The first weekend of November found me at a lake house with my friend Angela for what has become a fall ritual ~ Introvert’s Weekend Away.
It is a great space, wherever we land, of reading, writing, thinking, processing, and just being. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we are quiet. We do things together, mostly taking walks and eating meals. We do things apart, like all of the other stuff.
My space at the table looked like this for most of the weekend.
It was lovely to be able to leave works in progress and come back to them.
Last year I was working on work for module 2 of the certificate program and had a strict agenda of reading and writing to complete. This year it was fun to just play with and in the space.
The misty day could not keep me from swinging to the music in my ear buds, soaring high into the air. Little did I know I was creating a safe space for my soul. There was solitude and beauty and much-needed calm before the storm that was brewing.
Saturday’s end finds me sitting in my corner in the space of in between.
I am waiting for Steve to get the girls settled for the night. I am searching my brain for words that keep drifting just out of reach. I want to write, to keep up the momentum, but there is not much coming.
Saturday’s end finds me both wrestling with and resting in enough. The things did not all happen today, but enough of them did. What constitutes a good Saturday?
For me it was the impromptu phone call after lunch when I was ready to jump out of my skin. Hearing my sister’s voice on the other end as I walked the neighborhood alone was both comforting and clarifying as she talked me through the struggle to the other side.
It was the father/daughter yardwork , the sound of a chainsaw cutting stray tree branches allowing more sunlight into the yard and the smell of cut branches burning in the fire pit.
It was the smiles and laughter and engagement I witnessed through the window, because close up it is difficult to see.
It was the joy of finished chores after the angst of wrangling everyone through them, because no one wants to pick up after others, but we all live here and have responsibilities.
It was dinner around the table with enough asparagus for all, because it is the current favorite vegetable.
It was the laughter following dinner as an impromptu photo shoot took place. So much laughter. Sibling love is the best.
It was a son preparing for homecoming and another preparing for work and daughters doling out shower time to ensure there was enough hot water for all.
It was the realization that here we go again with the refrigerator that is never fully stocked and the people that have lots of things to say and the laundry pile that is never ever finished and the hot water tank that is never quite full.
It was being reminded that there is life in this place, even in the midst of all that is hard. There was a lot of hard today, too.
At Saturday’s end, I will choose to rest in enough. It was enough to have been given another day to live and to love and to laugh. Because those things all happened, and it has not always been so. Today it was.
Trauma takes our words which is why I sit in shock and disbelief over the news of a mass shooting in Las Vegas yesterday. The post I had hoped to write feels trite and self-centered in the wake of hearing about those who are only beginning to grieve the loss of loved ones and whose lives are forever altered by bullets and blood. Where are the words for this?
I did not hear the news until everyone had been dropped off at school. Switching from morning music to NPR, I was stunned by the story and the sounds of chaos that the soundbites played. My heart sank as I engaged the latest in a series of traumas that have been only a social media click or news report away.
Yesterday Steve was listening to an Allender Center Podcaston catastrophic stories while cleaning the kitchen. I joined him in the space to begin lunch preparation for the upcoming week. I had listened to this episode when it originally aired. Houston was the focus, having been left in the wake of the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe.
Sadly, Houston is now old news in the world of media coverage. We barreled on to scenes from Florida and Irma and then to the islands with Maria, and even those images are fading. New sights and sounds of trauma are here to flood us.
Yet there are still people living the trauma that overtook them. Just because we no longer see the pictures, does not mean that the houses have been rebuilt, the people have food, water, and clothing, that infrastructures are safe. Lives have been forever changed. Loved ones grieve from a distance, helpless and hurting.
I enter the house, bracing myself with dread. I know what will come later in the day, should I choose to look and listen ~ the comments, the commentary, the anger, the solutions, the accusations. I was looking forward to this month with anticipation, and now it just feels heavy. What is the point of anything? It is easy for me to slide down the path of despair.
The thief comes to steal, kill, destroy.
Dewey jumps up on my leg, patting me with his paws, waiting for me to clip on his leash for our morning walk. I leash him, grab a bag, and leave my phone in my room, choosing to disconnect and unplug even if only for half and hour. We walk.
The air is crisp, the sky is brilliant, the sun is dazzling, the shadows are long. Dewey steps along happily engaging the world as we do together each morning. He invites me to presence in his dog-like way, by doing his new trick of jumping and grabbing his leash in his mouth as if to say, Look at me walking myself! Aren’t I clever? Watch me jump!
I choose to see the beauty, because the broken is all around. It’s on the length of sidewalk I did not walk, because I know the dead squirrel is there, and I do not want to see or smell death right now. I almost stepped in it last night. The terror is real. I walk and ponder and pray.
Returning home, I settle onto my favorite couch with my Bible and journal. Lighting a candle the color of tears, I am reminded that Jesus weeps with me, and that he is here. He is Emmanuel, God with me, in the midst of the chaos and confusion when I have no words. I don’t have words for this.
I am grateful that I chose to love this morning before I knew this story. I drove the forgotten items into school without anger. I laughed over the irony of the poor quiz grade while signing the interim envelope. I let the little things go. I put on my Do Justice, Love Mercy, Be Humble shirt before I knew.
It reminds me of how to love, because that is what there is when there are no words. And we never know when we will no longer have the chance or the choice.
The air is crisp. The leaves are falling. The colors are vibrant.
A month into my new normal things are finally beginning to feel, well, more normal. A daily routine is evolving, lending itself to one that is weekly. I am learning my boundaries and limits through trial and error.
I am discovering more about myself in the quiet spaces and recognizing my tendency to fall down the path of least resistance, rather than lean into the hard. This results in me putting things on the back burner that really need focus and clarity. It is easier to escape into Netflix than to engage in reading and writing.
My good intentions will never happen unless I am intentional.
This month, intentionality looks like taking time daily to write. I hope to post these writings on the blog. We shall see what happens.
In moments of adversity, I tend to shut down and think, What’s the point?
I am so grateful for those who send words of encouragement my way, whether through Facebook Messenger, email, comment, or text. All methods are recognized and appreciated. They have helped me choose to continue engagement. To persist.
Here’s to a new month full of promise and possibilities. Welcome, October! I’m glad there’s you.
Mamas, it’s hard. Mothering is just hard. Maybe not all of the time, and maybe never for you, but it was really hard for me. And in my story, something being difficult to do was not a reason to pause and question it. There was no room for exploring other options or making changes, only soldiering on with the choice that had already been made.
Nineteen years ago I was 27 and had just birthed a 10lb 4oz boy. He was welcomed by his three older siblings, ages 5,4, and 3. Steve and I had been married six years. That is a lot of living and people to fit into a short period of time.
Child number four was not at all like the others. He did not fit any sort of mold, and contrary to what people always said to me, I hear it gets easier after three, nothing could have been further from the truth. Please refrain from offering things that you have heard about situations that you have not experienced to the one struggling in the midst of them. It is truly not helpful.
It did not get easier for me.
There were a lot of hard things to push through and four more babies to follow. I wondered if I would make it. I wondered how something so excruciatingly difficult for me could ever be worth it.
I made it.
It was worth it.
My son and I hiked High Knob together to celebrate his 19th birthday.
He has been there often. Today was my first time. We parked and entered the trail and walked and talked. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue. The leaves were beginning to change. We had the trail to ourselves.
We climbed to the top of the lookout and sat, enjoying the gentle breeze and the stunning view. We shared conversation.
We hiked back to the car, mindfully aware of our surroundings, noticing little things like this wooly bear on the path.
Somewhere along the way, my phone received a wave of service, and several texts dropped into it. One was from my mom, inviting us for coffee to celebrate Kieran and Grammy who share a birthday. We stopped there on our way back to town and captured this picture of the birthday buddies born 75 years apart.
Please don’t give up hope in your hard, whatever that hard may be. I know that it seems easy for me to say, because I am not in your situation. All I know is that today was a glimpse of such sweet goodness and such great reward as my son and I took time together to extract ourselves from the couches and get out into nature together.
It was so worth it. I am grateful for the gift I received on this day nineteen years ago and for the gift I received today.
Maybe it would help to make a list of all the things you need to pack, suggests my husband. It is not the first time this idea has been offered. His diplomacy is kind, considering I still have not made any lists, yet continue to bemoan all that clutters my mind.
Meals. To dos. Classroom reminders. Items to pack. These all race inside my head, yelling for attention, sending me scurrying this way and that.
I reluctantly follow his suggestion, grabbing a pad of paper and listing out clothing items, each with a box to check once it enters my suitcase. It feels so tedious, yet I immediately sense relief as the words leave my brain and fill paper.
Why do I fight this so?
I am grateful for the growth that has happened in my ability to hear my luvvvah’s words in a spirit of kindness rather than as critique and criticism. He truly is sharing what helps him and in no way is condemning me for my inability to move.
Grateful for the list, I pull out a suitcase and begin rolling bedclothes and stuffing my short boots with socks to begin filling the space. I will wear tall boots on the plane. Where are those grey pants?
This season in Seattle is not one for Toms. I had a trial run of Seattle weather a few days ago while walking Dewey, but that is for another post.
For now, I am grateful for quiet space and a few minutes to write out some thoughts about packing and how I am growing in my ability in making a list.
Soft light tiptoes through the window, waking me gently. I pull back curtains to savor the view of morning mist rising over the lake.
Propping myself with pillows to watch the sunrise, I lean into the quiet stillness gifted to me by this weekend away. More than I could have asked or expected I have received in the kindness of Angela to invite me, once again, to a weekend of rest.
It has been awhile since I have experienced expansive quiet. Moments grabbed here and there between children coming and going at home are not the same as hours of quiet so thick I can feel the absence of noise.
This weekend spent at a cabin by the lake with my friend has offered that quiet.
Rapidly clicking computer keys, softly coloring pencils, slowly turning pages, spontaneously conversing voices, these are sounds that have soothed my soul and reset my spirit. Long walks, reading, writing, talking, thinking, processing, coloring, art journaling, writing some more, these are things that have occupied my unstructured time.
It has been a working weekend of sorts, as I wrap up preparation for Seattle, part 2. The difficult task of writing out and analyzing another story to share, along with finishing reading assignments, made me increasingly grateful for a cozy, quiet space to inhabit during the process.
My uniform of comfy lounge wear, slippers, and scarf was a reminder to relax. Being enveloped in soft comfort held space for me as I engaged difficult story scenes and disruptive feelings. The brilliant sunshine and sky outside grounded me when I was threatened by disconnect.
Sharing snippets of words or thoughts across the table with Angela, asking questions about work, taking breaks together, these things all helped to soften the intensity of feelings and encourage the process of finishing.
There are a few hours left to savor the stillness. The light grows brighter. Leaves blaze in golden glory. I hear stirring downstairs, inviting me to rise, as well. It is time to emerge and enjoy the final hours of comfy, cozy quiet.
My kids are out trick-or-treating. I am writing. Many irons in the writing fire, a new blog post moves to the head of the line. I hear dishes rattling in the kitchen as my husband attempts clean-up. I am thankful for his care even as I struggle with my feelings about how things are going right now.
I feel I have earned this time by last-minute costume shopping with one child who ended up choosing a completely different ~ yet adorable ~ costume from her closet. I carved three pumpkins and found food for everyone to eat on this last day of October, when all envelopes in the budget system are bare. There are pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven, being stirred every fifteen minutes.
With much on my mind, I wonder if we will one day have technology that translates thoughts into words on a page. Maybe it already exists. I am always thinking about writing and composing posts with words in my head. Sometimes I am so eloquent that it is a pity that you have to miss out on the brilliance. Others, I am grateful that there is no way for you to know what is going on inside of me.
I lost my Jetta this month through no fault of anyone’s but a driver who rear-ended my son as he was driving it. The There was an accident call incited much anxiety as my husband drove to meet him on the scene. For a terrifying twenty-minute dog walk at 10:00pm on a Thursday, I wondered what happened and what would be the outcome.
Don’t worry. It wasn’t his fault. Everything will be ok.
The text from my husband came through much to my relief, and I continued on my way, talking to my friend, Beth, who called me as she saw me on the walk. I live in a small town. She was making a left turn at an intersection I was crossing and called to say she saw me. I am grateful that I chose to answer.
The Jetta was totaled with both front and back smashed. My son was sandwiched between the car that hit him and one in front of him, stopped at the red light. I was grateful that no one was hurt but sad to lose my little car. I said as much in a Facebook post, because isn’t that what we do, post the events of our lives on the book or the gram?
Fast forward a week or two and the car replacement process was playing out. Grateful for a husband who pursued Craig’s List leads and asked for VINs, I still felt sadness over the loss of the first car that I genuinely loved and enjoyed.
My friend, Linda, generously lent her minivan after the rental car time expired, so that we did not feel pressured or rushed to make a purchase. That was such a gift.
Two Thursdays after the one in which my car was lost, a missed package card came in the mail. The next day I planned to walk downtown to retrieve it.
I did that very thing, only to be told that I was in the wrong location, and that my package was waiting at the post office further away. I hopped into the borrowed van to pick it up, curiosity getting the better of me, not willing to wait out the weekend for a re-delivery.
At the correct post office, I was handed a box from France. Resisting the urge to say, This can’t be right. Are you SURE this is for me? I signed for it.
Returning to the van, I held the lightweight package in my hand, looking it over, curious and wondering and fearful.
This has happened to me before, the receiving of an unexpected package. I am embarrassed to say that my first thought is that it was something dangerous. I did that with this package, too, which turned out to be a most delightful gift!
Biting the bullet, I tore the box open and gingerly removed the wadded up French advertisements, cushioning the contents, to reveal a small gray box with a die-cast model car in it.
This clearly was sent to the wrong location! Someone in the Etats Unis is going to be very disappointed not to receive their collectible.
It wasn’t until further notice of the VW insignia on the box that the meaning of the package struck me and I was speechless.
Someone ordered a mini die cast version of my Jetta and had it sent to me from France! Someone realized that losing my car was a big deal for me and wanted me to remember. Someone sees.
Overwhelmed was an understatement. As one who is continuing to learn to find my feelings, I was deeply moved and in a place of intense grasping for the best way to feel. Finally I decided to just take the pressure off and let my feelings come to me later.
I had many suspects on my radar, none of which were the one when I asked. It was fun to think and wonder and be curious. It was disconcerting to be the recipient of such an amazing gesture and not know who to thank. It was humbling.
My final hunch was right. I posted a Facebook status about the surprise, that I was fairly certain this friend would understand, even if she wasn’t the one.
Here is a picture of my new car. We bought it on Saturday, two weeks after the accident. It is a 2002 Honda Civic that was purchased for the exact amount of the insurance check that we got for the Jetta. That, in itself, is a gift.
Its is past mid-October. The earth keeps spinning and moving on its track at a speed I can hardly handle. Hours roll into days, weeks, months. They pass.
The last goal-specific post I wrote chronicled July’s achievements. August and September have had to fend for themselves. I wonder, if you work on the goals and don’t blog about them, was any progress made? Consider this a lumping together of August through October, even though October is not quite over. It is a good-faith post.
August found me back in the classroom for what I lovingly call My fourth year of a two-year stint. Year four has finally given me a groove, and the students and teachers I work with are the best. They make the days a joy and an adventure. Every day is full.
September found me on a flight to Seattle for the first of four sessions at The Allender Center at the Seattle School. I return in November, January, and March, which itself is a huge goal in the midst of being realized. For all who ask What will you do with your certificate when you are finished? that is an excellent question, and one I am fully considering.
Those are the two big events that I credit for the lack of time to blog about all of the smaller ones that have been happening.
I am still in the Bible daily. Jeremiah, I Timothy, Psalms, and Proverbs are where God meets me these mornings. I try to journal then and take time to be still. Steve and I pray together.
Connecting with family and the kids happens regularly. I am especially intentional about grabbing time with child four before he leaves the country at the end of November. Quality time with him looks like moments in the kitchen or around the table or in his almost-finished-but-moved-into room. We have taken walks together downtown. Celebrating his eighteenth birthday as a family at Wood Grill Buffet was a milestone.
As to the other kiddos, I have not been faithful about writing down the specifics of what we have done, but fall coffee drinks have been gotten, dog walks taken, shopping for clothes or desired objects has happened, and projects worked on together. Quality time is always a work in progress.
Steve and I still keep our Wednesday nights open for date night. We also try to grab as many walks together as possible and moments on the porch for coffee or a glass of wine. We know we need to do more and be more intentional about planning out our time. We continue to fight for what we know we need which is to be present together.
Connections with friends have looked like phone calls or coffee dates. I went to an overnight women’s retreat at my church with Angela. Impromptu connections with other friends have been sweet. Fun is still hard for me to come by and engage in, but I am working on it. This season of study is teaching me more about myself and my style of relating.
Stephen Ministry and worship team continue to be engaging. I have participated in both as much as possible and even got a bonus turn to sing on team as a substitute. That was a sweet gift. I updated the Stephen Ministry bulletin board for fall, as well.
Financially, we keep chugging along, and God keeps providing for all of our needs. Some ways are predictable like through the paychecks we receive for the work that we do. Others are more surprising and unexpected, like through the minor car accident that was not our fault but will replace theJetta. In all cases we are humbled and blessed by our father’s provision.
Finally, writing. Moments like now, inopportune and hurried, are when it happens. I try to make time by taking it from somewhere seemingly less important and have kept up with the Red Tent submissions. August and September’s posts were published. As for my own blog, the number of new posts are fewer than I would like but are exactly what they need to be in this season.
To all who continue to faithfully read and engage my blog and life endeavors, thank you for your interest and care. You bless me greatly, and I hope you are blessed! Here’s to finishing out an amazing year!
It began with a sapling that Roo brought home from school on Arbor Day. Steve helped her plant it in the front yard, adding a bit of compost from the tumbler. Before long, a small vine was growing from the soil, and after that, it began to overtake the tiny tree.
I carefully uprooted the vine and transplanted to the backyard, behind the shed where the constant digging of holes by children had turned over and aerated the soil. Another mini vine sprouted and another and another. Each time, I removed the vine from the front yard to the back where they thrived.
There were four vines, total.
It was an exciting day when I noticed the first pumpkin beginning to grow. When we returned from July’s vacation, it was round and green, and there was another beginning to grow. All from a handful of compost.
I should note that each fall when we visit the pumpkin patch, I think, Next spring I am going to plant pumpkins.
Then I don’t.
Not every bright yellow flower turns into a pumpkin. It has to be a pollinated female flower, which doesn’t happen as easily as it sounds. The female flower opens for a day. It took awhile to notice that second pumpkin growing. Then the third.
Because the vines were planted at different stages, they produced at different times. And many female flowers blossomed and dropped off.
Three pumpkins! Come on number four!
Then it happened. Pumpkin number three grew rotten. A tiny insect had bored a hole into it that I didn’t see at first. I should have recognized it sooner, but by the time I did, it was mushy and hollow, and rolled right away from the vine.
I felt angry.
Just like Jonah.
You know, the time when God caused a vine to grow up to shade him, and then a worm came and gobbled a hole in it. I am not trying to make any more of a theological comparison other than here I was disappointed and disgusted that I was not getting enough pumpkins when I had not even planted a seed!
There were a few more pumpkins that started and then never developed fully. After all was said and done, I ended up with three pumpkins from my surprise patch. Two small. One large.
I also ended up with valuable insight as to the level of gratefulness that I fail to exhibit and the memory of the joy that the daily discoveries brought to me in my surprise pumpkin patch of 2016.