my mental state. The Lord hears.

Let this dwelling be made holy; let every unclean spirit depart, by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ: May health, joy, and cheerfulness be given to those who live here, and may your divine Majesty ever protect and preserve them. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

wordless prayer

Words: there are too many and too few.

These days I write letters of explanation for the loan officer, thank you notes to my friends, emails about software, lists of items to pack. I journal numbers: home repair costs, monthly budget estimates, closing fees. I print and sign and scan endless papers.

Is it that there are no words for me, or too many?

If I had the time and energy I would write about honoring martyrs, embodied worship, gardens, shame, scarcity and abundance, and a dozen other subjects.

Instead I pack suitcases, scrub walls, and sign papers. And, at the end of the day, I hold the prayer beads, touch the cross, and fall asleep too tired for a prayer of words.

Storks of the Midwest

“What’s a robin?” I asked my mother.

“It’s a special bird,” she told me. “When you see it, you know it’s spring. It sings beautifully. And it has a red breast.”

Every spring my mother would talk about those special birds and how much she missed them. Over the years I pieced bits of information together, and formed my picture of the robin.

We lived in the Middle East. I wasn’t familiar with many migratory birds. The pigeons and sparrows stayed around all year. There were, however, storks. Each year they would appear from nowhere and announce spring by building large nests atop telephone poles and aqua-duct ruins. The storks were huge birds and somewhat solitary. They weren’t rare, but they weren’t common either. Seeing one was, for us children, an event to report.

Robins, I decided, must be like storks, only more impressive. I wasn’t quite sure what they looked like, but I was pretty certain they were a good 18 inches tall, bright red, and very rare. I dreamed of the day that I might, if I was lucky, see one.

Then I moved to Iowa.

Robins, I soon discovered, were not much bigger than sparrows, a rather dull red (and, that, only the males), and appeared in flocks. I didn’t have to search for a solitary herald of spring. Robins were everywhere! If I managed an hour without seeing one – or ten – that might have been something to talk about, but seeing a robin . . .

For years I shook my head and laughed every time I saw robins. I laughed at how un-stork-like they were. I laughed at how small they were. I laughed at how many of them there were. And I laughed at myself for having come up with such an odd picture of them, for having thought they were something special.

But today, I saw a robin – no, not a robin. I saw The Robin, the first robin of spring. And I jumped up and down and squealed with joy all by myself in the middle of the marsh.

If I were to raise children in a land without robins, I too would tell them about the special bird, the one with the red breast and beautiful song that comes each spring.