Finding Virtue in the Virtual

Virtual church is not working for me.

Attending church was the one day I absolutely counted on to dress up a little, force myself to put on a decent amount of makeup, and head out to enjoy the company of the faithful, learn awesome biblical truths, and belt out joyful worship songs in a group setting. Afterward, (I remember fondly…) we’d hang out and talk. My granddaughters would burst out of their classes and join us at the high tops in the lobby and we’d ooh and ahh over their latest creations. Friends would pause on their way out. We’d chat and catch up.

Now, I slouch to the couch and turn on YouTube with a sigh. I alternately gaze at my phone and the TV, because, hey, who is there to judge me? It’s too easy to be distracted at home. And I’ve begun starting at the teaching part, skipping announcements and worship songs. Because…well, it’s weird to sing alone in my house, and my husband won’t sing with me because he definitely thinks it’s strange, and so there you are.

Just not the same.

My husband and I have tried masking up and attending church, which is even weirder. As though we’ve entered an alien space where people are afraid of each other, and if we do try to share a few words, conversation is muffled and hard to understand because we are speaking through two or three layers of cloth. Not to mention that we are marched in and out of the auditorium like unwilling soldiers in an Orwellian tale.

On the up side (and there always is one) I have a much higher regard for handwashing, and give it a full twenty seconds. The tireless employees that wipe down and scrub and disinfect everything in sight, in addition to their other responsibilities, have my undying respect. I’m grateful my husband works at home and does not have to battle life in an office, which has got to be incredibly hard right now. ZOOM has been a lifesaver, and at least a connection with the outside world in which masks are unnecessary.

Life is stressful at best right now and I am pressing hard into my time with God each morning. I pray for our president, and our country. I pray for justice and righteousness to prevail. I pray for our economy, which is bouncing around like a ping pong ball, and I of course pray for the plague to dissipate and life to resume. Wisdom during a time such as this is elusive, but I reach out to God for true and honest wisdom to help me accomplish the things I’m called to do…be a good grandmother, a good wife and mother; continue to write books and not bemoan the current state of affairs which precludes an in-person book launch. The deep divisiveness of the political climate plus the hostility of left-wing rioters has affected many close relationships. Keeping channels of communication open is harder, now, and another thing that keeps me on my knees.

I’m so grateful God is my source, and not circumstances. With the amazing power of prayer, the stress, division, and fear of the unknown retreat. I have even learned to wear a mask without complaining! When we are powerless over circumstances, God lifts us above them and helps us persevere with dignity and grace.

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast (that is, committed and focused on You in both inclination and character), because he trusts and takes refuge in You (with hope and confident expectation).” Isaiah 26:30

 

 

 

 

Messes and Milestones

2019 was a mess.

I’ve read and re-read my journal entries for the year, amazed at the messes, encouraged by the forward motion in spite of. Last year’s blog post around this time reflected my broken, angry heart. This year, I’m resting in the knowledge that my frail attempts at fixing things is laughable at best and God is patiently waiting for me to take my hands off situations and let Him work.

I’ve made a habit of prayerfully considering an attribute to shoot for, a word to measure my personal and spiritual growth each year. 2019’s word was ‘hope’.

Boy, did I ever need it. My weak and selfish humanity did not have the strength to trot the addict in my life off to another couple of rehabs; nor did it have the strength to list fear imageand sell a house, then pack and arrange a huge move. It didn’t have the strength to nurse-maid a husband’s recovery from shoulder surgery, nor did it have the wisdom to help a daughter navigate through a tragic miscarriage, another scary pregnancy and a brain injury when her baby was born. It didn’t particularly enjoy the heart-wrenching disappointment of losing a publishing contract after two years of fighting for one because the publisher decided to close its doors, or the dark discouragement that followed.

It was not a year I wanted to showcase on Facebook, where life seems grand all the time. In truth, we all struggle with individual battles and hole up in our “emotionally unavailable” closets from time to time.

 

thunderstorm-6.jpgGod never promises us a life without messes. He did however, promise to be with us through them, and use them to help us grow in grace, perseverance, patience, gentleness and kindness if we seek Him with a mind to ask for help. As I’ve looked back over the years, my life is messy but it is also full of fabulous milestones. Milestones that I couldn’t have accomplished in my own strength. As I whined about the messes and asked him for help, God gave me His strength for my weakness, His mercy for my harshness, His perseverance for my longing to give up, His forgiveness for others who had offended me when I had no idea how to forgive.

I am so thrilled to report that in spite of my attempts to ‘fix’ things in 2019, the addict in my life is out of rehab, on the road to real recovery. Though nervous about it, my husband and I moved into a new home that has turned out to be a bigger blessing than we could’ve ever imagined, my daughter’s baby miraculously recovered and at this point is happy, healthy and perfect, and my husband’s shoulder is healing nicely. These are big ‘wins’ for sure, but the milestones (actions or events marking significant changes or stages in development) they represent are even bigger. Milestones of increased faith, which means less hand-wringing and more trust. Milestones of less self-effort and paying more attention to  God’s signpostsspring-3.jpg along the way. Milestones of less anxiety and hopelessness. More reliance on the truth of God’s awesome promises and less reliance on voices shouting at us to be more, buy more, do more. 2019 was a year of big messes, but fortunately, the bigger the mess, the bigger the milestone. He promises to uses everything (even the failures) for good in our lives, and I believe it.

This year my word is ‘authentic’. A meaning of this word I like is “not false or copied genuine; real. Representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself.” I want to avoid the exhausting task of trying to be the person that everyone else needs or wants me to be. My goal for 2020 is to care more what God requires of me than about what people expect of me.

Should be quite messy.

I sense a bunch more milestones coming up!