Mrs. Potato Head Prayer

“Two for each person, and one for the pot.” I count out the smallish russet potatoes for supper tonight, just another ordinary Thursday meal. I’m rushing to get them peeled and sliced so we can eat in time before heading out to dance class. Pay attention, I tell myself, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words still echoing in my head. “Only he who sees takes off his shoes.” Only she who sees…. peel, peel, plop.

What’s to see here? I wonder, shaving the earthy brown skin off the potatoes. My fingers are getting slimy with starch. These spuds are starting to sprout here at the bottom of the bag. With the pointed end of the peeler I dig out one of the eyes and the tubular beige bud poking out of it. Eyes. I gouge another one out. This potato has around half a dozen. I think about other creatures with more eyes than me, houseflies and starfish and cherubim. Gouge. 

The eyes are where the life sprouts, from each dimple a potential new plant. Just multiplying away at the dark bottom of a paper bag. The more eyes you have, the more life can grow. This is a new thought. I picture myself walking around like a giant Mrs. Potato Head, googly eyes in all directions, with a hot pink purse, and cartoon flowers. Perhaps it’s the most like an angel I’ll ever look. 

I reach for the eleventh russet and peel it white – one last dig and it is rendered blind. I feel a little sorry for it, lifeless on the board. But the slicing and dicing must go on. Soon a pack of hungry stomachs will appear. I take a final look into the paper bag and am strangely cheered by the last few sprouting spuds. They’ll wait for another meal. 

Give me more eyes, I murmur, for the first time in my life praying to be like a potato.  

~ Lindsey
S. D. G.

Barefoot in 2023

Happy new year! 

May I ask where your feet are right now? Are they in cozy slippers or thick wool socks? Or gloriously stretched out to a fire? Will you shove them into a pair of winter boots later on? Perhaps they are tiptoeing around the crumbs on the kitchen floor, leftovers of last night’s party?

In the waning minutes of 2022, I was meditating on a few famous lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “Aurora Leigh.” 

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude. 

And then it hit me, how I want to walk into the new year – barefoot. Browning’s words resonate in the deep places of my soul and my beliefs about God. God is found in the familiar spaces of our lives. He is a commonplace God. First comes the eyes to see Him, often disguised or dulled by our disenchanted vision. Then comes the response – to stop and take off our shoes. 

When Moses tiptoed over to that burning bush, the fiery Voice told him to take off his sandals because this was now holy ground. This action is something ancient priests would have done as they entered the temples of their deities, to prevent bringing impurities into a holy place. Yahweh made a temple of a common desert shrub to pull Moses into His presence. And Moses responded by loosening the leather ties of his own wanderings and stepping into the purpose of God.

Barefoot – leaving the dust of his own path behind. Barefoot – sense of touch heightened to the subtleties of sacred ground. Barefoot – vulnerable to the Mystery that claimed him by name. 

This poem is my own response to Browning’s imagery and a prayer for the year ahead. 

*

Barefoot

Let this be the year you catch me
barefoot in the blackberry patch,
and the kitchen din, 
the track-worn tread up the back road,
and the quiet, child’s bedside.

Oh child, behold. 

Let my toes dig deep into spark-warmed soil,
grounded in the love that bedrocks every landscape.

Oh child, be called. 

Keep me rooted to the holy place
till even my soles have eyes for glory,
and they can see their way to run the mountains
with beautiful news.

Oh child, be swift.

*

May you, too, be drawn into many barefoot moments in 2023. 

~ Lindsey
S.D.G. 

The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful: A Year in Review

View from my “writing hut” camper

The last day of 2022 dawned warm and clear on the island. I snuck out to my writing hut camper for a couple of hours this morning for some quiet reflection time, and I didn’t even need to plug the heater in! My layers of wool and hot cup of Christmas Morning tea kept me quite comfortable. 

As I look back on the year that was, I am thankful for how all things worked together to bring growth and connection in my life – the good, the bad, and the beautiful. 

I went into 2022 wanting to make the year I turned forty a meaningful one. I knew I wanted eyes for glory. I knew I wanted to invest in my family. And I knew I wanted to invest in my writing life and community. 

The year came with its fair share of challenges, including concussion setbacks, exhaustion, discouragement, and trying to make sense of a world where war was raging in new ways. I couldn’t always see the glory, or the way forward. But despite the days when my vision felt dark and strained, I know the Light never left me.

I began vision therapy back in March, a continuation of the physiotherapy work I had been doing for about a year already, to retrain and strengthen my eyes and eye-brain connection. It was a challenge to my system, but has proved fruitful, and I’m so thankful for the progress I’ve made. I’ve been able to enjoy reading actual printed books again!! I was able to take on much more visual work this year with reading and writing – at times I wondered if it was too much. I’ve made these hazel eyes work hard, but they’ve rewarded me in many ways.

I’m so grateful for the work I’ve been able to do in my writing life this year! I’m honoured to have written with and for so many great individuals and groups. Highlights include:

When I think of the limitations I’ve lived with over the last two years, this list feels just a little miraculous! I’m excited to see where my writing life will take me in 2023. 

(And I can’t forget the creation of my own writing space this year – a fifty year old mouse-infested camper I poured my time and tears and travail into. It has been transformed into a sweet, sacred space which has housed dear ones who came to visit this year and is a little sanctuary for my thoughts and words. It is a dream come true!)

Thank you to each of you who have connected with me in some way – reading posts, commenting, sending emails, sharing stories, and generally cheering me on. This connection is a beautiful thing, and I hope this online space continues to serve and encourage you!

If there’s something you’d like to read here on Rise Heart in 2023, a challenge you are facing, a prayer request, a question, or anything else you’d like to chat about as we live out this resurrection life we’ve been given, reply to this email and let me know!

That’s all for 2022 – I’d love to leave you with a blessing as we cross the threshold of a new year:

Be blessed to bring the good, the bad, and the beautiful
of the year that’s past
into the hands of the timeless One –
the Giver of all good things,
the Healer of your brokenness,
the true Beauty ever ancient, ever new.

Be blessed to know Him whose presence

renews our hearts,
redeems our times,
and re-sources our life in the depths of his freshness.

Happy New Year!

~ Lindsey
S. D. G.

For the Caregivers :: The Blessing of Small

This sequence of poetry was conceived for the caregivers of The Good Samaritan Society, a non-profit organization that provides accommodation, health, and community care services to aging individuals in need. As I wrote these poems, I prayed for those whose care encircles others around the clock, who give often out of a sense of their own limitation and lack. I do not personally know what it’s like to provide this kind of care, though I have dear friends in this season right now. Their perseverance and hands-on love are inspiring. It is with humble gratitude that I dedicate these poems to caregivers everywhere – you are the presence of Jesus in a needy world. Merry Christmas!

The Blessing of Small

Be blessed to receive the still, small presence of God
in the creases of your cupped hands,
lifelines of flesh that he himself walked
so he could trace us into his own heart
and reveal the expanse of love there.

Be blessed to press this humbling mystery 
into the hand of another —
the passing of a flame,
your hushed and holy care,
a fragment of song,
and finally, a bending low,
     for here, here is God with us. 

*

Lindsey Gallant
From Small: An Advent Poetry Sequence
Composed for the caregivers of The Good Samaritan Society (www.gss.org)
Illustration by Elizabeth Evans

Toes :: A Poem for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

This poem is the heart of the sequence, and I think it’s my favourite. This is the upside-down mystery of Christmas which is good news for all of us in tight spaces.

Toes

Ten tiny toes, wrinkled and new,
beautiful good news bringers
bouncing on the knees of Mary
     as if she were a mountain
     and he were a gazelle,
     as if she were a snake
     and his smooth heel a dragon slayer,
     as if she were a river
     for him to dance in.

Ten tiny toes, unable to bear the weight,
     yet, of what will come,
     each step ordered for joy toward
     their tearful anointing.

Ten tiny toes, ruddy flesh and unfused bone,
that used to rest large on the footstool of the earth,
now made small,
     small enough to kiss,
     small enough to be wrapped in our scraps,
     and held in aching arms.

Somehow the light shines even from his feet,
for God is love,
right down to his ten tiny toes. 

*

Lindsey Gallant
From Small: An Advent Poetry Sequence
Composed for the caregivers of The Good Samaritan Society (www.gss.org)
Illustration by Elizabeth Evans