how to draw water for someone who is thirsty.

it is entirely possible to love someone

without sending God’s name out first,

without reminding them

of how their hands have failed

to hold water from the well,

and

how you are the answer.

if you love them right,

they will eventually in God’s own time

unfurl

untwist

unlearn.

they will grow beyond your reach

and

the Light will find them.

if you love them right,

you won’t have to use

God’s name

once.

— how to draw water for someone who is thirsty.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Amal Ali.

thoughts on failure.

let your failures leave you a better person, not a bitter person.

you are not alone in failing.

let the mistakes you have made—all of them—even the big ones, especially the big ones, leave you as one who will walk back to search for the one who needs help.

you are not the only one who has been lost.

everyone says let go of your failures—let go of your past. i say, all the things you wish you could undo in your life—those three am regrets? don’t let them go. hold onto them, but hold onto them loosely, so that you will always remember what it feels like to get it wrong.

because you are not the only one who has to fight off their past.

don’t let shame define you, but don’t forget the taste of it in your mouth.

give others what you needed when you were on your knees, with your back against the wall.

do this without any ulterior motive.

just be kind.

kindness, compassion and love like to get their hands dirty. they’re not ones for standing around looking holy.

so, take your hurts, take your memories, your failures and your regrets, and go out there and be a safe place for others and give them grace like it’s water.

you hold light in your hands and hope in your mouth.

and you might be the only one doing so.

this is how we change the world. this is how we save lives.

— thoughts on failure.

Photograph by Ander Burdain.

this is not my usual style, but things that need to be said.

liezel

womb.

i have always been

a misfit

and

a rebel,

a dweller on the fringe,

a woman who refuses

to submit, or

fit

into a box,

and

why do i always have to ask

so

many

questions, it makes you uncomfortable, and

angry,

and,

why can’t i just obey?

it is a woman’s place,

don’t you know, because

the bible tells me so, and

does He still love me,

the song says He may, but

you

say

no, and

honestly, i don’t know anymore.

and there are times,

at least 365 moments in a year, where i wonder if it would be easier

to just give in

and

be

what you want me to be, but

already i can feel the weight

on my bones, and my heart knows

that it is strong enough

to hold,

what i once thought

was truth, up to the heavens

and say,

this is not enough, and

there are people here who need to be loved, and you say

no.

but, hear me now

this is not enough.

can you hear me?

we are not being enough.

and i have examined holy words,

hoping to knit them into a blanket,

soft and big enough

to cover the naked heart

of a broken woman, but

it was too

flimsy,

and

threadbare.

and they said,

all the holy ones,

that she should be left

on the other side of the road, because her sin is too great,

and we know best.

and i said,

(but nobody cared

what I thought),

hasn’t this been done before?

in another time and place,

and didn’t someone write

it down on a scroll,

perhaps whilst eating of

the bread and the wine,

and didn’t God decide

that it was not enough?

but i am wrong, they say.

what do i know.

i am just a woman, after all

and where is my husband,

and i do not belong

to the council — that holy club,

where decisions are made

about

wombs

and

other

uncomfortable words

that walk around on two legs

in the dead of the night,

rape

and

incest, and

how they may only be managed by men,

and we must protect life, but

when there are two,

who wins?

not me.

not girls

not women,

only men, it seems.

and,

also there was that scene

a long time ago,

and,

also yesterday

and today

and tomorrow,

where a woman was caught,

and still is, every day, everywhere

red-handed in sin, and

perhaps you have heard about her?

and of course,

there must have been another,

a man,

but we don’t hear about him at all,

and

she was caught sinning.

a different sin to theirs, and

there was no love on that day,

either, only

rocks

and

laws

but Mercy was there,

quietly

sitting in the dust,

singing a love song over her,

that woman,

me.

but,

i think we don’t know

the words to that song anymore, and

all we know now

is that we are not free, and

girls will know,

and

women will know,

we are not free.

and here i sit

holding

your truth in my hands, but

it is not mine anymore,

and you are disappointed,

i know.

but i have folded it

into halves

and

again

into quarters,

in the hope

that i might make it small enough

to fit into my pocket,

so that i can take it out with me

and

shake it out on a cold night

to cover a naked woman,

or a child,

who has had everything stolen

from her,

but it is still not enough.

and i think

we are all cold, now.

— womb.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

christchurch.

and a morning will come where you will wake up to find that somewhere, somehow, some of us have lost the way, and heaven mourns this loss, and pain will weep all over the earth again, because hatred is nothing new and there have been hearts closed up tight against the light since time began, but you must remember, please do not forget this, that somewhere, somehow, a mother is teaching her son how to throw open the windows in his heart and a father is teaching his daughter that God is love and so are we, if we choose to be, and this is important, and people all over this world are standing up for love and crowding out the-thing-that-would-separate-us-into-boxes and even though it hurts right now and will for a very long time, in the end we will be ok if you hold my hand and i will hold yours, like a friend — i see you — and if we speak kindness over each other, like a blessing and if we hold up flags of mercy over our brothers and our sisters, and our mothers and our fathers, and ourselves, and if we remember that there is no them under heaven, just us, then we will be love and we will win.

— christchurch.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph Pixabay.

My heart goes out to the people of New Zealand today. xx

#christchurch

where i find holiness. where i am enough.

i have tried

to carve (your) rules

into the back of my eyes,

.

so that i might belong.

.

but

an owl

is calling

outside my

bedroom window,

. a sacred,

nocturnal song.

.

and

in

this

holiness

there is nothing wrong

with me.

.

— where i find holiness. where i am enough.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photograph by Eberhard Grossgasteiger.

on the inside (i am outside).

i wish that i could say

that i have

all the answers.

.

or perhaps,

. just a few.

that would be good.

.

that i have

. somehow,

grown fat with wisdom.

.

i have neither.

.

. all i have in my hands

are words.

.

. and none of them are smooth.

.

they are hungry words

that know how to search

when the lights have gone out.

.

they are strong words

that know how to break down walls,

one stone at a time.

.

they are brave words

that know how to open windows,

when all the doors are locked.

.

they are tender words

that know how to soothe what is broken,

because they remember.

.

. because,

i remember

. what it is to need water

and hope.

.

and i have

somehow

stumbled right into the middle of my life

still carrying a bag of questions.

.

. rebellious ones at that.

or, so i have been told.

.

not fit for one who stands in the shadow of the cross.

.

. my coat,

is too bright

or too faded

or too there-is-something-not-quite-right

and

we can see right through that cloak

and

she does not fit in,

. here on holy ground.

.

i know.

. i know.

.

but i can pour shame

onto paper

in

the

shape

of grace.

.

and i can string words into lights

that stubbornly lead the way out.

or up,

. if you believe.

.

and

this relentless unmasking

of flesh

and

bone

and

heart

and

soul

into words,

. is all that i have been given

in exchange

for

all

that has been taken.

.

and still

it is not enough?

.

.

—on the inside (i am outside).

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

on being jabez.

she named you jabez.

when

wave,

after wave,

of searing heat

had

ripped

through

her belly and skin.

and she,

exhausted,

could finally hold you in her arms,

she looked at you and said,

i gave birth to him

in pain.

call him, jabez.

he makes sorrowful.

he causes pain.

and i often wonder,

why?

a mother forgets

the pain of birth.

usually.

forgetting can be a lifeline.

but you — born in misery.

a maker of sorrow.

your name.

your very being.

you carried

that

with you.

inscribed on your heart.

through the years,

every

time

your

name

was

called.

a reminder.

(i caused) pain.

(i was born from) sorrow.

dear one,

born

in

strife.

did you ever wonder, why?

did you silently long

for the ordinary names of your playmates?

yes.

i see you.

i see your heart determine

not

to

fail.

i see a young man

steadfastly refuse

to give in.

refuse to give life,

to that

which crushed his mother’s heart.

that,

which longed to crush him,

too.

i see you fight.

fight,

to

not

settle

for the destiny

that you were named for.

knowing,

that there is more.

knowing,

that words have power.

great power.

if only i realised how much,

and

that

life

and

death

lives

in

my

mouth.

but,

there is one

who breathes

hope

into a tired spirit.

one,

who speaks

life

into dry bones

and

dead hearts.

i know.

jabez.

honourable man.

thousands of years after your name was written on a scroll,

i see you.

and i hear,

what the words do not say.

defiant one.

you taught me

that i too,

could shrug off a

hand-me-down cloak

too

small

for my shoulders.

you showed me the way to say,

no.

no,

i

shall

not

settle

for sorrow,

though i might be

named for it.

and,

there are many ways

to name a child.

i shall not be satisfied

with misery.

though it might have been a companion

for all the generations

before

me.

i shall not,

forever

carry

the bitter disappointments

of another.

though they know my name.

it is not my load to carry.

i will never be enough,

and

it will always be too heavy.

and,

this life has more.

always, more.

because there is one

who

is

enough,

and

i can go

with outstretched hands

and ask for more.

jabez.

the broken dreams

of our mothers,

were never meant

to guide

us

home.

there is hope.

there

is

so

much

hope.

stand up.

lift your head.

take

off

that

cloak.

it was never yours, to begin with.

— on being jabez.

‘Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying,

“I gave birth to him in pain.”

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.’

1 Chronicles 4:9-10

© 2017. Liezel Graham.

A re-post of one of my older poems that I have polished a wee bit and that I feel so strongly to share today.

If you are not familiar with the story of Jabez, I can summarise it as follows:

a baby is born to a mother, who remembers only the pain of childbirth and names her son for that pain and that sorrow.

As someone who has delivered a few babies I know that there are as many different mothers as there are grains of sand, yet most forget the pain of labour and rejoice in the gift of the child that they have given birth to.

Unless, the child is not wanted.

Or, carries the weight of a mother’s broken dreams, and

we all do.

Sometimes.

But, this man story has always shown me that there is more.

Despite what you have inherited.

Despite what you have been named for.

Names,

can be changed.

And, misery and sorrow and pain

do not have to be your defining companions.

Even though they might be familiar.

Let them go.

Change your name.

Change your heritage.

xx