Lately I’ve been encouraging those who feel that God is against them, not for them. They don’t see answer to prayers. They feel distant from God. Life doesn’t look like they had hoped.
I have felt this way, too. But then I remember my friend asking me, “Heather, do you really believe God is against you?” She quoted Romans 8 to me, in particular these verses (31-33): What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
That day, I chose to believe by faith that God was for me. And when I felt like He was withholding good things from me, I remembered that He was the Good Thing–what a precious, gracious gift to have God in my life. I also built up that wonderful motto that “every rejection is God’s protection” to see how what I perceived as rejection or disappointment was actually a good thing in my life.
I don’t know why, but I feel so much joy when I see animals carrying objects in their mouths. I see a dog happily trotting with a stick, a squirrel scampering with a mouthful of moss for a nest, and my cat dragging her toy mouse by the tail. I cannot help smiling.
Sometimes on my walk, I see dogs that always carry their toys as they walk. It’s so adorable, and they tilt their heads proudly as if showing off their prizes, like women showing off purses or new hats. I watch for birds flying with twigs or leaves in their mouths because I know they will build a nest wherever they land.
I love it perhaps because humans don’t usually carry things by mouth. But apparently, dogs love to, and it brings them as much joy as it brings me just watching them.
Today I talk to my great friend about adding something to my journal each day. In addition to the 5 Things I’m thankful For, the 5 Things I’m Praying For, the 5 People I’m praying For, she suggests the 5 Fun Things for the Day.
I love it! As the pandemic continues and the weariness drags on, we talk about the 5 Fun Things we’re planning for our day. I laugh as I think about it. I decide my 5 Fun Things: making popcorn, going on a walk in the sunshine, looking for bird nests, eating a great basil feta tomato pasta dish tonight, and watching TV this evening.
Recording my 5 Fun Things brought joy, laughter, and a little hope into the day. I encourage you to plan 5 Fun Things for yourself and your family today.
People in our lives need more support than ever. Some have COVID. Some struggle professionally. Some need parenting help. Some battle mental health issues. I’m finding I need to ask people where they need support and how I can support them best. But people don’t always know what kind of support they need, so you can follow your question with a few suggestions. In a text, it might look like this:
What’s most stressing you out today?
How can I best support you? Do you need a phone call, a meal, a coffee delivery, or a walk?
When you offer some suggestions, you’ll find people will answer you. I’ve made phone calls to a grieving friend, delivered coffee twice, and walked many times with friends who needed extra support.
This morning, our pastor quoted from this Puritan prayer called “Love Lustres at Calvary,” and I find myself moved by the words. In The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, you’ll find these words:
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory, entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, endured all pain that I might have unfading health, bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclothed brightness, expired that I might forever live.
O Father, who spared not thine own Son that thou mightest spare me. . .
With high winds tossing tree limbs all over our neighborhood, I wasn’t surprised when the lights flickered. Then, we had no power at all. I quickly discover from neighbors the rumors of a tree that fell across a street that took power lines down with it. We’re all home because of COVID, and with so little to do or connect about, I’m thrilled with the community engagement on this topic of a power outage.
We travel to the suspected street and find we aren’t the only neighbors bored enough to go looking for an adventure. We all sit there and watch the electricians at work above a jumble of tree branches and wires. We fear we might lose power for the whole night.
Thankfully, after a three hour break, the whole house lights up again. I resume my work. I respond to several texts asking if my lights came on. Did I have internet? Did I have all my power? Yes.
And we all enjoyed our little break and our little adventure.
Sometimes when I’m grading, I think about the point of critique. It often feels like I’m putting students down. Here’s your mistake! Here’s what you did wrong! Here’s what’s missing!
But then I remember to teach up. Critique is always about the next time, the coming moment, the thing they’ll do better in the future. It’s a way to look upward and outward, not downward and backward. I’m learning to accompany every comment with this beautiful little gem: “Next time, try this.”
I see what you meant here. Next time, try this:
This will become so much better if next time, you try this:
It’s another way to shift from shame-based pedagogy to a pedagogy of celebration and hope. Next time, you’ll do it!
I’m also learning to remark on all the wonderful things in an essay so students know to do more of that thing. Positive communication fosters openness, vulnerability, and change.
My friends shares this encouragement from Isaiah 42:16, and I think about the words all evening. Consider God’s beautiful promise here:
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
We talk about what feels unknown, unfamiliar, dark, and rough. Will we trust that God will lead us, guide us, turn darkness to light, and smooth out all the rough spots?
How wonderful to start the day thinking of this promise.