Good Gifts Within the Battle

I (like most people these days) am so thankful for those warriors on the front lines of this pandemic: teachers, parents who are co-teaching, store clerks, nurses, doctors, delivery persons, truck drivers, and so many other “essentials”. My husband also fights a battle as he goes to work each day. and I (as many of you) fight my own by staying home. If you join me in this challenge to stay home and you are feeling lonely, alone, frustrated, overwhelmed, or just in need of an encouraging story this is for you.

My conflict with isolation seems small in comparison to the struggles and challenges of many at this time.. I am grateful for each and every time I have a connection with family and friends through phone calls, Face Time, texts, or email. However, some days the lack of getting out and having personal interaction can feel very real and very trouncing.

Monday morning I woke up feeling broken and somewhat defeated. I had been fighting the battle of isolation for 31/2 weeks (as have most of you) and the alone, the four walls, the lack of being able to see and hug my grandchildren or face-to- face talk with my adult children, not being able to connect with friends at the gym or go out to lunch, and the frustration of not feeling useful in a time of such need was all getting to me; not hugging anyone was getting to me. I am a very social person and social distancing was taking its toll.

Each day I have tried to employ strategies to stand firm in the midst of this challenge. I read scriptures, pray, document the blessings I can think of from the previous day, seek guidance on what I should. do for that day, and nurture a quiet reliance on the Lord. I know I am fortunate in so many ways and feel great empathy for the suffering of others at this time and yet, every day can feel like a series of offensive maneuvers and retreats against the battalion of emotions I wrestle with. Monday felt like a day of defeat. “Lord, I need your help.” I wrote in my journal and then I wrote it again. “Lord, I need your help.”

I pulled out my prayer list and I prayed for peace and comfort for others, I also prayed it for myself. As I faced the long hours that stood in front of me, I prayed for someone to call me, to hear a voice on the other end of the phone. I was hesitant to reach out to family or friends myself with more than a text because I have struggled since I was very young with a worry about being a bother to people. Yes, I know, please pray for me-yet for what happened next it is an important detail to my story.

Have you ever just been sitting still and had a picture pop into your head out of nowhere? As I was praying that day it happened to me. I saw the screen of my phone with a name at the top of it indicating that person was trying to call. That was weird. Though this was a person I loved very much, it was not someone who would (or ever had) just picked up the phone to call and chat-nor had I ever called her for just a visit. We text, or send pictures, but voice-to-voice chats. The strange picture registered in my mind and I continued praying.

When I was finished, I began my other rituals for getting through my new normal,. I fixed breakfast, exercised, and paid bills online and sat down to do some reading. Suddenly, I jumped as my phone rang. I looked down and the name appeared on my phone just as I had pictured it that morning. I was stunned! We talked for a minute about how we were doing and then I began to weep, “I’m sorry” I explained through pretty embarrassing sobs. “This is going to sound crazy, but I saw your name show up on my phone while I was praying for comfort and connection this morning and then you called. I know this has to be from the Lord. Thank you for listening. Thank you for calling.” She seemed a bit taken aback at my degree of emotion, but I could feel the grateful joy of being comforted right when I needed it surge through me and come straight out of my eyes. While her call was a blessing on several levels, the absolute confirmation that the Lord hears and I am never really alone was overwhelming.

Later that day, another very dear friend called. We cried, laughed, prayed together, and comforted each other. I was even given the opportunity to help her in a way that made me feel useful. This too was a wonderful gift of comfort.

The above picture was taped on my outside window as a surprise from members of my wonderful family. It caused buckets of joy tears and girded me to keep fighting. What an incredible gift!

James 1:17
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

My friend calls it “tender mercies”. I call it “hidden treasures”. I asked her if she thinks God is showing Himself more vividly during these difficult times. Her answer was amazing to me. She said, “No, I think they happen often. I just think we are more open to seeing them right now.” Wow! Even in the midst of this very hard time in history, there are gifts of comfort and peace and hope. He is risen! He is alive!He is there!

If I could encourage you today, it would be to be mindful of His good gifts in the midst, to offer yourself gentle grace during the hard moments and/or hard days, and to be ready to reach out to those who may really need your voice on the other end of the phone. Today I will fight back against the voices that tell me not to bother people and do some calling myself.

I am grateful for you for in my life. I pray for each of you the gift of comfort and peace during this difficult time. Thank you for letting me share and Lord, thank you for giving me the courage. In Jesus’ name, Amen

P.S. A huge thank you to all of you who are keeping our country going and our kid’s educated!

Coloring the Gray Days

            Do you ever feel like you are walking through a landscape of gray days? Do you wake up to lusterless? Go through your day through a sheen of blah? Ever think about how you color your world?  What does the palette of your past look like? the hues of your future? The painting of your present? 

Shortly after I retired, I went back to the elementary school where I was taught for 14 years and I was nervous. I was afraid I would be melancholy and regret my difficult decision to leave. When I walked out the door on that last day (after a week of kind sentiments from beloved parents and students, and the incredible people I worked with) I painted my 26 year long teaching experience with rosy colors- shades of purples and pinks. 

Six months later, I attended a birthday lunch at the school in honor of my amazing principal and as I walked in, the rosy picture became splattered with the challenging browns and stressful fire reds of real elementary school. As co-workers told the adventures of the day (there is never a dull moment in elementary school) I remembered.  The colors morphed and deepened.  Then I walked down the old familiar halls to visit my previous students. Amidst the hugs, the tears, the joy of seeing them the grays muted. A vibrant rainbow- a kaleidoscope burst forth- a “whole picture” active and alive with glorious hue. By the time I climbed into my car to leave, I took with me an authentic portrait of my school career painted with all the colors of joy and struggles and I knew that (at least for now) it was time for new experiences in a different field.  As I drove away, I was so thankful to have worked so many years at a job of many colors.

            For a long time, I looked at my childhood through one monochromatic lens.  It was coal black. a picture of worthlessness, hurt, and anger.  Then one day I learned about a Savior who had forgiven me and I made the decision to pick up the brush and apply some forgiveness to the canvas of my own past.  The black page became animated with streaks of tangerine orange and pear green. Wow! It was a silent shout- a different perspective- a more authentic depiction. I added lemon yellow gratitude, and candy red lessons-learned and the past became a new likeness-the black was still there but now infused with pigments that were simply beautiful.

I applied the same strokes of forgiveness, gratitude, and lessons-learned to my past failed relationships-deeply etched with “victim gray”.  It worked! The swirling distortion of the picture of my past began to unbend and untwist into a true and rich landscape. Yes, there are hurts, even devastating betrayals, but there is much more. A whole healing picture!

            To the blank canvas of my future I add a different color scheme. To the ashen gray of worry, “what ifs”, or fear, I try to roll on those incredible colors of purple: lavender and lilac, plum and pomegranate and all those royal shades in between.  It is a mix of red and blue.  It is hope.  Adding hope to what the future might look like turns a dim sketch into a mural of possibilities.

           I have a choice about how to color my day today. I can let the leaden charcoal of discouragement, worry, fear, anger, etc. (and believe me sometimes I do) color my present or I can primer my daily canvas with an openness to a “whole picture” perspective. Then add a background of forgiveness (sometimes in spurts all day), gratitude, and lessons-learned. I can then splash my picture with hope (even dot the whole thing with apple-red adventure) and finally, seal it with a protective sheen of faith. I am not always good at this.  In fact, somedays are a combination of gray and/or black-an accumulation of all colors but lacks the Light to allow them to show. Once in a while even picking up the brush is a struggle, but if I try, I am often rewarded with a rainbow of richness- all part of this illustration of my life.

  • Forgiveness: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Mark 11:25 
  • Gratitude: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
  • Lessons-Learned: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:25
  • Hope: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13
  • Faith: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Dear Readers: To join a direct link to this blog and more, please email me at sonflowersandsoul@gmail.com. I would love to directly communicate with you. As always, thank you so much for your support! With love in Jesus, Kristy