Category Archives: redeeming

Risen, Indeed

He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

It is Easter Sunday, a time to celebrate the resurrection and all things new. Yet, even on Resurrection Sunday, many sit in Saturday still, the space of death and loss. It is a tough bind to hold, that of rejoicing in the hope of the resurrection, while simultaneously mourning that we remain here in the death.

Yesterday’s news of the untimely loss of a precious child I was blessed to work with this year in the SVCC and this morning’s news of horrific attacks on worshipers and tourists in Sri Lanka, make the words I was so eager to share today seem flat and trite. How does the story I want to tell even begin to matter in light of the bigger picture?

I think it matters. I think it matters that beauty and hope can be found in unlikely places, in personal ways. This week’s resurrection story came at the perfect time, in an unexpected way, and I share it here now.

Wednesday was full of goodness. I worked on an online class in the morning, created in my art journal after that, had a Facetime call with two dear friends, did the after school pick up.

I noticed while driving past my house, that there was a box on the front porch, a package. I did not remember ordering anything, but sometimes Steve or one of the adults does, so I made a mental note to check when I got home.

Then I forgot.

Afternoon routine involved connecting with kids, preparing supper, wrapping up the day, watching a favorite Youtube channel while working in the kitchen. An unboxing was happening there (go to 15:53 if you click on the link), reminding me that there was a box waiting on the front porch. I stopped what I was was doing to go check it out.

It was labeled as containing 50 hangers. This struck me as interesting and odd at the same time. I use a mishmash of hangers and wondered if maybe Steve wanted to start using nicer hangers or if one of the adults had gifted me with a box of them.

The return address was local, but unfamiliar, and read Shoot for Your Dreams. The closer I looked at the box, the more dented it appeared, and I began to feel an odd sensation relating to opening it. Was it a good idea?

This has happened twice before. I was afraid to open an unexpected package and felt an unreasonable anxiety that maybe there was something dangerous inside. The first one held cherries, the second, a thoughtful gift.

Bracing myself, I opened this box.

This is the box that held the surprise. I would have been happy with 50 matching velvet hangers, but that is not what was inside.

I removed this.

I was not expecting a Gucci dust cover bag to come out of the box. Curious and curiouser.

Untying the strings at the top, I pulled out a gorgeous spring Gucci bag. I. Was. Stunned.

This spring tapestry-style Gucci bag is covered with beautiful images on both sides and has bamboo-style handles. It is gorgeous.

I took it to show my son who began snapping pictures and researching the pattern and authenticating numbers. Yes, it was a real Gucci bag. The mystery deepened, and remains. I had suspicions that did not pan out, and clues that have not come all the way together.

I decided to receive the beauty and rest in the mystery.

For this particular gift to arrive in the midst of Holy Week, felt significant. I wrote in this post a story of loss. A death, if you will. Out of the dented hanger box came something beautiful, brimming with images of life, flourishing like my word this year. I was overwhelmed.

It felt so personal and kind, this third surprise package. It reminded me of another gift of three.

This is my resurrection story today. It is the resurrection of new beauty in a new season of life. It is the receiving of a generous gift that holds deep meaning from a giver that I cannot see. It is relinquishing the need to know everything and trusting the evidence that I have been given.

I am seen, loved, celebrated, encouraged.

Dear Mystery Giver,
Thank you for this generous gift. You have no idea, or maybe you do, how blessed I felt to receive it. In this season of stepping out and showing up and starting something new, your thoughtfulness and generosity reminded me, once again, that my labor is not in vain. God works in the unseen spaces and brings to new life things we thought have died. He provides exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever imagine or dream. I certainly did not imagine or dream the contents of this package! My husband, the giver of the original bag, told me that this one is amazing and so much more beautiful. And I agree. I loved carrying it to church this morning. Blessings and Love to you!

Dear Reader,
Thank you for staying with me to the end of the story. I don’t know where you find yourself this Resurrection Sunday. Maybe you, too, are rejoicing at seeing a glimpse of the goodness of God in the land of the living. Maybe you are grieving a deep death or loss and don’t believe there will ever be goodness. Wherever you are, please know that you are seen and loved by the one who cares about the things of your heart, even the loss of a bag from your teen years. He is in the business of restoring and making things new.

He is risen, indeed!

Less Shadow, More Shade

This week found me wrestling my light and shadow sides. As a girl, it was ok to have a light side. That was the good, acceptable, pleasing part of me. But woah be it when the shadow emerged. That part was dark and dangerous and unacceptable.

I learned early to shove the shadow parts of me down, careful not to let them escape. I learned to bear up and suffer the consequences when the real me was seen. Then I could reset and be bright and acceptable, again . . . until . . .

Wave after wave crested and crashed. Not able to hold both . . . and . . . , not understanding that this is why Jesus came, I felt shame around my feelings and their inappropriate expression. There was not language for all I held inside, nor was there safety to look at any of it.

Texting with a heart friend this week affirmed the confusion over parts of my story, as a realization dawned in me surrounding my relationship to the shadow. While the shadow side was unacceptable, it is also what saved me, hence the bind. In some ways it protected me. How do I bless that?

My friend spoke of a redeemed version of the shadow. Shadows offer shade and reprieve. Maybe redemption brings with it less shadow, more shade, she offered. It felt true and an image began to form in my mind.

First a sketch, then a rummage through the art supplies, and finally some paint in the art journal led to this week’s creation. While I didn’t plan for it to have a death, burial, and resurrection theme, one is undeniably present.

The image on the left is how it feels when the shadow is released. I am turned from the light towards the darkness and feel ungrounded. There is no containment. On the right I am settled in the shade of a tree. Though there is still darkness, light is breaking through and rest is found. I am grounded and contained, and there is beauty in the shadows. I am surrounded by growth.

As I sat with the image more, I felt the self on the left calling out in the darkness. That is the yellow line cutting through the shadow. She does not know that new life and resurrection is coming, but the one on the right remembers and is there. She holds both the beauty and broken. The light and dark. She holds hope.

The day I created this, I received a package in the mail. Opening it revealed an unconventional resurrection story, which I will hold until Sunday, the day we celebrate that He is risen, indeed and came to make all things new, including our shadow stories.

To be continued . . .

All the Books

I am grateful that my kids are readers. I remember when the final child learned to read. It was as if I could let out a giant sigh.

Mission Accomplished!

I have always loved books. As a little girl, I remember being excited about trips to the library or school book club fliers. Caddie Woodlawn came from a school book club flier in fourth grade, I think.

I needed a reminder of the goodness, and my love, of books tonight when I walked up to tuck my youngest in bed and found her digging around underneath it. Just looking for Pony-wa. That was fine until I decided to actually look at what she was doing and realized there were tons of books stuffed under there, too.

What?! I like to read!

Fishing book after book out from under the stuffed animals piled in the crack of her bed, I tried loosely sorting them into stacks in the hall to reshelve. You can see just a few of her very favorites still on the bed.

I’ve read ALL of them, too.

A redeeming factor maybe is that the lost library book that I finally broke down and paid for yesterday was not among the stacks. Also, I found something else in the process.

Those of you who follow the blog know this significance, and I smiled inside while tucking it into my pocket and proceeding to shelve the books in the hall.

Committed Spirit

Last week started with a lofty goals post and ended with sex. Both were big draws to the blog. I knew about the goals link-up and had planned on it. It felt good to get some goals down on paper and out there for others to see.

I had not planned the timing of my Red Tent post. A backstory was written to go live whenever it ran, which happened to be Thursday. That was a day full of cyber and real-life engagement.

It started with texts full of kind encouragement. There were questions about how I was feeling. There were likes and comments and shares on Facebook. I was in my classroom, as usual, all day, so I wasn’t following the cyberspace chatter. After work I checked in to find several alerts and comments and even some new Composting the Heart page likes!

Yes, there is a Composting the Heart Facebook page that you can like if you haven’t already!

Far from going viral, it was still my farthest-reaching post, confirming what we already know. Sex sells.

So here I sit at the beginning of a new week, reflecting on all that has happened and all that might come. Big feelings stir inside, and I wonder, Is it worth it? Sharing my goals and hopes and dreams? Risking and writing and opening my heart?

Last Monday morning while reading in Psalm 31, verse 5 gave me pause.

Into your hand I commit my spirit, you have redeemed me O Lord, faithful God.

Often I think of these words in connection with death, not life, because in Luke 23:46, Jesus commits his spirit into his Father’s hands and breathes his last.

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

In David’s context, however, he commits his spirit while he is living. Reading this early Monday morning, caused me to fill with questions that I began to journal.

How do I commit my spirit into your hands, Father?
What is it to trust in your work on my behalf?
How do I rest in the space of un-ease? Unknown?
This looking ahead to dreams and goals and plans feels too big, yet I commit my spirit to your hands. Please show me the way!

I was given a new perspective and visual of handing my spirit to God for safe-keeping, not just in death, but in life. It gave me a renewed sense of peace that God already knows his plans for me and is working them out. Looking back over last week, I was grateful for the reminder when the stirring of unrest began to fill me.

I am still pondering this committing of spirit. Still practicing the trusting. Still learning to rest in the unknown and in the Father’s redemption of my life.

I am still learning to Bless the moments that we feel you nearer.

 

Friendship Friday ~ Cheesy Edition

I love my kids. All of them. They overwhelm me. Every one.

They are my greatest gifts. They are what God knew I needed, and I cling to that reminder when I’m not so sure.

They are some of my issues. I have helped to create many of theirs.

Five remain at home, one with his foot out the door, but still very much present. It takes many deep breaths and much fortitude to brace for the second half of this parenting journey with the ones who remain.

This.

family

This is a bag of cheese pulled from the freezer for Friday night pizza.

Several weeks ago, adult child three stopped in unexpectedly. She helped make the Friday night pizza. She also offered to divide the giant bag of mozzarella cheese into smaller, freezer-sized portions, a task not my favorite.

In the weeks following, as I pulled cheese from the freezer, I found hand-written notes on the bags. I love my mama. It’s Friday! and other sweet messages adorned them, written in trademark black Sharpie.

This bag makes me smile so much that I’m keeping it to refill. I love the picture she drew and her handwriting for the words and just everything that reminds me of the huge, undeserved gift I’ve been given to be the mom in the picture.

I’m thankful for moments like this where I am reminded of the redemptive good birthed from the very hard. Many years of pizza making, lots of Fridays, lots of freezing of cheese and sauce and dough, lots of misunderstandings about plans and movie choices and curfews come together in a moment of beauty written on a bag of cheese.

Friendship Friday ~ Making it Happen

I planned a date night.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but for me it is. For me it is saying, I really care about spending time together, I know Steve will enjoy this, I know I will enjoy this. Even though there are 1,001 reasons to not make it happen and then feel disappointed, I am going to TRY.

When I saw that Second City was returning to JMU, I wanted to go again with Steve. We attended a show a few years ago with No Strings Attached, and it was fun. I participated in a Second City workshop in Chicago while chaperoning a school trip for my son and learned a lot.

I desired to do this together.

Several weeks ago, I checked out the tickets and pricing. Seats were going fast. There were a few left scattered here and there, mostly in the balcony. Asking Steve what he thought about going, and not hearing clear Let’s do it! in his voice, I let it go.

Several weeks ago there was also great letdown as a failed communication between us resulted in an anticipated longing falling by the wayside, unmet. I struggled through deep disappointment and wrestled with how to let go of past hurts while communicating present ones honestly.

It was difficult to admit to myself and my husband that I stuff pain and quickly say, It’s okay, or It’s no big deal, when it’s not and it is. I had to acknowledge my hurt, disappointment, and true feelings without accusing, blaming, and attacking. It was a difficult time. We are still learning to communicate honestly and to hear one another in a safe space.

Steve can’t read my mind.

I minimize desire. I long for more together time but don’t take action. I wish for connection but grow busy with distraction.

It was time to make something happen.

Last night, out of curiosity, I logged onto the theater website to see what, if any, seats were left.

The seat map showed two yellow squares at the edge of a sea of x‘s. And by sea, I mean every other seat was marked taken.

Two seats at the end of a row! A countdown timer at the top of the laptop screen ticked away the minutes I had to make a decision while Steve was out walking Dewey. Two seats. At the end of a row! (Can you tell that part in itself was HUGE for me?) The last two seats. My favorite spot in any row.

I took them.

Almost immediately, contempt and sabotage began to creep in.

What did you just do? That was stupid. You don’t even know if you can get a babysitter at this late notice. Steve didn’t act as if he wanted to go when you mentioned it before. You just spent money on something that you don’t know will work out.

And on and on.

I began my usual pattern of faux-not-caring. He can always take a friend if we don’t get a sitter. I can be here with the kids. It doesn’t matter if I go or not.

It mattered.

I tried.

I told Steve when he returned and was met with a positive response. He helped me begin looking for a sitter, which in the end I secured.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

So tonight is a real date night, not that popcorn and Parenthood at 9:30pm doesn’t count. It’s the fighting forward for fun together that doesn’t just magically happen because I wish it would. It’s being in the moment in our marriage, knowing that it is worth it.

We are worth making it happen!

Functional Wife, Functional Mother

As part of my theme of returning this year, I am taking this incredibly vulnerable (for me) post from my private blog today as an example of grace and change, and God’s work in my life, though not on my timetable. It was and is and continues to be a process of hope and trust and choosing to keep going, even when I can’t see or understand why. Read through the comments, as well, as they are telling. 

Back in July, 1996, I was a 25 year old wife, married 4 1/2 years, and a mom of 3 little ones aged 3,2,1.  Every area of life was full and overwhelming. That was all I knew. I had to keep going and going and going because there were no other options. It was a lonely time full of disappointment, disillusion, despair, and depression (which would not be acknowledged and dealt with for 12 more years after I had 5 additional kids).

I know it was all grace that kept me functioning when I didn’t think I could. It was mercy that Steve and I not only loved each other but LIKED each other enough to keep trying to push through and make sense of the senseless. It was writing that moved the clutter inside from my head to paper and it was Jesus who heard my cries and never let  me go.

I wrote Functional Wife, Functional Mother during this time. It’s one of those mantras that would get stuck in my head, and I had to get it out. That’s how I felt. Like I was barely functioning. At 25.

Thank God for His redeeming love. He has made and continues to make all things new, but it has been a long, at times, lonely process. Here I am over 17 years later to testify that things do get better. Just not always on our time table!

From deep within the bin of my 25 year old heart….

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

I get out of bed, there’s a baby to hold.

I look in the mirror, my face looks so old.

I go down the stairs, there’s a pile of clothes to fold.

And the bread in the cupboard is starting to grow mold.

And I’m a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

My husband comes home, he kisses my cheek.

We’re both so tired, it’s been a long week.

What’s in our hearts, we can’t even speak.

What would we find, if we dared to peek?

He’d find a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

Please do not say it will all go away,

and that what I am feeling is not here to stay.

I’ve heard it before, I still feel the same way.

It may soon get better but for today

I’m just a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

Seeds of Hope

They may be buried deep. Lying dormant. Hidden away in a dry, dark place.

Refuse of the heart, mixed with words of truth, can be sprinkled on those seeds and help hope begin to sprout. To grow.

I found a new favorite Dan Allender quote in his book Sabbath. 

The truest fruit of repentance is always hope, even in the face of overwhelming and unrelenting dour circumstances. Hope is not mere optimism; rather it is moving forward in anticipation of redemption in spite of the improbability of rescue. (185)

Those overwhelming and unrelenting dour circumstances look different for everyone. Whatever you feel a need to be rescued from is your overwhelming circumstance.

What does it look like to move forward, anticipating redemption, in the midst of the dour?

Whatever your circumstance this season, I pray this for you. I pray this for me, as well.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

Lament

My head was hung in shame

for as long as I can remember

 but especially at 16, when my heart began to break.

I cried out in agony

begging

pleading

Tears poured from my eyes

’til I could cry no more.

My heart wound was so deep.

Could it ever be healed?

It seemed impossible.

I begged for relief and received only answers that gave me false hope.

solutions

formulas

Until God intervened.

He revealed to me a plan

That he made long ago

To turn disaster into

delightful

And questions to peace.

And as I poured out my heart like water to the Lord

And as godly friends rescued me by speaking truth to my lies

And as I lifted my hands in prayer

Pleading for my children to be spared from what evil has tried to steal

God came.

And healed me.

And bound up my wounds.

And through terror and kindness

He granted relief.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my dad’s birthday. I am grateful to have him here celebrating another year of LIFE after the adventures of last summer.

I am also grateful for an entire day off (sort of) to have time to actually think and write a birthday post. Because that’s what you do when you have a blog of your own, right?

Last Father’s Day, my sister wrote this about our dad. It’s beautiful and amazing and also an example of how we had different dads  sixteen years apart. I know. Scandalous. But true.

I got the young, new, idealistic dad. With hair.

little me in the apple tree

My childhood memories include looking up at lengths of patterned polyester stretch-and-sew pants.

It was many, many moons ago. We did do fun things together, Dad comments on this picture that someone posted for a TBT on facebook.

And I believe it. We did. I remember some of them.

I remember getting ice cream in Indiana and trying to lick it into a soft serve swirl on top. I remember the Enchanted Forest, and walks collecting aluminum cans, and my first tooth being pulled in his band director office at CCA, (aka the baptistry closet?).

It was carefully placed in that spot in my Snoopy thermos where the drinking cup screwed on, for safekeeping until I got home.

I remember riding to school with him on snow days and visiting classrooms and collecting teacher cast-offs to bring home to teach my own students siblings. I remember the siblings coming, and coming, and Saturday morning cartoons and laundry and meal-planning, and sliding down the stairs in the inflatable raft.

You remember too much.

That, too.

Thinking about my childhood and relationship with my dad, many stories come to mind, illustrating our dynamic. They show the dance that was ours that we didn’t even understand at the time.

dancing with dad

One such story involves shopping for shoes. I want to put myself at ten or eleven, so I will say I was somewhere in between. Like this child.

Coco

I needed new shoes, and Dad took me out to Prince George’s Plaza. Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe it was to the shoe store in Riverdale Plaza. Memory is fiction, you know. He took me out to buy a pair of shoes. I do know that for a fact.

Our family didn’t have lots of money, and as a general rule, we got what we needed. No frills. Unless you were shopping with Dad. Then there was at least the chance to get the thing that was a little bit extra.

For me, the extra was not just getting shoes, but brown-suede, lace-up shoes, with crepe soles that were shaped into individual rolls all along the bottom. I remember them kind of looking like long tootsie rolls.

As a side note, this means it had to have been before the sixth grade, mail-order Mason Shoes sensible slip-ons with the flat bottoms, perfect for the gluing on of a lift to the left one. But that is another story for another time.

I tied on the beautiful new shoes and wore them home from the store. Is there anything better for a kid than getting to wear new shoes home? I didn’t think so.

Basking in the delight of my new shoes and in time alone with my dad (if we were alone. I don’t remember any siblings along.), we headed home. All felt right in the world.

The station wagon parked along the curb in front of our city duplex. I opened the passenger door and stepped out and into a pile of dog poop.

Poop oozed between each roll of those crepe soles. All’s right became oh sh!t.

I remember those shoe bottoms being scrubbed and scraped. Those delightful, rubber rolled soles became a nightmare. I felt the tension and stress and the shatter of shalom.

I don’t remember feeling a comfortable in-between of oh well, dog poop happens. My childish world was experienced and viewed through a lens of either all (everything is right with you) or nothing (everything is wrong with you).

When you allow yourself to remember and feel the good, you open yourself up to remembering and feeling the painful.

And there was painful.

There was hurt and misunderstanding and brokenness and shame. There was loss and miscommunication and fear and stress.

There was my big toe, for goodness sake!

But there was also redemption coming. Strange and small and slow, it crept up, at first. Nudging, tapping on the shoulder, whispering what about me?

It wasn’t easy, isn’t easy to learn a new dance.

dancing with dad

Sometimes it takes years of trying, stepping in dog poop, and getting your toes stepped on to learn the new moves. Sometimes the moves feel stiff and unnatural, and you long for the effortless twirling across the floor of that father-daughter team.

But this is us.

And we have grown. Are growing. Were picked for each other by a God who loves us and already knew we were who we needed to be in each other’s lives. Even when we might have thought otherwise.

I am grateful for the new dance we have grown into, even when it is scary, and I wonder if it is real.

dancing with dad

And about that baby sister of mine and how we had different dads? The last line of her post sums up how our dad is the same. I’m stealing it for the last line of mine!

I love seeing how far our relationship has come, and I’m excited to see where it is headed!