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Five Songs

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.

Enjoy!

Next

Mrs McClay! What are you doing next year? Who is taking your place?

All I wanted to do was get through the Sharp Shopper checkout line with my groceries and my youngest and get home. I did not want to think about the question that plagues me daily ~ What’s next? I answered the grocery attendant with what I knew, the name of the teacher replacing me, hoping that my face did not look as blank as I felt.

I’m ——–‘s grandma!

Context is everything. Of course! There is something about crossing paths with someone as they occasionally drop off their little grandperson before school. The connection is obvious and belonging then. It is completely different to be in the grocery outlet line in the middle of summer and have the same person conversing like an old friend.

We made small talk as I gave my semi-rehearsed answer that still feels stiff and awkward, I’m not sure. That is what I am trying to figure out. What is next? I think I will take a gap year.

The thing is, before I get to next, there is a lot to tend to now.

Now looks like all of the things that have been put off due to the busy-ness of working and finishing my certificate. It looks like parenting four people still at home while hearing from four who have been grown but still need time and attention to process their parenting.

I am being reminded that when space clears, things move in to fill it. The space that has been cleared by me being home now instead of at work, even though it is summer and my normal in this season, has been filled with projects and conversations that have been on hold these past four years.

I have been holding a lot.

Next is waiting in the wings while I do now. Now is summer. It is time with family and friends. It is planning for vacation and ridding the house (and my heart) of excess clutter. It is taking time to read and to walk and to prioritize what is most important. It is catching up on appointments and looking ahead to fall a little bit and having space for conversations.

Now is a timer going off reminding me to head to the kitchen to fix some food and to take a deep breath and let go of next.

Ending Well

February 23 is when I first dared speak it. I was at an extra-curricular fair at the high school and connected with a safe sister who teaches there. I knew she would hold my words in confidence while holding me accountable to them. I had spoken them to my husband the day before.

I’ve made the decision to leave Good Shepherd at the end of this school year.

It felt terrifying, yet I knew I was the only one who could make the decision. No one else could do it for me. I needed to use my own voice. Hearing that voice speaking the words aloud stirred a mixture of fear and peace, confidence and uncertainty, joy and sorrow, relief and grief.

There was So. Much. Ambivalence. attached to the decision to end my teaching season.

There were nudges in the direction. I had agreed to two years when I signed on to return to the classroom. This was year four. There were changes going on in my world both internally and externally. There was little margin for the best with all of the good I was doing.

Wrestling with the decision was hard.

It was hard to imagine leaving the students and other teachers whom I dearly loved.

It was hard to imagine finding a replacement for my income.

It was hard to imagine walking by faith and not by sight. It was terrifying, but I knew it was time to step out.

I don’t know what’s next, but I know what’s now.

I penned these words in my journal the weekend I composed a resignation letter.  I turned in the letter on Monday morning, and then spoke in person to those I knew needed to hear the words directly from me, not in a memo or through the grapevine. I let them feel their feelings while I felt mine, not rushing through or trying to fix. It was so hard.

Again I wrote,

There are so many feelings inside. So much stirring. With the end of this chapter in sight, I need to be attentive to what is required to attend to the hearts around me and finish well. I am trusting what God has in store for me as good.

Last night was rough when the lights went out and things were still. I began to wrestle with the reality to end my time at Good Shepherd and with adulthood. What about all of the unknowns? Will you be there, God? Of course you will! How can I not trust that you have been and will be?

Holding my decision until an official word from the school office was released was challenging. I longed to write about my version of The End, May’s theme for Red Tent Living, and process on my blog, but the timing wasn’t right. I wanted to honor the timing.

I am glad that I did.

The day that the student intent letter went home with the information that I would not be the classroom teacher in the fall, there were many big feelings from small people, some of whom I had taught for all four years due to the nature of our program. There were feelings from adults, as well.

Today my students found out I am not returning next year. There were lots of feelings and emotions. Next week will be long. I need to trust.

There is much to ponder and process still about how that final week went. It was long. It was good. It was full. It was kind.

It is finished.

Miraculous Change

Miracles can happen. I attest to this in the midst of experiencing miraculous change. I wonder, though, if it is also the result of hard work. Am I in the middle of a miracle? Or is this the fruit of faith?

For years, deep inside my soul, unrest and fear coexisted with a helping of added pressure to perform. It was as if I had lost any ability to make choices. Had I ever experienced the power of active choice?  

I knew how to be passive and allow others to choose for me. I bore a burden of expectations, both other-imposed and self. If you can check off all of the boxes on this big list for everyone else, THEN maybe you can do something for yourself.

It is amazing that I did not self-destruct. In the midst of many struggles and losses, God in his deep kindness kept meaningful parts me intact ~ my singing voice, my body, my health. I am so grateful for that miracle.

There were small spaces that I claimed in the midst of the bigness of life. I found space to exercise, to read my Bible, to listen for the still, small voice, to cultivate what I could of relationships in the midst of whatever chaos was presenting, to care for my children, to love my husband.

I chose to stay open to my husband, even when I could not feel. In the midst of internal loneliness, I continued to engage external connection with him. In the midst of the fear of pregnancy and loss of voice over my body’s capacity to grow and bear children, I kept trying. Trusting. Even when I did not understand and had no words to bring, I tried.

I journaled a lot. It is a miracle that I allowed hard words to flow from my heart to paper.

I said yes to things that terrified me, like traveling internationally to be on a team leading worship at a women’s retreat. I said yes to lowering my guard and letting people peek behind the tinted automatic window of my heart before raising it up when their vision became too intense.

I kept going.

I said yes to an invitation to step deeper into my story at the Journey, parts one and two, with Open Hearts Ministry. I seized the weeks, those two years in a row, in the midst of a full life. I did not wait for the perfect time. That is miraculous.

I started a blog. Not sure of the end, not knowing where it was going, I threw words into cyberspace that would later be read by a woman who would reach back to me when I reached out to her. I risked being seen more closely, and miraculously ended up in a space of transformational friendship.

It feels miraculous that at 45 I am finally connecting with myself on a deeper level. How did this happen? Why now? I do not know. What makes a miracle miraculous?

I did not wake up one morning miraculously changed. I fought for my heart every step of the way and allowed others to fight for me, as well. God fought for me when I could do nothing but stand still and see his salvation. I let people in and relinquished the control that I held so tightly, concerning what people saw in me, when they saw it, and how.

Miraculously, healing came. Seasons and spaces of small heart miracles, sometimes involving just getting out of bed, led to this latest big miracle breaking open over my head, shattering and spilling me out all over the place. Slowing me down.

Your voice is slower.

You sounded different in your voicemail. Slower.

Wow! It’s already 7:00! Usually you have to leave to get somewhere else after this much time.

These words and more were spoken over me in the days following the most current miraculous. It was on the heels of my third weekend in Seattle at the Allender Center, pursuing the Lay Counseling Certificate. In this space I miraculously chose to risk, share, and be seen by others. I succumbed to holy terror.

Something happened. I still do not see the miracle clearly, because, Friends, we cannot see our own faces. All I know is that when we take off the mask or roll down the tinted automatic window, allowing others to see us, we invite miracles to happen. The fruit of that faith is sweet.

Friendship Friday ~ There’s Something About Second Grade

Maybe second grade friendships are in my face, since I just finished the school year, and my daughter just finished second grade. Maybe it is because one of the generous donors to my counseling certificate was a friend from second grade. Maybe it is because of this. Whatever the case, second grade has been on my mind, lately.

I corralled my three little girls one spring weekend to watch The Sound of Music while all of the boys were away. Forgetting that it is long enough for an Intermission, I settled in with them, to much initial protestation.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Immediately I was transported back to second grade, when I sang that very song to a girl in my class named . . . Maria. I thought it was so funny and clever, until the call came from a mother that I had called her daughter a demon. She didn’t appreciate that much. Turns out, it wasn’t so funny or clever, after all. Or kind.

I don’t remember if I found out from a parent or teacher, but either way, that lesson stayed with me always. It was my first experience with the blow that I had hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally and that words have meaning and consequences.

Take a minute to watch this clip. Seriously. Excuse the poor quality, but it’s the only I could find that played the part that I sang to my friend.

A few things stand out to me as curious about this incident and movie.

First, I knew the song well enough to sing it through, which means I must have watched the movie or listened to the soundtrack quite a bit. Second, I can remember facial expressions and things about this particular scene that intrigued or bothered me as a girl . . . the nun who pipes up, Except for every meal with a friendly smile on her face ~ intrigued.  Mother Superior singing, How do you hold a mooooon-beam in, your, hand? ~bothered. Third, I remember acting out scenes from this movie, including putting on my twirliest dress and running up the “hill” in our back yard, and then twirling down singing, The hillllls are alllllive, with the sound of muuuuuusic.

I am serious.

I didn’t really think that my friend, Maria, was a demon. I did think that it was interesting that she had the same name as one of my favorite characters in my favorite movie. I risked getting too playful and too carried away, and that is a big part of second grade.

Second grade is playful and funny and innocent and hurtful all rolled into one. Friendships need help to grow, and little people need help learning to care for one another’s feelings and hearts.

The sweetest thing about second grade is how golden the friendships can be. There is something about someone seeing and knowing you and liking you for who you were at the beginning, before the messages of not good enough began to set in.

As I watched my second graders signing each other’s yearbooks, I was reminded of that same activity with my own second grade friends and pulled out a yearbook from 1979 to take a look.

Jennifer

Here is a signature and drawing by my generous donor.

II Timothy 2:15

Next to that is a Bible reference. Always an important part of a Christian school yearbook signing.

best friend

And this message signed by a friend who I didn’t realize considered me her best. That is the beauty of second grade friendships. Every one is the best!

I love you, my grown-up second grade friends. You, too, Maria.

You’re a lamb, wherever you are.

Keeping Memories

I don’t think it’s that you have too much stuff. I think it’s that you have a lot of people to keep track of, and so it looks like too much.

These words of wisdom, spoken by my recently graduated high school senior, offered comfort to my heart, as I sat sorting and sorting and SORTING at the dining room table. End of the school year papers, awards, and report cards only scratched the surface. There were bits of art work, creative stories, and pictures in the mix. There were outgrown toys being boxed up and brought down from rooms.

There were my own issues coming into play, surfacing in the midst of the sorting. There was the reality of another year passing and change knocking on the door of my heart, or at least tapping me on the shoulder. There was a deep sense of reminding and remembering.

Once upon a time I dumped my memories into the trash. Boxes containing awards, medals from band and music achievements, childish journals and pictures, scrapbooks, all were cast aside. In their stead, I packed boxes of magazines for the mid-senior-year move that wrenched me 1,100 miles away from all that I knew.

Upon arrival at our new house, I asked when trash day was, so that I could leave the box of magazines on the curb. When packing up the old house, now several states away, mom had to leave her dining room chairs for lack of room on the moving truck, and dad’s tools went like hotcakes at a fire sale. I think we all were in a state of disorganization, shock, and chaos.

Maybe this factors into why my children’s memories are so important to me, and why I find it necessary to save things of perceived meaning. I want them to remember, or at least have the option of remembering. I don’t want to revise, though. Therein lies a bit of tension.

Each child has a clear plastic tote in the basement where items holding memories can be tossed. They also have a binder on a bookshelf with clear page protectors where papers can be inserted. Finally, each has a file folder where I can quickly sort and stash paper items to save for later.

I realize that everything cannot be saved, and I am not an advocate of hoarding. What holds meaning for one child does not for another, so one may have notebooks filled with written stories and hand drawn pictures, while another has objects no longer played with but still special.

Some kids are more sentimental than others.

Here is a list of things that I place value on and often date and save:

  • Creative writing or original stories
  • Hand-drawn pictures, especially “firsts” first drawing of a person or drawing of our family or written name. Usually found on the back of proper school work or on a church bulletin somewhere.
  • Samples from various developmental stages A kindergarten drawing of a family looks different than a third grade drawing, so I might have a sample of both.
  • Places where identity or dreams are processed What I want to be when I grow up. What makes me special now at whatever age I am.
  • Notes from others written to them
  • Words of affirmation
  • School certificates or awards
  • Team pictures
  • Programs or playbills from concerts or performances or recitals they were in
  • Notes written by them to us, even painful ones where they are angry
  • Birthday lists
  • Anything they request that marks a milestone or end of an era One child often asks me to put small items in the memory box that are outgrown, yet meaningful.

There are so many other options, and each family and child is different. I tend towards the tangible rather than the digital, even though I blog and do plenty of work with technology. No, I don’t save everything, and sometimes when going through items, I pare down further, realizing that I was a bit over-the-top.

On this particular sorting day, I processed my workbasket which was piled high with end-of-school-year paper items. Pulling everything out and separating into piles for each child and then into binders and finally onto shelves, the feeling of a slate being clean was very real.

I am ready for fall with the middle schoolers’ elementary items boxed away and the elementary child’s sorted into her binder. The high-school graduate is preparing to move and doing some serious de-cluttering of his own.

Maybe it is the season of mid-life processing that I am entering that calls me to keep memories for those who do not know their value, yet. Maybe it is the reckoning with myself. Whatever it is, by keeping memories for my children, I want to hold for them that who they are is connected to who they were as they grow into who they are becoming.

I also want to get a jump on my mama final exam.

Provision

I am resting in it. Confident that what has been started will be completed, this is where I talk about how God is faithfully supplying my needs and wants and making a way for me to get to Seattle four times during the upcoming school year.

I asked my friend Angela to close out the Go Fund Me account this week. After being open for a month, it reached $935, thanks to many generous friends and family members. $2,435 came in off-line in the form of gift checks, birthday money, and creative saving.

I appreciate the awareness  that the Go Fund Me account brought to my desire and also the boost that it gave to my educational savings account. I also appreciate the fact that I am able-bodied and can work to make and save money to add to the amount. I feel abundantly blessed and encouraged that so many took an interest in a longing and dream of mine and felt led to offer financial support to help make it happen.

At the same time, I know that there are many other needs in our circles and communities, and it seemed like the right time to end a formal fund-raising campaign once I knew that there would be enough to cover tuition expenses. Travel and lodging will fall into place. Those are the next steps to take.

Some of you have asked or been curious about how funding is going and how to help. If you wish to contribute, or were planning to before I closed out the account, you can still write a check directly to me. I will deposit any donations into into my education fund account. 

I hope to keep the blog updated with progress on a monthly basis. At this time I have $3,370 set aside in an account for the $4,000 tuition that will be due over the course of the year. I plan to continue to add to that with money that Steve and I budget and that I raise or earn in other ways. Travel expenses will come from that. I have contacts in Seattle willing to help with housing if dates and times line up.

To all of my blog subscribers who received the preemptive note to self that was accidentally published, this is the post you were looking for. Not this.

In God’s kind timing, however, I needed to read that post as I wavered and waffled on the VBS fence, yet again this year. I am constantly surprised by the way He works. I plan to do preschool kid-vid again.

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