The Space between the Pen and the Paper

my pen is
hovering not
touching the

yet words move
through my

I wonder
what keeps
the pen

what exists
in the
small space
the pen
and the paper

maybe just

finally the
pen leans
and makes

or defeat?

Art Journal: Permission

This is where I find permission to create, in my journals. Years ago, I (reluctantly) started writing in a journal. Free thought, no rules, just writing. Now I do the same with paint in an art journal. Just as I found permission to write, I am now trying to find permission to do art. There are no rules in the journal, except each new day I have to turn the page and show up. It’s a bit of a mood journal, like those mood rings of childhood. As my mood decides the colors, I pick up a brush and just move it along the page. Not much thought, more like devotion. Nothing frame-worthy comes from it, but that is not the point of the journal. I am just giving myself permission. Permission to choose a color. Permission to get the brush dirty. Permission to put paint on the paper. Permission to take up space on the page. Permission to make marks.

Some days I am open to the process, some days I am still resistant, and some days I don’t show up at all.

But my journal waits patiently.

As does the Spirit.


“Not ready”
“All the people – emptiness”
“Fork – Feed me!”
“Darkness as Teacher”
“Making a mess”
“Waits patiently”

The Moments Without the Oar

I’ve been taking an online class on spirituality and poetry (The Spiral Way: Celtic Spirituality and the Creative Imagination – It was a four week class and the final class was a doozy with several writing exercises. The subject was pilgrimage, specifically a form of Irish pilgrimage called Peregrinatio. Irish monks would be prompted by a dream to head out on pilgrimage. They would set off in a small boat called a coracle without a rudder or an oar and just go where the current took them. It was a spiritual journey of trust and exploration. In the class we were given several writing prompts and the first one was: “I step into the coracle and release the oar.” Here is my writing exploration and my poem: 

I am reminded of kayaking on Webb Lake in Maine. My husband, Rick likes a direction and a purpose. Yet I remember the experience of just being in the kayak on the water. The temptation to drop the oar and just see where the lake takes me. What does she want to show me? Somehow I trust her more than my own choice of direction. Sometimes I just want to be taken somewhere wonderful. I don’t want to risk making the wrong choice. I’d rather trust the wisdom of the water to show me what I need to see.

But then I have the memory of racing to shore before the storm let loose. I was very grateful for my oar at that moment. Would the lake have carried me to safety? Maybe my own instincts are more trustworthy than I give them credit. Maybe we can partner. The spirit of the water can suggest a direction. And then I can choose. Sounds like a good life and a good journey.

The Moments Without the Oar

I can trust
those moments
without the oar.

I can trust the Spirit,
your Spirit,
to deliver me to dry land

the land of your suggestion,
one you think fits me
for the moment.

I can choose
to step ashore
and venture

into something new
or something old,
whatever awaits.

I can trust
that when it is
time to journey again

the coracle will be
at the shore
waiting for me.


Called to the Edge – A Holy Hike

As a Spiritual Practice for Holy Saturday I was invited by my church to go on Holy Hike. The original plan, of course, was that we would all hike together. Since that was not possible, I went by myself to the park. I wanted to write about what I had seen but I was afraid I might forget some of it by the time I got home, so I decided to try a Voice Memo. I have not done that before, but it was just like writing in my journal. I thought I would share both here: what I recorded on the walk and my notes when I returned home – my conversation with God.


Here is the transcription of my audio recording:

Today I went to walk in the park and I realized it was 4 years ago when broke my toe. At that time, I had been walking almost every day, not so much for exercise but for time with You as a prayer walk, as a conversation with You. It was when I was feeling my call to ministry. I started recording messages and sharing them, recording in the sense that I would go home after my prayer walk and write down what we had talked about. Sometimes I would share what I had written with others. And then I broke my toe on a early morning walk before church. I was at Parr Park and some adults were playing soccer and their ball came towards me. I felt young and alive and I felt energized and strong, so I went up to kick the ball really hard. I didn’t realize the ball was a weighted ball and I broke my big toe. So, I limped home. In the ‘recovery’ of that I also injured my other foot, broke a different toe, and threw my back out. It has been 4 years since I have been walking in the park in the mornings with You, Lord. In all of that I started journaling. Now I have pages and pages and pages of our conversations. So now today I am out walking and I want a way to combine the two. How do I walk with You and still find a way to record the messages? So, I am trying this Voice Memo. I am not sure how I feel about it. It’s weird to walk through the park talking to yourself. Of course, we all do it maybe just not out loud. We’ll see.

So today on my walk through the park I wasn’t drawn to my normal path through the woods by the river. I was drawn a different way, which seemed odd to me.  So I had my usual argument with You in my mind. Why would I go that way? It feels like it just goes straight to a neighborhood. There won’t be anything to see, or experience. But I am trying to listen, trying to be obedient. So, I followed the nudge and of course You led me to something beautiful. I have lived by Parr Park for almost 20 years and didn’t know this existed. There is liminal space. There is a threshold. There is a ‘Prairie in Progress’: a place where someone was intentional about setting it apart for a different purpose. It is in the area between the park and the neighborhood and it has been set apart. And it looks a little wild but sacred at the same time. It is a lot of different kind of trees, a lot of different grasses, a lot of different kinds of wildflowers. I would imagine a lot of different kinds of bugs, a lot of different kinds of birds. I would imagine that maybe a lot of different kinds of people come through. It is interesting that as I walk along the path between the park and this liminal space, someone else is walking in the grassy area between the liminal space and the neighborhood. We are enjoying different perspectives of this space You have created. And lo and behold, a connector between the two. Someone has mowed a path between the park and the neighborhood through this sacred space that has been created.

I think it may be time to go home, but I don’t know that I am ready. I love that it is only 8am, and I still have a full day. Of what, I don’t know…family I guess. It is interesting to think that today on Holy Saturday, our church has encouraged our congregation and others to go on a Holy Hike since we cannot be together due to Covid-19 and quarantines. So, at this very moment there may be people I know and people I don’t know out experiencing liminal space and the messages of threshold that You might be giving them. Other messages maybe, pertaining to where you’re calling them. It feels to me like you are calling me to the edge, which is a familiar call. I love the coast, the edge of where land hits water. I love a seaside. I love the edge of a meadow. I love the edge of the forest. Even a cliff. When I have the courage to fight that woozy feeling I get when I get too close to the edge, but I’m still drawn to look over to see what begins where something ends.

– What edges or thresholds are you being called to explore today?

Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

My Prayer:
Dear Loving and Faithful God,
Thank you for your call beyond where I would go myself. Thank you for being with me in the liminal spaces of Holy Week and of life.
In Jesus powerful name I pray,








One Word

This Lenten season our church has been talking about Transformation. Many members have shared their personal stories of transformation, so I thought I would share more of what God has been doing in my life.

During Lent, we are often encouraged to take on additional spiritual disciplines. Some common ones are prayer, journaling, fasting, worship, silence and solitude, etc. These practices are tools we use to be intentional about drawing closer to God. These tools can be used anytime, not just during special seasons.

The spiritual practice of choosing One Word to focus on with God each year has been very powerful for me. I started this practice in 2014 when our pastors invited the congregation to pick a word for the year. As I pondered what my word would be for that year, I realized if I had chosen a word for the previous year, it would have been ‘Listen’. I had taken some Spiritual Formation classes where I learned how to be still and listen to God’s tiny whispers in my heart.

For 2014, I settled on the word ‘Wisdom’. In my experience, sometimes you choose a word and sometimes a word chooses you. This word came to me during a Healing and Wholeness service in a swirl that reminded me of the stories of Pentecost. It was the Wisdom from the Serenity prayer.

Lord, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

The word encouraged me to put into play the truths I had learned, to live by these truths rather than just ‘knowing’ them in my mind. It guided me to start healing from the effects that my mother’s alcoholism had on my childhood, and my adulthood. It led me to realize my own issues with alcohol, and other addictive substances like wheat and sugar. Through this word, God showed me how to lay down destructive behaviors and choose a better way.

Then in 2015, the word ‘All’ chose me. I was not happy with this word. I would have preferred a more biblical word, but it stuck and I couldn’t get rid of it. This word had two lessons for me. The first lesson was to give God my all as in Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second lesson was to let God be my all. Looking back, I see that these lessons bled into subsequent years.

In 2016, I started wrestling with a call to ministry. I couldn’t settle for just one word — more truthfully, I would not accept what the word really was — so I worked with the words ‘Open’ and ‘Trust’. The Pharisee in me wanted to be legalistic and use just one word. I told people my word was ‘Faith’, which felt like a combination of being open and trusting. It was such a nice gentle word, but it wasn’t really my word. By August of that year, I finally admitted that my word was really ‘Surrender’. Now that is a tough word, but it’s what God calls us to do, over and over again. I thought the best way to surrender was to go to Seminary to prepare for ordination as a pastor. I applied and I was accepted to start school the following fall.

This gave me plenty of time to work on my word for 2017, which was ‘Confidence’. Confidence in myself, in my ability to complete graduate studies, in my willingness to tell people about my calling, confidence in telling my story. But this was not the whole lesson, as it never is. God had a much bigger lesson for me to learn. It was about God’s son, Jesus Christ. This was the lesson I resisted most.

My first class in Seminary was on Pluralism. In class, we discussed the possibility that believing in Jesus Christ was not the only road to salvation. As someone who did not grow up in church, this idea was very appealing to me. That the road could be wider, that the sacrifice not so great, that it could be easy. As I wrestled with the material, God wrestled with me. Or rather, I wrestled with God. I don’t think God ever really wrestles with us. I think God stands firm, while we try with all our might to budge God to our will. Like a toddler wrestling with a parent. We always know who wins that battle, yet we fight anyway.

At about mid-term, life got in the way and it became clear that now was not the time to pursue a degree. After many tears and much disappointment, I withdrew from Seminary. Because I had been so public about my decision to go to school, I posted a light-hearted story about withdrawing from school. I felt peace with the decision but I was a bit heart-broken. I knew that I didn’t understand the full picture. God still had not revealed everything there was to know. The confidence lesson still needed to be learned. I had lost a bit of confidence in my abilities and in my discernment. I felt a bit ungrounded, like I had jumped off a cliff but had not yet hit bottom. I was not sure where I was going to land.

A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to go on a Spiritual Retreat. I had gone the previous year and had enjoyed the opportunity then to talk to many pastors about their call to ministry. This year I wasn’t sure what to pursue, so I just went open-minded and open-hearted. The speaker was an amazing storyteller. She told a story about a baby eagle that had been raised with chickens. The eaglet walked around pecking at the ground, with its wings tucked in like all the other chickens. One day an adult eagle flies overhead and sees this young eagle acting like a chicken. The adult eagle yells, “Stretch your wings. You are not a chicken. You are meant to fly, to soar.” So, after some arguing, the young eagle stretches his wings and flies. She tells the story in such a way that I can believe I am an eagle who just needs to stretch my wings to fly, to soar.

I am mesmerized by her storytelling and my heart is wide open. Then she starts a story about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. She talks about how Samaria was the ‘no-go’ area at the time and how people would go far out of their way to avoid going through Samaria. But Jesus went straight through. She then asked us, “What is your Samaria? What is your no-go area?”

As she tells the story, I notice the name of the man sitting next to me. Some writers I follow, talk about being aware of synchronicity; when circumstances seem to all swirl together with what others would call coincidences. Christians call them ‘God-things’. They say, “It was a God-thing”. Since I started paying attention, I have been blown away by the synchronicities. The way God can orchestrate the simplest things over and over again to accomplish His perfect will. The people I end up sitting by have been a pattern of these synchronicities. When I went to a retreat in Illinois to help discern whether to pursue Deacon or Elder ordination, the woman seated next to me was an ordained Deacon whose job was helping people discern their calling. When I was considering meeting with a counselor, everyone I sat next to for the next few weeks just happened to be a Licensed Counselor. So I was curious about the one sitting next to me at this retreat. His name was Peter. Yes, Peter, who denied Christ three times.

Oh, I am Peter.

“What is my Samaria? What is my no-go area?”

I realized that ‘Christian’ is my no-go area. Jesus is my Samaria. I am Peter, who acts like a follower but then denies Jesus when the pressure is on.

I hear Jesus address me as He addressed Paul on the road to Damascus, “Marissa, why do you persecute me?”

I hear Jesus ask me, “Do you love Me?”

I reply, “Yes, I love you.”

“Do you love Me?”, He asks again.

“Yes, I love you,” I answer.

“Marissa, do you love Me?”

And I can’t answer that third time. It is my no-go.

Hmmm…well that is something to ponder. Something to work through. I prayed and journaled a lot that week as I wrestled with God.

Who was Jesus to me? I’ve always liked the name Rabbi for Jesus. Teacher. I love to learn from Jesus’ wise teachings. And trusted friend. I saw Jesus as trusted counsel who could guide me through tough times. But Lord and Savior? Lord had always been my name for God, not for Jesus. And Savior was a churchy word that we used at Christmas when we sing, “A Savior is born”. I didn’t really understand the full meaning of these words. But then there was a shift in my heart. I realized that when I cried, “Lord”, I really was calling to Jesus. That I was aching to be saved. To be His. But I didn’t know how.

I met with a friend who is very comfortable discussing such things. I shared that I had never experienced one of those moments people talk about where they accept Jesus in their hearts as their Lord and Savior. She mentioned praying a prayer of surrender with an open and willing heart.

I had been learning about Jesus, I had been teaching about Jesus, and I wanted to follow Him, but…

I liked the duality. I was of two worlds and I wasn’t ready to give up my non-Christian status, my secular friends, my secular life. I liked having my options open. I am always amazed at how stubborn I can be. I was willing to go to Seminary, to study to be a Pastor, but I was not willing to be fully Christian. I loved Jesus with my mind and with my strength, but I wasn’t willing to give Him my heart or my soul.

I remembered a time after a powerful Healing and Wholeness Service when I was so overcome by emotion that I had to kneel at the cross in the Prayer Room to pull myself together. My heart cried out this strange prayer to Jesus, “Take me with you,” as if I were waiting for God to convert me. Just make me do it. Take me, rather than me having to make that big step. I found myself in a stalemate, with Jesus standing there with His hand stretched out saying, “Come.” And I’m standing there waiting for Jesus to come to me, “Come play by my rules, my will.” But I couldn’t hold out any longer. The surrender I had worked on the previous year finally came.

I’ve had some trouble with my back lately so I was in bed when I prayed this prayer of surrender.  The exact same place where I first felt Jesus’ presence as a hand on my shoulder when I was so sick during pregnancy, the first time I felt that I was not alone. Fourteen years later, I prayed this prayer and surrendered my heart and soul to Jesus.

So my lesson this past year was not about confidence in myself, but confidence in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. What a beautiful, powerful lesson. It always amazes me what God will accomplish in us with just a little bit of intention from us. God is so good.

My word for 2018 is Steadfast. A combination of Hope and Perseverance. To Stand Firm in who God is, who Jesus is, and who I am created and called to be. I am confident that it will be a great lesson! My guiding verse for the year is:

Psalm 51:10 ~ Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.



(This story was also posted on the First United Methodist Church of Grapevine Spiritual Formation blog at




Drip, Drip, Drip


like a faucet dripping

my thoughts


not a complete flow

Just drip…..drip…..drip

the pattern draws me to sleepiness and heavy eyelids

that same pattern bobs me awake


I cannot help but be annoyed

And then the puppy comes in with her fluffy fur and wet kisses.  Just enough weight on my lap to help me feel grounded.  And the annoying drip has stopped.


I love creative practices and spiritual practices.  So last year, I was drawn to the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  And, as with many of my good books, I only made it through the Introduction.  The book is a 12-week study, or really a 12-week practice, to help release your inner creativity.  But I never made it to Week 1.  But not because I didn’t love the book, but because I so loved the very first tool explained in the Introduction, The Morning Pages (or mind dump as I like to call it).  It is “three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness”.  The book further explains, “Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind.  Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included.”

It’s a mind dump.  To get all the junk out.  Just putting pen to paper and letting it all flow (or drip) out.

So as I continue my morning “mind dumps”, I won’t apologize for what ends up on my pages, but I will apologize now for what may end up here shared with you.

Thank you for coming on the journey with me…stumbles and all.

p.s.  If you want to work through The Artist’s Way with me, I would love that!  And it will be easy for you to catch up, because I am still only on the Introduction!

My Prayer

Dear Loving and Faithful God – 

Thank you for minds and words and pen and paper.  Thank you for fluffy dogs and wet puppy kisses.  Thank you for connection with You and with others.  I pray that I always find You in my Morning Pages and everywhere else I spend time today.



You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  

~Jeremiah 29:13