Tag Archives: grow

Friendship Friday ~ Braving Together

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.

 

 

Flower Lady

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.

Our porch is still a work in progress. A slow, but sure, work in progress.

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.

am 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!

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.

Scenes From Seattle, part 4

This was my only daylight arrival into Seattle. It was 7:00pm. My other flights landed at 9:00pm.

These tulips graced the table where a friend spoke deep truth to my restless heart Thursday night. My spirit landed, and I began to settle into what was being offered to me this weekend.

Venti cappuccino helped me begin Friday’s lecture.

I took my final yoga class Friday afternoon. These candles represented the light and life that Sarah and her Friday and Saturday yoga classes brought to me each visit.

This weekend’s coloring page had owls scattered through it, a meaningful observation to me. Can you spot the owl(s)?

After class on Saturday, G picked me up and we drove to Discovery Park to take advantage of the sun and the view. It was the most sun we had all weekend. I was grateful for his thoughtfulness.

Sunday morning I begin my final ascent to the bus stop for my last ride into the city.

Sunday’s bus stop is quiet.

I am happy to have caught the early bus to make it in time for Sunday morning informal worship in the chapel.

This space is one of my favorites. Oh, the music and memories held here.

Coffee and question of the day.

Final Uber to the airport. Goodbye, Seattle.

There is so much more held in my heart from the gift of these last six months. To view scenes from my other trips, click here, here, and here.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, Dear Readers. I have been blessed by each of you more than you even know. Stay tuned as I continue to sort through where I have been and where I am going!

Bless the Broken Blog

Last week I broke my blog.

Intentional action I took late Tuesday night, half-heartedly, after not interacting much with the blog at all, caused a white screen. I saw there were plug-ins to update, chose not to take time to create a backup, and clicked away.

Using my phone, no less.

Update now.

Broken. Nothing. No matter how many times I attempted to load the blog, it was not happening and the screen was white. It was late. I had made a choice that caused the problem, and there was nothing I could do but go to bed. It was hard to let that go.

Wednesday morning dawned earlier than usual for me. I seized the opportunity to call tech support to ask for help. I had never called the number before and was nervous. Asking for help is hard for me. I felt embarrassed that I had broken something and inadequate to even be allowed to use technology.

Self-contempt was running thick and deep as I dialed the number and waited.

Navigating the prompts to get to the support I needed felt daunting in itself, but finally Michael’s voice came on the line, extremely chipper for 5:30 in the morning, and willing to run tests to see what he could do to help me.

It took 20 minutes. He kept checking back to update me on progress, while searching for the problem. It was finally located with the news that I could pay their tech support to fix it for me, or he could send me some information to fix it myself.

Time was passing, and every fiber in me wanted the unrest over and the blank space filled again. I hated knowing that there was something I had broken and did not know how to fix, but the cost felt steep, and I chose to let it be. I would look at it later and try to fix it myself.

Cue the laughter and knowing nods and maybe eyebrow raising from my techie friends and relations. Famous last words ~ how hard can it be.

It was really hard for me.

I was obsessing about it as the time to put broken technology away and get ready for my day rapidly approached. Just one more thing. What about this? What is that password? Now I need to change it, because I can’t remember. I can’t go on! I can’t stop! I am so stupid! No, I am not. I made a mistake.

Steve walked into the room and noticed my stress level. Acknowledging his desire to help but lack of skill set, he asked what he could do.

Just recognize that this is really hard for me, and I am struggling to stay out of self-contempt.

Later, he confessed that after hearing those words from me, he realized that me fighting self-contempt could turn into others-contempt. He was in the shower bracing himself for the blowback.

Fast-forward to after school, my son at the table on his laptop working on taxes. I pulled out mine and decided to try calling customer support again to see if they could direct me to the place where I needed to make the fix. I knew it was a plugin, so if I could deactivate it, that should work.

This time Andi answered, her voice equally eager to help. It quickly became perplexed as I fumbled my way through my question. Now there not a white screen but a database error. The server and platform were not connected. In changing that password, I had broken the bridge (image courtesy of me) that connected them. I had fallen deeper into the web of the wide world.

I felt like a middle-aged woman on the loose in a sea of technology, crashing and banging into cyber things, snapping connections left and right. Because I was!

Now I don’t see your site. You need to go in and fix the password. Here, write this down and you can Google how to do it.

It sounded so easy over the phone. I wasn’t ready to pay someone else to do it for me. I needed to figure it out. I planned to persist!

Each time, I understood a little more of what to do, but I couldn’t quite find where to go to do it. Each time I would get close and then have someone need something or run out of time. The unresolved feeling of it all was dragging me further down.

Throughout the process, I began to realize that it was not really about the broken blog. It was about things broken inside of me. It was about me not speaking up for what I needed (time to work on it). It was about being okay with not already knowing something and having to follow careful directions to figure it out. It was trusting that something would work, even when I did not fully understand or could not fully see.

Finally, Friday afternoon I sat on the floor of my room ready to figure this out. Step by step I unlocked and opened and searched for. I watched tutorials and looked up terms I did not understand. I figured out where the code for the broken password was and changed it to match the one I had created.

A white screen appeared! I had re-established database connection. With renewed confidence, I found the location of the plugins and changed the file name of the one that I suspected as the culprit.

The blog reappeared! I had fixed it! With shouts of joy I called to my son who rejoiced with me.

So if you have noticed it quiet in these parts, that is why! I have much to process and hope to do so here, but first things first, working technology!

Bloom

Discovering the bloom was surprising.

Why am I surprised, again?

God continues to surprise and amaze me along this stretch of the journey, and I continue to struggle to believe the goodness is real and really for me. He shows me that he sees me and is here for me in the bigness and chaos with just what I need, and I wonder about next time.

Will you still see me then, Father? Next time?

The bloom in front of me whispers this time. Grace for today.

It came on the day that I finished a big story for this session in Seattle. This weekend we delve into sexuality. I tiptoed in last year via Red Tent. It’s time to go deeper.

I could have missed this tiny bloom completely, but I didn’t. The pink flower adorning the leggy growth propped by the plant stand called to me as I passed by, stopped, and marveled.

Steve, look at this!

So many things spoke to me through this little pink flower. I immediately texted the giver of the transplanted-from-broken-small-shoots in a little pot to tell her. I had transplanted the growth to a larger floor pot. It’s the one to the right of the stand in the picture. It took off wildly. Like my life.

So there it is. The bloom. The special sign to me that I am seen, it is time, and all will be well. At the end of the growth will come the flower.

But first, the terror of being dumped out and re-potted. First the mess.

Scenes from Seattle, part 2

This was the view from the window at Thursday afternoon’s lunch with friends.

Friday night’s dinner was accompanied by a flight of wine.

Coffee was brewed each morning in this pot ~ and poured into a travel mug to take along on the bus.

I picked up this mug which held my coffee as I waited at the bus stop in the rain.

By Sunday morning’s group time, the candle burns low.

Across the street from school stands the question of the day.

Space NeedleThe downtown ride after dark was beautiful.

For part 1, click here.

Making a List

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.

Now to check it twice! Here we go!

Lumping the Goals

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 the Jetta. 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!

Blessing the Teacher

Several months ago, I read words by Tracy Johnson on Red Tent Living. She wrote about blessing the manager in her, and I immediately thought of the teacher in me and how difficult it is to bless her.

As a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. One brother, eight years younger than me, called me teacher before he called me by my name. I vividly remember playing school using a chalkboard set up in the smallest room of our duplex, my classroom for a season. That chalkboard was the best toy, and I was always the teacher.

Having six younger siblings, five of whom were alive by the time I was ten, offered plenty of opportunities to hone my craft. Having a father who was a Christian school teacher, offered plenty of opportunities to troll around to various classrooms at the end of each school year hoarding papers and teaching supplies that were going to be thrown in the trash.

I assembled leftover classroom worksheets into booklets, stapling them together. These were used to teach and entertain siblings on long summer car rides to Michigan. Old lesson plan or grade books with used pages torn out were treasured finds. If there was still a seating chart template in the back, I would spend hours arranging and rearranging imaginary students into rows.

I drew pictures of classrooms. The items on the teacher’s desk, the assignments written on the chalkboard, the wall decorations, all were fastidiously detailed. Sometimes I wish I still had one or two of them. Then I wonder if it is better to have them in my memory. I am curious if that is why I am intent on saving samples of my children’s work.

The dream of growing up and becoming a teacher was rooted deep inside of me. There was a time when it felt hopeful and sweet. I taught a little girl to read when I was sixteen and loved planning enrichment activities for the small group of day camp students that I worked with that summer. Then something changed.

The dream and desire became a demand. I remember when the joy of teaching was replaced by duty and the expectation to teach. I remember feeling choices slip away and panic set in. I remember trying my best to push the window of other opportunities open, only to have it slam shut and lock.

I remember feeling betrayed by the teacher in me. Why did she have to be so good at what she did? Why did she always say this is what she wanted to be? What if there were other things, too?

The teacher, ever efficient, stepped up and took over, pushing the other parts aside. She took care of business and rose to the occasion. She went to school, studied, and worked hard. She loved each student that came through her room and saw to it that she cared for them in the best possible way.

I appreciate her for that. I appreciate her ability to connect with students, to care for them, and to make learning fun. I appreciate her stepping up and doing what needed to be done. Most of all, I am grateful to have grown into a place where I can truly bless her and her gifts.

The teacher is a part of me, but she is not all of me. Still, she is pretty amazing, and I have grown to love and appreciate her. Her presence is a gift of grace in my life.