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Mrs McClay! What are you doing next year? Who is taking your place?

All I wanted to do was get through the Sharp Shopper checkout line with my groceries and my youngest and get home. I did not want to think about the question that plagues me daily ~ What’s next? I answered the grocery attendant with what I knew, the name of the teacher replacing me, hoping that my face did not look as blank as I felt.

I’m ——–‘s grandma!

Context is everything. Of course! There is something about crossing paths with someone as they occasionally drop off their little grandperson before school. The connection is obvious and belonging then. It is completely different to be in the grocery outlet line in the middle of summer and have the same person conversing like an old friend.

We made small talk as I gave my semi-rehearsed answer that still feels stiff and awkward, I’m not sure. That is what I am trying to figure out. What is next? I think I will take a gap year.

The thing is, before I get to next, there is a lot to tend to now.

Now looks like all of the things that have been put off due to the busy-ness of working and finishing my certificate. It looks like parenting four people still at home while hearing from four who have been grown but still need time and attention to process their parenting.

I am being reminded that when space clears, things move in to fill it. The space that has been cleared by me being home now instead of at work, even though it is summer and my normal in this season, has been filled with projects and conversations that have been on hold these past four years.

I have been holding a lot.

Next is waiting in the wings while I do now. Now is summer. It is time with family and friends. It is planning for vacation and ridding the house (and my heart) of excess clutter. It is taking time to read and to walk and to prioritize what is most important. It is catching up on appointments and looking ahead to fall a little bit and having space for conversations.

Now is a timer going off reminding me to head to the kitchen to fix some food and to take a deep breath and let go of next.

Butterfly Blessing

Choosing to leave my phone behind, I climbed to the middle of the back bench seat in the family minivan. Silencing the what if’s in my head surrounding all of the things that I could possibly need it for, the answer remained leave it behind.

I don’t even need it for pictures.

Late Father’s Day afternoon, Steve packed a cooler and announced his desire to visit Riven Rock Park. With seven of us going, the van was full. I chose to give my front seat to the eighteen year old who had spent many years wedged in the very back middle between the car seats of younger siblings.

Everyone scurried to find swimsuits, water shoes, and towels. Transitioning from house to vehicle was a challenge. While moving beyond struggling with car seats, diaper bags, and sippy cups, we now wrangle electronic devices, headphones, and seating arrangements. Somehow we survived the final painful push, and the house and van doors were shut and locked.

Upon arrival at Riven Rock, the van was emptied and the water filled with laughter and voices of siblings. Sunshine poured through the trees, and shadows lengthened. I walked down to the water, stepping gingerly from rock to rock, hoping to achieve my goal of staying dry as I meandered across the top of the water.

Meandering took me back to shore and up the length of the gravel drive, deeply engaged in thought. Without an electronic device to distract and pull me into what other people were doing or to announce to other people what I was doing, I was left with myself. This felt uncomfortable and unsettling. What am I doing?

It’s the question I get most often, these days. What are you doing now? or What are you doing next? 

The answer is I just don’t know.

Walking and wrestling with the unknown, I felt gravel crunch under my feet and heard birds sing in the trees. I asked Jesus to meet me in this space with what I needed, not even knowing what I needed myself. I walked and watched.

My eyes caught sight of something blue and papery on the ground. Once my mind registered that it was a butterfly, I thought it was wounded or dead. Closer examination revealed that it was resting while slowly moving its wings up and down. I stood still, breathing with the movement of the wings in, out, in, out.

The butterfly was not in a hurry to get anywhere. My mind raced to regret that I had not brought my phone to capture this moment of breathing with a blue butterfly that was being so still for so long without an injury. Then my focus shifted to capturing the present moment of stillness with it and reminding myself that it was enough to be just me with the butterfly without the entire world watching or even knowing about it.

The butterfly remained still before finally flitting upward and away towards the trees. I stood in awe and gratitude for what I had experienced in the moment. The practice of breathing and stillness and presence with a beautiful creature clothed in a color that I had never seen before was a gift.

Moments later the blue butterfly returned, alighting just in front of my feet. I peered down closely, trying to memorize its brilliant coloring and beautiful shape so that I could look it up and identify it later. Again, I matched my breath to the slow movement of its wings.

Is this what you had for me today, Jesus? The reminder to slow down and breathe? The knowledge that it is enough just being with myself and with you? The practice of stillness?

Suddenly the butterfly flew up from the ground, touched my forehead and flew away. I stood there stunned. It felt just as a butterfly kiss should feel, light and feathery and stunning. It felt like a butterfly blessing.

I was stunned and stood there in awe.

The butterfly returned a third, and final time. It landed again on the ground in front of me, just as my husband was walking up from the water. I imagine it looked odd to him to find me standing strangely still staring at the ground. I pointed at the blue butterfly, and he was able to glimpse it before the beautiful creature flew up and disappeared into the trees.

There is no picture. (The one at the top of this blog is a Monarch butterfly from my files.) There is no documentation. I cannot even identify the butterfly correctly from the images I find online. All that remains is the image in my mind. That has to be enough. I will trust that it is enough.

Mid September

It is mid September, and I have written one post. Clearly I am not keeping up with the goals well or with much of anything else it would seem.

But I am.

I am keeping up with a lot.

There is so much to keep up with that the blog has gone silent, and when that happens I know it’s too much. It’s always too much. But real life comes first. Always.

Those of you who have been following my journey to Seattle know that in less than I week I board a plane for the first of four trips. I am so glad that the assignment was due two weeks ago, so that I am not hastily trying to scratch something out.

Like this blog post.

At least I felt that way until I read this and realized that there is probably a facilitator reading and marking up my story. Then I lost feeling in my arms.

No turning back.

It’s getting real, and I am grateful for the opportunity. I am grateful for all of the people who have walked with me toward the edge of this cliff and helped me get ready and brave enough to take a running leap.

Or maybe just a weak-kneed step.

I’m stepping. Stepping so much into so much stuff. Sometimes all I can do is take the next step.

It’s a fine line to stay present and to just breathe in each moment. Breath is such a gift. It helps in the midst of all of the preparation to remember that what will be will be. It’s all I have, really, when I feel the spiral.

The next breath. And the next. And here comes another.

Presence sits here with me as I assemble these few words to explain where I am and in a few moments it will go outside with me to walk a dog with my love under the most waxing gibbous of moons.

Thank you for your presence, Dear Readers. It is a gift to send out my words to hearts who will read and care. You are all a gift a grace.

Pour Coffee and Ponder

I need to take my own advice. So good about helping everyone else to think and process, I often leave myself behind.

This morning I received a text that turned into a phonecall that ended with laughter and greater curiosity. It caused me to pull out some old writing, sketching, and dream journaling I had done and read and laugh and think, huh.

It is a gift to have those in your life who were there with you, wherever there was, and who are willing to go back there with you when needs be. To be able to share in safety without having to explain or over-explain is golden.

This was one of my people who just gets it.

As I sent a picture of a dream sketch I had made with this person in it and received comments back, the conversation ended with me texting, Enough about me and my dreams. Pour coffee and ponder yours.

That is what I needed, as well, reminding me that I often speak to others what I need for myself. So that is where this post finds me, pondering dreams and other parts of me, and writing with my poured coffee.

The gift of the slow Saturday morning gets eclipsed by all of the shoulds running through my head. Instead of resting in gratefulness for the space, I rush around trying to fill it. Sometimes just sitting in my PJs on an unmade bed with a laptop open at 9:50 on a Saturday morning is an act of defiance to all that threatens to bind me.

So that is where I am. Pondering with my poured coffee. Grateful for a partner engaging the kids and their chores so I can be on the other side of a closed door, I write.

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.

Quiet Corners

In the quiet corners I am being grown. I am coming into myself, into an understanding of what it means to be heard; to be known.

The quiet corners are not flashy, and they certainly don’t gather much attention. If anything, dust and debris are found there along with treasures swept aside, long forgotten.

Still growth happens in the quiet corners.

I unroll a yoga mat in the quiet and stretch muscles and limbs into postures of openness. Of stillness. I reach into the corners of my mind to calm the chatter that calls me to notice all that is anxious and out of sorts. I breathe stillness into those frantic places, inviting quiet.

Sometimes my invitation is accepted. Not always.

I open my laptop in a quiet corner, with timer set for twenty minutes, to stretch my mind and coax my thoughts into willing participants in this growth. Words that have been piling up on slips of paper, in pages of journals, and on notes in my iphone come pouring out in a steady stream, each impatient to make its entry onto center stage.

They clearly have yet to learn about quiet corners.

Only one can go at a time. Patience.

The quiet corners are kind. I don’t always believe this, but it is true. I experience a taste of the noise when a post I wrote for Red Tent Living gets more views than I expected and the day becomes loud. That is when I appreciate the quiet.

In the quiet corners ambivalence finds me. Conflicting feelings longing for more, yet content with less war together, challenging me to move forward out of the corners and into the middle of the room. The invitation to step up and out taps me on the shoulder and whispers, “It’s time.”

Comfortable in the quiet, willing to stay there as long as necessary, not allowing myself to be dictated by numbers or defined by who does or does not like me, I also need courage to step out into the noise. To take on the call I have been given to love, engage, grow requires a move out of my comfort zone.

I am moving. Slowly, tentatively, maybe not as quickly as I would like, I am stepping out of the quiet corners and into the noise of the struggle where I will stay for a season until the quiet calls me back.

Sex? A Backstory

One of my goals for 2016 is to write and submit to Red Tent Living each month. Whether a post is accepted or not is beside the point. The exercise and discipline of writing is what I am after.

I held this in my heart quietly and ambiguously as I am wont to do and for good reason. In fact, rather than intending to write each month, I told myself I would do it on a regular basis.

What regular basis meant was left open to interpretation, and since I was the one interpreting, it was pretty safe.

If I don’t say it out loud, no one will know.

It meant that when I saw the theme for February was Sex?, and I had already submitted for January, I could breathe a big sigh of relief and decide that every other month was a good enough regular basis.

What’s going on with me avoiding a topic that is hard and feels terrifying? Why am I having this thought? Who cares whether I write or not? Why am I bothered by my avoidance?

I knew I needed to write. Something. Even if I never hit send, there was something there. I opened a new document and began typing.

There is not much space in my world right now. Usually when I want to write, a topic has been floating around in my head for awhile and the act of opening my laptop and getting it down is the culmination of the process. Twenty minutes later I am finished, especially if it’s for my personal blog.

The Saturday morning in early January that I began free-typing thoughts on Sex? left me feeling agitated and disrupted. I shared words with my husband who found them powerful and honest and necessary. I found them raw and vulnerable and way over-exposing.

It was a good first step.

I knew I needed to keep moving forward towards the terror and discomfort. I knew I needed to engage my heart with curiosity and kindness, thanks to those who have invested time in helping me to process my story. I closed the document and took some deep breaths.

What was up with that? I usually don’t feel this disrupted after writing. I’m glad that I began this post early in the month. There is still a lot about my journey with sexuality that needs to be sorted.

Finished with the editing of my article, saving the raw original document for myself in another folder, I opened an email to submit my work. Usually I include a few words along the line of, Here is a post for consideration this month. This time there was a paragraph of back story and explanation that definitely left plenty of room to not consider this month’s offering, but thanks for the opportunity to write.

The response that my post was in the line-up for this month left me feeling many things . . . excited, nervous, terrified, proud.

You can read it here.