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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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 Citywas 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I have been sifting through The Compost Pile, my personal blog. It was started a month before Composting the Heart back in 2013 and was private. It was a kind place, growing in me the courage to write and find my voice.
The other night a friend posted a facebook question asking if you do or don’t clean before a babysitter comes over. I included a lengthy response with my no vote, which brought to mind this post on date night, in general, with a nod to the messy house thing tossed in.
Can you find it?
Date night again! Shattered nerves? Knotted stomach? What is this? Anticipation? Sort of. The kind of which well-orchestrated plans are made.
There are so many steps to think through . . . securing a sitter, keeping track of where everyone will be, leaving an understandable plan, having someone else in our home. Deep into our home. In the bowels of the mess. I struggle to let that one go.
Always the transition from here to gone threatens to derail me. I am learning to let go, but it is a process, and once in the car, an entirely new inner conflict ensues.
What do we do? How do I relax, enjoy, and have fun without focusing on tasks and to-dos? How are we real with each other?
I learned early on that throwing a pile of money at a nice restaurant or movie and calling it a date didn’t ensure fun and connection. Many evenings ended in disillusionment and disappointment. I spent money for THIS? We could have stayed home and fought for FREE!
And date night seasons . . . sometimes we could afford to pay a sitter and go out of the house for time alone. Others were spent at home watching a movie or sitting on the porch together after kids were in bed. Always with a bottle of wine or a martini. Often with popcorn.So LAST NIGHT was a pleasant surprise when our dance-class-with-friends date came together. Awesome sitter, unexpected dinner alone with Steve beforehand (with happy-hour priced beer for him and wine for me), followed by a fun dance lesson. Redemptive success!
Upon entering the studio, I realized the last time we attempted to take a dance class, one of our babies (let’s assume it was Mae but might have been Roo) was a newborn in a bucket. And even though it was infant 7 or 8, I was STILL delusional enough to think she would stay sleeping through the class and NOT want to get out just as I was beginning to relax and have fun dancing.
Yes, we had to leave, and yes, I was convinced that I would NEVER be able to just relax and have fun and enjoy a dance class EVER AGAIN. There may have been angry tears.
Last night I smiled and laughed and danced and grimaced and followed (somewhat) and sugarpushed and spun and enjoyed being out with the love of my life.