Tag Archives: feel

Butterfly Blessing

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.

Ending Well

February 23 is when I first dared speak it. I was at an extra-curricular fair at the high school and connected with a safe sister who teaches there. I knew she would hold my words in confidence while holding me accountable to them. I had spoken them to my husband the day before.

I’ve made the decision to leave Good Shepherd at the end of this school year.

It felt terrifying, yet I knew I was the only one who could make the decision. No one else could do it for me. I needed to use my own voice. Hearing that voice speaking the words aloud stirred a mixture of fear and peace, confidence and uncertainty, joy and sorrow, relief and grief.

There was So. Much. Ambivalence. attached to the decision to end my teaching season.

There were nudges in the direction. I had agreed to two years when I signed on to return to the classroom. This was year four. There were changes going on in my world both internally and externally. There was little margin for the best with all of the good I was doing.

Wrestling with the decision was hard.

It was hard to imagine leaving the students and other teachers whom I dearly loved.

It was hard to imagine finding a replacement for my income.

It was hard to imagine walking by faith and not by sight. It was terrifying, but I knew it was time to step out.

I don’t know what’s next, but I know what’s now.

I penned these words in my journal the weekend I composed a resignation letter.  I turned in the letter on Monday morning, and then spoke in person to those I knew needed to hear the words directly from me, not in a memo or through the grapevine. I let them feel their feelings while I felt mine, not rushing through or trying to fix. It was so hard.

Again I wrote,

There are so many feelings inside. So much stirring. With the end of this chapter in sight, I need to be attentive to what is required to attend to the hearts around me and finish well. I am trusting what God has in store for me as good.

Last night was rough when the lights went out and things were still. I began to wrestle with the reality to end my time at Good Shepherd and with adulthood. What about all of the unknowns? Will you be there, God? Of course you will! How can I not trust that you have been and will be?

Holding my decision until an official word from the school office was released was challenging. I longed to write about my version of The End, May’s theme for Red Tent Living, and process on my blog, but the timing wasn’t right. I wanted to honor the timing.

I am glad that I did.

The day that the student intent letter went home with the information that I would not be the classroom teacher in the fall, there were many big feelings from small people, some of whom I had taught for all four years due to the nature of our program. There were feelings from adults, as well.

Today my students found out I am not returning next year. There were lots of feelings and emotions. Next week will be long. I need to trust.

There is much to ponder and process still about how that final week went. It was long. It was good. It was full. It was kind.

It is finished.

All the Dimes

With a week to go until trip number three, it’s time to write about the dimes. There are certainly other things in my heart and on my mind, but the dimes matter, too. They don’t feel as emotionally charged as so much else in my world does. They bring feelings of hope, and hope is always good. I could use a hefty dose right now.

The Dimes.

Last Christmas/ New Year’s season a simple money-saving challenge was floating around social media sites. A two-liter plastic bottle, filled with dimes, illustrated a simple way to save a few hundred dollars. With finances being one of the barriers to my pursuit of the LCC at the Seattle School, I thought this would be an easy, fun way to begin saving to fund my dream.

Procuring a two-liter plastic Coke bottle, I dug through my wallet and scoured my home. Those dimes alone filled the four little bumps at the bottom. I set an intention of dropping each dime I found into the bottle.

Playing fair, I made sure the dimes were not off of my kids’ dressers or out of my husband’s change jar. Only ones from my wallet or those found in stray places like the laundry room floor or the couch cushions were allowed. Dimes found on walks with the dog and in parking lots were definitely fair game.

My eyes became sharp. Each dime was a reminder to stay the course. I grew in confidence that God would provide for the work I was doing. Each shiny gleam brought encouragement. It became a game to see where the dimes would appear. I felt God’s smile on me through tiny bits of silver alloy found in random places.

All was well and good, but honestly, after the initial fill of the four little bumps at the bottom, the pace slowed. A lot. After a year of saving, maybe an eighth of the bottle is filled. I don’t think I will be making my final Seattle payment in dimes. I am grateful for the provision that has enabled me to do this work without depending on loose change.

Though the bottle is more empty than full right now, my heart is the opposite, illustrated by the overwhelming meltdown I experienced while attempting to clean the TV room. The space has never fully recovered from Christmas, and asking the child who plays there most to help with the cleanup was met with resistance. This tipped me into a state of upheaval while attempting to clean it myself.

Frozen, I sat on the floor, tears pouring from my eyes. It’s too hard. It’s too much.

And here I was expecting an eight-year-old to do it. It wasn’t really about the room, though.

Mustering strength and resolve, I broke down the job in my mind, grabbing a broom to sweep the perimeter of the wood floor surrounding the area rug. Almost immediately two dimes swept into the pile.

All will be well.

Aftermath and Anticipation

I sit in day two. That’s what this is. The aftermath. Burial.

Christmas Eve Eve was day one. Death. The melting down day that started full of such hope and excitement.

Brunch at The Little Grill with my luvvvah to plan and regroup for the next few days was a breath of fresh air. After so much fullness to manage in both of our lives, it was nice to have a moment to connect.

The day stretched before us, and we mapped it out. Shopping. A movie with the kids. Pizza night. Good things. We began to execute our plan. Check things off.

Home for lunch and a dog walk and assessment of who really wanted to see Rogue One found five of us going and three of us free to stay home.

I went.

No spoilers here. I watched most of the movie, missing only the dozing-off parts, but waking in time for what mattered. I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

The fullness in my chest at the end was a combination of nostalgia, Star Wars is the first movie my family watched on the Beta Vision in our living room back on Nicholson St. ~ in Spanish, remembering, I saw Return of the Jedi for a middle-school friend’s birthday in a fancy theater with a curtain that pulled back followed by a sleep-over at her house, and grief, I miss playing that bass line on the bassoon for pieces like the Star Wars theme music. Music just stays with you like that, and you remember the rhythms and notes and feelings.

I didn’t cry, though. Much. Maybe a tear.

This has been my clue that something big was brewing. My lack of tears. I attended two funeral/memorial services over the past two weeks and had few tears. I have felt big feelings that deserved the honor of weeping for them, and nothing would come. Just numbness.

I was aware that this wasn’t good. I kept going. I have to keep going.

After the movie, my son needed to go to Costco with a member, and that was me. It was empty and calm, and I decided to get the rest of the Christmas groceries while the space was less frenetic than usual.

Pushing through the heaviness mounting inside, I began to fill the cart. Realizing the blessing of being able to do so, I tried to smile, to trick my brain into feeling happy. It wasn’t really working. I kept going.

Sparing the details, my stress level boiled up and over and all of the kind tears that have been inviting me to feel them were shoved aside by the ugly ones that I was able to keep in check until returning home where they spilled and spewed up and over and out.

There were a lot of tears. And sobs. And tissues. I filled an entire Target bag with soggy sobby tissues. All the things I had to cry for, the griefs to feel, the achings and longings came pouring out.

So here is today.

Christmas Eve.

I sit in the aftermath of copious tears with a throbbing head and puffy eyes. Lots of voices chatter outside of my bedroom door. I hear other doors open and shut. People come and go. Discussions take place. I try to find motivation to finish up the few things that I have left on my list. They are important.

In order to do that I must get moving!

My hope is that yesterday’s tears have watered my heart enough to keep it soft and open with anticipation for what is coming.

Resurrection.

Mystery, Suspense, and a New (to me) Car

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.

mini Jetta

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.

But she was.

And I am so thankful and feel so loved.

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.

Civic

They Matter

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Facebook reminds me of this, and friends post their words on this, and stories flood back to me, and my heart grows heavy. I wrestle the with words I long to share, swirling inside of me, as my own darlings yell and fight over Saturday chores outside of my bedroom door.

Sitting in the space of pregnancy loss is uncomfortable. Something about the way it appears we had and have control over getting or not getting pregnant causes rationalization and hasty statements to make sense of the senseless. We want to push ahead to the but then this happened and look at how everything turned out just fine. In fact, if I hadn’t lost x then I wouldn’t have y.

And yet, x mattered, too. Every moment of x. The days written for x were x’s days to be, and I think we lose something if we leave x behind in the dust and ashes of rationalization and spiritualization. We cheapen all things working together for good when we fail to acknowledge all that is not as is should be. Working together for good and good are not the same.

First, there is grief and loss. Those things are not good.

I remember each pregnancy test I took. I can still feel the edginess of ambivalence, wondering if I really wanted to know, wondering if my life was about to change ~ again, wondering how I would break the news ~ again.

To write this from a place of eight pregnancies carried to term with relatively little complication is not meant to be insensitive to those who have struggled or never have or never will. There are pieces still in process in my story. I have struggled deeply. More than I am ready to share with the world today.

It is to say, I know the strong, life-changing feelings that occur simply by anticipating peeing on a stick (or in a cup as it was once-upon-a-time when pregnancy tests were more like chemistry sets!). I know the panic that blood during pregnancy brings. I have been there.

Knowing that blood equaled loss in my mother’s story, I thought it would be the same in mine, and prepared to lose my first dream, weeks into my marriage.

As it turned out, that first child has always been strong and made us well aware of her presence with the sound of a heartbeat, earlier than was supposed to be possible, according to the midwife. Nothing was sweeter and more reassuring than that sound of life galloping away inside of me.

But for a time, I was preparing for loss. I was on the edge of physically and emotionally losing the little one I had dreamed about and hoped for. Even in my ambivalence of newlywedded overwhelm and uncertainty, I wanted that little person so badly.

I wanted every one of them so badly. In the hard places, when I was not sure I was ready, once they were there, I could not imagine them not being. It is why I believe we usually get nine months to prepare. In best-case scenarios.

I have lost siblings to miscarriage. I have watched my mother grieve.

I have sat with women in hard places of loss, hearing heavy words and big feelings. I have held the fragile, lifeless body of my nephew born too soon while the same size of life grew inside of me. I have been unable to be there at times when I wish I could, leaving loved ones to suffer loss in loneliness.

I grieve.

Those little lives mattered. Each one of them. Even the ones that are hard to understand and process and place.

Every day that they lived was the life written for them. They had something to teach us and something to say. I find great comfort in Psalm 139:16, Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Even 49 days matter. Even if another child is conceived two months after that. A child born after loss does not negate loss.

The secret things belong to the Lord, and there are things we will never understand this side of Heaven. Those who have experienced the profound loss of a child, or the hope of a child, or the death of the dream of a child, or a dream that they had for a child know that there are no easy answers. There is no making sense.

To those who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss, some of you sit in a space of longing for and missing your child, knowing with certainty your story of what was and then was not. Others sit in a place of confusion and conflict, not knowing for sure. I believe it is possible to know deep in your heart what was, even when no empirical evidence exists. Your body knows.

I invite you to consider what was written for you in the life of your child. What did that little one have to say to you? What were you taught through your little one’s days?

Because it matters. They matter.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13.

Nine Years

We’ll start with that next time, my counselor says, indicating that this time is up.

Pushing off with his feet, rolling in his chair to a desk in the corner, setting up next week’s appointment, I am left sitting on the couch with that statement. Beside me, my husband tries offering a reassuring presence in the form of his comforting smile and nod, but I am having none of it.

At thirty-six years of age, it took every ounce of courage to speak the place where trauma, pain, and betrayal hijacked me as a teenager. This time. My counselor is calling me deeper. Next time.

My breathing grows shallow, and blood runs cold as ice through my veins. The trick of dissociating by numbing out and viewing myself from a distance begins to take over. Noticing this, Counselor checks in and rolls from his desk to the expansive bookshelves lining the wall. Scanning them in earnest, he searches.

I am afraid to ask, though had he told me, I could have located the volume first, having become an expert at focusing on those titles and authors behind him while trying to stay grounded during sessions.

Here it is. You need to get a copy of this book to read.

He does not offer to give it to me or let me borrow it. I cannot take it home today. I have to get it for myself. Later.

Taking it into my hands, glancing at the image on the cover while simultaneously reading the title and subtitle, draws copious tears that I struggle to sniff back, but they morph into full-blown sobs, betraying my stoic facade. I cannot hide the fear and terror evoked by the simple act of holding this book.

What’s wrong? Why the tears?

Counselor’s gruff bedside manner does not mask his concern, as he gently prods my pain, following the trail I am leaving.

I don’t want to look at my story! I hate everything about my story!

This visceral response is gut-wrenchingly real. His response to my outburst is kind. He affirms something about my story having value, etc. . . I am not in a place to hear or believe him, but I know that since he has recommended To Be Told ~ God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future by Dan Allender with my husband in the room, the book will show up at our house.

Anything to help me, to fix this, my husband of fifteen years will do.

The book arrives, and I reluctantly begin reading. It feels too big and too much to think of actually writing out and sharing parts of my story to process with others, as recommended, yet I am intrigued by lines such as this, Neither your life nor mine is a series of random scenes that pile up like shoes in a closet. (To Be Told, p. 3)

I am shattered. Undone. Curious.

Nine years later. . .

It would be easier and tidier to write ten years later, but an honest time frame says nine.

Nine years have passed since that original scene of facing what was terrible, traumatic, and unspoken in my heart. I am forty-five years old, mid-forties, still processing and in process. I am in a healthier place of healing and growth. Redemption has come knocking on my door, and I have chosen to bravely open up to it, in all of its scary, strange, disruptive glory.

Growth has not been easy. It has taken much time and courage. There are still painful places in my story to visit and name. I have been living life in the meantime; a life large, messy, and full of its own trauma, trial, and error. Life stops for no one.

Nine years ago, I was married for 15 years and had seven children ranging in age from 15 to 1. Little Mae, the surprising finale to our family, was not even on my radar. Now I have half of an empty nest, with four children living at home and four living life on their own.

Nine years ago I was 36. So young. I felt so old.

Dear thirty-something struggling with your role in your story, it is not over. It is not all written. There is hope. Investigating the shoe pile-up in your closet is worth it. You do not need to struggle alone. Find someone to help you find your brave.

Nine years later, I have had time to process and to practice new skills. I have learned more words for finding my feelings and speaking my reality. I have had people sit with and support and guide and encourage me. I have had time to sit with others.

Not everyone is called to this journey a friend once told me, as I wrestled and struggled and questioned and cried, every fiber in me wanting to go back to what was.

Nine years ago, I could not have known the role that the book To Be Told and the work of its author would play in my life. I could only take it in hand, take courage to read, and keep moving forward.

Now, I am not looking back, unless it’s to help me move forward.