Feeling Joseph’s Story

Monday found me in Genesis 40-42 after a miserable night of insomnia culminating in a delicious snow day morning. I sat in a comfortable space ready to delve further into the Joseph story, one often used as a Look how God worked everything out in the end! Evil for good, good wins!

This is true. And good. But as I arrived at the end of the day’s reading I could feel Jacob’s anguish. I know that anguish. I could feel Joseph’s tears. I’ve shed similar tears. I was experiencing the story and not just taking in the facts. This began some journaling on the passage, not to be confused with an exposition on the subject. Following are my observations from Joseph’s story:

Jacob exclaimed, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!
Genesis 42:21 (NLT)

I know the feeling that everything is going against me, even as many things are for me. God was sustaining Jacob’s life and his sons’ lives. Joseph was still alive, yet in the moment Jacob didn’t know. He felt everything going against him. While feelings are not truth, they often reveal how we are experiencing our present truth in light of our past.


Speaking among themselves, they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this trouble.”
“Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” Reuben asked. “But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!”
Of course they didn’t know that Joseph understood them, for he had been speaking to them through an interpreter. Now he turned away from them and began to weep.
Genesis 42:21-24 (NLT)

I feel Joseph’s grief upon hearing Reuben reprimand his brothers.

~Earlier Still~

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness.Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.”
Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father. So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
Genesis 38:18-24 (NLT)

Years before, many years before, the brothers had seen Joseph coming, and, out of envy and contempt for his favor and dreams, made plans to kill him. Reuben heard their plan and suggested an alternative, pleaing with them to throw him into an empty cistern. Later he planned to rescue Joseph.

This argument happened before Joseph arrived on the scene. He witnessed none of it as his robe was torn off and he was thrown into a cistern.


Then just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? His blood would just give us a guilty conscience. Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
Genesis 37:25-28 (NLT)

~Where was Reuben?~

Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the cistern. When he discovered Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in grief.
Genesis 37:29 (NLT)

Reuben was not around, because he returns later to discover Joseph missing. This causes him distress as the brothers kill an animal for its blood and prepare their story of Joseph’s demise. Joseph’s life becomes a meanwhile as he is lifted from his family’s story and dropped into Potiphar’s house.

Years pass through chapters indicated by phrases such as in the course of time, some years later, some time later. Clues such as pregnancy, birth, adulthood of children born, death of the mother, indicate that daily life continued for the brothers and Jacob just as it did for Joseph who was placed on a different track.

Life went on, routine events punctuated by significant ones. Joseph faced the trauma of false accusation and imprisonment, of being forgotten by the butler for two years after predicting the butler’s release in three days. He held hope that he would be soon remembered while being long forgotten.

When he is finally released and brought before Pharoah, things begin to turn around. He is 30 years old beginning the seven years of plenty. He is married to Asenath, a priest’s daughter who bears two sons. Joseph names them from his story.

Manassah ~ God has made me forget my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.

Ephriam ~ God has made me fruitful in the land of my grief.

Though life circumstances have changed for Joseph, there is still grief, lost time, questions.

He is 37 when the famine begins and 44 at its end. His brothers are older than him. His father describes himself as a grieving white-haired man. (42:38)

During the time of famine, Joseph’s brothers appear before him. He recognizes them, remembers his dreams, and begins to be harsh with them. He questions and accuses. He imprisons them for three days, changing his mind from sending only one back home to keeping only one. He gives the imperative to return with the youngest.

This results in a conversation among the brothers, overheard and understood by Joseph. The mood takes a turn.

After Reuben says, Didn’t I tell you not to go against the boy, but you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood! (42:22)  Joseph turns away and begins to weep. (42:24)

The timing of the weeping struck me as I read. It came after he heard his brothers specifically name the wrong done to him. He is made aware for the first time that one of his brothers had spoken up for him. However cowardly, weakly, or poorly done, someone had not been in agreement. This, coupled with the changed hearts of his brothers, was a story-changer for Joseph.

For years, the data he had to work with was that all of the brothers hated him and had been unanimous in the decision to harm him. He carried that as he was sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into prison. Even as life began to change for the better, there was still an undercurrent of sadness and loss.

With this scene, the story lens shifts, more data is collected, and floodgates of tears are released. No facts of Joseph’s story change. A single traumatic event at the hands of his brothers after being set up by his father altered the course of his life, but redemption is close at hand through the path of weeping, grief, and repair of rupture.

I get to continue in this passage next Monday. Sometimes we have to sit in the unresolved sadness for awhile, in that space of grief and lament, where it feels as if all is against us, even when we know how the story ends.

Gathering Data

“In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. In fact, the need to make up a story, especially when we are hurt, is part of our most primitive survival wiring. Mean making is in our biology, and our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense, feels familiar, and offers us insight into how best to self-protect.”

― Brené BrownRising Strong

The first sentence is one of my favorite quotes right now and a mantra that keeps looping through my head. In the absence of data we always make up stories.

Since returning from Certificate 2 training two weeks ago, I have had few words to put into cyberspace and many to share in private conversations or to write in my journals. I have felt at a loss as to what to say or put out there on the blog as I re-enter yet another season of sorting out my own story.

As I grow in safety and ability to bring my childhood memories to those with more data to add, I am gaining a more focused picture of who I am and have become in the midst of the events that have shaped me. Themes in my story emerge, readjusting my lens from what I suspected to what I can name.

This shift has brought a need to clear extras from my world to focus on essentials. I have made a difficult choice to end some outside activities and ministries in order to spend time healing and growing. Rather than continuing to reach outward, I am bringing myself and my focus inward to those in my home.

This sounds obvious unless you understand the full extent of harm and self-protection that has caused me to shut down to those under my roof and prevented me from bringing myself fully to the ones who need me the most. This grieves my heart. Bringing closure to outside ministries has created space to be more present in my home.

I hope to elaborate more on this in future posts.

To those of you who continue to follow and read the blog faithfully, I applaud you and say Thank you. I am not sure where I am headed but will continue using the space to allow others in to what it looks like to face life more honestly.

Bloggers are supposed to find their niche and area of expertise. Mine seems to be in not having answers but continuing to fight forward on the journey to hope and healing.  It is in gathering data to put the story together. It is in the listening to and telling of stories.

You are welcome to join me. Maybe it will encourage you to begin gathering data of your own and picking up the pieces of your story.

Composting the Fart: No. 3

Hi, it’s Riley again, here with another edition of COMPOSTING THE FART. More baabishness awaits in this one post. Please, computer….. please don’t explode of baabishness…… Anyways, let’s move on to the first one…

You’re in your room, reading a book. It’s almost lunchtime and you decide to go downstairs to see what’s for lunch. You walk out of your room and you go down the stairs. You walk over to the kitchen and as you walk in, you hear someone in the kitchen. They’re opening the oven and you hear a loud creaking noise, then something is put inside the oven and it is closed again with another CREEAK. You walk all the way into the kitchen and you see BAAB. Now, you realize she has just put pizza in the oven to warm up, and you casually walk by her when suddenly…. you realize…… she is wearing a scarf indoors. I mean, who does that?? It wasn’t even COLD inside the house!! (No offense to anyone who wears scarves indoors when it is pretty hot….. but…… I mean…. that means you’re a baab, too………………….) You walk out of the kitchen knowing that you’re having pizza for lunch. I think that the creaking of the oven was probably NOT the oven……. just saying……….


You’re walking downtown with Baab because Baab says she needs ‘FRESH AIR’. Well, I could’ve guessed that she would need fresh air because of the oatmeal stench of her room….. Well, you’re walking and you’re talking with her about things. BAAAB wants to talk about FEELINGS and that sort of thing. You’re diverting her from the subject by talking about other things in your life that just MIGHT change her mind from talking about all that other junk.. You finally find another thing to talk about, when suddenly Baab stops on the sidewalk.

“A DIIIIIIME.”, she says in her most BAABISH VOICE. “Remember that DIMES are my SIGN to remind me to keep PURSUING my GOALS and keep on GOING.”

She bends down to pick it up, and I’m surprised she didn’t break her back…… but that was the most baabish things she’s ever said………… EVERR.

(BOBA FETT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) (He’s my favorite Star Wars character.)

Lastly but not leastly, here’s a typical everyday thing of a BAAB….

I was writing this post at my dining room table when my little sister asked me to move because she was doing her chore which was cleaning up the dining room. I didn’t want to move, but Baab said she had a place where I could write this post. I followed her into her room, and she pointed to a place next to her closet….. It was a desk-ish thing that has a chair where you could sit, and the chair had a pillow and the desk was covered in BAABISH things. There was a spot where I could set the laptop down so I could write there, though. Baab called it her WRITING SPACE. Where she writes her BAABISH stories and things.

I just think it’s BAABISH that she makes these little NOOKS (<– that’s what she calls them, and it sound baabish) where she can do her BAABISH things.

Anyways, that’s it for now! Thank you for reading this, this is Composting the Fart!



Last Monday morning looked much different than this one. I woke at 4, head full of thoughts. I spent time writing out a story of 19 year old me, then loaded the car, ate a quick breakfast, and exited my friend’s house in the pre-dawn hours. It was time to begin the final leg of my journey.

GPS set arrival time at 12:30, but I knew there would be stops pushing it further back. Still, it was a helpful estimation and motivation to begin putting miles behind me. I was ready to be home.

I would hit the ground running upon return. Monday was choir day. It was also pre-assessment band concert day for two of my children. Thursday and Friday were days off of school for parent conference. Tuesday and Wednesday remained for unpacking, regrouping, and tending to all that was missed in my absence. There was lots to tend.

Friday and Saturday brought an overnight trip to Northern Virginia to witness one son’s performance in a band battle and to celebrate another son’s birthday. I did well at placing the remaining children in overnight care before realizing that we had done nothing for the pets, causing a scramble. Sunday was my turn to solo parent so husband could attend a class in Springfield, MD. There is not a pause button for life.

This morning I rose after a night full of restless dreaming to a feeling of futility. I struggled to move from my bed to face the day. The tired was to the bone. It made for a rockier than usual Monday routine. I helped with breakfast and lunches, remembering that I had not taken time to restock the snack drawers or assess the bread situation in the fullness of the weekend.

People snapped at each other. I fought back tears of discouragement and frustration. We somehow managed to get out the door and to school. I returned to walk the dog, call my sister, leave a voice mail, and send my son off to a day of studio recording with his bandmates.

Then there was quiet. Real quiet. That is when the text came through. A new friend connection from Certificate 2 training had read something that she was sitting with and sent the link to me. I opened it and wept. She asked questions about my tears and spoke truth to my heart. It was a sweet place of being seen.

Monday morning continued with Bible reading catch up in a chunk of Genesis. Before opening my Bible to the designated reading, I cried out to God to show me where he is in all of my mess. He gave me an answer as I read chapters 32-39, through the stories of Jacob and Joseph. I journaled this response.

You are in the wrestling, the dreaming
You are in the scandal, the scheming
You are in the calling, the trapping
You are

He is.

Composting the Fart: Edition 2

Welcome to the second version of Composting the Fart!! For those of you who  don’t know what this is, read the first one. This is a weekly (sorry for not making recent posts) compiling of all Baab’s baabishness. I’m surprised this computer hasn’t exploded yet from Baab pounding her bony tendrils on the keys of this poor thing. Well, anyways, let’s move on.

First of all, it’s almost dinnertime and you’re downstairs sitting on the couch. You hear Baab talking in the kitchen with Scoby (for those of you that don’t know, that’s Steve, Baab’s husband. We call him Scoby because he makes kombucha…. you should research it.). They’re just talking about boring adult things. You walk into the kitchen to ask what’s for dinner. Before they can answer, you immediately suggest a restaurant. They say no. Then, Baab suggests LEFTOVERS that date back to two weeks ago. Scoby agrees, and now guess what:

You’re eating warmed up pizza from last-last Friday, all thanks to BAAB.

Second, you’re in the car driving somewhere. You’re riding silently and looking at all the things outside. There’s trees, telephone wires, more trees, birbs, signs, cars, and some more trees.

You are sitting in a peaceful atmosphere…. until….. SUDDENLY…… BAAB turns on her BAABISH BEATS with the Bluetooth speaker. You are now listening to classical music and some baabish singers in between. Baab’s classical funk has taken over your peaceful atmosphere.

Finally, best for last…… It’s the first Sunday of the month, the day when you get Little Caesars pizza. You’re excited for this, and so are your siblings. Baab has decided on getting one chez pizza and one pepperoni pizza. She’s getting a Sierra Mist, too. While Baab is driving there, she is deciding on a movie to watch later.

“I want to make a list of all the (baabish) movies I want to watch.”, said Baab.

Your sister uses Baab’s phone to ‘find some movies’ as she says. She finds a list and starts reading them off. She reads about twelve of them, and each one Baab says she wants to watch or re-watch.

Your sister laughs.

“What?”, Baab asks her.

“I looked up movies for old people and I was reading off a list categorized as ‘movie list for the older generation’.”, she replies.

That’s all for now, humans! I will try to keep up with my posts, and sorry that I didn’t. What are your thoughts about Baab? Are YOU a Baab?? How many fingers am I holding up??? Anyways, thank you for reading, this is Composting the Fart!


Final Destination

Stay in the left four lanes of traffic.

The friendly GPS companion voice alerts me to a fact of which I am well aware. There are a lot of lanes of traffic to navigate. I stay in lane two of four. Traffic zips past me in spite of the 55mph posted speed limit. I keep checking.

Pain calls me to tension in my wrists, and l realize I have a death grip on the steering wheel. Deep breaths in and out and a growing trust in the vocal cues of my virtual co-pilot allow me to relax just a little.

I drive regularly on 81. There are a lot of trucks there, too. I am familiar with truck traffic, just not the kind outside of Chicago in more than two lanes. I strain to hear the next exit number and almost miss it. A last-minute swerve of faith puts me in the right direction. I breathe a prayer of thanks.

If there’s a traffic jam, you sit in it.

Choosing to move from the middle lane jammed with trucks to the left passing lane that is zipping along, I cut some travel time and break free of the congestion. Now to find a gas station with restroom facilities. I am still learning to stop at the last rest area before transitioning to a new traffic pattern, even if I don’t think I have to go.

Only I can know if I have to go to the restroom. No one else can do it for me. Here is a formula for me to remember from this day forth. 8 children + 46 years old = always stop

Today’s leg of the journey is short, only four hours compared to yesterday’s eight. Four hours is still a long time, though, and I am grateful for the coffee break provided by a friend and for an Allpoint ATM, since the tolls are taking a toll on my cash stash. I failed to thoroughly research that part of the trip. There are a lot of toll roads.

I should really look into EZ Pass.

After finishing the audio book, I caught up on podcasts for the remainder of the trip. Arriving in Batavia at my AirBnB, I was pleasantly surprised.

This is a restful, gracious space, kinder than I could have imagined. When I booked my (closer) location in December, I had no idea that the weekend before departure I would receive a message that my host had unexpectedly died (which is never expected), and my reservation was cancelled. This reservation was made last-minute, and is exactly right. I feel so grateful.

Exhausted from the drive, I plan to hunker down for the evening. There is a jacuzzi tub to soak in and a yoga studio on the third floor. The house is large and quiet and so right for this trip. Am I in denial about an early morning tomorrow and the beginning of three days of training?

Hmm . . . maybe?

Goodnight! Especially to the homefront. You are loved.

And missed.


Tended Trauma

Childhood vacations consisted of camping or visiting grandparents in Michigan. Sometimes we camped with grandparents or other relatives.

The first family vacation I remember was a camping trip to Cowan’s Gap State Park. I was six years old. My sister, Deborah, was three, and my baby brother, Nick, was six months old. Mom was newly pregnant with sister, Sharon. While there was a baby and an expected baby, the focus did not seem to be all on babies, yet, like it would soon become. It was exciting to be camping.

Our family camped in a square, heavy canvas tent, secured to the ground by metal stakes. I remember the distinct canvas smell and expansive space.

Cowan’s Gap State Park had a sandy beach area for swimming. There were also rowboats for rental. I know this because they seemed so exciting, and I really wanted to ride in one. The answer was no. They cost extra money which was something my Christian school teacher father and stay at home mother did not have.

My mom’s late-seventies style consisted of blouses, wrap-around skirts, and navy blue Dr. Scholls Exercise Sandals. These sandals were wooden with a toe-grip under the single adjustable strap. The action of walking in them provided exercise for the legs, hence the name.

We were at the campsite, and I was running around wearing mom’s exercise sandals with bare feet. I dashed behind the tent, and as I circled and rounded the right side, I didn’t clear the perimeter. My left ankle raked against the edge of a metal tent stake, slicing it open. There was a lot of crying and blood.

Dad took me to a small medical facility for care. I sat on a table in an exam room under bright lights. The doctor said, We just have to squirt some ketchup and mustard on your ankle, and then we will stitch you up.

I felt safe and at ease. It was funny to think about squirting ketchup and mustard on my foot! I got six stitches and clear instructions for their care ~ especially not to get them wet in the lake. This was disappointing. Swimming was my favorite activity.

As a consolation, Dad rented a rowboat and took me out in it. He also put my foot in a bread bag on the last day, so that I could go near the water without the stitches getting wet. I felt special.

Weeks later, after returning home, it was time to remove the stitches. This was done at home using my mom’s sewing stitch ripper to break the thread before pulling it out. I remember the funny, tickly feeling.

I wore my scar as a special badge for many years. Looking at it reminded me of how brave I had been on that table getting ketchup and mustard squirted on it, and how fun it was to ride in a rowboat with my dad.

This story illustrates how a traumatic childhood event became a memory of care because the trauma was tended well. There was no yelling at me in a panic or lecture on why I should not have been acting like a child. I understood about not renting a rowboat, since I knew why we couldn’t. It made the subsequent rental more special, because my disappointment in not being able to swim was noticed and cared for with kindness. A creative solution for going near the water on the last day was thought of, again, making me feel special.

The removal of the stitches at home could have been traumatic if I were fearful and being coerced forcefully. Instead it was explained and tried and did not hurt, as my memory of the tickly feeling reveals. It felt adventuresome. In hindsight, I also know it was much less expensive for my parents to remove them at home, but that was not made an issue to me at the time. Because of how my parents cared for me in this situation, I am able to look back at this childhood story and feel loved and safe at six years old.

As you think about stories from childhood, what comes to mind? What tales are told of you, and how do they feel?

Tomorrow I embark on Certificate Training, Level 2. I will share a story of childhood trauma that was not tended well. I will hear stories of others with the goal of learning to listen to and engage with stories of heartache to foster healing and hope.