It’s Been the Longest Two Weeks Ever!

A prayer shawl gifted, my FIL’s walking stick and eggs from my chickens.

One year ago today I wrote in my journal: 

03/12/20 Thursday: COVID 19 is causing quite a stir. Quarantine Day 1. 

I stopped counting in my journal on “Q Day 65”. It was supposed to take two weeks to help flatten the curve and here we are, 365 days later, still figuring things out. What does one call this day? It certainly isn’t Happy Anniversary. Unhappy AnniversaryA Year to Remember or maybe Forget? 

We’ve all had plenty of time to be with ourselves, by ourselves, learning about ourselves. What did you gain? What did you lose? What did you like? What did you not? What have you changed? What has stayed the same? What did you miss? What didn’t you miss? What have you discovered about yourself? Your people? Others? Church? God? What did you learn you could do even when you didn’t think you could? 

There’s no way to answer all these questions in one 1,000-word post. I’m still perusing them in my head, as well as others. (My mind is in need of some garden therapy, truth be told. Soon, dear heart. Soon.) 

There is something God began teaching me a couple years ago that perhaps I didn’t appreciate until these past 12 months and that is the art of finding sacred in the simple, of learning to lean into the ordinariness of every day and being grateful for hallowed simplicity. 

The smell of fresh bread baking. 

The way the light shines across the wood floor in late afternoon. 

The first tiny green bean. 

Eating a tomato fresh off the vine. 

The ticking of the grandfather clock. 

The daffodils breaking through the cold ground of winter. 

Gathering eggs each day. 

Homemade pizza. 

A lit candle.

I could go on, but you get the picture. 

This past year has me longing for more as well. More prayer and less scared. More tradition and less thrill. More depth of teaching and less fluff. More cathedral and less concert. More being and less doing. More transformation and less information. More faith that is unshakable and less excuses that I am unable. 

I wonder if, in my pre-covid days, I missed opportunities to serve, to be, to learn, to experience, to trust because I was looking past the simple in search of something with grandeur, something greater, a bigger stage, a wider audience? I wonder if I missed the sacred moments with God because I was making it too difficult to see what seemed like the unimportant thing? 

* * * * * * * * * *

In Exodus chapter three we find Moses doing a very routine thing on an ordinary day tending to the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro. He sees a burning bush that doesn’t get burnt up. He gets to experience the Lord out there in the middle of nowhere like no one has ever experienced him. 

The Lord has a conversation with Moses about his people, Moses’ lineage and God’s chosen ones. God sees their misery under the heavy hand of Pharaoh and wants Moses to go to Pharaoh and free the people. Moses gives God all manner of excuses: Who am I to do such a thing? What if they ask me who it is that is sending me? What if they don’t believe me. 

God has a response to every objection and the assurance of his presence. Moses still isn’t convinced. Then the Lord asks Moses this simple question: What is that in your hand? To which Moses replies, My staff. 

My staff. 

Something so familiar. Something Moses has used every single day while taking care of Jethro’s sheep. Something that is simply an extension of him after such a long period of time working in the wilderness. 

I love this. I love that God would squelch some fears with something familiar. Moses would soon become a shepherd of people and tend to them on a journey into the unknown with something known, into the uncomfortable with something comforting. 

I imagine when he grabbed hold of his staff there was familiar groove that fit his hand perfectly, reminding him that God could take this simple thing to free his people. God could take that which was in the hand of Moses and use it for his glory. 

* * * * * * * * * *

God uses the simple, the familiar to do spectacular things. I realized this past year that I’ve made serving God too complicated. I’m like Moses in many ways. When God asks me to do something that seems too hard or I make too hard, that I feel unable or inadequate to do and I just want him to leave me to tend to my things, I can hear him ask me, What is that in your hand? 

I’ve often discounted the simple things as serving. That somehow serving has to be done at church, through an organization, with much fanfare, pomp and circumstance. But in reality, God can use the ordinary to do the extraordinary when we answer his question. 

What is that in your hand? 

For me, I’m learning, it can be as simple as giving the fruits of my labor from the garden to someone as a gift because they love homegrown things. I can give a dozen of the most gorgeous blue and brown eggs as a gift. Better yet, I can bake brownies for someone using my Granny’s recipe with my fresh eggs. Or it can be giving someone something they need from out of our abundance. 

I’m learning to see the words I write as a gift given to me so that I can use them to encourage, empower and enlighten. 

I’m learning that listening to someone’s story is as holy a ground as Moses walked, a sacred space, not to be taken lightly. 

It would be easy to overlook that which has become so familiar as something God can use in service to him. But isn’t it like him when we bring our excuses to ask us the same question he asked of Moses? 

What is that in your hand? Let me show you how I can use it to free people, shepherd people, love people, direct people, feed people, stretch people, give people a drink of cold water, make a way for people. 

How would you answer that question? How could God use what you hold?

This past year was challenging. We didn’t have a choice but to sit with it and in it and endure it. And we DID! 

What has this past year of only two weeks taught you? 

kw

Other posts that might be of interest:

2020 In Retrospect

25 Bible Verses to Abide in During Anxious Times

When Life Throws You Zingers

How to Rest in the Unrest

Weary.

That’s the overarching message I’ve heard from the many conversations I’ve had with people this month alone. It’s not from one thing but layers of lots of things: covid fatigue, polarizing politics, racial issues and riots are the big dogs but underneath are these puppies: job change or loss, grief, health issues, marriage issues, kid issues, family issues, yearning for normalcy, missing people, working from home while helping your kids learn virtually, the wondering of when or if things will get better. The list goes on and on. 

All wearying. 

How do we do it? How do we fill our buckets in such a life draining world?  How do we find rest in all this unrest? 

Disconnect.

From social media. News outlets. Screens. Phones. Scrolling. Even if it’s for a day, an evening or an hour. Stop scrolling through. Stop getting ticked off at people’s opinions. Stop checking your phone every few minutes. 

We don’t have to or need to be available around the clock.  We don’t have to or need to fill our minds with a constant barrage of bad news, I-know-better-than-you, you-have-no-clue recordings on repeat. We don’t have to have an opinion on every post or a comment on someone else’s quandary. 

The more we are wired to what wires us out, the more wired we become. Unplug from it all. The world will keep spinning…I promise.

Reconnect.

With God…develop some spiritual practices that fill your bucket. Meditate, pray, be still, listen, read a verse or two…don’t make it another thing to check off but instead something that fills you up. 

With nature…walk outside, feel the sunshine on your face, breathe in the crisp air, walk in the grass barefoot, get your hands in the dirt, listen to the birds, be a noticer of new growth, smell the leaves. 

With friends…yes, I know it’s hard right now, but I had the most wonderful time catching up with a friend even though it was virtually. My sister and I actually called each other and talked on the phone…remember those days? It was great catching up and hearing her lol…not just read it on a text! 

Mind Your Mind.

Think about what you’re thinking about. It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking…especially these days…and forget our hope is not in those things that are around us but in Who is looking over us. 

What are you allowing in…please reread “disconnect.”

Mind Your Time.

We all need margin in our schedules for rest. In his book Weird, Craig Groeschel says, “One of the foundational lies we’ve absorbed about the value of busyness is that it indicates our spiritual worth.” He goes on to say, “We must discern what God calls us to accomplish rather than mindlessly adding on everything presented to us.” 

He challenges the reader to keep “an or in the water to keep our boat from sinking.” As in, stop doing this AND that but rather do this OR that. I’ve had to make a choice between some really good things that would have ALL been great fun to do but would have put me on the fast road to burn out. 

One positive about the pandemic shutting us down last year was that it cleared our plates of so many things that we now have control to put back on…or not. We get to choose. We are foolish to think we can keep going 100MPH with no margin to rest and never hit a wall. 

Permit yourself a nap with no guilt. Look through a magazine. Allow yourself time to do nothing at all and enjoy it!

Be Present in the Present.

Anybody else worry about what was? Anybody else worrying about what could be? I get it. But when we do that, we miss the here and now, the person right before us, opportunities to reach out and touch those in our present presence. 

When we are always mentally elsewhere, we miss moments that can never be given back. We miss time with our family and friends, sharing the lives we are living right now. It takes practice and purposefully positioning ourselves in the present. 

Be Present in His Presence.

I’ve been trying to practice this more and more these days. Being still. Paying attention. Listening. Not making my time with the Lord just something I do to check off my list and feel accomplished….like a good Jesus girl “should do.” But rather experiencing His presence throughout the day in the way the light shines in my office in the morning or a text comes through from a friend at just the right moment or watching as someone has an aha moment because of something you said. 

All God things that I would miss if I’m not practicing being in His presence. He’s right there…wanting you to notice that He’s with you wherever you are. 

Practice Gratitude.

It sounds corny but if you’re brave enough to try something so simple in this complex world, you’ll see it makes a difference. Gratitude gives you eyes to see our surroundings through a different lense and a heart to see others in a different light. 

“No amount of regret changes the past. No amount of anxiety changes the future. Any amount of gratitude changes the present.” (Ann Voskamp)

Practice Grace.

Grace defined: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action. A pleasing or attractive quality. Favor or goodwill.

Synonyms for Grace: decency, decorum, finesse, poise.

To the Mom trying to spin so many plates…practice Grace. 

To the Dad trying to work from home with a toddler in your lap…practice Grace.

To the married couples who are suddenly with each other 24/7…practice Grace. 

To the congregants learning to worship online while your church staff is trying to figure out how to be online…practice Grace. 

To the people who are of opposing views…practice Grace. 

To those who are experiencing covid fatigue…practice Grace. 

Man do we need everyone on the team uniformed up and ready to give it their all with this one. Not just to each other but also to ourselves. 

Breathe.

No seriously. Deep breathing (in for 4 counts, out for 4 counts) calms your nerves, reduces stress and anxiety, improves your attention span and decreases pain. It also makes you slow down and concentrate. 

I had my ladies in Bible study do this at the very beginning of each time we were together. It allowed them to “switch hats” and be present in the moments we were with each other. 

I have my clients for spiritual direction do this at the beginning of each session to clear their minds and allow themselves to slow down. One client said, “Wow! I didn’t realize how long it had been since I too some deep cleansing breaths. That was refreshing!” 

We’ve been holding our breaths in anticipation for many things over this past year. So, yes, breathe! In…1, 2, 3, 4. Out…1, 2, 3, 4. And again. 

How do you rest in the unrest? What are some practices you do to fill your empty bucket? 

kw

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy:

When Life Hijacks Your Joy

3 Things You Can Do When Life Keeps Happening

A Prayer for the Worn Out and Overwhelmed

Easy to Deceive

It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness. (Leo Tolstoy)

Imagine my delightful surprise when my youngest daughter, home for the summer from college, brought a big bouquet of Queen Ann’s Lace for me to enjoy indoors. 

Imagine her absolute horror to discover it was not Queen Ann’s Lace but Hemlock instead. 

How can you tell? They look so much alike!

We took a walk outside; she showed me where she picked the flowers…she was lured in by the bright berries growing in the midst.  I showed her the difference between the two. From far away they look the same. On closer inspection the differences are subtle but obvious…once you know them. 

I have a book of wildflowers and have studied herbs and their uses and possible dangers. I’ve learned to recognize the difference with close observation and trusting what I’ve come to know about them. 

Both are from the same family, giving them their look alikeness. 

Both are beautiful. One can be deadly. 

Both have a gorgeous collection of tiny white blooms that make up the bigger flower you see from a distance. Upon closer inspection, Hemlocks umbrella is a bit more round and sparser. The Queen’s, flatter and wider. 

Both have similar stem patterns with one major exception: the Queen has hairy legs whereas Hemlock’s are smooth….deceptively so.

It’s easy to be deceived. 

* * * * * * * * * *

There’s another family that knows the art of deception. In Genesis 27 we see Jacob trick his father, Isaac, into giving him the family blessing. Something that was rightfully Jacob’s older brother Esau’s. 

How does he do it? How does he deceive his dad into giving him something that wasn’t his to receive? 

Isaac had told Esau that he was becoming an old man now and was ready to give him his blessing. Gather your weapons…hunt some wild game…prepare me some tasty food…I will give you my blessing. (Genesis 27:2-4NIV)

The brother’s mom, Isaac’s wife overheard the conversation and wanted Jacob to receive the blessing instead of Esau. (That’s a whole other conversation for another day.)

Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. (Genesis 27:15-16NIV) 

When Jacob went to his father, Isaac, he tells him he has done all that he asked of him and is ready for his blessing. 

Here’s how the conversation went: 

He went to father and said, “My father.” 

“Yes, my son,” he answered. Who is it?”

Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.” 

Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” 

“The Lord your God gave me success.”  He replied.

Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” 

Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau. 

He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him.

“Are you really my son Esau?”

“I am.” 

Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.” 

Jacob brought it to him and he ate and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.” 

So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him…

It’s that easy to be deceived.

* * * * * * * * * *

What can we learn from these two encounters? How can we not be easily deceived? 

Pay attention to subtle differences: 

In both scenarios there were small differences that, if ignored, could be or were costly. Not only do we have to pay heed to them but trust what we’ve learned or know to be Truth. 

It’s an old strategy from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) that’s still used today. There’s just enough twist to make it sound and look good from afar but on closer inspection, well, you can trust the Queen with hairy legs, but hairy arms beware…there’s a smooth talker under there. 

Splitting hairs can sometimes keep you from being deceived and ultimately you will receive the blessing of your Father. 

Question what we feel: 

Jacob covered up his smoothness with the hair of a goatskin, giving the illusion of something that wasn’t true. His dad was tricked by what he felt. 

We can be too. 

We often feel things that give the illusion of truth: 

feel like no one likes me. 

feel like I’m all alone. 

feel like everyone has their act together except me. 

feel like I’m too much and not enough. 

feel like God won’t meet my needs. 

feel like God doesn’t care. 

feel….

But upon closer inspection, we come to realize those things aren’t true. They are the devil in disguise as he covers up his smooth, slick ways under a goatskin of lies. 

We can be deceived by what we feel is true. We need to remember that feelings are fickle, leaving us with a false sense of what it is we have to rely on, what we know to be true.

Question what you smell: 

When Jacob leaned in to give his father a kiss, Isaac trusted that what he smelled, the apparent aroma of Esau, was proof that he was giving his blessing to the right son. 

When I was working as a radiation therapist, I met a man by the name of Gerry who was an alcoholic and also newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Gerry was told that drinking alcohol, while getting radiation treatments, would be like lighting his throat on fire. Gerry nodded his understanding. Even eager to oblige in abstaining. 

Every day, Gerry would come in smelling very strongly of men’s cologne with wafts of alcohol permeating through. No matter how much he tried to cover up what he was doing, we could tell by the smell that something was up. 

We can cover up a multitude of mishaps and misgivings by splashing on some cheap perfume, but it will eventually end up smelling like the bull (or goat) crap it is. Isaac smelled Esau but heard the voice of Jacob. Something didn’t smell right, but he kept moving forward with the blessing. Should he have trusted the smell? Nah. 

Question what you hear: 

Isaac knew what he heard was not the voice of his son Jacob. He did question him…are you my son Jacob? But rather than trust his very own ears and what he was hearing, he went with what he felt. Rather than trust his gut that the voice didn’t jive with what he smelled; he gave an inheritance, a blessing to the wrong person.

He was easily deceived. 

We have been on a wild ride for quite some time now, haven’t we? There are voices EVERYWHERE! Voices with opposite opinions opining for their side because they know they are right. We are feeling all the feels! And man does it stink! 

So, whose voice do you listen to when all you hear is how right everyone is?

Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The Shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. His call his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it. (John 10:1-5 MSG)

Jesus tells us how not to get rustled or in our case hustled…listen to His voice. Become so familiar with it that you recognize an imposter right away…no matter how that imposter tries to disguise himself or what perfume she tries to cover her stink with.  

How do we do that? It’s so simple we may think it’s stupid. Surely there’s another way, right? Nope. 

Spend time with the Shepherd. Get to know Him. His character. His life. His ways. His walk. His talk. His Spirit. 

How? 

Read His word. Study it. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Experience Him. Watch for Him. Expect Him. Notice Him. 

So that, when you hear it, feel it, smell it…you know if it’s Him and won’t be easy to deceive.

kw

Other blogs you may enjoy:

It Starts With Me

The Greatest of These

What We Have Here

Life in the Unknown Zone

It was July 1984. My man had just received his marching orders for his next station. We were to go from Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi to Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  He was 19 and an Airman 1st class in the United States Air Force. I was 18 and 8 ½ months pregnant. We had been married the October prior…you can do the math…a mere 9 months earlier. 

There was speculation in our small town. Rumors ran rampant. 

My OB didn’t really want us traveling but when the government gives you a choice between going to your next assignment now or staying and doing base beautification for six weeks, well, young love said, I don’t mind traveling. So off we went in the sticky Mississippi humidity and the Texarkana heat, hospital papers in hand and instructions to pull over and find the nearest hospital if you have even the whisper of a pain. (Young love is also stupid.) 

Our 1984 Ford Ranger was loaded down with everything we owned and nary a baby item to be found. (Did I mention I was due in two weeks?) We had no air conditioning, no money and no place to stay. We arrived in OKC a bit weathered (both of us) and a whole lot swollen (just me)…heat is hard on pregnant women…even young ones who are in love. 

This is us with our new Ranger. Couldn’t find a pic with my man in a shirt. If you look closely, you can see that my shirt says, “I won!” Boy did I ever! 🙂

Fortunately for us, my in-laws met up with these two young star-crossed lovers, their car was loaded with ALL things baby.  Our families baby showered us from afar and made burp cloths and quilts; they donated a portable crib (a wooden one that collapsed) and gave us the sweetest, teeniest outfits that were all hues of yellow and green. 

They paid for the hotel and food…my father-in-law was rethinking this after I ate 2 Whoppers, a large fry and diet coke. We swam in the hotel pool, played Marco Polo with his parents; it was so good to see them. We didn’t have a care in the world. Oh wait…I’m now due in TEN days with no place to lay our own heads, never mind a baby’s. 

They helped us find an apartment, paid our first months’ rent, get rental furniture (we had nothing remember) and stocked the pantry and fridge. We bought diapers and bottles for the baby and I got a much-needed haircut and perm. (Oh the days of big hair. As those in the south say: the higher the hair, the closer to God!) As we said our goodbyes, my father-in-law advised, I think the next thing on your priority list is to figure out where the hospital is on base and make an appointment. She’s going to have that baby soon. 

Me and my MIL standing in our apartment in OKC. Such fancy wallpaper!

And we did…after we played some basketball, found the gym and met up with a fellow classmate, Frank, who had had room in his car for the car seat the squadron bought for us. See, we weren’t totally without baby things, we just didn’t see the importance of bringing it with us…but those encyclopedias we bought from the traveling salesman? At least I could read to my naked baby.  And yes, we figured out where the hospital was located on base just in the nick of time. We had that sweet sugar just three days later. A bouncing baby boy weighing in at 9 lbs 2oz. 

We were entering the unknown zone. We were clueless. God was good. 

* * * * * * * * * *

There is a story of another young woman who also went on a long trip close to her due date. While there are (major) differences: She was a virgin. I was not. She was carrying God incarnate. I was not. There are similarities in our stories. 

There were rumors and gossip surrounding the pregnancy. Yeah right, she’s a virgin. Obviously, the birds and the bees talk didn’t go so well. And what is Joseph thinking…staying with her like that when he has every right to leave? Holy Spirit my behind…we ALL know where babies come from!   

Her and her betrothed set out on a donkey (also without air conditioning) with not much more than the clothes on their backs. They were headed into a place not wholly familiar to fulfill a census mandated by the government. They, too, had little to no money and no hotel reservations made. 

You know the story of Christmas: Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem because no one had room to house them…darn census! It is thought by some theologians that one of the inn keepers had pity on them, allowing them to bed down in the barn. 

I imagine that didn’t matter one bit. While the hustle and bustle of the busy streets were shouting outside, there was Mary with her newborn son. That moment when Mom meets the miracle that has been housed in her for months is one that shuts out all else. 

Several months would go by before they would need to travel again. Hateful Herod is looking for this new King and will stop at nothing to see him murdered. God tells Joseph in a dream that it’s time to go to Egypt…now. Fortunately, for this young family some rich visitors had stopped by, leaving them a treasure trove with which they could flee.  

God’s provision was obvious. Not through in-laws but an inn keeper. Not through far off family showers brought to Oklahoma City but by far away faithful sage men who journeyed a great distance to bring gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

Unknown zones weren’t unfamiliar to this young couple. 

* * * * * * * * * *

How do we handle these unknown zones? Because they will come, mostly when we least expect them. The death, diagnosis or divorce. The issues with money, marriage and managing your career. The nightly news. The state of our country. The divisiveness. Unknown zones. 

The first young couple navigated out of naivete. The second out of a knowing of the nativity that was to come. The first had a simpleton’s faith based on silliness and love that was young and dumb. The second had a faith that was simple, based on obedience and maturity, even though they, too, were young. 

How do we get there? How do we grow our faith so we can go through our fires? How do we count it all joy when all we can count on is feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day?

Mary shows us a few key elements: 

Surrender control. With everything so out of control, the last thing you want to hear is to surrender what little control you feel you have. Hanging on tightly to control in times of uncertainty or zones of unknown is rooted in this belief: God is not for me therefore I must control the situation for the outcome I want. What if God doesn’t even show up? Our certainty is that He is for us and is already in the zone with us. (Romans 8:31 and Hebrews 13:5)

Be Still and Move. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? So, do I be still, or do I move? Both. It’s in the stillness where we receive the strength and courage to move forward, to obey that which we know we must do, to face things we do not want to face, to walk in the fires and trials we are asked to journey through. It’s in the stillness where we learn about the One who will be by our sides as we move in the direction He lays out. Paths we may not choose if the choice were ours but as we surrender control and as we be still and move, we get to experience God in ways we never would otherwise. 

Treasure and Ponder. All throughout Mary’s story we see that she treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19NIV for example) She was taking it all in as she watched the story of her Son unfold. We can do the same with our own stories. We can journal requests and ways He answers them. We can treasure up by writing down all the ways He shows up in our lives. We can ponder what He’s already done for us, knowing He is faithful to do it again. 

Praise and Gratitude. My soul glorifies the Lord and m spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Luke 1:46-47NIV) Mary had no idea of what was to come. Neither do we. She was thanking and praising him for his presence in the here and now. So can we. When we spend our time trying to calculate what life could, would, should look like based on today’s circumstances, we miss out on the goodness and graciousness of God that is right in front of us this very minute. What can we be thankful for even if, even when? 

That first young couple went on to have five kids total, four grandkids to date, dogs, chickens and a load of unknown zones throughout nigh 38 years of marriage. God has been gracious and good even when we were not. His faithfulness never wavered when ours did. 

Unknown zones are still places we are asked to journey through. We are still clueless about a lot of things. But with the practice of surrendering control, being still and moving, treasuring and pondering, we see that God is still good. 

kw

For similar reading: When Life Hijacks Your Joy

2020 in Retrospect

This past year in retrospect: Which moment would you most like to relive? 

Are you kidding me? THIS is the question I drew off the top of the pile of “Vertellis: Less Small Talk More Genuine Conversations”card game? Ummm…none of it? 

Then I began to think about it. Even amid the surgeries and pandemic, there were some bright spots and lessons learned…

My very favorite thing was teaching the Galatians Bible study in January and February. We had a blast getting to know each other (sometimes a little too much) when my friend Vicky had us doing all kinds of getting-to-know-you games. Was this really just 11 months ago that we were running with rolls of toilet paper between our knees to the other end where our partner had a plunger between her knees and well…the plunger stick went into the TP roll hole? (And you thought Bible study was boring!) We had no idea the value those rolls would hold in just a few short weeks!

We studied Paul’s letter, shared questions and thoughts, collaborated on the confusing parts and walked away better versed than when we began. It does not fall blindly on me that the study was called It is For Freedom and in just a few short weeks we would all be in lock down. This was our end of study celebration:

Who could have foretold that would be the last “normal” study of 2020. 

In February I had a gluteal tendon tear repaired and began the long process of rehab. Friends brought dinner and cupcakes, sent cards, flowers and books. Todd and Carson carried me to the bathroom the first few days. The Amazon man brought me a “Go Girl” because my man thought it would be funny. Bless them. My girls “babysat” me when Todd went out of town. Mackenzie got to see what her future self will look like when she helped me get in the shower. Bless her. My man and I laughed ‘til we cried when I had “graduated” to sitting on the side of the tub and him lifting both legs, one useless and other weak, over the tub…your boob is in my ear but I don’t want you to fall! You guys! I suppose I was hanging on pretty tightly…afraid of falling…oh the life lessons!  There were moments of tears when I learned I had to go back under to have the portals cleaned out because of an allergic reaction to the deep stitches. Sigh…

Then the pandemic hit. 

In the wink of an eye, life as we knew it was changed. No more meeting in person. Work was from home. Schools were on-line. Churches, restaurants, gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters, sports, airlines, travel, daycares…all shut down. Toilet paper was a hot commodity. The back section of Costco looked like an old-fashioned bank run. Yeast was nowhere to be found. Canning jars and lids were scarce. Suddenly everyone became bakers and gardeners. Simple things like coffee with a friend, hugs, dinner out, community worship, kids practice, school events…all wiped off our calendars. 

I wonder if we can find some pearls in the pig sty that was 2020? 

I asked my family what lessons they learned last year…serious, funny, real…doesn’t matter. With their permission, here’s what some of them said: 

My man had a bit of a health scare which led to the wearing of a heart monitor for ten days. He said, “I learned the importance of listening to my body and paying attention to what it’s telling me. It doesn’t pay to ignore or deny how you’re feeling. Eventually it catches up with you. Plus, I’m not as young as I used to be!” 

Isn’t that the truth? (Not the getting old part…although…) Even those who have never struggled with anxiety or depression found themselves on the end of understanding those who do a bit more intimately. 2020 was a hard year. Grace says, it’s okay to not be okay. 

I had a conversation with my oldest son, Nate, who shared: this past year showed me that we don’t need as much as we thought we did. We can get by on way less stuff, activities and busyness. Taking care of and spending time with my family is important. 

Isn’t that the truth? Houses that overflow, calendars that show we’re on-the-go, families who are too busy and overactive minds that makes one dizzy. When everything shut down last year, it gave us a time to reset, retool and re-evaluate. Our calendars. Our minds. Our stuff. How many families were sitting down to dinner…that was homemade? How many board games got dust knocked off them and were played together? How many more conversations were had because, well, what else was there to do besides cook food, play games and talk. We can now put those things that we realize are important on the forefront. What a blessing! 

My oldest daughter, Macey, texted this back to the group: I feel stronger now than I have ever felt because I went through some really hard stuff this (past) year: panic attacks, grad school, the whole world changing and feeling like it was falling apart. I think the reason I feel stronger than ever is because I’ve never been closer to God. I do meditation and a devotion or Bible study each morning. I practice Shabbat on the weekends. I memorize scripture. I pray a lot more than I ever have. 

And through this prayer, I’ve come to realize a few things: that I’m on the right path with my writing. That my family is one of the most important things in my life. That patience and trust make life a whole lot easier to live. And that self-care in the form of gardening, reading books, baking, exercising and taking baths make life fun. 

Isn’t that the truth? Prayer and self-care were the must do’s in the year of poo! What an opportunity to develop spiritual disciplines, to ask God hard questions, to be still before Him and trust that He knows you, He sees you, He loves you, to trust that He’s got you. He has a race for which you are to run, a lane for you to run it in and a prize like no other at the end of it. Run it well, daughter of mine! 

My youngest (college age) daughter, Mallory, texted me this: This past year I realized I’m stronger than I know. I spent the night in the hospital (in Columbus by myself…thanks COVID) and was okay. I went through tough mental health issues and was okay. I went to college online and was okay. I am an “essential worker” and had to go to work in a level red county and was okay. 

I learned to be thankful for the things and people who were put in my life. I am thankful for the doctors who helped me figure out what was going on. I am thankful for my counselor who has helped me deal with pandemic anxiety. I am thankful for my family who has been there for support every step of the way. I am thankful for the friends I have who have sat with me through tears and triumphs, with late night puzzles and doing silly things to distract us all from what’s going on in the world. This past year, I learned that being just okay is okay and that it’s only up from here. 

Isn’t that the truth? I think we all have stories from this past year that prove we are stronger than we’ve ever known ourselves to be, more courageous than we ever thought we were and have chosen faith over fear multiple times…even when fear crept in on occasion. Perhaps “strong and courageous” looked like prayer and therapy or admitting and asking for aid.

This past year gave us opportunities to practice the art of being thankful…even when we had to dig for it sometimes…that attitude of gratitude were nuggets of gold in the middle of pandemic panic. 

(I have to take a moment to encourage parents of littles. One minute you are wiping butts and noses…sometimes both with the same tissue…and wondering if all your hard work, tears and cheers are doing one ounce of anything and the next minute, you are having conversations with your adult kids who are both wise and whimsical, clever and creative, lovely and loving, and some of my best friends. Hang in there!) 

2020 was a year for the record books! 

I pray that the things God showed all of us will be lessons we bring forward into the New Year. I pray we don’t miss the opportunity to be improved individuals, a kinder community. I pray that the struggles and heartaches of last year will be used to strengthen our spiritual muscles and make us a more compassionate people. I pray that once we are able to back to “normal”, we do not fall back into complacency or take for granted those simple things we missed out on: seeing someone’s smile, hugs, raising hands in community worship, going to the office, eating out, gathering with friends, eating together, family time, still time.  

Finally, I will leave you with this quote from a friend’s social media post: 

As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands and step out into the invincible future with Him. (Oswald Chambers) 

Yes and Amen Mr. Chambers!

Happy New Year! 

kw

The Simple Life

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you…(1Thessalonians 4:11NIV)

This has been a favorite verse of mine for many years. Even in the throes of five kids at different stages, different schools, in different sports, and a husband who travels for work, I would read this verse and think Yes!! But how is this possible when life is so hectic? Packing for a weekend soccer tournament with your middle daughter while your youngest is in the middle of potty training is tricky. Not to mention the multiple trips to the porta-potty with a 3-year-old (ewww) and while wrestling them to not touch too many things in said porta-potty, you hear the crowd go crazy for the game winning goal for your daughter’s team. Sigh…

Or how about living life during a pandemic when every decision feels like nailing Jell-O to a wall? There’s nothing simple about trying to figure it all out. Should I send my kids to school or do online school? Should I homeschool this year? How can I do that when I have to work? If I have to go back to work, what do I do with my kids? Is it safe to meet a friend for coffee? Go to church? Go to the store? 

Or how about job changes, divorce, a diagnosis, retirement, a new baby, an empty nest, a single Mom, a blended family? The list is seemingly endless. 

Panic replaces peace.

Juggling replaces joy.

Fear replaces faith. 

The simple life? Yeah right. Maybe when I’m 50 and these kids are grown. Or I figure out what I’m doing with my life. Well, I’ve reached that decade and learned a lot since the days of potty training and soccer tournaments. It’s what I want to share with you over the next few weeks. 

A simple life doesn’t mean you cut yourself off from everyone and everything. (A six pack and Netflixing may be okay on occasion but it doesn’t equate to a simple life!) The simple life isn’t lived when there are no kids around or in complete silence. Simplicity doesn’t mean that things are always easy, or life is never hard. Simple doesn’t equate with simpleton, as some may think, giving you the image of me in my Carhart’s with a straw hat on my head and a piece of straw with which I pick my teeth…the one’s I still have, at least. 

The simple life means so much more. 

We live in a world of distractions and multi-tasking. A world in which busy is better and a cluttered calendar equals success. A world where ambition and hustle are awarded and honored. A world that is “on” with 24/7 access to news, articles, videos, information and each other. A culture that creates chaos then wonders why it’s tired and overwhelmed. 

In her book Abundant Simplicity author Jan Johnson says, This distracted life is now considered not only normal but optimal. We’re supposed to multitask; if we don’t, we’ll get behind. Simplicity, however, can flow only when we embrace the opposite of distraction: intentionality. (pg 39)

Living a simple life requires the courage to go against the grain of culture, to live intentionally, to evaluate where our ambition lies and what it’s doing to our souls. Living a simple life means slowing down, being still (quiet) when everyone around us is running like they’re on fire. It’s saying no to better so you can say yes to best.

Simplicity is freedom. Simplicity brings joy and balance. (Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster pg 79) Who doesn’t want a little more of all of that! 

Is the Simple Life possible “even when”…? I believe it is. Let’s see how together…

Kw