Category Archives: trusting

Holding and Trusting

In the midst of all that feels overwhelming these days, I have been gifted with grace upon grace. From messages from and conversations with heart friends to stumbling upon an old photo album that brought much-needed tears, I feel loved and seen.

Yesterday morning my heart was clenched by a fist of fear. It happens when I carry too much on my shoulders. When the over-responsibility beast rears its ugly head. 

I was fearfully checking into something parental, fully expecting a negative outcome. Instead I was surprised by the positive. I know this sounds incredibly vague, but you have to trust me here. 

The bottom line is that the discovery felt like a huge hug for my heart. It reminded me that even though the days are long and full, there is goodness happening all around, much of which I don’t even see (or hear!). 

I am holding this as a reminder to the catestrophic thinker in me to continue trusting that God is always at work completing the goodness begun in us all. There is much goodness. 

I can hold onto and trust in that. I can practice seeing the positive. I can release the over-responsibility and wait to see what will happen. 

Butterfly Blessing

Choosing to leave my phone behind, I climbed to the middle of the back bench seat in the family minivan. Silencing the what if’s in my head surrounding all of the things that I could possibly need it for, the answer remained leave it behind.

I don’t even need it for pictures.

Late Father’s Day afternoon, Steve packed a cooler and announced his desire to visit Riven Rock Park. With seven of us going, the van was full. I chose to give my front seat to the eighteen year old who had spent many years wedged in the very back middle between the car seats of younger siblings.

Everyone scurried to find swimsuits, water shoes, and towels. Transitioning from house to vehicle was a challenge. While moving beyond struggling with car seats, diaper bags, and sippy cups, we now wrangle electronic devices, headphones, and seating arrangements. Somehow we survived the final painful push, and the house and van doors were shut and locked.

Upon arrival at Riven Rock, the van was emptied and the water filled with laughter and voices of siblings. Sunshine poured through the trees, and shadows lengthened. I walked down to the water, stepping gingerly from rock to rock, hoping to achieve my goal of staying dry as I meandered across the top of the water.

Meandering took me back to shore and up the length of the gravel drive, deeply engaged in thought. Without an electronic device to distract and pull me into what other people were doing or to announce to other people what I was doing, I was left with myself. This felt uncomfortable and unsettling. What am I doing?

It’s the question I get most often, these days. What are you doing now? or What are you doing next? 

The answer is I just don’t know.

Walking and wrestling with the unknown, I felt gravel crunch under my feet and heard birds sing in the trees. I asked Jesus to meet me in this space with what I needed, not even knowing what I needed myself. I walked and watched.

My eyes caught sight of something blue and papery on the ground. Once my mind registered that it was a butterfly, I thought it was wounded or dead. Closer examination revealed that it was resting while slowly moving its wings up and down. I stood still, breathing with the movement of the wings in, out, in, out.

The butterfly was not in a hurry to get anywhere. My mind raced to regret that I had not brought my phone to capture this moment of breathing with a blue butterfly that was being so still for so long without an injury. Then my focus shifted to capturing the present moment of stillness with it and reminding myself that it was enough to be just me with the butterfly without the entire world watching or even knowing about it.

The butterfly remained still before finally flitting upward and away towards the trees. I stood in awe and gratitude for what I had experienced in the moment. The practice of breathing and stillness and presence with a beautiful creature clothed in a color that I had never seen before was a gift.

Moments later the blue butterfly returned, alighting just in front of my feet. I peered down closely, trying to memorize its brilliant coloring and beautiful shape so that I could look it up and identify it later. Again, I matched my breath to the slow movement of its wings.

Is this what you had for me today, Jesus? The reminder to slow down and breathe? The knowledge that it is enough just being with myself and with you? The practice of stillness?

Suddenly the butterfly flew up from the ground, touched my forehead and flew away. I stood there stunned. It felt just as a butterfly kiss should feel, light and feathery and stunning. It felt like a butterfly blessing.

I was stunned and stood there in awe.

The butterfly returned a third, and final time. It landed again on the ground in front of me, just as my husband was walking up from the water. I imagine it looked odd to him to find me standing strangely still staring at the ground. I pointed at the blue butterfly, and he was able to glimpse it before the beautiful creature flew up and disappeared into the trees.

There is no picture. (The one at the top of this blog is a Monarch butterfly from my files.) There is no documentation. I cannot even identify the butterfly correctly from the images I find online. All that remains is the image in my mind. That has to be enough. I will trust that it is enough.

All the Dimes

With a week to go until trip number three, it’s time to write about the dimes. There are certainly other things in my heart and on my mind, but the dimes matter, too. They don’t feel as emotionally charged as so much else in my world does. They bring feelings of hope, and hope is always good. I could use a hefty dose right now.

The Dimes.

Last Christmas/ New Year’s season a simple money-saving challenge was floating around social media sites. A two-liter plastic bottle, filled with dimes, illustrated a simple way to save a few hundred dollars. With finances being one of the barriers to my pursuit of the LCC at the Seattle School, I thought this would be an easy, fun way to begin saving to fund my dream.

Procuring a two-liter plastic Coke bottle, I dug through my wallet and scoured my home. Those dimes alone filled the four little bumps at the bottom. I set an intention of dropping each dime I found into the bottle.

Playing fair, I made sure the dimes were not off of my kids’ dressers or out of my husband’s change jar. Only ones from my wallet or those found in stray places like the laundry room floor or the couch cushions were allowed. Dimes found on walks with the dog and in parking lots were definitely fair game.

My eyes became sharp. Each dime was a reminder to stay the course. I grew in confidence that God would provide for the work I was doing. Each shiny gleam brought encouragement. It became a game to see where the dimes would appear. I felt God’s smile on me through tiny bits of silver alloy found in random places.

All was well and good, but honestly, after the initial fill of the four little bumps at the bottom, the pace slowed. A lot. After a year of saving, maybe an eighth of the bottle is filled. I don’t think I will be making my final Seattle payment in dimes. I am grateful for the provision that has enabled me to do this work without depending on loose change.

Though the bottle is more empty than full right now, my heart is the opposite, illustrated by the overwhelming meltdown I experienced while attempting to clean the TV room. The space has never fully recovered from Christmas, and asking the child who plays there most to help with the cleanup was met with resistance. This tipped me into a state of upheaval while attempting to clean it myself.

Frozen, I sat on the floor, tears pouring from my eyes. It’s too hard. It’s too much.

And here I was expecting an eight-year-old to do it. It wasn’t really about the room, though.

Mustering strength and resolve, I broke down the job in my mind, grabbing a broom to sweep the perimeter of the wood floor surrounding the area rug. Almost immediately two dimes swept into the pile.

All will be well.

McClay Family Electronic Limitations ~ Guest Blogger Chloe

In our family, electronics are specifically limited to very strict rules. These are some of the original rules with pros and cons.

Rule one: “You are not allowed to possess any electronics under the age of ten”. It doesn’t sound so bad, and sometimes it isn’t. But as times change, and more electronics are made, this rule gets harder to deal with. By this year, most children have electronics by the age of eight or nine, and those who don’t begin to want one by nine. One pro of this rule is kids spend more time doing other things, though this isn’t always true. A con is that with music, young kids have more ways to deal with problems. One idea I suggest for those of you who are considering adding this rule to your own family list is to let your kids have music devices, as well as simple electronics like a gameboy or tablet for trips or special use.

Rule two: “You are not allowed to possess a phone until the age of sixteen”. This is possibly the hardest rule for kids. By sixth and seventh grade, the last few children who don’t have phones begin to get them, leaving the families with stricter parents with not many ways to contact family or communicate with friends. This gets harder as kids get older, their friends begin getting phones, and more phones are made, as well as more uses for phones. Doesn’t a tear come to your eye just thinking about the poor children, sitting alone, set apart from society from lack of a phone? Plus, quite a few children live in neighborhoods with not many to even no children their age, as I do. They don’t have friends their age to hang out with, and no phone to contact the friends that live elsewhere. Having a phone also helps contact people for important reasons, and there are many more needs for a phone today then there were when my parents first made this rule. Let me put it this way: what would you do if Abe Lincoln came back from the past, grabbed your stove, microwave, lights, computer, salt lamp, and ran away? Exactly. I see you moms crying, thinking about someone stealing your precious salt lamps. I know, nothing can truly convey the misery of a phoneless middle-high schooler, because though many parents these days know what it was like to not have something everyone else had back in school, only about nine percent of parents today knew what a phone was back then. And even then, not everyone would have had one.

Rule three: “Children below the age sixteen have a strictly set amount of media per day”. This is possibly the second worst rule, right below the phone rule. It started with the token system, of course. You had tokens, each equivalent to fifteen minutes of computer or game console. However, when one of my sibling got smart and used them all at once for two hours of media, and other siblings found new ways to make it seem like they were following the rule, this system evaporated. And for you kids reading, here’s a way to cheat the system: One way is to rattle the token box to make it seem like you put tokens in. Another is to buy your own set of poker tokens. Thank me later. After this, the situation was fifteen minutes of media a day. Can you hear the 22nd century crying? But as attitudes changed about this rule, it was fifteen minutes only on weekends. Wow, this is worse than a horror movie. And now it’s an hour and fifteen minutes on weekends. This rule is okay, unless it’s your own electronic. For more about this, see the next rule.

Rule four: “Hmm, you spent how much money to buy your own electronic? Well, too bad, ‘cause it’s mine now”. The new 0.5 worst rule in the world. After age ten, you have an option to buy electronics if you use your own money. But no sir, that doesn’t mean you can use them! One example of this was my laptop. Now, like phones, laptops aren’t allowed until the age sixteen, but this was an exception. That is, until someone cracked it and mom and dad decided not to let me get a new one. Well, back when I had it, I was almost never allowed to use it. Mom and Dad hid it in their room, never let me have it on weekdays, never let me use it in my room, often made me sit at the dining room table, and only gave me about half an hour a day. Once I forgot my password, and when I asked Dad he wouldn’t tell me, so I couldn’t even unlock it. Dad was taking full advantage of me forgetting. In my opinion, you should let your kids have laptops, know the password, and use them whenever. I didn’t pay over a hundred dollars I made cleaning buildings to never get to use the laptop I bought. Oh wait, I did.

Rule five: “No privacy”. I hate this rule, as did many other siblings. Dad and Mom used to let us close the computer cabinet so we wouldn’t have people looking at what we were doing over our shoulder. But for a while, Dad has forced us to keep the door open. I wouldn’t suggest a family computer in the dining room, by the way, either, if privacy is even a bit important to you.

Rule six: “You aren’t allowed to listen to anything even slightly bad on the radio”. This rule was worst when Shannon was a kid. She had her own taste in music, but often couldn’t listen to what she wanted. Now, though there aren’t as many limitations, we still can’t listen to anything.

If possible, I might add onto this list later, but I have one suggestion for parents considering these rules: You don’t understand your kid as much as you think you do. You need to listen to them, and consider trusting them. Don’t try to make up their minds for them, or guess about what will happen if you get them something. You’re not them.

Hoarding Grace

A new school year has begun. It is hard to believe that it has been three years since this happened. You know how things look different in three years? I’m feeling it.

This school year my mantra is daily grace. My theme is grace enough. With so much going on in various aspects of life, big things and small things, if I lose focus on daily graces, I will drown. Daily graces are gifts that happen in the moment to help ease the load a bit. They are unpredictable, often surprising, and easily missed if not intentionally noticed.

Daily grace is grace enough.

The problem comes when I try to hoard grace. When I grab onto a gift I have been given in a moment and analyze and question and cling to and demand that it be like this every time, I lose sight of the gift that is grace. Grace enough says, Wow! What a gift that was!

The first day of school, grace enough was unexpected morning texts from friends, a donut from a fellow teacher, pizza brought home for dinner. The following days, grace appeared in different forms. A big field trip was scheduled, an encouraging Stephen Ministry meeting happened, food appeared for supper each evening, the first Friday pencil can activity was successful without using ModPodge.  (I have learned a thing or two over the years, and colorful “Duck Tape” works just as well or better with NO MESS!!!!)

So here I sit on Sunday afternoon with week one of school behind me. While savoring all of the grace from last week, I begin to stress about this one. Sunday evenings have historically been hard for me. I begin to feel the stress of the upcoming week and grieve the end of the weekend.

Choosing to focus on daily grace invites me to look with surprise and anticipation about what the upcoming week will bring. What does God have in store that I have yet to discover? When I change my perspective to one of openness and stop trying to pack grace manna into jars to save on a shelf for next time, I find myself breathing easier and trusting more. I also find fewer worms. (unless I am shucking the grace that is home-grown, pesticide-free garden corn)

This grace enough is such a slow process for me and carries quite a steep learning curve. I want to have everything nailed down and figured out and neatly planned. I long for ease and comfort all day every day. Instead I am given the daily grace that is grace enough to carry me through the hard, uncomfortable places and lead me to where I have yet to go.

As I look out of my bedroom windows at the bright blue sky and bright yellow sunflowers bowing their heads, I am grateful for the grace of this quiet afternoon to rest and write and refresh my soul. In this moment, it is enough.

It’s all grace.

On My Heart

It’s raw and it’s real.

I recently searched flight after flight to Seattle in September. Trying to hold onto summer, I was simultaneously preparing for fall.

There’s something about information overload and hundreds and thousands of flights and choices of airports and airlines and times of departure and arrival. There’s something about window after window opening up on screen and all of the airport codes blurring together that makes me want to yell, STOP!

I question the blur. Is it my forty-five-year-old eyes or just looking at a computer screen for an extended length of time?

I question my heart. Is this really a good idea? Really worth it?

I know that it is. Even when everything surrounding the planning and stirring inside feels really big. No turning back, now.

Just days ago my heart was encouraged by two friends independent of, and unknown to, each other. One came to drop something by. The other came for coffee.

At the end of the day, my heart was richer, my education fund fuller, and my dining room prettier with a new way I had arranged the plants, one of which was a gift.

Just days ago, friends dropped by a stash of bread, various types, because they thought we could use it. We can. The growing kids in this house are many, and there is always room for toast.

At the end of the day, the kids were fuller, the freezer was fuller, and the bread drawer was fuller. All gifts.

I know this is the right year. The time to do this work is now. There is kindness within the raw and the real, and I don’t have to look far to find it.

Provision

I am resting in it. Confident that what has been started will be completed, this is where I talk about how God is faithfully supplying my needs and wants and making a way for me to get to Seattle four times during the upcoming school year.

I asked my friend Angela to close out the Go Fund Me account this week. After being open for a month, it reached $935, thanks to many generous friends and family members. $2,435 came in off-line in the form of gift checks, birthday money, and creative saving.

I appreciate the awareness  that the Go Fund Me account brought to my desire and also the boost that it gave to my educational savings account. I also appreciate the fact that I am able-bodied and can work to make and save money to add to the amount. I feel abundantly blessed and encouraged that so many took an interest in a longing and dream of mine and felt led to offer financial support to help make it happen.

At the same time, I know that there are many other needs in our circles and communities, and it seemed like the right time to end a formal fund-raising campaign once I knew that there would be enough to cover tuition expenses. Travel and lodging will fall into place. Those are the next steps to take.

Some of you have asked or been curious about how funding is going and how to help. If you wish to contribute, or were planning to before I closed out the account, you can still write a check directly to me. I will deposit any donations into into my education fund account. 

I hope to keep the blog updated with progress on a monthly basis. At this time I have $3,370 set aside in an account for the $4,000 tuition that will be due over the course of the year. I plan to continue to add to that with money that Steve and I budget and that I raise or earn in other ways. Travel expenses will come from that. I have contacts in Seattle willing to help with housing if dates and times line up.

To all of my blog subscribers who received the preemptive note to self that was accidentally published, this is the post you were looking for. Not this.

In God’s kind timing, however, I needed to read that post as I wavered and waffled on the VBS fence, yet again this year. I am constantly surprised by the way He works. I plan to do preschool kid-vid again.

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