Author Archives: Julie

Listening

I arrive at the blog the day after my 49th birthday with a desire to break silence and write something here.

Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. Proverbs 1:32b, NLT

I feel this today. The cost of complacency. My battle against it as an Enneagram 9 is thick. Lately I have been warring inside to show up in the spaces. Any of them. Every time I do show up anywhere, it is work.

The words in my head are fast and furious. Ushering them through the keys to the page is the battle. I lean in and stand firm at the desk in my tiny home office. Eyeing the clock in the bottom corner of the screen, I invite the words to line up.

Each wants to be first. To say its piece. To jump out before being judged and sent to the end of the line. Time is running short. I have only minutes before the next thing. It’s tempting to pivot away to something else.

It is no secret that our country is in a state of collective trauma and chaos. From COVID-19 and the pandemic to the most recently publicized unjust killings and police brutality against the African-American community, this is a persistent state of unrest.

Cry out for insight and ask for understanding. Proverbs 2:3, NLT

This is where I have been. Crying out and asking. Listening.

Therefore they must eat the bitter fruit of their own way, choking on their own schemes. Proverbs 1:31, NLT

I am examining the bitter fruit in my own life. Ways that I have chosen comfort over truth. Safety over honesty. Blindness over sight.

And what do I do with the bitterness? The feeling of choking? How do I try to escape it by justifying instead of naming honestly? How do I rush to feel better at the cost of ignoring the plight of another?

I can still breathe.

I have more questions than answers. Where do I turn outside of myself? Who do I listen to and heed?

I am listening to my brothers and sisters of color. To faithful leaders who are doing the work of teaching and leaning in to reconciliation. I do not have answers which is why I am quiet.

I am listening.

Learn all you can

From those who are wiser

Practice doing what is right, just, and fair.

Fearing the Lord

While listening to counsel

From genuine heart~friends

Will help you grow wise. 

~thoughts on Proverbs 1~

YOU are Essential

Where are the blankets to put over the plants?

The text from my husband comes as I am out on a necessary errand. I respond in usual generalities, grateful for his awareness of impending cold temperatures, care of our plants, and willingness to search for the blankets.

Spring brings beautiful sunny days and unexpected chills.

This spring has brought even more unexpected beauty (time to notice the brilliant blooms) and chill (facing COVID-19) as we continue to navigate, slow down, and step into new rhythms and routines. My planner tells me we are in week 5 of sheltering in place, but within that time there have been so many changes.

I have only recently begun to settle in.

Settling in looks like consistently working from the home office, going into the studio on Saturdays. It is the kids getting used to the white noise machine running outside the home office door and knowing I am on a call and not to interrupt. It is interruptions at all other times.

It is fielding questions and needs from each child at home and then when I think I have heard from everyone and can hunker down to work, responding to, Dewey is out of the gate! by flying down the steps and out the side door, because someone has left the yard gate open and Dewey is happily scampering out of bounds freely.

It’s flexibility amidst uncertainty and continuing to do the next thing before me while not knowing when this will end and things will change and how they will look when all is said and done.

How are YOU doing?

Last night I watched a webinar on Compassion Fatigue put on by my sister, Sharon Hicks, MA, LPC, of Kintsukuroi Counseling. The act of creating space to tend to my own heart in the midst of this season brought on copious tears. As I made time to slow down and have someone help me hold space without having to solve or fix anything, I was able to name personal grief and losses.

It felt kind to sit in a space of self-care.

What does this season look like for you? Where do you feel the chill of spring’s freeze and need a blanket brought to cover your tender new growth? How are you caring for yourself during this time? How are you caring for others? Where do you need support?

Don’t walk alone. Don’t hold all of the things for everyone else. Take time for yourself, as well. . . to tend, to think, to create, to breathe.

It is essential.

YOU are essential!

Standing

It’s Good Friday, and I stand at the new desktop in my home office, which brings me eye-level with the hole in the wall, because, yes, there is a hole in the wall of this tiny room full of stories, and I think.

As I think, no words come, and I am flooded with words.

What to write about? What to say?

My work buddy is silent behind me in his cage. I have things to say about him, but I cannot say them today.

The smell of late breakfast wafts up from downstairs. That, too, is something, just not words for now.

Time ticks by, and coffee grows cold, and the feeling inside rises.

You have to do this! It’s been too long since you’ve written something! You are avoiding so hard!

And I stand.

And my fingers move over the keys.

And my mind wrangles words and themes.

Because there are things to say about this year’s mama duck that feel important.

And there are things about the new neighborhood ducks that continue to show up in unexpected places but can’t be pinned down to a single location that are curious.

And it’s Good Friday for goodness sake which holds its own story.

And it has been four weeks since the kids were out of school for an unplanned teacher work day and then didn’t go back.

At the beginning I had lofty ideas about consistent blogging like my friend, Lora, is doing so beautifully over at Storied Living. That lasted four days, or at least four posts. Check out Lora’s blog. It is so beautiful.

I thought I would grow more knowledgeable and skillful in creating useful content like my sister, Sharon, of Kintsukuroi Counseling. I have taken tiny steps but nothing big enough to blog. But go check out her content, because it is so useful.

Small, steady steps has to be enough.

Because as I watch snowflakes blow past me outside and realize the baby plants need to be covered, and I hear the dog bark furiously, indicating there is someone at the door, and lunch time draws closer, I realize that this is the new normal of my work-at-home day.

I am still trying to figure it out. It is taking shape, but there is still that hole, like the one in the wall in front of me, that sucks time and energy with the energy it takes to simply exist and be present.

That has to be enough for today.

Now what can I find to cover that hole and how is it already mid-afternoon?

Be Aware

Friends, I have no words.

I only know that there will be grace to sustain me for what is next. Whatever comes.

Can I trust that?

Can I be like mama duck, returning to her nest in the planter, high off the ground, trusting that it will be left alone? That humans well be aware and not touch?

Can we be aware of each other? Read and write signs for the vulnerable? Look out for one another?

Can we walk gently?

Today brings more big news. It feels like the new Monday Thing.

I won’t lie, I pull out the thermometer to confirm that the tightness in my chest is more panic and less COVID-19. No fever. Just more adjusting to the shifting ground beneath my feet.

I leash the dog and step out into the sunshine. We walk around the block, breathing and distancing. I try hard not to distance from self.

Be aware, Friends. Be kind. We are all in uncharted waters. None of us has done this before. If you need support, please reach out.

We are all in this together.

Let’s be aware.

Zephyr Sketch

I want to be more like Zephyr who curls up in a ball wherever she pleases. Waits patiently by the door to be let out. Speaks up when she is hungry or thirsty. Trusts that her needs will be met.

Zephyr lives in the now. When she is tired, she rests. When she is thirsty she drinks. When she wants to stir things up, she trolls through the house in search of the other animals who share the space.

Zephyr doesn’t ask, she tells. She lets you know exactly what is what in no uncertain terms. Then she curls up again and claims her current space. All of the spaces are hers. She just lets us borrow them.

I want to claim my space in the midst of the many unknowns. To Zephyr the unknown is why all of the humans are now constantly invading her territory. She is having to make adjustments. Work around us.

We are all having to adjust to unknowns. Work around things. Find our new spaces.

This adjusting is difficult. None of us is where we were a week ago. We don’t know what it will look like a week from now. We have only now. I am tired.

There is such a thing as being in seclusion with too many options, too many choices, too much crowding, too many voices. I use Zephyr’s strategy and curl up to rest, rise up to drink some water, and then reengage in a new space.

Refreshed, I stretch and settle in for a little more work before calling this day and moving on to the next part which is the evening.

Out of Sorts

Even daddy duck is out of sorts.

Opening the back door to summon Dewey after his wake up nature call, I heard incessant barking. Unusual for the early-morning hour, especially since the college students are gone and the street quiet, I ventured from my perch on the back stoop and out into the backyard.

Dewey! Come in!

He stood at the fence, pulled up by front paws, barking and kicking his back legs, not the least bit interested in bounding back inside for his breakfast. Unusual. Most unusual.

What’s up, Dog?

My gaze followed his, as a strange sound reached my ears.

There in the middle of our neighbors’ yard was a duck quacking and waddling around. His befuddled wandering in circles mirrored the feeling I have inside these days.

Which way do I go?

With so many virtual options, alternatives, and ideas springing up, I am just trying to orient myself to the new reality of my present-day surroundings. Capacity for clear direction feels muddled. I am as perplexed as a duck wandering an unfamiliar, albeit friendly, backyard being terrorized by a terrier on the other side of the fence.

Come on in, Dewey! Let’s give our visitor some space.

Bounding towards me and scampering inside, Dewey attacked his food dish with gusto. He knows what matters.

I haven’t followed up to see if there is a nest in the neighbors’ yard or if they saw their morning wandering visitor. We are all in this weird space where spring calls us from hibernation, yet social distancing dictates it.

If you read this Melody or Tina, let me know if you have a duck nest in the comments. And also if you need any toilet paper or microwave popcorn, because we have plenty of both to share.

While Waiting

It’s the beginning of the unknown. My children are home, a choice not my own, and yet I have desired that they be gathered, circled around for just a bit longer. Here they are.

We don’t have answers; don’t know the future. We only have now. This present moment.

They sleep until 9, giving me time for coffee and quiet and yoga, trusting what is to come.

I don’t have to strive for what isn’t.

Learning in small ways how to support with technology and how to love more fully in the midst of the storm. I am fed with food for this day, slowing down after years on hyper-speed.

Not wishing on anyone the circumstances we are trying to prevent.

While waiting.

Prayer for Pandemic

Jesus,

You have us.
All of us.
You hold us in your arms.
For our good.
And your glory.
You will be glorified.

What is in front of us?
What can we do
Today
for justice,
mercy,
humility.
How do we show love?
Share from abundance?
Of even from need?

Grant wisdom.

You say if we lack we can
Ask
And you will
Give.

I lack.
I ask.
Show me.

Make clear the steps forward,
the way to go.
Or stay.

Step by step.

Day by day.

This is bigger than all of us and in your capable hands.

Help love to chase down and cast out the fear.

Grant to us peace in the waiting and rest to us in the unknown.

Vintage Coffee Break

Lunch is over and it’s time to get back to work. It is a day of office tasks, morning and afternoon divided by a lunch date with a friend.

I walk to the kitchenette in my studio and turn the tea kettle on to boil. Desiring a treat, I reach for the small blue tin of Maxwell House International French Vanilla flavored cafe, recently purchased for an event.

Pulling the rubber lid back releases deep emotion from somewhere inside, and I am transported to college days. I feel young, and tears well in the corner of my eyes. Something in this simple action of self-care reminds me of another time and place.

I am eighteen and away from home for the first time. Coffee is one of my comforts, and in addition to a small French press I also bring tins of General Foods International Coffee. This feels rich and indulgent. The chocolaty warmth of Suisse Mocha offers late-night or early-morning soothing to my weary, anxious heart.

Recently I went looking for those red tins, held forever in time in my mind’s eye, only to find the blue Maxwell House brand instead. That is how I find myself opening this tin of flavored coffee beverage with tears in my eyes, curious and feeling very vintage.

Who else enjoyed these flavored coffees in the 80s?

I spoon powder into the bottom of a music mug and lift the whistling tea kettle from a hot cooktop. I pour boiling water and stir rapidly, giving the steamy beverage a foamy top. Lifting it from the counter, I carry it to my work space and settle in to write.

Poolside Soak

Poolside

I do not yet know I will get stuck in the cute strapless dress that I wear over my swimsuit as a cover-up. Thankfully, I realize this bind early on in the nudging it down process before things get awkward.

Settling back in my lounge chair ~ sans sunglasses, which remain on a window ledge in my studio in Virginia ~ I pull the long skirt of my dress up to my thighs, exposing legs to sunlight. I appreciate that the promotional swag collected by my husband during his morning work session includes sunscreen.

I choose a seat in the beach sand section. It is mostly empty, and I sit at the end of a row. A large group appears and begins settling in place, claiming chairs around me. Though I have my new earbuds in, I can hear the chatter.

Conversation grows loud. The gist of it is that there are not enough seats for everyone in this group. There are now towels stacked on the chairs around me. I begin to feel crowded and claustrophobic. Uninvested in my spot, stuck in my cover-up dress, I sit up and slide on my sandals.

This happens in the time it takes to listen to one song.

Are you all together? I ask.

Yes. We are all cottage owners. But you don’t have to leave. Seriously. The response is matter-of-fact tinged with kind.

I don’t mind. I’m not invested in this spot. Is this section reserved?

I ask because of the speed at which people are appearing and the intensity of the seat-claiming. I feel as if there is something I missed.

No. No. No. Are you a cottage owner?

No.

Really. You don’t have to leave. There’s just a big group of us cottage owners . . . The voice trails off distractedly looking around, assessing the current seating status.

Knowing that I want to straighten out my cover~up situation in the bathroom, I graciously excuse myself. Also, I am not sure if I want to be in the sand, after all, or surrounded by a crowd. A teenager in the group addresses me kindly, attempting a conversation.

Are you here with family?

I’m with my husband on a work trip.

Winding up the wires to my earbuds and zipping them into their case, I rise.

You don’t have to go.

Thank you. I know.

Smiling, I leave for the restroom, seeking the privacy of a stall where I can extract myself from the dress covering my body. I begin the wrestling which borders on panic as I try to remove a garment that refuses to budge down over my hips or up past my bustline.

Years ago this was a breeze. Same dress. Same swimsuit. It is another reminder of my midlife body’s changing shape.

Must. Get. This. Off, Now.

Sparing further imagery, I get it off, but not without much agony. I walk to the opposite pool, the one surrounded by concrete, not sand. I choose a safe-looking chair away from others and sit down. I take out earbuds, once again, to listen to Audrey Assaad’s latest work, Peace.

My body is changing. On my yoga mat I set the intention to tend it with steady care.

Looking at it.

Blessing it.

Inhabiting it.

Things have changed, and continue to change, for me. I lean back, look up, and accept the offer of a frozen margarita from my favorite friend who has come to say hi, as I rest and soak up the sun.