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.
The countdown is on!
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 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.
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.
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!
December was my final month on Facebook, and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.