People love to cite the first part of Proverbs 31:25:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity…”
But the last half of that verse is my favorite. In fact, if I ever get a tattoo, it will either be a black-eyed susan around the birthmark on my back OR it will be the second half of this verse… somewhere I can see it.
“She laughs without fear of the future.”
You know, 2020 was supposed to be the worst year ever. That’s what everybody said. It was a dumpster fire, and nothing was supposed to top it. Smooth sailing from then on, right?
No one saw 2021 standing in the wings waiting to make 2020 look lovely. Peaceful and even a little life-giving.
This year has been rough. I could make a list of all of the unprecedented, never-before imagined things that have happened in and to our family in the past ten months. I won’t, because it’s depressing. And it’s not the end of the story anyway.
There are nights I don’t sleep. There are days I cry and eat way too much chocolate. There are times I haven’t a clue what or how to pray at all. And so I breathe in. I breathe out.
And I remember that that woman I admire so much from Proverbs isn’t laughing out of ignorance or insanity. She’s laughing because she knows exactly who holds the future. She doesn’t need to fear, because all her tomorrows are already ordained. She doesn’t know what they hold, and she has no promise that they’ll be better than today. But she knows the One who holds them, and she delights in the confidence of His great love for her.
When people hear reference to ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), they think of the dogs in the Pixar movie UP!or maybe Dory from Pixar’s Finding Nemo. (I promise not to mention Disney movies in every sentence.) Being easily distracted and forgetful may be part of it, but there’s a lot more to it than most people realize.
ADD is more complex than short attentions and memories.
In the past few years counselors and psychiatrists have begun using a new label: VAST. It stands for Variable Attention Stimulus Trait. I like this because (1) it doesn’t carry the stigma of a word like “disorder” and (2) it better describes my experience.
Yes, I can be often distracted. I interrupt myself incessantly. I’m easily overstimulated and get irritable with repetitive or conflicting noises.
And, yes, I struggle with short-term memory. (Lists and calendars save me daily! You should see my collection of notebooks.)
But my attention and my emotions ricochet to opposite ends of a spectrum. They’re not always short and interrupted. Sometimes they’re intense and insular, sacrificing all else.
I can spend seasons in hyper-focus. My husband calls it “kidnapping.” A special project or pursuit (or sometimes a book) will steal me away with little notice. I simply cannot think of anything else until I finish it. This is especially true when I set a goal about which I am passionate. It could be days; it could be weeks.
Friendships are hard for me. I can’t remember names. Interruptions and disappearances aren’t great for relationships. Knowing how hard it is for me to control these natural inclinations, I can grow self-conscious and insecure, further complicating things. Rejection, criticism, and approval resonate deeply with me, often — right or wrong — becoming part of my self-assessment immediately.
Can any of you relate to any of this?
When life gets full, the blog goes silent.
And so — When life interrupts me, when a million things seem to happen at once, I disappear. I dig deeper into what seems to need my attention most urgently (real life people and problems within arm’s reach), and other things have to wait (online communities and seemingly inconsequential projects).
What has required my attention lately? Moreso than this blog? Quite a few things, actually. Spanning personal, professional, and ministerial. Those who subscribe to my newsletter got an update in their inboxes a couple weeks ago.
(If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up here to join my Inner Circle of prayer warriors and fearlessly curious followers. If you are a subscriber and didn’t get the email, check your spam folder or click here.)
I’ll not apologize for being silent here. Other things have needed me. Truly and absolutely. I will, however, wonder if evil forces use all this to conspire against me.
I’ve been writing in relative obscurity for almost fifteen years. There have been seasons of prolific publication and seasons of abject futility. Each time I gear up for a re-start, with revitalized passion and purpose, life interrupts and my momentum all but dissipates.
That sounds as if I have no control. That’s not at all what I mean. I’m quite opposed to any semblance of victim mentality. I am, however, acknowledging that this makes me vulnerable to spiritual attack and blockades. And it makes my journey uniquely challenging.
Be watchful, mindful, and still. Work and trust.
In the New Testament we read:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
This warning comes at the end of Peter’s letter, just after a series of instructions for leaders in the church. The admonition, however, is not just for leaders. It is for anyone who seeks to follow Jesus and live a life dedicated to honoring God.
Let’s add a few more passages to this conversation.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…”
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
2 Corinthians 8:11–12
What does any of this have to do with attention spans or spiritual attacks? I’m not just randomly cherry-picking passages. These are entwined in our daily walks with God. How?
We know that evil forces conspire to keep us from God and from good works. They will utilize our weaknesses in those endeavors. May we BE WATCHFUL. What makes you an easy target? How can you guard against those attacks?
May we BE MINDFUL of the gifts God has given us — me and you — but also aware of our weaknesses and limitations. Time is a big one. How are we using it? Are we remembering our finite reality and numbering our days well?
May we BE STILL remembering that God is ultimately sovereign. There is no trial he will not enter with us. No mistake we can make that he can’t redeem. No pit we can fall into from which he cannot lift us. He is good. We can spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. Let’s take some time to think about him instead. It is infinitely more comforting.
We love to quit, don’t we? Let’s not. Rather than seeing hurdles as signs that we’ve taken the wrong path, let’s view them as challenges we were meant to overcome. KEEP WORKING. Don’t give up.
That last passage, the one from 2 Corinthians, is striking me firmly this season. It sits in a chapter about generous giving within and between the churches. While the context is money, the heart of these verses goes much deeper.
Are you eagerly willing to complete what you’ve started? Are you excited to chase after the tasks God has given you? To pursue holiness in big projects and small?
That takes a lot of trust! Trust that God called the right person, that he’ll use you, that he’ll equip you… And trust that your success isn’t measured in human terms. How does one quantify willingness? How does one measure the spirit of obedience? It’s not about what we have or even what we give (of our time, talents, sweat and resources). It’s about our humble and faithful pursuit of righteousness.
In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
God is faithful and he will be faithful to complete what he started in each of us at salvation.
So whether I am eternally distracted or seriously under spiritual attack doesn’t matter. What matters is that I get up again and take the next step with God. And the next step. And the next step.
We may be running a race, but it’s not a competition. Keep running, my friends.
When our son was five years old, he fell and shattered his femur into three pieces.
‘Shattered’ may sound a little dramatic, but when you watch your little guy suffer, when every nurse or doctor interrogates you over what happened, when someone in the ER finally confesses that typically injuries like this are caused by baseball bats … well, we may be excused a little dramatic language.
Long story short… He and his sister were playing on one of those awesome, wooden play forts. He tripped, his sandal caught, and flipped him upside down, smashing his leg against the metal rod of a ladder.
Two hospitals, one long ambulance ride, several sleepless hours, a lot of morphine, and one surgery later, my son was bound ribs to toes in what’s called a hip-spica cast. He had this for ten weeks.
This all happened on Memorial Day Weekend. In other words: our summer was immediately and irrevocably changed.
Even after the summer ended and the cast was removed, we faced four months of physical therapy. He had to learn to walk again. School was different, too, as not all classrooms were handicap-accessible.
It was definitely an unexpected season of stretching for our family.
Once, as we went through old photos and reminisced about that season, Zach said: “I feel bad for kids who never broke their legs.”
Baffled, I asked why.
“They never get to spend all summer at home with their families. They don’t get to spin in wheelchairs or have friends draw on their cast. They never get to use handicapped parking or have everyone bring them gifts for doing nothing. I loved that summer.”
Zach has a different perspective, both on that experience and on 2020.
Finding the Silver Lining
When I think back on that summer, my stomach clenches a bit. I groan inwardly, remembering how hard it was. All the bad pieces come to mind. The sacrifices. The difficulties. So much was out of our control. Plans shifted. Dreams were put on hold. Luxuries vanished. I felt trapped. We were forced to learn new life skills and remember what was most important.
I have the same visceral reaction when thinking about 2020.
While I sit here, sighing heavily over all that was lost, Zach insists this has been the best year of his life. Now, he’s not ignorant of the sacrifices or the grieving this year has brought. His baseball season certainly was not normal. He’s seen the changes we’ve had to make, the impact on my job and our family. (This was NOT a good year to work in the travel industry!) He’s had friends lose parents and grandparents. We’ve felt the impact of this pandemic on a very personal, very local level.
But like I said, he sees things a little differently.
At 15, he can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to go back to school when you could do all your work online and in half the time. He’s an introvert, so he’s thrilled to be stuck at home! He’s perfectly content to eat the same meals over and over for weeks without end. Add to this increased frequency of family game nights and mid-week movies… regular pajama days … more time to hang out with his dog … This kid is in heaven.
We all know this year has been rough. Really, really rough. There’s no denying that. But what if we flip the lens? What if, for just a moment, we stop focusing on the hard bits and look for something beautiful?
What good came of this year? What did we gain by stripping so much away?
What creative solutions were we pushed to find? How did those benefit us and others?
What might we have missed if we hadn’t had this journey?
This isn’t just an exercise of reflection, but also one of expectation. What might we — or our kids — be set up to do in the future because of the experiences of this year?
How might these trials have equipped us for greater ministry? To serve better? To love others better?
I would really love to hear your perspectives on all this.
For over ten years I hosted a blog at this address. Most often it offered nuggets of truth and humor from a stay-at-home mom with a strong Christian faith. Occasionally readers would find recipes, book reviews, and thoughts (often controversial) on current events or politics. Toward the end, it became home to Big Word Bible Studies, an in-depth, inductive exploration of books from the Old Testament.
As things in my personal life grew more complicated and challenging, the blog grew heavy. Overwhelming. I could no longer share honestly because it was too raw, too public, and too offensive to the others involved in my current trials. I chose silence over vulnerability.
I contend that was the right move. As Naddia Weber-Boltz once said:
“We should preach from our scars not our wounds.”
Lessons may come from bleeding, but wisdom comes from the healing.
Even so, I’ve missed this place. I’ve missed the space to process and record what God is showing me and doing in and through me. I want to come back, but I want to start anew. No baggage. No defined expectations.
I will not promise to blog regularly. Neither will I promise what you might get here. Some of those old posts may resurface in time and some of those lessons learned in the silent years will likely make an appearance eventually. In the meantime …
Hello. Welcome to my little, quiet, slow attempt to begin again.