Today is the first Sunday of Advent. We light the hope candle. I look at it now, recycled from last year. I do not have new candles. There is one missing. It is either packed away in a different box or burned down so low that I threw it away last year. I need to make a trip to the store to find another purple candle or two.
In the hall is a lighted display of candles surrounding the usual sheep that live there. I pull out the sparkly house, a gift given years ago by a friend, containing Bath and Body Works items. I think of her each year that I get it out while lighting a tea light inside of it.
Light in the darkness.
There are candles around in various places. My husband strings colored lights on the tree, layering over the white lights, because I like both. That is me. Both a white and colored lights girl.
I sit in darkness remembering the future. Waiting with hope. I believe in what is next while waiting with endurance. With patience. It is a vulnerable place, waiting in the now, hoping for the not yet.
This update graced my Facebook status Saturday morning. With a full heart I continued to wrestle and sort out all the feelings surrounding the Externship program and not stepping into it this year. Among hugs and sympathetic remarks, a dear friend commented, Give it three more years.
Though an inside joke for us, in that moment I realized that I had grown, am growing, will continue to grow through this process! My ability to read and hear her words as a statement of hope and not despair was a huge indicator that good work is happening in my heart.
The last time she mentioned three years, I was not hopeful. I was angry, stuck, and lost. I felt forgotten and left behind. Now I believe that I am right where I belong, and that it is a good place. I know that three years will look both better and worse, and that I can plan and dream but there are no guarantees surrounding outcomes.
Earlier this week another friend texted a picture that she took during my first weekend in Seattle. We were at the market downtown enjoying Sunday afternoon together before my flight home.
I was caught off guard by how well the image depicted exactly how I was feeling the moment it came through. Wistful, longing, ponderous, contemplative. All of the above. I remembered how I felt in that moment as I let settle all that had stirred in me after that first weekend.
I remembered her kindness to offer space while showing me all of the best downtown places and sharing her beautiful heart with mine. It was such a kind time. Neither of us knew what we were stepping into at the beginning or how it would look in the end.
I only know that she and her husband were the first I told I was considering the program. I was curious to see if they would be willing to host me. They enthusiastically cheered me on, welcoming me into their home and life on the realest of real terms. This family became mine as they graciously opened their home and hearts each of the four weekends.
We sat together on Tuesday, separated by thousands of miles, joined by technology for a brief time of texting as I responded to the picture. I expressed gratitude for her following the prompt to send it to me. It was perfect. She jumped in as we caught up on life and shared heart space in the midst of mothering.
Three years. I will be 50 then. Another son will be 18 and my youngest will all be teenagers. Things will look very different. That intention sounds promising. It allows space for presence, not wishing away the time but fully engaging it.
None of us knows what the future holds, but I will hold to the hope of three (more) years.
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 Externshiptraining and others gather in Austin in anticipation of the Brave Onconference, 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.
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.
This was the view across the room from me this morning as I sat in an oversized chair in my Airbnb drinking coffee and reading. Today is the last day of Certificate 2 training. How do I hold that?
Monday evening a precious friend stopped by the house to affix an EzPass to my windshield and capture the tolls for my trip. She also gave me a gift bag care package. Peeking in I saw snacks and a stuffed owl.
I didn’t see the cards tucked in between everything, one for each day, with instructions about when to open them. Each unique card held words of blessing and encouragement specific to the day.
This is a part of her glory. She is a writer. I was the recipient of her lavish gift of words. I assembled the cards on the tabletop under the staircase to remind me of truth and give me courage to step into hard places.
Some cards contained lunch money. Others a blessing. Each met me in exactly the right space for what the day held and what my heart needed.
I am preparing for the last session. Lunch is with myself today in solitude, pondering all that these days have held and preparing to end well. What do I hold? What do I toss?
It is my second attempt at writing this post. I wrote a first one while sitting at one of the wooden chairs that flank the table. I hit publish and rushed out the door. It vanished.
I sat all morning holding my disappointment while trying to release demand as to why my post vanished and where it went. I needed to remain present to all that was happening in morning session and group.
I will hit publish again for a second time on these new words for my morning thought. Then I will brave the rain and return to my table and receive what the afternoon holds.
I’m sitting in the car in the rain as husband runs into Food Lion for the last of the groceries after our Saturday Costco trip. On my heart is recovery of teenage self. Literally. My chest keeps tightening and breath catching. That young woman is so lost inside of me.
This week I take one of her stories to certificate 2 training. It’s from the last year she was a teenager, 1990, where she believed her fate was sealed and all hope for choice was gone. It’s where she finally departed herself, shedding any remnants of who she was or might have been for who she was required to be.
I have punished her for that. For years she has borne the brunt of blame for trying to survive. For doing the best she could. For existing.
I’m in a weird space of feeling all of the feelings connected to that part of me as I sort them into their categories. Everything feels way too intense and current. Things that should not be a big deal seem huge. And things that really do loom large, well those feel unbearable.
Today’s 7 stares back from the calendar app on my phone, reminding me that in one month I will be another number away from nineteen. Twenty-eight numbers away, to be exact.
What is this crazy feeling of being so close, yet so far from myself? I hope to find out more this week as I regroup with others as we walk through our stories together.
I am grateful to my family for, once again, holding down the fort and to my friends for cheering me on, as I bravely go where I haven’t before, into another scene from my past.
Friday began at Dunkin Donuts, after dropping the kids off at school. I pulled into the parking lot with cans of apple juice concentrate for the special art show beverage as Steve was exiting his vehicle. He ran to my car window.
Want to get donuts?
With the weeks ticking away, counting down to his last day at Good Shepherd, there won’t be many more opportunities like this. I jumped on it.
Of course! Hop in!
The donut run was not just for us, as four boxes later we were sitting at a table near the window tearing into the brown paper bag holding our two. I pulled out my French Cruller and bit into the chewy, glazed goodness.
We began to process the day as onlookers in the drive thru line outside laughed to see the four boxes stacked on our table. Fridays run on sugar, carbs, and caffeine everywhere.
This Friday was full. Steve has three of them left. Three more Fridays. Just typing those words brings a heavy feeling to my chest and eyes.
My sister received her masters in counseling degree in hand tonight. Where has that time gone? Two years ago there were conversations discussing our plans, mine to do certificate work through the Allender Center, her to pursue her degree for licensure through university work.
Now here we are.
For a brief moment I considered hopping into the car to take a road trip to celebrate in person with her. Then I remembered.
The art show.
Broaching the subject with my daughter to get a feel for the level of the show’s importance, I said, My sister graduates from college tomorrow. Her response? Did she invite you? Me, Yes. Her reply, Too bad about the art show. Do you think she will mind that you can’t come?
And there I had my answer. The art show was important. Very important. And I needed to be there. And no, my sister wouldn’t mind. She would totally understand.
This day began with a French Cruller. I hold the memory of biting into its sweet, sticky, airy goodness while seeing the laughter in the eyes of the man at the drive through and breathe deeply the goodness of change on the horizon. Right now all I feel is anticipation of what is to come, of standing on the edge.
Next week I dive into the second, and final, part of Certificate 2 work. I reconnect in person with faces and hearts that have cheered me on from a distance. When I return the countdown will be on to the end of the school year, the end of an era, and the start of something new.
Until then, I hold close the old, the familiar, and I don’t take for granted biting into the sweet goodness of a donut while sitting across the table from my husband because we can. Something new is coming, and change is gonna do us good. I will choose to believe that.
“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.”
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 2training 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.
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
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.
It was a full day of driving once I got on the road at 8:45, headed to a friend’s house in Toledo for leg one of my trip to Certificate 2 training in Geneva, IL.
Originally I thought I would rise and get on the road before everyone else woke up, getting a chunk of driving behind me and winding up at my destination in the early afternoon. It didn’t quite work that way, though.
I wanted to say a proper goodbye to everyone and didn’t want them setting pre dawn alarms and trying to get up before me. I decided to keep my usual routine and leave after dropping the girls off at school.
And walking Dewey.
Time in the car was long. I am grateful for Sheetz restrooms and turnpike service areas. I packed plenty of fruit, water, and protein bars to eat in the car. I’m listening to An American Marriage on audio book after hearing an NPR segment on it a week or two ago. A Contigo mug from home kept the coffee hot all day.
I arrived at my friend’s house at 5. Warm hugs and delicious stir fry awaited before we headed out to exercise. By exercise I mean enjoy the hydro massage tables and massage chairs and then decide we were really tired and ready to return home.
Hot tea and relaxing conversation, and I am ready to retire for the evening. I may stretch the kinks out on my yoga mat before hunkering down with a book to relax my eyes and brain. It is a luxury to be in my room by 9, one that I do not take for granted.
Thank you, Home front, for your tireless work to help this happen. I miss you all and am so thankful for you. Hugs and love!