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!
I love the way the morning sunlight shines on the tree in my front yard, illuminating its leaves in a sunny green glow. I also love the addition of the hanging basket found on the steps of my side porch. I do not know where it came from. It is a mystery.
Truly. It is lovely. I will enjoy it while it is here.
These flowers are a bright addition to the morning view, as they also glow in the sunlight. It makes returning from the dog walk an extra treat.
They speak to me of goodness and beauty in the midst of the hard. That vision was beginning to slip away. My ability to see redemption in the strange places, small spaces was waning.
These flowers are one of many things that converged this week to offer hope.
Sometimes it’s hard to hold on. In those moments I will look out and remind myself to just be like the flowers and rest in the container. I do not have to work so hard at hanging on and holding everything together. I can just be and bloom.
I am glad that I sat down to write today. If you have time and are so inclined, actually check out the links. As they came to mind and I added them, the act of reading truth and seeing God’s faithfulness recorded in the archives of the blog offered encouragement to my soul.
Maybe you will be encouraged, as well.
I am pondering and exploring my struggle with routine, namely, my resistance to it. I know that if I were teaching right now I would be reading to my students as they ate a snack. We would then pack up and spend fifteen minutes preparing for the school day to officially begin. From there the day would roll on in blocks of time, each with a specified task, until the end.
I am good with an others-imposed work routine. I know the benefits of following a plan to accomplish the things. It allows you to focus on what is being done in the present with the assurance that the next things will get done in their time. This saves physical and mental energy.
The struggle is with self-structure. I am a finite person with limited resources and must choose the best way to use them when there are so many good ways. And there are teachers. I am abundantly familiar with online and print teachers and coaches who encourage the use of personal routines.
The challenge is in the doing and the practice.
As I type the above sentence, I am struck with what I lack, and that is practice. Much of my life has been spent in overdrive, rushing from thing to thing with little intentionality. When others-imposed requirements are in place, I can follow those. If they are required to collect a paycheck, all the better.
When it comes to ordering my personal time or working on things to benefit myself, plans become muddled. This keeps me frozen and stuck and often at the mercy of others and their routines.
Once upon a time I stood in the kitchen of a new friend with my seven children scattered around. I felt like the biggest poser as she asked me questions about homeschooling (I didn’t) and home management (What’s that?).
At the time I was in a stay at home season. I had discovered Flylady somewhere online, and she rang familiar from my childhood with a mom who was a self-proclaimed SHE. I mentioned Flylady to my friend, most likely to have some sort of answer for her. As much as I tried to keep my home, there were more pressing matters like lots of children to keep.
Last fall we sat together in my living room, reconnecting intentionally to catch up. She had big changes on the horizon. During the course of our conversation she mentioned Flylady in a laughing way, something or another about not keeping up.
She reminded me that I was the one who had told her about Flylady. This reminded me about the whole others bearing witness to our lives thing (just now I typed withness and find that slip interesting.) I felt a mixture of shame and embarrassment at the woman I was who felt a need to share a system with someone rather than be okay with not knowing what I was doing or how I was doing it.
Maybe that is at the root of my resistance. Systems. For years in the midst of my overwhelm and wandering, the answer was always to find a system. The right chore charts, vitamin regimen, exercise plan, date night, home organization system was the answer. These treated symptoms but not root causes.
Having spent years addressing root causes and sorting through the beautiful disruption, it is time to rebuild. I am facing honestly my need for some sort of a routine, no matter how I may resist. I have come to the place where I know it is not the answer but a tool I am ready to learn to use.
So this new year finds me trying to imagine what a consistent daily and weekly routine might look like, with the understanding that even the best laid plans need room for flexibility. What about you, Dear Reader? Do you follow a set routine or plan? What inspires you to stay focused? What gets you off track? I am pondering these thoughts more as I continue moving forward in this new season of life. I would love to hear what works for you! Or not!
The 26th wedding anniversary is frequently a year of adjustment being the picture anniversary.
I stumbled across these words on this site while exploring anniversary gift options and thought to myself, Seriously? That has been every year! Then I began reading the descriptions of years and laughed out loud at the introduction to 27.
Anniversary celebrations have felt as hap-hazard as everything else in our life and are often a yearly struggle for me. There is the tension between what is expected to be felt and what is real. Hallmark does not help matters and neither does the idea that the more years you check off together the better it gets.
A thriving marriage is about more than checking off the years and winning with the highest number of them.
Our 25th anniversary, the one that is silver, the one I remember throwing a party for my parents for while wrangling two small children of my own, two and a half years into my newly-minted marriage, brought the realization that we needed help. It was a sad disappointment of a day steeped in years of hurt with a side of genuine illness.
We have GOT to do something, because we cannot go on like this.
We will forever remember our silver anniversary as the one where we chose to invest in counseling to gain skills that were lacking in order to move forward together in more hopefulness. Seriously. There is no shame in admitting need. It was one of the best decisions we have made.
Fast forward to this year’s celebration. I decided to create a gift for Steve. It took thought, time, energy, and trust to sit with myself and my art supplies and create from the heart a representation of where we are in this season.
It is a better, more hopeful, place.
While a lake house getaway was booked, logistics did not work out. In the past this would have completely derailed my heart, sending it into a place of hopelessness and defeat. Instead, I was able to reimagine our celebration.
Steve took the day off of work, and we spent it together while the kids were in school. A two-hour weather delay for them meant time to sleep in without rushing, and while it cut into two hours of morning alone time, we were still able to enjoy the quiet house before heading out on an afternoon adventure.
We went to lunch at Valley Pike Farm Market before visiting Zeus Digital Theaters to see The Greatest Showman together. It was the perfect use for tickets I had won in a radio contest over a year ago!
Family members graciously picked up kids from school for us. We arrived home at 4 and took a nap before heading out to dinner at Chick Fil A with the family. The day ended with a parent meeting for school musical and an episode of Stranger Things.
It was a sweet beginning to year 27 and imagining more of our future together.
I sit in the final Saturday of 2017 surrounded by binders and journals and books and baskets of laundry. Family members are out and about running errands or socializing with friends. One is resting on the couch, uncertain of how she is feeling. I stop to care for her and warm up a heating pad occasionally. Chicken noodle soup was prepared for her lunch.
Earlier in the kitchen my husband looked at me with the face. I know it well. It is a half-smirk that tries to cover and hide the feeling behind it, but I am too vigilant for that and know there is something going on inside his head. Rather than guessing at it, I ask.
What? What is that face for?
What face? I don’t have a face!
Yes you do. There is clearly a face, and I am curious about it.
We banter back and forth a bit, as he insists it is nothing when I know better. He finally caves.
I was just wondering if you have fallen into your end-of-the-year processing funk, yet?
Laughter ensues from us both, because I am aware enough to be able to laugh at what is obvious about me, and he is courageous enough to name it. Family members are growing safer in being able to share how they experience me, and for that growth I am grateful.
Secretly, I feel pleased to be known and seen so well by my life-partner. It has not always been so. There have been many unseen and unheard years resulting in much hurt that we have worked hard at uncovering and naming this year.
And, yes, I am in my final 48 hour funk, sort of. Not really. It is a strange ambivalence.
It feels different this year. Still ponderous, but in a hopeful sort of way. There is anticipation of things to come in the midst of uncertainty. If anything there is a temptation to panic that time is running out, and I must do all the things.
Time is running out, but I do not have to do all the things. I can do just what is before me next and move in gratefulness for what has been and what is to come.
I sit at the extreme end of the day on December 29, 2017, not wanting it to end but knowing it must. This is how I am aware of growth. There is too much to do, to learn, to experience, and I do not want to miss any of it.
I have spent much of the day thinking of the words of years gone by. I spent time with my youngest sis pondering and processing over coffee. She knows my choice but has promised to keep it to herself until January 1. So has my luvvvvah, who also knows. These two met almost 30 years ago and have been constants in my life ever since.
Words of years gone by.
Old journals may reveal otherwise, but there is this sense I have that for many years I felt as if I were doing the same year over and over again. I longed for and cried out for growth that just would not come.
I am grateful for growth.
I am incredibly ambivalent about recognizing growth.
So at this day’s end, I sit in the tension. I bask in the joy of witnessing my drummer son creating music and my husband creating in the kitchen. I sit in a space of curiosity and openness to what is coming in 2018 while not wanting to miss a moment of what is left in 2017.
The last of the tucking of children into bed has finally happened and the remaining bit of hangout time with my man is left, so I will sign off for now.
What about you, Dear Reader? What are you anticipating in the new year? I look forward to hearing your word or intention or hope or dream and to sharing mine with you very soon.
There is another new thing in this season. After many years of having children participate in the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir, I am finally a participant as a Parent Assistant to the Preparatory Choir.
Little Mae joined choir this year. Since I no longer have infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, I decided to use the time to help out during rehearsals by assisting with check-in and helping the director (restroom breaks, room transitions, Band-Aid passing out, tissue patrol, etc. . .). There are other moms helping, as well, so it is a team effort.
I am not a newcomer to the choir. My adult children sang for years. I traveled to Hawaii as a chaperone with them when my twelve-year-old was an infant in a sling. Her singing siblings were eleven and twelve. Her aunt was also a chorister at the time! There have been many years of sparkling since then. The eleven-year-old grew into a choir director.
There have also been years off.
I am enjoying this new thing in this new season. It is fun to bring my skill set of connecting with children to this space and to spend time with Little Mae in the process. For years I was the mom wrangling lots of littles and frantically trying to sign homework and work out all the schedules.
Now I am the older mom reminding them that to everything there is a season. This is my season to give back.
There’s hope for the house on the corner,
The one with the tub in the yard,
The one that’s been rundown and empty,
That looks as if life has been hard.
For now the dark house on the corner
Has workers that come and that go.
It has a large bin in the side yard,
A place where old fixtures they throw.
Some doors and some windows stand open.
There’s light shining into the dark.
The house on the corner looks hopeful,
As if they’ve ignited a spark.
It’s brighter down there on the corner,
In spite of the shade of the tree.
The brick has been lightened and brightened
By whitewash applied expertly.
When I take a walk to the corner,
The dog trotting next to my feet,
The progress the old house is making,
Feels to me especially sweet.
For as long as I have been passing,
The house has stood empty and sad.
For a long time my heart has been pining
And struggling with being glad.
But to everything there’s a season
It may be a house or a heart
That needs quite a bit of reworking
To give it a fresh face and start.
It might take some scrubbing and scraping,
And things could look worse once begun.
A job taken on in excitement,
May suddenly not seem so fun.
Then one day the turmoil and trouble
Will be as a thing of the past,
That opened new space in the spirit
For changes to stick and to last.
The hope for the house on the corner
I’m holding for you and for me.
It’s never too late to get started
To grow into who we will be.
Two weeks ago I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Brave On conference with my friends Angela and Becky. The plan to attend this event began to take shape back in February, so to say it had been long-anticipated seems a bit of an understatement!
The road to Brave On had its share of bumps and jolts and opportunities to be brave about naming feelings and hopes and expectations. That was its own exercise! There were times when I wanted to run in the opposite direction of, rather than towards, whatever was stirring inside of me. Usually it was in the areas of conflict with others and glory in my gifting.
When all was said and done, the conference came and went in a whirlwind, and I was left sorting and sifting through what had landed in my heart. Longing to write something, yet not quite having the words, I composed a post on my travel necessities.
It was a start. Those needful items are what helped me focus on the task at hand while listening to a variety of wise and kind women share scenes from their stories and invite me into more of mine. The pages below were from the self-care panel. Much goodness and truth was shared from the hearts of women who did not have all of the answers but who held an invitation to be curious and open to possibilities.
Throughout the day, I was invited to connect with others. There were quick hugs, registration and restroom line chats, and deeper conversations during breaks and around the table. I was surrounded by rich goodness. It was full of tiny cracker and sip of juice moments foreshadowing the deeper connections we were created for and that we will one day eternally enjoy.
In the meantime I was given the gift of face time with dear friends and the gift of a new friendship. I spoke in person with women whose writing I enjoy and who enjoy mine. I listened to beautiful music and words from the heart of one of my favorite singers and marveled at how music can speak to so many seasons and stories simultaneously.
The day was a gift.
I am still reflecting on my art journaling and handwritten notes and pondering where God met me in the specifics of the conference. I am wondering what will come about as a result of my time spent Braving On. I admire Angela’s ability to form and share a concise reflection on her experience which you can read about here.
One of many things that I am learning to embrace and to hold is that it is okay to just be me, whoever that is. I do not have to look or be like anyone else, and I have my own story to live and to tell. There is freedom to take time to figure it out.
I wait for it with patience and anticipation.
So YOU’RE the Flower Lady!
I was browsing a neighbor’s yard sale one street over and up around the block. My daughter had discovered it on a dog walk and took pictures of some items she liked. This piqued my curiosity, and I walked over with my husband.
We introduced ourselves, described where we lived, and that is when her face broke into a delighted smile and she called me the Flower Lady.
Yes, I guess that’s me! I would rather be the Flower Lady than the Porch Lady . . . I think.
I made my selection and paid for the items ~ a picture for a daughter’s room, a tray for serving breakfast (or working or watching a movie) in bed, and a pair of baskets to use for under-bench shoe storage.
Heading home with my treasures, I pondered her calling me The Flower Lady. It felt strange to be noticed for something, to be seen, to be named. In this season of figuring out who I am and what I like, flowers must be a thing.
I do like flowers. I try with flowers. I do not feel particularly skilled with flowers, though. It is always a bit hit or miss.
My first experience with a potted flower is embarrassing. I think about it every so often with curiosity and attempted kindness for myself and for what I did not know. I was given a Gerbera Daisy at church on my first Mother’s Day twenty-four years ago. Maybe that is why these caught my eye at Lowes one sunny day.
Mine was a beautiful bright yellow with a large and cheerful bloom. I did not know that flowers could be cut from a plant and the plant would keep putting out new blooms. The original yellow flower shriveled up and died, and I did not know to cut it off of the plant. It just sat there looking sad. It seemd to me like a one-hit-wonder, and I did not know what to do. I just left it alone, and that was the end of my first Gerbera Daisy (and yet, the beginning of my eight children!). It was many years later before I understood why it would be someone’s favorite flower.
This afternoon I spent some time outside cutting flowers. My Shasta Daisies were blooming abundantly. I gathered a vase full of them for the porch table. Stepping back, I captured this view and felt happy.
I am a Flower Lady. There is no right way to enjoy beauty, no right flower to choose. From the purple irises that bloom on the east side of the porch in the spring, to the multicolored daylilies that line the east side of the house in the summer, to the clearance hanging baskets of petunias and potted sweet potato vines rescued from the back table at Lowes, to the moonflowers that come up in surprising new places each year, my flowers make me smile.
I am glad they also bring joy to others!