Tag Archives: process

Focused Writing

It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to uncover them.
Proverbs 25:2 (NLT)

My day began with these words. Pondering the privilege of discovery I wrote, Jesus, what will I discover today? Little did I know. It is only half over.

This day is full of mixed feelings. My heart is acutely aware of its longings and desires and the difficulty of being finite. As dear friends converge in Seattle to begin Externship training and others gather in Austin in anticipation of the Brave On conference, I am here doing what I have been called to in this season.

I have been called to stay and uncover what it is God has for me in this place, under my own roof, with my own people. Instead of packing a suitcase and saying goodbye, I am unpacking our story and saying, I’m here.

Here looked like quite an adventure on the ride to school.

Teen son was up and about early enough to drive. I sat in the passenger seat and Little Mae was in the back. The careful drive began.

At a slow intersection while stopped at a sign, student driver put the car in park to adjust his seat. There were no other cars around, it was not a dangerous situation, but my anxiety began to mount.

Opening my mouth to begin a lecture, another sound came from the back seat. A frantic, terrified, gutteral scream rose from somewhere inside Little Mae. My heart stopped as I looked out the side window, fully expecting to see that we were the victims of a car-jacking.

SPIDER!!!!!

Turning in the direction of her scream I saw a huge spider on the back of my headrest.

Pass me a tissue.

I spoke in the calmest of voices, fully expecting a lunge, scurry, or sudden movement from the spider and the ensuing chaos that an inexperienced driver and panicked 10 year old would bring.

I was not thinking that I would have to feel the spider through the tissue as I gripped it gently and tossed it out my window that, somehow, I had rolled down. I felt it. I did not squish it.

A collective sigh released from us all as the driver took the left he had planned. We debriefed the series of events and how good it was that the car was stopped and not driving. We laughed and maybe cried (not the driver), and my heart continued racing, flooded with adrenaline, well beyond morning drop-off.

Everyone made it safely to school. I made it home. The day continued.

Washing breakfast dishes, I looked up to see a pink flower blooming on the hanging plant above the sink. It is a transplant of this one and a special sign to me. I posted its picture on social media and a friend commented tradescantia/spiderwort .

Of course! Spider redemption, if only in word form. I had to laugh as I rejoiced that I now had a focus for today’s writing.

Still Summer

I know it feels like fall. School is back in session. Football games have begun. Life has resumed routine. Morning drives to school find me facing a blinding low-rising sun in the eastern sky. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back.

But it’s still summer for a little while longer.

Today I celebrated that truth by stepping off into the deep end of my daughter and son-in-law’s pool and swimming to the other side. It was my first time in the water this summer. The sensation was lovely.

My intention was to try to turn around the funk that seems to have settled around my shoulders, pressing into my heart. Surely water and sunshine would wash it away.

It was worth a try.

Several of my kids and my husband joined me. Others sat on the edge. We talked and laughed. We played games.

It was a relaxing space to regain perspective.

I wish I could say I left my troubles at the bottom of the pool with the leaves that have begun dropping, but it is not that easy. I wish I could say that I have leaned from Dewey to just live in the moment.

I am still practicing and being given plenty of opportunities to do so.

This afternoon brought laughter and connection and escape. It brought exercise and fresh air and a son-in-law who grilled hamburgers while we swam in his pool.

It brought goodness and kindness and another reminder that even when life is hard and unpredictable and wearisome, there is beauty and joy and love.

It’s still summer.

Changing the Narrative

Julie, Hi!

Her smiling face sits down across from me in the coffee shop. She wears a colorful print top in shades of blue tied with a loose bow at the scooped neckline. A dragonfly pendant accents the look. With all of this loveliness, it is her smile that draws me in, open and kind.

You’re hard at work!

Actually I am attempting to work, but I am not succeeding. Not yet, anyway. I am using a window of time in between band camp drop off at 7:45 and a 9:00 snack help shift to collect my thoughts. I say as much as I close notebook and planner, creating more room on the surface of the small table for two.

I’m trying to atone for all the years I couldn’t help when my older kids were in band and I was home with the littles.

I think you need to change that narrative.

Her smile remains open and kind, but her eyes pierce through to my soul. I steadily continue engagement, feeling the pain of that truth landing somewhere deep. Laughingly I agree, trying to explain how I am somewhat kidding.

No, I’ve heard you speak that way before. I think it really needs to be kinder. We do what we can. The guilt is thick there.

In two minutes she has heard my sound bite and nailed it to the point that tears come to my eyes as the conversation comes to mind. I am reminded of why I love this woman and am grateful for her presence in my life whenever our paths intersect.

She is on her way to work, waiting for coffee to brew, a treat to herself on this first day back. We have precious few minutes to connect, but they go deep and real. Quick summer updates from each of us follow until I see her tall to-go cup placed on the counter by the barista and know our time is up.

She rises to collect her order and continue moving through her day. Pushing open the coffee shop door, she turns and says, Give the band kids love from this mama.

We do what we can when we can. Today that is what I will do.

Heartache and Grief

The post is first in my Facebook feed when I wake this morning. Shared by a family friend is an obituary for a young woman I met and knew briefly as Cassie when she was a girl and teenager. Our families crossed paths when I was a young mom with small children of my own, her mother a season ahead of me.

I am better acquainted with her oldest sister who taught with me at the school back in the day and her oldest brother who was a friend to my youngest brother. Even then, I was so wrapped up in my own newly-minted adult life that I was not engaged with them on a relational level.

Still. there are people whose lives touch yours who feel like family because of the seasons you have shared or the events you have experienced together. This young woman was born into a family that crossed paths with mine during the 90’s and early 00’s. We attended weddings, church services, picnics, and celebrations together. I remember her and her younger sister as the ages of two of my girls now, teen and tween.

It brought great sadness and deep grief to read of her recent death. I learned of her life in her obituary and of her death on the Facebook page set up for medical updates. I am trying to process the depth of loss it is to lose a beloved daughter, sister, wife, and friend so tragically and so young.

It does not make sense to have one with so much life taken this way. Her adult woman eyes looking into the camera show me her mother, her sister, the women I knew. My heart aches for them. I cannot imagine losing my third child, losing a sister. I do not have adequate words for the grief.

Today they will celebrate her life, grieve her death, bury her in the ground. I will be here tending my family as I was during the season when I knew hers. I will grieve from a distance. I will feel vicariously what it would be to lose a dearly loved one unexpectedly in their prime.

To the George family who I know, and all who loved Cassie that I do not know, I am so sorry for the loss of the one you loved so deeply and who loved you so well. It shows in her smile, in the pictures, in the words. May you find great comfort during this difficult day and in the ones that follow.

For those interested, a Go Fund Me is set up here.

Swinging

Quick! Mom is on the porch swing!

This rare sighting is engaged with buckets of water poured over each other’s heads, while videotaping the action in slow motion. One sister stands on the grass and the other on the porch.

I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

In my childhood days, baptisms took place in the swimming pool as we fully immersed one another, Baptist-style. My Presbyterian children have witnessed differently.

Steve walks past with the mower, and I am secretly grateful he chose to pull it out in this golden hour of the day. This means I will not have to mow, and the grass will not have to be bagged.

The dog scratches at the front door.

One thing we agree on is getting soaking wet!

Soaking wet is an understatement. I remind myself that squealing, soaking girls means outside engagement is happening. We live in a great house in a great space. I am thankful for our yellow house on the corner, always a work in progress.

A breeze blows over me from the east, towards the setting sun.

The dog is brought out and clipped to his leash on the porch long enough to get wet in residual puddles of water left by soaking wet girls. He is then let back inside to shake it off. I hear this through the door.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, my 19 year old son steps out, and we look at each other and laugh. What else is there to do, as he observes the journal on my lap and bears witness to the chaos taking place? There is nothing idyllic about the moment other than the glorious rays of the setting sun.

Pressure on my chest reminds me of more to come. Two days more.

Two days are all that remain of what has been our normal for almost 25 years, Steve going to work each day at Good Shepherd School and Daycare, providing for our family. Over seasons we have worked together. We have worked apart.

I was a working mom, teaching through my 20’s. I took my 30’s off to be home with our children. At the peak of parenting there were eight of them under our roof that needed care. I returned to teaching when the youngest was in kindergarten. I was 42.

I ended my time at Good Shepherd last year. This was my year to regroup and be home; to figure out what was next. I jokingly called it my gap year. Mostly I spent time repairing harm done from times when I could not be there for my son, now 19, who had fallen through a gap in the family and was living with us in his (finally) finished bedroom after traveling abroad.

The year brought such a sweet space of breakfasts and coffee dates and sharing memories, both good and bad. There was laughter and lots of tears. I did not know at the time of Steve’s upcoming mid-life career change. It is probably good. Otherwise I would not have been able to be as fully present to my family and their needs.

Last night’s sleep passed as slowly as the water pouring over my daughters’ heads in the slow-motion videos they created. Insomnia is no stranger to me. Each hour I woke felt like another wave washing over me, as I mercifully fell back asleep. Dreams came in equal waves.

Tonight is Steve’s final program as Administrator of Good Shepherd School. Little Mae is playing recorder and singing and doing all of the things that kids in the programs have been doing for 25 years. Some of her siblings will be there to watch, remembering when it was their turn to sing the Piggy Song or play recorder.

I will remember the programs I directed over the years at all of the various locations. I will remember the peak season when large numbers of students were transported to Lehman Auditorium or Massanetta Springs Conference Center and the smaller ones of late at West Side Baptist where they all began for me.

One blog post is not enough to capture what is stirring in my heart. What do I do? Give a factual update? Share nostalgic memories? How do I honor the blood, sweat, and tears that my husband leaves behind? How do I honor my own?

This day brings both goodness and grief. Isn’t that all of life? Sitting and giving myself time to write is kindness. Allowing the tears to freely flow and be followed by deep sobs is necessary. More words will come in the future, but for now I will sit in the present.

Maybe I will go to the porch and swing.

Tabletop Tableau

This was the view across the room from me this morning as I sat in an oversized chair in my Airbnb drinking coffee and reading. Today is the last day of Certificate 2 training. How do I hold that?

Monday evening a precious friend stopped by the house to affix an EzPass to my windshield and capture the tolls for my trip. She also gave me a gift bag care package. Peeking in I saw snacks and a stuffed owl.

I didn’t see the cards tucked in between everything, one for each day, with instructions about when to open them. Each unique card held words of blessing and encouragement specific to the day.

This is a part of her glory. She is a writer. I was the recipient of her lavish gift of words. I assembled the cards on the tabletop under the staircase to remind me of truth and give me courage to step into hard places.

Some cards contained lunch money. Others a blessing. Each met me in exactly the right space for what the day held and what my heart needed.

I am preparing for the last session. Lunch is with myself today in solitude, pondering all that these days have held and preparing to end well. What do I hold? What do I toss?

It is my second attempt at writing this post. I wrote a first one while sitting at one of the wooden chairs that flank the table. I hit publish and rushed out the door. It vanished.

I sat all morning holding my disappointment while trying to release demand as to why my post vanished and where it went. I needed to remain present to all that was happening in morning session and group.

I will hit publish again for a second time on these new words for my morning thought. Then I will brave the rain and return to my table and receive what the afternoon holds.

Coloring

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

Yes. This.

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.

Nineteen

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.

And now?

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!

Urban Nest

I discovered the nest last spring while on a walk downtown. I would have missed it completely, had it not been for the erratic behavior of a male Mallard on a nearby patch of mulch. His frantic quacking and wing flapping engaged my curiosity, inviting me to move towards him.

A low bush stood at the edge of the sidewalk. There’s nothing to see here! quacked the duck, running back and forth. Through an opening in the branches, I noticed a female sitting on her nest. This was the cause of the male’s display. He was trying to divert attention from his mate and her clutch of eggs. Instead, he achieved the opposite.

This discovery brought me joy, as I walked home. Each day following, I made sure to walk past the nest and check on the duck. One day all that remained were empty egg shells. The ducklings had hatched, and were led away by their mama. It happened so fast. I did not even get a peek.

Mama duck is back again.

I noticed her last week on one of my walks. Since then she has been spotted both on and off of her nest. There is a pile of yellow eggs she is incubating, numbering upwards of nine, maybe ten. I am eagerly watching and waiting for the ducklings to hatch.

Maybe I will see them this year. Maybe not. Maybe I will have to pretend, once again, one of the many duck families down by the stream is mine.

The odd thing about this nest location is its distance from the stream. I imagine the mama leading her babies across the street to the grassy patch alongside the Catholic Church and down to the water. I wonder if she has a route planned out already? I wonder if traffic will stop when they cross?

Make Way for Ducklings much? This certainly isn’t Boston!

The rhythm of nature brings comfort to me. When uncertainty abounds, I know I can walk and check on my mama friend, and she will be waiting, just as I wait. She will be there until she is not. One day she will move on to the next thing and lead her ducks to water. I, too, will do the next thing.

Until then I enjoy the gift of another spring with her. I bask in the simplicity of watching Mama Duck feather her urban nest, as I work to feather mine. I lean into believing what I have, an indentation of soft earth, some downy feathers, sheltering branches, simple foods, a break in the twilight hours, is enough.

Beautifully, simply enough.

Final Saturday

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.