The Fitting Dance

I've been reading The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. And it is opening something in me. Last night I read about a drummer who was thought to be non-musical by his teachers. A mathematician who was deemed unpromising in math. And others who couldn't quite find their niche through the framework and direction of guides. I haven't read about any dancers who were thought to be non-dancing material.

But I think that person might be me.

The author was talking about how dancers use "muscle memory," and I thought about how I cannot copy someone else's choreography, nor even remember my own. It's like my brain is absolutely stumped. If stupid has a feeling, I've experienced it deeply when it comes to trying to memorize moves and reproduce them in some kind of predetermined sequence. My muscles, if they have memory, can't seem to remember in a conventional way.

Yet I have feelings deep inside that respond instinctively to music, that understand how to give shape to sound.

This morning I was going to exercise, and instead got caught up listening to some newly discovered music by Vassilis Tsabropoulos. Before I knew it, I'd closed the shades and begun dancing in front of the mirror. My hands became birds, then a kind of tailor pulling thread from wrists, knees, and my open mouth. It made me feel like both laughing and crying at once. I felt I could do this forever.

But I would never remember how to do it again. Not just this way. It would always be new.

Is there such a thing as an improv dancer? If so, maybe I am one. I don't know how I would grow in this. Perhaps just by shutting the door and the shades, and letting my spirit dance free.

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The Almost-Prayer of a Name

There is a certain way a child can carry on that simply *sends* a person. At least me.

This morning I feel tense from my toes on up. My Littlest has been doing *that* kind of carrying on. I am having minor fantasies of a spa with Japanese music and tropical drinks. Sighs :). Instead, I walk past Ann's book, and the calm fragility of the nest, the blue eggs, the hands extended, call to me.

I open pages to October rains, clothespins dripping grace, and I feel more like a wet puppy scratching at the back door, than a woman who is all eyes for the beautiful.

These words sit quiet on the page...

I am blessed.
I can bless.
So this is happiness.

Ann connects this almost-prayer to her name, which means "full of grace." And I stop. What is the meaning of my own name?

Barkat means blessing.

It is easier to bless in the *big* moments— money to missions, the cup of cold water to a man in Grand Central Station. Where I find it harder is right here, where the life-nest feels fragile and a voice has been grating. And a little child is —like me— growing her way towards this almost-prayer...

I am blessed.
I can bless.
So this is happiness.


Quote from Chapter 10 of the beautiful book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

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Speaking of Love Notes

Valentine 1

It is windy outside today. The warm air has collided with the cold and they are in a furious dance.

I went and stood in the back yard for a while. The snow, soft beneath my feet. The sun so warm. I thought about my girls, and how they smile, and how well they give of themselves to me.

Eyes closed, like I was standing on the edge of time itself, I accepted the day as a love note from God.

Valentine 2

Valentines by Sara and Sonia.

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Two (Dance) Steps Back


It must happen on all pilgrimages. People start walking, then something stands in their way.

Last June, as part of my ongoing art pilgrimage, I began taking ballet. I wasn't great at it, but I was making progress. I was strong and flexible and having fun. It even amused me to think about someone at my age aspiring to tutu-hood. :)

Then in the Fall I became very ill and was completely immobile for three weeks, then barely mobile for another three. I figured that when it was over, I'd go back to business as usual. So I returned to the ballet barre sometime in the late Fall.

By Christmas, I began to get discouraged. I hadn't realized what a setback I'd suffered from immobility, and had tried to keep on as if nothing had happened.

It had.

I was no longer strong and flexible, and I started to injure myself. I couldn't even sit cross legged on the floor anymore. Well, I may not be a spring chicken as they say, but I've always been able to sit any which way I like. When you can't sit according to your whims anymore, something's got to give.

So I've stopped dancing.

in the wings

Well, at least I've stopped ballet.

There is some sadness in this, and I'm not sure I'll go back. I've also realized just what a non-dancer brain I possess. It's not about grace in movement, it's about the way I can't seem to speak back with my body when I see the teacher speak with hers. I think it might be a proximity/visual thing, because I sure enjoy mirror-dancing with my Littlest (boy do we have fun).

Anyway, right now I'm contenting myself with reading books about ballet. Yesterday I read one about Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring. Somewhere in it, they noted that Graham said the body always tells the truth, and that's what she was aiming for in her dances. I'm aiming for that too. And I don't want my truth to be injury.


We'll see where this new road goes. If nothing else, I have an after-dinner dance date with my Littlest a few nights a week. That girl can twirl. And I'm happy to lend her a steadying hand.

Photos of the book In the Wings: Behind the Scenes at the New York City Ballet.

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Go Lower

I feel like I can't go much lower; my Littlest has been weeping because she misses her father, who travels a lot. And there is no consoling my little girl, and I have nothing left to give. And I open Ann's book and the title of the chapter is Go Lower.

And I can't wait to see what this means.

It's about a red ball, and laughter, and a note from a far-flung hotel. And I thought I couldn't go lower, but the mention of the hotel makes me cry. Did I say I couldn't go lower?

You can always go lower.

At the library, I told my friend how my Littlest shook last night in her bed, cried and claimed "despair" and "treachery" (and I might have laughed in delight at the big words if she hadn't been so serious in the telling).

You can remind her that God is her Father,
my friend said.

I could.

I make my way through the rest of Ann's chapter, and it's more about joy, the red ball, children's arguments, broken glass, and going lower in an altogether different way before the Father.

I humbly open my hand, says Ann.

Maybe I will make this my phrase, since I'm tired of holding things together anyhow. And the truth is that you can always go lower, and sometimes it helps to remember that, doesn't it?

I turn the phrase over in my mind...

I humbly open my hand. I humbly open my hand.


Quote from Chapter 9 of the beautiful book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

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The One Cry

This is the chapter that made me cry. Not for what she found, but for what she lost...

Sister to truck, self to night fears, mother to asylum, daughter to time.

The words stay with me...

How long until we are gone?
If I don't close eyes, I won't die.
Why can't I hold on to now forever?

And in the center of it all, as a young woman, she courted death with shards of glass, bled onto the floor. It is that bleeding I want to stay with. That cry of "I don't want to die," even as it looks like death-invitation.

This is the cry of humanity, is it not? This is why we bleed each other, is it not? (Why can't I hold on to now forever?)

Jesus never gloried in death. He raised the dead, wept over them, asked to be exempt from his own. He made space for lament, became lament itself. He gave life-blood.

If I close my eyes, I can see Him holding Ann to his heart. "I'm sorry," he is whispering in her ear. "I am so, so sorry."


Quotes from Chapter 8 of the beautiful book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

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Sermon Notes Poetry: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

From my sleepy poet's mind, more Sermon Notes poetry. I admit, I look forward to this quiet activity while the speaker... speaks. :)

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Something is wrong,
the SUV's
money while kids
roam streets—
easy to forget about
me in video games,
one world
with or without


He's gonna do it
anyway; go home
and read it yourself...
coming again.


If our
argued with us
about methods
of tooth brushing,
we might give him a bit
of our wisdom teeth.


Zebras with
riddle us
with cross


Something twisted,
sister, this servant
is no handsome prince
who'll rule


Tender shoot,
to dry ground—


Look over
at the overlooked
picked on, last
picked for kick
passed over,
sorrow familiar
wrong track


The heart of the
poem, the hinge
on which it
all turns—
losing by
taking ours,
ours— does
it surprise
you, my


Dorothy Sayers
wants palaces
without circle of
fire, jungle water hole
leopard lion
fear armies
blood-roll garments
and a God acquainted
with all our
babed grief.


Rivers of
secure through
one small


Alone by the


Take an
elevator to the top
saving floor, push
a button past the Cyrus
floor, the bad-me,
crazy-me floor,
hitch a ride
on the back of a Herculean
God who draws the whole world
by a love-cable cord.


She'll sing a
song— tell someone,
would you?

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Bringing Beauty In

A boy pounds a plate with clenched fist. The other blithely butters toast. How do I fix this?

Ann has just gathered sunflowers and declared, "I bring beauty in." But now this. Brother against brother. Mother wondering, how do I fix?

I know this hard song, this strife, though in my house it is sister against sister. The tussle of... what? Growing, reaching, wanting, not yet knowing how to navigate life. Girls discovering they are capable of scratching, hair pulling, even kicking, when Mommy isn't there to see.

How much to take upon myself?

When they were little I took it all. Sent girls to separate corners. Ordered sorry's. Wondered where I'd gone wrong.

Sometimes, for the sake of peace, I still take their struggle upon myself. But more often these days I let them have it out. It is hard to hear them discovering what they are capable of. I stand in the kitchen, hear doors slam, hear hard words. And I don't intervene. This is their journey, this discovery of the human heart and how much we want to and can hurt each other.

In the end, Ann tells her son a story of Jacob and Esau. I tell stories too. I tell stories of me and my own sister, how we loved each other one moment and the next moment pushed each other off the edge (sometimes quite literally). I ask questions, "Do you really hate her? Her? Or just hate what is happening?" I ask too,"What IS happening?" I wait until they have chosen their own separate corners, and I hold them against the darkness, remind them wordlessly what love feels like and stir, once again, a longing for sister-communion. When I remember, I pray.

Then I wait for them to fumble towards forgiveness, bring their own beauty in.

Quote from Chapter 7 of the beautiful book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

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Why Consider the Real Mary?

Rosary in Snow

It is only February (and that, barely), and I have run into questions because of my rosary journey.

Not like I didn't expect this. As a child I was taught The Hail Mary, and as an adult I recall that the rosary somehow required the saying of it.

My own rosary will not require it. My own is a promise I have not yet begun to understand. (See? Just the other day I took it out in the snow. It is a non-conformist rosary which will not always bend to traditional use— of course it would be like this, considering who gave it to me).

Still. The very sight of the rosary brings with it questions of Mary.

And what are questions for, except to prod us to thinking?

So I bought another copy of a book I once gave away. It is Scot McKnight's and I love the opening...

"Why are you— a Protestant— writing a book about Mary?" I've been asked this question many times. In fact, one person asked me the following question: "Wasn't Mary a Roman Catholic? (No kidding.)

Why write a book for Protestants about Mary? Here's why:

Because the story about the real Mary has never been told...

This seems like a place to start, in answering the questions my rosary raises. The story of Mary. I love a good story, and I suspect my rosary might too.

Quote from Chapter 1 of Scot McKnight's book The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus

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