When They Leave

When They Leave
by Nancy Ramsey

it is a wonder
these small sufferings
departures
separations
absences
whether for months
years
or the rest of one’s earthly days
it is a wonder how mourning
turns slow to unthought-of gladness
for fleeting awareness of the
Christ
the invitation to discern
as through glass dark
new knowing of the
Man of sorrows
His dearness
His nearness
widening the eyes of one’s heart
stretching one’s soul
strengthening one’s resolve to
persevere in this precarious pilgrimage
home

 

By God’s grace Nancy was rescued from sin at the age of twenty and writes from continued astonishment at His steadfast goodness. She is mother of three grown people with four small ones – making her a four-time Grammy winner! She is passionate about missions, the sanctity of life, adoption, soul-nourishing community, writing, and making the name of Jesus known through all the above. A Spanish teacher and sometime Bible study leader, the native Kansan makes her temporary home in the land of open sky and stunning sunsets.

A Feather in Winter

A Feather in Winter
by Michele Morin

“The feather flew, not because of anything in itself, but because the air bore it along.
Thus am I a feather on the breath of God.”  Hildegarde of Bingen

Sister Hildegarde knew
we are all
“feathers on the breath of God,”
and it’s an image I
struggle to live toward.

Today,
on this particular January afternoon,
time-bound and booted,
my feet crash through snowy crust
in a jolting cadence
as I follow my granddaughter’s delighted experiments with
cold and gravity.

Making not a dent in the snowy crust,
she travels like a feather,
her tiny lightness encased in a purple snowsuit.

Puffy and buoyant,
it catches her whenever she tumbles,
unfazed as the falling flakes that
land on our hats and our lashes.

Lord, may I, too, learn
to hover, held
on your breath,
falling forward
in blessed lightness.

 

Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles.

After Christmas

After Christmas
by Cheryl Grey Bostrom

Ache,
your velocity
rises with the drop
in my heart’s barometer.
No windbreaks here, you grow
to a howl in my mown
inner fields—low pressure zones,
short of breath because
those I love have
flown home again,
crossed state lines, and
my arms are empty.

Ache,
you swirl memory through
this hollowed home like snow,
proffer wintry options to
busy me in this
lonely weather.
You tempt me to numb you until
time can ice their visit,
dessicate our togetherness.

Blow past me, will you?
You and those evasions?
I’ll wait.
For Love will breathe
his holy Zephyr,
inflate the void,
resuscitate me with
positive pressure,
indwelling, warm,
as only He can do.

 

Pacific Northwest naturalist, photographer, and award-winning author Cheryl Grey Bostrom lives with her veterinarian husband and two irrepressible Gordon Setters in rural Washington State. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the American Scientific Affiliation’s God and Nature Magazine, for which she’s a regular photo essayist. A member of the Redbud Writers Guild, she has also authored two non-fiction books. Her debut novel Sugar Birds launches August 3, 2021. Website: www.cherylbostrom.com. Instagram: @watchingnatureseeinglife. Twitter: @cheryl_bostrom. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cgbostrom/.

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty
by Katelyn Jane Dixon

Before the beginning,
I imagine our world
as a tiny diamond
floating in space,
a rock among countless shining others.
Not special, but waiting—
little knowing she was about to be kissed awake.

I imagine You,
in all your solitary splendor.
not needing, but wanting—
leaning forward with a breath of anticipation,
blowing your first Kiss out into the void
the force of which loved our world into being
as she shattered into a million pieces of light.

 

Katelyn is a writer and photographer living in Seattle, WA. She loves cooking, keeping plants alive, and singing Disney karaoke with her husband. Through her work, she strives to weave her every day experiences of the world with truths that illuminate the paradoxical Kingdom of God.

Website: https://www.tenthousandplaces.com
Instagram: @tenthousandplaces

The Garment of Sadness

The Garment of Sadness
by Paula Peckham

Sadness is a heavy garment.
A well-made garment, with tightly-sewn seams.
We can forget—for a moment—that we wear it.
It would be easy to drown under that garment.
So easy.

But faith is persistent.
Insistent.
And it seeps through those tightly-sewn seams
one drip at a time.
Unceasing.
Relentless.

Faith
Faith
Faith
Faith
Faith is our lifeline.
We grab it like a drowning person grasps an offered hand.

Though the garment is heavy, and it weighs us down,
we grasp that lifeline, and struggle through the next breath.
We force the next step.

We search through the darkness for the tiny spark of life inside.
The spark that faith protects for us while
we grieve
and rave
and die inside.

When there is trust enough to let sadness go,

F
A
I
T
H
lifts it away and leaves peace in its place.
And we realize we can breathe again.
And smile.
Even laugh.

We leave the garment of sadness lying in a sodden heap
heavy with its soaking from our tears and horrible sorrow.
And we crawl from underneath its crushing weight.

So we wait on the LORD for that day.

We wait.
We wait.
We wait.

And when that moment arrives,
we realize by its absence how heavy that garment had been.
We realize by its absence we are free without it.

And we soar.

 

Paula Peckham is a retired math teacher. She is working on her first historical romance novel. She is a member of the ACFW, and lives in Texas with her husband.
Author website: paulapeckham.com

I Wonder

I Wonder
by Bekah Jane Pogue

I wonder, if when God designed the cosmos, did He clap his hands in gleeful delight?

Did he grin as Spirit-dust fell on sweet souls below, making its way into their essence? Shimmering and drawing one another through a familiar connection?

Did he dance as Spirit-dusted sojourners weaved and worked and noticed in others, there’s something familiar about that one. There’s a kindred light, all the while reflecting an infinite galaxy cupped in His palms?

Did these Spirit shimmers cross paths, become brighter and focused? Like flashlights searching until ah! a bright dot connects two beams?

Then another beam and another; Spirit-dust souls playing and peopling and going about their wide-open way, sensing a deep knowing that they are gathering, connecting, holding the Divine design inside, as they reach out to the next light, and together, hold hands and mirror the constellations above.

I wonder.

 

Bekah Jane Pogue is an author (Choosing REAL, Choosing REAL Devotional, and Praying Your Way Toward Forgiveness) founder of Pasture Experience Retreat, spiritual director-in-training, listener, and design enthusiast. She is most fully alive sitting on her porch listening to people share their hearts. She communicates from a space of intentionally unclimbing the Someone ladder in order that God- not she – is the one glorified. Bekah loves off-road wildflower picking, antiquing, dancing while she bakes, and exploring Nashville with her crew. She loves connecting face-to-face but her blog is where you can find her as well: bekahpogue.com. Instagram: @BekahJanePogue

The Work of The Garden

The Work of the Garden
by Michele Morin

There are no minutes in the garden–
only rows,
a measure not of time, but of task.
In the first garden, Adam was given the task of naming:
zebra and musk ox;
cheetah and gerbil.
He punched no clock, but poured out creativity, fulfilling his role.
Eve may have pruned apple trees for optimal fruition, but she wore no floppy sun hat.
There were no obligatory tick checks at day’s end.

In the garden,
without wasteful frenzy, the job gets done.
So when I say,
“I’ll weed for a half hour, and then I’ll come in and start supper,”
what I really mean is,
“Supper might be late tonight.”

And there I will be,
under a floppy sun hat,
soaking in bright afternoon rays which generate a heat amounting to
just about what the tomato plants ordered.

The beets I replanted after torrential rain are sprouting,
but so are the weeds.

And those five rows of cucumbers…
I’ll hill two of them right now, and then stand in the shade to drink water
and admire the work.

Is this how time will move and be measured in eternity?
In God’s forever garden?
When arms and legs accomplish what the heart and mind have conceived,
the hands of the clock will
tick tock
no more.

All that will matter is the work of the garden,
the work our hearts and hands were made for.

 

Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles.

In The Depths

In The Depths
by Prasanta Verma

Can we be our own worst enemies?

Do you think I haven’t said all those things to myself? Chastised myself? Assailed myself over my own mistakes?

And also these—not words spoken, but more often, those words not spoken, tongue-tied at the thought of it, because I believed lies about myself and stifled my own voice. Believed myself unworthy. For far too long.

Have I been living in some sort of purgatory? Who doles out these sentences?

Here, I shall name them for you, all of it, the wounds, the aches, the endless.

I can point to each one, name them; the scars visible to all, not hidden. Time completes the healing, after the wounds, the clotting, then sealed up, the signs of battles fought visible to all.

When walking in fields of green—I wondered—does nature taunt me, too? I felt nature taunting me with her beauty, fullness, life, imperturbable joy, insouciant existence, unconcerned for my presence, onlookers, any other creatures.

Those delicate flowers will die soon. Or get trampled upon, or destroyed by wind and rain. And then the snows will descend; a bitter cold.

But they possess life there, in wooded beauty, little living things…only living in glory for One.

And then me, walking along and disturbing the peace, with years of wanting, and thirst drying my tongue.

I was a shadow in the beauty of the place, soaking up light and letting it fill me, borrowing beauty from flowers, so I would not sink in darkness.

I couldn’t fully express what my mind wanted, way back then.

I had a naïve, youthful hope. I had known only what I had known; and limited books, limited knowledge, and confound it—a generational dysfunction that plagued me in all sorts of relationships, all sorts of living…“the gift that keeps on giving.”

But now, yes, I can express it.
It was simply what everyone else wanted. No different. No more, no less, what I was seeking.

When you find out how wrong you were, what you misunderstood, misinterpreted, and realize your own years of dysfunction seeded within that you need yanked out of you, and abuse and lies heaped on you….

Finally, one day, at some point, you wake up.

Oh, God’s grace.

My back snapped with the weight, and I woke up.

No, I said.
No.
Wrong, I said.
Wrong.

You find yourself
waking up to a world of possibility.

You no longer want to be a piece of dirt… but ironically, that is what you are.

A restored, redeemed piece of dirt.

And it’s true, real, balanced.
Dust in human form, that is.

A conduit for something holy, for something more real, more resplendent than anything else you’ve known.
A conduit for love to reach the world, despite broken limbs and inadequate voice.

What you wanted…
no, it wasn’t perfection that I sought.
Just. This.
Relationship. Love. Companionship. Friendship.
To be believed. Wanted. Heard. Loved.

When it knocks your breath out, when you find yourself stunned, silent, when you find out what was a massacred heap of lies, when your words, ideas, and thoughts were discarded like forgotten, torn pieces of cloth, when you felt boiled down to nothing, and upside down became the way you walked for so long, in confusion and swirled in a vortex of lies…

When it turns out.
When it turns.
You go out.
You go within.

You look up.

On sunny days, I still feel the spinning, because it all still exists. Massacres don’t disappear, but live on, a recurring nightmare. Aftershocks discharged from unpredictable swells of cyclonic memories. No one knows the end date of your own nightmares or nightmarish realities. Or another’s tempests and inner storms. Shredded. Insides. Heart. Life. Hope. No weather predictions are accurate. A circle doesn’t end. Continuous storms. Within. Without.

Not fully, not really living, completely, not fully myself. Not living in the full sense of the word.
As one would think. As you, in your lives, may be living. Or not be living.

My eyes, full of visions of faraway suns and moons. My desires, stirred from youthful expectation and anticipation.
I watched them wither, flounder like a fish out of water, writhing and struggling to survive, flapping and gasping on hot concrete.

Regrets. Yes, oh, too many. Let me not recount for you—regrets mostly of what was left unspoken, undone.

What ifs. They cut one open.

Stop surmising, imagining, dreaming.

Except.
Except…
for the hands of One who plunged me into waters, deep waters, where I thought I would drown, but where depths saved me, as water is what I needed.

Except.
Except…
for a gleam of hope from years of living, that one silver thread
that kept me from dying.
A golden sunrise was visible
in pains, pains of this life,
to keep my feet from slipping.

Keep two feet planted in the ground. But always looking up, hopeful.

Looking to what? Not to stars and nebulae, which have a death-wish, a finite life.

But looking to a further light, that is beyond the realm of the eye. To a hope beyond any horizon seen with once distraught, cloudy eyes, but now reflecting the light of a Love unseen.

 

Prasanta Verma is a freelance writer, poet, and artist. Prasanta was born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills in the southern U.S., and now lives in the Midwest. She has been published in Relief JournalBarren MagazineExhale Journal, Silver Birch Press(in)courage, and Tweetspeak Poetry. 

Gold and Scarlet Offerings

Gold and Scarlet Offerings
by Sue Fulmore

It begins, the leisurely arrival of fall creeping across the landscape, setting the world aglow in hues of amber, gold and scarlet. Squirrels are gathering and home-building for winter, perennials are storing energy deep in their roots for their reappearance next spring.  Growing things of all sorts are liberally spreading their seeds, guaranteeing a return after the long winter months.

The overflowing abundance of the garden has been harvested, put-up, frozen and canned.  The plot lies naked and dormant waiting for the covering of leaves and then snow. After the frenetic activity of spring and summer growth, it’s as if the world is taking a long exhale, readying itself for a good long nap.

I feel this in my body as well.  The days of gardening – cutting, trimming, digging- are coming to a close for this year. The days shorten, life begins to slow with the pace of nature.  The chill in the air has ushered in more space to breathe and to ruminate.

Richard Rohr tells us spiritual transformation follows a pattern from order through disorder and finally to reorder.[i] As we age, and travel through the various stages of life, surrendering to this process allows us to grow in wisdom, and to develop our trust muscles.  Confidence is built as we find, repeatedly, our way through disorder and arrive at a place with new vistas and possibilities.

The deciduous trees will soon begin to relinquish their leafy finery and become bare; branches exposed to the elements. If they sought to hold onto their leaves this would endanger them; their branches would break under the weight of the snow on the canopy and the trunk would not receive the life-giving moisture it needs. Life is preserved within the letting go.

Much like the trees, I recognize my need to let go – of the seasons passed, roles I have outgrown, the “normal” way of things and surrender to the process of transformation.  The discomfort of exposure makes me want to cover up or distract, to avoid the pain which comes from shedding old skins.

I find myself feeling stripped bare these days.  The life I knew is no longer.  So much has been removed, leaving me feeling vulnerable and exposed. I recently left my job and the rhythms which used to support and contain me are gone. I find myself feeling adrift, looking for an anchor, a steadying structure for my days. I feel the disordering taking place.

My children have grown and left home, wandered far in pursuit of their dreams. Intellectually I know this is the good and natural progression of things. When my houseplants no longer have space for their roots to spread, they suffer and fail to flourish.  I know this is true of my children as well.  They need space to grow, a new habitat in which to thrive.  Yet it feels like a rending, a tearing apart: slices of myself have been removed and are now miles away housed in the bodies of my children. I learn to navigate this new reality; our relationships shift and grow. As I gradually release the loss of what was, space opens up for what is yet to come.

In letting go of all I have been holding onto; I am able to release the seeds which were hidden there. Finally, they can fall to the ground to sprout and grow into the “new” I could never envision or anticipate. The latent beauty in those clenched seeds can now be released.  How much might I miss if I fail to surrender?

Is it the hiddenness of this impending season that I fear?  This time of abiding in unseen places where the difficult inner transformation takes place? Like the bulbs as they lay hidden underground, dormant but storing up energy for their blooming, this time of dormancy may be required of me as well.  There is no glory without first a burying. I am reminded of the words of Jesus,

Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.[ii]

I so often want to skip this step of growth.  I want beauty to be fully formed and blooming without the need to submit to hidden, solitary work. How hard it is to eschew the busyness of life for the uncomfortable, lonely places where real work is done. To mine the depths of the true inner self, which often gets buried under the image we show to the world, is hard and holy work. In turning away from distractions, embracing my place in the loamy ground of silence and hiddenness, I can be fed, grown, and prepared to live a life of love, to have something of value to offer the world.

What if we turned aside from the constant distractions of life, the pulling of our attention to the urgent rather than what is essential?  Making room instead for silence, reflection, and the examining of our lives? What if we took time to acknowledge the ways we have failed to love well, to confess, and ask the One who is love for help? How would we change if we counted the ways we have seen beauty and abundance? What if we embraced our status as beginners and allowed ourselves to be led? What if each day instead of listening to the clamoring of our minds, we made space for “that other larger, stronger, quieter life (to) come flowing in”[iii]? There may be nothing tangible to be seen from these times but it is here that meaningful work is happening under the surface.

At the edge of this season I feel hesitant to step off into the unknown, into what feels like chaos. There is a picture hanging in my home, of a boardwalk heading toward the sea.  I can see where the level, much-travelled path comes to an end, and the wild sand dunes and sea beckon.  Do I hang on, like my life depends on it, to all that is comfortable, safe?  Or to I throw myself into the space trusting that the safety net of God’s love is spread wide to catch me?

As the trees offer up their leaves as a gift to the earth, they will settle and form a shelter for tender roots, during the long winter. They will become part of the nourishment for soil and plants, an investment in what is yet to come. The gold and scarlet offerings are, in the end, signs of hope.

[i] https://cac.org/reorder-the-promised-land-2020-08-23/

[ii] John 12:24-25 MSG

[iii] Devo­tion­al Clas­sics: Select­ed Read­ings for Indi­vid­u­als and Groups (Richard J. Fos­ter & James Bryan Smith, Edi­tors. Harper­Collins, 1993.).

 

Sue Fulmore is a freelance writer and speaker, seeking to use words to awaken mind and soul to the realities of the present.  Some of her work has been published at Red Letter Christians, The Perennial Gen, Convivium Magazine, Joyful Life Blog, and Asbury Seminary Soul Care Community. Like a prospector panning for gold, she uses her pen to uncover beauty and truth hidden just below the surface of our lives. She is the mother of two adult daughters and lives in sunny Alberta, Canada with her retired husband. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/suefulmore/and https://www.suefulmore.com/

Home

Home
by Terri Kraus

Even when life is good, during seasons when all seems right with the world, I sometimes still experience unnamed longings. They are deep, elusive feelings, as if there is something that I know I need but is not within reach. When I sit with them, I come to understand that these longings are not for something physical, some material thing that I lack. Nor are they longings for something from another person, such as love or acceptance. I believe I am longing for a somewhere.

I am an extremely curious individual, and, since a little girl, have always wondering what’s over the next hill. In all my travels, I’ve been to many beautiful places and have seen a lot of “must see” things that had been glowingly described in my pre-trip research, but I’ve yet to find the perfection that completely lives up to my expectations. I pictured Rome’s Trevi Fountain as being out in a lovely bucolic setting, but found it confined between closely huddled ancient buildings on a narrow pedestrian street in the middle of the busy city full of the buzzing sound of Vespas speeding by. I remember the first time I saw DaVinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, after years of anticipation from my art history studies. I was so surprised that she is a relatively small painting, when in my mind’s eye she should be a lot bigger, and she was displayed well behind a rail and a thick sheet of protective glass. The experience was somewhat, well, dissatisfying. Some of Europe’s most famous well-preserved historic villages I’ve looked forward to visiting came with tacky souvenier kiosks and were often overrun by tourists, somewhat tarnishing the pristine places shown on travel sites’ photography.

I’ve come to realize that I’m longing for something this world cannot give me, that I’m a soul yearning for where I truly belong. I am longing for home.

Madeleine L’Engle, in The Rock That is Higher, says, “We’re all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.”

But Psalm 90:1-2 tells me,

Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, you are God.

As a believer, I am not completely at home here. I’m a pilgrim just passing through. The Bible calls me a sojourner, an exile, and tells me that my citizenship is in heaven. Hebrews 13:14 say, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” I have been created for a different place.

I know my true home is with God. The temporary longings of my soul can only be satisfied in Him. He is my eternal shelter—now, and in the life to come when I arrive, finally fulfilled, in the place he’s preparing for me—my perfect home, that will never disappoint.

 

After writing nine co-authored historical and contemporary novels with best-selling author/husband, Jim, Terri added her award-winning interior designer’s eye to her world of fiction with her last contemporary trilogy—the Project Restoration Series. Terri has been blessed with the opportunity to travel extensively internationally. A graduate of the University of Illinois, she taught Interior Design at the college level for eight years, and directed women’s ministries at her church for six years. Terri has served as President of Redbud Writers Guild, an international, diverse and dynamic group of 150 Christian women writers, for over 6 years. 100% Italian, she enjoys all things from the culture of her heritage. Terri is a recent empty-nester, and makes her home in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. Her devotional, Rustic Retreat: Inspirations From A Mountainside Farm, will be released by Tyndale in Spring 2021.

Website: terrikraus.com
Facebook: @krausfiction
Twitter: @1sealover
Instagram: @1sealover