Guest Author: Shannon S. Mckee
I’ve settled on my intention. I’m trying for some sense of normal. Get out of bed when the alarm goes off at its usual time. Find the scrunchie and pull the hair back. Slide on the slippers (the cute owl ones that I love). Stumble groggy up the dark hall. Light the candle on the dining room table. Start the soft piano music to fill the background. Unload the dishwasher. Change out the hand towel and the wash cloth. Hear the soft click of the gas lighting as I warm the kettle. Load the tea pot for me and the french press for him. Feed the dog. Check my weather app to see if I’ll be able to get a walk in.
Normal. That’s what I’m going for here.
As I move about the kitchen, my mind wanders. I feel a tinge of bitterness rise up like bile in my soul as I embrace the truth that things really aren’t normal. At all. I remember that our fam is supposed to be on a Spring Break in Florida this week. That little sliver of bitterness is just enough. A crack is all it needed and now the door is flung wide open. Next, I’m recalling last night’s reports about the stimulus bickering on Capital Hill. And then I’m worrying about my sweet friend’s recent Facebook live post and hoping she’ll be OK. From there, I’m waxing poetic (inwardly) about how much I hate the guilt-inducing virus memes and the skewed information in articles and posts online. And then back to worry… “is everyone OK? Why haven’t I heard back from my friend in Rome? I hate that mom and dad live 12 hours away. Is my MIL’s asthma putting her at higher risk? Is my Grandad lonely over there in that big house? Will my friend’s immune system cope with this?”
Welp. I wanted normal. And, if I’m not careful, this part is normal too. This tendency toward bitterness, worry, and stress is always lurking there in the shadows. THOSE neuropathways are well-worn in this old brain.
So I pour the tea and head to a cozy spot. The house is still quiet… because, well, things actually aren’t normal and the teenagers aren’t up and headed out for their normal days. Who really knows when they’ll be up – could be 10 minutes, could be two hours. Because… yeah, nothing’s normal. Except, evidently, my old, sinful nature! So… back to finding a cozy spot before I start getting bitter about the not knowing.
In the quiet, I admit that I don’t have the mental energy to go to Jeremiah – my original plan for lenten reading when I was all inspired back in February. Instead, I return to a familiar passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I taught it just a few weeks ago. Who knew that we’d all need it so badly just a few days later?
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
At that, I am calmed. This is how I build a new neuropathway. By renewing my mind with truth instead of staying stuck on the pathway that leads to inward destruction. I forge new connections, traveling a newer pathway that is really the most ancient pathway of all.
Oh, peace of God. Spirit of the Living God, come stand like a sentry over my heart and mind. Guard it like a prized possession – your treasure. Help me turn to you moment by moment, letting YOU and YOUR peace stand vigilant over my thoughts, emotions, passions, and desires. Thank you that I don’t have the burden of working harder to do the guarding all by myself. I don’t have to muster joy out of my own being. I just have to come to you. To let my thoughts dwell on you: YOU are true. YOU are honorable. YOU are just… not like our politicians but always exactly just. YOU are pure… there is no blemish in you; no sliver of bitterness rising up like bile. YOU are lovely… so lovely that I can barely take it in. YOU are commendable… in every way. Crowd out the old ways with Your presence and bring me back to this quiet mental space often, Lord. Nothing else will suffice. Make this my new normal. Amen and amen.
Thank you for sharing your heart Shannon. Read more from Shannon at https://www.shannonsmckee.com.