Thursday, February 27, 2014

in which I write to remember

{via pinterest}
I write to remember.

I write to remember the way my daughter's head smelled the first moment they laid her in my arms, even as my body still groaning from the opening and the pulling and the needle stitching flesh back to flesh.

I write to remember the way his arm encircled my shoulder and his fingers dug into my hair as I sobbed into his chest the day they called and said that the matriach of my paternal family had slipped from terra firma to life abundant.

I write to remember the way that my calling put down roots in the same moment that a woman looked at me and called me reprobate, called me voice of distention, and the friend I had brought to defend me somehow slipped from my side to hers while I blinked.

I write to remember the freedom that started way  back when tears streamed down my parents' faces while my sister and I planted our feet and shook our heads, done with navy blue skirts and rules that added up to leave us too far from Jesus to be the right way.

I write to remember the heartache because it twisted my road like a snake shedding skin, whisking away death like rain washing mud from the base of a splintered cross but leaving the blood-stains. the death has to be remembered to celebrate the life.

there are days I'd rather forget, things that seem better to slip away through my fingers like an hourglass in reverse, days I'd rather use feeble fingers to push the hands of the clock backwards, even though they leave dents in my flesh. if someone invented cocoa butter for the soul, the kind that fades stretch marks and scars back into oblivion, there are days I would be tempted to buy them out of stock.

but I write to remember the way that Glory tastes on my tongue when all I've been eating is mud for a month. I write to remember the way His fingers feel on my cheek, the way His mane breezes like a whisper of be still and know, better than a hankie for wiping tears away.

I write because my cat chases beams of light on the carpet and my daughter giggles at her own reflection. I write because Holy is unchained and death flows backwards through the cracks in the stone.

I write so I don't forget the way home.

{this is my answer for all those times when I'm asked "why do you write?" this is where I have found myself, and this is what Story Sessions has taught me how to capture and hold tight. there is a seat for you with us, dear one. come join us}

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

prayers of the people {guest post for Osheta Moore}

{photo by Jennifer}
oh Mighty King,
step down and see.

oh Creator of all,
reach down and hold.

oh Daddy,
help us.

we are living in a land of divide, of lines drawn in the sand to keep the colours from blending together when they bleed, except when a boy of darker colour is bleeding on the pavement from a bullet fired from pale-coloured hands. and that's when it merges into shades of grey fog, and there's so much staggering, and so much confusion. and there's so much weeping, Jesus. there's so much weeping.

because there's hands up, clenched fists pounding against walls that should have been knocked down years ago, that should have never been raised at all. we're shuffling back into iron chains that You bled Yourself dry to corrode into flakes of rust.

{dear ones, today I'm over at Osheta's place, pouring out my prayers like water on the ground. read the rest of the post here, and then join me today in prayer for eyes to be opened, hearts to be healed, and peace to consume all.}

Friday, February 21, 2014

in which He did not call us to be jerks

{photo by Jennifer}
there's a picture going around my newsfeed, a cartoon drawing of a bleeding man dressed in a rainbow shirt being bludgeoned by men holding Bibles. these caricatures were drawn to make us think, to draw the nodding heads and the "mmm"-ing and then "how true, how true" from those who identify as Christians. but I feel like it gets forgotten that the idea of the Sword of Truth being wielded like a butcher knife is more common, that we're good at passing out scarlet letters, carved into the chests so that they never forget they are sinners.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: they know us by the things we hate instead of by our love, and that's the opposite of the way He meant for things to be.

do you really wonder why they hate us? why when someone hesitantly says, "I'm a Christian," there's groans and eyerolls and muttering?  I've heard the laughter myself, heard the mocking voice of the ones trodden undo so-called holy feet. there should be something different about us, the ones who don "small Christ, wandering followers of the Rabbi" as our moniker. and unfortunately, there is something different :: the fact that we so often choose to us Truth as an excuse to cleave flesh from bone and then drag them by the hair to the foot of the cross.

you're forgiven and you're going to like it. or else. 

you want bluntness? you want transparency?

Jesus did not call us to be assholes. He did not bleed Himself dry to raise a horde of sanctified jerks, to lead an army of righteous indignation. when He said to turn the other cheek, He didn't mean by slapping one until the head bows in apologetic pain.

{photo by Jennifer}
it breaks me down when I think back to the hearts I turned, the way my own words sliced and my own hands slapped and my nails clawed frantic to make them see their sin. but instead, I scratched the corneas of their souls until things were blurred and tears streamed and they stumbled away into fog. I pray someone else came behind me and loved them better, loved them like He would have done.

sometimes I look at the story of the Crucifixion, the way they ripped His body into shreds and spilled His blood on the courtyard stones, and I think, maybe there's more of a picture there than at first glance. because that picture, it's visceral and holy and grace personified. but I can almost see Him looking up from beneath the thirty-ninth lash, thorns pressing into His skin, and maybe I can read His lips.

I took this already. I'm doing this for them, for you, for all. 
it's covered. it's taken care of, once for all.
please don't do this to anyone else.  

He died to make us alive, died to tear down walls and bring separation to a minimum. He cradled the broken ones closest, touched the untouchable, and laid the twisted paths straight. there is Truth we seem to forget :: this thing of grace, this thing of mercy, this thing of Love that passes through death's grip and into Life abundant.

and this, this is the marvel of marvels. 
that He called me beloved. 
{c.s. lewis}

Monday, February 17, 2014

in which I am doing something

{photo by me via Instagram}
in 2011, I wrote 297 posts.

it was the second year of my blog, the first full year from January to December. my mother called me prolific, and it was true. I was writing a post nearly every single day, sitting at the computer agonizing over something to write that was profound enough, that was rich enough, that was "good enough" for me to push publish and let it fly. and if I ever missed  a day, ever missed a step, I would apologize profusely, as if I had broken some never-made promise to always be present, always have words.

since I started writing, I've always felt like I had something to prove. that's what happens when you get married a week after your nineteenth birthday instead of going to college, and people are breathing down your neck for you to do something. it's not commonly done, choosing to become a wife instead of pursuing a degree. and so I wrote, wildly, and in some respects it was good because it was a honing period, a chance for me to understand the edges of my voice and what it had the potential to sound like , eventually.

but I had to clear my throat first because I had so many other voices at war in my vocal chords to the point that it was hard to figure out which was mine and which ones belong to everyone else. they taught me a lot, these other voices, because they pruned me down by making me feel uncomfortable. their words fit in their mouths so perfectly, but they were the wrong shape for mine.

:: :: 

I started to press myself deep into the Lion in those days, the ones that heralded the start of my thrashing as I shed my dead skin and sunk deeper into that lioness hide where I belonged, a selkie of a land-bourne sort. that's when I started to realize something.

maybe Susan wasn't "spared" death in the train crash because she was leaning toward boys and make-up and things that were pushing her into socially-appropriate adulthood. maybe it wasn't Lewis' way of chiding children for growing up, for choosing to walk . because if that was his point, if his purpose was to chase away adulthood and keep them locked in innocence forever, then Aslan wouldn't have been needed, and His own words would have been made void.
{photo by Nikki Jean Photography}

there, I have a different name. you must learn to know me by that name. that was the very reason you were brought into Narnia, so that by knowing Me here, you might know me better there. 

and in those words, I started to understand.

I have absolutely nothing to prove for being in the Land where He placed me. 

my voice and my story and my authenticity are mine, breathed holy straight into my lungs from the mouth of Lion on the mountaintop. it is a shift from the familiar, and it makes me feel a bit of a dervish. but this view, it's breathtaking.

I've spit out the salt water. my throat is clear.

and I'm prepared to speak.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

blessings on the sh***y

{photo by me}
blessings on the sh***y, she said to me, and I gasped. it's impossible not to gasp when someone lays prophecy over you like that after you confess to her that your Wednesday has been more like a Monday and there isn't much left except to sit.

she blessed the ugly, the parts of the day that we don't talk about publicly because they make everything fade a little, and no one wants to see your fading. except that David wrote a hundred psalms where he cried from the recesses of the cave, the ones where he begged for rescue and in the same breath, he whispered, in You, oh God, I put my trust. 

she blessed the tangled, the cracking spots, and I'm starting to see why. because those cracks let a little bit of light through. who says that breaking lets in the darkness? I've had a lot bottled up, tiny fists beating against the glass wall, fairy dust merging with gunpowder, and the glory was suffocating while I leaned all my weight on the lid.

and then she blessed the sh***y, and I cracked a little.

live into it, she urged, and I felt something give. those strange-faced ones, the ones that speak into my life without relationship, they warned against the dam, warning that there was pulsing wildness behind it, and it could kill someone if let free. hold it up, keep it together, press your fingers in like mortar.

but then I realized that I was dehydrating, that my skin was cracking and my hair was fading from fire-glow to guttering embers. fire and water don't mix, but that's the paradox, isn't it? because without Living Water, I have no air, and the spark flickers. and my fingers came free and the water gushed like uninhibited Elven stallions to drown the black horde clamoring behind me. it was deep drinking, full soul hydration, saturation in pure life.

live into it, she said, and I pressed against the thin places, the spots where the darkness flew out and the Light streamed in like holy saline straight into the veins of my soul.

and so, oh love, wherever you are.

blessings on the sh***y. blessings on the thin places. blessings on the broken glass, blessings on the tangled.

live into it, dearheart. pen your Psalms in the cave.

{my dear friend, Esther, the woman who spoke these words over me, wrote something of her own on this subject. read her words, won't you?}

Monday, February 10, 2014

for when you're sitting in limbo

{my girl and my love watching the snow.
they teach me the most.}
I am in the state of limbo that every writer who has ever submitted their work for publication knows intimately. it's the period between submission, the pushing of the words out from your hands to another pair of stranger-eyes, and the hearing of the acceptance or the rejection.

I sent my short story, Coffee, out for publication right around the end of January. I haven't heard back yet, and that's to be expected, as I was told it could be as late as April 1st before I heard anything in either direction. I still check the acceptance page of the publication's website every day.

my friend Brandy says this: just putting yourself out there is a win. aim for rejections. it's so foreign to me, this concept that even releasing your words is a step in the right direction, that a rejection letter is a sign that you did the impossible. you wrote something and sent it out.

honestly? I'm not in that place yet. I can't look at rejections as positive reinforcement, as reminders to keep trying. I haven't been able to stop the heart-pounding when I think, maybe they won't like me. it's reminiscent of being a child, right on the edge of the all-wood playset in the yard of the school, wiggling my fingers back and forth against my legs as I watched the other children chase and swing and toss pebbles at one another.

I just want them to like me. 

writing is vulnerability personified. I've said that before, that exact sentence almost exactly a month ago when I acknowledged that this process is, for me, wandering deep into the lair of a dragon. even more than that, it's realizing that I have no weapon, and that my intent is to ask the beast to share a meal with me. writing is walking up to the Big Bad Wolf, holding out my basket and whispering,

Grandma's not home. do you want to share?

{my writing space}
that's how I can tell that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. there's a whole new kind of fear that comes when you recognize your calling and understand that breaking bread with dragons can be written in my resume under "job description." it's one of those moments in the tent, the kind where you overhear the Angel of the Lord tell your husband that you're going to have a baby at ninety years old, and you laugh because it's impossible. you have to laugh. it's that or cry.

the website for the publication to which I submitted uses the words "in progress" to refer to a work that hasn't been "completed" {passed on} or "accepted for publication." I think that's prophecy, in it's own way.

I'm still waiting. I'm still in progress, fidgeting a little bit as I wait to hear where my words will go next. I'm still refreshing the page every day, still watching the number beside my name, the one that identifies me as a writer.

I can feel Him looking at me, straight through the doorway of my tent, the place where I sat and laughed when He spoke a calling over me. I can hear the way He shakes His mane, the way the wind whispers through the wilderness and weaves around Him. 

Rachel, why did you laugh? I will return, and you will bear. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

knowing him with the lights on

{via pinterest}
I want to talk about sex.


on Monday, I wrote about Beyonce and her husband-lover and the way they held each other close and moved as one flesh at the Grammys, and the way the Christian world rose up against them. I wrote about redemption of sex and of freedom to wrap arms wildly around the neck of marital lust.

and that was when I realized. I've found a voice and I've started wondering things...more things.

I wonder why we're made so afraid of sexuality, as though being sexual creatures is not something Holy-Created, as though whispering the words or leaning too close on your husband's arm within the confines of Church is scandelous. we look at the wedding rings and we know, we see the pregnant women and smile at their joy, all the while refusing to acknowledge what brought this new life into being.

I wonder why we can read the words laid out in Biblical black and white, but then cringe and giggle and find ourselves whispering the names for our body parts in sheepish undertones, as though they are not there if we don't pronounce them, as though our sexuality is non-existent if we do not speak its name.

there's safety in the darkness, quietly tucking ourselves into dimly lit bedrooms, curtained off like voting booths, every action a secret and never discussed. it's as though we expect our bodies to burst into flames if their flesh is exposed to the light. sexuality is the new vampirism.

but there's that Hebrew word :: yada. that word that comes up whispered in the early pages of the Word, when the first man took the first woman into his arms and knew her. that's yada. that's knowing. and then comes the word, the whispering of be still and know. that's yada. same word, same holy hush falling.

I delight to sit in his shade,    
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
:: song of solomon 2:3

we as woman are told that we are dangerous. each morning as we dress, we cover the danger, and the more we wear, the safer we become. we press our palms against the man-hands beside us and blush, hesitant in that affection, that rare bit of skin allowed to brush in public. there are expectations, and being Beyonce isn't one of them.

{via pinterest}
and so we go home and turn down the lights and slip down to our skin in darkness and slide under covers, less for warmth of body and more for safety of soul. who are we protecting? is it ourselves, the shame from the outside carrying into this marital room where only you and he will ever lay? are we protecting the man that shares this mattress, that burden placed upon our bodies for all male are we supposed to turn it of for him, for one hour or two or six, and then make sure that we put the vixen away, and carry on as normal for everyone else that we are supposed to call "brother"?

I want 
to do with you 
what spring does with the cherry trees.
:: Pablo Neruda

and so we come back to yada. being known, the deepest and most intimate knowing of all. it's holy ground. shaking is appropriate.

so you, oh woman, you are not dangerous. your body is not a wrecking ball and your touch is not acid. your loving him is not a sin, and your wildness need not be hidden. not here, not with him.

did you know that silence is not required here? it is allowed, of course, but not required.

it's in those moments when bodies meet, not passing like ships but merging like an eclipse, that the loudest crashes are heard. because that is the sound of walls tumbling. every move he and I make together is a pass around Jericho walls, and with a mighty shout, the fortress crashes.

so, oh woman, blow out the candle and flip the switch.

he can call me Peaches with the lights on.

Monday, February 3, 2014

the one where I talk about sex

{via pinterest}
I want to talk about shame.

I want to talk about how good it tastes, how easy it is to cut off a slice and take bite after bite, decadent and bloating until your very soul feels as though it will choke.

I want to talk about Beyonce. I want to talk about marriage. I want to talk about sex.

I want to talk about double standards.

I want to ask questions.

maybe I would ask, why so much shame in sex before marriage that we rush to point fingers, gawking and whispering like Ham, son of Noah, running to bring others to look and comment and take a bite of the shame? 

and then of course another question would follow. why so much shame in sex after marriage that we make a point to turn our heads so we don't see, stopping all conversation at the church doorways, making sure we never cross the thresholds with words like orgasm or sensuality?

these questions of mine keep coming, marveling at how we make sex so forbidden, making sure to laud marriage as the ultimate and only place for sexuality, except we freeze it out and make it odd and matronly, using words like intercourse, all the while forgetting that the word used in Scripture is knowing, deep intense provocative knowledge of the one whom your soul loves, and it doesn't get more sensuous than that.

and then Beyonce and Jay-Z performed at the Grammy Awards and the internet exploded and the church rose up in arms. I watched them tear one another apart, throwing mud and stones at the couple's actions, words, lyrics, wardrobe, and I sat in awed confusion.

{via pinterest}
because I didn't see something raunchy or scandalous. I saw something transformational. they're celebrities, rubbing shoulders with people who last barely sixty days into a marriage before filing for divorce. they live in a world that tabloids feed on, plastered up and down the grocery checkout lanes where separation, break-ups, and divorce are bread and butter to that brand of so-called journalists.

this April is six years of marriage for them, six years of til death do us part in a world of broken vows. yes, this couple and their faith differ from mine. yes, their actions in the public eye were far more erotic and intense than I would venture with my husband between the eggs and the milk of the local grocer's.

were there issues with the words, a few rough edges regarding a metaphor or two? were they explicit to the nth degree? yes, and yes again. but in this world, promoting it all before and nothing but ice and high collars afterward, that love is refreshing and inspiring.

there is no shame in nakedness. there is no shame in that passion, that marital lust that flows when skin touches skin and eyes meet. I'm no Beyonce, and he's no Jay-Z. but there's music when we meet that rivals theirs in beauty. when I get behind the door with my husband and I hear that latch click, there's no more veils there.

and you won't be hearing any apologies from me. you might just hear a little Beyonce.