Category Archives: processing

Arrival

Christmas came. It brought beauty, comfort, joy. It brought love. The hope I held in the waiting grew, and light broke through my darkness.

From early morning presents while live-video streaming with a man-child on the other side of the world, to sitting down for our traditional breakfast at a beautifully bedecked table, to napping and waking to the sound of laughter around the table, Christmas brought comfort and joy to my weary heart.

It brought tears.

There’s something about listening to adult children share life plans and goals around the breakfast table that touched a chord deep in my heart. How redemptive to have dreamers who can voice their dreams freely. What a gift!

My parents joined us for dinner at 4:00.

They played a game with the grand kids while Steve and I cleaned the kitchen. Redemptive grace.

More laughter.

Christmas is hard for me. I am learning to understand and find more words as to why that is. I am learning to be kind to the places that hurt. I am growing.

I took two naps.

I showered using my adult daughter’s Lush bath products, massaging a seasonal body wash over my skin, turning it a grinchy shade of green. I breathed deeply and grinned a grinchy grin. I am the grinch, and it is okay.

I laughed twice today. Real laughter. Deep laughter.

My son who was video streaming from Bali, Indonesia, as we opened gifts, later commented on my first laugh. It was fun hearing you laugh so much when you were opening your present.

Eleven-year old daughter had wrapped thirteen-year old son’s gift to me for him. A bag of peppermint-cookie Lindor truffles was wrapped in layer upon layer of paper. Each layer that I tore off revealed another. It was so funny to me, peeling back paper only to find more. Real laughter erupted from my innermost being.

I really do love my kids and their sense of humor. Mostly. Usually. When I slow down and have time to appreciate it.

The second laugh was as Steve and I were walking the grand-furs. I held Wren’s leash. He had Dewey. Steve and Dewey were ahead of us. I wondered what would happen if Wren and I passed them, so we ran ahead.

Dewey was not happy with this, and his short legs moved double-time to pull Steve along. I hadn’t told Steve my thoughts or motive for running ahead. He commented, Dewey doesn’t like having Wren ahead of him.

I started laughing. I laughed more. Wren and I let them pass us and then ran ahead again, laughter bubbling up from inside of me over how funny Dewey looked trying to catch up to and pass us. Laughter felt so good. So freeing.

It has been a good Christmas. It has been a hard Christmas. It has been a good, hard Christmas.

Hashtag blessed.

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.

Always.

Comfy Cozy Quiet

Soft light tiptoes through the window, waking me gently. I pull back curtains to savor the view of morning mist rising over the lake.

Propping myself with pillows to watch the sunrise, I lean into the quiet stillness gifted to me by this weekend away. More than I could have asked or expected I have received in the kindness of Angela to invite me, once again, to a weekend of rest.

It has been awhile since I have experienced expansive quiet. Moments grabbed here and there between children coming and going at home are not the same as hours of quiet so thick I can feel the absence of noise.

This weekend spent at a cabin by the lake with my friend has offered that quiet.

Rapidly clicking computer keys, softly coloring pencils, slowly turning pages, spontaneously conversing voices, these are sounds that have soothed my soul and reset my spirit. Long walks, reading, writing, talking, thinking, processing, coloring, art journaling, writing some more, these are things that have occupied my unstructured time.

It has been a working weekend of sorts, as I wrap up preparation for Seattle, part 2. The difficult task of writing out and analyzing another story to share, along with finishing reading assignments, made me increasingly grateful for a cozy, quiet space to inhabit during the process.

My uniform of comfy lounge wear, slippers, and scarf was a reminder to relax. Being enveloped in soft comfort held space for me as I engaged difficult story scenes and disruptive feelings. The brilliant sunshine and sky outside grounded me when I was threatened by disconnect.

Sharing snippets of words or thoughts across the table with Angela, asking questions about work, taking breaks together, these things all helped to soften the intensity of feelings and encourage the process of finishing.

There are a few hours left to savor the stillness. The light grows brighter. Leaves blaze in golden glory. I hear stirring downstairs, inviting me to rise, as well. It is time to emerge and enjoy the final hours of comfy, cozy quiet.

blazing glory

Grounded

I returned from Seattle last Monday. Weekend one of four is tucked away in the books. This leg of the journey has only begun.

After an intense 25 hours of lecture and group time, it was lovely to spend Sunday afternoon with friends being a tourist before boarding a late-night, red-eye flight home.

Feeling claustrophobic in a window seat on a full flight, I was grateful that my cup of Sleepytime Extra tea seemed to be kicking in and that my neck pillow, however awkward looking, offered comforting support. Slipping off my sparkly Toms and on my cozy fleece socks, and covering up with a scarf-blanket, all I needed was music to send me on my way to sleep.

I slept.

It was a sweet grace to drift off for a few hours before waking to a waning-crescent moon and the big dipper right outside of my window in the clear black sky, so close I could almost touch them. Slumbering people sharing the row prevented me from getting up and walking around. Deep breathing and the moon and stars kept me from panicking.

Sara Groves sang in my ears as tears ran down my face. Tears invite curiosity, and I pondered what resonated so strongly between her words and my heart.

And I pray for a vision and a way I cannot see. It’s too heavy to carry and impossible to leave.

Heaviness. Impossibility. Vision. Change.

Drifting back to sleep, I stayed settled until the descent. Bright flashes of light caught my attention. I wondered if they were lights from the plane.

It was lightning.

I left sunny Seattle and returned to thunderstorms.

Touching down, the pilot’s voice over the speaker informed that lightning prevented the plane from being parked at the gate, since it was unsafe for workers to be out on the tarmac. Until further notice, all flights were grounded, and we were not going anywhere, including off of the plane.

This was a difficult space to inhabit. I was transported to days at the pool or the amusement park, or at a sporting event where timing the lightning was crucial to re-entering the activity. Those minutes between flashes felt like an eternity. There was nowhere to go.

We waited.

When the timing was right, I exited the plane, uncertain of what would be waiting inside. Would flights be cancelled? Rescheduled? On time? This time I knew where I was going and walked through the airport with purpose.

My flight was cancelled. Plans were changed. Instead of meeting my son in his classroom later that morning, I would spend the day grounded in the Charlotte airport. Weather is not something that can be controlled.

I struggled with this.

After much wrestling and acceptance, I breathed into the space that was a day at the Charlotte Airport and made my way to the chapel first. Sitting there in the quiet, I tried to hold what had just happened, but so many shoulds weighed down on my shoulders.

Giving myself grace to just be in the space, I practiced silence before re-entering the fray of a busy airport.

Disappointed that I had gate-checked my suitcase with the power cord to my laptop, I found a rocking chair to sit in and grounded my feet. The rocking motion soothed my soul as I watched the sky clear and the sun return.

My flight did not board until 5:30, so I spent time writing and reading and thinking. I got lunch and spent time reading and eating alone until I invited a lovely lady to sit with me when it was apparent that she could not find an open table.

This move was unusual for me, yet opened my heart to a sweet gift. We shared where we were in the moment and in life and found that in spite of the difference in our skin color, there were many similarities in our souls. A new sister was met, friendship was sparked, and numbers exchanged.

I left lunch in humility and awe at the kindness of God in the Charlotte airport. The space felt sacred and sweet. I saw and was seen. I was blessed. I spoke blessing.

The flight to Roanoke was uneventful and the drive home smooth. I was grateful to fall into the arms of my husband and into the comfort of my home.

Here is Sara’s music that met me on the flight. Maybe it will meet you, too. Be blessed, Friends! Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Blessing the Teacher

Several months ago, I read words by Tracy Johnson on Red Tent Living. She wrote about blessing the manager in her, and I immediately thought of the teacher in me and how difficult it is to bless her.

As a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. One brother, eight years younger than me, called me teacher before he called me by my name. I vividly remember playing school using a chalkboard set up in the smallest room of our duplex, my classroom for a season. That chalkboard was the best toy, and I was always the teacher.

Having six younger siblings, five of whom were alive by the time I was ten, offered plenty of opportunities to hone my craft. Having a father who was a Christian school teacher, offered plenty of opportunities to troll around to various classrooms at the end of each school year hoarding papers and teaching supplies that were going to be thrown in the trash.

I assembled leftover classroom worksheets into booklets, stapling them together. These were used to teach and entertain siblings on long summer car rides to Michigan. Old lesson plan or grade books with used pages torn out were treasured finds. If there was still a seating chart template in the back, I would spend hours arranging and rearranging imaginary students into rows.

I drew pictures of classrooms. The items on the teacher’s desk, the assignments written on the chalkboard, the wall decorations, all were fastidiously detailed. Sometimes I wish I still had one or two of them. Then I wonder if it is better to have them in my memory. I am curious if that is why I am intent on saving samples of my children’s work.

The dream of growing up and becoming a teacher was rooted deep inside of me. There was a time when it felt hopeful and sweet. I taught a little girl to read when I was sixteen and loved planning enrichment activities for the small group of day camp students that I worked with that summer. Then something changed.

The dream and desire became a demand. I remember when the joy of teaching was replaced by duty and the expectation to teach. I remember feeling choices slip away and panic set in. I remember trying my best to push the window of other opportunities open, only to have it slam shut and lock.

I remember feeling betrayed by the teacher in me. Why did she have to be so good at what she did? Why did she always say this is what she wanted to be? What if there were other things, too?

The teacher, ever efficient, stepped up and took over, pushing the other parts aside. She took care of business and rose to the occasion. She went to school, studied, and worked hard. She loved each student that came through her room and saw to it that she cared for them in the best possible way.

I appreciate her for that. I appreciate her ability to connect with students, to care for them, and to make learning fun. I appreciate her stepping up and doing what needed to be done. Most of all, I am grateful to have grown into a place where I can truly bless her and her gifts.

The teacher is a part of me, but she is not all of me. Still, she is pretty amazing, and I have grown to love and appreciate her. Her presence is a gift of grace in my life.

Cave Quest Wrap-Up

Deep breaths and quiet and oh, the tears. The space that I long to fill, fills me. Arriving home after a full morning of singing on worship team, the house is eerily and deliciously silent.

While husband, children, and dog are away on an afternoon adventure, I putter in the kitchen, nap in my room, and rise to spend a few minutes writing before the next thing.

It is my last day of summer. It’s not really summer’s last day, but it is the last day of summer routine for me. Tomorrow I return to working my day job for a fourth year.

With this in mind, I wanted to finish the VBS wrap up that has been sitting in the draft folder since the end of July ~ which wasn’t that long ago, but if I don’t get it written, then it will be long gone and just another memory.

This was my best year at VBS and confirmation that Preschool KidVid Cinema is my VBS fit. In years past, I haven’t been as sure.

My first year of running Chadder’s Theater was full of surprises, both personally and in my changing role from Preschool Station Leader to the video person.

The following year found me running Preschool KidVid with none of my own children coming through the station. That was a huge milestone.

Last year I was met with the challenge of resting in unrest when the DVD that I was to show, the main point of the station I run went missing. One of the littles was finally old enough to help. Another milestone.

It’s hard to believe that this was my fourth year of running this particular station and my sixth year of helping out in some capacity. When I started, the littles were 7, 5, 3, and 2. Before that, I sent the bigs to VBS and stayed home with my own nursery of littles.

There was much ambivalence about whether to sign up again this year. My heart wrestled through many things including, but not limited to, where I am in this season, the work I am doing for fall, the limited time I have for myself, and the over-responsible place in me that often takes on more than is healthy, rather than allowing others the space to step up.

I passed by the sign-up table many Sunday mornings still praying about it. I really was. I was shown much grace every time. There was never pressure.

When I finally felt peace about signing on, it was because I still have four children to shepherd at home. I wanted something that we could all do to serve together, and while I could have sent them in and taken time for myself, I felt convicted to lead by example. I felt the call to offer up a sacrifice of time and the gift that I have to work with lots of littles to model service for my children.

And it was the best year, yet.

I loved working with the preschoolers that came through my station each day. I loved working with the crew leaders, station leaders, and other helpers. I loved being a support to those who stepped up into the major leadership roles.

I loved working with the preschool director.

At the end of the week, my heart felt so very full. I felt the maturing of my own children. For the first time we were able to leave VBS together each day without big meltdowns. This year one was a helper. Next year two will be of age.

I want to remember that it was a good week. I want to affirm that using this skill set and gifting of mine in this context was a joy, and that I received far more than I gave. While each year brings its own challenges, and we never know what the next one will hold, this one was sweet.

I am grateful.

Go Be You

How’s it going in here?

Popping my head into one of the preschool Bible Adventures rooms on VBS set up day, I asked a younger mom friend this question. Scanning her classroom I saw a tent set up. Indoors. There were also gray sheets draped over round tables, cave-like, and camping gear placed around the room.

Children, hers and their friends, crawled in and out of the tent and table-caves happily. The atmosphere was fun and intentional. It was kind and caring.

My first thought was, What a great room! What a gift of time she is giving to serve at VBS this week with her young children. Look at how she is setting up with them playing alongside of her. I remember those days well. Sort of. What was that blur, again? Yes! I did that, too!

Her eyes met mine as she answered.

Well, I thought things were going pretty well until I went out and looked into another room. Now I don’t know.

Laughingly, but not really laughing, I said, You broke the cardinal rule of life which is . . .

We both knew the answer and reminded each other of it together. . . Don’t compare!

In this instance it was, Don’t compare YOUR Bible Adventures classroom cave with the one next door or down the hall. Keep your head in your own room.

Soon it will be teachers. Don’t compare YOUR second year classroom with the thirteen year veteran across the hall. Or writers. Don’t compare YOUR blog or post or submission with the one trending on social media. Or mothers. Don’t compare your home, children, schooling choices, resources, the list of things we can compare there is endless. Or women. Just don’t.

This very day. Today. I left Sharp Shopper, and noticed another woman emptying the contents of her cart into her car. I began comparing, Did she find better deals than me? Why did she buy a flat of those? What did I miss? Do I need that, too?

I bought the things I needed for my family today. She bought what she needed for her. We both did well. 

It’s not that simple, and yet, it is. Good work done with our hand to our own plow is good work. We all have the choice to bring ourselves to this cosmic equation and step up with the gifts and tools we have been given to use.

In the words of P!NK ~ No one can be just like me anyway!

So put those blinders on and go be you! You are amazing! You are doing it, whatever it is that you need to do. Carry on! That is all.

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.

Friendship Friday ~ There’s Something About Second Grade

Maybe second grade friendships are in my face, since I just finished the school year, and my daughter just finished second grade. Maybe it is because one of the generous donors to my counseling certificate was a friend from second grade. Maybe it is because of this. Whatever the case, second grade has been on my mind, lately.

I corralled my three little girls one spring weekend to watch The Sound of Music while all of the boys were away. Forgetting that it is long enough for an Intermission, I settled in with them, to much initial protestation.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Immediately I was transported back to second grade, when I sang that very song to a girl in my class named . . . Maria. I thought it was so funny and clever, until the call came from a mother that I had called her daughter a demon. She didn’t appreciate that much. Turns out, it wasn’t so funny or clever, after all. Or kind.

I don’t remember if I found out from a parent or teacher, but either way, that lesson stayed with me always. It was my first experience with the blow that I had hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally and that words have meaning and consequences.

Take a minute to watch this clip. Seriously. Excuse the poor quality, but it’s the only I could find that played the part that I sang to my friend.

A few things stand out to me as curious about this incident and movie.

First, I knew the song well enough to sing it through, which means I must have watched the movie or listened to the soundtrack quite a bit. Second, I can remember facial expressions and things about this particular scene that intrigued or bothered me as a girl . . . the nun who pipes up, Except for every meal with a friendly smile on her face ~ intrigued.  Mother Superior singing, How do you hold a mooooon-beam in, your, hand? ~bothered. Third, I remember acting out scenes from this movie, including putting on my twirliest dress and running up the “hill” in our back yard, and then twirling down singing, The hillllls are alllllive, with the sound of muuuuuusic.

I am serious.

I didn’t really think that my friend, Maria, was a demon. I did think that it was interesting that she had the same name as one of my favorite characters in my favorite movie. I risked getting too playful and too carried away, and that is a big part of second grade.

Second grade is playful and funny and innocent and hurtful all rolled into one. Friendships need help to grow, and little people need help learning to care for one another’s feelings and hearts.

The sweetest thing about second grade is how golden the friendships can be. There is something about someone seeing and knowing you and liking you for who you were at the beginning, before the messages of not good enough began to set in.

As I watched my second graders signing each other’s yearbooks, I was reminded of that same activity with my own second grade friends and pulled out a yearbook from 1979 to take a look.

Jennifer

Here is a signature and drawing by my generous donor.

II Timothy 2:15

Next to that is a Bible reference. Always an important part of a Christian school yearbook signing.

best friend

And this message signed by a friend who I didn’t realize considered me her best. That is the beauty of second grade friendships. Every one is the best!

I love you, my grown-up second grade friends. You, too, Maria.

You’re a lamb, wherever you are.

On My Heart

It’s raw and it’s real.

I recently searched flight after flight to Seattle in September. Trying to hold onto summer, I was simultaneously preparing for fall.

There’s something about information overload and hundreds and thousands of flights and choices of airports and airlines and times of departure and arrival. There’s something about window after window opening up on screen and all of the airport codes blurring together that makes me want to yell, STOP!

I question the blur. Is it my forty-five-year-old eyes or just looking at a computer screen for an extended length of time?

I question my heart. Is this really a good idea? Really worth it?

I know that it is. Even when everything surrounding the planning and stirring inside feels really big. No turning back, now.

Just days ago my heart was encouraged by two friends independent of, and unknown to, each other. One came to drop something by. The other came for coffee.

At the end of the day, my heart was richer, my education fund fuller, and my dining room prettier with a new way I had arranged the plants, one of which was a gift.

Just days ago, friends dropped by a stash of bread, various types, because they thought we could use it. We can. The growing kids in this house are many, and there is always room for toast.

At the end of the day, the kids were fuller, the freezer was fuller, and the bread drawer was fuller. All gifts.

I know this is the right year. The time to do this work is now. There is kindness within the raw and the real, and I don’t have to look far to find it.