Category Archives: processing

January’s End

January’s end finds me sitting in a quiet house breathing in the savory aroma of a roast cooking in the Crock Pot. A dog curls up beside me, shifting from dead sleep only when I make the slightest move. It is a constant trigger and practice for me to remember that a dog is not the same as a newborn.

My nerves are still in recovery from years of newborns and sleeping babies.

There hasn’t been much quiet this month, so the level I am experiencing in this moment feels delicious. I struggle to breathe in and focus on the now, rather than allowing my mind to back up or race ahead.

Now is all there is. It is such a gift.

January’s end brings three teenagers living under one roof, again. It finds me marveling at the passing of time, again. It reminds me that February is coming, and I have story work to do, again.

January’s end carries me to a place of provision and uncertainty, of endings and beginnings, of sunshine and cloudiness. It brings acute awareness of the tension that I live in daily and the freedom that I am learning to embrace.

I have described to many that this season feels strangely familiar, yet so very different.

Familiar is the fridge that is never full, the hot water tank that is always low, the towels and washcloths that can’t stay stocked, the hair conditioner that is empty. It is the after school routine of endless driving and dropping off and errands, even though we try to keep plans and activities simple.

Different is the small car I drive during that routine, unlike the large white van filled with car seats and preschoolers, along for the ride. Different is the quiet I can sit in while waiting or the music I can choose to play. It is not entertaining and chasing after little people while waiting for big ones.

It’s being ten years older and feeling it. Everywhere.

January’s end brings wisdom and further clarity and hope for what is to come while honoring what has been so very good.

Friendship Friday ~ We Belong to Each Other

Last fall I sat in a hospital waiting room late in the day drinking a cup of black coffee from a vending machine. I had pressed the code for a cup of comforting hot chocolate, but out came black coffee, so black coffee it was. It tasted good because I was so tired.

I was waiting to see how my friend’s mother was faring after a traumatic accident on my street. When her text came through asking me to come, I went, and remained throughout the day until returning late.

We belong to each other. All of us.

Sitting alone in the waiting room of the trauma center, I plugged my earbuds in to play music while journaling. I wanted to disappear into my own world, oblivious to those around me.

An older woman wrapped in hospital blankets was wheeled out from the treatment area and left beside me. Alone. Unable to stay isolated in my bubble, I felt compelled to demonstrate presence as she dozed.

I unplugged.

A local man recognized her and walked up to say hello, startling her awake. He introduced himself as a friend of her son, and while she did not remember him, he knew her. She began to explain her plight, how she fell the day before while riding on public transit, because her scooter was not secure.

He asked if Ray knew she was here. I sensed that Ray was a mutual hospital connection who would know her and could help. He looked over at me and asked, Are you here with her?

We had never met before, but I was with her.

The man tried to call Ray’s number, but did not get an answer. I’ll keep trying. Maybe he is in a meeting. He turned to leave.

I looked at the woman and she at me. She began to talk. I listened. She had been there since 5:00 that evening. It was 7:30.

A text came through from my friend asking to get some food for her mom who would be discharged soon and had not eaten. I took the order and stood up to go. Turning to my new friend, I asked if I could get her food, as well. She said yes.

I returned with her requested ham sandwich and Dr. Pepper as a nurse was preparing to take her back to receive further care. I was grateful for the handled bag I had taken at checkout as I hung it on the arm of her wheelchair.

She said, Thank you. I answered, Of course. Enjoy! We smiled knowing goodbyes having shared the sacred space of a hospital waiting room together. I took food back to the tiny trauma room that housed my friend and her mom.

The hospital is an hour from my home. We may never meet again in this life. But for an hour in the ER, the woman in the wheelchair and I belonged to each other.

Just like we all do.

Unprepared for Goodbye

There were only two visits I was able to make before the holidays. Mondays in Bridgewater afforded me time to stop by after a weekly meeting with friends. I planned to return this week. Back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

I was not prepared for the news.

It is easy to check mail on my phone, so when a ministry team message came through with only his name in the heading, I opened it instantly. Sometimes things can be too instant, leaving a person raw in the wake of the suddenness.

I thought I knew what it would say.

There would be a health update, maybe a way to serve the family. There might be specifics of how the disease was progressing or a general update to keep us informed as to how to pray for the man who continued to pray for us from the confines of his automated recliner.

My breath caught in my chest as I read that my dear friend’s breath had left him in the night as he slept.

Gone was the man who sat across from me for so many Stephen Ministry meetings, his faithfulness and genuine care and concern for people radiating from his face. He held many of my prayer requests close and would ask how God was working in my life, right up until our last visit together.

A fun fact is that he had attended the church my husband grew up in when they both lived in Northern Virginia. He remembered my husband as a boy and would laugh and tell stories of him. We had a connection.

He loved.

Above all he loved the Lord and wanted to serve him in all that he did. Our last visit together was full of stories of days gone by, such as being roped in invited to help with the Awana program at his church when he was a younger man and how he cared for the kids who were difficult, understanding that they were the ones who needed love the most.

He cared.

There were many times that he went out of his way to be present or show up for people. He sought out the hurting and humbly reached out with a kind word or thought.

He encouraged.

He encouraged me with his words and his steadfast faith in God. He encouraged me by attending worship whenever he could, right up until his final weeks when it became difficult. I remember the last Sunday that I saw him from stage, sitting in his chair in the back. My heart caught in my chest and my eyes welled up, much as they did when I read that he died.

Bob is in heaven now. I don’t know how it works, but I am confident that he is present with the Lord. This song comes to mind as I sit with my tears remembering my friend. I think it captures his heart.

Goodbye, Bob.

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.

Words of Years Gone By

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.

Midweek Musings

It is day three of my new normal. The kids are in school for a few more hours. The house is silent. I am shifting and settling into something that might eventually resemble a routine, just not yet.

When I was teaching, I would give myself three weeks to a month before making a judgment on whether the year was working or not. It always ended up working just the way it was supposed to. Adjusting takes time.

I am adjusting.

Rising early to get the day started with the family, without the added pressure of getting myself somewhere on time has been a pleasant adjustment. Learning the new kitchen dance of school mornings, without the demand of getting everyone out the door like a well-oiled machine, has made things more calm and less chaotic.

This year we are in three different schools, down from our record of five. We drop off and pick up this batch of kids, the ones who were babies when their elder siblings were riding buses. While you cannot do over, you can choose to do differently. You can also have conversations about how others were affected by the choices you made.

Lots of those hard conversations are happening now that I have more unstructured time. No two, or eight, children grow up in the same family. I am adjusting to hearing truth and experiences shared with me from all of the perspectives, as the next generation steps up into the shoes of the first, and the first navigates adulthood. It looks a lot different this go around, especially as there are no infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in the equation.

The first two hours of my day focus on getting people fed and where they belong. When I arrive home after the final drop-off, Dewey eagerly runs to his leash, ready for a morning walk. This has become the beginning of a routine for us, as I walk him and think about the day. Sometimes a sister calls, or I call a sister (or daughter).

I am working out the time at home between drop-off and pick-up. I still have a brain racing to think of all of the things, when it really needs to slow down. I am practicing slow. I am not getting to all of the things. I get to some. I am learning things about myself that cannot be learned at breakneck speed.

This is where I am. I am grateful for the space to figure out what is next and the gift of learning to be more present in what is now.

How about you, Dear Readers? Where does this start of the new school season find you?

Update

It’s dark here on the back deck of my grandparents’ home in Clinton Township, Michigan. The hum of the air conditioner unit competes with the chirping of the crickets, as the light from my phone competes with the stars.

Man-made sound and light drowns out those of nature.  The chatter in my head drowns out the still, small voice of the Spirit. I am pushed and frenzied and expanding to hold much, as I struggle to rest in the arms of the one who holds my expansive soul.

I turn the phone upside down on my lap to brighten the night sky. My eyes adjust to the shades of dark and the silhouettes of trees against the gray sky. Overcast clouds allow stars to shine behind, not through, them, as one or two dare to peek out before being hidden again quickly.

My last visit to this area was 26 years ago with my family and fiancé the summer before I was married. Michigan, the place of childhood vacations and Christmas breaks, was a chapter closed.

This week I returned with my mom and daughter and my brother and his daughter to visit my mom’s parents. Four generations gathered in a place I had never been. It is one that many of my older children have visited, taking trips with their grandparents.

It was my turn.

It is strange to inhabit a new space filled with childhood memories. Walking through the newer, modern home with its unfamiliar floor plan, I felt the walls and shelves both comforting and disrupting with their familiar decor. Much is from another era that I remember vividly, yet is also a blur.

This has been a visit full of laughter and tears and deep conversations. There have been times of wrestling and struggling in my heart concurrent with unexpected joyful and aha moments.

I have gotten face time with precious family members who hold shared memories and also surprises. I have drawn a clearer picture of people I love, as their faces and stories come more fully into focus. Hearing their perspectives, impressions, and experiences has brought unexpected tears along with head-nodding laughter.

I have connected more deeply with my people.

Those places of connection are settling in my heart as I ponder all the conversations that these days have held. The thing about real life stories and connections is that they belong to their own tellers. This is a space for mine, and for what I choose to process and share of it.

For now it is this picture of feet side by side and propped on a table as laughter rang out while tales were told.

And also the bowl of M&Ms that kept me grounded when I needed some space and chocolate.


Goodnight, Friends. I know it is late, but this is when it is.

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.

Disrupted and Dumped Out

How are you? How was the weekend? What did you learn?

These questions pepper me upon each return from Seattle. Other than the obvious jet-lag issue that happens every single time and the lack of space in this season to feel that I am truly processing well, I have some words.

I am feeling disrupted and dumped out.

I am learning a lot. About myself. If you want to study something truly terrifying, try studying your own story. Invite others to join you on the journey. Offer yourself up to the process. Write out your most vulnerable places, or those that you think are the most vulnerable, and then allow others to listen and speak what they see. They will see differently. They will speak.

Prepare to be undone in the best and worst of ways. Prepare for the ultimate ambivalent experience. Decide if you want to keep showing up, because you always have a choice. I keep choosing more. More truth. More honesty. More reality. More disruption.

I am back. Truly. I am coming back to myself. I am returning to more of who I was created to be. It has been a wild journey. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this growth, in this season, in the company of courageous souls choosing to battle with and for me.

I get one more trip. Already I feel the grief of impending ending, while holding anticipation of one more weekend in this space with these fierce heart warriors. There is much to do to prepare for ending well. Much to read, write, process, and create.

I have learned that it is okay to slow down and tend to the parts of me that need care. That is what I will be doing in this next season. Tending. Caring for myself. Continuing to adjust my own oxygen mask. Sorting through what I find in the dumping out of my heart.

Oh, beautiful disruption, how I love you. How you terrify me!

Recapping Restore

I wrote seven posts about my word for 2016. Four of them were written in January, one in March, and two in May. You can read them under the restore category along the side. After that, things got real. Work began in earnest.

Restoration is messy. Like the porch project that is still not completely finished, my heart is still a work in progress. This year’s work involved a wild dream coming true. I am halfway there. The Allender Center category in the sidebar offer’s more for the curious.

Restoration did not look as I expected. I wonder what I expected? As I reread here I see a tentative openness to many things. Here is some of what happened.

My porch swing was restored.

My health began to be restored, once a simple diagnosis was made after a routine visit. With restored energy, I was able to move better and more often.

My confidence is being restored, as I walk through this certificate program with people who are seeing and naming my broken and my beauty and helping me practice new skills.

My vision is being restored, as I learn to imagine and envision possibilities, once again.

I am still pondering my word for 2017 at this late hour. I haven’t fully settled, which itself feels unsettling. I’m getting there.

Enjoy the last day of 2016, Friends!!!!