Sunday, December 30, 2012


If I had known
it would be the last time I would talk to you 
eye to eye
one to one
heart to heart

I probably would have been a lot more honest.

If I had known that ever after
my words would be handed down
twisted through dubious filters of ignorance and blame,
and fed back to me as proof of my guilt,

I definitely would have been more honest.

Don't you know,
I don't need more proof from you (or you); 
nothing is clearer to me.
But you are walking blinded, while I am crippled,
And you cannot see that I can see.
I have not the power to reach you.

I should have been less honest;
Truth requires ears and eyes.

Monday, December 24, 2012


About 7 years ago, I was in an upstairs classroom with a pack of teachers at  6:45 am. Every day began with a time of devotion and prayer for our school and students. On this particular day, we circled up and held hands to pray together. "Pastor Rabbi" Kevin, the Messianic Jewish rabbi and high-school physics teacher led off with his fluid "Avinu Malkeinu, our Father, our King..." and we teachers, from so many different backgrounds, joined in with our prayers as well.
A snapshot of me in the school parking lot my first year teaching,
taken by my parents, proud of their (not very) gainfully
employed child.

After prayer, the hand on my right held on to mine longer than usual. It was one of the more pentecostal-leaning Bible teachers, Mr. M. He said, "Jana, I just wanted to mention this to you. I don't want to make you feel weird, but the past couple of days I've been next to you at prayers and I was given a vision both times. I don't usually share these things, but I feel like it was impressed on me that I should share this one with you. May I?" 

I said yes. He described what he had seen. I was standing in a warm, sunny area, like a field. It felt very warm and comforting. I was cradling an infant in my arms. The overwhelming sense of the image was contentment, wholeness, enough-ness, joy. As I teared up, he quickly told me that visions like this one are  symbolic. The imagery of a mother and child, while it can mean physical motherhood, can also be a reference to symbolic "motherhood" of a vision or embracing a calling of some kind.

I was in tears, on the brink of a major ugly-cry at 7 in the morning, with a whole day of maintaining order among 7th and 9th graders ahead of me. I couldn't respond much at the moment, but I talked with Mr. M about it at lunch a few days later. He asked me if there was any connection to that vision. I told him I wasn't sure. I had no idea what the "child"--if the vision wasn't about actual motherhood, which is a thing I have always deeply cared about--that I could hold so closely and tenderly could be. I asked him if he had any ideas about that, but he just frowned a little and shook his head. "I just know the sense of the image was deep happiness and wholeness." 

Sometimes I think about that image of myself, which I can imagine clearly; a strong woman, whole, joyful, devoted. The thing I still don't know is how to get there. How to become that woman, since she seems just as far away now as she did then. In some ways I've been looking for that "child" purpose ever since the vision was shared with me. In dour moments, I wish I'd thought to ask Mr. M how old I looked in the vision, because it seems to be taking its sweet time in coming to pass.

I've been remembering this image often during this advent season, this time of waiting, wondering, remembering to hope, dwelling on promises, but unable to see their fulfillment. I don't understand it, but then, neither did Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth or Zechariah understand the whys of God's promise and fulfillment in their lives. 

I don't pretend to understand the why or wherefore of these kinds of stories that touch on foreknowledge or vision or prophecy. In my experience, the vision, though in my knowledge it hasn't yet come to pass, has given me something still, something to wonder about, a possibility to treasure, a sense of joy to search for.

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. -Luke 2:18-19

Friday, December 21, 2012

Here it is, Over the Rhine

I cried when I wrote this, I’ll always rememberThe worst kind of lonely is alone in DecemberThe act of forgiveness is always a mysteryThe meltin’ of ice and the future of history, yeah
Some call it obsession, I call it commitmentI make my confession, I make it in publicI hope that it’s helpful, that others can use itThat it’s more than my ego, my need to abuse it
I’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasAnd here it is
The leaves on the oak tree hold on through the winterThey’re brown and they’re brittle and they clatter togetherI can’t seem to let go, I’m so scared of losin’The deeper the love goes, the deeper the bruisin’, yeah
The trouble with talkin’ is it makes you sound cleverAnd the trouble with waitin’ is you’ll just wait foreverThere’s a loop of excuses that plays in your mindAnd makes the truth even harder to find
I’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasAnd here it is
When they blow Gabriel’s horn, rip fiction from factI wanna get caught in some radical actOf love and redemption, the sound of warm laughterSome true conversation with a friend or my lover, yeah
Somewhere down the road we’ll lift up our glassAnd toast the moment and the moments pastThe heartbreak and laughter, the joy and the tearsThe scary, scary beauty of what’s right here
I’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this Christmas, yesI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasAnd here it is
Oh, here it isOh, oh, oh, here it is, yeahOh, oh, here it isHere it is

Monday, December 17, 2012

White Christmas: "Is this the end?"

For the past three years, my friend and I have thrown a small "boozy baking day" party.

We bake sugar cookies, experiment with Christmasy cocktails, and watch Christmas movies, and this year it happened to coincide with watching the small-town lighted Christmas parade from Katrina's over-the-main-street-shops apartment.

This year my friend Bethany told us she'd never seen White Christmas, so we had it playing while we frosted cookies, drank hot buttered rum--light on the butter--and waited for the peppermint bark to cool in the freezer.

We were moving in and out between the kitchen and the living room, but I happened to sit down during the scene where the two sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, are going to sleep the evening after little sister Judy has announced her engagement. We see modestly pajama'd Betty lying on her side, facing the camera in the foreground of the shot, and Judy sitting up in the background. Judy, thinking out loud, chats about how Betty can now feel free to do whatever she wants, and not be obligated to take care of her little sister. Betty, tears silently streaking her face, pretends to be asleep, and Judy, a little disappointed in the end of her sisterly chat,  goes to sleep as well.

Bethany walked in as I watched this scene. "Is this the end of the movie?" 

"No," I said "This is a happy movie."

I try not to think about the fact that this scene is where my story seems likely to end.

White Christmas wouldn't be the classic it is if the story ended there, with Betty's tears being shed because her key relationships are changing and she feels profoundly alone and unloved. 

I think of Laura Linney's character Sarah in the Christmas tragi-rom-com 'Love Actually.' 

Sarah's story is frustrating, considered a loose end by many because it doesn't end with the happy resolution of romantic love requited, but in a choice to accept a "not particularly note-worthy or inspiring", according to the film's opening, kind of love. 

On Christmas Eve, when our other characters are experiencing the triumph of Love Found, we see her paying a solitary visit to her mentally disturbed and institutionalized brother, receiving from him an uncharacteristic moment of lucidity and empathy (a strange little miracle moment relegated to  the deleted scenes). That's all the emotional and narrative payoff Sarah gets, as far as we see. I've always respected Sarah's story, but it's not the one you hope you end up living.

Even the 'loose end' stories of the faithful-but-barren Elizabeth and Hannah, who prayed their whole lives long to become mothers, end in resolution; Elizabeth becomes the mother of John the Baptist, Hannah the mother of Samuel, and both lived to see Jesus walk the earth. Still, I sometimes wonder about the other women in Elizabeth's and Hannah's communities who must have existed, whose stories aren't part of scripture. The ones who never married. The ones who stayed infertile. The ones whose stories ended as marginalized members of society, not as triumphant miracles.

Stories of those great transcendent miracles get told because they are rare, not because they are common. 

Still though, those untold lives must have experienced the small, everyday miracles of being in this world. Snow-stars drifting, and other beauties. Laughter. Good food. Creative work. Companionship, though not the kind they might have longed for. Children, though not their own. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tidings of Comfort

Every family has holiday traditions that are unique to them. They may be silly, but they make Christmas.

A few of my favorites are:

-putting together a Christmas/Winter/Snow Weather mix CD and sharing it with friends. My Snow and Stars 2010 mix: 

-The enormous Langstraat family christmas party (so big it's held in a church rec room) with incredible food and a fun, competitive gift swap and carol sing.
Grandma Langstraat and me last year

-Christmas Eve (A Christmas Eve service somewhere--a little more complicated now that multiple church services are involved) and Stocking-opening party. We always have a northwestern-style Christmas eve dinner with clam chowder and cheese biscuits for dinner, with lots of bacon. 

-Getting the tree. We've already got ours this year, thanks to my brother and his fiancee being completely on top of the whole Christmas-planning-thing. It is beautiful. and it is leaning a little bit at the moment. *goes to correct leaning tree*. 

-Advent studies. Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent by Enuma Okoro is the devotional study I'm doing this year. Check out the book, it's not too late to get caught up with Advent reading! 

-Christmas-decorating competition at the office. This year, we did not win. However, I still love our department's use of our new office space as an NYC city street. It was fun and competitive and...well, the Marketing team had Bagpipes, live chickens, an Egg-nog milking competition, and an adorable  3-year-old dressed as a partridge in a pear tree. So they totally deserved a win. Next year, Marketing. Next year.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Sometimes I feel that I've had more than my fair share of photography sessions, although several weddings took place before facebook and indeed, digital photos at all. Thank goodness is my first thought, when I remember my skinned-back hair and the one dress that made me look about as shapely as Olive Oyl.

It's been a wild and beautiful few years of standing up with dear friends on their special days, collecting lovely dresses and fabulous shoes, and learning how to just be (sometimes more successfully than others) with people in the midst of stressful and joyful days. 

All told, I've been in 7 wedding parties, and have helped in various ways with myriad others. There will be more weddings with the years to come. Some days, I swear off weddings, vowing to say no next time, to refuse to plan the showers, to stop getting excited about decorations, handmade gifts, dresses (and more importantly, shoes) and all the little accessories.

Here's a little review of the weddings I've been so blessed to be a part of over the past four years.

There will always be celebration. And there is hope in that.

(p.s. my friend Juliann is a fantastic wedding photographer. She took the recent photos of Jessi and Josh's wedding. Check out more photos from the wedding here.

2012- Jessi- day full of SWEETness.

2011- Sarah R.- so we laughed a lot this day, too.

2010- Sarah G. -so we giggled a lot.
2009-Luz and Cole-set design
2008- Steffi -1.) double ear infection 2.) more makeup
than I would have put on at age 4 with free range of my mom's makeup cupboard.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Recent work: encaustic

"Can you use a typewriter?" Encaustic, pigment, typewriter keys, and transfer on birch panel. 8"x8" Commissioned by my friend Katrina Hansen. 2012

"Banner" Encaustic, pigment, lunaria seed membranes, Bed, Bath & Beyond satin ribbons wrapped around board. 8"x10" 2012

"The Ocean and Truth" Encaustic, ashes, and silver leaf on board. 10"x10" 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012


A few months ago, my friend Cole asked me to send him a few poems he might use for a school project as a Music Composition student at Cornish College of the Arts. 

I sent him a few, and he chose 3 to write music for the harp and voice, a project which eventually ended up as part of his Junior Composition recital this weekend. Our mutual friend, Ruth Mar, who founded the non-profit Classical group The Parnassus Project, played the harp, and former Cornish student Achil Jackson read the poems and sang the soprano part.

I was so honored and excited to hear these poems spoken and sung for the first time, and Cole's music really put them in a new light. As strange and nerve-wracking as it is to hear your own words performed from a stage, it was a very special experience.

Cole's wife, my dear friend Luz, had made the gorgeous posters and programmes, as well as the handcut-paper and light set pieces.

The Parnassus Project performed the second part of the recital, with Beethoven's Sonata in G Minor for cello and piano, OP. 5, NO. 2, a beautiful performance of the two-movement Sonata by Brooks Tran on the piano and Nathan Harrenstein on the cello.

For me the real highlight of the evening was Cole's String Quartet, "Waiting Games," performed by members of the Parnassus Project. I am not an expert on classical composition, but the complexity and tension of the music had me on the edge of my seat, and during the last movement I couldn't keep the smile off my face.

This was such an exciting project, and in Cole's thank-you card  after the event, he wrote something that stuck with me, "collaborations like this give me hope." While the discipline of pursuing art and creating is in many ways a singular journey, participating in collaborative projects always brings a particular hope and joy to the work. Whether it's looking through the same lens for a while, or the new perspective working with someone else brings, or perhaps that sense of "you too? I thought I was the only one!", the few collaborative projects I've been a part of have always been very special and life-giving.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday Lyric: 'Ragged Company' by Grace Potter feat. Willie Nelson

O Lord, I think I’m falling to my disbelief 
I’m cursing like a sailor and lying like a thief 
It’s hard to heed the calling from the better side of me 
When I’m blaming everybody else and no one’s coming clean 

O Lord, can You see my thick skin wearing thin?
And the demons of a lesser me are beckoning me in
Those who gathered 'round me I’m watching them all leave
'Cause I am my own ragged company

So you can take a trip to China or take a boat to Spain
Take a blue canoe around the world and never come back again
But traveling don’t change a thing, it only makes it worse
Unless the trip you take is in to change your cruel course

‘Cause every town’s got a mirror
And every mirror still shows me
That I am my own ragged company
I am my own ragged company

Won't You help me, Lord?
Won't You help me, Lord?
Someone cut the cord
And I'm falling down again

Oh, it’s lonely, Lord, it’s mighty cold
And I don’t wanna live this way
Afraid of growing old

It’s hard to heed the warning when you cannot see the crime
The only way to remember is to forget in a rhyme
And I’m scared to tread the red road that leads to Galilee

'Cause I am my own ragged company
I am my own ragged company
I am my own ragged company
I am my own ragged company

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rainier Maria Rilke

Let this Darkness be a Bell Tower
Quiet friend who has come so far
feel how your breathing makes more space around you
Let this Darkness be a Bell Tower
And you the Bell--
What batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change
What is it like, such intensity of Pain?
P1012326If the drink is bitter,
Turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
Be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you; 
SAY to the silent earth; 
I FLOW to the rushing water; 

I have posted this poem before. But here looking over another year, it seems important again.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Lyric: "If This City Never Sleeps" by Rosie Thomas

Ooh, at night when I sleep 
all the dreams come to me 
Make me believe that 
my life is not my own 

And if life were like my dreams, 
oh, the things I would see 
I would be so much braver than I know 

No, I can't understand what it means to be a man 
And to lead a woman from her home 
And if love were indeed all the things I've believed 
Then I guess I'd never feel alone 

 Oh, will I ever know...  

And if this city never sleeps 
Does that mean that no one dreams 
And if that's so then I guess I'm going home

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I took myself to Hawaii for vacation a couple of weeks ago. A college friend and I traveled together, and two other girlfriends caught up with us for part of the week.

It was a delicious week in the sun.

But then, you know, you have to come back. Back to indifference, and tiresome things like buying new tires, and paying insurance and bills and dishes and cleaning up the yard, and sternly telling yourself that if you are going to afford any christmas presents at all, that you are not allowed to shop or eat out anymore, because vacation cleaned out your bank account.

I turned 33 two weeks ago. Last week I  put in my 5th year helping to coordinate a fund-raiser for my the youth ministry that fostered me as a teenager.

If you had told me 5 years ago that things would be much the same for me this year as they were then, I'm not sure what I would have done. 

My birthday last year made me smile, made me hope. Not so this year, somehow. The thought of another year makes me steel myself somehow, brace, expectant, for the next wave that will erode a little more of time's shoreline.

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."--Louisa May Alcott

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Lyric: Winter in my Heart, The Avett Brothers

It must be winter in my heart
There's nothing warm in there at all
I miss the Summer and the Spring
The floating, yellow leaves of Fall

A million colors fill my eyes
The Roman candles and the stars
Calendar says July 4th
But it's still winter in my heart

They say flowers bloom in spring
Red and golden, blue and pink
They say seasons turn in time
Theirs are changing, why won't mine?

It must be winter in my heart
There's nothing warm in there at all
I miss the Summer and Spring
The floating, yellow leaves of Fall

The air in there is frigid cold
I don't know what the reasons are
The calendar says August 1
But it's still winter in my heart

They say flowers bloom in Spring
Red and golden, blue and pink
They say seasons turn in time
Theirs are changing, why won't mine?

It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart

I don't know what the reasons are 
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart

I don't know what the reasons are
It must be winter in my heart

Friday, October 12, 2012

A conversation

It happens most often in church, sometimes during live music, in an environment of conscious and corporate listening that the pain of my spirit gets so overwhelming, I am in danger of turning into a yowling mess in front of large numbers of people. Unconsciously, sometime over the past few years, the alternative has been to focus all of my attention on another source of pain...right-hand fingernails digging into the soft flesh of my left inner elbow, the least obvious way to exercise the need for a pain I can feel physically, a pain I can control. I can focus on it, break the control the wave of emotion has on me.

A few days ago, it was because of the sermon, which was about being a fisher of men. "Sometimes being a faithful witness," said the pastor, "is as simple as sharing what God is doing in your life." Tears prickled in my eyes. My arms folded, my right hand slipped a little way up the sleeve that covers my left arm. Short fingernails grip, bite into soft flesh just inside the elbow, where the needle scars from blood donation are.

What God is doing in my life? 

I imagine a conversation:

"Can I share with you what God is doing in my life? God seems to have spent past 14 years answering no to the deepest desires of my heart. Sometimes it seems like a taunt, intentional. You think you want this bread? Oh, dear! It's just a stone, painted to look like bread! Chip a tooth, did you?"

P1012289"Slowly, one by one, he seems to be taking away each of my most supportive friendships by giving them the exact gifts that I so desire, and have desired for so long. I see dear friends uplifted, encouraged, cared for, welcomed into new families, welcoming new life into the world. I see them growing into gracious, sweet, strong women, enriched and rooted, and I long for those gifts in my tumbleweed life."

"And each day that passes seems to make ridiculous my faith, such as it is. And yet God continues to say wait--which is really another no--to my heart's deepest desires for connection and family and love, for growth and encouragement, caring and being cared for, sharing a future."

I imagine the person I am 'witnessing' to about what God is doing in my life blinking blankly back at me. 

"Well, that doesn't sound like anything I'd want to be a part of. Why do you keep listening to him?"

P1012335I don't know. I don't know...except maybe because of the fact that unnecessarily beautiful places like Hawaii are on the map, and I am allowed to go there, and because of salty, turquoise ocean swims, and strong, hot coffee, and fresh pineapple, and long showers. Except because of the shiny Sunday faces and the soft, small hands of my friends' little ones, their smiles full of openness and trust. Except because of wine and worship and communion and food raves with friends. Except because of my garden and my kitchen and my studio, the holy common places He has put in my life. Except because of the sun on my skin and the feel of the brisk autumn breeze, the turning of the season, the temporary sweetness with the knowing tang of harvest bitterness in each bite of fresh fall apple. 

It's something beyond circumstances and comforts--I am subject to both beauty and bitterness, and whatever it is that I feel has been unfulfilled in my life is ever overwhelmed by the abundance of all that I have been given in life with Christ, and in his view of me, it is only the gold of gratefulness that survives the Refiner's fire.

My punishing grip of control lessens just a little as the wave of emotion breaks again on the forbidding shore of Trust.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday's Lyric: A Labor More Restful by The Dirty Projectors

You are finally convinced that you inhabit 
The same banal world as everyone 
Everyone has found it too 
Everyone has resigned themselves to it 
And the only mystery 
Is in what you couldn't decide or remember clearly 
The only mystery is in what you couldn't decide or remember, 
Decide or remember 
Have you stopped looking 
In order to put yourself 
To some real purpose 
Or have you simply found a labor more restful 
Than big hearted yearning 
And knowing that you're incomplete 
And the only mystery is in what you couldn't decide or remember clearly 
The only mystery is in what you couldn't decide or remember, 
Decide or remember.

*shout out to Luz and Cole, who will be proud that I listened to The Dirty Projectors

Friday, September 28, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Make the most
of every opportunity to heal.

Some opportunities
happen only once. 

Take faith to your feet
and show up smiling.

Trust your tears and questions only to 
the One who does not damn weakness.

Showing up for > happy for.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Poem Obscura: Skyline

alternate titles:

The Bad Medium
What Was There (and now is not)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Lyric: Live and Die by The Avett Brothers

All it'll take is just one moment and
you can say goodbye to how we had it planned
Fear like a habit, run like a rabbit
Out and away
Through the screen door to the unknown

And I want to love you and more
I want to find you and more
Where do you reside
When you hide, how can I find ya?

Cause I want to send you and more
I want to tempt you and more
Can you tell that I am alive?
Let me prove it

You and I, we're the same
Live and die, we're the same
Hear my voice, know my name,
You and I, we're the same

Live like a Pharoah, sing like a sparrow anyway
Even if there is no land or love in sight
We'll bloom like roses, lead like Moses
Out and away
Through the bitter crowd to the daylight

And I want to love you and more
I want to find you and more
Can you tell that I am alive
let me prove it to you

You and I we're the same
Live and die, we're the same
You rejoice, I complain
You and I, we're the same
Hear my voice, know my name
You and I, we're the same

I want to love you and more
I want to find you and more
where do you reside
when you hide, how can I find ya?
Cause I want to send you and more
I want to tempt you and more
Can you tell that I am alive, let me prove it.

You and I, we're the same
Live and die, we're the same
You rejoice, I complain
You and I, we're the same
Live and die, we're the same
Hear my voice, know my name
You and I, we're the same

You and I, You and I

Saturday, September 8, 2012


hug the coastline
lean into the curve because 
you must. 

Only slim strong trees fence you in and
one wrong move and 
you would be
into the vulnerable vastness
to be battered.

hug the coastline, 
stay with the road you know
mundane dangers
seem friendlier somehow

Large boulders block Chuckanut Drive

Friday, September 7, 2012

Stronger than you seem

“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." (Christopher Robin to Pooh)
       --A. A. Milne

Photo Credit to Mark French( and Sara McDonald
 ( for setting up a simple but beautiful photobooth at the wedding!
Bride and Groom during the photo session

The beautiful reception in full swing.
Post-wedding. I slept soundly the two nights before the wedding.
This was the night I didn't.
 It was not hard to celebrate with my precious sister over the past week. She's an easy person to love, and a fun one to celebrate with. 

My bridesmaid girls and family took very good care of me for the first couple of days after the wedding, and I had some very precious time with old friend Naomi. 

I'm just not sure how to return to normal...because I'm not sure there is one.