This house is still and quiet this morning as I sip coffee and reflect on the last two weeks that I have had at home. No schedule. No running. No emails or grading or lesson plans. Just time. Time to play six games of Yahtzee in a row. Time to spend entire days in my craft room creating. Time to try new recipes and to organize – well everything. Time to sit and be still and pray and listen. Shame on me for not taking enough time to do that when life is at full speed. I’m angry with myself for all of the wasted time that I could have spent with God, drawing closer to Him. I’m disappointed that I have been able to convince myself that there are just “not enough hours in the day.”
I am not one to make resolutions this time of year. Mostly because I rarely stick to them, and then I feel bad about myself for not being able to be consistent…so I just avoid it. That’s not to say that I don’t set goals for myself, but setting them at the beginning of the year feels like too much pressure for me. However, this year…it is much more than a goal or resolution that I am setting for myself. It is a prayer. My prayer is that drawing closer to God and spending time with in each quiet morning will become the desire of my heart. To pursue God whether through reading His word, or through worship, podcasts, sermons, prayer…all of these…daily. My prayer is for God to open my eyes to all that He has to teach me each day – each moment – of this new year.
And to enjoy every last moment of this last day of my break.
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.
Lately I have found myself in a dry season spiritually. I have felt lost at times and very far from God. The close, dependent relationship I used to have with my heavenly Father – the one where we talked daily and where I worried less and relied more – that is not currently where I’m at. I know that life is about ebbs and flows – and in all relationships there are periods of closeness and periods of distance. But I am NOT okay with where I am at in my relationship with God.