Mother Maker Podcast

An online magazine featuring conversations with artists who are mothers

Last November I spoke with Emma Koi, creator of the Mother Maker online magazine and podcast, about art, traumatic births, special needs kids, and the creative life. Listen and subscribe!

New Season Inception

Here's to another new season, and new dreams.

I’m propagating cuttings from plants at our first mill house to plant at our second one, the one where we actually live. Fig, forsythia, honeysuckle, and Japanese maple. We’ve been living at Jones Street for seven months and in West Greenville for seven years. Back in 2013 we bought a white house at 15 Calder Street, next to the Brandon Mill. Back when we had a shop on Pendleton Street, and everyone was neck-deep in rebranding the area to the Village of West Greenville, paying homage to the nascent roots of our once-thriving mill village. We’d hoped it was the beginning of a revival here: artistic, business, and cuisine, and it has been. We’d hoped it was the beginning of our own tiny homestead; and it kind of was, but never at Calder.

After five-and-a-half years, we’ve finally decided to sell our little white house. A contractor is currently flipping it, adding a second bathroom, refinishing the 100 year-old hardwood floors, and updating the kitchen. It is heartbreaking to watch someone else complete what we never could, and yet there is hope for another future. Maybe another young family will live there and let me coach them on the beauty of niwaki pruning for garden trees or how the giant holly in back is perfect for a kids’ fairy village.

How could we try so, so hard to accomplish something, and fail so completely? If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know my heart and soul have been utterly tangled up in the idea of making that place home. We’ve planned every square inch of the interior, exterior, and yard. I have strong opinions about bathroom tile, Kohler Purist faucets, and integrated kitchen appliances because I’ve planned them all for Calder. Dreams that are vanishing like a scene from Back to the Future.

The black house at Jones Street is visceral, tangible, if imperfect. I know the smell of food cooking on the electric stove. The sound of my children’s voices bouncing off the wood floors and green walls. The orange of the Carolina clay blanketing the backyard, with tiny pops of green grass springing up in the new sunlight. It is better than Calder because we are here together. And no one is going to tell us we have to leave.

In May 2018 I prayed desperately for a new season for our family: an end to all the sickness, hospitalization, transient rental living, and depression. An end to living in debt. The Lord brought us to Jones Street, giving us our own home. Depression has subsided for innumerable reasons, praise God. Selling Calder will enable us to get out of debt. Sickness great or small seems to be a fact of having small children and aging parents, but right now the four of us are in the clear.

So here’s to another new season, and new dreams. Digging our roots deeper into the Brandon Mill Community and the Village of West Greenville, from the other side of the neighborhood.

Temporal Homes

A farewell to apartment living

Poolside this evening, soaking up our second to last date night at the mill. In almost two years of living here I have never thought to have a date by the pool. It is perfect.

We are moving next week. This will be my 31st move in almost 38 years of life. Yes, you read that right. I do not recommend it. When I was little my mom called me The Marauder because I rarely slept in my own room. She’d find me on the couch or the guest room bed many mornings. I didn’t know my life would turn out so similarly.

Home is an obsession of mine. I feel deep empathy for displaced peoples because I have been unable to secure a home of my own. The home we bought almost five years ago remains unrenovated, a dream that will not die. Someday it will come true, in Jesus’ name. But strangely, to cut our monthly costs, we have found a fully renovated mill house in our neighborhood that we close on next week. What on earth. We’re about to own two homes in the same neighborhood. It makes no sense to me that this is our next step, but I am so grateful it is. Living in a black mill house with wood floors and a front porch and a big back yard with lots of trees and a fence.

References to walled or enclosed gardens abound in ancient and recent history. The word paradise (from Persian pairidaeza, meaning walled park or enclosed garden) was used to describe Eden in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint). Randy Alcorn elaborates in his book, Heaven:

“The word paradise does not refer to wild nature but to nature under mankind’s dominion. The garden or park was not left to grow entirely on its own. People brought their creativity to bear on managing, cultivating, and presenting the garden or park. ‘The idea of a walled garden,’ writes Oxford professor Alister McGrath, ‘enclosing a carefully cultivated area of exquisite plants and animals, was the most powerful symbol of paradise available to the human imagination, mingling the images of the beauty of nature with the orderliness of human construction…. The whole of human history is thus enfolded in the subtle interplay of sorrow over a lost paradise, and the hope of its final restoration’ ” (Alcorn 55, 56).

I have lost and gained many homes, apartments, duplexes, rooms, and their accompanying land. None of them were mine. The black mill house will be ours, but only temporally. My longing for paradise, for never-ending Home, will continue, I’m almost certain. But maybe for a while we can find some rest, not beholden to landlords or wall-neighbors. We can cultivate our garden. We can imagine what Heaven will be like.

PUSH

A Time for Prayer

As a little girl, I believed whatever your birthdate was, that was your Psalm. I was born July 27th, so Psalm 27 has always been my favorite. Etta was born January 18th, so after she was born, Joshua designed this poster of Psalm 18 for her bedroom.

Recently my sister encouraged me to put up a prayer wall in our apartment to ask the Lord for specific things and watch Him come through. It’s been a long, hard season, and I need some faith building time. Oh God, meet me here, please.

When I was in high school, our church had a PUSH prayer list: Pray Until Something Happens. We believed that God would either grant our requests or change our hearts about the things for which we were praying. I prayed for friends and family to come to know Jesus; I prayed for provision; I prayed for a husband, children, a home, jobs, and countless things I don’t remember. I believed, and I saw the Lord work–many times over the course of years, way longer than I ever hoped I’d be praying. Some things I prayed for came true; others He changed my heart about. Others I have yet to know the answer.

The Christian life is not karmic. You do not receive back what you put into it. Rather, we get what we do not deserve, grace, because Jesus came to take God’s wrath on our behalf. Sin is real, people are not perfect, and the world around us is terribly broken. But God gives us His Spirit to overcome. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). I do not believe because I am good. I am not. And lately I’m having an incredibly hard time believing. But God is good, and He tells me to ask, to seek, to knock (Matthew 7:7-12). I am stepping out here in an act of willful obedience, despite what many experiences have taught me. And yet, also in tune with God’s past provision in the face of impossible circumstances. He has worked miracles in my life before. Maybe He will this time too.

Tested

A Poem

I wonder if it follows
When you are physically tested
You will be spiritually tested.
Is your work wood, hay, stubble
Or gold?
Even gold has dross
Burn it.

Fit

A Poem

I wish anyone had told me the significance of physical fitness to one’s spiritual walk.
We are soldiers.
We are athletes.
We are farmers. (2 Tim 2)
Birth is a body event.
Raising children will test all your limits.
Sex is physical and spiritual communion.
We are physical.
We are spiritual.
Any time we can consciously combine these two states seems worth it. Be mindful.
Yoga understands this.
I’m surprised Christianity doesn’t, at least not in America.
We are all kinds of divorced peoples.

I didn’t know my ankles could be strengthened.

Metal Star, found object, Canton, Texas, July 2016

Part of an Instagram Art Show

I bought this star with my mom two summers ago when I was in Texas for a month awaiting my niece’s arrival. I am an eighth generation Texan on my daddy’s side. My mother’s family may have been in the state for longer. I’m currently in the car with Moses and two of my mom’s best friends, headed from Dallas to Tyler to see her in the hospital.

My mama is having open-heart surgery tomorrow. It is sudden. It is surprising. We are thankful for God’s protection over her. A time-appropriate calcium test led to a stress test and echocardiogram which led to a heart catheterization that revealed two clogged arteries. So tomorrow she’s having a double bypass. The doctor says she has a 99% chance of coming through just fine. I’ll take those odds and a whole lotta prayer, too.

If you know my mom, you know she is a force. A woman of faith and fire and fun. Candita Veronica Morales Lewis will not be trifled with. “Among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, [may she] ever be defended by thy gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (from the Book of Common Prayer)