I Was a Bird Singing

I used to sing my life away.

Like there was a bird caged in my chest.

When I opened my mouth,

She could fly.

That high

You get when you unconsciously push your diaphragm

Down and air

Rushes from your depths and into the world,

Vocal chords vibrating in hallelujahs,

Welled up in me today,

Not a belligerent strange bird pummeling herself at my window

Because she saw danger in her reflection, as I have been of late.

And therefore, forgot my song almost entirely.

Today I was a bird singing because she could.

Five Minute Friday Retreat

Come recharge with fellow creatives in Kansas City this July 21-23! The Five Minute Friday retreat will inspire you with a mix of writing knowledge sharing and spiritual renewal. Details here.

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When Enough Became Enough

by Elizabeth Ivy Hawkins

When I was completing my Master’s Degree in Fine Art, I studied abroad in Italy.  What I learned there changed everything.  I had come with the idea that I would encounter an ancient culture, and by ancient I mean a culture that was less advanced than what I knew.  I found just the opposite.

Craftsmanship Matters

As I was walking through the remains of the city of Pompeii, I realized that we have not done things better than in Renaissance Italy.  Partially because of the intelligence, the design, and the innovation.  But mostly because of the hand-made craftsmanship that is everywhere.  The handles on cutlery found in a Pompeiian home are painstakingly well crafted.  The quality of the marble floors and intricate detail of the mosaic walls, the expanse of the architecture, it all holds up and surpasses anything that would be made today.  In a postindustrial, information saturated age, the cost of such craftsmanship is irreplaceable.  We couldn’t afford it.

Innate Poetry

When St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10 that, “…We are God’s handiwork…”  I consider his words in the context of the culture Paul was writing in, a culture similar to what I observed in Pompeii. I am not talking about religion or a Christianity that is overly Westernized or simplified.  I am searching for what it means to be fully alive and human.  

The Greek word Paul used for handiwork is “poiema.”  It is where we get the English word for poem.  Some researchers would go so far as to say that Paul is describing humankind as God’s Artwork.  In Paul’s day, artwork wasn’t in some quiet museum waiting to be observed, it was all around. A part of everyday experience.  Everything was handmade, and considering what I observed in Pompeii, handmade extremely well.

The Tentmaker and the Artist

Paul was a craftsperson, financing his travel through work as a tent maker.  I imagine craft would have meant a great deal to him. Considering where Paul lived and traveled, he would have been exposed to Etruscan frescoes depicting beautiful landscapes and Roman Architecture with grand and expansive columns and ornate reliefs. I wonder if Paul was thinking about a particular work of art when he wrote this passage, and if so, what kind of significance did it have to him? I do know that he asks me to remember my identity is a beautiful, one of a kind, hand-made thing.  Maybe he knew something about creativity and craftsmanship that we have forgotten today.  

Maybe this is how we are designed, to make and invent things.  Innately, just because…Tweet This

Artistry’s Aching Heart

I used to think my value as an artist came from what I did, but now I know that the real flesh and blood matters are found in my artist’s heart.  The heart I was born with.  I used to put the mantel of financial success on my work. Or how popular my work became.  Or praise I got for its uniqueness. Because if I am honest I have a real fear that when it’s all said and done that I will have missed it. That my life will pass and that I won’t make a significant contribution, that I screwed it up—my one chance—and now I will dissolve like a vapor into the unknown and nobody will notice or care.  There is this primal longing within me to matter.  I try to get a handle on this fear by performing.

Never Enough

We live in a culture that affirms the idea that people who work hard enough, who are smart enough, invest their money well and don’t buy expensive jeans, that keep that twenty something appearance well into middle age, or who get all A’s, who exercise when they are supposed to, and who have a diet of only greens and lean protein. That they are the ones.  They are the ones worth it.  They are the ones keeping all the rules just right.  Those who reject this social norm we label dilatants, slackers: they are shamefully insignificant. It’s probably why we don’t value our elderly like we should, or our mentally challenged, or even our children.  Because when you get down to it, we find a person’s real value resides in the status of what they do.

Crucial Knowledge

But we are poems.  We are artwork.  It sounds too good to be true. It sounds like a lie that dreamers believe who don’t live in the real world where results matter.  But what I have observed is this: Those who are truly doing creative work, who have the kind of lives that everybody else wants, they know this.  They let this belief reside in their bones. They don’t do work chasing anything, they do work because they already have it to give.  They have changed the dynamic of life from one of a transaction i.e. you do this to get that, to one that starts and ends with joy.  It is life changing.  It is changing me.  It changes the space from which I make my work, whether it is work that supports my family financially or not.  

I no longer work for money, I work for money that supports a life well lived.  Money is a means, not a master.Tweet This It creates more opportunities to be grateful on all kinds of levels.  And when I get a chance, I break bread and wine with others, and maybe cry and then laugh, and then cry some more.  Because poems we are.  Every one of us.

If you like the ideas I have shared and would like to take this information to the next level, sign up to my News Letter to receive a free digital download on Creativity and Finding Your Individual Voice here.

Elizabeth Ivy Hawkins holds an MFA in Painting, and currently is an Adjunct Professor at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI.  Elizabeth’s artwork has been exhibited regionally and nationally, including exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles.  She speaks on the importance of the artist’s voice, and mentors individuals and groups on how to cultivate individual expression as a way of being fully present in our daily lives.  She writes on her blog about creativity, relationships, and spirituality.  She is a wife to the dashing and strong Bradford, and stepmother of one, and mother of two naughty and smart children. You can find her at www.elizabethivy.com  

Facebook Artist Page: elizabethivy.com  

Instagram:  @elizabethivyhawkins

Twitter:  @elizabethivy

Article reposted with permission from Elizabeth Ivy Hawkins.

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Yeshua’s Roar, an Easter Poem

The place we fear, abhor, hypothesize.

Literize, allegorize.

We will not go there.



Shhh, don’t scare the children.


Is it real?

“Heaven is here.

Never fear,”

We whisper under midnight, and we try to sleep.


I drift between consciousness and nothing

With one thought prowling:

Do we know what love is worth?


Read the rest at Melissa Pereira’s blog in her Easter series: Because He Lives.


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Less You, More Resurrection (Lent as Guide)

I went into Lent like a wild woman. Promptly, I bought not one, but three books to guide me through the Christian 40-day tradition of fasting and prayer. On Ash Wednesday I vowed to write 40 days of poems, crossed myself with home-burned ashes, and even dared to go to a school meeting with the black mark on my forehead.

I prepared myself to learn the art of living with less.

Sharing the Identity of the Cup

Upon entering the office and seeing no one else with the mark on their head, I suddenly felt the risky recognition Lent brings: of being singled out as a Christian. Strangely and simultaneously, I experienced a sense of union with millions of believers around the world who bore the mark of following Christ. We were exposed together, united in the mark of death and resurrection. Lent is not a spiritual journey we take alone.

Somehow faith has become a just me journey, feeding cultural individualistic ferocity. Keep it to yourself. Private, unquestioning, solitary. We pretend we’ve got it all together, but we’re suffering. Lent invites us to fast from ourselves, to enter mystery and mess, and bear one’s another burdens.

Before the meeting, I had stood in front of the long hall mirror and looked at the explicit symbol. I was tempted to wipe away the mark with the back of my hand before I went out into society. But then, I would have missed out on the communal cup.

A Haunted Heart

Growing up Baptist, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Lent, until my best friend in the fifth grade explained the black crosses. She invited me to a haunting Maundy Thursday service at her Methodist church. I was transfixed by the dark curtains, the canned recordings of the nails being pounded into Christ’s wrists and feet, the somber reverence for our Savior dying.

Later I took open communion at her church (a no-no in mine). The pastor tore a piece of bread from a loaf and handed it to me as I knelt at the prayer bench. He wiped the lip of a big chalice with a white cloth and offered me a draught. Juice sweetened my lips. I felt a wall in my heart crumble in a holy understanding. We are to love one another like Christ. This knowledge is not meant to be kept to ourselves.

During His last Passover on earth, Christ said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (NKJV) 

Ordinary Burdens

How do we learn to lay our lives down for one another like Christ?

This week my husband has been away. I am doing more chores, more bedtimes, and more kid drama, and it’s emotionally taxing. Yesterday in the midst of a parenting battle, I had to walk outside and take a long breath. I had wanted my new discovery of Holy Week to be this sacred thing: devotions and Easter crafts every night. Less bunnies, more Jesus.

Instead, I have spent the evenings managing major kid-drama or giving lectures about homework and clean rooms. Our sacred family devotions are 20-minutes of pre-bedtime excerpts of 1977 version of Jesus of Nazareth on YouTube. It’s extraordinarily ordinary, but this week has been a laying down of my life.

Less me. More Jesus.Tweet This

Lent teaches us to live with less control.

Fasting Pride

I didn’t write 40 poems or fast from food very well on Fridays.

This Lent, I fasted from me: from isolation, expectation, and resentment. 

Lent lessened me, in a good way.

That first day of Lent, I found a lump in my breast. It turned out to be a benign cyst. A few weeks later, as I drove home from the ultrasound and the radiologist’s verdict of freedom, I had the urge to pull into a local Ethiopian coffee shop. I walked in and exchanged gleaming grins with everyone there because I had been gifted good news! Medium latte in hand, I wanted to shout, “I’ve been given new life. I am free!” I drove home and kissed my kids’ foreheads instead.

Knowing I was dust helped me experience the fullness of resurrection. Lent has been a good teacher.

Lent and Less Thans

Preparing our hearts with God, within community cements our true identity as chosen people, cross-carrying, surrendered servants. When we are less, God is glorified. We are not less than, we are sinners saved from ourselves.

During Lent, we fast from appearances and demands and turn to the preparation of prayer. Transformationally, we are open to the opportunity to bear one another’s burdens. We have compassion for the the weary mother down the street, eyes for those hurt by racism and violence in our community, and a sense that suffering and healing sit together as friends, in differences and in love.

Lent teaches us to identify less as individuals and more as fellow cross carriers.Tweet This

Less Me. More Us.

Less Us. More Jesus.

This is the mark of mystery. This is our Easter Resurrection. This is the Belovedness we share.

Resources for Lent and Easter

Pauses for Lent: 40 Word for 40 Days by Trevor Hudson

40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast. by Alicia Britt Chole (includes a comprehensive history of Lent)

A Way other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent by Walter Brueggemann

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Suffering, Spring, and the Resurrection of God’s Timing

Copyright: Leung Cho Pan at Canva.com

Copyright: Leung Cho Pan at Canva.com

As we enter Holy Week, we ponder Christ’s suffering on our behalf and God’s timing to bring us second life. What does this mean in light of today? In light of unfulfilled longings, ongoing rejections, and unpredictable sicknesses?

A few years ago I traveled to South Korea to find personal resurrection. What I found was not a grand adventure, but a perspective shift and a healing experience which started with a new understanding of no stranger teacher than suffering.

She beckoned me across the ocean with hope.

“The cherry blossoms will be in bloom.” I scraped together Delta miles, withheld new clothes and fast food, saved change so I could see them burst open. When we need deep renewing, we cling to hope symbols.Tweet This

I imagined my destination: Seoul, Korea, the spirit of a city as a balm of beauty, pink, resurrecting me from pinched nerve pain. From my fearful heart beating anxiety. From being stuck between my passions: teaching my children at home and being a writer.

Cherry blossoms would be my rebirth.

Pink means love, of oneself and others. It also means, “the best condition or degree.” And my condition was bleak. The pain in my body, a manifestation of my soul. The fear that rose to the surface: never becoming the woman I was meant to be.

I was lost in the debilitation of a suffering heart and I begged God to ease the aching. Some days I could not grip my pen, to write out the throbbing, the weakness of the nerve constricting my hand, reminding me I was not superwoman.

Surely, the pain would die if I could only experience spring.

I flew to Korea to escape the cave of winter. The cherry blossoms promised to come. I followed their scent.

Wandering the city, my friend and hostess led me across miles of pavement, lined with trees reaching their twig fingers up between skyscrapers and palaces. They weren’t trying to force their loveliness. They grew roots underground, expectant for their time. But we kept hoping and waiting for the blooms to ravish us with their splendor.

In a park we found a shrub that fooled us for a moment. I wrote out the lovely disappointment:

I wait for inspirations to come

In the night

Like the purple-sticked blossoms

Surprising our eyes

In palace garden,

The scent carrying us to thin, shrouded bows,

Unwrapping our defenses

As they revealed themselves

Undressed to the chill air and our hot breath, 

In turns, 

Suffocating them. We only wanted to breathe in spring

And savor.

One night we peered at the cityscape from a tall-windowed apartment. Tiny lights, red, yellow, and white dotted the view in dusk’s retreat. Standing there, I felt the evening’s peace creeping over us.

One or two cherry blossoms made their entrance in the corners of our landscape, a canvas, slowly bearing blots of color, almost like paint, purple-like in the dimness, barely bursting. Later I wrote in my journal:

 “Until we give ourselves over to the adventure, we will never know the fullness of being in a place and letting it tell us what it needs to say.”

The blooms never came, really, not like we expected. My longing for perspective and resurrection came, but in long periods of rest and recovery, in Korea, and later at home.

It came in unexpected sickness and Sabbath rest, in surrendering to the journey of waiting, and (in a season I didn’t understand fully) letting God love me.

Spring did not come shooting forth with answers to my suffering or next steps for my life. It made me wait.Tweet This

Glory pink came to Seoul just days after I left, I am told. When I stepped into my yard back in Kansas, peony-like tulips dotted the shade garden. I realize now, a full year later, they are the same color as the lights we saw over the great Korean city: violet, crimson, gold, and snow. Tonight, one or two will open under the stars, emblems of God’s perfect time.

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Love is Enough for Syria

Today I believe love is enough,

Even when Syria kills its own kids with gas,

The world gasping with their dying breaths.

Today I believe past political narcissism.

Love knows how to scoop up broken bodies,

Bind screams,

Embrace avengers.

Even when the power-hungry tires to trump

It’s gentle kiss,

Love says, “Enough.”Tweet This

I do not understand her fluid, healing tongue.

I watch it speak swiftly, and I use my own.

Respond to the Syria Chemical Attack

Preemptive Love Coalition is on the ground helping those in Syria. You can respond in love with them to help those affected by the tragedy.

Five Minute Friday Retreat

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday crew, a community of creative writers. Today our one-word writing prompt was ENOUGH.

P.S. If you’re looking for an inexpensive creatively-inspiring writing retreat this summer, come to the Five Minute Friday retreat July 21-23. Just twelve spots left! I know a few people are on the fence about it. Here are three reasons you should go:

  1. There may or may not be wood-fired pizza. Ahem.
  2. It’s what all the cool people are doing.
  3. Yo! It’s about time you invested in your calling.
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