#quiet · #ShelterunderHiswing · Running · solitude · Spirituality

Finding Quiet

I stood by my open kitchen window Thursday evening relishing the quiet. No NPR played on the radio; no sounds of television came from the den. The refrigerator didn’t hum, and the air conditioner didn’t click on.  Hurricane Zeta had come through the night before, pulling down trees and causing us to be without electricity all day. Despite the inconvenience, I found the stillness relaxing. (Thank you to NGEMC for getting us back on by 8 pm!)

My evening with no power got me to thinking about how much I fill my time with some sort of chatter — I’m usually listening to the radio, a podcast or an audiobook when I’m around my house or in the car. Some programs are spiritually oriented, some are educational, and some are for fun. There’s nothing wrong with keeping my mind active and informed, but am I spending too much time not listening to the quiet?

The last few years I’ve been working on learning to be quiet with God. It is not easy when my phone is there offering chatter 24/7.

I used to always run with music playing in my earbuds until one spring evening when I went for a run near my house after work. A little Jack Russell terrier charged out at me and a teenage girl driving to church hit and killed him. He ran right under her wheel and she never saw him. Of course she was devastated. I was too. I kept thinking that if I had not had the earbuds in I would have been more aware of the dog and kept him out of the road. What if it had been a child?

Now if I’m running by myself, I almost always leave my earbuds at home. God and I converse, and I try not to do all the talking. The same is true when I’m in my garden. I have declared it a ‘no electronics zone’ and I spend that time praying for people who come to mind and bringing up problems to God. I find that my ADD brain functions better when I am not distracted by multi-tasking.

Keith and I live in a house built in 1859, and I love to imagine what life was like for my predecessors, with no I-phone, radio, television or gramophone. As I stood in the kitchen Thursday evening, I thought about how they would have heard these sounds in the days before electricity —the hush of an autumn day coming to an end with the music of the birds and other animals settling in for the night.

I wonder if they ever got bored with the quiet. Or did their time without constant entertainment bring them closer to God?

In I Kings 19, we are told that as Elijah was fleeing from Jezebel, God told him to go up to the mountain. While he was there, a hurricane wind “ripped the mountains and shattered the rocks” but God wasn’t in the wind. God also wasn’t in the earthquake that shook the ground, or the fire that swept through. But after the fire, God was found in the “gentle and quiet whisper,” and Elijah was able to hear his voice.

What if Elijah had not heard that whisper from God because he had filled his ears with other noises?  I need the quiet to be able to hear the breathing of the Holy Spirit.

Where do you find your time to be quiet with God?

#shelterathome · #shelteringinplace · #ShelterunderHiswing · Spirituality

What color are you today?

Some days are yellow.
Some are blue.
On different days I’m different too.
You’d be surprised how many ways
I change on Different Colored Days.

My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss

One of my favorite picture books is My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss. This is not your typical Seuss book with weird made up rhyming words and cats in hats destroying a house, but a lovely poem about emotions, illustrated in vibrant colors by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.

You can listen to a read aloud here.

Children love this book because they are so in touch with their feelings, unlike us grown-ups who like to pretend we are okay when we are not. When I read the second verse to a group of kindergartners – On Bright Red Days how good it feels to be a horse and kick my heels! – they eagerly nod their heads, relating to how it feels to have that energy surging through them. Likewise, On Purple Days I’m sad. I groan. I drag my tail. I walk alone, brings the same nods, perhaps a bit self-consciously, as they all know that unhappy days come along too.

This book came to mind this morning as I woke up feeling gloomy. The usual ups and downs of life are still going on and I’m also struggling to deal with the creeping depression that threatens to overtake me as I realize that we may be living with the fear and anxiety of COVID 19 for many more months.

Some days, of course, feel sort of Brown.
Then I feel slow and low, low down.

Throughout my life, books have been a great source of comfort and I believe strongly that God puts certain books in my hands at just the right time. The other day a pile of books on the table in my bedroom fell over, revealing a little devotional book I bought a few months ago at McKay’s Used Books. The Prayers of David relates different episodes in David’s life and suggests Psalms that he may have written at that time. Hmm, maybe God wanted me to pick that little volume up!

The Psalms are the perfect part of the Bible to be reading during these unsettling times because they cover so many of the emotions we may be feeling – fear, sadness, anger, uncertainty – and assure us that we are not alone – kind of like Dr. Seuss. They let me know that it’s okay to feel whatever emotions come up.

Then come my Black Days. MAD. And loud.
I howl. I growl at every cloud.

Today the chapter heading in The Prayers of David was The Lord is My Provider, and I read this familiar verse:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
     till the storms of destruction pass by.
Psalm 57:1

I love the image here of only needing the shadow of God’s wing to protect me. No matter what my feelings may be, God is still taking care of me. He doesn’t care if I’m “happy Pink” or if “Everything is gray” – He’s going to love me either way.

I know that God has me and my family under His wing. My worries are small compared to so many. He will take care of my needs.

Today is a day for hunkering down under the shadow of God’s wing and letting the storm go by. I feel quiet, introspective and slow, sort of like a fish in the sea.

Green Days. Deep deep in the sea.
Cool and quiet fish. That’s me.

Tomorrow the sun will be out and my mood will be better. Perhaps tomorrow will be a yellow day!

Then comes a Yellow Day and Wheeee!
I am a busy, buzzy bee.

#shelterathome · #shelteringinplace · Spirituality

One bucket at a time

“I’ve cleaned everything in my house. I’ve run out of things to clean!”

This is not a statement made by me. I wish that all that was left for me to do in my house was alphabetize my spices. I truly admire the Type A people with time on their hands during these weeks at home who have been cleaning like gangbusters. I wish I was more like them.

I’m finding that I’m not as productive without the structure that was in my schedule, even without working full time. I’ve been sleeping later and then spending too much time reading all the news feeds coming into my email box. Before I know it the day seems to have slipped away.

I have, however, been working outside. Every year, no matter how hard I try, my flower garden gets overrun with weeds and it takes me a few weeks to get it in shape. Since I have so many little plants scattered around, I do the majority of the weeding on my knees, pulling each up by hand. As I go, I fill a five gallon bucket with the unwelcome invaders, then dump them out at the edge of the yard. I put down pine straw as I finish a section.

I’ve lost count of the buckets I’ve dumped so far but I’m just a few buckets away from finishing. Bucket by bucket I’m getting it done.

Anne Lamott wrote about this concept in her famous book on writing, Bird by Bird. She tells the story of her brother as a little boy, who procrastinated about a project on birds. The night before it was due, he stared helplessly down at the poster he needed to make. Their father put an arm around his shoulders and told him, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Lamott teaches that we should approach writing in this way. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the task in front of us we should take it a step at a time, maybe just a sentence at a time.

Bucket by bucket is how I work most of the time. Big jobs overwhelm me. Inside the house, I’m taking a drawer by drawer approach. I’m slow, but eventually I’m getting something accomplished.

Many of us are feeling overwhelmed right now by the magnitude of this pandemic. As the quarantine dates keep getting pushed back and the number of the dead keep rising, it’s easy to feel panicked. It was novel for a while to stay home, but we are over it now. My son had a great analogy when he said he felt like he was living in the Groundhog Day movie – each day the same as the one before.

The other day I sat back and wondered where my time had gone. What had I done all day? I spent thirty minutes talking to a friend who is worried about losing her business. I was on the phone with another friend who is working hard with an agency to raise money for people in our community. Another friend had a death in her family and I spent time on the phone with her. I’ve connected with old friends who I haven’t heard from in a long time.

I’m trying to cut myself some slack about my lack of productivity. Right now these phone calls are important. I feel so helpless to do anything for so many folks dealing with the disease and losing their jobs. We are all anxious and dealing with unknowns. We need each other.

So kudos to those of you who are redoing your houses, baking bread and shining everything in sight! I did clean out a closet yesterday and it felt good! But if you need a day to rest, listen to your heart and body and don’t feel guilty about taking it.

Keep filling your bucket with what is at hand. We will get through this, bucket by bucket.

My garden waiting for the daylilies, butterfly bushes and lantana to start blooming!