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 Anniversary? A 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.
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?
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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.
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.
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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?
It was an unusually sunny November day, and I was cleaning out the garden boxes and tidying up some areas when I noticed this strawberry plant blooming. Because of the season I was in personally my immediate thoughts were Girlfriend (because who doesn’t talk to their plants in the garden?) what are you doing blooming this time of year? Can’t you see your buddy right there beside you with frostbite?
I see you little strawberry flower. While I appreciate your effort, this is not the season for you. Winter is coming.
Have you ever asked yourself, what was I thinking? Or perhaps you got in the thick of it and simply knew this was the wrong time to be doing what you’re trying to do. You have the right motive but it’s the wrong season.
That’s where I found myself that day, in the middle of the garden, talking to a strawberry plant.
Because God uses the simplicity of nature to teach us deeper lessons, here’s some he taught me during that season.
Open Doors and Warning Signs
I don’t have to nor should I walk through every door opened for me or say yes to every opportunity presented. I had waited for a long time for this gate to swing wide and because of that, I ignored the warning signs, the quickening in my Spirit, and forged ahead with a Finally! attitude.
I was like that strawberry bloom who trusted the rare sunshine on a November day but ignored the freeze warnings from the rest of the month. Ignored the dead leaves and fellow strawberry turned brown from cold temps.
Surely, I can bear fruit in the off season, in a toxic environment, with all these warnings. It’s what I thought I was meant to do…even though winter was coming.
Plans fail with no counsel, but with many counselors they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22CEB)
I didn’t seek wise counsel.
Maybe it was because I was so sure this open door of opportunity was right for me because I wanted it for so long that I (arrogantly) didn’t feel I needed to ask anyone about it.
Or maybe it was because I knew they would point out the freeze warnings and tell me to shut the door. Was this something I had put on such a pedestal, blizzard be damned, I’m moving forward? Be careful what you idolize.
Seek counsel from someone who needs nothing from you but wants the best for you. Be thankful for open doors of opportunities but don’t ignore the warning signs or the wisdom of another.
Waiting is Frustrating
And tiring. And discouraging. Anybody?
You’ve prayed and waited. You’ve encouraged others and waited. You’ve watched others move forward and waited. You feel the weight of the wait and don’t know how much longer you can manage the load of it all.
Sarah got tired of waiting and moved ahead of God. After decades of waiting for a child of her own, who can blame her really, what a mess it all became! She told her husband to sleep with her maid so her maid could get pregnant because God told them she, Sarah, would have a child so maybe this was the way because God certainly wasn’t doing anything….not fast anyhow.
Esther understood the importance of waiting. After seeking wise counsel from her cousin Modecai, she fasted and prayed (now there’s a concept Kim) and devised a plan. She carried out said plan with patience and trusted the timing. As a result, God’s chosen people and Esther’s lineage was saved from decimation.
Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. (Psalms 37:7 NLT)
Whenever I want to help God out, stop praying and start doing or get tired of waiting, it’s because I want to control the situation, I want to call the shots, send in the signals for the next play and control the clock. Instead, I need to be still. With the Lord. And not just wait but wait patiently. Sigh.
I can trust God because he is trustworthy. He is for me (and you) like no one else is. He has a view of my situation (and yours) from an angle we never will. He is all knowing, all powerful, ever present. He is a Father who loves me (and you) like no one is able to love us. He wants what’s best for us and we can trust him to open doors we are to walk through and warn us of open doors we are to shut. We need only pay attention.
We can trust:
God’s plan for us. He has one. And it’s good because he is good!
God’s timing for us. There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1NIV)
God’s ability to do what he says he will do. With his plan, not ours. In his time, not ours.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:3NIV)
It took a strawberry bloom to show me that even though my motive was right, the season was wrong. She taught me to trust the warning signs and not just the whims of a sunny day. She taught me that though she got frost bit, she’s still meant to bloom. In the right season, she will bear fruit.
Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. (James 2:8 CSB)
Have you ever watched someone with low self-esteem or insecurities hang their heads? Or the cashier whose line is long and customers patience short? By the time you get ready to pay, he won’t even look you in the eye. Or how about the young Mom with one in the cart, one on the hip and one in the oven whose “free one” is throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle? Do you roll your eyes? Judge?
How do we love those with whom we disagree? Who are different than us? What about the playground bully? Or disgruntled colleague? Or online adversary?
Love one another is a simple yet profound theology.
When I was a little girl, my Grandfather would often lift my face to look at his just so I could see into the eyes of someone who cared, someone who loved me deeper than the oceans.
We all have a Father who is a lifter of heads, One who lifts our faces to look at His so we can see someone who cares. (Psalm 3:3)
I want to love people well. I want to be a lifter of faces too.
How do we do this? How do we love our neighbor? How do we love ourselves? How do we do it well?
Using the acronym FACE LIFT, here’s how:
Forgive. If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive. (Mother Theresa)
I’m not asking you to move in, hang out, be friends, or associate with someone who has wronged you, hurt you, bullied you, or otherwise. I’m saying forgiveness is a decision you make that frees you from being connected to the person you are forgiving. Forgiving them is loving yourself well.
Maybe it’s yourself you need to forgive. You cannot move forward in the fullness of who you are meant to be until you accept your own apology.
Ask. Before you judge instead of love, ask yourself the what ifs. What if this were me? What if this were my child? What if this were my spouse? Coworker? Best friend? Young Mom? Cashier? Neighbor across the street?
There is a difference between good judgment and living in judgment.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of others often make us realize their journey is harder to walk than we thought.
Care. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. (Elie Wiesel)
Indifference: Lack of interest or concern.
We’ve become a culture who has become so immune to the fact that we are all imago dei, made in the image of God that we miss many opportunities to love.
We’re more interested in being heard (loudly)…can’t you just hear those keys tapping out a response to those we disagree with on FaceBook because everybody knows letting everyone know OUR opinion about what this idiot thinks is important. Hint: that’s not loving anybody well.
We are concerned alright, about being right. And if you disagree, well, then, we obviously cannot care about each other. Sigh…
How did we get here?
Loving others well, is caring, being interested, showing concern, no matter if someone disagrees with you, looks different than you, thinks different than you, all are made in God’s image.
Engage in diverse, meaningful relationships. Nothing says love louder than striking up purposeful friendships with those who are not like you! Being able to ask questions, finding out the who’s, what’s and why’s of a different culture, seeing life through someone else’s lens is a beautiful way of walking a path different than your own.
Love comes from understanding. Understanding comes from learning. Learning comes from engaging.
Listen to learn not to give a defense or be ready with a response. I can’t hear you if my mind is articulating what it wants to say.
Listen is such an ordinary little word that we pass by it pretty quickly as a way to love someone. But who hasn’t, at one time or another not felt heard? What did that feel like? Certainly not like being loved.
Listening to someone’s story is a sacred space, a holy place that needs room to simply be heard.
Want to love someone well? Shut your mouth, open your ears and listen.
Identify your own blind spots. We all have them. Those areas with deep roots that pave the way for how you think, how you act, how you treat others. It may not be your hands that planted the seeds but it is your responsibility to dig out the weeds.
We can’t love others well with roots of shame and hurt.
We can’t love others well with roots of racism and bigotry.
We can’t love others well with roots of silver spoons or a poverty mentality.
We can’t love others well with roots of unforgiveness or anger.
My view of others is skewed by my own weeds and roots. Your view of others is skewed by your own weed and roots.
Have an honest conversation with yourself about your blind spots so you can see others as God see them.
Free others to be themselves. This can be twofold:
One: we need to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders and number one fans! Don’t hold someone back because of your own jealousy, fear or immaturity. Loving others well says, “Go for it!” “You can do this!”
Two: sometimes we need to let go and walk away because no matter how hard you try, the leopard cannot change its spots. So, be free! Go be a leopard at someone else’s house. That’s loving yourself well. And that’s okay to need to do…for you.
Tune in to your surroundings. We can’t love what we don’t notice. We don’t notice what we don’t pay attention to.
Put your phone down (guilty over here!) and see the person in front of your face. That cashier who had his head down? Be kind instead of flustered. That young Mom with a cart full of kids and handful of groceries? Help her out to her car.
How about that person who disagrees with you? What if you said, that’s an interesting view point. How did you come to that conclusion? Then zip your lip and listen.
What about the people under your very own roof? How are you loving them well? What do they need? That surly teenager may have just bombed a big test. Can you tell him he is more than a grade in a gradebook? How about your spouse? Is her mood because of you or because she’s not been able to have one moments peace or pee by herself all day long? What can you do for her to love her well? (Hint: it probably has nothing to do with lingerie…)
We’d found the perfect spot. Out back, behind the chicken coop, a field of Golden Rod and blues skies in front of us with drifts of honeysuckle sweetness floating in from behind. The hot summer day felt several degrees cooler sitting under those trees as we settled in to sip iced tea and read.
I thought I’d head out there every day, if only for a half hour of solace and solitude. We were four months into this pandemic business with no end in sight and as much as I love my family, I need my alone time.
Except I’d discovered I wasn’t alone.
I went around a different way to our newly discovered thoughtful spot only to discover this guy (or girl) had left its skin behind.
I turned right back around and headed indoors knowing there was no way I could concentrate on trying to read with no knowledge of its whereabouts. And forget closing my eyes for any type of meditation or soaking up of the sun!
A couple weeks later, my man was shoring up the chicken coop, giving it a chic chick makeover, when he came bounding out as fast as he could scurry. Not much gives me the heebie-jeebies but I found out who wore that skin….
A couple of months later, I read this thought from Margaret Guenther’s book Holy Listening: One of the treasures in my study is the intact skin of a Virginia black snake, shed as part of the process of growth. To grow, indeed, to survive, that snake had to leave behind a part of itself. I have no idea whether the shedding was painful or a relief, but my imagination tells me that it was some of each.
While I have no desire whatsoever to put that snakeskin in my study, we can learn a lot from this authors observance. And yes, I looked up how and why a snake sheds its skin.
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1. A snake sheds its skin by rubbing up against a rock, tree or other hard surface. It cannot get rid of the old without some friction to help it along.
We, too, must shed skins and identities by persevering through the painful parts and pieces of life. Paul tells us it’s this suffering that produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us. (Romans 5:3-5a NIV)
James tells us to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:1-4 NIV)
I really wish it didn’t take trials of many kinds to help us grow but when I look back on my growth spurts, spiritually and personally speaking, it was because of walking through some hard things.
No friction. No character development.
No character development. No learning perseverance.
No perseverance. No faith maturation.
No maturing faith. No hope.
No hope. Well…you feel hopeless.
There is purpose behind the pain of growing.
2. A snake shedding its skin allows for new and further growth.
We are not the same people on the other side of a hard season. We are wiser, more aware, more compassionate towards others who are going through something similar and even towards those who aren’t because they simply cannot know what they’ve not experienced.
Those who never go through some tough stuff, stay stuck in their skin-tight selves and never get to experience the joy, heartache, laughter and tears of helping someone who’s transitioning through a hard space. It gives us the maturity and understanding to be able to help others. It gives us a purpose for having suffered ourselves.
All praise to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT)
3. A snake shedding its skin allows for the removal of parasites.
Ewww…am I right? While we may not have actual parasites, (anyone’s head itching yet?) we do have things we need to remove or let go of because we have simply outgrown them. With the help of some friends, here is a list of just a few possible parasites:
Jobs Having to be perfect
My jeans since COVID 😉 Saying you’re okay and you’re not
Guilt trips Expectations of others
Previous hurts Old routines
Ideals of other people’s roles in our lives
What are some of yours?
4. The snake leaves behind a piece of its old self in order to grow/survive.
This one is especially bittersweet since there is often nothing wrong with the old self or shed skin; it’s simply not useful to us anymore. I jest about my jeans as something I’ve outgrown (if you’ve never laid down on your bed to zip your jeans, I’m afraid we cannot be friends), but how many of us have clothes in our closets that we keep for someday when…? Those clothes we’ve outgrown? They simply do not fit anymore.
Spiritually speaking, we hold on to our “parasites” because they are comfortable, familiar and safe. Unfortunately, that very same holding on to stunts our growth and stifles the Spirit.
Matthew says it this way: Who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and running the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved. (Matthew 9:16-17NLT)
5. Is the shedding of a snake’s skin painful or a relief?
I love that Margaret asks this question, to which she answers probably a bit of both. Growth feels like you’re being squeezed out of your own skin. There is pain in the process of the pressing, but the purpose of the process is a promise of perfected faith and perseverance.
It’s both painful (the process) and a relief (the promise).
Like the bittersweetness of letting go of an old sweater with its memories and familiarity is to accept growth and change in ourselves as a kind of departure, a leaving behind of the safe and known. It’s both painful to let go and a relief to move forward. Even more painful is trying to shrink yourself down to fit what you once were. I don’t want to be who I was ten, five or one year ago. I want to be a new and improved person, having shed the skin of that which keeps me from being completely me.
If God can use the skin of a snake to teach me such things, what can he do with you and your story? God will use that squeezing, those scars, that pressing down, those questions and desperate prayers for a purpose you can only imagine in your wildest dreams!
PS I will not be putting a snakes skin in my office…even so.
Maybe you’ve sat staring, searching, scanning hoping to be the first to spot Waldo in the sea of people. Isn’t it fun?
He’s the iconic, elusive man in the red and white striped shirt, pommed hat and round wire rimmed glasses. He was first hidden away in 1987 by British illustrator Martin Handford. He got the idea for “Where’s Waldo” after working as a freelance illustrator where he drew crowd scenes for magazines and companies. “The art director suggested that he make a character to act as a focal point in his pictures of crowds to encourage people to look at the picture more closely.”
I like the art director’s idea of encouraging people to look closer at the crowds of people, trying to spotlight just one.
There’s a woman in the Old Testament who gets lost, not in a sea of people but in a crowd of commentators who, at the mention of her name, mostly make excuses as to why she, a woman, was used by God when there were male prophets at the ready.
When my friend texted me and asked if I’d ever heard of her, I had to admit I had not. Neither had she, a 4-year degreed Bible college graduate, and yet had not once heard of Huldah the prophetess taught in all her classes.
I asked a male pastor friend if he’d heard of Huldah. Nah. Maybe she didn’t get much press for a reason. (hmmm…?!)
I asked my man if he had heard of Huldah. Is that the lady who made those tops that was so popular in the ‘70s? Um. No. That would be halter. Not Huldah. (He does like to try and fire me up!)
Who is Huldah?
Her story can be found in 2Kings 22:14-20 and the parallel in 2Chronicles 34:22-28. Although Huldah appears in only fourteen total verses, much greater significance has been placed on those who occupy far less ink on a page. An extreme example of this is Jabez whose name is found in one verse and yet became a household name in 2000, when The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson sold more than nine million copies as a New York Times best seller.
So, who is she? And what was her role?
Huldah was a prophetess who lived in the Second District of Jerusalem. Significant, for their location was thought to be near the king and within the walled city. She was married to Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhus, keeper of the wardrobe. They were thought to be makers and menders of the priestly garments and the royal wardrobe.
What’s the backstory?
Josiah had become king when he was eight years old. Ten years pass between 2Kings 22:1 and 3. He was a righteous man who chose to follow in the footsteps of King David instead of the two generations of evil kings that led before him.
He had the temple repaired and in doing so, the book of the law was discovered. This would be like losing your Bible in a church building and not missing it for years. The book of the law was most likely all five books of Moses. King Josiah has the book read aloud to him (most scholars believe it was from Deuteronomy.)
Chapters 4-13 would convict this righteous king about the wicked things the nation had already done.
Chapters 14-18 would greatly disturb him about what the people had not done.
Chapters 27-30 would spell out what God would do if the nation did not repent of their sins of both commission and omission.
Josiah was so deeply torn by the state of his country that he tore his robes and ordered the high priest and several officers to ask the Lord about Judah’s spiritual condition.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
At the time there were two well-known prophets in the land, Jeremiah and Zephaniah who was a relative of Josiah. Neither of them were called upon to answer the King’s inquiry.
Scripture tells us Josiah gave these orders to a committee of royal officials, go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us. (2Kings 22:12-13NIV)
This royal committee shows up on the doorstep of our girl Huldah the prophetess. There are only a handful of other women who have this same title: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Naodiah (Nehemiah 6:14), the wife of Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36) and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8-9).
The committee of men going to Huldah’s house is significant in the fact that lower ranking people were sent for by a messenger and brought before the committee or even the king. Instead, these royal officials, sought her out, at her house, to get the message to take back to the king. By this we know she was well regarded by King Josiah.
Part one of her message: She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on the place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’” (2Kings 22:15-17NIV)
Huldah has some hutzpah here. She is not fazed by the fact that she is speaking a message to the king. In fact, in the first part of her message she doesn’t even address him as such, calling him, the man who sent you to me. Her job was to relay the message of the Lord, not coddle the receiver of said message.
Part two of her message: Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you have heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see the disaster I am going to bring on this place.
So they took her answer back to the king. (2Kings 22:18-20NIV)
The nation would feel the full cup of God’s wrath, but Josiah would be spared because of his humility and desire to serve the Lord. Huldah doesn’t mince words. She isn’t starry eyed, faint of heart or weak in her delivery.
In fact, the royal officials take this message back to King Josiah who calls the elders, priests and prophets together and gets the ship turned around. Josiah renews the covenant with the Lord. He cleans up the temple, tears down the shrines, ousts the priests who were up to no good, destroyed altars to idols, and reimplemented the celebration of the feasts.
Josiah asked Huldah. Huldah answered. Josiah listened. He didn’t delay or seek a second opinion or dismiss the words of a woman.
As I read through the chapter on Huldah written by Christa L. McKirland, ThM from the book Vindicating the Vixens,imagine my surprise at the rationale of some of the early Christian writers:
~ One “remarks that God uses women, and Huldah in particular, since ‘it is the rule of Scripture when holy men fail, to praise women to the reproach of men.’” (fourth-century theologian Jerome) (pg 224)
So God can only use women in key roles to shame men?
Then radio silence on any mention of Huldah…for more than a millennium.
~ John Calvin pairs together Huldah with Deborah, agreeing with Jerome that God wished to raise them on high to shame the men and obliquely show them their slothfulness. Whatever may be the reason, women have sometimes enjoyed the prophetic gift. (pg. 224)
I’m sure you’re right Mr. Calvin, because women love to give messages of doom and gloom. And only when the men are lazy and don’t feel like messing with being a messenger.
I can’t help but wonder if these men thought Jeremiah and Zephaniah needed shaming? And if so, why? The fact that they want to add to the story, creating a reasoning that simply isn’t there, tells more about them than it does about the men in Huldah’s day.
~ Matthew Henry wanted to give all the props to the fact that Huldah was a wife who was speaking under her husband’s authority, revealing his need to justify God’s using a woman. Never mind that her title of prophetess came before her name and the revelation that she was married was listed after. (pg. 224-225)
~ John Wesley suggests that Jeremiah is in some remote part of the kingdom and Zephaniah might not be a prophet at the time of Josiah’s inquiry. Wesley goes beyond the text trying to justify how this can be…God using a woman to speak a message to the king. (pg. 225)
Yep. Because God would have no idea if Jeremiah would be vacationing at the same time Josiah needed a word. Obviously God’s timing on delivering the message was poor…he had to use a woman to do it.
What about a more modern-day preacher? Surely he would talk more about the message given rather than the messenger giving it.
~ John McArthur says this, Huldah. This prophetess is otherwise unknown in the OT. She was held in some regard for her prophetic gift, though why she was consulted and not another prophet like Jeremiah or Zephaniah is unexplained. Rarely did God speak to the nation through a woman and never did a woman have an ongoing prophetic ministry identified in Scripture. No woman was inspired to author any of Scripture’s sixty-six books. (The MacArthur Bible Commentary)
Thanks John. Maybe you think, like you did with Beth Moore, Huldah should have stayed home too? (See what I wrote to Dear Jane when this incident occurred.)
Could it simply be there was no explanation needed? Could it be Josiah preferred to use Huldah as his prophetess. Why does there need to be such speculation? Why can’t we be thankful that Huldah used the gifts God gave her when called upon to do so?
At the end of the day, does the “why” matter more than the “what”? Is it more important to try and figure out why God would use a woman to deliver the message or the message itself?
Hunches and hypothesis beyond the text about Jeremiah and Zephaniahs shame or absence or whatever, is futile and distracts from the message. The priests went to speak to the prophetess Huldah (period). If God didn’t see the need to explain why, maybe we shouldn’t make up excuses and just let it be as it is.
We can exemplify and acknowledge the uniqueness of a female prophet, especially in a male dominant culture, without diminishing the validity of Huldah’s gifts. Ditto for the women of today!
Modern Day Huldah’s
What can we learn from this oft forgotten woman of the Old Testament?
Huldah was ready when called upon. They needed a message from the Lord and she delivered. She didn’t ask “why me” or where the other prophets were, she simply did what she was gifted to do. Are you prepared, in season and out, to give a message, to share a word, to teach, rebuke, admonish or offer hope when asked to do so?
Huldah didn’t worry about who her audience was, she was obedient in using her gifts of prophecy no matter the sex, title or status of the receiver of the message. We have a responsibility to use our gifts regardless of our or anyone else’s sex, title, degree, status or station in life.
Huldah was a willing vessel for being used by God. I’m sure, given the status of women in Huldah’s culture it wasn’t easy being a prophetess. It was, in fact, a male dominant space. But she did it….with no apologies. We live in a culture that has turtle crawled toward recognizing women in leadership roles in the male dominant church. Are we willing to keep using our gifts and talents? Are we willing to keep having conversations?
What a fantastic role model Huldah is for us! Now when someone says, Where’s Huldah? you’ll be able to find her right away and share the story of how God used this woman to bring a message to the king and help turn a nation back to Himself.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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)
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.
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?
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 Rebekahtook 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?”
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:
I feel like no one likes me.
I feel like I’m all alone.
I feel like everyone has their act together except me.
I feel like I’m too much and not enough.
I feel like God won’t meet my needs.
I feel like God doesn’t care.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
There’s a scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty movie that finds the main character, Walter, who works for Life Magazine, on an adventure to find nature and wildlife photographer, Sean O’Conner, after one of the negatives Sean had sent in for an upcoming edition went missing.
Walter finds Sean high atop a mountain in search of a snow leopard. They are side by side sitting behind a camera with a lens that could count the spots and whiskers of said cat. Sean is looking through the lens when he pokes Walter to look too. There she is, the most beautiful and rare of all snow leopards. Sean looks back through the lens then sits there in silence.
When are you going to take the shot? (Walter asks)
Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment…I mean me, personally…I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Stay in it. (whispers Walter)
Yeah. Right there. Right here.
Yeah. Right here.
How many moments meant just for me have I missed because I was looking to shoot a shot for everyone else?
How many moments have I missed because I was busy bustling to the next beat instead of being right here?
Whoa. Let those questions sink in a minute as you ask yourself the same thing.
I realized a lot over the past month of taking a break from all things social media….
Social Media is neither good nor bad but is simply what you make of it.
It’s about Balance and Boundaries
There’s always another idol waiting in the wings to take the current one’s place if you’re not careful. It’s about my behavior not the device/platform itself.
There is a feeling of freedom when not chained to checking your device for likes, hearts, stars, atta girls, comments and shares. My identity and worth are not wrapped around anyone else’s thoughts about me. It’s easy to get caught in that trap!
Sometimes you have to disconnect to reconnect.
Front porch swing conversations > ensuing a “comment” conversation.
I don’t need to be accessible 24/7.
I don’t need to answer every text, email, Marco or call at the exact moment it comes in. In fact, often times it’s better not to but instead, think about what my reply should be.
There’s no need to subject myself to everyone’s “expert” opinions all the time on everything from politics to mask wearing to corona virus cures to who’s the biggest idiot to who’s bad, who’s not…it’s exhausting to watch so why do I scroll…it’s like watching a wreck…you almost can’t not look.
There’s no need to get caught in the hustle and rush that keeps me ramped up. Hurry leads to worry and there’s no need for that.
11. It is possible to go from FOMO to JOMO. From the Fear of Missing Out to the Joy of Missing Out.
This is a quick jot down of what I’ve learned. I’m still thinking through it…processing the pieces; seeing the affects and reading about the reason why we need rest from it all. I do know that the break was much needed for my mind, heart and soul. I feel much more at peace and filled up. I guess you don’t realize how much social media has the ability to drain the energy from you (if you let it) until you walk away for a few weeks.
I was worried that I wouldn’t know what was going on with everyone so I wouldn’t know what to write about. Afterall, I live a pretty ordinary life. But instead, in the stillness, I got to hear a Voice speaking loud and clear. He knows better than I the message that needs to be written; lessons that need to be learned. Staying connected to the Vine is much more important than staying connected through social media. (#12?). There’s so much more to share.