Tag Archives: truth

Friendship Friday ~ Esther

I know what you do in your spare time. 

Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.

Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.

She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.

She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.

Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?

I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.

Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.

Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.

I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.

This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.

I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.

If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?

Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.

I am right!

Bible Reading Plan

Time with my Bible and journal is something I have held close since at least fifteen, maybe younger. In seventh grade there was mandatory quiet time at the beginning of each Bible class where we were to read a passage referenced on the chalkboard and write our thoughts about it in a spiral notebook, but by fifteen it was something I did just for me.

I have a distinct memory of thinking I knew God loved me when I was fifteen, and since he can’t change, he HAS to still love me now during a time of particular distress. During years of distress. From sixteen to thirty-six. Twenty years is a long time to wander.

Maybe that is one reason I cannot give up on people even when things appear pretty hopeless. God did not give up on me.

I remember the journal that I threw away along with all of my other spiral notebooks and childish writings and hopes and dreams for the future when I was sixteen and preparing to move far away from all I knew and loved. That padded, floral, lined book held what was close to my heart and all that I had to say to, and hear from, God.

I can feel the contents of that journal in my spirit when I remember sitting in the floral club chairs, purchased at a yard sale with my own money, in the lavender basement bedroom in Oakton. That is where I would go for solace and peace. That was my own space.

Thirty years ago I was boxing up hopes and throwing away dreams and beginning to lay the foundation for the walls that would come to enclose my heart. A pile of Glamour magazines made the cut for the moving truck while my awards and achievements and memories did not. The box of magazines hit the curb shortly after we arrived at our destination, 1,100 miles away from all that was familiar.

When is trash pickup here?

I have read through the Bible countless time in several different versions. Last year I followed a chronological reading plan. It was interesting but heavy on the Old Testament for most of the year. It was a welcome relief to hit the New Testament in October.

This year’s plan reads from a different section of the Bible each day of the week. This lines up with how I am trying to restructure other areas of my life to focus on structuring specific areas in the midst of imagining a bigger picture.

What about you? Where do you find inspiration and hope for your heart? Do you follow a particular plan for Bible reading or journaling? I would love to hear about it. Share with me in the comments!

 

Fog

It is thick, real, palpable, settling into every crevice of my brain. Memories lurk deep within. Thoughts jumble together while feelings vacillate between razor sharp and numbingly dull.

This is me. Now.

In the midst of the fog, I long for clarity. I savor aha! moments when they present. Shadows come into focus as light dawns, and I attempt to gaze on them with curiosity rather than terror. Often terror wins. My lens is fear.

What if I could wait for, could anticipate, beauty? Goodness?

What if I could sit in awe and wonder at the gift of life as a joyous adventure rather than a grim duty?

I have so many questions and so few answers. I ponder them as I sit in the fog.

You need light to see through fog but not too much of it. Driving a car with high beam lights on can actually be dangerous in foggy weather. There are special fog lights that are different from headlights, offering alternate illumination. Gentler. Not as harsh. Alerting others.

I am trying to work with the light I have been given to expose what I need to see. It is tempting to force on all the lights from all the angles to illuminate all of the things. This results in a blinding glare which is neither helpful nor kind.

Moving through fog demands slowing down. Sometimes this means pull over, stop, and wait. This is challenging for me, the stopping and waiting part. It is hard to feel life passing by as I remain on the shoulder for a season waiting for clarity. I envy the confidence and accomplishments of others.

Navigating the fog demands space. I am trying to claim and create a bit of space in my full days. Sometimes it is shared with a dog, sometimes not. Even as I clear physical space, my emotional place clutters. It is an exercise to settle into the stillness of a moment.

Gentle light arrives in the form of scheduled phone calls with a wise guide, spontaneous conversations with sisters, surprise words from unexpected places, late-night conversations with the one I love, sessions spent in a counselor’s office. Slowly, focus comes, and I see a little further and a little more clearly.

When glaring light floods a foggy place, rendering me blind, I am gently reminded of truth by those who love me. The high-beams click off and the fog lights turn on, and I am led to safety.

Loved

URLOVED

I almost missed the message of the license plate in front on me while waiting at a stoplight. Having just dropped off the girls at middle school, I was lost in my own thoughts, preparing for the next pick up and drop off. Looking up, the letters caught my eye.

You are loved.

I needed to be reminded of this today. Thank you, Owner of the Personalized License Plate Car. I did not get to see who you were before you turned right, and I went left, but the message touched my heart. Or maybe someone got that plate for you, so that you would always remember. If so, the love trickled down. Either way, I am grateful.

The thing is, my head knows I am loved, but my heart does not always feel it. It’s a difficult dichotomy to bear. It can be frustrating to those who love me when I cannot see what is right in front of my face.

Like the license plate.

So I keep looking and trusting that I really am loved. And I keep seeing the signs that are all around. And even though I can not always feel it, I believe it is there. And sometimes I get to feel it, and it overwhelms me.

This time when I arrive home, my nine-year-old boss, not Zephyr, is waiting on the porch for me. Just as insistent that I get inside and on with the day, I try to appreciate her eagerness to be with me and only snap a little bit. Then apologize. She loves me, and I love her back.

We get ready to go, and I disappear into the bathroom. When I emerge, her dad is standing there, an unexpected change in routine which throws me all the way off.

Why are you here? I ask curtly.

I had to get something and thought I would pick up Mae and drive her in.

Softening, I recognize what I almost missed in my irritation. This act of love frees up a chunk of morning time that will help me launch the day. It gives me a head start on later, when I have a dentist appointment.

This is love, and I see and feel it with gratefulness.

I am loved.

And so are you.

Butterfly Blessing

Choosing to leave my phone behind, I climbed to the middle of the back bench seat in the family minivan. Silencing the what if’s in my head surrounding all of the things that I could possibly need it for, the answer remained leave it behind.

I don’t even need it for pictures.

Late Father’s Day afternoon, Steve packed a cooler and announced his desire to visit Riven Rock Park. With seven of us going, the van was full. I chose to give my front seat to the eighteen year old who had spent many years wedged in the very back middle between the car seats of younger siblings.

Everyone scurried to find swimsuits, water shoes, and towels. Transitioning from house to vehicle was a challenge. While moving beyond struggling with car seats, diaper bags, and sippy cups, we now wrangle electronic devices, headphones, and seating arrangements. Somehow we survived the final painful push, and the house and van doors were shut and locked.

Upon arrival at Riven Rock, the van was emptied and the water filled with laughter and voices of siblings. Sunshine poured through the trees, and shadows lengthened. I walked down to the water, stepping gingerly from rock to rock, hoping to achieve my goal of staying dry as I meandered across the top of the water.

Meandering took me back to shore and up the length of the gravel drive, deeply engaged in thought. Without an electronic device to distract and pull me into what other people were doing or to announce to other people what I was doing, I was left with myself. This felt uncomfortable and unsettling. What am I doing?

It’s the question I get most often, these days. What are you doing now? or What are you doing next? 

The answer is I just don’t know.

Walking and wrestling with the unknown, I felt gravel crunch under my feet and heard birds sing in the trees. I asked Jesus to meet me in this space with what I needed, not even knowing what I needed myself. I walked and watched.

My eyes caught sight of something blue and papery on the ground. Once my mind registered that it was a butterfly, I thought it was wounded or dead. Closer examination revealed that it was resting while slowly moving its wings up and down. I stood still, breathing with the movement of the wings in, out, in, out.

The butterfly was not in a hurry to get anywhere. My mind raced to regret that I had not brought my phone to capture this moment of breathing with a blue butterfly that was being so still for so long without an injury. Then my focus shifted to capturing the present moment of stillness with it and reminding myself that it was enough to be just me with the butterfly without the entire world watching or even knowing about it.

The butterfly remained still before finally flitting upward and away towards the trees. I stood in awe and gratitude for what I had experienced in the moment. The practice of breathing and stillness and presence with a beautiful creature clothed in a color that I had never seen before was a gift.

Moments later the blue butterfly returned, alighting just in front of my feet. I peered down closely, trying to memorize its brilliant coloring and beautiful shape so that I could look it up and identify it later. Again, I matched my breath to the slow movement of its wings.

Is this what you had for me today, Jesus? The reminder to slow down and breathe? The knowledge that it is enough just being with myself and with you? The practice of stillness?

Suddenly the butterfly flew up from the ground, touched my forehead and flew away. I stood there stunned. It felt just as a butterfly kiss should feel, light and feathery and stunning. It felt like a butterfly blessing.

I was stunned and stood there in awe.

The butterfly returned a third, and final time. It landed again on the ground in front of me, just as my husband was walking up from the water. I imagine it looked odd to him to find me standing strangely still staring at the ground. I pointed at the blue butterfly, and he was able to glimpse it before the beautiful creature flew up and disappeared into the trees.

There is no picture. (The one at the top of this blog is a Monarch butterfly from my files.) There is no documentation. I cannot even identify the butterfly correctly from the images I find online. All that remains is the image in my mind. That has to be enough. I will trust that it is enough.

Miraculous Change

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.

Writing Spaces

It has been quiet in my writing spaces, these days. I have felt unmotivated and uninspired, and rather than just sitting with myself there, letting it be, I tend to judge it. It is not a good place.

Two weekends ago I was away with a friend. I read a lot of books and did a lot of art journaling. I wrote a little bit. I walked in the woods and by the water.

One weekend ago I was sick. I missed the entire weekend due to body aches and fever. It was all I could do to toss and turn in bed. Steve woke me at regular intervals to help me hydrate and visit the bathroom. It was miserable. There were nightmares.

Recovery is slow and takes time. I am still not at full capacity, though I am getting there. I just feel flat lined. Sometimes we can only keep taking steps. That is where I am. Stepping. One foot in front of the other.

It is a familiar space.

It is hard to be in this space.

But I am there and will continue to move through it.

Jesus met me this week in these words.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us. Psalm 90:15, ESV

I am holding onto them, trusting, hoping, looking forward to all of the days of gladness.

Because there will be many.