Saturday was weird. I worked all week and usually I look forward to Saturdays as a day to have an opportunity to sleep a little longer, be a little bit more leisurely, and reach out to family or friends I haven’t chatted with lately. While the week is filled not only with my day job, but evenings working on promoting Alien Neighbors, I also have lots of other irons in the fire – writing projects I am excited about, learning how to play my ukulele, and riding my bicycle on the greenbelt where we live. Saturdays are usually a welcome respite to do these things. But this Saturday, well…it seemed like the walls were pressing in.
I remember waking up and starting to pray for all of the people I know that are grieving a recent loss, asking God to comfort them. Many of the people on the list were struck down by covid-19, all of them gone too soon. I think what finally got to me was the length of the list. I stopped before I got through them all and cried out, “Why, so many, Lord? It’s too much to bear.” My thoughts turned to Ukraine and the unjust war being waged on that beautiful country. The image of a pianist playing one last song on her piano in her home before leaving it behind to become a refugee haunts me. The world has been chaotic for so long.
The day seemed unbearable. Peace was elusive.
I never did get my peace that day. But when I woke up Sunday, I made a conscious decision. I needed to do something different. It’s okay to have the occasional bad day (and not feel guilty about it) but not to stay there. My choices were fairly limited given we are still somewhat restricted (another frustration being the pandemic is not yet over, no matter how much we would all like it to be). I didn’t sleep in but rather, got up to close to my normal work day rise time. We turned on our favorite local church online service (we have not made the leap to in-person services yet) and received the blessing of being with our church family, worshipping God, and receiving an inspiring Word delivered by our pastor. But now what?
Even after church it felt fairly easy and a little bit tempting to allow myself to slip into the same funk that I was in on Saturday, but I refused. So what could I do to choose joy instead of despair? This was very uncomfortable for me. Usually I don’t feel the pangs of depression. Sadness, yes – I am grieving for my sister and for dear friends who have gone to heaven this past year. I miss them!! But I can usually turn my thoughts to the happy memories I have of them and not stay sad too long – there is so much to be done and I know they wouldn’t want me to over-extend my grief to a point that it interferes with daily life. I didn’t know what to do…
So I did something different. Usually I am stuck inside at my computer. Usually we eat inside. Usually I have an agenda that I follow so that I can get done what I need to. I have a post-it-note list of “to-do’s” for the day. But instead – I moved my day outside into our backyard. I cleaned off our patio table and set my computer up on it. I stayed outside ALL day. We ate outside. I read my book outside. I worked on my latest novel outside. And in between, I played ping pong with my husband, played soccer with my dog, and threw a frisbee. I grabbed my ukulele and practiced the chords I have been trying to learn. I laughed. I read the scriptures in our prayer garden. I watched the birds. I sang spontaneously. I reflected on how blessed we are. I didn’t finish my post-it-note list, but I found peace.
Sometimes peace is elusive. The trials of this world can be very hard to bear. If you find yourself pressed down, perhaps it’s time to do something different. Even a little different, like hanging out in your backyard (or a park if you don’t have a backyard). Or grab a ukulele and play a few chords…
My wish for you is to allow yourself to be human and grieve when your heart hurts – but don’t stay there too long. There is still much beauty around us, even in despair. God is still working on our behalf – even when it is hard to see, and He grieves with us. One last image comes to mind as I write this. A picture of light even in the darkness – playful guards and children’s laughter as they spread joy even in desperate circumstances. There is always light and it will overcome. Make sure to turn the volume on and enjoy the video below: