The Mystery Inside Me

For the past nine months, I feel like I’ve been at a standstill. A place in which I have no words, nothing to describe what is happening to me, and in me.

In six weeks, I am due to give birth to my first child, a son, and although I have had flashes of deep joy and extreme fear (often occurring in the same day), what has marked my life as an expectant mother the most is this sense of complete, undeniable uncertainty. For the first time in my life, I have no idea what to expect; I have no game plan, no hook of events upon which to hang doubts and anticipations.

All I know is that this little boy, whose feet twist into my ribs even as I write, is coming.

Labels have always been a source of comfort for me. As a child, I collected the flimsy certificates that teachers handed out at the end of the school year, the ones that said Top Achiever, Super Star, Best in the Class. When I moved onto my college campus, I introduced myself to classmates with a vigorous wave and the following words: “Hi, my name is Allison, and I want to be a high school teacher.” [Read more...]

Why We Can’t Look Away

The morning I learned about the women in Cleveland, I knew from a single headline that there was more to be said, and horrified by, than I wanted to know: Cleveland Women Rescued From Ten Years’ Imprisonment in Captor’s Home.

As the news poured in, the photos of balloons flapping from Amanda Berry’s porch and family members doubled over in relief, the weight in my stomach got heavier. And despite my attempts, I could not turn myself away from the latest details of their captivity, the grim facts of what took place in the silence of those ten years.

The inability to look away – the paralysis of gruesome, awful news – is something that we all know. We do our best to protect ourselves from stories that draw us in without any relief, accounts of loss or pain that disarm and puncture the illusions we hold about the world being safe, or our days being predictable. [Read more...]

Partaking and Passing On: The Work of Luci Shaw

The world is
not with us—enough.
O taste and see.

–Denise Levertov, “Taste and See”

It may seem incongruous to speak about a poet by introducing the work of another poet—in this case, Luci Shaw via Denise Levertov. But many factors make this epigraph fitting of Luci’s work, vision, and character, the most immediate reason being that Luci is the recipient of the tenth annual Denise Levertov Award, an annual literary award given by Image Journal, Seattle Pacific University, and the SPU MFA program in creative writing.

If it weren’t for Luci’s work and vision, it could be said the MFA program that shaped and spurred me wouldn’t exist. And if it weren’t for Luci’s character—generous and lovingly, stubbornly brilliant—many poets and writers who wrestle with Christian faith would not have the room to explore language and belief on equal terms. [Read more...]

She Will Not Live a Small Life

And all were guests.

—Naomi Shihab Nye, “Arabic Coffee”

The first thing that struck me about Moneerh was how much she terrified me: her face half-cloaked by her hijab, her dark eyes narrowed at me as I shuffled books, rushed through the steps of the lesson.

“Teacher, please slow down,” she said, her voice muffled, yet insistent. “Please.”

At the ESL center I help direct, most of our students are from the Middle East. They come on scholarships, looking to improve their English before they apply to American universities. Sisters are escorted to class by brothers and male cousins. Wives, many of them less than twenty years old, bring their husbands into my office to discuss failing grades, their eyes downcast while the husband shakes a report card at me, demanding that I “do something.” [Read more...]

Seeking and Sought by God

I did not enter a church until I was in third grade. My friend Vicky, who always wore long jean skirts and seemed to be liked by everybody, invited me to a Sunday school competition where she would be quizzed on Bible verses.

I remember dirt-colored shag carpet, wooden pews, a crowd of stern-looking women gathered around a microphone, their khaki skirts brushing their Keds. I remember Vicky standing beside them, unsure of how to phrase the lines of Psalm 23—was it a rod? A staff?

And I remember running up to the microphone myself, eager to talk, completely clueless about the Psalm. “It’s rod! It’s rod!” I said, unaware that my jeans and my loud voice were twisting the women’s frowns into tighter knots.

“That is incorrect,” one said. “Please sit down.” [Read more...]