Today that looks like still being in lounge wear at 3:17. No condemnation. The voices try, but I choose to refuse to listen. At least in this moment.
Day two of Christmas break has been a full one. Somehow I passed enough kitchen skills along to an eleven-year-old that she was able to mix up the gingerbread cut-out cookie dough by herself while I drove her brother to practice saxophone with Grandpa.
When I returned, she was ready for her little sisters to join her in rolling and cutting out Christmas cookies. I mixed up another batch for the inevitable, Can we make more?, but I did not have to be involved with any rolling out or cutting. I only had to slide pans in and out of the oven.
I did have to listen to conflict which just about did me in. I let them resolve it, though, and things were fine.
I messaged with a friend who is in a similar-yet-different season of hard, because the hard doesn’t have to look the same to struggle through it together. Just like our cookies didn’t all look alike coming out of the cutters or out of the oven.
Christmas cookie theology? Don’t worry. I’m not going there.
But wait. The crumbly broken deliciousness. . .nevermind.
So I am writing this mainly for myself and the ambivalent struggle I am currently having with my words. Feeling paralyzed about writing anything, because I feel so behind in life, I choose to combat that you’ll never catch up lie (or actually truth, because I won’t) and just jump in.
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.
We’ll start with that next time, my counselor says, indicating that thistime is up.
Pushing off with his feet, rolling in his chair to a desk in the corner, setting up next week’s appointment, I am left sitting on the couch with that statement. Beside me, my husband tries offering a reassuring presence in the form of his comforting smile and nod, but I am having none of it.
At thirty-six years of age, it took every ounce of courage to speak the place where trauma, pain, and betrayal hijacked me as a teenager. This time. My counselor is calling me deeper. Next time.
My breathing grows shallow, and blood runs cold as ice through my veins. The trick of dissociating by numbing out and viewing myself from a distance begins to take over. Noticing this, Counselor checks in and rolls from his desk to the expansive bookshelves lining the wall. Scanning them in earnest, he searches.
I am afraid to ask, though had he told me, I could have located the volume first, having become an expert at focusing on those titles and authors behind him while trying to stay grounded during sessions.
Here it is. You need to get a copy of this book to read.
He does not offer to give it to me or let me borrow it. I cannot take it home today. I have to get it for myself. Later.
Taking it into my hands, glancing at the image on the cover while simultaneously reading the title and subtitle, draws copious tears that I struggle to sniff back, but they morph into full-blown sobs, betraying my stoic facade. I cannot hide the fear and terror evoked by the simple act of holding this book.
What’s wrong? Why the tears?
Counselor’s gruff bedside manner does not mask his concern, as he gently prods my pain, following the trail I am leaving.
I don’t want to look at my story! I hate everything about my story!
This visceral response is gut-wrenchingly real. His response to my outburst is kind. He affirms something about my story having value, etc. . . I am not in a place to hear or believe him, but I know that since he has recommended To Be Told ~ God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future by Dan Allender with my husband in the room, the book will show up at our house.
Anything to help me, to fix this, my husband of fifteen years will do.
The book arrives, and I reluctantly begin reading. It feels too big and too much to think of actually writing out and sharing parts of my story to process with others, as recommended, yet I am intrigued by lines such as this, Neither your life nor mine is a series of random scenes that pile up like shoes in a closet. (To Be Told, p. 3)
I am shattered. Undone. Curious.
Nine years later. . .
It would be easier and tidier to write ten years later, but an honest time frame says nine.
Nine years have passed since that original scene of facing what was terrible, traumatic, and unspoken in my heart. I am forty-five years old, mid-forties, still processing and in process. I am in a healthier place of healing and growth. Redemption has come knocking on my door, and I have chosen to bravely open up to it, in all of its scary, strange, disruptive glory.
Growth has not been easy. It has taken much time and courage. There are still painful places in my story to visit and name. I have been living life in the meantime; a life large, messy, and full of its own trauma, trial, and error. Life stops for no one.
Nine years ago, I was married for 15 years and had seven children ranging in age from 15 to 1. Little Mae, the surprising finale to our family, was not even on my radar. Now I have half of an empty nest, with four children living at home and four living life on their own.
Nine years ago I was 36. So young. I felt so old.
Dear thirty-something struggling with your role in your story, it is not over. It is not all written. There is hope. Investigating the shoe pile-up in your closet is worth it. You do not need to struggle alone. Find someone to help you find your brave.
Nine years later, I have had time to process and to practice new skills. I have learned more words for finding my feelings and speaking my reality. I have had people sit with and support and guide and encourage me. I have had time to sit with others.
Not everyone is called to this journey a friend once told me, as I wrestled and struggled and questioned and cried, every fiber in me wanting to go back to what was.
Nine years ago, I could not have known the role that the book To Be Told and the work of its author would play in my life. I could only take it in hand, take courage to read, and keep moving forward.
Now, I am not looking back, unless it’s to help me move forward.
He fastens his helmet, hops on his bike, and takes off with our nine-year-old girl who has just discovered her love of bike riding. This, after spending an afternoon at the pool with the eleven and nine-year-old girls at a school’s out pool party hosted by a local radio station.
Of course, it’s not all bike rides and pool parties. Earlier in the day, accusations of being a tyrant and exercising a reign of terror were hurled by a different child as the apps on an iPod were deactivated for a few hours to give space for other activities.
He is a good dad.
He takes time to connect with and guide adult children while being in the moment with the younger ones. He works hard every day to care for those in this house, risking imperfect fathering with just doing.
His turn-around time is slow. He admits that.
Household projects, while in progress, often lie dormant so that a heart can be cared for, a cuddle read, a bike ride taken, a phone-call made. He puts his people before projects, which means that there are always works in progress. Always projects calling.
The upstairs room, the porch, the bathroom, the basement, the boxes, all of these and more clamor for his attention.
He hears the children first.
Yes, imperfectly. No, not always well.
With a heart that is humble and open, he seeks to better his fathering skills and grieves where they have been lacking. I have sat with him in that grief. We have grieved together.
I am thankful for my children’s father and for how he has taken on the task of fathering eight plus one. I am grateful that he chooses to show up fully, even when fully means messily and wrong. Because then he apologizes and models humility and helps us to learn forgiveness.
Once upon a time, there was a young man who wanted a big family. I think he thought he would be getting a fan club. It didn’t quite work out that way.
The way it did work is that eight children have taught him a thing or two about himself and have helped him to grow into the amazing man that he is. The one that I am blessed to call the father of my children.
This month has me in a different place with posting on my goals.
It also has me on the last day of being a double number. Time is ticking away.
A precious friend responded to April’s goals update with a compelling reminder to be kind to myself. As she read through my awesome and amazing goals (her words), there were just so many that she became overwhelmed. She reminded me that I have a lot on my plate right now, and felt that even saying that was an understatement.
Her short, sweet email was full of kindness and concern, written from a place of seeing eyes and a tender heart, and I received it in exactly that way. In fact, I appreciated her perspective and ability to see me through caring eyes. She closed by affirming all that I do so well and reminded me of truth that I needed to hear.
With this in mind, I want to clarify that my posting of and updating these goals is not to overwhelm, compare, be compared to, or create stress. It is to chronicle much of what I already do in a more organized fashion. Recording them helps me to focus and stay on track.
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.
Moving right along to I Kings, end of Psalms, Mid-Proverbs, and Acts. Jotted in my journal. Read When God Weeps.
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.
Steve and I have still not finished our 2 week e-course, but we are moving along. It will get done. I spent some time processing my feelings with him about my friend’s email, and he was able to speak truth into my reality. Kieran is graduating in a week, so we have spent much time communicating party plans and such. It was also prom month for him which meant fun picture taking time for me!
Kirk and I attended Kieran’s final percussion concert together followed by dessert at DQ with Kieran. Chloe and I celebrated the last day of piano lessons with a visit to McDonalds and trip to Gift and Thrift before her lesson. She found a typewriter for $5! Roo and I hit up Starbucks with Toothless, once again. Little Mae and I finished school together and have been spending our days at home before the others finish up and join us.
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!
Some of my connections were over the phone this month. Fun was wine tasting with Steve at a the new tasting room at White Oak Lavender Farm and attending a fund-raising dinner at Cross Keys Equine Therapy.I was able to connect and re-connect with friends there and win a few great hand-crafted items at the silent auction! I am also counting adult kids and their guests as my people to have over, because that is the way things seem to be rolling! That is kindness in this season. In fact, counting my kids’ friends as guests counts, too. The house has not been quiet!
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 am consistently doing yoga and walking the dog. Physical activity is a necessary part of self-care, and I am owning that.
Teaching ~ Organize my teaching materials and office space. Write an encouraging note to one student/week recognizing individuality and strengths.
I finished the school year! All notes got written, and the year ended well. I still have some putting away to do, but overall, I am in a good spot with my teaching stuff.
Personal Development ~ Pursue the Allender Center’s Lay Counseling Certificate. Read one book per month related to personal growth.
This month’s personal growth book was Facing Codependency by Pia Mellody. It came in the mail as a surprise for me from Amazon, sent by my book buddy. I love my book buddy. Thank you.
Ministry ~ Attend Stephen Ministry meetings regularly. Participate actively. Return to worship team rotation at least once per cycle.
I attended the final Stephen Ministry meeting which was a yummy dinner provided by leadership along with a hearty discussion about the future, leaving me with much to pray and ponder over this summer. I am grateful for the summer season. I was able to be on worship team as a pleasant surprise. My scheduled date interfered with my son’s graduation weekend, and I didn’t think I would be able to switch with someone, but it worked out! That was a sweet thing. Thank you, Kendra!
Financial ~ Take intentional time with Steve to go over the family finances and budget and grow in understanding of our financial goals together.
The pile of receipts in my wallet screams Fail! at me. Each month begins anew. Steve and I are onboard in the understanding that this will get done, and all will be well.
Writing ~ Schedule intentional time each week to write and work on the blog. Submit one Red Tentpost for consideration each month.
This month I wrote 9 posts on the blog and submitted to Red Tent for June on the topic Always.
If you made it this far, thank you! I will close with some of the words that I sent in response to my friend which may offer insight into my reality. I realize that I don’t have to explain myself. I am choosing to.
Thank you so much, Friend.
I feel loved and cared for after reading your words.
I hear you. I really do. Sometimes I need to be reminded of a healthy human perspective. I don’t have “normal” limits and natural boundaries, so it takes a lot of work for me to see that I am doing a lot. Seriously, this doesn’t seem like a lot, and I don’t say that to minimize. It is just my reality. I was always expected to achieve beyond my limits. Then that became the new baseline.
I can see where my lists would be overwhelming. Honestly they are more of a chronicle of what I already do with more intentionality built in. IF that even makes sense. Notice that they are ambiguous and not things like wake at a specific time or do this many loads of laundry every day. I really am ok with them.
The biggest and most overwhelming is the counseling certificate pursuit. But it is time. I need it for the personal growth and work aspect if nothing else.
Parenting is completely overwhelming, and it is difficult for me to find peace in the chaos of my life choices. I think that is another reason why I need the Seattle work this year. I need more words for my story. More peace with my path. . .
Last week started with a lofty goals post and ended with sex. Both were big draws to the blog. I knew about the goals link-up and had planned on it. It felt good to get some goals down on paper and out there for others to see.
I had not planned the timing of my Red Tent post. A backstory was written to go live whenever it ran, which happened to be Thursday. That was a day full of cyber and real-life engagement.
It started with texts full of kind encouragement. There were questions about how I was feeling. There were likes and comments and shares on Facebook. I was in my classroom, as usual, all day, so I wasn’t following the cyberspace chatter. After work I checked in to find several alerts and comments and even some new Composting the Heart page likes!
Far from going viral, it was still my farthest-reaching post, confirming what we already know. Sex sells.
So here I sit at the beginning of a new week, reflecting on all that has happened and all that might come. Big feelings stir inside, and I wonder, Is it worth it? Sharing my goals and hopes and dreams? Risking and writing and opening my heart?
Last Monday morning while reading in Psalm 31, verse 5 gave me pause.
Into your hand I commit my spirit, you have redeemed me O Lord, faithful God.
Often I think of these words in connection with death, not life, because in Luke 23:46, Jesus commits his spirit into his Father’s hands and breathes his last.
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
In David’s context, however, he commits his spirit while he is living. Reading this early Monday morning, caused me to fill with questions that I began to journal.
How do I commit my spirit into your hands, Father?
What is it to trust in your work on my behalf?
How do I rest in the space of un-ease? Unknown?
This looking ahead to dreams and goals and plans feels too big, yet I commit my spirit to your hands. Please show me the way!
I was given a new perspective and visual of handing my spirit to God for safe-keeping, not just in death, but in life. It gave me a renewed sense of peace that God already knows his plans for me and is working them out. Looking back over last week, I was grateful for the reminder when the stirring of unrest began to fill me.
I am still pondering this committing of spirit. Still practicing the trusting. Still learning to rest in the unknown and in the Father’s redemption of my life.
I am still learning to Bless the moments that we feel you nearer.
It is hard for me to fix my gaze directly forward and not all around me at everyone else, yet fixing my eyes on my own path is the only way to progress in my own life and achieve my own goals.
Too often I jump onto social media sites to see what others are up to. I read of their hopes and dreams and see what they are accomplishing, only to find myself lacking.
Instead of taking the steps ahead that I need to take in faith, I remain paralyzed with fear and doubt and comparison.
It’s time to take some steps of my own.
I appreciate my daughter and the inspiring way she has put herself out there this year. If you have never read her blog, check it out here and consider following her to stay updated with, and inspired by, her progress.
I am still figuring out what my steps actually look like. There are a few close to me who have heard my heart and helped me to identify what it would be to move forward with my dream amidst the responsibilities I carry. There is a fine line there and a place of incredible balance.
Someone once said, Baby steps. I’m taking them.
Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure.
May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans.
My husband celebrates his birthday on January 10, a day that comes on the heels of a big season of celebrating ~ Christmas, New Year’s Eve, our Anniversary. It arrives before the tiniest bit of breathing room, and we celebrate two of our children at the end of the month.
He has always been gracious and low-maintenance about his day. His only request is the cake. It is a chocolate layer cake with three textures ~ cake layers, mousse middle, and ganache frosting. It is divine.
This year, with all of the busyness, he said, You don’t have to make the cake. I will just pick out a cake at Costco.
Now Costco has wonderful cakes, but I wrestled with the fact that the cake is one of the few special things I do for his birthday, and I really wanted to bake it, as always. I made up my mind to just do it.
Mixing up the wet ingredients, then the dry ones to add to the batter, I realized that I had measured the wrong amount of salt. I haven’t baked for awhile! was running through my head.
Dumping the dry ingredients into the trash, I measured again, carefully this time, and continued with the recipe. I poured beautiful batter into greased and lined pans. They baked while I began the mousse filling.
Pulling the pans from the oven, my first thought was, I don’t remember the layers looking so flat, but there are a lot of things I don’t remember that turn out fine. I continued.
Cooling the cake, I fluffed up the mousse and frosted between the layers. It was time to mix up the ganache and pour it over the top of the cake. This plate that I have the cake on makes it look really small. I’m sure it’s fine, though. No one will notice.
Smoothing the thick chocolate over the top and letting it drip down the sides of the layers, I returned the cake to the fridge to rest for the evening. It would be ready for the birthday celebration the following day.
Why does that cake look so small? exclaimed my little noticing truth-teller, the minute she opened the fridge the next morning. So it wasn’t just me. The wheels in my head began turning, and doubt that I had added baking soda during the second mixing settled firmly.
I thought it looked a little small, too, added the one whose birthday was being celebrated, but I’m sure it will still taste good.
The tearburst that followed caught us both off guard, as I sat crying about so many things, the least of which was the cake but also about the cake.
That’s what found us lighting candles and singing “Happy Birthday” at 8:30 on a Sunday morning in January. Because sometimes you start with the cake.
It was delicious. A little dense, but oh so tasty. Happy Birthday, Steve! Top o’ the morning to you!
A few weekends ago, Steve and I took some much-needed time away together, with the holiday season in full swing. The timing was not ideal, but is it ever? As I type this line, I am transported in my mind to twenty-four years ago when we were saying, I do, at a time that was less-than ideal.
Today is our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary and the twenty-ninth anniversary of the season when we met.
There is a backstory to our time away, and while I could post pictures of festive decorations and divine cheese platters and gush about the reflexology treatment and hot-stone massage that my darling booked for me in advance, there would be much missing. There would be a glaring omission of the reality that we had to fight hard for this time and were almost taken down for the count.
That, dear reader, is the part that I want to share with you. Reality.
The story began last fall, summer, even, when my dearest asked our firstborn and her husband if they could spend Labor Day weekend with the kids so that we could go away together. Three nights alone seemed an incredible luxury. I was looking forward to it desperately.
When back-to-school life got full and pressures started bearing down, a voice inside reminded me that it would be worth it all when we were away. I could work really hard to get the school year going and then relax into the long weekend, emerging refreshed and re-connected with my partner in the midst of all of the madness.
We were both so caught up in our duties and responsibilities that a glaring omission happened. We failed to book a destination. This reality struck the week before we were to go away, when a painful conversation took place, leaving me feeling let-down, hurt, and angry.
Festering heart wounds that I thought had been dealt with, broke open and began to ooze painfully. I spent time trying to figure out a kind, yet honest, way to express my deep disappointment.
Too often I have offered a quick, That’s okay! or It’s no big deal! to things that were NOT okay and WERE big deals. It was a new path for me to sit in the hard place of feeling my feelings without minimizing them and of hurting without accusing my partner in anger. It was a struggle not to lash out at the one I love while in pain.
After these honest conversations, Labor Day weekend found us dog-sitting so that our daughter and son-in-law could go camping. We stayed at the house laboring, as usual. It was not the weekend I had envisioned, and I felt hurt and disappointed.
Steve quickly arranged for the next available time that the married adult couple could come and stay for a weekend. It was months away in December, but just having a date on the calendar was encouraging.
Things were rolling along smoothly. A non-refundable, non-transferable location was booked in Williamsburg, and Christmas Town tickets were purchased. Planning was enjoyable, and we were communicating. I had requested an entire Friday off to have a leisurely morning to myself before stealing away together.
I was picturing it in my head, and it was BEAUTIFUL!
Then things started to happen. Plans began to shift and change for honest reasons. Human error in communication caused the wrong weekend to be booked. We could still go away, but the child-care factor became much more labor-intensive and complicated.
I did not like the revised plan I was hearing. It felt forced and overwhelming and exhausting. Much complicated planning needed to happen just to arrive at our destination. It was not as I had envisioned. To top it off, the night before our planned departure, Steve became ill. He took to bed in a manner unusual for him unless it is serious. It was serious.
I was left in the nebulous unknown of wondering if I should continue to pack children to take to their siblings instead of having siblings come to them. I wondered if we would be able to go away at all.
Frankly, I was finished. Tired. Done.
My day off dawned, not as I had planned. It found me driving kids to school instead of rolling over for a little more sleep. After the drop off, I checked in with Steve who was not sure how he felt and did not look great.
Our revised plan had been to drive two cars to drop the kids with their adult siblings in Richmond on our way to Williamsburg. That would leave a vehicle for them to drive back to Harrisonburg that would fit everyone. Steve didn’t look up to the driving challenge. I was already less-than-thrilled with that idea BEFORE sickness crept in.
Let’s just not go. This is getting ridiculous. When are we going to read the sign that says this is not a good idea? What else has to happen?
We had until 11:00 to cancel the massage appointment he had booked. He wanted a little more rest, leaving me to make a teary call to my sister to help me process. She helped me sort out my heart, and when we hung up I realized that I needed to try.
Trying looked like seeing if there was any way to have the kids cared for here in town overnight instead of having to drive them to Richmond. The Richmond connection could drive themselves here the next day and hang out until we got home.
I reached out to friends and family who were able to say yes. While Steve slept, I arranged and drove around and packed up and picked up and dropped off. When he woke, I presented the new plan, which I think was plan d by this point. The kids were accounted for, he could sleep in the car while I drove, and we would at least be away, alone together.
If he felt better, great. If not, he could sleep while I read, addressed Christmas cards, wrote, did yoga, got a massage. We could watch movies or listen to podcasts together. It actually wasn’t looking too bad!
The bottom line is that we were able to go away, but it wasn’t easy.
We listened to podcasts together in the car. After a night of rest, Steve felt well enough to walk in the woods while I experienced a restorative massage. We ate at The Cheese Shop in downtown Williamsburg and walked around Merchant’s Square. We napped and relaxed. I didn’t write any Christmas cards. We didn’t make it to Christmas Town.
Our time together was too short. It always is. But it happened.