Spirituality

Unfiltered

I’m starting something different on my blog today. I’m going to actually – blog. I am an over-editor when it comes to my writing. I write and rewrite and let it sit a day or two, then edit it again. That’s not a bad thing, but it keeps me from being very productive. But I’m needing to feel connected. So today I’m just going to write what’s going on and force myself to hit publish.

This is me unfiltered, for the most part. You can read it or not. I appreciate that everyone has lots coming over their feed right now. I can’t keep up on my end. But I hope you will let me know what is going on with you also and that this can be a conversation. But I’m mostly doing this for me.

Yesterday was a down day for me. Right after posting about fighting against loneliness, I felt it wash over me. I had woken up early, 6:00, and without my usual coffee and Bible study time, took a shower, got dressed and went to Kroger in Dalton. What used to be a regular part of my week now feels like going into battle. It was the first time I had gone since this crisis started, other than quick trips to Dollar General, and it was depressing. Everything just felt weird and stressed out.

And then – well, I made a comment on a text that went out to a group and didn’t realize it was going to the group! I didn’t say anything bad, but I felt embarrassed, especially because I didn’t know a lot of the people in the group and of course, there’s no taking a text back! ugh.

But I think a big part of my problem yesterday was missing my Bible study, staring off into space, prayer time. For years I would get up early and sit at our dining room table with our cat in my lap and read my Bible and devotional book. Then Keith retired – that messed up my whole morning routine! So I took my cup of coffee and went back to bed to read and pray. That explains why I was always running late to school – getting out of bed a second time is hard!

After I retired last summer, I changed again. We live in an old house and have a sort of living room/front entry hall, where I have my grandmother’s piano, Keith’s arrowhead collection in a big case, a bookcase and my mother’s fancy living room couch. I moved a lamp by the couch and that has been my devotional area. The front door has a big window and side transoms which face East and, if I get up early enough, I can sit on Mama’s couch and watch the sun come up over Jack and Zeta’s pasture and listen to the birds. We’ve lived in this house for 32 years and I just discovered this in the past year!

My morning view at Christmas with my Moravian Star

So now I love this time in the morning. And as I realized yesterday, I need it as much as I need that cup of coffee, or breakfast or anything else in my life. That time anchors me. I’m reminded that God is with me. I feel Him. And my day falls into place when I ask Him to direct me.

I have several books I’m studying, but through my women’s Bible study at church, we got a link to a free Bible study from Kelly Mintner. I highly recommend it and it doesn’t take long. Here is the link for a daily email: https://mailchi.mp/8060e1871bdf/theblessedlife

so that’s it. Happy sheltering in place, thanks so much for reading and supporting me! I’ll be back!

Spirituality

Are You Lonely?

Are you feeling lonely right now? As we go down this road of sheltering in place, it would be unusual if we weren’t feeling isolated.Even in my retired state, I’m used to being around people at church and the gym. I find I’m missing the little conversations with store clerks and restaurant workers.

I don’t usually like to admit to being lonely, but right now I’m feeling cut off. But I’ve had lonely times in my life before and I’m sure I’ll have more.

Last summer I was reminded of one of the loneliest times in my life. I was in Birmingham for the Cooperative Baptist Assembly annual meeting and stayed in a hotel right down the street from an apartment building where I lived in the winter and spring of 1985. I was fresh out of seminary and moved there to be in a chaplaincy training program at the Baptist Medical Centers.

My apartment was a one room furnished efficiency in an old building right behind the Five Points area of downtown Birmingham. I walked the few blocks there from my hotel and was amazed at how little had changed in the thirty-four years since I left. In fact, there was still a record store below the building!

My apartment was on the 2nd floor, far left corner.

Standing on the sidewalk looking up at my old apartment window brought back many feelings. That winter of 1985 was the first time in my life that I was not in a school setting, surrounded by others my same age and with similar interests. Facebook, cell phones and free long distance had not yet been invented, so keeping in touch with friends and family was difficult. I was excited for the new adventure, but I was not prepared for how alone I would be.

Monday through Friday I was busy with my Clinical Pastoral Education group at the hospital, but I left on Friday afternoons feeling terrified at the long empty weekend stretching before me. I took myself out to eat, read, wrote some letters, and watched a few shows on my tiny borrowed black and white television. I visited a few churches, but going by myself made me feel more alone.

I look back now on that winter as one of the wilderness times in my life. Like the Israelites wandering for forty years in the desert or Jesus battling the Devil for forty days and nights, times in the wilderness cause us to struggle. But they can also be sweet times with God. I learned some things about getting through loneliness that continue to help me in the down times that still occur.

First, I’ve learned to lean into my loneliness. Often our first reaction when loneliness comes is to find something to do and people to be around. While there are definitely times when I need people, sometimes there may be other things going on. I need to have some quiet time to listen to my heart and to hear what God is trying to tell me.

So, when depression creeps in, I take an inventory. An easy self-assessment tool is called HALT: am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, I meet the physical needs and then take the emotional ones to God.

Have I had changes in my life that are causing me to grieve? Am I angry at someone? Am I overworked? Recognizing any of these and taking them to the Lord takes the pressure off. Praying gives me perspective.

Secondly, my time in Birmingham taught me that I need people and that I must be proactive in finding friends. When I was in school, friends were always close by, but life changed when I was on my own.

Since retiring last year, I’ve made a point to go to an exercise group at the gym, be involved at my church and make lunch dates. But I’ve also learned that when I feel loneliness creeping in, I need to get outside if at all possible!

During those months in Birmingham, I spent hours walking around the beautiful old neighborhoods near my apartment. When Adam was a baby (another lonely time in my life since we had recently moved and Keith was traveling with his job) I got out and pushed Adam in the stroller with our German Shepherd on her leash. I met our neighbors and felt better after the exercise.

Social media is wonderful for staying connected, but as we’ve all seen during this time of isolation, it’s still not the same as those big and small conversations we are used to in our daily lives. I would encourage you to be creative in “seeing” people right now. Sunday afternoon I took cookies to a few friends and stood at a safe distance and visited. I felt more “normal” afterwards! Walk around your neighborhood, visit a nearby park if it is open, play in your back yard – but get out of the house!

Finally, I learned that most lonely times are only for a season. That year in Birmingham, I found a church and as the weather warmed, I joined a hiking club where I met a girl my age looking for a roommate. I moved in with her in a large sprawling complex on the newly developed south end of Birmingham and a few months later met a sweet guy from Kentucky at the swimming pool. Today I’m still married to that guy and have a rich life full of close friends and family whom I cherish.

For those who have lost a spouse or other close family member or friend, the loneliness may not ever completely go away. The empty spot stays painful but having good friends and meaningful activities can ease the grief over time. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 34:18:

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I learned during my wilderness time in that little apartment in Birmingham that I didn’t have to be afraid of loneliness. As we all deal with a “new normal” in the next few weeks, remember that God is with us and that this time will pass. Lean in and make it through!