Author Archives: Julie

Static Christmas Tree

The tree stands in the living room, glowing with white and colored lights. Four ornament boxes brought up from the basement, one for each child still living at home, wait to be unpacked by their owners.

Each person puts their ornaments on as the spirit leads. There is no rhyme or reason and certainly no ceremony surrounding the process. In a few days I will carry the empty boxes back to the basement.

Checking in with my youngest, I ask about her decorating status.

Have you hung your ornaments on the tree, yet?

Yes! All except the stuffed animal ones. I am not hanging those up this year.

She has quite an assortment of Beanie Baby mini ornaments and other holiday stuffed animals that she hangs on the tree each year. I am surprised by this news.

What? But you always hang your stuffed ornaments on the tree! You play with them in the Christmas tree.

Not anymore.

And just like that, Friends, is the end of yet another era. There is no more playing in the Christmas tree.

But the Hello Kitty ornaments made the cut and still hang in their row.

Time marches on, Mamas! One day those ornaments will stay put and the tree will no longer be a working document. It will remain static for the season. That day came for me today.

Hope in the Darkness

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. We light the hope candle. I look at it now, recycled from last year. I do not have new candles. There is one missing. It is either packed away in a different box or burned down so low that I threw it away last year. I need to make a trip to the store to find another purple candle or two.

In the hall is a lighted display of candles surrounding the usual sheep that live there. I pull out the sparkly house, a gift given years ago by a friend, containing Bath and Body Works items. I think of her each year that I get it out while lighting a tea light inside of it.

Light in the darkness.

There are candles around in various places. My husband strings colored lights on the tree, layering over the white lights, because I like both. That is me. Both a white and colored lights girl.

Hope is a memory of the future.

Dan Allender

I sit in darkness remembering the future. Waiting with hope. I believe in what is next while waiting with endurance. With patience. It is a vulnerable place, waiting in the now, hoping for the not yet.

Milestone in the Mail

The pile of mail on the front entryway table grows daily. Periodically, I shuffle through making mental note of the contents. It would be better to sort it out and write things down. I resist better ways.

It’s the holiday season with advertising in full swing. Coupons and circulars and free offers intersperse with bank statements and bills and the occasional letter. Fantasy me thinks of all of the deals I could score, while reality me counts the actual cost and discards some of the unnecessary.

Rifling through slick, thick papers, coupons, and lustrous catalogs, I stop suddenly. What is this?

For the first year ever, the American Girl catalog is lost in the growing stack. It is not being pored over and circled through and dreamed about. It is left alone, untouched, abandoned.

This is it. The year.

I have known it was coming and saw it foreshadowed here. There have been small clues along the way. The last catalog that arrived close to birthday time (those sneaky marketers!) still held interest with the gaming accessories circled. It was still looked through and desirable.

By Christmas, no more.

The final daughter has left elementary school behind and stepped up to middle school. Still in love with Rainbow Bear and some of her other precious childhood toys, she no longer lugs out bins and boxes of accessories to set up doll play circles.

This year I won’t set an alarm to wake with excitement at midnight on Cyber Monday to scope out great American Girl online deals and try to score some. I won’t use Christmas money from relatives to buy a doll or outfit or some other desired accessory.

It’s bittersweet, like every other final milestone.

In the past there was always another. Another baby, another toddler, another preschooler, another elementary age, another, another.

But this is it. The last little girl.

Memory lane takes me back to a hug from heaven and to Christmases gone by where doll beds were set up around the tree on Christmas Eve, dolls tucked inside, waiting for their humans’ discovery. I allow myself space and time to remember, following the Christmas trail on the blog.

Such goodness. Such grief. All the feels spurred on by a glossy catalog, the milestone in the mail.

Watercolor Beauty

The invitation to paint with watercolors came from my friend while we were away for our annual fall respite weekend. She had the paper, paints, brushes, and YouTube tutorial prepared. All I had to do was accept.

It took courage to say yes; to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.

We sat side-by-side following the tutorial.

I love how our painting reflects our individual styles. We used the same materials and followed the same instructions, but our results were as different as we are!

Can you guess which painting is mine?

It is the one on the left!

I loved the opportunity to look up at a watercolor tutorial and try something new with my friend.

How will you step out of your comfort zone today? What might you say yes to? You are invited to consider. . .

Mondayest Monday

I look up to a Monday moonrise after stepping outside for a break from choir parent assistant duties. Walking a winding path to the hilltop, I stop and survey my surroundings. The view is breathtaking, calming, peaceful. I feel grateful for the gift of space and beauty.

This Monday was particularly challenging from the start; one of those days that feels as if there is no chance for recovery after the initial stumble into it. Thin margins equal no margin. Each bit of today’s margin was swallowed by the previous thing or the next thing, leaving very little space to actually be in the present thing.

The moonrise calls me back to what is now, not what was or what is coming later, because there is still more left in the day. There are still at least two more things that will go wrong. I do not know this, yet.

Returning to finish out rehearsal, I am faced with more that is unexpected, and at this point try to just lean into it. I am glad to be able to work tonight and not be home with a sick child or two. I am thankful that in the midst of the many challenges there is health.

I thought outside of the box today. After choir, while shopping for black flats for my chorister, I realized my bank card was in the hands of another who had run an earlier errand. Rather than following my usual defeatist mentality and leave the store once I realized this, I chose to continue to shop with my child for the shoes and then order them online to pick up tomorrow.

It worked.

In the midst of all that was hard and all that felt discouraging, at the end of the day there were filled water jugs, ordered tights and shoes, eggs, milk, and bagels in the refrigerator, and expanders in a different child’s mouth, preparing for a journey with braces. There was a mug of hot tea.

Also, this song which seemed fitting for this Mondayest Monday.

Pop-Up Goodness

Looking ahead to this week, I did not anticipate that it would end with pop-up art journaling goodness.

The Intention Day Retreat, scheduled in the early fall, has been planned for weeks. Several other events have come and gone, and there is a final day of art journaling at the end of December. (If you are a word of the year kind of person, check it out.)

When the request for a Friday morning session came through, I was more than happy to schedule. The result was a rich time of creating and sharing. I felt thankful for the unexpected opportunity to share what I love with new participants.

Thank you to those who showed up today. For those who have considered showing up to art journal with me, this is your invitation. It is easy to reach out and schedule your own event with friends on a day of your choosing.

For now, I settle into bed at the end of a good, full day, with visions of tomorrow dancing in my head.

Such a gift. I am thankful.

Three Dimes, Three Words, plus One More

Sometimes to look up, you have to look back. It is that way today. I have to look back to yesterday to understand where I am in the moment and to hold confidence in what is to come.

This is not easy.

Yesterday was hard.

As I walked through it, I found three dimes in three separate locations. If you know my story with the dimes, then you know the meaning. Short version, it is how I am reminded that God sees me and will provide for all of the needs.

So finding three separate dimes throughout the day was especially meaningful.

There were also words.

Three different voices, each wise, each with a unique perspective, spoke truth and kindness to my heart. Via text, in person, and through email, I felt seen by sisters who care.

In my pocket on the way to a conversation was a fourth dime preparing me to believe that God was with me in that space, also.

It was hard. These days there is always one more thing that feels as if it will be the one that breaks me past the point of all repair. But it didn’t and it doesn’t. I should have broken beyond repair long ago, but I am still here. Changed, but still here.

Today a voice from yesterday met me with lunch and conversation and affirmation and dreams, with hope in her eyes. She listened and heard and saw me and spoke truth.

There is freedom in being seen and loved in the middle of the mess. Of knowing it’s not all on me, in spite of what I may think or feel.

To look up over lunch carried into the studio and meet eyes that see is a sweet gift.

It is what bolsters me on to keep going and gives me the courage to engage.

Morning Light

It sit at the bottom of this day and look up.

It feels hard.

I read difficult emails, engage painful places in my own story, anticipate hard conversations.

Unknown.

Opening to joy lets sorrow in, also.

Grief.

Sunday morning I took a walk, earbuds in, playlist on shuffle.

Josh Garrels Morning Light began to play.

Randomly.

It’s gonna be alright
Turn around and let back in the light
And joy will come
Like a birdie in the morning sun
And all will be made well
Once again

Josh Garrels, Morning Light

I turned around to this view.

It is what I hold as I look up today.

I choose to turn towards the light.

Grateful for the reminder of the joy to come.

Exercising the Right

I exit the house a little after noon, stepping into glorious fall sunshine. I pass a friend with her two littles, returning from the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, our polling place. The older rides his glider bike expertly while the younger kicks his legs in the stroller. We exchange brief greetings and continue our separate ways.

Seeing neighbors out and about going to and from the polls is a part that I love about election day.

I follow a series of right and left turns, passing two little boys playing in their yard. They look at me quizzically. I smile and cross the street where a tree with burnt orange and brown leaves overhangs the sidewalk. I make a mental note to take a picture on the way back.

A final left leads me to the parking lot lined with polling signs. Turning into it, I follow the sidewalk to where the volunteers pass sample ballots and chat with their peers. A man steps forward to offer a guide while the others look at me and keep talking. It feels strange. I take the guide and continue walking.

Walking towards the polling place is a part that I dislike about election day.

As I approach the entrance an older man and his adult son exit. The older man’s foot steps halfway off of the sidewalk where it turns at an angle, and he falls to the ground. Immediately everyone stops what they are doing to offer assistance. The slow fall into the grass seemed more embarrassing than painful to him, though I am sure he will feel the bruising. He rises quickly on his own and refuses the offer of a call for help.

People coming together in spite of their differences to help another hurting human is a part that I like about election day.

Grateful to have pocketed my driver’s license before leaving the house, I state my name and address and show my photo when asked. Familiar faces, aged a little more since last year, check me in, hand over a ballot, and direct me to the voting tables.

Seeing the friendly faces of the poll workers each year is something that I like about election day.

How far we have come since the early days of voting in a booth with a curtain around it!

Marking the ballot is a part that is hard for me on election day.

It always reminds me that politics is messy. It is truly an exercise of discipline and will for me to mark the ballot and make movement from table to scanner, which I do. This year the lady monitoring it has stickers. Unlike last year, I am early enough to get one. We laugh about that while waiting for my ballot to scan. It has to be re-inserted.

Waiting for my vote to count is a part that is hard for me on election day. Laughing with the lady at the scanner makes it easier.

I turn to exit through large glass doors that look as if they should slide open. My mind thinks, This isn’t the grocery store! My body stops awkwardly and waits. I do not know how to work these doors, and unlike years past, there is no sign to tell me.

Awkwardly not knowing what to do in any situation is something that is hard for me always! Election day just intensifies the shame.

I figure out which door to push, aided by the kind lady holding stickers, and exit the side of the building. Exhaling, I realize I have been holding my breath. I take air deep into my lungs and begin the walk home.

That is when I realize that I am wearing a red shirt today and that red and blue are colors that hold meaning on election day. The odd looks and vibes I sensed while walking in begin to make sense. Why only one person offered me a sample ballot feels more clear. Usually I am peppered with pamphlets.

Alas, my choice of color today is not due to a political leaning or subconscious voting clue or statement. It is out of necessity that later this evening is a choir event where parent assistants are asked to wear SVCC colors of red, white, and black.

Making sense of something that feels off to me is something I like any time!

The walk back feels lighter, and I stop under the overhanging tree branches and look up to take a selfie documenting the moment. The effect is not quite what I had in mind, but, satisfied with my sticker and thankful for all of the ways I have exercised today, I return home.

Calico Contentment

Oh to be as Zephyr, curled up, resting in the mess, minding her own business.

Jumping up to name her needs with a meow when seized by hunger or thirst.

Patiently waiting by the front or back door, eyes on the nearest human, signaling her desire to go outside.

Welcoming to all who pass, yet holding firm boundaries as to what she will and will not tolerate from them.

Taking off for wherever she goes when she wants to go there and returning when she is ready.

Creating a nest and place to rest in the shade of the porch when the door she wants to go through is closed.

Coming out to meet her people when they return, seizing her moment.

Continuing on with her daily routine, content to be as she is even when surrounded by all she is not.