Sunday, March 22, 2020

When the World Stops

Where do I even begin?

Our world looks different than it did a month ago. Even two weeks ago, who would have expected this? No matter what your norm is-- work from home mom, traditionally working mom, single, married, etc.-- your life is different.

Sure, there are benefits. Extra time with our families. People crossing over political party lines to simply help one another. Slower pace. More crafts. Cute little driveway chalk drawings. Learning to bake every kind of cookie under the sun...

But if you, like me, are prone to your mental health taking a hit when things get overwhelming, you may also find yourself struggling. One minute you're watching a heartwarming video of people coming together or thinking how glad you are to read with your kid on the couch-- and the next minute you're facing anxiety and depression head-on as it hits you in waves that you have very little control and the whole world is quite literally shutting down.

We can say this realigns our focus on how little we control in life and how gracious and caring God is. That's true, and it does. But there's more than that, isn't there? There's the panic that burns in our chests and the breaths that are hard to catch as we get take-out food and sanitize our hands one extra time, as we cancel vacations, graduations, sporting events, and best-laid plans. Some of you may be facing unemployment. Some of you may have a loved one who has tested positive for the virus. This. Is. Hard.

I've been very up and down this week. I've had some emotional highs of sweet times with my family, and I've also had some anxiety attacks and depressive spirals. I've had too much caffeine and not enough water. I've grown overwhelmed by the scope of the spread, but perhaps even more than that, the scope of the shut down (and I'm very pro-closures, don't misunderstand-- its just hard to wrap your mind around). So I speak from a place of standing right beside you. I need to share these two things God has put on my heart, and I hope they will do a good work in you even as you may find yourself feeling lonely, isolated, or in chaos.

  • We all experience calm and storm, but we have a choice in which seas we set our anchor. I keep thinking of the passage where Jesus calms the waves. "Peace, be still," he says to them in Matthew 8. Contrary to what some people may suggest, the Bible never promises us an un-bumpy ride. The Bible does promise us peace. In other words, it's okay to emotionally fall apart. That's your mind and heart and body's way of processing the potential and actual loss of a pandemic. You're scared. That's healthy. You're sad. That's healthy too. We will never make peace and receive the Lord's word over us if we cannot first look at the waves head-on. Do not live in denial/guilt of how you think you "should" feel because all feelings are fine and good. Instead, spend that guilty energy opening your hands and releasing your fears as they come.
  • Feeling whole and healthy has never been a first step/requirement to do what God has called us toward. Every single one of my writing friends who I've spoken with about this has told me the same thing: I am struggling to write right now. And you know what? So am I. But God has begun laying on my heart the reiteration that in my weakness, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Who says you have to fix yourself or your feelings before you can work in tandem with God? He wants to use you right where you are. Not feeling creative? Maybe lean into that despair as you write. Maybe there's a story in that. Feeling compassion fatigue? Maybe God is leading you to take some small but meaningful step, like mailing out cards to nursing homes or getting someone groceries or even financing school meals. God is our hope, our anchor, and our peace, and He hasn't stopped using us just because we are scared. We cannot take ourselves out of the race simply because we're weary, nor do we have to keep running ragged. God wants to use us IN our weariness through his OWN restorative power. 

Dear writers, if there is ever a time to tell your story, it's now.

Turn your computer back on.


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. Her debut novel The Dress Shop on King Street releases December 3, 2020 from Bethany House. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's also an active member of ACFW. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her website - and while you're there, be sure to sign up for her newsletter!


Glynis said...

Very well said. Prayers for all of us in this uncertainty.

kaybee said...

Ashley, this was well-put. It's the uncertainty that gets me. I'm in New England and we KNOW how to deal with crises -- ice storms, snow storms, power outages. But those usually have an end in sight. This is a lot more free-form. I'm a senior and I'm looking at it through a completely different lens from a young mom. But we are God's people and when this is over we shall come forth as pure gold.
Thanks for the pep talk!
Kathy Bailey

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Beautifully put, Ashley! I love your heart for others and am praying for us all! <3

Ian A said...

Good on you, Ashley. These are scary times but God is in control, and most significantly He loves us so so much. He's a very personal God and desires for us to lean into Him in this time.

We'll get through this as we stay connected to each other and trust in the goodness and faithfulness of our God.