Category Archives: exploring

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One month from today I begin Training Certificate Level 2, a continuation of work begun in September, 2016. It sounds sudden, yet it is not, since I applied and was accepted in the fall. I just have not talked about it on the blog and have only mentioned it a few other places.

There is a different aura surrounding my pursuit of this training then there was with Level 1I feel more ambivalence and remind myself that only I can take steps and make choices to move forward in my life. No one else can do it for me.

I continue to step into the unknown.

In December I was caught off guard by a friend one night at Community Worship Practice. She asked how things were going with part 2. Confident that I had not announced my pursuit of Level 2 I stood, confused. She reminded me that I had shared a link on Facebook.

I immediately knew she was talking about this which was a memory of where I was the year before (preparing for my second session), compared to this which was current. So consider this my official announcement of the next step.

I have been reading and writing in preparation as well as making travel and lodging arrangements. The location is closer, so I am planning a road trip for the first training. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and to meeting new ones.

What will I do with it? At present, I will continue to love and care for those closest to me in this very full season of tweens, teens, and adults in my home and life. Each stage requires a different engagement, and I am learning helpful skills to use in repairing rupture, restoring relationship, and recovering self. I am learning to navigate the waters of martial and family conflict with more courage and kindness.

 That alone is success!

I know there is more on the horizon. I am gaining clarity as the fog lifts and clears and images come into focus. I am being met with possibilities in surprising ways. I am learning to imagine what could be in the midst of what is.

Thank you for being present and interested, Dear Readers! Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement as I level up. I am grateful and blessed.

Final Saturday

I sit in the final Saturday of 2017 surrounded by binders and journals and books and baskets of laundry. Family members are out and about running errands or socializing with friends. One is resting on the couch, uncertain of how she is feeling. I stop to care for her and warm up a heating pad occasionally. Chicken noodle soup was prepared for her lunch.

Earlier in the kitchen my husband looked at me with the face. I know it well. It is a half-smirk that tries to cover and hide the feeling behind it, but I am too vigilant for that and know there is something going on inside his head. Rather than guessing at it, I ask.

What? What is that face for?

What face? I don’t have a face!

Yes you do. There is clearly a face, and I am curious about it.

We banter back and forth a bit, as he insists it is nothing when I know better. He finally caves.

I was just wondering if you have fallen into your end-of-the-year processing funk, yet?

Laughter ensues from us both, because I am aware enough to be able to laugh at what is obvious about me, and he is courageous enough to name it. Family members are growing safer in being able to share how they experience me, and for that growth I am grateful.

Secretly, I feel pleased to be known and seen so well by my life-partner. It has not always been so. There have been many unseen and unheard years resulting in much hurt that we have worked hard at uncovering and naming this year.

And, yes, I am in my final 48 hour funk, sort of. Not really. It is a strange ambivalence.

It feels different this year. Still ponderous, but in a hopeful sort of way. There is anticipation of things to come in the midst of uncertainty. If anything there is a temptation to panic that time is running out, and I must do all the things.

Time is running out, but I do not have to do all the things. I can do just what is before me next and move in gratefulness for what has been and what is to come.

Christmas Changes

I sit in the day after Christmas, carving out some reflective quiet in the midst of all of the celebrating. In the moment there is relative peace. There are no deep conversations to engage, no projects to help facilitate, and no needs to meet. In the moment.

There has been much change and growth this season, and like most growth and change, it is not noticeable until you look back on what was. The looking back took place through the eyes of an adult son who was on the other side of the world last Christmas.

Christmas morning was so much more chill than it was two years ago when I was home.

It is true. Little people have grown and are growing, and while there is still excitement, there is not the frenetic level that once was. There is greater ability and capacity to wait with expectancy and hopeful patience and to enjoy the process of giving and receiving gifts on Christmas morning.

I noticed changes in many areas over the season.

Cookie baking looked different. It required minimal help from me in the gathering and helping to mix ingredients for dough. The rest took care of itself as four sisters sat and decorated them together.

There was such playfulness in the decorating, as inside family jokes were engaged and battle scenes created with cookies and icing. Growth. Laughter.

Christmas dinner felt calmer as we ate and laughed and played a game around the table. I really want to insert a picture, but it is the season where not everyone is fond of being posted. Changes. So I refrain and instead post the final result of our Advent tree.

That was a change, as well, since we kept up with the pieces and candles this year after a rocky beginning.

I am thankful that I pushed through the hard to get to the other side. We made a lot of memories around the table and the tree.

A final note on this day after Christmas is how my gifts have changed over the years. From giant plastic candy canes of days gone by to thoughtful gifts that show just how much my kids have grown and know me, this year’s Christmas bounty was so sweet. And I am not talking only about the giant truffle!

This is me entering the last week of 2017, blogging about Christmas changes, anticipating other changes on the horizon. While I do not know specifically what they are, I feel them inside.

I hope to have more time to process this week, maybe even on the blog, about what is coming up in 2018, including my word which will be revealed New Year’s Day.

Change is not easy for me.

We shall see!

One Pink Candle

As week one of Advent 2017 draws to a close, I confess that I still do not have an advent wreath with candles to light. There are several felt pieces placed on the Advent tree, but we have not lit a candle. This might be an inadvertent grace bestowed upon our house, as there is a resulting lack of strife over that particular tradition.

It happened this way. I saw through a small clear storage bin, poking out of the top of a felt Christmas gift bag, one pink candle. I was rummaging around the Christmas section of the cellar taking inventory of what was there over Thanksgiving break.

Advent arrived late this year, the latest possible date. Seeing that pink candle offered a false confidence that I did not have to worry about gathering others. I did not investigate further. Certainly there were purple and white ones in the bin, as well. Certainly the varied-height brass candle holders were buried in the bottom of that felt bag. Certainly I would not have decluttered them after last Christmas thinking, I will start over fresh next year with a new idea.

There was so much certainty.

I moved on to other things.

The girls helped assemble and decorate the living room tree the day after Thanksgiving while the boys went hiking. They cleared mantels, pulled out Nutcrackers and other decorations, and created a festive atmosphere in the living and dining rooms. I did not have to do much, other than rejoice in the fact that there was still one Sunday before the beginning of Advent.

I passed by a display of Advent candles at the Farmer’s Market while shopping with my daughter the following day. I don’t need to spend $7.50 on those. I have candles in the basement. Certainly.

There was one pink candle in the basement. It is still there.

I am uncertain.

I am uncertain as to whether I will search out and purchase more candles. I am uncertain about how I will choose to display them if I do. I am uncertain about why this even matters.

Maybe it mirrors more fully the uncertainty I feel in other areas of life that have, frankly, felt certain. They were so certain that I did not have to look more closely at them. I knew they were there in the bin. Sure, I could only actually see one thing, but the others had to be close behind.

Except they weren’t, and now I have to decide what to do. It feels a lot bigger than heading to the store for something new. It is heading into my heart to discover the hidden, to seek out what matters, to find what was lost.

Maybe in the continued unpacking of Christmas decorations, I will discover the candles and holders. Maybe in continued processing I will find what is true in my heart.

Maybe that one pink candle will lead me to something new.




Scenes From Seattle, part 4

This was my only daylight arrival into Seattle. It was 7:00pm. My other flights landed at 9:00pm.

These tulips graced the table where a friend spoke deep truth to my restless heart Thursday night. My spirit landed, and I began to settle into what was being offered to me this weekend.

Venti cappuccino helped me begin Friday’s lecture.

I took my final yoga class Friday afternoon. These candles represented the light and life that Sarah and her Friday and Saturday yoga classes brought to me each visit.

This weekend’s coloring page had owls scattered through it, a meaningful observation to me. Can you spot the owl(s)?

After class on Saturday, G picked me up and we drove to Discovery Park to take advantage of the sun and the view. It was the most sun we had all weekend. I was grateful for his thoughtfulness.

Sunday morning I begin my final ascent to the bus stop for my last ride into the city.

Sunday’s bus stop is quiet.

I am happy to have caught the early bus to make it in time for Sunday morning informal worship in the chapel.

This space is one of my favorites. Oh, the music and memories held here.

Coffee and question of the day.

Final Uber to the airport. Goodbye, Seattle.

There is so much more held in my heart from the gift of these last six months. To view scenes from my other trips, click here, here, and here.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, Dear Readers. I have been blessed by each of you more than you even know. Stay tuned as I continue to sort through where I have been and where I am going!

Tissues and Tears

I am away with my love this weekend. We are relaxing at Lake Anna in the midst of a season of difficult challenges. Maybe it should be seasons. The seasons have rolled into years.

The years have been hard.

It is difficult for me to be in the early morning quiet. I recognize this, as anxiety begins to mount at the prospect of an unstructured day ahead. I do not have words to give the man sitting at the opposite end of the sofa as I stare out the window at the sun rising over the water.

Pulling a creamy-soft throw from the back of the sofa and tucking it around me, I curl into a fetal position, resting my head on a square pillow. A tear falls. I feel it slip out of the corner of my eye, roll down my cheek and drip off of my face. More threaten to fall, betraying that all is not well.

I am not fine, and I have thirty-six hours to figure it out, before I have to go back. That is how it has always felt.

This is your chance. You had better not waste it or squander it or use it unwisely, because another one won’t be coming around any time soon! Redeem that time, Sister. You have been given much, and of you much is required.

Mustering every ounce of courage to make any sound come out of my mouth, I use my voice to share what is inside. It feels terrifying. There is a battle raging in my head. I want to stay behind the wall.

I don’t know how to be me by myself, and I sure don’t know how to be me and you by ourselves, and I am going to just ruin all of this!

Tears explode and fall in full-force sobs. I am sobbing on our first of two mornings together without parental and adult responsibilities before we have to go back. I feel self-contempt mounting and fight it fiercely.

Why can’t I just be carefree and fun?

Love pulls my feet into his lap and offers me comfort. He lets me ugly-cry and sob and leans over to rub my scalp and hug me. I feel so much resistance and try to stay present. I try to receive care without gauging what it will cost me.

Care comes at a cost, you know. Will this be worth it?

I fight against resistance to share with and be real with this life-partner who sits with me on the other side of the wall. Coming out from behind it is so scary and so hard and so risky for me.

I am met with safety and kindness. There is no judgment or expectation.

Love shares his feelings about sitting on the same side of the wall with me. I try not to twist them into something they are not.

They are only love and gratitude. I can choose to receive, which I do.

Grateful for the kindness offered to me to just be and process, I pull out a journal and begin to write. Thoughts come. Curiosities. More tears. I reach for tissues that begin to pile up. I consider taking a picture of them. That just seems wrong. I resist the urge.

Love gives me the space that I need. Little do I know I am being watched from above.


Shannon’s Mom

Would Shannon’s mom report to the mall office, please? Shannon’s mom to the mall office.

My heart is in my throat as I step from the carpeted floor of Centerpointe, the Christian bookstore in the mall next to JC Penney, to the sleek tiled floor of the mall’s common ground. Already, time has passed too slowly and too quickly in my search for a preschooler entrusted to my care, not for a few hours a day, but for LIFE.

I am failing at it. I can’t even keep track of ONE small child. How can parents continue to trust me to care for their children day after day? In that moment, all I feel in my brain is the relief that Shannon is found and only gave her first name. What if someone heard that Mrs. McClay had lost a child? I would never be trusted again.

How did this happen?

It was supposed to be a quick, after-work trip to the mall, bringing my youngest child along for some quality time together. We entered through the Walmart anchor end, making the long trek past all of the stores towards our destination at polar opposite.

She noticed the coin-operated merry-go-round and asked to ride it. Not now was my response, because I had no change, and we had places to go. Let’s be honest, my response was usually not now, because, well, just because.

Today we are pressed for time, because I have just gotten off of work, and there are things that I need to look for before heading home to fix supper and get on with the evening. There are always things to get to. Always that next thing.

We enter Centerpointe, precursor to Family Christian Store, and I begin to look in earnest for whatever it is that I need. I enjoy it here, because there is a play area for kids in the back where VeggieTales videos loop and books and toys are accessible, while moms like me peruse the latest CDs and Christian books and tchotchkes.

Shannon is into VeggieTales, these days, so much so that her birthday party was a VeggieTale theme, so I am more than happy to oblige when she asks if she can go to play with the toys.

I scan the CD display, searching for something new, that I know will lift my spirits, though I won’t be able to buy it. I remain lost in thought for a few minutes before returning to reality and heading to the back of the store for my girl.

I find emptiness.

The play area is empty.

Bob and Larry sing silly songs to an empty chair. There is no little girl in sight.

Panic rises in my chest as I run to the front of the store where a cheerful, curly-haired cashier is ringing up a purchase.

Did you see a little girl walk out of the store?

Looking at me with concerned eyes, she shakes her head. She has not seen a child, but she has been busy ringing up purchases. I feel her care and concern as shame washes over me. She is doing her job. I am clearly not doing mine.

It is at that moment, in the front of the store, that I hear the mall loudspeaker calling for me, and I rush out to the mall office.

Scooping Shannon into my arms, I have never been so happy to see a little face.

What happened?

Well, you SAID I could play with the toys, so I went out to try to find them, but I went the wrong way.

The toys. The TOYS. The merry-go-round. She was asking to go play on the merry-go-round.

We talk it over and realize where she made a wrong turn, and where I made a wrong assumption, and I tell her I am glad that she was able to say her name so that I could come and find her. We leave the mall together with a memory and the huge relief of being reunited.

I have been Shannon’s mom for 21 years, now. I love her and how she has helped me to grow and become a better mother and person. I am realizing that there will always be wrong turns and wrong assumptions, but if we remember our name and ask for help, the reuniting is sweet and the memories are rich.

Shani first birthday

This is from Shani’s first birthday. Her face captures her essence even at a year old. Those big eyes and that furrowed brow speak volumes. I just want to scoop her up and hold her close again. Love those babies, Mamas!!! Time really does fly. Happy 21st, Little Angel!