Month: April 2017 (page 1 of 2)


so close and yet

so far

we sleep across

the street.

the short distance


much larger

when i remember

you next

to me.

but oh so terribly


the distance

will grow

to miles.

it’s hard to imagine

you feeling



than this.

but it is coming.

just don’t let

your heart

put any more


between yours

and mine.

ink • heart

my heart bleeds

all over these pages

through my fingers

and pooling in ink

scribbling out

the same old words

in black poisoned blood

over and over

taking slightly different

twisted shapes

every time

i wish i could write

about something else

not because

i want to stop writing

about you

but because

i’m tired of using

my blood

as ink

just listen

a secondhand message

from you

to me

like someone telling me

i can breathe

and i remember

you haven’t


left me

no matter how much

i’m bleeding

on the inside

what a relief

it is

to look at

my doubts

and say

this isn’t true

a someday forest

This is how I feel–like I woke up in the middle of a strange forest. I’m lost. Or more like, I feel like I’ve lost something and am casting around for it, not even exactly sure what I lost, only that I feel vulnerable and not-me without it, confused. I want to go home, something inside me says, loud and clear. I want to go home. And then it hits me–that’s what I’ve lost. Home. My home.

But there’s this other voice–and it tells me I can’t go home. But that’s the only thing I know–it’s what my heart is telling me to do, go home. Can’t I just please go home? No, the voice says. You can’t. And I know it’s right.

So I wander around the forest, not really sure where I’m going, feeling very small under the tall, vast trees. I feel like a little girl again, uncertain and quiet, big-eyed and unprotected, innocent in a big, big world that she doesn’t understand anymore.

How can I try to make my home somewhere alone in this forest? Just choose a random spot and build a little shack? How can I do that, when I know where home is, and how to get there?

I even go and look at my house sometimes, get really close, just to the edge of the forest, peering around the last trunk. It’s so close, right there–I just want to run across the clearing and through the door. It would be so easy. But the voice tells me that is a very bad idea, and I know it’s right somehow. So I don’t.

But going back into the forest hurts so much. I send myself to very dark places, scary corners of the wood I know I shouldn’t be exploring but I can’t help myself. I always feel icky and shaky afterward. Bad idea, Ashley. Bad idea. But still I do it–I just want another glimpse of that house.

There’s a person inside–a boy. He knows I’m out here. He knows I can’t come home. He’s seen me peering through the trees–I’ve seen him looking through the window. I trust this boy, a lot. I know he misses me. But he won’t come get me for some reason. This scares me and hurts me. I’m not sure why he won’t come. I say for ‘some reason’–I know that’s not fair. I understand it’s scary out here, but with two of us, I think we’d be okay. We’d find our way back home. He just needs to take the first steps to me, and then neither of us will be alone anymore. We can find the way together. But he’s not coming. Does he not care about me enough? Does it hurt too much now that I’m gone? Maybe it’s my fault. Is it easier to forget that I was ever there? I wouldn’t ever do that to him. He knows that. I know he wouldn’t do that to me either, at least not on purpose. He knows how much I miss him. He knows I want to come home but I can’t. I know I’m simplifying this too much–but being so sad and scared and hurt makes things seem much simpler than they are. I just feel abandoned, even though I know I shouldn’t. He probably feels that way about me.

I mean, he could be making plans to step outside that house, to give it a try, and I wouldn’t even know–I have no idea. But I feel like I would know, wouldn’t I? But there’s also a chance that he’s done trying, that he isn’t planning on coming to rescue me. I just wish I had a little hope. But the house has been quiet recently. I hate that quiet. I go wander the dark places again because I’m so scared but I don’t find any answers and now I feel so sick. This is very bad for me. I need to stop. But stop how? I don’t want to stop going to look at the house, look for glimpses of the boy, remember the happy days I had there. I don’t want him to forget about me, give up on me. Maybe I’m scared that if I stop going to look, stop throwing acorns at the windowpane, that he will.

But at the same time, I know the voice is true–I can’t go back home. It has to come to me, if it’s going to come at all. He has to  come to me, step into the forest, come looking. There’s a whisper in my head that says maybe I’m just not important enough. Or maybe he thinks he won’t find anything–that the voice isn’t real. That maybe it’s less scary to stay where he is, with the hope of something more out there, than come looking and risk finding that it’s not true. I don’t think that will happen, but he doesn’t know that for himself yet. I understand it’s easier to stay in that house. I just wish I knew what was going on in there, like I used to. I miss the boy, very very much. But unless he gives me a reason to keep on going to the edge of the forest just to look, just to be close, I have to stop.

I’m losing myself in those dark places. I can’t lose any more of myself than I have already. I won’t ever give up on the boy, I’d never do that. But I have to trust that if home is still really home, and if the boy still really cares like he did, or I thought he did, then home and the boy will come for me. So now I’ve got to follow that voice, find myself a nice tree somewhere with a nice nook partway up, not too high, and build myself a nest and try to make it cozy. I’ll try to make friends with the forest animals and find ferns to line my nest to make it soft and gather flowers for my hair. I’ll try to build my strength back up again, til I can climb and run and swing and jump on my own again, even with the big absence all around me in the echoing forest and beside me and in me. Even with no one to give a steadying hand when I’m off balance or keep me warm on cool nights. But I have to make a life. Somehow.

But I won’t stop hoping that one day he’ll walk into my little clearing and look up at my tree with that smile and say ‘hi.’ And then I’ll know I’ve truly come home again. But for now, I’ll spin a blanket out of memories, content myself with visits  of laughter and togetherness in my dreams, and hold on to what I knew to be true what seems like so long ago, although it really isn’t that far away. Maybe in time, this forest won’t be so scary anymore. Maybe the dark ugly places will go away and won’t lure me with sad siren songs or jump out at me with teeth and claws. Maybe I can find somewhere to be safe and even happy. But I’ll always miss you. Don’t forget that, please. I don’t think you will. And if one day you come calling, to take me home, I’ll be ready.

waiting for you

waiting for you is trying to hold my breath underwater without knowing when i can come up for air

waiting for you is feeling that jolt through my stomach every time my phone buzzes

waiting for you is curling up in a corner and wondering when it’s safe to come out

waiting for you is snuggling my stuffed animal tight and imagining your arms around me

waiting for you is closing my eyes and trying to recall your smell

waiting for you is sitting outside of your dorm because it’s just that much closer

waiting for you is wandering the wet grass under a night sky and remembering your footsteps

waiting for you is praying through tears and wrestling with runaway breathing

waiting for you is needing to be protected and looking around to find no one to hold me

waiting for you is going crazy, frenetic thoughts bouncing around in an exhausted body

waiting for you is living waterlogged, exhaustion deadening limb and life and demanding unplanned naps

waiting for you is stumbling through a hurricane and hoping for clear skies when all i see is dark

waiting for you is curling around a ball of warmth in winter snow, fighting to keep the light from slipping through my fingers

waiting for you is the scariest thing i’ve ever done

but i know if my waiting ever ends, you’ll be worth the wait

my happy tree

i hope you grow strong

and free

with or without me

i want you to laugh often

and long

stretch supple branches

to a blue and breezy sky

i hope you live in a grove

of other happy trees

in a forest peaceful


and green

i want fresh, cool water

to reach your roots

and rich, warm dirt

to help your trunk stand firm

i can’t help but want

to grow there too

reaching for the stars

alongside you

passing quiet chatter

and caressing words

through sun-dappled afternoons

and vibrant dawns

yet i’ll love you long

praying for a string

of happy tomorrows

no matter how far

you are


i guess we two, you and i,

are both seekers

in a way,

both peering

into the invisible,

looking for answers.

but the answer i seek

is that you’d find

your own answer,

that the invisible

would become less mysterious,

solid and real to you

as it has been

for me.

you are my answer.

an answer i do not know

if i will ever receive.

the difference between our quests

is this–

if you seek truly,

you are promised to find.

if i plead with everything

i have

i am promised

no such thing,

gifted certain goodness

but not precisely

what my heart desires.

but i keep praying

that you keep seeking,

wishing i had some way

of knowing

you haven’t given up.

hold on to your promise, seeker,

and i’ll hold on

to mine–

that He hears my heart’s cry

and will make himself known

to those who seek

with all their hearts.

the boy across the street

You live across the street from me,

The boy across the road,

On warm starry nights my feet

Want to carry me across concrete

And to your door,

On empty sunny days my hands

Want to pick dandelions and hold you

As close as I can,

On moonlit midnights my eyes

Want to watch the stars with you

Trembling and near,

On quiet mornings my ears

Want to hear your laugh and know

That I made it sound,

On lonely evenings my nose

Wants to smell that scent that’s uniquely you

And tell you, you smell like yourself,

On hollow afternoons my skin

Wants to feel you tickle me and rub circles

On my arm with your thumb.


You live across the street from me,

The boy across the road,

You hold my heart in your hands

No matter how far

You truly are.

And I can’t, I won’t forget you,

No matter how much the memory hurts,

To me you are tears and smiles

And home

And every hope and sorrow

In the world.

hope rising

Recently when I’ve been confronted with Jesus I’ve just wanted to run.

Not just figuratively, putting forth a combative front and an armored heart, but physically–sometimes, I just want to literally run. Run from my emotions, my reality, my fears. My God. And recently, when I’ve pushed myself to the breaking point, I have–I have sneaked out of worship meetings and ghosted from my seat during messages, bare feet padding up steps and out doors and picking up the pace faster and faster and flying down sidewalks and through the warm night air or into sun-dappled alleys and simply found a quiet spot to have a good cry and plead with the Lord for this great hard thing in my life. It’s hard to face him when I feel like I’ve given up everything for him, although I know he gave up everything for me. That’s what Easter is all about, isn’t it? The God of the universe suffering an unimaginable death to create utterly undeserved life for a creation which has done nothing but hate him from the beginning. He gave up everything for me. So why does it feel so darn hard to keep on loving and trusting him, when I give up what’s made my life bright to keep on in the light he has promised me?

Today, I did better. Today, when my eyes confronted a screen full of words of hope meant to be sung loud and free, today when my body froze up and didn’t want to move a centimeter, today when I knew I was going to cry, again, and hated myself for it, today when I felt exposed and vulnerable in a crowd full of people, today when I wanted to shrink from God and withdraw my trust and my love from him and demand from him the cry of my heart–today I made myself open my mouth and sing. I wanted to trust him, wanted to rest in him, wanted him to take some of this pain away, but didn’t know how. So I just did what I wanted my heart to want to do. I took another step forward in faith even when nothing in me could feel the right emotions for doing it. When it went against all I wanted for myself. I have told myself–if I can blame him, then God can fix this. If I can corner him into a promise, then he will have to make everything better. If I can wrestle out an assurance, then I can keep on not trusting, not surrendering, not believing he is all loving yet can demand everything of me. If I can be angry at him, can place the guilt on him, then maybe I can get what I want without letting go. But I can’t do that–I have nothing to blame him for. I walk this road for him, but I have chosen it. I know it is the right road… and it is hard because I am an imperfect person living in a broken world with a heart that hopes for goodness. And so I cannot blame him. And so I sing. And so he lets me rest in him. He does not fix it in this moment–he can only promise good for me. He does not tell me he will do exactly as I ask–but he holds me. And for now I try to let him.

Today, I only need ten minutes in that little alley… ten minutes for my feet to slip down the aisle and patter across a dusty wooden floor and fly into the sunlit freedom and take me to a place where I can hide and breathe and lean against a warm brick wall and look up at the sky. I plead with God, over and over. I don’t know what else to do, how else to be. I try to listen for him through the clamor of my emotions, clouding my perception of what is real and what he is saying to me. I can’t tell what is me and what is him. I feel hope but I don’t know why–wishful thinking? I move to leave, look down from the sky–and right in my line of vision, right as if someone had planted it there specially for me, right as if it is looking at me, right in the middle of the gravel of that alley is a dandelion. And I lose it. God may not be telling me if he is answering my prayers–but he promises to love me always and give me what is best. He could be working, answering my prayer at this very moment, and I wouldn’t even know it. But he knows what dandelions mean to me–and there it is, tempting me into hoping with every ounce of hope I have left that God is making my prayers come true. I don’t know. But for now, I let that little yellow dandelion smile fill me with hope. And I walk back into that church and listen to a message about God’s power to save, and how he is always working, even when we cannot see it.

The story of Hannah in the Bible has really resonated with me recently–that woman had such a desire in her heart that she could not silence the grief and aching which it caused her. She cried out to God so earnestly that the priest thought she was drunk. Drunk! I can identify with Hannah here. She cries out to the Lord, receives no promise from him, but in the end is given the answer to her prayer. I wish for that kind of ending to my story too, even though I am not promised it. The story of Hannah tells me God hears, and that his desire is to fulfill this longing if it is for the best good. Yet there is something that happens between Hannah’s asking and God’s giving–she gets up, dries her eyes, praises the Lord, and then goes about her daily life. This is so dang hard for me. How can she do that, having been given no assurance from God that he will do as she has asked of him? How can she trust in who he is, believing that she will be okay, no matter what? How can she go about her life, still hoping that the Lord will heal her hurt, without knowing if he will? And yet she does. And yet she praises him with true peace and joy. And this is an act of faith which I am still learning.

Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” How true is that. Gosh, my heart is sick. Wow how amazing, how tree-life-like it would be to have that desire fulfilled. And how hard it is to wait, not knowing whether one’s hope will bear fruit! So much trust is required, so much surrender when I feel like fighting, so much relaxing into Jesus when I feel like struggling. Jesus tells me its okay to be sad–it is okay for my heart to be sick. But if I push him away in my sickness, then what is the point of it all?

So this Easter, I resolve to try to fight for faith better. I will go on writing “All things new” (Revelation 21:5) and “I won’t give up” (I Won’t Give up on Us, Jason Mraz) on my hands in pen like a bored high-schooler, a visual reminder to keep me from despair during the days that feel utterly and impossibly too long. I will make myself sing to Jesus when I don’t feel like it. I will try to stop blaming him for something which he never did, and trusting that he can be working when I don’t see it. I will have my moments of immobilization and fear and tears but will make myself get up and keep going because I don’t know what God is doing, and I can’t turn off my emotions, and I might as well keep on hoping and hoping if I can’t help it anyway, and praying and praying until I receive an answer or until my desire becomes a reality.

I wish this was easier. I wish I had new ideas, new solutions, new ways to fight this battle. But Jesus has already fought it for me–and he wants me to surrender, relax into him, even as I resolve to not give up, to not stop praying, to not stop hoping, to allow myself to feel and desire. He tells me not to push him away. He tells me to trust him.

And the great secret of all of this is? Jesus didn’t just die–he rose from the dead for us. All his friends and followers had no idea what he was doing. They thought everything was dead. Gone. Their hopes and dreams all lies. There were darkness and mourning, when in reality God was in the middle of doing the greatest thing ever, the greatest victory ever won, the greatest gift ever given. And then Jesus rose–and they realized they should have trusted him all along.

I don’t know what God is doing in my life. You might not know what God is doing in yours. You don’t know what your resurrection will look like. But don’t stop praying for it. Don’t stop trusting that God is at work. Don’t stop pleading with the Lord for the desires of your heart. Trust that he will give you good things, and desires to bring light and resurrection to every heart in the world.

Yes, I know tomorrow will be hard. Yes, I wish I had some way of knowing if anything is happening in my dark place, if I have any reason to hope. If change really is occurring, or if at least a desire for change to occur or the pursuit of it is still present. But I do have a reason to hope–for I have Jesus. And so do you.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19.

why hello there

I turn around in the store and see you there, right behind me, and neither of us is expecting it. Your smile sends a jolt straight through my stomach. I smile back timidly.

You pick up a bag of tortilla chips from the shelf and walk to the counter, headphones in. I didn’t know you like plain tortilla chips. I wonder what you’re listening to–music? a podcast?–and why… just because, or to drown out the sound of your own thoughts?

My friend and I walk to the counter. I engage her in a friendly argument–do you say it care-a-mel or car-mel?–my brain detached. My voice manages to sound upbeat. My heart is all a flurry and frozen, arrested in uncertain flight, ambushed by vulnerable feeling.

You exit without looking back.

‘You okay?’ my friend asks on the way out. ‘I wish I could have spared you that if I knew.’

I shake my head. I’m crying. ‘No, I’m glad,’ I say. And I am. So happy and so sad. That smile. I saw you today. You smiled at me. And ouch ouch ouch. The missing. The pain of being apart from you stealing my breath again.

What a strange beast this kind of love is.

‘I’m glad,’ I say again. And I mean it. The night is warm. The plastic bag rustles. We put our arms around each other’s shoulders. I wipe my tears with the sleeve of my flannel and march up the hill.

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