when copper leaves fall

When copper leaves fall, I hear winter whisper ice. Specters loom near of empty-limbed trees and barren months. Melancholy comes calling.

But I hold her at arms' length, leaning into rhythms of the calendar's turn, the steadfastness of the liturgical year. 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Looking neither ahead nor back, I receive this day's blessings with gladness.

an ongoing record of God's goodness, #351-374

the return of Family Dinner, table for 13
good-natured laughter and becoming known
red wine season (Wait, is that not a thing?)

crunchy topped muffins, warm baked by Jim
spicy pumpkin soup with coconut, lime, and still-fresh basil
pumpkins on the porch, ready for roasting

the Fugitive Mud Run at camp and
the kids' godfather in town all week to set it up
old friends back to run and lend hands
900 adults remembering how to play like children

rainy playdates
lunch al fresco all the same

warm mugs of coffee
loose tea steeped and steaming

brand new Mumford & Sons
and Avett Brothershappy sigh.

James rockin' himself right out of diapers
his new uniform: shirt/hoodie, underpants, babylegs, and quite often, Dylan's shoes

babes in rain boots
chickens pecking
hues of gold and fire

turning over new leaves as they fall
embracing autumn like a new year, an invitation to discipline and change
31 Days to Practice Peace (more on that soon)

What is blessing you this weekend?

Shared with Ann and the community at One Thousand Gifts.
Amazon affiliate links. As we do:) 6E6BC48ES6TU


the bricolage peace {guest post by J.R. Goudeau}

Friends, I am so pleased to welcome J.R. Goudeau to this space. She and I began a spirited conversation online about the messy work of peacemaking, and I invited her here to share more. J.R. works alongside refugee-artisans with the Hill Country Hill Tribers, the non-profit she directs in Austin, TX. Please show her some love (and ask her questions!), and be sure to visit both HCHT's beautiful fair trade shop and J.R.'s powerful blog.

[Trigger warning for war trauma and rape.]

I never spent much time thinking about peacemaking. Why should I, when war was just
something I read about it books? I had some vague ideas of how bad it was, but I’m an academic,
a reader, a tourist.

And then one fall day I fell in love with a group of Burmese refugees.

It was love at first sight; it was coming home and community all at once. I had lived for two
summers in Thailand and visited a refugee camp. I recognized the faces and feel of that unlikely
band of travelers at a fall festival in Austin. I had the most basic sense that there was some sort
of trouble in Burma. (Or Myanmar? What did we call it? What had happened? And who was that woman under house arrest who won the Nobel Peace Prize?)

We didn’t start with war, not at first. We started with weaving and English. Because they
wanted income and they wanted a voice, we did what we could to find both. We taught them words as they wove their futures and their past together in bright hot-pink-and-teal or red-and-orange designs.

Over the last five years, I slowly filled in my knowledge of what war does to people through my friends. When we picked up scarves and bags, when we sat down to piece together necklaces, over dinner and babies, they told us stories: fathers killed by land mines, junta who burned down villages; neighbors raped while they hid under bushes; babies born in burnt out villages, scooped up while the still-bleeding mother ran for her life from the army who wanted to kill.

I became familiar with regions and ethnic disputes. I learned to say Burma because the junta that killed their families and tore apart their lives changed the name of their country to Myanmar. My eyes teared up at the sight of a freed Aung Saan Suu Kyui.

I learned what one man on a hunger strike can accomplish in the name of God. I sat at the feet of master peacemaker who protested the persecution of his people and lived to tell the tale. I watched him bring his wife home and cried as he stroked her white hair for the first time in years.

In my small pocket of Austin, I glimpsed war through my friends. But theirs is not the story of war. It is the story of peace. It is the story of new roots and new lives, of new births and new languages, of new seeds of hope planted in strange new soil.

The peacemaking that I see is artistic and creative. The peace my Burmese friends make is woven out of scraps and memories and whatever is at hand. They are experts at scrounging and finding just what they need. There is a French term for art that is made out of these leftovers and random materials: bricolage.

Bricolage is the type of peace my artisan friends weave.

The peacemaking that I see looks like homemaking. It’s the smell of the mustard drying on the apartment rail. It’s a tiny diaspora of ten apartments around a courtyard with a dirty swimming pool in the middle. It’s the odor of traditional dinner, garlic and rice and chicken, wafting out an open window every night.

Their peacemaking is faith-based. It is people who have loved God longer than I have been alive, teaching us from the depths of their wisdom. It is a faith that binds a group together in ways our privileged churches can only dream of. The fruit of missionaries who journeyed to Burma in generations past is alive in small neighborhoods in Austin. These hill tribe Christians rely on a God who has truly been with them in prison and in darkness, in hunger and in great distress.

Their peacemaking is working hard. It is income. It is not just sitting down over dinner to chat; ours is a friendship of sweat and labor. It is a woman who would die if she thought I viewed her as a charity case. It is respecting the artist’s eye and listening to her artistic voice.

My role in this bricolage-type of peacemaking is that of the artist’s assistant. I will be perfectly frank: I have had other ideas. I thought at one point that I might be the peacemaker herself. I envisioned getting to the root of the problems. I thought that by helping them get money and educate their children I was really going to do some good in this world.

I have been in love with the idea of myself as a peacemaker.

But most of my big ideas fall flat. They have moved suddenly, all but one artisan, just when we were ready to grow. They received their paltry paychecks with stoic faces in dark rooms lit by one cold bulb. They were still hungry, still in want.

My big ideas fade when I realize—I have no sense of what war means. And therefore I cannot truly understand peace. My privileged life and happy home bar me from the suffering that truly needs peace. And that is OK. My role isn’t to make peace; it’s to witness the process. I realized a couple of years in, if I made this about me, if I were the peacemaker who wanted to be blessed, I was missing the entire story.

Instead, I learned to listen and assist. I watched in amazement as they settled in and created spaces that include me but are not made by me. They minister to me with their hospitality and open arms. They taught me to weave, literally, but also to watch in joy as they weave their new lives with artistic flourish.

And I learn that the true art of peacemaking isn’t rushing in with cameras blazing and triumphant songs on the soundtrack. It is going to the same apartments day after day, sharing watermelon or spicy noodles, listening to stories, respecting artists. It is listening. It is loving. It is repeating those habits until they become ritual, until they become prayer.

The bricolage peace my friends create is an artistic masterpiece. I assist the masters in their craft every day. And like all art, it changes the way I view the world every time I see it.

Photographs by Kelsi Williamson

J.R. Goudeau is the Executive Director and co-founder of Hill Country Hill Tribers and a grad student in English literature. When she’s supposed to be working on her dissertation, she can usually be found writing about books, babies and Burmese refugees at Love Is What You Do or on Twitter.


it's been years since my last (tv) confession

It's gets a little serious up in here, doesn't it? If you've met in person, you know that I laugh loudly and can be a bit of a goof. It's not all theology and poetry. I don't spend all day spouting off about feminism or the broken, beautiful Church.

We live mostly within the ordinary rhythms of parenting little people. James turns three next month, and Dylan will be five after that. We read and cuddle. We hit the Y and pre-school drop-off. We potty train and play outside. We draw and spell and swing and mediate conflict. Oh, how we mediate conflict.

We remember how to cook for ourselves, to eat in a civilized manner after a summer of dining hall sloppy joes, standing on benches singing You! Can't Ride in My Little Red Wagon! and Praise The Lorrrd, Praise Praise The Lorrrrrrrd!

At the end of most days, Jim and I put them to bed with kisses and Come Thou Fount, crash on the couch, and watch tv. I wish I could tell you that I read lots of books, but it's mostly just the ones people send me. I rack up library fines like it's my job, because let's be honest: I've always loved tv, and in this season of life, finishing anything in one hour is closer to my speed and desire.

So! Imma let you in behind the veil. I mean to be myself here, and I don't live all in my head or spirit. Far from it.

We're gonna have a little pop culture confessional, we are, and you dear friends are invited to confess your own favorites in the comments.

Shall we?

  • Mad Men 
  • How I Met Your Mother 
  • Downton Abbey 
  • Parenthood 
  • Happy Endings 
Secret Love
  • Bachelor/ette 
  • Pretty Little Liars 
  • Gossip Girl 
Old Flame
  • Veronica Mars
  • Friday Night Lights 
  • Alias
  • Dawson's Creek 
  • American Dreams 
  • Arrested Development 
  • Freaks and Geeks 
First Love, Never Forgotten
  • My So-Called Life

Your turn. What are you watching? What do you love? What do you hate that you love? What do you miss? Do you know anything about the new fall schedule? Anything worth keeping an eye on? Anything good on Netflix? (Sherlock! Season 2 just added!)

Share with full assurance of confidence that it's just between you, me, and the Internet;)


the Midwife of Hope River {giveaway}

The Midwife of Hope River is the first fictional offering from memoirist and real-life baby catcher, Patricia Harman. Friends, I loved this book, a captivating amalgam of some of my favorite themes and interests: natural childbirth, history, homesteading, radical politics, and more.

You know I love Pittsburgh something fierce. History was one of my majors, and American urban/labor/immigrant history interests me most. Give me Pittsburgh history, and I will nerd out. (Rick Sebak documentaries are my happy place.)

The book's protagonist, Patience Murphy, lived in Pittsburgh during the early Jazz Age, rubbing shoulders with the time's most famous artists and organizers. Parts of the story look back on Patience's life there and elsewhere, but most of it focuses on her life in rural West Virginia after the market crashes and the Depression begins.

Patience is not her real name. She left Pittsburgh after tragedy, and is starting anew in Appalachia. Her mentor is dead, and she is alone with memories of much loss. She misses the city and feels out of place in her new home (with her two dogs named after anarchists!) but carves out a crucial community role for herself as midwife.

If you are interested in midwifery or medicine, you will love this rare glimpse into what birthing was like eighty years ago. If that's not your bag, the book's many birthing scenes could prove a bit intense, but it's still fascinating. Harman provides an interesting look at best practices through a narrative lens, and it's cool to see the historical context for aspects of natural birth that aren't trendy but, in fact, traditional.

Racial tension, rugged rural life, healing, spirituality, and friendship are the other threads that weave throughout The Midwife of Hope River. The story and characters are compelling, and I highly recommend it, particularly if you appreciate americana and women's history.

Want to win a copy? Leave a comment with your own book recommendation, and I'll pick a winner at random at midnight on Wednesday, September 27. (If your name is Jen Luitwieler, imma send you my own copy, because methinks this is right up your alley:)

Author Patricia Harman: website, facebook, twitter
Review and giveaway copies provided by TLC Book Tours. Opinions mine, as per always.  Amazon affiliate links. But you knew that:)


the sacrament of yes {guest post for micha boyett}

I listen for that holy stir whispering Go! and YES. I put on shoes, for today's hallowed ground is a cable bridge and well-worn path. It's cattails, grasshoppers, and small hands in mine. Wood ducks and "Look mama! I'm a hawk!" 
Micha Boyett, of Mama Monk, is hosting a series called {The Sacred Everyday}, and I'm grateful to share words there today. I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with Micha at this spring's Festival of Faith and Writing, and she is every bit the breath of fresh air in person as you might expect from the grace-filled words she pens.

I cannot wait to read the book she is busy writing (so someone sign her, quick!). Click over to read my post and stay a while for Micha's gorgeous perspective on practicing ancient faith within the ordinary rhythms of postmodern life and motherhood.

(Shared with Emily, too, for Imperfect Prose. Join us.)


Diving Belles & secondhand treasures

I've not read many short stories since my paper writing school days, but I'm remembering why I love them well. Short and sweet is certainly the speed of life now with its stolen kisses and one thousand blurry photos of littles on the move.

Diving Belles is a glorious first foray back into the genre. The debut offering of Lucy Wood, just twenty-six, is a lush and lovely bit of magical realism. (What was I doing at twenty-six? Oh yes. Latte-slinging. Again.) 

Wood's stories converge along the coast of Cornwall, and the sea looms large, a character almost in its own right. Mythical and ancient lore undergird each story. Ghosts and spirits. Mermaids. Talking birds. Invisible lovers. Enchanted houses. Shape-shifters and giants. Fanciful and strangely ordinary at all once, Diving Belles was as perfect to read on a warm beach as wrapped in down on a rainy day.

In the volume's final tale, Wood introduces the reader to drolls, mythical storytellers according to Cornwallian folklore. In Diving Belles, Lucy Wood (herself from Cornwall), proves that she has the storytelling chops to spin new tales from old threads in a manner that is familiar and fresh, a little haunted, and wholly charming.

Anyone want my (worn, somewhat sandy) copy? Leave a comment about your favorite short story or something along such literary lines, and I'll pick a winner at random on Friday, September 21.

Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours. Opinions mine. As per always;)


cape may diamonds

At home, summer's twilight smells of pumpkins
roasting, spiced. Bonfires blaze to warm encroaching
autumn in Penn's woods; red-kissed trees and goldenrod
dot bittersweet September sunsets. But here,

honeysuckle tangles wild along the way we ride
our bikes, heady like still-ripe solstice
redolent of childhood: shoulders pinked,
glistening smooth edged shells and ice cream smiles.

Sand trails traipse from bed to beach and back
around. Sun warm paths to wide-eyed wonder,
heavy lidded slumber capping days lived hot.


late-summer glory

The littles nap downstairs, worn out by sea breeze and a morning spying dolphins.

Septembers down the shore are hit or miss, but freckled shoulders and zinc-sticky skin attest that this year, we scored a home run.

From this porch perch, the Atlantic surf crashes just one block east. The salt air calls forth childhood pleasures and soul-deep quiet, so unlike the restless pace of summer camp. My heart breathes deeply, stilled.

In a few moments, the children will wake. We'll climb again into swim suits, lather sunscreen, gather pails. We'll walk that block (no strollers now!) to laugh and play and drink late-summer glory to the dregs.

shared with the community at imperfect prose.

of exile and home

When the nineteenth candle-purse-dip-christianbag-vinylart-cookingstone-jewelry-greenbeauty-scrapbook party invitation arrived, I was done. Over the brink, out the door, gone.

It wasn’t the parties per se. I like cake and you and helping out a girlfriend. But we weren’t, were we? God knows I tried so hard. Your last mass Facebook invite sealed the end, my never-friend.

Stranger and alien am I, in
search of a better country. This
world is not home and hearts break
hollow, aching exile
Eleven years, eight jobs, and two babes back, I pierced my nose on that boardwalk, not expecting to wear it long past cap and gown. Surely odes to youth in smallest silver have expiration dates, like college and adolescent rebellion.

But sometimes insurgency burns slow.

Wandering takes its toll. Seasons change
but this landscape strains horizon-wide. Do
I tarry by edict or obstinance? A chill
haunts underneath, icing tentative roots ’til
I crumble, unsteady and

That summer was our seventh in this two stoplight town, and I a blazing pyre of expectation. Weary of waiting, of planting without yield, I threw up hands in hot surrender, trading daintiest stud for pliers and one gleaming hoop.

A year later, once-angry embers glow warmly, lighting what may come to be my way out.

yet, were we ever aliens entirely?
Beloved, belonging
one to the other, all to the Father
one Body wherein Spirit
dwells. Celestial citizens of
God’s household here, holy
home among misfits, this most sacred priesthood
declaring in darkness one marvelous
light, latent hope in each heartbreak and death

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