Standing backstage, I realize how much of my life mirrors this space I inhabit with rows of choristers, their accompanists, and other parent assistants. Together we work to prepare for a concert about to begin.
I pass tissues, bandage fingers, collect trash. I smile, encourage, and whisper final blessings as sparkling children step out to take the stage. Then the space is empty and quiet.
I wait backstage to receive the choristers after this first number and to help them prepare for the next. In this waiting I look around, take deep breaths, collect my thoughts.
Empty bins line the wall. Some rest on a rolling cart. Their contents decorate the auditorium. A tall, glittering Christmas tree, large golden stars, white lights, and colorful hanging banners all have been pulled out to say Welcome Christmas.
Music drifts back, muffled by the curtains and acoustic shell that surrounds the risers. I know its sound. I have listened as it was created, sat as singers worked through it, encouraged and supported those creating it.
I imagine the conductor in her sparkly black gown on stage, drawing out the beauty of the children’s voices. This is her gifting and glory, and it is apparent as this concert begins. My glory is in support. It is backstage that I sparkle.
I navigate behind the scenes well so that others can take their place on the stage. Behind the scenes work happens to create the magic. Laughter, tears, blood, nerves, these all bring life to a performance as it is pulled together and placed on display.
It takes hours backstage to roll out a polished performance. Not all get the privilege of knowing where broken spotlights hang waiting for repair or how many plastic totes it takes to pack up the Christmas sparkle.
I see all of this and more.
My gifting is in seeing and supporting. It is calling forth potential from deep inside of another. It is in naming glory, and this day is glorious. These children and their directors are glorious.
I sit with myself in this tension. Rather than blessing my backstage beauty, I question what is wrong with me that I am not the one on stage. Not just here but in other realms of life. Why do some seem to hold the spotlight naturally, to pull things together, to speak from the front lines with confidence?
Ideas come to me. Memories. Thoughts. We cannot all crowd the up front space. Doing my job well supports others in theirs, and as we each find our unique place, we create beauty. It is not about who is center stage but about how we come together in support of one another for the sake of something bigger.
Deep gratitude and joy flood my heart as I witness and participate in the thunderous applause and standing ovation following the final number. Glory radiates, flowing over the crowd as we celebrate together those on the stage, and I celebrate inside the backstage beauty.
Returning from half of my usual morning drop off, I carry breakfast up to a sick child, only to find her fast asleep. She is sleeping so hard that the sound of the door opening, the clinking of dishes, and the barking of an unruly dog cease to wake her.
This is how I know it is not a ruse, the hope of a day off, a continuation of the holiday. It is the real deal.
Back in the kitchen, not wanting to waste her cocoa made with warmed milk and Nesquik ® powder, I pour it into the remains of my black coffee, creating a makeshift mocha. I take this warm beverage into my room and open the laptop.
I want to write something. The sound of another daughter’s fingers flying over a computer keyboard inspires me. I want to mirror that diligence, transfer chatter in my head to the screen and then into cyberspace.
The problem lies in where to begin.
Lately, things have felt heavy and hard, the act of opening the laptop, a chore.
I am not alone in the heaviness. Even as I ponder what to write, dear friends face greater health issues with their daughter and head to the hospital, hoping for answers. I say I will pray, and I do.
It feels so small, so helpless, prayer, yet we are to do it without ceasing. We are told it avails much. So I pray, trusting that the same spirit that nudged me to text my friend is with her now in her uncertainty.
This morning I read Psalms 137-139. If you haven’t spent time in the Bible, lately, or even if you have, it’s a great place to visit. These verses especially met my heart in its struggle.
As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength. Psalm 138:3, NLT
The Lord will work out his plans for my life ~ for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138:8, NLT
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single one had passed. Psalm 139:16, NLT
In the space of my own uncertainties, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to answer prayer. Encouragement comes in the form of strength for the task at hand ~ whatever that may be.
God created me. He chose, named, and wrote down my days. There is a plan, a method to the madness, even if I cannot see or understand it. Especially then. I long to remain curious and open to what has been written for this day.
I want to step fully, confidently, faithfully into the life written for me. What if I truly believed God’s unfailing love? What if I openly embraced his encouragement?
He says I can ask for things. I ask now.
I ask for light, guidance, direction. I ask to be led into truth, for a way to be opened. I lift up requests both known and unknown. I thank.
I thank him for where I have been led this year, for faithful love generously given.
My makeshift mocha is almost gone. Cold dregs remain in the bottom of the mug, signaling that it’s time to wrap up writing in my corner and get on with the day.
Thank you for being with me in this space this morning, Friend. May you be blessed as you walk out this day written just for you. No one else can take your steps!
I am not a Black Friday shopper. As much as I like the theory, its practice evades me. The idea of rising in predawn hours to score a $4.99 appliance that I may or may not need does not offer a thrill.
I am a Black Friday friend, though. When asked if I could do the early morning feeding for her cats Thanksgiving weekend, I obliged. That is what found me driving past the mall with Black Friday shoppers lining up in the dark. I now sit, pre-dawn, in a silent house, listening to the lapping of water and crunching of food in various locations.
My ears are especially trained on the upstairs hallway while I wait and hope for sound. I want the ghost cat to emerge for his food today. He is what prevents me from dumping the food, collecting the bowls, and getting the job done quickly.
Come out, come out wherever you are.
The thumping of paws alerts me to locations and activities of the other two. The elusive ghost cat remains hidden. I trust my perch halfway up the stairs to keep me from view while allowing me to glimpse the identity of the cat when it arrives at his bowl. I want to confirm existence.
Nothing. Not even a lump under the covers or a glow of eyes under the beds, as before. He is a stealthy one, that cat.
The others patter around, testing me by stopping at the full food bowl in the upstairs hall. I see them and chide them to move along. They have had their turn to eat.
I allow a reasonable amount of time, per friend’s instructions, of course. Past performance says that if the ghost has not emerged by now, he is not coming out this time. I text her the state of affairs. She replies with All sounds good.
Preparing to leave, I refresh water bowls, giving one last look around for the mystery cat. He does not want to show himself this morning. I close the door and lock it behind me.
Day breaks as I return to my car and begin the drive home.
Though tempted to disappear into the radio’s noise, I ride home in silence. Driving past the mall, I notice that shoppers have entered the stores. Instead of turning into the parking lot to join them, I slide back into my warm bed for a few more hours of sleep.
The rising sun casts light over the mountains, calling last hues of orange to waken. Flecks of green and gold raise their hands to be noticed amidst the predominant brown. Bare branches along the ridge top stab a brilliantly blue sky. Leaves litter the ground, shrugging their way down the trees.
Autumn is heavy upon us.
From my perch outdoors on the third floor veranda of the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center, I hear sounds of voices young and old. Coffee steam rises from the eight ounce hotel lobby lidded cup in my hand.
Couples check out, walking to their cars, coolers and roller bags in hand. Children argue as parents snap at them and each other. It’s a time of transition, and I get to be still a little while longer, drinking coffee, rocking in a chair, writing, before my turn to depart.
As always, time away has been kind. Unexpected, unpredictable, unfamiliar, yet kind, nonetheless. My heart feels the rustling of return. Places I thought had settled comfortably, nudge for attention.
I sit with what is right now. Crisp air, bright sun, chirping birds, laughing child. Rocking, feeling the steady back and forth movement, drinking in the comforting warmth and wake of hot coffee.
This moment offers Sabbath for my heart, a heart full. So much is happening behind the scenes rather than front and center. I hold loosely. I hold close.
The more present in reality we are, the more fullness we feel. There is a very thin veil between life and death. ~ Scott Moore
I am feeling the presence, the fullness, the joy of life, the grief of death. All of it. During lulls in the passing traffic, I can hear the leaves hit the ground.
Eight ounces of hotel coffee does not last long. Minutes tick past the hours that remain before I, too, must pack up, roll out, and return. A golden gleam from the lawn below catches my eye. It takes me back to church in childhood, my sister shining her Strawberry Shortcake compact mirror in the pastor’s eyes.
The brilliant golden shine is not a golden ball of reflected sunshine but an outdoor ground light remaining on from a time change that has not been adjusted.
Nothing gold can stay. ~ Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
The wedding is over. There is much to process. It was a beautiful, perfect weekend. I do not use that phrase lightly. Those who know me understand this. Nothing is ever perfect, but this event came mighty close.
The time was amazing. The weather was kind. The leaves were glorious.
The morning after returning home I sat in my favorite spot, looking out the window at my favorite tree. Its branches were mostly bare. Only a few leaves were left clinging to the ends of its limbs.
It inspired this art journal page and poem.
I am glad I took time to look at the leaves While their glorious color was still on the trees
Before they began the descent to the ground To be raked up and piled up and blown all around.
I know it’s the season, they never can stay
They all end up down at the end of the day
They don’t wait for me to have things all lined up To sit with the perfect drink in my cup
They fall when they’re ready, when their time is here Seasons and cycles, year after year
And I get to watch and see what they do From green to orange to brilliantly blue
The scene out the window, it changes each day As more sky appears and the leaves go away
So I’m glad I took time to look at the leaves While their glorious color was still on the trees.
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!
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 Externshiptraining and others gather in Austin in anticipation of the Brave Onconference, 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.
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 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 somethingis 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.
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.