Category Archives: tree of life moments

Friendship Friday ~ Braving Together

Two weeks ago I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Brave On conference with my friends Angela and Becky. The plan to attend this event began to take shape back in February, so to say it had been long-anticipated seems a bit of an understatement!

The road to Brave On had its share of bumps and jolts and opportunities to be brave about naming feelings and hopes and expectations. That was its own exercise! There were times when I wanted to run in the opposite direction of, rather than towards, whatever was stirring inside of me. Usually it was in the areas of conflict with others and glory in my gifting.

When all was said and done, the conference came and went in a whirlwind, and I was left sorting and sifting through what had landed in my heart. Longing to write something, yet not quite having the words, I composed a post on my travel necessities.

It was a start. Those needful items are what helped me focus on the task at hand while listening to a variety of wise and kind women share scenes from their stories and invite me into more of mine. The pages below were from the self-care panel. Much goodness and truth was shared from the hearts of women who did not have all of the answers but who held an invitation to be curious and open to possibilities.

Throughout the day, I was invited to connect with others. There were quick hugs, registration and restroom line chats, and deeper conversations during breaks and around the table. I was surrounded by rich goodness. It was full of tiny cracker and sip of juice moments foreshadowing the deeper connections we were created for and that we will one day eternally enjoy.

In the meantime I was given the gift of face time with dear friends and the gift of a new friendship. I spoke in person with women whose writing I enjoy and who enjoy mine. I listened to beautiful music and words from the heart of one of my favorite singers and marveled at how music can speak to so many seasons and stories simultaneously.

The day was a gift.

I am still reflecting on my art journaling and handwritten notes and pondering where God met me in the specifics of the conference. I am wondering what will come about as a result of my time spent Braving On. I admire Angela’s ability to form and share a concise reflection on her experience which you can read about here.

One of many things that I am learning to embrace and to hold is that it is okay to just be me, whoever that is. I do not have to look or be like anyone else, and I have my own story to live and to tell. There is freedom to take time to figure it out.

I wait for it with patience and anticipation.

 

 

Hiking and Heart Connection

It was a good day of hiking and heart connection.

Mamas, it’s hard. Mothering is just hard. Maybe not all of the time, and maybe never for you, but it was really hard for me. And in my story, something being difficult to do was not a reason to pause and question it. There was no room for exploring other options or making changes, only soldiering on with the choice that had already been made.

Nineteen years ago I was 27 and had just birthed a 10lb 4oz boy. He was welcomed by his three older siblings, ages 5,4, and 3. Steve and I had been married six years. That is a lot of living and people to fit into a short period of time.

Child number four was not at all like the others. He did not fit any sort of mold, and contrary to what people always said to me, I hear it gets easier after three, nothing could have been further from the truth. Please refrain from offering things that you have heard about situations that you have not experienced to the one struggling in the midst of them. It is truly not helpful.

It did not get easier for me.

There were a lot of hard things to push through and four more babies to follow. I wondered if I would make it. I wondered how something so excruciatingly difficult for me could ever be worth it.

Today happened.

I made it.

It was worth it.

My son and I hiked High Knob together to celebrate his 19th birthday.

He has been there often. Today was my first time. We parked and entered the trail and walked and talked. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue. The leaves were beginning to change. We had the trail to ourselves.

We climbed to the top of the lookout and sat, enjoying the gentle breeze and the stunning view. We shared conversation.

We hiked back to the car, mindfully aware of our surroundings, noticing little things like this wooly bear on the path.

Somewhere along the way, my phone received a wave of service, and several texts dropped into it. One was from my mom, inviting us for coffee to celebrate Kieran and Grammy who share a birthday. We stopped there on our way back to town and captured this picture of the birthday buddies born 75 years apart.

Please don’t give up hope in your hard, whatever that hard may be. I know that it seems easy for me to say, because I am not in your situation. All I know is that today was a glimpse of such sweet goodness and such great reward as my son and I took time together to extract ourselves from the couches and get out into nature together.

It was so worth it. I am grateful for the gift I received on this day nineteen years ago and for the gift I received today.

Don’t miss yours!

Celebrated, Seen, Loved

My final week of teaching was filled with goodness. It was sweet to have more relaxed afternoons after busy morning program practices. Diligent work by students (and their teachers) throughout the school year meant time for fun!

This note was left on the “Teacher Appreciation Week” bulletin board for me by one of the first graders. It is one of my favorite things.

Students assembled end-of-the year memory books and collected autographs from one another. Yearbooks arrived on time. There was a pizza party. There were cupcakes to celebrate those important summer birthdays.

Thursday night brought our 25th end-of-year program. Kindergarteners graduated, grade school musicians performed, and awards were presented to the Learning Center students.

While I have not been involved in all 25 programs, I have organized and directed many. I have sat in the audience for many more, often wrangling my own infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

This year, I carried the title of piano accompanist due to my ability to play Apples and Bananas, The Piggy Song, and Round the Clock the Hours Go (Twinkle, Twinkle) with appropriate chords while the kindergarteners sang along.

I also held the title of Learning Center teacher for the final time. It was a delight to listen to my students make music with Mrs. Buchanan and then to present their awards. Looking out over the audience from behind the podium, I saw many former students and parents of students and one former student who was now a kindergarten parent!

My heart filled with a mixture of sadness and joy over endings and unknown new beginnings.

I returned to my seat in the second row only slightly disappointed that I had not asked my former students to stand. As I was letting that go I heard my name being called, and I was summoned to the podium for a special presentation.

My center spotlight survival skills immediately went to work to contain the big feelings that were surfacing. Just take the bunch of flowers and sit back down. What a nice gesture. Smile. Turn around.

It was not that simple. There’s more.

I stood awkwardly by the podium looking around as my friend and fellow teacher, Mrs. Hottinger, came down from her post on stage and reached for a gift basket to give to me. She and Mrs. Buchanan had put it together and asked to present it at the program.

I was speechless.

Words about me began to be spoken by her. That, in itself, was a gift. I heard about my impact and role in their lives as a teacher and friend and how I will be missed. She explained that the basket contained items for me as I continued on my journey. I really hoped it was full of answers and direction.

It was full of chocolate, candles, Keep Calm and Trust God cards, a handmade book, and beautiful vase. Maybe not answers, but certainly clues.

I was presented with a beautiful Psalm 23 plaque, as well, with the meaning of the verse and the images of sheep explained. It was so humbling and special.

Before I could sneak back to my seat, my husband came tp the podium to give his words for me. I listened to a brief recap of my impact and involvement in the formation of Good Shepherd from the early days until now. Five of my children were there to bear witness and to be recognized.

Reminders of how slowly and quickly 24 years can pass washed over me as I locked eyes with those in the audience who had walked the road with me over many seasons and years.

I wish that I could say that I stayed fully present and did not try to cut short my time in the spotlight while attention was being called to me. I wish the words Quit calling attention to yourself were silenced in my head for good, but they linger on.

Kindergartners were waiting in a line to receive their diplomas, and children had worked hard all evening. It was time to honor that. Feeling seen, celebrated, and loved, I asked my former students to stand before I took my final bow.

 

 

Double Portion

Goodnight! Happy Mother’s Day Eve.

A smiling face wished me well at the very end of a particularly long day. It had been a particularly long week that led to a moment where I felt tired and not too fond of mothering. I received both the smile and the words in the spirit offered, though I struggle with Mother’s Day every year.

I’m never having kids! They’re brats, and they don’t listen to you!

My teenage self made this vow that obviously did not stick. Of course kids didn’t listen to their eldest sister, even when she is supposed to be in charge. Especially then. My adult self gave birth to eight children, four of whom have reached adulthood, and four who are still on their way.

I remember being 27, having just birthed my fourth child. It was a ten-pound, four-ounce boy who shocked and surprised us all. Where were you hiding him? asked the midwife. I was not unusually large and had not gained excess weight. I was in love once I regained consciousness and energy.

Baby number four rounded out the bunch, giving us two boys and two girls. I thought it was the perfect number of children and remember thinking I would be content to be finished. People wouldn’t ask if I was trying for a particular sex or if I was disappointed to not have a particular gender or any number of the rude things they feel entitled to chime in about when you have a family of a certain size.

There was one technical difficulty. I didn’t have a voice to express this, nor did my husband have the ears to hear me even if I could. So there was a bind that is still being processed and sorted. We are still finding words for the story of us.

In my 30’s more children came. Four more, to be exact. When all was said and done, eight children were grown in and birthed from my body, one at a time. People ask. That is a lot of pregnancy, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, diapering, hormones, mothering. A lot.

Eight children is a lot and my hard thing.

Four children was my perfect family size, and I would tell you if you asked. I would even joke that it was so perfect that I did it twice, including baby bunching when I had four kids under the age of five. Twice. It brought goodness, and it brought grief.

I have struggled with my story of mothering. I have cringed at the assumptions made about me by people who have no idea. I have grieved my departure from the lives of my bigs when caring for the littles was all-consuming. I have wept over what I have tried to, but could ultimately not, control.

Then God, in incredible, generous kindness, brought healing to this place in my heart during the final weekend of my certificate training in Seattle.

Rachel Clinton was teaching from Isaiah 61. As she read the passage, I heard these words

Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; Instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. Isaiah 61:7 (ESV)

My heart was touched in the deepest of places, as I felt a shift from duty to delight, from obligation to honor, from fear to freedom. In that moment I heard God say, I have given you a double portion.

What a terrifying gift! What truth.

Yes, I have a good inheritance. Psalm 16:6 (ESV)

I am blessed.

Miraculous Change

Miracles can happen. I attest to this in the midst of experiencing miraculous change. I wonder, though, if it is also the result of hard work. Am I in the middle of a miracle? Or is this the fruit of faith?

For years, deep inside my soul, unrest and fear coexisted with a helping of added pressure to perform. It was as if I had lost any ability to make choices. Had I ever experienced the power of active choice?  

I knew how to be passive and allow others to choose for me. I bore a burden of expectations, both other-imposed and self. If you can check off all of the boxes on this big list for everyone else, THEN maybe you can do something for yourself.

It is amazing that I did not self-destruct. In the midst of many struggles and losses, God in his deep kindness kept meaningful parts me intact ~ my singing voice, my body, my health. I am so grateful for that miracle.

There were small spaces that I claimed in the midst of the bigness of life. I found space to exercise, to read my Bible, to listen for the still, small voice, to cultivate what I could of relationships in the midst of whatever chaos was presenting, to care for my children, to love my husband.

I chose to stay open to my husband, even when I could not feel. In the midst of internal loneliness, I continued to engage external connection with him. In the midst of the fear of pregnancy and loss of voice over my body’s capacity to grow and bear children, I kept trying. Trusting. Even when I did not understand and had no words to bring, I tried.

I journaled a lot. It is a miracle that I allowed hard words to flow from my heart to paper.

I said yes to things that terrified me, like traveling internationally to be on a team leading worship at a women’s retreat. I said yes to lowering my guard and letting people peek behind the tinted automatic window of my heart before raising it up when their vision became too intense.

I kept going.

I said yes to an invitation to step deeper into my story at the Journey, parts one and two, with Open Hearts Ministry. I seized the weeks, those two years in a row, in the midst of a full life. I did not wait for the perfect time. That is miraculous.

I started a blog. Not sure of the end, not knowing where it was going, I threw words into cyberspace that would later be read by a woman who would reach back to me when I reached out to her. I risked being seen more closely, and miraculously ended up in a space of transformational friendship.

It feels miraculous that at 45 I am finally connecting with myself on a deeper level. How did this happen? Why now? I do not know. What makes a miracle miraculous?

I did not wake up one morning miraculously changed. I fought for my heart every step of the way and allowed others to fight for me, as well. God fought for me when I could do nothing but stand still and see his salvation. I let people in and relinquished the control that I held so tightly, concerning what people saw in me, when they saw it, and how.

Miraculously, healing came. Seasons and spaces of small heart miracles, sometimes involving just getting out of bed, led to this latest big miracle breaking open over my head, shattering and spilling me out all over the place. Slowing me down.

Your voice is slower.

You sounded different in your voicemail. Slower.

Wow! It’s already 7:00! Usually you have to leave to get somewhere else after this much time.

These words and more were spoken over me in the days following the most current miraculous. It was on the heels of my third weekend in Seattle at the Allender Center, pursuing the Lay Counseling Certificate. In this space I miraculously chose to risk, share, and be seen by others. I succumbed to holy terror.

Something happened. I still do not see the miracle clearly, because, Friends, we cannot see our own faces. All I know is that when we take off the mask or roll down the tinted automatic window, allowing others to see us, we invite miracles to happen. The fruit of that faith is sweet.

Scenes From Seattle, part 4

This was my only daylight arrival into Seattle. It was 7:00pm. My other flights landed at 9:00pm.

These tulips graced the table where a friend spoke deep truth to my restless heart Thursday night. My spirit landed, and I began to settle into what was being offered to me this weekend.

Venti cappuccino helped me begin Friday’s lecture.

I took my final yoga class Friday afternoon. These candles represented the light and life that Sarah and her Friday and Saturday yoga classes brought to me each visit.

This weekend’s coloring page had owls scattered through it, a meaningful observation to me. Can you spot the owl(s)?

After class on Saturday, G picked me up and we drove to Discovery Park to take advantage of the sun and the view. It was the most sun we had all weekend. I was grateful for his thoughtfulness.

Sunday morning I begin my final ascent to the bus stop for my last ride into the city.

Sunday’s bus stop is quiet.

I am happy to have caught the early bus to make it in time for Sunday morning informal worship in the chapel.

This space is one of my favorites. Oh, the music and memories held here.

Coffee and question of the day.

Final Uber to the airport. Goodbye, Seattle.

There is so much more held in my heart from the gift of these last six months. To view scenes from my other trips, click here, here, and here.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, Dear Readers. I have been blessed by each of you more than you even know. Stay tuned as I continue to sort through where I have been and where I am going!

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.