Category Archives: Books

Charlotte’s Web

I have always loved reading. Earliest memories involve books and trips to the library. I cannot remember learning to read. I just read.

I once told my kindergarten teacher that she was doing it wrong. Clearly I already knew all of the things. I ended up waiting outside in the hall for her to come and talk with me about all of the things that I already knew.

I stayed up late reading The Happy Hollisters chapter books by the light shining through the crack of my bedroom door. The Humpty Dumpty nightlight was a second source of illumination for my late night reading binges.

This is an image of the nightlight that I found on Etsy.

Charlotte’s Web was my favorite childhood book. A copy greeted me in the room of the AirBnb where I stayed the first weekend of Certificate 2 training in February, 2018. Other than a few random magazines scattered over the surface of a dresser, it was the only reading material present.

I received this as a sign of care to come. Bringing a story of the young girl inside, this book sighting reminded me that she was seen and that she mattered. Memories came flooding back, and I knew that I wanted to write more about them.

A year passed. Words fell dormant. Writing for myself became a challenge met with resistance. The one-year anniversary of that solo road trip to Geneva, Illinois, prompted me to revisit feelings that stirred when I saw my favorite childhood book that weekend.

What made Charlotte’s Web so special to me as a child? Why did I have several copies scattered across bookshelves in my home, saved from the days when I hoped my children would find and read and love it as much as I did? A recent book declutter allowed me to release all of the paperback copies and save only my favorite hardcover.

Charlotte’s Web is the first book that drew me in as a reader.

From the beginning when Fern wrestles the ax from her father to save the runt of the litter, I was hooked. Fern and her talking animals offered a safe place of escape and imagination.

Charlotte’s Web is the first book that showed me possibilities.


Who knew that a piglet could drink from a bottle like a newborn baby? Who knew that a spider could write words so cleverly in her web? Who knew that she could be bloodthirsty, yet kind? Who knew that baby spiders could make silk balloons and float away?

Charlotte’s Web is the first book that stirred my emotions.

I felt a lump in my throat and a tightness in my chest when Charlotte was left behind at the fairground, her egg sac tucked into Templeton’s mouth with a feeling worse than caramel candy. I felt panic with Wilbur as Charlotte’s babies began floating away, leaving him behind.

Charlotte’s Web is the first book that made me cry.

I did not cry when she died and was left behind at the fairground, though that was sad. I sobbed when I finished the last paragraph.

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

Charllotte’s Web, E.B. White, 184

My little girl heart broke with those lines. I read them over and over grieving the loss of a kind, courageous spider. I think I also grieved the end of the book and saying goodbye to all of the characters who had become like friends. These words offered a catalyst for unwept tears, and I indulged them deliciously.

Charlotte’s Web will forever be the first book that allowed me to feel, and for that I am grateful. What about you, Dear Readers? What is a childhood book that you loved or that stands out to you in a special way? Do share!

Book Stack

It was a beautiful morning for a walk. I seized it instantly, grabbing a lone My Little Pony library book waiting to be returned, and headed out the door.

I love being able to walk to the library almost as much as I love using the online account feature to check for titles and place holds. I knew there were several books waiting for me. I did not know which ones. Library book grab bag for the win!

Halfway to my destination, I realized I had forgotten a library card. I did not think it would matter. The account could be looked up online. Walking dogless, another treat, I thought and pondered and cleared my head, or at least swept things around up there.

I am growing well-acquainted with the self-service book hold shelf. I know exactly where my spot is there at the top. Three books were banded together, waiting.

Carrying them to my favorite librarian, I asked if she could look up my account. She said, Yes, you can check up to three books without your card. I had the magic number in hand.

We smiled and made small talk about the weather while bar codes were scanned and entered. She walked my books down the counter, bypassing the electronic sensor.

Heading home I stopped to take an artistic photo, laughing inside at the eclectic nature of my book titles. I have a theory about them that I am pondering for another day.

Waiting to cross the street where the duck nests, I noticed a friendly face waving from a car. Two other drivers stopped at their respective signs and flagged me to pass. We all exchanged smiles and waves, and I was reminded again of why I love my little corner of the world.

I am not the little girl I was with endless hours to hide and read. Sometimes I am ambitious and my reading ideas are bigger than my reading reality. I think I can make a dent, though. I am trying to reach for a book instead of my phone when I have a few minutes free.

I look forward to reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, Dopesick by Beth Macy, and to spending a bit of Morning and Evening with Charles Spurgeon.

We will see what happens to the book stack.

How about you, Dear Reader? What are YOU reading these days? What should I add to my queue? Do tell in the comments!!!

Coloring

One of the many challenges I face while doing this work is that of staying present in my own story and not carrying everyone else’s along with me.

Last week I sat with a wise friend who reminded me that while I play a major role in my children’s stories for a season, I am not their entire story. They will each walk their own path of growth and self-discovery with God, separate from me.

It is easy and familiar to make myself too big and too responsible. I feel a need to carry each of them with me on the journey. Instead of focusing on the work I need to do for healing, I circle back to how my woundedness has harmed those in my world. This keeps me from the task at hand, which is uncovering more of my own story and tending to my own heart.

We are all wounded and wounding souls. As I get closer to my own wounds, I see how my response to them has wounded others. This week is for tending to my own story. There will be space and time to process with those in my world when I return.

A friend gave me a care package Monday evening before I left. Among the thoughtful items in it was an adult coloring book. It has turned out to be one of the kindest gifts.

Last night, my mind swirled with all of the life still going on at home and all of the things I can’t control in everyone’s world. The bigness of this trip was bearing down on me. I struggled to stay upright and grounded.

Flipping through the coloring book, I came across this page. The scripture and flowers spoke to me as I tore it from the book and began to color one flower, then another.

I focused on the worries of my heart, giving them over to God. As I colored each flower I focused on a particular care or person. My mind stayed present in the moment.

Before bed last night I looked up the reference in my Bible and read the surrounding verses.

Unless the Lord had helped me I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” But your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:17-10

Yes. This.

My prayer this week is that the doubts in my mind will be replaced with the comfort of God and with renewed hope and cheer, supported by the Lord’s unfailing love.

Blessings, Friends! Thank you for your love and support on the journey and for joining me here in this space. Each of you is a gift to my heart.

Bible Reading Plan

Time with my Bible and journal is something I have held close since at least fifteen, maybe younger. In seventh grade there was mandatory quiet time at the beginning of each Bible class where we were to read a passage referenced on the chalkboard and write our thoughts about it in a spiral notebook, but by fifteen it was something I did just for me.

I have a distinct memory of thinking I knew God loved me when I was fifteen, and since he can’t change, he HAS to still love me now during a time of particular distress. During years of distress. From sixteen to thirty-six. Twenty years is a long time to wander.

Maybe that is one reason I cannot give up on people even when things appear pretty hopeless. God did not give up on me.

I remember the journal that I threw away along with all of my other spiral notebooks and childish writings and hopes and dreams for the future when I was sixteen and preparing to move far away from all I knew and loved. That padded, floral, lined book held what was close to my heart and all that I had to say to, and hear from, God.

I can feel the contents of that journal in my spirit when I remember sitting in the floral club chairs, purchased at a yard sale with my own money, in the lavender basement bedroom in Oakton. That is where I would go for solace and peace. That was my own space.

Thirty years ago I was boxing up hopes and throwing away dreams and beginning to lay the foundation for the walls that would come to enclose my heart. A pile of Glamour magazines made the cut for the moving truck while my awards and achievements and memories did not. The box of magazines hit the curb shortly after we arrived at our destination, 1,100 miles away from all that was familiar.

When is trash pickup here?

I have read through the Bible countless time in several different versions. Last year I followed a chronological reading plan. It was interesting but heavy on the Old Testament for most of the year. It was a welcome relief to hit the New Testament in October.

This year’s plan reads from a different section of the Bible each day of the week. This lines up with how I am trying to restructure other areas of my life to focus on structuring specific areas in the midst of imagining a bigger picture.

What about you? Where do you find inspiration and hope for your heart? Do you follow a particular plan for Bible reading or journaling? I would love to hear about it. Share with me in the comments!

 

May Goals Post

This month has me in a different place with posting on my goals.

It also has me on the last day of being a double number. Time is ticking away.

A precious friend responded to April’s goals update with a compelling reminder to be kind to myself. As she read through my awesome and amazing goals (her words), there were just so many that she became overwhelmed. She reminded me that I have a lot on my plate right now, and felt that even saying that was an understatement.

Her short, sweet email was full of kindness and concern, written from a place of seeing eyes and a tender heart, and I received it in exactly that way. In fact, I appreciated her perspective and ability to see me through caring eyes. She closed by affirming all that I do so well and reminded me of truth that I needed to hear.

With this in mind, I want to clarify that my posting of and updating these goals is not to overwhelm, compare, be compared to, or create stress. It is to chronicle much of what I already do in a more organized fashion. Recording them helps me to focus and stay on track.

  • Spiritual ~ Maintain daily quiet time and prayer, following current Bible reading plan. Journal responses and thoughts that result from that time. Spend time in stillness. Read one faith-based book/month.

Moving right along to I Kings, end of Psalms, Mid-Proverbs, and Acts. Jotted in my journal. Read When God Weeps.

  • Family ~ Connect with Steve intentionally each week on a heart-level. Risk sharing something scary or overwhelming inside of me with him during that time. Connect with at least one child intentionally each week. Keep track. Make the most of one~on~one impromptu moments that arise with the children. Keep track.

Steve and I have still not finished our 2 week e-course, but we are moving along. It will get done. I spent some time processing my feelings with him about my friend’s email, and he was able to speak truth into my reality. Kieran is graduating in a week, so we have spent much time communicating party plans and such. It was also prom month for him which meant fun picture taking time for me!

prom

prom

Kirk and I attended Kieran’s final percussion concert together followed by dessert at DQ with Kieran. Chloe and I celebrated the last day of piano lessons with a visit to McDonalds and trip to Gift and Thrift before her lesson. She found a typewriter for $5! Roo and I hit up Starbucks with Toothless, once again. Little Mae and I finished school together and have been spending our days at home before the others finish up and join us.

  • Social ~ Connect with at least one friend for coffee or conversation time each week. Say yes to fun. Make an effort to have people over to the house again starting with once/month. Adult kids and their guests are a bonus and not part of this number!

Some of my connections were over the phone this month. Fun was wine tasting with Steve at a the new tasting room at White Oak Lavender Farm and attending a fund-raising dinner at Cross Keys Equine Therapy. I was able to connect and re-connect with friends there and win a few great hand-crafted items at the silent auction! I am also counting adult kids and their guests as my people to have over, because that is the way things seem to be rolling! That is kindness in this season. In fact, counting my kids’ friends as guests counts, too. The house has not been quiet!

  • Physical ~ Do 20 minutes of yoga at least five times a week. Longer or more times is a bonus. Improve flexibility in my down dog. Practice presence on the mat. Consider walking Dewey as an opportunity to get exercise and fresh air and not an annoying burden built into my already full day!

I am consistently doing yoga and walking the dog. Physical activity is a necessary part of self-care, and I am owning that.

  • Teaching ~ Organize my teaching materials and office space. Write an encouraging note to one student/week recognizing individuality and strengths.

I finished the school year! All notes got written, and the year ended well. I still have some putting away to do, but overall, I am in a good spot with my teaching stuff.

  • Personal Development ~ Pursue the Allender Center’s Lay Counseling Certificate. Read one book per month related to personal growth.

This month’s personal growth book was Facing Codependency by Pia Mellody. It came in the mail as a surprise for me from Amazon, sent by my book buddy. I love my book buddy. Thank you.

  • Ministry ~ Attend Stephen Ministry meetings regularly. Participate actively. Return to worship team rotation at least once per cycle.

I attended the final Stephen Ministry meeting which was a yummy dinner provided by leadership along with a hearty discussion about the future, leaving me with much to pray and ponder over this summer. I am grateful for the summer season. I was able to be on worship team as a pleasant surprise. My scheduled date interfered with my son’s graduation weekend, and I didn’t think I would be able to switch with someone, but it worked out! That was a sweet thing. Thank you, Kendra!

  • Financial ~ Take intentional time with Steve to go over the family finances and budget and grow in understanding of our financial goals together.

The pile of receipts in my wallet screams Fail! at me. Each month begins anew. Steve and I are onboard in the understanding that this will get done, and all will be well.

  • Writing ~ Schedule intentional time each week to write and work on the blog. Submit one Red Tent post for consideration each month.

This month I wrote 9 posts on the blog and submitted to Red Tent for June on the topic Always.

If you made it this far, thank you! I will close with some of the words that I sent in response to my friend which may offer insight into my reality. I realize that I don’t have to explain myself. I am choosing to.

Thank you so much, Friend.

I feel loved and cared for after reading your words.

I hear you. I really do. Sometimes I need to be reminded of a healthy human perspective. I don’t have “normal” limits and natural boundaries, so it takes a lot of work for me to see that I am doing a lot. Seriously, this doesn’t seem like a lot, and I don’t say that to minimize. It is just my reality. I was always expected to achieve beyond my limits. Then that became the new baseline.

I can see where my lists would be overwhelming. Honestly they are more of a chronicle of what I already do with more intentionality built in. IF that even makes sense. Notice that they are ambiguous and not things like wake at a specific time or do this many loads of laundry every day. I really am ok with them.

The biggest and most overwhelming is the counseling certificate pursuit. But it is time. I need it for the personal growth and work aspect if nothing else.

Parenting is completely overwhelming, and it is difficult for me to find peace in the chaos of my life choices. I think that is another reason why I need the Seattle work this year. I need more words for my story. More peace with my path. . .

Don’t we all?

Be blessed, Dear Readers. You bless me much.

Pinched and Pursed

I am not liking the way I feel these days, and it shows in my face. My forehead is pinched and my lips are pursed. It’s as if I have eaten something sour, because that is how it feels. Sour.

I don’t want to be that lady. You know, the one with resting b!tch face.

In some ways, maybe I always have been. RBF is an unintentional phenomenon, and yet, there is something to do with practicing, and I want to practice peace. There are deep breaths and relaxation techniques and processing the places where the B resides. Because she is in there.

It’s a name I was given and agreed with once upon a time. It’s a label I have worn and have had to face and to break agreements with. Though she lives inside, she is no longer needed.

Pulling out Beauty and the Bitch to re-read as my faith-based book for February, I was reminded of the importance of beauty, softness, and kindness to self in the processing of heart wounds and pain.

The following quotes are only a few of the many I marked and noted that spoke to the bitch in me, offering kindness and space to ponder. You are invited to be curious about this, as well.

If your heart was quieted, and the bitch was comforted by the fact that you are okay, that she doesn’t need to protect you anymore. . . wow, just think. p115

When we are triggered, we don’t see anything accurately. It is terribly unfair to be seen through wounded eyes, to find your own face being viewed as the face of someone harmful. ~ What are your triggered moments? ~ We must, quite simply, confess the harm we do, even when we are triggered. Then we can search for a deeper healing for those reactive places.    pp 37,38

Chronic control means living in the patterns we create to make life work. p 45

I was chosen, I was needed, and I figured out how to navigate my way through this adult neediness. The sad reality is that I was really good at it, skilled at calming her down (Jan’s mother), comforting her – until I was brought too far into my mom’s own dissociative recollection of abuse. Evil was waiting there (as it always is in the wings with a hurting child), taunting me with a pressured pride, You are very good at what you do, Jan, but you had better find a way to be ready at all times to come through, even if you don’t know what you are doing. pp 72,73

We are not delivered from our circumstances, though that is what we demand. No, we are delivered from the ways we attempt to create a world where our circumstances are not real. p112

The love of God is either real or it is not, and I’m telling you: it is real. Stay present. It is worth the cost. p114

Don’t underestimate the power of your uniqueness. p128

This 144 page book is one to read and re-read, to process through slowly. I’m still working.