Saturday, October 14, 2017

Rich Man Joe

Can I share a poem with you?

One of my favorite things (cue Julie Andrews) is meditating on the secondary characters.  Even in Scripture this is true -- maybe especially in Scripture.  The Spirit reveals so much when you notice those who don't get much press, thinking through their thoughts, stepping into their sandals for a moment. 

I had never thought too much about Joseph of Arimathea until this past spring during my Lent readings.  Matthew calls him a rich dude, respected, important in his circle of prestige.  All four gospel writers purposefully mention him, his status and his contribution to The Story. 

But what exactly was in this Joseph's heart and mind as his hands held our broken Lord's body, still warm, so wounded?  Oh, that pricked my heart.  What did he risk to do so?  There's just so much there.  And digging into it all left me weeping.  And even more curious.  And maybe even jealous.

Forgive my lazy attempt at a sonnet here, but this is what came of it all . . . and the mixed media that goes with it is pictured below.

Rich Man Joe

You came ‘round when Life had breathed this earth’s last.
Surely fear before had held you in sway.
‘Twould be unbecoming of such high caste,
Grov’ling for some carcass ‘long the midway.

But the day grew long and how your heart burned.
Careful courage cast that caste to folly.
Longing, love of Lord brought on a hard turn,
Desp’rate, you embraced and honored wholly.

Handled you His hands, the scars still weeping.
Wiped then from His face the trails of man’s blood.
Taking in the death, you watched Him sleeping,
In the quiet, in the tomb, a heart’s flood.

Last to touch Him, last to see Him broken,
Did you know Him new when Dawn was spoken?

Rich Man Joe -- mixed media 2017 Jennifer Hildebrand

Because in the end, after those closest to Him had run for cover, Joseph came forward.  Getting into the details is almost too much:  physically carrying, washing and wrapping His body; taking on the ceremonial uncleanliness that would come with doing such; the silence of the coming night ringing off the walls of the tomb.  Did he feel hopeless or hopeful; confused, tired, scared?  Did He get to see the risen Jesus and know his Savior new?

Like I said, there's just so much there.

And it reminds me again that, in God's beautiful authorship of this life -- His Story, even the secondary characters speak volumes of His glory.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Making a Mess

For the past half-year or so, I've been struggling, watching tutorials, scraping together materials, cleaning up and making a hot, huge mess with some mixed media pieces.  I wanted to use some of the poems I had written during the last two "Poem a Day" challenges posed by Writers' Digest, and since I have zero visual art experience and atrocious hand-eye coordination, I thought that certainly painting some stuff would be the way to go.  *eye roll*  But, it's always fun to experiment, and it has been beautiful therapy.  Find the poem (inspiration), turn on the music and make a mess.  You should try it!

Here are a few pieces I've kept (i.e. not thrown in the trash or smashed over my knee in frustration).  Sorry, but the camera work does not properly represent the colors' brightness. Please feel free to use your imagination -- just know that I LIKE COLOR!

Enjoy.  :)



"A Song for My King"

"Dream Out Loud"

Please form a line at the right to purchase any of the above for an exorbitant amount of moolah.  Or just go try to create something messy and pretty yourself!  The world needs more color and a lot more pretty words!

Friday, May 5, 2017


In my day-to-day, it seems I am constantly running into interruptions.

So, this morning I opened my Bible, in need of some godly insight, a new refreshment . . . and when I saw today’s passage I (almost) rolled my eyes.  Just being honest here.  

I’ve been living in Luke for a few weeks in my study time, and today I bumped up against chapter 15, The Prodigal Son. I thought: “Oy, we just finished a sermon series at church about this one not too long ago, and I’ve literally heard this story my whole life.  What insight could I possibly receive by rehashing this a-g-a-i-n?” I didn't verbalize the complaint, but it was my knee-jerk sentiment.  Yeah I’m still a bit of a snarky, screw-up at the foundational level. (insert song “He’s Still Working on Me”)

And yet here I sit now just a’crying over that desired new refreshment and godly insight that did indeed show up somehow even in this well-worn passage.  God is good, y’all. 

And He always seems to show off in the details of the text, so forgive me if this an old-hat revelation to you, but I had never noticed this one detail before until today:

When the son comes home, the father interrupts him. 

Back up:  After the partying and after his descent into squalor, the son took note, in this foreign land, in the midst of a famine, that he, reduced to acting as a peasant-ly and hungry hired hand feeding pigs, was not being cared for quite like the hired hands in his own father’s house.  He was starving. They had bread and to spare.  Hmmm.  Maybe, just maybe, his father would be willing to show him just the tiniest bit of grace.

He made a plan.

He crafted and carefully practiced what he would say:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants.”

I can just imagine him reciting this over and over to himself as he drags his scrawny, filthy bones back to his old homeland, back to his boyhood home.  Again and again so he won’t forget, won’t get one word out of place:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants.  Father, I have sinned against heaven and . . ."

He wants to say everything just right, because he is at the end of his rope and won’t make it much longer without that grace.

But then, the father.  His father.  Sees him.  I can’t imagine that father’s ache to see his precious little boy in such horrific condition.  Was his son even really recognizable?  The father knew him, ran to him, held him, kissed him.

And the son began, by rote, just as he had practiced: 

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. . . .”


The father interrupted.  How did I miss this before?

He cut short the son's rehearsed recitation.  Just after the repentance, before he could make his request.  No more words. No plea to return as a slave.  No, you are my boy.  And you are back in my arms.  No more words -- just joy and celebration. 

Oh, my heart. That hits so close.

I think of all the times that I have walked away feeling confidently full and then returned empty, devastatingly humbled and broken.  And how I came back with words that I thought would sound good, repenting phrases that angled just the right way, pleading for the tiniest of mercies.  

But stop.  Hush.

For the Father gently says, “Shhhh.  No more words.  You are home now.  Again, found and alive and in My arms.  So there is only joy and celebration and lavish, scandalous grace.”

Today's was the best kind of interruption.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Here's to the Ones Who Dream

Today, my starry-eyed girls and I finally snuck away to see La La Land. 


And I cried.  Like, big, ugly-cried.  And there were a few guttural sounds along with the tears. As in, the lady next to me looked as if she was worried that I was experiencing some sort of random cinematic breakdown.  When Emma Stone sang THAT song (if you’ve seen it, you know the one), I cried hard, because this film is, as it has accurately been slated, a movie for dreamers, for performers, for artists, for those who are driven to add beauty to the world. This film brought up something deeply tangled in my belly, a pain and a joy.  And I knew my girls would love it . . . and cry, too.

Here’s why all the sobbing:  I am 42 years old.  I have been singing from my earliest memories.  I have been writing songs (not good ones, mind you, but actual structured songs) since I was six. I still remember several of them, and have been known to throw out a kitchen performance or two when prompted, just for laughs. There has never been a time that music has not carried my memories, my goals, my struggles, even my faith.  Rejection has been bitter and plentiful over all these years. Success as the world would define it has been minimal.  Quitting has been a frequent refrain.  And, at times, being dismissed and misunderstood seems to have been the backdrop of the whole story. 

I know, “cry me a river.”  Well, I did right there in the AMC.

It is only in the last five years or so that I have begun really embracing the way I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” in this respect.  Writing music and lyrics was never just a “hobby” to me.  I know that sounds hokey, and people have often rolled their eyes when I’ve said as much, but music to me was breath and primal communication and actual being and “how can people not GET this?!”

It still is. 

And only now am I beginning to appreciate the weird blessing it is to carry . . .

-a FIRE (that will probably never burn all that brightly from a stage)

-a DRIVE (that pushes and pushes and wakes you up at 2am and gives you crystal-clear focus then drives you absolutely crazy)

-a PASSION (that lives beyond expression, but stirs in the depths of your atoms)

-an ACHE (because, no matter how much the rejection sears your outer shell, you can’t seem to shake the need to try, try again)

-a DEEP-BREATH SATISFACTION (that feeling when a piece is finished and you know it is right and good and that you have been true to your Maker  – euphoria)

Because this is WHO you are, not what you do.

And it is a blessing.  And a burden.  And only recently have I come to accept that it is absolutely there for a reason -- not to fulfill my own ambitions or to make money (heaven knows that seldom happens), but to serve a sacred purpose.  

I have given myself permission to exist in the weird, to smile at my God through my plethora of creative tears, because I know he did this on purpose.  I truly believe that God kindles these little fires in certain of his creations from day one.  The drive to create – to paint or sing or write screenplays or tell stories – is woven deep into our DNA . . . and He has declared it “good”.

Sometimes, the Artist loves through His artists.

I pray that my kids will be able to embrace what lies within them early on, like even now.  Bless their little artistic bents, I pray they will learn to shirk off those who ask what they “really” want to do for a living and to know that the Almighty Creator whipped them up special – with a pinch of song & dance, a dash of color, and a whole heaping helping of emotion – for His glory, to bring something beautiful from within the confines of their hearts and out into the cold, ugly, broken world.

So go forth, and be the sunbeam that points back to the source of all light and warmth.

And when the world misunderstands you, when you are dismissed and condescended to for your passion, when your friends and family and churches and seemingly the whole world can find no place for what God has given you to give, DO NOT STOP.  Get back up and get ready to fall again if you have to.  Hone and perfect and be excellent in what you have to offer. You are a beautiful representation of the Creator who made you – the world needs you.  It needs you!

And I needed this movie.

Here’s to the ones who dream.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Poems on a Plane

What does a slightly airplane-a-phobic introvert sitting next to a stranger who is plugged in and diligently studying his work conference presentation material do on a three hour flight home?  She looks out the window and writes some mediocre poetry, that's what she does.

All is Peace in Me

Fleeing the sun
     as she slumbers down in smudges of pinks and orange and lilac
     reclining deeply -- now stretching out arms ever more deeply --
     into the down of rotation's haze

Summoned into the night
     and throttled jet-speed above earth's tracings
     I rest these tired sunflower orbs on clouds
     dotted across night's slinky, silky gown

What of me?
     a jagged fleck of history lodged between
     the Incarnation and the realization of the Revelation
     encased momentarily in a tin can
     full of blessed and cursed, all hurried, humanity

And what of You?
     holding all of creation's tabs open
     knitting blankets of ocean while slamming supernovas
     and conducting in symphony all humankind
     in love and wrath and beauty and purpose

     even in this night
     from outside and within and above the seen
     You find the fleck
     You design the descent

And so all is peace in me

Monday, December 26, 2016

Raking Leaves in the Holiday In-Between

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against leaves.  They’re beautiful in all their frond-ish, billowy, colorful grandeur.  I just happen to like them better when they’re still on the trees.  

So today, on this typical Texas winter (very unlike actual winter) day after Christmas, I set out to soak up the mid-70s by raking up the wreckage of Spring draped heavily on our struggling yard.  I actually enjoy that annual rake, and this year it’s helping me deal with the gloominess of the Holiday In-Between.

That’s actually a thing, I’ve decided.  The Holiday In-Between – that week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.   

For my whole existence, I’ve carried a kind of subconscious melancholy during those days for some reason.  I was sharing that with my husband this morning, and he said something like, “Really? Huh?” which is a nicer way of saying, “I love you, but you’re kind of weird.”

I’ll own that.

You see, all while growing up, I would put up a tiny, wilted plastic tree in my bedroom early in every Christmas season.  I even had a whole box of my OWN ornaments that were only to be used on that pitiful tiny tree.  I was all about some Christmas! But once December 26th hit, the tree came down.  Immediately.  For some reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was just time to move on.  As in, a brush-off-your-hands, “Well that’s done.  What’s next?” sort of feeling.  Now, of course, we keep the tree up much longer in our house, and, sure enough, inescapably, the day after Christmas sets that strange limbo in motion in my heart.

I cannot seem to escape it.  I can’t even really describe it.  It’s definitely a sadness . . . well, sort of.

It’s like, from the day after Thanksgiving, all the world is riding this glittery, tinsel-strewn wave into December 25th, a great crescendo of shopping and wrapping and singing and baking and decorating and giving and getting and joy to the world.  A Yuletide explosion of celebration! And then we crash. 

And way on the other side of The In-Between, lies a shiny New Year’s Day, which pretty much everyone agrees is the universal signal for a ceremonial do-over; a crisp, white blank sheet of paper, resolutions and new beginnings and excitement of getting up to brush ourselves off and try this thing again.  Head high, we march on, ready and determined.  On mission, y’all!

So I guess I just don’t know how to feel right now or how to spend the days In-Between.  I’m serious, until the New Year dawns (God willing), I will carry an underlying stress, an angst.  It really is weird.  And, just like every year, I will try to talk myself out of it and cover it up with doing and being, but it will still rest its wet blanket on my soul for those few days.

This is the first year I’m really trying to understand why.  God is mysterious, and the way He programs each of us is mysterious.  I’m pretty sure that not everyone feels this way (judging from the husband’s response), so what’s up? What could this signal, and can it (or should it) be fixed? 

I’ve got my figurative pen in hand, and I’m trying to sketch out some parallels to eternal truth.  Here’s what I’ve got:  Could this dreary cloud just be a reminder of the greater limbo we live in – the “already and not yet” of God’s Kingdom?  Seems to fit, maybe.  We super cool modern folk exist in the in-between of the culmination of God’s great redemptive plan:  post-Messiah, but pre-All Things New Eternity. 

It’s limbo.  And there really is an ache, isn’t there?  And that eternal ache rears its head in the simplest, but most profound of ways.

This Holiday In-Between business is small potatoes compared to the great Story, but maybe it’s a tiny echo of the real longing in the hearts of man.  I’m not sure, but I’ll hold on to that possibility during the next few days.  And, while I’m at it, it’s probably a good idea to pray for joy and meaning and mission while trudging through this and all the other In-Betweens throughout our time.
You know, I really do believe that, if we search for them, we can hear those echoes of eternity lacing their way through our daily grind.  If we listen, if we measure them by the Word and seek for them, I just know we’ll hear some holy whispers bouncing off those mountains, the ones that don’t seem to be moving just yet. 

In the In-Betweens, let’s listen.

And maybe rake some leaves.  It’s good therapy.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas - The Beauty and Bite of Evolution

So much has changed.

Ten years ago, Christmas shopping was both a joy and a misery. Every trip to the store in search of the perfect gift meant prepping and ushering three small, often unwilling, shopping accomplices through the crowded aisles.  That meant diapers and sippy cups for the baby boy, whatever 3-5 stuffed animals little sister was in love with at the time and at least one giant book into which the oldest sister would firmly insert her nose as she bumped into any and everything meandering through the store. 

I could anticipate with each outing we would have several big belly laughs and wide-eyed “WOW!”s, quite a few tears and at least one tantrum over who would get the last blue raspberry sucker in Mom’s purse and who would be left to torturously suffer through eating the plain ole grape one. At some point, we would experience multiple small humans wallowing on the floor in the checkout line and copious amounts of parental bribery for extra TV time.

Three kids, a long gift checklist, a very tight budget and one tired mama.  

Fire and rain, y’all.

Just a little ole decade later and the landscape looks very different.  I noticed just the other day how I’ve already made quite a few trips out for various Christmas goodies, and I don’t think I have yet been accompanied by even one child person . . . even one time. 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being able to focus, secure the package and immediately blow that popsicle stand, but my heart strings are getting sore with the drastic shift in seasons.  The three don’t usually all go shop with me now.  In reality, they are seldom even at home for any extended period of time at the same time during this busy season.  Between choir rehearsals, band rehearsals, musical rehearsals and performances based on all of the prior (guess that’s what I get for having artsy-fartsy kids), the husband and I often find ourselves with only part of the herd in the pasture – sometimes maybe not even one cute little calf to keep the old bovine folks company.

They’re growing up and getting out.  Christmas makes those transitions show through like wrinkles on the forehead.  The lines tell of time and of evolution.  And they can’t be hidden.  Also, they tick me off.

And so we are left to concentrate our efforts.  The traditions that once were a given are now an intentional goal.  We’ve been collectively scouring the calendar, looking to pull the “all-stop” and carve out some time for the annual cookie decorating competition or driving around in our PJs to look at lights while we drink hot cocoa or milkshakes, depending on what Texas weather we get on that particular day.  It’s not lost on me that we have one child sadly counting down how many “kid” Christmases she has before adulthood.  Darn it all, every one of them needs to count.  And it should, right?  Because, time progression aside, we’ve learned firsthand how life can take an unexpected and grievous turn.  Not one of us is guaranteed another raising of the big plastic pseudo-tree.  Whatever the season looks like, every Christmas WILL count.

I’m grateful that our crew is learning (I hope) to place a premium on our time together even more than on the gifts.  Money is a nonessential for a truly beautiful memory. These goofballs just want to sit around at home and write silly carols, jump on the trampoline in their pajamas, watch “A Christmas Story” beside the tree lights.  They are hurting for our yearly family Advent devotionals, which we have been sorely lax in this year, and for sibling sleepovers and giggling by the tree on Christmas Eve. 

These sacred rhythms and traditions out-sparkle the glittery-est of packages. Lord, help us breathe in the blessing.

I’d be good to throw out those shopping lists and create a more sacred to-do list:  more time for traditions new and old, the reprise of this beautiful rhythm, the holy remembrances, to make every year ‘round the tree joyful and triumphant, a new and unique verse in our symphony.

So in the big tick-tock of this season, here’s to all of the evolving seasons in our families:  to growing-up babies and crying babies, to shopping trips full or solo, to sad old cow couples sitting on the couch watching Netflix while the calves are all out tending to their own adventures, to quiet moments where the hum of the Spirit hugs all of our pieces into peace.  And most importantly, here’s to that one Baby that was born and was loved and grew up and left home and loved and suffered . . .

And saved us.

Merry Christmas.