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Horse

 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!

Canoes

We left New Jersey late Sunday afternoon with hugs and goodbyes and a bag of baked potatoes. While the women were at The River House celebrating the bride, the men were home grilling steaks with the groom.

Would your family eat these potatoes?

There was a tray of foil-wrapped potatoes that had been baked and then overlooked. My mind immediately went to a meal I could prepare with them. I am always grateful for a gift of food, especially at the end of a full weekend when I am returning home after a 5 hour drive to a fridge with sketchy contents.

A bag of New Jersey baked potatoes traveled home with us. I used them for supper last night in the form of Canoes, which is our version of twice-baked potatoes.

Here is the recipe:

Canoes
Baked Potatoes

Butter
Sour Cream
Milk
Cooked bacon
Shredded Cheese
Green onions or garden chives

The proportions, and amounts are based on the number of potatoes being prepared. I don’t follow direct measurements I just put everything into the Kitchen-Aid and mix it together until it looks creamy and delicious. The ingredients can be adjusted based on taste preferences and fridge contents. It is a forgiving, flexible recipe.

Slice potatoes in half and scoop out the middles. Put the insides in a mixing bowl and the skins on a cookie sheet (like canoes).

Add a bit of softened butter and sour cream to the bowl and mix well.

Begin adding milk until desired consistency (like making mashed potatoes).

Chop the cooked bacon into bits (or just use bacon bits if you have them). Stir the bacon into the potato mixture.

Add the shredded cheese, saving some to sprinkle on top.

Season as desired (salt/pepper/chopped green onion or chives).

If you have people who don’t like onions, then scoop out some filling into the potato skin canoes before adding onions to the rest.

Sprinkle the tops with cheese. Sprinkle a bit of chopped onions or chives over the ones that contain onions to mark them from those that don’t.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until everything is heated through and the cheese is melted. You may need to adjust the time or temperature for your oven.

Enjoy!

This is a delicious summer recipe. I served it last night with sliced watermelon, a salad filled with goodness from our garden, a heart full of thankfulness for daily provision and happy memories of a special weekend.

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!

Up Next

One month from today I begin Training Certificate Level 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 1I 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.

Resisting Routine

I am pondering and exploring my struggle with routine, namely, my resistance to it. I know that if I were teaching right now I would be reading to my students as they ate a snack. We would then pack up and spend fifteen minutes preparing for the school day to officially begin. From there the day would roll on in blocks of time, each with a specified task, until the end.

I am good with an others-imposed work routine. I know the benefits of following a plan to accomplish the things. It allows you to focus on what is being done in the present with the assurance that the next things will get done in their time. This saves physical and mental energy.

The struggle is with self-structure. I am a finite person with limited resources and must choose the best way to use them when there are so many good ways. And there are teachers. I am abundantly familiar with online and print teachers and coaches who encourage the use of personal routines.

The challenge is in the doing and the practice.

As I type the above sentence, I am struck with what I lack, and that is practice. Much of my life has been spent in overdrive, rushing from thing to thing with little intentionality. When others-imposed requirements are in place, I can follow those. If they are required to collect a paycheck, all the better.

When it comes to ordering my personal time or working on things to benefit myself, plans become muddled. This keeps me frozen and stuck and often at the mercy of others and their routines.

Once upon a time I stood in the kitchen of a new friend with my seven children scattered around. I felt like the biggest poser as she asked me questions about homeschooling (I didn’t) and home management (What’s that?).

At the time I was in a stay at home season. I had discovered Flylady somewhere online, and she rang familiar from my childhood with a mom who was a self-proclaimed SHE. I mentioned Flylady to my friend, most likely to have some sort of answer for her. As much as I tried to keep my home, there were more pressing matters like lots of children to keep.

Years passed.

Last fall we sat together in my living room, reconnecting intentionally to catch up. She had big changes on the horizon. During the course of our conversation she mentioned Flylady in a laughing way, something or another about not keeping up.

She reminded me that I was the one who had told her about Flylady. This reminded me about the whole others bearing witness to our lives thing (just now I typed withness and find that slip interesting.) I felt a mixture of shame and embarrassment at the woman I was who felt a need to share a system with someone rather than be okay with not knowing what I was doing or how I was doing it.

Maybe that is at the root of my resistance. Systems. For years in the midst of my overwhelm and wandering, the answer was always to find a system. The right chore charts, vitamin regimen, exercise plan, date night, home organization system was the answer. These treated symptoms but not root causes.

Having spent years addressing root causes and sorting through the beautiful disruption, it is time to rebuild. I am facing honestly my need for some sort of a routine, no matter how I may resist. I have come to the place where I know it is not the answer but a tool I am ready to learn to use.

So this new year finds me trying to imagine what a consistent daily and weekly routine might look like, with the understanding that even the best laid plans need room for flexibility. What about you, Dear Reader? Do you follow a set routine or plan? What inspires you to stay focused? What gets you off track? I am pondering these thoughts more as I continue moving forward in this new season of life. I would love to hear what works for you! Or not!

Black and White

December was my final month on Facebookand for weeks a “Black and White Challenge” floated around with specific rules for posting and tagging.

I am not one to appreciate or engage in social media posting and tagging games, but alas, I was finally tagged by a friend. Spending way too much mental energy deciding what to do (and hence confirming a decision I had already subconsciously made), I decided to play along with the picture part, but not the tagging.

Each day I took a random, real photo. No explanation, no people, according to the rules. The pictures explain themselves.

Here are the seven black and white photos taken from a life that is not so black and white.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

If you are on Facebook, did you take the challenge? How do you feel about posting and tagging games? Which of my pictures resonates the most with you? Do share! I am curious.

Friendship Friday ~ Facebook

Last fall found me wrestling the Facebook conundrum, once again. It remained on my mind throughout the season, as I made the adjustment from working full time to being back home.

On the one hand, I loved being able to connect quickly and instantly with so many past and present friends and acquaintances. I loved being able to pop into their worlds at will to see the latest news. I loved the number of hits and shares that my blog posts received when I cast them out into Facebook land.

On the other hand, I hated the quick and instant connection with so many past and present friends and acquaintances. I hated being able to pop into their worlds at will to see the latest news. I still loved the affirmation and hits and shares and likes, though.

I sat in ambivalence for several months, vacillating from focusing on the positives to considering deleting the account, often within minutes of each other, usually when in a place of high social media stress and emotion.

My grounding felt shallow and weak as I struggled with identity issues, while carrying on with daily tasks. Facebook became an escape from what was best, even though there was some good. My default was scrolling and peering through everyone’s cyber-windows and feeling all of the feelings for all of the people while absorbing all of the issues.

Something had to change.

I decided to be intentional about whatever choice I made, and in the end chose to disable my personal account and keep the blog page open. It offered a middle ground and opportunity to reset my personal self while still engaging my writing self.

At the end of two weeks I feel more space in my soul and less stress for all of the things beyond my control. I feel more real-life connection. I feel less awareness of the theoretical and more grounding in the practical.

There are things that I miss.

I miss the instant connection. I miss the reminders of where I was 3, 5, 7, 9 years ago. I miss the cute pictures. I miss the events and invitations (sometimes) and tagging. I miss knowing when a weather apocalypse could be coming (actually, no I don’t). I miss my groups. I miss being in the loop about the things that could actually matter.

To be honest, I have received a screen shot or two from an adult child who knows I would appreciate what pops up in her feed or might need a heads-up regarding an impending school delay or possible snow day. My husband sometimes shares things with me from his feed. I am not guaranteed to see things, though.

What about you, Dear Readers? How do you engage social media and all that goes with it? What am I missing while on my hiatus? I would love to hear your perspective! Thank you for stopping by my cyber-space today, however you managed to find me.

Words of Years Gone By

I sit at the extreme end of the day on December 29, 2017, not wanting it to end but knowing it must. This is how I am aware of growth. There is too much to do, to learn, to experience, and I do not want to miss any of it.

I have spent much of the day thinking of the words of years gone by. I spent time with my youngest sis pondering and processing over coffee. She knows my choice but has promised to keep it to herself until January 1. So has my luvvvvah, who also knows. These two met almost 30 years ago and have been constants in my life ever since.

Words of years gone by.

I am not sure when I began keeping track of them. The blog tells me that the first was was heal. That was in 2012. Subsequent years were hope, embrace, return, restore, and persist.

Old journals may reveal otherwise, but there is this sense I have that for many years I felt as if I were doing the same year over and over again. I longed for and cried out for growth that just would not come.

I am grateful for growth.

I am incredibly ambivalent about recognizing growth.

So at this day’s end, I sit in the tension. I bask in the joy of witnessing my drummer son creating music and my husband creating in the kitchen. I sit in a space of curiosity and openness to what is coming in 2018 while not wanting to miss a moment of what is left in 2017.

The last of the tucking of children into bed has finally happened and the remaining bit of hangout time with my man is left, so I will sign off for now.

What about you, Dear Reader? What are you anticipating in the new year? I look forward to hearing your word or intention or hope or dream and to sharing mine with you very soon.

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.