Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Psalm 90:15, ESV
Yes, Lord. Please make us glad for that number of days and years. It’s been a long time, and gladness feels far away.
I sit on the couch in my living room, feet propped, listening to my daughter’s playlist of gaming music and the click of her mouse. She does schoolwork online. I attempt to do my own work, assembling thoughts racing around in my head. They are difficult to catch.
Bright sunlight and blue sky shine through open blinds. Anticipatory autumn sun returns today, casting long shadows, giving a warm glow to the brick house and mature trees across the street.
What can I say? I long to be glad.
Are you glad to walk the dog? I ask my girl as she walks in the room. It is that time of day according to the schedule we are trying to create.
She laughs at my choice of words. I explain that meant to say ready and am writing about gladness. I send her to find the dog so that we can walk him. We are still finding our normal together. Our daily routine.
Write somethingis again written in my planner, the only thing on the list of Today’s Top Three.
I am writing. Something. In the snippets of time that present I sit with words, fighting forward for gladness. It comes to me in sunshine on the other side of a window, in a sky brilliantly blue, in a dog curled on his bed, in laughter at a distracted choice of words.
I am made glad in the moments that I choose to see goodness and receive as gifts what can also feel hard. When I feel the gladness redeeming affliction, I know I am growing and growing is good.
This morning was the final birthday celebration, breakfast with Dad. When the celebrating is over, it’s time to write the wrap-up post.
I was at a birthday lunch with a friend on Monday. When she asked how my actual birthday was I had to stop and think. I could not remember well, which is why I am trying to remember now. Even as I try to write, lethargy engulfs me. I am trying to push through.
I wrote a birthday list on the marker board in the kitchen at the beginning of the month. Little Mae printed hers in red pen and posted it to the refrigerator much earlier. Hers contained everything from Lego Ninjago to Black and Whilte Guinea Pig named Cookies and Cream.
Because we share the day, Little Mae and I planned a schedule of how to spend it, beginning with me attending a sixth grade awards assembly at school while she did morning screen time at home. This hanging basket greeted me upon return.
We took our birthday checks to the drive-thru window of the bank to cash them.
Then it was McDonald’s for lunch and Barnes and Noble for books and a birthday treat.
Rainbow came along.
While we were at Barnes and Noble a text came through that an adult sister was in town. She wanted to pick up the newly double-digit little and spend time with her. That meant I got free time!
It was such a surprise I almost cried.
A free afternoon offered a chance to grab the shower I had missed that morning, getting everyone to school solo. It was Steve’s first week at the new job, and we were all adjusting. I had to adjust my attitude with a phone call to a sister when my birthday morning was not going according to plan!
First on my free time list was a plant rescue at Lowes. A cart filled with clearance flowers cost $18 of birthday money. Coming home alone to plant and hang them, priceless.
I showered and rested and picked up the girls from middle school. We did our afternoon routine, and I worked on the birthday dinner planned in advance when planning the cake. It was a simple meal of ham, herb dinner rolls, and vegetables. I put ingredients in the bread machine and a ham in the oven.
Then it was time to make a side dish for my son’s band picnic. Since ham is not his favorite it was a good night for him to have an alternate plan. My adult daughter rode with me to the park to drop the food off and then to Starbucks for my birthday drink, another thing I had missed along with my shower that morning.
Birthday dinner was relaxing and fun with adult daughter and significant other, adult son, and phone calls from those adults not in attendance. Everyone wanted me to know that they had helped with the gift that would be delivered the next day.
Those around the table presented me with gifts of a new tea kettle and journal. We watched Little Mae open her gifts and ate cake. It was an enjoyable ending to a kind day.
On Friday a package arrived. I messaged my daughter to tell her that she had a delivery. She said it was my gift and that she would come over and open it and give it to me. I had some errands to run. When I returned she handed me a slim wrapped box, telling me it was from all of the adults and their significant others.
I was speechless after opening it. I am still learning to use it. Best feature so far is the voice text, though I have had some faux pas with the text still recording when I thought I was finished. Oops! My younger generation thinks technology is being wasted on an old person.
I am so grateful for another year, thankful for life, humbled by lavishly generous gifts and by the love so freely given by all in my family. I look forward to 47 with anticipation.
And yes, I got the Lora Kelley download that was on my list. You can get it here.
May 1st. May Day. That very last thing I feel like doing is writing a post which is the very reason I am writing. The sound of resignation was named in me today, and if for no other reason, I am proving to myself and to others that I have not resigned. Not yet. I will write.
We all know that means Help me! Right? We know that? It’s the first thought that ran through my mind this morning when I woke and realized it was May first. Not, Look at the beautiful sunshine and a chance to live another day, but rather,
Help came in a delicious breakfast prepared by my daughter, in a timely text from a friend, in a painfully honest conversation full of hard truth with another, in buckets and gallons of gut-wrenching, soul-wringing tears and heart-pounding sobs. It came in music from the neighbor’s house as I weeded the strawberry patch.
It is with me now as I write.
Mayday is from the French, M’aidez. (Help me) I did not know this until I looked up the history. It makes sense. I am glad for those years of French to help me understand. At least I was learning pronunciation when I was not being sent out of class for disruption.
It is risky to ask for help. To receive help from others. To be reached out to and reach back. To feel safe in needing help. It is risky to need.
As I prepare for the final certificate 2 session next week and sit in my story, I am acutely aware of my need for, yet resistance to, help. I can see where resistance was formed and solidified. Where need was weakness and weakness was not tolerated.
I was needy.
Help waits for me at the end of the day in a living room with friends offering to engage hard struggles. I do not have to be alone in what feels too big and scary.
Because inside of me is a 19 year old who is trying to keep it together, and everything feels too big and scary.
“In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. In fact, the need to make up a story, especially when we are hurt, is part of our most primitive survival wiring. Mean making is in our biology, and our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense, feels familiar, and offers us insight into how best to self-protect.”
The first sentence is one of my favorite quotes right now and a mantra that keeps looping through my head. In the absence of data we always make up stories.
Since returning from Certificate 2training two weeks ago, I have had few words to put into cyberspace and many to share in private conversations or to write in my journals. I have felt at a loss as to what to say or put out there on the blog as I re-enter yet another season of sorting out my own story.
As I grow in safety and ability to bring my childhood memories to those with more data to add, I am gaining a more focused picture of who I am and have become in the midst of the events that have shaped me. Themes in my story emerge, readjusting my lens from what I suspected to what I can name.
This shift has brought a need to clear extras from my world to focus on essentials. I have made a difficult choice to end some outside activities and ministries in order to spend time healing and growing. Rather than continuing to reach outward, I am bringing myself and my focus inward to those in my home.
This sounds obvious unless you understand the full extent of harm and self-protection that has caused me to shut down to those under my roof and prevented me from bringing myself fully to the ones who need me the most. This grieves my heart. Bringing closure to outside ministries has created space to be more present in my home.
I hope to elaborate more on this in future posts.
To those of you who continue to follow and read the blog faithfully, I applaud you and say Thank you. I am not sure where I am headed but will continue using the space to allow others in to what it looks like to face life more honestly.
Bloggers are supposed to find their niche and area of expertise. Mine seems to be in not having answers but continuing to fight forward on the journey to hope and healing. It is in gathering data to put the story together. It is in the listening to and telling of stories.
You are welcome to join me. Maybe it will encourage you to begin gathering data of your own and picking up the pieces of your story.
From the first day
I saw your face
I hoped that we would be
More than friends
I wanted you to see
That I found you special
And in your eyes
And in your smile
I saw that you were kind
You brought such joy
Into my life
Such laughter and such fun
And deep inside
I wanted you
To be the only one
That I would walk next to
To have and to hold
And I believed
With all my heart
Our love was strong and bold
But fragile was
The seed of love
We wanted it to grow
Impatient and impetuous
We simply did not know
That you cannot force love
Demand it be strong
And after many lonely years
We found where we went wrong
We’re standing now
We’re facing each new day
With boldness and integrity
We’re learning how to play
It’s knowing what we’ve lost
That helps us be found
Our hearts are drawing close again
We’re coming back around.
Happy Valentine’s Day ’18 to the Love of My Life who has made me laugh and feel safe from day one. You are a gift, Steve McClay. Thank you for becoming more real with me through all the seasons, especially those winter ones. Something beautiful is growing from all of this compost. I just know it! Something beautiful already has. Our love.
This image created with Wikki Sticks was stuck to my car window by Steve in 1987. I saved it in my scrapbook for posterity.
***The header image is from a helium balloon that I deflated and saved to remember the playful love of my then boyfriend, now husband. Thank you for your steadfastness, Babe. You’ve always been the best Valentine.***
One month from today I begin Training CertificateLevel 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 1. I 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.
It’s after 10:00 on Saturday night, and I’m picking up American Girl dolls and accessories from an elaborate set up in the TV room. They have been there for over a week.
I remember the intricacy involved and time it takes to set up and orchestrate proper play, and I want my youngest to have that freedom for as long as possible. As a result, we have all been navigating over and around tiny dishes and clothing and furniture and dolls, so many dolls. It is time to clean them up.
There are bins to contain everything, but Little Mae is clearly avoiding the task.
I warn her that if she doesn’t pick up, then I will do it for her.
Ok, Fine! She calls over her shoulder as she runs upstairs to play in her room with a sister before bed.
This is how I find myself here, and I do not even take a picture, though the thought crossed my mind. What if this is the last time?
It really could be now, unlike times before when there was always another sister or sibling next in line.
I allow myself to hold the memory of the scene in my heart as I sit in the midst of the play circle, paralyzed. I am transported back to my young self who desired to keep her world ordered, a seemingly impossible task with six younger siblings coming behind and messing things up.
I understand now Little Mae’s avoidance. It is overwhelming. In my overwhelm, I release perfectionism and just place things where they fit. Like with like, mostly. There is fun in unpacking surprises when the bins are brought back out.
Whenever that may be.
My husband works on his own late-night project in the kitchen, just off of the room where I sit. I gain momentum and snap tops on full bins, stacking them, preparing to move them back out to the kitchen set.
Music plays from the speaker in the kitchen. . . Changes . . .and the tears well in my eyes. My heart already feels fragile, and now I am packing and stacking and storing away toys that are nearing their expiration date.
Doubt creeps in and over and around my heart as I question my choice to allow the girls to spend so much birthday and Christmas money over the years on dolls and tiny dresses and miniature shoes and furniture.
I remember and question my own rush of anticipation, stalking Cyber Monday deals and trolling secondhand shops for unique tiny things.
I find a paper rolled and taped into a tiny cone shape with pompoms glued on it for cotton candy and ice cream sandwiches cut from craft foam and the tiny empty plastic bottles that held beads from a recent craft kit and smile.
I sit at the extreme end of the day on December 29, 2017, not wanting it to end but knowing it must. This is how I am aware of growth. There is too much to do, to learn, to experience, and I do not want to miss any of it.
I have spent much of the day thinking of the words of years gone by. I spent time with my youngest sis pondering and processing over coffee. She knows my choice but has promised to keep it to herself until January 1. So has my luvvvvah, who also knows. These two met almost 30 years ago and have been constants in my life ever since.
Words of years gone by.
I am not sure when I began keeping track of them. The blog tells me that the first was was heal. That was in 2012. Subsequent years were hope, embrace, return, restore, and persist.
Old journals may reveal otherwise, but there is this sense I have that for many years I felt as if I were doing the same year over and over again. I longed for and cried out for growth that just would not come.
I am grateful for growth.
I am incredibly ambivalent about recognizing growth.
So at this day’s end, I sit in the tension. I bask in the joy of witnessing my drummer son creating music and my husband creating in the kitchen. I sit in a space of curiosity and openness to what is coming in 2018 while not wanting to miss a moment of what is left in 2017.
The last of the tucking of children into bed has finally happened and the remaining bit of hangout time with my man is left, so I will sign off for now.
What about you, Dear Reader? What are you anticipating in the new year? I look forward to hearing your word or intention or hope or dream and to sharing mine with you very soon.
It felt ironic that the week when rejoicing and joy were themes in my Bible reading, I felt anything but that. The life pattern of full throttle all day and brake slam at night felt extra difficult in the days leading up to Christmas.
It was 10:00 one night when I was finally toppling into bed that Steve walked through our room with tools to unclog the bathtub. I was simultaneously thankful for a husband with plumbing skills and disappointed that we still could not call it a day. Even though a screen covers the drain, there are small people with lots of hair that sometimes forget to use it.
Earlier I had returned home from an exhausting morning of shopping with my youngest to the scene of a Christmas tree toppled over in my room. That explained the slight lean to the side I had noticed earlier when taking a cute picture of Zephyr burrowing around underneath it.
Closer examination of the damage revealed a weak base leg that had finally snapped. Immediately I felt kinship with the tree ~ propped up on a weak foundation, covered by a pretty skirt, surrounded by gifts with stories hanging from my branches, but weakening.
Soon, I fear, the foundation will give way. I will lose my grounding and topple.
There was no energy or desire to keep a plastic tree leaning on its side until I could procure a new stand, so I packed up my ornaments and put them away, but not before a special ceramic sheep swung from the branches and broke off a leg. I put the tree in the basement rather than by the curb, because maybe when the dust settles I will get a new stand for next year.
I put the broken ornament in the box rather than the trash can, because maybe I will glue it next year.
Disheartened, I tried to remain hopeful in the midst of all the broken, which was more than a Christmas tree stand. It was hard. There were tears. My journal caught and held all that could not be said aloud.
The next day a daughter invited me to choose a few favorite ornaments to decorate the plant that hangs in my room. She remembered an older sister doing this in her small apartment one year.
My knee-jerk response of resistance gave way to openness and possibility as I descended to the basement to collect a few sheep ornaments and other favorites. I found a battery – operated string of colored lights. Daughter brought a strand of small white lights from her room and helped string them up before adding the ornaments.
Arrangements were made to move the laundry hamper and make way for gifts to stack underneath. The room looked less cluttered while still festive. I felt grateful for her creativity, persistence, and risk-taking in inviting me to consider change.
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.