Friday, July 25, 2014

krispie treats + grief

I'm grieving.

which conversely means that I'm in the kitchen a lot.

it's a thing I've always done. cooking is a sign of the placement of my emotional barometer. when I'm feeling things strongly, I bake and cook until the kitchen overflows and counters brim with goodness.

my grandmother is standing on the edge between earth's shallow pale and the glittering Holiness that is Aslan's Country. and she's ready to make the leap. and so we wait, wait for the appointed time.

I don't like to talk about grief. I really don't.
so I'll talk about Rice Krispie treats instead.

I'll talk about the way I stirred the melting marshmallows and butter together without thinking, a groove into which I fell so easily. because that's grief. it happens without thinking. it just comes and falls heavy and you find yourself doing the dance without understanding the steps. you just do.

I'll talk about the way I usually don't butter the pan, but this time, I did. because that's grief. you can't predict how you'll handle it, or if it'll be the same as it was last time or next time or the times before and after. when you find yourself bowing against it, you grieve your way. not his way or her way or your mother's way. you pour out in your own stream. no one else's.

I'll talk about the way I flung butter with my fingertips instead of neatly with a spatula. normally, cooking is tidy intricacies for me. little steps by little steps. but this time, it was just a little sloppy. a little haphazard. because that's grief. it's not tidy or ordained. we can try to make it that way, but it really isn't. it's greasy and slippery and creeps up your elbows and clings to everything it touches.

{via pinterest}
I'll talk about the way I burned my hand on the still-too-hot mixture of cereal and vanilla-aroma'd sticky goodness that poured from pot to pan. because that, that is grief. it hurts. even if you don't want it to, even if it was an accident and you would just rather not hurt at all no oh god no not even a little please...

grief hurts.

and I'll talk about the way it fell into the pan and filled in all the gaps. the way I used my hands, again, slathered in butter over the knuckles and over the little pale crease where my wedding ring normally sits. because that's grief. sometimes you just have to let yourself be buried in it, just a little, where you can still see yourself through the thin sheer coating that slips over your life. your hands are still there. just covered.

and then I'll tell you about the promise of deliciousness. I'll tell you about the way it seeps into my body through my tastebuds and fills me up with the knowledge that soon there will be treats. soon there will be sweetness. but there was burning and slathering and mixing and aching and weeping so that this particular pan of Rice Krispie treats might have a tinge of salt mixed in among the goodness.

because I know the ending. and oh, it hurts so bad that everything burns. but there is a promise. a whisper of what it will taste like when the door opens and I see it all, so clear and plain.

oh death, where is thy sting?
oh grave, where then is thy victory? 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

peeling

{via pinterest}
I.

I'm peeling.

it's because of the beach. the water reflecting the sun back onto my paler-than-pale skin that has forever been my bane. that night was pain with only cold water and aloe for soothing.

the pain has traded out for peeling.
fresh skin. the roughness turning into something smooth.

:: :: 

II. 

I'm peeling. 

it's because of the journey. the reflection of the water filling the eyes of my sisters as they grasped my hands and whispered words over things that have forever been my bane. 

sage, she called me, and something inside me fought hard. 
you remind me of Maya Angelou, another whispered, and I started to crack. 
Mother Earth, breathed another, and the first layer crinkled up like paint in the sun. 

:: :: 

III. 

I'm peeling. 

its because of the words. the reflection of myself, shadowy, in the screen of the computer. the peeling is one of those things you can't predict. there is no magic formula. you might slather yourself in protection.

and this is where the metaphor breaks. 
because :: 

on your physical skin, it's the best idea. stay safe. stay alive. 

but sunscreen on your soul is smothering. certain death. 

curling close to the fire, reaching your fingers up. and sometimes the rough layer gets burned off. and then you ache. because oh God, please no more, it hurts. even the laying down on the ground and burying yourself into the ashes // it hurts. 

and then you peel. and the first layer falls to the ground like snow, a shedding of the outer dragon layer into a heap of scales alongside the pool. and it burns a little, but that burn reminds you that you're alive and new and big things are springing out of your very pores. 

because peeling. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

faucets and keys

{via pinterest}
this past weekend, I drank out of the faucet in my bathroom.

I was in a new place. the kitchen was unfamiliar, the cabinets not mine to paw through. the faces and voices that surrounded me were familiar, members of an online community that had seen the darkest parts of me for the past year.

but the house wasn't mine and the faces were real-life. they weren't profile pictures anymore. these were flesh and blood women standing around me, calling my name and smiling at me. I was so thirsty -- the plane ride had been long and turbulent, leaving the flight staff unable to bring us any sort of beverage.

but I was too nervous to ask where the glasses were kept.

and so that night, during one of the sessions, I slipped away from the center of the group and made my way to the bathroom. I bent my head to the side and drank deeply of the water pouring from the sink faucet. my lips were still damp when I returned.

:: ::

I told them the next day. we were talking about fear, about insecurities, about who we were. about what we needed. and I told them that, yesterday, I needed water. a basic need required for life. it wasn't chocolate or wine or even a towel to dry my hair. but I was too afraid to ask my sisters for a drink. and so I drank from the faucet.

they laughed at the story. we all did, really. but it wasn't the mocking laughter that accompanies something foolish. it was a pure opposite. it was the laugh of love. the kind that comes when understanding and community and love merge into a familial glow between women who had never before been in the same room.

::

I took four copies of my manuscript with me to Austin. three in my suitcase, one in my purse. I studied those words on the front :: Portals of Water and Wine, by R.L. Haas. when I got to Texas, it took me hours before I could hand the first copy to the first pair of waiting hands. the night we wrote lies on index cards and threw them onto literal flames, it was all I could do to not run to my room for a manuscript to burn with the "rest of the lies."

that was another lie.

{photo by me, via instagram}
because they all took it, pulled it against their chests with smiles. "I've been waiting for this," they told me. and I believed them.

"we see you. He sees you." 

because we had been talking about dropping keys instead of building cages. they were dropping keys at my feet. I found myself unlocking my lips for the ability to ask.  I slid the little metal fixture into the lock and swung open the door of "your words are good."

::

the day we left, someone brought me a glass of water. I didn't even have to ask. but I could have, if I needed a drink.

if I was thirsty.

{I spent the weekend in "pop-up, 3-D" community with my Story Sisters in Austin, Texas. it was beyond words. and you know what? it was exactly the same as it has been online. the only difference was the face-to-face. there is room for you in our circle. not on the outside, but right here, next to me. join us? we are waiting for you.}

Monday, June 9, 2014

I'm no John Green.

as you might have gathered, I'm writing a book. I've been quiet about it here for no other reason than because my words have been channeled in a different direction.

sometimes it feels more like I'm throwing words at a page hoping some will stick. even more often than that, I find myself sobbing my way through yet another John Green novel and wondering, why can't I write like this? 

{in case you're curious, comparison is a bitch. steer clear, loves}

I've been trying to figure this book out. I've spent hours pouring over the FAQs for indie publishing on Kindle. see, the big dream is to be picked up by a publisher. to have someone read your words and fall in love with the characters and the worlds you've invented. but that isn't the only road.

and so I'm in the process of becoming an indie author. just writing those words is terrifying. in the best possible way.

when you're a writer, terrifying is what you sign up for. when you're a writer, don't expect little things. because if you do, you will get little things. if you walk in with your eyes open and your fingers twisted in that half-prayer, half-nerves kind of way, you're going to get big things. 

even if they aren't the big things you imagined.

sometimes I sit back and I laugh at the very thought of what I've undertaken. I understand that moment when Gideon stared into the eyes of the Son of the Most High from the bottom of a fear-stained threshing-floor and said, me? but I'm no one. I'm the least of the least. 

except I'm not. I'm sitting at my computer, wielding words that have turned into holiness by mistake. this wild magical book, this tale of portals and spilled blood and triumph and a song that breathes magic back into drained-dry bodies. and I'm realizing more and more that I am writing the essential story.

I'm no John Green.

and that is the very best thing.

{this book is closer than you think. did you know it has a fan page on Facebook? find me there!}

Sunday, May 25, 2014

dear Focus on the Family, Fantine was a prostitute.

{via pinterest}
dear Focus on the Family,

I want to ask you about shame. I want to ask you about the way you dug your hands into a big pail of soapy water and scrubbed away at the dirt that is humanity.

and then I will press the play button on that ancient cassette player and let you listen to the words you wrote down on a piece of paper and handed to a woman to read as she voiced the role of Fatine in your radio drama recording of Les Miserables. 

and then I want to ask you more about Fantine. they called her a prostitute in that alley and she was appalled. you could hear it in her voice, the way she spit the last syllable of her accused profession. "I am not a prostitute," she snaps.

except she was. and you changed it.

did you think you were doing her a favor, tidying her up and making her presentable for the hordes of Christian listeners that would be gathering around their listening devices with their children and their grandparents. did you want to make it easy for them not to answer questions from inquiring little mouths :: daddy, what's a prostitute? 

but really, you did Fatine a disservice. and in the process, you did us all one, too.

Van Jean saves her, gathers her fever-riddled body into his arms, vows to tend to her little girl. the story is beautiful, yes. but it was beautiful the way it was. in fact, it was better before you changed this important detail. 

she is worthy of saving because of her humanity. does supposed morality make her worthy somehow? does her profession of sex worker make her less allowable? or does it make you uncomfortable? that idea that Jean Val Jean, Prisoner 24601, gathers into his arms the body of a woman who has slept with countless men for the money they press into her palm -- does it make you clear your throat and side-step the issue?
{via pinterest}

obviously it does. because you took it away. you made her fragile and moral, a newly made virginal woman with a child from long-repented sin, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

what then do you do with this Man, Jesus, as he reached out his hands to the naked woman flung into the dirt with pointed fingers from Pharisees? will you scrub her clean, too, until she is covered from neck to toes with a cloak and pretend no one knows what's underneath?

to love another person is to see the face of God. 
{les miserables}

because when you take away Fantine being a prostitute, you take away the Gospel-glory that clings to the edges of everything. you take away the holy breathing of the One who speaks Life over the gory and the broken and the smelly and the base. He takes the sh***y and pitches His tent there.

so, Focus on the Family, Fantine was a prostitute.
and the glory in that is immeasurable.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

what writing a book looks like

{what writing a book looks like to me}
I want to tell you what writing a book looks like.

it's not all log cabins and ocean waves and sand beneath your toes. it's not all pens and notebooks stacked romantically haphazardly perfect. it's not all quiet moments and hot tea and moments curled into corners of coffee shops with that perfect smooth music playing. 

sometimes it's crammed between moving boxes and un-hung paintings laid in piles against half-painted walls. sometimes it's tables brimming with unfolded laundry and half-drunk soda cans. sometimes the soundtrack is less Spotify and more barking dogs and fighting cats and toddlers who just won't take a nap. 

writing a book isn't just for the perfect. if it was, there would be no books. because books can be born in the tidy and the neat, but that isn't the only way. their spawning ground is not specific, not confined to optimum temperature and light and ground softly fertilized with coffee grounds and old tea bags. 

there is only one piece of magic advice that will cause a book to grow :: you have to write it. 

you have to find that slow flow, the one that comes at two in the morning when the house is quiet and the dog is snoring and you can hear the buzzing sound the television makes. you have to find the words that come strange and awkward and sometimes feel like mucking out the stables of giant horses. you have to let them come to the surface and float between piles of homework and a slow-burning candle that sometimes sizzles when sweat and tears drop on the flame. 

if you love writing—and you have to love it to write a book—you hustle and you cry through the late nights and you don't get any sleep and then you sleep too much 
but you keep going because you love it. 
it's the words—not time—that brings you back to the page.


{what writing a book looks like to elora}
I want to tell you what writing a book looks like. 

it looks like that fallen dead tree on the beach, digging thick marks into the sand. it looks like no stone unturned, finding words hidden between diapers and electric bills. it looks like lighting a candle and pressing your forehead to carpet or stone or ceramic tile while you breathe in the story that fell on the floor in a puddle that looks more like a portal to another dimension instead of spilled milk. 

it looks like holy holy holy in the dead of night. it whispers like suitcases and cardboard boxes and Sharpie markers for labeling. 

I want to tell you what writing a book looks like. 

it looks like where you are. it looks like who you are.

{show me what writing a book looks like to you. use the hashtag #whatwritingabooklookslike :: which was invented by my dear friend Preston Yancey :: on Instagram. I want to see you.} 

Monday, April 28, 2014

when I was one of the X-Men

{photo via pinterest}
we were given lessons in how to touch. I wouldn't think it was real unless I had experienced it myself, first hand, sitting shoulder to shoulder and toe to back with my peers. there were big smiles as they demonstrated on the stage, one boy and one girl.

always from the side. never from the front. girls have breasts. don't cause a brother to stumble. arms around the shoulder, quick squeeze. 

we called it "nacho"-ing, a playful turn of phrase coined from the lauding of the "non-committal side hug." we were being taught how to stay pure. we were being taught how to protect our brothers from stumbling, from being ruled by that strange thing behind the zipper of their jeans. we were proud of ourselves.

my body was dangerous. I had to be careful. we all knew that. we were dangerous beings, with our shapely hips and our growing breasts that might press into a boy's chest and send impure thoughts racing though him like poison.

I was one of the X-Men. my name was Rogue. to touch me was to die.

because I was a girl. and girls were poison, except to our one-day husbands.

I'm going to let you in on a secret. it didn't protect me. it did the exact opposite. 

it taught me that I was dangerous. it taught me that my body was a cactus. all I could do was hurt, all I could was destroy. it taught me to hate me.

this same dangerous theology creeps through the ranks of the youth groups and the purity conventions. raps and songs and t-shirts and seminars abound. we grip the hearts of those girls, sitting shoulder to shoulder and toe to back with their peers, and whisper, you are in charge of his mind. you are in charge of protection. you are the problem. 


who put us in charge of stripping them down until they keep their arms crossed across their chests and their heads down with shoulders bent to hide that they are women, God-made and Heaven-adored? where is the mandate to shake the least of these, the little ones, until all their worth comes dropping out the bottom like gold doubloons down the storm-drain?

we are resisting innocence in our chase for purity. we are hanging stones instead of breaking them to gravel.

I remember the first time I hugged the man that would become my husband. I mean, really hugged him. I had just returned from a summer in South America, long weeks of sleepless nights and experiences that filled me with wonder. and there was my boyfriend, standing on the curb beside my parents' van, smiling. I didn't think. I hugged him, hard. from the front. and I can promise  you this :: the thoughts in our head were not about breasts or penises or sex or impurity or stumbling blocks.

we were embracing.
that was all.