Shattered

An oval platter perches in the drainer, precariously balanced. I notice the carefully arranged pile of clean dishes, resting just so by the one who managed to fit every washed and rinsed piece together like a tower of Jenga blocks.

I lean over the pile to open the cupboard above, the one that holds medicines, vitamins, and the thermometer. My arm bumps the platter which loses its balance on the top of the stack and crashes to the floor, breaking into pieces.

The noise itself is enough to evoke strong response. A child stands near, waiting for me to retrieve cold medicine. I swallow back words rising to the surface, past my chest, into my throat, longing to escape my lips in a fury of noise.

Stand back. A dish just broke. Are you hurt? Watch out for the pieces.

I take care of the medicine and send her upstairs to get ready for bed as I gather the shatter.

I have two other identical platters, left over from days when I was snatching replacements up on Ebay. I am not sad that it is broken as much as I am annoyed that I have to clean the mess.

I want to blame someone for this, for the fact that something fell unexpectedly and broke, even though it was the result of imbalance and gravity. I turn on myself in a familiar pattern. I could have emptied the tower of dishes from the drainer before reaching over to get cold medicine for a child. Does it matter?

There is no fault.

It’s not about the falling or breaking or blaming. It is about what stirs inside. Always the stirring.

Splintered

Going backwards to find myself
Picking up the pieces
Fragments like the broken platter on the kitchen floor.

The large shards are easy to see, to gather
I collect them in a stack and set them aside to glue later
Where are the splinters?

Those are the bits that will surprise out of nowhere
In the middle of the night
Seemingly invisible, yet sharp
Piercing
Unseen by the eye but felt by the skin when inadvertently stepped upon

I trust a well-placed light to illumine the space
Revealing the slivers before they can harm
I’m finding the pieces to put back together

But should one go missing and enter the skin
A light can illumine the bit of the edge
To pull out with tweezers before it goes deep

Large parts of the story
collected in files
In my mind, in my journals, in my heart
They are gathered, assembled
While the splinters remain scattered
Waiting their turn to be collected, too
Just in a different way
Often piercing under the skin
Surfacing
Seen by the light of love
Tended by kindess
To be put back together
Revealing a brand new purpose.


Creating beauty.

Mother’s Day Booty Call

Dark chocolate, wine, nature, invitation to embrace my calling, I am seen by my children this Mother’s Day and every day. I feel loved all year long by the best kids. I do not need a specific day to remind me.

Still, they show up with surprises. Some with their presence, some with a text, some with a call. Loaves of dark chocolate babka (not pictured) draw waves of laughter, because Baab. Of course it is a fitting type of Mother’s Day specialty bread.

We tear into it together with delight. Then bemoan our stomachs being full of chocolate and rich, glutenous bread.

I have learned to rest on Mother’s Day. I have come to a place of deeper healing and kindness in my mothering story. What once was a struggle has become a challenge, an honest one, at that. Engagement with my narrative has brought deeper healing to my heart.

I have learned to repair with my children. They extend grace upon grace upon grace.

We laugh and cry and discover more inside jokes. Older siblings heal through youngers, as they name similar feelings and childhood anxieties and process them together. It is a beautiful mess.

So on this day set aside to honor mothers, which can feel fabricated and false, I marvel at the booty arranged on the table. My people love me well. They love me with their thoughtfulness and presence. They love me by feeling freedom to celebrate with their other mothers. Oh, how I love the others who mother them.

It brings me deep joy to see my adults living their lives in freedom as individuals. Whether with me in person or by text or by call or in spirit, the space we give one another is a gift. There is big space.

Now I do not want Mother’s Day to end. I want it to last and last, and in many ways, it does. Every day feels like Mother’s Day.

I look forward to a card arriving in the mail this week. I anticipate goodness with a son and his girlfriend joining us for a favorite dinner on Wednesday. The sun goes down on the day, and my heart feels full and so very blessed.

That is the greatest gift of all.

Third Person

I became third person. It happened at Walmart. It was the strangest thing to be spoken of as if I were not present. I almost could not believe it, and might have missed it completely, had I not taken a moment to be curious about what was happening around me.

Standing in the checkout line at 10:00pm, putting groceries on the conveyor belt was the icing on the cake of an incredibly long Thursday. My husband was still out working. The least I could do was make sure there was food for breakfast in the morning.

A woman and man stood in front of me, finishing their transaction. I was preparing to unload my full cart onto the empty conveyor belt when I overheard a female voice loudly say, She can wait. She’s got all those groceries to put up on the counter. I’m gonna look for my gum.

I felt a presence walk around me searching the candy rack, still talking. It took a minute to realize that I was the person she was talking about. I was the one who could wait because I had all of those groceries. Her volume and tone felt harsh and dismissive. I was confused by her need to comment at all, since it was obvious that I was not in a hurry and did have a lot of groceries. I would not challenge her need to take extra time making a gum selection.

I proceeded to unload my cart, ignoring the commotion around me. Focusing on minding my own business, I felt something inside of me running for cover. The loud voice began again. I wouldn’t want to be out shopping at this hour and have to unload all those groceries when I got home. The words were directed towards her partner and the cashier, not at me, again at a volume that spoke otherwise. I was being talked about is if I were not there. Words about me were not spoken to me.

Had they been, I would have assured her that I don’t exactly enjoy late night shopping trips myself. This grocery run is happening out of necessity due to unexpected circumstances in my day. I did not plan to be at Walmart at this hour. In fact, every fiber in my body fought the entire trip to stay focused and not flee the task, leaving an empty cart somewhere back among the dairy (something that I have actually done before!)

I wanted to go to my local Food Lion, but it closed early for a remodel. Aldi also closed at 9, leaving Walmart as next on the list. I had actually prayed before I left the house that God would give me strength and help me make wise shopping choices. When Walmart was the option available, I figured that must be the answer.

It helped that when I entered, the jovial young man walking beside me rushed ahead and grabbed two carts. Here, Mrs. McClay! Let me get a cart for you. You probably don’t remember me, but you used to be my teacher! We laughed and chatted and remembered together, and I told him that the joy of seeing his face was one of the things that would keep me going on this late shopping trip. He had the same laughing eyes and smile as when he was small, though a beard now covered his chin.

I was grateful for my teaching practice of always (mostly) treating my students like the adult people they would one day be, with kindness and respect. This was not the first time a lumbering young man has looked down at me as we reminisced about early childhood school days.

Returning to present, my chest felt heavy, like I wanted to cry the giant sobs that had been accumulating throughout the day. The only thing that kept me grounded while checking out was the smiling face of the cashier ringing up and bagging my groceries.

We had nothing in common age, gender, or ethnicity-wise, but he was kind to me, and I was kind back. I was too tired to engage in conversation beyond returning his smile. An understanding smile can cover a multitude of hurt.

Gathering the final bags from the rotating bagging station, I noticed the line behind me had grown longer. I fought against a feeling of shame that it was because I had so many groceries. At this point his line was the only one open. A lady further back begin to complain loudly about it being the only line open before actually asking.

Is this the only line open?

Yes, he said. There is also self-checkout.

I was reminded that as hard as it is to be grateful, as hard as it is to be kind at 10:08 under the fluorescent lights at Walmart, it is worth it to try. We are all people. We are people doing our jobs as best we can. I am trying to get food for my family, this young man is trying to earn a paycheck, and if we could spread a little kindness, a smile, a look into someone’s eyes instead of a loud talking around and about each other, we just might find ourselves in a little bit brighter of a place.

Let’s grab a cart for one another!

Mirroring

While preparing celery to cut into sticks for an afternoon snack one day, I chopped off the end of the bunch with a satisfying slice of the knife. The rounded bottom piece with its protruding curved ends rested on the cutting board.

Preparing to toss it in the compost bin, I looked at the cut end and thought it was perfect for dipping into paint and stamping in my art journal.

So I did just that!

I painted shades of silver, green, pink, and purple on the cut end of the celery and stamped it on the pages. Then I closed the pages together and pressed. When I opened them, I had these pages that mirror each other.

I am not sure if this is finished, yet. For now I am enjoying the colors and shapes and knowing that I was inspired to create while fixing a snack for my kids in the kitchen.

Feel Free

I love the way these pages in my art journal capture what was going on during March when I created them. They moved me into April with confident excitement.

I was preparing to register my business name and get my business license. I was excited about creating something new that involved connection. The chairs around the fire pit capture that feeling.

My firstborn had invited her siblings for the weekend, so we met halfway and exchanged cars. That is where the feeling of freedom and the wine and cheese and charcuterie come into play. And also the knight.

Overall, these pages remind me of steps taken, one at a time, that continue to move me forward. Where are you experiencing movement and growth these days? What small step can you take today to look back on and say, I did it!

Feel Free to share in the comments!

Easter Sunday Surprise

Easter afternoon finds me walking downtown towards my parents’ house to celebrate with dinner and an egg hunt at our usual 4:00 time. I love living close enough to walk over and decide to take the route past the nest. I am surprised to find Mama Duck surrounded by broken eggshells.

The ducklings hatched on Easter Sunday.

It is early in duckling season. There are no others in the stream. These will be first or second brood. Last year I was out of town and missed them completely. Other years I missed the hatching, as well, even though I was in town. One day they were in the nest, then they were gone.

This time I see the new ducklings in the nest.

Mama Duck protectively covers them with her body as they scurry around behind her under the bush. I imagine they are practicing using their legs for the journey to water. When I peer in for a closer look, she puffs up and begins breathing heavily, gathering them underneath her.

This is the first year I got to see a duckling peeking out from under Mama Duck.

I give her some space to collect everyone before peeking in again. I see three little heads looking back at me. That seems like enough of a gift for the moment, so I continue on my way to the dinner, celebrating life and resurrection.

If you look closely there are three little heads looking out from under Mama Duck.

By Monday evening when Steve and I walk the dog, the nest is empty. There is only a scattering of broken egg shells. Steve suggests walking to the stream. After initial hesitation, I agree.

In the dark I see movement of a mama with her babies on the water.

Thursday finds me with a child home from school. She has a cold and is uncomfortable but not too ill to go on a morning dog walk. We head down to the water in search of the ducks.

Upon arrival, she holds the leash, sending me ahead to check it out first. Then you can hold the leash, and I will go look. I see mama with her babies.


The babies still have fluffy duckling down. They are so cute.

Papa Duck joins them, flanking the side, while Mama protectively guides them towards the water.

The duck family waddles towards the water together.

I keep my distance, watching as they move closer to water. They pause to let the ducklings catch up.

Mama, Papa, and three baby ducklings walk towards the water.

Once all have reached water’s edge, the parents pause, allowing the ducklings to splash a bit before launching. I smile as they swim away and turn to face my youngest child who holds the leash of the dog. She smiles, too.

We walk home together sharing memories of duckling days past.

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!