I walked to my polling station this afternoon when I got home from work. I love that I can do it. I won’t necessarily do it every year, but today the sun was shining, it was just over 50 degrees and it’s only a 10 minute walk. My body needed the movement. My soul needed the slower pace. My lungs needed the fresh air.
All things I give thanks for. Although now that I’m back at home, I wish I had taken the walk slower. I wish I had stopped to take pictures. I wish I hadn’t rushed out, but talked longer with one of my new neighbors, that I had taken deeper breaths, taken a different route home, paid more attention to the setting sun.
It’s November, I’m still giving thanks because it is all I can do when the negative, discouraging thoughts try to win, when the darkness overwhelms, when I feel like I’m always running behind, when I let other people’s choices affect me and my mood. When I start fretting and spend too much time looking at all the hard stuff and evil going on in the world, the negativity that swirls around me, I stop and take instruction from God’s Word (Psalm 37)
Trust in the LORD, and do good; Delight thyself also in the LORD; Commit thy way unto the LORD; Trust also in him; Rest in the LORD, wait patiently for him.
And I give thanks for the walk, for my neighborhood, for choices in voting, for a sticker reward, for the sun setting through the trees. I trust God with the outcome. I commit my day to Him (over and over again). And I ask Him to show me where I need to rest more and wait patiently for Him.
It’s a process, sometimes a daily battle to delight in Him, to commit my way (my future, my kids’ lives, my dreams, etc.) to the LORD. I preach to myself and I write out my wrestling (and occasionally I share my writing with you). And I keep coming back to Jesus because He can be trusted. He is always faithful. I find my HOPE in Him. His yoke is easy and His burden light. He will carry me.
Sometimes, being human can be hard. I think that’s one of the evidences that God created us for community. We rely on each other, we feed each other, we encourage one another. We hold space, we bear burdens, we stand up for one another. We exhort, we hold each other accountable. Something beautiful happens as we share the burden of being human together (as says, @ShannanWrites)
Shannan Martin is my community/neighborhood guru… she’s written a few books on the subject and has another one coming out next week (preorder Start With Hello now for goodies). It was her book #theministryofordinaryplaces that gave me the encouragement to open my home (almost) every Sunday afternoon to mostly church friends, but sometimes strangers. She taught me the importance of finding beauty in the sky and also unexpected places (city streets, alleyways, power lines, etc). And how community and friendship and neighbors can be so many different and amazing things.
And this week, community looked like going to my friends’ house and trying something new, something “trending” — a #butterboard and Walmart’s everything bread. It looked like a $3 sweet potato pie from the discount rack and fingers crossed that it would actually taste good. It was playing a card game and lots of laughter, and taking a walk in her neighborhood. It was staying late and being rewarded with the delightful sunset.
It’s the gift of sharing 15 years of friendship and making new memories, of grieving the losses and struggles over the years, celebrating the successes, and listening to the dreams and planning for the future. It’s talking faith and beliefs, and where we’ve come from. It’s holding space for our imperfections and giving thanks for sharing life. And for remembering that friendships ebb and flow. The magic is that we are still friends!
In no particular order, here are 10 things that are saving my life right now.
1. apple slices and peanut butter. This needs no explanation. It’s the perfect snack and it’s healthier than Reese’s peanut butter cups. And it’s easy to eat at my desk at work.
2. afternoon or evening walks: I live for warmth and sun (I hear Florida calling me). I know fresh air and exercise is good for my physical and mental health. Some weeks I get 5 walks in and other weeks I have to fight to make myself take just one.
3. counseling, therapy, whatever you want to call it. Talking through situations with someone who knows how to ask the right questions, gives good advice, pushes me out of my comfort zone with suggestions, and encourages me when I think I’m losing my mind has been so helpful.
4. Psalms. It is always my go-to when I open my Bible. David’s example of prayer and processing through his struggles has been life giving to me. And no matter how bad it gets, he always circles around until he comes back to proclaiming the goodness of God. I pray I can always do the same.
5. Nature: flowers, trees, skies, and clouds. Sunsets, birds, rivers, and all of God’s creation is so full of beauty, so full of color and variety. Our Creator created us to enjoy all that He has given us, to live life abundantly, and that includes green grass, yellow daffodils, bluebirds, rainbow tulips, white clouds, etc.
6. Hope: Hope that this is not the end of the story. Hope that hurt I have experienced can be redeemed, hope that God is working all things for His glory and for my good. Hope for deeper relationships, better community, iron sharpening iron friendships. Hope that I can be a better human, be more like Christ, full of compassion, courage. Hope that some day I’ll make time to write consistently, to live out the gifts God has given me.
7. My kids. Yes, my kids are saving my life right now. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me think, and they make me so proud. Each one of them is amazing in their own way. They can be so sweet and so annoying. I think as they get older and I realize my time with them is so short, I panic that I haven’t done enough, I’ve made too many parenting mistakes, I’ve pushed too hard and not hard enough. but I do know that I am doing my best and I love them so much it hurts, but also I can’t wait to see what they will do as they grow up and move out and begin the next phases of their lives. I’m so thankful for my kids!
8. my morning cup of coffee, almost always made by the best husband. Some may call it an addiction, I prefer a ritual, tradition, a morning liturgy.
9. Writing in my local coffee shop. I don’t get to do it often enough. My schedule and budget do not permit, but when I do get the opportunity, it rejuvenates me. It gets me away from the to-do lists and undone, and gives me a new perspective. It reminds me how much I love writing, how much I need writing, how beneficial writing is for my soul and my mind. The coffee is great too!
10. anticipation… looking forward to upcoming activities gives me joy, helps me to survive the daily crazy of life right now. We are just over one month from the end of middle school forever, so I’m looking forward to 8th grade celebration day. I’ve also already preordered my fresh Georgia peaches from @thepeachtruck and I can’t wait to enjoy those in addition to my local fresh fruits and veggies from farmer’s market. Summer trips planned to visit our families are also on the anticipation list. Travel stresses me out and sometimes relationships (even those that share our genes) can be challenging, but they are still important. And making memories is worth the effort.
I wrote for 28 days straight in February. Some of those words came easy and some I really had to work for. I needed the challenge, the accountability to stick with it. I work best with specifics, guidelines, a plan. I loved the commitment to sitting down every night and plunking out a few words and thoughts about life, writing, hope, and always Jesus.
And then I ran out of words.
But God is faithful…
Life seemed overwhelming. I’ve been processing reminders of grief, pandemic anniversary emotions, teenager angst and hard conversations, regular life, and continued unknowns about the future. There were no word prompts to give me a starting point for the blank page. I struggled with the frustration that at the end of the day, at the end of the writing challenge, I am right back where I started. The things that I wanted to write about and process were not for publishing, and I haven’t quite figured out how to write just for me (journaling has never been my jam).
But better writing only comes through practice, through a devotion to the craft, even if it is just a hobby. To being okay with writing short essays and sloppy essays. To writing consistently even if it never sees the light of day. To never, never, never, never give up. To be who God created me to be.
My thoughts are all over the place. So I reign them in and remind myself that God remains faithful. Always faithful.
God has come to give us abundant life—in Him. My joy and contentment isn’t found in social media, my children’s life choices, being a published author, not even the weather(although sunny days sure do help). My abundant life is found in Jesus, only Jesus. Joy is found in living in communion with God and His Word, in living in community with the body of Christ, in giving glory and praise to the Creator of the universe, and in pointing others to Him.
When I’m reading God’s Word, those words will flow out in my writing so that I can encourage others. And the lesson here is for more than just writers. In anything you are called to do, it can only be improved by the time you spend with Jesus. So I remember His faithfulness and pay attention to the ways He continually draws me close to Him. And I read His Word. And I write. And I daily remind myself that He can be trusted with all the unknowns and He’s not finished with me yet. He’s not finished with YOU either.
What does it take for one to perceive the love of God? How do we truly understand the magnitude of His love for us, that He laid down his life for us? What is it about the faith of a mustard seed—so tiny, so strong? Do you live your life aware of God’s never-ending, unconditional, love? Maybe you have never seen His love or been told about His gift for you.
I grew up in church and although I heard the message regularly, it didn’t sink in until I was a teenager. Even now, I’m prone to wander, prone to forget. Some days I am more aware of it than others. My focus isn’t always on Things Above, and in my finite mind it’s easy to forget the loving kindness of the Lord. But then I am reminded once again of His sacrifice for me, for you. He laid down his life for us.
He laid down His life for us.
When I think of my tendencies toward sin, selfishness, anger, impatience, it’s hurtful. It hurts God, it hurts those around me. My sin and your sin is ugly. It’s easy for me to see what my kids are doing wrong, or the sins scattered in the news of those in the spotlight. But sometimes I need to be reminded that it was MY sin that He died for. He paid the penalty for MY sin.
And when I perceive this, am made truly aware of this and understand the unfathomable gift of His sacrifice, it should draw me to live devoted to the kingdom of God. We should be ready and willing to lay down our lives for others, to love one another, to serve one another. This can only be done as we walk in the Spirit.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
As I think on Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love, I understand that I must walk in step with the Spirit. How can I love my neighbor this week? How can I reach out in my community to show the love of Christ to strangers? How can I live for Jesus while at work? How can I serve my church family? How can I exemplify the fruit of the Spirit in my interactions with my children this week? How can I live in such a way that others see Jesus?
Multiple times over that last few months I have told friends that I would like to hibernate until May. January and February were kinda hard. The never ending snow caused me much anxiety, because even though I grew up in Buffalo, driving in snow is never something I look forward to. I felt cooped up and claustrophobic, even though home is where I most wanted to be. I dreaded everything but work (it’s nice to have a job you enjoy).
Because my hand is still tender from the break I gave it in the fall, there was no interest in walking outside, getting in my once-a-year-sledding, or even helping with the shoveling. Even if I could have met a friend for coffee, I couldn’t motivate myself to leave the house once I was home from work. I dreaded phone calls and zoom meetings more than usual. Even if I had wanted to bake sugary treats and comfort foods, my broken oven prevented that joy. I was basically going through the motions, picking up my feet for just the next step.
But guess what? The sun still shines, the snow has begun to melt. I wrote EVERY SINGLE DAY in February. There is already hope of spring. And God didn’t make us to hibernate. This year with the pandemic has been hard, because we are meant to live in community, to be active, to be outside in creation, to hug people, to share smiles and have conversation. Hibernation is not what we were created for.
It’s something I have to tell myself every single day. I was made for relationship. It’s not always easy. It takes effort. It takes sacrifice. It takes dying to self, because self would be fine to hibernate. It takes trusting Jesus and listening to his prompting. It takes looking for opportunity to connect with others.
Introvert or Extrovert? Do you love winter or hate it? Prefer crowds or one-on-one? Indoors or Outdoors? We are all different, but we need each other. So hibernate for a day if you need to, but then reach out and connect with someone. You were made for community.