Category Archives: writing

Horse

 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.
James 3:3 (NLT)

I did not take step-by-step pictures of today’s process. I created the page in the window of time between morning devotions and leaving for an 11:15 church service.

I chose two background pictures that spoke to me, and then a picture of horses.

I cut the backgrounds into strips which I alternated. Then I cut out the horses and glued them on.

This is the result. The title is at the bottom of this page which is where it seemed to fit.

One of my children said it looked like a bad photo shop job. I call it art.

Following is a journal entry I wrote after engaging a horse at Cross Keys Equine Therapy. I am including it as an added bonus for your Sunday afternoon reading pleasure.

When engaging with the horse, first get permission. Wait for the horse to come to you and reach out to touch you before touching it. Just like you wouldn’t walk up to a person and begin rubbing their arm, don’t walk up and start petting the horse.

Alicia addresses board members sitting around a table preparing to exit to the fields for an experience with the horses. We are to take some time visioning the work of Cross Keys and think about how we fit into that vision. I take up my spiral-bound journal and walk outside. Our first assignment is to sit and be still.

Walking towards the field with no horses in it, I am redirected kindly to another. I nervously laugh and try not to ascribe deep significance to my faux-pas. It is difficult for me to make a decision and stick with it; to not have someone assign me a place. I carry my pop-up chair to a field with three horses in the distance and sit.

The horses are black, brown, tan. They begin moving in my direction, then stop. Wind whips over me. I settle my heart, not wanting to be rushed in the space. I find it interesting that I am in a field with three horses. What is God doing? I am not a horse person.

My vision keeps tipping to trauma. That theme runs through my story and connects my people. In a month I will commence part 2 of a certificate in story-informed trauma work. I see Cross Keys as a place for healing and hope, recovery of self, a place to engage with what has brought trauma.

Where do I fit? What do I bring?

As I ponder these questions, two horses move closer. They come to me, first the brown then the black. The tan will meet up with me later. I do not yet know this. I feel tears as these powerful animals approach me and nudge me with their noses. In their presence I feel small as I am called to rejoin the others down in the arena.

We gather at the Hope Arena for instructions on part 2. This time some of us will volunteer to enter the ring with the honey-colored horse to experience what the work is like. A therapist and equine specialist facilitate this experience.

I watch the first volunteer engage the horse and do some work. The work is to make a connection with the horse, not to mount it or ride it or do something like that. Just connect. This volunteer courageously engages the experience, following the therapist’s and specialist’s lead. Upon exiting, another volunteer is invited to step in. There is a pregnant pause.

I feel the feeling. You know the one. It’s the standing on the edge of the high dive or the top of the boat house and wanting desperately to both step off and step back. I stepped up and into the ring, terrified. Ambivalence gripped me as I battled desire for more and fear of engagement.

Being so close to a large, powerful animal in the presence of my peers and a therapist and horse specialist was intense. My default is performance, and I wanted to do all of the things right. I wanted to make a connection with the horse which meant she had to move towards me. Because I didn’t check to see, but instinctively I felt her a she.

I began to name what I felt, which was fear. I felt afraid to step in and move closer, but this beautiful creature was inviting me in with her deep brown eyes and golden mane tossed to one side. I decided to trust and engage as myself which meant to walk alongside of her. She drew me in from the edge of the rail where I was lingering and walked with me further into the arena.

I talked with her in this process, naming that it was difficult for me to commit to moving deeper into a space, even here as I ponder where my fit is at the farm. She gently walked with me, leading me to a red pop-up chair further in the arena. Stopping in front of the chair, she tapped her nose down on its seat and stepped aside.

I could have analyzed and excused and come up with all of the reasons why what I felt in my gut was impossible, but instead I chose to stay with the feeling of invitation to sit and be. I sat down. The horse stood beside me. All was still. A cat jumped into my lap.

The ridiculousness of that final touch broke the spell, and laughter ensued from both me and my husband before spreading to the others. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT the type of person who has cats randomly jump into their lap, nor do I invite that from cats. This was clearly a moment.

During the debrief with therapist and horse specialist, I named what was stirring inside. Issues of trust, fear, commitment, place, and rest all were current and all were showing up in the presence of the horse. Her engagement with me was completely different than with those who went before and after. It was unique to my need.

I experienced the beauty of equine-assisted therapy, if only briefly. It is the ability of the horse to sense and bring to the present space what is stirring in the client’s world. It is a therapist helping to name what is happening with the client and a horse specialist naming the horse’s role in the process.

It is beautiful and healing. When I wonder how it would feel to move in from the edge of a space and take my place in the room, I remember walking alongside a horse as she moved me further in from the edge. I feel the invitation to sit and belong just as I am. And just in case I doubt, I feel that cat on my lap and the laughter in my heart and know that it is real.

Shortly after the experience, the girl who is not a horse girl found a picture of herself as a girl wearing her favorite shirt. She feels this when she looks at the picture. That was my favorite shirt! You can see joy in all of the eyes.

I am going to be curious about that girl. Maybe she is a horse girl, after all!

Focused Writing

It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to uncover them.
Proverbs 25:2 (NLT)

My day began with these words. Pondering the privilege of discovery I wrote, Jesus, what will I discover today? Little did I know. It is only half over.

This day is full of mixed feelings. My heart is acutely aware of its longings and desires and the difficulty of being finite. As dear friends converge in Seattle to begin Externship training and others gather in Austin in anticipation of the Brave On conference, I am here doing what I have been called to in this season.

I have been called to stay and uncover what it is God has for me in this place, under my own roof, with my own people. Instead of packing a suitcase and saying goodbye, I am unpacking our story and saying, I’m here.

Here looked like quite an adventure on the ride to school.

Teen son was up and about early enough to drive. I sat in the passenger seat and Little Mae was in the back. The careful drive began.

At a slow intersection while stopped at a sign, student driver put the car in park to adjust his seat. There were no other cars around, it was not a dangerous situation, but my anxiety began to mount.

Opening my mouth to begin a lecture, another sound came from the back seat. A frantic, terrified, gutteral scream rose from somewhere inside Little Mae. My heart stopped as I looked out the side window, fully expecting to see that we were the victims of a car-jacking.

SPIDER!!!!!

Turning in the direction of her scream I saw a huge spider on the back of my headrest.

Pass me a tissue.

I spoke in the calmest of voices, fully expecting a lunge, scurry, or sudden movement from the spider and the ensuing chaos that an inexperienced driver and panicked 10 year old would bring.

I was not thinking that I would have to feel the spider through the tissue as I gripped it gently and tossed it out my window that, somehow, I had rolled down. I felt it. I did not squish it.

A collective sigh released from us all as the driver took the left he had planned. We debriefed the series of events and how good it was that the car was stopped and not driving. We laughed and maybe cried (not the driver), and my heart continued racing, flooded with adrenaline, well beyond morning drop-off.

Everyone made it safely to school. I made it home. The day continued.

Washing breakfast dishes, I looked up to see a pink flower blooming on the hanging plant above the sink. It is a transplant of this one and a special sign to me. I posted its picture on social media and a friend commented tradescantia/spiderwort .

Of course! Spider redemption, if only in word form. I had to laugh as I rejoiced that I now had a focus for today’s writing.

Make Us Glad

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Psalm 90:15, ESV

Yes, Lord. Please make us glad for that number of days and years. It’s been a long time, and gladness feels far away.

I sit on the couch in my living room, feet propped, listening to my daughter’s playlist of gaming music and the click of her mouse. She does schoolwork online. I attempt to do my own work, assembling thoughts racing around in my head. They are difficult to catch.

Bright sunlight and blue sky shine through open blinds. Anticipatory autumn sun returns today, casting long shadows, giving a warm glow to the brick house and mature trees across the street.

What can I say? I long to be glad.

Are you glad to walk the dog? I ask my girl as she walks in the room. It is that time of day according to the schedule we are trying to create.

She laughs at my choice of words. I explain that meant to say ready and am writing about gladness. I send her to find the dog so that we can walk him. We are still finding our normal together. Our daily routine.

Write something is again written in my planner, the only thing on the list of Today’s Top Three.

I am writing. Something. In the snippets of time that present I sit with words, fighting forward for gladness. It comes to me in sunshine on the other side of a window, in a sky brilliantly blue, in a dog curled on his bed, in laughter at a distracted choice of words.

I am made glad in the moments that I choose to see goodness and receive as gifts what can also feel hard. When I feel the gladness redeeming affliction, I know I am growing and growing is good.

This makes me glad.

Write Something

It was on my list of three fun things to do over the weekend along with take a long walk and yoga. Sitting in the corner of my room with journal open ready to write, I wondered, Is this really fun?

What is fun for me?

A voice asked me over Sunday’s lunch, What do you want to do today, Mom? and my head filled with white noise.

Close my rings.

That was a true answer. I have determined to be more diligent about closing my exercise and activity rings consistently. I do not know that I would classify not wanting to be shamed by Apple technology as fun, though.

I read a book for awhile before falling into a deep Sunday afternoon sleep full of crazy dreams. I woke to another load of works of necessity laundry to put in the wash due to sickness that entered the house on Saturday.

What is fun for me?

The question returned upon waking.

It is fun for me to be in my house with no expectations or things to manage for awhile. It is fun to have alone time. I am just not certain what to do with it.

Fun often evades me. It is elusive. I lost it in my story during a season of drastic change. It was packed it up and thrown away along with other evidence of my previous life. I said Hello to work, leaving fun far behind with the power tools and kitchen chairs.

Survival chased fun from the room. I learned to manage and contain it, to banish my need for it just because. Now I am not sure if the things on my fun checklist are fun or basic needs.

I lost my fun in work and goals and in managing other people’s. How do I find it again?

Over the weekend I was given the invitation to be reconciled to fun and was curious as to how I would receive it. In a moment of inspiration I invited daughters to walk to Kline’s for ice cream. This week’s flavor is Red Raspberry, and I had a coupon.

I have not shared my struggle with fun. They live it, though. They see. There is rare laughter and merriment as we amble down the sidewalk towards downtown.

This way mom can say she did something fun with her kids this summer before school starts back up next week.

I receive the statement in the spirit it is offered, with humor. These girls are quick-witted and fun-spirited. They are truth-seers and truth-tellers. We get our ice cream and walk home.

You look happy.

A daughter enters my room as I finish writing this post. I look up at her, surprised. She observes and names what I cannot see in myself. I am having fun as I write something.

Writing is fun for me. That is why it made the list. I determine to make more time for this fun, more time to write.

Starting now.

Changing the Narrative

Julie, Hi!

Her smiling face sits down across from me in the coffee shop. She wears a colorful print top in shades of blue tied with a loose bow at the scooped neckline. A dragonfly pendant accents the look. With all of this loveliness, it is her smile that draws me in, open and kind.

You’re hard at work!

Actually I am attempting to work, but I am not succeeding. Not yet, anyway. I am using a window of time in between band camp drop off at 7:45 and a 9:00 snack help shift to collect my thoughts. I say as much as I close notebook and planner, creating more room on the surface of the small table for two.

I’m trying to atone for all the years I couldn’t help when my older kids were in band and I was home with the littles.

I think you need to change that narrative.

Her smile remains open and kind, but her eyes pierce through to my soul. I steadily continue engagement, feeling the pain of that truth landing somewhere deep. Laughingly I agree, trying to explain how I am somewhat kidding.

No, I’ve heard you speak that way before. I think it really needs to be kinder. We do what we can. The guilt is thick there.

In two minutes she has heard my sound bite and nailed it to the point that tears come to my eyes as the conversation comes to mind. I am reminded of why I love this woman and am grateful for her presence in my life whenever our paths intersect.

She is on her way to work, waiting for coffee to brew, a treat to herself on this first day back. We have precious few minutes to connect, but they go deep and real. Quick summer updates from each of us follow until I see her tall to-go cup placed on the counter by the barista and know our time is up.

She rises to collect her order and continue moving through her day. Pushing open the coffee shop door, she turns and says, Give the band kids love from this mama.

We do what we can when we can. Today that is what I will do.

Answering Questions

How are you doing with your word? It’s imagine, right? How are you imagining?

What are you doing just for you this summer?

Just wanted to pop in and say I’ve missed your words . . . I imagine it’s reflective of the way your summer is going.

These questions and comments were posed to me this month at separate times by separate friends. I am usually the one asking questions and noticing things, so they caught me off guard. My answers were honestly vague, as I have not felt imaginative, nor do I have a clear image of what I am doing just for me.

Reading.

I have been reading more books, gathering up the words.

Yoga.

I have been practicing yoga most days, connecting body with breath.

Household arranging.

I have been moving things around, decluttering, sorting, ordering the externals.

These were my answers.

This summer finds me caring for those in my home and adjusting to my husband’s new work schedule and routine. When he shared his one month evaluation, I joked that I should have a one month evaluation, as well, to see how I am handling the change.

Summer naturally brings a different rhythm and routine to our home. This summer was no exception. There was much coming and going of children throughout June and July, with all of us finally together again on July 19.

Today I engaged my youngest daughters in painting. We sat at the dining table choosing colors for our palettes and brushing paint on paper. We found pictures to add. I tried to spark imagination, theirs and mine.

Afterwards, I gathered our palettes for a picture to capture the moment. Our colors tell a story of their own. Our works in progress are uniquely us.

To answer the questions, both spoken and not, I am caring intently for those in my home. I am having talks at bedtime and during breakfasts at favorite haunts. I am walking with and hearing hearts. I am meeting my own for coffee.

I sit in a new physical space while writing this. It is one I created this summer. It is a place I have imagined for years that has finally become a reality. Of course there are the unimagined parts, as well, such as the warbling of birds and the jumping of a dog. It reminds me that imagination comes to fruition with its own dose of reality.

I am living in reality, embracing the daily, walking by faith. Living in the shadow of the question. Always.

Thank’s for asking!

Bird Nest

Sitting on the floor of my daughter’s vacation room, I look through the glass door up at the nest. It is tucked into the balcony rafters. Mama bird has just returned to her babies.

I feel a kinship with mama bird, seeing as I am here this week with my three youngest chickadees. It’s a different vacation dynamic than years gone by.

The last time we were in this space, our unit was divided into a boys’ side and a girls’ side. There were eight of us. Someone got sick.

This year we are four females until Papa bird joins us. Each has her own space. Mine is on a pull-out sofa. Some years that is how it goes. I wanted my older girls to have their own rooms.

It’s kind to have a getaway gifted by the in-laws in the midst of this transitional summer. The change of scenery is doing us good, even if it’s only a different space to eat and sleep and watch Cartoon Network.

For me it’s also doing yoga on my travel mat, reading books, and journaling. It’s laughing with the girls at episodes of Teen Titans and Gumball and crying alone during Inside Out and A Wrinkle in Time.

It’s going for walks in the heat and playing miniature golf on a course where the young man behind the counter taking our money recognizes us from years ago when he was younger and his family came to our house for dinner that time.

We are not far.

Just like that mama bird who swoops down and away whenever I try to sneak out onto the balcony for a closer look, I swoop out and away to my own balcony to read or write. I swoop out for walks.

I always return, just like her.

Unlike her, my babies are old enough to swoop out on their own, as well. Little Mae took her own walk last evening. My teenage daughter steps out regularly for moments of self-care.

Teen sons are each off on their own adventure this month, instead of on vacation with the family. That is how seasons shift and change.

Maybe that is what continues to draw me to the floor of this room looking out of the window and up at a bird nest. Grounding. Remembering all of my birds when they were contained.

I always ask first.

May I go look at the bird?

Usually the answer is affirmative, unless I have been particularly annoying or grievous. Then I just wait a bit and ask again.

Mama has hopped out of the nest and is perched on the ledge. Her eyes peer around, scoping out the territory. I refrain from opening the door or making a sudden movement.

Instead I sit and bless her. I listen to her song through the window and marvel at her role in the world. She is enough just being a bird.

She does not have to compete with or compare herself to other birds. She is enough moving back and forth from her own nest minding her own business.

Enough. Just like these words.

Just like me.

Get Up, Brush Off, Keep Going

This month’s writing and blogging began in a hopeful space. The most-read posts were written the first week, goodbye and hello, respectively. All of the changes triggered curiosity in readers, and I had a good writing flow.

My birthday found a Red Tent Living post running, definitely a confidence booster. There was growing momentum. That was the first full week of June.

Things came to a grinding halt the second week when school was out, kids were home full-time, and Steve entered week two of his new job. Any hopeful writing momentum grew precarious, like the wobbling handlebars of a bike before a fall.

Instead of confidently correcting and keeping a steady flow, I crashed. Words splattered everywhere but on the blog, and I landed in stunned silence, too tired to pick myself up and brush off for another run.

It is easy for me to grow discouraged in those moments that feel familiar. The silent crashes, sporadic tries, lost confidences are not new. What I would like to be new is the desire to get up, brush off, and keep going.

That is what this is. It’s practice.

It is also the reminder that any change in terrain is difficult to navigate, and this month has brought significant life changes. For someone who struggles with change, it is no surprise that I have been once again caught off guard.

To those reading and curious, thank you. Thank you for bearing witness to my words and world and growth. May July bring goodness and growth and opportunities for you to keep going, as well, in whatever you are called to pursue.

May it also bring rest and slowing down and enjoyment, things I am pondering and hope to explore more in the days to come.

 

You are Invited

Saturday, May 19, is the Hats and Horses Fundraiser out at Cross Keys Equine TherapyThere is still space for you and a friend or several to attend this Preakness-themed event. If you are a last-minute person who waits to see what’s available, wait no longer and hop over here to order your tickets.

Come to think of it, I had better ask Steve if we have ordered ours!

We have attended this event for several years. Once I won the 50/50 raffle which paid for the babysitter hired to tend our houseful of children. Another time, I won a silent auction painting donated by my favorite local artist. Rumor has it she is offering something again this year!

It is always fun to see who attends and to mingle with friends, old and new. There are hats to decorate and silent auction items to browse. There is live music and a cash bar. The bar tender is always handsome and funny. The BBQ is delicious and desserts tempting.

Most important is the money raised to sustain the work of Cross Keys Equine Therapy. Attending this event is a fun way to offer the financial support that is so needed.

You may wonder what happens out at the farm. How do horses help with therapy?

I am glad you asked, because I had an experience at the farm back in January that I would love to share with you.

When engaging with the horse, first get permission. Wait for the horse to come to you and reach out to touch you before touching it. Just like you wouldn’t walk up to a person and begin rubbing their arm, don’t walk up and start petting the horse.

Alicia addresses board members sitting around a table preparing to exit to the fields for an experience with the horses. We are to take some time visioning the work of Cross Keys and think about how we fit into that vision. I take up my spiral-bound journal and walk outside. Our first assignment is to sit and be still.

Walking towards the field with no horses in it, I am redirected kindly to another. I nervously laugh and try not to ascribe deep significance to my faux-pas. It is difficult for me to make a decision and stick with it; to not have someone assign me a place. I carry my pop-up chair to a field with three horses in the distance and sit. 

The horses are black, brown, tan. They begin moving in my direction, then stop. Wind whips over me. I settle my heart, not wanting to be rushed in the space. I find it interesting that I am in a field with three horses. What is God doing? I am not a horse person.

My vision keeps tipping to trauma. That theme runs through my story and connects my people. In a month I will commence part 2 of a certificate in story-informed trauma work. I see Cross Keys as a place for healing and hope, recovery of self, a place to engage with what has brought trauma.

Where do I fit? What do I bring?

As I ponder these questions, two horses move closer. They come to me, first the brown then the black. The tan will meet up with me later. I do not yet know this. I feel tears as these powerful animals approach me and nudge me with their noses. In their presence I feel small as I am called to rejoin the others down in the arena.

We gather at the Hope Arena for instructions on part 2. This time some of us will volunteer to enter the ring with the honey-colored horse to experience what the work is like. A therapist and equine specialist facilitate this experience.

I watch the first volunteer engage the horse and do some work. The work is to make a connection with the horse, not to mount it or ride it or do something like that. Just connect. This volunteer courageously engages the experience, following the therapist’s and specialist’s lead. Upon exiting, another volunteer is invited to step in. There is a pregnant pause.

I feel the feeling. You know the one. It’s the standing on the edge of the high dive or the top of the boat house and wanting desperately to both step off and step back. I stepped up and into the ring, terrified. Ambivalence gripped me as I battled desire for more and fear of engagement.

Being so close to a large, powerful animal in the presence of my peers and a therapist and horse specialist was intense. My default is performance, and I wanted to do all of the things right. I wanted to make a connection with the horse which meant she had to move towards me. Because I didn’t check to see, but instinctively I felt her a she.

I began to name what I felt, which was fear. I felt afraid to step in and move closer, but this beautiful creature was inviting me in with her deep brown eyes and golden mane tossed to one side. I decided to trust and engage as myself which meant to walk alongside of her. She drew me in from the edge of the rail where I was lingering and walked with me further into the arena.

I talked with her in this process, naming that it was difficult for me to commit to moving deeper into a space, even here as I ponder where my fit is at the farm. She gently walked with me, leading me to a red pop-up chair further in the arena. Stopping in front of the chair, she tapped her nose down on its seat and stepped aside. 

I could have analyzed and excused and come up with all of the reasons why what I felt in my gut was impossible, but instead I chose to stay with the feeling of invitation to sit and be. I sat down. The horse stood beside me. All was still. A cat jumped into my lap.

The ridiculousness of that final touch broke the spell, and laughter ensued from both me and my husband before spreading to the others. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT the type of person who has cats randomly jump into their lap, nor do I invite that from cats. This was clearly a moment.

During the debrief with therapist and horse specialist, I named what was stirring inside. Issues of trust, fear, commitment, place, and rest all were current and all were showing up in the presence of the horse. Her engagement with me was completely different than with those who went before and after. It was unique to my need.

I experienced the beauty of equine-assisted therapy, if only briefly. It is the ability of the horse to sense and bring to the present space what is stirring in the client’s world. It is a therapist helping to name what is happening with the client and a horse specialist naming the horse’s role in the process. 

It is beautiful and healing. When I wonder how it would feel to move in from the edge of a space and take my place in the room, I remember walking alongside a horse as she moved me further in from the edge. I feel the invitation to sit and belong just as I am. And just in case I doubt, I feel that cat on my lap and the laughter in my heart and know that it is real.

Please consider joining me THIS Saturday out at the farm. I would love to catch up and dream and imagine more with you. Tickets are here.

Shortly after the experience, the girl who is not a horse girl found a picture of herself as a girl wearing her favorite shirt. She feels this when she looks at the picture. That was my favorite shirt! You can see joy in all of the eyes.

I am going to be curious about that girl. Maybe she is a horse girl, after all!

Tabletop Tableau

This was the view across the room from me this morning as I sat in an oversized chair in my Airbnb drinking coffee and reading. Today is the last day of Certificate 2 training. How do I hold that?

Monday evening a precious friend stopped by the house to affix an EzPass to my windshield and capture the tolls for my trip. She also gave me a gift bag care package. Peeking in I saw snacks and a stuffed owl.

I didn’t see the cards tucked in between everything, one for each day, with instructions about when to open them. Each unique card held words of blessing and encouragement specific to the day.

This is a part of her glory. She is a writer. I was the recipient of her lavish gift of words. I assembled the cards on the tabletop under the staircase to remind me of truth and give me courage to step into hard places.

Some cards contained lunch money. Others a blessing. Each met me in exactly the right space for what the day held and what my heart needed.

I am preparing for the last session. Lunch is with myself today in solitude, pondering all that these days have held and preparing to end well. What do I hold? What do I toss?

It is my second attempt at writing this post. I wrote a first one while sitting at one of the wooden chairs that flank the table. I hit publish and rushed out the door. It vanished.

I sat all morning holding my disappointment while trying to release demand as to why my post vanished and where it went. I needed to remain present to all that was happening in morning session and group.

I will hit publish again for a second time on these new words for my morning thought. Then I will brave the rain and return to my table and receive what the afternoon holds.