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close up photo of water lily flowerIn these days of social distancing and self-quarantine, it’s a good time to shore each other up — virtually, of course — and offer the human nutrients of encouragement and inspiration. We can’t see each other in person, but we can still check in. So, how are you?

For those of you who are sick at home with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), our prayers are with you. For the rest of us, hearing about states shutting down and shoppers fighting over toilet paper, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed right now. 

I could tell you not to get stressed, but that doesn’t even seem reasonable. What I will offer is this suggestion: Gather all the facts you can from reputable sources. Do all your due diligence, then take your mind off everything virulent and volatile. That includes viruses, of course, but also people who are trying to amp you up, make you anxious, or otherwise just get on your nerves.

This is a good time to protect all that is precious to you, and remember: The order to shelter in place extends to your soul. Do all the things you can to stay sheltered in a place of peace. Take your mind off the catastrophe as a whole and focus on one thing at a time.

Remind yourself that you’re doing everything you can at this moment. You’re safe at home. Everything is okay where you are. Let it be okay. Don’t go back and check the stats every ten minutes. How many cases are there in my town today? What’s the latest terrifying news? 

Step away from the stress. Sit down and decompress. All will be well and life will go on. We’ll get through this together, and before you know it, the “new normal” will just be “normal” again. 

I was reading a book online and decided to put it on the “Read Aloud” option. A robotic voice named “Microsoft Mike” narrated the text without inflection and, often, incorrectly. When it got to the word “Malignity,” it pronounced it as, “Molly Good-Nighty,” which made me laugh. That sweet name sounds like the antonym of the word’s true definition, which is “malice or malevolence.” 

I was still cackling about “Molly” when I came up to a page break, which looks like this:

*****

And the robot-reader announced in its flat affect: 

“Asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk.” 

It was a book with a heavy theme, so these unintentional comic breaks were actually welcome.

A robot narrator has its limitations, and one of them is that it has no soul. It’s just reading a script as programmed. In real life, it’s hard to stick to a script. Days rarely go as planned. There are detours on the road. Unexpected delays on a project. 

When things get heavy, taking a laugh break might be just the answer. Laughing involves breathing (which we often forget to do fully when stressed), movement and social interaction.

Moments of levity can be the difference between going through the day on auto-pilot and feeling like yourself again.

Last month, I had some visiting nurses taking care of me, and I was always glad to see them. Along with my medical check-ups, I noticed they had to do a lot of paperwork.

As a former secretary, I suggested that an office coordinator could help them with administrative tasks. They said they didn’t have an administrative specialist, so they ended up spending part of our visits on tasks such as documenting, ordering equipment, and scheduling appointments.

If you’re like me, well… lucky you! 🙂 I jest, of course. But if you’re like me, you want to take care of everybody. Especially if they’re taking care of you. This isn’t bad, of course, unless you end up depleting yourself in the process.

It occurred to me: How do we learn self-care? It really isn’t taught in school or at home by example. I heard someone talking about a friend who had passed away, and she said, “She put everyone else first.” I used to think that was a good thing. Now, I’m not saying you should be self-absorbed and obnoxious. Just that in order to live your best life, you have to put yourself on the list. In fact, your needs should be right at the top. You can’t draw from an empty well. If you’re replenishing everyone around you to the exclusion of your own sustenance, that’s a moment to stop. If you can’t find yourself anywhere on your to-do list for the day, it’s time for a checklist check-up.

HobbyDo you consider your hobbies part of your prayer life?  Do you knit one, purl two prayerfully?  Or maybe you weed and mulch in a meditative way.  If you don’t think of your hobbies as part of your prayer life, perhaps you should.

You may think that I’m going to talk to you about living mindfully, considering God in your daily tasks.  That is a good thing to do, but that isn’t what I meant.

Prayer is how we communicate with God.  That means that we talk to Him as well as listen.  Through listening, we discern what God wants us to do. In my own experience, these tasks, even the wee small ones, take a certain amount of energy.

What happens when you take energy out, doing God’s work, but never recharge?  Eventually you burn out.  Soon you are, as Lori wrote, Hanging In, Hanging On.

To restore balance, you have to recharge even if you feel like you don’t have time.  In fact, this is often when you need most to reenergize.  Sometimes this means getting enough sleep or taking the time to fix yourself a good meal.  Those things recharge our bodies.  But we also need to recharge our spirits and that’s where our hobbies come in.

Our last pastor did wood working.  I know church ladies who sew, garden and knit as well as do puzzles, go to the theater and watch baseball.  One of the church men cooks.  Another restores cars. We all have things like this that make us happy and when we do them we recharge our batteries.

It may seem a bit decadent but it is 100% essential.  If you don’t take some time for yourself, you will eventually be an empty shell with nothing left to offer.  Avoid this by doing something that makes you happy. Scrapbook.  Pick up a new cross stitch project.  Write a poem.

When you are done and you once again have a smile on your face and spring in your step, God will still have something for you to do.  The difference is that now you’ll be more able to handle it.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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