WordPress reminds me of this today with a three year anniversary achievement notice. Three years ago I signed up for a free account on WordPress.comtitled The Compost Pile and kept it private, by invitation only. It was my first tiptoe into the blogging world, and I wasn’t ready to be all out there, yet.
Three years ago I was in a space of a breath, still home with Little Mae who attended preschool three days a week, not yet back to working full time. There was time to explore the idea of blogging. There was time to meet with friends. There was time for personal reflection, however brief.
I started that private blog in the quiet on a Wednesday afternoon, just doing a little bit of something. Here is the first post.
I am sitting in in the quiet mess of mid afternoon.
Trying to open my heart and feel love, joy, peace. Mustering up the courage to take a leap of faith.
Seasons change, and I am entering a new one. One with time to slow down and reflect and be. To learn to live in confidence of my standing in Christ. To believe that it’s not all I do but who I am.
So many big thoughts encompass my mind. I want to slow down and take time to think them. To trust and understand. To process through and accept.
Jesus, draw near.
Little did I know where that first hesitant step would begin to take me . . . thank you for joining with me on the journey, Dear Readers. Your encouragement and thoughtful comments keep me writing!
In the quiet corners I am being grown. I am coming into myself, into an understanding of what it means to be heard; to be known.
The quiet corners are not flashy, and they certainly don’t gather much attention. If anything, dust and debris are found there along with treasures swept aside, long forgotten.
Still growth happens in the quiet corners.
I unroll a yoga mat in the quiet and stretch muscles and limbs into postures of openness. Of stillness. I reach into the corners of my mind to calm the chatter that calls me to notice all that is anxious and out of sorts. I breathe stillness into those frantic places, inviting quiet.
Sometimes my invitation is accepted. Not always.
I open my laptop in a quiet corner, with timer set for twenty minutes, to stretch my mind and coax my thoughts into willing participants in this growth. Words that have been piling up on slips of paper, in pages of journals, and on notes in my iphone come pouring out in a steady stream, each impatient to make its entry onto center stage.
They clearly have yet to learn about quiet corners.
Only one can go at a time. Patience.
The quiet corners are kind. I don’t always believe this, but it is true. I experience a taste of the noise when a post I wrote for Red Tent Livinggets more views than I expected and the day becomes loud. That is when I appreciate the quiet.
In the quiet corners ambivalence finds me. Conflicting feelings longing for more, yet content with less war together, challenging me to move forward out of the corners and into the middle of the room. The invitation to step up and out taps me on the shoulder and whispers, “It’s time.”
Comfortable in the quiet, willing to stay there as long as necessary, not allowing myself to be dictated by numbers or defined by who does or does not likeme, I also need courage to step out into the noise. To take on the call I have been given to love, engage, grow requires a move out of my comfort zone.
I am moving. Slowly, tentatively, maybe not as quickly as I would like, I am stepping out of the quiet corners and into the noise of the struggle where I will stay for a season until the quiet calls me back.
One of my goals for 2016 is to write and submit to Red Tent Livingeach month. Whether a post is accepted or not is beside the point. The exercise and discipline of writing is what I am after.
I held this in my heart quietly and ambiguously as I am wont to do and for good reason. In fact, rather than intending to write each month, I told myself I would do it on a regular basis.
What regular basis meant was left open to interpretation, and since I was the one interpreting, it was pretty safe.
If I don’t say it out loud, no one will know.
It meant that when I saw the theme for February was Sex?, and I had already submitted for January, I could breathe a big sigh of relief and decide that every other month was a good enough regular basis.
What’s going on with me avoiding a topic that is hard and feels terrifying? Why am I having this thought? Who cares whether I write or not? Why am I bothered by my avoidance?
I knew I needed to write. Something. Even if I never hit send, there was something there. I opened a new document and began typing.
There is not much space in my world right now. Usually when I want to write, a topic has been floating around in my head for awhile and the act of opening my laptop and getting it down is the culmination of the process. Twenty minutes later I am finished, especially if it’s for my personal blog.
The Saturday morning in early January that I began free-typing thoughts on Sex? left me feeling agitated and disrupted. I shared words with my husband who found them powerful and honest and necessary. I found them raw and vulnerable and way over-exposing.
It was a good first step.
I knew I needed to keep moving forward towards the terror and discomfort. I knew I needed to engage my heart with curiosity and kindness, thanks to those who have invested time in helping me to process my story. I closed the document and took some deep breaths.
What was up with that? I usually don’t feel this disrupted after writing. I’m glad that I began this post early in the month. There is still a lot about my journey with sexuality that needs to be sorted.
Finished with the editing of my article, saving the raw original document for myself in another folder, I opened an email to submit my work. Usually I include a few words along the line of, Here is a post for consideration this month. This time there was a paragraph of back story and explanation that definitely left plenty of room to not consider this month’s offering, but thanks for the opportunity to write.
The response that my post was in the line-up for this month left me feeling many things . . . excited, nervous, terrified, proud.
After posting this journal entrywritten nine years ago, a friend asked what I would change had I written it today. Full of shoulds, I had resisted editing them out.
This is my Return to Romans 12.
It’s hard to present myself as a living sacrifice through the daily offering of my life to God.
It’s easy to sit in the early-morning quiet and ponder the measure of grace I have been given for the tasks I have been called to. Harder is to step out and act on them, viewing the inevitable conflicts and messiness ahead as my reasonable service.
It doesn’t feel reasonable to do laundry, plan meals, clean up dog poop and pee, change small animal bedding, listen to middle-schoolers arguing over preschool toys, watch mail and bills pile up, pack lunches, fix breakfast, mediate arguments, deal with disappointments, find socks, walk the dog, scramble for lost papers and permission slips, pack lunches, figure out the daily school drop off and pick up schedule, spend hours in a classroom, monitor homework, figure out computer time, and do it all again tomorrow.
My desire to conform to the world tells me there must be something more than this. That I have missed out. This feels boring and pointless without a renewed mind that says, You are being transformed!
Being transformed sees my life as full of opportunities to love as Christ, to use my spiritual gifts, and to function as part of his body on earth. It sees these opportunities before me in my home as valid and meaningful.
So in my walking through each day, rather than wallowing in not this again, my cry is, Transform my heart, Lord! It is thinking of myself more highly than I ought to demand that I not bear my part of the broken, the painful, the hard. I am exactly where I need to be to fulfill God’s merciful plan for my life.
Believing this offers rejoicing in hope while practicing patience in tribulation. Instead of wallowing in the dog poop on the floor, I can rejoice that there are no longer poopy diapers! Once upon a time those were my biggest trial.
There will always be a new biggest trial.
My prayer is for a fervent spirit making me diligent about the work I have been called to today. I long to give preference to my family with brotherly love, to distribute to their needs with kindness, to show them hospitality.
If my greatest “tribulations” are a house to care for (shelter), laundry to do (clothing), meals to plan and prepare (food), and a classroom to run (employment), how ungrateful to complain about the blessings in my life. Transform my heart, Father, to see as you see and to receive the good gift of this day from your hand.
I have the best of intentions. Lots of thoughts. I think, I should write that idea/phrase/word progression down. I do. Or don’t.
I have ideas of how this blog should work. I set quiet intentions for myself. Small goals. Just write, I say. Then I click onto Facebook or Instagram and scroll and troll and ponder and pine and lose time. I don’t write.
I add a title for a new post, hoping to come back to it. To be inspired. But I’m tired.
I take a picture. I’ll write about that, for sure! I think. Folders of pictures wait in my laptop. When did I take that picture of that great cappuccino? I wonder, scrolling through piles of dates. I was going to blog about it. What was I going to say, again?
I am as unorganized in my virtual life as I am in real life.
The purple paper journal holds more, these days. Where blog words fail, journal words flow. The raw. The realest of real. The place for my heart to cry out, rough and unpolished. Often journal words meander to the blog, but only after they have had time to age like fine wine.
Or maybe after I’ve had a glass or two of fine wine.
When words fail, and I’m feeling flat, I am amazed at how encouragement comes.
Tonight it came in the form of being tagged in a Facebook comment along with this amazing blogger.
A mutual friend commented on how we have encouraged her to take positive steps and make some pretty big changes in her life. Little did she know how much her words were encouraging me. Encouraging me to write. To keep going. To just do it, whatever IT is in this moment.
So, I am writing when words fail.
Thank you, Dear Friend, for stepping out and saying the words.
Often we think them. How often do we say them? Or tag them?
Tonight in the tagging, I was given a gift. A fellow warrior-princess gave me the courage to keep writing even when words fail.
And also, maybe I will try crow pose again myself one of these days. 😉
Thursday I picked up a friend from the airport. As part of this journey I had chose to ride some escalators in Dulles Airport. Standing at the bottom of the longer one, I snapped a picture and posted it to social media.
There’s a story behind this that I must not have heard! commented a friend.
Of course, there is a story. There is always a story. Are stories.
A vivid memory of my first field trip, taken in kindergarten or first grade, to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. places me at the top of an escalator, looking down. I am not able to step on, because I am terrified. I am small enough for the chaperon to have to carry me down the escalator, which he does. I feel safe.
Questioning my parents about this confirms that it is a plausible memory.We lived in an area where field trips to the DC area were common. It could have been a family trip, since we went there often with family and friends, but it seems that I would know the difference between a parent carrying me and a safe stranger.
Family trips contain memories of not getting freeze-dried astronaut ice-cream or not eating in the cafeteria but packing sandwiches in a cooler. Family trips would have most likely involved elevators due to the number of small children and the stroller. And somehow I knew there was a chaperon. That word is in my head.
Of course, as an adult and a teacher looking back, taking young children to the National Air and Space Museum seems stressful. Did it really happen? I am grateful to have listened to this podcast on memory this week. I appreciate Dan Allender’s perspective and insight on the subject.
“But the question itself betrays an assumption we make about memory—that if memory is true, it is accurate to a degree that it would actually be comparable to watching a videotape. […] That’s not the way memory occurs. It’s not the way we even remember what we ate or who we were with for last evening’s meal. […] No memory holds a kind of videotape accuracy.”
I have an adult escalator memory, as well.
Years ago, when our eldest children were 4, 3, and 22 months, we took them, and my 8 year old sister, to the National Zoo. There was a double stroller involved, yet as with most stroller activities, the littles weren’t riding in it.
Steve, my sister, and firstborn were ahead of me trucking along to the escalator that would return us all to the Metro from the zoo. I was carrying a toddler and holding a little boy’s hand behind them.
As the three of them stepped confidently onto the descending stairs with the double stroller, I froze at the top with two small children in hand. My feet feel numb and legs itch even as I type this.
With no free hands available, I tried to pep-talk myself into taking that first step, but I just couldn’t. The little boy holding my right hand would follow my lead forward only to be jerked back at the last second.
Ok. The NEXT time a group of people steps on, I will go. They will at least break my fall if we go pitching forward. Lift foot. Jerk back. Confuse son. Vice grip daughter.
I was stuck at the top in a minor panic.
My husband reached the bottom, looked up, and immediately realized what had just happened. Going into rescue mode, he located the elevator, returned to the top, and escorted us to the elevator and safely to the bowels of DC (is that an oxymoron?) to be returned via subway to our minivan.
Over the years, I have risked and grown in my use of elevators. I do much better when I am alone or with other adults and not responsible for small children or reckless teenagers. I can even navigate a piece of luggage going up. Going down is a little more stressful.
Here you see me risking two years ago when we took the littles to DC and rode escalators at some point.
Clench a jaw!
I was reminded of this as my friend and I made the trip in reverse, she with a large rolling suitcase.
Do you want to take the elevator down?
No, I’m fine.
I took a deep breath, reminded myself of her adult status, and held on for the ride.
Last night I did it. I opened the folder on my desktop titled Old Fone Pics. Yes, that spelling is correct. My teenage son set it up last year.
It’s the place where old memories got dumped before new ones began being made.
So many memories.
I opened it and began rotating pictures, because many were on their side. Laughing at how small and cute my littles were and remembering the endless trips to Explore More, I marveled that I thought we would somehow grow into an easier season of life. We have grown into a different season of life.
Not easier, though.
Those three years have passed and then a little extra. Things do look different.
Like the lines on my face and the sparkles in my hair.
I found this picture of little Mae looking like her big brother.
Whether it’s the hair, eyes, mouth or a combination of all, I was so struck that I called him to come see me. We laughed as he asked me to post the picture to his facebook wall. I translated the request to mean, That is super-cute and really DOES look like me.
I posted it, as well, captioned by What do you mean all my kids look alike? Little Mae with a Kieran face.
A friend commented, We all told you when she was BORN that she looked like Kieran. So cute!
These are the moments where I am grateful for my community. My village. People who knew, know, and remember. Who can bear witness to my life. Often I just don’t remember.
Thank you for remembering!
I cherish moments like the one I had in Costco last weekend.
I walked in, showed my card, and was talking to little Mae as we decided where to go first. Seeing a familiar face from church, I smiled. She commented on my voice, I recognized that voice!
I recognized her face and smile, but we had never had a conversation at church. I was taken aback. I guess I DO talk a lot, or something similar, I joked.
Later she found me by the bread for a proper introduction. Turns out, we had shared an earlier season when she worked at Good Shepherd as a high school student. Thus the voice recognition. Knowing this made much more sense. I took a deep breath and asked the question I save for these moments.
So what do you remember about me?
That’s a difficult, but necessary, question, because I don’t always remember, and I want to know. What do YOU remember?
She remembered me with three small children, the youngest of which was a baby. We caught up on our present-day lives as only you can in the bread section of Costco.
How do I not remember?
My friend commenting on little Mae’s picture kindly and wisely remarked, How??? Um…there was a LOT going on at that phase of your life… It’s called the “Eighth-Child-BLUR…”
Yes. Every phase has been a LOT. A blur. Thank you for bearing witness to my life, Friends.
It is a rare afternoon that I am home by 3:30 with no agenda stretching into the evening.
This is one of those afternoons, and yet, it has come with a cost. It cost me much pride, as I admitted to a group of people who were counting on me that I needed space tonight. Space to care for my family. Space to care for my heart. Space to breathe and reflect on where I am in the overwhelmingness of life right now.
I am grateful that this group is safe enough for me to share honestly. They heard me with much grace. It feels shameful and embarrassing to admit my struggle. I am trying to be kind to myself in acknowledging this need.
My heart has been in a difficult place these past few weeks months, and I have kept on. I haven’t spent much time reflecting, figuring out, processing or caring for myself and those closest to me. I have done the next thing and the next and the one after that.
This is all well and good. We need to do the next thing. We need to keep commitments and obligations and feed our family and provide clean clothes for everyone to wear. We need to be able to be counted on.
Somewhere in there, though, I started to drown. Rather than reach out and speak up, I tried to manage. In all honesty, I don’t even know if I recognize well when I am drowning.
There is an article that surfaces in the summer about what it looks like when a child is drowning. I can relate to not being able to call out for help and not being able to move towards help. I know how it feels to focus all available energy on just trying to survive while quietly slipping away.
Emotional drowning and physical drowning feel eerily similar to me.
In this moment I am home from work. Three of the five at home kids are here doing after school stuff together. They are playing and romping and experiencing and resolving conflict. I can hear them through my closed bedroom door.
I sit on my bed in comfy clothes, laptop and blinds open, alternately tapping out words and thoughts and gazing up at the blue sky through the window. I try to be mindful in this space and not feel panic that it will end too soon.
Tonight I will be here for my husband and children. I will receive an evening of grace extended by those who had to make alternate plans because of me.
I can’t take it back and say never mind. Just kidding. I’m really fine.
I let them see.
We will meet together next week to process and discuss and figure out what’s next. I will have to face them in person in all of my broken vulnerability, not just through a group email.
I will choose to take this risk to reach out and be known.