In times of crisis, it's easy to allow our emotions free reign. Over the past couple of months, in a moment's notice, I've found myself reeling between fear, panic, frustration, and any number of emotions. In order to maintain my emotional health, I found it necessary to turn off the news, only listening to what the discerning ears of my husband deemed necessary for me to know. My daughters have kept things light as they've joked about gaining the "quarantine 15" from all the food we've been consuming while pent up in our house. Laughter is truly good medicine for the anxious, weary soul!
However, as I pondered the state of our world and that of my heart, I thought of fifteen things I've gained during this time which I hope I never lose. Granted each of these things existed in my life to an extent before COVID19, but having more time to pause and ponder has brought a keener sense of their presence.
Before our world changed virtually overnight, I had become a bit apathetic with life. Like many, I simply went from one task to another, one day to the next without truly noticing and appreciating the world around me. Since being quarantined at home I have begun to notice the things and people around me I once took for granted. I have gained a new appreciation for the way my husband washes the dishes after dinner every night. I have gained a new appreciation for the guys that pick up our trash every week, the lady who delivers our mail each day, and the stock boy at my local grocery store.
Speaking to the Corinthians about some of his fellow ministers Paul said:
"They have been a wonderful encouragement to me, as they have been to you. You must show your appreciation to all who serve so well." 1 Corinthians 16:18
I hope I never lose my sense of appreciation for those who serve our community well or for my husband, who serves our family well.
Who serves you well? How can you show your appreciation to them today?
Before this quarantine time, I had been a bit fuzzy on what my next God assignment was. I did things in my own way and my own strength. I knew God wanted me to teach His Word to His people but I had my own ideas of what that should look like. After having more time to ponder and pray I am beginning to understand a little better what my service for God is to look like.
The writer of Hebrews said:
"As we enter into God's faith-rest life we cease from our own works, just as God celebrates his finished works and rests in them. Hebrews 4:10 TPT
As I have rested from my own work for God, I have gained clarity into His work for me.
Where do you need clarity? From what can you rest in order to find that clarity?
In quarantine life, it would have been so easy to simply let things go, to stop following a daily schedule, and live as if we were in a perpetual weekend. I quickly realized living this way brought depression near so I disciplined myself to maintain a daily schedule.
Wise King Solomon said:
"A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls." Proverbs 25:28
In ancient times a city with broken-down walls was easily attacked. Without the self-control and discipline to set a daily schedule we leave ourselves vulnerable to attacks from Satan. An undisciplined life is an easy target for his temptations. Following my daily schedule as closely as possible has allowed me some semblance of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal time.
In what area do you need discipline? How can you gain this discipline?
4) Emotional Health
As stated in the opening, my emotions have been all over the place and changing in the blink of an eye! While I do believe we need to be informed, we also need to be discerning. We must carefully choose the source of our information. We must carefully choose how much information we allow in. We must carefully choose what we allow our minds to dwell on.
Paul told the Philippians:
"Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace], which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]." Philippians 4:6-7 AMP
As I continue to bring my specific concerns before my Father, I gain the peace of Christ as a guard for my heart and mind. His peace reassures my heart that He is in charge even in the scary circumstances of quarantine.
What is the state of your emotions? What are you concerned or worried about? Where are you looking for peace?
Gratitude is closely related to appreciation. Appreciation is assigning proper value to someone or something while gratitude is the expression of that appreciation. As I learned to appreciate things and people more, I became more expressive of that appreciation.
The Passion Translation renders Ephesians 5:19b-20:
"Keep speaking to each other with words of Scripture, singing the Psalms with praises and spontaneous songs given by the Spirit! Always give thanks to the Father God for every person he brings into your life in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Concentrating on God's Word causes His blessings to become more and more apparent to us. As a result, our attitude turns from one of dissatisfaction to one of gratitude.
List five things you are grateful for today.
When our world is topsy-turvy it's easy to turn to the dark side, to allow fear and uncertainty to steal our joy. Satan wants nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy our joy and his favorite tactic for doing so is worry.
When my heart and mind begin to get clogged and cluttered with worry, I strap on my walking shoes and hit the pavement or head to the fields or woods. I go on a worry walk. With each step, I tell God what's worrying me...every single detail...every single scenario of possible outcomes I've conjured up in my mind.
Paul told the Romans:
"Let this hope burst forth from within you, releasing a continual joy. Don't give up in a time of trouble, but commune with God at all times." Romans 12:12 TPT
As I take my worry walk, communing with God, somewhere along the way my heart settles and my mind stops thinking "worst case" and God's peace washes over me. And my mouth begins to sing God's praise.
Turning our worries into prayers brings peace which quickly turns into worship. And a heart set to worship is a heart full of joy.
What are you worried about today? Why not go on a worry walk and give those burdens to God. Then allow His Spirit to settle you in His peace and His presence to bring His joy.
As I've sat in silence with God during these days, I have gained knowledge of the true state of my heart. Sometimes we need a crisis to make us sit still long enough to feel the convicting touch of God's Spirit.
Proverbs 4:23 says:
"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." NLT
With so many of life's distractions stripped away, we have been given the gift of time. Some of us have filled that time with Netflix binges, closet cleanout sessions, or puzzle building huddles. (I've done two of these myself!) We do not like stillness. We do not like silence. Our culture has conditioned us to view these as unproductive. Could it be we're afraid to sit still, afraid what the silence might reveal?
What state is your heart in today? Do you know? When was the last time you asked God to show you your sin? Cry out with Job:
"How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgressions and sins."
Job 13:23 NKJV
God loves to answer this prayer, not because He wants to punish us but because He wants our sanctification.
For the first time in my lifetime, I've had to stand in line to get into the grocery store. Many of us are working from home while trying to make sure our children complete their school assignments. We are faced with the task of cooking, cleaning, and caring for our families, all things we've been balancing; however, being confined to our homes has made this seem nearly impossible. My own frustration level has run high some days as my husband (an essential worker) has come home for lunch since restaurants have been closed. Having been used to MY schedule, his mid-day "interruptions" have tested my patience. We all want this to be over (yesterday!) and life to go back to normal. This whole experience has tested our patience in many ways. Paul instructed the Ephesians:
"With tender humility and quiet patience, always demonstrate gentleness and generous love toward those who may try your patience." Ephesians 4:2 TPT
Where do you need to exhibit patience? With whom do you need to demonstrate gentleness and generous love? How can you do this today?
As the days have dragged on and the virus has continued to spread, I've gained a new perspective on what true service is. Around the globe, we've witnessed medical personnel laying down their lives to serve and save those infected with this deadly virus. These doctors and nurses do not know the people they are treating yet they risk exposure to COVID19 in order to serve their patients.
Echoing Jesus, John said:
"This is how we have discovered love's reality: Jesus sacrificed His life for us. Because of this great love, we should be willing to lay down our lives for one another." 1 John 3:16 TPT
I know I need to reconsider my service. I am selfish. I want to live life and not be bothered with other's needs (I told you I've gained knowledge of my heart condition! It ain't pretty!) I'm working on laying down my life for others, putting their needs before my own. Few of us will ever be asked to risk our lives for another person but we need to have the mindset that says we are willing; it's what Jesus did for us and we are supposed to follow His example.
Where are you serving? Who are you serving? How willing are you to put the needs of others before your own?
Trials always seem to cause us to rethink our priorities. Being sequestered at home has given us plenty of time to think about what is truly important in life.
When my children were pre-teens and teens, anytime they were upset about something I would ask them: In the scheme of eternity, will this truly matter? What I was trying to do in asking this question was refocus their minds.
In the scheme of eternity how much money is in our savings account will not matter. In the scheme of eternity what type of house we live in or what kind of car we drive, will not matter. In the scheme of eternity how many followers we have on our social media formats, will not matter. In the scheme of eternity people is what matters. God created us for relationship; first and foremost with Himself and then with other humans. I hope we all emerge from this time with a higher regard for the priority of relationships in our lives. Jesus said it best:
"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39 NLT
How can you make loving God and loving others your priority?
I don't know about you but I like to be in control. I try to keep a firm grip on my life. I highly dislike not knowing what is happening. All the uncertainties surrounding COVID19 could have (and honestly almost did) thrown me into full-blown panic. I know many with anxiety issues are suffering at this time. Learning to release my control has been paramount to keeping fear at bay.
In Psalm 55 David implores us:
"Give you burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." Psalm 55:22 NLT
Releasing our burdens, whether of control or fear, to the Lord frees Him to work in our lives.
What do you need to release to God? How can you do so today?
I am not one to be idle. I like to get things done. But over the past month or so I have learned how to truly rest. Rest my body from constant movement. Rest my mind from constant overthinking. Rest my heart from constant worry. Rest for my soul. This rest can only be found in times of solitude with the Lord.
"Whenever my busy thoughts were out of control, the soothing comfort of Your presence calmed me down and comforted me with delight." Psalm 94:19 TPT
When was the last time your soul was truly at rest? What can you do to find that rest today?
Let's face it, we are wasteful people. I'm sure I could feed a small country with the amount of food I've thrown away in my lifetime. And it isn't just food we waste. We waste money on things we never use or clothes we never wear. We waste time on frivolous activities. We waste words saying things that ought not be said. Some of us are wasting our lives in careers we hate all for the sake of living in luxury.
When God created the earth He made human beings His stewards. He expects us to take care of this earth. He also created time, giving us 24 hours each day, 365 days each year. He expects us to spend our time wisely. William Penn said: "Time is what we want most and what we use worst."
In Psalm 90:12 Moses cried out to God:
"So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." NKJV
Being a good steward of the time we have been given enables us to accomplish the things God desires us to accomplish.
How are you spending your time? How can you use this time in quarantine to reevaluate your life and your stewardship of all God has blessed you with? What will you do differently when this is all over?
14) Slower Pace
Granted my life has been at a significantly slower pace for the last couple of years. I remember well the days of diapers, toddlers, homeschooling, dance classes, music lessons, soccer practice. When children are young and activities are many, we become accustomed to running from one activity to the next, eating in our cars, and falling into bed at night wondering if we actually accomplished anything. With all the extra-curricular activities stripped away, we can all take a breather.
Our modern world frowns on slow paces. We think if we are not producing then we are failing. If we are not moving we're falling behind. We live in a culture that shouts, "Go! Go! Go!" at the top of its lungs. But our bodies need rest.
When my children were young and didn't want to settle down to sleep, I always told them that God created our bodies for rest, that's why He made the nighttime. Now that we've all had a few weeks to rest from our hectic lifestyle maybe our bodies have had time to rejuvenate. I hope we have learned the value of slowing down and will continue to take life at a slower pace when we phase back into "full operation".
Taking life at a slower pace allows time for God to speak to our hearts.
In 1 Samuel 3, we read the story of young Samuel sleeping in the Temple. God calls out to him but each time the young boy thinks it is Eli calling him. After Samuel has come to his bedside a couple of times, Eli finally realizes it is God calling out to Samuel. He tells Samuel:
"Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, 'Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went back to bed. And the Lord came and called as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, 'Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.'"
1 Samuel 3:9-10
How will you incorporate a slower pace once we return to "normal life"? What activities have you not missed since being shut down? Maybe consider not adding those back. How can having a slower pace help you better hear God's voice?
While being at home with all this time on my hands, I have discovered many places in my life that have not been completely surrendered to God. Some of these are seemingly small things, others hold more importance. It's easy to stand in church on Sunday morning and sing, "I Surrender All". It's quite another to walk into Monday morning fully surrendered to whatever God may bring into your life.
As I've faced myself during these days I've heard God ask me, as He asked Elijah: "What are you doing here, Jane?" After my answer I heard Him say:
Quit being afraid of giving it ALL up.
Quit living in the 'what if', 'if only', 'I wish'.
Start living in the now.
Start living the life I've given you.
The Message paraphrases Job 22:21-25:
"Give in to God, come to terms with Him and everything will turn out just fine. Let Him tell you what to do, take His words to heart. Come back to God Almighty and He'll rebuild your life. Clean house of everything evil. Relax your grip on your money and abandon your gold-plated luxury. God Almighty will be your treasure, more wealth will come than you can imagine."
Where do you need to fully surrender to God? What have you been holding on to in hopes of finding an easier or better way? How can you begin to lay it all down before God and come to terms with Him today?
If I've gained pounds during quarantine I hope to lose them, but I hope I never lose these 15 things! I want to remember the lessons God has taught me and apply them to my life going forward.
What would be on your quarantine 15 list? How has God been speaking to you during this time? I'd love to know! Send me an email and let's compare lists! And if you'd like a short ebook I put together about surrender, join my email list and one will find its way to your inbox!
Until next time keeping gathering manna, growing deeper, and gaining intimacy!
God bless and keep you,