This morning I read Psalm 139. It wasn’t the first time I’ve read it, but this morning it hit me differently than it had in the past. I won’t paste all of it here for you, but here is the link to The Passion Translation for anyone that might need a pick me up or feel compelled to read it.
But here is the portion that just STAYED IN MY HEAD today.. from verse 16.
You saw who you created me to be
before I became me!
When I read this, I just couldn’t help but think of all of my students, my family and my friends that have struggled with their identities. Whether it was simply a “personality crisis” or a larger identity issue.
I thought of my friends who have fought for space to be the person that they KNEW they were created to be. I thought of all of my students over the years who yearned for a safe place to be different.
To put it simply. I read this and I hurt for all of my LGBTQIA+ friends that didn’t feel like they were seen. That questioned why they were born. That questioned why they were here.
All I can say is that friend, GOD knew WHO you would be BEFORE he created you!
So for those that have questioned their value, their worth and their space, I am saying I am so sorry for the hurt that has been caused to you by church, by Christians and by religious people. Those words and that were spewed at you are NOT OF GOD.
Because God knew who you were going to be and created you, not in spite of who you are, but because of who you are. At least that’s my stance and this is my blog so I get to take it. 🙂
Anyway, this is what has been percolating in my head all day. Then one of my friends tagged in me in an art making video and it felt like a perfect thing to try today to continue on my #100dayproject goal.
And I tried it. With not great success, but I had fun. I’m going to keep working on it. My problem is that I have good quality watercolors and acrylics, not cheap craft paints. So tomorrow I’m going to go get the cheap paints and try again!
But here are my paintings for the day. I tried first with watercolors. I love the vibrancy of the liquid watercolors, but they pooled too much. Then, the acrylics were too think. So I put down some gel medium and that helped, but it left blank spots on the canvas.
The favorite pieces were the striped pieces created from the leftover pulled paint on the squeege.
But I have to say, my “Group Hug” painting is rather cool.
I can’t wait to try this again.
So whoever you are, reading this out in blog land… remember that BEFORE you were created, you were KNOWN and WANTED.
It’s an interesting conundrum.. when life is good, it’s hard to sit down and write/blog about it. But when life is hard, it is soo very easy to let it pour out. Well, 2020 has been a weird year, for all of us, but for me personally it has been a really good year, and that makes it hard to write about as I know so many people are suffering.
But this is my diary to the world and so, let me catch you up on a few of the good things in our life.
Doug’s company, McLemore Financial Group has held its own during this crazy time. Like all families that own businesses, the first few weeks of the pandemic along with the stock market volatility had us ready to panic. But Doug is really good at what he does and all has been well. I’d love to say more, but I haven’t a clue.. he does his thing and I just appreciate it immensely. 🙂
One really cool things that he has done during this time is to transition to working from home a couple of days a week. It’s been good for all of us and he has been able to get out and walk more and find time to relax and write.
2. I heard God.
In January, I heard God. I know it’s weird. But I did, and I have spent the last 10 months relishing the voice of God in my life in a way that was altogether new and different.
I have always believed in God and would say that I have a strong faith. Over the years even when nothing seemed to work out, when life was beyond difficult and miracles were desperately needed yet nothing would happen, I still believed. Through it all, I believed that God was there and would show up.. in His time. Well, in January, God broke through and showed up mightily in our life. The miracles that God brought about were amazing and truly the “only God” kind. Since those early January days, I have walked in anticipation of what God will do each day and have asked God continually to fall fresh on me and to fill me with the His peace. I have had so much fun journaling and sharing personally with others about the presence of God.
3. Kylie and Lexi changed schools and both are THRIVING! Hallelujah. You know, it’s really hard to change things when you are so invested in something. Taking the girls out of the school district that we had been a part of for more than 20 years was difficult. SISD was great for Maddie. She had her group and it was a good fit. But it was never a good fit for Lexi and Kylie was starting to struggle within the system as well. So after years of discussion, in July, we finally decided that with the COVID closures and all of the uncertainty of the fall schedule, that this would be the right time.
And oh, how right we were. Kylie is going to a small private school in town (White Horse Christian Academy) and Lexi is attending an online high school (James Madison High School).The environments are polar opposites from each other, but exactly the right fit for each child. We knew the girls weren’t doing well the last couple of years in the previous school system, but watching Lexi come back to life is heartbreaking, and thrilling, at the same time. Both are being challenged academically, yet have more free time than before. Kylie’s comment was pretty blunt. She asked, after the first week at her new school, while having a late Friday morning breakfast since her school doesn’t have class on Fridays… “why is it that good schools have shorter days and more time off, and bad schools have longer days and have to go more days?” I didn’t have a child-friendly answer
4. I changed jobs!
After years of hurt, disappointment and dead-ends, I came to terms with the fact that promotions and career opportunities outside of the art classroom were not going to be tied to the school district that I had served for so long. I prayed continuously about my desire to lead and organize. I asked God to remove my passion for planning and improvement beyond the classroom setting, if I wasn’t going to be given an opportunity to use my gifts.
It was a hurt that was bone deep.
Then, as July was coming to a close and the anxiety of being thrust into a face to face teaching scenario in the midst of the pandemic had our family scrambling and looking at family medical leave paperwork, God opened the most unexpected door.
Out of the blue, Tarleton State University was looking to hire Instructional Designers. It was a shock. The university had just faced a reorganization and had been forced to layoff employees due to COVID. Things were in a state of change, and yet, Instructional Designers were needed. I applied and was interviewed almost immediately. I was hired and was able to walk away from teaching high school the day before I was to return to the campus full-time. This was a miracle. And everyday I am grateful and thankful. The very gifts that made me “too much” in my old environment are now being used on a daily basis. Four years ago I prayed that God would change me. He didn’t. You see, I was told by the top administrator that in order to be a leader in the district, I had to be.. and I quote “more doe-eyed and to stop having good ideas.” But God made me with a personality that asks questions and a thirst for brainstorming and coming up with creative solutions. So while the path has been arduous to get here, I am so incredibly thankful. Every single day, over the last almost two months now, I have been challenged to ask the questions, to brainstorm for ways to do things and given the autonomy to fix the issues that I find. No longer am I made to feel like I am “too much.” After more than twenty years in education, I have finally found home.
And that’s the recap for the big stuff.
But what about Maddie? Maddie is doing great! She is thriving in college and learning to navigate the world of complicated medical issues and adulthood. Her resiliency is amazing and her strength inspiring.
But in case you think it’s all been easy…
In March, Kylie broke both arms in a tumble from trying to carry her bike down some concrete stairs… and Lexi spent January-March having kidney stones, surgery and stents and then shingles!
Thankfully, those days are behind us.
In the days ahead, I am hoping to blog again. Transitions are always hard, even great ones.
My goal for the next couple of months for myself is to start painting again. And this time, with no expectation, and a less critical eye.
This post is going to seem odd or a little “out there” if you haven’t read Untamed by Glennon Doyle or Fierce, Free and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker.. but that’s okay. Maybe my real and raw manifesto might encourage you to go read these books!
First, let me say that these are my words inspired by these books, but I would have never put my thoughts in such a real and hardcore philosophy without each of these authors first showing the way. I journal and over the years in blog posts, I have spoken these truths in fits and spurts, but I’ve never felt challenged to uncage my thoughts, emotions and dreams in one complete essay.
So while I don’t imagine that Glennon nor Jen will ever see this post (a girl can dream.. and if I’m throwing out dreams, can I add Rachel Hollis to this too….) I want to say how much their work inspires me. And not just the books that prompted this manifesto, but each of their bodies of work. And really, so many other women writers. Brene’ Brown, Lysa TerKeurst, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jamie Wright, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, Shauna Niequist and others. These ten women authors have helped me to find my voice in a world that seems to reward women for keeping quiet.
And yes, I know that some of you immediately laughed at the idea of me keeping quiet. I’m not loud, but I’ve always spoken up about injustice or have a compelling truth that needs to be said. It makes people uncomfortable, so I have learned to soften the words with smiles and deferential actions. To lessen who I am so that others aren’t offended or feel offensive.
But no more. I have decided that I am worthy of acceptance and love. I have been created for a purpose and I believe after much soul searching that my role is that of a truth-teller. I am still learning how to speak truths in a more loving way, but I refuse to keep my personality and gifts caged because it makes others uncomfortable.
Okay, I’ve gone off on a tangent…. back to my manifesto…
But first… here are more pictures from my “modeling shoot” with my girls. Lexi and Kylie did their best to get me in decent poses… I’m a pretty pathetic model. But we laughed a lot. My skirt and shoes are animal print… because I am a CHEETAH and I refuse to be tamed. (Go read Glennon’s book…)
And finally… the manifesto.
I am like the wind. There are seasons where I am a gentle breeze, going along with life and just waiting for my chance to do my work. At other times, I am a gale force wind, blowing hard, juggling dozens of deadlines and furiously pushing others to do their part. I am wired this way. It may seem like I am all or nothing, but really it’s my core value of refusing to be stagnant and wanting to learn something new everyday that keeps me changing my speed and direction. With age, I am learning to find the balance in a gentle breeze and a turbulent wind. I am exactly enough the way God made me. The world needs my gentleness and my strength, my new ideas and my take charge attitude.
I am strong in my bodyand my fierce determination has given me the ability to run marathons, compete in triathlons and birth children. I have not been kind to my body. I have starved it. I’ve punished it with exercise. I have hated it. I have loathed the sight of my thighs since 6th grade. But I’m learning. My body is strong enough to blaze new trails, to climb mountains, to fight off failure, despair, and even worse, complacency. I’m learning to love her. Slowly. I still don’t like a lot of her qualities, but I’m learning that she is kind and faithful and worthy. Just as she is.
What I need are opportunities to use my strengths, my collaborative gifts and my voice of truth. I deserve goodness and to be treated fairly and without dismissiveness. I need the chance to see my dreams validated and my attention to detail honored. I need help learning how to advocate for myself in a way that doesn’t dismiss the ability of others. I need more connection with parents of children the same age of youngest daughter as she need friends and I need community.
What I want is to be needed and acknowledged. I dream of using my gift of organizing people and things on a larger scale than simply my home and classroom! I want to chose my yes and not feel stuck, stagnant, or forgotten. I want my voice of truth to be not just allowed, but a desired commodity.
I believe is that God is listening and I hope with all that is within me He has a purpose for the gifts that He has given me; and that this purpose has a path towards my dreams. I believe in spiritual curiosity and want to learn more about predestination and freewill. I believe in equality, that all lives matter. But that the only way all lives matter, is if the freedom of those oppressed and targeted is fought for by those who take those freedoms for granted. I believe in creating safe spaces for teenagers to question everything about themselves, their identity, and their orientation.
I connect with others through service. I enjoy getting to know others while we serve side by side and hand in hand. I want to connect with honesty. I want to ask difficult questions and learn from others authentic answers. I want to be offered that same space. I want to connect without drama, pretense, or expectations. I want to value my connection to others and know that others value me.
At the end of my life, I want to be able to point to countless moments of connection, service and creative thought. I want to finish my days knowing that I spent it all, and all that is left is a light breeze of remembrance.
The last few years have been full of soul searching, what ifs, why nots and personal growth. During this time I faced countless professional disappointments. Well, not countless, because believe me, I’ve counted them, sorted them, held them tightly, and cried many tears over each and everyone. During this time, I’ve also enjoyed many professional achievements. But those achievements I tended to discount as they were fun or creative or seemingly easy.
I missed the billboard signposts for my life. I missed the flashing warning signs along my path. I missed a lot as I tried to force my way into a career field that was traditional and appropriate. But guess what? I’m not traditional or appropriate. 🙂 I’m creative. I’m bossy. I’m incredibly organized and notice every detail. I get sidetracked by seemingly insignificant things like posters left on walls long past the advertised event or miss-spelled words or glaring grammatical errors. I’m creative 24/7 and truly believe with my entire being that every person that is breathing is and needs to be creative.
With all that said, you would think that I would have figured out that maybe my restrictive path might not be the best option for me. But I can also be really stubborn and goal driven and focused. So quitting before I reached the goal seemed like failure. And I couldn’t face that. I’m not a quitter.
And then I read Present over Perfect. Actually, I listened to it while walking and weeding the flowerbeds. And one day it hit me. That goal that I’d been struggling to reach so desperately… WASN’T MY GOAL! I let someone else’s goal become my goal. I let someone else tell me what they thought I should be and I believed it.
But no more. As Shauna Niequst states in her book, “What I’m finding is that one of the greatest delights in life is walking away from what someone told you you should be, in favor of walking toward what you truly love, in your own heart, in your own secret soul.” And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I know that I have to do something that allows me to be creative.
And then if that wasn’t enough for me to say, OK! I started listening to Lysa TerKeurst’s book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way Dang. The timing was God’s timing as I was finally in the right headspace to hear what I’ve known for years. I’m going to have to embrace the dust of disappointment so that I can be remade into something even better.
And as an artist, I totally get the imagery of clay on the pottery wheel. I realized after listening to TerKeurst talk about becoming dust and being remade and how on the wheel a potter doesn’t destroy what is being worked on because of frustration or because something was bad… the potter remakes the piece because he knows it can be better! I kept allowing myself to let the self-destructive thoughts take over and tell me that I wasn’t worthy. Instead of looking at each disappointment as an opportunity to evaluate the path and see where I needed to go next, I allowed the disappointments to become mental whips to remind me that I didn’t deserve the opportunities. I would dissect each interaction, each interview, each no and berate my soul time and time again.
But finally, I realized something. I am not a broken piece of pottery that has no value. I am a beautiful mosaic. Like the incredible mosaics that I saw in the British Museum, I am beautiful and unique and made up of thousands of colorful pieces. My broken dreams and goals are not trash. These broken pieces of my heart help create the incredibly beautiful me.
And the mosaic of my life isn’t even close to being complete. I’ve really just begun. I have new goals and dreams. And interestingly, just like clay that has been overworked and needs rest before being molded again, that where I find myself. And I can finally acknowledge that. And it’s not just okay, but necessary.
That’s what I’m feeling today. About a lot of things, but maybe that is really the way I’m describing my life right now.
I’m pessimistically hopeful because there are potentially some good and great things on the horizon, but when you add the real dose of life experience to that hope, I’m pessimistically hopeful at best.
To start, I’m using these pictures of this spiny cactus to remind myself that sometimes life emerges from the unexpected and thought dead. You see, we bought this spiny cactus last summer at a farmer’s market and it lived in its plastic container for almost a year sitting on the edge of the flowerbed, not planted..it was forgotten although I walked by it at least once a day and regularly thought we should plant it.. but I didn’t. Through the winter and into the spring it looked dead. I figured the couple of hard freezes had gotten during the winter must have killed it.
Finally, a few weeks ago, Doug planted it in our front bed. It was listless and couldn’t remain upright without a support. Doug put the old decorative fence piece next to it and let it lean on it. A few of the sections fell off immediately and it looked sad. Dead.
But it wasn’t.
The rain, the sun and nutrients from the ground has brought it to life. The once sad looking plant is beautiful and healthy and bringing forth amazing flowers.
And so, I’m reminding myself that sometimes life does actually deliver on the potential and possibilities. I know that sounds incredibly jaded and sad. But dang, the last decade has had some really tough lessons and lingering issues were the answers were never given and the dreams and goals never reached.
But today, I’m enjoying the beauty of the flowers and praying for that same gift for Maddie’s feet.
Yesterday we met with a new doctor, Maddie’s 31st specialist. We were never actually suppossed to see him. It was an incredibly strange set of events that got us to this Neurologist over five hours away. He was kind, and interested. He was caring and deliberate. And more than anything, he listened, he looked and he took his time. In fact, the appointment was at 10am and he spent an hour talking with us and then asked if we could come back at 2pm for testing. We did and after another almost hour of working with Maddie he gave us hope.
Maddie has been wearing AFO braces on both feet for almost a year after spending much of the previous year wearing walking boots on one or both feet when one day her feet just stopped working.
She has had every test imaginable and all come back normal. There has been no explainable reason for her feet not working. But Dr. Martin yesterday said, there is ALWAYS a reason, we just have to find it.
And he might have.
So Maddie will start physical therapy and has a plan and a goal.
More than that, we left hopeful and not defeated. Over the last dozen years, we have left defeated, disheartened and discouraged time after time from specialists. We either left with no hope or were treated dismissively as Maddie is a “complicated case.”
But yesterday, we were treated with care and dignity.
And so, I’m pessimistically hopeful.
I pray with my entire being that just like the cactus that has flowers blooming despite everything, Maddie will return to college in the fall being able to regular shoes some of the time and will eventually be free from the AFO braces. I pray that her body will grow strong. I pray that she will continue to bloom, just like she always has, despite the struggles that are put in her path.
Have you ever tried standing still in the middle of a river while the water runs by? Or what about just standing still on the shore of a lake/ocean? It isn’t necessarily easy. Sometimes the riverbed is slick. Sometimes the shore line is rocky and rough. Sometimes its squishy and hard to keep your balance. It takes work to stand still in an unknown environment. It takes focus and is a whole body effort.
Lately life has felt a lot like I’m standing at the edge of a riverbed and trying to keep my balance. I am reminded by a trip we took last fall over to a local state park. I remember so clearly the difficulty Kylie and Lexi had just standing on the rocks while a couple of inches of water flowed over their feet and past them while they tried to navigate the slick rock.
The picture is sweet, but what it doesn’t capture is the slip and fall into just enough water and sludge to get yucky that immediately followed! I was glad that I had kept my shoes on and stayed on dry ground.
So why am I pondering and painting about standing on the edge of the river bank and waiting for the water to recede? Because that is the promise I am taking and firmly planting myself on in order to figure out how to “do” life right now. You see, years ago I had the privilege of hearing my husband Doug preach over Joshua 3 which is about the crossing of the Jordan river with the Ark of the Covenant, and his thoughts and my processing over the last few years give me hope and peace in the midst of chaos.
Read Joshua 3:14-17
So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan. Joshua 3: 14-17 NASB
I know. Its wordy and full of commas, but it speaks to me.
Can’t you see it? Can’t you feel it?
I’m such a visual person that I can’t help but recreate the scene in my head. The Jordan river is at flood stage. The waters are rushing and the people know that they have to cross the river. Man, my pulse starts picking up just thinking about it. I picture myself as one of the priests, holding one of the poles to the ark on my shoulder. It works well.. responsibility, peer pressure, expectations..
(I found the painting below labeled for reuse.. feel free to picture yourself as one of the other 3!)
So, anyway. We arrive at the edge of the Jordan. We know that God has foretold that once we step into the water, the river will recede with the water dividing and piling up above us and below us, on the sea side being cut off and not able to flow back in. But we have to take that step. Can’t you imagine it? The river is at flood stage! The water is flowing and not only do you have to take a step into the river, but you are carrying a large and heavy burden.
But isn’t that what life is like?
While I don’t really remember the particulars from Doug’s sermon years ago, and I’ll admit that my takeaway from it might be incredibly flawed. The one thing that really stood out to me that I have pondered and considered is the idea of stepping into the water and standing still while the water recedes. I have thought about it over and over. Maybe my interpretation is wrong, but I needed the image of having to step in and hold my ground while the chaos of the running water around me receded.
Life isn’t easy and anyone that says it is, is lying and somedays I need to be reminded that while I don’t have to trudge THROUGH the water, I do have to take that first step INTO the water.
Cause really, in my mind, I see the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant just a step into the water holding firm and steady while the water rushes between their legs and runs towards the Dead Sea. Can’t you just imagine the panic that was rising in those priests before the water started visibly receding. But they stood there and the water receded and Joshua 3:17 says that all of Israel crossed on dry land.
And so for me, as I stand in the water.. maybe just an inch deep, or maybe it is up to my ankles.. or even my knees.. I am reminded to stand and let the chaos around me recede instead of trying to push through and make a path. That isn’t my natural inclination. I’m all about taking up my machete and forging my own path.
But I don’t have to.
Sometimes being a leader is forging the path and sometimes being a leader is taking the first step and then holding still so that others can cross on dry ground.
And that is what my watercolor painting is of at the top of this post. I’ve learned how to make a path. Now I’m learning to stand and wait.