Remember how much you are loved and cared for this week.
These words concluded training session one of the 201st Stephen Series Leader Training Course (LTC). It’s where I am this week.
After a long day of travel in the rental truck, I arrived at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburg to check in, register, and pick up my 35lb box of training materials to sort and organize.
There was an opening banquet at a table with seven other people that I didn’t know but was about to meet.
I am here by myself, but I am not alone.
This week has been on my calendar for several months. I have prayed about it, planned for it, prepared as I could. It’s finally here, marking the true end of summer for me.
Next week I return to work, getting things ready for the new school year.
But this week is a time to settle and focus and learn. It is a time to remember to trust the process and receive care.
My prayer is that I will be open to what God has for me this week.
For the first session, I joined a group of women at a table with an empty chair. There I met my prayer partner for the week during The Relationship Exercise. She has a kind, open face, beautiful eyes, and a gentle voice.
We plan to meet after lunch to walk and share what is going on with us each day as the week progresses.
She has already agreed to pray that the rental return goes smoothly in the morning. Oh, and that my heart will be open to the process this week. That, too. That I will be present and focused rather than scattered and worried about all that is out of my control.
So this week will be less facebook (though this will post to my blog wall) and texting and more presence and reflection, listening to what God has for me.
Tonight it is this from Isaiah 41:9-10. . .I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, “You are my servant.” For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
I sit here in the after. Festivities over. All that has been left undone for months screams at me to get busy, yet there must be space.
Finding a corner to process and reflect, I wonder how this summer will be. I feel more settled, yet still very unsettled.
For months I have anticipated this time that has come ~ and gone.
There is more to come ~ Little Mae’s birthday. My birthday. Teaching Sunday school. Camp. Appointments for the kids. Vacation. Bible School. Stephen Ministry leadership training. Loving my husband and kids in the midst of it all. Loving my friends.
I want to pray and plan and hope about next year.
I want to pray and plan and hope about now.
I want quiet time with God. Quiet spaces. My mind is so loud.
Unplugging into quiet and journals and pens and things between me and God ~ not me, God, and the world~wide~web.
Not everything must be announced and packaged for all to see. Some things can be quiet and hopeful and private.
The resting is the hard part. There will always be more doing.
I begin this month curious as to where it will take me and what I will learn from it. Feel free to join me and to share where you are and what you are learning, as well. Life is a journey, Friends. Let’s try to enjoy it!
When I first saw this picture in a private message from a friend, I was mortified.
I don’t want anyone to see that picture – EVER!
But the more I looked at it and allowed myself to remember the events leading up to that moment in time, the more I wanted to write about it and post on it.
This picture captures my heart and its outpouring while in a hard place. It was utterly overwhelmed!
Returning to the classroom last fall after a 12 year hiatus, I had no idea that my eldest daughter would become engaged and set her wedding date for the weekend immediately following the last day of school.
It was a blessing, though, as the extra income allowed us to set a modest wedding budget for her, and now that we are on the other side of the events, everyone can enjoy their summer!
I had no idea the new issues that would stir in my heart as I began my journey as mother of the bride. There were lies about my own wedding that I had believed. You don’t deserve a wedding! I needed to name and process those. There were painful parts of my story to face, yet again, and strong feelings to understand.
I am barely coming to terms with my own marriage, and now my daughter is getting married!
It’s been a full, full year.
I am grateful to Katie and her father for all of their hard work and planning. It was a mercy that I truly couldn’t be deeply involved, and they were a great team. Scarlet and Stephanie came through as maid and matron beautifully, and my parents and sister-in-law pitched in heroically at the end.
I taught and planned and finished the school year and worked on the end-of-year school program. These are significant areas of wounding in my past life, so the struggle was even greater for me to stay present and focused and fighting forward.
The program was wonderful, and the students passed, and we could finally celebrate a wedding! Our school principal, Mrs. Pflugradt graciously instructed me not to come to work on Friday and just be mother of the bride that day.
Wedding weeked kicked off Friday with a leisurely morning for me, followed by a walk to the Elks Lodge to check on the decorating and meet my girl for lunch. Things were looking beautiful.
It was merciful to be spared tablecloth drama and to have dear sisters and friends covering those bases! It was strange to move up a generation from bride or bridesmaid to mother of the bride. That is definitely a different role.
Steve and I took Katie to lunch at one of her favorite downtown restaurants and shared final words and thoughts about who needed to pay what and how much. After lunch, I walked across the street to Ten Thousand Villages to see if I could find a necklace to go with my dress while Steve drove Katie where she needed to be.
I found a beautiful, fair trade, sequin necklace to wear!
It was time to get the siblings and head over to rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Things went fairly well at rehearsal, and the picnic dinner was a wonderful choice for all of the children we had (both little and big!).
Wedding Saturday was full. Really full.
From early morning nails (yes, I am getting a donut out of a box!), to lunch with Steve’s family who was in from out of town, to afternoon dressing and grooming of younger siblings, it was intense. Good, yes, but intense.
We had to be at the church by 2:45 for pictures, and some significant melting-down was beginning to happen by a certain child.
From 3:00 until the wedding at 4:30, things went non-stop, and I was wearing high heels.
Then the music started, I was escorted in to light a candle, and just like that, the ceremony was over, and we were in the basement waiting for guests to clear out so that final pictures could be taken.
This set the stage for MOBzilla’s appearance.
After pictures, the little girls rode with their reception attendant for the evening, boys rode with Caleb and Dana, and Steve and I rode together to the reception.
Upon arrival, I was directed to the front porch to wait with the wedding party to be announced. Little girls were fussing about being hungry, it was hot, I overheard murmurings of guests wondering where they were supposed to sit, and then it happened.
My best friend of over 30 years emerged from the front doors to the porch where I was standing with a plastic cup of wine in hand.
I looked at the cup and looked at her and something inside began to stir and abruptly snap.
My guests are drinking wine at my daughter’s wedding from plastic cups!
We all have our little quirks, and one of mine just happens to be that wine is to be drunk from wine glasses. I will go to great lengths to ensure that this happens. Of course, if it is an extreme situation (like an airplane ride), I will make an exception, but not at my daughter’s wedding where my husband was assured that glassware would be used!
A grip of my husband’s arm and stage whisper into his ear, and next thing I knew, wine glasses appeared. But that first hour. . .
By the look of the bar tab, I don’t think the guests were as bothered by plastic cups as I was. A friend later told me, People don’t care what they are drinking free alcohol from.
We began to be introduced, and I walked in to the first glimpse of the reception while a string of observations flooded my head and came out of my mouth to my husband’s ears as we stood in the back corner.
They served wine in plastic cups! We didn’t reserve enough tables for family! The DJ is botching everyone’s name! Of course he is, because you chicken scratched them out, and if we had known that the DJ would just pull out the paper and read from it without communicating beforehand that he hadn’t practiced and couldn’t read them, I would have written them out in kindergarten print! The kids are making a mess of the chocolate fountain! There is chocolate coating my son’s face and tux! I can’t do this! I’m leaving! This is a disaster!
Yup. That’s the MOBzilla face.
My gracious husband listened and asked how he could help me de-escalate. He listened to me, brought over a glass of white wine in a wine glass, and left me to have conversation in the food line and around dinner tables with real friends, and MOBzilla was appeased, and I was once again just plain MOB.
And it was an experience.
This experience was actually experienced by me in its fullness. Dancing, talking, eating, hanging out with friends, this all happened without me snapping photos to document it later. No MOB selfie, even! For pictures, I am at the mercy of our lovely photographer friends.
I will enjoy savoring and remembering as pictures begin to roll in. Until then, I wait. Thanks for grace and for waiting with me.
This is the father-daughter dance. You can look closely and see me in the upper left with my BFF.
Help arrived on Sunday to get us through the final countdown.
I am blessed beyond measure by sisters who show up.
This one showed up in person with her husband and two small boys to help with final wedding plans.
She’s showing up for my daughter, really, but that means it’s also for me. It means that I don’t have to make wedding decorations or decisions and can focus on the pile of end-of-school-year activities and the program that I face.
This week is big. Very big. Impossibly big, really.
I know the only way through it will be with much grace, because we will get through it.
I feel so very weak, which can mean only one thing.
There are nine days until our daughter changes her name. Today’s wedding planning project involved solidifying the catering and filling out paperwork for the DJ. I had nothing to do with the first and sat at the dining room table with my husband and daughter and a glass of wine for the second.
This is going to be bigger than I thought. Messier, I think. Crap. How hard can it be to choose music genre percentages and special songs that we want to have played?
Here we are, barely figuring out OUR marriage and life together, and it’s time to be the parents of the bride. How did that happen? Seriously. Typing this fills my eyes with tears. Or is that the wine?
I am wrestling the notion of good enough these days. I’m taking measurements, self-assessments, and coming up short. I’m feeling the failure. Inadequacy.
Contempt seeps into my brain, whispering accusations and reminding me of where I lack. I see it everywhere. Even though . . .
Even though I have worked hard this year at my job as teacher and working mother.
Even though I have loved my husband, children, students, co-workers in the midst of my struggles.
Even though I have learned much about flexibility and taking one day at a time.
Even though I have walked through a school year not knowing at the beginning that a wedding was awaiting me on the other side. Would I have taken that first step had I known?
I can still see so many shortcomings.
I’m NOT good enough.
That’s why there is grace enough.
There has been an abundance of grace, and today’s was no exception.
Inspired by my homeschool-mama friend, Davene, I planned a field trip to the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace in Staunton. The planning began weeks ago, and today was the day of the trip. I was feeling woefully inadequate.
Had I prepared my students well for the experience? Would they learn from it? Would it count in their minds as something fun while at the same time holding lasting educational value?
As we sat in the parlor of the manse, not touching, only listening, and our guide explained the serious nature of the parlor and the importance of the family Bible, I was reminded of yesterday’s conclusion of Caddie Woodlawn.
One of my favorite childhood books, I had chosen to read it to the class, and yesterday we finished the last two chapters. Not wanting to be a spoiler, I will simply say that Father received an important letter from England and called Mother to the parlor where they shut the door to discuss its contents. Later, a family vote was taken on a serious matter with each member casting their ballot in the family Bible.
I hadn’t set an agenda in the timing of the chapter, yet it fit perfectly with our experience.
Later, when asked questions about Woodrow Wilson, my students knew answers due to a crash course we had that morning and on the way riding on the bus. I brought some books along, and we discussed some random facts, and I let students read the books, or be read to, if they wanted something to do.
I hadn’t planned out a big unit, but the time spent riding the bus was productive.
It was grace enough.
This is what I need to remember. There is grace enough for each day, and when I recognize it, it’s breathtaking. And I can breathe.
I last posted on Fat Tuesday. Isn’t that supposed to be followed by a Lenten reflection or series or something? Shouldn’t I have blogged the grand reveal of what I am giving up for Lent this year? What about progress? Am I making any in my life? Is it being chronicled?
Wow! What a hefty dose of should’s and expectations I bear on my shoulders!
Lenten observance is a touchy subject, according to my facebook feed. I have friends who devoutly observe the church calendar and post blogs and links supporting their choice of what to give up or not. There are many great ideas, deep thoughts, and encouraging words.
In fact, my Lenten focus existed in cyberspace before I even knew it, as I wrestled with where I am on the journey this year. I found confirmation and encouragement in one of those facebook links. I felt affirmed and free to embrace my choice to engage.
There are those who take a non-observant stance when it comes to Lent. They believe that there need not be a particular season of fasting. Not only that, but some communicate this non-observance with an underlying tone that those who choose to observe are somehow acting superior to those who don’t. Motive is read as trying to earn God’s favor, doing penance, or gloating in works of righteousness. Those personal-opinion blogs and links also pepper my all-important facebook feed, causing me to soul-search and explore my knee-jerk reactions.
Why am I choosing to have a forty-day focus? Why am I triggered by someone else’s equally valid choice not to? What is true here? What is my tone in the above paragraph?
I’ve been on both sides of the Lenten fence in various life seasons. Lent offers up the opportunity to engage with and release what seems to be taking over and consuming me, other than Christ.
Some years it’s been chocolate, others alcohol or caffeine. There were seasons of self-consumption, where the choice to just rest in the messand let it be was made. There was a season of sitting in the office of a wise counselor and hearing the words, “Of COURSE there are Legos all over the floor. You have NINE people living together. It’s a MESS!” During that time of my life, I had to learn to be present in the mess and recognize my idol of control when it reared its ugly must have everything appear perfectlyorganizeddelusional head.
This year, I have decided to actively give up clutter. This means being intentional about getting it out of my house and is where Pinterest and Facebook friends have so kindly linked and informed me of all the ways that this can be done.
It’s also about not allowing it in!
For me, I am giving up the shoulds and just doing it. Letting go. As I continually learn to breathe, so will my surroundings, and order will follow chaos, to the degree that I choose to enter the battle.
It’s not about a formula or a three-step plan to spiritual wholeness. It’s not about superiority or measuring how many tons of clutter are removed from my life. It’s not a before and after shot or marketing plan. It’s about being honest with my heart and taking action to remove what so easily becomes my focus…stuff.
Where are you today? What do you feel nudged about giving up or resting in? You are not alone!