creating me [using words]

Grief Service

As requested, here is a copy of the welcome I gave at our Holiday Grief Service this past Sunday, for anyone swallowed up by sorrow this season, anyone remembering a loss, anyone enduring a holiday tinged by loneliness:

Welcome to Covenant this afternoon. Welcome to this service. Whether this is normally your home or just your home for the hour, you really are most welcome. I don’t know what it was that brought you to this grief service today, but I imagine you are bearing some pain or some sorrow this holiday season, and that makes me think that for at least some of you, it took some courage to show up here, and so I want to say thank you for your bravery and for honoring us with your presence.

This past August my friend Aurelia helped me hold my own private grief service and together we had a funeral for my marriage, and with her help we put words and rituals to the pain I was carrying. We carved out a space that would hold me at a time when I felt I was holding too much pain to bear. And I’m just convinced that we don’t have enough such spaces in our culture–safe spaces, sacred spaces, where we can have our pain held. It’s not that a service like this fixes things; it just means that for an hour, you’re not carrying it by yourself, you have a place to take the sadness, you have holy ground where you can just be, you have people surrounding you who get it, and you have a divine embrace to uphold you, even if you are coming apart.

Often it is during the holidays, when everywhere we go seems stuffed to the rafters with holiday cheer, happy music blaring from every speaker, that our own feelings of bereavement feel most poignant, most piercing, and the most lonely. But what I dare to hope is that a service like this one will remind us that Advent belongs to those in waiting, to those in darkness, to those for whom hope is a mere flicker of candlelight in the long lonesome night. Advent was the promise of a Messiah . . . to people who needed something to save them, and it took a long time for the hungry to find deliverance, to know God in human flesh.

Advent belongs to the hurting, and we belong to her. You can’t discern that about Advent in a department store when you’re shopping, but that’s the holy and blessed secret of this time of year, Advent belongs to the barren—barren landscapes, barren wombs, barren people—we are the empty caverns in which Light will be born. Advent is like the hearth of God’s living room where the very most wounded are invited to come for a cry and wait in the shadows together for the promise of comfort to come. On behalf of God, I invite you to worship with us, your fellow mourners.

(Just a few words about our service. Here at Covenant we like to take things slow, so you will notice we often pause between things, but don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten what we’re doing next. We are just purposely going at difference pace than the one you find at the shopping mall. We are slowing, slowing, slowing, centering, hoping that in the stillness, we may on occasion hear God speak. At one point, we will have a full minute of silence, and I invite you to use that ministry of silence in whatever way works for you—maybe you want to pray, maybe you want to journal on the back of your guide, maybe you want to just breathe. Also, your worship guide will be helpful to you this evening in following along . . . Please join me in the litany . . . )


Proclamation to Self

Hope of Wings

I went out on a limb
and the limb is snapping.
Will the fall break me?
Will pieces of me be lost
in the tumble?
Will I stop climbing trees
after a spill?
Will my budding belief in myself
get scraped away with the skin
of my elbows?
Are the things I believe about me
true? The good things, the hope
of wings, the magical things,
what I thought I saw? True?
False? Which way is up?
Falling back towards the roots
to land in the sky.

Waiting Long

this finger-drumming-the-tabletop life
I try to jolt forward, am halted
invisible door swings shut
I hear its hinges creaking to me
I wonder if I am supposed to push
but something tells me no:            wait
I think up tens of ways to get
where I’m going but every route
crosses my soul unfavorably
so I plop meditatively on the ground
but I am grumpy there, antsy
restless reclining, I try to inhale
the peace of sitting still, sometimes
it works for a moment
I see the future world and I can
wait for it like a Christmas gift,
no, I am too impatient, too worried
I’ll wake up one morning to empty
wrapping paper strewn across the floor
of my life, wads of disappointed dreams
Give it to me now, all of it!
Damn I sound like Veruca Salt,
I meant to say, I will wait sweetly, good sir,
(but only if it gets me what I want)
Darn, that still isn’t surrender
All this raging want, am I being purged
or imprisoned? Can never tell
whether I am stuck or finding
freedom. The fight and the funk
so close together don’t know which one
I am in. Also, does God with a big stick
dangle desires like a carrot to teach
detachment? Does God like a doting
granny give gifts just ‘cause? Does God
care about this war in me at all
or is it insignificant and petty? Does God
love the minutia of my life the
way my mom does? Is it hard for God
to keep my surprises secret?
Is he dying to tell me? Will trust feel
good, like faith rising? Does it require
anticipation dying? Surely my dreams
can still grow wild. Surely.


Yesterday was International Men’s Day, and while this is admittedly belated, I wanted you to know I do in fact think about men too, not just women’s issues. This Clarissa Pinkola Estés excerpt is one of my favorite pieces on the substance of a strong man. Enjoy!

Within the masculine psyche, there is a creature, an unwounded man, who believes in the good, who has no doubts about life, who is not only wise but who also is not afraid to die. Some would identify this as a warrior self. But it is not that. It is a spirit self, and a young spirit at that, one who regardless of being tormented, wounded, and exiled continues to love because it is in its own way self-healing, self-mending.

Women will testify to seeing this creature lurking in a man outside his awareness. This young spirit’s ability to bring the power of healing to bear on his own psyche is so awesome that it is astounding. His trust is not dependent on his lover not to hurt him. His is a trust that any wound that comes to him can be healed, a trust that new life follows old. A trust that there is a deeper meaning in all things, that seemingly petty events are not without meaning, that all things of one’s life–the ragged, the jagged,  and the lilting and the soaring–all can be used as life’s energy.

(From Women Who Run With the Wolves, 162-163)

The Work of Waking

At the risk of sounding melodramatic
it is really hard to be me sometimes
by sometimes I mean every morning
each day getting out of the sheets
bearing the weight of a real day
I am like a bear waking–not
wanting to wake–from hibernation
Leave me alone, World of Ache,
Wide, Wide World of Longing,
All this Knowing about pain,
Stay out of my cave!
I pull pillows ’round my ears
to block the sounds of living
and hearts breaking
but these deafening fissures are cracks
making space for light
I blink my sleepy eyes
I lumber, I lope
matted fur heavy like a weighted
blanket I reluctantly leave behind
Down to the river to bathe,
to feed, the water is cold,
Waking is such work,
“But don’t go back to bed,”
something wild calls,
“or you’ll miss the spring.”

She Is On Her Way!!

She will be named thus: Preacher Breath. She will be: a collection of essays on preaching interspersed with sermons. She will be: beautiful, inspiring, and full of passion. She will be: thoroughly me. She will be: dying to meet you. She is: approximately two-thirds written.

The Midwife: Smyth and Helwys Publishing

One More Woman

i’m not saying
it wasn’t awful
for Bathsheba
to sleep with the man
who murdered her lover
not much choice
when the killer’s a king

still, at least
she has a name
a story
a son
i am just one more woman
from David’s harem
you don’t know anything about me


They be beautiful words
let them baptize you now
Flow to the rhythm
of silence, then sound
Delve ‘neath the rivers
of meter and rhyme
Breathe through your gills
Take all your time
Don’t let them rush you
Be so bold
as to bathe all you want
for the waters are gold.

Something Hopeful

I find this need for healing,
for connectivity with others,
for movement forward, and
for purging out the poison
is SO great that I keep
trying, reaching, working,
talking, writing, despite
all my stay-in-bed-under-the-covers
mornings, despite my
emotional melt-downs,
all my cries of “I-can’t-do-it-
anymore,” despite the regular
throwing up of my hands
and the desire to crawl
into a loving lap and sob
and be blessed and never
have to work hard again–
despite all that,
I am still breathing, folks,
and I am more-than-breathing,
I am writing.
So take that, all-the-evil,
I have a voice,
still soft but undeterred.
Even when I try a new thing–
god it takes soooo much
courage just to try–
even when I try
and am disappointed
and retreat to my bed
to pretend my pillows
are warm lovers or mothers
of safety and comfort,
inanimate objects providing
an embrace that cannot
backfire later,
even then, I eventually
get back up,
try another new thing
and another
and another.
How do I keep going?
I do not know.
But I know that
I go and that this
inexplicable gumption
is stitching my wounds
thread by thread.

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creating me [using words]


creating me [using words]