We sat on the couch looking through one Airbnb after another to find the perfect home away from home for the trip we would be taking over Spring Break this year. Last year, we had a trip planned for Spring Break, but as we neared our departure date, it was clear travel wouldn’t be an option. Ely had begun having severe panic attacks in any mode of transportation and for any length of time. We could get in the car and pull out of the driveway and a panic attack would begin. Thinking about climbing on an airplane and putting him through that (not to mention all the passengers) just didn’t sit right with me. We made a sad, hard decision and canceled that trip. We wound up having to cancel nearly all our summer travel plans as well.
A year later finds us with some relief with the panic attacks and we entertained the idea of getting away, yet again. We decided the best game plan would be to drive so we could go with the flow of Ely’s needs, whatever they may be. So, there we sat, looking for the place that would host our family for the week. We found the perfect home in a perfect location and clicked to reserve. Two options popped up.
Purchase as is?
Or purchase with cancellation insurance (which of course was more money)?
Perhaps it was my stubbornness or the push back I have against life always ruining my plans, but I said, “We are DOING this. We don’t need an easy-out for this one. There is nothing that can stop us this time from taking the trip.” We purchased the Airbnb rental without cancellation insurance.
When life takes an unexpected turn
Enter the coronavirus. Up until yesterday, I was still determined that we would take the trip. After all, we have always been germaphobes. You’ll find hand sanitizer in both our vehicles and if you go anywhere with us, we don’t hesitate to offer you a couple pumps. Ely gets sanitized after school, therapy/dr visits, and after any other places we go—yes including friends and family’s houses! We don’t do it to be rude, but simply to protect Ely who has a degenerative disease that could be greatly exasperated should he get sick. We are used to the precautions that are coming out on the CDC website and other media sources.
But then I realized, this isn’t just about us. This is about the spread of a dangerous virus to the elderly and to other people like my son. So yesterday we made the tough (but right) call to sit tight here in Idaho to play our part in the minimizing of the spread of COVID-19.
Once again, circumstances I can’t control. This is a familiar playground for me. We’ve been riding on the merry-go-round of shifting perspectives, searching for truth, and paying attention to the here and now to understand what it is we must learn. And whether it’s the coronavirus, a devastating diagnosis, a heartbreaking loss, a fractured relationship, or someone cutting us off in traffic, we have to decide how we will deal with circumstances that hijack our perceived control over life.
I thought I’d share 5 things that have helped me significantly improve the way I live life in such a place.
Decrease the noise
It is time to quiet the noise so your ears can hear truth. Know what you need to know to make educated, wise decisions and then turn off the hype, drama and anxiety-driven messages. Sign off social media for the day. Pay attention to what is presently right in front of you. Take time to journal, pray, and be silent. We often give hypothetical what-if’s the crown of truth more than what is actually truth. Allow God to fill you with His truth and peace.
Shift your focus up and out.
The best way to see anew in your circumstances is to stop staring at them. When we are in the middle of the storm, it’s the hardest place to actually see. We can’t see how big the storm is or when it will end. We are fully immersed in it and our actions become reactions of whatever is pouring down on top of us.
It’s time to stop and remember. We need to remember that we are a part of a great big story. I don’t want to go all morbid on you, but the fact is—your little life and my little life are but tiny blips on the big story line across generations. This life is so temporary. As soon as one threat weakens, another will come along. But we have the promise from our faithful God that He will weave goodness and redemption through it all and He holds the greatest victory of all. The cool thing is, He involves us in the process! We get to be part of this great story bringing goodness to our friends, neighbors and community.
Take some time to look back and see how you have made it here today. Where did God show up? How did others link arms with you? We might not be able to see these things in our current moments now, but when we look back, we can see how goodness and redemption appeared, even in broken places. This can give us the strength and perspective we need to face what our circumstances bring us today.
Stop trying to flee from the fear and pain.
There is something this space has to teach us. We often determine to keep our feelings inside where we can stuff them down to the point of even convincing our own self they don’t exist. In my place of deep fear and grief, I found an invitation to accept the true meaning of the gospel. I came to the end of myself, entirely undone and unable to pick myself up off the ground. And in that place, I recognized all the things that held me hostage that only my Savior could free me from.
As we allow God to free us from bondage to our selfishness, to trauma, to anxiety of what-ifs, to bitterness of what was stolen from us; we find a hammer and chisel working away at our souls. It’s time to allow the work. Find a counselor, a trusted spiritual adviser, a wise friend, and begin being honest about how you feel about your life circumstances. What is there in the discovery process that can equip you to face what you must face and to build and strengthen your character for whatever tomorrow might bring?
We need each other. Period. It’s time to extend a hand to our neighbors, to intentionally know and become known by others. I can’t tell you how many ways my community has lifted me up as the flood waters raged. It was as subtle as someone else’s bravery teaching me how to keep paddling, to an entire community running toward us with buckets to bail out our sinking ship.
When we dive into deep waters together, we find that even if we don’t have control over the current storm, we have something much more lasting and life-changing—relationships that can open up our perspectives, bolster us in the middle of difficult days, and bring hope, joy and life in unexpected ways. We discover, once more, fresh breath isn’t circumstantial.
We have an infatuation with super heroes in our culture. What if I told you we all have access to a legit superpower on a daily basis? Gratitude. In my book I wrote:
“It was as if I had tapped into a superpower. Instead of a fickle dance with circumstances, I was rooted in something deeper and bigger. I didn’t have to side-step or bow out when my situation told me to. I could dive deep and hold firm- and in that, I found clarity in the middle of broken.”Can’t Steal My Joy, Bekah Bowman
As I began the practice of writing thankful lists and declaring gratitude out loud, the good things happening around and inside me gained a voice. The fear and hardships of my circumstances had gotten quite loud, drowning out my ability to hear good. But even in those dark places where I felt robbed, I found, through thankfulness, I could gain. I gained perspective, hope, and joy. And I gained truth.
Daily we deal with ambiguity and circumstances ripped out of our control. But we don’t have live in survival-mode waiting for the next ball to drop. Instead, we can look up and set our eyes on the realities of heaven (Colossians 3:1). We get to stand on our hands and look at things from a different angle to see what is here right in front of us. We get to ask, “How are we invited into this story? What needs to be done?”
And then we get to jump back in to the participation of this beautiful life!
Thanks for listening,