At one point Joash decided to repair and restore the temple of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 24:4
I am sitting in one of my favorite places enjoying one of my favorite views while writing about the process of creating today’s work.
My friend gave me a box of fun things to play with this week. I decided to try the Inktense pencils first. They draw like pencils. Adding water turns them to ink and gives a watercolor effect.
I drew this picture of how I envisioned the word Restore. I wanted to convey a sense of new growth coming up from the ground in a trailing vine sort of way. The tiny flowers are inspired by my fiercely flowering plant that has daily been putting out a pink bloom for me. (Its current status and location is in this post for the curious.)
I love the way the late-morning sun fell across the page as I worked. I began adding water to blend the colors. Since I had never used these pencils before, it was a giant experiment.
I realized that I could blend colors, use a sponge to blot up water, and let areas dry before moving on to others. Overall, I liked how it turned out.
The border gives it a finished look and matches the facing page. Yesterday and today’s work, side by side.
At the halfway mark in this experiment, I am enjoying the process and look forward to what the rest of the month holds. Thank you to all for joining me on the journey and for the kind and helpful feedback you generously offer.
The ducklings hatched while I was away with a friend last weekend. My husband sent a picture. It was more than I got last year which was a live view of an empty nest with a few broken eggshells. I felt grateful and said as much to him.
Last Sunday evening, I walked Dewey downtown to the water to see what I could see. There were a mama and Mallard wrangling a passel of puffballs. I knew they were mine and kept the dog up on the bridge, away from the activity, watching from a distance.
Late yesterday afternoon, my youngest asked if she and her visiting cousin could walk the dogs. (My firstborn and her husband were in town with the granddog.) I agreed with the caveat that I go with them.
They eagerly leashed the animals and headed outside. I followed close behind.
Can we walk down to check on the ducks?
I allowed them to lead the way downtown. The break in the rainy weather was nice.
From the bridge over the water, we saw a mama and Mallard with three little puffballs. Not far away was a large family of twelve ducklings, tended by their mama and Mallard. Suddenly chaos ensued as one of them wandered too close to the puffballs.
New mama pinned the wanderer to the ground, quacking furiously. With a flurry and flutter of wings, junior’s mama hurried over, giving the protective mama what for for interfering with her offspring. Order restored, new mama returned to her puffballs and the other huffed away with her ducklings in tow.
Following their Mallard, the large family waddled up the hill, leaving behind a straggler, wandering down by the water. When the lone duckling realized he was left behind, a continuous peeping quack escaped his bill as he frantically ran to and fro in the empty space by the water, looking for his family.
It was no use asking new mama for help, though he tried wandering in her direction. She came at him in a fashion that said, I dare you to come closer! Resignedly, he turned back toward the water, still calling for help.
Meanwhile, the large brood had flocked up the hill away from the water towards the parking lot where I was standing,leashes in hand. By this time I had been relegated to dog keeper while the girls sat on a bench watching the duck drama unfold.
Oh no! That duckling is lost! We have to help him!
They proposed the idea of chasing him up the hill, but then the duckling stepped into the water and swam to the rocks on the other side, still peeping and quacking.
I decided to use the dogs to herd the wandering flock back to the water. Leading Dewey and Wren toward the large brood, we watched as they ran back down the hill and stepped into the water. They began to glide toward the duckling, his peeping quacks still out of reach.
Excitedly the girls cheered the family and duckling closer, hoping to witness a reunion. Rain began falling in a light drizzle. I, too, was hoping for reunion and resolution of this duckling drama rather than a lesson in survival of the fittest.
Suddenly there was a burst of speed as the duckling made connection with his family and came flying across the water. Literally. I have never seen a duck swim as fast as this little one who was making a mad dash to reunite with his raft.*
On the shore we cheered, then turned to head home.
The first weekend of November found me at a lake house with my friend Angela for what has become a fall ritual ~ Introvert’s Weekend Away.
It is a great space, wherever we land, of reading, writing, thinking, processing, and just being. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we are quiet. We do things together, mostly taking walks and eating meals. We do things apart, like all of the other stuff.
My space at the table looked like this for most of the weekend.
It was lovely to be able to leave works in progress and come back to them.
Last year I was working on work for module 2 of the certificate program and had a strict agenda of reading and writing to complete. This year it was fun to just play with and in the space.
The misty day could not keep me from swinging to the music in my ear buds, soaring high into the air. Little did I know I was creating a safe space for my soul. There was solitude and beauty and much-needed calm before the storm that was brewing.
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.
This year’s word, Restore, has proven itself surprising in many ways.
One such way happened on Mother’s Day, but not really. Mother’s Day was the culmination of the restoration. It took awhile to process all of the feelings that swirled inside of me that day. After some time and a little bit of quiet, I am able to write.
Last September there was a post titled Seasonal Ritual where I detailed the return to the basement of the porch swing and my feelings about the whole thing. Not long after, I received a message from a dear friend asking about the swing.
She read the post and, having given birth recently and living in the country where there was a porch without a swing and having a baby who needed lots of movement, wondered if she and her husband could pick up mine to borrow for a season if they returned it painted.
I was more than happy to oblige, and my son kindly catered to a request that once again he bring the swing up from the basement to the porch. Soon after, it was gone. I was glad that it was being used and thought no more about it.
Recently, while catching up, my friend noted that her family was moving and that they would no longer need the swing. Sometime it would be returned to my porch. I assured her there was no rush and, again, thought no more about it.
This is what made for quite a surprise when Mother’s Day afternoon found me returning home from planting the planter to finding a painted swing sitting on the porch. There was a thank you note with the swing and the following comment on the blog:
We dropped off your porch swing this afternoon (this is me letting you know, so that in case somehow it isn’t there, we can sort it out!). I noticed the reno, but I also noticed the chair by the door, the beautiful house number plaque, the lantern, and all the pretty flowers growing around the house. I had been having a “wait oh no what if this is the wrong house” moment, until I saw those things–and then I thought, “Nope, this is Julie’s house.” Because of all the beauty in the midst of the mess. Because of all the ways I can see that you intentionally took time to create loveliness, even though it’s not all perfect. Keep up the good work, friend! 🙂 Thanks again for the swing; it provided this new and growing momma with many breathers.
Tears began to flow which morphed into sobs as I read her words affirming all that I was feeling insecure about with regards to my house and all that is unfinished and messy. The fact that the swing returned to me on Mother’s Day was also significant, and my heart opened to the magnitude of that gift.
The following weekend, my luvvah made a trip to Lowes for supplies and hung the swing for me. I love it.
I sit tonight in the aftermath of a difficult parenting situation with a pileup of years of difficulty bearing down on me. Hearing hard words from children is always difficult ~ especially when they are tinged with truth.
Of course, there is perspective. We are the grownups; they are the kids. Does that invalidate their experience of their reality? How do I hear their words? Usually it’s with great difficulty due to the cacophony of voices shouting unhelpful responses in my head.
Parenting a wide range of ages and stages presents a unique challenge. Every family unit has its own unique challenges for which there are no easy answers or quick fixes.
But I want them SO badly.
Conversing with adult children is different than with those being actively parented. There is a maturity that comes with growing up and beginning to understand some of the parental perspective. There are questions and clarifications and hard things that they endured at our hands.
As we parent those still at home, there is a struggle to stay grounded in the midst of current conflict. There are always conflicts.
It is exhausting.
One of the many reasons I am pursuing this counseling certificate now, during this season, is for personal growth. It is not theoretical work but hands on dig into your story work.That is why it can’t be done solely online and involves showing up in person.
My hope is that rather than easy answers I will find words for hard realities. Instead of quick fixes, I long for lasting restoration. These are what I seek to find as I head into the 2016-17 school year.
It will be hard. An email that came today with additional information now that I am officially enrolled reminded me of this. In addition to all of the physical logistics are the logistics of the heart. It’s about to get even more real.
Thank you for joining me on this journey in whatever capacity your interest lands. Whether curiosity or encouragement or prayer support or financial support, it all matters. Thank you for being with me in the challenging and difficult places where things are neither quick nor easy.
I see it every day across my room, resting on the shelf of mini-books in the corner.
When I chose this word, I envisioned things like restorative yoga poses and gentleness on my body and spirit. It was almost like a time out or time off or freedom to not do much of anything.
I had little specific direction, which was fine with me. Honestly, I wanted to just survive the year with another child graduating from high school and adjust to the next batch moving up and into and through the middle school ranks.
Then I took the leap and applied to the Allender Center’s Lay Counseling Certificate Program. I filled out the online application and sat through a phone interview and now wait to see what will happen next.
Then there was the goals challenge offered by my firstborn that I accepted. I wrote down specific goals for the year with the intention of working on them and marking my progress. This discipline uncovered some things about me and my history that I would rather ignore, but my response to feedback from others is challenging me to address more hurt.
Maybe the locusts ate my self-confidence. Maybe they swallowed my voice. Maybe they hijacked my ability to risk. Maybe they devoured my dreams. Maybe those are what will be restored as I lean into 2016.
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten
Joel 2:25, ESV
Right now I don’t have a clear focus. I sit in much unrest and uncertainty, even as I take on the challenges of each day. Of one thing I am certain. I can rest in unrest and settle into uncertainty and move through the journey with confidence that he who began is faithful to complete.
It was ten years overdue and found as I was sliding a tin of old Christmas cards into the trash.
An unopened Christmas card, addressed to someone other than the ones at this house, caught my eye in the midst of the haphazard pile.
Immediately two thoughts popped into my head.
Lalalalala just let it go. You didn’t see anything, and it’s been sitting in the basement for years.
Well, maybe you could just open it and see what kind of card it is. It’s been sitting in the basement for years. THEN you can throw it away.
Here I was, the days following Christmas, trying to face honestly all of the stuff we do not need, and tins of old Christmas cards fit the bill. I had finally decided to get on the declutter bandwagon with my husband and was taking precious time to decrapatize basement bins.
Something that should have taken seconds or minutes, stretched into days, but it was worth it in the end.
I chose option 2 and opened the card. I was not expecting to read a heartfelt note of thankfulness from a parent to a teacher or care-giver, find a hand-drawn picture from a child, and have two Regal Cinema gift certificates fall out. Thankfulness ten years overdue.
What do I do with this?!!
Knowing that I couldn’t unsee, unopen, undo what I had done, I turned to facebook and entered the name on the envelope. One matching result came up, showing that we had one mutual friend. I sent a message to the addressee, and waited in the unrest.
A few days later was New Year’s Eve. I ran into our mutual friend during the downtown festivities in our city. She knew the card’s recipient who now lived in California. I asked if she would also message and ask her to check for my communication. I soon got a response with a mailing address.
Tucking the card, picture, and movie passes into a new envelope, I mailed them off. A few days later, a response came that the surprise flashback had been received. The tone of the message was grateful. I could finally check off the box for my basement Christmas card declutter project.
Sometimes things take longer than expected. Sometimes we don’t hear a thank you for our efforts, even though the overture was made, the picture drawn, the gift sent. Sometimes the reward for our hard work and effort sits in someone’s basement amongst their old Christmas pictures and cards for a over a decade. Sometimes the thanks gets missed through no fault of anyone’s, and oversight, a missed house number, and a busy season buries a treasure. Sometimes a discovery is made leaving the choice to engage or ignore it.
Sometimes, at just the right time, the treasure is found, the word spoken, the gift sent, the heart refreshed. It’s never too late to restore what’s been lost.
A few weekends ago, Steve and I took some much-needed time away together, with the holiday season in full swing. The timing was not ideal, but is it ever? As I type this line, I am transported in my mind to twenty-four years ago when we were saying, I do, at a time that was less-than ideal.
Today is our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary and the twenty-ninth anniversary of the season when we met.
There is a backstory to our time away, and while I could post pictures of festive decorations and divine cheese platters and gush about the reflexology treatment and hot-stone massage that my darling booked for me in advance, there would be much missing. There would be a glaring omission of the reality that we had to fight hard for this time and were almost taken down for the count.
That, dear reader, is the part that I want to share with you. Reality.
The story began last fall, summer, even, when my dearest asked our firstborn and her husband if they could spend Labor Day weekend with the kids so that we could go away together. Three nights alone seemed an incredible luxury. I was looking forward to it desperately.
When back-to-school life got full and pressures started bearing down, a voice inside reminded me that it would be worth it all when we were away. I could work really hard to get the school year going and then relax into the long weekend, emerging refreshed and re-connected with my partner in the midst of all of the madness.
We were both so caught up in our duties and responsibilities that a glaring omission happened. We failed to book a destination. This reality struck the week before we were to go away, when a painful conversation took place, leaving me feeling let-down, hurt, and angry.
Festering heart wounds that I thought had been dealt with, broke open and began to ooze painfully. I spent time trying to figure out a kind, yet honest, way to express my deep disappointment.
Too often I have offered a quick, That’s okay! or It’s no big deal! to things that were NOT okay and WERE big deals. It was a new path for me to sit in the hard place of feeling my feelings without minimizing them and of hurting without accusing my partner in anger. It was a struggle not to lash out at the one I love while in pain.
After these honest conversations, Labor Day weekend found us dog-sitting so that our daughter and son-in-law could go camping. We stayed at the house laboring, as usual. It was not the weekend I had envisioned, and I felt hurt and disappointed.
Steve quickly arranged for the next available time that the married adult couple could come and stay for a weekend. It was months away in December, but just having a date on the calendar was encouraging.
Things were rolling along smoothly. A non-refundable, non-transferable location was booked in Williamsburg, and Christmas Town tickets were purchased. Planning was enjoyable, and we were communicating. I had requested an entire Friday off to have a leisurely morning to myself before stealing away together.
I was picturing it in my head, and it was BEAUTIFUL!
Then things started to happen. Plans began to shift and change for honest reasons. Human error in communication caused the wrong weekend to be booked. We could still go away, but the child-care factor became much more labor-intensive and complicated.
I did not like the revised plan I was hearing. It felt forced and overwhelming and exhausting. Much complicated planning needed to happen just to arrive at our destination. It was not as I had envisioned. To top it off, the night before our planned departure, Steve became ill. He took to bed in a manner unusual for him unless it is serious. It was serious.
I was left in the nebulous unknown of wondering if I should continue to pack children to take to their siblings instead of having siblings come to them. I wondered if we would be able to go away at all.
Frankly, I was finished. Tired. Done.
My day off dawned, not as I had planned. It found me driving kids to school instead of rolling over for a little more sleep. After the drop off, I checked in with Steve who was not sure how he felt and did not look great.
Our revised plan had been to drive two cars to drop the kids with their adult siblings in Richmond on our way to Williamsburg. That would leave a vehicle for them to drive back to Harrisonburg that would fit everyone. Steve didn’t look up to the driving challenge. I was already less-than-thrilled with that idea BEFORE sickness crept in.
Let’s just not go. This is getting ridiculous. When are we going to read the sign that says this is not a good idea? What else has to happen?
We had until 11:00 to cancel the massage appointment he had booked. He wanted a little more rest, leaving me to make a teary call to my sister to help me process. She helped me sort out my heart, and when we hung up I realized that I needed to try.
Trying looked like seeing if there was any way to have the kids cared for here in town overnight instead of having to drive them to Richmond. The Richmond connection could drive themselves here the next day and hang out until we got home.
I reached out to friends and family who were able to say yes. While Steve slept, I arranged and drove around and packed up and picked up and dropped off. When he woke, I presented the new plan, which I think was plan d by this point. The kids were accounted for, he could sleep in the car while I drove, and we would at least be away, alone together.
If he felt better, great. If not, he could sleep while I read, addressed Christmas cards, wrote, did yoga, got a massage. We could watch movies or listen to podcasts together. It actually wasn’t looking too bad!
The bottom line is that we were able to go away, but it wasn’t easy.
We listened to podcasts together in the car. After a night of rest, Steve felt well enough to walk in the woods while I experienced a restorative massage. We ate at The Cheese Shop in downtown Williamsburg and walked around Merchant’s Square. We napped and relaxed. I didn’t write any Christmas cards. We didn’t make it to Christmas Town.
Our time together was too short. It always is. But it happened.