The Weight of the World

It’s a stressful time to be alive. There’s no doubt about it. Being someone that absorbs the emotional atmosphere around me, I find my body buzzing with tension in the air almost everywhere I go. I feel it on the roads where it seems like everyone’s temper is on a tripwire, I feel it in the supermarket where I rarely see anyone attempting to smize above their mask any longer, and I most certainly feel it online.

The litany of bad and contentious news is overwhelming; COVID has worsened with new and more severe strains, Afghanistan is crumbling, Haiti is suffering, the Pacific Northwest of the USA is burning-up and drying-up simultaneously, and the climate report is projecting even worse decay than was earlier realised. It’s heavy.

I think one of the things that I feel the most at this time, is a collective sense of powerlessness. We want COVID to dissipate, but it’s gotten worse. We want people to do the right thing, but we have no power to change anyone else’s mind. We want large corporations to start showing genuine social responsibility, but we’re ants in a giants’ world. We want the world to be taken care of – fed, loved, sheltered, and safe – but we have trouble just keeping our house plants alive.

It is this sense of powerlessness that can erode our sense of purpose and meaning in life. It feeds off our energy, and drains our emotional reserves. It’s like the totality of my resources is a wee krill, and the problems of the world are a blue whale – completely swallowing all I have to give.

When Delta came barging into our lives recently, I immediately recognised the feelings of angst in my body. My cells remember this feeling well. But this time, I decided, something has to be different. I’m not going to get through the other side of this never-ending story with my nervous system in shreds like I did last time.

You see, even though we feel so powerless, we’re actually not. We have more power than we realise. We have the power to make very practical decisions to ensure we preserve our emotional and mental health. Some of the things I have been implementing are:
– Muting friends that post a lot of information that I find stressful.
– Limiting my intake of news.
– Deciding that it’s not worth getting angry at people at the store not wearing a mask – it’s not going to affect change, and it’s only hurting me.
– Practising mindfulness – making set times throughout my daily routine where I intentionally focus on my five senses and being in the moment.
– Taking action. Doing what little things I can to make a difference to those around me – I may not be able to lobby corporate America, or house a thousand Afghan refugees in my spare room – but I can go out of my way to be kind to the checkout guy.

I actually think it’s been really important to remember what God has asked me to do: live in a way that exhibits the heart of Jesus in every little daily moment. He’s not asking me to singlehandedly fix the climate, or change the government, or carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. He’s only asking me to represent who He is in the limited sphere of my life right here where I live.

So I’m choosing to zoom in. I will be aware of what’s going on in the world, I will pray, and I will do what little I can to help, but I will mainly focus on the handful of people and situations that I do have influence over.

Here’s a little mantra I wrote myself for when the state of the world is getting me down, and maybe it will help you too:

I am just one person.
I have limits, and today I accept and honour those limits.
Even though the world is in chaos, it is not my responsibility to feel the collective turmoil.
And when I do, I will pray these feelings into my hands, and blow them into the wind, where they can be picked up by the One who has the heart that can hold them.
I am just one person.
And as one person, I have the power to love those around me, exercise kindness, patience, understanding and compassion.
I have the power to choose my actions and reactions today, and that is all that I can do.
I release myself from the obligation to do the impossible and I empower myself to do the possible.
I will stay in my lane, listen to my Guide, put one foot in front of the other, and let Him carry my backpack.

Love you friends, we’re going to be okay.
Deb xx

Pandemic Panic

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Frankly, being in the middle of a pandemic is really bizarre. I vacillate between, ‘It’s totally fine, it’s just the flu, we’re all going to be fine,” to envisioning life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I begin chastising myself that we didn’t buy a 5-acre self-sustaining plot instead of this suburban dwelling where, if we had to live off the land, we’d probably survive three days on dead grass and the scraps of decaying afternoon snacks left behind by the boys.

I haven’t succumbed to the bunker mentality…yet, but I must admit, while I haven’t stockpiled the loo paper, I would be lying if I said I didn’t add a few extra cans of beans and some hand sanitiser to this week’s shopping list (if we do end up having to live off what’s in our cupboards, let’s just say the meals are going to get less and less yummy by the day).

I experience a level of generalised anxiety on a day-to-day basis, due to varying factors, and this situation has definitely turned the volume up, as I’m sure it has for many of you. And while I can remind myself that this is unlikely to take my family out, and we’ll survive the economic fallout as we have before, the reality is that a worse case scenario is always a possibility.

What amazes me in situations like this, is how it highlights where my trust truly lies. It first came to my attention five years ago when we first moved to the States; I was thrown off-balance by realising that my safety-net of a familiar government that would take care of me if I was in hospital or we lost our income, was no longer underneath me. I was forced to intentionally put my days in the hands of God – a place where I had previously thought they were.

Once again, I find myself feeling off-balance. The comfort of relying on the conveniences and necessities that I do everyday suddenly seems less certain. The assumption that all is well, is, well, not so well.

I like to picture it like sonar – I go through life sending out pings and getting my equilibrium from hearing the reassuring returning sounds from the places I expect things to be. When all is as I expect it to be, I swim through life with a sense of safety and certainty. But in times this like, it becomes all too clear that my requirement for peace relies heavily on external things – the certainty of health, ready access to food and utilities, a guaranteed paycheck.

I hear an invitation in the midst of all this uncertainty. It’s an invitation to surrender. An invitation to relinquish control – the control which feels so important for my survival, but in reality, is only an illusion. An invitation to remember that a certain quality or length of life on earth has never been promised. An invitation to remember that my hope lies in eternity. An invitation to remember that Jesus sits right beside me as I type this, and his love and presence is as close as it ever was. An invitation to accept the unknown.

So, if you’re cool-as-a-cucumber and feeling not a worry, good for you. But if you’re a red-hot mess quivering in your apocalypse shelter, maybe, just maybe, something really beautiful can come out of this for you. Maybe this is the start of a peace you never knew was possible. So why not join me as I pray, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Love you friends,

Deb x

An Ode to my Favourite Feeling

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I once heard some wise person talking about the best feeling in the world – and before I knew what it was, my guesses would have included love, mirth, joy, hope, satisfaction, fulfilment, or that tantalising anticipation of being starving/hangry at your favourite restaurant, but knowing you have just minutes to wait before you get to eat something delicious. But it was none of these things.

The best feeling in the world, according to this person (who obviously left a deep impression, because I can’t for the life of me remember who it was), is relief. Relief! Really? But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. And since that time, it has become my favourite feeling in the whole world – so let me take you on a little tiki tour of the world’s greatest emotion in my life.

When I was around 14 years of age, an awkward stage at the best of times, I was having hideously painful cramps, so needed an ultrasound to rule out any nasties. To add insult to injury, the ultrasound tech was a young and studly male. The first time they tried to get an image, my bladder wasn’t full enough, so I was sent to the waiting room to let the water I had imbibed earlier make its merry way down. I was feeling a little sheepish that even though I said I’d had the requisite amount of water, if I was being completely honest with myself, I hadn’t. So, I stopped at the drinking fountain in the hallway and downed a gallon to make up for it. That was before I realised that they were also sending out the world’s largest tankard of water with the receptionist…which I couldn’t refuse, because then they would know about the drinking fountain, and make the connection to my earlier deception. Needless to say, my bladder was plenty full for the second scan (it was a blessed mercy I didn’t explode). Then, as I was leaving the room, the tech told me that the bathroom was just down the hallway, and I, at the age where needing to pee was an embarrassment in and of itself, just airily said, “Oh, no thanks, I’m fine,” and sauntered out of there like I wasn’t dying of pain in my lower mid-section. The car ride home in dad’s bumpy little Barina was about the most tortuous experience of my life – I literally ended up having to hoist my butt off the seat with my arms. But, when I got home, oh, THE RELIEF!!

Many of you will be aware that my husband Caleb got impaled on a job site in 2013 (that’s a whole five-part blog series in itself). When I made it to the hospital, I didn’t get to see him before he went in for surgery, so I was stuck waiting in this cell-like windowless room, with my dear friend and her then 5 month-old baby. I made a number of calls to various people to tell them what had happened, and one of those calls was to a friend of mine who was a nurse, so I could ask her questions about what to expect. She told me that I should expect surgery to take a minimum of six hours. After an hour-and-a-half, the surgeon came into the waiting room – I thought that it was either terrible news, or he just had an update for me. (In fact, I didn’t want to shake his hand, because in my frazzled state, I knew he had to go back and keep operating on my Caleb, and he shouldn’t touch my germs). But, the news was glorious! The surgery was done, Caleb was going to recover, and in the words of a man who looked like the person least given to hyperbole that I have ever met, “He is very, VERY lucky.” I think that this was the most overwhelming relief I have ever experienced…I laughed, and cried, and almost hugged the very cardboard man (but his vibe was most-definitely of the ‘no touchy’ variety). As we left the hospital to get some food (McD’s – the ieal food for a crisis), I jumped, I ran, and I even danced! (The only spontaneous dance I think I have EVER done). I can still feel that relief to this day – and that day goes down as the worst, then best day of my life.

I have a million other stories of blessed relief – too many migraines that finally responded to the pain medication, babies that eventually made their arrivals, and those same babies that finally slept through the night, kiddos that out-grew illnesses, assignments, practicums and degrees completed, medical tests and scans returned benign, necessary big-ticket items purchased, job interviews done and dusted, and first dates out of the way.

I am SO glad that the landscape of my life, with all its hills and valleys, is peppered with the airy, refreshing breath of relief. And do you know what the coolest thing is? I reckon that heaven is gonna feel a lot like blessed relief for a really long time.

Love you friends,

Deb x