New Website at www.TheStrangerSong.com

Life

New Website!

Hello faithful readers and sock-monkeys of my imagination,

Just to let you know, my site has put on her big girl shoes and is taking her first steps in them over at this new beauty of a website (that I only spent a few sleepless nights on…):

www.TheStrangerSong.com


Consistent-trees

My favorite climbing tree looked like a prisoner, stripped naked and hunching over in the corner of our front lawn. I wanted so badly to take my shoes off and climb up to let its branches cradle me while I tore at deep green leaves and twisted soft twigs into halos. But Ohio winters would never allow for something so reviving in Ohio’s February. Every winter it’s the same; I despise the cold for putting all of my trees to sleep! And now in the glory of springtime, I adore walking down a sidewalk painted in their shadows.

God has brought me to live in four different states, moving around twenty times (I lost count of the little ones), and each time I have always found a tree or two to be glad for. Texas was a decent place to live because I never had to go without my trees. Even when I lived in subdivisions there, I knew I could at least drive to a park and find a tree to lie beneath. The Northwest has some sturdy evergreens to climb (if you can reach the first branch) and the Oregon coast (okay, I didn’t live there, but one week of road trip was plenty to make an impression) has those majestic white oak trees all through the country side. As I was relaxing in my summer apartment this weekend, I noticed all of the trees whispering in the afternoon breeze. That sound is so relaxing to me. I can close my eyes anywhere and imagine myself on our back porch in Ohio, watching storms crawl across the cornfield while the nearby trees braced their leaves against it. Mmm the sound of home.

I remember once even last semester being so overwhelmed by a couple of family-related decisions to be made and felt alone in making the decision. So I used a class cut and took a walk to a nearby park in search of a good tree. I climbed right up into that God-made cradle and cried and prayed and cried some more. Today I ate my lunch in Moody’s plaza and looked adoringly at the good climbing tree while it beamed in the sunshine. And I just have to say that I am thankful for trees. I can see God’s grace to me in the feeling of home that he lets me find in them.

No matter where God leads me to live next, I am pretty sure that I will be just fine as long there is at least one tree within driving distance. = )

While visiting the farm in Ohio, I was so sad to find the ancient swingin' tree ripped out of the hill!!!


What happened?

It seems that some people-not just imaginary friends and sock monkeys-read this blog and they are wondering why I haven’t written in a while.

So for those of you who wonder, a brief explanation: work 25 hours per week between alumni and teacher’s assistant, 22 credit hours (including Greek, which is kicking my butt), church/community group, editing and writing for friends, trying to exercise regularly, personal reading, writing and meditating, etc. In addition, I made three blogs for other people and contribute to two others and now I’ve been very concerned with http://www.themoodystandard.com and making that a treasure to my classmates. So. get off my case??

I promise I will write to you soon. Three of my poems are almost ready for other eyes and I (this is embarrassing) have 15 unpublished drafts that will definitely need to see the light of your screen in the near future. Is that agreeable?

In the meantime, what do you think of my site? Is it Alexis-ish enough, but still somewhat understandable to the ‘normal’ population? Suggestions are welcome. = )

peace to you, loves.


V is for visceral

yay OhioAt thirteen years old, I was stopped by my own breath. To see it leave my lips and spread forward into the air was fascinating to me. I tuned out the winter war and stood still by the silo, filling my lungs with cold air and watching it twirl outward, suspended in front of the frozen cornfield just beyond our snow fort. A wad of snow and ice whistled past my head…Scrunching my lips together, I snorted air out of my nose, feeling the warmth smooth down my chin and seep between the folds of my scarf. Shaping my mouth into a rounded tunnel, I pushed more air out, trying to manipulate the shape and direction of my breath. I moved my head from side to side in quick motions, watching the stream stop in tiny clouds in front of me. Then, I waved my face around in circles, watching the waves slide and shift and…”Alexis, what are you even doing? The boys stole our snowballs! We need more ammo!” Right…

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A few people have asked me about how my New Year’s resolutions are coming along. Well, I have yet to floss, this is my second blog entry and this morning is the first time I have made my bed all year. But I sure do like this new year so far. Somehow, by what has to be some miracle from heaven, I have been able to continue in my reading along with the Book of Common Prayer and learning about the Christian liturgical calendar and seasons. And I have been immensely more intentional with my studying, meditating praying.

Thinking about what’s inside me and watching it move outside and away from my body, the intensity of reflection and action–it’s thrilling to me. I revel in introspection and the motivation that accompanies it. I can entertain all of the new year hooplah bandwagon stuff because of this. If nothing else to you, it gives me more of an excuse to retreat into my own world and think and think and overthink and dream and plan and conjure up ideas and then I actually get to talk about it because everyone else is doing it (kind of).

One night during winter break in Chicago, as I was running errands on bicycle, I stopped at a red light and decided not to jump ahead of traffic, but take a breather instead.

I slouched for a second and rolled my head around to loosen my neck and let out a deep sigh. My breathe rolled in front of me, in an almost-startling billow. I watched it leave my body and spread toward the traffic lights, suspended in red and yellow, before disappearing. My stomach expanded as I filled my diaphragm with chilly air and…Green light, Alexis.

I kept thinking as I peddled up the incline on Roosevelt. What is inside of me? What is lurking? What is waiting? What is stirring? What it sleeping? What is lovely? What is evil? Whatever it is, none of it was meant to remain just inside me. I want to see it spread outward and either dissipate–defeated at the break of light–or twirl into thoughts and dreams of genuine Love and selfless creativity. Still trying to decide on thoughtful New Year’s resolutions at that point, I decided to just chill and pray and let go of my action 2011 action plan and let the Holy Spirit, ruach, the eternal breath within me, show me where to inhale and exhale.

The last few weeks have been especially redemptive for me. My breathing has been labored or hesitant at some points. At others it has been deep and reviving. My new year so far has caused me to just stop–amidst the battles, amidst the traffic–and just watch the breath that God Himself sighed into me. And I am adoring it.

happy V day.


Stuffed friends and Easy-Bake blogs

When I was a little darlin’, I used to host tea parties and invite my sock monkeys, porcelain dolls and action figures. When I sensed a lag in conversation, I would suggest relevant events and topics for discussion: the most recent Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, our upcoming family moves, forest adventures with my brother, etc. Yet even with such riveting subjects, my guests still were not particularly chatty. I wonder if they only came for my sweet-tea filled china cups and Easy-Bake Oven delectables. (Hmm..comparable to some unsociable, starving college kids?? Maybe.)

I couldn't talk about tea parties without a shout-out to Carroll and Tenniel...

Anyway, this whole blog thing makes me feel like I am talking to porcelain dolls and action figures again. Only I never felt obligated to talk to them or pour their tea in order to somehow be faithful with my talents (shout out to Dr. Nyquist) or invest in my future… [Sigh of reluctant responsibility] But it seems that “blogging” is completely necessary for the modern-day lover of media and aspiring writer. And if I ever want to be a big kid and have a portfolio that is a little more colorful than my MBI Alumni writing, then WordPress is basically an Easy-Bake writing experience that I would be completely negligent to pass up.

It took a few years of looking into marble eyes for me to get good at serving coffee and cakes. But hey, I have real people to do that with now! So maybe it’s okay that publishing “blogs” makes me feel like I am talking with imaginary friends–at least I have a creative outlet and an audience (be they sock monkeys or forced friends) to start reading the obscene number of unpublished drafts that I have been hoarding.

Anyway. Here I go with a head-start to one of a few New Year’s rezies. If you have a pulse, leave me comments or send me an owl to let me know what my writing makes you think.


Warped [my dreams]

Paul K and I graced Warped Tour Chicago with our painfully cool presence. It was my first one ever. My assessment goes like this:

Dislike: I ate popcorn and Laffy Taffy to nourish my body. Later I washed it down with a $6 lemonade.
Like: Having a friend to finish the popcorn and lemonade so i don’t throw up. Thanks Paul!
Dislike: People with backpacks in the mosh pit. Really, fools?
Like: Feeling useful in operation: don’t let the crowdsurfers fall!
Dislike: Mike Poser
Like: There were hardly any Tooth and Nail bands that I would normally be stoked about. Instead we checked out bands that I hadn’t experienced too much of/at all. Good thinkin’.
Dislike: People not being concerned over the injured/ill musicians that they seem to care so much about. Maybe they did pay $40 and put up with NeverShoutNever’s screaming female crowd just to see Sum 41. But yelling “F**k you!” at Kevin Lyman, who I am sure was more bummed than you were? – Jerks.
Like: Bryce Avary’s cheer (and ridiculous talent) and Breathe Electric’s catchy dance parties.
Dislike: F**k at every rest and second-hand smoke from kids.
Like: Running around in a circle like a bunch of hooligans, dancing to We The King’s cover of The Middle.

Here’s their recap:

(Don’t worry, concerned citizens: we were not in Every Time I Die’s crawl of death)

After all of that perfectly weathered, healthy-paced craziness, though, I have to say that I am infinitely inspired. Every under-dressed, over-painted young person I saw reminded me of why I am in Bible school and working with youth. Every piece of literature I saw (especially the ones in need of editing) encouraged me to stay on the Print Media track. And the endless hours I’ve spent reading interviews and watching tour blogs gave me this concern for all of the vagabond band members that I know God will let me work with and do something snazzy with one day. Gaahhh the love. I just wanted to hug every person I saw (except for the guy that purposely cut two layered V-necks all the way down to display his chestpiece, his rib cage and his belly button; Ew. no hugs from me).

Poor Paul. The entire day I was rambling and beaming about all of the crazy ideas I have involving youth, media and music: a concert venue (that offers affordable water) and really loves on their guest bands; kids getting to know the band members and writing about them, being all creative and making their own influence…Oh, and me writing features and reviews that are infinitely inspiring…and, and, and…

Thanks for the day of churnin’ churnin’ youthful dreams, Warped Tour. And for carrying around all of that Willy Wonka candy and jumping around like a crazy fool with me, thanks Paul.


Growing Pains

is a favorite. Remember?.

Roughly 4.8% of the people in my life know how terribly disappointing the month of June was for me. Those same people give or take a few also knew how eager I was to flee Chicago for a week and get my summer sunburn. Always such great expectations.

After I stayed up the night before doing absolutely nothing legitimate, Leighanna and I met at the airport and flew from Chicago to Houston.

Annoying society observation: people refuse to sit next to strangers until made to do so. Why is it necessary to leave a seat in between, making it difficult for families (or sisters) to sit next to one another? C’mon.

Neither one of us paid attention to our baggage claim info. Our parents are good for that stuff and we were on their time now. Ah…and there they were laughing at how alike we looked (drowsy and unintentionally matching) Leighanna gets mom hug, Alexis gets dad hug. Switch. Jarhett arrives. More hugs. Switch. And onward to the mom-cooked food.

What do the “grown-up” kids and their empty-nesting parents do for a vacation? Water park! We stayed at the Schlitterbahn Resort and were a bit more excited about the legendary water rides than the little children running around the park. Lined and talking time ‘a plenty.A couple days, some lost sunglasses, way sketchy food and a jelly shoe funeral later, we spent the 4 hour ride home discussing politics and economics. Talking time ‘a plenty. Another day later, we rented a boat and sped around the gulf bay, stopping every now and then to get out the raft and own some waves. By the end of the day, the Texas sun owned our skins…And before we knew it, everyone was whipping out his/her own way of saying goodbye. Texas talkin’ over.

...or the waves take them.

Begin journey back to Chicago. “Leighanna, I don’t know how I feel about what just happened…”
And thank you God for a sister to have a completely necessary conversation with. We talked of creative freedoms, individual viewpoints, family ideals, purpose, biological dynamics, knowing each other, etc. and that it’s okay for those things to not be understood between parents and “kids.”
I struggled with the thought of us not agreeing as we form our own opinions, afraid of the thought of some root of dissension or judgment between everyone. What if we become one of those families that just debates over everything? Ick. And, even though my parents have always supported my pursuits (though they never fully understand why I’m going for those things), I still fear that what I aim for in life will mean less if they don’t get it and share my zeal for what I’m doing. But those aren’t fair expectations for them or for me.

I like talking through the growing up things with Leighanna.
Thanks, sister.

Texas was actually a good break from my expectations, to say the least.
I appreciated the dad hugs, the mom food, brother-sisters time, and the thought-provoking talking. These are things I was ready and eager for. But I’m even more grateful for everything I was sent away thinking about and processing. Sigh. Growing up. It’s so not what I pictured when I was wishing for adulthood at 10 years old.


grace shatters my beaded yokes: confessions of a self-oppressing artist

The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures. Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, A life of joy and peace.

Some nights you might find me cross-legged in the center of my bedroom floor–my black tank again wearing through the red stitches it’s been mended twice with, my green scrub pants reminding me of the smell of bleach we wore together at the boarding home. Don’t try to approach me though; you might slip on the sea of glass I’ve tried to make for myself. My beads drown the carpet in deep, twisted hues while I add to and string them together–So walk lightly if you must, and take care to not find one stabbed into your heel.

What began as creative devotion for me turned into a consuming need that chained up the freedom I had through expression. The beads were for my Love, painted for him, to shimmer around his throne. As I set my hands to them, losing sleep over them, I moved with no desire besides offering them to the Artist of eternity. But now, as I work through the night, catching a passionless reflection in the window pane, it’s hard to picture these beads adorning anything lovely besides my bones.

When I loved my beads too much and caught their reflections of praise, I began to resent them, but could not resist a need for making worth in them. So I let my attention shift to the mirror where I could better accommodate the want for worth. As I stare at my spiritless frame, I love the lines, the dramatic structure complemented by deeply painted drops of glass. For all of the flaws I so easily find in my appearance, these jewels make up for it. They dazzle the skin that stretches at the base of my neck and smooths over the collar bones that hold the weight of a thousand beads.

So I add to my collection daily, fashioning heavy glass necklaces that twist and tangle across my chest and drape over my shoulders. They form the most impossible knots anymore–hence my glistening bedroom floor. But I still need them. I need to keep creating them, because if I stop I fear that that the creative devotion they began with will never be recovered. And I need them to see and to touch and to be able to show others and to show God. What if I don’t have them anymore? Where will I master beauty without them? What will I say without them? Further the thought of my neck being exposed to the unpredictable breeze, once again touching my skin, is terrifying.

Recently something that Paul wrote caused me to close my eyes and look at myself: This girlish, prideful island in the middle of a sea of sinful beads was what I saw. I saw that I am horribly guilty of an obsession with control (feel free to sing Mutemath here) and blatantly disregarding a truth that scares me: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

God revealed to me the skewed intentions of my works and their inability to result in anything good apart from his work. What begin as devotion and expression, I often let become a requirement and expectation for goodness, resulting in an obsession and yoke that eventually wears me into exhaustion. And my anxiousness about expectations and pursuits that, at the end of the day weigh nothing against the glory of God, only spit in his saving face. My arrogance and independent insistence says, “That thing you did on the cross? Thanks, but uh I got this covered here today. I like my [limited] perspective here where I can see things that You are obviously missing from where You are…”

But I don’t want to be the prideful wretch that turns away help and life, thinking she needs to do everything better and on her own. I have been set free and I can no longer shut my eyes to this and try to make my own freedom, my own life, my own beauty. Paul says that our freedom comes through faith in God and His grace to us (Gal 5:4). So, he tells us to live like it means something to us, For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. (Gal 5:5)

It’s a sin for me to add to the mess of beaded burdens around my shoulders. They cascade in their own bitter splendor and spill onto the floor as a sea of unmanageable glass. So here I draw the line and say that what I create and what I pursue are never things to be consumed by. My worth and my righteousness are in no way dependent upon or even reflected by these things. And when I let my art, my education, my volunteering, my anything become supreme in my life, I hope that I will hear these words again and again reminding me that I have peace with God through Christ and that this is eternally freeing and never oppressing.




holy questions or audacious distrust?

From day one I’ve been an out-of-control mess of questions. My first breath was a desperate grasp for air in an alien world, screaming and crying like someone was already trying to undo the precious form that God had just spent nine months stitching together. There was no trust, no peace in me from the beginning.

I cursed the wilderness of my childhood, wondering how long I could bare it and into whose hands my life would fall. Stories and imaginary scenarios that I controlled distracted me from the most oppressing years. And even though I know who actually protected my life and captured my heart in those days, I still spit questions back in His face today.

My insolence carries on with this notion that He gets carried into the tides of my emotions and imagination, completely forgetting about the needs I think I have and the questions that plague me.

My questions in life have been relentless, sliding into every corner of my mind at any given time. And after hearing so much hype and hooplah in the Christian culture about navigating the will of God and having a ministry plan, goals, etc, my questions persist in what I have been led to think where so vital to my life as a disciple.

And I have the audacity to act like my questions are intended for heavenly purposes.

Where will I go? How do I get there? Will I know that its from You? Are you sure I can handle that?

What will become of the rest of summer? Where will we leave? How will we afford it? What should I pursue?

By whose side will I be? Are You sure I can handle that friendship?

On that day that day, when I escape this world, will You say Well done? Or will I have fallen asleep and been folded into the waters of complacency by then?

And even when I speak these questions before God, they’re still mine. I own their purposes and fears, casting them forth as I please. Sometimes flinging them like a yo-yo with a string still laced through my fingers. The ideal of knowing, of having something remotely visible to hold on to, to trust in, to call my own, and to control – it becomes my idol.

Yet I still slam my fists on the table before God, demanding an answer.
And when I see His calm demeanor remain steadfast before me and His hands gently slide across the table to clean up the heaping pile of distrust away from me, I see the vanity in every single question.

The truth is that His answers straight up terrify me. Sometimes He doesn’t even wait for me to let go. He rips the question marks from my fists, replacing them with immovable periods before I even get a chance to say goodbye to their romantic ideas.

The fact is that I am not entitled to know anything. The only knowledge that I can be sure of comes from the mercy of God and does not resemble any pea-brain concoction I could ever try for.

A scholar once asked Mother Teresa to pray for him to have clarity from God so that he would know exactly what He should be doing for God. She refused to pray for clarity. He protested, insisting that he only wants what she has had her entire life. Mother Teresa replied, “I do not have clarity, what I have is trust. I will pray that you can learn to trust God every day. He will show you what to do each step of the way.”

Francis Chan and Kendall Payne smacked me in the face with this:


The Christmas House

From the memoirs of Alexis Marie Berry

The porch light of the Christmas House crawled up to my room, illuminating the raised structures of the window frame, but leaving its hollows dark and somber. I’ll never forget sitting in the hollowed corner of my window that night. My forehead did not move from the ice cold glass for hours as I looked onto the Antique Mall’s parking lot across the lawn. Rain drizzled slow and steady that night as my dad paced, and prayed, and cried. After another emotionally exhausting night with my mother, he had been pushed to the edge. Torn between honoring his marriage covenant and protecting his children, my father was on the verge of making a decision that would profoundly alter the course of my life.

The longer he persisted in his timid steps across every surface of that lot, the more my heart swelled with pain for him. I wondered if the gentle rain that night was meant to keep the circles he paced from starting a fire. Helplessly, I watched as his body shook and his face gave way to sorrowful tears. He wandered seemingly aimless for hours, begging God for an answer. At such a young age, I understood all too much the reality of sin and the immense burden it heaves on even the most innocent hearts.
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No monument in my childhood compares to the haunting encumbrance of the Christmas House. When I was 10 years old “The Christmas Tree Store” was the fifth or sixth or seventh house I lived in (honestly, I’ve lost count). Before we moved in, every room of the 1920’s farmhouse was bulging with Christmas trees, holiday wreaths, homemade candles, glittering snow men, and a myriad of Nativity variations. My brother Seth and I were enchanted with the rich cinnamon and evergreen smell, the red and white lights shining from every corner, and the silver tinsel dripping from each door frame.

Once all of the decoration and sparkling splendor had been removed, though, the true difficulty of its character was revealed. The Christmas House was old and had been without an actual family for many years. It was in need of a modern update, reviving it from the ancient memories that it held in the original wood floors, the brick fireplace, and antique wallpapering. Yet my parents were captured by the potential they saw in the rustic beauty of the house’s original structure the way Seth and I were wooed by the magic that we saw in its decorations. My father identified something special in it. He saw a house that was worth investing his energies toward, no longer a temporary pursuit. He found the potential of calming my mother into a life of satisfaction with the house that she was so enamored with. The hope presented in the house was one that promised the idea of relaxing into a peace that our family had desperately longed for. We were finally out of the city with room to run freely and spread the roots that would end our tireless sojourning years.

The dream life in the Christmas House didn’t come easily, though. To say that we were “roughin’ it” for those first few months would be a callous understatement. The effort required in order to conform the House to our family’s hopes and dreams was absolutely exhausting for everyone. Our first few months there turned into the coldest winter of my life. The plumbing, electrical, and heating was an aged mess. We had no toilet for the first couple of weeks, no refrigerator for a month, and I don’t remember how long it took to get a bathtub. Until we had a refrigerator, milk and dairy essentials sat in a Goshen Dairy crate perched in a pile of snow outside the kitchen door. Chiseling milk over my breakfast cereal was a normal routine in the mornings. I remember my mother would heat water in our giant cast-iron stew pot for the four of us to take turns bathing in. And I can still feel the patterns on the heat registers beneath me and my yellow blankey cloak, as I would try to make a tent of warmth when the heater would kick on. Seth and I just had to learn to adapt without complaint as our family slowly seemed to give in and conform to the burdensome needs of the Christmas House.

During this time, the most pressing responsibilities of my mother were taking her medication and making sure that her children made it to and from school (busses didn’t venture out to the Christmas House). Because my mother struggled with both responsibilities, we were constantly late for class and often waited for hours for a ride home. Many of our late mornings were spent with Seth and I pining away in the Christmas House’s frigid foyer. There my grandmother’s heirloom mirror, hanging crooked on a temporary plywood closet door, had my scared reflection memorized, recalling too many mornings listening to her taunting and discouraging my father. I remember staring at myself, wishing that I could be older and take Seth to school on my own and take care of him when my dad couldn’t be at home. That mirror was eventually shattered during one of her increasing, drunken, manic episodes.

Perhaps the exhaustion of the effort required for her dream life caused my mother’s hopes to dwindle and her mind to falter. Both my mother and the House seemed to cling to the past and refuse the embrace of a hopeful future. It seemed as though the more effort my dad made to restore the hope of the Christmas House and my mother’s sanity at the same time, the more both resisted him. I don’t know if she gave up on us or the house or herself or all of the above. But something snapped within her mind, and she just quit trying to be healthy, hopeful, or loving. In the interest of still honoring her, I will just say that she made enough wrong decisions, succumbing to the pull of darkness, that within four or five months my father was driven to the parking lot of the ‘ole Antique Mall. The decision he made that night to trust God and sacrifice every possession and comfort of his in order to protect his children marked the definite beginning of the most heart-wrenching years of my life.

My vagabond days were far from over when we moved into the Christmas House. In fact, they were just beginning. After the parking lot night, a three-year divorce/custody battle was begun, resulting in too many encounters with police offices, counselors, and mediators. Those years of my life were spent wandering from the security of my dad’s house, to the staggering unpredictability of my mother’s House, to my future step-mom’s, grandparent’s, uncle’s, etc. With every traumatizing visit at The Christmas House and with every potentially redemptive moment with my mother spoiled by some effort of evil, my tears were absorbed by the walls of the house whose charm deteriorated with my mother’s grace. The corners of that house became my hiding places, the furniture turned into fortresses, and the bottomless piles of clothing in the laundry room grew around me as a cradle. I desperately clung to the power that I knew was in the Word of God as Jesus clearly protected me and drew me ever-closer into the fold of His wing. Yet The Christmas House still whined with the burden of evil wreaking havoc beneath its roof.

Each room eventually plundered by the darkness of my childhood, whatever innocent charm lingering in that house was otherwise raped and left a shameful mess. The walls of that house had seen too much, the floors shaken by too much, and for that reason had to be destroyed. The beauty of the historic house was eventually so degraded by the time my mother was removed from it, that it was best for it to be bulldozed into the grass. The abated fragments of treasured moments with my mother were left to fertilize the empty plot of grass where The Christmas House once stood along State Route 250. The only good left at all was from the

The emptiness of that land burrows into my heart as I feel the pain of a life that, even 10 years later, still gives me no peace. In some ways it has made me wiser and in others it has only confused me more. During the time Seth and I spent at the Christmas House for court-ordered visitation, I was essentially mothering him and making sure his needs were met. Gabriella, the baby that my mother had to a man now in prison, also ended up being a deep concern of mine. After 10 months of caring for her when my mother was unable, the baby was eventually taken into foster care. It wasn’t long after my dad was given sole custody and Gabriella put up for adoption, that my mother was torn away from The Christmas House and all of the hope that she found in it. She’s been in an out of hospital care, homeless shelters, and now has been taken into guardianship by her sister, whom I had never met.

The emptiness that my mother feels for the loss of her children and her idea of a normal life causes me deep sorrow. But the loss of my childhood digs even deeper, challenging my ability to care for her even today. I’ve only recently been able to allow God to pick up the broken pieces and offer a new hope with our relationship. After years of adhering to a no-contact order, I’m beginning to speak to her again. She constantly brings up the events of The Christmas House, the dreams that she feels she was robbed of, the family and the home that no longer exists. Moving on is impossible to her. And so, even today, as I make my feeble attempts to reconcile and have concern for my mother, our relationship is trapped beneath the failed roof of that house.

Since The Christmas House was destroyed, I’ve seen it from the road as my dad, brother, and I have driven past it on numerous occasions. It’s impossible to tear my eyes from that land as it drags across the car windows in passing. The fact that my dad has never offered to stop the car, though he knows it pains me to not even slow down, shows how determined he is to move forward from those years of darkness without looking back. And I know that this is what’s good. I’ve always trusted him. So I just keep quiet, my forehead against the cold glass and close my eyes, remembering my life in that house, turning over and over the image of my father realizing that it all must end if a life of new hope was to begin. It’s a cycle in my mind: I try to keep moving, looking forward. But even as I do, my mother always seems to be left behind, just like her Christmas House.


Wash me, white as snow, so I can be made whole.

The terrifying aspect of God creating in me a clean heart and a pure mind is making me  overwhelmingly aware of the fact that on my own, I am nothing more than a wretch with a disgustingly sinful nature.

If Jesus wouldn’t have saved me, I probably would have destroyed myself (and everyone around me) by now.

Who am I to live my days with the pride that I carry on with?


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