Phone Photos of my Published Poem





Notes: I wrote this after reading the poem “Saints” by Amy Gerstler. That’s why after the title it says “After Gerstler” – something I learned to do in my poetry class this semester. I give Gerstler credit because it is modeled after her theme as well as her style. This is a prose poem, meaning it isn’t written in stanzas. In terms of theme, I was trying to argue with the idea that to be considered a saint (in the Catholic tradition) a person has to have lived an exemplary life but also have certain miracles attributed to their name. I think miracles should have a broader definition, and I mention some of that in this poem. It was a fun exercise, and I’m thrilled that the magazine chose to publish it.


It finally happened . . .


I used to disagree when I heard writers say something like this:

If you’re a writer you’ll know it because you won’t be able to NOT write. A writer has to write, no matter what.

I mean, I understood what they were saying, but I had never felt that way. I wrote because it was a way to communicate but not because I loved it, not because I had no other choice. But this semester something changed. And you know what happened to me?

Poetry happened to me. I can’t explain it, really, because I know for so many people poetry is just something weird. It used to be that way for me. But I just fell in love with poetry this semester.

And I finally experienced that “true” writer’s moment: I was sitting at the library yesterday trying to read and I had to stop. I had to pull out my notebook and write. And you know what I had to write? I had to write a poem. I had to.

That’s never happened to me before. But I liked it.

What’s really crazy is how fateful it sort of seems that I’ve discovered this new love. I only enrolled in this graduate seminar in poetry because my classmates wanted to take something together. We agreed on American Lit: 20th Century Women’s Poetry. At the time, I could think of about a hundred other topics I would have rather covered in American lit.

And now I write poetry.

Do you like poetry? Or what awesome thing have you discovered by surprise lately?



We Thought You’d Ride a Horse


When you entered the Holy City triumphant. Our

trouble was with the government, didn’t you know?

We expected swords and hammered shields, or at least

a Warrior King on a regal steed. Rescue! we cried.

Save us! we chanted. Our Liberator would ride

in our defense and mount a brave battle against

our captors, a clash of blood. We did not expect

a donkey. Gentle beast of burden, slow enough

for a child, round hooves on palm branch carpet.

We did not expect surrender. We did not expect

your blood. But now, remembering, we are grateful.

For You, on a donkey.



Lent This Year


I thought I’d be better at Lent this year. After all, nearly every day I am lucky enough to walk past one of the most beautiful cathedrals ever (St. John’s at Creighton University). It’s also my first year here in Omaha which is rich in Catholic traditions. Every bar and restaurant sign has fish advertisements this month!

But I’m not being nearly as innovative as I was last year in observance of Lent. My Lent this year is quieter and more personal, but I think it’s working just the same. This year I decided to commit myself to reading a small devotion (from N. T. Wright) and a selection from Matthew’s Gospel (see YouVersion for the Bible reading app I use – it even sends friendly reminders before the day escapes you). It’s been a gift.

As I am fully entrenched in a graduate program in English (literature and creative writing), I take in a lot of words. Hundreds of pages a week usually. Some of it fascinating; some of it just plain old work.

But the words I read in that short section of the Bible each night are different. There’s no denying it. And even as spiritually-bent as I have always been, I’ve never made Bible reading a daily habit. So I decided it was time. In the middle of all these words, I thought I actually needed a few more of a very specific kind.

What I realized about myself was that I made time for certain things almost each night and each morning: As I lay in bed, either waking up or winding down, I’d scroll through facebook and twitter for 10-15 minutes. I didn’t intend to make this a habit, it just became one because I wanted to stay in touch with my friends, family, and non-related but still interesting strangers. I had time for that. So I knew I had time for the Bible app.

This new habit hasn’t required much from me (again, seriously, YouVersion makes it so easy) but it has added greatly to my sense of wellness in my soul.

A person needs that when they find themselves swimming around in the word oceans of philosophers, literary critics, poets, and short fiction writers.

I like the ocean, but it can be tiring if you don’t have a raft to hang onto where you can catch your breath now and then.

*photo: clarkmaxwell

How to Fall Asleep

from the wisdom of the ancient King Solomon:

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Psalm 127:3, emphasis Macy’s

WinterNapOne of my favorite indulgences on a day off is an afternoon nap.

Recently, as Macy and I were snuggling into our own blankets on top of the made bed (this, by the way, is the best way to nap, in my opinion) – she under purple fleece with a reverse side of lady bugs and butterflies, me under the gold of Old Mizzou – I asked her if she needed anything.

“No. I know how to go to sleep. First, you just pretend to be asleep and then – you are!”

I have to admit, I take an odd sort of joy from the fact that I have four children and four excellent sleepers. Sleeping through the night in your own bed cannot be overestimated in terms of general sanity and life-giving rest. The first night I brought my first child home from the hospital, I put him in his own room in his own crib and I have rarely wavered from this stand. When life got a little more crowded and newborns were best served by sleeping in my room for a season, I moved them out as soon as it was possible. (And, yes, this usually meant a couple of nights of crying it out. I’m that mom. But I sleep well!)

One of my clearest childhood memories is of my dad standing beside my bunk bed (I had the top) teaching me how to go to sleep. I know he didn’t tuck me in every night because of his schedule, so I can’t imagine that this happened more than once. But I remember it perfectly (my version of it anyway).

“Close your eyes. Now starting at the top of your head I want you to make each muscle relax, like Jello. Soft and slow. First your neck. Now your shoulders. Do you feel it? Make them melt. Like your sinking into your bed. Now your arms . . . ”

All the way down to my toes. By the time we got there, I was almost gone. I’ve refined the technique over the years until now I can almost put my head to the pillow and be asleep just minutes later.

So when Macy shared her wisdom on how to fall asleep, I felt proud. I don’t know if I’ve ever specifically coached her like Dad coached me, but she figured it out.

Think I should patent our method? I know it’s probably easier when you are a kid – when responsibilities and pressures are quieter and smaller. But maybe this is another reason God refers to us as his children. Maybe we should act more like it at bedtime. Reminding ourselves of his provision and the uselessness of our worry.

I know so many people who have trouble sleeping. For all of them (and maybe for you), I pray the rest of the beloved.





One Word 2013: Devotion


I once read that it takes one thousand hours of practice or study to become an expert at anything (such as a musical instrument, for example). That’s a lot of hours. Years, actually. But the point of the writer was that becoming an expert in something (almost anything) is what it takes to be able to not just consume in this world but to be able to contribute as well. I’m interested in that.

My 2013 One Word is Devotion. I’m finally embarking full-time into my graduate career in English. I want to be devoted to my studies.

One of the sports radio guys I listen to on the way to work each morning was talking recently about how successful people never live lives of balance. The top coaches and athletes aren’t balanced. They focus their time and attention on what matters to them – usually winning games or championships.

Graduate school isn’t my championship. I’m excited about it, but it isn’t my life’s deepest desire.

My championship is a life well-lived. I want my husband to feel loved and my kids to be likeable. (That’s one of my famous parenting lines: “I know you don’t like to be disciplined, but I’m trying to help you. I want people to like you. I want you to have friends.”)

Still, I believe devotion means I put in the hours where I want to be an expert: as a parent, a wife, and a student. It goes without saying that every hour of every day I’m practicing to be an expert Jesus follower. Everything else I do fits into that pursuit.

But you can’t be an expert in everything, so I won’t be working on devotion in all areas. I’m not going to shoot for balance in this season because I do want to be an expert in some things. But I can’t be an expert in everything. There are only 24 hours in a day and I sleep during some of them.

The nature of the area in which you are trying to become an expert has a say on the degree of your devotion, too. In my case, the English fellowship is renewable for two years as long as I maintain acceptable progress. That means I need to squeeze all those hours into a short length of time. Parenting is a little different. I have the rest of my life to become that expert. I can spread it out a bit more over the years. (Assuming, of course, acceptable progress.) When Claire was a premature infant with health complications, it required a different kind of devotion from me to become an expert in her care. I didn’t even think about pursuing my degree back then.

These are things I probably won’t be devoted to in this season: cleaning my house, eating vegetarian, running a marathon, or creating enough clever crafts to fill an Etsy store. Worthy pursuits? Absolutely. And maybe I’ll be able to put in a few hours toward some of them, but I won’t be able to become an expert. Not right now.

Maybe in another season.

But this season is about devotion to my studies and to the five people I live with. Naming my devotion helps me prioritize. When someone is devoted to something you don’t have to ask her what it is – you know by watching what she does, where she gives her time, and what makes her smile.

Here’s to a year of Devotion.