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

Ten Things I Learned During My Social Media Sabbatical

A Vineyard in the Ohio Amish country.

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….

  1. Social Media is neither good nor bad but is simply what you make of it.
  2. It’s about Balance and Boundaries
  3. 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. 
  4. 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! 
  5. Sometimes you have to disconnect to reconnect.
  6. Front porch swing conversations > ensuing a “comment” conversation.
  7. I don’t need to be accessible 24/7.
  8. 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. 
  9. 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. 
  10. 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. 

Bonus: 

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. 

Stay tuned. 

kw

Simple Garden Theology

I sang about it before I’d really had a chance to truly understand it. I really just wanted to hit my part of the four-part harmony. It was an old hymn from 1912, written by a pharmacist in his New Jersey windowless, damp basement, no garden in sight. C. Austin Miles must have known the garden was nothing new to God. It was a place to walk and talk with Him, to tarry and listen to the sound of His voice. A voice so sweet that even the birds stop singing. (Read about Mr. Miles and get the full lyrics of “In the Garden” here.

God and gardens go way back. In fact, He was the pioneer planter of the very first one. (Genesis 2:8) It was a beautiful place with all kinds of trees growing out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. (Genesis 2:9Rivers ran through it. Lush and plush with green goodness all around. It was a slice of heaven here on earth. 

Until a slice of “apple” was more pleasing to the eye than the rest of the entire garden. Eden taught us all about the importance of listening to God’s boundaries and the consequence thereof. It taught us the wiliness of the enemy and the ease in which we can get caught in the did God really say scenario of that serpent of old. (Genesis 3)

Vineyards, grape gardens, were commonplace in Jerusalem. In John 15, the disciple recorded Jesus’ teaching about the importance of staying connected to the True Vine in order to be fruitful. Words like abide and love, obedience and joy are found in this garden. Pruning, while seemingly harsh, is necessary for new growth and even better fruit, assuring us there is a sweetness to the process of pruning. 

Groves of olive gardens are found in scripture with life lessons growing in each. Gethsemane is one such garden. It is a place that, in Hebrew, means oil press, i.e. a place for squeezing the oil from the olives. It is here that Jesus prayed so hard that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44) While Jesus was leaning into His Father because of pressing matters at hand, the disciples were pressing into their pillows having fallen fast asleep. It was in this garden Jesus warns them to stay alert, to watch and pray so they aren’t tempted.  

God in the garden is nothing new. Garden theology 101 is still taught by the Gardener Himself…if we choose to pay attention. Take for instance…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Weeds

You can be in the thick of them quickly if you aren’t careful.

I take a bucket out to the garden with me each morning and fill it with weeds in the hopes of keeping on top of them. They multiply to the Nth degree. Or so it seems. If I’ve missed a few days, the weeds take over the rows where we walk as well as around the actual plants themselves. 

Sometimes it takes the drastic measures of the rototiller to root out the masses. While that “gets ‘er done” on a large scale and is necessary sometimes, it’s the gentler approach, on your knees, carefully removing those that are closest to the plant that takes determination and patience. 

Jesus had something to say about weeds when He was telling the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. He explained to the disciples that the seed sown among the weeds represents the person who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart and his ambition for wealth result in suffocating the kingdom message and prevent him from bearing spiritual fruit. (v22TPT bold is mine)

Who reading this hasn’t felt suffocated by one of these? Before you know it, you’re knee deep and can’t even see the Seed that helps you grow. Start tilling in some confession, repentance, obedience to get the soil of your heart back in shape and weed free. Get on your knees and pluck gently around the more tender parts and places, listening for the sound of the Gardener’s voice that is so sweet the birds stop singing to listen. 

Water

It’s essential to a garden if you want your plants to live (duh) otherwise the plants shrivel up and die. Lately, here in the Midwest the weather has been extra hot which means morning and evening watering. 

I go out each morning and give a thorough soaking and even then, in this heat, by evening things are looking droopy and in need of an extra drink. 

Jesus had something to say to people dying (rather they knew it or not) for a drink of water. 

His first encounter is found in John 4 and is with a woman who goes to a well for water and sees Jesus sitting, waiting, as if for her. Little did she know she was about to meet a Man like no other man and boy had she met plenty of them. 

He asks her for a drink. She’s confused because He, a Jew, is supposed to hate her, a Samaritan and a woman, and yet here He is asking her for a drink. She tells Him this to which He replies, If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink and I would give you fresh, living water. (John 4:10MSG)

Again, she’s confused because Jesus doesn’t have a dipper or bucket or anything to draw water from the well, so she asks Him about it and lets Him know that she knows of spiritual things so don’t pull a fast one on her Jesus! 

Jesus then tells her, Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. (my droopy plants can testify here) Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. (John 4:13-14MSG)

Life can often feel like a trial by fire with one thing after another coming at you. Douse yourself in Living Water morning, noon and night when it feels extra hot. 

Experiments

Every year we do some experiments in the garden. This year I grew okra for the first time which blooms these gorgeous blooms before the fruit sets on! Who knew?

I also grew my tomatoes and jalapenos from seeds. It took time and patience to baby first the seeds then the seedlings then the bigger plants that could go outside under a covered area then to the actual big plant being put in the garden, in real soil. Lots of care. Lots of learning. Lots of YouTubing “how to” videos from some fellow hippies who are much wiser than I when it comes to gardening. 

Everything is doing beautifully! I would never have known just how I could grow things if I hadn’t ventured out and taken a risk. 

Sometimes we have to trust the Lord and venture onto a new path He has set before us. In Isaiah God says, Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19NIV)

I don’t want to think about past experiments that failed, making me afraid to try again. I want to see what new thing God has for me! Springs in the desert and streams in the wasteland? Yes please! 

Maybe you’re stuck in a perpetual rut. Will you try a new thing? Who knows what flower will bloom if you do! 

Pests/Suckers/Nemesis

I walked out back a few days ago and watched a squirrel jump off the bird feeder, a chipmunk jump out of the oregano and a bunny be very, very still by the chamomile. Apparently, the JackRabbit family was in need of a soothing cuppa before bed. 

A little stroll further out into the garden and I notice the zucchini leaves turning yellow, a sure sign of the squash bug. A giant maggot looking beastly thing that worms its way into the base of the stems, hollowing them out so they can’t get the nutrients or water the plant needs to survive. A half-eaten strawberry lies just outside the box, a sure sign of the dastardly chipmunk. Doesn’t he know you don’t season strawberries with oregano? Maybe that’s why he only ate half. 

The tomatoes grow all manner of shoots off the main stem. If you don’t pinch off some of these, you’ll have lots of green leaves but very little actual tomatoes because all the nutrients and water goes to keeping those little suckers alive and well. Anybody have the life sucked out them from time to time? Pinch those suckers off! 

We have an enemy whose sole (soul?) mission is to steal, kill and destroy the abundant life Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10NIV)

We have to learn how to stop him from achieving what he sets out to do. We do this by learning his tactics and how to look for signs that he’s there. I learned that a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water sprayed on the leaves of the zucchini kill the bug (and its eggs) that burrowed its way into the heart of the plant leaving it without life sustaining water and nutrients. 

Paul talks about the armor we’re to put on every day in Ephesians 6. Remember the Vine from the intro above? Stay connected. How? Study His word. Listen to His voice. Pray. Obey. Believe. Trust. Nothing squashes the plans of the enemy like a daughter who lives like she knows who her Daddy is! 

Inspection Inspection Inspection

Every single day, I walk in the garden, looking, watching, waiting for something to happen. In fact, I do it so many times a day my family pokes a bit of fun at me. Not only am I looking for pests, suckers and my nemesis (that dastardly chipmunk!) but also new growth. 

Just when you think nothing is happening, you’ll look closely and see a bloom on the tomatoes or the tiniest green bean or a zucchini ready for picking under one of the giant leaves. 

The next day you go out and there’s a tomato where the flower used to be, a handful of green beans ready for picking and the vine of the cucumbers has somehow reached the top of the fence! How did that happen? 

It may seem “just like that” but really, I’ve worked hard tending, caring, weeding, watering, inspecting multiple times a day. 

Growth happens over time. It takes hard work and doing what we need to each day. Then “just like that” you’ll find yourself…

~ Remaining calm in a situation that would have caused you to blow your lid a few weeks ago. 

~ Feeling peace in the middle of some heavy hard stuff. 

~ Praying instead of worrying. 

~ Reaching for your Bible instead of the bottle or food or shopping or Neflix or…

~  Finding joy in a less than joyous season. 

~ Being the bigger person. 

~ Forgiving even though they didn’t apologize.

~ Practicing self-control…and succeeding.

~ Listening when you really want to react. 

~ Apologizing. 

Man. It’s so fun when you notice growth because you’ve kept the weeds at bay, when you notice you’re thirsty and go drink from the well of Living water (often), when you see a flower bloom because you weren’t afraid to try a new thing, when you’re prepared for a battle with your nemesis. 

I think C. Austin Miles was on to something…even if I can no longer carry my part in a four-part harmony. God walks with me and He talks with me and He teaches me simple theology in the garden using weeds and chipmunks. His voice is so sweet that I stand in awed silence, listening, loving, and learning. 

kw

Even When I Whisper

The Dominican Republic coast. Courtesy Mallory Wright.

Do you need something to drink? 

Silence

Hey. I’m getting some lunch. Do you need something? More medicine? Anything?  

Crickets. 

Todd walked in the room where I was lying down, crutches beside me, hip in a brace, apologizing for forgetting that I had lost my voice after the second surgery. He leaned in close to listen. 

My voice strained to speak even a whisper, to ask for what I needed to make me more comfortable, to ask for help. 

It sure feels vulnerable when you don’t have a voice, when you can’t speak loud enough for someone to hear you, when you can’t answer the questions being asked from the next room, when you can’t vocalize your needs, when you can’t speak above a whisper. 

As I laid there thinking about this, I was thankful that I had a husband who remembered, came up close to listen. 

What about God? Does He hear my whispers? Does He hear when I feel vulnerable and unable to voice my needs? Does He care? 

I believe He does.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The writer of Psalm 116 has found himself overcome by trouble and sorrow. (v3NIV) He was greatly afflicted and in dismay. (v10-11NIVHis soul was in dire need of rest. 

Maybe you can relate. We live in a world that is troubling and brings much heartache. There is much to be anxious about as we are bombarded with 24/7 news reels telling us all that is wrong in this chaotic world. 

Politics. Pandemics. People.

Riots. Rumbling. Razing. 

Voices. Vitriol. Violence. 

Death. Divorce. Damage. 

Need I go on? 

Fortunately for us the Bible doesn’t claim to lift us out of real life, a life in which trouble and sorrow and pain are so pervasive that, at times, that’s all we can think about. The Bible doesn’t sugar coat a softer life if we simply believe in Jesus. It doesn’t minimize or negate adversity. 

In fact, Jesus Himself told us that in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows…but we can have peace as we rest in Him because He has conquered the world. (John 16:33TPT)  

We don’t have a Father who sits “up there” while we struggle “down here”.

The prophet Isaiah tells us this is what the Lord says…when you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43: 1, 2NLT) 

When. Not if. 

Where is God when you feel like you’re drowning in those deep waters of despair or trying not to get burned by whatever life has thrown at you. He’s right there with you! Sometimes He allows us to go through tough seasons for reasons our finite minds can’t fathom but He never leaves us to our own devices because you and I are His beloved daughters and sons. (Isaiah 43:1NIV) 

Our Father is not distant but endearing. Even when…especially when…all we can do is whisper a prayer in the darkest of nights. The Psalmist tells us he loves the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen…(Psalms 116:1-2NLT bold is mine)

King James tells us God inclines His ear. Inclines is to stretch out, to extend, to pay attention. I love to picture a Father who stretches out beside His daughter at night when the thoughts don’t stop rolling and worry walks through her mind, setting up camp like an old friend who’s going to stay awhile. An Abba Father who extends His arms and wraps me in the biggest bear hug ever. An El Shama Father who pays attention and listens as I whisper my worries, wants and woes.  

Only a Father as great as Jehovah God can hear the voices of millions of His children who are praying to Him at the same time and yet stoop down, lean in and listen to one single whisper in the middle of the night. In the middle of the deepest waters. In the middle of a rushing river. In the middle of trying to get the smell of smoke out of your clothes. 

He hears you because He’s near you. 

Kim Wright

Not far away, somewhere “out there” in the cosmos or even in the next room. He doesn’t forget because He got distracted. 

We live in a world that roars making us feel vulnerable and voiceless.  Rest assured we have a Father who can rise above the noise and lean in to listen. Even when all you can do is whisper. 

May we remember this so then we can say as David does in Psalm 116:7Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. (NLT) 

Yes and amen. 

kw  

Breaking Up Is…

There’s an old song from 1960 sang by Neil Sedaka that has the title, Breaking Up Is Hard to Do. The song finds Sedaka pleading with a girl, asking her to remember the good times, as he knows he’ll be in misery if she leaves. I wonder how she answered his plea. Good times are great, but it takes an overall look at the relationship to decide whether or not it’s worth the time and energy to continue. 

I’m ten days in to breaking up, not with my man (whom I adore!) but with social media which in turn gives me space from my phone. Did you know there is a phobia of not having your phone? It’s called nomophobia. According to dictionary.com it’s “a term that first appeared in the results of a 2008 UK Post Office study which contracted UK research agency YouGov to study anxiety in mobile phone users. The term is a portmanteau of no, mobile, phone, and phobia.”

There’s also a phenomenon called phantom vibration syndrome which occurs when a person thinks his or her phone is ringing, dinging or vibrating when it actually isn’t. I have a friend whose arm had been amputated as a child and she talked about phantom pain or itching where her forearm was supposed to be. Same kind of thing. Only we’re talking about a phone not a limb. We’ve become so “attached” that it becomes a part of us, an extension of who we are, so much so that we find ourselves hearing or feeling things that didn’t happen. Often times it’s the reason why we are constantly checking our phone, and we don’t even realize we’re doing it. 

Bet you didn’t find those fun facts out on any of your social media sites! 

So, how AM I doing ten days into this break up?  

To quote Dave Ramsey, Better than I deserve! No really! 

The night before I was headed to the dark side of the moon, I went to bed with a sick-to-my-stomach feeling. How ridiculous is that? I went to bed wondering how I would stay connected, as if I had never had a social life prior to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

I have a friend, Lysa, who is traveling this road with me and shared some thoughts she wrote in her journal the night before catapulting herself into disconnection: 

Tonight I’m a little nervous.

Will I be able to let it all go cold turkey? 

How will I connect with people? 

What will I miss out on? 

How much extra time will I have? 

So, I’m not the only one. 

There are things I miss a bit like the convenience of groups and communicating or finding out things that are going on. But then my friends have actually texted or called…you know…what a phone was originally used for. And would you believe I’ve had more face to face conversations in the past ten days then I have in a long time. Porch swinging and problem solving go hand in hand. Conversations with real people tend to make you not think in black and white but in shades of grey (and more than 50!) 

I wonder if anyone misses me…which sounds so asinine to think that a grown woman would wonder this about her cyber-space friends…but I told you I’d be honest! (Cue the Pink Floyd song Is There Anybody Out There?)

I miss sharing my ordinary days because today life is anything but ordinary and I think people appreciate (and need) the simpler things. So, here are a few pics around the farm: 

There are things I don’t miss. Political agendas. Keyboard warriors. Useless bickering. Watching hamsters run on a wheel and get nowhere…but keep running little fella…you’ll win your argument eventually. Sarcasm (ahem). Hatred. Comparison. Just to name a few. 

I found that I’d developed the bad habit of waking up, rolling over and grabbing my phone to check emails, Facebook and Instagram “real quick” before my feet even hit the floor. Now I wake up, stretch and say a quick prayer to start the day. I’ve turned off my notifications (for email) at night and don’t check anything until after I’ve had some coffee and quiet time. What a difference that has made! 

The first couple of days I found myself reaching for my phone for a perfunctory peek through the land of make believe that is social media only to realize the reason was either boredom or comfort. Let’s talk about those two things for a second. 

Bored was a word we NEVER used around my Granny because she would find our behinds something to do if we dared speak the words I’m bored within her earshot and it was NEVER anything fun. So, being a “Granny” myself now, that’s exactly what I do…find myself something to do. I no longer have the excuse: I don’t have time. So much more gets done when you don’t get lost in the roll of the scroll. I read more, write more, swing more, garden more, talk with friends more.

Then there’s the comfort factor. If you read anything at all about technology addiction there is a chemical messenger called dopamine that your brain sends along a reward pathway which makes you feel good. Dopamine is comfort. Comfort (dopamine) comes when you get a like or comment or heart eyes or share or any social media notification, it’s like a validation that you’re okay, because, see how many people “like” you. Geesh. 

Now whenever I need comfort, I reach for the gallon of Chocolate Coconut Almond ice cream…oh wait…that’s a whole other level of issue…

But seriously, I’ve had to remind myself that staying connected to the Vine (John 15) is enough validation for me. I am who God says I am not because He sent a heart emoji to a Facebook post but because He sent His One and Only. We are all made in the image of God not the images we scroll through and sigh because somehow, we don’t measure up. 

Maybe that’s something you need reminded of as well.

I’m ten days in and I’ve already learned a lot about myself. And my friend Lysa? She’s doing beautifully and is surprised how little she misses it and how much she’s gotten done! Lots of good stuff that I’ll share more of after another ten days. 

Now I don’t want to paint a false picture. I love the time it frees up and it’s great to get off the dopamine roller coaster of need for likes, but when you’re a writer whose main readership comes from social media, you do tend to hum along with Pink Floyd quite a bit. IS there anybody out there? 

Breaking up isn’t as hard to do as I thought but I’m a work in progress.  

kw

Cyber-Space: the Behavior, the Bull, the Bully

Once I was let down into a deep well into which chokedamp had settled, and nearly lost my life. The deeper I was immersed in the invisible poison, the less capable I became of willing measures of escape from it. And in just this condition are those who toil or dawdle or dissipate in crowded towns, in the sinks of commerce or pleasure. (John Muir) 

Our use of technology, looking at screens and social media has been around long enough now that study results are beginning to come in, and the results do not bode well for us canaries in the coal mine. Gas is leaking and we are clueless. 

Hours of scrolling through other people’s picture-perfect lives (thank you (?) Pinterest!), being available 24/7(iPhone or iCrazy?), and round the clock news, feeding us images of war, waste and want, leaves us depleted and confused emotionally, physically and spiritually. We hear and see so much information that it’s impossible to process it all. 

And yet, still we try. We don’t shut it off even though the deeper we immerse ourselves the less capable we become of escaping it. Maybe we can’t. Maybe we’re drowning in an invisible poison we can’t see, feel or smell. We have no idea, the damage we’re doing to ourselves, our brains and dare I say, even our souls. 

Perhaps that sounds a bit dramatic but is it really?

 The Behavior

From Dr. Eva’s File

Fred sat in my office looking for help with stress management. It wasn’t his idea; it was his wife’s. She had threatened to leave him if he didn’t seek help. During the one-hour visit, Fred checked his incoming text messages five times and answered two of the four phone calls, saying first, “Do you mind? This is important.”

Does this sound familiar? Oh, we might think to ourselves, we would never do that in a doctor’s office!  Except for that one lady who had to be asked to put her phone away as she walked down the hall to her room and the gynecologists office. Maybe that’s not you but they are out there. What about when you’re out to dinner with friends or coffee with a girlfriend or at your kids soccer game or at the family dinner table? Are we more worried about getting the perfect picture of our plate than the company we’re with? Has being available to everyone else via text messaging become more important than watching your daughter play basketball or your son’s piano recital? 

Trust me, I’m guilty too. That invisible poison can’t be seen but it can sure show up in our behavior. 

Back to our friend Fred: 

From the history I was able to get, it turned out Fred, who had an “important” job, spent 12 hours a day working, including during his hour-long commute, allowing little time for exercise, self-care or downtime. 

I asked him, “What do you think you would have done if you were in this office 20 years ago when smartphones, e-mail and such did not exist?” He thought for a minute before answering, “Probably pay attention and learn how to relax!”

I then explained to Fred the consequences of an overactivated stress response system that does not have the chance to get a break, rest or relax: depression and anxiety, heart disease and hypertension, inflammatory disorders, musculoskeletal problems, memory loss, immune compromise…”Shall I continue?” I asked. (Your Brain on Nature by Dr. Eva M. Selhub pg 49) 

Bottom line? Don’t be a Fred.  Put down your phone. 

We lose valuable IQ points through the act of texting and email. The ping of notices on our phones destroy creativity, leading us down a dead-end road, blank canvas and blinking cursor. We lose profitable performance at work, treasured time with family and our recall ability is cut by half. 

Fear Fred’s future. Put down your device. 

The Bull

Scroll through any social media medium and it doesn’t take long to get the sense that everyone else’s lives are spot on. You often walk away feeling as if your kids are the only ones who mess up, your husband is the only one who snores, and you are the only one with baby fat from your last pregnancy. Did I mention my youngest is 16? 

Flipping through social media can cause problems you didn’t even know you needed to have. You’re happy with your life until you’re not because of what you think is someone else’s picture perfect. Don’t always believe what you see. 

Take for example Rachel Hollis of Girl, Wash Your Face New York Times best seller fame. She posted this picture of her and her husband on Instagram with the caption: Today on the podcast @mrdavehollis and I are talking about how quarantine has affected our, ahem, “make out sessions.” Yes. We went there. If you’re in a relationship the RISE Together podcast is just for you. 

That was on April 30th

Then, on June 8th, just 39 days later, same pic, much different message: 

Don’t think I’m picking on the Hollis’. It’s very sad that their marriage is ending. I’m not saying to put all your business out on social media for all to see and have an opinion on. But for the love, don’t talk about a “make out sesh” when the reality is your marriage is the Titanic and has been sinking for quite some time. Warning: Iceberg straight ahead!

People’s comments went from sad to mad, grieved to deceived, feeling duped and having wasted their money and time on the books, retreats and podcasts that was meant to show people how to be just like them because they are normal people just like us. 

Do no harm, but you can keep your bull.  (And using the same pic? That’s just weird.)

This is just the one example I happened to notice on Instagram. There are so many more. I’m not sure who is more foolish, the ones who think they can keep all the plates spinning or the ones who are in awe of all the spinning plates. 

And the poison just keeps seeping. 

The Bullying

Have you noticed lately how many more experts we currently have living in the United States? A pandemic happens and suddenly everyone has M.D. after their name. Racial tensions are high and presto, people have a degree in sociology: the study and explanation of society and human interaction. 

Who knew? Social media is filled with doctors, lawyers, PhD’s in sociology and anthropology, and authorities on race relations. All manner of opinions. All opinions are, of course, based on solid facts from Facebook finds. Wait. What? Facebook isn’t the best resource for fact finding?

When really all they have is a Bachelor’s in Bullying. 

Keyboard Warriors who can rip apart a person they don’t even know faster than Superman can fly. That speeding bullet kills relationships, friendships and families; leaving them beaten, bloodied and bruised. All in the name of thinking you’re right about something you may have no idea about. And yet, they click their keys, spew their venom, close their computer and care not the damage they’ve done. 

Warrior indeed. Whimp more like it. 

According to Dr. Eva SelhubSocial media was supposed to link us together. Yet, for all the talk of connectivity via gadgets, it does not seem to be translating into a more caring world, at least not in North America. The ability to exhibit an emotional response to someone else’s distress have dropped 49 percent since 1980. Perspective taking, an intellectual understanding of another person’s situational and individual circumstances, has declined by 34 percent. (Your Brain on Nature pg 43) 

In other words, we stop caring about people and care more about our personal perspective, purview, and productivity. 

Compassion be damned. I’ll show them because I know I’m right! Who cares if I don’t know you! You’re an idiot, obviously!!

What a sad existence it must be to be a keyboard warrior, an internet bully, always pushing people around in a pretend world. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

How do I even wrap this up? None of us control the bull or the bullying. But we can control the behavior. It may not be as easy as you think. According the Dr. Eva…

Although not official diagnoses yet, “Internet addiction” and “digital-device addiction” are terms batted around by the medical community. Currently, (this book was published in 2012 so I imagine this number is higher) 42 percent of Americans flat-out agree with the statement that they “cannot live without” their mobile phones and more than half of adults also state that both they and their kids spend too much time online. (Your Brain on Nature pg 48) 

Addicted? I’m not addicted. You’re addicted! 

So, the behavior is to not be like Fred and instead put down my phone. If Facebook makes me furious, why not give myself the freedom to take some time and spend it with real family and friends instead of virtual ones? If Instagram feels more like Image-gram, then why keep scrolling when I can be strolling through nature instead? 

Control the behavior. It’s what I’ll be doing in the month of July as I take a respite from all things social media. I’ll be writing about the experience of the experiment as honestly as I can. No one likes to think they’re addicted to something, especially the pings on a phone from a message or the likes or the comments….they say it’s like a hit of dopamine. Maybe that’s the invisible gas of our day. Sigh…

Finding sacred in the simple. It’s been my mantra for quite some time. That’s where I’ll be if you need me.

And making sure the canary still sings. 

kw

Beauty in Every Part

Life often sings in a four-part harmony with nature as its guide. Each part has its place. Each place has its purpose. Each purpose has its polish.

There is beauty in every part. 

Take the clematis for example. 

Its flower grabs the attention and draws the eye towards its boldness and daring. 

Sometimes life is lived like a full bloom flower that leaves you feeling fantastic and on fire! The sun is out. The sky is blue. Life is great. And so are you! 

The beauty in this season comes from knowing what you want and going for it! Success is your middle name. School is good. Marriage is good. Kids are good. Single life is good. Work? What work! I love what I’m doing. There’s no mountain too high. No challenge too hard. No river too wide. Bring. It. On!  

I wish I could tell you I have it all together all the time. That my flowers are in full bloom forever, but I cannot. Nobody can keep that pace up; that boom of the full bloom. We were never meant to. 

Full bloom is a season and I’ve had seasons like that. But seasons are just that, seasons. They don’t last forever.

We can learn a lot from the way nature sings. (Kim Wright 🙂

I look out my back window and notice the same clematis climbing but with a very different “flower”. What was once bold and beautiful now looks like a Truffula tree from a Dr. Seuss book. 

What were once feelings that left you spunky now leave you feeling funky and a little bit afraid. Mr. Lorax has his ax and is doing his best to take a whack at your back. 

This season takes some stamina because it’s not all glitz and glam. School is over and the real J-O-B begins. Did I choose wisely? Will I like it? Your marriage takes work. You discover your man snores and he realizes you grind your teeth. He chews loud. You chew your nails. And kids? Who had all these kids? Will we ever stop running? Do boys always pee on the bathroom floor? Are girls always this moody? Will we ever go out on a date again that isn’t in a van that smells like stinky knee pads?… The kids are all gone…who are you anyhow? 

The beauty in this season is the world of discovery! No, it may not look like what you thought it would but what if you let go of that idea and grabbed hold of something even better? What if you made a bouquet out of those different looking flowers and decided to go with the flow and put some spunk in the funk?  

Funky is a season and I’ve had seasons like that. But seasons are just that, seasons. They don’t last forever. 

The earth has music for those who will listen. (William Shakespeare) 

Someone picked the funky flower and put it on the patio table. Who would have thought that this: 

was once this:

Sometimes life can look fuzzy and unsure. We may not know what the future looks like, where we’ll be next week, what will happen tomorrow. Fuzzy can feel isolated and lonely. Ignored and left out. 

Fuzzy often happens when we remove ourselves from the Vine and distance ourselves on a patio table. We lose our sense of purpose and forget who we are at the very root of our existence. 

Fuzzy often happens when we walk away from community and connection to strike out on our own because we think we know best. 

Fuzzy often happens when we tell ourselves no one will understand, no one knows how I feel, no one cares so we don’t reach out, we sit alone on the back patio.

The beauty in this season is you can reach up and reconnect to the Vine. Be still and know that you are known. You can reach in and reconnect with the vulnerable parts of what make you you. You can reach out and reconnect with others who feel fuzzy too. 

Fuzzy is a season and I’ve had seasons like that. But seasons are just that, seasons. They don’t last forever. 

The last part of nature’s harmony is a period of dormancy, silence, rest and one that we often leave out, leaving the four parts lacking, off key, out of tune. 

Because sometimes you just need some down time. Time to breathe. Time to think or not think. Time to settle. Time to do nothing. Time to nap. Time to disconnect so you reconnect. Time.  

If you think you don’t and can go on forever being full bloom or funky or fuzzy, well, at some point rest will be required because Mr. Lorax is lurking, ax in hand! 

We are stubborn creatures, aren’t we? God had to make rest a command (Exodus 20:8).  He makes us lie down in green pastures and He leads us beside quiet waters (Psalm 23:2) because we don’t have the sense to do it on our own. But it’s the very thing that restores our souls. Go figure why we sing out of tune, eh. 

For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 The Voice) 

Seasons don’t last forever but there is beauty in every part if you look hard enough. 

kw