Monthly Archives: May 2014

Her One Entry

So, the journal on the dining room table.

August 14, 2012 I arrive home after dark (which takes commitment on an Idaho summer night) to my quiet house after a come-to-Jesus-about-obedience-and-writing dinner discussion with Julie. It’s a rare night two months and two days into living with G Mel that I come home to just a light on and a mostly closed door to her room; she is almost always up before me in the morning and waiting up for me in the evenings. She does not like being alone, but can’t stop encouraging me to scoot out the door to spend time with friends and enjoy life. By now, I have also been coached by my mother that if I thought G Mel was a doting grandmother my previous 42 years, I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Living with me, she’ll want to do everything for me, including brush my teeth if I let her. Mom tells me to go outside and play with my friends. And, at this point, I am still running under my own lifelong impression of my treasured, inspiring G Mel being a go-getter, an easy friend-maker, and a brave so-and-so. My views are going to get a revision soon, but mid-August of 2012, though I inherited an emotionally fragile version of G Mel from a painful marriage, I am still hopeful that she will “get out there” soon and maybe hanging with my friends and not being home distracting her all the time will help her remember who she is.

On the drive home, I am mulling Julie’s words, rolling around in my head how much might have actually been inspired by Jesus and how much is just motivated by a nice friend who likes me and thinks a challenge is good for ya. By now, though, I know Julie well enough to know where that inspiration was initiated, but if I can somehow shift it to the “nice friend” camp, maybe I can scooch myself off the hook.

I enter through the laundry area into the kitchen. The light is on over the dining room table.


I don’t recognize this book, but it’s something that in my early twenties I would have thought looked sophisticated. My quick thought now is, “Huh. Kinda pretty, but isn’t me. That’s not mine. Is it? It’s not Grandma’s. I didn’t see it in her stuff …” I had helped her pack in a big ol’ hurry an hour after she called me to come get her, as she moved out of the guest room of her own home. I had toted to my car bags of everything from shampoo, tissue boxes, and a handful of clothing (her packing) to more clothes, medicine, and photo albums (my packing). I hadn’t seen this.

I open the cover to see Grandma’s name, in my handwriting, on the first page opposite the inside cover. I quickly close it, realizing it must be a journal I had given her, or maybe, based on the cover image, this is some plant identification book I gave her so long ago I just don’t recall. Trouble it, G Mel’s never been an enthusiastic plant identifier. Maybe I was a poor gift giver …

Not wanting to pry further, I head to bed. Her room is dark, and her quiet snores are coming through the slightly open door. I also know that I can now be as loud getting ready for bed as I want; hearing aids are out and I am in no jeopardy of disturbing the woman who, hearing aid-equipped, can’t hear me half the time I am right in front of her but has supersonic abilities when she is in her room and I am moving about anywhere in the house, drawing her to seek me out and be reassured that all is well.

We talk the next morning as I ready for work, but I make no mention of the book and neither does she. I come home that evening, book still on the table and G Mel in the kitchen ready to cook food the moment she hears the garage door open. We sit down for our meal, the book inches away from our plates and glasses. We talk of other things and I don’t ask about it, but since the journal is still there as we finish, I finally ask if it’s hers and if she is was writing.

“Ohhhh, no. I just put this here for you.”

“Grandma, didn’t I give it to? At least I think I did. Isn’t it a journal?”

“Well, yeah, Honey. But you know your old granny. I think you should have it.”

“Grandma, it was a gift. Don’t you want it? Didn’t you write in it?”

“Just a note to you.”

I reach out and take the book, opening the cover and flipping to the first cream-colored, lined page.

I cringe when I see it’s a poem. One of mine. I am not embarrassed for what it was when I gave it to her, which clearly must have been years ago, but my current poetry snootiness always winces a bit when I see my old stuff. Especially if I made it rhyme. Eeesh.

It’s cute, sweetly enumerating memory after memory of things unique to our grandmother / granddaughter / family stories and escapades. My loopy handwriting also professes the joy and love I have for her, that she is “my gift the whole year ’round”. It’s signed,

I love you,



It was a Christmas gift to her. I was 20 and she was traveling full-time. She and her then-husband (another story) had been on the road in a fifth-wheel for about two years and we saw them rarely. This was a strange thing after living just on the other side of the lake from them, only five minutes away, since I was eight years old. I missed her all the time.

Flipping to the back of that page I see a note from me, asking her to detail all she was seeing and experiencing, and admonishing, “don’t forget there is a family back home that’s missing you”.

The page across from this one is in her handwriting.


On this night, my words in this journal are from nearly 22 years ago. Hers are from the night before; she has written 8/14/12 at the top of the one page on which she ever wrote words in this gift. She wrote them while I was at dinner with Julie, having no idea about the conversation happening 11 miles away.

She writes that the book is a precious memory, but she was not blessed with “artistic writing skills”. Fortunately, her offspring “picked up that DNA”, and “with your writing talent–you could fill this book with ‘pixalating’ instances with Granny”.

Between Julie, Granny, and Jesus all in one night, it was hard to ignore that I better be doing something with words. I can’t scooch off the hook because Julie wasn’t just being nice. So I will keep writing to Jesus and putting it here, because he asked me to. Yay and ack.

Here’s to flexing my DNA, and capturing pixalating instances. :)


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Colored, Sitcky Thoughts

This is my brain on blog posts:

Colored Paper

Liann asked me last week, “What’s up with the blog, Sluss?” What’s up is it looks like this in a stack next to my desk. At least it’s colorful. Backs of church bulletin inserts, fronts of church bulletins themselves, sticky notes lined, sticky notes unlined, pads of paper mailed from charities and received from companies, notebook paper, writing I can read, writing I can’t.

And what happens on those scribbled sheets invigorates, aggravates, soothes, sorts, unravels, re-ravels, and terrifies me. And they are all parts of a long, long, l-o-n-g ongoing conversation with God. There are many topics covered, but there is one at the center that we tussle about all the time.

Why is he after me to write? Why the desire in me at all? And why his consistent pursuit of me to do it? And why so thrilling and horrifying at the same time?

I am so brave in person about so many things, and am willing to be funny and transparent in my writing, but there are also topics I just don’t want to touch. When those topics show up, they tend to be the kind that feel like they are undoing me and are the ones I want to keep close to home. I leak enough crazy into the universe; I should try to maintain some semblance of propriety. But my brother Michael and I keep having these conversations about transparency being what people ache for and what the world needs. Then two things happen:

  1. I want to pound out the contents of my brain and heart through a keyboard.
  2. I don’t want to type a word.

Creativity and perfectionism, transparency and cards close to chest, courage and who do you think you are, all go to war in me. The result is usually me (choose one or combine a few):

  • flat out on the couch
  • head first into almond milk ice cream
  • knitting like the wind
  • enumerating chores and shopping lists
  • eyes glued to reruns of something inane and mind-numbing.

I can be honest, but not messy. Funny, but not poorly written. Thorough, but not quick. And never, ever edited enough.

So basically, my personality and desires create a civil war in me, and I do nothing.

I can’t do it anymore. Shouldn’t do it anymore, if I want to reduce regrets later.

Because, honestly, this venture is a matter of obedience to the Savior I love. And Liann’s question last Saturday was the most recent of two especially obvious years of God’s gentle but unflagging urging. It started with me literally throwing a temper tantrum about it in Sequim, Washington in January 2012. I was on a personal retreat and talking to God about lots of things, but the evening the topic of writing came up was a different story. The whole venture of adding sound and word to the cacophony of the world has been a wrestle since before my first blog, You Must Be Kidding, began. A friend, Chris, had written to ask me to start blogging. I promptly replied that there was enough noise in the world, I didn’t need to add to it, and I had nothing to say. He replied, asking if I had noticed that it took me three paragraphs to tell him I had nothing to say.

Six years later on a January night in Sequim, in a silent house, I journaled a bit and then opened the computer to start writing, to capture something other than journaling. Then the anger kicked in. In some ways, I value myself so little, and anything I could contribute would be so minuscule, why do it? I wrestle not to be a straight-up Christian pragmatist (more so then than now), and though I have a poet’s soul, if I was not / am not contributing something uber-useful, what good is that? And there is never just one audience in my brain. There is family, there are friends and strangers, people I love and people I fear. There is no way to write to keep them all happy or at least at bay.

I fumbled around on the keyboard, fumbled some more in my journal, then slammed the book and the laptop shut, literally shouting into the house, at God, “Why do YOU care about this so much? I don’t know what to DO about it! Why do you care?”

Then I put myself to bed because that’s what you do with fussy, pouty, tantrummy toddlers.

Amazingly sweet and gentle words and events followed in the next hours and days, the kind only my patient Heavenly Father could orchestrate. “Do it for me.” And this girl of never-ending great intentions and never-winning self-discipline said, “Okay,” in a Port Angeles coffee shop on a cold January day.

Within the next three weeks, my boss was struck by a car in a terrible accident, I started an intensive discipleship course that changed my world (in a great, but life-perspective-upending way), and God asked me (cornered me with my own newly-refreshed amazement at his forgiveness, is more like it) to reenter into relationship with my grandmother’s husband, a family member from whom I desperately wanted to hide. A few months later, my grandmother moved in with me. It felt like writing could not fit into this surprising year at all.

Fast forward to August 2012. Dinner with another friend, Julie. I am two months and two days into living with G Mel and getting a peek behind her emotional curtain, and my own. My Facebook page is a fount of G Mel hilarity and crazytown. My in-person conversations with friends are waves of a wee bit of humor and a whole lot of pain, fear, and confusion as G Mel’s marriage and emotional health dissolve before my eyes. People are telling me to write a book. I tell Julie, at a small table at Salt Tears in Boise, “Who the hello would read a book like that?” Julie’s response: “I would, lots of people would, and it doesn’t matter. If he’s asked you to write and you aren’t, doesn’t that kind of chalk up to disobedience?”

Phooey. Yes.

Got home that very night to find a journal left on the dining table. The floral pattern on the cover looked like something I would have liked at some point, years ago. I opened the cover to see a bookplate reading, “THIS BOOK BELONGS TO:” and beneath, in my own handwriting, my grandmother’s name. First, last, middle initial and all. It was a gift I had given her 22 years before, now making a sudden appearance on my dining room table.

I’ll share the contents and conversation from the following evening’s dinner with G Mel another time, but suffice to say Jesus got G Mel to write her one and only entry in 22 years in that journal and leave it out for me on the very night he prompted Julie to point me back to taking words to him.

Journaling rose and fell, writing exercises commenced and crashed, and a NaNoWriMo event began and ended, where I lived to see 9788 words hit paper until life with G Mel took over completely for me and the rest of my family.

A job change, ministry shift, computer platform, international travel, grandma move, new colleagues, emotional perimenopause, too few bike rides, and piles of life later, it’s May 2014. And I am still shirking my end of the deal. Because I still forget what the writing is about.

So, a Liann couch talk and a California mountain church visit later, I am on the reminded path once again. Here’s to messy, imperfect, transparent, risky, obedient writing. His vision of perfection and value is always different than mine, anyway. ;)


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