Category Archives: heat

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!

All the Dimes

With a week to go until trip number three, it’s time to write about the dimes. There are certainly other things in my heart and on my mind, but the dimes matter, too. They don’t feel as emotionally charged as so much else in my world does. They bring feelings of hope, and hope is always good. I could use a hefty dose right now.

The Dimes.

Last Christmas/ New Year’s season a simple money-saving challenge was floating around social media sites. A two-liter plastic bottle, filled with dimes, illustrated a simple way to save a few hundred dollars. With finances being one of the barriers to my pursuit of the LCC at the Seattle School, I thought this would be an easy, fun way to begin saving to fund my dream.

Procuring a two-liter plastic Coke bottle, I dug through my wallet and scoured my home. Those dimes alone filled the four little bumps at the bottom. I set an intention of dropping each dime I found into the bottle.

Playing fair, I made sure the dimes were not off of my kids’ dressers or out of my husband’s change jar. Only ones from my wallet or those found in stray places like the laundry room floor or the couch cushions were allowed. Dimes found on walks with the dog and in parking lots were definitely fair game.

My eyes became sharp. Each dime was a reminder to stay the course. I grew in confidence that God would provide for the work I was doing. Each shiny gleam brought encouragement. It became a game to see where the dimes would appear. I felt God’s smile on me through tiny bits of silver alloy found in random places.

All was well and good, but honestly, after the initial fill of the four little bumps at the bottom, the pace slowed. A lot. After a year of saving, maybe an eighth of the bottle is filled. I don’t think I will be making my final Seattle payment in dimes. I am grateful for the provision that has enabled me to do this work without depending on loose change.

Though the bottle is more empty than full right now, my heart is the opposite, illustrated by the overwhelming meltdown I experienced while attempting to clean the TV room. The space has never fully recovered from Christmas, and asking the child who plays there most to help with the cleanup was met with resistance. This tipped me into a state of upheaval while attempting to clean it myself.

Frozen, I sat on the floor, tears pouring from my eyes. It’s too hard. It’s too much.

And here I was expecting an eight-year-old to do it. It wasn’t really about the room, though.

Mustering strength and resolve, I broke down the job in my mind, grabbing a broom to sweep the perimeter of the wood floor surrounding the area rug. Almost immediately two dimes swept into the pile.

All will be well.

Nine Years

We’ll start with that next time, my counselor says, indicating that this time is up.

Pushing off with his feet, rolling in his chair to a desk in the corner, setting up next week’s appointment, I am left sitting on the couch with that statement. Beside me, my husband tries offering a reassuring presence in the form of his comforting smile and nod, but I am having none of it.

At thirty-six years of age, it took every ounce of courage to speak the place where trauma, pain, and betrayal hijacked me as a teenager. This time. My counselor is calling me deeper. Next time.

My breathing grows shallow, and blood runs cold as ice through my veins. The trick of dissociating by numbing out and viewing myself from a distance begins to take over. Noticing this, Counselor checks in and rolls from his desk to the expansive bookshelves lining the wall. Scanning them in earnest, he searches.

I am afraid to ask, though had he told me, I could have located the volume first, having become an expert at focusing on those titles and authors behind him while trying to stay grounded during sessions.

Here it is. You need to get a copy of this book to read.

He does not offer to give it to me or let me borrow it. I cannot take it home today. I have to get it for myself. Later.

Taking it into my hands, glancing at the image on the cover while simultaneously reading the title and subtitle, draws copious tears that I struggle to sniff back, but they morph into full-blown sobs, betraying my stoic facade. I cannot hide the fear and terror evoked by the simple act of holding this book.

What’s wrong? Why the tears?

Counselor’s gruff bedside manner does not mask his concern, as he gently prods my pain, following the trail I am leaving.

I don’t want to look at my story! I hate everything about my story!

This visceral response is gut-wrenchingly real. His response to my outburst is kind. He affirms something about my story having value, etc. . . I am not in a place to hear or believe him, but I know that since he has recommended To Be Told ~ God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future by Dan Allender with my husband in the room, the book will show up at our house.

Anything to help me, to fix this, my husband of fifteen years will do.

The book arrives, and I reluctantly begin reading. It feels too big and too much to think of actually writing out and sharing parts of my story to process with others, as recommended, yet I am intrigued by lines such as this, Neither your life nor mine is a series of random scenes that pile up like shoes in a closet. (To Be Told, p. 3)

I am shattered. Undone. Curious.

Nine years later. . .

It would be easier and tidier to write ten years later, but an honest time frame says nine.

Nine years have passed since that original scene of facing what was terrible, traumatic, and unspoken in my heart. I am forty-five years old, mid-forties, still processing and in process. I am in a healthier place of healing and growth. Redemption has come knocking on my door, and I have chosen to bravely open up to it, in all of its scary, strange, disruptive glory.

Growth has not been easy. It has taken much time and courage. There are still painful places in my story to visit and name. I have been living life in the meantime; a life large, messy, and full of its own trauma, trial, and error. Life stops for no one.

Nine years ago, I was married for 15 years and had seven children ranging in age from 15 to 1. Little Mae, the surprising finale to our family, was not even on my radar. Now I have half of an empty nest, with four children living at home and four living life on their own.

Nine years ago I was 36. So young. I felt so old.

Dear thirty-something struggling with your role in your story, it is not over. It is not all written. There is hope. Investigating the shoe pile-up in your closet is worth it. You do not need to struggle alone. Find someone to help you find your brave.

Nine years later, I have had time to process and to practice new skills. I have learned more words for finding my feelings and speaking my reality. I have had people sit with and support and guide and encourage me. I have had time to sit with others.

Not everyone is called to this journey a friend once told me, as I wrestled and struggled and questioned and cried, every fiber in me wanting to go back to what was.

Nine years ago, I could not have known the role that the book To Be Told and the work of its author would play in my life. I could only take it in hand, take courage to read, and keep moving forward.

Now, I am not looking back, unless it’s to help me move forward.

Summer Rising

It’s not even technically summer, yet, but we will call it summer.

School is out, finally and completely finished for everyone. The first morning of us all home together wrung me in the worst of ways. In the span of hours there were tears and heartache and disappointments and relief, and that was just from me.

Each child had his or her own voice to add to the chorus. Fifteen minutes of weeding the side yard and watering the rogue vines growing in the dirt pile out back offered a bit of relief for my soul.

I woke from a nightmare that was morbid and gruesome and disturbing. It’s meaning makes complete sense to me. My brain is full and dumping data on overtime’s schedule. Vivid dreams are one way I deal with overload.

After traveling at breakneck speed for the last weeks, it feels as if my internal emergency brake handle was pulled, leaving emotions to fly forward as I simultaneously jerk them back. The collateral damage felt through my eyes and heart reminds me of the messiness of even the good parts of life.

Day One. Send off adult kids to their own homes on the heels of a big graduation weekend. Process hard places and disappointments and Plan B with newest adult and send him off, as well. Hear the rest of the voices left under the roof, clamoring for attention. Drop one at a friend’s, take the others to the library, make semi-annual contribution to the library’s operating fund in the form of overdue book fees, talk to a sister or two on the phone, read for a little while. Try to write. Feel feelings that are stirring and allow self to cry. Go to quiet corner only to find it claimed by the queen of the house. Sit on bed instead.

Zephyr

I am trying to accept the arrival of summer with open hands. I see the kindness in the chaos and the goodness in the grief. It is only day one. There is time for space to open and for dust to settle and for change to offer perspective, as I feel summer rising.

Restless Exhaustion

Sometimes sleep comes hard. The transition from awake to asleep isn’t easily bridged, and I have to trust that if I breathe deeply and close my eyes, I will cross over.

Sometimes nightmares come immediately. Fear engulfs me. Terror swoops down to grab me.

Sometimes I drift off to happy places. The best kind, really, that I don’t want to leave. Then I wake. I am still here.

Usually it’s the crossing over into sleep that is hard. Once there, I stay put, and even a bad dream or fear doesn’t keep me awake. I push through to the blissful other side. If I do wake, I can roll over and drift back.

It’s been a long time since I have spent the night in restless exhaustion, but last night happened. It reminded me that the insomnia struggle is real for many and has been for me in the past.

Lying awake listening to my husband’s gentle snoring reminded me of the many times I labored great with child during the night, not wanting to wake him. Knowing that when things got real, he would need his energy, I didn’t want to rouse him too soon. When all was said and done, he would need to carry on with work and life while I got to rest.

He is in a season of intensity at work, and I am in a place where I can be home during the day. We both don’t need to lie awake. The sound of his sleeping was music to my ears and background to my tears.

This time is so big. So much is happening. June brings with it heavy ambivalence, and my body feels it intensely this season. Add to that my past history, my current status, and the events coming up this month, and it’s a recipe for a perfect insomnia storm.

There was a similar season over 17 years ago when I struggled with sleep. I know this, because I vividly remember lying in my bed in the little house on Green Street and envisioning filling large black trash bags with my worries, concerns, and fears and hauling them to Jesus to cast at the foot of the cross.

I know he is always there and always faithful. Here I am 17 years later as proof of that! I hate having to continually learn and practice trusting that presence and faithfulness. There is a lot of underlying fear. Does God really know best?

I woke this morning later than I had hoped. Groggy from lack of refreshing sleep, I shared my restless exhaustion with Steve. I mean, I know I slept, but it just doesn’t FEEL like it.

Checking email for the morning’s Bible reading, I saw that an anonymous donation had been made to the GoFundMe account. I also saw the newest Red Tent post was up, and it grabbed my heart. Dissolving into tears, I collapsed to the floor and into Steve’s arms where he was sitting and reading. He held me while I cried.

To all who have contributed on or offline to my endeavors, both financially AND with words of affirmation or prayers, THANK YOU. The timing of Anonymous was truly a God-send and reminder that I am seen, as was the theme of Becky’s post on Red Tent Living today.

Friends, I covet your prayers during this very difficult season of transition and journeying into the unknown while carrying the known with me. If you are in my circle and have needs that I am aware of, you were being lifted up in prayer in the wee hours of the morning. I can’t say exactly when, because I refused to look at a clock, but you were there with me in spirit.

Hugs and Love to All!

Comparing My Gray to Your Sunny Day

I slather my feet with Waikiki Beach Coconut shea butter foot cream before tugging on thick black socks and sliding into rain boots. It’s the closest I will get to Hawaii as I troll Facebook for pictures of my younger sister’s vacation, living vicariously through her, her husband, and their adult children.

My sky is gray and pours rain today. Again. It has been raining consistently for weeks. Ever since, it seems, my husband made an edict that I would no longer be driving our middle school son to school unless it was raining, it has been raining.

My pedicure is non-existent, waiting in a bottle in the bathroom cabinet. I am grateful that this isn’t sandal weather, as I pull on boots for another wearing before the season officially ends. I grab a sweater while I’m at it.

I long for the breathtaking scenery and list of beach chores and pictures of toes in the sand posted to my sister’s wall. My nephew and his wife are sunkissed in the surf and gorgeous. Other pictures posted shout lovely, relaxing, grown-up family time, and I want it!

I want my sister’s life in this moment but not all the things.

I don’t want the very hard parts, yet those are a part of the sunny day package in the life of another.

And that is the dilemma, especially in the world of photos and social media and the age of technology. We get to see another’s best sunny day and measure it against our gray. We don’t always get to see the flip side.

I tend to fill in the blanks of a great Instagram picture or #hashtag with most awesome backstory and future coming ever!

It feels very gray in my world. The weather has been chilly, rainy, and bleak. My heart has been cold, teary, and weak. And yet, there is someone looking at pictures and posts of my sunny day moments. They don’t see the hard, the struggles, the stress.

Even when I share openly about the hard, there is still the very hard that remains to be sorted and worked through in quieter, more private spaces. I want to run away from it to the sunny that beckons from another’s world. I want to leave this behind and escape my reality, instead of embracing what is and waiting for the gray to fade.

I pull off my boots at the end of the day to the scent of coconut lingering in the air. I drag the rake through my zen garden , smoothing sand, dreaming of the ocean. I open a picture of tiny shells in a text from my sister to show her little namesake who likes tiny things.

I hold gratefulness in my heart for the sunny that she gets to experience; a respite from storm. I ponder why it is harder for me to rejoice with those who rejoice than to weep with those who weep.

I choose to remain in a hopeful stance that the sun isn’t too far away.

Love Is Time Away

A few weekends ago, Steve and I took some much-needed time away together, with the holiday season in full swing. The timing was not ideal, but is it ever? As I type this line, I am transported in my mind to twenty-four years ago when we were saying, I do, at a time that was less-than ideal.

Today is our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary and the twenty-ninth anniversary of the season when we met.

There is a backstory to our time away, and while I could post pictures of festive decorations and divine cheese platters and gush about the reflexology treatment and hot-stone massage that my darling booked for me in advance, there would be much missing. There would be a glaring omission of the reality that we had to fight hard for this time and were almost taken down for the count.

That, dear reader, is the part that I want to share with you. Reality.

The story began last fall, summer, even, when my dearest asked our firstborn and her husband if they could spend Labor Day weekend with the kids so that we could go away together. Three nights alone seemed an incredible luxury. I was looking forward to it desperately.

When back-to-school life got full and pressures started bearing down, a voice inside reminded me that it would be worth it all when we were away. I could work really hard to get the school year going and then relax into the long weekend, emerging refreshed and re-connected with my partner in the midst of all of the madness.

We were both so caught up in our duties and responsibilities that a glaring omission happened. We failed to book a destination. This reality struck the week before we were to go away, when a painful conversation took place, leaving me feeling let-down, hurt, and angry.

Festering heart wounds that I thought had been dealt with, broke open and began to ooze painfully. I spent time trying to figure out a kind, yet honest, way to express my deep disappointment.

Too often I have offered a quick, That’s okay! or It’s no big deal! to things that were NOT okay and WERE big deals. It was a new path for me to sit in the hard place of feeling my feelings without minimizing them and of hurting without accusing my partner in anger. It was a struggle not to lash out at the one I love while in pain.

After these honest conversations, Labor Day weekend found us dog-sitting so that our daughter and son-in-law could go camping. We stayed at the house laboring, as usual. It was not the weekend I had envisioned, and I felt hurt and disappointed.

Steve quickly arranged for the next available time that the married adult couple could come and stay for a weekend. It was months away in December, but just having a date on the calendar was encouraging.

Things were rolling along smoothly. A non-refundable, non-transferable location was booked in Williamsburg, and Christmas Town tickets were purchased. Planning was enjoyable, and we were communicating. I had requested an entire Friday off to have a leisurely morning to myself before stealing away together.

I was picturing it in my head, and it was BEAUTIFUL!

Then things started to happen. Plans began to shift and change for honest reasons. Human error in communication caused the wrong weekend to be booked. We could still go away, but the child-care factor became much more labor-intensive and complicated.

I did not like the revised plan I was hearing. It felt forced and overwhelming and exhausting. Much complicated planning needed to happen just to arrive at our destination. It was not as I had envisioned. To top it off, the night before our planned departure, Steve became ill. He took to bed in a manner unusual for him unless it is serious. It was serious.

I was left in the nebulous unknown of wondering if I should continue to pack children to take to their siblings instead of having siblings come to them. I wondered if we would be able to go away at all.

Frankly, I was finished. Tired. Done.

My day off dawned, not as I had planned. It found me driving kids to school instead of rolling over for a little more sleep. After the drop off, I checked in with Steve who was not sure how he felt and did not look great.

Our revised plan had been to drive two cars to drop the kids with their adult siblings in Richmond on our way to Williamsburg. That would leave a vehicle for them to drive back to Harrisonburg that would fit everyone. Steve didn’t look up to the driving challenge. I was already less-than-thrilled with that idea BEFORE sickness crept in.

Let’s just not go. This is getting ridiculous. When are we going to read the sign that says this is not a good idea? What else has to happen?

We had until 11:00 to cancel the massage appointment he had booked. He wanted a little more rest, leaving me to make a teary call to my sister to help me process. She helped me sort out my heart, and when we hung up I realized that I needed to try.

Trying looked like seeing if there was any way to have the kids cared for here in town overnight instead of having to drive them to Richmond. The Richmond connection could drive themselves here the next day and hang out until we got home.

I reached out to friends and family who were able to say yes. While Steve slept, I arranged and drove around and packed up and picked up and dropped off. When he woke, I presented the new plan, which I think was plan d by this point. The kids were accounted for, he could sleep in the car while I drove, and we would at least be away, alone together.

If he felt better, great. If not, he could sleep while I read, addressed Christmas cards, wrote, did yoga, got a massage. We could watch movies or listen to podcasts together. It actually wasn’t looking too bad!

The bottom line is that we were able to go away, but it wasn’t easy.

We listened to podcasts together in the car. After a night of rest, Steve felt well enough to walk in the woods while I experienced a restorative massage. We ate at The Cheese Shop in downtown Williamsburg and walked around Merchant’s Square. We napped and relaxed. I didn’t write any Christmas cards. We didn’t make it to Christmas Town.

Our time together was too short. It always is. But it happened.

It was worth fighting for, because love is.

us