Are You Awake, Too?

The silent nights are too much after such loud days. I want to kick off the blankets and order an immediate sunrise, so that I can leap into morning and get busy. Since I must wait, I find myself wishing I could go outside and watch the stars until I fall asleep. They are a reminder that there is so much more out there than the walls we surround ourselves with.

Do you ever stay up late and wonder?

I wonder if friendships have been torn lately over differences of opinion, assumptions, and disappointments.

Navigating through the rough waters of the shouts of pain and anger of so many people drown out most everything else. I want to throw out life preservers to everyone and call out, “Everything is going to be okay! I hear you, friend! I care! Be nice to each other!”. At the same time, it’s tough to believe that everything will be okay. Has anything ever been?

When the moon appears, I try to go to sleep to dream the night away…

Yet… I sometimes can’t lay still once all the lights have been turned off. Eventually I give in, peel back the covers, and stealthily slide into the other room to try to write myself to sleep. Better to sit in a chair past midnight writing to you then tossing and turning in darkness worrying about viruses and world peace. I can think on those things in the daytime. You are just as important. And right now I wonder how you are.

I wonder if you know you are loved by God, and that you are not alone because He is with you always. Even in the moments when it seems like no one is listening, He is listening. Even in the moments when you feel you are not heard, He hears you. He has not abandoned you, even when you may feel abandoned because everyone is off doing their own thing…searching for answers to solutions that seem so hazy.

Because we are all searching, aren’t we? Searching for something. Trying to make the world a better place even if it’s just in our own corner. Searching for wisdom and understanding, searching for peace. Holding on to hope. Longing to know love, to show love, to be love. We might not know what the future brings, but God knows. When I remember that, it brings me a measure of peace during times of worry.

So, that’s it for now. A rambling for anyone who likes a good ramble. You can ramble back, if you want. Or shake your head and move on. Whatever works. 🙂 I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking of you, you’re in my prayers, and I’m glad you’re here.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by Urip Dunker on Unsplash

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

Let’s Keep Looking Up

I should eat, I thought. I’ll regret it if I don’t. So I pulled out the eggs, the friendly spinach, and some easy oatmeal and got to work. Well, I did stop for just a minute to turn on the music. Nothing much gets done without the music. The raw green spinach leaves jumped into the warm pan to cozy up with a little rosemary and garlic olive oil.

As I stirred the greens, my ears caught the story of the song. The singer sang of love and how their memories were kept in a photograph, a place where hearts were ”never broken” and where time stays frozen. My smile started small at the idea of it, then grew in salute to the fellow encourager. And I say encourager because to label us idealists might break my heart. An encourager can see potential in what others may see as impossible.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if love could save the world right now amidst all of the pain, chaos, and uncertainty?

I find myself searching for answers, so lately I’ve been up to my ears in books. Books about writing. Books about teaching. Recipe books—because my cooking still needs some help. Books about becoming a better me. Books about anti-racism. Of course, there are the books that take my mind away from all of the above, even if just for a little while….the fiction, the make-believe. It’s been a season of books.

I sat down to eat my breakfast, squinting a bit against the morning sunlight through the open window. Looking out, I laughed out loud as I noticed a small grey and white striped cat with a big swashbuckling tail arguing with a pesky bird who kept swooping down at it from a low place in the sky. They were both squawking and hopping in the middle of the otherwise quiet cul-de-sac. That cat must’ve got into the bird’s business again. I wondered if maybe they could learn to be friends. I’m sure it’s possible. Anything is possible, right? With love…

When I finished eating, I got up and rinsed off my plate. The water was as mild as the summer morning, and a new song came on. The tune was catchy, and one I’d never heard before. As I processed the words in my mind, I smiled again. It must be one of those mornings when everything is lining up. All this love stuff. Just the other day on Facebook live I listened to a conversation with Dr. Clarence Jones, who played a role in some pretty amazing history, speak about events going on today and the thing he kept coming back to was…love. Redemptive love. Soul love. I stared out the window above the sink and focused on the new song.

“Love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?” Ed Sheeran sings from my little speaker propped up on the kitchen counter. From his heart to my house. Isn’t it amazing how songs can travel from so far? Yet we connect with them as if they were born right here in our hearts. I get it…I mean, really, what do I know?

Leaving the music on, I turned and walked into the room where I like to write. With a day free from work, I sorted through the pile of books I could read today. I thought about how lucky I was to have a pile of books. The libraries must be so lonely right now. I picked up one book and then another. Hmm…this one? No. That one? Maybe.

Still undecided, I turned toward my favorite reading chair. It waited for me beneath the window. Golden sunlight would be my lamp. On the wide, curved arm I spied a rather large and familiar book which I knew held 1,809 pages. The spine was terribly damaged from being read over and over for thirty years, even though I’ve been careful. Last night, I set it on my chair to remind myself to revisit it again soon…because it had been awhile. With a Facebook check, a Zoom workshop, taking care of the dog, and breakfast, I’d already forgotten about it this morning. It’s easy for me to forget. Because you know, we fill life up with all these things we feel like we have to do. In order to pay the bills. Or to improve. Or to distract ourselves.

Looking at the big book on my chair, I remembered that it’s the best book I’ve got. It’s got it all in one place. Personal development, action, drama, comedy, and best of all…love. Man, I did have love on the brain. Seriously, though, when my mind does the swirly thing and starts spinning with the what-ifs and what-abouts, there really is no other book than this one that squashes all that. Every time, it guides me back to the truth and the reason for everything. The last time I opened it, I had begun reading about a king from history named Solomon. He’s known for his wisdom. I could use some of that right now. Okay, always.

The greatest love story is all throughout the pages of that great book. Love for me and love for you. It also talks about loving everyone, even those we disagree with. Even loving those who don’t like us. That’s not easy, as we well know. Not easy, but not impossible. That’s why I’m not giving up on this love stuff. It’s the real deal. It can heal. Let’s give it and receive it now more than ever. Just like the One who loves us.

I sat down, ran my hand slowly over the cover and then made that my first choice for today’s reading—the Bible. I wanted to be reminded of the Love. It’s not fleeting. It’s eternal. Sometimes it’s a process that we wait on with patient urgency. Sometimes it’s a call to immediate action. Love will meet you when you’re ready for it; sometimes it will find you when you think you’re not. I may forget again and read something else tomorrow, but one thing is for sure: it will always be there, waiting tenderly…calling on my heart.

The songs in the kitchen have been moving along as I write this. I can’t help but appreciate the words I hear right now as they drift down the hallway and reach my ears. “Love is more precious than gold,” Chris Stapleton’s voice croons confidently, “…I got love enough to spare. That makes me a millionaire.”

May you be rich in Love, friends.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

“…Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” -Colossians 3:12-15

Love Is No Small Thing

A few Wednesdays ago, joy came out of nowhere and surprised me. I was at an outdoor yoga class with my friend. It was just after sunrise. I hadn’t yet heard about George Floyd. Our mats lay on a grassy space above still, sleepy vineyards. We began to move. I lifted my arms, reaching up as far as I could, all the way to my fingertips. A row of young olive trees behind us also stretched toward the brilliant blue sky. A pair of long-necked geese honked “Good morning!” over our heads as they crossed high above the rows of grape vines. I looked upward and watched in contented silence as they continued their flight past the husky golden rays of the newborn sun. 

Twice I nearly burst out laughing, the bubbles of happiness rising inside of me. My hopeful heart ached to dance and play with nature. The sun comforted me with its gentle warmth. I breathed in deeply then pushed all the air out as hard as I could. Whoosh! I felt the frustration of the last three months leave my lungs. With each inhale and exhale, my blood awakened in my veins as it traveled from head to toe.  The glorious simplicity of the rhythm of life amazed me in that moment.

On that morning, I had a hard time staying within the speed limit while driving home from class. The joy in my heart was inspiring, and I hoped to write about it before starting the work day so I could share it with you. Maybe I could try to rebuild the scene so that you might be able to experience the joy, too. My favorite snuggly chair was waiting for me, so I sat and placed my Chromebook on my lap. I decided to check the news first.

Honestly, I rarely check the news. Mostly because I don’t like biased news sources that I feel have hidden—or not so hidden—agendas. Whether it’s the left or the right, they blatantly air their opinions and persuasions. No matter what my political party is, I want news without interjection. But the world cannot be ignored. So it was two days late on that Wednesday morning that I learned about George Floyd, and saw his horrific death on the screen before me. In a heartbeat, all of my giddiness left. As it should. I still can’t get the image out of my mind.

When it was time for yoga a few days later, I was still troubled as I drove up the hill.

“I’m sad today…I was up all night…” I texted my friend before I left the house to meet her for our class. “Just wanted to give you a heads up if I’m quieter than usual. Feeling reflective and prayerful this morning.” I knew she’d understand. When I arrived, the sun wasn’t shining. All around us was a distant, gray fog. The birdsong was oddly quiet, muffled, and it was unusually cold for late May. As if the earth knew and mourned with us.

I lay my forehead on my yoga mat and began the deep slow breaths, thinking of George Floyd who could breathe no more. I didn’t know the circumstances, but it just didn’t seem right. The whole scene flashed again in my mind of that man’s knee on his neck. The officer’s intentional, slow movements… Closing my eyes, a quiet guttural sound escaped from my throat as I grieved the life of a stranger that was so casually taken away. Over what? It didn’t look at all like self-defense. It certainly didn’t look like a humane way to detain someone. I was filled with indignation.

The majority of police officers in our country surely would not condone what happened to George Floyd, and I’ve seen responses to confirm that. The officers I know stood ready to protect my students on our campus several years ago while an armed criminal hid in the nearby neighborhood. What would’ve happened if they weren’t there to call? I thought of the police officers over in Gilroy last summer who ran toward a shooter while the patrons of the Garlic Festival fled from the bullets. How much more death would there have been had those officers not been there to risk their lives for the people?

My own heart, it still aches now. For all of it. For everyone. Cities destroyed, people hurt and killed. Obviously, we need to work toward a solution to this too-old problem and at the same time realize that it will take time. But it shouldn’t take so much time!

The time that has passed between now and that Wednesday has been…I don’t even have the words to explain well enough all that has been on my mind. I have failed in coming here to this space because my thoughts have been such a whirlwind. A dozen blog post drafts have been started and abandoned in the last two weeks or so. I’ve been trying to put off my own thoughts for awhile, and instead listen and learn.

The roller coaster of emotion has been at full speed. Sadness one day, anger the next. Confusion. Love. Resolve. Love. Heartbreak. Love. It all keeps coming back to love. I want the world to know more of it. I want the world to feel all of the love from anyone who is willing to give it. I know it is out there. It just needs to be found and cultivated…nurtured. In some cases, it needs to be taught, the love. It’s not a naive thing, love. It’s a powerful thing.

Love is not just holding hands and singing songs. Love is action, and it can be in many forms. Love is being respectful to all people. Love is educating ourselves and celebrating our cultural differences. Love is registering to vote in the country you live in so that you can be part of change for the better. Love is teaching your children that no one race is better than the other. Love is listening. Love is giving a consequence for crimes against humanity. Love is peacefully protesting what is unjust. Love is casting aside fear to stand up for what is right. Love is creating something healing for those who are hurting. She’s a tough one, love is. Love requires forward motion, courage, and hope—not destruction and chaos.

We need connection. With everyone. To continue walking in love and learning each other’s hearts. To be brave and reach out. To listen and acknowledge. To maintain our integrity, not bypass justice, and lift up respect. To communicate and follow what is right. But most of all, to love one another as we were meant to do…in whatever way we each feel called to show it. I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. meant what he said in the video below, that “hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.” Love is no small thing. It’s a powerful thing. And we have that power within us.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by JESHOOTS from Pexels

We, Who Think “Too Much”

I’ve been thinking about overthinking. Over and over…because I’m an overthinker, too.

Yes, we feel like concrete statues stuck in our thinking while the swarm of immediate action-takers buzz on by us.

But the thing is, not every body and every mind was designed to be the same. You are you. I am me. That’s the beauty of our existence. Uniquely able to take action on a dream at our own pace and no one else’s.

So, hey, let’s think on this:

Our time is the right time when it’s God’s time.

There’s nothing wrong with a lot of thinking… unless it keeps us from the doing. And that won’t do at all. Keep on thinking, but lock up those doubts and worries and then throw away the key.

That dream is knocking loudly on your heart for a reason, my friend. Did you give up on it? I hope not. It’s time to get back in the groove. I’m rooting for you. And for me, too.

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Photo by Dick Scholten from Pexels

Keep Going

You. The one who keeps trying, even when things get hard? This one’s for you.

Totally impressed am I when you keep showing up and persevering. When so many other people are convinced they can’t, you say,  “Well, hang on a minute…maybe I can.”

When I was in high school, my grades were not what my mom wanted them to be. One evening after she came home from work, she came into my room with a box and said, “This is what you’re doing this weekend. And you’re taking notes.”

A feeling of dread washed over me as I glanced from her face, tight with determination, to the box that lay on my bed. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what was inside.

“Notes?” I stammered. I couldn’t be bothered with those back then. When I sat in the classroom each day, my mind was filled with daydreams of the New Kids on the Block. Who had time for notes?

I took my headphones off and set my Walkman on the mauve and forest green floral bedspread. Lifting the brown cardboard flaps, I peered cautiously into the box.

When I looked back up, eyes like steel were waiting for my reaction. Stifling my groan, I knew better than to argue. So I sighed and agreed that in the morning I would start watching the entire VHS series of Where There’s a Will There’s an “A”…a seminar on how to take notes and get good grades.

Good grief. 

That series wasn’t a miracle in the making. I’m not sure my mom got a good return on her investment. Okay, wait, I need to be nice to myself. I did complete college…eventually. 

The one thing I do remember about that punishment is the title on those tapes. That alone ended up being very valuable to me because, even now, while there might not always be an “A” in the outcome of things, I do believe that, as the old saying goes, where there’s a will there will often be a way. A way through that difficult thing. The first step is to try. And the next step is to keep trying. Until it gets done.

That weekend in high school wasn’t my only experience of not being allowed to quit trying my best. I’ve had to pick myself up and keep going many times, even while dealing with parts of my life that were just. plain. hard. Things haven’t always been roses and fairy tales. I wasn’t allowed to give up, so I get a little peeved sometimes when others do.

Of course, there are always exceptions, and I have no idea what it is like to live someone else’s life.

On the flip side, I can’t stand if someone judges me when they haven’t walked in my shoes. Everyone has a different level of tolerance, a different history, and a different set of capabilities. I am not unsympathetic to that. There are still times when I give up, too.

There are those of us who have also had to work really hard to change our beliefs about ourselves, so that we can move forward and persevere to the best of our ability. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever be. Once we realize that, the trying gets easier.

So tonight, before I go to bed and dream of New Kids on the Block the vacation my husband and I will get to take once the COVID-19 quarantine has been lifted, I just want to say to those of you who see tough things to tackle yet you don’t back down from them…Bravo. 🙂

Seriously. I am so inspired by you. By all of you who might be shakin’ in your boots and want to throw up your hands and say, “Forget. This.”, but you keep going. It might be pain you have to deal with, it might be low confidence, it might be trying to understand or do something you have never done before. Yet….you get it done.

Rest is good. Reviewing our options is great. Reconsidering our negative thoughts is even better.

At the end of the day, if we’ve tried our best and have done all we can, we can go to sleep with a sense of pride and accomplishment which is worth putting one foot in front of the other every single time.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

 

A Playlist to Cheer You

Are you ready for some music? 🙂 I didn’t think it would take me all day to do this. But it did. Typically, I am a night writer. Yet here I am, and here I’ve been since this morning…searching for songs that I hope you will find encouraging and uplifting.

As I write this, the sun is finally peeking through the heavy gray clouds that have been my company all day long. Except, this music has been my sunshine despite the clouds, so I hope it does the same for you, as well.

I had a tough minute a few moments ago, when I thought these links wouldn’t post and all my day’s work would be for nothing. Then, by some miracle, it seems to have worked out after all. So, I’m just going to post what I’ve got before it’s all lost…except I originally had a section of songs that were meant to help you remember how amazing you are…but I guess that’s for another post. I look forward to that!

Also, just to warn you…this is kind of an eclectic mix.

Enjoy! 🙂

If you want a song to help free your worries:

 

If you want to dance:

 

 

If you want songs to shore up your courage:

 

 

If you want some beautiful music for your wake up:

 

 

If you want music for stretching:

 

If you want to pretend your traveling:

 

If you’re feeling patriotic:

 

 

If you want some tunes while cooking:

 

If you want music to write to:

 

 

If you want to praise God:

 

If you want music to help you sleep:

 

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Some Good Stuff

Well, here’s some more good stuff for you today! Thanks to Facebook friends, some of these videos were shared this past month and they put a smile on my face during this time of uncertainty and isolation.

Pop some popcorn if you have it, put your feet up, and enjoy! I hope you like them. I’m so grateful for these creative, talented people who decided to look for the good.

For a smile…

Some Good News with John Krasinski, Episode 1

  • This video is the first true thing that put a smile on my face after being sent home from work to work from home. I love that it’s not a parody, it’s just honest to goodness things we can smile about these days.

 

Some Good News with John Krasinski, Episode 2

  • If you’re a Hamilton fan, there’s quite the surprise for you here! The rhythm alone of the song they sang made my heart glad when I heard this for the first time the other night. I’m looking forward to Episode 3!

For inspiration…

If Quarantine Is Driving You Crazy

  • Don’t be fooled by the depressing beginning. I promise if you watch and listen to the end, you will be inspired to get on your feet and make the most of your day however you can.

For the soul…

It Is Well With My Soul (virtual choir)

  • This has been one of my all time favorite songs since high school, especially when I learned the story behind it. This talented group of singers performs it beautifully despite not even being in the same room together!

 

Hallelujah (virtual choir)

  • Another beautiful virtual performance.

 

Have a wonderful day and look for the good stuff!

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Nope, Not Gonna Do It

My goal was never to reach the top. I had only two goals when I hiked the trail up to the renowned granite jewel called Half Dome. It became clear to me about a half hour from starting the trek that they were a) don’t cry and b) don’t faint.

I really had no idea what I was getting into when I volunteered to spend a day hiking with my friends to the top of that silver peak. “Sure,” I said. “Sounds like fun!”

Just to make certain I could hold my own, my grand plan was to go to my gym, GB3 Fitness, to spend some time on the StairMaster one week prior to our sunrise meet up in Yosemite Valley. I was sure this would be all the prep I needed.

Half Dome is 8,839 ft above sea level. It’s about 17 miles round trip. It has an elevation gain of a little under 5,000 ft. from Yosemite Valley (imagine the height of nearly 3 Empire State Buildings). It’s a 10-12 hour hike, which is considered “steep, but moderate”, and there is a cable segment for the last 400 feet. Meaning, the cables there on either side so you have something to hold onto because there’s a chance you could fall and die. People have, actually. But I didn’t know any of these facts prior to my experience. I was just happy to go along with my friends. I must not have been paying attention to the details when we discussed it. I’ve been known to do that.

The day of the hike arrived. What I thought would be a fun day in the rugged outdoors turned into a prayer for mercy. I literally—sometimes even out loud—prayed my way up nearly the entire 5,000 foot elevation climb. Oh. my. goodness.

The thing was, I couldn’t quit even if I wanted to. There was no turning back. There were four of us, and you just don’t say in the middle of the forest that you’re going to turn around and go wait in the car while the rest of your friends hike up and down Half Dome for 10-12 hours. I had too much pride to ever turn around.

We had started on the trail head at sunrise and didn’t return to the parking lot following the hike until after the sun set that night. We only stopped for a very quick lunch break. Also, it was imperative that we continue on so that we wouldn’t be forced to turn around in the afternoon if we didn’t make it to the cables in time.

Around that time in my life, I had been memorizing the book of James in the bible. In the very first chapter of James is the verse, Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” I was glad to have those words imprinted in my brain, because those were the words that ultimately pushed me up that mountain. When I wasn’t praying that my out-of-shape lungs wouldn’t give out, I was saying that verse over and over as if it would give me strength. And it did. 

My other three friends were in much better shape than I, and had more hiking experience than I had. I’m not even sure how I ended up there with them, actually, but when all is said and done it’s one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And the thing is, I didn’t go to the top.

I didn’t go all the way to the top of Half Dome.

After hours and hours of hiking we finally made it to the cables section, but I decided to take a rest on a rock and enjoy the view right from where I was. I looked up at that granite dome, I looked on both sides of the thick cables bolted into the side of the dome, looked at the smooth slope of the rock…and I just decided, “Nope, not gonna do it.”

But even though I had come so far and most people would think it was not worthy of a triumph, in that moment I was super proud of myself for even making it that far. It was good enough for me. To proudly watch my friends ascend the last 400 feet, to watch all the hikers around me ecstatic and tired from their journey, to feel the powerful winds rushing past my face….that was enough.

You know, so many people compare themselves to others and feel not enough because they didn’t accomplish the same things or the “best” things or the “greatest” things. But what about your best or greatest thing? Doesn’t that count for something?

The fact that I, a young woman who had been overweight her whole life….whose “P.E.” for most of her school years was band…who grew up eating fast food and who found it painful to run…the fact that I was standing nearly 400 feet from the peak of Half Dome after hiking uphill for 5-6 hours and made it without crying or needing medical help (okay, maybe I did cry a little) and knew there was another toe-bruising 5-6 hours back down hill in the dark….that is a feat in itself!

Some might say, “You only had another 400 feet to go!!!You should’ve gone for it.” And I’d say this:

I have no regrets about it. None.

When I got up to the point where I stayed behind, I was completely content. Something in my heart knew to stop and enjoy the view right from where I was. So I did.

Life is like that, too. It’s good to be ambitious, but there is also a place for being satisfied with what you already have. Others may surpass you, but that doesn’t make you any less valuable or unable to experience joy in the space you are at the moment. We are able to do hard things, but we should also be able to sit back and enjoy the view now and then.

For the rest of my life, I will remember Half Dome with fondness. I hiked with some awesome salt of the earth people. I persevered like I never had before. The crunch of the pine needles. The cleanest of air. Count it all joy. The sweat glistening from my brow. The way the Clif bar tasted when we finally took a rest, as if I were dining at Morton’s. The gorgeous view from the almost top. So good. So, so good enough. Yep. No regrets.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

 

 

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

All day I’ve kept myself busy at home, properly sheltered in place. I worked during the work hours, attended meetings online, and planned lessons for the future.

In the afternoon, when work was done for the day, instead of indulging in my newest daily pleasure—what I call The Walk Up the Hill—- I stood in the sunshine on my front porch and ate ice cream.

It was thrilling, holding that little cup of rainbow sherbet while looking up at the clear blue sky. I took my time, tasting the variety of flavors while listening to the sounds in the neighborhood. When I’m in my front yard, it’s usually to rush from my car to the front door and vice versa. I like to say hello to the neighbors who are friendly—because we do have some that are not. But that’s another story.

Today, a friendly neighbor walking her dog passed by and remarked (from at least 5 yards away) that she was wearing her hole-y pants today because well, why not? I don’t know her name. I should know it. We laughed, and I replied that I was wearing pajama pants because, well…why not? When she came back around a few minutes later, she stayed all the way across the street this time.

Maybe I shouldn’t confess to people when I’m wearing pajamas. But really…who wasn’t in their pajamas today?

The evening passed quickly with an interesting homemade dinner, a nice Zoom meeting among friends, and a few rounds of double solitaire with my husband. Now, all is still….the hum of the refrigerator is the only noise I hear, other than the typing of my keyboard and this odd pulsing heartbeat rush I hear in my left ear every once in awhile.

Before going to bed, I checked the news online. I wish I hadn’t. Rule #1 of Sheltering in Place During the Spread of a Highly Contagious Virus = don’t check the news before bed time. But I did. Fear slithered in a bit, and I felt my breath become captured by a renewed sense of urgency.

But I have vowed to not give in. I will not give in to this fear.

The truth I have right now in this moment is that right now in this moment I am okay. So I will think on that. And when I think on the future, I will not think of the worst what-if-this-happens or what-if-that-happens in regard to myself and my family and friends. Instead, I am going to think on what am I looking forward to tomorrow.

What am I looking forward to tomorrow?

So many things. A waterfall of life-giving things that bring joy and comfort and calm.

Stretching when I wake up. Entering the stillness of the kitchen on a brand new cool morning. Reaching for my coffee mug, and then….oh, the hot, sweet coffee. Praying. Saying good morning to my husband while attempting to make him smile. Watching my dog practically do cartwheels to get to her breakfast. Eggs…I love eggs. Listening to the morning announcements on my job’s Facebook page. Seeing my colleagues’ beautiful, dedicated faces through the computer screen for our daily meeting. The kids. I get to see my students tomorrow. I get to see their smiles in those little boxes on my Chromebook, and maybe I’ll almost-cry like I did last week when I heard them read aloud for the first time in a week and I was so proud of them that my heart was going to burst. They are handling this whole distance learning thing with such maturity…and courage.

I could go on and on.

That’s my saving grace tonight. I’m stopping fear in its tracks by thinking on all the little things that for years I’ve taken for granted. But as many of our freedoms have been temporarily taken away in order to help save lives, we still have so much we can look forward to. We have riches that we didn’t even realize we have—in all the good things that are still all around us, every minute of the day. Can you see your good things? Are you looking beyond what you can’t do to see the beauty in what you can?

I hope so.

Tomorrow night, instead of checking the news. I will pray—for the ones who are sick, for the families who have lost loved ones. I’ll pray for our world, for its leaders, and for this virus to be under control. I look forward to praying. For when we pray, I know God is listening. That’s amazing.

Good night, friends. May your tomorrow be as bright as the light that shines from your heart. Don’t let anything dim it. People need your light to keep keepin’ on.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.        -2 Timothy 1:7

 

 

 

Music: It Makes Us Feel Better

What’s your song? What tune do you go to when your heart is troubled, or when you need to dig deep to find some joy?

By last Wednesday I’d been sheltering in place for about 10 days, and up until then I had been pretty positive about it. I was looking on the bright side, finding humor on Facebook in an unprecedented situation, and I felt that as long as I took precautions I would likely be okay and not get the novel coronavirus.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, I had to go to the doctor for a follow up to discuss the results from a bunch of lab tests and a couple of scans I had taken four to six weeks ago. From November to early February, I’d been coughing non-stop. I had lost a lot of sleep, I was exhausted, and my lungs had been constricted in a scary way. It got to the point where, by January, I needed a couple of breathing treatments and had begun using a rescue inhaler regularly in addition to some other medicines that treat asthma.

I didn’t grow up with asthma. This was all new to me, so I had lived through the winter of 2019-20 more frightened than I cared to admit to myself. Each night for weeks, I would remind myself that God tells us to not be afraid. So I would shove my fear from my mind before attempting to sleep, and focus on other things. Tired as I was, I was able to rest in the peace of knowing that Jesus was there to pray to and that He would shelter me with His love.

A few years back, this would not have been the scenario. For several years in my thirties, I suffered greatly from anxiety. I feared death, and I hated not being in control of things. My husband and I love to travel, but I battled with my anxiety constantly while flying in airplanes, being in teeny tiny hundred-year-old hotel rooms in the U.K., or finding myself in a car where we were driving on the opposite side of the road that we were used to in the United States. My anxiety consumed me and pretty much robbed my joy for way too long. It was like having an extra roommate we had to deal with, the kind who wouldn’t pay rent and demanded squatter’s rights until you figured out a way to kick him out.

Anxiety is real and often comes with a physical response. If you’ve ever experienced it, then you know what I mean. You feel as if you are in a tunnel, and your imagination runs wild with all the what-if scenarios…you think worst-case for every possible situation. There were times during those years when friends or my husband would have to help me breathe through a panic attack. There were nights when I would pace the living room floor, or need to open the front door to walk outside and look at the stars and breath the cold night air just to calm my fears.

I was able to do my job and do it well, and I acted like nothing was the matter. But night time was the worst, once the day’s activities were over and the house would get quiet. Lots of time then to start thinking and wondering. And worrying.

It was the worst of times. It is something I vow to never ever go back to, now that I feel I have conquered the anxiety.

Ironically, those are the years when I paid little attention to music, one of my first loves.

As a young girl, I found that I could escape in three things: books, Jesus, and music. As a musician, music became a part of my daily life. When I began teaching full-time after college and moved to a small town, the music faded away. Coincidentally, my anxiety was born. But I have to wonder if that is a coincidence after all.

Music is so powerful, and right now as we are all sheltering in place…as we sit in our homes or walk or ride bikes outdoors six feet apart from each other, I’ve noticed that music is making a come back.

It’s always been around…from a distance. For decades, we’ve turned the stations on our car radios as we drive and we may turn up the tunes in our homes as we clean house or get ready in the morning, but in this time of quarantine music has reminded us that it has the power to lift our worried frowns into smiles and ease the frustration of having nowhere to go.

The first time I noticed people were turning to music for comfort was when someone shared a Facebook post of neighbors in a city in Italy who were singing in unison from their windows one evening. They couldn’t leave their homes, but they found a way to be united and bring each other joy.

Once our town was told to shelter in place, I began seeing on Facebook hundreds of ways people were getting creative while they were home-bound. Lots of art and home projects, but the thing I’m seeing the most is how music is being shared. Regular citizens are recording themselves at home, celebrity musicians are taking requests through Instagram and Facebook, professional and collegiate musicians are finding ways to collaborate remotely and produce some really beautiful works that are uplifting and that help to ease our minds, and even get us up and dancing.

There’s something about music that hits so many of our emotions. It’s amazing to me how there are particular chords that can match my feelings of joy, sadness, confusion, and even anger. When we hear those chords put together in song, we may not even be having those certain feelings before we play the song, but as we listen it evokes those feelings from us as if we were listening to a story. Words are not even necessary. You just feel it.

So last Wednesday, when I came home from my doctor’s appointment I started having anxious thoughts because I had been out in public and at a medical facility, no less. My imagination was getting harder to reign in and, because of my former experience, I was able quickly recognize the signs that these were nothing but anxious thoughts trying to slither in. But I’ve been committed to not giving anxiety any power over me.

And one of my weapons to fight anxiety is music. The next night, I asked friends on Facebook to list the most beautiful song they could think of in that moment, and before going to sleep I listened to each one. Halfway through the first song, my mind was calmer. By the end of the last song, my breathing was steady and I felt contentment and strength.

So as I shut off the light, I left on some music—the six cello suites composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. If you haven’t heard them, they are six songs for an unaccompanied cello. Just the cello sings, a rhythmic and peaceful composition that helps me to tuck all my other thoughts away for the night.

I slept peacefully and woke up feeling rested.

That is just one example of the power of music and how it can suddenly take us on a journey that provides solace in our times of sadness and distress.

Find your song, friends. You will feel better for listening.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin