The tree stands in the living room, glowing with white and colored lights. Four ornament boxes brought up from the basement, one for each child still living at home, wait to be unpacked by their owners.
Each person puts their ornaments on as the spirit leads. There is no rhyme or reason and certainly no ceremony surrounding the process. In a few days I will carry the empty boxes back to the basement.
Checking in with my youngest, I ask about her decorating status.
Have you hung your ornaments on the tree, yet?
Yes! All except the stuffed animal ones. I am not hanging those up this year.
She has quite an assortment of Beanie Baby mini ornaments and other holiday stuffed animals that she hangs on the tree each year. I am surprised by this news.
What? But you always hang your stuffed ornaments on the tree! You play with them in the Christmas tree.
And just like that, Friends, is the end of yet another era. There is no more playing in the Christmas tree.
But the Hello Kitty ornaments made the cut and still hang in their row.
Time marches on, Mamas! One day those ornaments will stay put and the tree will no longer be a working document. It will remain static for the season. That day came for me today.
Thank you for helping me hold fast and move forward in the trenches of parenting. I want easier, different circumstances, but these are the ones I have been given. You know the fear in my heart, places themselves young. Be with my children who have been harmed and are finding their way. Please bring your healing to their hearts. Guide us. Jesus, please.
I stare straight ahead through the Prius windshield. Brilliant fall colors meet my gaze. En route to the lake with a friend for a respite scheduled months out, little did I know what this timing would mean.
My prayer, journaled earlier in the week, is answered in a way unexpected and uncomfortable. It comes in the form of a hard conversation over lunch just hours before this departure.
I welcome these moments. I dread these moments. They need to happen more often. It has not been safe for my children.
I cannot adequately describe the level of grief that rises in the aftermath. I place my food, uneaten, in a to go box and slide it across the table to the one with an appetite.
How does one look up from the wreckage and meet the gaze of the walking wounded?
That’s how it feels. A small taste of what my child felt, I realize. I am the adult, at least on the outside. I hold the space as tears spill from my eyes.
It is not lost on me that hours earlier, I wrote of looking up with gratitude and hopefulness. How does one find gratitude and hope in this?
Today’s gratitude is for an adult child willing to sit across from us and name their truth about growing up in our home. It is for increasing ability and skill to be in the space together and to hold hope for change. It is belief in restoration healing from locust-eaten years.
And it is gratitude for space away to tend to the young places in my own heart and hope that she, too, will be heard.
Dark chocolate, wine, nature, invitation to embrace my calling, I am seen by my children this Mother’s Day and every day. I feel loved all year long by the best kids. I do not need a specific day to remind me.
Still, they show up with surprises. Some with their presence, some with a text, some with a call. Loaves of dark chocolate babka (not pictured) draw waves of laughter, because Baab. Of course it is a fitting type of Mother’s Day specialty bread.
We tear into it together with delight. Then bemoan our stomachs being full of chocolate and rich, glutenous bread.
I have learned to rest on Mother’s Day. I have come to a place of deeper healing and kindness in my mothering story. What once was a struggle has become a challenge, an honest one, at that. Engagement with my narrative has brought deeper healing to my heart.
I have learned to repair with my children. They extend grace upon grace upon grace.
We laugh and cry and discover more inside jokes. Older siblings heal through youngers, as they name similar feelings and childhood anxieties and process them together. It is a beautiful mess.
So on this day set aside to honor mothers, which can feel fabricated and false, I marvel at the booty arranged on the table. My people love me well. They love me with their thoughtfulness and presence. They love me by feeling freedom to celebrate with their other mothers. Oh, how I love the others who mother them.
It brings me deep joy to see my adults living their lives in freedom as individuals. Whether with me in person or by text or by call or in spirit, the space we give one another is a gift. There is big space.
Now I do not want Mother’s Day to end. I want it to last and last, and in many ways, it does. Every day feels like Mother’s Day.
I look forward to a card arriving in the mail this week. I anticipate goodness with a son and his girlfriend joining us for a favorite dinner on Wednesday. The sun goes down on the day, and my heart feels full and so very blessed.
While preparing celery to cut into sticks for an afternoon snack one day, I chopped off the end of the bunch with a satisfying slice of the knife. The rounded bottom piece with its protruding curved ends rested on the cutting board.
Preparing to toss it in the compost bin, I looked at the cut end and thought it was perfect for dipping into paint and stamping in my art journal.
So I did just that!
I painted shades of silver, green, pink, and purple on the cut end of the celery and stamped it on the pages. Then I closed the pages together and pressed. When I opened them, I had these pages that mirror each other.
I am not sure if this is finished, yet. For now I am enjoying the colors and shapes and knowing that I was inspired to create while fixing a snack for my kids in the kitchen.
Easter afternoon finds me walking downtown towards my parents’ house to celebrate with dinner and an egg hunt at our usual 4:00 time. I love living close enough to walk over and decide to take the route past the nest. I am surprised to find Mama Duck surrounded by broken eggshells.
The ducklings hatched on Easter Sunday.
It is early in duckling season. There are no others in the stream. These will be first or second brood. Last year I was out of town and missed them completely. Other years I missed the hatching, as well, even though I was in town. One day they were in the nest, then they were gone.
This time I see the new ducklings in the nest.
Mama Duck protectively covers them with her body as they scurry around behind her under the bush. I imagine they are practicing using their legs for the journey to water. When I peer in for a closer look, she puffs up and begins breathing heavily, gathering them underneath her.
I give her some space to collect everyone before peeking in again. I see three little heads looking back at me. That seems like enough of a gift for the moment, so I continue on my way to the dinner, celebrating life and resurrection.
By Monday evening when Steve and I walk the dog, the nest is empty. There is only a scattering of broken egg shells. Steve suggests walking to the stream. After initial hesitation, I agree.
In the dark I see movement of a mama with her babies on the water.
Thursday finds me with a child home from school. She has a cold and is uncomfortable but not too ill to go on a morning dog walk. We head down to the water in search of the ducks.
Upon arrival, she holds the leash, sending me ahead to check it out first. Then you can hold the leash, and I will go look. I see mama with her babies.
Papa Duck joins them, flanking the side, while Mama protectively guides them towards the water.
I keep my distance, watching as they move closer to water. They pause to let the ducklings catch up.
Once all have reached water’s edge, the parents pause, allowing the ducklings to splash a bit before launching. I smile as they swim away and turn to face my youngest child who holds the leash of the dog. She smiles, too.
We walk home together sharing memories of duckling days past.
It has been years since I decluttered the Gucci bag given to me by my boyfriend in 1988. Recently, it returned to mind with pangs of sadness and feelings of loss which I write about today.
It came wrapped in a box, the purse in a pouch of its own. I did not realize at the time this was a dust protector to keep the bag nice when not in use. I immediately loved the thought and the gift, though deeper feelings of not deserving it stirred, as well.
I do not know that I was able to trust that the giver found me special or worthy, because I did not believe that of myself. It is a heavy weight to put on a teenage boy over a long distance. It is a heavy weight to carry, that of being nothing special yourself.
Recently my son’s rap music was playing in the car as he drove home from school. I sat in the passenger seat. The line She want this Gucci, she can get it played in addition to all of the other designer clothes, cars, and jewelry she could get.
After cringing the song up a bit by adding my own lines, She want eight kids, she can get it, Toyota Corrolla, hop in it, I told him his father actually bought me a Gucci purse when we were teenagers.
No way. You never had a Gucci.
Um, yes, I did.
There’s no way.
Yes. There really is a way.
This prompted an immediate search on my phone for an image of the small, albeit genuine, Gucci cross body purse that I carried for a season.
Memories flood my mind.
I am standing in the closet of the Green Street house, not a newlywed, not married ten years, yet, looking at my things. I feel lost. I am lost in motherhood, lost in who I am and what I like, and sad that nothing feels right about me.
In a pattern that is familiar, I pick up the thing that is probably the most me, and hence must bear the brunt of my feelings about myself. The Gucci purse goes into the giveaway bag first. When will I ever carry something that small, again? These days the large plastic Peter Rabbit diaper bag is my perpetual fashion statement.
Foreign to me is the idea that this, too, shall pass. I am living forever in the traumatic present which feels as if it will never pass.
Somewhere, someone is blessed with the surprise of a Gucci at a Goodwill store, and I forget about it until my own child challenges the notion that I would ever own something with that brand name.
I watched another Tiding Upover the weekend. We are almost finished with the series. In this one, the husband has a piles of designer shoes, and I wonder his story with them as he works out the decluttering process of choosing what to keep and what to give away.
I think of my single designer bag, the one I look up online occasionally to find that is sells for a couple hundred dollars and is not something I will ever have back. It is a part of my past to handle, grieve, and let go, all in my mind.
I bless the teenage boy who chose the thoughtful gift at a department store for the teenage girl living 1,100 miles away. I bless the girl for her good taste in men and for knowing that he was the one from first smile, even though it would take blood, sweat, and tears to uncover the goodness in them both, together.
I bless the recipient of the Gucci purse then and the one who carries it now. Wherever it landed was the right place, just as the words from Young Thug landed in the right place on the way home from school with my son, the child of mine who I wish I was able to grace with a vintage Gucci cross body.
On the heels of my post about order and how I experience the show Tidying Up, I stand in the kitchen set staring into an open metal cabinet full of games. A mashup of titles from Honeybee Tree to Stratego fill the shelves.
Paralyzed, I stand motionless. This is a familiar feeling when entering a place of downsizing and decluttering. Theory enters my mind. Idealism. Memories.
In theory, I can pull out a game a day, week, or another set time with the family to decide if we really enjoy it, or even play it. In fact, on this unexpected snow day, I could gather everyone around for a fun downsizing activity.
Let’s try playing these board games together and see what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of!
Reality quickly enters the equation, and the energy that would take drains me before I mention the idea. How often do we actually play board games together, anyway?
Idealism jumps in with its voice. It might not be long before another generation of littles is running around here. They might like playing Honeybee Tree, and you might have more patience threading the branches through the little holes with them than you did with your own children.
Memories flood as past, present, and future collide. Art Lotto was a favorite of the first generation of littles.Memory was a game I hoped I could enjoy with my littles as much as I enjoyed my mom playing it with me. I know that missing Stratego piece is out here somewhere. If we get more clay then Cranium could be fun to play again like it was around the table of the Green Street house.
Caught in the undertow, trying to swim parallel to the shore, I pick up an item that is clearly to declutter. It is not a game but a dinosaur kit. I am certain we do not need it anymore. Opening it, I remember that my youngest has an overdue dinosaur project. These plaster of paris pieces will fit the bill perfectly.
I pick up a shallow cardboard box being saved to organize things in a drawer (ala Konmarie Method) and call my daughter to the table to assemble the dinosaur.
The process reminds her of another project, a diorama, also due. She runs to her room and brings down something she has saved since first grade.
I’m glad I saved this. It will work perfectly.
The theme is frontier, and she asks about the Lincoln Logs. I find the bin and bring them to the table. It is like Christmas.
Can I take these up to my room when I finish making the log cabin?
Two projects are checked off of the list, courtesy of items we saved for way too long. It is a good thing we did not get rid of that dinosaur kit, the cardboard box, the old school project, and the Lincoln Logs . . . right?
Hence the bind.
Yes, it is a grace to have those things appear when we need them, but can I trust my needs to be met without having to account and project for every possible option and outcome? Can I release feelings of fear and scarcity to make room for possibility and provision?
Can I let things go?
On the way to school the following day, teenage brother sits in the passenger front seat, headphones on. Noticing the dinosaur in his sister’s lap, he recalls when he got the kit on a family vacation one year. He is the one who cast the pieces when he was ten or eleven years old.
I have no memory of this. None. We laugh and remember more of the story together. I express gratitude for the help he provided these many years later. I think of him at the time he got the kit, older brother of three younger sisters and little guy to four teenage siblings.
No one has an easy place in this family!
The projects are back home and sit on the dining room table. I look at them as I write, allowing myself space for things to be out of place while ordering my thoughts. I do not resolve the game cabinet situation.
Honeybee Tree and Stratego are keepers, for now. Memory is not in the cabinet when I go out to take a picture for the post. I must have let that one go already. The others will hold the space as I work through feelings, practice, and grow in my ability to let go.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we cannot see. . . So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Hebrews 11: 1,12,13 NLT
I sat across from one of my adult children in a local coffee shop, steaming mugs of cayenne mocha in our hands. The invitation extended to me resulted in conversation about hard things. This is the part of parenting I did not anticipate when, by faith, I opened my young self to accepting any blessings that God gave to me ~ because children are the greatest blessing.
Listening intently to words being spoken, truth being told. I affirmed that speaking the reality of growing up in our home was not dishonoring, but necessary for healing to happen. How I long for healing.
My journey with mothering closely mirrors my walk with God. I struggle with shame over choices, and seeming lack of choice, that resulted in eight humans birthing from my body. Yet I am not the author of their lives. I am part of the means by which their lives came into the world, the unseen.
It is deeply painful that what I viewed as an act of faith and trust in God resulted in harm to hearts in my home. The shadow was not lurking outside. It was within the walls.
My husband and I wounded our children by our inability to shepherd and parent well. We set up scenarios that caused the weak to fall rather than grow strong. Our ideal selves collided with, and were overtaken by, our real selves.
Twenty-eight years ago when I was a young engaged woman looking forward to a wedding day as the solution to all problems, dogma came not with the click of a mouse, but in the form of passed books and live conversations. It was perpetuated in community with others, gathered around the same ideals. It flourished behind locked church doors before fear of terrorism was a thing.
I was young and deeply impressionable. I was full of faith, however misguided. I had hope for a future better than what was in my past.
The same faith that believed if I only opened my life and womb to God, blessings would flow, now opens my heart to coffee and hard questions from the fruit of those ideals. I realize that this is a blessing, the ability to hold the tension of sitting in truth when everything inside of me longs to bolt.
Faith is a mystery. Sometimes I ask myself, Am I walking by faith or living in denial? Because faith and denial can look awfully similar. I know it is faith when I look at, instead of away from the pain. Looking into my child’s hurting eyes is an act of faith.
In doing so, I take a new grip with tired hands. My weak knees are strengthened by these redemptive conversations. Talking through hard places in our family story allows for new paths to be marked out, ones that are straight, direct, and true.
I long for my children to rise up with this strength. I have confidence that they will the more they engage the truth of their childhood stories. The young woman in me also rises and grows stronger as she speaks her truth and names her harm.
This is the mystery, the unseen, the confidence, the faith that I hold. I do not know why I still have faith. I cannot explain or define it, but it is real. It is a part of me that should not be viable, yet it grows. It grows over coffees and breakfasts and phone calls and text messages. To this confident mystery, I cling in hope.
They hang from a curtain rod in the laundry room. They have been hanging there for over a week. Left to dry after being carefully washed, they have been dry for days. They have come to represent a symbolic hanging on to all that happened over wedding weekend.
There is still much to process.
I say this out loud, and my husband asks for specifics. What do you still have to process?
Isn’t all of life a process? Will I ever be finished? I answer lightheartedly, because though I feel the weight of feelings, specific words evade me.
Folding laundry, I look up at the hanging dresses, grateful for what they symbolize. Just as I was clothed for my daughter’s wedding in an outfit carefully curated, so I was for my son’s, in a different way.
My metallic-colored, sheath-style Mother of the Groom dress was a Ross find over the summer. I knew it was the dress, and that by fall it would look even better on me as I tended to healthier eating and exercise habits.
A girl can dream, right?
Jewelry was found at a local consignment shop for under $15. A sparkly $6 scarf from TJ Maxx, a $10 purse from another consignment shop, and free sandals from my closet brought the entire look in at under $75.
I consider this a kindness for a season that found us in the midst of a major life change. When our son proposed to his beautiful wife in 2017, things looked a lot different in our world. Maybe the hanging dresses are continuing to remind me of the faithfulness of God in every change. Especially then.
There is enough.
I wore the black dress to the rehearsal dinner with shoes and a sweater from my closet. It was found, along with a sparkly necklace and silver purse, on a seasonal clearance sale at a consignment shop for $18, total.
I write of costs and consignment shops and looks, because I want to remember. I want to remember that even in seasons of uncertainty there are reasons to celebrate. Maybe especially then.
I want to remember that there is room for creativity and expression and for thinking outside of the box when finances are tight. I do not need to worry about what to wear. I can consider the lilies.
My son and daughter had a beautiful wedding weekend. There is more to share slowly as it unfolds in my heart, and I find more words. I am thankful for those of you who have been with me behind the scenes as life returns to what has never been normal. Part of this return should probably include taking down the dresses and putting them away.
Here is a peek at the wedding day. There is a bit more sparkle to my hair than there was 4 1/2 years ago at my daughter’s wedding. I love it.