Thursday, July 9, 2015

What to Do When Nothing’s As It Should Be

Summer hasn’t really been summer around here.

I mean, here we are in July—July!—and it’s only been in the 90s once and in the 80s a handful of times. Nearly every morning I awaken to clouds outside my window instead of crisp, blue summer skies. I find myself longing for those cloudless summer days, the ones that take your breath away and steal your heart forever.

This just isn’t one of those summers.

This morning, while doing an errand at a local store, I ran into an elderly woman from church. She’s a quiet woman, the epitome of what I’d imagine godliness to look like, yet even she acknowledged quietly, “It’s hard to not complain about the weather this year.”

Nothing’s as it should be.

Normally in the summer I read essays and plan for the coming school year. I think hard about my classes and try to come up with new ways to teach old lessons.

But this year is different. I’m not going back to work in the fall, and this, like the weather, has me disoriented. Many days I have wandered around my house, creating a made-up frenzy, only because I feel like I “should” be busy.

I’m a productivity person, I confessed to a friend the other day. I don’t feel like I’m contributing unless I’m producing, even if it’s just a bed I’ve made or a load of laundry I’ve folded. I keep moving throughout my day simply because I feel like I “should” be doing something. Anything.

So most of my summer has been spent keeping my hands busy and my heart distracted from the reality that has barely begun to set in—I’m not going back to work and my life, as I knew it, looks very, very different these days.


Twenty-one years ago at this time of year I had a newborn. With colic. From the day she turned two weeks old until the day she turned twelve weeks old, this dear girl cried and cried and cried. O.K., it wasn’t just crying (I’m trying to be nice about it here), that kid screamed her lungs out.

For ten weeks.

This was the day of the hand-crank swing—no fancy battery-operated baby swing for us—and it seems the only thing that would pacify this child was the swing, with a swing-limit of about ten minutes before someone would have to get up and crank her up again.

Even (and especially) in the middle of the night. I’d lay on the couch next to her swing, dozing for ten minutes until the swing slowed and she started screaming again, crank her up so she’d quiet herself, and sleep for another nine minutes until it would start all over again.

In the morning, I’d be so disoriented that I felt like I was walking through my day in a fog. I had very little energy for her sister, who was two, and I found I was dreading most of my days and nights. Life was a barely-hanging-on existence.

Until the exact day of her twelfth week when all of a sudden, just like that, she stopped crying. Maybe her insides caught up with her outsides. Maybe she was just sensitive to her new surroundings. I don’t know what happened, but just as many moms told me would happen, she suddenly stopped crying.

And what a blessed relief that was. A blessed, surprising relief.

If I had only known then that all I needed to do was to hang on, the waiting would have seemed so much easier. If I had only known that there was an end in sight and that the end would occur on the exact day of her twelve-week birthday, I might have been able to tell myself it would all be O.K.

But we don’t always know, do we?

If the weatherman could only give me a date when it would stop raining and start giving me blue skies, maybe I wouldn’t wake up in such a funk.

If I only knew when this “new” life without work would start feeling “normal,” maybe I could just stop tromping aimlessly around my house.

But maybe this not knowing is good for us, though, because it is in the not knowing when God teaches us all kinds of things. Like how to love our screaming babies or how to push through when our child is sick or we’re anxious and hurting or our faith is strained. Maybe this not knowing pushes us to lean into a God who does know, everything, and to trust Him more with the outcome.


Earlier this week I was struggling again with this needing-to-be-busy-but-feeling-disoriented attitude. I went into an exercise class feeling a little anxious about the week ahead, so before the class started I prayed, “God, I want to hear from you today. Please, Holy Spirit, speak to me before the end of class.”

I know. Weird. While I do usually pray in the quiet before class, I don’t usually pray that specifically for God to speak to me, but I felt like I needed to hear something from Him.

So class went on. I stretched. I sweated. I kept prayer at the forefront of my mind, but didn’t feel like I was hearing anything.

Finally, the cool down at the end of class came, and I prayed again, “Lord, I want to hear from you.”

And in just that moment the instructor turned on some quiet music. The song was one I had never heard before, although the singer’s voice was familiar. But the words!

Suddenly I was overcome and tears started to flow, because I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this song was for me. It’s what God has wanted me to know in the midst all of this uncertainty.

Maybe it’s what He wants you to know, too.


“Be Still” by The Fray

Be still and know that I’m with you
Be still and know that I am here
Be still and know that I’m with you
Be still, be still, and know

When darkness comes upon you
And covers you with fear and shame
Be still and know that I’m with you
And I will say your name

If terror falls upon your bed
And sleep no longer comes
Remember all the words I said
Be still, be still, and know

And when you to through the valley
And the shadow comes down from the hill
If morning never comes to be
Be still, be still, be still

If you forget the way to go
And lose where you came from
If no one is standing beside you
Be still and know I am

Be still and know that I’m with you
Be still and know I am