5 Things I’ve Noticed and Learned During Quarantine

This title is very similar to the one I used last week. I thought it was just as important to talk about the things I’ve noticed and learned during quarantine as well as the things I’ve missed. It’s important for me to take the lessons from the good and the bad as I move forward into what opening my state up is going to look like since this week is the start of the next phase.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how brilliant the spring colors are when I’ve gone for my walks. The green trees, the blue skies, and the many colors of the flowers have taken my breath away when I’ve been outside. I’ve been able to stop and really look at them in a way I’ve never done before. I’ve been still, and I think that’s where God has wanted my heart for the past few weeks. As Psalm 46:10 says, “He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'” God’s creation is amazing, and I want to keep my heart and mind attuned to it as things start to open.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that my patience has grown during this time. Between staying at the speed limit while driving my son to his essential job and giving grace at the grocery store, I find that I don’t mind things taking longer. Why should I? There’s been no need to be in a hurry. I do want to admit I haven’t been perfect at this. Not by a long shot. But, I’ve made progress, and I want to make sure I keep making progress.

In the previous paragraphs, I wrote of positive things I’ve noticed and want to make sure I continue to notice. But, there are negative things too. Things I want to make sure I keep an eye on and turn towards the positive whenever I’m feeling or experiencing the negative.

The first of these is a lack of perspective. When news of the coronavirus first came out and shelter in place orders were enacted by governments, I thought of many other things that would be affected by staying at home. I thought of the possibility of unemployment which I’ve gone through before with my family. I thought of the ministry my friend runs and about how the people she ministers to are considered to be at the bottom of society. I thought of the likely increases in domestic violence, suicide, and other mental health issues. I wondered what the lack of human contact would do to people, and I wondered what would happen with my own mental health issues. (As far as I’m concerned, it’s been a rough two months.) It seemed to me that there were a whole lot of other issues that would come from fighting this virus. But, of course, most people only thought what we were doing to fight the virus was important. Now, don’t get me wrong. Fighting the virus was and is important. This is an illness we had never seen before, and people were dying. But, to think we wouldn’t have any other effects from shutting down our society was very unrealistic. So, just because someone hasn’t done things exactly the way I would have done them during this pandemic doesn’t mean they’re awful. Let’s exhibit perspective, y’all, not show our lack of it.

This lack of perspective that people have exhibited (especially online) has led me to the one thing God has told us not to have in Scripture. What is it? Fear. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear of this virus. I’ve gone through a lot of this time not exhibiting fear–going out to walk, going to the grocery store, and to the bookstore now that it is open. But it got me thinking. Was I supposed to be afraid? That’s what news, government, and health officials seemed to be promoting. I looked in Scripture, and there were a plethora of responses. I’ll just quote a few.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Here’s one from Psalm 56:3. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

I liked this one from Isaiah 41:10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

And, finally, from Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

So, that’s the answer to my question. According to my faith, I’m not supposed to be afraid, and that brings me to the fifth and final thing I’ve learned during this pandemic. Faith. I’ve learned that my faith is stronger than my fear and lack and that it can help me notice and learn what God wants from and for me.

May we all lean into the strong faith God wants us to have.

God bless you all!

Five Things I’ve Missed While in Quarantine

I have seen many of these posts floating around in the blogging world for the past week or two and wondered if I would have anything different to say if I attempted one. I decided I did. I’m my own person, after all, right? Right! So, without any further adieu, here are the five things I’ve missed while in quarantine.

The first thing I’ve missed, and, for those who know me, this shouldn’t be a surprise, is going to a bookstore to browse. Yes, my TBR (to be read) pile is way too high, but there is just something about walking into a bookstore and taking a deep breath that is fulfilling to me. It is also one of the ways I find new authors. By looking through a book by an author I’ve never heard of, I see if the story is something I might like or find intriguing enough to read. Yes, I have my favorite authors. Yes, I see the books which are sitting at the front of the store because of their marketing campaigns. But, going through the shelves themselves, that is one of my favorite things to do. When I was able to return to one on Saturday since my state’s retail stores are now allowed to be open, I felt settling in my soul I haven’t felt in a while.

Now, to number two. The second thing I’ve missed is going out to eat or for coffee with my friends and family and actually sitting in the restaurant. I have seen doing this before as taking a break from life and spending time with the people who mean the most to me. But, we haven’t been able to do that for almost eight weeks, and I’ve missed it terribly.

This leads to the third thing I’ve missed which is seeing and getting hugs from my friends. I’ve seen a few people when it’s been necessary, but, of course, there were no hugs. I’ve also seen people with the aid of technology. But, it’s not the same. It can never be the same. Then, there are friends I haven’t seen at all. In the last eight weeks, there hasn’t been a good reason to see them, and I haven’t felt like I could call them either. All of us have been dealing with our own stuff, and it’s hard to know when it would be a good time to talk. Or maybe that’s just what our society has come to. 🙂 But, I’ve missed seeing and interacting with people, and it has become more and more evident that this is a gift from God which I’ve taken for granted.

The fourth thing I’ve missed which might be a surprise to you because of the previous paragraph is having space. With my husband working from home and my young adult children going to and fro, I have, most of the time, been quarantined with people. I love them, of course, but my introvert personality craves alone time so my brain can reset. That has been rare over the past eight weeks. I’ve been able to be alone when I’ve left my home, but not while I’ve been in it. Space, in my life and my home, has been a true gift from God, and I know how grateful I’ve been for it when it has been possible.

Finally, the thing I’ve missed the most since this pandemic and quarantine have started has been going to church and worshipping with my brothers and sisters. Yes, I know the building isn’t the church, but there’s just something about being in such a holy atmosphere and knowing that everyone is there for the same purpose as you that makes the experience more meaningful and the encouragement more lasting. I am grateful though for the time and effort many churches, including my own, have taken to make sure that we can have worship experiences online and what they’ve done to serve us during this time of isolation.

So, there you have it. The five things I’ve missed the most during this quarantine. Let me know what you’ve missed in the comments.

God bless you all!

Community Versus Individualism

For many of us, today marks the beginning of our seventh week of isolation. We’ve begun working from home, lost or been furloughed from our jobs, or continued working with jobs that have been deemed essential. If we have children in the educational system or who are college students, we’ve had to get used to them being home all the time and make sure they’re following their online educational requirements. All the places we consider important have closed down, and our lives have moved online. It all boils down to this. Our lives have been upended. What I want to talk about today is how this has affected our thinking about community versus what we can accomplish as an individual and how this meshes with my own experiences.

Community. For a while, I’ve had two different communities. One is mainly online consisting of homeschool mom friends (from when I was homeschooling), writer friends (who I’ve met in different places), and people who I’ve known since college (and no longer live in the same area with). It’s quite a diverse set of people, and I’ve gotten comfortable with online interaction more comfortable, I thought, than others. I’ve known some of these friends in real life in the past while others I’ve never met and probably will never meet. Some share my religious faith, and others don’t. Some share my writing and nerdy geekiness, and others don’t. It’s diverse like I said.

The other part of my community consists of people I know in real life. In my life, those groups of people tend to be the same. But, I interact with them in different ways because I do know them in real life. We go out for a meal or coffee; we might go for a walk together; we meet up at church or for a writing group, or we might spend time in one another’s homes. We use technology to keep in touch, but we see each other on a regular basis.

But, that has all been upended now because of the pandemic and the quarantine. The two groups have been mushed together online, and I don’t quite know what to do with it all. It’s hard, to be honest, and it feels weird. I’m alone with the thoughts in my head for long stretches during the day, and they invade my heart and soul. Thoughts like ‘This pandemic will never be over, and you’ll never know the pleasure of real-life friendship again.’ Or ‘This country is going to fall into a depression. How will you survive?’ Imagine those thoughts being on a constant replay through your head. Then, imagine the thoughts of not feeling worthy to be around other people or that other people even want you around. Those are hard things to think, and I don’t even feel like I can tell other people because why would they want to know. They’re all busy with their own stuff or struggling with fears of the pandemic itself.

This brings me to the individualistic part of this post. If I don’t feel like there’s anyone I can talk to about my deep feelings of depression and anxiety, then the only choice I have left is to handle them by myself. Handle my faith by myself. Handle my writing by myself. Handle living by myself. And I’ve done okay with that. I don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter. But, I do pretend…pretend for the people I need to be around that everything is okay. Isn’t that what individualism is about? What my country, the United States, was built on. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with individualism. We are all the ones that have to live our own lives after all. I can talk to God by myself. I can write by myself and usually do.  😉 I can experience the world by myself. And, in some ways, that’s more desirable to me. There’s no risk of getting hurt or doing or saying something someone disapproves of. I don’t have to be real with anyone either. So, right now, I’m confused between the two and unsatisfied with all the options. I want community, but feel like I’ve lost the realness of it. Frankly, there’s a part of me that wants to give up. That feels like I have nothing left to offer.

But, God…and maybe that needs to be my reason right now. To depend on Him to supply my lack. To read the words He has given me during the last few days. The Word Porn meme I found on Facebook yesterday said this. “To everyone with a mental illness who is currently in quarantine, sitting with their thoughts every day, be kind to yourself and hold on. The world needs you.” I cried when I read it because it’s very easy to think the world doesn’t need me. Then, there were the words said to me by an author who is getting ready to launch her book this week. You might have read the review of her book I posted a couple of weeks ago. From Rachel Macy Stafford referring to me, “Your vulnerability is a GIFT to this world!” I read these words again and know that my Lord and Savior gives me what I need when I need it. So very thankful!

When this quarantine is over, I will be a different person. We all will be, and I’m praying for all of us to have the strength and courage to move in the direction God wants for us.

God bless you!

 

 

Perspective

Many of us started the year with routines that have now gone out of the window. Some of us are working from home now or dealing with people who haven’t been there before. It’s been an adjustment all around. It’s been the same with my word of the month posts. But, I come back today with a word I think we all need to be reminded about. The word is perspective, and it’s important because the Internet and social media have made it easy to throw around judgments without getting personally involved in a situation and with the potential of hurting many people.

So, perspective, what does it mean? The definition I’m using for the purposes of this post is this one. Perspective is a “particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” (Dictionary.com) Now, we all have different perspectives, and that’s how it’s supposed to be since we’re all human. Nothing wrong with that. But, I have been reminded over these last six weeks of quarantine how fragile humanity is. I was able to ignore it at first. The little jab here of people standing too close together in public. The little jab there of people bringing their children to the grocery store. People complaining about others walking or running outside. Getting into fights (online) about valuing money more than people’s lives. It got to the point where I would just shake my head and roll my eyes at how vicious people were being with one another.

But, then it got personal. As most of us know, this pandemic has several moving parts–physical, mental, educational, and economic. We’ve also been divided into two camps–the essential worker and the non-essential worker. Don’t get me wrong. I applaud all the people who are doing the things we consider essential in our society. But, I think this labeling has been a good way to get fights started. The parts of this pandemic have also affected people in different ways. For me, it has been my mental illness and how confinement has affected it. The economic realities of being confined have also taken their toll. I have not made a secret of suffering from depression and anxiety and being confined has made my reality more difficult. I also knew that for every person saying it was too soon to release the restrictions and that many more deaths from the virus would probably result, there would also be another person with their hand out for the rent or mortgage payment. All of us have our own priorities, right?

So, anyway, I started sharing some articles and posting about my own experiences with mental illness during this lockdown. Nothing that attacked anyone. Just things from my own perspective. Things I felt were important to say. I received some support, but that was not the point of my posting. A few days later I read a post decrying anyone who had been posting about mental illness. Their perspective was that anyone who was not posting about the pandemic itself was being selfish. I thought back over the previous few weeks and the thoughts I had been battling of not being enough or not being worthy of being here anymore. I thought of how it seemed we were all on top of each other with no privacy to be had. This is not a good thing for me.

There were no names in the post, but I felt like I had been slapped. Then, I got angry and wanted to retaliate. Fortunately, I was talked down from what I wanted to do and blocked the person instead.  I decided to take some time to work out my feelings in my head and in my journal. My feelings of anger and my feelings of not being enough. (Remember, essential workers versus non-essential workers.) Finally, it came to me. The word, perspective. The person who had made the post had a very narrow perspective because of the job they had chosen for their life’s work, and they were unable; maybe even unwilling to widen it. I felt better then. It wasn’t my job to fix someone else’s perspective. It was my job to keep my outlook as wide as possible and to keep my attitude free from judgment. Isn’t that what God has asked us to do?

May we all keep our minds open during this time of isolation!

I Thought I was an Introvert and Other Random Thoughts During Quarantine

When we went under quarantine just a few days ago, I was almost giddy with excitement. As an introvert, I have always treasured the time I’ve had alone–even from my family. There’s just something about being alone with my thoughts and not having to answer questions or have conversations.  In addition, I was anticipating more time to read and more time to write–two of my favorite things in the whole world. But, now we’re on Day 6 with no end in sight. (I know many of you have been under quarantine for far longer, and I don’t mean to minimize anything that has happened to anyone.) I just want to use this gift God has given me to process what has happened in our world.

So, it’s Day 6 for me. The first question someone might ask is when I am counting from. I am counting from the day I heard we weren’t going to have church services or classes for two weeks. That caught my attention and caused me to listen to the news more carefully. Worship, and being able to see my Christian brothers and sisters, has always been the highlight of my week.

It’s part of my routine, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t like your routine being disrupted. But, disrupted it was. I’ve had a lot of time to think and to read and write over the last few days. Words have spilled out of me, and I’ve been able to immerse myself in fictional worlds when the real world has gotten to be too much. I’ve also prayed and talked to God a lot. Prayed for patience when I’ve been tempted to say something I shouldn’t. Prayed for the courage to endure. Prayed for strength to defeat the dark thoughts. Prayed for trust when so much is out-of-control.

Peace and a commitment to stay focused came and are continuing to come from those prayers. It’s hard though. A hard-fought-for peace that only Jesus can provide. I can’t do it myself. I know that.

You might be wondering about the first part of my title though. Why do I no longer think I’m an introvert? It’s a tricky thing. While I’m feeling a hard-won peace in my heart, I’m also feeling deeply lonely. I find that I miss seeing other people and interacting with them more than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family, and my Lord and Savior has been a constant presence and reassurance which I’m grateful for. But, I’ve missed seeing other people, and I didn’t expect it. It’s like energy has flowed out of me that I can’t explain. Everyone is talking about all these things we can do virtually which I plan on taking advantage of, but it seems like something is missing. The presence of another person. I took it for granted before because crowds tend to overwhelm me, and I tend to retreat when that happens. But, I have good friends who I enjoy seeing every week and living life with. It’s hard to think that this might be the last time I see some of them, and I haven’t told them what they mean to me. But, they do. They mean so much. And if you are one of those, you do mean the world to me.

As I am dealing with this new world of quarantine caused by Covid-19, I’ve come to realize that I am a mix of both types of personalities. I also know my Lord and Savior is okay with our expressing the good and the bad that has come with the changes in our society. I pray that you and your family are safe and well and that you know His presence in a deep and meaningful way today.

God bless you all!

Fasting Avoidance

I read about this fast the other day, and God has been nagging me since then about writing a post about it. As I said in my last post, I am the queen of avoiding an unpleasant situation. If I am uncomfortable in any way or don’t know what’s going to happen, I have the potential to react badly. So, I thought I would go further into that today.

Actually, now that I think about it, the title of this piece could be changed to Fasting Avoidance and Control. These are both things that I use to make myself think I have the illusion of control over my life. And, “illusion it is,” or at least it should be. For those of us who believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, He should be the one who is in control of our lives, not us. But, we don’t let go of that easily, or at least, I don’t. We fight and claw to maintain the illusion that we have some good in us though Scripture is clear that there is not and that we are all in need of a Savior.

Couple that with someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, and one could see that my whole make-up might be considered a recipe for disaster. Actually, I have a story I want to share from my own life that illustrates this clearly. It happened six years ago. I had been invited to a conference by a friend. This conference stated we would have an encounter with Jesus during the weekend, but did not give a lot of details about what would happen. (as was their right) I debated with myself over a couple of weeks about going because I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen, but I finally decided it might be good for me. I went to the meeting place where we would take a bus to go to the conference center. Many women were there, but I only knew a few of them. Everyone else seemed to be fine with meeting new people, but I was terrified when my friend left me and said she would see me out there. I went to the bus with the other women and saw other people clapping and cheering for me. (Did I mention I didn’t like attention being focused on me either? I didn’t and still don’t.)

We left the place where we had met to go to the conference center, and I cried on and off the whole way there. I didn’t like the way this weekend was starting. When we got there, I was able to eat dinner, but the feelings of panic and fear returned every time I had to be around a group of people in a small space. By the end of the first evening, even though I had enjoyed the worship and the lesson, I was exhausted from the panic, anxiety, and being in a place I had never been with a group of people I mostly didn’t know. The next morning my friend asked me if I wanted to go home as that was an option. I wanted to go home, but, on the other hand, I wanted to stay too. I was a woman who was almost 50, and I was ashamed that I couldn’t handle this level of uncertainty. So, I took a deep breath and stayed. The people who were running things made sure I was either at the front or at the back of a crowd so my chances of having a panic attack were less. It ended up being a good weekend for myself and my faith, and I was glad I went.

But, I haven’t been back since, and I have to wonder why. There were many reasons besides avoidance, all of which were valid. In the six years between that situation and now, I had done many brave things including going to Honduras on a mission trip one summer with a plan to go back again this coming summer. But, there have also been things I’ve completely avoided which have affected my relationships with other people and being taught and encouraged in my faith.

With all that, I wonder if I have ever embraced the mystery of my faith and not just side-stepped it. In recent years, I believe I have taken steps in that direction, but I know I can’t say I have fully arrived. Not until I make a deliberate choice to walk in a direction I don’t want to walk in because God has asked me to. So, for that reason. I am fasting from avoidance today, and I invited you to as well.

God bless you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fasting Regret

For Lent this year, I’ve decided to go through the book 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole again. I went through this book last year and learned a lot. I wasn’t sure if there would be anything new for me to learn this year, but I’m a few days into it, and things feel different. Between reading this book and the book Praying Women by Sheila Walsh, my understanding of prayer and its impact on my life has jumped four-fold. In the midst of thinking about regret and the other topics in Chole’s book, I hope to come out on the other side of this season with a better understanding of faith and how being a Christian really does matter in my life.

So, regret. Why is it so tough to let go of it? I think regret leeches over into the new life we’re hoping to have. I read the response I wrote in the book last year, and it brought back memories some of which were painful to read, but some that showed where I was now as compared to last year. I’ve become more and more aware that Jesus meets me in the darker places, the places where I’m not sure how to move on. What Lent does is help me move through those darker places to the celebration of Easter, to Jesus’ resurrection.

I do have regrets in how I’ve lived my life. I think all of us do. What I’ve done with them mostly is carry them with me in the hope that I can avoid making the same mistakes again. I have rarely directly addressed the situations that caused the regrets. There are two reasons for this. One, I’ve never learned how to manage conflict well. Two, my fear of being rejected is great.

But, in the last few months, I have learned some things and am continuing to learn things about my faith that are helping with my prayer life and will help as I struggle to let go of regret. It’s not me. It’s not me at all. What I mean by that is Jesus needs to come first in our lives. Before spouse, before children, before extended family, before friends, and even before our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus is first, and therefore, we should not expect or want to maintain control over our lives. One of the first songs Carrie Underwood sang entitled “Jesus Take the Wheel”  illustrates this vividly. This is also illustrated in Scripture. John 3:30 says, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Of course, I’ve listened to this song and read this verse many times, but it has become clearer to me what it means in the last few months. Control and the release of it. Let me explain. I’ve been praying for a situation, a situation that has caused me great grief and sorrow. And every time I’ve prayed, I’ve wanted it solved so “life would get back to normal”. God doesn’t want me to pray that way. He wants me to pray so He would be glorified whether the situation is resolved in my lifetime or whether it is resolved in eternity. This is a hard thing for me and contradicts most of what I’ve ever heard about prayer. But, it’s what God wants from my prayer life and from the things I regret and try to hold onto.

I wonder something else about the things I regret and try to control. I wonder if I take the regrets I have over certain situations or people and attempt to maintain control by avoiding them. And, if this is true, have I truly let go of the regret. I weave a delicate web, I think. But, it’s important for me to consider these questions if I want to live a life with God coming first and me coming second. Do I get involved with every situation or ministry that’s available, or is it okay to hold back sometimes? And, if I hold back, am I holding back because I have regrets about the past or the people, or am I holding back because it’s not something God has called me to? Those are hard questions for me to answer. I would like to think I’ve moved beyond the situations or the people who have caused me regret. And, to a point, I think I have. But, when I avoid something or someone for fear of being hurt again, I’m not so sure. So, I know I have more work to do–in ceding control to my Lord and Savior and in being engaged in a Christian community.

So, I come back to regret and my need to fast from it. How, I ask myself? It comes back around to what is said in Scripture, specifically in Lamentations 3. Verses 22-24 say this, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'” I’m especially attracted to the part where it says his compassions are “new every morning.” We get a new start every day, all of us. Fasting regret is possible, and I pray we can all know God’s love and forgiveness. I begin this today. Will you join me?

God bless you all!

What Happened to Love in the Christian Church?

I discussed this at length in my journal earlier, but the topic won’t let me go. Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. So, I thought this would be a good topic to explore in the blog. I decided to take it, run with it, and see what happens.

As I said, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and anything media-related is full of ads for the perfect gift for your romantic partner. To a lesser extent, there are also valentines for your child to pass out in class and gifts for you to give to your family. It’s another media-hyped holiday to get us to spend our hard-earned money in the name of love.

But, love…that’s an important thing. God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for us and be resurrected three days later. It’s the basis for this faith we practice as stated in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So, we should know. We should know how we’re supposed to love people.

What’s happened then? What’s happened that’s made it so hard to state and show love in the Christian church? There are many reasons the first of which involves sin nature as if you didn’t know I was going to say that.  🙂 When the Fall happened, when Adam and Eve sinned and were forced out of the Garden of Eden, everything that God had made was perverted including love. It’s why Jesus had to come here and die for us. He was the only One unselfish enough whose sacrifice God would accept. Humans make it hard and are hard to love, and sin nature has made them that way.

That’s why we, who are Christians, need the Holy Spirit in our lives to help us love. Having the Holy Spirit in our lives is the only way we can love others. His presence is the only way we can love through the selfishness, the brokenness, and the impatience we all show on a daily basis. Some of us are better at expressing this than others, but we can all be better. How are we going to attract the world to Jesus if we are no better than the world? Not very well, I think.

Then, there’s the way the English language has mangled love. Speakers of this language only have one word to describe this feeling–love. And, I think we can all definitely say that the feelings we have toward our romantic partners are different than the feelings we have toward a piece of apple pie and everything in-between. At least, mine are different. 🙂 Couple that with sin nature, and you can see all the problems that could come with saying ‘I love you.’ to our Christian brothers and sisters. Even with all of the qualifiers which I can’t stand anyway. (Especially with the sex trafficking that’s going on worldwide.)

But, we need to try–to express love and to show love, and to do that, I thought it would be helpful to define the ‘types of love’ that exist in the ancient Greek language. They had more than one word for love which, I think, might be helpful in how we think of love.

The first kind is eros, and this resembles what we, in the West, think of as romantic love. The kind of love that Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate. This word comes from the word erotas which is ‘intimate love’ and which represents sexuality. But, as I said earlier, this is NOT the only way we’re supposed to love.

The second kind of love is philia. This, in today’s terms, represents something like brotherly love. It shows loyalty, sacrifice, and appreciation. More of a familial or close friend kind of love, if you would, where people would take care of each other and show love to each other because of the kind of relationship they had.

There is nothing wrong with either of these kinds of love. In fact, I would argue that God knows they exist and that they help us build bonds with each other which are necessary and helpful in this fallen world. But, and this is a big but, these are NOT the only kinds of love we should have. It’s the third kind of love that represents what Jesus did for us on the cross and how He wants us to love each other. The word is agape. A word that any of us who have been Christians for a while are probably familiar with. It means universal love, charity or altruism essentially a love that we give freely to others regardless of the relationship we have with them. This represents how God wants us to love and how He wants us to show Him to the world. We need to love this way in our churches first though, and this is where, I believe, we are sorely lacking. How can we love the world if we can’t even show love or express love in the church?

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I issue a challenge. Let’s take time to show love in the way God wants us to. I think we’ll all be glad we did.

God bless you all!

 

An Act of Defiance: Changed Laws or Changed Hearts

When I first had the idea to write this a few days ago, I wasn’t going to do it. What I had on my mind was a big part of my heart, and there was no way I was going to reveal this to y’all. It wasn’t worth the shame. But then I read the prompt in my writing book and decided to share the deepest parts of my story, very few of which I’ve shared with anyone. First, let me share the prompt itself. “Reflect on those moments where people have dismissed or disrespected your writing pursuits. Did you shrink? Did you defer? Did you become silent? Think about ways to rebel–to defy the expectations they’re setting for you. Commit the crime of being yourself.” (52 Pep Talks for Writers, Grant Faulkner) While this seems to only be a writing prompt, I will also be discussing my life story because they’re intertwined–my life and my writing–to a point where they can’t be separated.

So, what started this line of thought, or should I say when did it start? It happened a few days ago. January 22. I woke up thinking there was something important about the date. I considered it over breakfast and while I was scrolling social media, but the only thing I could come up with was that people I know had birthdays that day. Later on, I saw it. January 22, 2020, was the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the right of a woman to have an abortion in the United States. There were postings on the upcoming March for Life as well as articles about making sure abortion remained legal for anyone who wanted it.

I have a funny relationship with Roe v. Wade. Let me first say that I have never had an abortion and firmly believe that abortion is the killing of an unborn baby. A part of my Christian faith, so to speak. But, and this is a big but, despite all that, I’m not an activist on changing the law. I’m not someone who gets into arguments about the law, and I’m definitely not someone who makes nasty comments towards those who have had abortions. I ask myself why. Why wouldn’t I get involved in something that I say is so important to my faith? I can tell you why. Changed laws don’t reflect changed hearts, and I truly believe changed hearts is what God wants from us first.

I was born a few years before Roe v. Wade to teenage parents. They did all the right things. They didn’t try and abort me (in a back-alley fashion), and they got married. Now, there are many people who would say I should stop right there. Everything about my existence was done in the “Christian” way, and I have nothing to complain about. Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate that I am here. Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms, and it tells me that God has a plan for my life no matter how I came to be. At the same time though…at the same time, I grew up thinking I was someone else’s mistake. I didn’t feel loved and valued as a person which has colored my outlook on life. I had a hard time believing God loved me when I came to faith as a teenager, and I still have a hard time today believing God’s love translates into love from my Christian brothers and sisters.

That’s why I have a hard time believing that changing laws will result in changed hearts. Even if the Supreme Court decision making abortion legal was rescinded, there would still be poverty (along with a whole host of other things). There would still be families who struggle to get by, and there would be shame. Shame placed on a child who doesn’t deserve it. Shame placed on a family because of their mistakes. I don’t believe God wants this. I believe He would rather see us make abortion unnecessary than to have a child be thought of as someone’s mistake rather than the precious little soul they are.

Now, I want to circle back to the prompt I quoted at the beginning of this post. Because I have internalized being someone’s mistake, it’s hard for me to think of my writing as something worth reading. Anything I have to contribute, really. I stare at a crowd and wonder what I have to contribute. The things I try aren’t noticed, or they’re just noticed as an aside. Then, I become silent. If my writing or the other things I try and do aren’t noticed, what’s the worth in using my voice?

Then, I come to the last sentence of the prompt and realized that’s where my answer lies. “Think about ways to rebel–to defy the expectations they’re setting for you.” I also look at the title of this pep talk, “Creativity as an Act of Defiance”. I need to defy the expectations of my background and of my psyche. I do have something to say. People might not like it. My closest friends and family might not like it. I might lose friends and family because of what I say. I might even lose Christian brothers and sisters. Who am I kidding? I’ve already lost Christian brothers and sisters. But, it’s who I am, and it’s who God wants me to be. Writing my thoughts and stories is the only way towards the most authentic expression of myself.

So, I write as an act of defiance. I write to change hearts and not laws. I write because God wants me to write, and I write because it’s how God made me. I hope all of you who write can find the reason you write today.

God bless you all!

 

Inspiration

I read a question earlier about what inspires me to write and thought I would write a short piece detailing my reasons. First, let me state the reasons that were written in the prompt. Is my writing a desire to create lyrical prose, to escape this world, or to explore my inner world? I think a combination of the last two reasons is what inspires me to write. My world is so normal, and I feel insignificant a lot of the time like I’m not important to people. I want to write about characters who are important, who save the day and the planet. They start off insignificant and then become heroes to those around them. I want them to be recognized as valuable and important people who make sure that all around them who are also insignificant are recognized as valuable and important. That recognition, of course, does not happen in our society, or even in the Christian church, so that’s one of the main reasons I want to escape this world through my writing and write about a better world.

I believe exploring my inner world is a natural extension of the first reason so I’m throwing that out there as well. I want the world to be better so I make-up worlds which then need to come out of my head and be written down on paper so I won’t lose the world or the thoughts leading to it. I’m at my happiest when I’m writing about my inner world and describing the ways it can be better than the world I’m currently living in.

I also feel like writing is a big way for me to redeem my past. That is what brings me back to my book and other things I’m writing after a long time away. I’ve used my circumstances to block my writing time for way too long, and this is what I’m hoping to change in 2020. I’m capable of achieving my goals even with four people and a dog in the house, and it’s about time I proved it.

Another part of the prompt said I should write about the last time inspiration hit and how it came about. It was last fall when I noticed the listing for a short story contest. It said to write a story about why the United States hadn’t been back to the moon in fifty years. Any reason, any scenario. But, history had to stay the same. A light dawned. I could fit my character and her desire to be a pilot/astronaut right into it since women were still being discriminated against in the late ’60s and early ’70s. A story started forming in my head. I was able to write over 27,000 words of it during NaNoWriMo. Where I fell down though was in the planning and execution of it. I didn’t flesh out the outline enough which is why the words stopped. I’ve been able to get back to it now and am combining my writing with reading and research to make sure I get the details right because I want this story to be a good story.

Finally, what makes me come back to writing on the worst days? What makes me sit down and write when times are bad? When I write bad times down, they stay on the page. They communicate my thoughts and feelings, and I gain the courage to live another day. I don’t say that lightly. My feelings of insignificance diminish with every word I write down. The stories I write show other people slaying their demons which helps me, and someday others, I hope, to slay their own demons and make this world a much better place.