We are living through a pandemic. Here, in a rural, sleepy, Midwestern town, there are just a handful of cases, and as of yet, no deaths.
The close reaching effect on me is nothing. I have not lost my income, earlier I wrote about my essential day job. I am young enough to recoup my lost investments. And, most importantly, I am not ill with the virus.
I mostly stay home. When venturing out, I social distance. I veer from the path of others on my late afternoon walks, wait politely at the grocery store aisles for others to pass, gather virtually with family and friends, and worship by watching a live stream. Online discussions replaced book club this month.
I long to see my friends; I need the gabbing giggles of the sisterhood! I do not have my gaggle of gal pals to fill me with belly laughs and encouragement and fellowship.
In Wisconsin, we have a “Stay at Home Order.” Its end is threatening into an unknown future date, word of its extension on the horizon. My action, is inaction.
Yet, I am exhausted. I hesitate to use the word depressed, but I fear my state is skating to that edge. For now, I am content to concede, I am exhausted, nothing more, nothing less.
Just last month, I was writing about being busy, so busy! I wonder how inaction can cause such exhaustion. Perhaps, it is the news I consume, the horror from the hot spots. Perhaps, it is my daily wine, drank in boredom. Perhaps it is over consumption of food, baked to pass the time.
Regardless of its root, I declare, I am exhausted — drained of strength or energy, worn out.
It is time for me to replenish that which has been lost. It is not that which depleted my energy, which is of importance. It is how I can restore it that matters. I must stretch beyond, the obvious — sleep, fresh air, movement, and nourishment. These things have not alleviated my exhaustion. I remain mentally and physically weakened.
If I’m being honest, I am also depleted spiritually. My last thought, is to turn to my faith. I know this season will end; it is all temporary.
I look to the following verses to replenish what has been lost, to relieve my exhaustion.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12
I live in Wisconsin. Schools are closed, non essential businesses are closed. I am grateful for the Stay at Home order from Governor Tony Evers.
For me, there is still the day job. I feel like I won a booby prize being considered “essential.” I work in health care, but not as a front-line worker.
It is great for my mental health to be out and with people doing work that is meaningful. It is great to take a break from the devastating world news that I consume ravenously.
Yet, I worry about the exposure from the symptom-less carriers I could be interacting with. Everyone who enters our hospital is screened for symptoms and fevers. Those who are exhibiting them are redirected to a quarantine-ready location.
I wear a surgical mask. No one can see my smile. Yet, my tears will be obvious when I become overwhelmed.
Fellowship is a community of companionship.
When I think of fellowship, I think of coffee hour after worship on Sunday mornings. It is one of the meanings of the word, and the most obvious place I put the concept into practice. “Communion, as between members of the same church.”
As a noun, it originates from Middle English 1200, feolahschipe “companionship,” from fellow + -ship. Sense of “a body of companions.”
Taken to modern day, the noun is the condition or relation of being a fellow: the fellowship of humankind. It also is defined as a friendly relationship or a community of interest.
In a secular sense, I have great fellowship with writers, with readers, with card game competitors, with family.
In a faith community sense, I was slow to adopt to this behavior of connecting with others at my church. As a Catholic, I very much just attended Mass, where I said silent prayers, chanted and sang together. Beyond exchanging peace, my interaction with other congregates, was limited. I did not gather in the church basement or some other fellowship hall.
As I transitioned to worship at a Presbyterian Church, I continued to dodge the social hour and made way for the parking lot as soon as the benediction concluded.
I felt my faith was stunted in this way. I was unable to grow in community. By saying yes to fellowship, I have experienced the power of symmetry. Meaning the sum of its parts are greater than the whole. Alone, I can do little. With fellowship of believers, I can sustain a greater affirmation of the Word and carry it through the week ahead.
Knowing my neighbors in the congregation and connecting with them, I can hold them and their concerns in my heart. And, even more humbly, I can rely on them to hold my spiritual needs in theirs.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together , they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone. And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Remember the days of land lines actually attached to a wall. Remember trying to call someone dialing just seven digits, and getting a jarring, repetitive, static-y tone?
Busy. Try again. Still busy. There was no way to leave a message. There was no way to send an email or text. There was no way to reach the person in that moment at all. And, this was annoying. The “brr brr brr” echoing in the receiver was a frustrating sound, a dead end.
Busy is a word from Old English, bisig, meaning “careful” or “anxious.” Later surfaces of the word are from the Old Dutch, bezich, meaning “continually employed or occupied, in constant or energetic action.” The notion of “anxiousness” has drained from the word since Middle English.
Indeed, today, we wear busy as a badge of honor. We are so busy with our work, with our families, with our hobbies, with everything. We view our colleague’s calendar to set up a meeting and see her’s is stacked with blocks titled “busy” sometimes double booked. This is a stamp of importance, so many meetings to attend!
Presently, the adjective, means actively and attentively engaged in work; not at leisure, otherwise engaged. For example, he couldn’t see any visitors because he was busy. It can mean full of or characterized by activity: a busy life.
In the case of the telephone line, not immediately accessible. We begrudgingly accepted the phone line was busy. The person on the phone was present in another activity, just a step away from a wall. We heard the message that they couldn’t be reached.
I, too, am busy. With the day job, with my family, with my book clubs, with my church, with my hobbies. I mistake activity for leisure, when often times, I am just filling time to avoid genuine rest. I choose to fill my calendar with group outings and volunteer meetings. I choose to be busy. I boast about how busy I am and therefore unable to accept visitors.
I send out a signal to the world, “brr, brr, brr. You can’t reach me.” I feel I send this message to God as well. Too busy to hear His voice, to live His will. It is a challenge to be still. To be open. To be reachable, receptive. When I fill every hour of every day, I do not yield the joy of spontaneity. Scheduled to the brim, I just go down the list bouncing from one activity to the next.
At times, I grow uncomfortable in stillness. It feels more natural to be engaged, busy. I am a Martha in Luke’s Gospel, busying myself with seemingly important tasks. In the bible story, Jesus visits the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to his teaching while Martha busies herself serving him. Martha was bothered by Mary’s lack of assistance.
Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
The one thing that is necessary is to listen to His teachings. I wonder, if when the time comes for me to hear Him, will He reach a busy signal. I hope to leave enough room to answer the call.
To know your value is to know your worth. Time and money are the quantifiers of modern life. How you choose to exchange these resources is the summation of what you consider valuable.
As a preposition, worth is what is good or important enough to justify. For example, advice worth taking or a place worth visiting.
As a noun, worth is first defined as excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem: women of worth. This definition reminds me of Psalm 46:5 “God is within her, she will not fail.” If as a woman, she truly believes herself to be a vessel of God, she would not settle for less than she deserves.
Furthermore, worth, the noun, is defined as usefulness or importance, as to the world, to a person, or for a purpose. Worth is value, as in money.
As a woman, who has settled for enough, I strive to stand straighter in command of my worth. Considering worth in a quantitative measure is easy; I can easily perceive a value of goods, services, and experiences purchased. Worth is having an equal value. This vase is worth twelve dollars.
Qualitatively, knowing what is worth my time, is less straightforward. I always found opportunity cost to cast doubts on my decisions. If I spend my time doing this, I cannot spend that same time doing something else. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, but we don’t know how many days we have left.
From knowing one’s own worth, one can decide how to use their time. Socializing with friends is worth a couple hours of my time. Reading two books a month, is worth the slices of time captured in afternoons, evenings, and lunch breaks. Minutes on the treadmill is worthwhile. The day job is worth the bulk of my weekdays. Time with family is never wasted.
When someone else is doing the measuring, one can present a confident sense of value and request the equitable rate of exchange. This is important in negotiations. Related, what is worthwhile? What will it take to repay one’s time, attention, interest, work, or trouble?
If I am to hope to be anything in this world, I hope to be gracious.
Presently, an adjective, pleasantly kind, benevolent, and courteous. Characterized by good taste, comfort, ease. Merciful or compassionate.
In practice, gracious living is its own reward. When we live in love with compassion and mercy, we experience peace and goodwill. Living graciously means having consideration for the feelings of others. It embodies living with humility without bragging or flouting processions or accomplishments. Gracious people have empathy, are thoughtful. If you wish to have a gracious home, be welcoming.
Living in a state of gratitude fuels a gracious aura. Above all else, remain poised with composure through all you encounter. Remember, if God brings you to it, he will bring you through it. Said another way, keep calm and carry on.
Gracious has its roots as a word to sum up courteous, pleasing, kind and friendly. It exemplifies enjoying favor, agreeable, obliging. Originally, from 1250-1300 Middle English, gracious from Old French and prior Latin: grātiōsus, equivalent to grāti (grace) and ōsus (ous). Translating to filled with God’s grace.
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.” Psalm 145:8-9.
Goals are what we set out to do. Outcomes are the result.
I got a little discouraged this past week.
On the first full week of 2020, I got a bug. A wipe you out, interrupt your sleep, feel so bad you can’t concentrate, motivate, or do anything but try night time cough syrup, then get through the day job with Day Quill. Evenings were brief interludes with soup in a mug sipped with propped pillows lounging on the couch with comfy clothes.
It got so bad, I didn’t want to be around anyone, not even myself. I was borderline depressed by my lack of energy. My mind still wanted to get on the treadmill, mingle with friends, sit at the writing desk. You get the idea. All my good intentions timed with the new year fell by the wayside. My body said, “Too bad. You need a rest.”
By Saturday, I conceded, I wasn’t going to recover without intervention. I went to a walk-in clinic, got a script for a zpac and advice for Mucinex. I had more soup, more rest, and did some reading.
Hopefully, the bug is on its way out and I can get back to the business of 2020 goals and make measurable progress toward outcomes!
Outcome, a noun, a final product or end result; consequence; issue. A conclusion reached through a process of logical thinking.
Setting goals and resolutions is nothing new and I’ve had success. This year, I treated myself to a leather-bound, Zig Ziglar planner. The Performance Planner: A Personal Management & Goals-Achievement System is a beautiful tool. It breaks down goals into action steps. It has plenty of instruction on how to set and achieve goals. It is a planner where you pencil in the dates and breakdown the weeks into time-chunks to discipline yourself to make progress.
I love it!
It is different than other planners, and apps I have used in the past. It is executive, sleek, and loaded with inspirational quotes.
A common mantra in business is “that what gets measured gets managed.” Taking stock weekly, then daily, prompts me to measure actions that can amount to outcomes. The thing to remember is one can only control the input, not the outcome.
Two of my big goals for 2020 are: 1. Gain exposure for my writing; and 2. Open myself up to a big writing project that becomes a passion.
Action steps for the former are to blog weekly, pitch from my pile of completed poems and essays, participate in literary events, and connect with other writers. Action steps for the latter are to practice daily devotionals, read widely in desired genre, and walk regularly without music to clear my head. With the planner, I can schedule these activities.
Ziglar’s weekly reminders are to 1. Each weekend, schedule projects and activities into your calendar for the next week; and 2. Each evening or early in the morning, list your highest priorities for the day and cross off when complete.
I leave you with the following note from Ziglar, “Action is key, but direction and loyalty are paramount.”
Focus: to limit distraction. Let everything not import blur in the background.
As a verb, focus is to direct one’s attention or efforts. The verb originated in 1775 in optics, to bring into focus. It became a figurative in 1807. It began as a use in photography in 1864.
One of my tricks to mentally focus is to set a timer. I use my phone. Most often, I set it for forty-five minutes. I find I have trouble focusing for longer than that. I generally, do three or four sessions of focus in a work period. After the timer goes off, I get up, walk around, use the bathroom, check social media, get a glass of water, or a snack. I allow myself these breaks so I can reach peak concentration in the disciplined time periods.
It is amazing how much work, one can get done in less than an hour of dedicated attention.
My focus timer also serves as a race clock. Remember how we are all given the same twenty-four hours in a day. Why is it that some people seem to get so much more done? I believe it comes down to focus. Some days my planner is so chocked full of must dos, that my should dos and want to dos have to be squeezed in. With my focus timer, I can race the clock to achieve what I set out to do.
I am susceptible to the distraction of social media and instant messaging. I am always looking for tips to improve my focus. Please share in the comments.
Awake, awake to love and work. This directive for living is the title of a Christian hymn, by Geoffrey A. Studder-Kennedy.
It is a perfect anthem for the start of a new year. Whatever you set out for 2020, do so with zeal.
The noun zeal is fervor for a person, cause, or object. It is eager desire or endeavor, enthusiastic diligence. With this passionate ardor one can enjoy any pursuit.
Zeal is a church word from the Greek zelos. It also derives directly from late Latin, zelus. It can roughly translate to zeal.
Presently, we think of zeal as a description for joyfully carrying out an action, with zeal. Someone who has a zest for life can be said to exhibit zeal. As an adjective, one can be zealous — full of or characterized by zeal; ardently active, devoted, or diligent.
As I consider my hopes for the new decade, the roaring twenties, I am conscious to pepper my actions with joyful intent. To fully invest my time and efforts. In short, I aim to be more zealous. Perhaps this enthusiasm will become contagious and together, with my tribes, we can achieve big work. In any regard, being zealous is sure to make the days more full.
As you go on to pursue the new year with zeal, consider the first verse of “Awake, Awake to love and Work:”
Awake, awake to love and work!
The lark is in the sky;
The fields are wet with diamond dew;
The worlds awake to cry
Their blessings on the Lord of life,
As He goes meekly by.