I woke early yesterday morning, not my normal early, but Christmas break early. The sky was still for the most part dark, and the house was quiet. As I crossed the room heading toward the bathroom, I caught site of the outside and the beautiful blanket of snow that covered everything in the backyard. In that instant, my excitement was childlike. I was transported back to snowy mornings as a young girl and the wonder of a white-covered world. In that instant, my adult worries and responsibilities ceased to exist and I took in every bit of the morning’s beauty. In that instant, all of the struggles and disappointments of 2020 were blanketed by this white wonderland. It was as if God knew that I needed this little bit of peace on the last day of a troubling year…and I just had to take the time to appreciate it and soak it in.
As we head into a new year, may we all stop and look at the world in wonder from time to time. May we enjoy the small, still moments of the morning, before the world is awake. May we see God’s hand in each day and never take for granted how amazing life can truly be. And may we view the world with childlike excitement and awe.
Last night, I let myself get super aggravated and frustrated about a situation. Nothing wrong with that – we all have feelings and emotions. How I attempted to handle my hurt and anger, however, is the problem. I ranted and cried and allowed my emotions to be hijacked by this one thing! And then I came down to my office and vomited it all into a blog post. To be published this morning. On Christmas Eve. Although I knew all the negativity of the post was coming from this situation, I convinced myself that I needed to post it. I justified it because I have always claimed I want my blog to be authentic and not just a highlight reel of my life. That’s how I rationalized the ugly spewing of hurt into a Christmas Eve blog post.
This morning, I woke to the kindness of a hot cup of coffee waiting for me on my nightstand! I proceeded to come down to my office and opened up my morning devotional. Yep – a devotional about kindness and how we treat others. Okay God, I’m listening. Through my study time and subsequent prayer time, God performed a serious heart check on me. The line in my devotional that I’m certain I needed to hear today was “...take those thoughts captive. You can turn down the grumbles and turn up the grace. Speak these words aloud – even a whisper will do – while you hold that person in your heart. ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit'” Rather than moan and groan and grumble about the way in which I was hurt, I am to capture those thoughts and pray for the person who hurt me. Hold them in my heart even! And here’s the thing, there is not room in my heart for bitterness AND people for whom I am praying. Not to mention the fact that MY bitterness about the thing was not affecting this other person, it was only tainting me!
Thank you Jesus for opening my ears and my heart this morning and allowing me to hear from you. I am taking the negative thoughts captive, praying about the situation and saying a prayer of peace and grace for the other person. I am so thankful that God continues to work on me – every day. As the line from one of my favorite worship songs says…”He’s the artist and the potter, I’m the canvas and the clay.”
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)
This morning when I woke up, there was a single moment before I was truly wide awake that I forgot. I forgot about the fear. The panic. The craziness. I forgot about the next month of being home and missing my students. I forgot that the world is not the same place that it was mere months ago. In that still, quiet moment I found peace. I found comfort in my warm bed and my furry puppy snuggled close to me. I felt safe as I listened to my husband’s soft breathing as he slept. I eagerly anticipated my first, glorious sip of coffee from my favorite, just right mug. But then, in the blink of a sleepy eye, I remembered. In that instant all of those comfortable, familiar sounds and thoughts were taken over by the realization of the current state of our world, and I climbed out of bed and said my first of many prayers of the day.
Throughout the day today, I found it best to keep my hands and my mind busy. I sought after the normalcy of a schedule. Of the routine things that keep the household going. I tried to keep moving. Took a nice, long walk and soaked in the chilled, fresh air. However, right in the midst of my busyness, of my normal routine (which isn’t normal at all – normally I would be at school) the reality of the complete lack of anything even remotely normal washed over me. Wave after wave of reality crashed my sense of peace and sent me into another round of panic. I could trick my mind temporarily by doing things I always do, but eventually the anxiety of the unknown won out.
I wish I had some super positive take away from all of this. I wish I could say that I have found a perfect, foolproof way to remain positive and not let panic creep in at all. But that would not be sharing the truth. What I can say about today – my first day of 4 weeks off – is this; my mind is going to be filled with thoughts all day, regardless of what I am doing. And I can’t always control the thoughts that creep into my consciousness. But I can control what I do with those thoughts. I can choose to dwell in the scary, doubt-filled moments, or I can replace those thoughts with the truths and promises of Jesus. I can fix my eyes on Him and let his word fill my mind. I am still a work in progress, and I still fail daily…but in these scary times, I am learning to rely on the spirit to guide my mind and fill me with His comfort. I am fixing my heart and mind on the one who knows my heart. I lost count of the number of prayers that I spoke today. I just know when I took the time to “cast my cares on Him” He stilled my heart and mind, and I found peace.
Some days I just don’t even know what to think about the world. Schools shut down across the country. Social distancing. (By the way – this doesn’t work with a class of 10 year olds). A run on grocery stores (and toilet paper?!?). PANIC. My mind struggles to sort it all out. My feelings about this COVID-19 crisis are like a giant pendulum. One minute, I am fine, not really worried or concerned about the impact. And then I swing wildly to near hysteria. “What ifs” run rampant through me. And then back and forth. And back and forth. Constantly swinging between “Should I be more worried” and “I am freaking out about this!”
I’m not really worried about myself getting really sick from this virus. I worry for my parents (who still don’t seem to put themselves in the “elderly” category). I worry for my husband’s parents and grandparents. I worry about my 5th graders and not seeing them and pouring into their lives for the next month! (Side note: school let out yesterday at 3:00…since then I have received 10 emails from students). I worry about my 19 year old daughter who is on a girl’s trip with two other 19 year olds. (Do they know what to do in an emergency? I worry about my 22 year old son who is supposed to graduate from college in a few weeks and is trying to finish classes and exams in an unexplored way. I worry about his girlfriend who is a nurse and is working tirelessly. I am fearful for our world. Unsettling is the best way I know to describe it all.
So this morning as I sit sipping (gulping) my coffee in the almost quiet house, I am having to make a choice. I am the only one who can stop the swinging pendulum of emotions. I am choosing JOY. I am choosing freedom from fear. I am choosing to rest in the refuge of the Lord. He is my safe haven.
I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all of my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed and the Lord listened. He saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who take refuge in him!
I set a goal for myself recently to do more things that make me happy. I am learning that self care is something that I’ve been desperately missing. I love doing things for others and taking care of everyone’s needs, but in the process of all of that, I tend to neglect what I really need. When I sat evaluated my self care goals, I was saddened that it was hard for me to articulate the things that would bring me happiness. In that process, I felt lost. I had lost sight of how to take care of myself. Eventually, I came up with a list of a few things that do bring me joy. The number one item on that last is writing. I’m not sure why I enjoy it so much. Part of it is the journey of taking a spark of an idea and turning into something more. Another part of it is just the release of thoughts and ideas and emotions that writing brings. I have journaled for years – and still do it often. But there’s something about putting a blog post out to the world. It’s not about the stats (although I do look at them), but rather its more about being comfortable enough in my own voice to share. There is a lot of vulnerability that comes with it. But also a lot of reward that comes with being a little uncomfortable. And when I do think about the numbers, it is nice to think about someone else in the universe is taking the time to hear my voice.
Last week I wrote about my writing portfolio from my senior capstone. I came across a poem that I had not even remembered writing, but reading it really was the seed for this post. I guess if there is anything to take away from all of this it is this…find joy in what you do. Take care of your soul. Listen to the inner voice. Quite the noise, slow down and be at peace.
why i write
i write for me to feel, to grieve to let go and to remember
i write for validation from my soul and from my mind
i write to say the things that i will never have the strength to say aloud
i write to heal to mend old wounds and bandage fresh cuts
i write to make my world meaningful, real, and worth living in