Kirsten Panachyda

Writer, Speaker, Singer-Songwriter

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ClimbIng

Hiking is my newest adventure. Over the years, I have set physical challenges for myself. This is partly for health, partly for fun, but also an act of gratitude. My body is capable of stepping and clambering and climbing, and I am so thankful. I honor it when I use it, even slow and clumsy. I honor the God who created me. And the more I hike, the more sure my footing becomes, the more my breathing evens out, the more I stride with confidence and joy.

Little Rock Pond, Appalachian Trail, Vermont

As a kid I was an avid competitive swimmer. “Athlete” was a major component of my identity. But between the ages of 12 and 15, this was stripped away, first by rheumatoid arthritis and then by severe Crohns disease, which eventually required drastic surgery. My later teens and early twenties were marked by the sense that I was a half-invalid and that debilitating illness could return any time. I feared anything that caused physical discomfort. My joints would still flare up with hot inflammation from fatigue or overuse. I thought this was how my life would be — “fragile” was my new identity.

But then I had a baby. And I was awed at what this body that I kind of despised could do. I noticed afterward that I felt healthier. Flare-ups came less often and less severely. I walked, one mile at a time, then two, then three. I climbed a (small) mountain in the Adirondacks. I had another baby, after a difficult pregnancy. A year after my second son was born, I ran —ran — a 5K. The next year I did a triathlon, a sport I continued for 10 years. When my kids learned how to downhill ski, I did too. What a joy it was to rediscover the athlete who had been waiting in the recesses of my identity. 

I’ve never been particularly fast or skillful at any of these things, not like I was as a swimmer. When I finished in the top half of the field, I felt like I’d won. If I made it down the hill without stopping or falling, I felt like a champion. Sometimes I have been put out of commission for a couple weeks because of a flare-up. Recently I posted a picture of myself hiking a segment of the Appalachian Trail, the first time I have set foot on it. I’m pretty sure I am not capable of thru-hiking the AT, but to do segments of it is a triumph.

Okay, so what? Nice story, but so what?

The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.” (Proverbs 15:19)

What I’ve learned with my body applies to my spiritual life too. The word “sluggard” feels a bit harsh, especially for someone held back by illness. In my case, I had to face the fact that sometimes I cited illness to myself when really fear was the problem.  Fear could make me a sluggard, unwilling to push forward and put in the work. When I was doing triathlons, I made myself push past the fear so that I could actually listen to my body. Eventually, I found the limit when I trained for and completed a half-Ironman. I was proud of myself that I had finished, but acknowledged that the distance had been too much for my body, and backed off. But if I had listened to fear instead of my body, I would never have known that it was capable of the shorter distance races.

When my emotions and faith were tested in the fire of crisis with my son’s bipolar disorder, the same principles applied. I was capable of so much more strength, trust in God, and ability to fight than I ever dreamed. I also learned where my limit was, and when I needed to take action, in the form of counseling and medical intervention, to keep myself from breaking down. If I had listened to fear to determine my responses, I would never have found out how abundantly equipped I was in Christ. 

When the faithfulness required for caregiving looms like a mountain over us, it can seem easier not to climb. When the trail of practicing trust in God is a thicket in front of us, it feels safer not to venture in. If we follow the way of the sluggard, and stay unmoving at the foot of the climb or the edge of the thicket, the hedge of thorns grows around us, making everything harder, hurting us. The way of the sluggard, not moving, not putting in the monumental effort, is oh, so enticing. But practicing faithfulness begets more faithfulness. The path of the upright, the habits of work and trust, gets easier. This path leads us where we want to go.

Sowing in Tears

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. (S)he who goes to and fro weeping, carrying (her) bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing (her) sheaves with her.” (Psalm 126:5-6)

What is the weeping time  for you? What triggers it? Exhaustion? Angry, hurtful words and slammed doors? Long sleeves in summer with a stain of blood seeping through? Chronic stress? The not-knowing? A wrenching loss?

The weeping time comes to all humans. It’s all right have that painful season. Going through days with an ache in the chest and leaking eyes — this is part of life.

But what do we do with it, this period of grief and fragment? What I see in these verses is that during the weeping, we can sow seeds. Planting a seed is an act of faith. It says that this shriveled, dry thing, poked into soil, will transform. Faith accepts the weary task  that muddies hands and feet. Faith in the God of resurrection assures us that the labor of grief, there in the dirt soaked by the saline that drips off our faces, is valuable. Absence of weeping is not evidence of faith. Practicing faith during the weeping is what brings forth harvest.

During the weeping, sow seeds with faith in the Lord of the harvest.

My greatest weeping time came during the years when my son was ill and did not seem to show any improvement, and I daily feared for his life. I could not imagine a harvest of good, but God in His mercy led me to sow anyway. Some of my “seeds” that I planted in that mud:

Jesus loves me, this I know.

This I know, that God is for me. (Psalm 56:9b)

Hope in Christ does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5)

… and so many more.

Parched, misshapen little nuggets of faith, planted in rows made crooked by the fact that my eyes were clouded by tears. To me they didn’t look like they could become a field of harvest, but I believe in a God who made the world with His word and a Word Who makes heirs with His blood. 

He brings the harvest to me still.

I will always be held.

He will make all things new.

My life is hid with God in Christ.

Let’s fill our bags of seed full to the brim with seeds to plant during the weeping time.

Fabric of faithfulness

The fabric of faithfulness is woven with the threads of small choices. 

It is typical to pause mid-year and check on the goals one made when the year was newborn. My word for this year is “faithful.” I am a month late with my half-year reflection, so that should tell you something. It has been a struggle. I spend too much time on social media. I watch TV. My exercise clothes sit neatly folded, where they were laid out with good intentions. Leftover takeout shares refrigerator space with unprepared produce. My workspace is cluttered with the remnants of homeschooling, when my last kid graduated three years ago.

Believe it or not, even with all these failings, I can still see some success and progress. I have started the habit of 100 words before breakfast. Before I eat, I make myself write at least 100 words, about the length of a paragraph, on any project I’m working on. This post started with this pre-breakfast habit. It fires up my brain and helps me ease into writer mode. I achieve this most weekdays, but not all. And some days, my 100 words is all the writing I do.

I try to exercise at least five days per week, and my fitness is improving steadily. But just last week I received an email with the chirpy subject line “Your Fitbit report!” informing me I had accomplished 0 out 5 days of my goal. Still, I’m making progress, in general. Same with chipping away at the chaos in my home. My goal is to spend a few minutes every day moving forward against clutter beyond daily maintenance like dishes, laundry, and routine cleaning. It doesn’t always get done. But the other day I did empty out my homeschool planner and file the last quarterly reports from Nicholas’s senior year of high school, so there’s that.

The best of faithfulness happens first thing in the morning, when I grab a cup of coffee, my Bible and journal, and sit with Jesus. Since the morning in February 2015 when I came back to this habit and gave Him a chance to make something whole out of my shattered soul, I have missed only a handful of mornings. To be fair, this is not something I give Jesus; it is something He gives me. I can hardly take credit for my craving, any more than I can congratulate my lungs for wanting to breathe or my stomach for rumbling for food.

The Bible talks a lot more about God’s faithfulness than human’s. Our faithfulness always appears as a response to something God has done in us, like growing fruit, or entrusting us with talents. In our English Bibles, the Old Testament words for “faithful” are often translated as “true.” The Hebrew verb aman: to make firm, to support, and words derived from it (like emeth: firmness, continuance, stability, emunah: certainty, amen: sure, truly, amanah: a type of covenant) contains both concepts, inextricably intertwined. 

Faithful and true. This is the character of our God.

This year I am on the uncomfortable path of exploring my own faithfulness. Too often, I discover my unfaithfulness, the times I am not true to my priorities, my intentions, my values. How I spend, or waste, time reveals it. The little things, at the end of the day, determine if I feel satisfied, like I have purchased meaning and purpose and joy with the coinage of my time. In the tapestry of my life, what does that day’s inch-worth of stitches show?

The fabric of faithfulness is woven with the threads of small choices.

Beautiful Warrior Blog Tour: loneliness

I’ve been enjoying working my way through the book Beautiful Warrior: Finding Victory Over the Lies Formed Against You by Tina Yeager. I met Tina, a licensed mental health counselor, writer, and life coach a couple years ago, and she has shared her wisdom and advice generously with me as I seek to infuse courage into parents who need help fighting for faith when a kid struggles with mental illness. (Find out more about Tina here.) The book empowers women to find their true strength as beloved daughters of God, and to recognize and fight against myths and misconceptions that hold them back from becoming their God-created selves.

A year ago, I wrote a series of blog posts on the Painful Top Ten for parents whose kids have mental illness. Loneliness made the list, so when I got to the chapter on loneliness (Chapter 7 “Prevailing Over Loneliness) in Beautiful Warrior, I was eager to hear Tina’s wisdom and encouragement for the hurting women suffering from this heaviness in their souls. Although loneliness can and does affect people in all kinds of circumstances, women whose kids have mental illness can feels these wounds even more keenly. This chapter in particular made me stop and think through the issues through the lens of a mom who has a kid with bipolar. The questions and challenges helped me ponder the topic for myself.

Tina offers great insight about some of the factors that can exacerbate loneliness. Social media can be a great way to connect, but succumbing to comparison with social media posts can have the opposite effect. Pictures of happy families, graduations, vacations, weddings… all of these can feel like a slap when our family is anything but happy, and we don’t know if our kids will ever celebrate these milestones. When we do decide to connect, we can be beset by fears: with all my brokenness, do I have anything to offer? After experiencing ignorant and judgmental comments, can I trust other people if I let them close? Am I trying connect just to have my own needs met, or to develop genuine friendship?

Leading us to self-examination, Tina challenges us to get to the root of the fears keeping us from healthy connections. “Anchoring our relational identity in our relationship with Jesus untangles the distortions born in loneliness,” she writes. The starting point of our identity in Christ allows us to move forward with healthy relationships that combat our isolation. When we know who we are in Christ, we can trust God to fill what is empty, and to protect and mend our hearts. We can abandon our efforts to fill our loneliness by artificial means, and instead lead with love for others. In God’s upside-down kingdom economy, our lonely hearts are filled when we serve.

Most of all, we need to honor our needs for community with authenticity and the strength of our confidence as the beloved of Christ. If our only connections involve glimpsing the surface on social media, putting up facades to hide our insecurities, building walls to protect us from hurt, or trying to manipulate others into meeting our needs, we will never prevail over loneliness. Tina tells us, “A sprinkle of shared time fends off waves of loneliness.” I know it can be hard to find time to meet up with friends and nurture our relationships. Still, I urge you to make the effort. For some more discussion on the topic of loneliness, click here.

I recommend Tina’s book for women who want to live out of Christ’s strength and truth. You can buy the book on Amazon, or from New Hope Publishers, where through 7/20 you can get a 20% discount with the code WARRIOR20. If you read the book, would you leave review? It is the greatest help a reader can give an author. For more great content, visit the Beautiful Warrior Tribe Group on facebook, or go to Tina’s website, where you can read her blog and see videos on the topics in the book. Tina says, “Besides a daily latte, what keeps me going is my hope of inspiring someone like you.”

Praise in Macedonia

I have never traveled to the literal land of Macedonia. It probably has lovely places, interesting culture, kind people. But, no offense intended, figurative Macedonia is a rough place.

The apostle Paul describes it as a place where “our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” (II Corinthians 7:5 NASB) I’ve had little pieces of Macedonia in my life. I suspect we all have some Macedonia. Sleepless nights, crisis following crisis, frayed relationships, battles with worry. 

How about you? Have you visited this land?

My worst times of Macedonia came when my teenage son was suffering a deep depression. Therapy, medication, and hospitalizations took over our lives, but seemed to never touch the problem. After three years of “conflicts within, fears without” I had  stopped saying I was “hanging in there.” Instead, when people asked how I was, I answered, “God is hanging on to me.” 

I wasn’t trying to be cute. I knew if I was okay at all, it was because God was holding all my broken pieces in His loving hand. I praised with heavy hands raised, songs rendered silent by an aching tight throat, lips moving with the fervency of my desire to cling to Jesus. 

In Paul’s Macedonia time, he received a visitor bringing news: “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.”

(II Corinthians 7:5-7 NASB) Titus’s arrival didn’t rescue Paul. It didn’t solve his problems or keep his fears at bay. Paul just received news about people he loved. And he rejoiced.

Paul was looking for, and willing to receive, good from God. It didn’t come from a lifting of his afflictions, but from a comfort that ministered to his heart. He accepted that God didn’t change his circumstances, and still praised because God loved him.

In my Macedonia, when it seemed the crisis might never end, God ministered to my heart. He sent people to comfort me. News of friends came from far places to cheer me up. Small mercies loomed large. 

When one set of dire circumstances was exchanged for another, Paul wrote from prison: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5) 

When I am in Macedonia, I live praise by making certain decisions:

  • I will rejoice in the Lord.
  • I will not let circumstances steal my joy.
  • I will enjoy the people, provisions, and fun He gives.
  • But I will hold these lightly while I cling to Jesus.

How do you keep praising in your figurative Macedonia?

5 Reasons I’m writing a Hand outstretched

This is how I spent snow days

1) I love history. I mean, a passionate life-long love. Learning about history has been my favorite free time activity since I was a little kid. These are notes from when I was 10:

Yes I need history books in my kitchen too

2) I love strong females, and action/adventure stories. Everything from Meg Murray (in the BOOK!), to Mary Lennox, to Jane Eyre, to Bones’ Temperance Brennan, to Princess Leia.

My son said, “Of course you own that.”


3) I have a passion for connecting dots in history. Studying overlapping timelines and cultures is revelatory to me. In school I studied Egyptians, then Greeks, then Romans. I had no concept that they interacted with each other or that one rose while another fell. Or that they traveled. So seeing which things were happening at the same time, or which things may have had cause/effect relationships changed my view of the human experience. In this context, the what-ifs can blossom and spread underground roots.

4) The time and place that my characters live, 1st century Britain, is both known and unknown. I can dive into the history, but also indulge in speculation.

5) Exploration of the human experience is what makes fiction compelling. I read or write a character in a setting that is unfamiliar, sit with her wounds and loves, and then ask, what do I know now about God? This process teaches me about trust and mercy and God’s transcendence in parts of my brain I don’t access any other way. 

Are you a lover of historical fiction?

5 reasons i’m Writing among lions

I’m sitting on the lanai (a screened-in patio) outside my parents’ house in Florida trying to work. It can be hard here not to feel like I’m on vacation every day. But I’ve been here a while, escaping the Syracuse, NY winter, and I can’t just lounge by the pool and nap.

Actually the past couple of months have been productive ones. Besides improving my health and fitness and attending the wonderful Florida Christian Writers Conference, I’ve put in many hours writing. I have several articles in the works in addition to this blog. But the biggest chunk of time has been spent on two book projects. The first is nonfiction, working title: Among Lions: Fighting for Faith while Parenting a Kid with Mental Illness. The second is historical fiction, working title: A Hand Outstretched.

When my older son was grown and my younger son was becoming more stable and able to manage his bipolar disorder, I sat down to write. Writing has always been the passion and the plan. At first, I was waiting until the boys were more independent in their work in homeschooling. I figured they would be about 14 and 16 when I really settled in to serious endeavor. But then Nicholas got sick, and priorities shifted. When Nicholas was 18, I finally hunkered down to write the novel set in first-century Britain that I had been tinkering with for over a decade.

Somehow another book kept coming out of my fingers. One for all the parents who were like me — scared and sad and trying desperately to care for their kids suffering from emotional or mental illness. So I set aside the novel, and wrote Among Lions. 

Five Reasons for Writing Among Lions: 

1) There are at least 8 million adolescents age 13-18 in the US currently diagnosed with a mental illness. All of these have parents or caregivers struggling to navigate a very difficult life. One in five kids will need help with depression or other mental illness. This ratio is the same in the church.  Parents need help.

2) Stigma against mental illness keeps families isolated and without support. We need more voices reaching out saying, “This is my experience too. You’re not alone.”

3) Beyond the question of “Can my kid get well?” there are other questions: “Will my marriage survive? How will my other kids be affected? Can my faith withstand this pain?” Parents need more than information on how to help the kid who is sick. They need to know how to defend against the beasts which will attack their souls. 

4) Scripture, stories from other parents, professional input, and new ways of looking at life as a caregiver infuse courage into the soul-weary. This has become my privilege and my mission.

5) This is the book I wish I had when Nicholas got sick.

Among Lions has won a first place Tapestry award and has attracted publisher interest. Would you pray for this project to reach the hearts for whom God intends it? 

Next post: Why am I writing that weird historical novel?

Nature: Tool for Destressing and Restoring

 

Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Tax season is upon us. Some people spend hours in their home offices doing the painstaking task of reading through all the tax booklets and filling in schedules. Dan and I think its enough work to organize and gather our documents and bring them to an accountant. Of course, Dan had to drive through a snowstorm to drop it all off.

We all know taxes are a fact of life. I choose to improve my attitude about it by deciding in my own mind what my personal taxes pay for. So when I fret over the withheld money on the pay stub or the check I need to write to the government, I tell myself, “I don’t know what other people are spending this money on, but I am funding libraries and parks. And sanitation workers.”

I am thrilled to be part owner of the city, county, state, and national parks. Regular use of these resources improves the quality of my life. There have been many times when sitting on a public beach or walking a lakeside trail has made it possible for me to face the hard circumstances waiting for me when I left. I feel a loosening, a freeing, when I spend time in nature. God speaks healing into my soul through His creation.

More and more research bears out the beneficial effects of the natural world on mental health. I started looking into these studies first with the intent of finding new ways to support my son in his recovery. But I believe the benefits are for everyone who seeks to improve mental wellness, not least the stressed and distressed parents of kids with mental illness.

How can connections with the natural world help us, and how can we make use of them?

1) Nature helps improve attention and focus. 

In studies, time in a natural setting has been found to improve attention both in people with and without disorders like ADHD. This is not the effect of extra physical exercise, which tends to increase when people are outside. Subjects were tested doing the same activities (eg walking, soccer) in indoor and outdoor settings. Also,the positive effects on attention, concentration, and memory continue even after the the time in nature is over. (“Why ‘Getting Away’ in Nature is Good for your Mental Health,” Ellen Hendricksen Ph.D Savvy Psychologist, Scientificamerican.com, 11/7/18)

2) Time in natural settings aids emotional regulation.

Did you know city-dwellers have a higher risk of anxiety and mood disorders and even schizophrenia? Lack of access to the natural world may be a factor. A study by Stanford researchers discovered that brain scans show decreased activity in the part of the brain that produces repetitive thought focused on negative emotion after 90 minutes spent in a natural setting. (“Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription:Nature,” Rob Jordan, news.stanford.edu, 6/30/2015)

3) The setting is flexible. 

Experiments in using nature-focused programming in the UK to specifically treat people with mental illnesses have shown great promise. One interesting facet to the work is that programs have been conducted in a variety of settings, from wooded areas, to beaches, to urban green spaces. All seem to offer similar benefits. This is encouraging because it tells us we can seek out the most convenient and accessible settings to receive the positive effects of time in nature. (“What Makes Nature-Based Interventions for Mental Health Successful?,” Dan Bloomfield, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 11/14/17)

4) Even a little can be beneficial.

For stressed and overbooked parents who need to care for their own mental health, this one is important. We can benefit even from little doses of nature. A houseplant. The tree next to the driveway. A view out a window. Even watching a nature program can help us. The key is to give our attention to things not made by humans for a while. Can’t go to the park for an hour? Notice and appreciate the plantings in the road median. Stuck in a long winter? Spend a couple bucks on a hard-to-kill plant, then spend a few minutes taking care of it and looking at it each day. (Go ahead and talk to it if you want — I won’t tell.)

Robert Treman State Park

For people of faith, it should come as no surprise that science shows connection with nature is good for us. 

Consider:

Romans 1:20 tells us that “since the creation of the world (God’s) invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” 

Psalm 23 reminds us that God restores our souls by making us lie down in green pastures and leading us beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2-3) 

And in his Gospel, John writes: “All things came into being through (Jesus, the Word), and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The same Jesus who loved me enough to die for me, who conquered death for me, and who lives to intercede for me (Hebrews 7:25) made all of the natural world. 

If you are looking for ways to battle stress and find restoration for your soul, try looking to nature. 

Both Sides Now

A couple weeks ago I ran across the phrase “ambiguous loss.” Coined by Dr. Pauline Boss, it refers to a sense of grief over something undefined. Dr. Boss originally used the term to to describe the experience of either losing a person who is still physically present, as with dementia, or someone whose physical absence in unexplained, as with a soldier missing in action. The concept of ambiguous loss has extended to something never possessed, or an event that may happen, but doesn’t look likely. For example, the child of immigrants might feel homesickness for a country and culture he never knew. A woman nearing the end of childbearing years may feel the absence of babies she never had, but always assumed she would. The loss is something they never had, and also something that has not quite become an impossibility yet.

Parents whose kids suffer from mental illness feel this ambiguous loss, often without being able to put their fingers on why they feel it. The typical hill-and-valley nature of most mental illness journeys adds to the experience. If a star student athlete endures a devastating injury and can no longer play his sport, he and his family grieves, but the loss in unambiguous. With healthy processing, acceptance can be achieved. It’s different with an injury that may heal and allow the athlete to return, or may never get well enough.

Mental illness usually resembles the second example. Our kids may someday be able to graduate high school, or hold a job, or go to college, or live independently, or have a healthy romance/marriage, or … but they may not. We can’t accept the loss of those things, because that would be like giving up. But we can’t let ourselves dream about those futures either, because how many times can we let our hearts break? We may cry when our friends’ kids start getting married and having babies. We may stay home from church the day all the graduating seniors are honored. But then we feel guilty for assuming we will never have that joy. There is still the possibility that the meds will work, that recovery will continue, that our kids will have full lives with sustainable stability.

When we can’t acknowledge grief, then the process is stunted. Dr. Boss believes that more we can learn to live with two clashing realities, the more the stress of ambiguous loss is lessened:

“We like finite answers. You’re either dead or you’re alive. You’re either here or you’re gone. And let’s say you have someone with dementia or a child with autism, and they’re there, but they’re not always there. So once you put that frame on it, people are more at ease and recognize that may be the closest to the truth that they’re going to get.” (Dr. Pauline Boss, interview, “On Being with Kristen Tippett,” air date June 23, 2016)

Are you struggling with ambiguous loss? Just being able to recognize it is the first important step to lessening its damage to your soul. We can find similar paradoxes in the Christian faith. We are living in both the “now” and the “not yet.” We are “seated with Christ in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 2:6) but “in this world (we have) trouble.” (John 16:33) Can we learn to rest in knowing that both are truth? Likewise, can we look into the faces of maybe and maybe not, and allow them to coexist?

A tree shedding its flowers or pinecones or whirling seedpods may or may not have offspring. But the in-between of unknowing can still be beautiful. I pray we all find peace with the unknowing.

Faithful

Last February, I wrote about my first “word of the year.” I spent 2018 meditating on and trying to live out the call to Proclaim. That focus led me to work harder on writing, on making connections, on looking for ways to tell the goodness of God as I have experienced it. My sense of vocation and purpose strengthened, and I think I will never be the same.

This year, another word chose me. It’s a little quieter, less apt to rouse a thrill of excitement. 

Faithful.

Here in February, when New Year resolutions and determinations tend to fade or wither, I am unpacking this powerful adjective. God is faithful; I want to be found faithful. The two associated nouns, faith and faithfulness, give me two lenses to see myself as I seek to become more like Jesus.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) How I trust God, what I trust Him with and for, how my trust informs my actions and words— these are the measure of how open my heart-conduit is to the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. 

Faithfulness, for me, can often be seen in whether 1) I took the time to pray over and plan my work for the week ahead and wrote it down, and 2) whether the pages of my planner show items checked off, or with notes scribbled beside, and maybe a coffee stain or two. I am not, by nature, a planner or doer. For some people, there are temptations to become too busy. For me, the temptation, I’m afraid, is to laziness. At the end of each day, I can tell if I rested or took recreation because it was the right healthy choice, or if I took it to avoid the pain and discipline of the good works God gave me the opportunity to do. The first gives me a sense of satisfaction and peace; the second gives me dissatisfaction and a shame I need to confess to God. Too often I simply neglect to persevere.

I want to be faithful. I want to live out my life full of faith in the One who loves me best. I want to faithfully serve the hearts I see who are hurting, who need words of encouragement and hope and comfort. The ones who are in that season with no rest and refreshment in sight. The ones whose kids are in crisis and there seems no end. The ones who are dealing with grief and burnout and despair. The ones sort of doing well, but waiting for the other shoe to drop. The ones whose homes are chaos because of mental illness, and the ones whose homes are emptier because of mental illness.

Because I love God and I’m learning to love His people, I am practicing faith and faithfulness.

Do you have a word or focus this year? How is going in the second month?

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