Y’all, I’ve needed to write something for a while, but just haven’t known what.
God hasn’t been giving me anything to write about. But he sure is talking to me a lot. My mom is going through some health issues and this is giving me a great bit of concern…so my quiet life has been focused on how God wants me to handle certain aspects of that situation.
I’ve actually written some things that I wanted to share, but have felt really strongly that God was either saying “no” or “not yet.” So those things will come when God is ready for me to release them into the universe…if he ever does. They may just be for me.
Right now in my everyday daily-ness, I’m finding myself needing some very practical spiritual guidance. I’ve written and talked about worry and fear and uncertainty and storms and faith…but I want to switch it up a bit this time and talk about some other elements of this new, temporary journey I’m facing. Maybe you’re facing them, too.
It stinks being an adult sometimes. We just should know some things, shouldn’t we? But as we grow up, not only in age and physical maturity, but spiritually, things change, too. Our perspectives change, our circumstances change, our needs change. And boy have they! These past few weeks have tossed the chess board right up into the air and the pieces are hard to gather back up. (We can’t reach under the couch like we used to be able to.)
So this is what I feel like God is telling me that I need…that you and many others need, perhaps. Some practical suggestions to help us navigate our way through this. Instead of asking, “Who will I be when all of this over?” ask “Who will I be while I’m going through this?”
“I’M OUT OF CONTROL!”
The first thing I want to talk about is control. We humans have a real issue with being in control. We don’t like for things to happen around us that we have no control over. Even when things are going good, we still want to be in control. It’s a thing!
Right now we feel very, very, very out of control. But we desperately need to be in control of something, don’t we? It’s who we are.
Yesterday morning I was listening to a live leadership broadcast and one of the speakers was Dr. Henry Cloud. I have listened to, read and respected this man for many years. Here is what he suggested when we find ourselves steeped in the need for control.
Get a piece of paper and divide into two columns. In the left hand column, write out everything right now in your life that you can’t control. Things like the virus itself…who gets sick and who doesn’t…how long we will be quarantined in our homes…whether or not you lost your job or took a pay cut…what the news reports.
You get the picture.
Once you’ve completed your list, then you have permission to worry about it. But only for 5 minutes. (I talked about this in my blog post “When It Becomes Too Much”)
Look at that list…all those things out of your control…and worry the heck-fire out of it. Worry hard! Let it take you to the darkest places.
But only for 5 minutes. Then let it go. Mark through every thing in the list with a big fat red Sharpie if you need to. There’s no need to go back through that list!
Then secondly, in the right hand column, write out everything right now in your life that you can control. Your attitude, your schedule, when you go to bed and wake up, when and what you eat, how much news you watch, what books you read, which social media accounts you subscribe to and follow, the words you say…
You get the picture.
Spend the rest of this time of social distancing (and beyond, please) concentrating on the things that you can control. But be careful not to be over-controlling about them. Just know that you have the freedom in your own life to handle these things as you personally see fit. Make wise choices when it comes to this list of things. If you need help with those decisions, be sure to reach out to someone you trust. Let them give you spiritual and practical advice and guidance.
“NO REGERTS” (misspelling intentional)
A couple of days ago, one of our dearest friends asked his wife what was on her mind in recent days. She said “regret.” As you can imagine, he was sure that she was regretting, not only marrying him in the first place, but for sure having to spend 24/7 with him during this quarantine time. But of course that wasn’t it at all. She told him that she didn’t want to get to the end of this (whenever that is and whatever that looks like) and regret the time that’s been given to her.
I’ve seen lots of memes and social media posts saying things like, “Remember that thing you said you’d do when you have the time? Well, you have the time now.”
The negative side of this pandemic and subsequent quarantine and isolation goes without saying. So many bad and sad things happening to individuals and families and establishments, from our own communities to faraway world places. Too many to mention.
There is also a positive side. So many positive stories coming through this tragic time in our world. I could list examples, but that would take all day.
I consider this time a “reset”…time to take inventory of things. And that can be a literal inventory of our stuff, or an inventory of intangibles. As my friend said, this time that’s been thrown upon us is a gift. Slowing waaay down is a gift we rarely give ourselves.
When you get to the end of this, what do you want to have accomplished? Are you accomplishing it? Are you taking steps on the daily to reach those goals?
Or will you come to the end of this season and look back and think, “Oh man…I had all the time to…I had every chance to…I had the opportunity to….and I blew it royally!”
On another piece of paper, make a list of the things that you want to make happen during this gift time. Things that before now, you’ve never had the uninterrupted time to work on and concentrate on and give your attention to! Do it now!Don’t wait. Don’t get back to our “normal” life and look back in regret.
You’ll never get this time back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
When asked near the end of her life how she would live her life differently if she could, humorist Erma Bombeck gave some really good advice:
If I had my life to live over again I would have talked less and listened more.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.
I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.
I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.
I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.
I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/guaranteed to last a lifetime.
When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”
There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”
A humorist to the end, when asked what she would write on her tombstone, Bombeck did not hesitate. “I told you I was sick.
Keep this in mind during these days.
“ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE”
Remember the children of Israel in the Old Testament? About a month after they were rescued out of Egypt, they started running out of food. And the knuckleheads started complaining about it to Moses and his brother Aaron…like it was their fault.
As their tummies started growling, they started grumbling. (Ever been there?)
Do you know what they said to Moses and Aaron?
“We wish that the Lord had killed us in Egypt. There we could at least sit down and eat meat and as much other food as we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert to starve us all to death.” (Exodus 16:2-3)
What the what?? They’d rather go back to the horrible conditions of Egyptian slavery, just so they could eat and drink to their heart’s content?
But our ever-compassionate (and uber patient) God had compassion…and provided. And his provision was called manna. “Manna” literally means, “What is it?” That has always cracked me up. They had no idea what it was, but they didn’t have to. God had provided it as a way to sustain them.
They could gather this manna for 6 days of the week. For 5 days, each person was allowed to gather just enough manna to provide for their family for one day. On the 6th day, they were allowed to pick up enough for two days. This is because the 7th day was the Sabbath and they were not to work that day. And if they picked up more than God allowed, it would ruin…it would get all nasty and wormie.
God provided in their time of need. Was it prime rib, mashed potatoes, green beans and yeast rolls with butter? No. But it was just what they needed to keep from dying. But even during these tough times, they complained about what they didn’t have, rather than being unbelievably grateful for what they did have.
We knuckleheads complain, too. Especially during these days while we are stuck safe in our homes. We’re looking at the same old faces, at the same old walls, the same old furniture, looking out the same old windows, eating the same old food, playing the same old board games, sleeping in our same old beds in our same old rooms. And we get tired of it. And we’re not afraid to let everyone around us know about it.
We complain. Our house is too small. The paint is chipped where the kids run through the hallways. The couch has no cushiness any more. The rocking chair squeaks. The windows are dirty. The food is blah and boring. The kids are getting on your last nerve (and you’re really wishing they’d warned you a couple of nerves ago so you could prepare yourself.) The board games are tired and a couple of pieces are missing. The mattresses need to be replaced. The bedrooms need new curtains.
What if we turned the complaining into thanking…into gratitude.
Our home, no matter how big or small, new or old, fancy or simple, protects us from the outside world for a bit of time. Many don’t have a home.
The faces in your home are your family/friends. Be careful not to take them for granted, but to thank God for them and the part they play in your life (hopefully, they are a blessing to you…)
Every chip in the paint is proof that active, messy life happens in those walls.
The couch has lost its cushiness because lots of bodies and bootys through the years have sat on it, slept on it, jumped on it. It’s where families and friends have scrunched up together and watched movies and cuddled and talked about important things and laughed hysterically.
The rocking chair squeaks and creaks because a mom or a dad or grandparent has sat in it for hours on end, rocking a sleepy child or soothing a hurting one.
The fact that you have windows at all is a blessing. The view may not be the most pristine, but it’s your view. No one on earth has that exact view out of their windows.
You may be running out of ideas when it comes to food choice and preparation (I know I sure am!) but if you have any food at all, you are amongst the most very blessed…even in your own hometown.
The kids getting a bit stir-crazy don’t like this any more than you do…but they’re your kids. The laughter, tears, joy and sadness, silence and screaming are all part of what it means to be a family.
You get where I’m going here. As my father-in-love always said, “Attitude determines your altitude.” And when your attitude is gratitude, you’re gonna fly high.
Take a third piece of paper and make a complete list each day of the things to be thankful for. And don’t forget to be thankful for even the tiniest of things!
My prayer is that you’ll take these ideas and make them a part of your life. Let go of control of the things that are out of your control. Don’t look back on this gift of a slower pace and regret not doing some big important things. And don’t complain about the “manna” that God is providing for you, even in the everyday aspects of our lives.