I’m sitting in the car in the rain as husband runs into Food Lion for the last of the groceries after our Saturday Costco trip. On my heart is recovery of teenage self. Literally. My chest keeps tightening and breath catching. That young woman is so lost inside of me.
This week I take one of her stories to certificate 2 training. It’s from the last year she was a teenager, 1990, where she believed her fate was sealed and all hope for choice was gone. It’s where she finally departed herself, shedding any remnants of who she was or might have been for who she was required to be.
I have punished her for that. For years she has borne the brunt of blame for trying to survive. For doing the best she could. For existing.
I’m in a weird space of feeling all of the feelings connected to that part of me as I sort them into their categories. Everything feels way too intense and current. Things that should not be a big deal seem huge. And things that really do loom large, well those feel unbearable.
Today’s 7 stares back from the calendar app on my phone, reminding me that in one month I will be another number away from nineteen. Twenty-eight numbers away, to be exact.
What is this crazy feeling of being so close, yet so far from myself? I hope to find out more this week as I regroup with others as we walk through our stories together.
I am grateful to my family for, once again, holding down the fort and to my friends for cheering me on, as I bravely go where I haven’t before, into another scene from my past.
The countdown is on!
Stay in the left four lanes of traffic.
The friendly GPS companion voice alerts me to a fact of which I am well aware. There are a lot of lanes of traffic to navigate. I stay in lane two of four. Traffic zips past me in spite of the 55mph posted speed limit. I keep checking.
Pain calls me to tension in my wrists, and l realize I have a death grip on the steering wheel. Deep breaths in and out and a growing trust in the vocal cues of my virtual co-pilot allow me to relax just a little.
I drive regularly on 81. There are a lot of trucks there, too. I am familiar with truck traffic, just not the kind outside of Chicago in more than two lanes. I strain to hear the next exit number and almost miss it. A last-minute swerve of faith puts me in the right direction. I breathe a prayer of thanks.
If there’s a traffic jam, you sit in it.
Choosing to move from the middle lane jammed with trucks to the left passing lane that is zipping along, I cut some travel time and break free of the congestion. Now to find a gas station with restroom facilities. I am still learning to stop at the last rest area before transitioning to a new traffic pattern, even if I don’t think I have to go.
Only I can know if I have to go to the restroom. No one else can do it for me. Here is a formula for me to remember from this day forth. 8 children + 46 years old = always stop
Today’s leg of the journey is short, only four hours compared to yesterday’s eight. Four hours is still a long time, though, and I am grateful for the coffee break provided by a friend and for an Allpoint ATM, since the tolls are taking a toll on my cash stash. I failed to thoroughly research that part of the trip. There are a lot of toll roads.
I should really look into EZ Pass.
After finishing the audio book, I caught up on podcasts for the remainder of the trip. Arriving in Batavia at my AirBnB, I was pleasantly surprised.
This is a restful, gracious space, kinder than I could have imagined. When I booked my (closer) location in December, I had no idea that the weekend before departure I would receive a message that my host had unexpectedly died (which is never expected), and my reservation was cancelled. This reservation was made last-minute, and is exactly right. I feel so grateful.
Exhausted from the drive, I plan to hunker down for the evening. There is a jacuzzi tub to soak in and a yoga studio on the third floor. The house is large and quiet and so right for this trip. Am I in denial about an early morning tomorrow and the beginning of three days of training?
Hmm . . . maybe?
Goodnight! Especially to the homefront. You are loved.
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.
I returned from Seattle last Monday. Weekend one of four is tucked away in the books. This leg of the journey has only begun.
After an intense 25 hours of lecture and group time, it was lovely to spend Sunday afternoon with friends being a tourist before boarding a late-night, red-eye flight home.
Feeling claustrophobic in a window seat on a full flight, I was grateful that my cup of Sleepytime Extra tea seemed to be kicking in and that my neck pillow, however awkward looking, offered comforting support. Slipping off my sparkly Toms and on my cozy fleece socks, and covering up with a scarf-blanket, all I needed was music to send me on my way to sleep.
It was a sweet grace to drift off for a few hours before waking to a waning-crescent moon and the big dipper right outside of my window in the clear black sky, so close I could almost touch them. Slumbering people sharing the row prevented me from getting up and walking around. Deep breathing and the moon and stars kept me from panicking.
Sara Groves sang in my ears as tears ran down my face. Tears invite curiosity, and I pondered what resonated so strongly between her words and my heart.
And I pray for a vision and a way I cannot see. It’s too heavy to carry and impossible to leave.
Heaviness. Impossibility. Vision. Change.
Drifting back to sleep, I stayed settled until the descent. Bright flashes of light caught my attention. I wondered if they were lights from the plane.
It was lightning.
I left sunny Seattle and returned to thunderstorms.
Touching down, the pilot’s voice over the speaker informed that lightning prevented the plane from being parked at the gate, since it was unsafe for workers to be out on the tarmac. Until further notice, all flights were grounded, and we were not going anywhere, including off of the plane.
This was a difficult space to inhabit. I was transported to days at the pool or the amusement park, or at a sporting event where timing the lightning was crucial to re-entering the activity. Those minutes between flashes felt like an eternity. There was nowhere to go.
When the timing was right, I exited the plane, uncertain of what would be waiting inside. Would flights be cancelled? Rescheduled? On time? This time I knew where I was going and walked through the airport with purpose.
My flight was cancelled. Plans were changed. Instead of meeting my son in his classroom later that morning, I would spend the day grounded in the Charlotte airport. Weather is not something that can be controlled.
I struggled with this.
After much wrestling and acceptance, I breathed into the space that was a day at the Charlotte Airport and made my way to the chapel first. Sitting there in the quiet, I tried to hold what had just happened, but so many shoulds weighed down on my shoulders.
Giving myself grace to just be in the space, I practiced silence before re-entering the fray of a busy airport.
Disappointed that I had gate-checked my suitcase with the power cord to my laptop, I found a rocking chair to sit in and grounded my feet. The rocking motion soothed my soul as I watched the sky clear and the sun return.
My flight did not board until 5:30, so I spent time writing and reading and thinking. I got lunch and spent time reading and eating alone until I invited a lovely lady to sit with me when it was apparent that she could not find an open table.
This move was unusual for me, yet opened my heart to a sweet gift. We shared where we were in the moment and in life and found that in spite of the difference in our skin color, there were many similarities in our souls. A new sister was met, friendship was sparked, and numbers exchanged.
I left lunch in humility and awe at the kindness of God in the Charlotte airport. The space felt sacred and sweet. I saw and was seen. I was blessed. I spoke blessing.
The flight to Roanoke was uneventful and the drive home smooth. I was grateful to fall into the arms of my husband and into the comfort of my home.
Here is Sara’s music that met me on the flight. Maybe it will meet you, too. Be blessed, Friends! Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
I seize a moment when the clouds part and sun shines to run outside to the strawberry patch. The ground, softened by days of rain, offers up its weeds with no resistance, though an occasional tiny berry is mixed in and sacrificed to their twisted, choking growth.
Extracting myself from the tasks at hand inside is a challenge, but sunshine, fresh air, and moist soil draw me to the present, and white flowers beckon me to notice them. I stop and breathe, accepting the invitation to a bit of productive stillness.
This is where it started, the inspiration to write for a blog outside of my own, in the strawberry patch. Each year reminds me of that. That, and a number of other things, like the fact that the strawberries were planted by my firstborn when she was still a teenager at home, and the first plants came from my dear friend’s yard before her life took a traumatic turn, exiling her from that home and yard.
There is a fence around the strawberries now. It is a nod to trying to keep the dog from trampling them, but it’s not working very well. Dewey has no problem in leaping with excitement over the low barrier if one of his doggie friends happens to be passing by or if he feels a need to defend his turf.
It is so imperfect, the place that calls me back each year, rising from the ashes, defying proper gardening techniques. Each year I think, I’ll do better at tending this patch and putting it to bed when the season ends. Then I don’t do better. Each year strawberry grace meets me again.
I don’t know what this year’s yield will be or when we will eat our first shortcake or if there will be an attempt at jam. That remains to be seen. What I do know is that today I was met in the strawberry patch with kindness and grace and hope.
Just breathe. Take a deep breath in. Let it out. You can do this.
Days begin early with this reminder. Coaching myself through each part of before school, during school, after school, and evening routine, they continue.
Take deep breaths. Slow it down. Be present.
I try, really I do, to believe that it is working. Breathing is important, as is mindfulness. I am mindful of the fact that this is an overwhelming time.
I’m still breathing. That counts.
This morning, I scramble out the door with my mini in tow reminding me of the essentials, Do you have my gift exchange gift? The candy canes? Your key lanyard? Don’t forget your coffee. This little one knows me well.
I grab a roll of wrapping paper to take along to wrap her gift, as there is not a scrap of tape in the house. Of course there isn’t. I have only been to the store countless times this week picking up ONE THING AT A TIME, while forgetting basic others like tape. Because lists? Checking twice? Who has the time and energy for THAT?
We run on the edge of slightly behind, but traffic is kind, and lights are green. She beats me to our classroom where she will wrap the gift while I go retrieve my charges, so that we can begin our school day together. I walk in to check on her, trying to slow the pace of my racing heart.
Move through each part of the day mindfully. Take deep breaths. Just breathe.
I say this audibly to myself, but little radar dish ears pick up the sound waves of my whisper, and a little person begins to laugh. As air mindfully and deeply fills my nostrils, I know exactly what is so funny.
I farted, and you just breathed it in!
Yes. I. Did. Deeply. Mindfully.
And that, Friends, is a perfect picture of how things are in these parts. I keep trying to control what I can, but there’s a lot of stuff I can’t control that just stinks.
I keep breathing, anyway.
It’s better to eat simply in quiet,
To silence the mischievous tongue,
To let a rebuke settle deeply,
To patiently parent the young.
When you can sit in the silence,
There’s time and there’s space to receive.
Wisdom moves towards the quiet.
Abundant words cause it to leave.
In silence there’s not room to quarrel.
There are no lies to repeat.
There are no hearts to be broken
When silence and discernment meet.
~quieting thoughts from Proverbs 17~
You are humble.
You are wise.
Your heart has been trustworthy.
There is kindness in your eyes.
You have studied
to give counsel
and to bless.
Your words have guided many
safely through their painful mess.
You’ve been steadfast
to speak truth and
to be kind.
You’ve often given freely
of your treasure and your time.
You are weary.
You’ve served others.
You have blessed.
You’ve come upon a season
where your own heart feels pressed.
Please be watered.
Please be cared for.
Please take time
To let your loved ones serve you
when your heart does not feel fine.
You are precious.
You have flourished.
You’ve borne fruit.
It’s time to step aside to breathe
and rest upon your route.
~inspired by Proverbs 11 and the wise women who have inspired me~
This isn’t about opening up my heart and pouring out deep feelings. It’s about opening up my space and rearranging.
Sometimes I get stuck in a physical or emotional place where I feel there are no options. No choices. It’s like that in many areas of life right now and feels suffocating. It’s a backed into a corner being poked at with sticks feeling. Not a favorite.
I began to feel that way about my room. My space. My corner. It seemed there was only one way for it to be. I had tried many others in the past and always came back to this.
It’s a good way. I love it this way. It is my own cozy corner.
However, it began to feel closed in and cluttered, and, more often than not, the bench became a catch-all for all manner of clothing and such. I was starting to feel backed in.
The carpet needed a good vacuuming, and when I am in this place of emotional turmoil, I like what I can clean and control. I began pulling furniture aside.
The space opened up. I saw possibility and potential.
Calling Coco to come help with the carpet, we pulled and slid and vacuumed and shoved and rearranged.
In the end there was this.
I love the new open space. I love what it says to me about possibility and change in a small, simple way on the outside, when inside my head is crammed and cluttered and stuck.
Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces. ~ Sara Groves
I’m taking some time off of Facebook.
My need to even post this shows how caught up and bound I feel, because in the long run, who really cares?
But you might care if you notice we are no longer friends or if your page that I once liked has gone down a like because I am not there to like it right now.
Please know that I still like you.
All I know is that I am in a difficult season and the constant feed of information and quasi-relational contact and alarmist news and links and requests have caused me to reach my social media tipping point.
I will continue to write here for those who care to read while bidding adieu to my #1 referrer. Facebook has been good to me that way. Numbers. You have been good to me, too, Readers.
It is for you faithful readers that I offer this vignette from my life.
I am in the car with my three not-so-little girls on the way home from the dollar movie. Boxtrolls.
Me ~ Later today I will be dropping you off at Grandma and Grandpa’s for about an hour. I have an appointment.
Roo ~ Like with a therapist?
Me ~ (shocked and surprised but playing it cool) Yes. You are exactly right. With a therapist.
Roo~ Yeah. So you’ll probably talk about stress and stuff?
Me~ (still caught off guard by how this conversation is playing out) You’ve got it! That’s what I will be doing.
So there you have it. When my kids grow up and people ask how their mom did it with eight kids, I don’t have to worry about them sugar-coating anything.
Lots of hard work. Many meltdowns. And therapy.
Feel free to use this contact form should you need to be in touch. Hugs!