Category Archives: breathe

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.

Keep Breathing

Just breathe. Take a deep breath in. Let it out. You can do this.

Days begin early with this reminder. Coaching myself through each part of before school, during school, after school, and evening routine, they continue.

Take deep breaths. Slow it down. Be present.

I try, really I do, to believe that it is working. Breathing is important, as is mindfulness. I am mindful of the fact that this is an overwhelming time.

I’m still breathing. That counts.

This morning, I scramble out the door with my mini in tow reminding me of the essentials, Do you have my gift exchange gift? The candy canes? Your key lanyard? Don’t forget your coffee. This little one knows me well.

I grab a roll of wrapping paper to take along to wrap her gift, as there is not a scrap of tape in the house. Of course there isn’t. I have only been to the store countless times this week picking up ONE THING AT A TIME, while forgetting basic others like tape. Because lists? Checking twice? Who has the time and energy for THAT?

We run on the edge of slightly behind, but traffic is kind, and lights are green. She beats me to our classroom where she will wrap the gift while I go retrieve my charges, so that we can begin our school day together. I walk in to check on her, trying to slow the pace of my racing heart.

Move through each part of the day mindfully. Take deep breaths. Just breathe.

I say this audibly to myself, but little radar dish ears pick up the sound waves of my whisper, and a little person begins to laugh. As air mindfully and deeply fills my nostrils, I know exactly what is so funny.

I farted, and you just breathed it in!

Yes. I. Did. Deeply. Mindfully.

And that, Friends, is a perfect picture of how things are in these parts. I keep trying to control what I can, but there’s a lot of stuff I can’t control that just stinks.

I keep breathing, anyway.

Grace

Today I am thankful for grace. I am thankful to have learned and to continue to learn that it’s not all about me, whatever it is.

Today it was worship team.

I love singing. I love Sundays when I can be on team. This season there are none.

When the last worship team email went out to indicate availability, I knew that I could not be available for any of the Wednesday practices or Sunday morning services or the Thanksgiving or Christmas service, either.

I knew I had to take time off to better care for and more fully engage with my family, because we are running thin these days. Thinner than usual.

I needed to step away from external activities to step towards and love them well.

And that realization was hard.

I missed Community Worship this month to have Steve’s parents for dinner and not be rushing out to the next thing. It was not easy, yet necessary in order to be more fully present in my relationship with them.

This morning as I walked into the church building, I heard lovely singing over the speakers. Moving to our row, I saw and heard my sweet friend Grace on stage singing with the team for the first time. We sing the same part. She has a beautiful voice.

My heart was touched and opened as I began to engage and be fully present in the moment.

The gentle reminder of seasons coming and going, of God’s provision in each, and of freedom to step down and rest was overpowering. The reminder that stepping down allows another to step up, and that through it all God is glorified, was humbling.

I can let it go and breathe and engage and receive grace.

I am grateful.

Breath

I woke this morning thankful for breath. The ability to breathe in and out without obstruction or stress is a gift. The growth in the ability to breathe through obstructions and stress is also a gift.

Spending time in Psalm 104 this morning, I was struck by the vastness, the greatness of God. Reminded of the good gifts that He gives to all living things, to us, verse 29 stood out to me.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

I am so grateful to still have my breath, even in the hard. Even when I feel like I can’t, or don’t want to, go on, there it is. In. Out. Reminding me of the one who loves me and sustains me. Reminding me that I am still alive.

I am also grateful for music and for Fernando Ortega’s version of Psalm 104. Breathe in the goodness and enjoy!

Provision in Unrest

I don’t do well with unrest.

When things are tidy and put together, there is freedom for me to take a break, put up my feet, and rest awhile. When things are unsettled, uncertain, unsure, it’s a different story.

Last Sunday I was growing through the unrest, and it was difficult, uncomfortable, and stressful.

Preparing for another year of VBS, I reviewed the materials for my station, KidVid Cinema, well ahead of the game. That is, I reviewed all but the video. I planned to pick THAT up on Set-up Sunday and be good to go.

It was a great plan, in theory. The glitch came on Set-up Sunday when the DVD was nowhere to be found. At first, I was confident that it would appear when the right person was asked. Then I began to feel doubt creep into the back of my mind. What if I was the person?

What if I was given the DVD already and it is somewhere in my house? Lost!

That thought sent me into a mild panic, as I quickly texted my husband. Maybe he could search the usual places where my important stuff piles to see if it was at the bottom of the stack.

No reply.

I would have to drive home to check for myself. Anxiety welled up inside, as I tried to just breathe and stay present. For something that already felt big to me, working VBS week, I was quickly approaching what felt like a tipping point.

Why am I doing this, again?

There was no DVD to be found. Anywhere. I called my sister in Ohio to see if I had taken it with me and left it there. The problem was that I had no recollection of receiving the very thing that strong evidence indicated had been given to me.

I could have easily taken a packet and placed it who-knows-where! Why can’t I remember?

Returning to VBS set-up, I found my chain of command and admitted that the video was, in fact, lost. I had no idea where it was and the bottom line is that it was needed the following day.

What do I do?

Grace abounded. I was assured that something would work out. I could go home and the highers-up would figure it out a plan.

I felt tense.

It was hard to release the situation to God and to what he would do with it. A friend sensed my tension and asked if she could pray with me. Right then. Her confidence was a boost when mine was lacking. I agreed, trying to hold the words she was praying for myself.

That night I received a call that a borrowed video had been located in a roundabout way when our children’s ministry director ran into the pastor of another church that had done the same VBS this summer. They had a video we could borrow, and it would be waiting for me the next morning.

Relief flooded my heart.

There was also that bit of doubt, though.

So what about the video? Will I ever know what happened to it?

It was hard work to release the need to know. To defend. To replay events in my mind and try to figure out. To have the answer.

Sometimes we don’t get the answer. Sometimes we don’t ever get find the video and know the outcome, and that has to be enough. Provision.

Other times. Those other times are sweet.

Monday morning I entered the church building to be greeted by the phrase, Did you hear? We found the video! It was in one of the children’s ministry bags!

Relief flooded my heart.

Monday’s Bible point was God has the power to provide. It’s interesting that I left VBS set up with no DVD and returned the following morning to two of them! I am grateful for the growth opportunity of experiencing provision in unrest. I am grateful for an amazing children’s ministry team and for the gift of serving together.

Reset Switch

I visited my sister last week. Laptop tucked away in my bag, I was certain that there would be time to blog. To write. To process. To think.

There was. In a way. Just not in the way that I expected. I didn’t come home with piles of posts and tons of clarity. I didn’t curl up on the back deck with coffee or wine and my laptop. Only with people.

Isn’t that the way that it is, yet I continue to fight against the flow. The unexpected.

It’s exhausting.

So processing looked more like long walks alone on the footpaths through her neighborhood. It looked like 20 minutes in the hammock together before a teen needed attention. It looked like face-down on a massage table drifting off to sleep as the deep tissue in my body was kneaded into oblivion.

Processing was remembering with someone who was there with me and listening to what my unexpected tearbursts were trying to say. It was viewing redemption in those strange places, small spaces. It was texting an adult daughter with a tough memory of us and being open to her response.

How did we survive 14? DID we survive 14?

Because being around fourteen triggers fourteen. Fourteen was hard. Is hard.

Processing involved riding a roller coaster with fourteen and breathing through the twists and turns and upside-down loops and remembering that I am held securely. It was pushing through my own discomfort to love, because love remains close through the hard and uncomfortable.

Processing was the newsflash that I should probably not do one of those tough mud races, because I barely survived a muddy hike. It was being curious about why I felt so stuck and overwhelmed. It was gratefulness for a teen who could drive home from the excursion with me curled up in the backseat crying.

A week ago I sat with my sister in her master bath, pulling out cleaner from under the sink to scrub the tub so that she could soak a sore foot. She had experienced minor surgery and was recovering from that with a house full of family. We were trying to care for her.

As I sprayed and scrubbed, her voice spoke out tentatively, Sooo, I have someone who comes and cleans the house for me. She will be here tomorrow.

Tearburst.

Yes. I burst into tears at that revelation.

Curious.

That’s great! (Because it really is. She has the ability to bless someone with a job and to bless herself with the knowledge that once a week her house will be clean and the pillows on the couches lined up at attention.)

We talked about it. The feelings. The tears. The hard in both of our lives. The graces we give to ourselves.

Sure enough, Wednesday morning came, and with it a smiling, cheerful woman, cleaning caddy in hand. Steve and I crossed paths with her while exiting the house to take the younger bunch to the movies. When we returned the house was lemony-fresh, the reset switch pressed for another week.

I smiled and breathed in the goodness and grace.

Sabbathing the Plants

I offered my plants rest today from the work they have been doing trying to grow in pots that are too small. All of the striving and pushing against and reaching for sun was exhausting them, causing drooping, yellowing, and general plant malaise.

Dumping the plant that hangs in my room to transfer it to a larger container, I almost heard an audible sigh as the roots loosened and stems separated from each other, stretching. Some of them asked to be moved to a completely different pot, and I obliged.

This is the plant in its larger hanging basket.

hanging plant

The plant in the bathroom needed some additional soil to cover exposed roots and invited one of the extra cuttings from my bedroom plant to come and reside with it.

bathroom plant

The rubber plant was bound in the pot that it came in last year. After searching around the yard, I found an empty container for its new home.

Much better.

rubber plant

Sabbathing the plants sabbathed my heart, as well, offering rest and refreshment on the heels of a busy, full season that doesn’t seem to want to slow down.

As I worked the song Healing Begins was running through my head. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because my plants needed attention, maybe it’s because my heart needed attention, maybe it’s because I’ve been walking through so much brokenness with so many of my loves, lately.

For whatever reason, I thought I would share, because maybe you need to hear these words, Dear Reader.

We’re here now.

Snow on a Saturday

It’s a change of perspective, this view from my bed, propped by pillows to gaze out the windows at the falling snow.

Snow on a Saturday is a rare, beautiful thing, removing the pressure of errands and running around; encouraging true stillness and rest.

Heart and mind try to rush ahead as I focus on falling flakes of white coating the ground and overgrown honeysuckle.

Be present. Be here. Breathe in the moment.

But even moments of snowy Saturday shalom shatter, as siblings argue over episodes, nerves fray, and plans change.

Quiet reflection and introspection last all of five minutes before knocks on the door interrupt asking for any number of things ranging from help reaching a cereal bowl to permission to open the new vitamins which I mindlessly grant and then become frustrated by the fact that there are two different kinds of vitamins now in use.

So in the rest, there is also disruption. In the stillness, there is noise. In the calm, there is chaos. In the falling snow, there is invitation.

Invitation to change. To engage. To rest. To be.

You are invited to enjoy your day! I am off to be present in mine, even though things USED to be FUN around here before all of these CHORES and having to put things AWAY that we are going to need later ANYWAY.

Because even in the midst of the rest, there is work to be done. Living in the tension, I tell ya!

Grace, Like Rain

It’s been a rainy couple of days, and a look at my phone’s weather app shows more in the forecast.

I was thankful that on my school docket were merit store and desk changing for Friday’s activities. Both were indoor and disruptive, but low-key.

My partner teacher did a great job of running a sale on stuffed animals, so that those who wanted a mini dog could purchase one in our classroom store.

One student brought a mini NFL helmet set from home, and indoor recess turned into teeny-beanies and mini dogs playing football. Shh. . .it might not be the coolest, but it was super-cute and a safe place to be uncool.

Is that helmet JMU?

No! These are NFL football teams.

Is this one VCU?

Do you know what the NFL is? These are NFL helmets.

I love the conversations that I overhear. Usually.

Last Friday, the students and I traipsed around outdoors at a pumpkin patch under threat of rain. It held off until evening. I was so thankful.

Last Friday’s rain soaked into the parched fields where my daughters play soccer, quenching the ground’s thirst. The Saturday sunshine allowed games to be played. This season’s games are not as early as in the past, but they still disrupt the day.

A rainy start to the week didn’t call off Wednesday’s practice, though mud was flying.

As yesterday’s rain steadily fell, I began to wonder what the weekend would hold. Would there be soccer games? Would I be bringing a snack for my youngest girl’s team?

She had it all planned out, I just hadn’t made a run to the store, yet.

The email cancellation came through to an internal sigh of relief from this mama.

It felt like such grace to be given respite from the routine and space to stretch my soul amidst the Saturday morning crazy.

Yes, today will continue to come at me, and I know there is a lot ahead, but for now I will bask in that disruptive grace.

 

After

I sit here in the after. Festivities over. All that has been left undone for months screams at me to get busy, yet there must be space.

Finding a corner to process and reflect, I wonder how this summer will be. I feel more settled, yet still very unsettled.

For months I have anticipated this time that has come ~ and gone.

There is more to come ~ Little Mae’s birthday. My birthday. Teaching Sunday school. Camp. Appointments for the kids. Vacation. Bible School. Stephen Ministry leadership training. Loving my husband and kids in the midst of it all. Loving my friends.

I want to pray and plan and hope about next year.

I want to pray and plan and hope about now.

I want quiet time with God. Quiet spaces. My mind is so loud.

Unplugging into quiet and journals and pens and things between me and God ~ not me, God, and the world~wide~web.

Not everything must be announced and packaged for all to see. Some things can be quiet and hopeful and private.

Unplugged.

After.