Horses and music and dancing and a setting sun. What a peaceful, good night.
I connected with beautiful faces and beautiful hearts at the Barn Bash!
Horses and music and dancing and a setting sun. What a peaceful, good night.
I connected with beautiful faces and beautiful hearts at the Barn Bash!
It’s after 10:00 on Saturday night, and I’m picking up American Girl dolls and accessories from an elaborate set up in the TV room. They have been there for over a week.
I remember the intricacy involved and time it takes to set up and orchestrate proper play, and I want my youngest to have that freedom for as long as possible. As a result, we have all been navigating over and around tiny dishes and clothing and furniture and dolls, so many dolls. It is time to clean them up.
There are bins to contain everything, but Little Mae is clearly avoiding the task.
I warn her that if she doesn’t pick up, then I will do it for her.
Ok, Fine! She calls over her shoulder as she runs upstairs to play in her room with a sister before bed.
This is how I find myself here, and I do not even take a picture, though the thought crossed my mind. What if this is the last time?
It really could be now, unlike times before when there was always another sister or sibling next in line.
I allow myself to hold the memory of the scene in my heart as I sit in the midst of the play circle, paralyzed. I am transported back to my young self who desired to keep her world ordered, a seemingly impossible task with six younger siblings coming behind and messing things up.
I understand now Little Mae’s avoidance. It is overwhelming. In my overwhelm, I release perfectionism and just place things where they fit. Like with like, mostly. There is fun in unpacking surprises when the bins are brought back out.
Whenever that may be.
My husband works on his own late-night project in the kitchen, just off of the room where I sit. I gain momentum and snap tops on full bins, stacking them, preparing to move them back out to the kitchen set.
Music plays from the speaker in the kitchen. . . Changes . . .and the tears well in my eyes. My heart already feels fragile, and now I am packing and stacking and storing away toys that are nearing their expiration date.
Doubt creeps in and over and around my heart as I question my choice to allow the girls to spend so much birthday and Christmas money over the years on dolls and tiny dresses and miniature shoes and furniture.
I remember and question my own rush of anticipation, stalking Cyber Monday deals and trolling secondhand shops for unique tiny things.
I find a paper rolled and taped into a tiny cone shape with pompoms glued on it for cotton candy and ice cream sandwiches cut from craft foam and the tiny empty plastic bottles that held beads from a recent craft kit and smile.
It was worth it. IS worth it.
And I allow the tears to come.
There were only two visits I was able to make before the holidays. Mondays in Bridgewater afforded me time to stop by after a weekly meeting with friends. I planned to return this week. Back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.
I was not prepared for the news.
It is easy to check mail on my phone, so when a ministry team message came through with only his name in the heading, I opened it instantly. Sometimes things can be too instant, leaving a person raw in the wake of the suddenness.
I thought I knew what it would say.
There would be a health update, maybe a way to serve the family. There might be specifics of how the disease was progressing or a general update to keep us informed as to how to pray for the man who continued to pray for us from the confines of his automated recliner.
My breath caught in my chest as I read that my dear friend’s breath had left him in the night as he slept.
Gone was the man who sat across from me for so many Stephen Ministry meetings, his faithfulness and genuine care and concern for people radiating from his face. He held many of my prayer requests close and would ask how God was working in my life, right up until our last visit together.
A fun fact is that he had attended the church my husband grew up in when they both lived in Northern Virginia. He remembered my husband as a boy and would laugh and tell stories of him. We had a connection.
Above all he loved the Lord and wanted to serve him in all that he did. Our last visit together was full of stories of days gone by, such as being
roped in invited to help with the Awana program at his church when he was a younger man and how he cared for the kids who were difficult, understanding that they were the ones who needed love the most.
There were many times that he went out of his way to be present or show up for people. He sought out the hurting and humbly reached out with a kind word or thought.
He encouraged me with his words and his steadfast faith in God. He encouraged me by attending worship whenever he could, right up until his final weeks when it became difficult. I remember the last Sunday that I saw him from stage, sitting in his chair in the back. My heart caught in my chest and my eyes welled up, much as they did when I read that he died.
Bob is in heaven now. I don’t know how it works, but I am confident that he is present with the Lord. This song comes to mind as I sit with my tears remembering my friend. I think it captures his heart.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
There were too many strikes against the wounded places in my heart this morning to sit through church. Already late from the effort it still takes to get everyone out of the house, which seems eerily similar to what it was years ago only in a different way, I arrived halfway through the one song I was hoping to sing.
Enduring the rustling and settling of the children who sit with us while hoping that the ones who do not were doing what they were supposed to in the back, I tried to focus on the task at hand and enter worship. I was frustrated and exhausted.
Darkness is familiar, and the deepness that it brings threatens to pull my soul further into a void. The constant struggle to remain upright and grounded is real.
It was a lifetime ago, yet I still grieve. What am I grieving? What feels life-giving? I held that tension in my heart while looking up at the glow of a single candle signifying the beginning of Advent. I stood and sat and tried to sing what was hard.
Your law is good. . .
I could not make it through all of the words. It was nothing less than a miracle that I sang that song from the stage last week when I was on worship team, revealing how well I can shore up and do what needs to be done in the moment.
Standing as Scripture was read, feeling the ground beneath me, I breathed in, holding hope that I could do this. I sat.
Words came at me, and I noticed them blurring together. It took energy and effort to stay present, and I was doing really well.
God expects full obedience to his commandments.
The sermon series on the Ten Commandments continues. Whatever week this is feels a week too long. Each week is too long.
I believe and agree with this. I am also deeply triggered by this. There were too many strikes against my spiritually wounded heart this morning to sit and hear the very verses about the law that were used to beat me into submission and rob me of life. They bring no comfort.
Maybe comfort is there. . . just not right now. Maybe there is hope for healing from an abuse of the law, but right now I need comfort and care. I did not feel it in this space.
I spend much time comforting and caring.
I found myself in the tension of longing to communicate, of pressing into the questions surrounding the fray while trying to contain all that was dumping out of my heart.
Is there balm in Gilead?
As a terrified sixteen-year-old girl I was trying to grasp the law on my own and be pleasing. As a forty-six year old woman living with the implication of this desire, it is difficult to see goodness. All I feel is sadness and deep pain.
I am aware that others are not responsible for how their words are inadvertently used to crash into my heart. It does not make the crashing any less painful. It was in the pain that I found myself sitting in the breezeway, ear buds in, listening to music while writing in my journal.
We are all full of stories.
Later I found myself sitting with a friend, hearing more of her story, asking her about hope.
Today is the candle of hope. The very questions I asked my friend, I ask myself. What does hope look like to you? When did you feel hope? What do you hope for?
This is where I am and what I will be pondering this first week of Advent.
It is thick, real, palpable, settling into every crevice of my brain. Memories lurk deep within. Thoughts jumble together while feelings vacillate between razor sharp and numbingly dull.
This is me. Now.
In the midst of the fog, I long for clarity. I savor aha! moments when they present. Shadows come into focus as light dawns, and I attempt to gaze on them with curiosity rather than terror. Often terror wins. My lens is fear.
What if I could wait for, could anticipate, beauty? Goodness?
What if I could sit in awe and wonder at the gift of life as a joyous adventure rather than a grim duty?
I have so many questions and so few answers. I ponder them as I sit in the fog.
You need light to see through fog but not too much of it. Driving a car with high beam lights on can actually be dangerous in foggy weather. There are special fog lights that are different from headlights, offering alternate illumination. Gentler. Not as harsh. Alerting others.
I am trying to work with the light I have been given to expose what I need to see. It is tempting to force on all the lights from all the angles to illuminate all of the things. This results in a blinding glare which is neither helpful nor kind.
Moving through fog demands slowing down. Sometimes this means pull over, stop, and wait. This is challenging for me, the stopping and waiting part. It is hard to feel life passing by as I remain on the shoulder for a season waiting for clarity. I envy the confidence and accomplishments of others.
Navigating the fog demands space. I am trying to claim and create a bit of space in my full days. Sometimes it is shared with a dog, sometimes not. Even as I clear physical space, my emotional place clutters. It is an exercise to settle into the stillness of a moment.
Gentle light arrives in the form of scheduled phone calls with a wise guide, spontaneous conversations with sisters, surprise words from unexpected places, late-night conversations with the one I love, sessions spent in a counselor’s office. Slowly, focus comes, and I see a little further and a little more clearly.
When glaring light floods a foggy place, rendering me blind, I am gently reminded of truth by those who love me. The high-beams click off and the fog lights turn on, and I am led to safety.
If you could only listen to five songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?
My friend, Angela, read this prompt to me last weekend, and it immediately sparked interest.
Oooo, yes! Let’s do that right now. Let’s list and share our songs with each other and then listen to them.
I began thinking and writing in my journal. Music is what inspires me and brings me hope. It makes me feel most alive. Music is where I find encouragement. So in choosing only five, I went with songs that remind me of truth when I am struggling.
I am curious, Dear Reader, if you have five songs, or even one song? What are your go-tos that inspire, keep you going, or are just plain fun to dance to? What is music to you? It can be any style, not just worship or inspirational! Share in the comments!
Here are my five songs.
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.
Jesus showed up at just the right time.
My Bible reading plan this year is chronological. That means intensive Old Testament time. Nine months to be exact. God’s word is always alive and powerful, speaking to wherever we are in the moment. The minor prophets were calling to me for months. As was the weeping one. There was lots of weeping.
Steve would tease me before bed, Time to be encouraged by a dose of Lamentations.
In a strange way, I am encouraged by the Old Testament. It is full of mess and grief and people who see God directly, hear from him specifically, and still do the opposite. It has people who follow the rules and are foiled and who break them and are blessed.
There are stories that occur over chapters and those in just a few verses, whose magnitude is more real to me the more I live and experience life. The Old Testament is a reminder that there is indeed nothing new under the sun.
In the midst of poor choices, direct disobedience, chaos, and confusion, God is still glorified and working all things. I am neither a theologian nor a Bible scholar. That is not what this is about. I am not trying to prove points or make cases. I may be a kindred spirit with Jeremiah, but I digress.
This is about Jesus showing up this week, as I finally made it to the New Testament. How timely to read about his entrance into our world on a day when the horror was magnified. Even though he has been here all along and is well-acquainted with our sorrow and grief, it brought comfort to be reminded again.
He chose to come to us.
It reminds me of one of my children and the Baby Jesus story.
One year, a particular child was in kindergarten. His Sunday School teacher gave each child in the class a plastic nativity scene to assemble. She gave each parent a sealed envelope with a note and the Baby Jesus inside. The note contained instructions about helping the child assemble the nativity scene and how to respond when they noticed the baby was missing. We were to put it in the manger on Christmas Day.
This particular child tore into the box immediately in the van after church. Where is he? Where is the Baby Jesus? He demanded.
Determined to follow the plan, I mentioned that it was not Christmas yet. We would have to wait and see.
Come on, Mom. He already came! Now where is it?
Laughing, I had to admit that he had me, as I pulled it out of the envelope.
That is how it feels. Jesus already came. He has been in my Old Testament reading, and I know that. In the midst of all that is wrong, there is also right. I am not pretending to have the answers. I am just grateful to be resting in the comfort of the Gospels.
I almost missed the message of the license plate in front on me while waiting at a stoplight. Having just dropped off the girls at middle school, I was lost in my own thoughts, preparing for the next pick up and drop off. Looking up, the letters caught my eye.
You are loved.
I needed to be reminded of this today. Thank you, Owner of the Personalized License Plate Car. I did not get to see who you were before you turned right, and I went left, but the message touched my heart. Or maybe someone got that plate for you, so that you would always remember. If so, the love trickled down. Either way, I am grateful.
The thing is, my head knows I am loved, but my heart does not always feel it. It’s a difficult dichotomy to bear. It can be frustrating to those who love me when I cannot see what is right in front of my face.
Like the license plate.
So I keep looking and trusting that I really am loved. And I keep seeing the signs that are all around. And even though I can not always feel it, I believe it is there. And sometimes I get to feel it, and it overwhelms me.
This time when I arrive home, my nine-year-old boss, not Zephyr, is waiting on the porch for me. Just as insistent that I get inside and on with the day, I try to appreciate her eagerness to be with me and only snap a little bit. Then apologize. She loves me, and I love her back.
We get ready to go, and I disappear into the bathroom. When I emerge, her dad is standing there, an unexpected change in routine which throws me all the way off.
Why are you here? I ask curtly.
I had to get something and thought I would pick up Mae and drive her in.
Softening, I recognize what I almost missed in my irritation. This act of love frees up a chunk of morning time that will help me launch the day. It gives me a head start on later, when I have a dentist appointment.
This is love, and I see and feel it with gratefulness.
I am loved.
And so are you.
Trauma takes our words which is why I sit in shock and disbelief over the news of a mass shooting in Las Vegas yesterday. The post I had hoped to write feels trite and self-centered in the wake of hearing about those who are only beginning to grieve the loss of loved ones and whose lives are forever altered by bullets and blood. Where are the words for this?
I did not hear the news until everyone had been dropped off at school. Switching from morning music to NPR, I was stunned by the story and the sounds of chaos that the soundbites played. My heart sank as I engaged the latest in a series of traumas that have been only a social media click or news report away.
Yesterday Steve was listening to an Allender Center Podcast on catastrophic stories while cleaning the kitchen. I joined him in the space to begin lunch preparation for the upcoming week. I had listened to this episode when it originally aired. Houston was the focus, having been left in the wake of the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe.
Sadly, Houston is now old news in the world of media coverage. We barreled on to scenes from Florida and Irma and then to the islands with Maria, and even those images are fading. New sights and sounds of trauma are here to flood us.
Yet there are still people living the trauma that overtook them. Just because we no longer see the pictures, does not mean that the houses have been rebuilt, the people have food, water, and clothing, that infrastructures are safe. Lives have been forever changed. Loved ones grieve from a distance, helpless and hurting.
I enter the house, bracing myself with dread. I know what will come later in the day, should I choose to look and listen ~ the comments, the commentary, the anger, the solutions, the accusations. I was looking forward to this month with anticipation, and now it just feels heavy. What is the point of anything? It is easy for me to slide down the path of despair.
The thief comes to steal, kill, destroy.
Dewey jumps up on my leg, patting me with his paws, waiting for me to clip on his leash for our morning walk. I leash him, grab a bag, and leave my phone in my room, choosing to disconnect and unplug even if only for half and hour. We walk.
The air is crisp, the sky is brilliant, the sun is dazzling, the shadows are long. Dewey steps along happily engaging the world as we do together each morning. He invites me to presence in his dog-like way, by doing his new trick of jumping and grabbing his leash in his mouth as if to say, Look at me walking myself! Aren’t I clever? Watch me jump!
I choose to see the beauty, because the broken is all around. It’s on the length of sidewalk I did not walk, because I know the dead squirrel is there, and I do not want to see or smell death right now. I almost stepped in it last night. The terror is real. I walk and ponder and pray.
Returning home, I settle onto my favorite couch with my Bible and journal. Lighting a candle the color of tears, I am reminded that Jesus weeps with me, and that he is here. He is Emmanuel, God with me, in the midst of the chaos and confusion when I have no words. I don’t have words for this.
I am grateful that I chose to love this morning before I knew this story. I drove the forgotten items into school without anger. I laughed over the irony of the poor quiz grade while signing the interim envelope. I let the little things go. I put on my Do Justice, Love Mercy, Be Humble shirt before I knew.
It reminds me of how to love, because that is what there is when there are no words. And we never know when we will no longer have the chance or the choice.