spark of hope


every now and then and you’ll find yourself in the dark

whether it’s a flicker or a long-term night

and you’ll wonder

how moments ago you tended the sea’s beacon

and today you’re fumbling for a switch

and you’ll think

that you ought to try to keep lighting the sea

even when your fuel is gone

and you’ll hide it and pretend

that it’s all okay

because if it weren’t for you

the sea would sink into inky black

but harsh and true

you’re not the only one with kerosene

or a spark

and someone else can ignite the way

and it’s a hard lesson sometimes

that to best help you need to accept it too

and worse yet

that light won’t always come

from the source you expected

by the hands you expected

at the time you expected

but darling it’s still light

despite the size

despite the carrier

despite the timing

and if you ignore the candle to wait for the lamp

it may not come

for some things start small

but the faintest flicker is enough

to glimpse the foot of the stairs

leading up to the beacon

and you’ll find your way

through the smallest of sparks

if you take the time to notice

and when you reach the top

because i know you will

and light the sea once more

and remember the tiny candle at the bottom

of the long staircase

the ships many miles away

you’ve been trying your life to reach

will no longer seem

quite so far off


inspired by a trip to Split Rock Lighthouse, MN.



Hey readers!
Please take the time to read this amazing piece of writing by my husband, Stephen. Living deliberately and authentically is a mission we set out on while backpacking Europe a year and a half ago, and I hope these words will inspire and encourage you in your own life journey. ❤

Not With Haste


Yes, I mean you, and I want you to just think about you. It’s an uncomfortable topic, I know. We aren’t supposed to think about ourselves. There are so many other people and other problems in the world to think about. Wouldn’t it be selfish to focus on the topic of: you?


Let me back up a bit. I was sitting on a picnic table by the boat docks of Grand Marais, taking a break from volunteer painting at a folk craft school. It was sunny, and warm for a Lake Superior April day, and very beautiful. I could see why some young people come up here for a summer or even 10 months at a time as interns, for the chance to live and work with so many amazing people and ancient crafts. Interesting life choice.

And then it hit me: Why are the lives of many…

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Dear Artists: The world needs you


Dear Artist,

To have a creative soul is to be a boundary between two worlds. It is to glimpse the radiance of eternity, the food of inspiration, and bring it back to heal this existence.

It is a baffling life.

I am an artist. Some element in the fabric of my being constantly searches and hopes for glimpses of the world of inspiration and wonder. It pulls me to beauty and mystery with a never-ending tug, and through the medium of writing I try to put what I discover there into words that might make sense to someone else. Being an artist looks like different things to different people, but to me it is more than the production of work; it is a way of thinking that is driven by the need for inspiration and creation.

It is being unable to peel myself from the frosty ground when a million stars and galaxies shine above me.

It is hearing a piece of music so complex and evocative I forget about existing in the present world and must be a part of something else.

It is becoming so encapsulated in a fantasy story that it shakes the core of who I am with an inspiration, joy, and yearning more powerful than anything else I’ve felt.

It is trying to gather all of these sights, sounds, and feelings into words, music, or art that will touch our world with a dash of the wild, colorful mind.

As an artist, it is not that inspiration and creativity are small pieces of your life; they are your life. You crave them like water. It is in a life of artistry that you are the most alive. The most you.

I have been lucky to find a home where I can thrive as an artist. My community is not only surrounded by natural beauty but full of people who encourage and inspire the creative life. It is a real joy, but if you are an artist, you know that feeling at home in your creative self can be hard.

You know that to much of the world, your creative passion and connection with beauty is considered frivolous, even vain. You get asked about your hobbies and then your “real” job, as if where you make the most money is where you most exist.

You see people dividing the world into thinkers and feelers, as if everyone has either a knack for reason and rationality or connectivity and nurturing. And while you want to be both intelligent and caring, you’re more likely to be found in your favorite spot of the house writing, composing, painting than studying logic or handing out hugs. The way you process the world is more a third category, which is to say, without a category.

You know that some people question imagination, even artistry. Perhaps you’re like me and have been exposed to religious groups that see nonreligious music, works of writing, or art as a waste of time. Sometimes such a fear of the material exists that it can be hard to admit feeling more spiritually connected in an art museum than in a church with stark walls and bland music. But for the creative soul, beauty is not a distractor. Beauty is a healer.

And the world needs it.

The world needs you.

You see, when you’re feeling doubtful, or out of place in an information-filled, academic world, know that the creative works you spend your time on are worth it.

It’s worth it to bring beauty into a world torn apart by ugliness.

It’s worth it to write that song or that poem that will bring someone comfort in a hard time.

It’s worth it to know that your real job as an artist is a job of healing.

There’s a reason we have art therapy and music therapy: works of creativity change lives.

So we the writers, the composers, the musicians, the designers, the actors, the potters, the painters, the dancers, the photographers, the poets, the filmmakers, the sculptors, the gardeners, the craftsmen…let’s light up this world with all we’ve got. Let’s fill it with beauty, with enchantment, with wonder.

Artist, your life has an amazing purpose. And you are who you are with the talents you have to fulfill that purpose.




The Golden Way: A poem

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

The Golden Way



Come and walk with me, I said

I’ll show you a new road

A path of clear and glittering thread

To take you where you’ll go

The Golden Way it’s called, and I’m sure you’ll love it too

On it you can walk your life

So come and join the



This path is one the many take

And its ways are proven true

With safety, caution signs and maps

There is no better view

These airbags are for breathing

This seatbelt for the dance

So come and join us straightaway

Without a backward



On the Golden Way you never ask

You just walk and don’t look down

We mapped it out before your time

No need to look around

The road this way is smooth and bright

Wide and straight on through

No need to watch the steps you take

Just the ones ahead of



No more winding trails of wood

Too dark and grim to bear

You can’t see past the thick of trees

What if you never get there?

Or trip while stepping on a rock

Or fall and scrape your knee

Too many risks that you could take

What’s life without



That’s why the Golden Way is here

To save you from that stress

If you walk the path that many take

It’s bound to be the best

So enjoy the road of silver and place your feet on gold

And never think again about the former dreams you’ve



There’s just one risk upon this path,

I’ll tell you it in full

That leaving it will bring all hell

And wreck your very soul

I’ve seen people who have left

They’ve gone and scraped their knees

They say the woods are prettier

But they’re blinded by them, please

For who would want to venture out

And make their own new path?

If they’re smart they’ll stay right where they are

And never again



This path is one the many take

And its ways are proven true

That if you whittle yourself down enough

There’s nothing left of you

Who wants to stand out from the crowd

A target for our knives

Or follow dreams you once possessed

Away from prying



Yes, the Golden Way is cold

The metal makes it frigid

But in time your feet will numb

And you’ll be glad that it existed

For cold feet cannot bear

The twists and turns of life

The forest is our greatest fear

With all its unknown strife

So walk this path a while, and soon enough you’ll stay

It becomes your only option when you know no other



R. Poynter

December 2016

No More Comparisons: Choosing You Over Perfection

Dear Reader,

This last year has been rough for me in many ways. A lot of long-term aches have bubbled up and festered in sickening ways. Nothing that you let fester can do you any good. But I’m going to talk about one particular infection that I believe to be a top killer of growth and happiness: making comparisons.

Not going to lie, this has been really bad for me lately. To give you a story as an example, here’s something that resurfaced in my life this last week. I had a talk with my husband about a strange fact about myself that I hadn’t really admitted before:

I have a fear of sleepovers.

If that made you laugh a little, that’s fine. The sentence makes me smile, too. It sounds weird, but after doing some googling I learned that this is a pretty common fear. While I may not have been able to realize or articulate it before, ever since I was a child the mention of a sleepover would suddenly cause sweaty palms, a tight chest, a knot in my stomach, and, occasionally, nausea.

I remember being six or seven and sitting on our swingset outside, anticipating going to my friend’s house to sleep over that night. The longer I sat the more ill I felt, until eventually I was certain that I had suddenly caught the flu.

I remember being so excited about finally going to summer camp, until the day finally came and I became so anxious that I threw up.

I remember the feeling of relief that friends would want to come over to my house so I wouldn’t have to go to theirs.

In and of itself, this anxiety isn’t the worst. It’s limited to specific events, usually subsides greatly once I’m at a friend’s house (and realize it’s not actually that bad), and disappears completely once said event is over. But it wasn’t ever the fear alone that was the real problem; it was the nasty thoughts that came along with it.

Why can’t you just let loose like those other girls?

Why do you have to be so childish when none of your friends are?

When will you just grow up and learn to cope with this? Everyone else has.

Your anxiety will be such a drag when everyone else is having fun.

Seriously, do everyone else a favor and don’t even go.

You suck.

And they festered.

As I got older I learned to enjoy sleepovers more, but usually only with close, trusted friends or family. For all other slumber parties, I became skilled at coming up with other plans and conflicts and reasons I couldn’t go. But even as I stopped caring about missing out on a party, my nasty thoughts remained the same.

Why can’t you just have fun like your other friends?

Seriously, you’re 23. Why should this still be a thing when it is for no one else?

Nobody really wants you there anyway. You won’t contribute to the fun like other people will.

I bet people wish I could just be normal like all our other friends.

You still suck.

While these kinds of thoughts come and go like lightning, dwelling on them can seriously be one of the worst things that you can do for yourself. I know it is for me. These thoughts that have long accompanied my anxiety have outlasted any fear I ever felt, and still affect how I see myself today.

We all have things about ourselves that we don’t particularly like. We look at the seeming success of people around us and berate ourselves for falling short of that. Especially in the world of social media, where we put our most beautiful, successful, and insightful selves forward, it can be so easy to look through a page of fabulous photos, stories, and thoughts and then look back at yourself and think What am I doing wrong?

Why can’t I get as good of a time as that runner?

Why can’t I look as good as that friend?

Why don’t I have as brilliant of thoughts like that person always shares?

Why don’t I have a fairy-tale story like that couple?

Why is my life just not as good as it was in the past?

You guys, these comparisons are worthless and are stopping you from growing as the one-of-a-kind character that you are.

Like me, these thoughts and feelings might go back years. But they don’t have to continue for years to come. Our thoughts affect our reality. But what we perceive as real can be quite different from what is actually real.

First off, all those friends you so admire probably aren’t as fabulous as you make them out to be. Sure, our lives are full of truly wonderful people, but nobody’s life is perfect, and everyone has battles to fight that you aren’t seeing. Wishing to be like someone else isn’t ridding you of your flaws; it’s only wishing you had different ones. We need to be careful to not idealize the real, complex people in our lives and assume that always being in their shoes would be better.

Second, you have a unique story and direction that your life is headed in. Your shortcomings are part of that, but so are your strengths and talents. Ignoring them and wishing you were on a different journey is only stunting your progress. Focus on where you are now to cultivate the things that are going right for you and tend to the things that aren’t.

Thirdly, to be happy, it’s more important to be you than it is to be perfect. Imperfections aren’t the enemy. But dwelling on them and refusing to accept these parts of yourself is. We can thrive as we are without having to pretend to be someone else or hiding the less flattering aspects of our personalities. It’s when we learn to accept that we are unique, and lovable in our uniqueness, that we will find contentment.

St. Paul wrote that those who engage in “comparing themselves among themselves are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12). I write this post so that we may grow in eradicating these thoughts of comparison that hold us back.

Likewise, I hope that we as people can learn to be more comfortable with ourselves and sharing not just the airbrushed, edited versions of us but the truth of who we really are. In fact, being open with sharing your imperfections can be one of the best ways of learning to cope with them, and learning to accept our friends for who they are. I write about less-than-happy things like anxiety and bad thoughts because I don’t want to be just another blogger who looks like she has it all together. I want my writing to speak honesty, to show that I’m someone who’s learning and growing through these things just like anyone else.

Reader, whatever it is you’re struggling with, whatever there is about yourself that you wish would change, I pray you won’t let it hold you back. Don’t fall into the trap of wishing yourself away. Instead, I hope you continue confidently on your unique journey while I continue on mine.

Peace always,


Early March Thoughts

Hey everyone,

Here’s a little window into the random things I’ve been thinking about lately, accompanied by pieces of art from our local gallery that rocks my world whenever I need a place to drink tea and get lost in art.


First, I thought I’d start off by mentioning that my lovely and thoughtful husband has joined the WordPress world! Stephen’s new blog is Not With Haste, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

His first post was about his word for the year, remember. Both Stephen and I have a deep-rooted desire to live life intentionally; to pursue a full, truthful living far beyond merely existing. I’ve been encouraged a lot this week by the joint work of our words, see and remember, and how together they grow the kind of deep living we ache for. If we don’t remember the gifts and beauty of the past they can’t leave a lasting mark on our present. And if we don’t look closely and see the richness of the present, we will be left with nothing to remember. But if we both see what’s around us and remember what’s gone before, we awaken to fathoms of life, love, and grace waiting to be harvested.


March has had an unstable start. The weather jumps from inviting to biting every other day, while life indoors has been just as variable. We’ve had surprise visits, friends’ happy news, and long-awaited answers to prayer right alongside learning and chewing on some hard and sad things. Life moves along with its many colors, sometimes blending together in confusing, interesting, yet nonetheless beautiful patterns. It all comes rolled together, and part of living is feeling it all.


Working at a school has been at once challenging and refreshing. The views and take on life that kids have is so inspiring. Man, do they have insight! I don’t think kids can learn from adults half as much as adults can learn from kids sometimes. The students in my class express such hope and belief unmuddied by adult realism and social expectations. It’s a shame most of us lose that, but it’s incredibly hopeful to see it alive and thriving in these young lights.


One of my friends expressed a strong desire to throw his phone in the lake. I can relate. Our ability to stay in touch with people far away can be nice, but the distraction from the near and present too greatly affects our thinking and engagement in the life right outside our door.


Lent is underway, and I’m not really sure what that means to me yet except I’m looking forward to this time of reflection, reconciliation, and spiritual refreshment.



“You know you are gigantic as the things that you adore.”



What Do You See?

Dear Reader,

Amidst moving, starting a new job, and get settled into normal life, a writing break was bound to happen. If I resolved to write more this year, we’ll just ignore that small detail and move forward.


The Northland is the most refreshing and tranquil refuge, and I can’t imagine a better place to refocus on what’s most important. Even up here, though, it’s sometimes hard to escape the endless barrage of indignation and negativity that’s clutching our world today. Whether as old as humanity or a quirk of our current times, it’s plain that controversy reigns as king of our world, and many (if not most) give him too much control over our daily lives. We can become nearly addicted to feelings of indignation, frustration, and anger, even when (or especially when) caused by issues completely out of our control. I think of all the cynical, mocking, and snarky articles that appear daily on social media—from all sides of the spectrum—and wonder at how much all of us are continually feeding ourselves a sickening diet of this tension and strife.


What we choose to see affects our thoughts, behaviors, and reality. I’m not denouncing critical thinking, or suggesting that we turn a blind eye and give our silence to all injustice in the world. But I do think that life is ripe with a peace, contentedness, and grace we could be reaping that gets silenced under the never-ending noise of news, politics, and the Internet, even though we were created and redeemed for so much more than the squabblings of this world.


For the last several years, my dad has had an idea or challenge to pick a word as the theme for your year. It can be anything, but usually reflects a value you want to live by for the coming year. There wasn’t a specific term that jumped to my mind this time as in years previously, but as I kept driving to work and noticing how the lake never looks the same each day, or how bright the stars shine above our house, or how the sunlight strikes the tops of the birch trees in the mornings, it came to my attention just how much there is in life to see.


Growing up Orthodox, I learned to see all of life as a sacrament, or an interaction with the divine presence of God. Nothing happens apart from the presence of God, for he is everywhere, and in his creativity even the most mundane actions can be a means of relating to him. Watching the sunset is a chance to relate to God, for he created the light and clouds and beauty itself. Walking hand in hand with my husband is a chance to experience God and remember that he is the source of all love and relationship. Even breathing is relating to God, for it is in him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).


This is a beautiful way to see life, really, but is hard to do when we choose not to look, or really don’t expect to see God everywhere. Even when his radiant, life-giving presence is right in front of our eyes, we spend so much time looking away from it and feeding the temptation to look to the issues and anger and frustration of this world. But the beauty of God and his kingdom isn’t something we have to wait to see once the dust settles; the presence of God is here and now.


And so, born out of a desire to awaken to the nearness of God, my word for the year is see. See, because there is so much to be seen. See, because I want to remember where to direct my eyes. See, because seeing yields a rich, joy-filled gratitude I want my life to be full of (Luke 1:49). See, because in this stunning corner of the earth there is so much to drink in. See, because God wants to be seen.


So begins the journey of this year. Perhaps you can pick out your own word for the year, or challenge yourself to a week of putting away social media and other sources of frustration and use the extra time to slow down and really notice and appreciate the gifts and presence of God around you.

What we choose to see is powerful. Choose well.



p.s. I’ve been getting folksy with Cloud Cult lately, one of my better decisions.

When Christmas Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

Dear Reader,

It happened last week. I was sitting at home on an otherwise quiet day. Everything was mostly fine, and I, the unsuspecting person, wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. A new and outlandish thought popped into my head: I hate Christmas.

Even writing that now seems weird. Was it really me who had that thought? Yes. As much as it pains me to admit it, I had the very real thought of hating Christmas this year. Multiple times.

Now I’m not saying I dislike what Christmas means, or am bothered by other people enjoying it to the full, as I hope people do. But I’m discovering that this season of celebration can be especially difficult when you’re feeling a whole lot less than merry and bright.

When we went to Nepal, I got quite sick. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. The parasite I had is known to cause anxiety and depression, and combining that with the stressful situation there and getting re-adjusted to life in America has not been pretty. And when life around you is filled with parties you just can’t find the energy to attend and festivity that you think should make you happy but doesn’t, Christmas becomes a foil to display your struggles more prominently.

Yesterday, one of my relatives shared a post encouraging those who had “life happen” this year. In her post, she shared a reminder that the first Christmas involved a few people far from home with nothing to show except their trust in God. For someone who’s felt disconnected to everything Christmas this year, that struck a chord with me. I went back to the story of the first Christmas, which I hadn’t really thought about in a long time, and began to ponder it some. And in doing so, I discovered the Christmas story for someone like me going through hard things.

The First Christmas Didn’t Feel Like Christmas

To be honest, it’s hard to relate to the story of Mary and Joseph’s travels when you’re sitting in a cozy living room stuffed with cookies and surrounded by a pile of presents. When hardship is miles away from you, the story of Christ’s birth becomes one of those traditions you listen to for a few minutes a year and then promptly forget about in the fog of busy December. But when you’re feeling down and or like everything is different, you begin to see some familiar themes that you can relate to.

Mary and Joseph weren’t the golden couple of Nazareth.

In fact, they were probably the center of the town’s gossip. In the time when Christ was born, to be pregnant outside of marriage was not only a scandal, but something worthy of capital punishment. Mary knew she was putting her life in danger and making herself an outcast by agreeing to have Jesus. When Joseph decided to not break off the relationship he knew he was signing up to be at the center of controversy.

If you’re someone like me who has ever felt like you’re living under a microscope and having every decision questioned, or feel shut out and not accepted, or have been at the center of gossip, take heart. Jesus’s parents weren’t perfect, well-loved people. They were outcasts dealing with drama and experiencing all those feelings too as they followed what they knew was right.

The first Christmas was tough.

Mary and Joseph were far from home. There were no trees or lights or presents (the wise men probably didn’t arrive until a year later). There were no family or friends to wish Mary and Joseph well (if they still had friends and family who wanted to speak to them). There was nobody to help them or give them encouragement as they faced such a major life change as having a child. Their journey together might have been awkward—dating and marrying your best friend wasn’t the norm back then, and Mary and Joseph may not have really known each other as they began their journey. Not to mention that after the birth they would have to run away to a foreign country because the king wanted to kill their new son.

I don’t think anyone would describe these circumstances as the ideal Christmas. We picture Christmas as this golden time where everything falls together in perfect joy and synchronization. We can see it through almost a fairy-tale lens of childhood memories and laughter. So when things change and “life happens” and Christmas is less than magical, it can hit hard.

As someone who’s going through some tough things and big changes this Christmas, it helps me to remember that the first Christmas—the most important one—was no rosy fairy tale. Rather, it was a grueling, rough time of change. But it was during that time that joy was found, not the joy of having the best presents or party, but the joy of finding a ray of hope in the darkness.

The first Christmas was hopeful.

It was in a smelly cave where two uncertain people were journeying that God appeared in the flesh. It was in the midst of darkness and loneliness that God first showed his face. It was on that first difficult Christmas that hope truly appeared.

Perhaps this Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas to you. Maybe you’ve moved to a new place that doesn’t feel like home yet. Or you’re working in a police station or emergency room while your family is celebrating together. Maybe a family member passed away this year and this will be the first Christmas without them. Perhaps you will spend your Christmas in a hospital visiting a loved one, or you yourself are too sick to fully enjoy this time of year like you’d want to.

Whatever it is, you are not alone. If you’re facing challenging times, then Christmas is for you. It doesn’t have to look like it did before. You don’t have to scramble to get your act together by the 25th because life happened to you. Christmas isn’t so much about conjuring a certain mood or atmosphere or keeping alive a tradition as it is about embracing hope in our darkest times, and knowing that even in the wild turns of life, we might find a sliver of Light.

Merry Christmas.



Winter’s Hands

Mending the frost by building a fire

Hauling another storm’s snow

Wrapping the littles in bundles of coat

Keeping the bite from their toes


Hauling up boxes, unraveling lights

Wrestling a tree into place

Baking and buying the gift that’s just right

Extending new patience and grace


Ringing bells and giving well

Offering a shopper a hand

Tying a blanket for the kid who has none

And holding a door when you can


Stopping and pulling and making a call

For the stranger who’s gone off the road

Small town life, you give and you take

We’re all for sharing the load


Summers we drive and autumns we thrive

In colors and smells and in sounds

Springtime we bask and soak in the light

And dance in the new warmth we’ve found


But winter we give, and winter we show

The love that we often forget

It’s not the dark and it’s not the cold

But what we do in the face of it