I love telling stories, whether they're stories from my own life, fictional stories written for own my children, or poems for young readers. My hope, in every written endeavor, is to encourage readers to look up toward the Author of this story, the one we're living in.
I am a regular contributor to Story Warren; I have also served as copy editor and contributor to Deeply Rooted Magazine, as well as resident poet and book reviewer for the children's magazine, Wildflowers. My work has appeared on The Rabbit Room, Risen Motherhood, and Tirzah Magazine, as well as on my blog, Little Book, Big Story. You can read a few samples of my work below.
The Rabbit Room
The spongy ground slopes away from us to the road below, speckled with headstones that are, in turn, speckled with lichen. Already my daughter bends over one, wipes the drizzling rain off its surface, and reads a name aloud.
About this cemetery hangs a pleasant sense of disorder. Stones shaped like benches, pillars, or pensive children kneel in the grass, half-sunken where the ground beneath them has settled; moss laps at their edges. Certain monuments here are notorious, like the massive stone angel who has, with her attendant urban legends, nearly eclipsed the family she was meant to memorialize. Broken stones lean in pieces against cottonwood trees whose burly roots slowly shoulder the soil away.
Unlike another local cemetery, which styles itself as a “memorial park” and offers natural burial as well as farewell tributes, death is still a presence here, not an unpleasant thought to be sponged away with rebranding. I feel comfortable saying “tombstone” here, or “grave.” As in, “Look at this grave!”—which I call to my daughter when I find one carved to resemble a scroll draped over a log and slicked with real moisture, real moss. She is at my side in a moment and together we puzzle out the inscription.
It is beautiful, but it is not his. . . .
At 9:30, my daughter comes downstairs—she can’t sleep. She’ll be seven next month and the world is expanding around her, I can see it. She’s more aware of other people now, more aware of adult conversation, more aware, in this instance, of volcanoes.
“Volcanoes?” I repeat, settling down next to her on the couch. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “I’m just worried about them. I read about them in class today and I . . .”. I know that she sees it clearly, whatever she read that day, as real to her as I am. A definite fear shapes the set of her mouth and she gives into it for a moment before drawing away and finishing lamely, “I’m just worried about them.”
I want to offer her comfort—immediate, tangible comfort—in the shape of a promise. They’re far away. We don’t have to worry about that here. Things like that don’t happen anymore. Or the great silence-killing assurance, “It’s okay.”
But I can’t say any of that.
We live at the foot of a volcano. I can see it from our kitchen window on clear days and it is beautiful—white and graceful, edges pink and softened by the morning light. It’s such a fixture in our county that my high school was named after it. Every so often the mountain sends up plumes of steam, and the local newspaper does a piece on it, chronicling the overall health of the mountain with a particular emphasis on any strange behavior.
The mountain, gentle as it looks there slumbering, will one day erupt. . . .
On Easter Sunday when I was 17, one thought appeared unbidden and would not be chased away: Maybe I’ll pray this morning. I attended church only by parental decree. I wore knee-high Doc Martens and crimson hair in protest and sat through the pastor’s prayers with my eyes boldly open, head unbowed. I did not pray. But:
Maybe I’ll pray this morning.
There is nothing dramatic in my story—no brutal addiction, no “rock bottom,” no conversion in the backseat of a police cruiser—unless you consider the fact that the Creator of the universe unlocked some hidden chamber in the heart of a hurting girl and sowed there one thought, Maybe I’ll pray this morning, and from that seed sprung the sapling that buckled the sidewalk, shattered the concrete, and is still growing.
There was an altar call at the strip mall church that morning, and at the front of the sanctuary I knelt, with damp mascara and a half dozen others, and I prayed: God forgive me. The Lord lifted the glass dome off what I thought was the world and in rushed the dizzying winds of heaven. In rushed a new thought: God exists and he is not cruel or indifferent, but he loves me. I held that thought tenderly, the way one might hold a bird. . . .