Life can be messy, chaotic, and overwhelming, but when you change your perspective, you can see something truly beautiful, much like the inside of a kaleidoscope. When you turn the kaleidocope just right and look towards the light, you can see the most beautiful, intricate, unique picture, created out of a random array of beads and broken glass, or a mess.
The things that are happening around us are beyond overwhelming. The world as a whole is scary and dark and I just can’t take it on. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t turn on the news or engage with the destruction that we see happening all around us with the global world we live in. My heart and my head just cannot do it anymore.
It is not because I do not care. I care too much. I care to the point where it makes me physically ill and unable to do anything with the world right in front of me. Maybe you are feeling this too. This debilitating knowledge of hardship and suffering, but feeling so out of control and helpless that you just shut down.
I can’t keep doing that. You can’t keep doing that.
So what I can do is to make sure the people I love know how much I love them.
I spend far too many hours watching ridiculous horse dramas with our daughters.
I capture our children playing Lego and getting along.
I kiss that son of ours as often as he will let me.
I float in our pool and read a book.
I sit on our front porch and drink hot coffee.
I spend intentional time just being with my husband and strive to let him know why I love him each day.
I hug those I care about.
I kiss the tops of the heads of the children I have the privilege of seeing grow up.
I make a home that is comfortable and loving, to be a safe place to land when the world just seems too big.
I prepare for the upcoming school year and the opportunity to love and support another class of 1st graders.
I help our youngest get ready for her first day of kindergarten.
I give our dogs far too many treats and cuddle with them on the couch more than one should.
I listen to the crickets in the evening.
I pray. I pray a lot.
I do everything I can do to soak in all the good that is in the world and fill up with so much love that I can walk into the world, outside the safety of our home, and love others. Love others hard and love them well.
Love those who disagree with me.
Love those who are different than me.
Love those who are struggling to love.
Love those who are easy to love and those who need some grace. <we all need grace>
I cannot fix all the things that are broken in this world. I do not think we were designed to take on all the things that are broken in the global world. It is just not physically possible. However, I do think we are supposed to be the good in the communities that we are in. To love one another, support one another, give grace to one another, and to encourage one another.
If we all love in our own circles… our families, our workplaces, our churches, our communities, even our social media communities…then that love has to ripple out to the global world. But it has to start here, in your own heart, with what we can handle. We can’t handle it all.
But this summer just seems to have some weight to it.
This summer just feels like it is more than a few months in the sun, with school out, and family to see.
It feels like this summer needs to make up for last summer while also preparing us for the unknown of the year ahead while also healing us from the year behind us. <longest sentence ever, but that is how my brain spirals it out>
How? Is that even possible? Is that even what we should be doing?
As a teacher in a teacher family with school age kids, August has always had this feeling of the winding down of summer and the building excitement of a new school year. It is both amazing and sorrowful at the same time. Bittersweet.
But this year, it is different.
Are you feeling this too?
I find myself wondering if we did enough? See enough? Be present enough? Rest enough?
And I am finding myself exhausted, scared, and saddened.
And then I am reminded that it just will never be enough. And it doesn’t have to be. The next season is coming and that is filled with goodness and struggles too.
I was on my porch yesterday, as I often am during the summer days, and saw these sunflowers that have grown on their own accord in our front rocks…these beautiful gifts of sunshine and grace… and I found that several of them have completely fallen over..given up or succumbed to the pressure of either dogs or torrential rain.
It was as if these flowers also felt the heaviness of the final weeks of summer.
There is still many days left. Many moments to be had. Many moments to be still. Yet, sometimes the weight of it all, the expectation and the anticipation, just breaks us before we get to fully experience that moment. We give in before we have to.
We fall before it is finished.
Seeing these flowers falling on the ground so prematurely, as the trees are still vibrant green and the sun still brightly shining, reminded me to not turn the page on the season yet. August is heavy. It always is. This year is heavier, for whatever that reason may be, but it is not over yet.
But also, it is okay that this year just feels different.
Last year, at 36 years old, I got my first tattoo…quickly followed by second tattoo. I wrote about it here: Mountains and Valleys. I started thinking more about metaphors, symbols, and also I had learned about about leaning into the pain and leaning into the season.
After a series of many dark years, I learned that I am someone who likes to push forward or avoid my current situation in an effort to finding more pleasant experiences. I think that is rather typical for human nature: avoid pain, seek comfort. But, all this hiding from pain, or dreaming about the next thing, left me missing out on the current thing, even if the current thing is pain.
Through my heartache of depression and alcohol addiction, I learned that that by hiding from pain or suffering, you are not escaping it. Eventually, when you come out of the hiding space, it is still there, and oftentimes in a much more layered pile. Ugh.
Eventually I had to face it all.
Eventually I had to be present.
Eventually I had to learn the beauty and the growth that comes in the suffering and in the still.
There is beauty in all the seasons.
Life is a series of seasons.
A series of growth, abundance, death, rest.
A cycle of new beginnings, flourish, harvest, and still.
It is so fiercely rhythmic that it cannot be denied there is a gloriousness in the way our days unfold over time.
But still, we often forget about the roots in each of these seasons. The roots that spread, give life, and hold us up strong. Our roots do not disappear in the dark days. The growth does not cease, it is just not visible from the surface. Roots are essential to growth and to life.
It is so challenging to the human design to stay planted in our current season. We keep wanting to move ahead, or at least this is how I am wired. So, last year, with my new tattoos on my arms, I was paddling with my husband, sitting on the paddle board because the wind and the current had taken me a bit downstream, and I mentioned to him that I want to stay grounded in my current season. If it is good or bad, challenging or easy, I need to stay grounded in it because there is a lesson to be learned in it, plus life has taught me that the season will change. We have to show up for the lesson and suffer well.
I began drawing this preliminary series of four lines and a flower in all the stages of seasons, being sure to always have a root present. I have drawn this several times, always with the understanding that I am not an artist, but this is what I want and I want it on my foot as a reminder to stay grounded in my season. Keep my foot planted in the season. Stop moving.
Fast forward to this April, I got that tattoo.
And…since I am all about balance, I got a tattoo on the other foot too. I got an arrow. I had been thinking about this idea for a bit, but nothing as deep as my seasons, or my mountains and valleys, or my garden… but a simple arrow that reminds me that sometimes in order to propel forward, you have to pull back.
There is a story in everything. Each season teaches us so much. Share your stories too.
Plus, for anyone keeping count, yes, I have gotten 4 tattoos in 9 months.
I have never denied having an addictive personality.
Thank you for sitting with me and hearing my story. I am so grateful to have shared the darkness of my journey and put it in the light. None of this is easy, but as we’ve learned, the easy stuff doesn’t help us grow.
We have walked through my fall, the valley and the rescue, and my climb. But, before we finish up our conversation, I think it is important that we glance back to know how to move forward. I say glance, because a glance is a quick look, rather than a deep stare, focusing on the past. I do not think it does anyone any good to live in the past, but we do need to look to the past, learn the lessons that seasons taught us, and move forward. Move forward.
This season..this fall, valley, and climb has taught me some pretty big life lessons. Lessons that shape how I view the world now..and hopefully how I continue to view the world as I grow in years.
Lesson 1: It is sometimes necessary to fall, to break, to crumble.
As I sit here with you, I am filled with gratitude for this journey. I know that sounds counter-cultural. But, genuinely, I am really grateful to have been brought so low because it was in this experience that I was able to rebuild and realign who I am and what I value.
Lysa TerKeurst writes about this breaking in her book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way She speaks of how when we are shattered from big moments like this, we turn to dust.
What if, this time, God desires to make something completely brand-new? Right now. On this side of eternity. No matter how shattered our circumstances may seem. Dust is the exact ingredient God loves to use.
We can see dust as a result of an unfair breaking. Or we can see dust as a crucial ingredient.
Dust doesn’t have to signify the end. Dust is often what must be present for the new to begin.
And that’s one of the most devastating realities of dust times in our lives. We need the world to stop spinning for a while. We need things to pause. We need the celebrations to cease long enough to work through our grief.
Lysa TerKeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, chapter 2, Dust
I am totally okay with the fact that I was broken down to to dust to be restored into something new. My life, the path I was on, was not healthy. I had gotten off from the path that was designed for me. I needed a massive crumbling to be restored.
Sweet friend..if you feel everything around you crumbling…let it fall. Let it break. Stop trying to glue it back together. Rather, let it shatter so that it can be created into something brand new. Let it break and then rebuild.
Lesson 2: Suffering can show you your strength.
I was feeling so weak, so broken, so lost. When asked to use words to describe myself in therapy, a cycle of self-deprecating words circled around my head. I could not think of one kind word to describe myself. But now, on the other side of the valley, having fought through the climb, I have been shown just how strong I can be. How fierce I can be. I needed to be reminded that I can fight for better. I had to lean heavily on God for strength when I was far too weak to help myself. With each success, each small win, I gained momentum to know that I could do things.
You can do things too. You are strong. And if you aren’t feeling that strength, then yoke on to someone else’s strength until you can start to feel your wins. Search for your wins. Build the momentum. See how incredibly resilient you are.
I have lived and overcome something that was debilitating to me. Now, when faced with challenges, I am reminded of what I have done and how far I have come. Then this new challenge is not as challenging anymore. I was once crushed but I am okay now. When another valley comes, which it will, I will remember this time and remind myself of the strength I had to get through this. I will be better equipped to handle the next climb. My struggle happened before the pandemic hit. So, when the pandemic hit, my heart was ready for it. We could do this. This wasn’t my hardest season…but my hardest season had prepared me for this hard season.
You glance back. Remember the strength. You keep going. You keep moving.
That just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.
We can do a lot of things. Our freedom will allow it. But at the end of the day, it will take our life from under it.
Consider your holiness-versus freedom issue, even now. If you know somewhere deep down inside that something is coming between you and God, in any season, do you pursue getting rid of it, or do you justify keeping it for as long as possible?
Lisa Whittle, Jesus Over Everything, Chapter 4, Holiness Over Freedom
Boundaries and saying no to things you have the ability to do, is hard. Setting firm lines on what is good for you and what is not is hard. However, once the line is drawn, knowing this is not serving me, helps make all the other decisions much easier.
I do not drink. I can drink. But, I know that it clouds my judgement and I do not like who I am when I drink. I know that I most likely will not just have one drink if I have a drink. Therefore, I have chosen that my tight line is no drinks for me. Since I made this clear boundary for me and those close to me know this line, decisions are easy. I can go places and I do not wrestle with “should I?” The decision is already made.
These boundaries help me to be the most peaceful me. I used to think that denying myself something was punishing myself, but now I see them as ways of protecting myself and also loving myself. This is freedom.
Lesson 4: Everyone is struggling with something.
Everyone has a struggle. Life is hard and no one gets through without having to tackle some deep valleys. While some have very visible struggles, many struggles occur behind the scenes or in their hearts. If you know that everyone is struggling than it helps you set your heart to have a posture of love and grace for them.
We do not need to know, or have really a right to know, what that person’s story is.
If they chose to share their story, cherish that privilege, and respect their vulnerability.
Respond with love.
But, most likely, we do not know everyone’s story. Yet still, we need to strive to respond with love. I know I fall short on this often, but I am really trying to respond with love. See people first as people, not their title or their duty or their shortcomings, but as a person. Show love, grace, and kindness because being a person is hard.
Lesson 5: You have to show up for the lesson.
Life is going to take you to some hard places and each one will teach you something, grow you in some way. But, you have to show up for the lesson. You are going to go through the hardship either way, so please do not let it be in vain. Let it teach you what it is meant to teach you. Let it grow you so that you are prepared for whatever season is coming next. Pay attention. Feel the feels. Learn the lessons.
Lesson 6: new mountains…new valleys.. and God is greater than it all
This is where I am today. On this side of the valley. I would not say that I have conquered this mountain because, well, I think it would be naive to think that one can conquer a mountain such as this. However, I am comfortable with where I am in the climb.
Life is a series mountain ranges….peaks and valleys…climbs…rest…growth..sorrow and joy. To think this is the only hard thing I will face is naive. Life just is not like that. But, I will use this story to help me fight through the next one. I will use this story to teach our children about perseverance and struggles, as they will have them too. I will use this experience to be a reminder of how big God is and how He is so much greater than the highs or the lows.
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction or abuse, I urge you to find your people to help you.
If you are walking beside someone with alcohol addiction, I urge you to walk with love, truth, and grace. The person you love has already filled themselves with enough judgement and self-deprecation, that they do not need to hear any additional hurts. Be their strength while they find theirs. Be their advocate.
Resources that I love:
Jesus Over Everything by Lisa Whittle
It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst
I noticed something in myself recently. A heaviness. A hardening. Maybe you have felt this too.
This need to protect yourself from the criticism, the opinions, the angst that has been walking beside us for this season.
I felt like there were all these rocks flying at me.
In large conversations,
in subtle statements,
in words not said,
All these hard rocks just coming at me.
And I did not react in love like I should. Instead, I started collecting rocks with the thought process to throw rocks back.
This is challenging to admit, but it is truth. When I felt criticism or harshness I started to find faults in their choices, in their paths, in their lives. I started to compare and find ways to acknowledge the “at least I am not doing that” thought process. Ugly right? So ugly.
My faulty thinking and really, it was not intentional, but rather something I noticed after and realized I had been doing, was finding things to armour myself from anticipated criticism when I was feeling like everything was just getting too heavy.
I was collecting retaliation rocks.
But the thing about collecting rocks is, it just makes you even heavier. So much heavier. Think of your pockets and if they had actual rocks in them for each negative thought you had about someone else. Heavy upon heavy. It weighs you down.
Think about where we find rocks. They are always on the bottom. They layer the bottom of our lakes and oceans. If you carry too many rocks, you drown. The heaviness over takes you and you physically cannot overcome it. This is not how we were designed to walk.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2: 4-5
We were designed to be merciful and full of grace. We were designed to be forgiving, because of how much we have been forgiven.
I have not been my kindest, most gracious self this season. I went into this weird survival and self-preservation mode. But at its root, we began to self-destroy because we allowed our hearts to get so hard. Did you do this too?
So then we enter the world with hard hearts and interact with other people who maybe aren’t at their best and also have a hardened heart… grace really struggles to show up there.
We know we are not our best selves and yet we expect everyone else to be their best. Solid reflection on that.
The only way we can stop this cycle of hardening and rock collecting is to stop picking up the rocks.
Stop taking the offenses. Stop taking notes. Stop planning your retaliation. And act in love.
Drop the rocks. Give grace. Love one another. Even in the hard spots. Especially in the hard spots.
After I dropped my own rocks, I noticed a lightness in myself. I noticed this freeness.
Some comments are just comments.
Some opinions are valid and worth reflection.
Some critiques will help me grow.
And some things, I just do not have to give any value to.
Drop the rocks.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.
Don’t let your love grow cold. Drop your rocks. Let them freeze. And open your heart to love one another.
This mess does not stop at our tree either. Typically this mess would give me quite a bit of actual anxiety and cause me to be rather nasty to everyone I love. But, for some reason, it is different this year.
It is December 27th. I walk through my home and I hear our girls playing together in one of their rooms. I see our son at our dining room table turned Lego central, building what must be his sixth Lego kit. My husband has been grinding our coffee beans and drinking several cups of hot coffee while building with our kids. I finally showered, since..ahem… Christmas Eve. We have really soaked in the days after Christmas to just be together and it has been amazing.
Anyone in the generation one step above mine, with kids grown or who have left the house, have made it clear that Christmases like this are for a very short season in life. Soon the sounds of screams on Christmas morning over the perfect toy, the wonder of how these toys got here, which toy to play with first, will be replaced by Christmas brunches with most of your kids, if you are lucky, as they start spending Christmas with their significant other’s family. Your trees will be perfect and orderly as no one will be touching them. The mess will be cleared as soon as it is made, if it is made. The wonder of it all fades away as your children age.
I am a bit… or rather a lot… particular about our house. If you have ever been to our home, I am particular about making sure things like the toilets are always clean (we can’t let anyone know that we actually poop), the counters are cleaned off, and things are in some order for use to live in an efficient manner. Also, quite honestly, I like when our house looks nice. There I said it. I care a lot about appearances and I want our home to be functional but mostly, look nice.
This makes me super fun to live with. Also, it is hard on my mind to keep up with it all. It exhausts me. So much. The guilt and the struggle, the frustration and the anger I have towards myself for not just letting things be, but also the genuine anxiety I get with clutter and mess. It is just a whole thing in my mind, that the people I love the most get to experience from the front row.
But, right now, things are different. We are on a pause from life and it feels so good. As a teacher married to a teacher, we worked right up until Christmas Eve, in what we can all describe as a very different year. Our family, as with many families have experienced a lot of tragedy this year, life just keeps taking some hits, and we have not had a moment to even process them. Everything just keeps coming at us and life keeps going but this week, right now, in the days between Christmas and New Years…we have no plans because you can’t have plans this year and we are just being here, with each other, in our joyful mess.
We aren’t rushing the moment along. We aren’t yelling at our kids to get their stuff together for school, in whichever learning model they are in. We aren’t meal planning or grocery shopping. We aren’t worried about the laundry because pajamas for tomorrow sounds really nice. We are playing. We are building. We are napping. We are being together.
We can’t do this forever. We will have to return to the world soon. But for right now, I am going to soak in the mess. This is the most rested I have felt in a very long time. The most calm I have felt. The most present. The most loving. We are giving our family this time to just be and to enjoy one another.
I am grateful for the women ahead of me who have spoken such truth into me about enjoying the right now, as the season is fleeting. These women remind me about the loneliness of a clean family space. The heartbreak of sharing your children with another family. The sorrow that comes with the great joy of raising your children to be adults with their own lives.
Therefore, right now, we will enjoy our mess.
We also ran out of trash bags, so that has been a real hangup on the whole cleaning up thing. The tree is raining needles, making it painful to walk by it, and the trash is really piling up outside. We will have to pick up tomorrow so that we can continue to play but have the space to do it well. And…the mess is starting to get to my husband. Maybe he has more of my mind then we thought.
we are all made of many pieces in one really messy puzzle
vulnerability and authenticity
These are two traits that I have come to realize are extremely valuable to me.
What you see of me is who I am, in all settings. However, they are just pieces of me.
The smiling family photo.
The piles of laundry in the corner of our bedroom.
The row of degrees that fill the top of my resume.
The deep need for naps on weekends.
The methodical lesson planning.
The unkind word spew when I am tired.
The loud, energetic story teller.
The withdrawn wallflower.
The put together, trendy, and with wedged boots.
The unshowered, messy bun, have I brushed my teeth yet today?
The one who is pushing through.
The one who has surrendered.
The human mess.
These are all true of me. Every single time.
I bet some of these are true of you too, but I also know you have other pieces.
I am not faking it. Those smiles you see are real, but so are the tears and the push through. The calm is followed by the chaos. I am all these things and each time you see a piece of it, do not think that there is not more to it.
We have a saying in my circle, “layered onion.” We are all layered onions. There is so much more there than what is first seen and it does not mean that we are hiding anything or building walls, but sometimes, you are seeing a piece. An authentic and often very vulnerable piece.
But we are all much more than one simple piece.
I have come to the understanding that being known and deeply understood is really important to me. I love deep relationships and really struggle with small talk. I love when I have the opportunity to know someone’s heart and to share my heart with them. I take it as such a gift when people lower their walls and let me in. I know that this is a huge privilege as many of us walk around with fortresses covering anything beyond weather conversations. But, we were made to know each other on much more profound levels and to be deeply known.
The only way to be deeply known and deeply loved is by letting people see the pieces. That takes a lot of courage. Vulnerability comes easy to me but I completely recognize that it is not the same for everyone. However, offer a piece.
And on the other side, when you see a piece of someone, also remember it is only a piece. We have areas where we really rock it and also areas where we completely sink. Do not allow yourself to be fooled into thinking others are hitting levels you think are not possible for yourself because of the pieces you see. When you see that person doing amazing in one area of their life, celebrate and honor that, but also remember that they probably have areas where they are really struggling. Remember, pieces and layered onions. These people who are straight up slaying it in some areas might be fighting really hard to do so and need your encouragement and still need your love because they are probably fighting some hard mental things to gain that one win.
I know this because I am this. But, I also know this is true for everyone because I have been a human long enough to know that everyone has a struggle. Allow me to share a few of my pieces to help paint the picture of how messy our puzzle pieces are:
I am currently mentally stronger than I have been in years but life is throwing a lot at our family, as with many of yours right now. I am still showing up at school and doing my best. I smile and encourage. I help facilitate professional development and I suppose, from the outside, I present a picture of someone who has their stuff together. I am genuine when I smile, encourage, and walk beside my peers in this unknown world of teaching in a pandemic. But also, I come home and am spent. I am quiet and withdrawn to recharge my batteries. I need weekend naps and rest. I have cut down how much I even build some of my other relationships right now because I am so worn down from trying to do something that is very new and ever changing at school, while also trying to focus on loving my spouse and our children well in a very hard season. Both these sides are very, very real and very true of me.
And if we take it back two years, I was coming off a huge opportunity to grow as an educator, having just done a ton of additional training out of state for a year, and was building my resume in huge ways at school, but also was privately struggling with the second largest depression of my life which lead to me having a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol, which in many ways stole a few years from me. Since then, I have grown significantly in realigning my values and have now been sober for over six months and fifteen months since my last bout with alcohol where I walked with a lot of shame. However, both of these sides are very, very real and very true of me.
We are more than our smiling faces. But, please do not dismiss the smiling face as a fake face. Rather, we can all try to see more and give grace for the more. We all have stories to tell, or to hold tight, but we all have stories. We all have pieces.
Please start sharing your pieces and please start seeing the pieces of others.
Encourage one another when they have great wins but also encourage them in the unseen sorrow.
Start looking at people as pieces and strive to help build the puzzle, one interaction at a time.
A bit more about how I got here:
I am currently thirty six years old. Yes, I did just have to stop and think about that because I have now become the age that you do not know your age immediately upon being asked. But, I am 36 years old and it has taken me 35 of these years to actually begin to know who I am and become comfortable in my own skin. I have come to this place after a series of lots of lows, some highs, lots of love, therapy, refection, Jesus, and time.
I am an 3 on the Enneagram. If you have not learned about the Enneagram yet, do it. It has opened up my eyes on how to love and accept myself and has also really helped me to love and accept the ones who I walk with. Threes are achievers. Threes often define themselves by their accomplishments. Threes struggle with feeling that they have value or are known without direct words affirming this. Threes also fear that they will be misunderstood. This is a wildly simplified explanation of a three and I am sure I will write heavily on this in the future. But, for today, to help you understand your heart and to understand the hearts of others, I really encourage you to take a deeper look at the Enneagram for yourself. But, some key things to note:
You cannot type someone else. This is about the motivations in your heart, not your behaviors.
While the tests are helpful, you do need to look deeper into each type and be really honest with yourself to help see which type best fits you.
You are not just a number. You can identify closely with the type, but let us also remember we are also individuals.
Do not weaponize the Enneagram to bring others down by being whatever type they identify with, but rather allow this tool to help you to understand people who see the world different than you.
This is not an excuse to keep doing the thing you do because of the type you identify with, but rather gives you the opportunity to see why you do something and help you to grow to see how to do it in a healthy way. (Example: I try to get my value and self-worth from my accomplishments. I did not realize I did this until I studied the Enneagram. Now, I try really hard to remember my self-worth does not come from what I accomplish and to be okay with who I am just based on whose I am. This is an ongoing struggle for me.)
This is not a “Christian thing” but rather a tool for anyone. It has become very popular in Christian culture because it allows you to see yourself for how you were designed and also allows you to lean into the grace of the gospel for all that you can grow in.
Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of O Holy Night? Like really listened?
Maybe I had never truly listened before or maybe I have not had this heavy feeling of weary at the holidays before, but when I heard O Holy Night this week, the lyrics shook me.
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining ‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn
-O Holy Night
We, as humanity, are coming at the Christmas season weary.
I do not know what your personal struggles may be at the season, but I know enough to know that you have them.
Typically, I do not like to list out my current struggles because in a lot of ways I feel as though then I am comparing my struggles to yours and thus diminishing either of our hards. Hard is hard is hard.
But in an effort to be vulnerable and also to show you the stature I had when I heard O Holy Night, you should know what has led up in my little family’s life to understand this moment:
My father-in-law passed away from a series of medical issues, on November 8th after spending two weeks in the ICU with his two sons and wife by his side. My spouse and his brother then came home to help us tell our respective children that Grandpa had passed away and then they packed up to go support their mom for a few days. While they were together grieving, they were exposed to Covid. After a week, my husband came home and went into isolation in our home, thus taking over our master bedroom and putting me on the couch, unable to hug my grieving husband. While in isolation, my husband developed Covid from his exposure. Thanksgiving came and our three kids and I did not get to spend the day with our favorite human. Also, let us remember, Grandpa also is not celebrating Thanksgiving with us…and neither is Grandma, who is alone now. During this time, another family member who was close to the grieving process of my husband’s father was hospitalized with Covid. Oh and also, we had to switch to distance learning because Covid is running rampant here and I am both a parent of students in distance learning and a teacher. So, everything is a lot.
Heavy. Hurt. and then I heard the lyrics.
the weary world rejoices
O Holy Night
And finally, I had a word for all that I have been feeling: weary.
So many of us are weary right now. You may be weary from employment issues, social unrest issues, equality issues, addiction issues, fertility issues, health issues, money issues, parenting issues, pandemic issues, life issues.
The crazy thing that makes me pause is that all these issues, accept for pandemic issues, were present in life before the pandemic began. However, right now, we as humanity are feeling one massive issue collectively, on top of all other life issues that have always been there. This has the opportunity to draw us together because we can all feel the collective heaviness that is right now. We collectively are weary.
We are a weary world but we have reason to rejoice.
Life is hard. Life between the two gardens is hard. It just is. Sin -not your individual sin so keep reading. I am not blaming any one person.- But sin entered the world in chapter three of the first book of the Bible. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible and it only takes three chapters of it for us to have sin enter the world. Chapters one and two tell us how God had this plan as He created creation and it was all good. All good. There was no death, no shame, no anger, no need, no jealousy, no suffering. It was all good. Then sin entered the world and it is just the pits after that until we enter the other garden, which is Heaven.
So here we are, between two gardens, living in a hot mess of the world and we are weary. This year we can feel the weariness. But, we have reason to rejoice. Rejoice because this is so not how it is supposed to be and one day, it won’t be. It just won’t be.
The lyrics go on to say:
He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger
O Holy Night
Yes! He knows our need. Oh my word, does He know our need and our weaknesses. He knows it all and fierecely loves us anyways. That is reason to rejoice.
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
O Holy Night
Love. Peace. Joy.
These are amazing reasons to rejoice. As you read God’s word, you see the theme of love, peace, and joy written all over it. It is not the condemnation that many feel religion brings. No, faith is not the laws, but rather the grace by faith.
This season is a season of joy because our savior has come and He will deliver us from this weary, weary place. It was never supposed to be this way. He can bring us peace. He wants us to show love and we are so deeply loved by Him.
So as we walk in the heavy, we have hope. So much hope. We can rejoice as we will not be in this ick forever.
And, there is some Earthy peace in knowing that this weariness is not something that is unique to our current human experience in 2020. Almost 200 years ago, a man, Adolphe Adam, felt this weariness in 1847, as he composed O Holy Night and turned his hope to Jesus.
I have been known to try to escape all the hard things by avoidance, numbing, or literally running away. Hard stuff is hard and why would anyone knowingly put themselves through the hard? That seems counter-cultural.
I have been thinking about this much more lately as life keeps getting more difficult. More social unrest. More political opinions. Covid numbers climbing. Personal tragedy. Life is really hard. And my default button is to run from it.
Avoidance. Numbing, Escaping.
However, God in his amazing mercy, prepared me for the road that we would be facing collectively as humanity and personally as a family, in the year before this. I wrote about this in Mountains and Valleys. He taught me to run towards him, rather than away from problems. He broke me hard and built me back together with a shifted heart that has learned to really lean in to the lessons.
So here I am, in a season where everything around me is changing and the phone just keeps bringing more reminders of the ick in the world, yet my heart is not running away. I am trying my best to show up for the lessons. What is God teaching me right now?
Covid is out of control. Numbers are sky-rocketing. My classroom, which is my safety blanket of normalcy and full of sweet 1st grade faces, is in jeopardy. There is nothing I can do to change this. There is a lesson there. Am I learning that I have idolized my career and need to keep that in check? Or am I learning that education and the impact of a teacher far extends the classroom walls?
People are ill. Very ill. Not covid ill, just life is hard and people get very sick, ill. What lessons can we gain from their suffering? What is the legacy we are leaving? Are there things we should say to those we love that we put off? Are there choices we are making that our older self will be grateful for or wish we had done differently? Are we loving one another in hardship and in celebration as we should? I want to learn these lessons.
Social unrest and political turmoil is making each day a bit more rocky. How are we handling things? How are we stepping into the situation? Are we avoiding having the hard conversations, as my previous self would have? Or are we gaining the courage to say the hard things but say them laced in love and do our part to bring us back together? Are we working towards reconciliation in our actions or are we allowing division to further spread?
See the thing is, bad and hard things are going to happen. That is how life is. However, we can make sure that the suffering is not in vain. I think that is how we can honor the hardships we see others going through by showing up for the lessons that we are being taught and apply the new wisdom to make sure the life we are living, is lived well.
I was an escapist. Now, I am showing up for the lesson.
Collectively we are facing some serious ick that we have not faced before.
Pandemic. Social unrest. Election year. Etc.
and then social media sparking opinions on it all and turning people against one another.
It is a hotbed of straight up mess.
Our world has experienced social unrest before. Our world has experienced a pandemic before. And our world experiences a presidential election every four years. However, this looks so much different now because
1- it is all happening at the same time
2-social media gives us all a chance to share our opinion loudly without having to see the hearts of those we are sharing with
We have somehow forgotten that we are in this together. Collectively. We are turning on one another, rather than walking forward towards unity in love. Yes, we will have different opinions, which is the most amazing thing about perspective. However, we need to be listening with our hearts first and moving towards unity, laced in love, in order to move us to a positive place of change.
No matter where you stand on any of the issues occuring in our society right now and really, everyone has a stance, I think we can collectively say that right now is a bummer. It is hard.
All of a sudden you realize that people you deeply love think different than you. That is not the hard part. This is where growth happens if we open our ears and our hearts, before our mouths.
But… sometimes you also realize that people you deeply love think different than you and are not accepting of how you think.
Or worse yet, people you deeply love think different than you and you are not accepting of how they think. Ouch.
We cannot change how others act or how they perceive us. But we can change how we act and how we perceive others. We can choose to put on love and layer our hearts with grace in order to still see and hear the person we love and to see their view.
I am not saying that we cannot have our own opinions. We need to. What are our values and how can we walk in them? However, I think the way in which we share our opinions can be done in a way that works towards unity, rather than division.
We all know the problems right now.
No. We do not. I do not know your perspective. I only know my own. So sit with me and share your perspective with me. I learned through a previous struggle that it is really hard to dislike someone once you’ve sat down and had a cup of coffee with them. I think there is a lot of truth to this. It doesn’t mean I will have their same opinion, but I can see their perspective.
But, we need to sit with each other and have two sided conversations in order to truly hear the perspective of others. Social media allows for only one sided conversations, often spewing one view, without allowing for reflective dialogue between the person sharing and those receiving the view on their newsfeed. I encourage us all, myself included, to have the hard conversations with those we love, rather than using social media to passive aggressively share our thoughts without allowing for dialogue. This is a huge challenge for me, as I despise conflict <insert all the yucky feelings> but I am learning we will not grow unless we lean into the hard stuff. So, I will try to lean in.
We need to work actively to not allow this season to divide us. On the otherside of this ick, we are going to need our people to get us through whatever ick comes next. There will be more ick. That is just how life goes.
How can we use this current season to draw us closer?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful.
– Colossians 3:12-15
I think this is when I must share my email address incase you would like to take this current one sided conversation into a two sided one: email@example.com