Thursday, July 9, 2015

Never the Freedom

She never have the freedom to choose.

If she chose us the consequences would be great. Her name would be thrown around with careless offense. Her reputation for choosing a white girl over her black family would have been significant.

Yet, hours before extended family made an appearance. Hours before people showed up with names and titles that could not be competed with. Hours before when labor was intense, contractions were staking up one on top of another.

Hours before she called your name, she looked in your eyes and asked you not to leave. She begged for you to come closer, hold her tighter, get her one more cool washcloth, put your cool hands on her neck one more time.

When the time came to choose though. She didn't the freedom to choose whom she wanted with her during the coming birth of her son. She knew that if she didn't choose us we would forgive. We would, in time, understand, celebrate, support and continue to walk alongside.

She couldn't afford to choose anything or anyone other than she did.

She was wise and the choice she made was the first one of many that she will have to make for her son. It was the first choice that she will have to make that doesn't feel good, or right, or is even the best. But is necessary. Necessary to make peace, to avoid family conflict, to stay within the safe walls of cultural norms. To make choices that will have lasting consequences, that will shape her community and the life she wants to offer her son.

After all, in the end, she never had the freedom to choose anyway.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The decision that gave me my voice.

I stopped writing because I couldn't find my voice.

Before children I'd spent years speaking and advocating for the "others" in my life. Yet, in the midst of the new everyday with kids and within the walls that make my home I had forgotten how to speak for myself. I no longer knew how I could identify with the world within my own skin when my hours were already so consumed.

It was never my intention to model or follow in the path of others but my, oh MY, did I want a taste of what they had to offer. I wanted to share their voice. I wanted to make their DIY pallet headboard; write up "days in the life of" for our homeschooling day; make efforts toward simple living and milking goats and extracting honey... They all drew me into a new world of unique and modish ways to measure myself and find success now that I was working as a new stay-at-home mom.

So I mimicked their formats, I linked to their sites, commented on their posts, followed their facebook pages and spent hours reading through their posted life journeys. The highest for of flattery is imitation. Right?

What do I remember most from that season of parody? I was always looking for a different voice. I was attempting to pen from a story that was not my own, a vision that was never given to me to begin with.

Photo courtesy of Brooke Collier 

You see, I've always been one to speak on behalf of those whom many identify as the "others".

I spoke for others when in elementary school I fell into the role of  the ominous go-between, negotiating the friendships between Tearsa, Lara, Jennifer and Brandy. I was an expert playground moderator by fourth grade and to the sound of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, systematically brought two war torn third grade friends into reconciliation over what was often simply spilled milk.

By eighth grade I easily found my role as the communal sacrificial lamb. The girl who lost her voice as I allowed the voices of others to drown out my own. I knew how to make friends but didn't know when to engage further or when to let go. All too often I allowed my voice to be the one to send messages of girlfriends who liked a boy but needed for me to speak it for them.  I never believed that my voice was important enough to speak up for.

High school gave me permission to fill the space of middle man once again and by graduation I was voted most friendly, most likeable, and most trustworthy. By 12th grade I had convinced the athletes that I understood them and celebrated their victories with my whole heart. I held empathy for the dour awkwardness of the band and choir crowd. And for all of those in-betweeners? I was able to be present with them as well, believing what they believed, processing what they thought, meeting them where they were and staying there with them. I was stretched so thin I had a difficult time identifying which parts of my interactions with others were honest to myself.

Through it all though, I never believe I was being untrue to who I was at that time. I just didn't know myself. I didn't have a voice yet to tell others who I believed Jessica was.


So I did what any small high school Evangelical raised graduate would do, I did what others before me did. I attended a small Christian university where all who graduated before me from our small Nazarene church went. Within the first few months I found myself on the student council and shoulder deep in what would soon become the space where I made my first true and honest decision.

Although at that time I hadn't discovered words that were clear enough to verbalize who I was, I did know who I wasn't.

The voice within knew that I wasn't like many others who raised their palms and opened their books and bibles in Chapel. This voice wasn't one that felt at home amongst self identified "believers". And this voice certainly didn't belong in the pool of passive acceptance. Even more so, this voice demanded that I acknowledge that I didn't feel like I belonged. That this feeling of exclusion wasn't something to be ignored but paid attention to.

When I first spoke the words outloud, "I'm leaving college", there were questions of intention. Wasn't I scared to leave this safe and traditional Christian university? How would I keep connected to my faith? Didn't I want to learn about the world within a Christian framework? There was fear and loss and hesitation from both staff and friends alike. Even more so, there was fear and loss and hesitation within.

You see, this was the first time I used my voice and spoke with strength for what I knew was right for me as opposed to what others had done before me. This was the first time I felt my voice was heard and the first time I was able to catch a taste of who I was becoming. By leaving university I spoke out and let the sliding glass door close on my season of safety, familiar and comfortable.

And in the process of choosing to say that one good-bye I realized that I still was that fourth grader who used her voice for reconciliation. The eighth grader who spoke on behalf of others when they couldn't find their voice to speak. The high schooler who could meet others where they were at and was able to identify with others in various seasons and stages of growth and development. My voice at that time was speaking to the spirit that had always been within all along.

Photo courtesy of Brooke Collier 

Yet, when I became a mom and my outlet for advocacy, reconciliation and counseling came to a halt I lost my voice once again. I didn't know how to transition from independence into motherhood. So I watched you all. I listened to your podcasts, identified with your struggles, read through your suggestions and wanted a window seat into your insight. So I followed you and used you as a source of reflection, support and inspiration.

Until I couldn't anymore.

I couldn't because I realized once again that your voice was not my own. I just didn't know at the time who I was becoming in motherhood yet. I hadn't found the my voice to share who I was becoming so I logged off. I closed down this writing format of being who I wanted or thought I should be and began the holy work of becoming who I knew I had yet to become.

I was that voice of reconciliation, that advocate when others couldn't speak for themselves, one who could meet you where you were at and fully be with you there until you no longer felt alone.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What I Want

I've never heard God speak. But I've felt Her pulse.

I've heard Him breathe the words, "You are never alone." Those very same words I share every evening just before I close the door to the girls bedroom, just after throwing them our family sign. "Team DeBoni 4 lyfe".

I've felt His pursuit to simply love others. A word so undefined, so immeasurable. Yet, so full as I breathe in and take the next step forward, touch the French lilacs and taste the freshly pulled carrots in the early weeks of autumn.

Neither of these are sexy or easily spoken out loud. To know you're not alone in the midst of darkness. To love when life presents to unlovable. In fact, both of these things are downright terrifying. I mean, who really wants to be alone and be alone with all. those. thoughts. And love the unlovable? Excuse me, but no. Absolutely no.

I've only ever spoken the assurance of these two truths to few. This pull to love, to speak to the nearness of God. Mostly out of fear have these promises only been whispered a hand full of times. I do not like being held accountable and something in me just knew that if I shared too much too loudly "people" (you know, people!) would actually expect me to live in alignment with these truth and let's be honest, who is really ready to live as though they are sure of God's love, presence and in return, love others all the time, regardless?


Five months following Yael's welcoming into our home I purchased my first Ball jars. There were clearance tomatoes at the Kroger down the hill and with zero forethought I decided that I needed to preserve food. I needed to purchase these softened tomatoes and make something beautiful from them. What came of those bruised Romas was the most delicious enchilada sauce that pregnant woman swoon over and my Jake encourages the making of monthly.

As my passion for preservation caught fire I came upon Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life in the cookbook section of our small West Virginian library. I was enthralled. The tension of storytelling woven between recipes and memoir was new, fresh, like a deep breath. It was a connection between my two loves. A story I wanted to devour. "I could do this" I thought. I could preserve and write and spread the love of jam! This was my in. My door to the outside during what often felt like a very solitary life with a newborn in a strange new city.

A well acknowledged preserving blog once referenced a recipe I posted and I made Molly's chocolate cake to celebrate. The cake with nine eggs? Yup. I made three cakes in one week. Only one slotted for celebration. The others because I just needed to. I almost bought chickens and put up a coop in the back yard because I needed more eggs for more cake.

Enough about the cake.

These were the days when Food In Jars was growing wildly and I couldn't make it quick enough to Kmart when jars were in sale before they were sold out completely. The art of preserving was bubbling over and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to share the beauty found in preserving and write about it.


One afternoon Jake and I were walking the trails and came upon the most simple of waterfalls. It's height could only be measured in stories though it's mass was only a trickle.

"I'm not sure what to do," I shared with him. "I feel this pull to make beautiful from what's discarded. I want to take the abandoned and create a necessary from it."

"You should start a blog and call it Preserving Beauty."

Preserving Beauty.


It wasn't more than one year later we were beginning to prepare our welcoming for our second daughter, after yet another move, and the passion I once cherished fell into the scrap pile itself. And although I still put up food every late summer and early fall, the blog fell to the wayside as requests from the everyday and connections within our new community in Grand Rapids grew.

Still, the strange connection and pull to love and preserve continued to gather momentum. I began working with Sisters in Support, mentoring young moms. I made cookies for blood drives, lunches for school programs, served with the local Family Promise, dining with young moms at Grace's Table and became a birth and postpartum doula. I was loving it and it felt soooo good.

Then in November of 2013 everything came to a full stop.

Jake encouraged me to call Beth. And I did. Only moments later to call an emergency TF meeting. I couldn't process the change fast enough and needed my circle of support, what Jen Hatmaker refers to in "7" as her Council.

"I'm pregnant." These two words took many minutes to surface, to speak so others could hear. After pressed back tears began to manifest. After the ache too deeply felt was shared. These soft words whispered. They proclaimed. There was life within me once again and I didn't want it to be there. I didn't want to be pregnant. I didn't want another child. I didn't know if my body could do it again. I didn't know if I could do it again.

In a sermon last year at Mars Hill Bible Church Jamie Smith speaks to the words Jesus first spoke to his disciples in John 1:38, "Jesus looked around and saw them following. "What do you want?" he asked them."

What do I want?

I wanted to love this child within. I wanted to work toward this love. This work, though, was going to take all that I believed I knew about God and center be back toward the only two things I knew were certain, that God was with me always and that I was only responsible and asked to love in return.

It was my work to give a new meaning, a new face, body, breath to preserving beauty.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Because I'm Sick.

Papa, I sick sometimes.
I go to doctor sometimes.
I sick doctor sometimes.
Can I have fenedryl?
I have
I have
I have
Can I have some banana?
Because I'm sick.

doesn't always produce anticipated effect

C-B doesn't necessarily need to = A

Laboring words she attempts
to formulate sense,
logistical energy into one thought,
one sentence.

Like a two year old
I, too, labor.

Orthodoxy married and at the same time divorced from Orthopraxis.

Being as a way of Doing.

Papa, I too am sick sometimes.
Praying through the hours.
Fever of expectation released into
May I have, welcome deep darkness.
May I
May I
Can I rest in the vigilant cry for surrender?
Because I am sick.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I sip.


Preparing for the exchange of when
your right hand will
caress the very leading of my left breast

This body
which not so long ago could soothe
your body
within the very crease of this right elbow
supporting your soft flaky white skin
weightless in very same palm that
cradles this pen

Now your legs spill
                          wiggle off, past this waist 

The nourishment which sustained your
entire self for so long
now only offers you sips of peace

So I sip.

Dried herbs
Calming flower petals
Promises of peace
Your skin

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


There is no hiding the cheat

pungent air 
speaks volumes more than
taste ever will

How often the simple pleasures become

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Song for my daughters.

Smart and Strong

That's the way we like em'