I’d love to personally invite you to this virtual event. I am so honored to be a presenter, but even more, I’m exited to listen to and learn from the other ladies.
This is a FREE event, and all you need to do is sign up at the link below to receive emails with the video interviews. You can watch them on your own time.
We hope this will encourage you during this crazy and difficult season – and beyond.
“I just want something to hang my hat on!” I whined to my husband. The funny thing is, before that moment, I’d probably never uttered that phrase in my entire life. I definitely wasn’t wearing a hat. This quarantine seems to be leading us to say and do new things.
But, I meant it. I was telling my husband that I was having a rough day and felt sad about not having plans I could look forward to and count on.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve looked forward to things. I’m not just the type of person who makes plans and puts dates on the calendar, but one who truly and enthusiastically looks forward to those things. You could say I hang my hat, and my hope, on what’s to come.
And to be honest, that has been a difficult aspect of this current season for me. Because right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m not sure what I can look forward to. What plans can I really count on? Where can I hang my imaginary hat?
I am in a mental void of sorts. What I’m missing is hope.
The funny thing is, my eternal hope is strong and secure. I long for Heaven and truly trust God in the midst of this pandemic. I know that He is in sovereign control, and deep down, that is all I need for peace and hope. It really is. But in the day-to-day temporary and earthly moments, I am struggling.
I’ve thought about this a lot, trying to make some sense of it. I feel guilty that I struggle when so many others have circumstances much worse than my own. I feel guilty that I struggle because there are so many blessings in my life. I feel guilty when I struggle because I do have such wonderful, secure, eternal hope. What is my problem?
But in the course of my struggle, when I’m being honest with myself about my feelings and “humanness,” several passages from the Bible come to mind. They help me put a mental picture to my issues, and perhaps fill up the void I’ve been experiencing with some clarity.
One passage is Acts chapter 27. I recently read and discussed this passage via Zoom with my Bible Study Fellowship group. We recapped the facts first: Paul was a prisoner who was being taken to Rome via sea for trial. On the way, a “northeaster,” a hurricane force wind, came upon them and the whole crew, including the other prisoners, thought they were going to die. They had tried several things to save themselves. They had run ropes around the ship to attempt to hold it together, they had thrown down the anchor hoping it would keep them from hitting a sandbar, they had thrown their cargo overboard, and after those efforts failed, they lost their temporary and earthly hope.
Then, Paul encourages them by telling them, “…not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.” He goes on to explain that the night before, an angel had stood beside him (I like that detail, it’s comforting!) and had given him a message of hope.
“Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”
Paul then tells the crew, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:22-26)
They are to take courage, if they stay with the ship they will be saved. But this is not a time when Jesus calms the storm. This is a time when the storm keeps raging and Jesus saves those who are in the midst of it.
As we discussed the passage, I pictured the scene in my mind, and honestly, it had me on the verge of seasickness. I could feel the ship rocking, the pounding waves, and the relentless noisy wind. I would have hated those conditions! Compared to my current circumstances it’s quite the contrast! My “ship” is a comfortable house, firmly planted on the ground, stocked with food, and not containing prisoners, but my loved-ones. Yet, my temporary and earthly hope has been shaken. I am continually disappointed when plans are “thrown overboard” and lost. I want something tangible to hang my imaginary hat upon, and yet those things are being blown by the relentless winds of change.
My eternal hope is secure, yet my earthly hope is shaken. This is a time when the storm keeps raging and Jesus saves me in the midst of it.
This brings me to another passage of Scripture, Hebrews 16. In this passage, God is talking about His promises to us, and how they are trustworthy. He will not change or let us down. Verse 19a says, “ We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
It seems we’re back to the ship analogy. The anchor represents our hope. My eternal hope is what holds me safely and keeps me where I need to be. But I realize that even when an anchor is thrown out, the ship is still tossed about. The storms of life can still cause pounding and pain and lead to struggles with temporary and earthly hope. This is what I’m experiencing now, as I try to hang my imaginary hat on something that will be rock solid. It’s not working because I’m being tossed about by the winds of change and confusion and unknown. I’m feeling a bit seasick.
But just like Paul and his shipmates, I must stay with the ship to be saved, but I may experience some pain while I wait.
My eternal hope in Christ is secure. The anchor holds and that will not change. However, my earthly ship is getting a little beat up right now. I think it’s okay to admit that. I think it’s okay to feel a little sick about it. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
So, in this temporary and earthly storm, there is no perfect trite answer that’s going to make it all better. It’s not looking like one of those moments where Jesus says, “Peace, be still,” and it’s just over and everything is calm. (Mark 4:39). Instead, it looks like our ship is getting pretty tattered. There is no earthly place I can hang my hat right now and be certain it is there to stay. No, the ship is being tossed and thrown about and it’s rough. At times I think I will lose my hat, and my lunch, over the edge.
But I’m going to stay with the ship. My anchor is secure. My eternal hope will not disappoint me. And I can take courage that God is with me, right beside me. And I’ll forget about my hat for a while and instead, lean my head on Him.
As the COVID-19 virus continues to affect our world and our daily lives, I have been reminded of another time in my own life when my plans were canceled, and fear of the unknown loomed heavy. As I’ve reflected on that time, I’ve been comforted by the reminder of lessons learned.
Because these lessons were derived from pain and trial, I certainly don’t want to take them lightly or waste them by not applying them when they could once again be relevant and uplifting. Therefore, it is with that heart and motive that I share these thoughts with you.
In 2007, my husband and I were told that our then only child, our two-year-old son, Karson, had cancer. Our toddler entered a three-year chemotherapy regimen involving port chemo, oral chemo, steroids, 22 spinal taps, injections, and more. Karson’s immune system was hit hard, and we therefore had to self-quarantine for months on end. We spent the first year of his treatment in very strict quarantine; wiping down surfaces and hand sanitizing became second nature to us. We practiced social distancing, even with relatives, and we kept in touch by sending VHS tapes of cousins playing and chatting before the days of FaceTime would have made this much easier! I remember looking at my calendar during those years and having absolutely nothing scheduled other than chemo or clinic appointments.
If you had told me, before that dreadful day of Karson’s diagnosis, that I would basically have to cancel my life, I would have told you I couldn’t do it.
If you had told my busy and social self that I’d have to stay home and away from friends and family for the sake of potentially saving someone else’s life, I would have doubted if I could make the right choices to comply.
If you would have told me that many hardships were in my future, the stuff of parenthood nightmares, I may have fallen into the fetal position and begged it not to be so.
And yet, through those three years of pain, isolation, fear, and unknowns, there was goodness too. There was mixture of tears and laughter, dread and hope, exhaustion and persistence.
And three responses rose to the top of the heap of emotions.
Grief, gratitude, and giving.
I grieved. Oh, did I grieve! I grieved the loss of life as I knew it. I was sad that I would not experience the normal “preschool life” with my little boy. He would not be allowed to have the typical play dates and parties that his buddies enjoyed. And neither would I. I would miss out on many events, and my dreams were shoved to the back burner.
The grief would come in waves. Some days I’d feel in control. I’d be okay. I’ve got this. I can do this. I’d think. Other days, I knew I could not. It was unpredictable and often, life felt surreal. But, I learned to look grief in the eye and call it by name. I didn’t have to like it, but I needed to acknowledge it. How else could I move forward if I did not acknowledge it as a barrier to my healing?
Now, with the changes to our lives and plans due to the Coronavirus, I think we need to grieve. It’s okay to give yourself permission to be sad. I’ve heard of family vacations to Disney being canceled, anniversary trips to Italy sidelined, senior athletic seasons being abruptly cut short. It hurts. These things are heartbreaking and deserve to be grieved. Grief is not reserved for death alone. Grief is valid for any loss. And so I think we should grieve these personal losses, and the changes brought on by this new period of quarantine and social distancing. If they aren’t worth grieving, were they really worth doing in the first place?
In between the waves of grief throughout our long cancer journey, I also experienced swells of gratitude. I learned to be thankful for things to which I’d never before given much thought. A late night playing with toys on the family room floor by the light of the Christmas tree with my little boy who was healthy enough to use his imagination and laugh. Friends who took the time to bring a fast food meal to my front door. The fact we lived in a world where our son could have access to medication and benefit from brilliant minds who commit their time to research.
Gratitude was a game changer for me. It rerouted my train of thought from self-pity to the realization of the gifts I already possessed.
Today, in the midst of the chaos of COVID-19, I hope we can all strive to be grateful. We can hope to spread something that is not viral, a new perspective and goal of aiming to find the good in the difficult. To realize the gifts we have in 2020. Internet connections, which allow virtual meetings, emails, video games, and e-learning. What an amazing opportunity to connect and dream together about how to not just survive, but thrive. Our virtual capabilities are now our reality. Thank goodness we have such a wonderful ability! Board games, television, face-to-face conversations with our quarantine pals, phone calls, books. These things are all gifts. Have we noticed how wonderful they are recently? Have we been thankful for them or have we been taking them for granted? And once again, I’m so thankful for those who dedicate their time and talent to finding treatments, tests, and cures for our ill. It’s impossible for me to fully express my gratitude to these selfless and brilliant individuals.
And finally, the third response that rose out of the fire of our childhood cancer journey was the desire to give. Obviously, I first wanted to give all that was needed to my son. I gave him love, syringes full of medication, rides to the ER, and mashed potatoes at 3:00am when his little steroid-filled body craved them. But I learned to not just think of our family and myself, but to see the bigger picture. There were many families on the 5th floor of our children’s hospital who fought cancer just like us. Many had it worse than we did, and my heart broke for them. I wanted to give back when the timing was right, and in the years since we climbed out of the cancer trenches, wounded, but not lifeless, we have given back. We’ve served on committees, shared our story in front of crowded gymnasiums and banquet halls, attended chemo appointments with other sick children, answered the questions of panicked parents who are following in our path, donated our money, and more. And I don’t say that to get credit or recognition. I say this to show you that the desire to give grew out of pain. And it produced beautiful fruit!
In the midst of this pandemic, I hope we can all remember to give. We can remember there is a bigger picture. It’s not all about us. There are many who are weak and marginalized who can use our help. Part of that help looks like us following directions to quarantine and utilize social distancing. Part of that help may be leaving some items on the shelves once we have enough. Not plenty, but enough, so that others can get what they need as well. Some of that giving may be with your own children while they do their schooling at home. What atmosphere are you creating in your home in which they are learning? Is it one of panic, dread, and complaining, or one of hope despite grief and gratitude despite disappointment?
In April of 2010, our son received his last dose of chemotherapy. That too did pass. Now he’s 15, cancer-free, and healthy. We didn’t know this would be our happy ending when we first heard his diagnosis. We didn’t know that someday he’d be a tall, smart, and happy high school student instead of a chubby, bald and sickly child. But our journey did come to an end. We eventually returned to our regularly scheduled life, though we were changed tremendously through the battle. We learned many things, not the least of which were three main responses: grief, gratitude, and giving.
This Coronavirus pandemic will someday be finished as well. We’ll look back at these weeks and months and tell our next generations about our losses and quarantine adventures. This too shall pass. It’s true. And what do you we want to remain? What will rise to the top of the heap when all the dust settles?
For me, I hope to once again find I’ve learned to grieve, have gratitude, and give. Lessons far too precious to waste.
My youngest daughter snuggled into me this morning on the recliner. She had just gotten out of bed for the day and carried her seemingly ever-present-when-she-first-wakes-up purple blanket down with her. She rubbed it against her face.
She’s in first grade, so I delight in these moments. They are becoming increasingly rare.
“I’m excited about today.” She said softly.
“Why?” I asked, expecting her to tell me she likes the fact it’s picture day at school, or something she is planning to play at recess.
“It’s Neighbor Day weekend!”
I laughed, and before I could correct her, her big sister chimed in.
“Not Neighbor Day, Kenzie! LABOR day.” Karly said as she shook her know-it-all third grade head.
“Then when is Neighbor Day?” Kenzie asked.
Karly told her there was no such thing.
I corrected her.
“Actually,” I said, “EVERY day is Neighbor Day. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and he didn’t say just one certain day of the year. He meant every day.”
Karly gave me an eye roll. And then she grinned.
“Yeah. I guess you’re right.” She said.
If only we were given a three-day weekend to celebrate Neighbor Day every week.
But nonetheless, I hope to celebrate today.
And every day.
Happy Neighbor Day to you! Today, and always.
This blog was inspired by the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to spend 5 minute blogging based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: NEIGHBOR.
The five of us knelt by the couch in our family room. Our hair was blonder and our skin more tan than three months before when summer began. Now it was the night before school started back in session. The eve of routine and alarm clocks.
My husband asked if I’d be the one to pray aloud for the family as we prepared for the next morning and new season of life. I agreed, but took a deep breath first as the thoughts of all the transitions to come filled my mind.
Our oldest child would be heading to middle school in the morning at a somewhat ungodly hour. Many days he’ll leave before the sun comes up. He had practiced his locker combination and reviewed his new schedule sufficiently, yet it felt like the unknowns still trumped our preparation.
Our middle child was off to second grade, where reading skills and independence increase at a surprising but encouraging rate. She’s turning into a little lady right before my eyes.
And the biggest transition that was looming over me and causing my shoulders to be tense with dreaded anticipation was sending our youngest child to Kindergarten. After twelve years of staying home full-time with my children, I felt a sadness about my impending empty day-time nest.
Finally I began to pray aloud. My voice quivered a few times as thanked God for His goodness and the gift of a wonderful summer. I had to swallow several times and clear my throat as I asked Him to guide our children this school year and to give them each the two things I most often request on their behalf: wisdom and courage.
Wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it.
As I said “Amen” my son glanced my way to verify his suspicion that I was holding back the tears. I shrugged and made small talk about getting up to bed. Transitions are hard enough for the kids without them realizing Mommy is about to melt.
Before they got their last drinks of water for the evening and headed up the steps we gathered in a circle and put our hands together. We were as ready as we could be to face the newness.
Now five days later with a week of school under our belts we’ve dealt with a few highs and lows. We’ve rejoiced about sitting next to best friends and eating really good middle school cafeteria lunches (really?). We’ve also had sobbing at the bus stop wishing for more days at home with Mommy. My heart and neck muscles have been wrenched even further. We’ve had excitement over new opportunities to play in the school band, and disappointment for getting scolding for taking too many grapes in the 2nd grade lunch line. Oh, the grapes of wrath!
But we have each other still.
We’ve got each other’s back and we’ve wiped each other’s tears. We’ve delivered forgotten items to the school and slapped each other on the back with joy over new successes.
And so dear family, my favorite home team, here’s to a great school year and to acceptance of all the transitions that comes our way.
May we have the wisdom to know how to live well, and courage to make it happen!
This post is linked up with the Five Minute Friday blogging community. Each Friday a one-word prompt is given here and bloggers are challenged to write for about five minutes about whatever come to mind based on the word. This weeks’ word: TEAM
My dad called me earlier this summer and sent me on a mission. He was out of town and afraid Costco would sell out of a large raft he’d seen and he thought we needed it for our upcoming lake vacation.
Operation vacation floatation accepted.
And then I stood frozen in the aisle at Costco. I stared at the box that contained the said raft and dialed Dad’s number. Actually, I shouldn’t use the word raft. The thing comfortably seats seven adults and boasts six cup holders. It may be visible from space.
“You know this thing is ginormous, right?” I said into my phone with raised eyebrows as I tried to figure out how to lift the box into my shopping cart.
“Yes, it will be fun. Just grab it. I’ll pay you back.”
Never mind the story of how I got it into my van with only my six-year-old’s assistance, and how we blew it up and got it into the water and anchored at the lake.
Bottom line: we’ve got our own island now. Zip code not included.
But here’s the problem. There’s no good way to get on this thing. No ladder. No handles. No flight attendant holding out her hand for assistance.
My process to board the island resembles a walrus rolling onto shore, only not nearly as graceful.
One time my son, who was already on the island, offered his assistance. He pulled me up and our momentum continued until I knocked us both over and landed on top of him.
“Are you okay?” I asked once I found which way was up.
“Yeah, you didn’t hurt me, you just held my head under water for awhile.”
Oh, that’s all. Glad it wasn’t more serious.
The kids are the most successful at boarding the island, but teenagers and grandmas alike have had some serious island arrival issues. We’ve laughed at each other and cheered our successes. Sometimes we tell others to look away so as to save some embarrassment. Other times we own the hilarity.
And as in life on dry land, it helps to know we’re not alone in the struggle.
Sometimes we help each other by offering a hand. Other times we make life better by laughing together at our failures and encouraging each other to try again. Sometimes we take each other down in our desire to be a team, and sometimes we lift each other up in triumph.
But we’re in this life full of struggle together. It’s a lot better that way.
No man is a floating island.
This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are invited to write for about five minutes about a topic after being given a one-word prompt.
This week’s word: HELP