Love Is Not from a Distance

tree in sunset

Love is not from a distance;

up close and personal, it comes close enough

to pierce us

like an arrow through the heart, a spear.

Can we get the hook out?

Love is the unexpected baby on its way to a stone-cold world.

How did you get in there, so soon?

I will try to love you, and I will often fail.

I feel you hiding in my secret place, moving

like a white swan’s feathers (or maybe black)

brushing up against me, about to take flight

over waters of a vast lake, splashes of yellow against blue,

ripples in growing circles toward the rising sun

too bright to look at directly, creating, consuming . . .

You are not really mine; I borrow you for a time (too short).

I will hold your small hand tightly, sad to think that

maybe after yours grows big enough to break away

–you will forget me–


Love is not from a distance.

Not black letters on a glass screen, texted from a smartphone:

“I love you.”

Love is up close and personal

–often messy–

a mother’s lips against a child’s hot forehead,

her fingertip–with heal-all Mom Spit–

wiping a scraped knee,

mixing bodily fluids:

blood, sweat, tears, and so on . . .


Love is a child’s grown hand

spotted a little from the sun

–slightly wrinkled–

caressing the cheek of an old mother,


in a white bed stacked with pillows

near a window open to a sunset

orange and green,

velvet royal blue like a cape once worn

to the Renaissance Faire.


Love is kneeling before the Queen

who is guarded by men in tights and ribbons,

holding spikes and discipline and honor.

She sat on her splendent wooden throne,

carved with the two-headed eagle, crest of Spain,

her gold crown encircling red hair, bejeweled, layered

in garments beset with pearls and diamonds–

powerful yet kind, welcoming misfits.


We knelt together–you an elf princess and I a Handmaid

ready to serve, mend, repair, arrange bodices and hair.

Schedules surround the Queen, appointments, visitations,

foreigners bearing gifts like Turkish tea or Russian vodka.

I was her Timekeeper, checking my old pocket watch

–round like a circle

coming back on itself like a red Chinese dragon

eating its tail–

birth, death, and all that lies between

doomed to reset, repeat, re-enter,

yet maybe to replenish–


like the greatest Royal Gesture of love:

God come down from throne indescribable,

gold above a crystal sea and rainbows–

angel, cherubim, creatures with eyes and wings and crowns

which they cast down, singing, worshiping, timeless–

God came down from there–

an omnipotent baby knit together with human genes,

in a secret place inside a woman–

born to pain, walking with us, healing sorrows, lameness, blindness;

hands then spread against a cross of splintery wood,

–nails slicing bloodlines–

and so death passed to resurrection,

breaking the circle or enlarging it forever . . .


Love is not from a distance.  Love is Resurrection,

Yeshua baking fish for his followers

–who were radically surprised one morning–

by the Sea of Galilee.  Love offered

eternal gifts for all the Peters, Arwens, and Galadriels,

Queens and servants–beggars, bards, and soldiers

dying on far-flung fields

as they watched the sunrise,

caressed by a breeze like eternal Spirit touching their sliced-open face,

blending with their last, too-mortal breath,

before they vaulting skyward.

tree with train

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Spring at West Lake, Hangzhou, China


Children and adults play in a park by West Lake

I went to West Lake in Hangzhou, China in May and saw so many colorful flowers and people.  Walk with me by the lake, on paths across stone bridges, through parks, temples, pavilions, and historic buildings with statues.  West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province.  For 2000 years it has been the source of inspiration for poets, artists, photographers, and even filmmakers.  My students told me the romantic story of the immortal White Snake who became a woman and fell in love with a mortal man.  The turtle god of the lake was jealous, so he imprisoned her under a pagoda.  However, the man still loved the White Snake Woman, and they were eventually reunited and had a son.  This story has been made into television series and films.  Emperors from many Chinese Dynasties visited West Lake and inscribed its famous “Ten Scenes” with poetic names like “Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds,” “Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon, and “Orioles Singing in the Willows.”  As far back as the 14th Century, Europeans visited West Lake, including Italian explorer Marco Polo, who wrote that Hangzhou “is the most splendid heavenly city in the world.”  Spring and romance are here in China!


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China’s Treasures


The Empress’ throne room inside Beijing’s Summer Palace

I went to Beijing and saw some of China’s greatest treasures, royal rooms where Emperors and Empresses sat on gold and silver thrones that were surrounded by statues of cranes, lions, dragons, and the elusive phoenix.  After touring the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, we went to a fancy Chinese restaurant that recreated the Emperor’s throne room.  Here I am, sitting among China’s treasures and realizing that the greatest treasure is love, the human heart, and God sending His only Son down from Heaven’s throne for us.


China’s Valentine’s Day


This year, Valentine’s Day in China was on the same day as the Lantern Festival which marks the last day of Lunar New Year’s celebrations, so everywhere there were fireworks, red lanterns, and big bouquets of flowers.  Read more about how the Chinese celebrated on Digital Journal.  I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  Even if there was no romance in your life, perhaps you experienced true love!  See how I did in my newest book, Fire and Ice.

Spring in Turkey


A family strolls along a hill by tulips in Seka Park, Izmit, Kocaeli

Spring has finally come to Turkey, and people enjoy walking outside in the sunshine, strolling through parks, planning weddings, and admiring tulips, an important flower for Turkey that can be found in tourism symbols, hand-made lace, and jewelry. Grown natively in Anatolia for centuries, tulips were first introduced to Europe by a German ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century. Tulips were the symbol of the Ottoman Empire, courtly romance, and love. Only the rich and refined could truly grow tulips, display them in their homes, draw paintings of them, and write them into poetry. The golden age of the Ottoman Empire, in the 18th Century, was called the Tulip Era (“Lale Devri” in Turkish).

 After a long, cold winter in northwest Turkey, spring finally arrived this April. Tulips of all colors graced parks and hillsides. People planned weddings, relaxed at open-air cafes, and gave each other bouquets of Turkish “lale.”  A duck bathed in a fountain.  I enjoyed all this with my Turkish husband as sunlight shone on his amazing country.  After two years of living inside the Turkish culture, I am hopeful for new beginnings.  I’m writing a new book about it!


My Turkish husband Ömer and I in the park


A duck enjoys the spring sunlight and a bath in a fountain


Turkish tulips shine in the sunlight

Pale like Lace


Spring is here, and women all around Turkey are planning weddings.  There is something lovely in the pale, candle-light color of lace on a wedding dress.  In Turkey, wedding gowns are amazing.  I hope you enjoy my little lacy photos.  Read about the cultural traditions for “Weddings in Turkey” on Digital Journal and see more photos if you like.  Sweet romance!



Weddings in Turkey

In Turkey, marriage is important, so people go all-out for engagements and weddings. Dresses can range from simple frocks to fancy ball gowns, but even more interesting are the traditions and ceremonies involved.

Turkey is a land of contrasts. You can find the traditional next to the modern in architecture, food, and fashion. But weddings remain vital in this society where it is scandalous for a man and a woman to just live together. Many weddings are big, expensive events tied to old Ottoman and Arabian influences and lasting for days. Others are simpler affairs. Since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk established the Republic of Turkey, weddings have been, by law, secular ceremonies overseen by a marriage commissioner. However, devout Muslims often hold another service afterward to be blessed by an imam at a mosque. Almost always the bride dresses up, from a simple frock to an elaborate gown that would rival Cinderella at the Ball. Families and friends get involved, and music, dancing, and food are part of most celebrations. Perhaps the most fascinating customs are the events that lead up to the wedding day. Continue reading