Category Archives: writing

Water and Manna

Yesterday I woke with overwhelm and anxiety. Some of it stemmed from the eight kid factor, a common theme in my story. Other was from an over-responsible, irrational carrying of the weight of the world, not mine to bear.

Naming the feelings to the one lying next to me and releasing what was not mine to carry back to the one who holds the world in his hands helped. I still felt grief. Sometimes there is just sadness over all that is broken, and I weep.

Reading Exodus 16 and 17 brought me to water from a rock and manna from heaven. God’s people were being led the long way through the wilderness to prepare them to enter the promised land. This journey brought supernatural provision.

I was reminded of daily sustenance provided to me, physically, spiritually, emotionally as I walk with others (any myself) the long way through the wilderness. I felt gratitude and confidence to move forward in the day.

That feeling lasted all of an hour, before reality struck in the form of unexpected bills and adult responsibilities. Things that I am responsible for.

Fear rose in my core and erupted in the form of anger. I lashed out in frustration over all that feels too muchyet continues. Gratitude fell away replaced by entitlement and expectation. Confidence gave way to doubt and insecurity.

It felt unfair to be losing my grounding, even as others depended on me for theirs. I had an appointment to keep, a visit to make, kids to pick up from school, volunteer responsibilities, more work to do.

I did the next thing, because someone needed me to. This found me in a waiting room without any of my usual comforts. I had my art journal in a tote bag but no books to read or markers to draw with or writing instruments to use.

Nearby was a basket of books. I pulled out Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon and out of curiosity opened to February 4, morning. Would God meet me here? In stunned silence I read this.

On a coffee table covered with magazines was a coloring book and package of Crayola Twistable crayons. Picking up the crayons I took out my art journal and began drawing water from a rock and manna from heaven. I focused on this quote,

He has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven.

It was such grace to be reminded of daily provision, to feel seen, and to create. I felt a settling in my soul and a rest in my spirit.

Water and manna.

A New Grip

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we cannot see. . . So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Hebrews 11: 1,12,13 NLT

I sat across from one of my adult children in a local coffee shop, steaming mugs of cayenne mocha in our hands. The invitation extended to me resulted in conversation about hard things. This is the part of parenting I did not anticipate when, by faith, I opened my young self to accepting any blessings that God gave to me ~ because children are the greatest blessing.

Listening intently to words being spoken, truth being told. I affirmed that speaking the reality of growing up in our home was not dishonoring, but necessary for healing to happen. How I long for healing.

My journey with mothering closely mirrors my walk with God. I struggle with shame over choices, and seeming lack of choice, that resulted in eight humans birthing from my body. Yet I am not the author of their lives. I am part of the means by which their lives came into the world, the unseen.

It is deeply painful that what I viewed as an act of faith and trust in God resulted in harm to hearts in my home. The shadow was not lurking outside. It was within the walls.

My husband and I wounded our children by our inability to shepherd and parent well. We set up scenarios that caused the weak to fall rather than grow strong. Our ideal selves collided with, and were overtaken by, our real selves.

Twenty-eight years ago when I was a young engaged woman looking forward to a wedding day as the solution to all problems, dogma came not with the click of a mouse, but in the form of passed books and live conversations. It was perpetuated in community with others, gathered around the same ideals. It flourished behind locked church doors before fear of terrorism was a thing.

I was young and deeply impressionable. I was full of faith, however misguided. I had hope for a future better than what was in my past.

The same faith that believed if I only opened my life and womb to God, blessings would flow, now opens my heart to coffee and hard questions from the fruit of those ideals. I realize that this is a blessing, the ability to hold the tension of sitting in truth when everything inside of me longs to bolt.

Faith is a mystery. Sometimes I ask myself, Am I walking by faith or living in denial? Because faith and denial can look awfully similar. I know it is faith when I look at, instead of away from the pain. Looking into my child’s hurting eyes is an act of faith.

In doing so, I take a new grip with tired hands. My weak knees are strengthened by these redemptive conversations. Talking through hard places in our family story allows for new paths to be marked out, ones that are straight, direct, and true.  

I long for my children to rise up with this strength. I have confidence that they will the more they engage the truth of their childhood stories. The young woman in me also rises and grows stronger as she speaks her truth and names her harm.

This is the mystery, the unseen, the confidence, the faith that I hold. I do not know why I still have faith. I cannot explain or define it, but it is real. It is a part of me that should not be viable, yet it grows. It grows over coffees and breakfasts and phone calls and text messages. To this confident mystery, I cling in hope.

Happy Decade Day

Someone special begins a new decade of life today!

Her heart holds its stories close
Every so often one
Rises to the surface to be

Noticed and told
And she shares it, laughter
Mingled with curiosity
Excusing the format of

Ink penned words
Scratched on the back of

Cut paper
And not exactly written as a
Real story
Yet shared authentically
Not stopping until the end

And I get the gift of
Noticing more of the woman
Destined to be my mother

Still growing, learning, curious
Holding much in a heart that
Expands to reach those she

Loves
I long to know more of the
Kindness inside and how she
Endured hardships and
Struggles to arrive at the place she is now

But those are her treasures to share
I love her and
Remain curious to
Discover more of who
She is as she enters a new decade of life.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I hope this decade is your best one, yet!!!!!




Top 10 of 2018

I post links to my top 10 blogs on the Facebook page at the end of each year. This year I decided to crate a separate post linking them together in one space for the curious and also for myself.

These posts are the ones most read over the year.

#10 Mystery Solved where I have a trigger and meltdown and am completely vulnerable with feelings surfacing in my 19 year old self.

#9 Free Bread where there is provision in a stressful situation.

#8 Composting the Fart: The Weekly Baab

#7 In Between which explains my feelings during a time of transition in my home.

#6 Unprepared for Goodbye faces the loss of a special person in my life.

#5 Up Next talks more about further story training work I did in 2018.

#4 Hello, New Beginning is about just that. The gift of a new beginning.

#3 Mother of the Groom because I was also one of those this year.

#2 Goodbye, Costco since we had to part ways for a season.

#1 Goodbye 25 Years which details the close of a chapter.

It was clearly a year of endings and beginnings and transitions. I am eager to see what 2019 holds and plan to continue writing on the blog. Stay tuned!

All is Calm

In this moment all is calm. 

It is almost laughable that I am sitting on the couch in one of my favorite places with a small terrier pressed up against me and a calico cat looking on from the far cushion. Anyone that knows me recognizes the absurdity of this scenario.

The only sound is a light purring. Sunlight streams through the window, just missing my eyes.


I do not want to move my body, so I lower my head a bit.

This moment of calm is brought to me by a messy kitchen and a pile of laundry. It comes from an intentional choice to sit and spend time with my words rather than with a broom and dustpan.

The animals recognize this and take full advantage of the space. They live in it. They bring their presence to me, one of them leaning in close. This is how they spend their days, and they invite me to experience their world.


Paws folded, one eye open, Zephyr shifts and snores. She has nowhere to be right now, is in no hurry. Dewey leans closer to me me each time she adjusts.


I want the calm to stay, but I know that it can’t. The day marches on, and I must go with it. So I rise carefully, a habit formed while tending my babies. Let sleeping dogs (and babies and cats) lie.

In a most unusual turn of events, neither one moves, save to adjust for comfort. They curl into parallel balls of fur and sink into sleep. I leave behind an imprint of just that and exit the room, carrying the calm with me.

Peace, Love, Joy

December days roll along. The felt tree fills as we settle into a groove of lighting advent candles during dinner and putting up the piece at the end.

This year’s reading time is less structured and, as a result, more peaceful. Whatever it is I have been striving for year after year has been laid to rest. I continue to learn to embrace the present.

Embracing the present looks like trusting the words I read yesterday morning in Deuteronomy 31:6,7 NLT Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or panic . . . for the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

How quickly I flee from love to fear, from peace to panic. These words reminded me again of my anchor. I can trust the one who goes before me, ordering my steps.

I love the picture of handmade felt Advent pieces in the header. I wanted to plan a post around it, but nothing came. The words I tried felt awkward and clunky. Instead of joy, I felt burdened and pressured for something to say.

Listening to Jason Upton’s A Table Full of Strangers, vol 2 I heard the line Peace, Love, and Joy come from you. Quickly I pulled up the picture for my pieces and there were the words. 

Love

Joy

Peace

That is how inspiration came to me. 

Maybe you will be inspired, also. Blessings, Friend!

Backstage Beauty

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.

Makeshift Mocha

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!

Watched Cats

Watched cats don’t eat.

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.

I wait.

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.

Veranda View

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.

Solace.

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.

This vintage Strawberry Shortcake makeup compact has Strawberry Shortcake on the cover and has a mirror inside the lid. The compact was originally from the Berry Pretty Face Boutique set and had face cream in it, but it's now empty. You can use it to store makeup, pills, small jewelry, or anything else that will fit inside. The Berry Pretty Face Boutique set came with strawberry scented lip gloss, face cream, and cologne and items from this set are some of the more rare and hard-to-find…

 

Image result for strawberry shortcake compact mirror

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.