backup and company

Clicking the belt, I cranked up
my girl Ani; sweet catharsis in the car solo.
Child seats empty of all but crumbs
mind not volume or swears
i know i can't be the only
whatever i am in the room 
Virginia bound, my college roommate's wedding
and our alma mater, Hark upon the gale!
whispered me back in time

to Lodge parties and dancing til morning
in tiny tops and black boots.
I didn't know I was beautiful
but damn, was I loved
so why am i so lonely
why am i so tired
from the top of my white girl head
to the bottom of those dancing shoes.
I never could salsa like a natural
(and didn't dare the tinikling)
but that hardly mattered
i need backup
i need company
i need to be inspired
Some say faith is what connects
but I'm sure it's passion: drive and 
heart, enthusiasm unbridled, 
the freedom to be ourselves

I miss you, my fiercest backup, 
loudest company, and
most earnest inspiration


the year of the gadfly {giveaway}

The Year of the Gadfly is author Jennifer Miller's first foray into fiction, and it captivates right from the start. Budding journalist Iris Dupont is fourteen and grieving. Her parents relocate the family after catching her

having a conference with my spiritual mentor, Edward R. Murrow. (And yes, I knew he'd been dead for forty-seven years, but why should a person limit here interlocutors to the living?) And because there was no "What To Do When Your Daughter Talks To Dead Journalists" chapter in the myriad self-help books my mom had been reading. she shipped me straight off to the good doctor...
I'd had a "very difficult year" (hardly breaking news to this reporter), and I needed a chance to heal. So off we went to my very own Magic Mountain.

Magic Mountain turns out to be a prep school with a storied past and plenty of secrets. Iris' science teacher, Mr. Kaplan, knows more than he lets on, and the house where the Duponts are staying harbors its own sad history. An underground newspaper and a secret society offer intrigue, danger, and a way for Iris to hone her investigative skills and find her footing.

Gadfly is a compelling mystery. It explores high school alienation themes quite capably and doesn't shy away from the uglier sides of exclusion and loss.

Iris is a smart and worthy protagonist. The poignant, funny, and true-to-life narrative kept me up all night on a transcontinental red-eye; mine was the only reading light lit for hours.  I recommend it heartily.

Although the story centers around high school, it's worth mentioning that I wouldn't characterize it as YA fiction. It certainly could appeal to teens (and doesn't contain any "R-rated" elements that I can remember), but it's really just good fiction, period.

If you live in the US or Canada and would like to read The Year of the Gadfly, leave a comment with your own fiction recommendations, and will choose a winner on Friday 5/25 at 11:59 PM. Good luck!

Author Jennifer Miller Website | Facebook | Twitter
Thanks to TLC for providing review and giveaway copies.


Un-silencing Eve | Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

image by naked pastor on etsy
Months later found me perched atop a wooden bench, thighs sticking to paint in the thick August heat.  Bibles open, we read through the Garden of Eden narrative, giggling over descriptions of being naked and unashamed. No body issues at all? Must be nice.

Sixteen years of Sundays meant I'd heard it all before: Creation, Fall, Redemption. I could teach this lesson in my sleep. Those first three chapters in Genesis were well-tread territory:

To the woman he said,    “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
   with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
   and he will rule over you.”

There it was: The Curse. But my camp counselor explained it in a way countless Sunday school teachers had not. She said that sin is the root of inequality between men and women.  The Curse is not God's desire for how things should be but an explanation for how sin wrecks relationships in a post-Fall world.

A truth bomb exploded in my heart, right there in the dining hall.


In Genesis 1, God creates Eve and Adam in his royal image, charging the couple to govern over the animals and tend the earth together.  Their calling was shared, their authority equal, and it was very good.

Only two chapters later, they eat the forbidden fruit, and creation's order is compromised. Characterizing Eve's sin as disobedience misses an integral part of the story: her sin was also a failure of leadership.

The serpent was crafty, but Eve was in charge. When it began casting aspersions (Did God really say...?) and spinning lies (you will be like God), Eve could have expelled the serpent from the garden right then and there. God had, after all, given her authority over the animals. But Eve harbored the lie. She chose words of death over God's life-giving promise, trading paradise for exile, estrangement, and suffering.

The serpent is the first in a long line of liars peddling deception and bent on destroying our relationships with Creator, community, and self. A cursory glance at any screen or newsstand reveals that the Deceiver has been working overtime, fanning flames of jealousy, insecurity, and disorder.

Yet with one empty tomb, Jesus disarmed the powers of sin and death. Christ the Word speaks redemption over every battered heart, shattered relationship, and system rank with decay, and he invites us into that same reconciling ministry. A post-Resurrection world calls the daughters of Eve to remember our identity as image-bearers of One who makes all things new and to govern creation as God intended.

Fashioned by the God of all goodness and beauty, Eve's value--and ours--is unchained to physical appearance or sexual desirability. Worth is not won through performance or achievement, despite the popular lie anchoring the mommy wars and shackling young girls to the hamster wheel of perfectionism. A woman's value is rooted firmly in the imago-dei, her heart uniquely crafted to reflect God's glory, creativity, and strength.

Bearing the image of One who fashioned life from word and clay, women create and nurture life, not just with our bodies but our voices, too.  Speaking truth to power like the prophetesses of old, we expose and untangle lies, push back the effects of the Fall, and give birth to another Way.

Where Light shines, shadows flee. And Eve finds her voice.

my other #mutuality2012 offerings:
full hearts
faith-filled & feminist: theology, poetry, ministry, activism


Un-silencing Eve | part 1

image by naked pastor on etsy.

The florescent bulbs hummed and flickered atop the dim hallway. Shifting my weight, I nervously smoothed my hair.

"Red." Garish suit in hand, the girl hurried away without a sound. I took one cautious step into her vacancy at the line's head.

The fifty-something teacher sized up my adolescent frame, gaze penetrating. Rounding my shoulders, I crossed my arms protectively, willing my body to disappear. Embarrassment burst into full flare upon my cheeks.

He never looked me in the eye.

"Blue," he barked, shoving the navy swimsuit into my reluctant arms.

In the locker room, I struggled to pull the skirted relic over narrow hips. The stiff fabric suggested origin in a generation older than spandex, and I tried not to think of the dozens (hundreds?) of bodies made to squeeze into it before mine. Lack of stretch meant that it hung awkwardly in places that should certainly have been snug. I was almost grateful for its skirt.

Angry scars burned brightly over exposed shoulders and back, and I longed to hide behind familiar cotton and cover. Instead, locking away clothes in a locker, I fell into line barely dressed behind girls with clear skin and shy smiles.

Red and Green were smaller than Blue, which didn't look quite so grotesque on the blonde who filled it out better than I. Sucking in my stomach, I thanked God I wasn't Yellow. Or Purple.

A whistle pierced the thick, chlorinated air, declaring a ceasefire to the Body Olympics, if only for a moment.

"Quiet, girls!" the teacher growled. "Get on the ground and stretch."

In the swim version of a paper hospital gown.

"Twenty crunches.  NOW."

The pool, the last place on earth I'd wanted to be, suddenly looked like a heavenly oasis.

We sat down carefully on the hard pool deck, gingerly tugging the misshapen suits and willing against hope for them to sprout elastic--or wings. The teacher ordered strangely gymnastic stretches and we mutely obeyed, bending our bodies according to his gruffly hollered whims.

Twice a week, between Honors English and lunch, we lined up at that pool office, subjecting ourselves anew to the teacher's predatory gaze. At no point did any of us, say, Screw this. You can make me swim, but I'll wear my own damn suit. One that covers my lady bits so middle-aged creepers can't catch glimpses during coerced sets of lunges on tile.

No, we remained silent and did what we were told.

I would not make that mistake again.

{Part 2  is cheerier, I promise.}

shared with imperfect prose. join us, won't you?


the smitten word | gay marriage! extreme mom! edition

{good reads, shared}

It's been quite a week, y'all.  

I haven't posted links in a while, but as the internets exploded sometime between Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage and TIME's mother-shaming magazine cover, it seemed a worthy week to bring it back.  Shall we?

Kathy Escobar:  unless we’re all free, none of us are free.

christians should be leading the way on equality in absolutely every area, yet we all know that on the whole, we are lagging behind, stuck in white privilege & imbalanced power & segregation and all kinds of things that are not reflective of the kingdom of God Jesus called us to create.

The Mommy Wars are not about parenting styles. The Mommy Wars are about experts - and consequently the mothers who are looking to these experts for guidance during a fragile and intimidating time in their lives - attempting to validate parenting choices/philosophies by marginalizing or insulting others.

Washington Post:  How the ‘war on women’ quashed feminist stereotypes

In Memoriam:  Beastie Boy Adam Yauch [MCA’s Feminist Legacy] and beloved children's author Maurice Sendak.

Tell us, what are you reading lately--or what's happening at your site this week?  

top image: MorBCN


Happy Mothers' Day from The Nields {Album Giveaway}

Friends, have I got a treat for you: Massachusetts sisters and songwriting duo The Nields are offering one reader a copy of their latest album, The Full Catastrophe.  Their song structure and acoustic melodies remind me of  Dar Williams or the Indigo Girls, and the album is a tribute to the sacred, ordinary rhythms of family life.  It is tender, true, and sure to resonate with many.

Here is a video of Ten Year Tin, a stand-out song.  Take a listen. (You may need to click through if reading via RSS.)

The title of the album comes from Zorba the Greek:  "I'm a man, so I married.  Wife, children, house, everything.  The full catastrophe."

From their press release:

the Nields sisters have created a powerful, passionate, thoughtful, humorous work that explores the crazy ride that is this insane twenty-first century idea that in a post-feminist world it might somehow be possible for a woman to raise her children, maintain her relationship and career and contribution to her community while tending to her artistic soul at the same time.

Yes, please to all of that.  The album is the duo's sixteenth, and its birth was a true labor of love, recorded in three hour chunks between carpool and spanning the course of many years.  The oldest song was written in 2006, and the album released just last month.

I don’t need the good life
I just need life
The full catastrophe
If you’ll see me that way
With my feet covered in clay
I’ll meet you back at the fruit tree.

If you'd like to win your own disc of The Full Catastrophe, leave a thoughtful comment about music, mothering, or something related.  What musicians are you listening to these days? [Giveaway closes at 11:59 PM, EST on 5/15/12. will choose a winner.]

Thanks to The Nields and Avital Nathman for hooking me up with a copy and introducing me to a beautiful band.  I'm looking forward to hearing more--including their non-eardrum rupturing children's music:)


sing thy grace

It's been one of those weeks, rife with hand-wringing, tears, and What the hell am I doing?

"Gentle discipline" feels like neither, and I'm the one punished.

My love isn't strong; my patience spills like cereal and I'm poured out.

But valleys fill first.  There is grace in hard things and sweetness in a boy who is not out to get me.  He is learning and growing and finding his way.

And I'm finding His.

{video: Although speaking in sentences is new, James learned all three verses months ago. 
We sing it, per his request, every night before bed.}

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

shared with the community at imperfect prose. join us, won't you?


chasing shadows

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

My girl is no half-hearted creature;
sweet Dylan of-the-sea, eyes to match,
wide with wonder.

Her child lens, expectant,
brims full with trust and whimsy.

But weary of wanting
and waiting...

I trade down:
buzz for breathtaking,
false for real.

Chasing shadows,
Results Guaranteed.

                                                                                                     shared with the gypsy mama.


a church disarmed | struggling toward love

"You're overreacting." "That's quite a claim. Prove it."

Perhaps invalidating others' experiences is to be expected of a callous world, but what happened to Christians lighting the darkness and standing up for the vulnerable?

When hurting people share their stories, if our first instinct is to dismiss their perspective and defend the powerful or status quo, something is terribly wrong.
  • We have a black president now. Accusations of systemic racism are a bit extreme, don't you think?
  • Lots of kids get bullied. This is really about pushing the gay agenda in our schools.
Such responses do not resemble a gospel that releases captives or lifts the humble. Doubting and silencing the voices of people who are hurting does not honor Jesus.

People do not share painful stories to provoke disunity or wage gender/race/culture war, as critics in positions of privilege often claim, but maintaining that is a surefire way to shut down conversation.

Admittedly, war rhetoric is overused and largely unhelpful in such a polarizing climate, but nevertheless, a battle is raging:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Blind insistence from the powerful that "Everything's fine" does not make it so.  This struggle is real, and the question is, will we side with worldly power or battle-bruised hearts?

In the passion drama of Christ the principalities of political, economic, and religious power were on full display...Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphus perceived in Jesus of Nazareth a threat to the existing arrangement, a challenge to the status quo of a world organized around an axis of political, economic, and religious power....The principalities and powers opposed the one who claimed to be the anointed Messiah--by murdering him!--because they had a correct instinct that Israel's Messiah posed a real threat to the way the world had always been arranged.  Jesus himself had said that in the kingdom he was bringing, "many who are first will be last and the last will be first."  So all of these men, representing the principalities and powers of the age, conspired in the execution of Jesus of Nazareth because he posed a threat to "the system." (Beauty Will Save the World)

The forces at work in the world found themselves at odds with the redemptive mission of Jesus, so they put him to death. The same systemic sin is still at play, but one major thing has changed:

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The grave could not swallow God's Anointed One. Jesus proved himself--and his way--to be stronger than sin and every kind of oppression. 

Seen through the lens of resurrection, the cross is no longer the shameful public humiliation of Christ, but the shameful public humiliation of the principalities and powers!  In the light of the death and resurrection of Christ, principalities and powers arranged around an axis of power can no longer claim to be good and just--their claim has been invalidated by the cross...In the new world order arranged around an axis of love, the government of Messiah's peace begins to take hold... 
When the church actually lives as a peaceable kingdom of Christ, it is a demonstration of the wisdom of God to the principalities and powers.  Furthermore, it's the ultimate demonstration that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not!  This is why peace and unity within the body of Christ must be regarded as absolutely sacred.  If we are not a peaceable people, we impugn the credibility of the gospel of peace.  (Beauty Will Save the World)

Peace is not found on the altar of power but the way the cross.  

Christians like to tell others (especially those with less power) to deny themselves, submit, and be humble and gracious, but don't we throw fits at the mildest slight? We're quick to claim that our rights are being trampled while purposefully distancing ourselves from injustice suffered by others, even those in our midst. (Staying "impartial" about abuse and putting "unity" above justice is not "thinking biblically" but siding with abusers.)

Can we please stop grasping at worldly power and faux grace long enough to love those who are hurting?

We don't have to agree to begin listening to each other's stories. The empty tomb proved that we can experience reconciliation this side of eternity. The world's broken ways are not inevitable, love is stronger than death, and it never fails.

If we imagined another way, could we set our hearts toward it? Could a Church divorced from power become that city on a hill, which lights the darkness and draws new worshipers to God?

A skeptical world might find a disarmed Church to be disarming.

sharing with emily and the imperfect prose community

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