Weep No More

A deep kindness in this difficult weekend came at the end of this morning’s worship service as we stood to sing “We Will Feast in the House of Zion.”

I was taken in my heart and mind to the chapel at The Seattle School where a group of us gathered informally on Sunday morning before the final session to sing and worship.

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more
~Sandra McCracken

It was such a sweetly, sacred space, all of us gathered to celebrate what God had done, was doing, will do. We were acutely aware of the fleetingness of a moment that would never return to us on this earth. Our hearts held so much.

This morning I clapped and sang with joy as my mind wandered briefly to that chapel and wondered if anyone was gathering there. I wondered if they, too, would be singing. If any would remember our voices. My voice.

Returning to present, standing between two of my daughters, I felt held and loved by my heavenly Father reminding me that the small details matter and that I am loved in them.

Fall’s Promise

It’s the first day of fall. The kitchen calendar reads Autumn Begins, and my autumn begins with an early morning appointment. Stepping outside, a rainbow greets me through the gray, a reminder of faithful promises kept.

I need all of the reminders.

I need color breaking through the gray.

My early morning destination offers space to walk outside near a calm lake surrounded by trees. The bench near the water is wet with mist. I embrace every moment of the present. There is beauty in the sunshine and in the blue sky that peeks through the clouds.

Afterward, I visit my parents to catch up with an uncle who is here from out of town. Laughter surrounds the breakfast table as he shares stories of my cousins and memories of his own. I drink my coffee from a mug I brought back for my parents after a Seattle trip, a token gift for help they offered while I traveled.

I think of my friends who are there now and offer up a prayer. I remember the early fall day two years ago when I walked to The Seattle School for the first time.

I continue to cling to the color, to remember that the gray passes, even as it swirls around me. Heaviness is not as easily shed as I wish.

Back home I supervise chores and help with homework and prepare lunch. I simmer fall scent on the stove and light a pumpkin candle on the table. A squirrel plate replaces the plain saucer underneath.

I fold and lay a leaf-covered fall tablecloth over the buffet, replacing the cream-colored one of summer. I cut up carrots and potatoes and put them into the crock pot with chicken broth, the beginning of fall chowder.

It is all very ordinary, and there lies the promise.

The promise is that I will be met in the ordinary places.

I struggle to embrace ordinary and to settle into the space. It feels foreign to not just forge ahead to the next thing, which is what I have done for most of my life.

Texting a sister turns into a phone call where we jump in together to catch up on life. Her words speak truth and our laughter lightens my heart. When we hang up, colors are more vivid.

Fall’s promise is that I can trust God’s faithful care in this season, just as in the 47 that came before. The work in me is being completed, and I can rest in that. Life is full of color in unexpected places if I choose to see it.

Sometimes I don’t have to look very far. For those moments I am grateful.

Welcome, Fall!

Morning Joy

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:5, NLT

I cried myself to sleep last night. Sitting in bed at the end of the day with journal in hand and tea on the nightstand, I began writing.

Where to begin I don’t even know. 

Words poured honestly and incoherently from my pen. No editing, no polishing, letters on the page strung together finding their place. I ended with a final question.

What do I need to just grieve?

Tears flowed from somewhere deep inside. From the heart of a much-younger me, cries of loneliness and pain began to escape, first silent, then sniffles, then sobs. I could not be comforted, as much as my dear husband tried. I just needed to cry.

Sleep finally came and with it the dreams. Tornadoes, crowds, a pack of dogs that all looked like Dewey, these were the themes. My overloaded brain downloaded and sorted and shuffled. I woke puffy and groggy and rested.

Coffee left by dear husband in my Seattle School mug replaced the empty tea cup on the nightstand, reminding me of where I was not. It also reminded me of a journaled prayer from earlier in the week,

God, You are faithfully loving me through the work you have given me in this season even as you faithfully love my friends through theirs. As the new group of externs comes together, help me to be content that I am here in H’burg and not boarding a plane to Seattle. Help me to be fully present with my family. I don’t know what you are doing, but I am trusting the work to be so good and kind that you can make a way for me there in my absence.

Shortly after waking, I saw my writing on the Red Tent Living blog. Overwhelmed with joy I linked it to my blog wall with the comment  I’m not in Seattle or Austin this morning, but I AM in the Red Tent today. Such kindness for my heart. Stop by for a read. Happy Friday, Friends!!!!

It is a happy Friday. I am thankful for new mornings, new mercies, and for joy that follows the tears.

Focused Writing

It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to uncover them.
Proverbs 25:2 (NLT)

My day began with these words. Pondering the privilege of discovery I wrote, Jesus, what will I discover today? Little did I know. It is only half over.

This day is full of mixed feelings. My heart is acutely aware of its longings and desires and the difficulty of being finite. As dear friends converge in Seattle to begin Externship training and others gather in Austin in anticipation of the Brave On conference, I am here doing what I have been called to in this season.

I have been called to stay and uncover what it is God has for me in this place, under my own roof, with my own people. Instead of packing a suitcase and saying goodbye, I am unpacking our story and saying, I’m here.

Here looked like quite an adventure on the ride to school.

Teen son was up and about early enough to drive. I sat in the passenger seat and Little Mae was in the back. The careful drive began.

At a slow intersection while stopped at a sign, student driver put the car in park to adjust his seat. There were no other cars around, it was not a dangerous situation, but my anxiety began to mount.

Opening my mouth to begin a lecture, another sound came from the back seat. A frantic, terrified, gutteral scream rose from somewhere inside Little Mae. My heart stopped as I looked out the side window, fully expecting to see that we were the victims of a car-jacking.

SPIDER!!!!!

Turning in the direction of her scream I saw a huge spider on the back of my headrest.

Pass me a tissue.

I spoke in the calmest of voices, fully expecting a lunge, scurry, or sudden movement from the spider and the ensuing chaos that an inexperienced driver and panicked 10 year old would bring.

I was not thinking that I would have to feel the spider through the tissue as I gripped it gently and tossed it out my window that, somehow, I had rolled down. I felt it. I did not squish it.

A collective sigh released from us all as the driver took the left he had planned. We debriefed the series of events and how good it was that the car was stopped and not driving. We laughed and maybe cried (not the driver), and my heart continued racing, flooded with adrenaline, well beyond morning drop-off.

Everyone made it safely to school. I made it home. The day continued.

Washing breakfast dishes, I looked up to see a pink flower blooming on the hanging plant above the sink. It is a transplant of this one and a special sign to me. I posted its picture on social media and a friend commented tradescantia/spiderwort .

Of course! Spider redemption, if only in word form. I had to laugh as I rejoiced that I now had a focus for today’s writing.

Make Us Glad

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Psalm 90:15, ESV

Yes, Lord. Please make us glad for that number of days and years. It’s been a long time, and gladness feels far away.

I sit on the couch in my living room, feet propped, listening to my daughter’s playlist of gaming music and the click of her mouse. She does schoolwork online. I attempt to do my own work, assembling thoughts racing around in my head. They are difficult to catch.

Bright sunlight and blue sky shine through open blinds. Anticipatory autumn sun returns today, casting long shadows, giving a warm glow to the brick house and mature trees across the street.

What can I say? I long to be glad.

Are you glad to walk the dog? I ask my girl as she walks in the room. It is that time of day according to the schedule we are trying to create.

She laughs at my choice of words. I explain that meant to say ready and am writing about gladness. I send her to find the dog so that we can walk him. We are still finding our normal together. Our daily routine.

Write something is again written in my planner, the only thing on the list of Today’s Top Three.

I am writing. Something. In the snippets of time that present I sit with words, fighting forward for gladness. It comes to me in sunshine on the other side of a window, in a sky brilliantly blue, in a dog curled on his bed, in laughter at a distracted choice of words.

I am made glad in the moments that I choose to see goodness and receive as gifts what can also feel hard. When I feel the gladness redeeming affliction, I know I am growing and growing is good.

This makes me glad.

Moments of Laughter

Not all has been sad in my world. Though the tears often eclipse the smiles, I am trying to focus on the splashes of joy that creep up and surprise me. One of those moments happened last Saturday.

It was a rare afternoon plan that came together at the last minute. Two of our daughters were at a middle school retreat, our youngest was with her cousin, and teenage son was recovering from a band all-nighter.

Steve’s planned weekend away with friends was postponed, leaving him home unexpectedly. We decided to seize the opportunity for a real date away from the house. That is an important part of the equation. This was a last-minute plan.

We decided to visit Crozet, an area Steve had traveled to for work and wanted to return to together. We would do wine tasting, get lunch, and end with coffee, keeping all of the activity together in the same location.

Another key point of this story is that it was bachelorette weekend for our soon-to-be daughter-in-law. I found this out on Labor Day from my adult daughters. They were attending the weekend festivities to be held near Charlottesville.

For this reason, I wanted to avoid wineries in that area and keep it all in Crozet. That is why we chose King Family Vineyards over Jefferson Vineyards .

Our drive over the mountain was relaxing. We marveled over getting away and actually doing something fun. Though overcast, it was not raining, and we enjoyed conversation. When we arrived at the vineyard and pulled into the parking area, Steve received a text from our oldest.

I think you would enjoy being the person behind the counter doing wine tastings for people (my paraphrased version of her words).

I would! Mom and I are at King Family Vineyards to do a wine tasting  (my paraphrased version of his response).

Immediately Steve’s phone rang with our daughter’s voice on the other end.

That is where we are right now!

Looking up past the parking area and towards the tasting room we saw her running towards us. At picnic tables on the lawn beyond, with a bountiful spread of food and several bottles of wine, were 18 women celebrating the bride-to-be.

I could not believe it. Laughter was my only response. That and profuse explanation.

I had intentionally stayed off of the bride’s social media sites to avoid creeping on the events of the weekend. I had intentionally chosen a winery that I was certain they would not choose (though if I had investigated further, I would have noticed that this one accommodates large groups, which I learned in the tasting room).

We said hi to our daughters and daughter-in-law (to be) and laughed together at the coincidence. We made it clear that we were there to do our own tasting and would not intrude on their picnic space. We made a crazy pre-wedding memory that could not have been planned.

And there was joy.

Buckets of Tears

Rain pours from the sky like the tears from my eyes. I cannot seem to stop crying. I know I just need to feel what is there without judgment, but it is difficult.

I want to distract myself so badly with something, anything. This only leaves me pacing and feeling restless.  There is too much connection too easily available when what I really need to do is connect with myself.

What I feel is the pain of grief. Deep in my heart there is an ache that begins to grow until the only thing it can do is burst out in an ugly cry.

I am not good at crying. I hold it in.

I have so much held inside that needs to be named, released, and wept over. It pours out at the most inconvenient times, like during a walk while talking on the phone with a friend. Her presence on the other end is a gift. I thought I would be leaving a message when she unexpectedly answered the call.

Exchanging pleasantries and the short version of what is going on in our worlds, I open up about hard feelings I am having in this season. She understands and is familiar with my story. She asks good questions. I begin to feel my heart again as my chest tightens and eyes fill with tears.

Where did you go? 

This question comes as I grow quiet in the wake of conversation. I want her to commiserate with me in my sadness, not share with me her eager anticipation of something I will miss. She tells me of an upcoming trip where she will spend time with mutual friends. She lists off names.

Wait, you’re the only one who won’t be there. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that.

I feel a laugh/cry inside. Seriously??!!! I want her to tell me. I want to know and celebrate her excitement even as I grieve what I will miss. I need to feel all of the feelings, even the hard ones.

I’m glad you told me. It’s just hard not to be able to be there, even though I already knew this wasn’t my season. It feels even moreso as the time grows closer.

Our time is up, and I return home. My daughters are doing after-school screens as I disappear into my room and then into my bathroom, shutting both doors. Collapsing in my inner sanctum, tears escape is deep sobs.

A knock on the bathroom door calls me back.

Mom, are you okay?

My youngest stops screen time to check on me.

Yes. I am just really sad right now.

Okay! Just checking!

She returns to Animal Jam, and I return to grief, letting the tears fall until they finish.

Still Summer

I know it feels like fall. School is back in session. Football games have begun. Life has resumed routine. Morning drives to school find me facing a blinding low-rising sun in the eastern sky. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back.

But it’s still summer for a little while longer.

Today I celebrated that truth by stepping off into the deep end of my daughter and son-in-law’s pool and swimming to the other side. It was my first time in the water this summer. The sensation was lovely.

My intention was to try to turn around the funk that seems to have settled around my shoulders, pressing into my heart. Surely water and sunshine would wash it away.

It was worth a try.

Several of my kids and my husband joined me. Others sat on the edge. We talked and laughed. We played games.

It was a relaxing space to regain perspective.

I wish I could say I left my troubles at the bottom of the pool with the leaves that have begun dropping, but it is not that easy. I wish I could say that I have leaned from Dewey to just live in the moment.

I am still practicing and being given plenty of opportunities to do so.

This afternoon brought laughter and connection and escape. It brought exercise and fresh air and a son-in-law who grilled hamburgers while we swam in his pool.

It brought goodness and kindness and another reminder that even when life is hard and unpredictable and wearisome, there is beauty and joy and love.

It’s still summer.

Menu Plan

I am no Heather. I realize this. She inspires me, though, and allows me to be just who I am in all of my imperfection and mess. Though I try to resist comparison, it sometimes creeps up on me. When this happens, I work to change my thought pattern to one of inspiration.

One area of struggle for me is menu planning. I have a mental block, an aversion, to it, though I have prepared hundreds of meals and fed my large family daily for years. In theory it should not be this difficult, but in practice it is another matter.

Recently I was in Heather’s kitchen and noticed her menu written on a chalkboard hanging on the kitchen wall framed by an elegant frame. There was a Scripture verse printed on it, opposite the week’s menu. My mind went to the white board in my kitchen and to the possibility of writing a menu plan in similar fashion.

I decided to take action when I arrived home, claiming the lower left corner of the board for my  plan. I listed Monday through Sunday and wrote down what I would prepare each day. At the end of each day I wiped off the day’s meal and wrote what I would fix the following week.

In essence it is a continual meal plan. A continual feast.

It has been a few weeks and the new menu plan has been serving me well. Now if I could get the grocery list under control!

For the curious, this is what my kitchen whiteboard looks like today

It’s not the most beautiful and could use a Scripture verse or two, but it’s doing its job. And my grocery list rhymes.

Free Bread

It says card declined.

The cashier looks at me inquisitively. I return his gaze. I have no idea why my bank card would be declined. I insert it again.

Still says card declined.

His face grows bored. The checkout line lengthens. I glance apologetically at those waiting, wishing I had tossed the checkbook into my purse this morning.

Ok. I’m going home to get my checkbook. Can you keep these to the side for me?

My cart waits at Customer Service. I exit Food Lion full of second thoughts about today’s grocery visit. Maybe my card knows something I do not and is trying to keep me from the constant grocery spending hemorrhage that seems to be taking over.

Daily I stop in for bananas or bread or milk. There is always something written on the marker board in the kitchen. I don’t have my usual photo of it but certainly I can remember the items.

apples, oats, both kinds of bread, butter, block of cheese

There is marked down meat, always a find. I add it to the cart with the apples. Rounding the back of the store I remember bacon and coffee cream.

What else was on that list again? We need juice for lunches.

I am glad to see that juice is on the same aisle as oats and add two boxes of Capri Sun to the cart.

Piling items on the checkout conveyor I remember butter and cheese. Hoping that the lady in front of me will move slowly, I run to the dairy aisle to grab them.

Returning with time to spare, my card is declined and I drive home for my checkbook.

Bread! That’s what I forgot. Two kinds of bread!

At Customer Service, one of my favorite cashiers collects my check, making small talk as she enters data into the register. I ask if I can leave the cart there to grab bread.

Oh! You could have gotten bread first and paid for it here.

I assure her it’s okay, hoping it will give me a chance to see what’s up with my card. I grab four loaves of bread and enter the express checkout line.

Another friendly cashier rings up my purchase. I laugh over the events of the day when she asks how I am doing.

Somehow I continue to hold the illusion that I will get my act together one of these days!

Yeah. those ducks are hard to get in a row.

Mine are quacking all over the place!

Laughter ensues as I insert my card only to have her tell me,

If you have ninety cents that’s all you need.

Looking at the screen, I see that the total is $12.90 but that I have earned $12 in rewards, making the purchase $.90. Surprised, I fish through the change in my wallet, taking out quarters and nickels to make up the difference.

For a minute my ducks all lined up and handed me free bread, and it was beautiful.