Tag Archives: struggle

Fall’s Promise

It’s the first day of fall. The kitchen calendar reads Autumn Begins, and my autumn begins with an early morning appointment. Stepping outside, a rainbow greets me through the gray, a reminder of faithful promises kept.

I need all of the reminders.

I need color breaking through the gray.

My early morning destination offers space to walk outside near a calm lake surrounded by trees. The bench near the water is wet with mist. I embrace every moment of the present. There is beauty in the sunshine and in the blue sky that peeks through the clouds.

Afterward, I visit my parents to catch up with an uncle who is here from out of town. Laughter surrounds the breakfast table as he shares stories of my cousins and memories of his own. I drink my coffee from a mug I brought back for my parents after a Seattle trip, a token gift for help they offered while I traveled.

I think of my friends who are there now and offer up a prayer. I remember the early fall day two years ago when I walked to The Seattle School for the first time.

I continue to cling to the color, to remember that the gray passes, even as it swirls around me. Heaviness is not as easily shed as I wish.

Back home I supervise chores and help with homework and prepare lunch. I simmer fall scent on the stove and light a pumpkin candle on the table. A squirrel plate replaces the plain saucer underneath.

I fold and lay a leaf-covered fall tablecloth over the buffet, replacing the cream-colored one of summer. I cut up carrots and potatoes and put them into the crock pot with chicken broth, the beginning of fall chowder.

It is all very ordinary, and there lies the promise.

The promise is that I will be met in the ordinary places.

I struggle to embrace ordinary and to settle into the space. It feels foreign to not just forge ahead to the next thing, which is what I have done for most of my life.

Texting a sister turns into a phone call where we jump in together to catch up on life. Her words speak truth and our laughter lightens my heart. When we hang up, colors are more vivid.

Fall’s promise is that I can trust God’s faithful care in this season, just as in the 47 that came before. The work in me is being completed, and I can rest in that. Life is full of color in unexpected places if I choose to see it.

Sometimes I don’t have to look very far. For those moments I am grateful.

Welcome, Fall!

Into the Woods

The hike began with micromanagement, a thing I still struggle to contain. A scan of everyone’s clothing and footgear upon exiting the car resulted in commentary rather than trust that my children are no longer 8,6, and 5 and can dress themselves now without input from me.

This was after posing for the before hike picture of the girls and me that Steve wanted to take and hearing everyone’s feelings about it. Over identification seeped from every cell in my body. Will I ever be free of that curse?

We stood at the head of the trail as I voiced my doubts and concerns. Feelings were strong. A decision to proceed with the hike was made. We began to walk. I lingered behind.

The girls led the way with their dad. I tried to focus on the gift of solitude and shade that the trail offered. Flat and high and green, it was a beautiful walk.

Do justice. Love mercy. Be humble.

The shirt that I wore seemed to mock me. I felt false. When another hiker heading back leaned over to me and whispered, I like your shirt, I smiled weakly.

Thanks.

The hike continued. We stopped for our first water break, courtesy of my amazing husband who looks out for us all always and somehow managed to find a water bottle for each, even though none were packed.

I’m sorry for not trusting that you know what to wear and for making a big deal about it.

I think I said something along these lines to my daughter. I hope I did, anyway. If not, that was my intention. Truly.

Walking on, my head began to clear and heart began to pound. How could I only be at 10% of daily exercise? How many steps have I taken? Surely it’s been more!

My focus turned to NOT looking at the activity tracker on my wrist and trying to keep my thoughts kind.

The hike was hot, sweaty, and just the right length. We turned around in a realistic place rather than pushing ourselves to exhaustion.

Upon return music began playing in the kitchen as lunch was fixed.

Yes. I need to smile for awhile. Taking a deep breath, I turn up the corners of my mouth and exhale.

Coloring

One of the many challenges I face while doing this work is that of staying present in my own story and not carrying everyone else’s along with me.

Last week I sat with a wise friend who reminded me that while I play a major role in my children’s stories for a season, I am not their entire story. They will each walk their own path of growth and self-discovery with God, separate from me.

It is easy and familiar to make myself too big and too responsible. I feel a need to carry each of them with me on the journey. Instead of focusing on the work I need to do for healing, I circle back to how my woundedness has harmed those in my world. This keeps me from the task at hand, which is uncovering more of my own story and tending to my own heart.

We are all wounded and wounding souls. As I get closer to my own wounds, I see how my response to them has wounded others. This week is for tending to my own story. There will be space and time to process with those in my world when I return.

A friend gave me a care package Monday evening before I left. Among the thoughtful items in it was an adult coloring book. It has turned out to be one of the kindest gifts.

Last night, my mind swirled with all of the life still going on at home and all of the things I can’t control in everyone’s world. The bigness of this trip was bearing down on me. I struggled to stay upright and grounded.

Flipping through the coloring book, I came across this page. The scripture and flowers spoke to me as I tore it from the book and began to color one flower, then another.

I focused on the worries of my heart, giving them over to God. As I colored each flower I focused on a particular care or person. My mind stayed present in the moment.

Before bed last night I looked up the reference in my Bible and read the surrounding verses.

Unless the Lord had helped me I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” But your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:17-10

Yes. This.

My prayer this week is that the doubts in my mind will be replaced with the comfort of God and with renewed hope and cheer, supported by the Lord’s unfailing love.

Blessings, Friends! Thank you for your love and support on the journey and for joining me here in this space. Each of you is a gift to my heart.

Mystery Solved

Mom, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I got the hanging basket for my girlfriend.

My son’s words rang through my ears along with the thought, I just blogged about them! Mortification followed close behind with shame bringing up the rear.

Laughter erupted from one who jumped from the table and dashed to the computer furiously typing in the search engine bar.

Mom just blogged about those flowers!

No, Please! Don’t look it up. I just need to delete the post. I knew I shouldn’t have written about them! Don’t read what I wrote. Please. I’m serious. I am so embarrassed!!!!!! Don’t look it up!

Sometimes I can laugh at myself, but this wasn’t one of those times. I was in a panic. The nineteen-year-old inside of me felt exposed and out-of-control, two things not tolerated in her. I ran to the kitchen set and began to sob. That wasn’t the best place, so I regrouped and returned to the scene of the crime, the dining room. That wasn’t good, either. Tears erupted as I dashed to my bedroom and grabbed my journal and markers.

It all made perfect sense. A missing piece, hunch, whatever you want to call it clicked into place.

The playful color of the pot and flowers. I knew that orange was girlfriend’s favorite color. Of course they were for her! I am not the only one in this house. I had even wondered, What if this really isn’t for me? What if I am just assuming it is because it is on my step?

So that thought had entered my mind before I dismissed it and blogged about how much I loved the flowers, etc., etc. . . Because I really did.

The tears would not stop. Something had set them off, and it was not even about the flowers. That’s the thing. It was about the girl inside who looks like a 46 year old woman but still has insecure wounds that flare up at unexpected, inopportune times.

And now the internet witnessed one of them. At least all 14 people who read my post. I quickly switched it to private while processing my feelings. It was a huge step to not delete.

My son came to talk with me. I explained that it was not about the flowers and all about my 19 year old self processing a wounded place inside, exposed by the flowers and laughter. He listened and gave me a hug. I allowed more tears to fall.

Engaging the topic more, we came to a place of understanding, and I rested in a mystery solved.

I found the other family member to clarify that I was not upset with the laughter, and the tears were not about or because of them. It was me. Sometimes I can even laugh myself. I am moving closer to being able to laugh about this situation now that the intensity of feeling has waned, and I have had space to sort out what was happening inside. The person I freaked out at was kind and understanding.

I sat in a place of grief with myself for other times when similar flare-ups occurred when my adult offspring lived at home. I am sure there were many irrational mom freak out moments that caught them off guard and hijacked moments of laughter with buckets of sobs and tears, turning them into all about mom moments. I was not aware enough to recognize and name what was happening inside like I am getting better at doing now.

I still have a long way to go.

I am learning and growing and circling back to the nineteen-year-old inside. She is still there needing care and attention, and it is time to show up and tend to her.

And in the end, I reinstated my post as public, making only minor changes in wording. I am keeping the basket on the porch until the lovely girlfriend is able to pick it up and take it to her house where it will bring playful beauty and joy as intended.

I am grateful for the gift of its presence and story to help heal another space in my heart.

M’aidez

May 1st. May Day. That very last thing I feel like doing is writing  a post which is the very reason I am writing. The sound of resignation was named in me today, and if for no other reason, I am proving to myself and to others that I have not resigned. Not yet. I will write.

Mayday! Mayday!

We all know that means Help me! Right? We know that? It’s the first thought that ran through my mind this morning when I woke and realized it was May first. Not, Look at the beautiful sunshine and a chance to live another day, but rather,

Help me!

Help came in a delicious breakfast prepared by my daughter, in a timely text from a friend, in a painfully honest conversation full of hard truth with another, in buckets and gallons of gut-wrenching, soul-wringing tears and heart-pounding sobs. It came in music from the neighbor’s house as I weeded the strawberry patch.

It is with me now as I write.

Mayday is from the French, M’aidez. (Help me) I did not know this until I looked up the history. It makes sense. I am glad for those years of French to help me understand. At least I was learning pronunciation when I was not being sent out of class for disruption.

Help me!

It is risky to ask for help. To receive help from others. To be reached out to and reach back. To feel safe in needing help. It is risky to need.

As I prepare for the final certificate 2 session next week and sit in my story, I am acutely aware of my need for, yet resistance to, help. I can see where resistance was formed and solidified. Where need was weakness and weakness was not tolerated.

I was needy.

Help waits for me at the end of the day in a living room with friends offering to engage hard struggles. I do not have to be alone in what feels too big and scary.

Because inside of me is a 19 year old who is trying to keep it together, and everything feels too big and scary.

M’aidez!

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!

Hope for Healing

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5

There were too many strikes against the wounded places in my heart this morning to sit through church. Already late from the effort it still takes to get everyone out of the house, which seems eerily similar to what it was years ago only in a different way, I arrived halfway through the one song I was hoping to sing.

Enduring the rustling and settling of the children who sit with us while hoping that the ones who do not were doing what they were supposed to in the back, I tried to focus on the task at hand and enter worship. I was frustrated and exhausted.

Darkness is familiar, and the deepness that it brings threatens to pull my soul further into a void. The constant struggle to remain upright and grounded is real.

It was a lifetime ago, yet I still grieve. What am I grieving? What feels life-giving? I held that tension in my heart  while looking up at the glow of a single candle signifying the beginning of Advent. I stood and sat and tried to sing what was hard.

Your law is good. . . 

I could not make it through all of the words. It was nothing less than a miracle that I sang that song from the stage last week when I was on worship team, revealing how well I can shore up and do what needs to be done in the moment.

Standing as Scripture was read, feeling the ground beneath me, I breathed in, holding hope that I could do this. I sat.

Words came at me, and I noticed them blurring together. It took energy and effort to stay present, and I was doing really well.

God expects full obedience to his commandments.

The sermon series on the Ten Commandments continues. Whatever week this is feels a week too long. Each week is too long.

I believe and agree with this. I am also deeply triggered by this. There were too many strikes against my spiritually wounded heart this morning to sit and hear the very verses about the law that were used to beat me into submission and rob me of life. They bring no comfort.

Maybe comfort is there. . . just not right now. Maybe there is hope for healing from an abuse of the law, but right now I need comfort and care. I did not feel it in this space.

I spend much time comforting and caring.

I found myself in the tension of longing to communicate, of pressing into the questions surrounding the fray while trying to contain all that was dumping out of my heart.

Is there balm in Gilead?

As a terrified sixteen-year-old girl I was trying to grasp the law on my own and be pleasing. As a forty-six year old woman living with the implication of this desire, it is difficult to see goodness. All I feel is sadness and deep pain.

I am aware that others are not responsible for how their words are inadvertently used to crash into my heart. It does not make the crashing any less painful. It was in the pain that I found myself sitting in the breezeway, ear buds in, listening to music while writing in my journal.

We are all full of stories.

Later I found myself sitting with a friend, hearing more of her story, asking her about hope.

Today is the candle of hope. The very questions I asked my friend, I ask myself. What does hope look like to you? When did you feel hope? What do you hope for?

This is where I am and what I will be pondering this first week of Advent.

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.

Bless the Broken Blog

Last week I broke my blog.

Intentional action I took late Tuesday night, half-heartedly, after not interacting much with the blog at all, caused a white screen. I saw there were plug-ins to update, chose not to take time to create a backup, and clicked away.

Using my phone, no less.

Update now.

Broken. Nothing. No matter how many times I attempted to load the blog, it was not happening and the screen was white. It was late. I had made a choice that caused the problem, and there was nothing I could do but go to bed. It was hard to let that go.

Wednesday morning dawned earlier than usual for me. I seized the opportunity to call tech support to ask for help. I had never called the number before and was nervous. Asking for help is hard for me. I felt embarrassed that I had broken something and inadequate to even be allowed to use technology.

Self-contempt was running thick and deep as I dialed the number and waited.

Navigating the prompts to get to the support I needed felt daunting in itself, but finally Michael’s voice came on the line, extremely chipper for 5:30 in the morning, and willing to run tests to see what he could do to help me.

It took 20 minutes. He kept checking back to update me on progress, while searching for the problem. It was finally located with the news that I could pay their tech support to fix it for me, or he could send me some information to fix it myself.

Time was passing, and every fiber in me wanted the unrest over and the blank space filled again. I hated knowing that there was something I had broken and did not know how to fix, but the cost felt steep, and I chose to let it be. I would look at it later and try to fix it myself.

Cue the laughter and knowing nods and maybe eyebrow raising from my techie friends and relations. Famous last words ~ how hard can it be.

It was really hard for me.

I was obsessing about it as the time to put broken technology away and get ready for my day rapidly approached. Just one more thing. What about this? What is that password? Now I need to change it, because I can’t remember. I can’t go on! I can’t stop! I am so stupid! No, I am not. I made a mistake.

Steve walked into the room and noticed my stress level. Acknowledging his desire to help but lack of skill set, he asked what he could do.

Just recognize that this is really hard for me, and I am struggling to stay out of self-contempt.

Later, he confessed that after hearing those words from me, he realized that me fighting self-contempt could turn into others-contempt. He was in the shower bracing himself for the blowback.

Fast-forward to after school, my son at the table on his laptop working on taxes. I pulled out mine and decided to try calling customer support again to see if they could direct me to the place where I needed to make the fix. I knew it was a plugin, so if I could deactivate it, that should work.

This time Andi answered, her voice equally eager to help. It quickly became perplexed as I fumbled my way through my question. Now there not a white screen but a database error. The server and platform were not connected. In changing that password, I had broken the bridge (image courtesy of me) that connected them. I had fallen deeper into the web of the wide world.

I felt like a middle-aged woman on the loose in a sea of technology, crashing and banging into cyber things, snapping connections left and right. Because I was!

Now I don’t see your site. You need to go in and fix the password. Here, write this down and you can Google how to do it.

It sounded so easy over the phone. I wasn’t ready to pay someone else to do it for me. I needed to figure it out. I planned to persist!

Each time, I understood a little more of what to do, but I couldn’t quite find where to go to do it. Each time I would get close and then have someone need something or run out of time. The unresolved feeling of it all was dragging me further down.

Throughout the process, I began to realize that it was not really about the broken blog. It was about things broken inside of me. It was about me not speaking up for what I needed (time to work on it). It was about being okay with not already knowing something and having to follow careful directions to figure it out. It was trusting that something would work, even when I did not fully understand or could not fully see.

Finally, Friday afternoon I sat on the floor of my room ready to figure this out. Step by step I unlocked and opened and searched for. I watched tutorials and looked up terms I did not understand. I figured out where the code for the broken password was and changed it to match the one I had created.

A white screen appeared! I had re-established database connection. With renewed confidence, I found the location of the plugins and changed the file name of the one that I suspected as the culprit.

The blog reappeared! I had fixed it! With shouts of joy I called to my son who rejoiced with me.

So if you have noticed it quiet in these parts, that is why! I have much to process and hope to do so here, but first things first, working technology!

Major Marriage Milestone

Twenty-five years.

Twenty-five anniversaries, holding on and holding hope.

I want to have big silver anniversary words, but I don’t. And that is okay. It has to be.

I have the words that a friend offered at the end of his congratulatory Facebook comment on Steve’s wall.

. . . a great example of a rugged marriage.

YES!

rugged marriage

Thank you, Alvin. Those are exactly the words that affirm the beautiful hard that is found in celebrating 25 years of becoming one while growing up together and having three of our eight children before our brains were fully formed!

This day has felt rugged. It certainly hasn’t been the stuff of which silver anniversary dreams are made. As a final blow, we had to cancel the sitter for our evening out due to uncertain stomachs. We had to engage disappointment and pain.

This season feels rugged as I find more words for my own story and style of relating and engaging and how that has affected those closest to me. As Steve and I struggle to find more words for our story together, we recognize the help that we need. It is okay to need help.

A dear sister heard my heart and affirmed my words as I processed with her via text.

A silver star with a 25 on it doesn’t negate the hurt and disappointment. Or the joy. There is joy underneath, but right now it is being eclipsed by the ache. And marriage is about more than just how I feel today.

Climbing out of the valley and learning to walk on level ground isn’t as easy as it sounds!

One of the significant assaults of evil in this period is to try to triumph through regret. It is easy to survey all that might have been and grieve that it has taken so long to savor and delight in life. Add to this the desire to remove all the debris we have brought into the lives of our children, friends, and family, and it is easy to feel terrible and to work frantically to restore all that is broken. We must resist this seduction. Grief is freeing, but regret is the cul-de-sac of despair. (Dan Allender, Healing the Wounded Heart, 233).

So tonight we will have our regularly scheduled date night and not the fancy dinner out gifted us by our kids. Rather than circling the cul-de-sac again and again, I will try to feel the disappointment and grieve what is not, and then move on to the goodness that is an evening together with the hope of a future ahead of us.

We will persist. We will toast our twenty-five years of beautiful, rugged marriage with chicken soup and ginger-ale!

Here’s to us!