Don't Lose Heart - Cling to What is Good (+ Free Printable)
I have hard a hard time finding the words for this post trying to both spur others on and encourage in the midst of COVID-19 sweeping the globe and my country. This post has sat on my laptop for the past two weeks with two sentences painfully written. They weren't right so I wrote again and erased and then wrote again and then erased before writing this today (with plenty of erasing). There are so many voices right now- what do you all need to hear mine for? I have received emails from every list that I've ever been subscribed to and I'm sure you have also. Everyone has an opinion, an angle...and I honestly find it all exhausting to sift through. This was my thought. So I was simply going to be quiet. But, I was reminded that God uses cracked vessels. He uses small things to shame the wise. So here I am.
I want to be clear that I'm just one voice. I'm one person who is experiencing life through my set of circumstances. I hope that nothing I write comes across as dismissive. I see the pain and the uncertainties of our times and my heart hurts for many. I see people losing hope or being consumed by fear who are needing the hope offered in Scripture- that there is something better than this world we know who need to experience the peace only Christ can offer. I see many Christians who don't seem to be beacons of hope but are also consumed by fear and the "what ifs". My friends- this is not how it should be. So, this is a simple post from my perspective and burning heart, hoping to spur you on in both hope and generosity, to encourage you to not collapse in these tough circumstances but to rise above them and to love others into that same hope.
Uncertainties are lurking everywhere right now for people throughout our communities, countries and our world. It can be a bit disconcerting to be in the midst of a global pandemic figuring out how to simply go through another day during lock-down (we have been doing this for 6 weeks now) and this life with a suddenly different normal and different limitations than we've become used to. But- dear ones... don't lose heart.
There is real pain and true loss currently and I don't take that lightly. Essential workers are exhausted, small business owners are shut down and broke and the most vulnerable wonder where their next meals will come from. These are not days of just sunshine and rainbows. But that doesn't mean that there can't be sunshine and rainbows in the midst of the storm.
I just want to encourage us that while some things seem very bleak during this time- and the news doesn't let us forget it, there is still great beauty to be found in the little moments and that one of the ways to cope and move forward as a community is to get our eyes off all of our fears and reach out with love in tangible ways to others. I think it's really important that we acknowledge the pain that many are feeling even if it hasn't yet completely hit our own home. I know depending on where we live (New York City compared to small town USA) can alter our reality quite significantly.
I want to invite us to take caring for others seriously in this time, no matter our political views and opinions on the pandemic and how the government is handling it. Let's choose to turn our gaze upwards first (to Christ) and then outwards. Let's not be just content because our home is cared for and fed. Let's fight for solidarity with a greater community of people. We can take action both in our homes and worldwide. Here are some ways I have been engaging this time intentionally. I want to encourage you to do so as well- it doesn't have to be the same as me, but engage it. Don't let this time be lost to worry, fear, and distractions. Those are thieves. There can be this sneaky thought that if you don't go there and dwell then you're not being "real". I am ALL for real. What I'm not for is your joy and hope and life to be stolen. These things will not bring a good reward. If you're a believer- we are called to beacons of hope.
If you find yourself struggling with fear, I want to encourage you to be honest about it but don't stay there. Talk to a friend, talk to God, ask for prayer. Turn your worries into prayers. Philipians 4:6 has been a verse that I've turned through again and again through life when I have struggled with worrying, "Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." MSG
I have some little things I've been practicing that I hope are encouraging to you. Take what is helpful :)
Ways to love, take heart, and choose hope:
1. Be Present and Intentional Inside of Our Homes (even if you wish you could leave!)
Let's take this time of chaos and let the Lord use it for good in our lives. Let's get to know His peace that surpasses understanding. Let's not miss this time to take inventory of our lives and hearts. As things are stripped down, this is an opportunity to let go of unhealthy distractions, idols, or any things we have attempted to find our security in other than God. How much have we been finding our hope in perceived stability or the economy? We have the opportunity to grow in true trust and say "I trust you, God." If we struggle with saying that, we can turn our prayer to be, "God, help me to trust you!"
We have the opportunity to turn our attention to the little things that are still beautiful. Personally, I've been trying to delight in my kids in a new way. Snuggles have never been so sweet. I've been cooking new dishes in the kitchen because it's the only "adventure" I can go on. We also got chicks. It's something we had talked about doing for a couple of years and it seemed like a good time to give it a go. THAT has been an adventure in itself. I've also been using this time to declutter and simplify instead of mindlessly consume or browsing pretty things online that I don't need.
In the midst of these beautiful things, make no mistake: I hope to not make this sound more poetic than the reality of it is. I am still human. Sometimes for this mama, this quarantine has felt like a pressure cooker and I've been losing my temper more than usual. (sorry fam!). There are times I feel fear trying to jump all over me. At the beginning of this lockdown, I struggled a lot with the unknown and fear. But since then, I have found a peace that truly doesn't make sense given the circumstances. And I don't think I've gotten here simply because I'm extra special. This peace is available to all of us. It doesn't make sense- but it's something that Jesus offers us. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7. This peace isn't just for times of peace and stability- it's for ALL circumstances. So- I'm working on focusing on the good and turning my worries into prayers. I am still in need of grace.
In our homes, we can chose hope by choosing to be grateful in a new way for our needs that are being met that perhaps in the past we have taken for granted. If we are healthy- what a BIG deal! There are soooo many things to be grateful for. We can choose kindness with those we live with. We can let go of the nitpicking and extend the same grace we would like to receive. We can get on our knees in prayer while also looking to ways we can move and show generosity with our material resources. If we have kiddos, we can choose to make this a time of peace for them, a time where they are aware that God cares and gives peace, a time where we have quality family time and make memories together. (tonight the plan is to have a fort building night with the kids and roast marshmallows over a "fire").
2. Be on the Lookout for Ways to Help Our Neighbors and Friends
Consider getting takeout from a local restaurant and supporting their business. Think about any neighbors, family, or friends who may be struggling with isolation, especially those who live alone or are more vulnerable. Reach out with a card or call. If you can, offer to pick up groceries for a neighbor, parent or grandparents who are more at risk. Send a thoughtful little card or gift to an essential worker. Have your kids make cards to send to the local nursing home for the residents who currently aren't getting any visitors. For those who you know who are sick- support their families in any way you can. Ask how you can help. Simply put: think how you can creatively love on others while social distancing.
3. Consider Giving Rather than Hoarding
I have never before so clearly been aware of my privilege. In the United States although employment rates are dropping at a staggering rate, we still have some safety nets. We have unemployment checks, we have stimulus checks. These aren't perfect or ideal and I don't pretend they are. But they are something. There are many who are still incredibly vulnerable- those who were barely making it to begin with and lost their jobs. Those whose stimulus checks aren't arriving yet. The small business owners who didn't get any loans from the SBA before the organization ran out of money.
Then there are the most vulnerable. Nearly half of the population of developing countries lives on $1.25 a day. These people don't have any safety nets. They don't have savings and their governments won't be coming to their aid. Let's consider how we can be in solidarity with them and link arms.
I have found no better way to silence fear than to go against my fearful tendencies. For example- feel like hoarding out of fear? Open up those hands and give away some of what you're so afraid of losing. Just watch as fear loses its grip.
I have received emails from many non-profits with the same message- them are seeing great needs in the people groups that they serve and they are being greatly affected by the global pandemic. Goods are less available to them and they don't have the ability to simply stock up at the grocery store. These wonderful humans are having a hard time feeding their children, feeling the pressures as COVID-19 spreads. While the need is growing, some who have been giving are no longer able to do so. If you are able, please consider sharing what you can. If you only have $5, don't minimize what $5 can do for a family struggling on the very fringe. If you'd like to give but don't know where to start- here are two of the organizations I whole-heartedly support based on their financial transparency and independent audits and mission:
On that note- I just want to say thank you for reading. I hope there was some nugget here for you to hold onto. Please share if you know of anyone this would be an encouragement to. May the God of peace guard your hearts and minds and may you know Him in a way that you never have.
P.S. If you'd like the "Cling to What is Good" printable shown above for a daily reminder - please go here to grab it for free use code HOPE2020. Be sure to share and pass along the link to as many as you think would enjoy it!