The oldest of my five kids is Zach. He is finishing out his senior year at Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio. I am quite certain this is not how he envisioned his final chapter of school going. Zach played football for the Cardinals, so during the fall I got to see him every single weekend – and it made my momma heart happy. Since we have all been under a stay at home order, I have not been able to see him. Many days I wished more than anything that he was here with the rest of us – to share in all of our family time. I know that he is with his own little family – his amazing girlfriend, Katie (superhero nurse), and their dog (my granddog) Archie. I know they are safe and happy – but I sure wish they were all here with us!
I wrote a poem about Zach when he was 12 years old. While so much has changed about my “little man” in the last decade, so much still remains the same. Here are those words from his childhood.
They call him
On the field
But it fits
In every way
He is passionate
Emotional and loyal
The kind of personality
That draws a crowd
And then entertains them
He is tender
And caring when
No one is looking
He will have his
But it will not
Change his intense
He is my
Zach is now a grown man who has not lost his intense, caring nature. He has survived a few heart breaks, and has found his forever love. He set goals and accomplished them. I know in the big picture, everything will be okay. But it’s hard to know he’s missing out on the end of college the way he had it pictured – saying goodbye to friends, parties, graduation, etc. But I also know that he is going to continue to do amazing things with the life he is building. And through it all, he will always be my Zach!
When I decided to create a blog to share my writing, I promised myself that I would always do my best to be genuine with my words. Authenticity is a non-negotiable for this whole process for me. I don’t think it’s real to share just the happy highlights and keep the ugliness all to myself. Sharing a skewed view of my world seems like such a fraud and that’s not at all who or what I want to be. So…here we go. Yesterday morning I wrote about joy and how its not based on circumstances but rather it comes from God and its constant and a whole bunch of other thoughts that I do believe to be truth!
Last night by dinner time, I was on the verge of a breakdown. I am not using that phrase flippantly either. I was panicked, tight-chested, breathing heavy, sobbing, and shaking. Swollen, puffy eyed, snot slinging, ugly crying. I had spent the entire evening worrying about anything and everything and had come up with the absolute worst-case scenario for each member of my family and myself. Yes, I was extreme catastrophizing. Where was my joy? Who was I to even create a post about being joyful in all of life? These questions led me to feeling even worse about myself…which led to more tears and feeling awful about myself. Why is this whole situation so hard for me? Why can’t I just do better, be better, live better? And the cycle continued….questions, self-loathing, tears.
This morning my perspective is a little brighter. Actually, my perspective is a little more rational. This morning, after a decent night’s sleep, two cups of strong coffee, and some allergy medicine, my thoughts are a little more clear, my emotions are a little more calm (it’s all relative), and heart is not quite so heavy. I thought back to the words my therapist spoke to me this week in our “virtual” session when I told him that I just don’t feel like I’m doing a very good job balancing everything. He asked me this question; “Have you ever done this before? Have you ever been quarantined indefinitely for a worldwide pandemic where you had to teach remotely and help your school aged kids with their schoolwork and help all five of your children navigate the fears and worries of this new normal?”
When I say that I hate when he goes all Jedi-mind tricks on me, I really don’t hate it because it forces me to answer the question that he and I both already know the answer to. Point made.
No, I have never done this before. No, I should not have it all together effortlessly. Yes, I should slow down, take a deep breath and allow myself some grace. Yes, we will all be okay if the school work is late, the dishes are dirty and we are wearing three-day old jammies. Today, in this moment, I am a MESS. I do not “feel” joyful. I am bitter and angry that life is so hard right now. I am wallowing in self-pity in my unwashed, messy bunned hair. I will not stay here. I will seek my center, begin to balance and claim my calm. But for now, it’s okay.
This sounds good, right?! This is a great “go to” verse when times are hard. These words make for a great, inspirational social media post for those of us who are feeling run down and weak. But do I really believe it? Am I living everyday (in lockdown mode) with this joy? Is my behavior truly reflected in this quote?
As I sit and soak in the word this morning, I found myself dwelling here, in this verse. Lingering on these words in Nehemiah forced me to earnestly check my heart, and not only to ask the tough questions, but also to answer them.
So, I go back to the way I was taught to read and understand the Bible – one word or phrase at a time. Break it down and listen for meaning. Joy – different from happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances or events, and is primarily about MY feelings. It centers around ME. However, joy is a constant. Joy is a contentment of the heart, regardless of happenings and surroundings. Joy is a purposeful choice. This joy is found in the Lord – it is the Lord. And this very joy – is mine! It is my strength. It is what stands in the gap when I am overwhelmed by life. It is there to satisfy my needs when I can’t find my own way. This strength from joy calms my fears, dries my tears, and soothes my spirit – even in the ugliest of circumstances.
It is a promise from the word of God. And I believe with all of my heart that God’s promises are real and true and everlasting. So…..do I believe this “go-to” verse? Am I deeply, truly, strongly “bought in”? YES! I am and I am carrying it with me today and going forward. In this scary, unpredictable world, I will find my strength in the joy of the Lord!
What is true about me? This morning I spent some quiet time in my office trying to get my brain and my heart ready for the coming day (can’t even think about the whole week – just one day at a time). As I sat and just listened (hard for me) I just kept hearing the question “What is true about me?” As I began to ponder the question, I found that it was challenging to pen positive things about me. I had no trouble coming up with the negative aspects of myself – but I’m pretty sure that’s not why I was being asked this question. I spent the better part of an hour contemplating what I know to be true about me. More than once I was brought to tears as I wrote my truths. Why is it so hard to acknowledge the good in ourselves?
I do not know why this question was on my heart today, but I am so thankful that I followed the still, quiet voice in the early morning calm and answered. I decided to write my truths in my journal, rather than just answer in my head. Somehow, creating a written record of the things I believe are true about me, made them true. Sharing them here – well that just feels scary…but I think its another important step in this process.
So I’ll leave you with this challenge; What is true about you? Take some time (most of us have more than we know what to do with right now) and ponder this question. Really think about it. We all have our own truths. I would love to hear yours!
I wonder if the blooming buds all around us
know what is going on
in the world they are entering?
I wonder if these sprigs of hope
know what their presence means to us
as we look at them from our windows.
I wonder if these emerging blossoms truly
know the joy they bring
to our scary, broken world.
The wonder of spring surrounds us,
envelops our fragile spirits and
promises us new life.
Today started out as a sad day. This may sound silly, but if you are from Cincinnati, you will get it. Today was supposed to have been Reds Opening Day. That means the streets of downtown should have been lined with fans for the Opening Day Parade. Today should have been celebrated as a holiday – as is always the case for the start of baseball season here. When I was finally awake enough to look at my bullet journal and realize all of this, the tears came. I just felt so sad. So many things we are missing out on.
But then, I stepped outside and felt the day warming, saw the sun greeting me with its bright yellow smile, and my mood began to lift. And rather than being sad about all the things we are going without, I fixed my thoughts on all the positives that are coming about as a result of our forced confinement.
Sidewalk chalk. Four of my five kids are here at home. All day. Every day. While that can be a bit chaotic (and by a bit I mean a lot at times), it also is time that we would never actually take for ourselves. Never have all four of my daughters and I spent over an hour in the sunshine creating with sidewalk chalk. Being that they range in age from 7 years old to 19 years old, we just rarely spend time doing activities together (stop judging – just being real). But today, we did! We laughed and worked together and created something we were proud of. We were happy.
Later, my oldest daughter, Cart, and I took a walk through the neighborhood. If you have a teenage daughter, you understand that any time at all you get to spend with her is amazing…so my momma heart was happy. We took selfies, we shared songs, we talked. And as we walked I noticed so many positives all around us. At the end of driveways throughout our subdivision, there were notes of encouragement written in chalk. Smiley faces, hearts, and phrases. Each one brought a smile to my face. And the more and more we saw, the bigger my smile got, and the more my mood lifted. Families worked together in the yard. The smell of fresh grass wafted through the air. Children played in yards, rode bikes, climbed on swing sets while their parents lounged on freshly cleaned patio furniture and watched.
This virus is awful and the havoc it is wreaking on our world is devastating. But there is a flip side to all of the negative. The world is slowing down. People are slowing down. We are talking. Playing games. Putting puzzles together. Creating art and music. It’s almost like this virus has reminded us about who we are as humans.
Sitting here typing I have tears flowing down my cheeks. (I’m a complete sap these days!) (Ok – not just these days…I’m a complete sap all of the time). If you stop and look, slow down and listen, you will find the beauty in all of the chaos. We will all look back on this time of our lives and will be filled with the memories we made when the world made us all stop.
What memories are you making today?
I’ve adopted these words as my motto as I navigate this season. Last Tuesday I was told that as a district we would begin online teaching/distance learning/teaching from home on that Thursday. Thirty-six hours to wrap my head around teaching my curriculum to sixty-four students in a way that I had never done before. I went into overdrive and spent some much energy trying to figure it all out that I pretty much accomplished nothing. At the beginning of every school year I make a promise to myself to do all that I can for each and every one of my students for the 180 days that I have them. And here I have been told to “teach” them from behind a computer screen. I have worked twice as many hours a day since we have been closed then I normally do when we are “in school.” I have not slept a full night. I have worried myself sick. I have eaten a whole lot of comfort food (why can’t I be the kind of worrier who can’t eat…?).
Today, I am having to slow down, take some deep breaths and accept the fact that the remaining time with my kiddos this year is just going to be different. That doesn’t mean it is “worse” – just different. And all I can do is what I can do with what I have right now. I won’t be able to share the laughs and high-fives, but I can send messages letting them know I’m here. I won’t be able to read the books to them that I had planned – with all the voices and animation, but I can record myself reading some of the stories and send them with love. All that I do is what I can, with what I have, right here where I am. And I hope that my kids know that it’s all for them! I encourage everyone reading this to do all that you can for those around you and help them through this season of panic and fear.
Lockdown. Shelter in place. Stay at home. No matter what it is called, it still means the same thing. We are ordered to stay in our homes. Together. For an undetermined amount of time. Of course we all love our families and we all want to do all that we can to keep ourselves and our communities safe. But let’s just get real for a minute…it ain’t easy. There are six of us who live in our house. Six humans and one very rambunctious, energetic dog. No matter how much we love and care about each other, we are still going to get on each other’s nerves. We are going to bicker and argue. We are going to have ups and downs.
I woke early this morning to steal the quiet moments that exist when everyone else is still sleeping. The weight of the coming day and week was bearing down on me. In my prayer I wept and cried to God “I’m not sure if I can do this…” God gently nudged me with “You can’t…but I can.”
These words: love, peace, self-control, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, joy. They are not going to come naturally or easily to me during these difficult times. Trying to teach from home, manage the house, help my own children do their school work, and help my whole family navigate this storm is so stressful to me! Those words do not describe my demeanor over the past few days. And its hard for me to admit that I need help…but the reality is, I need help. So my prayer for my household today and going forward is that I learn to rely on the Holy Spirit to change me. I will lean into to the power of the Spirit. “Only the Holy Spirt can produce the kinds of fruits in our lives…” (Galatians 5:22)