Today is the first Sunday of Advent. We light the hope candle. I look at it now, recycled from last year. I do not have new candles. There is one missing. It is either packed away in a different box or burned down so low that I threw it away last year. I need to make a trip to the store to find another purple candle or two.
In the hall is a lighted display of candles surrounding the usual sheep that live there. I pull out the sparkly house, a gift given years ago by a friend, containing Bath and Body Works items. I think of her each year that I get it out while lighting a tea light inside of it.
Light in the darkness.
There are candles around in various places. My husband strings colored lights on the tree, layering over the white lights, because I like both. That is me. Both a white and colored lights girl.
I sit in darkness remembering the future. Waiting with hope. I believe in what is next while waiting with endurance. With patience. It is a vulnerable place, waiting in the now, hoping for the not yet.
Thank you for helping me hold fast and move forward in the trenches of parenting. I want easier, different circumstances, but these are the ones I have been given. You know the fear in my heart, places themselves young. Be with my children who have been harmed and are finding their way. Please bring your healing to their hearts. Guide us. Jesus, please.
I stare straight ahead through the Prius windshield. Brilliant fall colors meet my gaze. En route to the lake with a friend for a respite scheduled months out, little did I know what this timing would mean.
My prayer, journaled earlier in the week, is answered in a way unexpected and uncomfortable. It comes in the form of a hard conversation over lunch just hours before this departure.
I welcome these moments. I dread these moments. They need to happen more often. It has not been safe for my children.
I cannot adequately describe the level of grief that rises in the aftermath. I place my food, uneaten, in a to go box and slide it across the table to the one with an appetite.
How does one look up from the wreckage and meet the gaze of the walking wounded?
That’s how it feels. A small taste of what my child felt, I realize. I am the adult, at least on the outside. I hold the space as tears spill from my eyes.
It is not lost on me that hours earlier, I wrote of looking up with gratitude and hopefulness. How does one find gratitude and hope in this?
Today’s gratitude is for an adult child willing to sit across from us and name their truth about growing up in our home. It is for increasing ability and skill to be in the space together and to hold hope for change. It is belief in restoration healing from locust-eaten years.
And it is gratitude for space away to tend to the young places in my own heart and hope that she, too, will be heard.
It is Easter Sunday, a time to celebrate the resurrection and all things new. Yet, even on Resurrection Sunday, many sit in Saturday still, the space of death and loss. It is a tough bind to hold, that of rejoicing in the hope of the resurrection, while simultaneously mourning that we remain here in the death.
Yesterday’s news of the untimely loss of a precious child I was blessed to work with this year in the SVCC and this morning’s news of horrific attacks on worshipers and tourists in Sri Lanka, make the words I was so eager to share today seem flat and trite. How does the story I want to tell even begin to matter in light of the bigger picture?
I think it matters. I think it matters that beauty and hope can be found in unlikely places, in personal ways. This week’s resurrection story came at the perfect time, in an unexpected way, and I share it here now.
Wednesday was full of goodness. I worked on an online class in the morning, created in my art journal after that, had a Facetime call with two dear friends, did the after school pick up.
I noticed while driving past my house, that there was a box on the front porch, a package. I did not remember ordering anything, but sometimes Steve or one of the adults does, so I made a mental note to check when I got home.
Then I forgot.
Afternoon routine involved connecting with kids, preparing supper, wrapping up the day, watching a favorite Youtubechannel while working in the kitchen. An unboxing was happening there (go to 15:53 if you click on the link), reminding me that there was a box waiting on the front porch. I stopped what I was was doing to go check it out.
It was labeled as containing 50 hangers. This struck me as interesting and odd at the same time. I use a mishmash of hangers and wondered if maybe Steve wanted to start using nicer hangers or if one of the adults had gifted me with a box of them.
The return address was local, but unfamiliar, and read Shoot for Your Dreams. The closer I looked at the box, the more dented it appeared, and I began to feel an odd sensation relating to opening it. Was it a good idea?
This has happened twice before. I was afraid to open an unexpected package and felt an unreasonable anxiety that maybe there was something dangerous inside. The first one held cherries, the second, a thoughtful gift.
Bracing myself, I opened this box.
I removed this.
Untying the strings at the top, I pulled out a gorgeous spring Gucci bag. I. Was. Stunned.
I took it to show my son who began snapping pictures and researching the pattern and authenticating numbers. Yes, it was a real Gucci bag. The mystery deepened, and remains. I had suspicions that did not pan out, and clues that have not come all the way together.
I decided to receive the beauty and rest in the mystery.
For this particular gift to arrive in the midst of Holy Week, felt significant. I wrote in this post a story of loss. A death, if you will. Out of the dented hanger box came something beautiful, brimming with images of life, flourishing like my word this year. I was overwhelmed.
It felt so personal and kind, this third surprise package. It reminded me of another gift of three.
This is my resurrection story today. It is the resurrection of new beauty in a new season of life. It is the receiving of a generous gift that holds deep meaning from a giver that I cannot see. It is relinquishing the need to know everything and trusting the evidence that I have been given.
I am seen, loved, celebrated, encouraged.
Dear Mystery Giver, Thank you for this generous gift. You have no idea, or maybe you do, how blessed I felt to receive it. In this season of stepping out and showing up and starting something new, your thoughtfulness and generosity reminded me, once again, that my labor is not in vain. God works in the unseen spaces and brings to new life things we thought have died. He provides exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever imagine or dream. I certainly did not imagine or dream the contents of this package! My husband, the giver of the original bag, told me that this one is amazing and so much more beautiful. And I agree. I loved carrying it to church this morning. Blessings and Love to you!
Dear Reader, Thank you for staying with me to the end of the story. I don’t know where you find yourself this Resurrection Sunday. Maybe you, too, are rejoicing at seeing a glimpse of the goodness of God in the land of the living. Maybe you are grieving a deep death or loss and don’t believe there will ever be goodness. Wherever you are, please know that you are seen and loved by the one who cares about the things of your heart, even the loss of a bag from your teen years. He is in the business of restoring and making things new.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we cannot see. . . So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Hebrews 11: 1,12,13 NLT
I sat across from one of my adult children in a local coffee shop, steaming mugs of cayenne mocha in our hands. The invitation extended to me resulted in conversation about hard things. This is the part of parenting I did not anticipate when, by faith, I opened my young self to accepting any blessings that God gave to me ~ because children are the greatest blessing.
Listening intently to words being spoken, truth being told. I affirmed that speaking the reality of growing up in our home was not dishonoring, but necessary for healing to happen. How I long for healing.
My journey with mothering closely mirrors my walk with God. I struggle with shame over choices, and seeming lack of choice, that resulted in eight humans birthing from my body. Yet I am not the author of their lives. I am part of the means by which their lives came into the world, the unseen.
It is deeply painful that what I viewed as an act of faith and trust in God resulted in harm to hearts in my home. The shadow was not lurking outside. It was within the walls.
My husband and I wounded our children by our inability to shepherd and parent well. We set up scenarios that caused the weak to fall rather than grow strong. Our ideal selves collided with, and were overtaken by, our real selves.
Twenty-eight years ago when I was a young engaged woman looking forward to a wedding day as the solution to all problems, dogma came not with the click of a mouse, but in the form of passed books and live conversations. It was perpetuated in community with others, gathered around the same ideals. It flourished behind locked church doors before fear of terrorism was a thing.
I was young and deeply impressionable. I was full of faith, however misguided. I had hope for a future better than what was in my past.
The same faith that believed if I only opened my life and womb to God, blessings would flow, now opens my heart to coffee and hard questions from the fruit of those ideals. I realize that this is a blessing, the ability to hold the tension of sitting in truth when everything inside of me longs to bolt.
Faith is a mystery. Sometimes I ask myself, Am I walking by faith or living in denial? Because faith and denial can look awfully similar. I know it is faith when I look at, instead of away from the pain. Looking into my child’s hurting eyes is an act of faith.
In doing so, I take a new grip with tired hands. My weak knees are strengthened by these redemptive conversations. Talking through hard places in our family story allows for new paths to be marked out, ones that are straight, direct, and true.
I long for my children to rise up with this strength. I have confidence that they will the more they engage the truth of their childhood stories. The young woman in me also rises and grows stronger as she speaks her truth and names her harm.
This is the mystery, the unseen, the confidence, the faith that I hold. I do not know why I still have faith. I cannot explain or define it, but it is real. It is a part of me that should not be viable, yet it grows. It grows over coffees and breakfasts and phone calls and text messages. To this confident mystery, I cling in hope.
This update graced my Facebook status Saturday morning. With a full heart I continued to wrestle and sort out all the feelings surrounding the Externship program and not stepping into it this year. Among hugs and sympathetic remarks, a dear friend commented, Give it three more years.
Though an inside joke for us, in that moment I realized that I had grown, am growing, will continue to grow through this process! My ability to read and hear her words as a statement of hope and not despair was a huge indicator that good work is happening in my heart.
The last time she mentioned three years, I was not hopeful. I was angry, stuck, and lost. I felt forgotten and left behind. Now I believe that I am right where I belong, and that it is a good place. I know that three years will look both better and worse, and that I can plan and dream but there are no guarantees surrounding outcomes.
Earlier this week another friend texted a picture that she took during my first weekend in Seattle. We were at the market downtown enjoying Sunday afternoon together before my flight home.
I was caught off guard by how well the image depicted exactly how I was feeling the moment it came through. Wistful, longing, ponderous, contemplative. All of the above. I remembered how I felt in that moment as I let settle all that had stirred in me after that first weekend.
I remembered her kindness to offer space while showing me all of the best downtown places and sharing her beautiful heart with mine. It was such a kind time. Neither of us knew what we were stepping into at the beginning or how it would look in the end.
I only know that she and her husband were the first I told I was considering the program. I was curious to see if they would be willing to host me. They enthusiastically cheered me on, welcoming me into their home and life on the realest of real terms. This family became mine as they graciously opened their home and hearts each of the four weekends.
We sat together on Tuesday, separated by thousands of miles, joined by technology for a brief time of texting as I responded to the picture. I expressed gratitude for her following the prompt to send it to me. It was perfect. She jumped in as we caught up on life and shared heart space in the midst of mothering.
Three years. I will be 50 then. Another son will be 18 and my youngest will all be teenagers. Things will look very different. That intention sounds promising. It allows space for presence, not wishing away the time but fully engaging it.
None of us knows what the future holds, but I will hold to the hope of three (more) years.
It’s the first day of fall. The kitchen calendar reads Autumn Begins, and my autumn begins with an early morning appointment. Stepping outside, a rainbow greets me through the gray, a reminder of faithful promises kept.
I need all of the reminders.
I need color breaking through the gray.
My early morning destination offers space to walk outside near a calm lake surrounded by trees. The bench near the water is wet with mist. I embrace every moment of the present. There is beauty in the sunshine and in the blue sky that peeks through the clouds.
Afterward, I visit my parents to catch up with an uncle who is here from out of town. Laughter surrounds the breakfast table as he shares stories of my cousins and memories of his own. I drink my coffee from a mug I brought back for my parents after a Seattle trip, a token gift for help they offered while I traveled.
I think of my friends who are there now and offer up a prayer. I remember the early fall day two years ago when I walked to The Seattle School for the first time.
I continue to cling to the color, to remember that the gray passes, even as it swirls around me. Heaviness is not as easily shed as I wish.
Back home I supervise chores and help with homework and prepare lunch. I simmer fall scenton the stove and light a pumpkin candle on the table. A squirrel plate replaces the plain saucer underneath.
I fold and lay a leaf-covered fall tablecloth over the buffet, replacing the cream-colored one of summer. I cut up carrots and potatoes and put them into the crock pot with chicken broth, the beginning of fall chowder.
It is all very ordinary, and there lies the promise.
The promise is that I will be met in the ordinary places.
I struggle to embrace ordinary and to settle into the space. It feels foreign to not just forge ahead to the next thing, which is what I have done for most of my life.
Texting a sister turns into a phone call where we jump in together to catch up on life. Her words speak truth and our laughter lightens my heart. When we hang up, colors are more vivid.
Fall’s promise is that I can trust God’s faithful care in this season, just as in the 47 that came before. The work in me is being completed, and I can rest in that. Life is full of color in unexpected places if I choose to see it.
Sometimes I don’t have to look very far. For those moments I am grateful.
One of the many challenges I face while doing this work is that of staying present in my own story and not carrying everyone else’s along with me.
Last week I sat with a wise friend who reminded me that while I play a major role in my children’s stories for a season, I am not their entire story. They will each walk their own path of growth and self-discovery with God, separate from me.
It is easy and familiar to make myself too big and too responsible. I feel a need to carry each of them with me on the journey. Instead of focusing on the work I need to do for healing, I circle back to how my woundedness has harmed those in my world. This keeps me from the task at hand, which is uncovering more of my own story and tending to my own heart.
We are all wounded and wounding souls. As I get closer to my own wounds, I see how my response to them has wounded others. This week is for tending to my own story. There will be space and time to process with those in my world when I return.
A friend gave me a care package Monday evening before I left. Among the thoughtful items in it was an adult coloring book. It has turned out to be one of the kindest gifts.
Last night, my mind swirled with all of the life still going on at home and all of the things I can’t control in everyone’s world. The bigness of this trip was bearing down on me. I struggled to stay upright and grounded.
Flipping through the coloring book, I came across this page. The scripture and flowers spoke to me as I tore it from the book and began to color one flower, then another.
I focused on the worries of my heart, giving them over to God. As I colored each flower I focused on a particular care or person. My mind stayed present in the moment.
Before bed last night I looked up the reference in my Bible and read the surrounding verses.
Unless the Lord had helped me I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” But your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:17-10
My prayer this week is that the doubts in my mind will be replaced with the comfort of God and with renewed hope and cheer, supported by the Lord’s unfailing love.
Blessings, Friends! Thank you for your love and support on the journey and for joining me here in this space. Each of you is a gift to my heart.
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 spaceswas 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.
“In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. In fact, the need to make up a story, especially when we are hurt, is part of our most primitive survival wiring. Mean making is in our biology, and our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense, feels familiar, and offers us insight into how best to self-protect.”
The first sentence is one of my favorite quotes right now and a mantra that keeps looping through my head. In the absence of data we always make up stories.
Since returning from Certificate 2training two weeks ago, I have had few words to put into cyberspace and many to share in private conversations or to write in my journals. I have felt at a loss as to what to say or put out there on the blog as I re-enter yet another season of sorting out my own story.
As I grow in safety and ability to bring my childhood memories to those with more data to add, I am gaining a more focused picture of who I am and have become in the midst of the events that have shaped me. Themes in my story emerge, readjusting my lens from what I suspected to what I can name.
This shift has brought a need to clear extras from my world to focus on essentials. I have made a difficult choice to end some outside activities and ministries in order to spend time healing and growing. Rather than continuing to reach outward, I am bringing myself and my focus inward to those in my home.
This sounds obvious unless you understand the full extent of harm and self-protection that has caused me to shut down to those under my roof and prevented me from bringing myself fully to the ones who need me the most. This grieves my heart. Bringing closure to outside ministries has created space to be more present in my home.
I hope to elaborate more on this in future posts.
To those of you who continue to follow and read the blog faithfully, I applaud you and say Thank you. I am not sure where I am headed but will continue using the space to allow others in to what it looks like to face life more honestly.
Bloggers are supposed to find their niche and area of expertise. Mine seems to be in not having answers but continuing to fight forward on the journey to hope and healing. It is in gathering data to put the story together. It is in the listening to and telling of stories.
You are welcome to join me. Maybe it will encourage you to begin gathering data of your own and picking up the pieces of your story.