Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep

Today begins phase one of reopening here in Spain. The first step toward the new normal. And of course every country is doing it differently and everyone has something to say about it.

Is Spain doing it right? Are various states in the USA doing it right? As much as we like to think we know, no one does, and we all have a different perspective.

There’s the idea that we don’t really react to the weight of something until it affects our personal life. An issue doesn’t really take up space in our brains or hearts until it comes knocking at our door or in our neighborhood, affects us or our friends or family. To an extent, it’s true.

Our experience inevitably changes how we approach, see, and handle an issue or situation.

Here in Spain, corona (that’s my favorite name for it) is not far from any of us — both physically and emotionally. I’ve had friends who have been hospitalized with corona, others who have held the hands of those dying alone in nursing homes, one who has worked long long hours in the hospital, another whose mother passed away. And of course the physical health aspect is just one part.

It’s knocking on my friends’ door and affecting their lives.

Feeling certain effects of something doesn’t necessarily mean we know what the right, best, or good course of action is. Likewise, being removed from a situation doesn’t automatically mean we see it more clearly and can make the right call.

Both simply mean we understand different things, feel weight in places other people don’t.

Does anyone know the perfect way to handle shutting down or reopening in any country? No. Is everyone’s opinion influenced by the people they know, where they live, and how they’re affected? Yes.

None of us have the wisdom to know what to do or what is best. But, we can know a few important things to do and I think one of those things is this:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” -Romans 12:15-16

Right now some are weeping and some are rejoicing. And some are trying to rejoice over events that should be commemorated with a celebration but are not.

While I can (and should) think critically and share opinions and look at the big-scale picture, I’m not sure that’s what really matters right now. Humbly supporting and loving — through the good and the bad — the individuals I know and “not being wise in my own eyes” is what I want to focus on.

Three Things To Do

Jasper is chill. Confession: I am not always quite as chill about lockdown and everything going on around us as he is.

La imagen puede contener: gato y texto

Some days are fine, others aren’t the greatest. Without being able to go outside and walk off some of the grayness in the soul, I’ve had to get creative. Here are three things I’ve always known but never quite put into practice like I have during these weeks. The truth is, I’m still trying to get these things into my brain. Writing this will help me do that.

We don’t have to wait until we feel like something to do it – in fact we shouldn’t wait for feelings. We should act in order to change our feelings about something, not wait for our feelings in order to act on something. Knowing that, I’ve tried to do these three things when I can tell my heart needs them, if not even more regularly.

1. Singing

Singing like I mean it and singing things I believe. Also singing silly songs while I cook and dance in the kitchen (the neighbors don’t mind). This isn’t just jamming to music, it’s me singing! It’s not pretty, but I love it 🙂 I think in some mysterious way, it’s good for us humans. Makes sense that God tells us to do it.

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalm 59:16)

2. Caring For Others

It’s good for them and good for me (great how it works out that way, right?!).

This one is admittedly a bit hard when we’re truly stuck at home and can’t even wave to a friend from across the road. But you’re underestimating humanity if you think we can’t still think of interesting and creative ways to show love to the people we know (or people we don’t know). It looks different and it doesn’t have to be BIG. It just has to happen. Structure is okay for this. If you have to set a reminder to send a gift to so-and-so or call your grandma (ahem, that’s me), it doesn’t negate the goodness of what you’re doing.

I need to remember that things were never about me and they still aren’t. I’ve not suddenly become a queen and I’m not trying to act like it. Instead, I want to look at others and think of them as the kings and queens!

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Phiippians 2:3)

3. Being Thankful

Thankfulness is not the same as toxic positivity that negates reality. I think we can be thankful, joyful, and peaceful while still sitting in the middle of junk. Thankfulness is not just being positive because we know some “bad” thing will eventually end, it’s being joyful in the middle even when there’s no end in sight.

Over five weeks ago, I started a “Coronavirus Thankful List” that I’ve kept adding to as I think of things. This list has all sorts of things on it, including taste buds, thunder, technology, that we have a balcony, Jesus, chocolate, that I still have a job, and that I enjoy cooking. This list helps me.

Thankfulness roots my heart in humble gratitude and I’m able to see and enjoy the gifts I have all around me. Plus, since I know Jesus, there will always be something for which to be grateful.

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Life Today

I rolled out of bed with a headache this morning. Things are starting to catch up to all of us at this point.

The world continues to reel and we are dizzy with the spin of it. I ache for my affected friends and pray and continue to sit in my home.

My back is rebelling against all that time sitting combined with the unusual living room workouts I’ve been doing. Can’t sit and can’t stand and “I can’t wait until I can go for a walk to work out the kinks,” I thought to myself. Instead, I got creative with a standing desk for today and mentally braced myself for a few more weeks of this.

It is easy to feel as though this life we are living right now, this daily movement confined to a few hundred square feet, is a sort of half-life. Like life is on hold until things return back to “normal.”

But it’s not on hold! This very day is my life. This is no half-life! This is the real deal — today.

Henri Nouwen wisely said, “While optimism makes us live as if someday soon things will get better for us, hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with deep trust that God will never leave us alone.”

And so while I long for future wholeness, I live in the present. Maybe a heart full of hope means not thinking about tomorrow much at all — not worrying about the hardships that are sure to come, nor pining with flimsy optimism for the good days we want.

Instead, I should live firmly planted in the present day, the life I’ve been given. I will ground my feet to the earth (or in my case, the floor) that’s beneath them and live this day as I’ve lived all the other ones of my life: with the grace and strength I’m given.

C.S. Lewis gives a great reminder for our overactive minds: ”Remember, one is given the strength to bear what happens, but not the 101 different things that might happen.”

I have strength for this very day and I’ll live it as if it were the realest day of my life! And it is. I was, quite literally, born for this day.

I’ll live this day in the same way and out of the same identity as I’ve lived all my other days. There is strength and mercy for this present day. Tomorrow morning I’ll get more.

‭ “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-23‬)‭

The Helpless Trust Of Coronavirus

I heard the click-clacking of high-heeled shoes in the hallway — an eerie sound of normality among such silence and seclusion. Was she going to the grocery store? Probably. There’s really no other place we are allowed to go.

As I sat on my couch with a mug and a Bible, I imagined her: well-dressed like a good Spanish woman, color on her lips, purse on her arm, maybe carrying a grocery bag or wheelie cart. And now, most likely, wearing a face mask.

The streets are mostly empty when I look down from my balcony, but, among the police car that often circulates our block, a handful of cars can be spotted. Maybe they’re hospital staff, headed in to work. There are the occasional dog-walkers and grocery-shoppers, outside to do the only two things we can do outside. The ambulance sirens are loud, no longer hiding among other traffic noises.

And here I sit inside, working on my computer and writing and watching movies and studying the Bible and getting creative with living room workouts and reading in the sliver of sun that hits the balcony. And feeling very helpless.

It’s time for creative love, unceasing prayer, and kindness to my neighbor, which very well may only be the person I’m living with. And maybe most of all, it’s time for a new breed of trust in the Lord.

As I’m forced to embrace my helplessness and frailty right now, I remember that my strength was never the force that turned the universe anyway. I’ve always been helpless (it’s a human trait), but here it is, staring me in the face a bit more than usual.

So I’ll do what I can to creatively help and love those around me, but also really flex my trust muscle — standing on the Rock, putting my eyes on our faithful Jesus, and constantly bringing my burdens, and those of the people I love, to Him.

Then, I’ll keep sitting at home with peace and joy, knowing that Christ can never be taken from our hearts and knowing that He who has given grace over and over will give grace for whatever comes.

“For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge, and my savior.” – 2 Samuel 22:2-3

Loneliness

it was run-of-the-mill loneliness. Nothing that other people don’t experience now and then, I guess. What do I know? I can’t feel other people’s feelings.

Either way, it was real, weighty, and it was mine to feel. No one else could feel it or take it or fix it. Where should I heave the weight of it?

My friend’s confused response made sense when I thought back about what I had said: “I feel lonely. I need some alone time.”

As I sat there slumping, thinking about what I needed, feeling the ache of aloneness, I tried to pull myself out of it. I took mental stock of the wonderful people in my life. I also reminded myself that this too would pass. But the loneliness was there, despite the true reminders of all the good in my life. And I had to decide what to do.

I wanted to cut the loneliness and ease the ache. But I knew that the people I could bring around me would only mask the ache for a time.

It’s not that I don’t need people in my life. I do (we all do). Sometimes we need someone to shake us out of a slump and get us out of the house. Sometimes the best thing we can do is awkwardly call on someone to enter into our pain with us rather than sit alone in our spiraling darkness. But this wasn’t the time for that and somehow I knew it.

My loneliness was no sickness that needed to be cured. I just needed to sit alone in the school of loneliness, even if it was uncomfortable or sad.

In his new book, Andrew Peterson talks being alone and meeting God: “The loneliness of the dark field was a prerequisite for the company I felt.”

The aloneness ushered in the company of Christ, our brother and King.

Elizabeth Elliot, no stranger to loss and loneliness said, “Loneliness is a wilderness, but through receiving it as a gift, accepting it from the hand of God, and offering it back to Him with thanksgiving, it may become a pathway to holiness, to glory and to God himself.”

I will not mope and moan, stunting my growth, but I won’t hastily look for a quick fix for loneliness. I won’t let it conquer me, nor will I run from it.

So, for that evening, I sat alone in the loneliness of my own dark field and sought Divine company — to which I have astounding access through Christ! — or no company at all.

Esta bien no estar bien

Llorar en el aeropuerto. Me ha pasado varias veces y no lo recomiendo. Nadie quiere ser esa persona llorando por el terminal, pero si te pasa a ti, hay que aceptarlo.
Hace un par de años, estaba llorando en el aeropuerto justo antes de subir al avión – gotas grandes y no pararon. El chico escaneó mi tarjeta de embarque, me miró y me dijo, “Esta bien no estar bien.”

Empecé a llorar más porque en ese momento no estuve bien y no tenía la energía para ponerme una sonrisa y decir, “Estoy bien.” Respiré y cabeceé con una sonrisa de agradecimiento. No había necesidad de presentarme como una persona perfecta con la vida arreglada para subir al avión. Está bien llorar por el terminal. Está bien no estar bien.

Da algo de libertad cuando alguien te da permiso no estar bien. Un día una conocida me pidió disculpas por ser un Eeyore y no un Tigger ese día. Dijo que estaba desanimada por varios motivos. Le dije, “No me pidas disculpas. Está bien no estar bien.” Me miró y lo reiteró, como si nunca hubiera estado segura de la idea: “Si que esta bien no estar bien, verdad?”

Después me preguntó si la podía usar la frase en su próxima obra de arte. Quizás me haga famosa. O debería ser famoso ese chico que trabaja con la aerolínea, que no me conoció, pero no se encogió al ver mis lágrimas.

¿Por qué te abates, oh alma mía, y te turbas dentro de mí? Espera en Dios; porque aún he de alabarle, Salvación mía y Dios mío.” (Salmos 42:5) Dios puede con mis tristezas y quiere que esté con él, esté como esté. No tengo que arreglarme antes de acercarme a él. Pero tampoco me quedo así, compadeciéndome. Hablo con mi propia alma, dando importancia a lo difícil que estoy viviendo, pero también diciéndome que hay que esperar, hay que cantar, hay que alegrarme en Dios.

“Oye, Rebecca, escúchame, que te tengo que hablar. Te voy a recordar de algunas cosas, alma mía.” Allí está la diferencia. Se puede tener dolor, y reconocerlo, pero aun así tener una paz profundo que solo Dios me da y una alegría que no cambia con las circunstancias de la vida.

Estés donde estés hoy, pases lo que pases, acuérdate que está bien no estar bien. No hay que fingir. Déjate pasar por el duelo. Rodéate con la gente que te va a abrazar sin palabras y después, en el debido tiempo, va a ayudarte a sanar, a aprender del duelo, y a seguir adelante. Y después da a alguien en tu vida el permiso no estar bien contigo si realmente no está bien. Compartamos las alegría de la vida juntos y también las cargas y tristezas.

Quick to do good

Recently I set out on a secret helping mission — the kind where you surprise someone with something they need or secretly do something to help. Secret helping missions are fun.

But this time I was on the bus home, frustrated because my mission had failed. I had a great idea, set out to do it, and it just didn’t pan out. I texted another friend, expressing my frustration and she replied, “So what do you think about the adage ‘It’s the thought that counts’?”

I replied: “Not sure. I think it’s dumb I guess.”

person using smartphone(photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

Because it’s not really the thought that counts, is it? That day on the bus home it wasn’t my thought that counted because the idea in my head meant nothing to the friend I was trying to help.

I’ve said it plenty myself. “Oh well, it’s the thought that counts,” I say when I have a great idea, try to do it, and it just doesn’t work out. It’s the thought that counts.

Or is is the trying that counts?

Good thoughts that don’t turn into action don’t count for much. In the end all the good ideas in the world do nothing to bring comfort, to relieve pain, to encourage, to help, to build up.

Thoughts turned into actions are what count, even if the effort isn’t a perfect, raging success. The trying is what counts. The obedience to do the good thing is what counts. My heart is changed and filled and, if all goes well, the people around me are changed as well.

“Every day you can do one thing you you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.” – Ann Voskamp

person washing fork(photo by Catt Liu)

It’s about the trying, the showing up, the being there, the doing, the putting thoughts into actions, even if those attempts don’t have a 100% success rate. Sometimes helping is awkward. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. It’s okay. The showing up is what matters.

A few months ago I was thinking and praying a lot about what it would mean for me to be quick to do good. Quick to help. Quick to love. Quick to serve. So that if an idea pops into my head, I won’t spend time thinking about it, coming up with why it’s inconvenient, why I don’t have time, or why it would be awkward (and my selfish heart is very good at that!).

Instead, I want to learn how to jump into action, to get right to the good that God put in my mind to do. I want to learn how to let the love of Jesus quickly compel me into action. I want to be quick to be selfless. Quick to go on lots of fun, secret helping missions.

That’s what counts, isn’t it? Being ready to do good, quick to act, efficient at turning thoughts into actions. Quick to serve and make it fun, even if it’s a little messy.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4