The Witching Hour

I’m not sure if I’ve written about some of this before, so forgive me if I have…but right now I am just letting the words flow…

I remember so distinctly some of our conversations those last few months.  Twice a day visits, one each from Dad and I, that ebbed into one of us visiting once a day because we were running ourselves ragged and not even noticing it.  Conversations about things to come, how the world would be, and how the four of us may or may not move along.  But I can hear her saying over, and over, and over….”If you come after 4, it will be too late”.  “I won’t make it until 4…so come before then…” And in the most morbid of ways, it became our running joke.  And in my attempt to comfort her, to support her into the next stages, I promised that I would think of her at 4 o’clock and every moment between.

So it seems only appropriate that today I should wake up in the wee hours of the morning, feeling strangely wide awake though not in any shape to face the day.  I read in a book how sometimes people refer to this time in the early morn as “the witching hour” because nothing good could happen at 3 or 4 in morning (I wish I could attribute that thought to the author, but I can’t seem to recall which book it is from–but that is not my own thought).  To me this time is sacred–and I imagine because of its “name” it would be the same for certain groups of the occult.  But I consider it my own personal time where the distance, and space, and thickness of the world feels a little bit less between us.  And even though my sleep pattern gets thrown off, I am thankful for the moments I can sit at this hour and just be.

It can be difficult to remember.  Her voice seems to slip away from your ears and you wonder if you truly remember how it sounded: how your could here the smile in her voice before you saw it on her face, how you knew when you were in trouble just from her tone of exasperation, and the concern and worry that was never far from the core of her being because she loved fiercely about her people and really people in general.

I don’t like today: because it slaps me in the face with the fact that she is gone.  Life has been hectic the last several months–there have been numerous changes at work that affect how I work and my typical processes for getting things done–I’ve had to adapt time and time again.  I say that because, in a strange way, its helped me cope.  I’ve been able to distract myself from the gaping hole in my heart.  I’ve been able to push aside some of the grief and not let it crumple me in a corner.  But that also makes me feel guilty for not letting myself be raw and vulnerable and real.  But that time has also given me much time for reflection as I look at how our congregation moves forward and evolves.  And in those moments of contemplation I wonder what her advice would be.  I recognize the ball of nerves she’d be as I share everything that is happening in my life and the (self-perceived) difficulties with which I’m faced on the day-to-day.

I don’t know exactly what she’d tell me, but I can imagine the sentiment behind her advice.  I remember the strength of her faith and her spirit.  I remember the compassion and love she had for me and my sisters.  I remember the fierce connection between she and my dad.  I remember the twinkle in her eye when she’d say something that was silly or was something that just barely pushed the envelope on its appropriateness.  I remember things that bonded our souls, those connections that are unbreakable.  I remember life chats snuggled in bed together.  I remember the multitude of shopping trips for new clothes: whether her taking me for school clothes or me taking her when she’d stopped driving.  I remember the way her cheeks would pink after one glass of wine.  And how her nimble fingers could craft up just about anything on her sewing machine that seemed ancient.  I remember how as she aged she looked more and more like her dad–and I think fondly about the fact that I will probably follow suit.  I remember the difficult days: growing up, as an “adult”, and in the last several years–because life simply isn’t life without the highs and lows.

And even in all of this remembering, it doesn’t make it easier.  But I am thankful for the witching hour and the way time suspends–even just for a few split seconds–so that I can catch glimpses of her, feel concentrate moments of her presence, and commune with my mama who I will never stop missing.

 

Living Parallel Lives

Life has a funny way of bringing you what you need, exactly when you need it sometimes.  I guess that’s just God looking out for you, but sometimes it seems so coincidental.

In the last couple years I’ve been spending time with my dad going through things in his house: purging, and organizing, and reminiscing.  Often through this process we stumble upon hidden gems and items we didn’t know (or didn’t remember) existed.  Recently, one of those items was the journal my mom kept during most of her time in Zaire.  She served as a missionary through the United Methodist Church teaching Mathematics to middle and high school students.  Her handwriting looks different,  but eerily the same.  Her voice sounds different, she sounds…ambitious, young, dedicated, passionate.  But you can also hear the struggles, the questioning, the unsure-ity (is that a word?) and doubt.  Those are a lot of the same feelings I am confronted with right now as well.

I can’t claim that my experience is the same as hers. But situationally I can see the connective points of what she went through and what I am going through. It’s been a strange reality–to read it instead of discussing it with her, to feel her presence in my own struggles and emotions, to know that there is the constant reminder that no matter what happens she is right beside me.

It makes me wonder back to journaling my own thoughts, and what my future children will think of my words they might have the chance to read. How will they see me? What will they take away for their own lives? And how can I comfort them even by just giving them the realization that we all go through difficult times, times that make us want to pull out our hair, times that push us to (or past) the brink of tears, times that challenge us and make us stronger, wiser, and more ourselves.

All of these various thoughts push me to regroup myself. I remind myself of my worth, of my inner strength, of my talent, of my compassion and heart, of my need for self-care, of my desire to leave the world and my community even just a little bit better than it was when I was born to this time and place. I am learning to find me again. I’m learning to trust myself. I am learning that somethings I thought were important aren’t. And I’m remembering some of the important things I’ve overlooked along the way. I strive to do better, to create opportunities to grow and flourish, and surround myself with those who help me get there.

Rumble

I had a friend tell me once, as we were discussing his coming to terms with losing his mother, that all of the the power was in himself. You see, his belief was (and may still be) that he could tell himself not to be sad (or any other emotion he chose) and POOF it would disappear and he wouldn’t be sad anymore. I’m not sure it’s that simple. Sometimes I wish it was, but as an empath I find that feelings hit me much closer to the vest and stay with me much longer than just my initial “bye, Felicia”.

I’m an empath at heart. Emotions drain me: good and bad. And I often take on the emotions of others; they become mine. Sometimes I really have to sit with myself and unravel whether what I am feeling is my own genuine emotion or that which has rubbed off on me from somewhere or someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give this up even though there are times I wish I could shed it for a time. Being highly sensitive and an empath are a part of what make me, me. It makes me second guess, and worry, and hold situations in my head way longer than most people. It causes me to wonder how other people are feeling, how I can protect their feelings (often in place of protecting my own), and sometimes even jump to illogical places of “fear”.

But being an empath also brings joy to my life. It bolsters the way I care about people. It has allowed me the gift of intentional and dedicated listening, and pushed me to ask questions and go deeper in my relationships. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes comes easier, and I can easily see the other side of the story (when I am not an integral part of the situation). It reminds me that I feel and emote more than I don’t. It’s the source of my quick connections and my hesitancy to let people in below the surface. It is a piece of the web that is me.

There have been lots of changes for me. I’ve started working out again on a somewhat regular basis. I’m diving back in to eating healthy, being conscious of my food choices, and recognizing a need a little help sticking with it (hello, WW). I’ve started using a dating app, because I don’t believe I’m meant to do this life alone, and meeting new people isn’t happening on the daily. These are just the big changes in my personal life and don’t begin to scratch the surface of the professional life changes over the last six months+.

As an empath, which is a category of highly sensitive persons, change is difficult. It’s exciting, sure. But some days I’d rather crawl in a hole than subject myself to new and different environments or experiences. And so when faced with so much change all at once my system is a little bit shocked (that could be an understatement). And when my system is shocked to the point of overload, I don’t respond like I would 98 and 3/4 percent of the time. I operate out of fear and sadness and confusion, when normally I operate out of joy and confidence and wonder.

And so I write. Because it pushes me to be vulnerable. It pushes me to take what feels uncomfortable and unnatural and make it common place. I cannot live in a place of shame and fear any longer. I choose to own these pieces. I choose to be me.

Forty Years…

I would not be me if dates didn’t hold a special place in my heart. We had plans, or maybe just I did, about the celebration we’d have today. The guest list, the food, the decorations, the sharing of stories, the photos. But sometimes things change. Something happens and we have to set a new course, or change our goal. And so the magical dream in my head of celebrating my parents’ 40th anniversary went away. I packed up the ideas and the imaginings and put them in deep storage where they’ve remained untouched, until today.

It seems strange to celebrate without her here, and so I’ve held myself from wishing my dad “happy anniversary”. But in actuality I am sad for the years they have been cheated; it’s a strange sensation because it’s not even emotions about me.

I am thankful for my parents, their relationship , and how they raised me. And I am thankful for the realness, for the beautiful, and for the messy and difficult that comes with any marriage.

So here is to my parents on their 40th wedding anniversary. Thank you for your wisdom, your love, and your endless support. I am proud to have both of you to guide and teach me along the way. You may not be perfect, but you have proved to me that with the right person you can work through anything. And that love, true love, is everlasting.

I am Woman….

You may know the song.  But after last weekend, I’d rather end that opening title with ” hear me squeal like Richard Simmons”.  Just some Richard Simmons

We had our first Women’s Retreat last weekend, our church hasn’t had one for maybe ten or so years?  It’s hard to say because they haven’t had one since I have been working here (and I start my 8th year in October!).  I was a little nervous going into the weekend, you never know when you get together a new group of people exactly how they will interact and get along.  But I was blown away by the openness, grace, laughter, and support that came out of the weekend.

I organized the event, but in order to give me the opportunity to get as much as other participants from the retreat, we opted for an outside facilitator.  It was easy for me to figure out who I wanted to lead us.  My friend Anne , is a certified retreat leader.  I have attended many retreats that she used to lead for youth and knew how refreshing it would be to have her in the space, guiding us.  She and I met, talked about what I hoped for participants, and came up with a loose framework.  She sent me the outlines along the way to make sure she was on the right path, but admittedly, I was tentative in reading them, not wanting to “ruin” my own experience.

She created wonderful opportunities for us as we delved into the landscapes of our lives and how they are woven together.  There was time for self-reflection (something I don’t do enough), paired sharing, and group discussion.  There was time for creativity, time for laughter, movie views, singing (wow, these ladies have amazing voices), and yes even time to Sweat to the Oldies. 🙂

I didn’t know everyone on this retreat well.  But I came away with a deeper sense of each one of them.  There is a kindredness that this time together created among us, that was surely something I didn’t anticipate.  But I am so thankful for it.  I can only hope that the other ladies got as much from the weekend as I did.  I am hopeful that it becomes an annual tradition because it is something I am already looking forward to for next year.

For me there is strength found in connections.  But more than that, there is an unexplained strength in women coming together as a group.  We find solace, support, identification, and listening in a way not found by any other group.  And I covet this time, in a world that so often tears people apart, leaves them alone, tells us we are not good enough.

As I drove to work this morning, and this post was spinning around in my head, I was listening to one of my favorite Sara Bareilles songs.  It’s from the musical, Waitress.  Some of the words really spoke to me:

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine.

Aren’t we all a few of those things?  Haven’t we all felt that way, at some point?  I heard stories this weekend of failure, hurt, disappointment, struggle, and sadness.  But what I learned was those were only pieces of the stories–because in failure, there was success; in hurt, their was healing; in disappointment, there was pride; in struggle, there was perseverance; and in sadness, there was joy.  Maybe not immediately, maybe not always, but it was there.  And there is now this group of women that can remind us to keep our head up.  We are women, hear us ROAR.

Quotes About Strength In Love Faith  Quotes About Strength And Love Quotes Courage Of A Woman

It’s as If We Never Said…Goodbye

Yesterday was our last worship service at our old building. It seems surreal to call it our “old building”. But that’s what it is. There were many emotions in the room, people are in different places in their hearts and minds when they think about our transition and journey forward. I had a few tears as we were blessing our communion table, mostly because I was looking into the eyes of others who were crying. I am excited about the future.

I had to stop by the old building to pick up some things from the nursery. No one else as there. Most things we are taking are already gone. It was a little bit of a shock, a punch to the gut. But, it will always feel like home. In some ways at least. It’s just like good friends you haven’t seen in a while–you always pick back up where you left off. Except in this case our ministry continues–just in a new locale.

So I knew I’d want some sort of memory of the place. I didn’t take one yesterday, so I got a selfie this morning.

It’s perfect and will help me remember. A song from Sunset Boulevard has been running through my head all day. Our show choir sang it one year (with slight alterations).

I don’t know why I’m frightened, I know my way around here, The cardboard trees, the painted seas, the sound here. Yes, a world to rediscover, But I’m not in any hurry, And I need a moment. The whispered conversations In overcrowded hallways. The atmosphere is thrilling here as always. Feel the early morning madness. Feel the magic in the making. Why, everything’s as if we never said goodbye. And this time will be bigger. And brighter than we knew it, So watch me fly, we all know I can do it.

It’s a reminder to me that the important pieces of who we are have not been lost. We are strong, we are resilient, we are community. And I believe that is enough. So it was very humbling and inspiring to have our new signage greet me first thing this morning on our office building and door. Because this is who we are and where we are and the present and the future are bright.

Read a Book, Read a Book

My parents always had a rule: if you are going to read, you can stay up later. I think it was a ploy to keep us reading, and learning. Plus they both loved the written word. I don’t remember taking advantage of that rule (perk really) as much as my two sisters. And somewhere along the line my love of reading turned into a love of the spoken word (I love audio books and NPR). I’d find myself trying to read and dozing off, or getting distracted by the gobs of other things I needed to be doing at any given point. I have bookshelves full of booms I haven’t gotten around to reading. And often times I have three or four started at one time.

One of my friends told me about the Book of the Month club. It’s one of those subscription box type services where they let you choose one hard back book from a short list each month for only $9.99 (that’s one easy payment). Even though my love for reading has waned, I wanted to give it a try. And by using her link I got a second book free! To my joy one of the books was set in Appalachia (😍) and the other was written in the style of Agatha Christie. Less than a week after getting my books, I’ve finished the first and have started the second. I am feeling pretty accomplished.

I may have found my way back into the love of books, and to Shelly’s awe I’m sure, perhaps back into the love of fiction (because I’ve been a non-fiction fangirl for a long while). Here’s hoping I can keep this book reading alive. And if you are interested in trying BOTM, here’s my link: https://www.mybotm.com/bp5npb18ikk

That’s Church to Me

If you’ve been around me at all the last two years you haven’t been able to escape a discussion on transitions happening at work and our congregation’s decision to relocate. There have been many God moments throughout this process and though pieces feel daunting there is a lot of excitement. This move, once merely on the horizon, is now close within reach and I have been thinking a lot about our temporary/transitional years and what that means as we define or redefine our community. Church will look different. Worship will look different. Fellowship and service work and meetings and, and, and; will look different.

But through all of that we will still be Church, we will still be Community. So what does community mean? What makes a church a church? I did an activity with my kids during Sunday school last week that helped them think about the similarities of our existence when we are in a temp space. I hope it was reassuring for them. And part of that exercise asked them to think about community in creative ways. Here is my list of what church is:

  1. Church is a movement. It’s taking a stand for the things we believe in and trying to live our lives the way Jesus lived his.
  2. Church is family. Not everyone always gets along but there are certain things that unify us. And we love and support each other even when we disagree.
  3. Church is helping others. It’s about giving back in whatever way we can because we aren’t alone in this crazy world, and we all need help in some form or fashion.
  4. Church is all generations growing and learning from one another. Everyone is important and every has something to teach and something to learn.
  • That’s church to me. At the heart it is all about the people and living our lives following in the footsteps of Jesus. We aren’t perfect, we are human. We fail, and we make mistakes, and sometimes we get it wrong. But we keep trying, we keep working, we keep going. Because we know what church means to us.
  • A Crazy Month

    I haven’t posted in a little over a month. I’ve missed writing, but I have a long list of reason why it hasn’t happened. I’ve had ideas flood my head but just haven’t made it a priority to sit down and write them out. That’s on me. But I am hopeful to get back into a routine, to again make this blog a part of my self-care and my goal of being honest with the world.

    It’s been a long and tumultuous month. There have been ups and downs, both in major and in small ways. I haven’t handled it all the most gracefully, but there is something to be said for bouts of messiness in ones life; in a strange way I think it makes living all the more real.

    We had our annual Camp at the beginning of June. I was hesitant and tentative about this year. After 20+ years we decided that we needed to function out of a new site. This was more than two years in the making. It wasn’t an easy decision, not everyone was happy about it, and I am forever grateful to the long hours and diligent work our Camp Team put in behind the scenes. But the hard work and dedication of all involved truly paid off. We had a wonderful week at Pine Creek Camp. It quickly felt like home. And it was wonderful to fully embrace and feel the idea that Camp; much like Church; isn’t about the place, it’s about the people.

    Fast-forward two weeks to a death in the family. This provided me the opportunity to reach out to my grandfather who has distanced himself from me over the last two years. It started positively, and I was so hopeful that we had turned a corner. I remembered fond times spent together as a family. And that was enough. However, it wasn’t long lived. I’ve come to realize that people need to live in their own realities, whether true or not. There isn’t anything that I can do to convince them otherwise, and I am tired of trying. I’m a strong believer in honesty and compromise. So I wrote a letter, sent it, and gave myself the gift of closure.

    Sometimes it seems strange sharing pieces of my life like the one above. Because it gives away a little more of myself than I’d normal like to do. But I think there is a power in stories, in shared stories, in understanding where people are coming from and so I share, not always the entire story but the parts that feel right. Life is complicated and intricate–in wonderfully beautiful and awfully tragic ways. Today I am thankful for my experiences and how they have made me who I am. There’s a lot of hurt in this girl, but also a lot of strength.

    I also have to brag that the same week that my dad’s cousin died my Middle School youth spent three days volunteering in the community where our church is moving. They worked at a food pantry, helped with games at a senior center, and did a work project at the Elementary School that will serve as our temporary home on Sunday mornings. Not everything went according to plan, by my kids worked through some hard lessons that were out of our control. #proudmommoment #notamom #proudYM

    And now my High School youth head off to their mission trip tomorrow! And that closes out my month.

    Training Them Up

    The school year is coming to a close. Students have finals, papers, tests, projects, and presentations. They have yearbooks ready to be signed and teacher gifts ready to be given. Many of them have plans for summer trips/camps/activities/visits/fun. Unlike most years, this year has given me great pause. It’s reminded me how lucky I am to be doing what I do. How amazing the young people are that surround me. And, if you know anything about me, I get teary.

    As this class of juniors is on the brink of becoming <<gulp>> seniors I have thought about what that means to me and my ministry. Each year at Southport CC (now Tapestry Church) I get to know the children and youth a little better. They grow and develop, and or shared time together increases. I learn about their quirks, their goals, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry, and I get to see their faith develop, evolve and transform. That last piece is definitely my favorite (faith nerd alert).

    Next year will be the first year I will see a group of my kiddos graduate who I first had in Elementary school. Those Seniors were in 5th grade when I started. And though the group has changed slightly in terms of member composition over the years, they are a core, tightly knit group. And I am unbelievably proud of them, each for their own accomplishments and how they hold each other up.

    All of this makes me think further. How will it feel when the next group, and the next group and so on? What about when the kids who were in 1st grade when I started graduated? What about the kids who were in preschool? It’s just incomprehensible to me. And I know the more years I have shared with these young people, the harder it will be to send them off to college or work or whatever the next stage of their journey is. It’s very humbling. And it makes me want to take hold of all of them and never let go.

    I guess the true “test” is seeing the ones who have come back after college. That is heartwarming in so many ways. I am feeling very fulfilled, and gracious for the experience God has provided through my call.