Empty room

How have I grown so afraid of this place,

stark and frameless, patina of footsteps,

so individual that I can hear my spirit breathe.

How have I forgotten that I must stand here

in the empty room, spread my arms wide

and call for you in this echo chamber.

Sometimes I don’t recognize my own voice.

Lord, there are always so many things to do, to say

to retrieve and remember, and I am holding just one life–

my own. Where are your hands in the white that washes

everything this sun-kept gold? Where is evidence

of a resurrection that I can follow in my own life? Where

are your Words within the scape of this fallow? Lord,

what do I do first–believe, obey, sit motionless and wait?

Entering is always a posture no matter the door chosen,

and we always find ourselves in the uninhabited only to hear:

He is not here.

My own salvation is this mecca. Daily. As much as it takes.



Praise said the woman, for there are always rafters and trees and eagles overhead, for there is always a voice louder than yours, for there is always someone coming alongside to prop or cackle. To rearrange.

Praise. Let Word order. Let Light penetrate. Let air and breathe coalesce to fill you with peace. You can come alongside, you can walk with me but I am only going where I am going.

Praise my journey set like exact time on a birth certificate. No one changes that. All the worry about clothes falling off and bread

and where the next drink will come. All the untouched sunrises and sets. All the moments when the Great Artist fluttered His hands and created dusk and recreated you.

Praise for the easiness of play and all the good done when I give up the doing of the hard goods. Praise for eyes that see suffering for what it is in the everywhere of every person, and no longer need to require more in the name of the Lord.

Praise the silence of true suffering. Praise the lips who move in reverence of the honest moment. Praise all generosity that arises from this place.

Praise the authentic vocabulary of belief and the speak-easy way the Psalmist’s heart topples on his page. Praise the misunderstood and the beyond- comprehension that is the mind of God and the heart of man.

Praise when we touch that, and we feel something like a bird-wing, and, cradling the unknown, we gently go on our way.



I returned home from a faculty meeting yesterday with newfound affirmation that teaching during the pandemic has been difficult in ways that are challenging to articulate, even for college professors.

For empaths, it has been a two-year marathon of absorption of others’ stressors, anxiety and loss while also dealing with our own personal installments of the dynamically-draining trio.

For teachers, even those of us who support masking in schools, it has been an exhausting marathon without water stations of attempting to forge connection with faces we can only see slivers of while hiding behind our own masks. Wearing the mask causes me to wish I never had to talk at all, so forcing myself to talk in a classroom and project my voice so that at least half the room can understand what I am saying is drop-dead exhausting. There is always repetition involved in classroom instruction, but with a mask on, the necessity of repeating oneself, then sending emails to reinforce the information that students only heard half of has added so many hours to my day that I really don’t want to do the math.

During a pandemic, the grumpy get grumpier, the lazy get lazier, and the delegators seem to go into overdrive. In classrooms, every one of us– students and teachers–are doing more, more, more, but to less, less, less effect.

My super power as a professor is my ability to read a room. Guess what, I read mouths. Turns out the mouth is the facial feature that reveals the most in terms of nonverbal communication. The eyes without the mouth are not so readable.

My course evaluations last spring were the highest I have ever received (and they were already high), but as I read the students’ comments and looked at my numerical scores, I did not feel proud or happy about the results. I felt as though I had gotten away with subpar performance because my students were, themselves, so in need of caring, love and support.

My face is permanently chapped from wearing a mask and my lipstick tubes are all dried up from lack of use. I am dehydrated–physically, spiritually, emotionally, and in ways I am still processing. And, after yesterday’s faculty meeting, I realize I am not the only one. As one faculty member shared “There is just a heaviness about everything.”

When empaths like myself, who are much more comfortable leaning into others’ problems, actually take a moment to share our own struggles, the nonjudgmental caring we so naturally give doesn’t always come back to us in spades. That’s because non-empaths don’t really have the awareness to gage the amount of strength and resilience it takes to listen about others more than to speak about oneself.

My burnout as a teacher is not something I am proud of, but, it is a thing, a real thing. It isn’t the result of my lack of faith or character or willingness to endure when the going gets tough. When the going gets tough, all empaths know that we are the ones who sensed it and felt it weeks, years, months before our sanguine neighbors did.

Listening to my colleagues yesterday strengthened my resolve. This pandemic has affected each one of us, albeit in different ways. It has affected our campus community from the top down.

So, I am not going to apologize for feeling the way I feel, nor am I going to attempt to work my way out of it by working harder. Nor am I going to internalize shame or guilt from well-meaning Wesleyans when I do share.

I might put my friends who are also empaths and colleagues who are in the same lifeboat on speed dial and just share with them. Wait, and blog about it. You do what you’ve got to do. And you are enough. God did not create me to go through a pandemic and not be affected by it, and chances are He hasn’t created our children, our friends, our students, our colleagues to accomplish that either. It seems as though we’d be neither human nor infused with God’s Spirit as believers if we were capable of that feat.


But I get summer off…

I ran across this chart and it caught my eye like a cute pair of shoes, probably because I am a Composition instructor and the “shoe fits.” A teacher with 30 students who averages 15 minutes per essay on grading and feedback will spend 7 1/2 hours of grading to complete grading. A teacher with 60 students (I taught 3 sections of Composition during Fall 2021) will spend 20 hours to grade a single essay assignment. A composition class will usually consist of 4-6 major essay assignments during a semester. For six essay assignments, that adds up to 120 hours outside of the classroom just to grade the major assignments.

That means an additional 6 weeks of work is added to my 13-week semester. I am under contract for half-time work as a professor.

As a Composition teacher, I grade a full set of in-class and/or homework assignments almost every class day. I read every poem, lyric essay, and journal entry that is shared with me by my students and I work hard to comment personally on their writing so that they know their work has been read by someone who cares.

It is impossible to teach the art of writing by designing easy-to-grade True-False tests that can be automatically graded online. It is impossible to assign the same writing prompts or teach from the same textbook year after year. All grading takes place outside the classroom.

Just putting this out there. #spinningmyrealife

What do hardworking teachers trying to keep our heads above water during a pandemic need? Not more to do. Do not tell this writing teacher that I also must save their souls, act as a social worker, submit ALL of my plans before class even starts, or teach while being taped by a surveillance video.

Don’t tell me my exhaustion is really a lack of conviction or self-esteem. As someone late to the party (I have only been teaching for 8 years and I’m 59), I am amazed at the expectations placed on the shoulders of teachers who are barely making ends meet with fast-food level wages. I honestly do not know how writing teachers last for 30 years (teachers giving the online True-False tests, okay maybe…)

I won’t be teaching for much longer. It’s time for me to pursue other adventures and to, well, sleep in on Saturday mornings once in awhile instead of reading essays. But I won’t ever retire from advocating for and expressing deep appreciation for teachers at all levels of our educational system. Teachers deserve our best as parents, community members, administrators, politicians; teachers do not deserve our constant higher and higher expectations for what stands for their best.


God’s Joyful Surprise

I think I want to be surprised. When I come face to face with God and my life, I want to have served Him with some margin for mystery, not always knowing, not always overtly mentoring.

I hope the poem that is my life will not have always hidden the abrasions of minor keys. I hope there will have been times of uncertainty, when I didn’t just know but I obeyed anyway, not acutely

aware in the moment that an act of kindness or a teachable moment

was obedience. God’s Word hidden in my heart–may that always be

a work of art in progress for which I more than anyone need Grace.

The challenge for the contemplative is the stumbling block of knowledge. May I never know enough. May I always need wings.



As you grow older, closer to

light, abyss, memory,

as you read about strangers’ deaths

in acquaintance obituaries,

as you contemplate so many strangers–

Do you long for more quietude, less of?

Are mountains no longer for climbing and

were they ever, always?

Can you now, finally, hear the words?

They are mouthed in the fragrance of sunwash

and light on water and ancient tongues.

Seek the Lord.



you are my life in soft light,

love delivered seamlessly, ebullient

gratitude used correctly in the same life

sentence, righteousness arranged just right.

Grace, I hold to you. I look for you

in the winds. I claim you as color changes

in clear water that shimmers through my desperate

hands. I drink you in.

Please, Grace, work your magic and spin me

better than I actually ever am–first filter

like blue eyes that can only envision blue-white snow.

Turn what I despise into what I most love

so that I can understand the Great Father’s love

for me, a love that makes it easy to expose

the innermost wretches of my heart.

I line up my failures and the dew of the sea

rushes over them, shines them into

something else–a birthright of purity,

celestially new.


Christmas Life

My Christmas is so much like my life–contemplative

and a bit messy around the edges. I read about adventures

and new recipes, then I pull out my 40-year-old sauce pan

and make the same fudge from memory. Ancient on repeat

seems to be the default bell, jingling from the wings of an old

angel atop the tree. My favorite aunt mailed me fudge once

and I was so touched and homesick and filled with good. She knew

she was dying, and although she had not spoken the word to me, I knew it, too. I can’t really recreate the beauty that has passed before me

but I can remember and I can go through the motions, stirring and stirring until something in my heart begins to taste. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about–the feeble attempt to share the unbeknownst? Bonhoeffer tells me faith requires a first step of obedience and in the same breath obedience requires faith. There is no first ingredient to the formula. Salvation is like a train that a man running hard away from himself can jump on at any time and at any place, and the miracle is, he will squarely find himself again. He might run or he might stay. He might place his head down on the tracks, then pull away at the last possible moment. He might stand in a long, civilized line and purchase a roundtrip ticket in first class with a sleeping car and chicken with wine. What is faith, really, but the idea of no idea?

A baby? A manger? An unusual star? Do I dare believe this? Open the box. Taste. See.


Quiet Time

Sometimes I must tell time to be quiet, to “shush”–

Time is an indolent child, unraveling a blanket

thread by thread with a radar for my distraction.

The lid of winter closes down and I realize it has been days,

weeks, months, years, a lifetime of serving two masters.

Here’s how to stretch an eternity in the present like salt-taffy

held in tension and rain: bed down in the love of your ancestors,

write a long letter, give something away, sit with someone who remembers you young. Double your day by letting the morning sun

dance in her dusty shadows without you. Be a watchman, be a lighthouse

for the word that will come from the Lord. Pay attention to how God

knows you and speaks to you, and only command your ears to stiffen for that. Pick up the threads of your own soul and let them meander

into the wind of the unknown and weave.


Hummingbird Cake

You are having these conversations with your God that no one else is having, and sometimes it is easy to forget that and to think that the mediums God uses to connect to your soul are the only ones available to mankind.

The Word is the Word and that goes for everyone. Sure. But within that Word are connotations and whispers and secret language because nothing makes us feel more loved than a love note in special, contrived

shorthand that might look and sound and feel like a jibberish to everyone else. Sometimes I open my Bible and a passage stands out to me and it feels like a piece of hummingbird cake saved for me because I was a little child who fell asleep at the birthday party. Sweet taste for my tongue only.

But that cannot and should not discount the sweet tastes of others, who may be meeting God on a different plane in a different time zone, listening with their own eccentric ears and experiences.

God’s Word doesn’t change. Truth doesn’t change. But the ways God places His truth into the palms of his adored children are for Him to decide…not me.