Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category:

Finding Old Poems I

It’s funny how a poem can capture a particular moment, so that when you read it years later that whole period of life comes back. Here’s one I wrote when my kids (now grown or nearly grown) were little. I’ve never shared it, since I didn’t consider it a “real” poem and probably intended to revise it. Here it is:


I should be
rewriting a children’s story.
It’s due today
and my son has set a buzzer on the stove
for when I have to leave for an afternoon meeting.
Today the yard is bursting rhododendrons
like buttered popcorn.
Bees lift and hover in the pollen cups.
Instead of writing for my deadline
I am thinking about theology
of how God could infuse the yellow azaleas
outside the picture window
and my sleeping dog here on the carpet
and where the telephone pole across the street
fits into all this.
The story
is about bullies and playground power
and I’m wondering how senators cling
to a Jesus I don’t know and quote Ghengis Khan
and call it holy.
I don’t understand much beyond the asphalt
of the schoolyard
and the bees and the azaleas
and my dog.

This morning I heard the Nobel laureate who
discovered the DNA helix. He was talking
about women who may abort their babies
for frivolous reasons like eye color
but said we must use common sense and that most
people weren’t that silly and that we have to allow
silliness in some people.
Maybe he’s right and I’m ridiculous to let the bees outside
when they are trapped behind the picture window
and to call a fetus holy.
I was thinking that I won’t win the Nobel, ever
and, that being the case, what is
my purpose in the world?
I don’t play violin
like Itzhak Perlman and I don’t write
like Annie Dillard and I’m not writing now,
only observing bees and forgetting about
the buzzer on the stove
and the telephone pole
and now my dog is waking.
He looks at me
and winks.


When the weight comes down like an iron sleeve,
When your ribcage turns to lead, (more…)

Writing Difficult Books

My WIP right now is a tough one, as it takes me back to a painful time in my life, and to relationships I’m still sorting out. Today in my story journal, I made two lists. One was “What I Believed Then;” the other was “What I Know Now.” I only want to share the second list, and I share it because I know I am not the only person to have grown up with mental illness in my household. If any of this resonates for you, let me know:

What I know now is
  1. Mental illness changes people’s personalities
  2. Mental illness is…an illness.
  3. Mental illness seems a lot like an evil spell
  4. You still have to set boundaries with a mentally ill person, even if it is because of their suffering that they are behaving irrationally.
  5. It is hard to treat a mentally ill person like an adult and like a child at the same time. And sometimes it feels as if you are doing just that.
  6. Honoring a parent does not mean entering into their illness
  7. You have to find your own ground, rather than grounding yourself in your parents.
  8. Setting boundaries can create distance in relationships.
  9. Things don’t always turn out the way they “should” turn out, and people don’t always behave the way they “should” behave. This is not because there are “good” people and “bad” people. It’s because we are ALL affected by sin and death.
  10. Our job is to find and cling to God, and from that place make decisions about what we will do in relationship with others—including a mentally ill parent. Our decisions should be grounded in God, not in whether a family member will be angry or pleased with us. It is possible to say no and still be loving.
  11. Our job goes beyond self-preservation. Self-preservation is not the end goal. It may be a means to the end goal, or it may not. The end goal is to be in Christ.
  12. The mentally ill family member is not the only one behaving badly. Sometimes the crucible of mental illness in the family brings out the best or worst in other family members.
  13. A mentally ill person may still have deep wisdom to share. Mental illness does not disqualify a person from membership in the human race.