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Facing Forty-Five

It’s the day after my birthday. I just finished reading and replying to all of the thoughtful facebook messages left on my wall. Yes, I realize that facebook suggests and reminds and encourages, but that is all it does. It invites. It is up to each person to choose to respond or not. There is total freedom.

A friend texts to ask, How is day number 2 of a new number treating you? For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I feel really, really hopeful about entering a new year. I really do. And I say this to those who are 42 or 36 or 29 or 24 and unsure of where they are and how they feel about life right now. I get that. So very much. Don’t give up hope!

There were many slogging along years and disappointing birthdays. There were times I didn’t think I would make it to another birthday. There were years of hard work and dry days where another birthday felt like checking another box off of the list of my life.

This birthday was different. Even my husband noticed that I seemed different. I think I was.

I worked really hard to be present and not borrow stress from the upcoming days and all that we have to do. I really tried to just enjoy the now. Having a little birthday buddy helped somewhat, but it also made for an exhausting day.

I woke early to excitement and pastries and cherries. There were gifts to open for both me and Mae and children to drive to school. My husband snapped a picture of us for facebook. My morning face isn’t getting any younger, for sure!

coffee and pastries

There was an awards ceremony for a fifth-grader, a shopping trip with my little birthday buddy, and a quick nap grabbed before lunch with my mom.

Little Mae

I was so proud of myself for knowing that I needed, and allowing myself to take, a nap!

Lunch was enjoyed at a downtown restaurant all the way to cake before heading back to pick up my girl and gear up for the afternoon car routine.

The fifth-grader and I looked at her yearbook together over a milkshake after dropping the other siblings at home. It was fun one-on-one time. When we got home, later than usual, there were flowers and a box on the porch and cards in the mailbox. My phone rang with a call from my adult son.

birthday booty

Daddy brought home dinner, so I didn’t have to cook. When Little Mae asked, What about the cake? we exchanged glances. There was no cake. There was a cake on the last day of school. There will be cake at her birthday party tomorrow. It’s okay that there was no cake. Facetime popped up on my phone with a beautiful girl on the other side. Child 3.

After we ate, the girls rode bikes outside with their dad watching, and I snuck away to my room for exactly five minutes before another wave of well-wishers arrived. That’s how the day went. Lots of exhausting celebration.

Once the children were all in bed, Steve and I walked the dog and settled onto the porch swing for a bit to catch up. All became quiet, and the day wound down, and I found myself not wanting it to end. But I also found myself eager to wake in the morning to begin another year and to embrace the new season that is coming as I face forty-five.

Thank you all for making my day so special! I felt the love.

coloring

PS Steve and I ended the day by coloring the first page of my new book together with my new pencils. Can you guess who the architect was?

Pinched and Pursed

I am not liking the way I feel these days, and it shows in my face. My forehead is pinched and my lips are pursed. It’s as if I have eaten something sour, because that is how it feels. Sour.

I don’t want to be that lady. You know, the one with resting b!tch face.

In some ways, maybe I always have been. RBF is an unintentional phenomenon, and yet, there is something to do with practicing, and I want to practice peace. There are deep breaths and relaxation techniques and processing the places where the B resides. Because she is in there.

It’s a name I was given and agreed with once upon a time. It’s a label I have worn and have had to face and to break agreements with. Though she lives inside, she is no longer needed.

Pulling out Beauty and the Bitch to re-read as my faith-based book for February, I was reminded of the importance of beauty, softness, and kindness to self in the processing of heart wounds and pain.

The following quotes are only a few of the many I marked and noted that spoke to the bitch in me, offering kindness and space to ponder. You are invited to be curious about this, as well.

If your heart was quieted, and the bitch was comforted by the fact that you are okay, that she doesn’t need to protect you anymore. . . wow, just think. p115

When we are triggered, we don’t see anything accurately. It is terribly unfair to be seen through wounded eyes, to find your own face being viewed as the face of someone harmful. ~ What are your triggered moments? ~ We must, quite simply, confess the harm we do, even when we are triggered. Then we can search for a deeper healing for those reactive places.    pp 37,38

Chronic control means living in the patterns we create to make life work. p 45

I was chosen, I was needed, and I figured out how to navigate my way through this adult neediness. The sad reality is that I was really good at it, skilled at calming her down (Jan’s mother), comforting her – until I was brought too far into my mom’s own dissociative recollection of abuse. Evil was waiting there (as it always is in the wings with a hurting child), taunting me with a pressured pride, You are very good at what you do, Jan, but you had better find a way to be ready at all times to come through, even if you don’t know what you are doing. pp 72,73

We are not delivered from our circumstances, though that is what we demand. No, we are delivered from the ways we attempt to create a world where our circumstances are not real. p112

The love of God is either real or it is not, and I’m telling you: it is real. Stay present. It is worth the cost. p114

Don’t underestimate the power of your uniqueness. p128

This 144 page book is one to read and re-read, to process through slowly. I’m still working.

Angered by the Call

Sometimes I wonder if I have changed, am changing, will ever change. I look back over the blog, read old entries, and think, really? STILL?

Sure, things are not exactly the same, but they are eerily similar. I found one such gem after looking through some old posts from the private blog. Sitting in my drafts folder was this memory from three years ago, almost to the day.

It is a different kind of hard that we sit in. We are always sitting in the hard, and maybe that is what I need to remember and learn as I sit in this Saturday afternoon between death and resurrection.

From March, 2013

It has been a hard day. Week. Season.

Life is so very full, which is a good thing. We are blessed. Work stress means there is work. House mess means people are living. Serving others means we are able-bodied.

It’s still been hard. Tiring. Draining. Exhausting. 

I had been looking forward to Good Friday.

Not in a, “I gave up caffeine for Lent and can’t wait for coffee on Easter” kind of way but in a, “I can’t wait for the school to be closed and to get to sleep in and have coffee with Steve” one. I was looking forward to hanging out together. 

Good Friday morning, Steve woke up and something was wrong. He was sick. It was his turn for the stomach bug that has been passing through our family for weeks. The violent, let me tear through your system and leave you languishing, stomach bug.

And I was angry.

Angered by the call to sacrifice my agenda and desire to have things my way. Angered by the call to suffer, because, after all, now I was going to have to do EVERYTHING myself and how is that FAIR? Can’t I even get a BREAK? A day OFF?

On Good Friday, the day set aside to remember the One who sacrificed his life entirely, the day I am on worship team for a special service, the day I am called in a minuscule way to lay down my own life and suffer and sacrifice for another, and my response is anger.

Not love.

Not Christlike.

Not taking up my cross to follow. Not even on Good Friday.

Only the painful, tangible, heart-rending reminder of why all of this had to happen.

For me.

February Goals Update

It’s a new month, and this first day of March seems a good time to post an update on the goals.

  • Spiritual ~ Maintain daily quiet time and prayer, following current Bible reading plan. Journal responses and thoughts that result from that time. Spend time in stillness. Read one faith-based book/month.

I am on track in reading, plowing through passages in Leviticus, Mark, Psalms, and Proverbs. This month I re-read Beauty and the Bitch by Jan Meyers Proett and hope to blog about it at a later date.

  • Family ~ Connect with Steve intentionally each week on a heart-level. Risk sharing something scary or overwhelming inside of me with him during that time. Connect with at least one child intentionally each week. Keep track. Make the most of one~on~one impromptu moments that arise with the children. Keep track.

I think I am connecting with Steve. I don’t know how intentionally, but it seems that I am risking the scary and overwhelming. Or maybe I’m just crying a lot. As to children, connection has been happening. Roo and I did a mother/daughter book study for 3 Wednesdays in February. We also did a coffee house together for her writer club. Kieran and I ate at Taste of Thai together after his district band concert. Coco and I had a mother/daughter shopping disaster trip that I will go ahead and count. Little Mae and I got donuts together one morning before school. Looks like my Kirk space is lacking, so I will try to meet him more intentionally this month. Also Coco. I would like to report a success next month. We shall see.

  • Social ~ Connect with at least one friend for coffee or conversation time each week. Say yes to fun. Make an effort to have people over to the house again starting with once/month. Adult kids and their guests are a bonus and not part of this number!

I have done well with grabbing coffee with friends on a few Saturday mornings. Thanks, Angela and Beth! I said yes to Brooke’s karaoke birthday party. There was lots of adult kid activity, but since they don’t count, it swings the other way, and our house guests have been of the shorter variety. I hope to have a successful adult/family interaction to report next month.

  • Physical ~ Do 20 minutes of yoga at least five times a week. Longer or more times is a bonus. Improve flexibility in my down dog. Practice presence on the mat. Consider walking Dewey as an opportunity to get exercise and fresh air and not an annoying burden built into my already full day!

Oh, Dewey. He has been giving me lots of opportunity for fresh air, and I am so glad that the sun is shining brighter and the air is warming up. Yoga is working, as I completed two sixteen-class challenges since the beginning of the year for a total of 32 classes. But who’s counting? Most mornings I am up at 5:30 and on the mat.

  • Teaching ~ Organize my teaching materials and office space. Write an encouraging note to one student/week recognizing individuality and strengths.

I wrote to one student this month. Definitely need to step that one up! I plan to double or triple up on this one from now to the end of the year. It’s a small class. My space is looking neater. Baby steps.

  • Personal Development ~ Pursue the Allender Center’s Lay Counseling Certificate. Read one book per month related to personal growth.

This is a big one. I actually applied to the Allender Center and had a phone interview. I will find out if I am accepted this month or next and then move forward from there. Application and acceptance does NOT mean that I have to go this year, but I am praying for it to be clear how I should proceed. My personal growth book was 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.

  • Ministry ~ Attend Stephen Ministry meetings regularly. Participate actively. Return to worship team rotation at least once per cycle.

I attended both Stephen Ministry meetings in February and heard great teaching from our leaders. I have been meeting regularly with my care receivers to both encourage and BE encouraged. It is so, so sweet. I will be singing on worship team this Sunday for this cycle.

  • Financial ~ Take intentional time with Steve to go over the family finances and budget and grow in understanding of our financial goals together.

This could use work, but I at least entered some receipts into the budgeting plan and was aware of how much money was in the categories that I needed to spend from.

  • Writing ~ Schedule intentional time each week to write and work on the blog. Submit one Red Tent post for consideration each month.

February’s Red Tent post was my most widely read and shared. March’s post has been submitted for consideration. I published eight posts on my own blog. I am still trying to find that intentional time to write and work, but there are only so many hours in a week, and there are real-live people in my world to love. Little by little.

If you made it this far, wow! Thanks. Here’s a little reward for your effort. It’s a reminder of what really matters, especially on a day like today. Do take five minutes to listen and reflect. Blessings!

In Which I Have a Dream

. . . about puppies!

It’s Leap Day, and before it ends, I want to write about something light-hearted and fun.

I blame my sweet friend, Davene, and her copious Facebook puppy pictures and posts filling my feed. I’d much rather focus on puppies than Presidential Primaries, which is saying something, because dogs aren’t even my favorite.

Just yesterday there was a video of the puppies venturing outside for the first time, and I watched it. Then there was the blog post about it. Then the dream.

I am fascinated by these puppies, seeing as I first heard that they were on the way on the eve of the big snow. Davene and I ran into each other at the library, and I asked about Willow and found out that she was great with puppies. Turns out, she gave birth to them during the storm.

I have followed their progress, often thinking, At least I don’t have 10 puppies to care for! in the midst of my overwhelm. We all have our own stuff, you know. Some people have puppies. There is lots of love to go around in the Fisher household and lots of schooling going on and lots of learning. It is pretty incredible.

Davene is pretty incredible!

On to the dream. It was one of those that comes in the night and just sticks. I still remember it, even after writing it down this morning in my Dream Journal.

We went to the Fishers’ house to see Willow’s puppies, finally, after talking about it for some time. As usual, there was attitude from a certain child or children who shall remain unnamed. Not unusual.

We were still driving our big white van, parked it, and got out.

We went into the house, and puppies were EVERYWHERE. They were anywhere you looked. Puppies. Crawling into this and out of that. The children noticed two that they wanted. In true dream form, they looked nothing like any of Willow’s ACTUAL puppies. They were more cocker-spanielish in appearance.

The Fishers were more than happy for us to take them, so we began making plans for that. I noticed an unusual-looking black puppy that seemed to have a collie-like appearance around the face and ruff around the neck. It also had stripes on its sides and a bushier tail. I noted to myself that it seemed to have gotten all of the recessive genes, and looked rather skunk-like.

That is when we noticed that it really WAS a skunk. It jumped onto my back and began clawing at me as I ran around, freaking out, in true Christmas Vacation form. THERE IS A SKUNK ON MY BACK!!!!!

I ran outside where it was somehow removed.

We loaded up and headed home with two new puppies to add to our menagerie. The dream ended with them being introduced to Dewey, Zephyr, and Buddy.

There you have my latest dream. It’s not big or life-changing or risky, unless I choose to analyze it. Then, maybe, I had better look out! Because, you know, there was that skunk and all of those puppies.

Restore

It was several weeks ago when a text came through from my youngest sister.

I want you to know that I am praying Joel 2:25 for you, that the Lord will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.

As one of my go-to people while processing the Return in 2015, she was privy to much angst and frustration over the mess that I was trying to wade through and understand. Her simple text touched my heart in a profound way, as I began pondering what restoration would look like.

restore ~ to put or bring back to an earlier or original state; to put back into use or service; to give back

Other words and phrases began popping into my head in various contexts. One such passage was this prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer.

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare Thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore Thou those who are penitent; According to Thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of Thy holy Name. Amen.

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. Yes. Left undone. Much.

Restore thou those who are penitent.

Restore.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:12, ESV

I have not felt much joy, lately, and certainly not over the salvation so graciously given to me by Jesus.

Restore joy.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness,
for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

Restore my soul. Yes. My soul is tired.

It’s interesting that restore is one of the words in the acrostic I did for return last year.

Remember
Engage
Think
Understand
Restore
Name

It reminds me that there are still places to return to, that I am not finished with that word totally, yet, but that I can back off and rest awhile. Rest in the mess.

When Steve asked me about this year’s word, I had a difficult time articulating why I chose it. I felt clumsy and awkward and began to panic and doubt my choice. I began to lose faith in my instincts and myself.

Maybe it’s not a good word. What do you think?

And that is where I knew it was right, because it is a good word and it’s mine. I don’t need permission or approval for my words to matter. I can choose them just because.

Maybe I need to restore some confidence in myself.

There was also a hard conversation yesterday that reminded me that this is a good focus for this year. There have been places in relationships broken, left undone.

Restore relationships.

Christmas break offered Steve and me a taste of unstructured time together. There were moments to just be and not feel rushed. There were moments when the kids were occupied and there were no immediate projects to attend to. We had snippets of time to dream and risk sharing those dreams with each other.

Restore our dreams. Our ability to dream. Restore our hearts.

So my word this year is a claiming of a promise made in Scripture and the continued walking by faith, believing that which is unseen. It is trusting that, yes, even what has been broken and felt shattered beyond repair can be restored.

Where might you hold hope for restoration this year, Dear Reader?

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten
Joel 2:25, ESV

 

 

Return to Year’s End

It’s another year’s end. Almost. Today I sit in the tension of a messy house and messy relationships and messy conversations and a messy heart.

Floodplain, the latest project by Sara Groves, plays in the background while my youngest plays in a box in the living room for her not-so-quiet-time.

Really we don’t need much
Just strength to believe it
There’s honey in the rock
There’s more than we see.

These patches of joy
These stretches of sorrow
There’s enough for today
There will be enough tomorrow.

I’m trying to trust enough for today.

My brain works faster than my fingers as thoughts bombard my head, trying to connect in a coherent way. Last year’s word drifts through my mind, filtering experiences and thoughts through its grid.

Did I do enough? Get it right? How was my progress?

I’ve been here before. . . Sara croons in the background. Friends, get this album. *She has an incredible gift . . . wondering why I can’t do better than I’ve done.

The hand of grace reaches down to me ~
A voice inside says that I can be free.

And I sit here wanting to be anyone but myself.

A voice inside says that I will be free.

Ah, yes, it’s another year’s end.

*When I say get this album, I mean it is amazing. I receive nothing from this link other than the joy of knowing that others may discover Sara’s gift of singing to the heart.*