Category Archives: celebrating

Hiking and Heart Connection

It was a good day of hiking and heart connection.

Mamas, it’s hard. Mothering is just hard. Maybe not all of the time, and maybe never for you, but it was really hard for me. And in my story, something being difficult to do was not a reason to pause and question it. There was no room for exploring other options or making changes, only soldiering on with the choice that had already been made.

Nineteen years ago I was 27 and had just birthed a 10lb 4oz boy. He was welcomed by his three older siblings, ages 5,4, and 3. Steve and I had been married six years. That is a lot of living and people to fit into a short period of time.

Child number four was not at all like the others. He did not fit any sort of mold, and contrary to what people always said to me, I hear it gets easier after three, nothing could have been further from the truth. Please refrain from offering things that you have heard about situations that you have not experienced to the one struggling in the midst of them. It is truly not helpful.

It did not get easier for me.

There were a lot of hard things to push through and four more babies to follow. I wondered if I would make it. I wondered how something so excruciatingly difficult for me could ever be worth it.

Today happened.

I made it.

It was worth it.

My son and I hiked High Knob together to celebrate his 19th birthday.

He has been there often. Today was my first time. We parked and entered the trail and walked and talked. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue. The leaves were beginning to change. We had the trail to ourselves.

We climbed to the top of the lookout and sat, enjoying the gentle breeze and the stunning view. We shared conversation.

We hiked back to the car, mindfully aware of our surroundings, noticing little things like this wooly bear on the path.

Somewhere along the way, my phone received a wave of service, and several texts dropped into it. One was from my mom, inviting us for coffee to celebrate Kieran and Grammy who share a birthday. We stopped there on our way back to town and captured this picture of the birthday buddies born 75 years apart.

Please don’t give up hope in your hard, whatever that hard may be. I know that it seems easy for me to say, because I am not in your situation. All I know is that today was a glimpse of such sweet goodness and such great reward as my son and I took time together to extract ourselves from the couches and get out into nature together.

It was so worth it. I am grateful for the gift I received on this day nineteen years ago and for the gift I received today.

Don’t miss yours!

Birthday Eve

I am 45 for a few more hours, and this day has been incredibly long, yet I am trying to squeeze out every last second. It is not going as I had hoped or planned which seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Why should it be easy or smooth now?

I had lofty ideas of blogging about the year and what I have learned (a lot) and how I have grown (a lot). I seem to keep this space in my head that holds the illusion that I will arrive at the perfect writing place and sit and write.

It didn’t happen today.

What happened was getting kids off to school on my first day home after an incredible anniversary trip to Seattle which was real even though there is no blog proof. There is a bit of documentation on Facebook and Instagram, and I am confident that I will blog something about it ~ just not yet.

It was my first stay at home mom day in which I wonder how I made it as a working mom these past four years with all of the needs that presented in a few short hours on my first full day home. I dropped a child off early for an all day field trip to Washington, DC, drove another to school, spent the morning with another, picked up a child early after an exam, left to attend an awards ceremony for another, drove in to help my husband clean after school, picked up field trip child late at school.

It was a full day.

I share a birthday with my youngest child and still had not gotten any gifts for her even though I was given a detailed list weeks ago and have been hearing the agenda for our shared birthday for an equally long time.

The plan was to go out after supper, and a daughter graciously agreed to go with me. Without going into detail, we had a disastrous time where nothing went according to plan. As she put it It was like one of those Disney movies where you see in slow motion the impending doom.

So we changed the plan and faked grins at each other to try to trick our brains into being less stressed, and I am pretty confident that we made major memories.

Which brings me to now.

There is a dog to walk and husband to catch up with. There is time passing, and 45 is just about over. 46 is on the horizon, and my body remembers that I also birth things on my birthday.

This past year birthed new insights and understanding as I went through the Lay Counseling Certificate program. I am trusting that this year will bring new growth as I continue to move onward and upward and grateful for life. Right now I feel the fullness of labor pains, but experience tells me relief is coming as new life is pushed from the old.

Celebrated, Seen, Loved

My final week of teaching was filled with goodness. It was sweet to have more relaxed afternoons after busy morning program practices. Diligent work by students (and their teachers) throughout the school year meant time for fun!

This note was left on the “Teacher Appreciation Week” bulletin board for me by one of the first graders. It is one of my favorite things.

Students assembled end-of-the year memory books and collected autographs from one another. Yearbooks arrived on time. There was a pizza party. There were cupcakes to celebrate those important summer birthdays.

Thursday night brought our 25th end-of-year program. Kindergarteners graduated, grade school musicians performed, and awards were presented to the Learning Center students.

While I have not been involved in all 25 programs, I have organized and directed many. I have sat in the audience for many more, often wrangling my own infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

This year, I carried the title of piano accompanist due to my ability to play Apples and Bananas, The Piggy Song, and Round the Clock the Hours Go (Twinkle, Twinkle) with appropriate chords while the kindergarteners sang along.

I also held the title of Learning Center teacher for the final time. It was a delight to listen to my students make music with Mrs. Buchanan and then to present their awards. Looking out over the audience from behind the podium, I saw many former students and parents of students and one former student who was now a kindergarten parent!

My heart filled with a mixture of sadness and joy over endings and unknown new beginnings.

I returned to my seat in the second row only slightly disappointed that I had not asked my former students to stand. As I was letting that go I heard my name being called, and I was summoned to the podium for a special presentation.

My center spotlight survival skills immediately went to work to contain the big feelings that were surfacing. Just take the bunch of flowers and sit back down. What a nice gesture. Smile. Turn around.

It was not that simple. There’s more.

I stood awkwardly by the podium looking around as my friend and fellow teacher, Mrs. Hottinger, came down from her post on stage and reached for a gift basket to give to me. She and Mrs. Buchanan had put it together and asked to present it at the program.

I was speechless.

Words about me began to be spoken by her. That, in itself, was a gift. I heard about my impact and role in their lives as a teacher and friend and how I will be missed. She explained that the basket contained items for me as I continued on my journey. I really hoped it was full of answers and direction.

It was full of chocolate, candles, Keep Calm and Trust God cards, a handmade book, and beautiful vase. Maybe not answers, but certainly clues.

I was presented with a beautiful Psalm 23 plaque, as well, with the meaning of the verse and the images of sheep explained. It was so humbling and special.

Before I could sneak back to my seat, my husband came tp the podium to give his words for me. I listened to a brief recap of my impact and involvement in the formation of Good Shepherd from the early days until now. Five of my children were there to bear witness and to be recognized.

Reminders of how slowly and quickly 24 years can pass washed over me as I locked eyes with those in the audience who had walked the road with me over many seasons and years.

I wish that I could say that I stayed fully present and did not try to cut short my time in the spotlight while attention was being called to me. I wish the words Quit calling attention to yourself were silenced in my head for good, but they linger on.

Kindergartners were waiting in a line to receive their diplomas, and children had worked hard all evening. It was time to honor that. Feeling seen, celebrated, and loved, I asked my former students to stand before I took my final bow.

 

 

Miraculous Change

Miracles can happen. I attest to this in the midst of experiencing miraculous change. I wonder, though, if it is also the result of hard work. Am I in the middle of a miracle? Or is this the fruit of faith?

For years, deep inside my soul, unrest and fear coexisted with a helping of added pressure to perform. It was as if I had lost any ability to make choices. Had I ever experienced the power of active choice?  

I knew how to be passive and allow others to choose for me. I bore a burden of expectations, both other-imposed and self. If you can check off all of the boxes on this big list for everyone else, THEN maybe you can do something for yourself.

It is amazing that I did not self-destruct. In the midst of many struggles and losses, God in his deep kindness kept meaningful parts me intact ~ my singing voice, my body, my health. I am so grateful for that miracle.

There were small spaces that I claimed in the midst of the bigness of life. I found space to exercise, to read my Bible, to listen for the still, small voice, to cultivate what I could of relationships in the midst of whatever chaos was presenting, to care for my children, to love my husband.

I chose to stay open to my husband, even when I could not feel. In the midst of internal loneliness, I continued to engage external connection with him. In the midst of the fear of pregnancy and loss of voice over my body’s capacity to grow and bear children, I kept trying. Trusting. Even when I did not understand and had no words to bring, I tried.

I journaled a lot. It is a miracle that I allowed hard words to flow from my heart to paper.

I said yes to things that terrified me, like traveling internationally to be on a team leading worship at a women’s retreat. I said yes to lowering my guard and letting people peek behind the tinted automatic window of my heart before raising it up when their vision became too intense.

I kept going.

I said yes to an invitation to step deeper into my story at the Journey, parts one and two, with Open Hearts Ministry. I seized the weeks, those two years in a row, in the midst of a full life. I did not wait for the perfect time. That is miraculous.

I started a blog. Not sure of the end, not knowing where it was going, I threw words into cyberspace that would later be read by a woman who would reach back to me when I reached out to her. I risked being seen more closely, and miraculously ended up in a space of transformational friendship.

It feels miraculous that at 45 I am finally connecting with myself on a deeper level. How did this happen? Why now? I do not know. What makes a miracle miraculous?

I did not wake up one morning miraculously changed. I fought for my heart every step of the way and allowed others to fight for me, as well. God fought for me when I could do nothing but stand still and see his salvation. I let people in and relinquished the control that I held so tightly, concerning what people saw in me, when they saw it, and how.

Miraculously, healing came. Seasons and spaces of small heart miracles, sometimes involving just getting out of bed, led to this latest big miracle breaking open over my head, shattering and spilling me out all over the place. Slowing me down.

Your voice is slower.

You sounded different in your voicemail. Slower.

Wow! It’s already 7:00! Usually you have to leave to get somewhere else after this much time.

These words and more were spoken over me in the days following the most current miraculous. It was on the heels of my third weekend in Seattle at the Allender Center, pursuing the Lay Counseling Certificate. In this space I miraculously chose to risk, share, and be seen by others. I succumbed to holy terror.

Something happened. I still do not see the miracle clearly, because, Friends, we cannot see our own faces. All I know is that when we take off the mask or roll down the tinted automatic window, allowing others to see us, we invite miracles to happen. The fruit of that faith is sweet.

Bless the Broken Blog

Last week I broke my blog.

Intentional action I took late Tuesday night, half-heartedly, after not interacting much with the blog at all, caused a white screen. I saw there were plug-ins to update, chose not to take time to create a backup, and clicked away.

Using my phone, no less.

Update now.

Broken. Nothing. No matter how many times I attempted to load the blog, it was not happening and the screen was white. It was late. I had made a choice that caused the problem, and there was nothing I could do but go to bed. It was hard to let that go.

Wednesday morning dawned earlier than usual for me. I seized the opportunity to call tech support to ask for help. I had never called the number before and was nervous. Asking for help is hard for me. I felt embarrassed that I had broken something and inadequate to even be allowed to use technology.

Self-contempt was running thick and deep as I dialed the number and waited.

Navigating the prompts to get to the support I needed felt daunting in itself, but finally Michael’s voice came on the line, extremely chipper for 5:30 in the morning, and willing to run tests to see what he could do to help me.

It took 20 minutes. He kept checking back to update me on progress, while searching for the problem. It was finally located with the news that I could pay their tech support to fix it for me, or he could send me some information to fix it myself.

Time was passing, and every fiber in me wanted the unrest over and the blank space filled again. I hated knowing that there was something I had broken and did not know how to fix, but the cost felt steep, and I chose to let it be. I would look at it later and try to fix it myself.

Cue the laughter and knowing nods and maybe eyebrow raising from my techie friends and relations. Famous last words ~ how hard can it be.

It was really hard for me.

I was obsessing about it as the time to put broken technology away and get ready for my day rapidly approached. Just one more thing. What about this? What is that password? Now I need to change it, because I can’t remember. I can’t go on! I can’t stop! I am so stupid! No, I am not. I made a mistake.

Steve walked into the room and noticed my stress level. Acknowledging his desire to help but lack of skill set, he asked what he could do.

Just recognize that this is really hard for me, and I am struggling to stay out of self-contempt.

Later, he confessed that after hearing those words from me, he realized that me fighting self-contempt could turn into others-contempt. He was in the shower bracing himself for the blowback.

Fast-forward to after school, my son at the table on his laptop working on taxes. I pulled out mine and decided to try calling customer support again to see if they could direct me to the place where I needed to make the fix. I knew it was a plugin, so if I could deactivate it, that should work.

This time Andi answered, her voice equally eager to help. It quickly became perplexed as I fumbled my way through my question. Now there not a white screen but a database error. The server and platform were not connected. In changing that password, I had broken the bridge (image courtesy of me) that connected them. I had fallen deeper into the web of the wide world.

I felt like a middle-aged woman on the loose in a sea of technology, crashing and banging into cyber things, snapping connections left and right. Because I was!

Now I don’t see your site. You need to go in and fix the password. Here, write this down and you can Google how to do it.

It sounded so easy over the phone. I wasn’t ready to pay someone else to do it for me. I needed to figure it out. I planned to persist!

Each time, I understood a little more of what to do, but I couldn’t quite find where to go to do it. Each time I would get close and then have someone need something or run out of time. The unresolved feeling of it all was dragging me further down.

Throughout the process, I began to realize that it was not really about the broken blog. It was about things broken inside of me. It was about me not speaking up for what I needed (time to work on it). It was about being okay with not already knowing something and having to follow careful directions to figure it out. It was trusting that something would work, even when I did not fully understand or could not fully see.

Finally, Friday afternoon I sat on the floor of my room ready to figure this out. Step by step I unlocked and opened and searched for. I watched tutorials and looked up terms I did not understand. I figured out where the code for the broken password was and changed it to match the one I had created.

A white screen appeared! I had re-established database connection. With renewed confidence, I found the location of the plugins and changed the file name of the one that I suspected as the culprit.

The blog reappeared! I had fixed it! With shouts of joy I called to my son who rejoiced with me.

So if you have noticed it quiet in these parts, that is why! I have much to process and hope to do so here, but first things first, working technology!

Playful Goodness

I sat in a window seat, solo in my row, listening to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for nostalgia’s sake. Having just eaten an in-flight snack, I was holding off on opening the small bottle of red wine and pouring it into the blue plastic cup.

Oh, the wine . . .

I really debated whether I should order a glass on this flight or not, and it wasn’t because of the cup. I have embraced that there are acceptable times to drink wine from plastic cups, which include, but are not limited to, outdoor weddings, poolside, anytime an excessive amount of money would need to be spent to rent glassware when plastic will do, and on airplanes.

My first airplane wine was purchased for me by a fellow group member who happened to be on the same flight back in November. Though she was in the front of the plane, and I was in the back, she came bounding to my row with the words, I want to buy you a glass of wine, but you have to tell me what kind you want.

I chose white, and she returned to her seat. The food and drink carts drew closer and closer to my row, and my anxiety level rose. How will this work? Do I ask or say, Hey, I’m the one who gets the wine!?

I found myself wishing that she had never said anything about buying me wine. Then I would not have ended up in this awkward space of having to speak up. Why does it have to be this hard? What do I do now? The cart is gone, and I have no wine, and I don’t want to call attention to myself or need.

The struggle was real. I finally rose from my seat to walk towards the front of the plane and ask how I was going to get the wine. I fought feelings of shame and contempt that threatened to engulf me for having questions about her gift and needing further attention to receive it.

What?! You didn’t get your wine? That is not acceptable!

She jumped up and walked to the back of the plane to ask the flight attendant about it. He had forgotten, and as a result, comped her the glass. It was free. She sat in the empty seat in my row with me for awhile and we talked. I processed what had happened and felt grateful for the practice of speaking up for myself.

Settling into my seat on the third flight, her words, Have a glass of wine for me! Were ringing in my ears or eyes via a text. I had never ordered a glass for myself on a plane, and decided to do so. I knew she would ask.

Red wine, please.

Taking my card, the flight attendant looked at it, then handed it back. No swipe. No cost.

Leaving the card in a conspicuous location on my tray in case he was returning later to swipe it, I turned and continued the conversation I was having with the young woman in the window seat who was heading home to Seattle. The attendant did not return.

I fully believe Jesus bought me that glass of wine and met me in that space.

Which brings me back to the window seat of this, my final flight to Seattle. I thought back to waiting at the gate. I had texted Tina, the friend I am staying with, to tell her I was getting ready to board the plane. She teased me about getting my free wine again. I felt pressure and ambivalence about ordering one.

If I did not order a glass at all, I would not have to explain it away when it was not free. Besides, this time I had an entire row to myself. That’s something, right? Certainly Jesus was in the row, in the space, with me.

And yet, this was the celebration flight. The final trip. As the beverage cart drew closer, I decided to toast my hard work by buying a glass of red wine. The flight attendant took my card, her wristful of Alex and Ani bracelets jingling. I smiled. She swiped.

1. . . 2. . . 3 times.

The card reader isn’t reading this card. Do you have another?

Shaking my head, resigned to saving the money, confident that at least I tried, I began to hand back the plastic cup containing the small closed bottle.

Oh no, it’s okay, you can keep it.

Three flights, three glasses, three times met in a miraculous space where my water was turned to wine. I was seen by the lover of my soul who knew just what I needed  , and also what I desired, and met me in that space.

Thank you, Jesus.

Major Marriage Milestone

Twenty-five years.

Twenty-five anniversaries, holding on and holding hope.

I want to have big silver anniversary words, but I don’t. And that is okay. It has to be.

I have the words that a friend offered at the end of his congratulatory Facebook comment on Steve’s wall.

. . . a great example of a rugged marriage.

YES!

rugged marriage

Thank you, Alvin. Those are exactly the words that affirm the beautiful hard that is found in celebrating 25 years of becoming one while growing up together and having three of our eight children before our brains were fully formed!

This day has felt rugged. It certainly hasn’t been the stuff of which silver anniversary dreams are made. As a final blow, we had to cancel the sitter for our evening out due to uncertain stomachs. We had to engage disappointment and pain.

This season feels rugged as I find more words for my own story and style of relating and engaging and how that has affected those closest to me. As Steve and I struggle to find more words for our story together, we recognize the help that we need. It is okay to need help.

A dear sister heard my heart and affirmed my words as I processed with her via text.

A silver star with a 25 on it doesn’t negate the hurt and disappointment. Or the joy. There is joy underneath, but right now it is being eclipsed by the ache. And marriage is about more than just how I feel today.

Climbing out of the valley and learning to walk on level ground isn’t as easy as it sounds!

One of the significant assaults of evil in this period is to try to triumph through regret. It is easy to survey all that might have been and grieve that it has taken so long to savor and delight in life. Add to this the desire to remove all the debris we have brought into the lives of our children, friends, and family, and it is easy to feel terrible and to work frantically to restore all that is broken. We must resist this seduction. Grief is freeing, but regret is the cul-de-sac of despair. (Dan Allender, Healing the Wounded Heart, 233).

So tonight we will have our regularly scheduled date night and not the fancy dinner out gifted us by our kids. Rather than circling the cul-de-sac again and again, I will try to feel the disappointment and grieve what is not, and then move on to the goodness that is an evening together with the hope of a future ahead of us.

We will persist. We will toast our twenty-five years of beautiful, rugged marriage with chicken soup and ginger-ale!

Here’s to us!