Category Archives: Sabbath

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

Mother’s Day Recap ’16

How was your Mother’s Day?

It’s a question asked and replied to the days following Mother’s Day, and now, a week later, I have some space and time to think about it and respond. How was it?

It was a different sort of day this year.

My husband, father of the ones who call me Mother, rose early to drive two hours to Richmond to meet up with a daughter for breakfast. After breakfasting with and seeing her off to work, he met up with another daughter and her husband who had kept our two youngest for the weekend. They went to church together and spent the afternoon before he drove home with the little girls, arriving in the early evening.

I woke to a quiet house and an apple fritter on the table to eat with my coffee before church. There was also a jar of homemade bath salts from my youngest and some lavender bath soak from my husband. Obviously, that is a theme for me and one way that I relax. The donuts left for the three at home with me were a thoughtful touch.

Heading to church with only two children was usual, but good. It’s amazing how the dynamic changes when the mix of people is rearranged. The text from my son’s girlfriend was lovely.

After church, I took my twins to Taco Bell for lunch. Much laughter and silliness and spilling of drinks occurred. Much staring and feeling like I was in the center ring while trying to exercise patience in the moment made for a memorable time with my middle schoolers.

clesn-up crew

I was thankful to my son for cleaning this spill cheerfully and didn’t feel at all bad that my daughter had gotten a medium, rather than a large, drink.

IMG_4702

Moments of laughter and happy children made lunchtime special.

There were kittens at my parents’ house, and since I plant a planter for my mother each year, I decided to go over there and kill two birds. My twins, born two years apart, enjoyed the babies while I enjoyed the soil and sunshine. Win-win.

kittens

After quick drive to drop some potted flowers to Steve’s mom, we headed home to rest.

We're twins!

I had high hopes for my quiet time that wasn’t exactly quiet. I tend to build things up in my head and think that there will be SO MUCH TIME to do ALL THE THINGS. I took a quick snooze, and then time was up.

No writing. No finishing reading a book. No soak in the tub or painting of nails. Lots of middle school engagement.

After quiet time my firstborn called and asked if I had seen the gift from her and her husband. They had contributed to my counseling certificate fund. Earlier in the day, I had noticed it shared on Facebook and thought THAT was their gift. A shout out of encouragement. Noticing a financial gift and their words of affirmation made my heart feel full.

Later, another child surprised me with a gift towards my goal, as well. I felt loved that he didn’t just tell me to get a job to earn some extra money, which, by the way, I am also doing in the form of not spending, finding things to sell, and looking for ways to pick up some extra work.

Husband returned with my little girls bearing gifts of chocolate and a gift that my adult daughter gave him for me at breakfast. It was two bottles of purple OPI polish. This was a HUGE surprise and so meaningful. I love having a fun new summer color or two and ALMOST broke down and bought myself a bottle the weekend before. But then I remembered I am saving for my certificate and refrained.

I love being known so well by my kids and appreciated each one’s individual bit of thoughtfulness.

There was one more surprise that came to me on Mother’s Day, but it needs its own post. I am still sorting where it fits in and the magnitude of its meaning to me.

So there’s the long answer to a short question. Mother’s Day was full of love and people and meaning and laughter. All of the good things that it should be enveloped my heart this year, leaving me so very grateful and feeling so very loved.

Thanks for asking!

 

Sick Day

I am rarely sick. It is hard to admit that I am too sick for anything unless I am on the edge of consciousness, and someone else decides for me. It is difficult to trust my instincts.

In fact, when I began feeling rough on Saturday, I immediately ascribed it to the residual effects of a fun Friday night out with friends and eating sticky nuggs at Billy Jack’s too late at night. It certainly COULDN’T be the stomach bug that has been going around and had many of my students and some fellow teachers missing school or leaving early this past week.

No. Not that.

To make matters worse, Sunday was to be my return to singing on worship team after a hiatus of several months. I had been looking forward to this Sunday and after practice on Wednesday night, even more so. It was a great team, great set of songs, and I was excited.

Saturday I woke up feeling a little off.

Probably too much fun last night.

I don’t do fun well, and can’t just go with the flow and enjoy. I drank a cappuccino, but breakfast was not happening. Steve and I were out together at a coffee shop enjoying some quiet time to write and reflect. He got food. I didn’t but later nibbled a bit on a piece of croissant and smidge of donut. Clues much?

Heading home, my stomach began to churn.

Ugh. I am getting too old to eat sticky nuggs late at night!

Saturday was spent trying to coach myself through to the end, waiting to feel better. Certainly better was just around the bend. Once I take a nap, have a snack, get the shopping done.

Steve was worried about me.

You’re not doing well. You seem to be going downhill.

I’m fine. I just have to get through ____________________ fill in whatever was the next thing I needed to do and then I will feel better.

I didn’t feel better.

Before going to sleep, Steve expressed concern that I wasn’t listening to my body well and didn’t seem to be in a good place to be getting up at six in the morning to get ready for worship team. I was sure I would be feeling much better after rest.

I felt much worse.

Waking up, I knew that there was no way that I would be able to hoist myself up in front of a bunch of people to sing. I could barely walk across the floor of my room. Also, I didn’t think anyone would appreciate me bringing my upset stomach to share with them.

With great disappointment I texted the leader, who responded with kindness. I went back to sleep.

Sunday has been spent sabbathing, resting, listening to my body. It keeps yelling at me to get up and do something, but I haven’t cooperated. I have slept a lot, read a bit, written a bit, and watched Netflix.

Tomorrow will be better. I just know.

Grace

Today I am thankful for grace. I am thankful to have learned and to continue to learn that it’s not all about me, whatever it is.

Today it was worship team.

I love singing. I love Sundays when I can be on team. This season there are none.

When the last worship team email went out to indicate availability, I knew that I could not be available for any of the Wednesday practices or Sunday morning services or the Thanksgiving or Christmas service, either.

I knew I had to take time off to better care for and more fully engage with my family, because we are running thin these days. Thinner than usual.

I needed to step away from external activities to step towards and love them well.

And that realization was hard.

I missed Community Worship this month to have Steve’s parents for dinner and not be rushing out to the next thing. It was not easy, yet necessary in order to be more fully present in my relationship with them.

This morning as I walked into the church building, I heard lovely singing over the speakers. Moving to our row, I saw and heard my sweet friend Grace on stage singing with the team for the first time. We sing the same part. She has a beautiful voice.

My heart was touched and opened as I began to engage and be fully present in the moment.

The gentle reminder of seasons coming and going, of God’s provision in each, and of freedom to step down and rest was overpowering. The reminder that stepping down allows another to step up, and that through it all God is glorified, was humbling.

I can let it go and breathe and engage and receive grace.

I am grateful.

Reasonable Service

This morning, Pastor Todd brought words from Romans 12, challenging us to give our entire life to God. I was transported back to a season of meditation on this very passage.

Certainly not the only time I have spent in Romans, it was a significant season in my story. I recalled the exact journal used to process and pulled it from the shelf this evening to examine my thoughts more closely.

The first page tells me what I need to know.

I’ve just given birth to child #7.

It’s August 7, 2006, and it’s been a week and a half since her birth.

The summer seemed quite fragmented due to the fact that I was very pregnant for the first half and post~partum for the second.

As there are four full weeks of August before school starts this fall, I am trying to begin collecting my thoughts and planning for the coming season.

This is followed by lists of things that I would like to accomplish during the month along with things that have been lacking in my life. There is concern for my emotional stability as we enter a season of transition in the areas of church, school, and family. There is looking ahead to the fall and what to focus on with the parenting of seven children ranging from 13 years to 10 days.

There are goals set. There are lists of things to rejoice in. Blessings.

There is the question.

How can I not feel blessed?

A theme in my story is trying. I am grateful that God’s Word does not return void, no matter where we are on our path. In 2006 I was trying to do the right things on the right lists and to understand what God was doing with my life in the midst of feeling lost and overwhelmed.

The following is a mediation on Romans 12, demonstrating how God met me there in 2006. This is directly from my journal to illustrate where I was during this season.

Romans 12 ~ Wow! What a chapter! Here is what jumped out at me.

“living sacrifice” ~ daily sacrifice of self
“reasonable service” ~ caring for home and family
“do not be conformed” ~ worldly desires
“be transformed” ~ changed through the Gospel
“renew your mind” ~ think like Christ
“Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.”
“All members do not have the same function.” ~Not everyone has my role, and that’s okay. My job is to be me.
“Having gifts differing according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” ~gift of mothering 7 ~not 2, not 12, but 7 children
~abhor evil
~cling to good
~be affectionate with brotherly love
~diligent, busy about my own work
~fervent in spirit
~serve the Lord (with gladness!)
~rejoice in hope (what is to come!)
~be patient in tribulation (dirty diapers, disagreeable children)
~pray!
~care for the needs of the saints
~practice hospitality
~bless, rejoice,weep
Do not be wise in your own opinion!
~don’t seek to get even

I am to present myself as a living sacrifice to God through the daily offering of my life to him.

He has given me a measure of grace to mother seven children, and I am to use that gift for him. It is my reasonable service to do laundry, potty train, change diapers, clean up messes, organize toys, plan meals, read stories, wipe noses, run errands, and do it all again tomorrow.

My desire to conform to the world says there must be something more than this. This feels boring and pointless without a renewed mind that says, You are being transformed! Being transformed sees my life as full of opportunities to be Jesus to those around me and to use my spiritual gifts and to function as part of Christ’s body on earth.

So in my behavior day to day, rather than wallowing in not this again, I should be crying, Transform my heart, Lord! It is thinking of myself more highly than I ought to say, Not this again. I am exactly where I need to be to fulfill God’s merciful plan for my life.

I should be rejoicing in hope while patient in tribulation. Instead of wallowing in the messy pants, I can rejoice in the hope of no diapers one day!

I should have a fervent spirit making me diligent about my daily work. I should be giving preference to my family with brotherly love. Am I distributing to their needs? Showing them hospitality?

And if my greatest “tribulations” are a house to care for (shelter), laundry to do (clothing), and meals to plan and prepare (food), then how ungrateful to complain about the blessings in my life!

I resisted the urge to edit, especially all of those shoulds. I left them. That is where I was back in 2006. It was a season of shoulds. I was also in a season of the New King James Version of the Bible, which gives context to my notes and why I linked to that version above.

I hope these words have encouraged you. They certainly have encouraged me by reminding me that God has always been faithful and will continue to be so, even in the lost and overwhelmed. Thank you for journeying alongside of me and for your kindness in glimpsing my world, Dear Reader. Be blessed!

Provision in Unrest

I don’t do well with unrest.

When things are tidy and put together, there is freedom for me to take a break, put up my feet, and rest awhile. When things are unsettled, uncertain, unsure, it’s a different story.

Last Sunday I was growing through the unrest, and it was difficult, uncomfortable, and stressful.

Preparing for another year of VBS, I reviewed the materials for my station, KidVid Cinema, well ahead of the game. That is, I reviewed all but the video. I planned to pick THAT up on Set-up Sunday and be good to go.

It was a great plan, in theory. The glitch came on Set-up Sunday when the DVD was nowhere to be found. At first, I was confident that it would appear when the right person was asked. Then I began to feel doubt creep into the back of my mind. What if I was the person?

What if I was given the DVD already and it is somewhere in my house? Lost!

That thought sent me into a mild panic, as I quickly texted my husband. Maybe he could search the usual places where my important stuff piles to see if it was at the bottom of the stack.

No reply.

I would have to drive home to check for myself. Anxiety welled up inside, as I tried to just breathe and stay present. For something that already felt big to me, working VBS week, I was quickly approaching what felt like a tipping point.

Why am I doing this, again?

There was no DVD to be found. Anywhere. I called my sister in Ohio to see if I had taken it with me and left it there. The problem was that I had no recollection of receiving the very thing that strong evidence indicated had been given to me.

I could have easily taken a packet and placed it who-knows-where! Why can’t I remember?

Returning to VBS set-up, I found my chain of command and admitted that the video was, in fact, lost. I had no idea where it was and the bottom line is that it was needed the following day.

What do I do?

Grace abounded. I was assured that something would work out. I could go home and the highers-up would figure it out a plan.

I felt tense.

It was hard to release the situation to God and to what he would do with it. A friend sensed my tension and asked if she could pray with me. Right then. Her confidence was a boost when mine was lacking. I agreed, trying to hold the words she was praying for myself.

That night I received a call that a borrowed video had been located in a roundabout way when our children’s ministry director ran into the pastor of another church that had done the same VBS this summer. They had a video we could borrow, and it would be waiting for me the next morning.

Relief flooded my heart.

There was also that bit of doubt, though.

So what about the video? Will I ever know what happened to it?

It was hard work to release the need to know. To defend. To replay events in my mind and try to figure out. To have the answer.

Sometimes we don’t get the answer. Sometimes we don’t ever get find the video and know the outcome, and that has to be enough. Provision.

Other times. Those other times are sweet.

Monday morning I entered the church building to be greeted by the phrase, Did you hear? We found the video! It was in one of the children’s ministry bags!

Relief flooded my heart.

Monday’s Bible point was God has the power to provide. It’s interesting that I left VBS set up with no DVD and returned the following morning to two of them! I am grateful for the growth opportunity of experiencing provision in unrest. I am grateful for an amazing children’s ministry team and for the gift of serving together.

Sabbathing the Blog

Hello, Dear Reader!

I am taking a small break to let the blog rest and breathe. To let my heart rest and breathe with no expectations, self-imposed or otherwise. Those self-imposed ones are the worst kind!

I love that you keep stopping in to check on how things are going or to see if there is anything new. I love how you share what has touched you with others. I love that you are a subscriber who gets this in your mailbox as soon as it is posted.

If you are not yet a subscriber, now would be a great time to sign up! 

My invitation to you while I step away is to explore the 500+ posts all tumbling together to make up this blog.

Yes, I have written over 500 posts! I have always been very full of words.

There is a lot of good stuff in here. I know, because much of it has spoken to me again, lately, and I think, I wrote that! 

There is a tag cloud at the bottom of the home page, a category list on each page (what’s been composted), and a search box. I’ve written a lot of things in a lot of seasons. There is a lot of music tucked away in here. Some stories.

There are links at the bottom of each post suggesting other, similar, posts.

My prayer for you who land in this space is that you will find just the right words that you need for where you are on your journey. I am trusting that for you.

Blessings to you all! You have no idea how my heart is encouraged by you.

Hugs,
Julie