Out in the Lebanon mountains a thistle sent a message to a mighty cedar tree, “Give your daughter in marriage to my son.” But just then a wild animal of Lebanon came by and stepped on the thistle crushing it. 2 Chronicles 25:18 (NLT)
It is 2 Chronicles we are talking about here. I wanted to use the word thistle. That is the only meaning I am taking from this verse other than we are going to absolutely crush the wedding next week!
I also wanted to use the box of watercolors that has been sitting on my youngest child’s bedroom floor for quite some time. I asked her this morning if I could borrow them, and she said yes.
I began with the background building from the ground up.
This is the finished background.
I added the thistle.
I really wanted to use glitter, so I covered the blossom. I also added marker detail to the leaves.
However, I still felt a nudge to more on this page. It is something I have contemplated going back to do on others after sharing them publicly. I wanted to write about what was going on inside of me during the process.
A phone call with a friend this morning prompted me to add more words to the last picture, which is the real finished page. Scroll further.
As I think about art and myself ~ what is me ~ I battle the insecurity that says not good enough or not like someone else’s. This inspired the following words that I transferred from my journal to this page.
What is your style, Dear Reader? It is not mine. My intent in sharing this (rather personal) series of pages from my art journal this month is to inspire you to find your own artistic eye, not to copy mine. It is to share the joy of bringing something from inside of you out onto a blank page and create. It is to help you discover the beauty within you.
Each day I wonder, Is there something more inside of me? What if there isn’t? What if it isn’t good? What if I mess it up?
And each day that I create something the doubt grows smaller and the joy grows bigger.
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.
James 3:3 (NLT)
I did not take step-by-step pictures of today’s process. I created the page in the window of time between morning devotions and leaving for an 11:15 church service.
I chose two background pictures that spoke to me, and then a picture of horses.
I cut the backgrounds into strips which I alternated. Then I cut out the horses and glued them on.
This is the result. The title is at the bottom of this page which is where it seemed to fit.
One of my children said it looked like a bad photo shop job. I call it art.
Following is a journal entry I wrote after engaging a horse at Cross Keys Equine Therapy. I am including it as an added bonus for your Sunday afternoon reading pleasure.
When engaging with the horse, first get permission. Wait for the horse to come to you and reach out to touch you before touching it. Just like you wouldn’t walk up to a person and begin rubbing their arm, don’t walk up and start petting the horse.
Alicia addresses board members sitting around a table preparing to exit to the fields for an experience with the horses. We are to take some time visioning the work of Cross Keys and think about how we fit into that vision. I take up my spiral-bound journal and walk outside. Our first assignment is to sit and be still.
Walking towards the field with no horses in it, I am redirected kindly to another. I nervously laugh and try not to ascribe deep significance to my faux-pas. It is difficult for me to make a decision and stick with it; to not have someone assign me a place. I carry my pop-up chair to a field with three horses in the distance and sit.
The horses are black, brown, tan. They begin moving in my direction, then stop. Wind whips over me. I settle my heart, not wanting to be rushed in the space. I find it interesting that I am in a field with three horses. What is God doing? I am not a horse person.
My vision keeps tipping to trauma. That theme runs through my story and connects my people. In a month I will commence part 2 of a certificate in story-informed trauma work. I see Cross Keys as a place for healing and hope, recovery of self, a place to engage with what has brought trauma.
Where do I fit? What do I bring?
As I ponder these questions, two horses move closer. They come to me, first the brown then the black. The tan will meet up with me later. I do not yet know this. I feel tears as these powerful animals approach me and nudge me with their noses. In their presence I feel small as I am called to rejoin the others down in the arena.
We gather at the Hope Arena for instructions on part 2. This time some of us will volunteer to enter the ring with the honey-colored horse to experience what the work is like. A therapist and equine specialist facilitate this experience.
I watch the first volunteer engage the horse and do some work. The work is to make a connection with the horse, not to mount it or ride it or do something like that. Just connect. This volunteer courageously engages the experience, following the therapist’s and specialist’s lead. Upon exiting, another volunteer is invited to step in. There is a pregnant pause.
I feel the feeling. You know the one. It’s the standing on the edge of the high dive or the top of the boat house and wanting desperately to both step off and step back. I stepped up and into the ring, terrified. Ambivalence gripped me as I battled desire for more and fear of engagement.
Being so close to a large, powerful animal in the presence of my peers and a therapist and horse specialist was intense. My default is performance, and I wanted to do all of the things right. I wanted to make a connection with the horse which meant she had to move towards me. Because I didn’t check to see, but instinctively I felt her a she.
I began to name what I felt, which was fear. I felt afraid to step in and move closer, but this beautiful creature was inviting me in with her deep brown eyes and golden mane tossed to one side. I decided to trust and engage as myself which meant to walk alongside of her. She drew me in from the edge of the rail where I was lingering and walked with me further into the arena.
I talked with her in this process, naming that it was difficult for me to commit to moving deeper into a space, even here as I ponder where my fit is at the farm. She gently walked with me, leading me to a red pop-up chair further in the arena. Stopping in front of the chair, she tapped her nose down on its seat and stepped aside.
I could have analyzed and excused and come up with all of the reasons why what I felt in my gut was impossible, but instead I chose to stay with the feeling of invitation to sit and be. I sat down. The horse stood beside me. All was still. A cat jumped into my lap.
The ridiculousness of that final touch broke the spell, and laughter ensued from both me and my husband before spreading to the others. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT the type of person who has cats randomly jump into their lap, nor do I invite that from cats. This was clearly a moment.
During the debrief with therapist and horse specialist, I named what was stirring inside. Issues of trust, fear, commitment, place, and rest all were current and all were showing up in the presence of the horse. Her engagement with me was completely different than with those who went before and after. It was unique to my need.
I experienced the beauty of equine-assisted therapy, if only briefly. It is the ability of the horse to sense and bring to the present space what is stirring in the client’s world. It is a therapist helping to name what is happening with the client and a horse specialist naming the horse’s role in the process.
It is beautiful and healing. When I wonder how it would feel to move in from the edge of a space and take my place in the room, I remember walking alongside a horse as she moved me further in from the edge. I feel the invitation to sit and belong just as I am. And just in case I doubt, I feel that cat on my lap and the laughter in my heart and know that it is real.
Shortly after the experience, the girl who is not a horse girl found a picture of herself as a girl wearing her favorite shirt. She feels this when she looks at the picture. That was my favorite shirt! You can see joy in all of the eyes.
I am going to be curious about that girl. Maybe she is a horse girl, after all!
The cashier apologizes while fishing through her drawer for $.58 in coins to add to the dollar bills handed me as change for my $6.42 purchase. I quickly pass the paper money to my husband and prepare my hand for the pile of coins she is counting.
That’s okay. I actually prefer dimes.
I am speaking truth. I do. Dimes remind me that I am seen and that there is enough ~ enough money, care, resources. I watch for them and notice where they appear. On the floor of a closet I am cleaning, in the dryer, on a walk, there they are. I collect them.
We say goodnight as my husband, dog, and I exit the neighborhood Dollar General. I am grateful for its re-opening in time for the start of the school year. It is my go-to for last-minute necessities that arise. Along with the needed item, I feel care in my hand, heavy with coins.
Would you keep these coins in your pocket for me until we get home?
My husband obliges, and I pick up the pace, eager to see how many dimes I will find when we arrive.
This Sunday night is different than last when I was anticipating back to school week for my children. They headed back to school, then one returned to do school at home this year. With this change of plans came uncertainty, sitting in the tension between withdrawl from one program and application to another.
I know this unexpected turn of events is for the best this season. That is how we do it, year by year. I am thankful for resources, space, and time. For knowing my focus.
I am thankful for an unexpected handful of change containing no quarters and four dimes reminding me again that I can trust.
May I use the picture if I write a blog post today?
Our text exchange took place at 6:20, after my man left for his first day at the new job. He is excited. I am anxious. Change is exciting. Change is scary. Change is here.
I thought he had already left when I woke at 6:00. Monday mornings are early ones for him now, and, kindly, this is the last Monday of the school year. A decent morning school day routine has evolved over the past nine months, and I still had a few minutes in my room alone before engaging the morning, solo.
A tapping at the door startled me as I was making up the bed. Opening it a crack, anticipating one of the kids entering, I saw the mug of coffee before the arm carrying it.
I thought you had already left!
I grabbed my phone to snap a picture as he said, Take a picture of me.
So here it is. The first day picture.
Movement towards this new beginning had been difficult and kind and has taken years of preparation. Small steps have gotten us ready for larger ones. Sitting in this space of writing and reflecting, I am aware that the anxiety I feel comes from a younger place inside of me.
Just as I took my 19 year old self to Certificate 2 training last month, my 20 year old self is in there, newly married, newly pregnant, newly graduated from college. Changes on the horizon felt big and scary to her and choices made during that summer season affected the next 25 years of her life.
This new beginning is a gift. It is a gift to be aware of the root of my (seemingly irrational) fear and over-responsibility surrounding my husband’s new job. It is his, not mine, and he will be great at it. I do not have to walk in fear over how his day is going.
This is another season of growth for me. It feels embarrassing to admit the places where I am developmentally behind. In this case, it is in stepping out into the unknown and trusting that things will work out. It is watching my husband do something completely unrelated to what I know and bearing witness to his growth and success. It is finding my own places to grow and succeed.
It is celebrating all of the goodness that the past 25 years has brought to us and looking ahead to the next 25 with eagerness about what will come. We do not know what tomorrow holds, but for today, there is a new beginning.
A week ago I met Steve at Costco. We each needed items. Him for work, me for home. Since its opening in our town over 20 years ago, we have held membership through the school. This is one of the perks the move to a new career leaves behind.
Walking through the store last Friday, and unspoken sadness surrounded me. This is our last time to be in this space, this way, together. Many times we have met up to combine errands and grab samples. Sometimes a small person was with us. The milestone happened when we were alone, and it felt like a date.
I often make much and more of what is happening in my world. I sensed this was another ending as a boogie board, bathing suits, and a package of tortillas was placed in the cart.
Costco has played a big-box sized role in our family. At maximum under one roof level, there were ten of us living together. Countless Christmas, vacation, Saturday stock-up, and midweek shopping trips have taken place. I am sure membership could tell us how much money we have spent. I am sure I do not want to know.
Costco prepped me to welcome several babies, but number six stands out most. That winter I needed all of the fruit in the house before going into labor. I remember walking through the pantry on the way to the kitchen after a Costco run and saying, There is so much fruit. I bought all of the fruit. Now the baby can come, because we have fruit.
Then I organized the china cabinet.
In a weird way Costco feels like family. You cannot engage people and a place for 23 years and have it not. But Costco is not family. Or if it is, if I want to carry out that analogy, it is the family we need to take a break from in this season.
It is strange having that door closed to us. It was open for so long. It is time, though. It is time to cut back on all of the spending for all of the deals. I hope to occasionally tag along as a guest to stock up on essentials. Canned chicken, coffee beans, dog and cat food, dog dental chews, and hair care products are all Costco staples here. Maybe I will splurge on the black olives.
So many things are not staples, though. Non-essential. Too many of those items find their way to our cart. For now it is all about essentials and all about saying no to the Costco draw.
Good-Bye, (for now), Costco! How we will miss you!
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.
Mom, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I got the hanging basket for my girlfriend.
My son’s words rang through my ears along with the thought, I just blogged about them! Mortification followed close behind with shame bringing up the rear.
Laughter erupted from one who jumped from the table and dashed to the computer furiously typing in the search engine bar.
Mom just blogged about those flowers!
No, Please! Don’t look it up. I just need to delete the post. I knew I shouldn’t have written about them! Don’t read what I wrote. Please. I’m serious. I am so embarrassed!!!!!! Don’t look it up!
Sometimes I can laugh at myself, but this wasn’t one of those times. I was in a panic. The nineteen-year-old inside of me felt exposed and out-of-control, two things not tolerated in her. I ran to the kitchen set and began to sob. That wasn’t the best place, so I regrouped and returned to the scene of the crime, the dining room. That wasn’t good, either. Tears erupted as I dashed to my bedroom and grabbed my journal and markers.
It all made perfect sense. A missing piece, hunch, whatever you want to call it clicked into place.
The playful color of the pot and flowers. I knew that orange was girlfriend’s favorite color. Of course they were for her! I am not the only one in this house. I had even wondered, What if this really isn’t for me? What if I am just assuming it is because it is on my step?
So that thought had entered my mind before I dismissed it and blogged about how much I loved the flowers, etc., etc. . . Because I really did.
The tears would not stop. Something had set them off, and it was not even about the flowers. That’s the thing. It was about the girl inside who looks like a 46 year old woman but still has insecure wounds that flare up at unexpected, inopportune times.
And now the internet witnessed one of them. At least all 14 people who read my post. I quickly switched it to private while processing my feelings. It was a huge step to not delete.
My son came to talk with me. I explained that it was not about the flowers and all about my 19 year old self processing a wounded place inside, exposed by the flowers and laughter. He listened and gave me a hug. I allowed more tears to fall.
Engaging the topic more, we came to a place of understanding, and I rested in a mystery solved.
I found the other family member to clarify that I was not upset with the laughter, and the tears were not about or because of them. It was me. Sometimes I can even laugh myself. I am moving closer to being able to laugh about this situation now that the intensity of feeling has waned, and I have had space to sort out what was happening inside. The person I freaked out at was kind and understanding.
I sat in a place of grief with myself for other times when similar flare-ups occurred when my adult offspring lived at home. I am sure there were many irrational mom freak out moments that caught them off guard and hijacked moments of laughter with buckets of sobs and tears, turning them into all about mom moments. I was not aware enough to recognize and name what was happening inside like I am getting better at doing now.
I still have a long way to go.
I am learning and growing and circling back to the nineteen-year-old inside. She is still there needing care and attention, and it is time to show up and tend to her.
And in the end, I reinstated my post as public, making only minor changes in wording. I am keeping the basket on the porch until the lovely girlfriend is able to pick it up and take it to her house where it will bring playful beauty and joy as intended.
I am grateful for the gift of its presence and story to help heal another space in my heart.
May 1st. May Day. That very last thing I feel like doing is writing a post which is the very reason I am writing. The sound of resignation was named in me today, and if for no other reason, I am proving to myself and to others that I have not resigned. Not yet. I will write.
We all know that means Help me! Right? We know that? It’s the first thought that ran through my mind this morning when I woke and realized it was May first. Not, Look at the beautiful sunshine and a chance to live another day, but rather,
Help came in a delicious breakfast prepared by my daughter, in a timely text from a friend, in a painfully honest conversation full of hard truth with another, in buckets and gallons of gut-wrenching, soul-wringing tears and heart-pounding sobs. It came in music from the neighbor’s house as I weeded the strawberry patch.
It is with me now as I write.
Mayday is from the French, M’aidez. (Help me) I did not know this until I looked up the history. It makes sense. I am glad for those years of French to help me understand. At least I was learning pronunciation when I was not being sent out of class for disruption.
It is risky to ask for help. To receive help from others. To be reached out to and reach back. To feel safe in needing help. It is risky to need.
As I prepare for the final certificate 2 session next week and sit in my story, I am acutely aware of my need for, yet resistance to, help. I can see where resistance was formed and solidified. Where need was weakness and weakness was not tolerated.
I was needy.
Help waits for me at the end of the day in a living room with friends offering to engage hard struggles. I do not have to be alone in what feels too big and scary.
Because inside of me is a 19 year old who is trying to keep it together, and everything feels too big and scary.
It was time to roll the dimes. A certificate payment deadline loomed close, and while there were funds in the account, the numbers ran tight.
This season of being at home feels like a luxury item, one that I am trying to steward well. I am not actively bringing in funds from a job, though I am working hard to help manage those brought home by my hard-working partner.
He reminds me we are a team, and I believe that.
Dumping some of the dimes from the two-liter Coke bottle onto the floor, I began grouping them by tens to roll in bundles of fifty. Each roll held five dollars worth, and by the end I had fourteen rolls. That gave me $70 to deposit in the account. Every little bit helps.
More than the $70 was the tangible reminder that 700 times I felt seen. Each dime appeared in a random place when I most needed the encouragement of provision.
My banker friends might appreciate and eye-roll over the drive-through blunder I made at the window the afternoon I took them to the bank. As the drawer slid out, I placed a gallon Ziploc bag with fourteen rolls of dimes in it. Is it okay if I deposit these here in the drive-thru?
The teller graciously nodded as she pulled the drawer shut. I scanned the window while waiting, and my eyes landed on a red sign lettered in white No baggies or rolled coins in the drive-thru. Little Mae’s landed on the jar of dog treats.
Can we bring Dewey next time?!!!!
Waving frantically to get the teller’s attention I pointed at the sign and mouthed, I’m so sorry!
She responded that it was okay, and I asked if she had told me to come inside. She hadn’t. Then she asked if I needed a balance for the account. I didn’t. Sending two blue lollipops out to me and Mae, she sent us on our way.
I will be sure to go in the lobby next time! I am already on the lookout for more dimes to roll.
One month from today I begin Training CertificateLevel 2, a continuation of work begun in September, 2016.It sounds sudden, yet it is not, since I applied and was accepted in the fall. I just have not talked about it on the blog and have only mentioned it a few other places.
There is a different aura surrounding my pursuit of this training then there was with Level 1. I feel more ambivalence and remind myself that only I can take steps and make choices to move forward in my life. No one else can do it for me.
I continue to step into the unknown.
In December I was caught off guard by a friend one night at Community Worship Practice. She asked how things were going with part 2. Confident that I had not announced my pursuit of Level 2 I stood, confused. She reminded me that I had shared a link on Facebook.
I immediately knew she was talking about this which was a memory of where I was the year before (preparing for my second session), compared to this which was current. So consider this my official announcement of the next step.
I have been reading and writing in preparation as well as making travel and lodging arrangements. The location is closer, so I am planning a road trip for the first training. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and to meeting new ones.
What will I do with it? At present, I will continue to love and care for those closest to me in this very full season of tweens, teens, and adults in my home and life. Each stage requires a different engagement, and I am learning helpful skills to use in repairing rupture, restoring relationship, and recovering self. I am learning to navigate the waters of martial and family conflict with more courage and kindness.
That alone is success!
I know there is more on the horizon. I am gaining clarity as the fog lifts and clears and images come into focus. I am being met with possibilities in surprising ways. I am learning to imagine what could be in the midst of what is.
Thank you for being present and interested, Dear Readers! Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement as I level up. I am grateful and blessed.