Back in my 20s, I used to joke that the title of my memoir would be “Hindsight is 20/20, but God’s vision is perfect.”
Cheesy, I know. I was a budding writer, still learning how to avoid “trite” and “colloquial” phrases – as my high school English teacher would often scrawl on my papers with her signature red pen. (She was a great teacher, by the way. And colloquial, or conversational, language seems to be the trend these days, so I was ahead of my time!)
Anyway – back to 2020. None of us could’ve envisioned this year. I won’t name all of the strangeness, because you know it. You see it on the news. You read about it in your social media feeds. You feel the tension in your core when you lie down at night. And we still have four months left of 2020, a presidential election, and who-knows-what weather phenomena awaiting us. I’m sorry.
This summer looked nothing like any of us envisioned. As I join this seasonal practice of looking back (per our reflection guru Emily P. Freeman), I admit it was difficult to appreciate this summer of strange, but this contemplation allows us to look back with appreciation and move forward with curiosity to keep paying attention.
1. Nighttime prayers turn anxiety to intercession.
Nights have been especially difficult during this season. When I think I’m thriving or at least surviving with grit, my pillow proves otherwise. My body clenches and my mind reels.
Scripture (Psalm 91 and Psalm 121) and song lyrics have been especially soothing, but I discovered a new way to settle my spirit – intercessory prayer.
The night before my annual scans for my vascular check-up, for example, heartburn and insomnia plagued me. After my initial panic and annoyance, I turned my thoughts to praying by name for those who had personally reached out to me to say they were praying for my appointment.
By God’s grace, I was able to turn my physical pain into a spiritual battle, eventually falling asleep with their names on my lips and as an offering to God’s ears.
2. Reminders of your frailty can be a good thing (aka life is a miracle).
This summer, as I watched a webinar about my medical condition, I saw a familiar CT image on the screen (pictured above). “Hey, I think that’s me!” I said, looking at the golf ball-sized anomaly on the neck. My vascular surgeon went on to talk about the cutting-edge, non-traditional method of coiling the patient’s carotid artery without invasive surgery – a life-saving measure I had in 2012. (Yes, it was me!)
During my annual appointment last month with that same doctor, I mentioned the webinar. He said when he shows the images to other doctors, they are in shock.
Almost nine years later, I sometimes forget what a miracle this life is – but not just my life, with my fragile tissues and penchant for dramatic medical events. Your life is a miracle, too.
With such a stark visual reminder of my frailty, if I can forget what a gift this life is, I’m guessing that you suffer from amnesia of wonder, too. Piles of laundry, loads of lethargy, schooling decisions, sanitized socializing, civil heartbreak, health anxiety – it can all cloud the miracle of our hearts beating on another day.
Maybe each morning, before casting our cares on Jesus, we can wake up and say, “Thank you, Lord, for the miracle of this day. Show me your goodness and your glory.”
[Side note: You can hear a 30-minute overview of my nitty-gritty health journey at the Staying Connected podcast that was recorded last month.]
3. Finding comfort with fellow grievers is life-giving.
I didn’t want to be a part of this club – The Grief Girls, we call ourselves. We met in college in the 90s, when high-waisted jeans were in style the first time, sharing the theatre stage and our dreams of what was to come.
We haven’t all been in the same room together for more than two decades, but we share a message thread when life weighs heavy. Our collective stories of loss, grief, and unrelenting pain are hard.
We send out SOS for prayers and come with admissions of weakness, which are both raw and freeing. We hold hands across the miles and the years. Most of all, I pray for these dear ones that their faith won’t fail. I’m forever thankful for this fellowship of the suffering and that we are in this together.
4. Dogs are here to love and teach us.
This summer, we had to say good-bye to our beloved Lucy, our 15-and-a-half year old Yorkie. She has been my companion in loss, celebration, and everything in between. She was truly the best dog; you’ll not be able to convince me otherwise.
I spent two days making a three-minute video tribute because I am that dog mom – and, yes, I’ve watched it at least a dozen times. I miss her, but she lived a great life and taught me so much, including:
- Find your person and never let go.
- Naps are good.
- Comfort is best when it’s simply sitting close with no words.
- It’s good to be adaptable.
- When you stay on the path, freedom is given.
- There’s always room to love one more.
- Chase the sun and stay there.
5. God is the central character and His glory is the theme.
The tangible fires of the here and now seem to demand my attention, and if I let them, they will extinguish the very flame that fuels and transforms me. And I will miss it – the main plot, the leading Character – if I elevate myself and my story.
The word glory keeps jumping off the page to me – in my Bible reading, in quotes, in sermons.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18Paying attention to God right-here, right-now lifts my eyes to His glory, even if one degree at a time. Click To Tweet
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. Psalm 138:2-3
God’s name and His Word are exalted above all. Recognizing this truth, my opened eyes, bowed posture, and grateful heart lead the way to a strengthened soul – all for His glory.
The year started with worship as my Word of the Year. I’m curious to see where this God’s-glory-chasing will take me for the last quarter of 2020.
Two books I’ve read this year that have pointed me/challenged me in the area of God’s glory: Competing Spectacles and Beholding and Becoming. Both tops reads of this year!
Want to read more or share your own list? Find the What We Learned community over on Instagram at #wwlcommunity.
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