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Listening

I arrive at the blog the day after my 49th birthday with a desire to break silence and write something here.

Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. Proverbs 1:32b, NLT

I feel this today. The cost of complacency. My battle against it as an Enneagram 9 is thick. Lately I have been warring inside to show up in the spaces. Any of them. Every time I do show up anywhere, it is work.

The words in my head are fast and furious. Ushering them through the keys to the page is the battle. I lean in and stand firm at the desk in my tiny home office. Eyeing the clock in the bottom corner of the screen, I invite the words to line up.

Each wants to be first. To say its piece. To jump out before being judged and sent to the end of the line. Time is running short. I have only minutes before the next thing. It’s tempting to pivot away to something else.

It is no secret that our country is in a state of collective trauma and chaos. From COVID-19 and the pandemic to the most recently publicized unjust killings and police brutality against the African-American community, this is a persistent state of unrest.

Cry out for insight and ask for understanding. Proverbs 2:3, NLT

This is where I have been. Crying out and asking. Listening.

Therefore they must eat the bitter fruit of their own way, choking on their own schemes. Proverbs 1:31, NLT

I am examining the bitter fruit in my own life. Ways that I have chosen comfort over truth. Safety over honesty. Blindness over sight.

And what do I do with the bitterness? The feeling of choking? How do I try to escape it by justifying instead of naming honestly? How do I rush to feel better at the cost of ignoring the plight of another?

I can still breathe.

I have more questions than answers. Where do I turn outside of myself? Who do I listen to and heed?

I am listening to my brothers and sisters of color. To faithful leaders who are doing the work of teaching and leaning in to reconciliation. I do not have answers which is why I am quiet.

I am listening.

Learn all you can

From those who are wiser

Practice doing what is right, just, and fair.

Fearing the Lord

While listening to counsel

From genuine heart~friends

Will help you grow wise. 

~thoughts on Proverbs 1~

Be Aware

Friends, I have no words.

I only know that there will be grace to sustain me for what is next. Whatever comes.

Can I trust that?

Can I be like mama duck, returning to her nest in the planter, high off the ground, trusting that it will be left alone? That humans well be aware and not touch?

Can we be aware of each other? Read and write signs for the vulnerable? Look out for one another?

Can we walk gently?

Today brings more big news. It feels like the new Monday Thing.

I won’t lie, I pull out the thermometer to confirm that the tightness in my chest is more panic and less COVID-19. No fever. Just more adjusting to the shifting ground beneath my feet.

I leash the dog and step out into the sunshine. We walk around the block, breathing and distancing. I try hard not to distance from self.

Be aware, Friends. Be kind. We are all in uncharted waters. None of us has done this before. If you need support, please reach out.

We are all in this together.

Let’s be aware.

Flourish

It came to me while unpacking my Christmas ornaments this year. I pulled a mini Starbucks mug ornament with the word Flourish from the box. It was still in its packaging. I remembered buying it on sale after Christmas last year and saving it for this year.

The ornament never made it out of its cardboard casing or onto the tree. Instead it stood on a shelf in my room inviting me to ponder the word Flourish and what it might mean for me in the new year.

Looking it up, the next step in the process, began to solidify my choice.

to grow luxuriantly, to achieve success, to be in a state of activity or production, to reach a height of development or influence, to make bold and sweeping gestures, an ornamental stroke in writing or printing, a decorative or finishing detail

All of these meanings, and more that were listed, felt true about what I long for in the new year.

Still pondering, I came across an online quiz related to figuring out your word of the year and decided to take it. The result was courage.

I always need that, and in this case, I think finding the courage to flourish is where I landed.

Here is my process in making this year’s art journal page along with the final result. I will keep it displayed to remind me of this year’s intentions.

Weep No More

A deep kindness in this difficult weekend came at the end of this morning’s worship service as we stood to sing “We Will Feast in the House of Zion.”

I was taken in my heart and mind to the chapel at The Seattle School where a group of us gathered informally on Sunday morning before the final session to sing and worship.

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more
~Sandra McCracken

It was such a sweetly, sacred space, all of us gathered to celebrate what God had done, was doing, will do. We were acutely aware of the fleetingness of a moment that would never return to us on this earth. Our hearts held so much.

This morning I clapped and sang with joy as my mind wandered briefly to that chapel and wondered if anyone was gathering there. I wondered if they, too, would be singing. If any would remember our voices. My voice.

Returning to present, standing between two of my daughters, I felt held and loved by my heavenly Father reminding me that the small details matter and that I am loved in them.

Fall’s Promise

It’s the first day of fall. The kitchen calendar reads Autumn Begins, and my autumn begins with an early morning appointment. Stepping outside, a rainbow greets me through the gray, a reminder of faithful promises kept.

I need all of the reminders.

I need color breaking through the gray.

My early morning destination offers space to walk outside near a calm lake surrounded by trees. The bench near the water is wet with mist. I embrace every moment of the present. There is beauty in the sunshine and in the blue sky that peeks through the clouds.

Afterward, I visit my parents to catch up with an uncle who is here from out of town. Laughter surrounds the breakfast table as he shares stories of my cousins and memories of his own. I drink my coffee from a mug I brought back for my parents after a Seattle trip, a token gift for help they offered while I traveled.

I think of my friends who are there now and offer up a prayer. I remember the early fall day two years ago when I walked to The Seattle School for the first time.

I continue to cling to the color, to remember that the gray passes, even as it swirls around me. Heaviness is not as easily shed as I wish.

Back home I supervise chores and help with homework and prepare lunch. I simmer fall scent on the stove and light a pumpkin candle on the table. A squirrel plate replaces the plain saucer underneath.

I fold and lay a leaf-covered fall tablecloth over the buffet, replacing the cream-colored one of summer. I cut up carrots and potatoes and put them into the crock pot with chicken broth, the beginning of fall chowder.

It is all very ordinary, and there lies the promise.

The promise is that I will be met in the ordinary places.

I struggle to embrace ordinary and to settle into the space. It feels foreign to not just forge ahead to the next thing, which is what I have done for most of my life.

Texting a sister turns into a phone call where we jump in together to catch up on life. Her words speak truth and our laughter lightens my heart. When we hang up, colors are more vivid.

Fall’s promise is that I can trust God’s faithful care in this season, just as in the 47 that came before. The work in me is being completed, and I can rest in that. Life is full of color in unexpected places if I choose to see it.

Sometimes I don’t have to look very far. For those moments I am grateful.

Welcome, Fall!

Bird Nest

Sitting on the floor of my daughter’s vacation room, I look through the glass door up at the nest. It is tucked into the balcony rafters. Mama bird has just returned to her babies.

I feel a kinship with mama bird, seeing as I am here this week with my three youngest chickadees. It’s a different vacation dynamic than years gone by.

The last time we were in this space, our unit was divided into a boys’ side and a girls’ side. There were eight of us. Someone got sick.

This year we are four females until Papa bird joins us. Each has her own space. Mine is on a pull-out sofa. Some years that is how it goes. I wanted my older girls to have their own rooms.

It’s kind to have a getaway gifted by the in-laws in the midst of this transitional summer. The change of scenery is doing us good, even if it’s only a different space to eat and sleep and watch Cartoon Network.

For me it’s also doing yoga on my travel mat, reading books, and journaling. It’s laughing with the girls at episodes of Teen Titans and Gumball and crying alone during Inside Out and A Wrinkle in Time.

It’s going for walks in the heat and playing miniature golf on a course where the young man behind the counter taking our money recognizes us from years ago when he was younger and his family came to our house for dinner that time.

We are not far.

Just like that mama bird who swoops down and away whenever I try to sneak out onto the balcony for a closer look, I swoop out and away to my own balcony to read or write. I swoop out for walks.

I always return, just like her.

Unlike her, my babies are old enough to swoop out on their own, as well. Little Mae took her own walk last evening. My teenage daughter steps out regularly for moments of self-care.

Teen sons are each off on their own adventure this month, instead of on vacation with the family. That is how seasons shift and change.

Maybe that is what continues to draw me to the floor of this room looking out of the window and up at a bird nest. Grounding. Remembering all of my birds when they were contained.

I always ask first.

May I go look at the bird?

Usually the answer is affirmative, unless I have been particularly annoying or grievous. Then I just wait a bit and ask again.

Mama has hopped out of the nest and is perched on the ledge. Her eyes peer around, scoping out the territory. I refrain from opening the door or making a sudden movement.

Instead I sit and bless her. I listen to her song through the window and marvel at her role in the world. She is enough just being a bird.

She does not have to compete with or compare herself to other birds. She is enough moving back and forth from her own nest minding her own business.

Enough. Just like these words.

Just like me.

Tabletop Tableau

This was the view across the room from me this morning as I sat in an oversized chair in my Airbnb drinking coffee and reading. Today is the last day of Certificate 2 training. How do I hold that?

Monday evening a precious friend stopped by the house to affix an EzPass to my windshield and capture the tolls for my trip. She also gave me a gift bag care package. Peeking in I saw snacks and a stuffed owl.

I didn’t see the cards tucked in between everything, one for each day, with instructions about when to open them. Each unique card held words of blessing and encouragement specific to the day.

This is a part of her glory. She is a writer. I was the recipient of her lavish gift of words. I assembled the cards on the tabletop under the staircase to remind me of truth and give me courage to step into hard places.

Some cards contained lunch money. Others a blessing. Each met me in exactly the right space for what the day held and what my heart needed.

I am preparing for the last session. Lunch is with myself today in solitude, pondering all that these days have held and preparing to end well. What do I hold? What do I toss?

It is my second attempt at writing this post. I wrote a first one while sitting at one of the wooden chairs that flank the table. I hit publish and rushed out the door. It vanished.

I sat all morning holding my disappointment while trying to release demand as to why my post vanished and where it went. I needed to remain present to all that was happening in morning session and group.

I will hit publish again for a second time on these new words for my morning thought. Then I will brave the rain and return to my table and receive what the afternoon holds.

On the Road

It was a full day of driving once I got on the road at 8:45, headed to a friend’s house in Toledo for leg one of my trip to Certificate 2 training in Geneva, IL.

Originally I thought I would rise and get on the road before everyone else woke up, getting a chunk of driving behind me and winding up at my destination in the early afternoon. It didn’t quite work that way, though.

I wanted to say a proper goodbye to everyone and didn’t want them setting pre dawn alarms and trying to get up before me. I decided to keep my usual routine and leave after dropping the girls off at school.

And walking Dewey.

Time in the car was long. I am grateful for Sheetz restrooms and turnpike service areas. I packed plenty of fruit, water, and protein bars to eat in the car. I’m listening to An American Marriage on audio book after hearing an NPR segment on it a week or two ago. A Contigo mug from home kept the coffee hot all day.

I arrived at my friend’s house at 5. Warm hugs and delicious stir fry awaited before we headed out to exercise. By exercise I mean enjoy the hydro massage tables and massage chairs and then decide we were really tired and ready to return home.

Hot tea and relaxing conversation, and I am ready to retire for the evening. I may stretch the kinks out on my yoga mat before hunkering down with a book to relax my eyes and brain. It is a luxury to be in my room by 9, one that I do not take for granted.

Thank you, Home front, for your tireless work to help this happen. I miss you all and am so thankful for you. Hugs and love!

Friendship Friday ~ Dewey’s Doggie Morning

My daughter faithfully rises early each weekday morning to walk and care for her dog. She is often up before me, pulling on a coat and slipping on headphones before grabbing the leash. I remain in my room, doing my morning routine, preparing to engage another day.

One morning, I heard unusual scrambling and barking from Dewey upon returning from his walk. Run-in with ZephyrI conjectured. She’s the boss of us all. I wonder what is up with them this morning. He must have crossed her.

I stepped out of my room to find a ball of white scampering around and under the dining room table with Dewey following closely behind, barking and snapping at it. It was another terrier.

I found Louie this morning on the walk. He was loose, so I brought him here to call his owner.

Sure enough, the name on his tag read Louie, which was kind of funny considering we have Dewey. We wondered aloud if they had been at the SPCA together, and if there was a Huey out there, also.

The morning routine continued as Dewey and Louie dashed around underfoot, reminding me of why I was hesitant to get a dog in the first place and why we have only one. Steve called the number on the tag which went directly to voicemail. He then offered the following words while preparing to drive Kirk to school:

I’m going to walk Louie around the block to see if someone is looking for him while Kirk finishes getting ready.

I got in my car to wait for the girls to come out for their ride to school. They exited the house as Steve returned from his walk around the block with another little dog under his arm.

I think they belong together, because this little one came running up. I had to grab him quickly before he got away.

Then there were three! I was laughing out loud in disbelief. The little brown dog had no tag. Of course we called him Huey.

Please don’t call the SPCA until I get home. The little brown dog is SOOOOO cute! Can we keep him?

I was beyond my comfort zone as Steve deposited the dogs in the backyard while I assured my daughter that I would make no sudden moves without her. We left for school.

I am not exaggerating when I say that at the top of our street there was a large white dog off-leash doing his business. No human in sight.

We are not even stopping for Donald! We have GOT to get to school. 

I returned home to the sight of two dogs looking longingly at me through the fence.

Inside, Dewey was waiting by the back door. I opened it for him to join his friends in the back yard.

There was an incredible amount of cuteness.

Then it was time for me to go to breakfast with my son. This meant bringing Dewey inside but leaving the others out in case their owner should come looking for them. Can you guess the dynamic here? Which dog is supposed to be coming inside?

Please can I come in, too?

After a leisurely breakfast downtown, my son and I returned home to an empty yard. The dogs had been picked up. At least I hoped so!

The call came later. The dogs had, indeed, made it home, and we had made a fun family memory. I’m grateful for caring hearts, bounding dogs, and healing laughter.

Also for a fenced-in yard.

Oh. And the little dog’s name is Chance.

Ending Well

February 23 is when I first dared speak it. I was at an extra-curricular fair at the high school and connected with a safe sister who teaches there. I knew she would hold my words in confidence while holding me accountable to them. I had spoken them to my husband the day before.

I’ve made the decision to leave Good Shepherd at the end of this school year.

It felt terrifying, yet I knew I was the only one who could make the decision. No one else could do it for me. I needed to use my own voice. Hearing that voice speaking the words aloud stirred a mixture of fear and peace, confidence and uncertainty, joy and sorrow, relief and grief.

There was So. Much. Ambivalence. attached to the decision to end my teaching season.

There were nudges in the direction. I had agreed to two years when I signed on to return to the classroom. This was year four. There were changes going on in my world both internally and externally. There was little margin for the best with all of the good I was doing.

Wrestling with the decision was hard.

It was hard to imagine leaving the students and other teachers whom I dearly loved.

It was hard to imagine finding a replacement for my income.

It was hard to imagine walking by faith and not by sight. It was terrifying, but I knew it was time to step out.

I don’t know what’s next, but I know what’s now.

I penned these words in my journal the weekend I composed a resignation letter.  I turned in the letter on Monday morning, and then spoke in person to those I knew needed to hear the words directly from me, not in a memo or through the grapevine. I let them feel their feelings while I felt mine, not rushing through or trying to fix. It was so hard.

Again I wrote,

There are so many feelings inside. So much stirring. With the end of this chapter in sight, I need to be attentive to what is required to attend to the hearts around me and finish well. I am trusting what God has in store for me as good.

Last night was rough when the lights went out and things were still. I began to wrestle with the reality to end my time at Good Shepherd and with adulthood. What about all of the unknowns? Will you be there, God? Of course you will! How can I not trust that you have been and will be?

Holding my decision until an official word from the school office was released was challenging. I longed to write about my version of The End, May’s theme for Red Tent Living, and process on my blog, but the timing wasn’t right. I wanted to honor the timing.

I am glad that I did.

The day that the student intent letter went home with the information that I would not be the classroom teacher in the fall, there were many big feelings from small people, some of whom I had taught for all four years due to the nature of our program. There were feelings from adults, as well.

Today my students found out I am not returning next year. There were lots of feelings and emotions. Next week will be long. I need to trust.

There is much to ponder and process still about how that final week went. It was long. It was good. It was full. It was kind.

It is finished.