Category Archives: defining

Heart Doula

So it’s like being a doula my BFF remarked, as we sat savoring a rare evening of time together catching up over glasses of wine.

Exactly! I replied. That is how I often think of it myself.

The topic had turned to that of the Lay Counseling Certificate program that I am pursuing and my reasons for doing so.

Between us we have birthed fourteen children, so we know a bit about labor, delivery, and post-partum as it relates to birthing babies. Her daughter runs a doula agency that is top-notch in its mission to support families through their birth experience, so she is familiar with the role of doulas and their scope of care.

I loved that my best friend was able to put those words to my mission.

Just as a birth doula sits with a woman who is laboring through contractions, offering support and comfort measures, while she waits to birth a child, so I sit with women who labor with pain in their stories as they wait birth out a new chapter of or transition in their life. I listen, offering support and comfort in the process.

Just as a birth doula knows when to call on one with further training and skills for the next stage of labor, so I know when to recommend further help from one more trained than I ~ a licensed therapist or counselor, a medical doctor or psychiatrist. Sometimes more is needed than listening skills and comfort measures to help someone through the story~birth process, especially during a time of transition.

Just as a post~partum doula walks alongside a new mother, helping her adjust to the many changes that a new person brings to life, so I walk alongside those who have a new chapter in their story to process and work through.

Yes, I would consider myself a heart doula.

I remember one night, in particular, when this image was made clear to me as I drove off in the dark to the home of a friend. Sleeping on her couch, being present in her pain, reassuring her that I was there, these things all reminded me of the early stages of labor. I wasn’t the solution to a problem but a part of the team who offered care and support during the story birth, transition, and healing process.

That is why I am pursuing this further training to develop my skills. I am gifted to be able to sit with women in places of great heart pain, hear hard things, and not flinch or panic. I can be present. I can handle the emotional blood and bodily fluids leaking out and offer assurance and reassurance throughout the process of birthing out whatever they are carrying inside.

I can sit with and support as those higher up the scale of care offer their insight and wisdom and prescription for healing. I can be with in the process, walking alongside, offering my presence and reminder that She is not alone.


It’s better to eat simply in quiet,
To silence the mischievous tongue,
To let a rebuke settle deeply,
To patiently parent the young.

When you can sit in the silence,
There’s time and there’s space to receive.
Wisdom moves towards the quiet.
Abundant words cause it to leave.

In silence there’s not room to quarrel.
There are no lies to repeat.
There are no hearts to be broken
When silence and discernment meet.

~quieting thoughts from Proverbs 17~

Words of Truth

These are what have been getting me by, lately. Words of truth.

Spoken to me by God in his word, by friends in text or facebook messages, written by my husband on the bathroom mirror, or clipped to the honeysuckle by birds, words of truth offer hope.

We are loved by a God who does the impossible. Hoping in him.

These words came through on my phone as I was exiting the house Monday morning. I needed to hear them. To read them. Everything was feeling pretty big and impossible, and I certainly wasn’t feeling God’s love. Hope? Not really.

My friend, who knows and cares for my heart, spoke truth, offering me hope.

That is what refuse of the heart needs ~ a hefty dose of words of truth mixed right into it. That is why I started the blog. For me, yes, but also for you, Friends.

It’s not just to chronicle my days, though it’s been fun to look back through old posts and see where I’ve been and things I’ve done and how the kids have grown.

It’s not just to collect and share recipes or tips or projects, though you might find some in here if you dig deeply.

I started the blog to have a place to compost all that is in my heart and to offer you a chance to consider what might be in yours. We all have our fair share of refuse that could use some truth mixed in with it.

Because then it is ready for sprinkling on seeds of hope! Once hope gets a chance to take root and grow, it’s a beautiful thing.

Pick Your Episode

There is this activity at our house called Episode Pick in which each child, in predetermined order, selects one cartoon episode from Netflix for everyone to watch. It’s like Saturday morning cartoons without the commercials or the Saturday morning constraint. It lasts long enough for an adult to balance the checkbook or work on some laundry or organize a closet or write a blogpost in peace.

Generally, it’s a Saturday morning activity, allowing the adults in the house a few extra minutes of sleep or a cup of coffee on the porch.

This morning, as Steve left for work, I hopped in the shower to get ready for my day. It is a season of great transition around here, and I am feeling it in my exhausted bones.

I ventured from my lair to the sound of cheering that a sibling had finally woken up. Yay! Kirkle! You’re finally awake! (Awww… look at how much they love each other. I am such a good mom to have trained them to rejoice when they see one another! Let me get started on that post about sibling love…) You get to lead us in EPISODE PICK! (What! Wait! There’s no episode pick right now.)

Insert sweetest child voice you have ever heard here courtesy of Coco…

Actually, yes there is. Dad said that when Kirkle woke up, he could lead us in an episode pick. He must REALLY love you and want you to rest this morning.


Turning and Churning and Processing

It’s not enough to have a collection of heart scraps. Thoughts and feelings need space to be turned and churned and processed. This is called aerating.

In garden composting, some bins are designed to be aerated by turning them with a crank handle or pivoting them around on a base. Others are simply a container for collecting refuse which is then aerated by hand using a pitchfork or shovel. The air breaks the compost down to do its work.

In heart composting, there are various ways to aerate thoughts and feelings.

Safe friends help to turn over what is churning in your heart, preparing it to be dumped out to do its work. Safe Friends have processed with me over coffee, email, phonecalls, even texting! The key is to find someone who you can trust with your heart, because they have proven themselves trustworthy. There is always a level of risk involved in opening your heart to relationship with others.

Counseling helps to process what is going on internally. I talk with a counselor about specific issues that arise when I need someone with extra clarity, perspective, and experience to help me handle them. These days, there are lots of triggers going off as I relate to my husband and children, so that objective, outside perspective helps me see what is going on in my heart.

Quiet time with God also helps to aerate the heart. Worshipingreading Scripture, journaling prayers, and being still are all ways to turn, churn, and process what is at work in your heart.

How is your heart composting going these days? Consider what it looks like to aerate your thoughts and feelings and plan a little space to try it!



Brown and Green, what does it all mean?

We have built a heart bin for collecting thoughts and feelings, discussed the need to breathe, added moisture in the form of tears, and condensed large chunks of story into manageable pieces. It’s time to talk about balance of material in working through your stuff.

In the natural world, decomposition happens on its own, eventually. Composting moves things along more quickly by understanding nitrogen and carbon and their roles in breaking down green and brown matter.

Brown matter includes things like brown bags, dried landscape waste, fall leaves, straw, wood chips, sawdust, and dryer lint. These materials are generally stocky, coarse, and dry. They don’t readily come to mind when you think composting. Their carbon energy keeps things in the pile from becoming smelly and slimy.

Green matter could be coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, fresh landscape waste, small animal bedding, bits of fruits or vegetables, and tea bags. These materials are generally soft and wet. This is what is saved in a bin on the kitchen counter, bringing nitrogen to the pile to keep microbes well fed.

About twice as much brown as green is mixed into the compost pile for good work. Material brought to be processed does not all look the same. Some waste appears obvious and significant like eggshells or coffee grounds. Other ingredients are just as necessary, though they may appear old or dried out or not as glamorous.

Likewise, as you bring the green matter of your heart to your journal, it’s helpful to try to see what brown matter you might add to it. Here is a personal, and timely, example.

I become increasingly agitated when the longings of my heart go unmet. These include, but are not limited to, things like peace in my homeorderconnectiontime, and space.

Tuesday night instead of peace, there was much chaos and strife, and this is not a guessing game about which child or husband was the source, because it was ME. I was demanding what isn’t in my life right now and failing to recognize all that is.

I told a child I would do something for them, then brought it up later in an unkind way. When I was called on it, I reacted in anger rather than humility. So wrong was my desire to be right. I am the parent. I’m ALWAYS right. Right? (wrong)

As I tried to practice what I preach and retreated to my room (with the unnecessary angry door slam) to write it out, I began to reflect on what had just happened (green stuff) but ALSO what was deeper inside setting me off (brown stuff…like emotional poop).

Overwhelmed heart. Overwhelmed struggle. Wondering how this will all play out. Caught up in the struggle. Trying to grasp. Fighting my way through. Trying to trust. 

That is what I dumped into my heart bin for later.

Then I found my child to set right where I was wrong.







Sowing in Tears

The living organisms that work to compost material need balanced moisture just as they need air. A dried out pile is no longer working. A flooded one causes poor decomposing conditions. As layers of refuse are added, watering and mixing them around helps the breakdown process.

Similarly, as layers of heart material begin to be shed, explored, and mixed together, tears provide the moisture necessary to keep feelings soft. The right balance of tears to heart work is cleansing and freeing.

Tears are a helpful gauge to let you know where you are in process.

The absence of tears could indicate that you have shut down your feelings. Constant or frequent tears might mean there is too much inside to process alone, and outside help is necessary.

Take some space and your journal and begin to reflect.

What brings on your tears? Do you cry for yourself? Only for others? At seemingly random times? When did you last cry? What does it mean to cry? What do you allow yourself to cry over and what is off-limits?

Continue to collect clues and matter and material for composting your heart.

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. Psalm 126:5

The Need to Breathe

In order for bacteria and other helpful microorganisms to thrive and reduce kitchen scraps to compost, oxygen is needed. Matter that is packed tightly and compressed leaves no room for air to get to those beneficial little creatures, and the mixture begins to stink. There must be life-giving space in the rubbish pile for work to happen.

In a similar way, composting the heart requires breathing room. The constant gathering and packing down of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and stories without creating space to breathe is counter-productive. It may even produce its own version of stink in the form of anxiety, agitation, anger, panic, fear, dread, or over-thinking.

Putting the work aside and taking room to breathe is an important part of the heart composting process.

What does room to breathe look like? It is different for everyone but may include (though not be limited to) the following:

  • taking a walk
  • being still
  • talking to God
  • listening for God
  • doing anything that calms you (taking a hot shower, practicing yoga, listening to music)
  • gardening
  • reading
  • resting

What does room to breathe look like for you? How will you practice breathing today? I think that I am going to do some gardening in the literal sense. I will allow myself the space and freedom to be outdoors enjoying my landscaping and flowerpots.

I am going to refresh my soul while working in the soil.

Building Your Heart Bin

When composting organic material, you need a structure in place to contain all of the matter that will be decomposing. This is called a compost bin.

compost bin: a bin that holds all natural resources and lets the contents break down from developing bacteria so it turns to soil

There are many different types and styles of bins that all achieve a similar end. It’s not one size fits all, unless someone is selling or promoting a particular brand or set of blueprints. Common important features include a reasonable size, a means to contain the refuse, and ease of use.

In the same way, when composting the heart, it is important to have a structure in place to facilitate the process of collecting, containing, and working with thoughts and feelings.

heart bin: a structure that holds the refuse of a heart and lets the contents break down and mix with truth to turn into rich soil for heart growth

Begin with safe community. This can be ready-made, like a church family, or one that you build yourself, such as a group of people in your life that have come together for a purpose. Either way, size matters. In too large of a community, hearts get spread thin and lost. Too small, and hearts pack tightly together with no room to grow. Safety matters, too. Safe community understands that change takes time and that there are many ways to achieve similar results.

Add personal space. This might look like quiet time set aside to journal about what is going on inside of you.  Electronically or on paper, take time to face honestly what is not serving you well at the moment. How are you reacting to and relating with your friends, spouse, or children? What is setting off (seemingly) irrational triggers? The bits of your day that aren’t the pretty parts offer great clues as to what to add to your heart compost bin.

Make it work for you. Whatever community structure you have in place, whatever means you choose to contain your thoughts and feelings, use it. A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing.

Try it! Begin to think about your community and those in it who are safe and supportive. Intentionally journal about what is going on inside of you. Be honest with yourself about your thoughts and feelings. They don’t have to be pretty or sanitized. They are the stem of the grapes, the peel of banana, the rotten part of the lettuce to be tossed aside and collected for later.