Author Archives: Julie

Book Stack

It was a beautiful morning for a walk. I seized it instantly, grabbing a lone My Little Pony library book waiting to be returned, and headed out the door.

I love being able to walk to the library almost as much as I love using the online account feature to check for titles and place holds. I knew there were several books waiting for me. I did not know which ones. Library book grab bag for the win!

Halfway to my destination, I realized I had forgotten a library card. I did not think it would matter. The account could be looked up online. Walking dogless, another treat, I thought and pondered and cleared my head, or at least swept things around up there.

I am growing well-acquainted with the self-service book hold shelf. I know exactly where my spot is there at the top. Three books were banded together, waiting.

Carrying them to my favorite librarian, I asked if she could look up my account. She said, Yes, you can check up to three books without your card. I had the magic number in hand.

We smiled and made small talk about the weather while bar codes were scanned and entered. She walked my books down the counter, bypassing the electronic sensor.

Heading home I stopped to take an artistic photo, laughing inside at the eclectic nature of my book titles. I have a theory about them that I am pondering for another day.

Waiting to cross the street where the duck nests, I noticed a friendly face waving from a car. Two other drivers stopped at their respective signs and flagged me to pass. We all exchanged smiles and waves, and I was reminded again of why I love my little corner of the world.

I am not the little girl I was with endless hours to hide and read. Sometimes I am ambitious and my reading ideas are bigger than my reading reality. I think I can make a dent, though. I am trying to reach for a book instead of my phone when I have a few minutes free.

I look forward to reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, Dopesick by Beth Macy, and to spending a bit of Morning and Evening with Charles Spurgeon.

We will see what happens to the book stack.

How about you, Dear Reader? What are YOU reading these days? What should I add to my queue? Do tell in the comments!!!

Water and Manna

Yesterday I woke with overwhelm and anxiety. Some of it stemmed from the eight kid factor, a common theme in my story. Other was from an over-responsible, irrational carrying of the weight of the world, not mine to bear.

Naming the feelings to the one lying next to me and releasing what was not mine to carry back to the one who holds the world in his hands helped. I still felt grief. Sometimes there is just sadness over all that is broken, and I weep.

Reading Exodus 16 and 17 brought me to water from a rock and manna from heaven. God’s people were being led the long way through the wilderness to prepare them to enter the promised land. This journey brought supernatural provision.

I was reminded of daily sustenance provided to me, physically, spiritually, emotionally as I walk with others (any myself) the long way through the wilderness. I felt gratitude and confidence to move forward in the day.

That feeling lasted all of an hour, before reality struck in the form of unexpected bills and adult responsibilities. Things that I am responsible for.

Fear rose in my core and erupted in the form of anger. I lashed out in frustration over all that feels too muchyet continues. Gratitude fell away replaced by entitlement and expectation. Confidence gave way to doubt and insecurity.

It felt unfair to be losing my grounding, even as others depended on me for theirs. I had an appointment to keep, a visit to make, kids to pick up from school, volunteer responsibilities, more work to do.

I did the next thing, because someone needed me to. This found me in a waiting room without any of my usual comforts. I had my art journal in a tote bag but no books to read or markers to draw with or writing instruments to use.

Nearby was a basket of books. I pulled out Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon and out of curiosity opened to February 4, morning. Would God meet me here? In stunned silence I read this.

On a coffee table covered with magazines was a coloring book and package of Crayola Twistable crayons. Picking up the crayons I took out my art journal and began drawing water from a rock and manna from heaven. I focused on this quote,

He has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven.

It was such grace to be reminded of daily provision, to feel seen, and to create. I felt a settling in my soul and a rest in my spirit.

Water and manna.

A New Grip

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we cannot see. . . So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Hebrews 11: 1,12,13 NLT

I sat across from one of my adult children in a local coffee shop, steaming mugs of cayenne mocha in our hands. The invitation extended to me resulted in conversation about hard things. This is the part of parenting I did not anticipate when, by faith, I opened my young self to accepting any blessings that God gave to me ~ because children are the greatest blessing.

Listening intently to words being spoken, truth being told. I affirmed that speaking the reality of growing up in our home was not dishonoring, but necessary for healing to happen. How I long for healing.

My journey with mothering closely mirrors my walk with God. I struggle with shame over choices, and seeming lack of choice, that resulted in eight humans birthing from my body. Yet I am not the author of their lives. I am part of the means by which their lives came into the world, the unseen.

It is deeply painful that what I viewed as an act of faith and trust in God resulted in harm to hearts in my home. The shadow was not lurking outside. It was within the walls.

My husband and I wounded our children by our inability to shepherd and parent well. We set up scenarios that caused the weak to fall rather than grow strong. Our ideal selves collided with, and were overtaken by, our real selves.

Twenty-eight years ago when I was a young engaged woman looking forward to a wedding day as the solution to all problems, dogma came not with the click of a mouse, but in the form of passed books and live conversations. It was perpetuated in community with others, gathered around the same ideals. It flourished behind locked church doors before fear of terrorism was a thing.

I was young and deeply impressionable. I was full of faith, however misguided. I had hope for a future better than what was in my past.

The same faith that believed if I only opened my life and womb to God, blessings would flow, now opens my heart to coffee and hard questions from the fruit of those ideals. I realize that this is a blessing, the ability to hold the tension of sitting in truth when everything inside of me longs to bolt.

Faith is a mystery. Sometimes I ask myself, Am I walking by faith or living in denial? Because faith and denial can look awfully similar. I know it is faith when I look at, instead of away from the pain. Looking into my child’s hurting eyes is an act of faith.

In doing so, I take a new grip with tired hands. My weak knees are strengthened by these redemptive conversations. Talking through hard places in our family story allows for new paths to be marked out, ones that are straight, direct, and true.  

I long for my children to rise up with this strength. I have confidence that they will the more they engage the truth of their childhood stories. The young woman in me also rises and grows stronger as she speaks her truth and names her harm.

This is the mystery, the unseen, the confidence, the faith that I hold. I do not know why I still have faith. I cannot explain or define it, but it is real. It is a part of me that should not be viable, yet it grows. It grows over coffees and breakfasts and phone calls and text messages. To this confident mystery, I cling in hope.

Happy Decade Day

Someone special begins a new decade of life today!

Her heart holds its stories close
Every so often one
Rises to the surface to be

Noticed and told
And she shares it, laughter
Mingled with curiosity
Excusing the format of

Ink penned words
Scratched on the back of

Cut paper
And not exactly written as a
Real story
Yet shared authentically
Not stopping until the end

And I get the gift of
Noticing more of the woman
Destined to be my mother

Still growing, learning, curious
Holding much in a heart that
Expands to reach those she

Loves
I long to know more of the
Kindness inside and how she
Endured hardships and
Struggles to arrive at the place she is now

But those are her treasures to share
I love her and
Remain curious to
Discover more of who
She is as she enters a new decade of life.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I hope this decade is your best one, yet!!!!!




Top 10 of 2018

I post links to my top 10 blogs on the Facebook page at the end of each year. This year I decided to crate a separate post linking them together in one space for the curious and also for myself.

These posts are the ones most read over the year.

#10 Mystery Solved where I have a trigger and meltdown and am completely vulnerable with feelings surfacing in my 19 year old self.

#9 Free Bread where there is provision in a stressful situation.

#8 Composting the Fart: The Weekly Baab

#7 In Between which explains my feelings during a time of transition in my home.

#6 Unprepared for Goodbye faces the loss of a special person in my life.

#5 Up Next talks more about further story training work I did in 2018.

#4 Hello, New Beginning is about just that. The gift of a new beginning.

#3 Mother of the Groom because I was also one of those this year.

#2 Goodbye, Costco since we had to part ways for a season.

#1 Goodbye 25 Years which details the close of a chapter.

It was clearly a year of endings and beginnings and transitions. I am eager to see what 2019 holds and plan to continue writing on the blog. Stay tuned!

Flourishing Fitness Routine

Eleven days into 2019, my word of the year finds me settling into a fitness routine. I hope the seeds I am planting this month help my body to flourish as the year progresses.

A key goal I have is to close my exercise ring before noon and to have made substantial progress on my move ring, also. Intentionally taking care of this early in the day keeps me from the friendly 9:30 pm reminder that there is still time to close my move ring with a brisk 45 minute walk.

By 9:30 pm, I want to be snuggled in bed, not shivering in the cold trying to close my final ring. By 8:30 I want to be reading to Mae without worrying about having to go out for another walk afterwards.

To take care of this, I hook the laptop up to the TV in the living room, push the dog bed aside, and do Refit video playlist workouts on YouTube. It has been working for me this week, which is why I have the courage to post about exercise today!

This is what I did this morning.

On Tuesday evenings I attend a live class led by Betsy Dean. It is such a kind space for my body, mind, and spirit. I love live workouts. They have been a part of my story since here.

In addition to the cardio fitness piece, I begin my days practicing Yoga with Adriene.

I find that yoga helps me connect with my body and breath and increase strength and flexibility. I fell off of my regular yoga routine sometime last summer and decided to use January to find a new one.

So there you have one way that my year is starting to flourish. I am taking it day by day, trying not to think too far ahead; holding loosely, yet with intention. It is work, much like cultivating the ground for a garden or laying the foundation for a building.

What about you, Dear Reader? How are you doing 11 days into the year? Did you choose a word or set a goal? I would love to see you in this space or over on the Facebook Page. Check in and say hi! I am grateful for your presence.

27 Years

It is not raining which is what makes the rainbow over the lake even more surprising. Calling to me while grilling lunch, my husband of 27 years and I share the moment. We laugh and take pictures.

It has been an anniversary weekend of surprises, both good and hard, and in these last hours I try to hold it in all that was good while remaining curious about what still feels hard.

Returning to reality is always challenging, but there is something in our story that makes it feel moreso. Our long-distance start and breakneck continuation hold clues to the longing to step out of the whirlwind.

I do not take this space away lightly. So much came together to bring us here. I almost thought it would not happen and held the idea and plan loosely.

Adult sons worked together to hold down the home front while the people still living there pulled together to keep things rolling. Grandparents and extended family filled the gaps. Christmas gifts of food, drink, and sweets were brought along to sustain us.

Friends generously offered a place to land, one of our favorites. We stayed in a different room of the house this year, changing things up. It had everything we needed to enjoy time together, our greatest need of all.

It is a gift to be married to someone who you just want to be with. While we both enjoy adventures, we also love slow days and sharing space and reading and cuddling on the couch with no agenda.

We like to take walks and eat snacks and one of us saves all of the paper bits to paste into a travel art journal. We found a musty antique store and walked through it laughing over memories but not buying any of them.

We stayed off of screens mostly. I posted some links to looks back at anniversaries of days gone by in Facebook and felt gratitude for where this one found us.

Twenty-seven years is not a traditional milestone anniversary. When looking it up, all eyes are on 30, the next big one. While it is good to look ahead, it is even better to be here now. Every year we say, I still do is a big one.

This year’s celebration was one to savor and revel in. While acknowledging that difficulties and disappointments may arise during our time away, we also felt the joy of hard work and honesty, and its resulting rest together.

Mere hours remain until our return to reality. There is clean up and packing and ending the time well. I smell breakfast cooking and realize that I have skipped yoga time to write, and I am okay with that.

There is deep gratitude for the goodness we shared here. There is joy of anticipating seeing the faces we love and beginning the first full week of the new year with them.

Flourish

It came to me while unpacking my Christmas ornaments this year. I pulled a mini Starbucks mug ornament with the word Flourish from the box. It was still in its packaging. I remembered buying it on sale after Christmas last year and saving it for this year.

The ornament never made it out of its cardboard casing or onto the tree. Instead it stood on a shelf in my room inviting me to ponder the word Flourish and what it might mean for me in the new year.

Looking it up, the next step in the process, began to solidify my choice.

to grow luxuriantly, to achieve success, to be in a state of activity or production, to reach a height of development or influence, to make bold and sweeping gestures, an ornamental stroke in writing or printing, a decorative or finishing detail

All of these meanings, and more that were listed, felt true about what I long for in the new year.

Still pondering, I came across an online quiz related to figuring out your word of the year and decided to take it. The result was courage.

I always need that, and in this case, I think finding the courage to flourish is where I landed.

Here is my process in making this year’s art journal page along with the final result. I will keep it displayed to remind me of this year’s intentions.

Dressember

My final post of the year was unplanned, yet begs to be written. A New Year’s Eve twist finds me at home rather than out celebrating downtown. A surprise sum of money collected earlier in the day finds me with funds to donate when I was unsure there would be any. Now I need to write about it.

For the past several years, I have donated to the Red Tent Living team in their efforts to raise money to combat human trafficking via Dressember. Cheering them on from a distance, admiring their choice of outfits, I never participated fully by wearing a dress myself or calling attention to the movement.

This year I began pondering what it might be to participate by wearing a dress or skirt each day. The month of November found me wrestling the idea, torn with ambivalence and struggling with what was going on inside of me to offer such resistance.

On December 1 I put on a skirt, telling myself that I would regret not wearing one if I decided to go through with the challenge. That day was an early-morning choir rehearsal for the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir Christmas concert. I am a parent assistant and received many compliments on how nice I looked that early in the morning.

The following day was Sunday and was natural to dress for church as well as for the choir performance. Day 2.

I continued through the month. On Day 4 I wore a dress to my exercise class. It was the one I wore to my son’s rehearsal dinner the month before. The other ladies in the class admired it and seemed surprised that I would wear it to class, but they did not ask further details and I did not offer any.

The month rolled on, and each day I wore a dress or skirt. It was easy because I have so many of them. In fact, what made it easy is also what made it difficult. I realized that my story with dresses and skirts is what was keeping me steeped in ambivalence.

At the final exercise class of the season, I determined to share why I was again wearing a dress while exercising. There was a new participant, and at the end of class when we were talking I shared why I had worn a dress to the previous class and why I was wearing one now.

I looked at the newest member of the class and said, You could just think I’m that lady who wears dresses all of the time which I am not. I have already been down that road.

Because I have. And that is what made this so difficult. My story with wearing dresses feels shameful and confusing, and to call attention to the fact that I was wearing one triggered deep feelings tied to clothing and body image and a whole list of other related baggage.

Having purposed in my heart to wear a dress each day, I continued to the end. Confident that I would find some extra money to donate, I waited. Christmas money was absorbed by medical bills and other necessaries. Time began to run out. End of year finances tightened to the point that Christmas cards still remain on the mantle, addressed and waiting for stamps.

The final day of December, the final hours arrived, and a message came, thanking me for a job I had done for a loved one. She told me there was money to pick up for it. This was an unexpected twist in my day.

Grateful, I stopped by and collected a generous amount. It gave me $20 to donate, which is not much, but it is something. These days, to me, it is much.

I immediately got on the Red Tent Living Dressember Community page and donated.

And on this last night of 2018, I invite you to consider doing the same. Make a donation, great or small, to help the team round up to $10,000. They are so close!

Click here.

I have my dress on, though my New Year’s Eve plans changed. I wonder if they changed to give me time to write this final post. To share my journey and struggle and wish that I had sorted all of this out sooner.

This was the time to share. I am still sorting, struggling, pushing through.

Shame says It’s too late. Why bother? You should have made this decision at the beginning of the month.

Truth tells me I am right where I belong.

Thank you for being here with me, Dear Readers!

Church Coffee

It comes to me mid-service in a paper cup with plastic lid. The flavor is urn-style bulk ground coffee mixed with powdered creamer and sugar. Sometimes my coffee friend hunts down and finds real cream, adding a splash. Those occasions are rare, though.

This holiday season there was flavored creamer on the table in the narthex. Usually church coffee isn’t fancy. I love it that way. Plain. Simple. Full of love by the one who prepares it for me.

Getting out of the house on Sunday mornings is a feat in itself. Every week. I used to think it was because of small children and all of the work that moving the troops took. That is partly true. The other part is that we take ourselves with us. It is not all them. It is all of us. Sunday coffee becomes a dangling carrot.

This morning found us seated together in the front row of the overflow section. We were early late-comers. All of the best people soon surrounded us. I love that. We sang out loudly in the sound-absorbing vacuum multipurpose room and endured the half-hour following the service that our fearless leader requires to socialize.

In between singing and socializing, church coffee came to me in a piping hot cup, reminding me, once again, that my large bag carrying everything else did not carry my coffee cozy. I add it to the running list in my head titled things to pack for next time.