Monday, June 29, 2009


1 a: to be suitable, appropriate, or advantageous (a dictionary belongs in every home)
b: to be in a proper situation (a man of his ability belongs in teaching)
4: to be properly classified

We've been visiting other churches this summer. J has joked that we are "cheating" on our church,
but this is not something we've taken on lightly and it's not been terribly easy, thus far. There is a lot of tension within me about this decision. A big part of me is excited to search for community, especially community for my daughters. I want them to feel connected, loved and accepted and I think this could be an opportunity to seek a better fit for my own beliefs and personality.

But I find myself wondering if I will ever really belong in a wider group of believers. We've been at our current church for nearly a decade and if I don't belong there now, what makes me think I will belong somewhere else? Do I really even want to belong? Do I want to be properly classified? Will I ever be suitable, appropriate or an advantageous addition to an existing group of people?

Making matters even more complicated is that whether I want to or not, I do belong in at least one sense: I belong to this family. And I want our church home to be the best place possible for all of us. I want us all to feel safe, encouraged and challenged to grow there. But all five of us have different needs and desires. I've been trying to honestly express my own wants and needs, think about what I think my children need and listen to J's needs. At some point, we'll have to just make a decision and trust that God will use whatever place we are in to do his work.

As I've said in a recent post, I've been feeling alone lately. While it's not terribly pleasant, I don't really mind this feeling and I do think God can and is using it to shape something in me. I sense big changes on the horizon for our family and for me individually, so maybe being alone is a way of preparing my heart for this. But is it ultimately preparing my heart to belong? I'm not sure.

It's difficult to talk about these feelings because I don't want my friends to feel they are failing me. I just think there is an ache in my soul right now that comes from not completely belonging anywhere. I don't feel judgment about our current church or either of the churches we have visited so far. I don't think of this as a shopping expedition. But it is something difficult and unnameable. Being me, it's easier to process all of this in written words instead of in my head. If you've ever faced this type of decision or survived this type of season, please let me know. I'd love to hear your story. If you simply think I'm crazy and selfish, I'm not sure that's what I need to hear right now, but you can tell me anyway. . .

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Beach

I make my way onto the beach, gasping as the sand rubs its way into the soles of my feet and the burns there. I mainly feel relief, relief that the pain is over, relief that there is no cliff in sight, relief that I am here. Wherever “here” is.

I don’t get very far before the throbbing of my feet forces me to sit. I hobble over to a log, still damp from the water, and nearly crash into it as I roughly sit down. I’ve only come a few feet onto the beach, but find I already need a rest. It will take some time for my body to do what it could before this. If I’m completely honest, I know it will take some time before my mind forgets the pain enough to plan without fear of it. I wonder which will heal first – my body or my mind?

I spend a moment just sitting, catching my breath and looking around. The bright sand is finely ground and would feel soft if my feet weren’t red, inflamed and blistered. Tall pines encircle the beach, their limbs swaying slightly to create a soft, soothing rustle. I can see into the darkness beneath the trees and long to get there for a rest, out of the sun, away from the water that brought me here. The more distance I can put between myself and what just happened, the better.

But the water catches my eye. From here, it looks so soothing, so inviting: not at all like the source of the pain I underwent so recently. It laps gently against the shore, bringing with it things that were once elsewhere. I wonder how much a shore changes over time. If left undisturbed, how long would a shell remain on the beach? Does the water drop it there, only to drag it back out again later? This is an intriguing line of thought until I remember that the water dropped me here. I’d rather not contemplate returning just now.

Motivated by the coolness that awaits me under the trees, I force myself up from the log and limp towards them. Pausing twice to catch my breath, I eventually make it there and am pleased to find the shade holds a carpet of pine needles and a breeze that licks my face.

If the beach is a place holding new treasures as often as the tides ebb and flow, this wooded glen feels quiet with long held prizes not easily offered up. It doesn’t feel as showy as the beach, but is appealing in its quiet confidence. The forest knows what it is and what its purpose is, while the beach changes and morphs, avoiding rest at all costs. It’s odd, now that I think about it, that the beach is such a restful place for me. It’s constantly in motion, while I love peace and quiet. I wonder if my enjoyment of the near-silent woods will increase as I mature and know who I am. Do I like the beach because I change and morph as constantly as it does?

Shuffling carefully along, I stop to rest against a tree trunk. As my eyes adjust to the dim light, I see a hut a few meters in.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


1 a: the act or fact of living or continuing longer than another person or thing b: the continuation of life or existence

I recently read a book where characters were born with certain gifts (called graces). For a good deal of the book, it is assumed that a character has a grace for killing when, in fact, her
grace is survival. I was thinking today that one of the tragedies of poverty to me is that survival trumps all other things.

Those who live in poverty don't get to use a gift of hospitality when they have no home. They don't get to use a gift for storytelling when they work nights and aren't home to tell their children stories before bed. Poor people are often focused merely on survival: on making it from one day to the next, having a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food on the table.

Impoverished people don't get to sit in a quiet, air-conditioned room and blog about how people use their gifts. This makes me feel guilty, but also grateful. I am grateful that I have the luxury of time to think about survival, the joy of reading books for pure pleasure and the fulfillment of writing down my thoughts. It makes me sad to think of how poverty keeps people from opening their gifts to use for the world. It amazes me to contemplate what our world could look like if we could unleash that potential instead of having a large portion of the world's population focused on survival.

Last week in my Bible study, we were talking about what characteristic of God we would most like our marriage to reflect. I'd like my marriage and my life to reflect God's ability to see us as who we can be, not who we are. I'd like to look at the woman in line ahead of me at the grocery store and see her desire and willingness to provide excellent, not adequate, meals for her family. I'd like to see the homeless man's potential to have a gorgeous flower garden, given the opportunity. I'd like to see my daughter as who she will someday be, living out her gifts in a way that blesses others. I pray each of my daughters has that opportunity and that they are not burdened with merely surviving.

Monday, June 22, 2009


1: materials, supplies, or equipment used in various activities: as aobsolete : military baggage b: personal property

A few days ago, I proposed to the girls that we clean out the basement in order to make a playroom for them down there. The entry to our basement is not, and sadly, will not ever, be attractive. The stairs are very steep and it would be prohibitively expensive to have them re-done. I've always let this keep us from using the basement for anything more than storage (and laundry). However, J recently saved up and bought a new, flat screen (very large) television, so we now have a spare TV and there is already a futon sofa being stored in the basement. I thought these things could form the backbone of a kid-friendly zone in the depths of our home.

The girls were excited and motivated.
A immediately said, "Yeah, Mom. We can move our toys down there and then you can use the back room to write." Sweet child. On Thursday, we cleared a large area, filled our recycling containers to the brim and hauled a van full of boxes to Goodwill. Saturday we made two trips to the recycling dumpsters and another Goodwill haul. Progress is being made.

As I drove to Goodwill on Saturday, with the van weighed down with stuff, I thought about how light it made me feel to get rid of these personal possessions. We don't need the vast majority of the items in our basement. If we needed them, we would be using them. There are a few exceptions like the Christmas decorations and the washer and dryer, but by and large, the basement had become a repository of obsolete supplies, equipment and clothing.

And it felt really good to get rid of it. Some of it might not be of much use to others. But my personal style has evolved a lot in the last five years and much of the clothing I gave away is still wearable, just not by me. I like imagining someone walking into Goodwill on a treasure hunting expedition to find just the right shirt that used to be mine. I like thinking that it will make someone happy to have it for a reasonable price. And I like that it is not sitting in my basement, doing no one any good.

There is still work to be done and we still have far too much stuff for a family of five. Only in this country would this type of material accumulation occur, and it saddens me that I am not a better steward to purge our possessions more regularly. But I will give credit where credit is due and say that five van loads in two days are steps in the right direction... pictures to follow (eventually) of the finished space.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Fire

The pole is ripped out of my hand as the air swirls and rushes around me. Before I have time to utter a scream, my body makes contact with what feels like liquid fire. I twist, kick, and fight, trying to push my way to the surface. Instead, I am pulled deeper into this pulsing redness which sears not only my skin, but entire body, inside and out.

I fight on, struggling to regain some control. I try swimming, but find my arms and legs won’t move like they would in water. I try climbing, but can’t get purchase on anything. The panic swirls in my mind, no recriminations about how stupid I was to even try this, just sheer panic. Recriminations will come later, I am sure. But for now, all I can think of is getting away from this pain. Yet I can not find a way out.

Finally, my energy waning, I stop fighting. I decide to let the pain overtake me and I wait. For death. For loss of consciousness. Either would be better than continuing to fight this losing battle. To my surprise, the pain ebbs as I stop fighting. Never retreating fully, but pulling out slightly from my body. Where once my spine ached with it, now only my head, feet and hands throb. I lay as still as I can, letting the viscous fluid carry me along. The pain never goes away, but I find I can bear it as it carries me along if I don’t fight.

Time passes. I wonder if I could now push my way out, so I again attempt to swim, only to find the pain shoot through my body, more powerful now than ever before. I go back to being carried along. I lose track of time as the pain controls my journey.

Eventually, the substance thins, the pain recedes and I wake to find I am on a sandy beach, its surface irritating my external burns, but its solidity comforting to my internal wounds.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


1: separated from others : isolated

I've been feeling pretty alone lately. Not literally. My daughters are home from their time with one set of grandparents and they leave in eight days for a week with the other set of grandparents. With the intense heat the weather has provided and the heated arguments they have provided, I look forward to a few days of quiet during their absence.

But I am feeling "separated from others and isolated". I looked up a few words in Merrriam-Webster before starting this post, to find the right word to describe how I'm feeling. I've already used "misfit" which came to mind and "belong" didn't seem to quite get it. But "alone's" definition is dead-on.

Even in groups of people, I sit there feeling isolated. I have friends and we share fun times, but as I read the final chapter in Waking Up Grey, it encouraged the participant to have a party celebrating this journey. I realized that I don't know who would celebrate this with me. My closest friends aren't on similar journeys and while I don't think they scoff at my journey, I also don't feel a lot of interest on their part or a real understanding of why this has been important to me.

J pointed out that we're in a transition period right now. We're visiting another church over the summer to try to find community where our children can really connect. I'm in a different Bible study group with a lot of women I don't know and doing a different type of study than I've done in years. All of this adds up to me feeling adrift.

So when the ending of Waking Up Grey urged the importance of community and the need to celebrate, I was left wondering whether God wants me to be alone right now. Maybe there is something to be learned from the isolation.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The High Wire

Even holding the perfect balance in my hand, my mind and body freeze up as I look at the wire and the expanse below it. I can’t do this. I don’t know how to do this. I have never walked a tight wire, much less one stretched the length of a football field. And if (when?) I fall, it will kill me.

As if she can read these thoughts on my face, Irene says from beside me, “Terrifying, isn’t it?”

I turn my body to her. “I can’t do this. It’s crazy for me to even try. There’s no way I’ll make it to the other side.”

“And what if you don’t?”

I can’t believe she’s just asked me this. “If I don’t?! Look for yourself. I’ll die. Out here, alone. Painfully.”

“We’re all going to die. What choice do you have but to try? You can turn back. Go back to your crevice, or live in those rooms you bravely escaped. But is that living? Or just a different kind of dying? Are you alive simply because you are breathing?”

I understand the logic of her words, but anger wells up, spurred on by the icy fear coursing through my veins. “I. Can’t. Do. This.”

I don’t want to have this conversation. I want to hide, be alone, forget I ever found this place. I want the safety of what I know. But Irene is not leaving. She must sense my desire to shut down. It has to be written all over my face. But for the first time since I’ve met her, she does not comfort or pull back slightly when I need it. Instead, she pushes.

“I thought I knew you. Am I the only one who remembers what you’ve already done? Did you think you could use that plank to cross to the meadow? Was leaving behind what you knew you could do easy? Haven’t you changed at all? Why did you even come here?”

And now the fear turns to tears. My eyes well up and overflow as I stare across the chasm. The activity there seems to be gearing down and music accompanies the voices and the thrum of activity.

Irene’s words circle in my mind: Why did I come here? Is living the old way really living? Do I want to go back? Could I even go back? Why did I come here? Why did I come here?

Still fearful, but knowing I must set that aside, I ask Irene if I could have some time alone. She gives me a skeptical look, like she half-expects me bolt back to the meadow the minute she leaves. But she doesn’t say that. Instead, she walks over to the amphora and picks up a balancing pole. As she walks past me to the high wire, she pauses to embrace me.

“I’ll see you when you get there,” she says quietly.

And with no hesitation, she leaves. Her feet grip the wire, her pole perfectly straight, her eyes focused on her destination. In mere moments, she is on the other side. I watch her place her pole in a vessel and walk away, without looking back.
Holding the image in my mind of Irene’s confident, successful crossing, I step to the edge. I realize I am gripping my pole tightly, so I close my eyes, take a deep breath and relax my grip. Opening my eyes, I look down to ensure my feet are positioned correctly and take my first step.

The wire is tight beneath my feet, implying solid ground beneath it. I take a step, then two, using my pole to keep my balance in check.

And then I fall.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


1 a: the boundary of a closed plane figure b: the length of a perimeter
3: outer limits —often used in plural

I had the pleasure of going with a small group of friends to Sewanee, TN this weekend. We left early Saturday morning and came back this afternoon. It was a lovely time, filled with books, laughter, good food, fun drinks, movies, games and an unplanned one hour hike. The hike was planned. Its length was not.

It started out as a fairly short hike this morning after an excellent breakfast of scrambled eggs, hashbrown casserole, bacon and monkey bread. (We needed a hike after that breakfast!)
There's a memorial cross near the home where we were staying, so we started our walk by heading there. After that short distance, we still had an hour before we needed to leave to come home. The signs said "Perimeter Trail" with arrows pointing in opposite directions, indicating (we presumed) that the trail was a loop. After all, Webster's says that perimeter is the boundary of a closed area.

We calculated that we had about thirty minutes to walk, in order to allow enough time for me to shower before heading back, since I was going straight to a church service to see A dance. We chose a direction and headed out. About ten minutes in, one friend asked whether we should turn around and head back. I was enjoying the hike and said we should just carry on. A bit further down the trail, one friend said we seemed to be about a quarter of the way through the trail. Having no natural sense of direction, I was impressed by this assessment. Turns out, I shouldn't have been terribly impressed.

First, we crossed over a completely unfamiliar road. Then, the trail ended. We finally found ourselves on a highway several miles from our home and ended up flagging down a truck, asking directions, being told we were a little over a mile from our desination and heading back at a very brisk pace. We arrived at home at our desired departure time, took the fastest showers possible, loaded up and left. According to my rough estimates via Google maps, we hiked about 3 miles or so.

As we were booking it back to hop in the shower, a friend said to me, "Hey, I've got a word for you, WordGirl. Perimeter." How did a trail that was a perimeter trail end? Had we consulted Merriam Webster first, we might have noticed that perimeter can mean "outer limits." I posited the theory that we had walked the perimeter of the county by the time we returned home. I guess one of the lessons learned today was that it's helpful to know what you're walking the perimeter of before setting out.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


1: having or marked by great physical power
2: having moral or intellectual power

What makes you feel strong? J played soccer Sunday afternoon. He scored a goal for the first time in years and came home glowing with post-goal and post-game bliss.
J enjoys soccer for many reasons, but he freely admits that part of the joy comes from its link to his past. He likes pushing his body today to do what he routinely did 20 years ago. He likes to see that he "still has it." And while he didn't say it, I think it makes him feel strong to be out there on the field, seeing plays develop and positioning himself to block an opponent or aid an offensive gambit.

As J relived his soccer game by telling me all about it, it occurred to me that, in stark contrast to J, links to my past do not make me feel strong. I was not (and am not) an athlete. There's nothing that I used to be able to do and long for in a slightly wistful way. There are certainly some skills that I've lost or have atrophied over time. I used to be able to talk with high level business executives in an intelligent, insightful way. I think I've probably lost that in seven years away from the for-profit world. But it's not something I regret losing since I made the choice to leave that part of my life behind.

In fact, when I feel strongest is when I think about all of the things I can do now that I never would have attempted years ago. Even though I'm not an athlete, I enjoy running. I wouldn't have imagined being able to say that ten years ago and I feel strong when I run. I feel strong when J and I have a disagreement and I manage to actually talk it through with him instead of shutting down to avoid conflict. I feel strong when I write something from my heart and hit the "publish post" button.

Maybe I don't miss who I used to be because I wasn't very accomplished to begin with. But I think it would be more honest to say that my previous accomplishments just didn't mean as much to me because they didn't come from the real me. I am proud that I've spent the last few years peeling off the layers of desensitized, artificial me in order to reveal who I am today. Because those other layers made me feel weak, but in my own skin, I'm strong.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


1 a: to clear of weeds <weed a garden> b (1): to free from something hurtful or offensive (2): to remove the less desirable portions of

J took A and B with him to Sunday School this morning. While they were there, I cut the grass and started weeding the vegetable garden. As I sat pulling weeds, hot, sweaty and itchy, it occurred to me that worship is far broader than we normally acknowledge.

I've only recently discovered that I enjoy vegetable gardening. Previously, I really disliked gardening because of the necessity of weeding. It seemed to me that gardening was as much about killing as nourishing and I suppose in some ways that is still true, but I see now that death and life are, indeed, part of the same cycle, one as necessary as the other. But it deeply satisfies me to spend time out there in the mulch and straw, protecting the plants that are growing, monitoring them for blossoms and nourishing them with water. And I've found that vegetables motivate me more than plants, which do nourish our soul with beauty, but don't nourish our bodies. I find I'm more focused and concerned on our small crop of veggies than I ever would be about a batch of lilies.

I still have to weed my vegetable garden. Even using "weedless gardening" where we put down cardboard, hauled in earthy matter and planted on top, grass barges in. So while I sit and pull up what I don't want in order to get to fresh, juicy tomatoes and crisp, green cucumbers, I think about how gardening is so much like life.

Taken unit by unit, there is more in my garden that I don't want than that I want. While I have about 20 vegetable plants, I have more weeds than I can count. About every other day, I'm out there pulling up the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. If I don't, I'll have wasted all of this time and energy on nothing. And the weeds will overtake everything.

As I weed, I wonder whether I am as vigilant in my life. Do I regularly take stock of whether my life contains what is worthwhile? Am I letting things of little value choke out the components that make life worth living? Am I even taking time to decide consciously what I'm trying to grow?

So while J, A and B spent time worshiping in a more traditional way this morning, I was pondering my heart and my life in the garden. If nothing else, the weeds gave me cause to take stock and consider my life. That, I believe, is an act of worship.

Friday, June 5, 2009


1 a: being without company : lone b: cut off from others : solitary

Can a house be too quiet? I wouldn't have thought so, but I'm beginning to think the answer is "Yes, definitely." Since A's first summer, our daughters have spent a week with each set of their
grandparents. This week they are with my parents in Alabama. For our girls, this means a week of playing outside constantly, eating treats they would not get at home and watching more TV than their parents would ever allow. For the grandparents, this means a week of spending daily time with grandchildren who are normally hours away. For the parents, it means date nights, late nights and lazy mornings.

I've been doing this for nine years, so I've been surprised by how much lonely I feel right now. I miss my daughters. I called yesterday and talked to each of them before they headed to Pensacola for the day. After chatting with me for a minute or so, A said, "Do you want to talk to Ma D now?" I said, "No, I want to talk to you." "Oh, okay," came her reply. She did talk, filling me in on what she's been reading and doing. I squeezed in a talk with B and K as well. K, happy to chat, is the least satisfying phone conversation because I can't understand her well on the phone. So I hang up feeling like I've connected, but not entirely.

I'm not complaining. I've gotten a lot of writing done and it
was nice to spend as long as I needed to at work, without a firm deadline to make me head out. And I slept until 9 AM one morning - unheard of. Shortly, I'll take up my book and read for a while.

Still, the house is very quiet and I feel the solitude surrounding me. I normally love time alone, so I've been surprised by how long the days have been between J's departure for work and his return from work.

In short, they can't get home soon enough.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


:a presentation program developed by Microsoft

I spent most of my time at work on Monday creating a PowerPoint presentation. In my previous life (i.e. before quitting work to stay at home), creating presentations was a large chunk of my job. In fact, other than writing proposals, it was my favorite part of my job. So it was fun to use the newer version of PowerPoint (which has changed since I left the full-time workforce nearly seven years ago) and it was interesting to think about my old job, who I was then and who I am now.

It's pretty evident to me in hindsight why I enjoyed writing proposals. I like to write. Until recently, I would have told you I liked to write "with a purpose." By that I meant that I had something concrete that needed to be communicated in a clear and concise way. Essentially, I liked business writing. I carried that enjoyment with me to the non-profit world and used it to write grants.

But along the way, I found that wasn't enough for me. Saying what my company or my organization needed me to say wasn't satisfying. I wanted to write for myself. My own thoughts, my own ponderings, my own musings. Often for no other reason than to write them. Hence the creation of this blog.

PowerPoint appeals to a similar side of me, I believe. It does require writing, but in a succinct fashion. I like thinking and writing in bullet points. I like finding the right colors and images to complement the text.

I like the discipline that I impose on myself in this blog of choosing one word as the title for each (non-fiction) post. It forces me to find one word that best sums up what I want to say. Sometimes, the word comes to me first. I hear a word and think "I should write about that." Other times, I have something I want to say and I have to decide what one word encapsulates my thoughts.

It's interesting to look back on who I was years ago and realize some of the things I liked reflected gifts I didn't even know I had. I knew I could write reasonably well, but I didn't know I was a writer. I still struggle sometimes to acknowledge that the way I am made is OK. I struggle to reconcile how to humbly acknowledge the unique gifts I have. But it's affirming to see those same gifts woven throughout my life, even when I wasn't aware they were there.