An evening ramble in which I am reminded why I want to live in a more rural setting.

My husband cooked me dinner this Valentine’s Day, so while he and my toddler were at the grocery store, I packed up the dog and the baby for a tramp in the nearby county park. Am I glad I did. It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter, in the words of George Harrison. I’ve been stuck inside a townhouse for most of it with a toddler, an infant, a large dog, and a bold cat. February 14 brought the first true sunshine and blue skies we’ve seen in weeks.

Usually on such a lovely but muddy evening, I would think I should take the baby and the dog for a walk in the park, but I don’t want to pack up the car seat and the diaper bag and get the van muddy and worry about it getting dark and maybe I’ll just watch this Colbert Report rerun instead. I’m glad I didn’t give myself enough time to think. I just jammed my feet into galoshes, grabbed what I needed to bring with me (living creatures and otherwise) and left the house before I had time to talk myself out of it.

I felt free for the first time in weeks.

The park was empty, the views were wide, and God was there. Stiff breezes carried the smell of spring at their back – wet rain, damp earth, roots beginning to stir. Piles of clouds towered and glowed gold in the late sun. My dog, usually a loveable nuisance at best in our smallish house, was a trustworthy friend in the darkening hills. The baby was at peace. I was at peace. I didn’t want to go home.

My husband and I have always dreamed of owning a little piece of land out in the middle of nowhere one day, somewhere quiet and beautiful and a little wild. (He’s thinking Alaska, I’m thinking northern Baltimore County.) It’s easy to get caught up in the drudgery of small spaces and forget how quickly I can still leave all of that and go find a bit of open beauty. It’s also easy to forget how necessary it is for me, how much more contented I am when I breath clean, cool air and feel the long rays of evening light speed across my face.

So this is for Evan – I remember what we dreamed about that night on a porch in West Virginia, and I still want it. Until we get there for good, we can still find wild spaces around the corner from townhouse neighborhoods and pockets of quiet hiding between gaps in the suburbs.


A little bit I’ve learned about marriage in the little bit of time I’ve been married. Part one of many.

My husband is a type A personality. I’m a type Z. He’s a confronter. I’m a hider. He’s a doer. I’m a sleeper.  Marriage pushes these wildly differing traits of ours to the forefront of each others’ attention, often uncomfortably but not unnecessarily.

It’s taken me this handful of years to learn that arguments and disagreements that must be got through in order to come to consensus on the important things in our relationship – finances, child-rearing, careers – are not fun and probably never will be. But it’s so vital for me, a person who avoids confrontation and unpleasantness at all costs, to accept the difficulty of the conversations as a way of loving my husband. I can’t run away from or sugar-coat the very real, get-your-hands-dirty work of living life. Marriage, like anything worth doing well, requires damn hard work sometimes.

Love is not just a feeling. It is an active choice we make every instant. Grace is the gift that comes out of that choice. We are each the rock against which the other tumbles, our rough edges becoming smooth, our dull surfaces beautiful, our life together becoming graceful.

Inspiration going into the week: Rainer Maria Rilke

Last week was a hard week. I was broken in every way – unable to find patience for my children and understanding for my husband, unwilling to do the work in front of me given me to do. This week, I’ve gathered up the broken pieces of myself to start again. This poem has always helped me to gather all the bits of myself back together when I feel shattered by inadequacy. May it do the same for you.

The Book of Pilgrimage, 11.2

I am praying again, Awesome One.

Your hear me again, as words

from the depths of me

rush toward you in the wind.

I’ve been scattered in pieces,

torn by conflict,

mocked by laughter,

washed down in drink.

In alleyways I sweep myself up

out of garbage and broken glass.

With my half-mouth I stammer you,

who are eternal in your symmetry.

I lift to you my half-hands

in wordless beseeching, that I may find again

the eyes with which I once beheld you.

I am a house gutted by fire

where only the guilty sometimes sleep

before the punishment that devours them

hounds them out into the open.

I am a city by the sea

sinking into a toxic tide.

I am strange to myself, as though someone unknown

had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

It’s here in all the pieces of my shame

that now I find myself again.

I yearn to belong to something, to be contained

in an all-embracing mind that sees me

as a single thing.

I yearn to be held

in the great hands of your heart–

oh let them take me now.

Into them I place these fragments, my life,

and you, God–spend them however you want.

Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours

translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Brief silence, via my morning cup of coffee.

This is how I wake up every morning:

A little body in snug pajamas is wedged between my husband and me; an even smaller body is tucked under my arm. Soon the bigger of the small bodies starts wiggling and squirming and making the smaller one laugh. Then my husband is up and off to work, and the demands begin. Both little bodies desperately need the first diaper change of the day. The smaller is crying loudly but without words for a bottle, the bigger is begging with words for a “snacky bar” (granola) and “kid’s coffee” (warm milk with vanilla and sugar) over and over until I finally –  and literally – drag my own adult body out of bed to attend to the little ones’ needs. With the baby on my hip I ready a bottle, make my son’s breakfast one-handed, and settle the two of them in to eat in front of PBS.

Then I have my coffee.

I need my coffee. It’s not the caffeine. Well, I’m sure it’s partly the caffeine. But more importantly, it’s a moment to retreat inside myself, find a tiny pocket of silence in which to rest fleetingly, and then emerge to take on the day. That quiet cup symbolizes the dark and fertile place where love grows. If I am to properly love my little seedlings, I must tend to my own garden first. For the rest of the day I will come second. I play, clothe, change, and bathe, tending to their needs. I even eat after them. And that’s as it should be.

I can’t fully explain how that place of silence affords such grace. I only know that if I fail to grasp it, we are all the worse for it. And if I let myself rest momentarily in that quiet place, I am somehow able to get through the day, however imperfectly.

In the face of disappointment…

“There is a lie that drags us/beating and pulling into disappointment.”

What Happens when the Heart Just Stops, The Frames

“Bless the Lord, my soul. All my being, bless His holy name!

Bless the Lord, my soul. Do not forget all the gifts of God…”

Psalm 103:1-5

I found out today that I didn’t get an editing job I was really counting on getting. I mean, really counting on getting. It seemed like fate that I should get this job. We need the money, and I’ve been praying really hard. Right after I started praying, this opportunity came along. It had to be God, right? I took the editing test. I thought I did well. I didn’t think I aced it, but I certainly thought I performed well enough to be trained according to this particular journal’s style. My emails to the company exuded confidence in my abilities. My conversations with friends exuded confidence in my abilities.

Instead, I received an email containing this line: “In general, your test did not reveal expertise in standard editing marks, an ability to query authors, proficiency in grammar rules to improve text, and basic familiarity with scientific terms.” It still hurts to re-read that. I can – and did – make excuses to myself and others about not being formally trained as an editor, that I was new to the science field, etc, etc, blah blah blah. Under it all is that punch-in-the-stomach blow of rejection, and it just hurts.

So, ok. That’s the temptation. To give into the immediate hurt and believe that I’m a failure, that I’m not good at this, that I was never meant to be a writer or an editor and I might as well stop fooling myself and give up. And the greater temptation is to discard my foolish notion that God actually had a plan for me, that getting this job was His will. That He actually wanted to give me something that I wanted.

A friend once said that Psalm 103, rather than being an exultation, was a command. That sometimes we need to order our souls to bless God. The hard part is having faith when you don’t get the answer you think you are going to get. I thought God had this job for me. He may or He may not. Who knows why things you think you are sure of do or don’t come to pass? Maybe I’d hate editing medical journals. Maybe I’m supposed to focus more on my kids and my home. Maybe I’m supposed to put all my efforts into this blog, which will be discovered by some bigwig in the publishing industry who wants to give me a book deal (did you hear that, God?)

I doubt myself easily. I’m quick to believe the bad and reluctant to believe the good. Unlike my husband (and my biggest cheerleader) I don’t always believe that anything’s possible so long as you don’t give up. And somewhere deep down, I don’t always believe that God is a God who wants to give me good things, things I want, work I’m good at doing.

So, my little soul, I command you, BLESS the Lord. All that is within me, BLESS His holy name. Editing job or not.