Tag Archives: summer

Blooming in the Crack

I left the tiny shoot alone when I noticed it poking through the curb crack along the road. It grew bigger day by day, and I soon recognized a tiny moonflower leaf. Two larger moonflower plants flanked the side porch steps in the place they took root this year. Moonflowers migrate around the yard, and it is fun to see where they appear each spring.

The plants in the flower beds began putting out copious blooms nightly. The one in the crack worked to bloom a few times a week. Still it bloomed, and I left it. It became my reminder that even if I land on a tiny bit of soil between two cement blocks, I can still bloom, as well.

It is often difficult for me to know how to show up. Right now I am in a place of uncertainty. I feel trapped and penned in on all sides, much like that plant looks as if it could feel. It is not comfortable. Growth rarely is.

I was standing on the front porch talking on the phone, when two ladies walked by chatting. They stopped to notice and comment to each other the novelty of the flower. Hold on a second! I said to my understanding sister. I held the phone away from my face. To the ladies I called, Do you know why I left the flower there? It’s to remind us that wherever we find ourselves planted, we can still show up, bloom, and bring beauty.

I love the simple beauty that is blooming in the crack this year. It is just the visual I need. It is this year’s version of last year’s pumpkin patch. I am grateful.

How about you, Dear Reader? What visual have you been given as a reminder to bring your full self and your beauty to a situation? I would love to hear your story in the comments. Blessings!

Update

It’s dark here on the back deck of my grandparents’ home in Clinton Township, Michigan. The hum of the air conditioner unit competes with the chirping of the crickets, as the light from my phone competes with the stars.

Man-made sound and light drowns out those of nature.  The chatter in my head drowns out the still, small voice of the Spirit. I am pushed and frenzied and expanding to hold much, as I struggle to rest in the arms of the one who holds my expansive soul.

I turn the phone upside down on my lap to brighten the night sky. My eyes adjust to the shades of dark and the silhouettes of trees against the gray sky. Overcast clouds allow stars to shine behind, not through, them, as one or two dare to peek out before being hidden again quickly.

My last visit to this area was 26 years ago with my family and fiancé the summer before I was married. Michigan, the place of childhood vacations and Christmas breaks, was a chapter closed.

This week I returned with my mom and daughter and my brother and his daughter to visit my mom’s parents. Four generations gathered in a place I had never been. It is one that many of my older children have visited, taking trips with their grandparents.

It was my turn.

It is strange to inhabit a new space filled with childhood memories. Walking through the newer, modern home with its unfamiliar floor plan, I felt the walls and shelves both comforting and disrupting with their familiar decor. Much is from another era that I remember vividly, yet is also a blur.

This has been a visit full of laughter and tears and deep conversations. There have been times of wrestling and struggling in my heart concurrent with unexpected joyful and aha moments.

I have gotten face time with precious family members who hold shared memories and also surprises. I have drawn a clearer picture of people I love, as their faces and stories come more fully into focus. Hearing their perspectives, impressions, and experiences has brought unexpected tears along with head-nodding laughter.

I have connected more deeply with my people.

Those places of connection are settling in my heart as I ponder all the conversations that these days have held. The thing about real life stories and connections is that they belong to their own tellers. This is a space for mine, and for what I choose to process and share of it.

For now it is this picture of feet side by side and propped on a table as laughter rang out while tales were told.

And also the bowl of M&Ms that kept me grounded when I needed some space and chocolate.


Goodnight, Friends. I know it is late, but this is when it is.

Easy Tears

We were in the kitchen, adult son and I.

I was fixing lunch, quesadillas. Easy.

We were talking about the day and about feelings and life. I told him about an upcoming trip that had me feeling nostalgic. He told me about an incident he had witnessed over the weekend that turned on my tears.

Instantly.

He began to apologize. There was no need. He had done nothing wrong. I was feeling my reality. The tears were inviting me into more of it.

Last week we were on vacation. We had a beach day. Every year we take the same lunch in the cooler.

  • Ritz crackers
  • Polska kielbasa cut into slices
  • Easy cheese in cheddar and American styles
  • sodas and water
  • some kind of fruit

When I am well-prepared there are also paper plates and napkins. This year was a not-well-prepared year. We had to live dangerously, risking dropping the can of cheese in the sand or the cracker in the sand, or the meat into the sand.

All to be coated in sand.

There is always a lot of sand. Some people like the added texture. It is a lunch not for the faint of heart. It is the beach.

This year I noticed a can of Cheese Wow! mixed in with the name brand cheeses. My husband had offered to do the grocery run when we arrived in town to start our vacation. For a good $3 less, it was quite comparable.

But you have to say Cheese Wow!

So in the kitchen today, as my tears began to squeeze out of my eyes, I couldn’t hold them back. No matter how hard I tried to keep them in, they came squirting out.

Easy Tears just like the Easy Cheese at the beach. Just as salty, too.

Tears Wow!

I have a lot of them inside, crashing like the ocean’s waves.

That is all.

Fierce Persistence

I have decided that this is what I need if I am going to make any movement forward. My word this year is persist, and I had to go back and read the original post to remember, even though it stares at me from across my room each day. Persist.

Fierce Persistence

I am tempted to tip towards the opposite.

Mild Apathy

Maybe even extreme lethargy

If I am going to make a change, it has to be decisive, yet also kind. That is where the struggle lies. Where is the intersection of rest and productivity? Where is enough?

August brings with it feelings of summer’s end, even though summer is technically not even halfway over! Extended family visits filled June, vacation took July, and back-to-school appointments and band camp are the order of business for August.

Then school starts at the end of the month.

That makes summer feel over, though it runs into September.

This post is not what I hoped it would be. I have been interrupted no less than five times as I settle in to write. Each time brings a dire need from those around me which offers a clue to what is next. Tending to now.

So that is where I will persist. I will continue to tend to my home and the people and things inside of it. I will tend to me. I will persist in writing, even when my inspiration is fleeting, and I feel uncertain. I will do what is next, which, for now, is answering the call of the tea kettle.

Friendship Friday ~ Goodbye Buddy

We said goodbye to Roo’s beloved guinea pig this past Wednesday night. It was the eve of two years to the day that he came home with us from the pet store. It was completely unexpected.

Wednesday morning, eager with anticipation of meeting a friend in Martinsburg, WVa, for lunch, I had no idea that the evening’s at-home date would be interrupted by a knock on the TV room door by a traumatized child.

In fact, I still had not broken it to my parents that when they took care of him for us while we were on vacation, he would need at least one cage change. I was still figuring all of the details out, not knowing that by the end of the day there would be no need.

Buddy was in his cage and kicking his legs. I thought he was having a bad dream, so I picked him up, but he went limp. Something is really wrong with him.

We rushed upstairs with her. Indeed, something was very wrong, as confirmed by her father, the brave one of us when it comes to all things animal-related. I brought a dish towel to wrap him in, while Steve held and confirmed that, indeed, Buddy was dead.

I began to cry, then sob, in the hall with my daughter. The bedroom door of the youngest opened upon hearing the commotion. She came out, heard the news, and began to cry. She also wanted to hold Buddy.

She is a braver soul than I.

I knocked on brother’s door to alert him, as well, knowing that he would want to be aware. He came out and joined the sadness. So did sister at the end of the hall.

We made our way downstairs to the living room and sat together. Tears were flowing and words spoken of Buddy’s days with us.

Most recently, because of summer break, he had spent more time downstairs on the laps of those who were doing their screen time. The kids called him a Buddy Loaf and dubbed him their therapy guinea pig.

He was well-loved.

Even Dewey, who tried to get a little too close and curious to Buddy at every opportunity, was noticeably out of sorts.

He mirrored everyone’s sadness.

Buddy’s death was sudden, unexpected, and happened as his ten-year-old owner was holding him. It was a trifecta of trauma for her. We are processing this grief together. It is hard and sad.

In the midst of the hard, there is good.

I am grateful that just last Sunday our pastor brought a perspective of pets and heaven to us in a hopeful tone. This gave Roo much comfort the following evening as she went to bed in the same way and space that 24 hours earlier had found her watching the life slip from her pet.

I am grateful that he did not die while we were on vacation.

I am grateful that it was summer break and that he was getting a lot of attention.

Mostly I am grateful for kids who love big and deeply and well.

Goodby, Buddy. You were loved so much that it hurts that you are gone. Thank you for the joy you brought to us and the contribution that you made to our compost pile each week. You will be missed.

Flower Lady

So YOU’RE the Flower Lady!

I was browsing a neighbor’s yard sale one street over and up around the block. My daughter had discovered it on a dog walk and took pictures of some items she liked. This piqued my curiosity, and I walked over with my husband.

We introduced ourselves, described where we lived, and that is when her face broke into a delighted smile and she called me the Flower Lady.

Yes, I guess that’s me! I would rather be the Flower Lady than the Porch Lady . . . I think.

Our porch is still a work in progress. A slow, but sure, work in progress.

I made my selection and paid for the items ~ a picture for a daughter’s room, a tray for serving breakfast (or working or watching a movie) in bed, and a pair of baskets to use for under-bench shoe storage.

Heading home with my treasures, I pondered her calling me The Flower Lady. It felt strange to be noticed for something, to be seen, to be named. In this season of figuring out who I am and what I like, flowers must be a thing.

I do like flowers. I try with flowers. I do not feel particularly skilled with flowers, though. It is always a bit hit or miss.

My first experience with a potted flower is embarrassing. I think about it every so often with curiosity and attempted kindness for myself and for what I did not know. I was given a Gerbera Daisy at church on my first Mother’s Day twenty-four years ago. Maybe that is why these caught my eye at Lowes one sunny day.

Mine was a beautiful bright yellow with a large and cheerful bloom. I did not know that flowers could be cut from a plant and the plant would keep putting out new blooms. The original yellow flower shriveled up and died, and I did not know to cut it off of the plant. It just sat there looking sad. It seemd to me like a one-hit-wonder, and I did not know what to do. I just left it alone, and that was the end of my first Gerbera Daisy (and yet, the beginning of my eight children!). It was many years later before I understood why it would be someone’s favorite flower.

This afternoon I spent some time outside cutting flowers. My Shasta Daisies were blooming abundantly. I gathered a vase full of them for the porch table. Stepping back, I captured this view and felt happy.

am Flower Lady. There is no right way to enjoy beauty, no right flower to choose. From the purple irises that bloom on the east side of the porch in the spring, to the multicolored daylilies that line the east side of the house in the summer, to the clearance hanging baskets of petunias and potted sweet potato vines rescued from the back table at Lowes, to the moonflowers that come up in surprising new places each year, my flowers make me smile.

I am glad they also bring joy to others!

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.

July Goals Post

July felt like the essence of summer. There was an entire month that had nothing to do with school, unlike June where we were wrapping up the school year and August where we begin again.

July was the month of family vacation and house projects and VBS. The high school graduate moved out for the month, leaving an empty space to work on for the youngest brother. In addition to the yearly goals, I set house project goals that were mostly accomplished ~ at least the most important ones.

Moving right along. . .

  • 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.

Bible reading has stayed on track, moving me into Ezra and Acts. Journaling is a bit sparse, though. Lots of books are being read. I will count To Be Told by Dan Allender here.

  • 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.

Summer connection has been fun. Vacation offered many opportunities for various one-on-one moments. Steve and I continue date night informally each week, but there have been some formal dates added in there. We were able to get dinner out one evening and also grab coffee at the coffee shop a few times.

I connected with Coco over her room painting project.

From thispaint job

To this

Painted room

There were also other projects accomplished with the kids that offered us one-on-one time together. Lots of sorting and decluttering and organizing and caring for pets together.

  • 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!

Creeping along, this happened. There was much that DIDN’T happen, as well. There are not enough hours in the day or days in the month. So to those who I tried to make grand summer plans with that didn’t happen, I am sorry. Thank you for grace.

There was some time with Becky and Angela .

There was time with my youngest sister and her family.

There was yes to fun on vacation!

fun

  • 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!

I walked Dewey A LOT this summer. Many times. Yoga, not so much. I really need to be better, as my body can tell when I slack off. The aging process is not kind.

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

I am writing this post the night before back to school. Enough said there. Go around again!

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

In June I wrote the following:

By next month, I hope to have all of the reading complete and the first plane ticket booked. I also hope to have a space on my computer devoted to writing out my first assignment.

I have my first plane ticket booked and the first assignment ready to send in. This month I read The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller.

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

With the light summer schedule, I was surprised by leadership with the opportunity to do phone supervision for Stephen Ministry in July. That was such a gift, since it fell during VBS week. I was not on worship team until August. More about that next month!

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

Summer offered more time for me to help with keeping track of money. We are making progress together. I jumped in to helping balance the checkbook again.

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

I wrote and published seven blog posts during July. Most of my free time was spent on house projects trying to get lots of painting finished. What time left to write was mostly spent on personal work not being shared in this space. My Red Tent submission that didn’t run in July was posted here.

So here July’s goals are being recapped the night before I greet my students for the 2016-2017 school year. My summer flew by. To those who kept reading and following and encouraging me in the quiet spaces, thank you. You are the ones who remind me that you are there reading when I wonder if I should keep writing. You show up in just the right moment, and I am blessed!

Cave Quest Wrap-Up

Deep breaths and quiet and oh, the tears. The space that I long to fill, fills me. Arriving home after a full morning of singing on worship team, the house is eerily and deliciously silent.

While husband, children, and dog are away on an afternoon adventure, I putter in the kitchen, nap in my room, and rise to spend a few minutes writing before the next thing.

It is my last day of summer. It’s not really summer’s last day, but it is the last day of summer routine for me. Tomorrow I return to working my day job for a fourth year.

With this in mind, I wanted to finish the VBS wrap up that has been sitting in the draft folder since the end of July ~ which wasn’t that long ago, but if I don’t get it written, then it will be long gone and just another memory.

This was my best year at VBS and confirmation that Preschool KidVid Cinema is my VBS fit. In years past, I haven’t been as sure.

My first year of running Chadder’s Theater was full of surprises, both personally and in my changing role from Preschool Station Leader to the video person.

The following year found me running Preschool KidVid with none of my own children coming through the station. That was a huge milestone.

Last year I was met with the challenge of resting in unrest when the DVD that I was to show, the main point of the station I run went missing. One of the littles was finally old enough to help. Another milestone.

It’s hard to believe that this was my fourth year of running this particular station and my sixth year of helping out in some capacity. When I started, the littles were 7, 5, 3, and 2. Before that, I sent the bigs to VBS and stayed home with my own nursery of littles.

There was much ambivalence about whether to sign up again this year. My heart wrestled through many things including, but not limited to, where I am in this season, the work I am doing for fall, the limited time I have for myself, and the over-responsible place in me that often takes on more than is healthy, rather than allowing others the space to step up.

I passed by the sign-up table many Sunday mornings still praying about it. I really was. I was shown much grace every time. There was never pressure.

When I finally felt peace about signing on, it was because I still have four children to shepherd at home. I wanted something that we could all do to serve together, and while I could have sent them in and taken time for myself, I felt convicted to lead by example. I felt the call to offer up a sacrifice of time and the gift that I have to work with lots of littles to model service for my children.

And it was the best year, yet.

I loved working with the preschoolers that came through my station each day. I loved working with the crew leaders, station leaders, and other helpers. I loved being a support to those who stepped up into the major leadership roles.

I loved working with the preschool director.

At the end of the week, my heart felt so very full. I felt the maturing of my own children. For the first time we were able to leave VBS together each day without big meltdowns. This year one was a helper. Next year two will be of age.

I want to remember that it was a good week. I want to affirm that using this skill set and gifting of mine in this context was a joy, and that I received far more than I gave. While each year brings its own challenges, and we never know what the next one will hold, this one was sweet.

I am grateful.

Go Be You

How’s it going in here?

Popping my head into one of the preschool Bible Adventures rooms on VBS set up day, I asked a younger mom friend this question. Scanning her classroom I saw a tent set up. Indoors. There were also gray sheets draped over round tables, cave-like, and camping gear placed around the room.

Children, hers and their friends, crawled in and out of the tent and table-caves happily. The atmosphere was fun and intentional. It was kind and caring.

My first thought was, What a great room! What a gift of time she is giving to serve at VBS this week with her young children. Look at how she is setting up with them playing alongside of her. I remember those days well. Sort of. What was that blur, again? Yes! I did that, too!

Her eyes met mine as she answered.

Well, I thought things were going pretty well until I went out and looked into another room. Now I don’t know.

Laughingly, but not really laughing, I said, You broke the cardinal rule of life which is . . .

We both knew the answer and reminded each other of it together. . . Don’t compare!

In this instance it was, Don’t compare YOUR Bible Adventures classroom cave with the one next door or down the hall. Keep your head in your own room.

Soon it will be teachers. Don’t compare YOUR second year classroom with the thirteen year veteran across the hall. Or writers. Don’t compare YOUR blog or post or submission with the one trending on social media. Or mothers. Don’t compare your home, children, schooling choices, resources, the list of things we can compare there is endless. Or women. Just don’t.

This very day. Today. I left Sharp Shopper, and noticed another woman emptying the contents of her cart into her car. I began comparing, Did she find better deals than me? Why did she buy a flat of those? What did I miss? Do I need that, too?

I bought the things I needed for my family today. She bought what she needed for her. We both did well. 

It’s not that simple, and yet, it is. Good work done with our hand to our own plow is good work. We all have the choice to bring ourselves to this cosmic equation and step up with the gifts and tools we have been given to use.

In the words of P!NK ~ No one can be just like me anyway!

So put those blinders on and go be you! You are amazing! You are doing it, whatever it is that you need to do. Carry on! That is all.