7in7: Day Two

[One story. 7 parts. This is another part.]

What’s going on with you?”

“Oh, you know. Worked this morning making coffees for all of the lovelies who had to work in freezing weather. That was a joy. Took a nap, came here. You?”

“Nothing. I just read today.”

“Oh yeah? Another romantic inspiration of one man dominating thousands of men and his name going down in history?”

“Something like that. I don’t know, Elle. I just don’t think this is it. Or maybe I’m just scared that this is it.”

“What’s it?”

But before I could answer, the door opened timidly and that familiar brown hat peeked in. He looked at me through his fleshy wrinkles around his little brown eyes.

“Yeah, hey Frank, sure. Come on in.”

Frank had become a consistent visitor on these particularly cold nights. He didn’t say much. We had tried to get his story out of him, but he preferred to keep his past the past. All he wanted was to survive the night. He poked through the magazine rack until he found something that would keep him interested. He wouldn’t last long though. He never made it past the first few pages before he fell asleep. He must have been exhausted. The freezing cold howling wind wasn’t exactly a lullaby.

I pulled my peacoat from the coat rack and laid it over his shoulder. He glanced through the side of his eyes at me and I looked away. I took a long pull from my beer and walked back over to my chair. I pushed myself back in my chair until my head could rest and the ceiling was in full view.

“I don’t know, Elle. I want something more than coloring on people’s bodies. I want something more than the same ole walk to work every afternoon. I want to be a warrior. I don’t want to just read about warriors, I want to be one. I feel like I was born in the wrong time or I took a wrong turn somewhere in life and ended up here instead of where I am supposed to be.”

“Oh, but this isn’t so bad. You have your freedom. You make a good living. I mean, look at you, you own your own tattoo shop. You get to be an artist every day.”

“I wouldn’t consider what I do on the norm artistry. There are only so many butterflies and Chinese symbols I can do before I’m ready to stick the needle in my eye. I do like the ones with a story, though. I like it when a person wants something that means something to them. You remember the guy I tatted on his ribcage the seven tick marks? He said he wanted to keep up with the times he wanted to die and something kept him from doing it. He said they were there to remind him that there was always hope around the corner. I’ve never forgotten that guy. I wonder if he has any more tick marks? Or if he gave up and died?”


7in7: Day One

[7in7 is a community of artists who commit to making and completing 7 works of art in 7 days. I rarely do this, but I’m going to try my hand at fiction. I recently went to a conference on the life and works of CS Lewis. He was a writer of conviction, of creativity, of vulnerability. He was a man who wrote in the middle of his processes – theologically, philosophically, creatively. He even wrote through the raw pain of suffering and grief. He was a likener. He was a writer who “shed light on what was not in order to show what was”.

For these 7 days, I will try my hand at being a likener.

I missed my first day of 7in7 for reasons unnecessary to explain. So here are days 1 & 2…]

My eyes passed over a stack of books about Native American warriors, Spartans, Vikings and Samurais. Folders of research filled with the ideologies of Hitler, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill. I lied on my bed and looked up at my mobile of compasses. The sunlight flickering through the collection of brass, gold, and glass, all of the needles shakily pointing North. My walls were papered with ancient pictures of significant people who took the road less traveled in science and thought: Marx, Darwin, Mohammed and Jesus and those who literally opened the world for physical travel: Cortes, Columbus and deSoto.

I looked in the mirror at the eyes facing back at me. Even they were dressed for battle, dark liquid line shooting out of the corners of my eyes to make me look like an animal huntress. But instead of hunger and power, they were flat and disappointed. They were civilian eyes. Nobody eyes. They were the eyes that would die and make a one line memorial in a 2-page city newspaper. They were eyes that didn’t match the ferocity that I knew I was meant to embody.

I couldn’t do anything about it now though, it was nearly 4pm. I slipped my locket over my head, pulled my beanie down over my ears, slid into my wool peacoat, stomped into my boots, grabbed my bag, kissed my fingers and slapped a bit of superstitious love on the paper mache head of Joan of Arc.

The walk was a bit long, but in truth, I welcomed it. I pulled the collar of my coat up around my ears and dug my fingerless mittens out of the pockets. It was my favorite time of year. Cold, grey, quiet. The streets were nearly empty. The salt truck was doing its vain work of spreading out salt on the streets – as if anyone was actually going to get out and drive.

The coffee cart wouldn’t be out today. Dammit. I should have made coffee before I left. Tonight was going to be long and slow. No one would be coming in after their stupid nights of drunken debauchery. It was too cold for stupidity tonight. Fine by me though. It would just leave more time for me and Elle.

Ten minutes later, I reached the corner of my shop. I grabbed the cold railing and swung myself around to the stairs leading down to the wooden door. The door was my favorite part of my shop. It belonged to the old couple who rented the place before me. He was a cobbler and she was a seamstress. They had brought the door over from their home in Germany to remind them from where they came. The door was solid and green with a small rectangle of stained glass. The glass had been cut, stained and fitted into the shape of a man’s face. The work was a bit shoddy, but it just made the man’s face more interesting. His eyes were an un-human bright blue, his cheek bones pink and his beard an orangey-yellow. The rest of the glass around his face was a muted grey making the rest of the pieces even more unrealistic.

I never got a chance to ask who the man in the picture was, but when my chair was emptied of night owls aiming to make their body a piece of art, I could crawl up in my chair and dream about who this man was.

I pushed open the door and threw my bag on the floor next to my chair.

“Elle! Elle, you here?”

“Yeah, yeah. Stop yelling. I’m in the back. Be there in a sec.”

I pulled off my jacket leaving my mittens and hat on and hung it on the coat rack. I flipped the switch and heard the neon light buzz. I grabbed my bag, pulled out my appointment book, and stuck it in the cabinet next to my chair. I had one appointment at 9:30pm, but I doubt she’ll show. It’s too cold to get a tattoo. No one wants to deal with dropped trou in 30 degree weather. And no doubt, by the giggly call I got yesterday, it would be some sorority girl who wanted to stamp her identity somewhere that would require clothing removal for show and tell.

Elliana walked through the back door with two beers in hand.

“Here. It’s not like we’ll be working tonight anyway.”

a bit of nostalgia…

[day 6in7]

For the longest time, we didn’t have a TV.

My parents decided that it would be better for us to play outside or read or talk to one another. Occasionally, as a treat, my dad would drive into the nearest town of Beaumont and pick up a TV and VCR from a Rent-a-Center. We would get to watch a few movies, mostly Westerns or something equally as wholesome. It was a treat.

I remember hating it back then that we didn’t have a TV. We would go over to my MawMaw’s house and we would be glued to the TV. Our cousins would make fun of us for sitting and staring at the TV.

But for us, it was incredible! The shows were fascinating and funny and brand new to us.

As we got older, we got a TV again and entered “normal” world. But reading was already in our veins. We were all avid readers. We all had imagination – for better or worse.

My parents gave us the gift of imagination. My sister and I lived in it a little more than was healthy, I’m sure. But the one thing I can say about my childhood is that I had one. I had a childhood. I remember books I read, games we played, stories we invented. I am so thankful that my parents dealt with our little sad faces so that we could have more than a childhood filled with memories of us sitting around watching TV.

My brother and I re-adopted this tradition when we moved in together in Austin. We didn’t have a TV or the internet. We talked. We read. We threw around ideas. We asked questions. We theorized. We got to know what was in each other’s brains. When our friends came over, we talked about what we were all reading. It was fascinating! I could learn about eight different things in one night just by asking “what have you been reading lately?”

I miss this about my life. I miss finding my entertainment in fiction. I miss planning my vacations around how many books I was wanting to read. The more books, the longer the vacation I needed. I miss ripping through the books on my nightstand. I miss telling people about what my “friends” of literature were doing.

I think more than anything, I miss the inspiration that comes from reading fiction.

It’s one of those things that I know I can fix. I can change this. I can shut off the TV. I can schedule in time to read. I can buy more fiction. I can go to coffee shops with only a book in hand. I can leave my computer at home. I can carry a purse large enough for whatever piece of fiction I can’t put down. I can read at stop lights instead of texting or browsing instagram. I can read at doctor’s appointments instead flipping through the most recent style magazine.

So, maybe I will…right after I watch this episode of the Office.

Writer’s block.

She leaned over the railing, fingers reaching for the lily pads, toes dangling behind her. She had bought the dress for this very occasion. A nod to the 50’s with a pink ribbon waist and a full skirt. The day was perfect, bright sun, slow breeze, verdant greens and colorful poppies everywhere the eye could see.

She had taken off her floral heels and placed them next to the bridge. She pulled herself off of the railing and felt the warmth of the wooden boards under her bare feet. She reached up with her thin arms and pulled her long red hair down from the perfectly placed bun. It swished down her back and fell over her thin shoulders. She lifted her chin to the sun, gave the sun a little smile, and dropped it back to her chest. She pulled herself up on top of the railing, imagined that she was thirty feet from impact, turned her back to the water, closed her eyes and let herself lose her balance.

She broke the serenity of the water with her back. Eyes closed, the water enveloped her without regard. She sank to the bottom and stayed. As she started to float to the top, she let all of the air out of her lungs, and sank back down again. The bubbles surfaced to the top, she did not.

One minute later, she pulled herself out of the water, twisted her skirt and rung out the water. She tiptoed through the lily pads and muddy bank, grabbed her shoes, and walked towards home in her self-made puddle for 3 blocks.

She walked in, untied her pink ribbon and dropped her dress to the floor. She hung the wet sundress on a hanger in the shower, pulled on her favorite grey sweats and threadbare v-neck, wrapped her hair in a messy knot and padded into the living room. She found the sunlight streaming in from the french doors and sat in the sunlight squares and thought over her experience.

It didn’t matter how much research she did, it wasn’t enough. It was still just conjecture. It was only writing. She could never make herself feel the despair and darkness she tried to write into her characters. She couldn’t take herself to the place she needed her characters to go. What else was there to do? Research didn’t work. Her imagination was stale. Books on the subject only promoted plagiarism. She couldn’t fake the kind of suffering she wanted to write about. The kind of suffering that didn’t dissipate over a martini and a chick-flick. She couldn’t pretend to understand the kind of suffering that would really take someone to a bridge that could actually produce more injury than a sore bum. She wasn’t creative enough, dark enough, pessimistic enough to create a world worth escaping.

So she stopped.
Closed her computer and called it a day.
Maybe tomorrow she could write something worth finishing.


[day 4in7]

I’m curious of you people, and by “you”, I mean writers.

I sat down, computer on my lap and a cup of steaming coffee on my right. I waited for inspiration to strike. I crawled through my headspace looking for a string of words that would send my fingers on a mission. Nothing. So, I got up, walked outside threw a stick around for Hank…zilch. I decided to clean. I swept, and scrubbed, and washed and folded and rearranged furniture in my head…nada.

Where was this inspiration supposed to come from? Was my music all wrong? Should I change outfits? Maybe put on something more interesting? Something that a leading lady would wear? At this point, I was definitely dressed as the leading lady’s cleaning lady. Should I go for a walk downtown? Should I go buy those Manolo’s I dream about and categorize the debit under “research”?

I was stuck. I’m still stuck.
(And I have two of these things to write today.)

I read once that Hemmingway wrote one usable page every day. At the end of the year, 365 pages of pure novel genius. This was the attraction to 7in7 in the first place. I write all the time. I write in my head. I dream about characters that I would fall in love with the way Thomas Hardy did. I am intoxicated by the honesty and darkness of Emily Bronte. I giggle at the impertinence and wit of Jane Austen. Why would I write something bad, when I have a stack of brilliant writing full of dreamy characters and tantalizing plots already written just waiting for me to read?

So, why do I want to write? What is it about participating in being the teller of stories? I don’t have the answer to this question, but I do have a stack of unposted writings. Some serious, some ridiculous, some full of questions and hypotheticals, none full of answers. They are all very different, but with one thing in common…they are all unfinished.

Faulkner said to “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”

I’m not much of a chance taker, but I’m going to take Faulkner’s advice and try to actually finish something bad, in hopes that one day I will be able to finish something good.

So, here we go…day 5…

A true love story


Kyle and I sat across from one another, heads cast down, hearts as heavy as the air in the room. We had spent a few days in more quiet than usual, both trying to figure out where our joy had gone.

I asked myself all of the usual questions: What is this about? Why do I feel this way? Am I holding something against him that I need to let go? Have I done something I need to ask him for forgiveness? How’s my time with the Lord? Am I trying to find all of my joy in Kyle instead of the Lord? What is going on here? How can I love him so much and yet feel so far from him?

It pained me to see him sitting across the room. Our bodies positioned to match our hearts. How did we get here?

I couldn’t find the answer on my own, so there we sat…broken-hearted, weary, and desirous of our closeness again. I needed my best friend to process with, to help show me the things I couldn’t see on my own. I needed my best friend to challenge me and ask me the hard questions. I needed Kyle.

So, we started talking. We talked through how we were feeling and dug and dug until we landed on what we knew was keeping us from loving each other the way we so desired to.

I looked at him and with pain in my eyes told him that in the dark places of my heart, I missed my freedom. I missed my independence. I missed being the single version of me. He dropped his head feeling the stab of those words. He surprised me when he looked up and said he understood.

And here is why I love this man with every fiber of my being.

These kinds of conversations are awful. There are tears. There are hardened hearts. There are broken hearts, hurt feelings, and wounded pride. There are expectations of a “perfect” marriage or relationship dissipating before our very eyes.

There is one way to fix this kind of brokenness…apologize for the quiet, for the hurt feelings caused, kiss and make-up. Not bad, but temporal.

And then there is the hard way. Kyle didn’t freak out. He didn’t judge me. He didn’t say mean or hurtful words. He pointed me to Jesus. Over the next hour our conversation got harder. He dug deep into the places that showed that my real independence was not from Kyle, but from God.

My desire to be independent from Kyle at the root is pure rebellion and a desire to be independent of God. My desire for freedom is me saying that I believe that I could find more joy outside of what God gave me to find joy. Me missing my singleness is an outright attack on trusting that God is using my marriage to sanctify the parts of my heart that otherwise would not be sanctified without it.

This is love.
To me, this is love.
Kyle fighting for me to crush anything that is in rebellion of God, is love.
Kyle not judging my sin…whether it be painful for him or not, but pointing me to Jesus, is love.
Kyle loving me not despite, but because of all of my messiness, is love.
Kyle caring more about my perseverance than my temporal good-feeling, is love.
Kyle leading me by showing me where my heart doesn’t acknowledge God as God, is love.
Kyle pulling me close to him and pursuing me when I have pulled so far away from him, is love.
Kyle loving God more than me, is love.
Kyle speaking truth to me, even when it hurts, is love.
Kyle is love to me.


A whole lot of nothing. (2in7)

Day 2 of 7.

It’s only day two and I am already out of ideas.

Well, that’s not entirely true…

I would love to write a story about a girl who is a math genius who starts to see clothes and fashion through a mathematical lens. She is obsessive compulsive. She sees symmetry and lines and shapes and begins to create clothes with her mathematical skills.

I could write about some of my embarrassing confessions. Things like, I want to spend $500.00 on a pair of Manolo Blahnicks just because I want to know how $500 shoes feel on my feet and because I want to know how they sound when I walk on pavement. I would confess how many times I like to snooze because sometimes my dreams are so intoxicating I don’t want to leave them. I would tell you about how sometimes I can’t stop counting things because I can’t find a good place to stop. I would probably confess an actual amount of time I dream about materialistic things.

I would like to write about this one day in Thailand. Nothing really happened, but for some reason, it’s a day that stands out above the rest. There was something extraordinary about the way the pineapple tasted as bright and yellow as it looked. There was something incredible about walking down the street feeling completely unknown by the world, but completely known by God. There was something about the spicy Tom Yum that I filled my belly with after a long satisfying walk. It was a non-day kind of perfect day.

I would write about fairies and gnomes and fantastical places. I would tell you about how I have always wanted to be a fairy. And when I met Kyle for the first time, I got all excited and told my friend Emily that he was perfect for me because he looked kind of like an elf and I always wanted to be a fairy!

I would write about my dad and the things I miss the most about him…his laugh and that giant gap in between his teeth. I would tell you stories about how he would lay down in the middle of the mall and make my sister and I pick him up. He would laugh and we would be mortified. I would tell you about the day he was dropping us off at school and he wanted to kiss my sister good-bye. She is not much of a touchy-feely person, so she dodged him. He got out and chased her around the car laughing like a crazy person. I would tell you stories about how he would call us from the neighbor’s house to tell us that Santa got ran over by a reindeer. But we always knew it was him because he couldn’t stop laughing. I would tell you all of the jokes that he repeated a million times over and how he laughed hysterically every single time he told them. I could write funny stories about dad all day long.

I would write about love…but tomorrow is Valentine’s day, so that’s a more appropriate day for that.

I would tell you about the stories that I sometimes make up to tell Kyle. He laughs at me when I tell him these stories and tells me I might be on the crazy side. But I like to tell him these stories about bears who are allergic to bees and kangaroos who don’t know how to jump. They are inane and ridiculous and they make Kyle laugh out loud. And that makes me laugh.

But now I am at 573 words, so I don’t have the space.


(7in7. I can’t believe I committed to this. For one, I can’t think of anything I have ever done for 7 days in a row. Two, I wasn’t planning on actually ever making this blog public. But here goes…1in7.)

Most days I feel tiny.
Most days I feel like my hands are too small to hold everything at once.
Most days I feel like burying my head in the sand.
Most days I feel like hiding away in any one of my fantastical worlds.

Most days I am a yellow-bellied, gutless, wimpy coward.

When I think of the word “courageous” I think of past historical figures who shook things up and made significant changes in the way the world thought or behaved. I think about people like William Wallace fighting for FREEDOM. I think about people like Martin Luther who changed the face of religion in more ways than I have space to list. I think about people like Paul who knew going into his ministry that he would suffer, yet he went all in without hesitation. I think about people like the first girl who swam across the English Channel.

I would never use the word courageous to describe myself.

I am terrified of speaking in front of people. My voice and my hands shake. My brain seizes and I can’t remember what I just said or what I’m about to say. I develop a garden of rosy red hives on my chest and up my neck and onto my cheeks.

I say no to anything with the tiniest bit of risk. I carefully calculate vulnerability and intimacy required before I say yes to anything.

I hide in my daydreams. I dream of a million things I would love to do, but rarely actually move towards doing something about it.

I could fill this page with embarrassing admissions to my cowardice. And in truth, I would rather do just that than to disrupt my little hiding places by exploiting them with what I am going to say next.

This is not okay.
This is not what God wants for me.

I thought a lot about Joshua today and how he had every reason to be terrified. He was about to step into Moses’ shoes and lead a giant group of grumbling, disobedient, cranky people into the land that God had promised them. I thought a lot about how scared he must have been. How sad he must have been to be leading these people when his heart was grieving and missing his friend and leader. I thought a lot about how God addresses Joshua.

God addresses Joshua through promises and commands.

The first thing that God does is tell Joshua all of the things He has promised him. God tells Joshua every place he puts his foot, God has already given him that land. He tells him,  “I have your back” or in God’s words, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you”.

The second thing God tells Joshua is to “only be strong and very courageous”. How? By “being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you”.

God tells Joshua three times to be strong and courageous. God reminds Joshua of his promises. Then He commands him to not veer away from the Book of the Law, but to meditate on it day and night and to be careful to do all that is written in it.

The question I don’t want to think through, but my heart keeps asking regardless if I want it to or not is: Am I so different from Joshua? Did God not promise me that He would never leave or forsake me? Did God not command me to hide the word of God in my heart? Did God not tell me that I should not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord?

I don’t want to be a coward, but I am terrified of being courageous. I don’t want to be defined by what I am afraid to do. I want to be defined by who God says I am. I don’t want to be the kind of person that cowers from suffering or pain or difficulty.

At the end of the day, I want to be the kind of person that says yes (shaky hands and all) to whatever God asks of me.