Thursday, December 11, 2014

savoring the book {Portals of Water and Wine}

{photo by Emily + Joel}
you have the ability. I push you because I know you can. so go and do. you don't have an excuse. 

I was sixteen, perched in an uncomfortable metal folding chair, my too-heavy backpack leaning against my calves while Jane Austen nestled on the table in front of me. all the other students had left. it was just me and my Literature teacher, her black dress severe as a Bronte sister and her eyes piercing with knowledge.

you don't have an excuse. she tapped the paper in front of me, covered in scrawling red pen. rewrite this. I won't even grade this one. you can do better. so much better. 

and so I did. I wrote. I wrote papers until midnight the day they were due. I read books and underlined and highlighted sections and fiddled with weirdly thick paper from the Barnes and Noble "Classics" section.

I never stopped. even after school was long over and those books were tucked away into the first, and then the second, batch of moving boxes, I never stopped.

and then I wrote a book of my own.

{you can find the paperback version here and Goodreads here}

:: :: :: 

Naya lives in chaos. Her family is shredded, with only bare threads of her long-dead mother and her absent father still lingering in her house. And then she hears the name -- Alonthiel -- spoken as a promise of freedom and escape, if only for one fleeting summer. 
And so she goes, hand in hand with her two best friends, allowing herself to slip into a new world of ancient origins, magical and sacred. 
Inside the gates of the hidden Fae city, Naya finds more than she could have ever dreamed. So much is waiting for her: magic, strength, and answers to the secrets kept from her since the death of her mother -- all lingering mere miles from her doorstep.
 But when a dark force threatens to raze her newfound home, leaving only rivers of blood in its wake, she must harness her fire -- or watch Alonthiel fall.
{photo by Emily + Joel}

:: :: :: 

it's been out for eleven days now. honestly, I've been buried in the swirl of book sales and the tummy-lurches of pregnancy's first trimester. that's part of the reason that I haven't shared about the book in these past days since release. 

the other reason? I've been carrying it all in my heart, savoring and treasuring it like Mary did as her growing Son changed her paradigm on a daily basis. 

I wrote a book. I never had any excuses. 

{all the photos in this post were taken at my release party. we were able to record the Google Hangout where I did a short reading/Q&A from the book, which you can watch for yourself right here.}

Monday, November 17, 2014

the synchronicity of birthing

{via pinterest
when I started 2014, He gave me a word :: precipice. and I knew it was a scary word, a big word, a word that held a lot of power and shivering potential. and it might not all be good. because weather high-up can be harsher than the weather close to the ground. when the word found its home inside me, I literally shook and sobbed and begged for another. because I knew :: big things, heavy things. and I was afraid.

I had no idea.

I lost another grandmother, the second in twelve months. upheaval became the name of the game. there was emotional turmoil, loss and brokenness in a community that I thought was solid ground. my family groaned under the weight of ache after broken-hearted ache.

and in the moments between the weeping, I wrote a book. words became sentences became paragraphs became pages became chapters because an entire volume. and yesterday, I finished it. officially. the proofing is done, the uploads are complete, the cover is the correct size. and then I clicked the button and ordered fifty copies. thirty-nine copies are already spoken for, which is overwhelming and more than I ever expected.

but on Friday, two days before, we got more news.

our family is growing. 
another tiny pair of feet are forming beneath my skin. 

and again comes the feelings of unworthiness, like last time. but this time, there is something more. there is something powerful that drowns out all the whispers of fears and cries of "too much too soon all at once." 

there is hope. there is a breath of restorative life. there is an echo of synchronicity that I've been waiting for...finally. it's been forever. 

this year, this precipice year, it has been a year of "He takes, blessed be. He takes, blessed be. oh, again, He takes. blessed be..." and the words have started to falter on my tongue, quivering as though I might not believe them as much as I did the first time. my lips ache from the wind-burn of being so extended on this precipice, and my fingers are bleeding from the grip against the stone.

and then I remember that He makes the stone crack. that death starts working backwards.

this year has been heavy. but now there is life. 

life on paper, words from my own soul escaping into the world. 
and life under skin, growing to be birthed into the world when the appointed time comes. 

abundant, He promised. 
life. 



Monday, November 10, 2014

the sufficiency in price tags

{photo via Unsplash}
I've reached the point, the rather terrifying reality, that people -- strangers and friends alike -- are going to be paying good, hard-earned money for my book.

I feel awkward even attempting to write this post. my guilt is irrational, silly even. and it all comes down to self-doubt. a mistrust in my own words.

the fact that my words are being brought down to dollars and cents makes me uncomfortable. mostly because I'm facing the weird reality that my words are actually worth people reaching into their wallets and pressing money into my palm. that the nine months I've spent pouring my soul into vowels and consonants and syllables and paragraphs are actually worthy of purchase.

:: it almost feels like I'm putting my soul on the market. 

people ask me all the time what this book is about. it's the first question that comes after the words "I wrote a book" leave my mouth. and my answers have been stumbling, faltering, mostly some excuse as to how it's "a faerie tale" and "I feel so silly." but recently, I've started channeling the way I feel about this book into my explanation.

so really, it comes down to this.

this story isn't about Faeries. well, it is, but not really. it's about people. it's about magic that IS them, that is an extension of who they are. and isn't that kinda deep, in a way? so what, it's not an existential theory. so what, it's fiction and fantasy. 

so what, maybe I want to be like J.K. Rowling when I grow up.

and you know something? people pay for J.K's books. she doesn't just drop them like manna from the skies. she presses those hefty volumes into hearts and whispers, "they cost money because I know they're worth every cent."

and my book isn't Harry Potter. because I'm not J.K. and my book isn't The Fault in Our Stars. because I'm no John Green.

but pricetags don't equal selling my soul. they mean that I'm putting value on myself, assigning value to my art and my words and my work.

and I can't help but lean heavy on the words Aslan spoke to a frightened boy-turned-king:

"if you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.” 

{I'm going to live in Aslan's Country. where He makes me sufficient}.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

because I wrote a book. a real one.

in 2014, I made a resolution -- the kind you make with the chime of a clean slate right in front of you over lifted glasses of champagne. I resolved to write a book.

the words have been slow here, practically non-existent, I know. three posts in September, nothing so far in October. every phrase, every sylablle has been directed toward this growing little project inside my laptop. it's been a process, one that I didn't expect, one that nearly broke me.

there were little things :: a toddler who has made the transition from containable to toddler-unchained in the space of a month, a laptop that went from reliable to held-together-with-electrical-tape in a matter of twenty-four hours.

there were big things :: my grandmother's death which rocked me to the ground, sickness and frailty, exhaustion and a word well run dry.

but I found words, clusters at a time, like grapes hanging along the wall. I found love and support, a rallying of beloved friends and a husband that surrendered to thin-crust pizza and at-least-they-came-from-the-oven chicken nuggets from a bag tucked like a faithful friend into the freezer.

but oh, beloveds. I did it.

I wrote a book. and it's almost done. and I hit buttons and cried so many tears. and maybe this post should be deeper, richer, full of more things spiritual and scarred and holy ground and all of the things I've become known for in this space. but honestly, it was less beautiful and far more broken of a process. I can only call Him Lion because He has been roaring holy cheer-leading chants into my soul in the death of night.

there's been nights of whispering phrases on repeat from The Book of Common Prayer and grasping fervently to His mane with white knuckles. and writing. so much writing.

I wrote a book.

Portals of Water and Wine. 

and you can find it on Amazon for Kindle pre-order + add it on Goodreads. and then you can read all the posts from this journey + the book page is here for your perusal. because somehow, over the longest night, I became an author. and on December 1st, the book is released.

and I'm not promising a whole lot of words here in this space, but I will come back. I will. it comes back and forth, ebb and flow.

because I am an author. and I wrote a book.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

unarmed toy solider {listen + doctor who}

at the time in which I write this post, a brand-new episode of Doctor Who aired last night. due to the fact that I have a teething two-year-old + was given the chance to escape with the husband for a private night out as an early 24th birthday celebration, I wasn't able to watch it until this afternoon.

the episode's title? Listen. 
the topic? Fear. 

it found me where I was at, sitting on the floor with my toddler climbing over my shoulders like a jungle gym and my husband groggy and headachy from late nights and little sleep. it found me, this fifty minute episode of a supremely wonderful and nerdy British television show. it found me in the wake of personal upheaval and messy {more than slightly broken} community.

so listen. if you listen to anything else, listen to this. 
you’re always gonna be afraid even if you learn to hide it. fear is like a companion, a constant companion, always there. 
but that’s okay because fear can bring us together. 
fear can bring you home
{Doctor Who, Listen}


you don't have to be a fan of this show to wrap your fingers around the truth found in the above quote. fear is an ever-present companion. there is fear of the unknown. fear of the known. fear of failing, fear of succeeding. fear of breaking down. fear of losing what you have. fear of not being good enough. fear of being too good. 

fear of being, maybe. 

the list. oh, it seems to go ever on and on. and right now, I'm finding myself standing in one of those fear-spaces. some might call it a dark night of the soul {or a dark month of the soul, in my case}. some might call it doubt. or questioning. even thrashing. I'm really good at thrashing these days. 

but listen. if you listen to anything else, listen to this. 

in the aforementioned episode, a gun-less toy solider stands watch over a frightened child. and I can't help but reach out and wrap my fingers around this metaphor of plastic until man-made and God-made are practically fused as one. because there is something so holy about this idea of the unarmed solider standing guard. no weapons forged by man, but fierce. 

{a Lion needs no weapons. it is one.} 
do you see?


so listen, beloved. listen well. 

perfect love, the kind that lays down unarmed with arms spread wide, casts out fear. perfect love, the beaten and bloody epitome of Holiness, casts out fear. 

perfect love stands guard. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

born from crushed aluminum

{via flickr :: creative commons}
I crushed a soda can last night. you can see the exact shape of my hand in the aluminum, the swirling white letters bent inward to form something more akin to a prayer than a brand name.

my not-so-tiny girl needed stitches, right on the even of her second birthday. three small black lines, twisted up with flesh. she cut her foot last week. it wasn't so bad. there was blood, but it washed away. there was a scab, but it was closing. and then last night, she tripped. and it opened anew, worse than before. so we bundled into the car, my husband + me + Marian (her in squawking high spirits, us not so much).

and the doctor said "stitches," and something inside me dropped so hard that I thought it might actually come out through my feet. they washed her foot and I cringed, holding her hand. they said "needle" and "Lidocaine" and I  made a hasty and less than dignified retreat. he made me sit, the doctor did, pressing a can of soda into my hand for sugar. I was white, he said.

and I sobbed on one side of a clinic wall while my daughter wailed, clutched tight in my husband's arms as he bear-hugged our fierce fighting child. they were hurting her to help her, and it made my momma-lioness roar vicious. and I crushed that soda can in my fingers until they were white and the can was twisted metal in my grip.

then it was over, and she was drenched in sweat but bandaged, sniffling into my shoulder. I buried my nose in her head as I rocked her, inhaling the scent of tears and sweat and strength and bravery, as much as a little-yet-fierce creature can exude.

this morning, I pondered as she nuzzled into my breast, an eager face at 7:02am beside my bed. it's been two years with this child, nine months before that of her nestled under my skin. motherhood is a funny thing. you can read every book in the world, and still realize that you know absolutely nothing when that child is born. and you have to learn. and they say that you learn from experience and doing and "as you go." but really, it's your child that does the teaching.

cliche? maybe.
true? entirely.

and so, as my Marian-girl begins her second year of life, my heart is swelling full of  holy hopes + wishes for her.

 :: I wish for her bravery to be acknowledged. she is not fearless, she is brave. 
:: I wish for Holiness. 
 :: I wish for delight in small things and joy in big things
:: I wish for her pain to be allowed. I do not want her to hurt, but when she does, I want her aching to be FELT instead of being brushed over or dismissed. 
:: I wish for a drawing near to Grace and the Throne upon which it sits. 
:: I wish for might. not power or fame or glory, but might. 
:: I wish for laughter (have you heard this child laugh? music.)
:: I wish for Kleenex and ice cream and shoulders and companions and light and Glory abundant. 
:: I wish for LIFE.

happy second birthday, my beautiful girl. 
I love you. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

drop your coat

{via pinterest}
dear you,

you wanderer through the Valley of the Shadow
drop your coat.

you who haven't figured out how to process the change or the ache or the new or the rejection
drop your coat.

you who are finding yourself in the season of "no" or the season of leaving or the season of lots of taking and very very little giving back
drop your coat. 

// 

do you know what that looks like, to drop your coat and leave it there?

there is unspoken courtesy, ingrained in us from the very beginning. you do not just drop your bag, your coat, your shoes on the floor. not in another's house, not even in your own house. you pick it up. you find the hook or drawer or little nook. you hang it up. tidy, organized, everything appropriately tucked away.

even when the fabric is so heavy that it almost seems unbearable, this idea of crossing another twelve steps to the closet. even when the smile is pasted on, and the "let me take your coat" feels falsely cloying because you would just rather not lean into the pity (even though it's nothing more than your host being polite).

so I want to tell you something. I want you to look me in the eye.

I want you to rest. drop your coat. right there, in the hallway. shoes too. kick them off. let them thud against the wall.

I want you to find freedom. leave it there, on the floor, in a crumpled pile of soft fabric and silken lining. leave it there.

because it's not just a coat, is it, love? it's grief and heaviness and weight and confusion and a lack of knowing which direction to step next. and there may not be answers there between the hardwood slats. but there is a solid surface on which to rest. and sometimes that works better than answers. at least for now.

so drop your coat. leave it there. the world won't end while it lays on the hardwood.

dust washes off. you can use my machine.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

the blessing of more

{via pinterest}
"can you show me the sign?"

my own words hit me in the face as I asked my toddler daughter to recreate the ASL word for "more," tapping her tiny fingertips against one another. she was asking for another cracker, another drink of water. we've been teaching her these simple little signs since she was barely old enough to hold up her head on her own. and now here, as we approach the second year of her life in a matter of weeks, she still knows every gesture.

please. thank you. milk. more. 

that last one still takes my breath away.
let me tell you why.

::

I remember seeing her, sitting casually on a too-tall barstool, her tattoos clearly visible, her blonde hair fresh with pink and purple streaks. she looked like a vision of everything I wanted to be. there was about fifteen of us gathered around her, listening to her speak over us.

her words caught me off-guard.

I want you all to see me as more than just the founder, more than your coach, more than a published author. I want you to see me as more than just that. see me as me, okay? 

the concept was so foreign. it didn't feel right. surely she misspoke. because how could any of us do that? she was all these amazing things, this powerhouse badass of a woman who had come up gasping from grief + destruction + hardship. she was a phoenix. how could I see her as "just her"? that was a disservice to her greatness.

wasn't it?

and this thing of her -- just her -- being more. I didn't understand it.

except then I sat down on the couch with her and looked into her eyes.

// how are you? 
// how are you? 
// how are you?

and then it started to click.

::

"can you show me the sign?"

that simple little phrase knocked me back. as I watched my daughter's baby fingers form that word in the chaos of my lunchtime kitchen, I found myself breathing a blessing over her.

you are more, Daughter of Eve. 
you are allowed to ask for more
and that more is you. 
you are Lion-breathed, filled with wild Holy breath from the lungs of the Most High
what more does anyone need but 
just simply you? 
dwell in your muchness, your more-ness. 
oh my daughter, accept the blessing of more. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

for when there aren't many words left {#Furgeson}

{via pinterest}
as far as Ferguson goes, I've been silent. 
I mean that as literally as you can get. nothing on social media. not my Facebook or my Twitter or my Instagram or my blog. nothing. period. 

silence. 

and that, for me, is odd. there are very few social issues that leave me at a loss for words. this one, however, has done exactly that. 

I am at a loss for words. 

let me be very clear here :: I have not been silent because I am white. I have not been silent because I have an unpopular opinion. I have not been silent because I am afraid. 

I have been silent because it has been one of those moments where you are confronted with something so overwhelming that it leaves nothing behind. there have been so many amazing words shared already. {you can find a couple fantastic and powerfully gentle posts here and here.} there have been arguments on both sides, strong words flung and feet planted into the dirt. the Internet is good at controversy, after all. 

what could I possibly say? wouldn't I only be adding to the noise?
because let's be honest :: there's been a lot of noise. madness. tumult. 

all I can do is pray. 
and that's pretty much exactly what I'm going to do here. 

:: 

oh God. 
bring peace. 

oh Lord,
bring comfort. 

oh Jesus. oh sweet Jesus. 
bring clarity. 

Spirit of the living God,
fall fresh. 

oh Lion, 
breathe. 

oh mighty Father, 
sustain. 

selah. selah. selah. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

the one where I talk about sex {again}

{via pinterest}
let's talk about sex.
I'm serious.

it's everywhere.
I'm serious about that too.

but you know something else?
it's also a really big secret.
{especially in church}

I grew up in a world where gateway drugs weren't seven-leafed plants held rolled and drooping between teenage fingers. it was the fingers themselves that were the problem. because if skin touched skin, that was the start of a slippery slope...

...a slope that led to bodies and skin and nakedness and words that were alluded to, but rarely spoken aloud. just in case there was someone listening. and the idea of it being mentioned in church? never. just in case God might overhear.

we talked about purity, of course. about guarded hearts and the mystery of a man with a woman and the way it should be for marriage. but what, exactly, should be for marriage? we were never sure. not really.

it was all a mystery. until churches and white dresses and rings slipped onto sweaty fingers and hotel rooms where the door shut with a heavy thump...

...and then it was still a mystery.

because it was a secret until that minute, except that everyone seemed to have forgotten the "sex kitten" potion that was to transform a blushing new bride and a nervously fidgeting groom  into ravenous sexual creatures. they forgot about what happened when the door closed and we stood there with shuffling feet and the acute awareness that there was nakedness under our clothes.

this is the part where I am supposed to present a solution.
the only one I have is for us to talk.

we have to stop making little words that start with "p" and "v" and "s" into dirty unrepeatables that linger like forbidden fruit squashed into pulp on tongues. we have to find that line and realize that it's written in the dirt, not carved into rock.

we need to talk.
with words, not euphemisms and "when you're married, you'll understand."

because it doesn't work that way.

we need to talk.
about sex.
about penises and vaginas and hormones and sex. hear me say it. sex.

because the most important thing is a heart.
not a hymen.

Friday, August 8, 2014

broken benches

{photo taken via VSCOCam :: by Rachel Haas}
writing is hard when you're writing.
you become a broken bench, in a way.

there are slats falling down
side
ways.
you're still a bench.
but there are holes and sitting


it's complicated.

writing a book is hard, period.
it's one of those things where you could jump up and down and pat your head and rub your tummy and walk across hot coals to bring back rubies clutched in your teeth

...and it would still be easier than getting those words down.
and yet we do it because we are it.
we are writers who write things.

writers who don't write things are benches made of fog.
you can see us
we just go away when you breathe a little too hard.

writing is complicated
with a lot of parts and pieces and bits and bobs
and upside down handstands.
and coffee.

and you can feel like a broken bench.
but you're still a bench.
when people fall on you, their hands connect with solid wood and scrappy frame.
you're plucky, you are.

they can rest there.
because broken benches are still benches.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"somewhere between water and sky" by Elora Ramirez :: cover reveal

oh my loves. today I am so excited to be doing something new. something wonderful. something exciting. 

today I am honoured to be part of the cover reveal process for my beloved friend, mentor, and Story Coach Elora's new book :: Somewhere Between Water and Sky. 



Title: Somewhere Between Water and Sky
Author: Elora Ramirez
Release Date: September 18th
Cover Artist: Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations


About Somewhere Between Water and Sky :: 

I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.
If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.
Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.
And every single one of my tears could fill a book.
But stories, with all their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.
Kevin.
This is how I dare to move forward and to believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.
Waiting leaves room for the voices.
Somewhere between water and sky, I'll find a way to burn these voices to the ground.


Exclusive Excerpt:
I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.
If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.
Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.
And every single one of my tears could fill a book.
I watch the people sitting around me on the bus. The single mother with two rowdy toddlers, the older couple on vacation with cameras strapped to their necks, the boy rapping beats under his breath and writing in a journal—all of them breathe into this poetry of life.
Normally, I’d want to know their stories. I’d wait for hints of who they were inside, the poetic shifts that make us human. Now I just watch.
The boy rapping pauses with his hand in mid air and thinks for a minute. Breaking into a smile, he nods vigorously and lowers his hand to his paper. I frown. I used to have a piece of that poetry inside. It’s just all a little broken now. I don’t know how to fix the one thing that used to put me back together. The poems still come; I just don’t know what to do with them anymore. If I’m feeling particularly brave, I’ll attempt to scratch them into a journal.
Usually, I just write them with my finger on my jeans. No one needs to read them anyway. Besides, I can’t hold on to them for very long. The silence is on fire and the sentences and scenes that used to extinguish those flames do nothing but fan it hotter and brighter. I’m a new person here—no one knows anything about me. All of my journals are in various trash cans around the city. I fill one up and then throw it away, shedding the skin and finding someone new underneath every single time.
This is how I dare to move forward and believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.
Like clockwork
the words disappear at dusk
empty cans filled up
like dust.
Rapper boy looks back up and catches me watching him and then offers a shy smile. My fingers pause their lines and curl in to the protection of my hand. I flip my lips upward into a quick grin and then look away before he can strike up a conversation.
I don’t want to know his story.
 Stories, with all of their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.
Kevin.
Something like grief catches in my throat and a small burst of air escapes through my parted lips.
I miss him. I miss him and I can’t miss him. If I give into these feelings…this emptiness…I shake my head and wipe the stray tear on my cheek.
This is ridiculous.
Reaching into my bag, I pull out my phone. One missed call shows itself on the screen and I frown. No one has my number. I swipe the screen open and scroll through until I notice UNKNOWN NUMBER in red font.
Red like blood.
I shudder.
After the life I’ve lived, I’m nothing if not over-dramatic. It’s whatever. I feel I’ve earned it.
With a few more quick swipes, I delete the notification and sigh the misgiving away. There’s no voicemail, and so there’s nothing to worry about yet.
No harm, no foul. No one knows your number. No one knows your number.
I’ve learned different but I’m choosing another way of living. I repeat these phrases in my head, tapping the rhythm of the words on my knee.

About the Author:
Elora Ramirez lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband. At the age of four, she taught herself how to read and write, cutting her teeth on books like Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space--including her Fisher Price kitchen set, the pages of picture books and Highlights Magazine. Since then, she's grown to love the way words feel as they swell within her bones. Writing holy and broken is her calling, and pushing back the darkness and pursuing beauty through story is her purpose. She embraces the power of story and teaches women from all parts of the world how to embrace theirs. She has a knack of calling things out , the truth and the detail, the subversive threads that make a life a story. She loves hip-hop, wishes she lived by the beach and cannot write without copious amounts of coffee, chocolate, music, and her husband's lavender liqueur. 


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.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

the silent-growing green

today I cracked eggs into a bowl and blended them with milk and garlic powder and hand-cracked black pepper from my own little grinder. the jagged little lines on the edge of the broken eggshells are as tidy as I've been lately.

expected sharp edges.

today I climbed on my hands and knees under my art table set up kitty-corner from the washer and the drier and picked up little pieces of torn cloth and ripped paper and matchsticks and little boxes of laundry detergent. the mess is where I've been at lately.

it felt good to tidy it up.

:: ::

sometimes i think we get lost, as writers. we find a goal and pound toward it, head down and jaw set. at least, that's how it is for me.

and it's so easy to get lost in the words and the ever-rising word count and let my own story get lost completely in the haze. my fictional self is the kind that delves deeply into worlds made from scratch. and when I sink my fingers in, I let the story ooze all around and fill in all the spaces that aren't made from flesh and bone and blood and skin and family ties. that's how it works in my head.

other spaces become quieter. I used to think it was me dropping the ball, letting my blog fall slack. now I realize that it's an expectant hush.

a friend of mine asked the other day, is it okay if I still write books even if my blog has quieted down? the answers were resounding. do you. yes. oh yes. 

I wasn't the one that asked the original question. but I've been asking it for a long time. and I've been getting lost in this story of mine. I couldn't help but wonder, is this a bad thing? to turn my focus toward my book and my family and let my internet voice fade a little bit? 

there are writers that fill the internet, voice after voice after ringing chiming voice. they seem to be doing all the things, filling up pages upon pages of books and tending to their little wild ones and loving their spouses and writing blog posts on the regular.


but they aren't me, are they? and they aren't you.

:: ::

I talk about the wave a lot. that wave that separates Earth from Aslan's County, the one that crests and hides and then dips just enough for a sneak peak of what is to come. and sometimes I feel like I'm surfing that glorious wave. I can taste the salt.

I'm writing my book. still plodding on, adding pages and paragraphs, watching the word-count go up and feeling the excited prickle as things fall into place in the story that my dreams wove and my mind is baking from scratch like a new muffin recipe. I have no idea how it's going to turn out in the end. but I know that I can bake, and I know that it smells amazing.

so I'm on that wave. and yes, this place has fallen quiet, waiting in eagerness for the next wave to come. there are nights I sit in the darkness of my house at my desk with my candle flickering and the aroma of incense filling my nose as I compose just one more set of a thousand words. and I'm basking in the holy ground that is this particular kind of creation.

:: ::

today I went outside in my bare feet with grass between my toes to scrape away dead leaves and sticks and growing maple seed trees away from the roots of my hearty little rose bush.

it felt good to see the silent-growing green.

and that's where I'm at right now. I'm cresting a wave and catching just a glimpse of what lies on the other side. I'm feeling Holy Ground at my feet and my sides and my back. it's glorious, loves. and it's so frightening and so new and there are days when I cry a lot and swear that I cannot do this.

but then I get back up and I feel that salt water splash in my face. and I know. this is my place. this is my calling, where the God who sees me has shifted Heaven and Earth to place me. He shed precious crimson blood to dye a thread to hang in this window.

here is where I want you. 
come dwell here. come write here.
with Me. 

keep your eyes open for the silent-growing green.

Friday, April 18, 2014

when Jesus died [crossing worlds}

i.

I am the Daughter of Eve behind the tree, fingers curled against the bark of the tree. I am huddled with my sister, and we are watching.

I am the daughter of Jerusalem pressed low against the Earth, fingers curling against the Israeli dirt. I am wailing with my sisters, and we are watching.

{this year, I am pouring out my Good Friday tears at Emily Miller's blog. the death of the Most High has been something so tender for me this year, something that has drawn me deep. I really hope you will join me  for the rest of this post at Emily's place, and share your heart with me there. join me in the spaces between the trees. two worlds, same story. same promise}

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

cleaning the mirror :: my messy-beautiful

{photo of me, by NikkiJean Photography}

I cleaned the mirror last week. it had been a while.

frankly, I was okay with the smudges and the fingerprints at toddler-height level and the lip-prints at momma-height level. her fingers like to poke at her round belly in the glass. her lips like to give the baby in the mirror a kiss every morning as we come down to start the day.

she sees differently than I do.

because honestly? me? I might never clean that mirror.

:: ::

I bought new jeans today. it had been a while.

I was pushed to the brink by the ripping sound right in the most unfortunate location, that mostly hidden spot where the seam glides up the leg. and I only have one other pair. it would not do to be without pants entirely. it's nearly skirt weather in my corner of the United States, but not quite.

under complete mental protest, I went shopping.  my fingers flipped through the piles of stiching and denim that carelessness had allowed to muddle together, size 6s and 2s and 16s and 22s all playing together. they didn't care, those perfectly folded pairs of pants. only the people buying them cared.

only the people who had to wear them cared.

and so I found myself standing in front of another mirror. this mirror was clean, no fingerprints and no baby-made smudges. but there was another kind of dirt clinging to the edges and seeping over the glass.

I could see a thousand little girls reflected in that glass. I could hear the words, see the downturned lips, feel the poking fingers.

does this make me look fat?

:: ::

{via pinterest}
I held my daughter in my arms this morning, her hair shimmering golden-red in the sunlight. she curled against my chest as she nursed, her fingers idly straying down to the hem of my shirt. she pulled the fabric away and sat up with a grin.

momma.
oh, may those words from her little lips never cease to turn my soul to water.

she leaned forward and planted a smacking kiss on my belly. right there on the dappled purple stretchmarks that she left behind. right above the scar that cuts a jagged line across my stomach that shows how they pulled her from my body like Moses drawn from the water. it's a life-mark, that scar.

:: ::

I stood in front of the mirror just a minute ago, the same one that I cleaned last week. I have my new jeans on, a perfect fit. the number on the back, nestled in the teens, is irrelevant. what matters is the way I see myself.

what matters is the way I refuse to let the Darkness convince my that my worth and that number are somehow connected.

shame might have lived in that mirror. but I ran a Windex rag over the glass. I'm speaking Light and Life over that piece of glass. I'm revoking the privileges of the Prince of Lies in the name of the One who saw me before the dawning of time and whispered to the assembled angels,

oh, she. 

she is made in the Image. 
I am God, and I call her good. 

{I am linking my Messy Beautiful at Momastery}

Monday, April 7, 2014

dark chocolate

{photo by Rachel L. Haas}
are you writing? 

those words are familiar these days. they fill my message box with little smiley cyber-faces sent from the fingers of the ones who know me best. they know that I need the reminders. they know that I'm swimming against the current, and they know that sometimes I need a solid jerk on the towrope. 

and yes, I am writing. I'm just not doing a lot of writing here in this space. my blog has gone quiet since I started burying myself into my new fiction project. I'm writing a book. I'm not sure if that's really sunk in fully yet. every time I look at how far I've come, it makes me marvel. not because I'm writing. I'm always writing. not because I'm writing fiction. I've written fiction before. 

I'm in awe because I'm writing something that is making me afraid and brave all at the same time. both of those things come with the knowledge that I'm writing something that is more dark chocolate than cotton candy. 

go with me here, loves. 

there is a lot of cotton candy in the world. or maybe it's just the expectation of the sweet vapor, of the ease of acceptance of things that taste good. things that are uncomplicated. for the most part, everyone likes the sweet and the simple, the stuff that melts on your tongue and makes you feel happy.

but it's so much harder to write to write the bitter. it's hard to write the thing that not everyone will like, the thing that will lead the reader on a balance beam, toes stepping in a line on the wooden plank. it's hard to write things that will rankle, that will annoy. it's hard to write when you know some people -- maybe more than the rest -- will spit it out and toss the rest in the trashbin. 

it's hard to write dark chocolate. 

{photo via pinterest}
but I am learning to realize that some people like dark chocolate, if not on their tongues, then in their souls. they grip the bitter and savor the sweetness. they allow it to assure them that they are alive. they swallow it down and let it enter their deepest parts. they let it change the way they taste the world. 

cotton candy is good sometimes. it's good to soak in the lightness. it's good to flit. but dark chocolate is good for your heart. it's antioxidants. there is health in identifying with what your heart is saying, with what your soul needs. 

I'll tell  you a secret, loves. I think we all have dark chocolate flowing inside us. every single one of us, every writer, has this ability to bring out the strong and the bitter and the lingering hints of sweetness in every bite. 

oh writers, rise up. don't run from the sharp flavours that creep between your words. know that there are people waiting for your words. know that, for some, the best taste in the world is your brand of dark chocolate. 

know that the Creator lives and moves and breathes within you. 
so those dreams? risk them. 
those words? write them. 
those hopes? believe them.
:: Elora Ramirez