Illegitimate | Part I and II

Part I

You don’t belong
here, ever,
and leaving
fingerprints

on the doorjamb. How
did you get
in? Who lifted the
latch? Look,

nobody wants you
here. You
weren’t invited.
Better hide

that part of you
they hate, call
Polack, laugh at. No,
you can’t conceal

eyes, hair, skin. That’s
ok. They’ll say you
got them from
your other

grandpa. Let them.
Hide the part of
you that
reaches back,

digs for roots, water,
food, slice of
you that needs
sometimes dreams.

Better yet, kill
it. Bury it.
Forget it. Let it
disappear. What’s

fifty percent of
nothing? He gave
your name
away, to his

legitimate son. Change
yours. Then maybe
what’s left can
live. Not a whole

life, but a half
life, a quarter
life, a little wisp of
something like a

life. Better than no
life. Maybe. Better
for everyone?
Maybe. After

all, you wouldn’t
want to get caught
trespassing. Better
to pay the price

now: Just a half
life, please. Just
your birth name,
please. Just his

DNA, please. Just
a little death,
please. Leave your
blood on the

altar and no
footprints
as you
go.

Part II

you belong here
and leaving fingerprints
like miniature mazes
on the hallways of My
heart, every twist and
bend leading to

you, My home
and I, yours
here, darling, here
a place to rest your head
eyes, hair, skin, no need
to hide from Me

child, hide in Me
dump your sack of
broken bits, every sliver, slice,
on the dirt floor, let them
settle, sink, rot,
root and become

shoots, vines, leaves,
summer berries
undreamed dreams
words on pages of untold
stories, and a stone,
smooth, singing

against your palm
the song of your name
yours and no one else’s
resounding through your flesh
ringing through your veins
calling green up up up

yes, you belong here
fleet-footed, kicking up
dirt and grass, like
honeybees scattering new
beginnings beneath the
Living Tree, beneath

the Giving Tree
beloved, leave footprints
anywhere, everywhere
you go, you’re
home

© Nichole Q. Perreault

“I am noisy, full of the racket of my imperfections and passions, and the wide open wounds left by my sins. Full of my own emptiness. Yet, ruined as my house is, You live there!”

Thomas Merton

Rock of My Disappointment

Choose a name for God, he said*,
borne of the struggle, the
wrestling. I have

contended, fought You until the
fingers of my soul bled,
scrabbling for

gold beginnings and fabled
endings. You have left
me wanting,

disappointed. A thin, flimsy word
for the crushing abyss of
silence. Unmoved,

this Rock of my salvation splinters
dreams like toy ships on a
stormy sea. Flint-faced

You refuse to be carved by
my desires. Only one of
us can change, and

neither wants to. The night drags
on though we both know
I have lost this

fight. I will hold fast for the
blessing. You will leave me
with a limp.

© Nichole Q. Perreault

*A reference to Anthony Bloom and his book, Beginning to Pray.

Belong

You can’t fly a kite without strings
But you can watch it spread its wings
Soar and dip, gently fall
Swoop high over the garden wall

You can watch her spread wings
Your love was just an offering
Leaning there on the garden wall
You let go of all you are

Your love was just an offering
Like a nightingale song, or a church bell’s ring
Yet letting go of all you are
Something slowly fills your heart

A nightingale song, a church bell’s ring
We can’t hold on to anything
But let the star-wind fill your heart
And with open hands, belong

©️ Nichole Q. Perreault, August 2020

img_1508

The month of August in the 2020 calendar by Jess Franks*: https://www.jessfranksart.com

*One night, while searching for inspiration for a submission to my monthly poetry group**, I paused to meditate on the Jess Franks calendar that hangs by my bed. Butterflies have been on my heart a lot lately, but it was her two line poem that really caught my attention. BAM! Suddenly the spring opened and there I was at 2:00 a.m. scribbling away. Jess’s art is great example of how inspired creativity is like a mountain spring, or a deep well, a gift that keeps on giving. 

**As part of our poetry group prompt for August, this poem loosely follows a form known as Pantoum, a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first.

The Dream

You are the dream He dreamed
He dreams
the song He sings
when the whole world sleeps

You are the whisper in the wind
wonder hushed
on angels’ lips
a secret He keeps

You are the gift He gave
He gives
the life He lives
in the depths of the deep

You
are the dream
the act, the scene

You
are the masterpiece
penned without ink

You
are the ballad
sung by the trees

You
are the mystery

You
are the dream

©️Nichole Q Perreault

https://unsplash.com/photos/2q6C5zDJOsg

Sex Culture, Christians, and a Call for a New Conversation

THE WRONG CONVERSATION
Recent discussions sparked by John Crist’s public confession have led me into a strange land, one where I spend a lot of time thinking about the generational differences of sexual behavior, beliefs, and norms. What I’m realizing, now more than ever, is that the western evangelical Church (the Christian subculture I am a part of) is woefully ignorant about what is actually happening in the sexual culture of today’s teens and young adults. This is especially apparent when sexual sin and misconduct within the Church become the topic of public debate.

Photo by Alejandra Quiroz on Unsplash

After the story of John Crist broke, many prominent Christian voices asked, not for the first time, how we can best address and care for those who “fall” into temptation, commit “sexual sin,” and experience “moral failure.” Usually, by the time the Church starts to engage in a conversation publicly, individual churches are already engaging in similar conversations. Individual churches are talking about sexual temptation, sin, and moral failure – from the pulpit, in our small groups, at youth group. There’s no shortage of books, studies, or sermons on sex, sexual sin, and how to avoid it. Our problem isn’t that we’re not having the conversation – our problem is that we’re having the wrong conversation.

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All the King’s Horses

Grief does strange things to a person
I think it’s the sense of being untethered
Unmoored
Like you’ve lost your anchor

I don’t blame her
That woman from the Wild book
Who lost her mom and then lost herself
Left everything behind
And went a little crazy

Grief sets a person adrift
The scenery changes, boundary lines shift
Nothing looks the same
Nothing is the same
Including yourself

So much of who we are is defined
By our surroundings – people and places
They shift, we shift
They move, we move
Lose them and we are lost
At least for a little while

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Yes, God Will Let You Down

The song starts off well-enough:

…let the King of my heart
Be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves
Oh He is my song”

Photo by Hugo Kerr on Unsplash

The achingly beautiful melody sucks me in and I sing along. Until the chorus hits me. Like a brick.

“You’re never gonna let
Never gonna let me down”

Wait. What?

“You’re never gonna let
Never gonna let me down”

Excuse me…um…can we talk about this for a minute?

One night, while enduring said chorus from a church lobby, a young woman said to me, “What about all those people in there who feel like God has let them down?” I responded with something equivalent to, “Preach it, sister.”

Then, because it was, after all, a worship song, we had to suffer through about 5,763 more rounds of the chorus….which was long enough for me to compose most of this blog post in my head.

It starts off like this: The song is crap.

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Shattered Illusions | Throwing Dishes at God, Part 2

Photo by Nichole Q Perreault

Read Throwing Dishes at God Part 1here. 

How long can one throw dishes at God?

Well, longer than you might think. Just ask Job. Or Peter. (FYI: This post is going to make a lot more sense if you read Part 1.) I guess the simplest answer would be: as long as it takes. Because He isn’t going anywhere.

To be honest, though, I didn’t know that at the time. Whenever I was in a full-blooded rage, I kept one eye on the sky for incoming bolts of lightning and the other on the earth lest it swallow this foul-mouthed, ungrateful child whole.

Yet, because of His great mercy and love, none of that happened.

He never swallowed me up or struck me down. He never shut me up or shut me down. Rather, He let me stay in the fight. And He stayed in the fight with me. The brokenness and depravity of the human heart does not and cannot shock God. He’s seen it all. And He loves us anyway.

Flickers of Light

Often times, during this season, opening my Bible felt like trying to lift Thor’s hammer. When I did muster the strength, the verses, once as refreshing as a cool drink of water, became like dry sand in my mouth. But by God’s grace, I would occasionally stumble on scriptures that glowed like a balefire of hope. Continue reading

Throwing Dishes at God | Part 1

Photo by N. Perreault | CC CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Two years ago, on a misty morning beneath a wooden cross, God spoke to me. He said, “Don’t crucify me again, Nichole. Don’t remake me in the image of your pain.”

How thin the line, if there is one, between warning and prophecy.

At the time, I was in awe, and grateful for a God who knew my tendency would be to run, to divide myself from Him, to define His boundaries according to the edges of my agony.

I thought, What mercy! Thank you for reminding me that when I deny who you are, I harm myself. Surely, now, I will do no such thing!

I recalled the story where Jesus warned Peter, “Before the rooster crows, three times you will deny me.” Peter insisted, “I will never deny you!” and yet Peter denied Him indeed. How relieved I was that God had protected me from such a fate…that He had revealed the traps ahead and that I had responded with a humble heart. 

Are you laughing? I am. At least, when I’m not crying.

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When Thanksgiving is More Than Sacrifice

When I wrote this post last November, I was deep in the throes of grief, mourning the loss of my youngest brother. Over the next year, I would find that, sometimes, God’s on a roll. It wasn’t enough for Him to shatter my physical family…He shattered my spiritual family, too.

This year, offering thanksgiving is more than a sacrifice. Offering thanksgiving terrifies me.  

You can’t know all He’s taken this past year because I can’t tell you. But know this…even a young, bright, blossoming tree may be, just under the surface, experiencing the ravages of an unwanted enemy…and if you could open up that tree and look inside, you would find a hollow, empty space that once was full of life and liquid sunshine.

He gives and takes away.

This summer, I was in a meeting where each person was asked to share something for which we were thankful. I figured that if I couldn’t thank God for the crap (Don’t like that word? Here are few alternatives. Feel free to mentally censor.) happening in our lives, I could at least thank Him for food, shelter and, well, air conditioning. So I did. Three days later, our air conditioner died. It’s like He was mocking me.

Thanksgiving doesn’t just hurt. Thanksgiving scares me.

He gives and takes away. And we are left to suffer.

Who is this God I worship? The One who asks for our gratitude and then snatches away the very things we thank Him for? The One who inflicts pain then wants to comfort us for the very pain He’s inflicted? That sounds like abuse, not love.

I can hear my pastor now: “No! God’s not abusive!” (Because he literally preached that last Sunday. I recommend a listen. Especially if reading about my experience is difficult for you or leaves you asking a lot of questions.)

Still I can’t help but ask: What happens when all around you God’s promises go unfulfilled?

We are not the only ones. I watch as friends and family cry out to Him for help, for intervention, for hope, and He is silent. I watch as they ask for bread, but He gives them a stone; as they ask for fish, but He sends the serpent.

Unfortunately, in these trials, even the most well-meaning people place the burden on the broken. “Do this. Say that. Pray more. Worry less. And you’ll see…God will work it out.”  We like that logic because, however subtle, that logic implies we have the power to fix the problem. And if we have the power to fix it, then we are in control. We so desperately want to be in control, that we fool ourselves into imagining God’s omnipotence is subject to our actions. 

I’ve had a lot of time to think about that this year. Now, when someone tells me “Do this. Say that. Pray more. Worry Less.” here’s how I respond:

Anytime God wants to show up, He can. We have prayed. We have begged and pleaded and wept and wailed. We have followed His systems. Trusted His people. Waited on Him to work. And everything He’s provided arrived tainted. Sure, He gave us bread…with stones baked into the dough. Yes, there were fish…stonefish laced with venom. We have asked. And He has answered as He has pleased. We’re waiting. Anytime He wants to restore what’s been plundered, He can. He’s God. It’s on Him.

He can mock me if He wants. Or He can bless me. He can withhold His promises. Or He can fulfill them. He can hand me a fish and watch as the poison leaches into my blood. Or He can bring us living water and food fit for a King. He’s God. He can do whatever He wants. And He will.

That is the black, breath-sucking, untethered truth: He gives and takes away. He is not tame. He is not safe. This is the God we struggle to face. All-powerful and unpredictable. He will not stay inside the lines. He answers to no one.

Last year, I could offer thanksgiving even though every blessing was tinged with pain. This year, I am simply too afraid.

I am no longer the “wounded, angry child” who climbs into her Father’s lap.

I am become the battered, fearful one who hides behind the couch, monitoring her Father’s every move. How can she trust the Father who helped others by causing harm to those she loves? No, she won’t hold out her hand for the gift of shiny gold because she fears the razor blades that lurk beneath the glittering paper.

Don’t judge her too harshly. She fought. A long time. Because she understands her heart…how quickly it slams shut when threatened. So with trembling arms and locked knees and feet slipping, she held back the massive door as it bore down on her. She battled longer than even she thought possible. But it’s a heavy door. And she is so very tired.

Before you blame her, or shame her, or think you know better, remember, He gives and He takes away. He is not tame. He is not safe. But they tell her He is good. And she is waiting.

© Nichole Q Perreault