i’ve been baptized

in the pure love

of dog’s tongue.

wetness sticks to skin,

slobbering pants

stinking of the corn

or rotting deer carcass

you buried behind

blackberry briars and johnson grass

now, resurrected.

In just–

time splits open

and the holy beyond fuses

together in fur and paws and tongue

and licks away

my fears.

wash here

Poet Prayers

wash here. i crowd last night’s dinner

plates, cups, spoons coated in grease and leftover chicken

down deep in the soapsuds like a baptismal font.

between the scrub, rinse, dry–

silence eats into the back corners,

recites all of the caked mess life spattered

all over my heart, or worse, i did to myself.

i need to be clean too. with feeble words

heart murmurs, stir up the old woman lies

dunk them in the purifying water–

come out forgiven, new.


This month, we will begin a series of poems on grace. I’m looking forward to spending time contemplating this idea in poetry.

in this dust

 in this dust…

i write a name, another…

scribbling deep grooves into

dirt  with wrongs,

with reasons not to throw

the stones—

so why are you still holding those rocks?

in this dust…

i smoothed your face,

sculpted eyes and fingers

filled your nose

to the brim with breath.

this clay, this mud, this earth–

don’t you remember

you came from this?

in this dust…

lay down your stones

drop them one by one

till your hands are empty

and you are free.

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On Grace and Story Salvation

“Glory be to God for dappled things–For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow…”

Morning rises early. Dogs bark, paw at the crate “wake you sleeper”, be ready for this day. Some mornings, I mush through the tall grass, dogs wagging around me, and I miss all of the world’s messy beauty. But some days, I walk in quietness. Above my head, the red-orange morning filters down, shines upon the dew, sparkles out upon the hay and grapevines, trickles into the crevices of this poet’s heart so the only appropriate response is poetry. I write out the morning’s lines, its images filling my heart.

I wonder if anyone ever reads my few poems here. Sometimes, the storm clouds roll in and trample down my thoughts. This act, so futile, pushes me toward giving up and settling for the rat race of hasty words. But poetry eats out my soul, and I must write to save my life. Poetry bleeds me dry of myself. This is grace; this is saving me.

For rose moles all stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches wings; Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow,and plough, and all trades, their gear and tackle and trim…”

Five hours east, we drive past dunes and sea oats, watch the wind whip the sand into wraiths billowing across the main artery for these islands. The sky darkens back to the west where we were, but we drive onward. Our destination, the sea. High tide leaps upon the shore, and the wind sprays our faces with salt water to purify us. I fight to keep my sundress down, avoid the Marilyn Monroe moment,  watch the sunlight retreat behind the thunderheads. I breathe deep, and I remember what it is like to be alive, to be myself. I had quite forgotten.

We watched the sun drown itself in the sound, never quite waking up in time for sunrise. I sat in the shade as others climbed up Hatteras lighthouse. I leaned over the ferry’s rail to have the ocean steal a kiss. Running to the breakers, we floated on top of the waves until the sea, now just perfect, let us ride it. I couldn’t resist this siren song. The sand wedged deep everywhere. The undertow pulling out the water, then its sudden rush back. The joy of being on top of the wave, gliding into shore. The desperate prayers that I don’t lose my swimsuit bottoms after riding a wave much too big, much too sloppily. The make-shift ties and adjustments to do it all again. This is grace; this is saving me.

All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled(who know’s how?) With swift, slow, sweet, sour; adazzle, dim…

In my hands, I hold vine ripe tomatoes, coffee mugs, purple ink pens, books like dear friends.I need to hold on to things for a moment. The world, the one I’ve known, loved, built and mothered changes soon. I hate this change. I cry and lament and beg  God whom may or may not give a damn. I pray for vindication, for peace, for my heart to heal from two years burden carrying. Peace trickles in slowly like a leaky faucet, and I try to loosen it but can’t. I rest in snatches of the gospels and Psalms and poets and novels. I spin worlds on the page, stories for the asking. I drink wine and cuss and laugh. I steal time midday to drink coffee and eat cupcakes and write furiously. Once in awhile, I know I’m not so alone. There, I find my hope and my peace.

This is grace, and this is saving me.

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.”

 (Pied Beauty Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Today, I’m linking up with Sarah Bessey and her syncroblog “What is saving me right now.” Join us here.

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Redeeming Cinderella’s Stepmother

Today, I am honored to be guest posting for Rachel Held Evans. I am sharing my thoughts on faith and step-parenting. 

Redeeming Cinderella’s Stepmother

Summer by Mark Askins

No little girl ever wants to be Cinderella’s stepmother. We dream of princes and balls and weddings and babies, but all of those things would belong to us first. We would mother our own biological children, not someone else’s. No one wants to be a stepmother.


The Bible doesn’t offer us a shining example of a stepmother. We could posit that Sarah was the stepmother of Hagar’s son Ishmael; however, she forced both Hagar and Ishmael to leave after the birth of her son, Isaac. Not the best pattern to follow. Literature isn’t kind to us either. We give away poison apples, prey upon feeble-minded men, and force servitude upon the stepchildren. Even the Greek playwright, Euripides said that “it is better to be a serpent than a stepmother.”


I am stepmother, not a stereotype.


To read the rest of this post, please head over to Rachel Held Evan’s blog. I’m part of her series Faith in Parenting.

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Broke Washer

The washer broke again–

Photo courtesy of Alberto and Flickr Creative Commons

Elbow deep in murky

Urine scented laundry water,

I pull out socks and shirts and panties

A demonic bobbing for apples.

Humid sun, air still except

For the whir of fans.

Bend down again,

Back aches, straighten, bend again.

Plunge my hands deep into the water

Return with another stray.

There next to broken washer,

I cry the mess out,

Long heaving sighs puddle down

Into tears of anger, tears of grief.

Through the sobs, I am washed clean.

Baptized anew

Next to broken washer.


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A Christmas Poem: Repost

Starry Night Sky!photo © 2009 K.Hurley | more info (via: Wylio)


Blurring the lines
Of chaotic turmoil
And the quiet places.

Whispering in the cold
Speaking peace
To an empty full sky.

Awakening brilliance shines
Glory steps out
Upon the stars.

Murmurings of yore
Shouting the secrets,
Answered in a moment.

Freezing steps
Hastening to see
Divine mingled humanness.

Breathing in
Manure scented

Fusing together
Worlds of man
And the presence of Grace.

Grace for Those Epic Fails

Robert Burns wrote: “the best laid plans of mice and men so often go awry.” 

Clearly, he lived in my house through some strange time fusion continuum. Perhaps, the piles of laundry waiting for the tumble in washer/dryer or the dishes scrapped clean of last night’s dinner ready for the dishwasher caused such a statement from Mr. Burns. But it could be my excitement for #NaNoWriMo, but on the last, I’m no where near finishing my manuscript. No matter how much I planned my time, wrote vigorously, or outlined my plot–real life crept in and stole my best laid plans away. Currently, I work in retail, and my hours increased this past month. Long hours coupled with kids’ activities nailed the death blow for my novel in mid-November. Now, I have a partial novel draft that I can’t bear to write because it feels like a neon light proclaiming:

“Yet, another epic fail.”

Again, another project started and failed. Another load of laundry or dishes await in a seemingly endless line. When I look around, I start believing that I am destined only to failing. My house will never be showcase ready, nor my writing finished because I’m achy and tired all time from working long hours. Believing I am an epic failure becomes easier as I stare at all of my crumbling mess. Some days, I pick myself up and type out a few words or wash some clothes or vacuum or clean up. Other days, I want to hide beneath my white floral comforter, lost in side my 600 thread count sheets–not  bother getting out of the bed. But I get up and muddle through my day. On these days, I tattoo my heart with the label epic fail.

But this is real life, and it needs grace.

Grace doesn’t look like perfection, nor does it fix all of the epic fails. During these times, grace transforms our self-imposed labels. It removes our hurts etched our hearts and transforms them. Better yet, it transforms how we see them. Amidst the laundry piles, I see the days of outdoor playtime and school days and work. Grace changes me. Even the dirty dishes show me that we have food to eat and more than enough for several days. My kids don’t worry about where their next meal will come  or if it will come. Grace transforms how I see the sink full of dirty dishes.

I need the most grace when it comes to my writing. Even when I read over my half-finished manuscript, grace shows me that trying something larger than myself is not an epic fail. Failure is allowing to sit on the computer hard drive untouched again, wallowing in the despair of not winning #NaNoWriMo. But I realize that I have never learned how to give grace to myself. Far easier to extend grace to others, but how do we learn to show ourselves grace?

Part of grace is acceptance.

Showing ourselves grace begins when we accept that we aren’t perfect. We will fail and often, but grace allows us to move beyond the failures. To erase our soundtrack of epic fails playing on repeat. But when we don’t try, we reject grace. If we don’t extend ourselves beyond what we think we can do, then we never learn how to rely upon the full work of grace.



Signs of the Weary

Weariness marks its territory all over my desk.

Paper piled up, a few stray candy wrappers, a soda half-consumed. This is weary, my weary. Long work days and nights squeezed out the life force, the vibrance. Also, the will to clean. Spread out all over the corner desk, I leaf through school work, junk mail fliers, coupons to spend at stores I don’t shop. Behind my eyes, my head aches, but I continue plodding along. Stiff muscles and hands throb reminding me of my long work day tomorrow too.  Over and over, my mind races through my schedule and where I need to be and when every one else in this family needs something or go somewhere. As if a giant calendar lived inside my mind, I berate myself with all the must do’s, the needs, the events.

Weary, no longer abstract, looks like me.

I try to write, but even then, weary creeps in and becomes my muse. Sitting at my desk, I type out words and conversations for my novel only to get my word count up for #NaNoWrimo. But weary isn’t the kind of muse I want. It sits on my shoulder and reiterates how the words I am writing break every rule touted by established writers. More importantly, writer published with books lining shelves. My muse weary points out my plot flaws, dialogue errors while whispering how my idea isn’t original or even that creative. Why not quit? Weary suggests. No one will ever read this anyways, and the muse goes on to delineate how difficult the publishing industry can be. Ruthless and hard, I should just go read someone’s else words.

Weary doesn’t show us much grace.

Some days, I buy into the lies whispered my weariness. Those graceless thoughts fester inside my head, and I allow it. Doubts follow, and soon, I sit in front of my computer about to delete all of my words–novel, blogs, all of them. Who wants to read this? But even in these moments, weary doesn’t have the loudest voice. My other muse, grace calls over weary’s brazen words. Grace doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of my craft, the industry, but Grace gives hope.

Hope replaces our weary.

Some days, I cling to hope despite weary. But I must work. To spend my time honing the craft, to write words no one will ever see, to push against all of my feelings of inadequacy–I choose which muse I will listen to. Even on those weary days, I choose to hope that tomorrow’s writing will be inspired. I choose to believe Grace’s words that I have worth, that I have a voice to speak.

Which muse are you listening to today?


On Being Left Out

Life: Unmasked

Some days, we all are left out.

Someone forgets to invite us. Another friend stops calling. The hurt doesn’t just evaporate once the tears dry, nor does it pack it bags and head west. It stays. We stuff deep down and move on to the next event, the next friend, only for the cycle to repeat. In grade school, we cried to our parents or our other friends to comfort us. A glass of milk or an arm around our shoulders fixed all hurt feelings. Too often, our parents told us our being left out wasn’t intentional. Maybe, they were right, but often it was a ploy to stop the tears.

High school, we gossiped about the other person. Pigeon-holed into groups of friends, we stuck together because everyone else was foreign. But adulthood, we can’t simply yell and cry to be included. We simmer our hurt feelings until they bubble over on the nearest person–a spouse, a friend.

Some days, we are left out.

I’ve been there. The quiet, introvert listens, but I’m forgotten in the landscape of extroverts. Yes, it hurts. Perhaps, this is how social media damages friendships. We can now see what we missed–the parties, the frantic tweets about emails when our inbox collects spam. Again, I have read the blog posts about not being jealous on being left out, but they don’t ring true when I stand on the outskirts.

Being left out doesn’t simply extend to our human relationships. Sometimes, I think God leave me out too. Unemployment, heart ache built up imprinted on a heart who still questions God’s love. The pain can be unbearable. Cliched Christian answers build walls against others and suffocate myself.

Some days, we are left with grace.

Grace looks like emails and phone calls. Grace looks like blog comments and encouraging tweets. But grace also looks like the forgiveness we grant ourselves when we are hurt and hurtful. It lays down a soothing balm for us to practice grace towards others. And in our daily grace, what if we included others? Those souls who don’t always get our undivided attention.

How can we show grace to those outside our sphere? Who could you email, tweet, or encourage today?

This was written for Life:Unmasked, a blog carnival at Joy in this Journey.