Friday, April 26, 2013

Poetry Friday: Celebrating April!

April is nearly gone, but I saw my first bluebird of the season yesterday. I hesitated in the driveway, distracted from the water bill and the Steinmart brochure by a brilliant flash of blue. He rested on the electrical wire for only a moment, then dipped into the nearest canopy of trees where the blue somehow blended into the green and he was hidden again. 

This has been a lovely month of poetry. While I haven't posted many poem, I have enjoyed reading and have managed to write or revise a few for a new project. So before we turn the corner into May where spring in the Deep South will morph into morbid heat and jungles of weeds, I'm celebrating April! 

Laura Purdie Salas hosts the roundup today, so stop by her blog for more poetry offerings.

by  Helen Bayley Davis

Hush—April is in the lane!
Be very still, she may go again;
The touch of her lilac-scented hand
Is on my cheek.
Do not speak
To her, she may not understand;
She is shy, and white, and very
Look,—she leaves a crocus—there!
The daffodils awake, and stir;
Above my head there is a whir
Of blue blue wings oh I am
She is here! See—
By the wild plum tree
She pauses; soon it will be clad
In petals fluttering like blown
white tulle . . .
April, you are too beautiful:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Journey: Final Thoughts on Grieving and Living Through It

With all this birth, joy, spring, we did move on to a new season of living. That fall we moved into a new house out in the country and dove into a new adventure with homeschooling. Life rocked on along as it does with four kids and a busy household.

But as I said before, grief is cyclical. Sometimes, from nowhere it seemed, those feelings of sadness would appear again. They were not as intense and did not last too long, but I still needed to grieve when they came.

Cliff and I went to see “Steel Magnolias” when it came out in 1989. I sat in the darkness of the theater and heaved deep sobs into Cliff’s shoulder.

In August of 1996, I was in Colorado Springs for a retreat with a small group of women friends. I cannot remember why we visited the baby wing of hospital while there, but we did, and it shook up bits of memory that I knew better than to push back down. The young man who would eventually become my son-in-law wrapped his arm around my shoulders and gave me the steadying I needed to regain my equilibrium.

There were probably other times the grief returned for brief visits, but these are the two I remember well.

In all the years since Allison’s death, I have freely shared with people who were hurting, I have handed out hundreds of copies of the recording made, I have prayed for many, many people dealing with grief. I know it’s not necessary to say much. I know the kind of embrace that’s needed. But in all those years, I have not listened to that recording again. When the grief occasionally surfaced, I embraced it, but I never went to that tender place willingly. I have never tried to write about the loss until I wrote the poem, “Allison,” a few years ago. Then my daddy died and I needed to remember some things.

The other thing I have wrestled with in recent days is the expression of my faith. I have spent most of my life in Christian church groups. I grew up going to church and found most of my friends there. I married a man who was a pastor, so my primary circle of influence was among believing Christians. In the last few years, as Cliff moved from pastoring/counseling to full-time counseling and I stepped more fully into the writing world, I have wrestled with how to be open and honest about my faith in a circle of friends and acquaintances who often look at the world and wonder how there can be a God who allows such suffering. I heard a sermon recently that gave me a new frame of reference for this question.

If you look at a mountain range from a distance, it seems to be a single line of mountains, but if you look at it from the air, it’s easy to see that there are usually at least two ranges with a valley between them. Let's say the plain on the western side of the ranges represent the time before Christ came. There are many, many promises in the Old Testament of a coming messiah who would bring order, peace, and an end to suffering.

Then Jesus came and fulfilled some of those promises, but not all of them. He lived, taught his followers, and said very plainly that the Kingdom of God had come here on the earth. Then he was crucified, dead and buried. As Christians, we believe he rose from the dead and ascended to God the Father. As a result, God gave us access to himself and sent his Spirit as an embraceable entity into the world. We’ll consider this point in history the western range of mountains, or the Now.

Jesus promised to return and make a final end of evil, sickness and suffering. As Christians, we believe this will happen at some point in time. The disciples believed it would happen in their lifetime. Toward the end of his life, Paul was beginning to understand that wasn't the way things were going, but it didn't change the fact that the promise to return was real. So we’ll consider this final promised return the eastern mountain range in our imaginary picture, or the Not Yet.

Why has he waited so long? I don’t know. I told you from the beginning that I’m not a theologian. But I do believe that we live in the valley between the Now and the Not Yet. The Now gives me access to God’s spirit who speaks, changes my heart, makes healing and wholeness a reality. But I also live with the reality of the Not Yet. Brokenness, sickness, suffering, death, and evil still exist in my world.

I can choose to live in the shadow of either mountain.

Sharing the story of Allison’s death has given me several things. I have remembered her in a new way, re-examined the grieving process, and entered into it again with grace and faith as I let go of my daddy. This “telling” has given me the chance to see if I could share faith in a way that my non-Christian readers could hear. It has given me courage to walk in the shadow of the Now without ignoring the Not Yet, but keeping my focus where I want it to be. I am simply one who has taken my own journey through this valley and found God faithful.

His promise to us was that he would use Allison’s death more than he could have used her life. She continues to prove him true.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Journey: Jeanetta's Perspective

I have enjoyed reading through my siblings' stories of how Allison affected them. Mom's story of Allison is a great story of healing, but as the "gracious gift" it always pains me to read. Seeing your mother, the one who never gets sick or hurt, in pain is incredibly difficult. The little girl in me, even as an adult, wants to jump up and down waving my arms saying "wait, don't cry. I'm coming. I'm only a few months away. I can't replace her but I promise to give you joy again."

I, unlike any of the other Bennett children, have had a very unique perspective of my mom's journey, because I felt it, too. I have always been an extremely passionate person and often times find myself taking on the pain, joy or anger of those closest to me. I remember the first time I ever heard the recording of my parents sharing their Allison experience to our church community. I was in college, driving back to school after visiting my parents. I completely lost myself in my mothers words. I cried when she cried and could feel her pain. I haven't been able to read through her recent blogs without crying with her again.

My mom and I have always had a unique relationship. even though we have very opposite personalities. She is a sweet, gentle, soft-spoken, woman whom I have never seen raise her voice. [Mom interrupts to say that she's just forgotten all the times I raised my voice to her, or she just remembers hers being so loud that mine didn't seem like much in comparison. I tease her that she's been in my face since she was two!] I'm not even sure I've ever seen her get angry, unless it was at the computer. Growing up I was loud, obstinate, pushed all the limits set before me and loved life. As I read through mom's poem, or prayer, it's almost as if God put in me all those emotions my mom was never able to voice. It has taken me a long time into my adult life to learn to control these emotions and use them as a gift to bless others instead of just being an emotional mess.

The other thing that is unique with my story of Allison is I knew the end of the story from the beginning. Knowing the end of the story changes how you read it. It's like Easter, I love Easter. I look forward to celebrating Christ's resurrection because I know that it is coming. I know that Christ is Risen. I get to rejoice and celebrate because I know the end of the story. Ash Wednesday is a sobering day but, I know that Easter is coming. I respect and mourn the sacrifice that He died, but I know he rises. If I were Mary and my son died, I'm sure that's all I could see. The pain and grief would be so strong that it would feel like the end. How could there be anything past death?

There are few of us that get to see or be the "gracious gift." To be allowed to be a part of God's story is a honor like no other. It is a constant reminder, in the midst of turmoil, that Jesus is Lord and is the Writer of the story, even if we can't see the ending.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Journey: God's Gracious Gift

I stopped journaling somewhere near the end of May that year, or else I have simply misplaced a journal somewhere that contained June through December of 1987, so what remains to be told must come from my memory and my husband, who is a true storyteller and loves to embellish. I do still have the calendar for the year and our final baby book.

I had been having strong Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks. I had a stress test on Wednesday, June 3rd, and everything looked good. I saw my doctor on Monday morning, June 8th, and she told me it could be anytime.

Sometime in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, June 9th, we went to the hospital once more. A sweet friend, I cannot remember who, came to stay with the children with promises to get them to school the next day. By the time we completed the admittance process and finally settled into the same labor room I had been in the last time I had a baby, I was done in, spent. Contractions were coming hard and I knew it couldn’t be long, but I was so tired of struggling, of holding myself together, of wrestling through the fears and the anger and the numbness and the possibilities, I had nothing left for the labor.

The nurse, Cliff says it was the same one as before, but I can’t remember, asked me if I wanted something for pain. I knew if I waited much longer an epidural would be out of the question. Allison was the only delivery I had ever made it through naturally, and I didn’t even want to try again.

“Yes, give me an epidural,” I told her. “And hurry up!” I don’t know if I actually said those last words or if the screaming voice only reverberated in my head.

An epidural is no fun. Trying to hold still while they stick a needle in your back isn’t particularly easy, but once it was done I could rest while my body labored, aware of the pressure of the contractions, but no longer fighting them. It really wasn’t long, maybe an hour and a half, before they wheeled me into the delivery room.

The same windowless room that had felt so cold and sterile and empty the last time I was there was full of light and movement and anticipation. Everyone knew my story, the nurses, my doctor, Cliff, all waited with me for the life about to emerge.

I pushed at their command, again and again, until I felt the release, the absence of pressure.

And then the cry.

The doctor placed that sweet baby on my stomach and said, “You have a girl.”

I cried. Cliff cried. I think the doctor cried.

Tears of joy this time.

“I can’t believe I have a girl,” I said. “I can’t believe God gave me a girl.”

Oh, such joy! 

I am crying as I type this. Having worked my way once again through the grief, the joy is still overwhelming.
Jeanetta Christine Bennett was born at 5:10, Tuesday morning, June 9, 1987. She weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces, 19 1/4 inches long.

Jeanetta, her name, means God’s gracious gift.

In those days, a hospital stay was required, so it was Thursday before we came home. We stopped by the school and picked up Jenifer and Andrew and my mother and dad brought Stephen home. You must only imagine the rejoicing, the excitement, the tremendous delight this little one brought. This is one of my all-time favorite photos of our children. Need I say any more?

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Journey: Hints of Spring

Mine was considered a high risk pregnancy, and my doctor (the same sweet woman who delivered Allison)saw me more often than normal. By March, I was in my third trimester and seeing her for weekly visits. By late April, we had added a weekly stress test at the hospital. It was a challenging schedule to keep, but I often took Jenifer with me, and we always stopped at Golden Donuts, located in a dumpy, renovated gas station near the hospital. The place made the best chocolate milkshake in town.

As this new little life grew inside me, I continued to wrestle through loss, fear, and blame. Eventually spring came in me, as it did in the world outside my windows. The soft red blush of the first spring buds, then the greens—spring green, seafoam green, lime, jade, forest green—a full rainbow of green. Life coming forth from the dead of winter. 

I was as big as the side of a barn. There’s not much you can do about how you wear your baby, but on a fifth pregnancy, you don’t really care too much. My body was definitely feeling worn and frazzled. Those muscles at the base of the abdomen that support the baby were stretched thin as a worn-out rubber band. Just walking to the mailbox was stressful. When my hands weren’t occupied with something more important, they were generally holding up my baby bulge.

As my due date neared, I rested a lot. I must have been reading a book about on faith. Unfortunately, I didn’t record the title in my journal, but I copied down some excerpts during the month of May. My faith was finding its feet again.

“The more we find Him in our sorrows and wants, the more we’ll be drawn away from the place where the sorrows are to Him in the place where He is.”

It had been a hard year and a half, but I had survived, and I knew even then, before this baby arrived, that something in the essence of me had changed, grown, stretched.

“In a tree, growth is not a uniform thing. In some single months there is more growth than in the whole rest of the year. During the rest of the year, however there is solidification. Without that, the timber would be useless. The period of rapid growth when the woody fiber is actually deposited between the bark and the trunk is only 4-6 weeks in May, June, and July. If we don’t acknowledge the time factor from the heart, we can get caught up in experiences and blessings and our ever-changing feelings, losing our anchor of scriptural facts.”


Friday, April 19, 2013

A Poetry Friday Anniversary

This Poetry Friday I am celebrating 38 years with my sweet hubby with a poem from Rabindranath Tagore. Our host today for the Roundup is the lovely Irene Latham. Stop by Live Your Poem for more celebrating. 

by Rabindranath Tagore

O my love, what gift of mine
Shall I give you this dawn?
A morning song?
But morning does not last long—
The heat of the sun
Wilts like a flower
And songs that tire
Are done.

O friend, when you come to my gate.
At dusk
What is it you ask?
What shall I bring you?
A light?

A lamp from a secret corner of my silent house?
But will you want to take it with you
Down the crowded street?
The wind will blow it out.

Whatever gifts are in my power to give you,
Be they flowers,
Be they gems for your neck
How can they please you
If in time they must surely wither,
Lose lustre?
All that my hands can place in yours
Will slip through your fingers
And fall forgotten to the dust
To turn into dust.

When you have leisure,
Wander idly through my garden in spring
And let an unknown, hidden flower’s scent startle you
Into sudden wondering—
Let that displaced moment
Be my gift.
Or if, as you peer your way down a shady avenue,
Suddenly, spilled
From the thick gathered tresses of evening
A single shivering fleck of sunset-light stops you,
Turns your daydreams to gold,
Let that light be an innocent

Truest treasure is fleeting;
It sparkles for a moment, then goes.
It does not tell its name; its tune
Stops us in our tracks, its dance disappears
At the toss of an anklet
I know no way to it—
No hand, nor word can reach it.
Friend, whatever you take of it,
On your own,
Without asking, without knowing, let that
Be yours.
Anything I can give you is trifling—
Be it a flower, or a song.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Poetry Friday: A Sudden Line of Poetry

So many ways to celebrate National Poetry Month! For the most complete compilation, visit Jama Rattigan's growing list of sites to visit.

I have especially enjoyed Irene Latham's Progressive Poem. Margaret Simon adds today's line. And Heidi Mordhort's 30 Days 30 Words. Each of these offerings embraces the simplicity and the creativity my heart is craving this April. 

My offering today is the perfect celebration of "a sudden line of poetry" with Denise Levertov.

Enjoy many more Poetry Friday offerings with our host today, Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.

The Secret
by Denise Levertov

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

I who don't know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can't find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Counting Down the Days

"There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad or empty hours in the day or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself...Too many worthy activities, valuable things, and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures--an excess of shells, where one or two would be significant." 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

This makes me think of Sarah, Plain and Tall and the colors she missed on the prairie.

Soon, I must fly home, too.

Monday, April 8, 2013


I love the ocean.

The sound of the waves rushing so faithfully onto land, the constancy, the way the sunlight shifts on the sand, the way the water changes from green to blue to gray, blue holes in a cloudy gray sky, sandpipers rushing up the beach, gulls braced against the wind, pelicans diving into the water.

We have walked on the beach most days. The first week I was literally in recovery mode, so very tired from the events of this young year. Cliff kept asking me what I wanted to accomplish while we were here and I kept saying nothing. I don't have a plan. My goal, the thing I have needed most, is simply rest.

I have written a few blog posts, read bits and pieces of books, worked on a few poems, but the luxury of nothing necessary has been heavenly. I love the ocean.

The remains from someone's wedding

Friday, April 5, 2013

Progressive Poem and Joy Kogawa

Irene Latham instigated the Kidslitosphere Progressive Poem last year. It was such a success, and loads of fun, that she couldn't resist a repeat this year. Today I add my line to the mix of wonderful words already on the page. Here is the poem so far:

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you’re rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until

Now I hand it off to Gayle Krause for tomorrow's next line.

I've been reading a book called, Shouts and Whispers: Twenty-One Writers Speak about their Writing and their Faith. It is a compilation of lectures given at Calvin College's biennial Festival of Faith and Writing. Presenters, who are well-known writers, answer the question, "What does it mean to be a writer working in a context of faith within the world of contemporary letters?" Contributors in this volume include Katherine Paterson, Kathleen Norris, Will Campbell, Paul Schrader, James Calvin Schaap, Anne Lamott, Luci Shaw, Joy Kogawa and Madeline L'Engle.

I have enjoyed reading the thoughts shared by these authors and have, in the process, been reading some of their respective works. Today being Poetry Friday, I'd like to share my discovery of Joy Kogawa. I had not known Joy's work before, but find her poetry to be beautiful in it's simplicity, much like the art of Japanese flower arranging, Ikebana.

Kogawa was a child of Japanese parents living in Vancouver, British Columbia, during World War II when she and her family were moved to an  internment camp in central British Columbia. She is a poet, novelist, and children's author. Her award-winning novel, Obasan, focuses on the relocation of Japanese-Canadians during WWII.

As I continue to write through my own story of grief, I was moved by this lovely poem that calls the reader and the sufferer to look farther, see more.

by Joy Kogawa

o that after all no
thought breaks
the mind's cold spell

chill these bones their
language lost

in this fresh silence
weather hides all
odours of decay

by freezing time
I travel through
this numb day

look look
my small
my beautiful child

the icicle here
how it shimmers
in the blue sun

Read the rest here.

For more Poetry Friday, join Robyn Hood Black who hosts the roundup today.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Journey: Re-living Tragedy

Then came the dark days of living through that time of year again. A full year had passed since I gave Allison back to the Lord. As I remembered the pain, the hurt, the hollowness, I wondered what had happened to God’s presence. I felt so alone, numb, bereft.

And yet there was one who knew all the anguish I was experiencing—the child in my womb. And I worried what effect my grief and pain might have.

Over and over again, I chose life in the face of fear. Not that my emotions ever changed, but I still spoke life to myself and to my baby.

Again and again, I had to come back to letting go, releasing Allison, my other children, myself, and this unborn child into the hands of a God I chose to believe was loving and good, even though I had no sense of his presence at the time.

I chose not to blame God. I chose it on a daily basis. I chose not to live in fear. Every time, I found myself anxious for this new life and my response to it, I chose again to rest in God’s love and faithfulness, despite any lack of feelings I had to go with the choice. I simply kept choosing to believe there was truth in God’s word. It wasn’t easy. There were times I longed for the feelings of God’s presence with me. Still, I chose life.

This is a bit from my journal in February of 1987. It’s not particularly good poetry, but it gives you a perspective of some of the things I was wrestling with.

When God is Silent 
The air is still
no rustle of leaves
the wind, ever-present,
suddenly soundless,
leaving me becalmed, afraid.

What if it’s a boy?

I held the clay vessel--
A little girl, spirit gone,
I touched fingers and toes.
gazed into eyes
already fixed upon God.
Loved her.

If it’s a boy what will I do?

A petite little girl, full
of life, boundless energy
as she lived her life in my womb.
Precious in my arms,
but more precious in God’s.

Oh, but Lord, what if it’s a boy?

Child, whatever you are, boy or girl,
you will be special to me.
You have known my sorrow,
my despair, my longing.
Those things hide from others
so they do no feel my hurt,
I am unable to hide from you.

And one day, little one,
When God in his wisdom and mercy breathes life
Into this numb spirit of mine,
You will know the height of my joy.

For that, my child, you will be special.

If it’s a boy, I will rejoice.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Journey: Risk

I have shared responses to this journey from two of my children. Today my oldest child, Andrew, adds his comments. He was 9 when Allison died.

I remember coming home in the car with Dad and he was very quiet. Then when we sat together and he told us that Allison had died, I felt sad. My only experience of death up to that point was that it happened to old people, like Grandmother (his great grandmother) and Aunt Ruby (a great aunt). I remember processing this new bit of information, that death could happen even to babies, and thinking—okay, so death is just part of the process. Like walking in the woods and getting scraped on the branches. I think it made me willing to take risks, not be afraid of the scrapes. Heather and I have had multiple miscarriages, both before our first born and between our five children. If we had not been afraid to take the risk of trying again, we would have lost the joy that Joshua, Anna, David, Joseph, and Samuel give us every day. 

By the fall of 1986, I was ready to risk again. At least I thought I was. By the end of September, I was pregnant. And with that development, I embraced another side of this journey—fear.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

National Poetry Month

When I'm finished soaking in the sunshine, I might write a poem! Maybe. 

It's April and that means National Poetry Month. There are so many wonderful poetry ideas floating around in the Kidslitosphere. Here are just a few that might appeal to you.

Susan Taylor Brown is writing poems "in the style of" famous poems. This is such a great exercise for writers.

Irene Latham has put together the 2013 Progressive Poem. You can see the stops for each line in my sidebar. Start reading here with Amy, and follow along. My contribution will be line 5 on April 5th.

Laura Purdie Salas is offering a video poem starter every day this month. What a great tool for students and the rest of us, too!

Heidi Mordhorst is hosting a 30day30word poem, a collaorative effort to write a 30 word poem this month. This sounds like fun, so stop by and check it out yourself.

Tricia shares Poetry A-Z to include books, poems, poetic forms, and other poetry-inspired topics. And she's started at Z!

The final round of March Madness Poetry Tournament hosted by Ed DeCaria will be up for voting on Wednesday morning. There is some consolation in the fact that I lost in round one to one of the finalists, Cheryl Lawton Malone! Voting has been so close in these final rounds, so stop by and vote for your favorite.

Caroline Starr Rose is posting thoughts on poetry each day from teachers, readers, librarians, authors, and poets.

That's enough for today. Jump in and enjoy!