Author Archives: Julie

One Pink Candle

As week one of Advent 2017 draws to a close, I confess that I still do not have an advent wreath with candles to light. There are several felt pieces placed on the Advent tree, but we have not lit a candle. This might be an inadvertent grace bestowed upon our house, as there is a resulting lack of strife over that particular tradition.

It happened this way. I saw through a small clear storage bin, poking out of the top of a felt Christmas gift bag, one pink candle. I was rummaging around the Christmas section of the cellar taking inventory of what was there over Thanksgiving break.

Advent arrived late this year, the latest possible date. Seeing that pink candle offered a false confidence that I did not have to worry about gathering others. I did not investigate further. Certainly there were purple and white ones in the bin, as well. Certainly the varied-height brass candle holders were buried in the bottom of that felt bag. Certainly I would not have decluttered them after last Christmas thinking, I will start over fresh next year with a new idea.

There was so much certainty.

I moved on to other things.

The girls helped assemble and decorate the living room tree the day after Thanksgiving while the boys went hiking. They cleared mantels, pulled out Nutcrackers and other decorations, and created a festive atmosphere in the living and dining rooms. I did not have to do much, other than rejoice in the fact that there was still one Sunday before the beginning of Advent.

I passed by a display of Advent candles at the Farmer’s Market while shopping with my daughter the following day. I don’t need to spend $7.50 on those. I have candles in the basement. Certainly.

There was one pink candle in the basement. It is still there.

I am uncertain.

I am uncertain as to whether I will search out and purchase more candles. I am uncertain about how I will choose to display them if I do. I am uncertain about why this even matters.

Maybe it mirrors more fully the uncertainty I feel in other areas of life that have, frankly, felt certain. They were so certain that I did not have to look more closely at them. I knew they were there in the bin. Sure, I could only actually see one thing, but the others had to be close behind.

Except they weren’t, and now I have to decide what to do. It feels a lot bigger than heading to the store for something new. It is heading into my heart to discover the hidden, to seek out what matters, to find what was lost.

Maybe in the continued unpacking of Christmas decorations, I will discover the candles and holders. Maybe in continued processing I will find what is true in my heart.

Maybe that one pink candle will lead me to something new.

Certainly.

 

 

Friendship Friday ~ Introvert’s Weekend Away

The first weekend of November found me at a lake house with my friend Angela for what has become a fall ritual ~ Introvert’s Weekend Away.

It is a great space, wherever we land, of reading, writing, thinking, processing, and just being. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we are quiet. We do things together, mostly taking walks and eating meals. We do things apart, like all of the other stuff.

There is music. We talked about  five songs.

My space at the table looked like this for most of the weekend.

It was lovely to be able to leave works in progress and come back to them.

Last year I was working on work for module 2 of the certificate program and had a strict agenda of reading and writing to complete. This year it was fun to just play with and in the space.

The misty day could not keep me from swinging to the music in my ear buds, soaring high into the air. Little did I know I was creating a safe space for my soul. There was solitude and beauty and much-needed calm before the storm that was brewing.

 

Hope for Healing

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5

There were too many strikes against the wounded places in my heart this morning to sit through church. Already late from the effort it still takes to get everyone out of the house, which seems eerily similar to what it was years ago only in a different way, I arrived halfway through the one song I was hoping to sing.

Enduring the rustling and settling of the children who sit with us while hoping that the ones who do not were doing what they were supposed to in the back, I tried to focus on the task at hand and enter worship. I was frustrated and exhausted.

Darkness is familiar, and the deepness that it brings threatens to pull my soul further into a void. The constant struggle to remain upright and grounded is real.

It was a lifetime ago, yet I still grieve. What am I grieving? What feels life-giving? I held that tension in my heart  while looking up at the glow of a single candle signifying the beginning of Advent. I stood and sat and tried to sing what was hard.

Your law is good. . . 

I could not make it through all of the words. It was nothing less than a miracle that I sang that song from the stage last week when I was on worship team, revealing how well I can shore up and do what needs to be done in the moment.

Standing as Scripture was read, feeling the ground beneath me, I breathed in, holding hope that I could do this. I sat.

Words came at me, and I noticed them blurring together. It took energy and effort to stay present, and I was doing really well.

God expects full obedience to his commandments.

The sermon series on the Ten Commandments continues. Whatever week this is feels a week too long. Each week is too long.

I believe and agree with this. I am also deeply triggered by this. There were too many strikes against my spiritually wounded heart this morning to sit and hear the very verses about the law that were used to beat me into submission and rob me of life. They bring no comfort.

Maybe comfort is there. . . just not right now. Maybe there is hope for healing from an abuse of the law, but right now I need comfort and care. I did not feel it in this space.

I spend much time comforting and caring.

I found myself in the tension of longing to communicate, of pressing into the questions surrounding the fray while trying to contain all that was dumping out of my heart.

Is there balm in Gilead?

As a terrified sixteen-year-old girl I was trying to grasp the law on my own and be pleasing. As a forty-six year old woman living with the implication of this desire, it is difficult to see goodness. All I feel is sadness and deep pain.

I am aware that others are not responsible for how their words are inadvertently used to crash into my heart. It does not make the crashing any less painful. It was in the pain that I found myself sitting in the breezeway, ear buds in, listening to music while writing in my journal.

We are all full of stories.

Later I found myself sitting with a friend, hearing more of her story, asking her about hope.

Today is the candle of hope. The very questions I asked my friend, I ask myself. What does hope look like to you? When did you feel hope? What do you hope for?

This is where I am and what I will be pondering this first week of Advent.

Fog

It is thick, real, palpable, settling into every crevice of my brain. Memories lurk deep within. Thoughts jumble together while feelings vacillate between razor sharp and numbingly dull.

This is me. Now.

In the midst of the fog, I long for clarity. I savor aha! moments when they present. Shadows come into focus as light dawns, and I attempt to gaze on them with curiosity rather than terror. Often terror wins. My lens is fear.

What if I could wait for, could anticipate, beauty? Goodness?

What if I could sit in awe and wonder at the gift of life as a joyous adventure rather than a grim duty?

I have so many questions and so few answers. I ponder them as I sit in the fog.

You need light to see through fog but not too much of it. Driving a car with high beam lights on can actually be dangerous in foggy weather. There are special fog lights that are different from headlights, offering alternate illumination. Gentler. Not as harsh. Alerting others.

I am trying to work with the light I have been given to expose what I need to see. It is tempting to force on all the lights from all the angles to illuminate all of the things. This results in a blinding glare which is neither helpful nor kind.

Moving through fog demands slowing down. Sometimes this means pull over, stop, and wait. This is challenging for me, the stopping and waiting part. It is hard to feel life passing by as I remain on the shoulder for a season waiting for clarity. I envy the confidence and accomplishments of others.

Navigating the fog demands space. I am trying to claim and create a bit of space in my full days. Sometimes it is shared with a dog, sometimes not. Even as I clear physical space, my emotional place clutters. It is an exercise to settle into the stillness of a moment.

Gentle light arrives in the form of scheduled phone calls with a wise guide, spontaneous conversations with sisters, surprise words from unexpected places, late-night conversations with the one I love, sessions spent in a counselor’s office. Slowly, focus comes, and I see a little further and a little more clearly.

When glaring light floods a foggy place, rendering me blind, I am gently reminded of truth by those who love me. The high-beams click off and the fog lights turn on, and I am led to safety.

Coffee Corner

Fresh Coffee

I hear the grinder in the kitchen whirling beans. Rattling, Clanking. Pouring. Fresh coffee is set up by the one who loves me so well. This Wednesday morning is Thanksgiving Eve, and instead of being dressed in the kitchen doing a final slapping of peanut butter on bread or filling a thermos with Spaghettios, I am sitting in bed, Bible and journals scattered.

Usually by this time the house is in full buzz with last-minute running around and waking of sleepers whose errant alarm clocks failed to alarm. Today my scholars are home beginning their holiday rest, so I rest a little longer, too, savoring the blue glow of the approaching sunrise outside my bedroom window. I write a bit more and try to silence a mind already racing ahead to the rest of the day.

Fresh coffee means love and kindness from the one who knew I would be sleeping in, and its meaning is not lost to me.

I remember drinking coffee in Florida, its taste a comfort as I got “toddies” with my sister from Barnies Coffee and Tea Company before walking around Coastland Center in Naples. It offered respite from the work week, transition to shopping for a new outfit or item.

Akin to Starbucks with a signature plaid green trademark, coffee at  Barnies symbolized rest and hope. I carried the ritual with me to Pensacola and the rare opportunities I had to get off campus with money. Both transportation and finances were in short supply back then.

I began drinking coffee in earnest when I lived in Golden Gate, Florida. It helped fuel my early morning work hours and kept me going into an evening full of classes. Warm comfort in a mug adorned my desk, carrying me away to a time when things would be different. I am in that time today ~ or am I? Are things different? I wonder.

Coffee.

It is a ritual that Steve and I have shared since our PCC “coffee station” days. He would walk from our breakfast table each morning to fill our mugs. Handcrafted coffee beverages were not as popular thirty years ago as they are today. There was not a campus coffee knockoff of Starbucks ~ or Barnies Coffee and Tea Company. There was morning coffee with Steve in the Varsity Commons out of beige melamine cafeteria mugs.

Family legend holds that I drank coffee at two years of age out of tiny creamer cups. My mom would fill them for me while we visited with her friend, Sarojeni, an Indian woman whose name I could pronounce perfectly, according to folklore.

So I have always been about coffee, which is why I can sit and sip and close my eyes and let all of the feelings flood me like the water that would flood the grounds in the single-serve red French Press that I got as a teen when trying to find who I was.

I was coffee. Fresh.

Just like this day.

Friendship Friday ~ Dewey’s Doggie Morning

My daughter faithfully rises early each weekday morning to walk and care for her dog. She is often up before me, pulling on a coat and slipping on headphones before grabbing the leash. I remain in my room, doing my morning routine, preparing to engage another day.

One morning, I heard unusual scrambling and barking from Dewey upon returning from his walk. Run-in with ZephyrI conjectured. She’s the boss of us all. I wonder what is up with them this morning. He must have crossed her.

I stepped out of my room to find a ball of white scampering around and under the dining room table with Dewey following closely behind, barking and snapping at it. It was another terrier.

I found Louie this morning on the walk. He was loose, so I brought him here to call his owner.

Sure enough, the name on his tag read Louie, which was kind of funny considering we have Dewey. We wondered aloud if they had been at the SPCA together, and if there was a Huey out there, also.

The morning routine continued as Dewey and Louie dashed around underfoot, reminding me of why I was hesitant to get a dog in the first place and why we have only one. Steve called the number on the tag which went directly to voicemail. He then offered the following words while preparing to drive Kirk to school:

I’m going to walk Louie around the block to see if someone is looking for him while Kirk finishes getting ready.

I got in my car to wait for the girls to come out for their ride to school. They exited the house as Steve returned from his walk around the block with another little dog under his arm.

I think they belong together, because this little one came running up. I had to grab him quickly before he got away.

Then there were three! I was laughing out loud in disbelief. The little brown dog had no tag. Of course we called him Huey.

Please don’t call the SPCA until I get home. The little brown dog is SOOOOO cute! Can we keep him?

I was beyond my comfort zone as Steve deposited the dogs in the backyard while I assured my daughter that I would make no sudden moves without her. We left for school.

I am not exaggerating when I say that at the top of our street there was a large white dog off-leash doing his business. No human in sight.

We are not even stopping for Donald! We have GOT to get to school. 

I returned home to the sight of two dogs looking longingly at me through the fence.

Inside, Dewey was waiting by the back door. I opened it for him to join his friends in the back yard.

There was an incredible amount of cuteness.

Then it was time for me to go to breakfast with my son. This meant bringing Dewey inside but leaving the others out in case their owner should come looking for them. Can you guess the dynamic here? Which dog is supposed to be coming inside?

Please can I come in, too?

After a leisurely breakfast downtown, my son and I returned home to an empty yard. The dogs had been picked up. At least I hoped so!

The call came later. The dogs had, indeed, made it home, and we had made a fun family memory. I’m grateful for caring hearts, bounding dogs, and healing laughter.

Also for a fenced-in yard.

Oh. And the little dog’s name is Chance.

Five Songs

If you could only listen to five songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?

My friend, Angela, read this prompt to me last weekend, and it immediately sparked interest.

Oooo, yes! Let’s do that right now. Let’s list and share our songs with each other and then listen to them.

I began thinking and writing in my journal. Music is what inspires me and brings me hope. It makes me feel most alive. Music is where I find encouragement. So in choosing only five, I went with songs that remind me of truth when I am struggling.

I am curious, Dear Reader, if you have five songs, or even one song? What are your go-tos that inspire, keep you going, or are just plain fun to dance to?  What is music to you? It can be any style, not just worship or inspirational! Share in the comments!

Here are my five songs.

Enjoy!