Fighting Detachment

The first eleven days of October have been like a wild roller-coaster ride that I wasn’t sure I could even exit. The funny thing though, in the midst of all that, I started to detach myself from the ride even though it was still going at a furious speed. I stopped caring about anything or anyone in this world and considered how much better the next one would be.

Then, I thought of this word (detachment) and its meaning and looked it up to see if the meaning matched my true feelings. There are two meanings. First, detach means to “disengage (something or part of something) and remove it.” It also means, and this definition is more important for my purposes, to “leave or separate from (a group or place).” To an extent, I feel like I’ve already done this. When I speak of the things on my heart on what has happened to our world this year, the other person generally shrugs their shoulders in a “what can you do fashion.” Precautions against Covid are the do-all and be-all of this time. Nothing else matters.

So, I stopped caring. I detached myself from poverty, from abuse, from unemployment, from mental illness, and from financial difficulties. No one else wanted to talk about or care about these deep matters of the heart even if they were experiencing them, so why should I. Covid had separated me from my friends that much.

Calling anyone has become a herculean task when I wasn’t sure they wanted my phone call and when I wasn’t even sure the friendship mattered anymore. So, I retreated into myself and considered what I wanted to figure out. Do I keep trying with my friends, with my writing, or with my family? It seems like I try, try, and try again, and it’s always bad. Always hard. Nothing comes easy right now. I try, and it’s hard when people don’t want to try back. We’ve been programmed into only caring about ourselves and not caring about anyone else. Showing God’s love has fallen out of the equation.

But, then, I look at the news, and I get angry in my detachment. People in leadership have taken advantage of the situation. They are gaining power and money at our expense, and no one cares. This includes people from both political parties. I believe they are encouraging this detachment so they will be unencumbered as they do what they want. Disgusting, right?

What do I do with this anger now? Do I keep it in a box and remain detached? Is not caring a viable option?  Do I stay away from the voting booth next month? It takes effort to care, to be the person God wants me through this crisis, and I’m not sure I have the strength. I know some people, politicians included, wish I wouldn’t vote since my voice would be silenced, and they could do whatever the hell they wanted. (Sorry for the language, but I think it applies here.) I think about these questions, and my voice sounds loudly in my mind. No! I need to use my voice, auditory, and writing. I need to use my voice because I have that freedom in this country.

An example is when I talk about frustrations with my mental illness. Mental illness is not getting the attention it needs during this pandemic. Dr. Fauci’s comments struck me when he was commenting on that topic a few weeks ago. “Hang on. We need you.” What is hanging on? Does it mean things like poverty, food insecurity, financial difficulties, mental illness, unemployment, and just plain loss don’t exist? Does it mean “every man for himself?” It seems like the second is more true. And, don’t get me wrong here. It’s not just Republicans. It’s Democrats too. We’re at a crossroads, and frankly, this time I’m not sure where we’re going after the election.

So, though, I know there is little chance of this happening, I will end with this statement. President Trump, Senator McConnell, Representative Pelosi, and every Democrat and Republican in Congress, the American people need you to look after their interests and not your own. Candidate Biden and Candidate Harris, I include you in this statement because, while you haven’t been elected, I am sure you have a modicum of influence you could use if you so chose. They need you to care about them and not yourselves – to be the statesmen and women you purport yourselves to be. If you don’t, I guess we really do deserve what we’ve unleashed upon ourselves. Prove me wrong, please.

The Frustration Jar

A bonus post this weekend because I felt…compelled.

https://images.app.goo.gl/viRFY2mqp5CErRb18

Over the past six months, it has become apparent to me that we, as a people, and especially as Christians, are not interested in hearing about other people’s frustrations. People make statements that imply dealing with this pandemic should be easy when it is anything but, and if it’s not easy, the implication is you’re not a good enough Christian.

I believe this is why we’ve started to boil over as a nation. Don’t believe me? I’ll share a few of those statements with you. “Money doesn’t matter.” It sure does when you’re about to be homeless, or you’re hungry. “You need to social distance.” I’m lonely, and I really need human contact so I won’t commit suicide. (By the way, September is Suicide Prevention Month.) “Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” I experience PTSD from having my face covered.

Here’s some more. “You need to stay home, or you’ll spread Covid.” (said by someone who can work from home) I can’t stay at home. I’m an essential worker, and I need to work. “Your business shouldn’t be open. The government says so.” If I don’t work, I won’t eat. Business owners don’t get unemployment. “You didn’t save enough money.” Did anyone expect this pandemic to last for six months and probably a lot longer? I’m not even including the fear, the racial tensions, or other illnesses in my statements though we all know they’re there.

When we don’t share our frustrations, they get put into our frustration jars. They fill them over and over until there’s no room for any more. Then, they burst either noisily or quietly. (Please understand. I don’t advocate bad behavior) But, all these frustrations need a place to go.

What are the solutions? I believe every time we listen without judging it loosens the load. I think every time we can solve a problem the level goes down, and the jar stays whole. When we show courage, we give another person courage. When we show love, people see Jesus.

Please, can we do this? Can we have the human contact necessary to survive as a species? Can we keep our jars whole so we don’t have to experience the alternative?

https://images.app.goo.gl/4cjeTGTVwBC2eG2G8

These Days Won’t Come Again

Yesterday. It was the middle of March yesterday. We were anticipating spring break and Easter. Now, it’s the end of August, and we’ve walked through spring, summer, and all the associated holidays and traditions. Now, the kids are back in school, and everything is still…different. We’re wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and fighting about it. We’ve politicized all of it and how you feel about Covid is related to your politics. I’ve shaken my head in disbelief many times.

We’ve narrowed our friend circle enough that we distrust everyone in the supermarket. But, then we’re surprised when someone reacts badly. We shouldn’t be. The media has built up fear. Now, I don’t believe this virus is a hoax, but when is it enough? When do we come out of our foxholes to associate with the rest of the world? When a vaccine exists? That might be sometime next year. Never? It’s starting to look more like it. Then, my thoughts go to each day I live though, a day that will never come again. Is this how God wants us to live? So afraid of a disease and not being safe that we’re afraid to love each other like Jesus calls us to. I wanted to explore that today, explore those questions that will help us consider how far down the rabbit hole we’ve gone.

Safe. Are Christians truly meant to be safe in this world? As much as some people from the prosperity gospel side of things would like to think so, I would have to say no. Think of all the Christians who have been martyred over the years. People who were killed for their faith in the twentieth century all the way back to the apostles themselves. Then, there’s Jesus Himself, the most important one. The one who was crucified on the cross for all of us. Does that sound like someone who wants us whimpering in our closets? I don’t think so.

Now, let me say this again for those in the back who might not have heard it the first time. I do not believe this virus is a hoax. But, when do we start living again? When do we come out of our familial cocoon? When do we care about each other? I’m not going to pretend like I have the answers to these questions, but they are questions we need to consider.

Each day is passing like its meaning is gone. Slipping away from one day into the next. Wondering what is right and what is wrong. Wondering who is right and who is wrong. Lives are not meant to be lived alone, but that is what society is calling on from us. To live alone which means we will die that much faster from reducing our social interaction to almost nothing.

This makes me wonder if that’s what God wants. To be alone to consider what He wants from us. Or to consider whether we really do care about the people He says we should care about. These might seem opposite to each other, but hear me out. We have had the chance to sacrifice ourselves during this pandemic. To help other people. Have we? Some of us have, those we have called and still call “essential workers.” Have we done it with the heart of Jesus? Some have, but not all because they have let fear overcome them. What about those of us who aren’t essential workers? I’d say fear has overcome us even though Scripture tells us not to fear. I will only quote one of the many Scriptures on fear. 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.”

I have been thinking about this as I’ve also considered the questions my pastor asked in his devotion this morning. (Wed. Aug. 26) “Who are we?” “What are we doing here?” I can only consider them for myself much as I also might want to change others. And God doesn’t interfere because He wants us to have the freedom to come to Him ourselves. It can be frustrating, but I am grateful God gives us His grace when we stray.

So, to end this, I vow to live each day without fear and with His heart as I pray for us to realize that life is short and should be lived to its fullest capacity-pandemic or not.

God bless you all!

Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker: A Book Review

When I picked this book up at the bookstore, I wasn’t sure I was going to buy it. From what I had read and heard of the author, I thought the book would turn out much differently than it did. But, then I read the blurb on the back, and with what I’ve explored this year about myself, how could I not read it. This sentence in the blurb was especially refreshing. “She craves a genuine world, a more honest and sincere community, relationships based in truth-telling, to be refreshing to a parched world.”  I needed this badly, but was I willing to do the work required. The only way to know for sure was to buy and read the book. I bought it, and now, I’m starting my review of it.

The author is a born story-teller. She takes her topics and writes about relevant examples from her own life without any judginess (Is that a word? lol) or religious condemnation. The book is divided into five sections with either two or three chapters in each section. The first section was especially powerful. It talked about accepting who we are–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It also discussed how each of us was made to take up a certain amount of space and how the kind of personalities we have relate to the dreams God has given us. The assertive responses listed on page 30 are responses I wish I had much earlier in my life. (Yes, you need to read the book to get those.) I plan to print these responses and hang them near my desk so I can remember when I need to use them.

The next two sections are entitled “What I Need” and What I Want.” When I looked at those titles, I recoiled. They didn’t seem right for someone who thought of herself as conservative. But, I read them. I read all of the chapters full of the author’s stories. Stories of being badly treated as a woman in ministry, stories of learning how to ask for help, and stories of leaning into her community. She also talked about dreams and about how to make space for those dreams. How about that? She has dreams like I do.

Finally, there are the sections entitled “What I Believe” and “How I Connect.” Throughout the book, but especially in these two sections, the author did a good job of sharing her story and also demonstrating that our stories weren’t going to look exactly like hers. Most people in this polarized age would turn their backs on those whose opinions were different, but she doesn’t. She is not judgemental, and I am forever grateful.

Now, for the hard work. I told you I was going to do it, and so, for this next section of the review, I am going to take each chapter title and write a sentence or two about how it applies to my own life. It’s the only way I can show how this book might help you.

  1. “I am wired this way.” I like to observe a situation before jumping in. This can be beneficial, but it can also be detrimental to those who want friendships.
  2. “I am exactly enough.” There are times I believe this down to my core, and other times, I know I will be working on this until the day I die. I think it’s why I have such a problem finishing my stories. Unconsciously, I believe my stories aren’t worthy of my pen. I want to do better!
  3. “I am strong in my body.” I haven’t been able to coordinate this with the other things I want to do during these strange times. It’s so hot outside that exercising wears me out, and I’m too tired to do anything else. I want to do better though.
  4. “I deserve goodness.” (I am quoting Jen’s statement here because I believe it reflects me exactly.) “I deserve goodness, even in religious spaces where I am an outlier. I am still a good sister and God’s kid, and I don’t deserve mischaracterization, rejection, and gossip.” (pg. 214, Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, Jen Hatmaker)
  5. “I need some help.” This has been a constant challenge for me because of things that have happened in my past. Trust is needed when I need to ask, and I only have a few people I trust. This is also something that is a constant challenge.
  6. “I need more connection.” In some ways, I feel healthy in this regard. My family has grown closer to each other during this quarantine. and I am blessed. I wish I felt more connected with my friends right now though. (Covid has taken that away from me.) My wish, I think, is to find more of a tribe, more accepting of my genuine self, and to find connections with those who are unlike me.
  7. “I want this dream!” Yes, I want it! I want to be a published author and have my words touch people. Guess I’ll need to break a few eggs to get there. 🙂
  8. “I want to choose my yeses.” “Lazy and thoughtless.” Maybe, that’s my answer to what I wrote for number 6. I say yes to people because I want to gain respect from them, and I don’t work on my dream. Need to work on that.
  9. “I believe in spiritual curiosity.” How is community supposed to work during this pandemic?  We’re not standing together when we’re apart and afraid of each other. Yes, God has been with me every moment, and I am grateful, but I believe Christian community is going to look very different when this is over. There might be people I never see again, and I will have to learn to live with it.”
  10. “I believe in this cause.” I would march for women’s equality in the church and for their involvement in ministries that are not typically female-oriented.
  11. “I want to connect with honesty.” This is one of my biggest struggles. I have to have a level of trust with someone before I feel like I can be honest. And, sometimes I’m still not honest because I feel like I’m going to be rejected if I am.
  12. “I want to connect without drama.” Oh my goodness, yes! So much drama, especially among women. I guess that’s why I struggle with female friendships. I have no tolerance of drama. None.  I have to take a deep breath so I won’t get sucked into it.

In conclusion, I give this book my highest recommendation. If you let it, it will help you tremendously.

God bless you all!

Negotiating Fear

There have been many things to negotiate during this pandemic and quarantine. I named some of them in my last two posts and in a Facebook post a few days ago.

A daily dose of perspective — OTHER THINGS are going on besides Covid. Yep, you heard it first here. You might not believe it if you scroll down your feed, but it’s true. Many things I’ve read recently have contributed to this loss of perspective so I thought I would remedy this today.

I want to speak especially to three things. Unemployment, mental health, and other physical health issues. There are also, of course, issues of social justice, but I’m not qualified to speak to those so I won’t. I have seen many posts telling people to buck up since Covid is the only thing that matters. It’s not. I’ve also seen posts saying that people can die from Covid. Of course, they can, but they can die from other things too. Don’t believe me?

If you are hungry and can’t buy food because of unemployment, you can die. If you have suicidal thoughts (mental health) from being isolated for too long and act on them, you are dead. (Isn’t that what the definition of suicide is?) By the way, I had suicidal thoughts back in March and April and thought it would be much better if I wasn’t around. (You might still think so. 🙂 ) I had to fight my way through them on my own, and it wasn’t pretty or pleasant. Finally, there are people with other physical health issues. If they are afraid to go to the hospital to get treatment because of Covid, they can die. 

Isn’t that what it all boils down to? Fear. We are afraid. Don’t bother denying it. We are afraid, and for my Christian brothers and sisters, we are afraid even though we are told not to be by Scripture. 

I’m stopping the quote here because this is the promised further exploration of fear. When we first started hearing of Covid in March which resulted in several states shutting down, I wasn’t afraid of getting Covid. Maybe, I should have been, but I wasn’t. I was more worried about what the shape of my mind would be when we came out of isolation. The voices I hear in my head because of my depression and anxiety are more prominent when I’m isolated, and there was no telling how long we would have to be at home. I also knew there were Scripture verses that told us not to be afraid and decided I was going to hold onto them with all my might. I didn’t do this perfectly, but I did my best.

The news during those first few weeks wasn’t good. The numbers kept getting higher, and the reports from the media were full of doom and gloom. Was I supposed to be afraid? That was my main question. Even though I was familiar with such verses as Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” it still seemed like I should be afraid.

Then, the churches started closing. What was this? Churches had closed, and they were still telling us not to be afraid. Verses like 1 Timothy 1:7 and 1 John 4:18 didn’t seem to mean anything to those of us who follow Jesus. Whether we should be afraid or not has been the theological question I have struggled with this entire time.

As I’ve continued to listen to the media reports over the last few months and seen the precautions taken, one conclusion made the most sense to me. They want us to be afraid. They want us to be afraid of getting sick. Whether that’s inadvertent or on purpose, I don’t know. But, I do know one thing.  I want my thoughts to be on my Lord and Savior and for Him to be with me like it says in Psalms 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.” I want my trust to be in Him like it says in Psalms 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” I want Him to deliver me from my fears like it says in Psalms 34:4.

As I wrap this up, I want to make sure I state I don’t have all the answers. I will probably be wrestling with this theological point long after the pandemic is over. But, I know I don’t need to be afraid and that God will be with me through it all–the good and the bad. I pray the same for all my Christian brothers and sisters.

God bless you!

PS I also want to make sure I tell you that I’m following all the mandated precautions for my area.

On a Different Path

A few weeks ago I saw a post from one of my blogger friends about creating a vision board for the rest of 2020. It sparked thoughts from my own life, and I wondered if I should do the same. I’m pretty sure most of us could say the first six months of 2020 have been rough with everything that has happened. Then, a few days later, I took this picture. It reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” And, I thought maybe God might be using this time to put me on a different path. So, I thought I would talk about the vision board I made today and what went into the various parts.

Now, to clarify what I mean, I should probably share a definition of the term. “A dream board or vision board is a collage of images, pictures, and affirmations of one’s dreams and desires, designed to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation, and to use the law of attraction to attain goals.” (source-Wikipedia) Pretty detailed, right? I did one for 2018 and 2019, but doing one for this year totally slipped my mind in December. I’m thinking now though it was good it did otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to write about now. 🙂

So, as we all know, lives have been turned upside down over the last four months. I have written and am continuing to write, but it’s been hard. There’s been a lot of noise that has interrupted my focus and concentration. When the end of June rolled around, I realized I needed to re-focus on what I wanted to do with my life, i. e. create a vision board. Some of the phrases I used included: “Make your writing stand out.” “Think small, win big.” “Turn the beat around.” “New beginnings.” I also cut out pictures from one of my writing magazines. I especially liked the picture which resembled a new plant blooming. It’s what I feel like I’m about to do. What form that takes is unknown, but I know I need to take baby steps every day to get there, and the pictures and words I see inspire me to keep going.

The other part of my vision board contains phrases of the type of person I want to be moving forward. They are either quotes from a book I found this spring titled Live Love Now by Rachel Macy Stafford or quotes from different conversations I have had as I’ve endured this time through the pandemic. I especially liked this quote from Live Love Now. “Dare to reach farther than you ever thought you could.” (pg. 255, Natalie Stafford, Live Love Now) It’s what I’m trying to do. It’s what I’m hoping to be, and seeing it on my vision board helps me get there.

Finally, there is the poem I referenced when I began this post. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
As the poem says, I’m on a different path now, one I couldn’t have imagined before the pandemic and quarantine. One which celebrates how God made me and how I am wired. One which encourages me to be a bright light in the hard. One in which bravery and courage are requirements.
May we all follow the paths God has put us on whether we do it being cheered on by others or whether we do it alone!

God bless you all!

 

 

 

The Hard Thing

Hey, y’all! Welcome back to my blog! I know it’s been a while. I took some vacation time and then some thinking time as the world has seemingly gone to pieces during the month of June. Between Covid-19 and the resulting quarantine, the racial issues caused by the death of George Floyd and other African-Americans, and my own personal issues, 2020 has been an avalanche I haven’t been able to climb to the top of yet. As I’ve thought about these events and how they’ve impacted my life, the phrase “doing the hard thing” came to mind. The last four months have been hard on all of us, and I was struck by this phrase when I heard a review of the lessons that had been taught during the online Vacation Bible School at my church. This life isn’t supposed to be easy for Christians even though there’s a big misconception to the contrary. So, today, I want to talk about the things that have been hard for me over the past few months.

First, the pandemic itself. When this started back in March, no one knew a whole lot about the coronavirus. The people responsible for giving the orders to shut down were feeling their way around the whole situation. No one knew the best things to do or if they would even help. And, everyone had an opinion. I remember sharing some articles about how people’s mental health might be affected by a quarantine, and it was only a day or so later that people who had shared this information were being slammed by medical personnel who had no concern about how our society might be affected in other ways by this quarantine. I ignored them knowing that I would sadly be proven right at some point. And low and behold, four months later I have been. Mental issues have skyrocketed, and the rate of suicide has gone way up. I believe this is because people have been isolated from each other and don’t feel connected with anyone, cute sayings created by the media notwithstanding.

Then, there’s been what’s happened this month with the racially oriented protests and riots due to the deaths of George Floyd and others. I have seen, from both sides, the truly ugly parts of humanity during this time. And, I haven’t known how to react except for not being deliberately ugly with either words or actions. (Yes, I was taught how to be a decent human being though I know I fail at it more often than not.) But, I know racism still exists whether it is deliberate or ingrained in society. Anyway, events left me unsure of what to say or if I should even say anything at all.  I only knew that I wanted my life to reflect the life of the risen Savior I follow and to love as He does though to paraphrase a quote from one of my friends, I’m not exactly sure what that means anymore. It’s the way society is right now.

Finally, there’s the personal stuff. I am so tired. Tired of not being able to see people or even talk to them. Tired of not being able to bare my heart. Tired of not being able to worship. Tired of seeing the same people all of the time. It’s starting to make me wonder if living this life is really worth it. Whether it’s worth dealing with all the hard stuff.

But, all of this brings me back full circle to what I mentioned at the beginning of this post. “Doing the hard thing.” We can’t do it by ourselves. We can only do it with God’s help. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Then, Psalm 121:1-2 says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” I’ve said this before. The presence of God has helped me survive this time of quarantine. It has helped me do the hard thing. This hasn’t come without a cost. My mental health has suffered. And I’m not one to hide how I feel about something much to other people’s chagrin and judgment. It’s who I am though and who I want to be as a follower of Jesus Christ. Honest about my faith, honest about my feelings, and honest about myself as I try to live this life Jesus has called me to live.

May we all do our best to do the hard thing during these tumultuous times!

God bless you all!

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!