Author Archives: Julie

Risen, Indeed

He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

It is Easter Sunday, a time to celebrate the resurrection and all things new. Yet, even on Resurrection Sunday, many sit in Saturday still, the space of death and loss. It is a tough bind to hold, that of rejoicing in the hope of the resurrection, while simultaneously mourning that we remain here in the death.

Yesterday’s news of the untimely loss of a precious child I was blessed to work with this year in the SVCC and this morning’s news of horrific attacks on worshipers and tourists in Sri Lanka, make the words I was so eager to share today seem flat and trite. How does the story I want to tell even begin to matter in light of the bigger picture?

I think it matters. I think it matters that beauty and hope can be found in unlikely places, in personal ways. This week’s resurrection story came at the perfect time, in an unexpected way, and I share it here now.

Wednesday was full of goodness. I worked on an online class in the morning, created in my art journal after that, had a Facetime call with two dear friends, did the after school pick up.

I noticed while driving past my house, that there was a box on the front porch, a package. I did not remember ordering anything, but sometimes Steve or one of the adults does, so I made a mental note to check when I got home.

Then I forgot.

Afternoon routine involved connecting with kids, preparing supper, wrapping up the day, watching a favorite Youtube channel while working in the kitchen. An unboxing was happening there (go to 15:53 if you click on the link), reminding me that there was a box waiting on the front porch. I stopped what I was was doing to go check it out.

It was labeled as containing 50 hangers. This struck me as interesting and odd at the same time. I use a mishmash of hangers and wondered if maybe Steve wanted to start using nicer hangers or if one of the adults had gifted me with a box of them.

The return address was local, but unfamiliar, and read Shoot for Your Dreams. The closer I looked at the box, the more dented it appeared, and I began to feel an odd sensation relating to opening it. Was it a good idea?

This has happened twice before. I was afraid to open an unexpected package and felt an unreasonable anxiety that maybe there was something dangerous inside. The first one held cherries, the second, a thoughtful gift.

Bracing myself, I opened this box.

This is the box that held the surprise. I would have been happy with 50 matching velvet hangers, but that is not what was inside.

I removed this.

I was not expecting a Gucci dust cover bag to come out of the box. Curious and curiouser.

Untying the strings at the top, I pulled out a gorgeous spring Gucci bag. I. Was. Stunned.

This spring tapestry-style Gucci bag is covered with beautiful images on both sides and has bamboo-style handles. It is gorgeous.

I took it to show my son who began snapping pictures and researching the pattern and authenticating numbers. Yes, it was a real Gucci bag. The mystery deepened, and remains. I had suspicions that did not pan out, and clues that have not come all the way together.

I decided to receive the beauty and rest in the mystery.

For this particular gift to arrive in the midst of Holy Week, felt significant. I wrote in this post a story of loss. A death, if you will. Out of the dented hanger box came something beautiful, brimming with images of life, flourishing like my word this year. I was overwhelmed.

It felt so personal and kind, this third surprise package. It reminded me of another gift of three.

This is my resurrection story today. It is the resurrection of new beauty in a new season of life. It is the receiving of a generous gift that holds deep meaning from a giver that I cannot see. It is relinquishing the need to know everything and trusting the evidence that I have been given.

I am seen, loved, celebrated, encouraged.

Dear Mystery Giver,
Thank you for this generous gift. You have no idea, or maybe you do, how blessed I felt to receive it. In this season of stepping out and showing up and starting something new, your thoughtfulness and generosity reminded me, once again, that my labor is not in vain. God works in the unseen spaces and brings to new life things we thought have died. He provides exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever imagine or dream. I certainly did not imagine or dream the contents of this package! My husband, the giver of the original bag, told me that this one is amazing and so much more beautiful. And I agree. I loved carrying it to church this morning. Blessings and Love to you!

Dear Reader,
Thank you for staying with me to the end of the story. I don’t know where you find yourself this Resurrection Sunday. Maybe you, too, are rejoicing at seeing a glimpse of the goodness of God in the land of the living. Maybe you are grieving a deep death or loss and don’t believe there will ever be goodness. Wherever you are, please know that you are seen and loved by the one who cares about the things of your heart, even the loss of a bag from your teen years. He is in the business of restoring and making things new.

He is risen, indeed!

Less Shadow, More Shade

This week found me wrestling my light and shadow sides. As a girl, it was ok to have a light side. That was the good, acceptable, pleasing part of me. But woah be it when the shadow emerged. That part was dark and dangerous and unacceptable.

I learned early to shove the shadow parts of me down, careful not to let them escape. I learned to bear up and suffer the consequences when the real me was seen. Then I could reset and be bright and acceptable, again . . . until . . .

Wave after wave crested and crashed. Not able to hold both . . . and . . . , not understanding that this is why Jesus came, I felt shame around my feelings and their inappropriate expression. There was not language for all I held inside, nor was there safety to look at any of it.

Texting with a heart friend this week affirmed the confusion over parts of my story, as a realization dawned in me surrounding my relationship to the shadow. While the shadow side was unacceptable, it is also what saved me, hence the bind. In some ways it protected me. How do I bless that?

My friend spoke of a redeemed version of the shadow. Shadows offer shade and reprieve. Maybe redemption brings with it less shadow, more shade, she offered. It felt true and an image began to form in my mind.

First a sketch, then a rummage through the art supplies, and finally some paint in the art journal led to this week’s creation. While I didn’t plan for it to have a death, burial, and resurrection theme, one is undeniably present.

The image on the left is how it feels when the shadow is released. I am turned from the light towards the darkness and feel ungrounded. There is no containment. On the right I am settled in the shade of a tree. Though there is still darkness, light is breaking through and rest is found. I am grounded and contained, and there is beauty in the shadows. I am surrounded by growth.

As I sat with the image more, I felt the self on the left calling out in the darkness. That is the yellow line cutting through the shadow. She does not know that new life and resurrection is coming, but the one on the right remembers and is there. She holds both the beauty and broken. The light and dark. She holds hope.

The day I created this, I received a package in the mail. Opening it revealed an unconventional resurrection story, which I will hold until Sunday, the day we celebrate that He is risen, indeed and came to make all things new, including our shadow stories.

To be continued . . .

Weekend Away

Sometimes Mama needs a break from the nest. Mama and Papa Mallard were out walking late the Sunday afternoon I returned from a weekend away with my mister. Dewey was waiting for his walk, so off we went.

The ducks strolled near the nest, quacking and roaming. They took off for a brief flight when we approached. The eggs were safely covered. You would never know something was growing in the shade of the shrubbery.

I am grateful for an adult daughter who tended our nest so that Steve and I could get away for a marriage retreat. It was a gift to take time to learn more about our attachment styles, our story together, and all of the things that we know in our head but don’t have time to engage with our hearts.

We returned with a new sense of connection and direction, with more language to use. Refreshed by laughter and caught off guard by tears, we dove back into the life waiting for us. It is a forever dance, living in the tension. We continue to choose to dance together.

Something New

Two weeks ago I walked downtown to secure a business name and apply for a license. This was a huge step, and I am grateful for the support of a friend who has been with me on this path. She took the picture at the top of this post at our celebratory coffee afterwards!

Heart Path Story Coaching is my new thing. You can check it out here.

It is in the early stages. I am taking small steps, making movement. I share quietly with you today, as I work hard behind the scenes. Good things are coming!

To keep up with what is happening, sign up on the site. There is where I will manage all items business related.

Here I will continue to write about the usual and unusual things. Mama duck, art journal pages, deep thoughts. The new space also links to here, which makes for a fun connection.

Six years ago this month I began Composting the Heart, uncertain of what was ahead but knowing that I had words to share. From that small beginning, taking refuse of the heart and mixing it with words of truth, seeds of hope began to grow leading me to this place today.

I am so grateful and invite you, my faithful readers and encouragers, to celebrate this milestone with me!

Mama Duck

She keeps me grounded while faithfully tending her eggs. At last count there were four. Now she is consistently present when I pass by. There may be more. She keeps them hidden.

She offers a destination. I’m going to check on the duck. There is reason to head out for a walk and a reminder that it is enough to do small tasks faithfully.

She sits, rotating on her nest, building it up around her. Sometimes I see a beak, others a tail. Her eye looks out, feathers expand defensively. Small movements grow new things.

With nowhere else to be, she rests, trusting the process going on beneath her. I remember to trust my process, too.

I love mama duck. My kids laugh. I promise them I will not write about her compulsively. Only a little.

So that is what I do this first day of April, April Fools Day. I write about mama duck, because though there are many other things to say, I am tired and my words are few.

I climb onto my nest and sit, waiting, thankful for the gift of tea at a busy day’s end. I am grateful that my ducklings are growing up and that this April Fool’s Day has been kind.

Step by Step

March ends with a view from my art journal. It has helped me move through the month with kindness while taking steps towards a new thing coming in April.

These pages were created the Sunday before I took a big step that I will share about soon. They helped me remember to just do what is next.

A calm sea and sky in the background, steps leading up to a chair made from a birdcage, a door to go through, shadow and light, rolls of film, these images evoke a feeling of calm confidence.
Birdcages are the theme of this page. Some are open, repurposed, some have a bird in them still. Rolls of film line the top of the page and light shines down over all.

Here are the facing pages. I love how the door leads to what is on the other side.

Detailed post here.
Detailed post here.

The Gift of Space

This view from a Charlottesville winery was one of many gifts I received this weekend. Siblings spent time together in Richmond, leaving the house empty and quiet.

Steve and I took advantage of the kid and car exchange to drive around looking at some of his Charlottesville job sites and ended up here.

Selfie time!

This was the beginning of a lovely, slow weekend. After stocking up at Trader Joe’s and Martins for food necessities, we returned home to hang out and chill. We ate, drank, and relaxed. We watched some Netflix and took naps.

We grilled steak and roasted asparagus.

Sunday morning we woke slowly and arrived at church in time for me to hang out with my toddler nursery buddies during the Sunday school hour. Church followed and then more naps, some reading, art journaling, and a long walk.

We went to dinner downtown with friends. We made tea and went to bed early to start the week well-rested. I woke this morning to a silent house.

After feeding the animals and walking the dog, I took my time getting ready for the day before driving to Charlottesville to exchange cars again.

My ducks are all back in the nest. It was a nice break for us all to have the gift of space from each other, but it is so good to have them home.

Welcome, Spring Break Week!

Doing What’s Next

What’s next?

I have sat with this question for awhile now. Endings have left me wondering. People ask.

What’s next for you?

Next is tricky. Doing what’s next means different things in different seasons. I have been in a season where next has meant doing the next load of laundry, driving the next car pickup, having the next conversation.

I am still there in many ways.

Next has been nudging me. Speaking up. My mind was swirling with this when I opened my art journal recently and began arranging images to process my feelings about next.

These pages helped me to sort out and ground.

Next is unknown, symbolized by stairs moving up into the shadows. What is up there? A rock at the bottom offers grounding while the stained glass effect is made by light shining through darker colors, like the dark purples and blues surrounding the stairs. A bouquet of flowers holds hope for the promise of growth.
The stained glass border continues on this page but stops as rising natural sunlight takes over. Now there is no filter. Inspired by the return of spring and “spring forward” bringing longer days, this page shows color and movement while still holding the tension of bare-limbed trees waiting to bud. A path is next to them. Where does it lead? While still early in the growing season, something is preparing to burst into bloom, symbolized by a giant tulip.
These facing pages hold the story of stepping out and up by faith. It is courageous to keep doing what is next. I love the flowing movement of the flowers, the bright sunshine, and the hope of a new thing coming.

There is something coming. Next is on the horizon. I am eager to share what it is in the near future. Stay tuned!

First Day of Spring

This first day of spring brings a brand new thing
A push towards the light
Movement

A walk that is brisk, a sky that is crisp
Steps taken by faith
Courage

A change in some limiting past beliefs
A facing of fear
Growing

Not knowing the outcome, still pressing on
Trusting the process
Patience

Holding the truth that this labor is hard
Yet laboring on
Birthing

Whatever happens this first day of spring
Held close to this heart
Soaring


Avocado Toast

Avocado toast is comfortingly crisp, its creamy goodness and spicy bite nourishing body and soul. Something about preparing food that is simple, yet complex enough to need forethought, makes this a special treat.

Unlike bananas, avocados are not perpetually present on my counter, unless I realize they can be if I choose. These days avocados appear more often. I make the choice.

When I am mindful about how I feel in my body, I notice hunger and take time to make myself this intentional snack. When I am mindless, I head to the pantry and begin foraging. The end result often involves barbecue potato chips consumed in less-than-mindful quantities.

Toasted bread, mashed ripe avocado, and swirled sriracha sauce satisfies the need for my mouth to experience crunchy, comforting carbs with a dash of heat. It fuels my body with something of substance.

This weekend my daughter asked what I wanted for lunch. I answered, Avocado toast. She made it for me. It was even more delicious than usual, prepared with love.

I have a complex relationship with food, yet I eat. Each time I answer my body’s call to hunger with mindfulness is a step of growth. Each time I respond to poor food choices with kindness and curiosity, I discover more of what lies beneath the surface of my heart.

Avocado toast brings me back.

Here’s the how-to.

  • Toast a slice of bread and put it on a small plate.
  • Cut a ripe avocado in half and mash it right in the peel. Save the other half for later. (I usually include it in lunch somehow or share with another person.)
  • Scoop the mashed avocado out of the peel onto the toasted bread. Spread it around.
  • Drizzle with sriracha sauce. My sauce of choice is Cha! by Texas Pete®

    What about you, Dear Reader? What is a comforting, kind food that you prepare for yourself? Do share!