What I’m Learning—Summer Edition 2020

2020. The year we’ll never miss, yes?

In order to fit in with everything else we’re experiencing, time has felt very weird.

For instance – I have never known such long weeks in. my. life.

But the months? The months seem to border on warp speed.

It makes no sense, and I will not try to explain it, but I’ll simply note that it’s a real thing in my world this year.

In keeping with the trend I mentioned above, I don’t know where the summer went. I suppose having a new baby contributes a lot to this sensation, but I am used to stretching toward September for what feels like two quarters, and the turning of the calendar page feels like “FINALLY.” 

This year? I can’t believe how quickly September has arrived.

Here are seven things I learned a little about in the summer of 2020.

N0. 1 Uncertainty has a silver lining

COVID-19, parenting, unanswered questions, and postpartum depression would all have one believe otherwise.

But Uncertainty has a funny knack of showing up with complexity under one arm and simplicity under the other. She’s a buy-one-get-one deal—the make-you-wince-price-tag on an item of necessity, with a free gift tagging along behind to help you feel a little better.

Here are a few silver linings I’ve found in uncertainty:

/-/ Instead of choosing between seven different options of where to put my time, I now have only two or three. In some senses, limitations clarify the path forward.

/-/ Shared experiences create common ground. None of us have experienced the exact same circumstances during this summer, but we have all been impacted by common factors of the pandemic. As a result, I believe we’ve added a layer of collective empathy to our society, a patch of common ground, that some of us have never had before—we all “get” what it’s been like to live with at least some level of isolation, interruption, or loss.

/-/ Waiting for regular life to start back up again is no longer an option. We’ve all had to make choices about how we’re going to keep doing life, as un-normal as it is, calculating the risks. (Essential workers and medical personnel—you know this more than any of us.)

In light of that, I’ve been able to make a mental shift away from waiting and towards forward motion. With the fog of uncertainty still thick and impenetrable, I can’t see further than a beginning, in any direction. This is okay. I’m learning that I don’t have to wait to start, in hardly any area of my life. I just have to choose where to begin.

N0. 2 Sometimes making my own rules is just the thing to do

I tried some experiments in July for my work rhythm and processes. I made three rules that I followed pretty faithfully in that month, and I was pleased with the results.

The ‘rules’ were single-tasking, no signing up for anything new (podcast, email newsletter, online summit, etc.), and limiting social media to one check-in a day, preferably when I had something to post.

In general, I saved a lot of time, and cut down on some mental clutter. I will probably re-institute some of these rules whenever I start to feel a buzz of overwhelm from either information overload or fractured concentration.

I had also considered starting a new rule or two each month in the same vein—but the beginning of August came and went, and I didn’t come up with anything that seemed pressingly helpful. Perhaps my August rule was to make no new rules!

N0. 3 The dark + complex history of race/ism will require healing.

I took a course from Brownicity called What LIES Between Us this summer, and it was excellent.

Part of the course included a documentary detailing a DNA experiment conducted by college students. The results of the experiment and the reactions of the students (who represented multiple ethnicities) illustrated just how prevalent racist ideology is in our culture, even for people who do not display interpersonal prejudice.

What LIES Between Us also featured lectures on why we have “poor neighborhoods” and links to podcasts on the history of immigration and present-day educational inequality.

For anyone seeking education on where racism originated, why it matters, and how it seeped throughout American culture, both overtly and covertly, I highly recommend this straightforward, thought-provoking course. I’m not an affiliate—I found it that helpful.

Usually, readers of this blog are here because they care about identity, as an issue paramount in our relationship with God. If this describes you, I invite you to look at race through the lens of identity.

Other resources I’ve appreciated:

Stamped From the Beginning audiobook by Ibram X. Kendi on Spotify for free

This podcast episode from the 3 in 30: Takeaways for Moms Podcast, featuring Dr. Lucretia Carter Berry, founder of Brownicity, and Jasmine Bradshaw. These women answer the following questions that most of us have and are afraid to ask or may even use to attempt to dismiss racism:

1) If children aren’t “color blind,” why don’t my children ever describe people by the color of their skin?

2) I have a Black friend who says he/she has not experienced racism, so it’s hard for me to believe what I hear about racism in the news. Should I listen to my friend, or should I listen to the voices of the media?

3) Is ‘reverse racism’ real?

Episode 133 of 3 in 30: Takeaways for Moms

N0. 4 Sabbath is not about a day. It’s about a lifestyle.

It dawned on me one morning this summer that I desperately want to live all week with the same tranquility and delight that I often experience on my Sabbath.

And then I realized that that’s probably the point—God gave us Sabbath not only so we could physically rest, but also to show us what living in a restful posture could look like every day.

So I’ve been paying attention to my non-Sabbath days, and realizing that whenever I am frustrated, anxious, or annoyed, being in a hurry is often at the root of it.

Hurry is, indeed, the enemy of peace, as so many authors and theologians have reminded us.

…love is painfully time consuming.

Hurry and love are incompatible.

John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

My favorite books on Sabbath so far:

Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller [EDIT: Shortly after publishing this post, I learned that Shelly Miller has been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. The prognosis is 12-18 months. This news is deeply saddening, and also comes on the eve of the release of her newest book. If you would like to support their family during this painful season, please pray for them, and pre-order Shelly’s new book Searching for Certainty.]

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

N0. 5 Immanuel Journaling is my current favorite way to spend time with God.

Immanuel Journaling is built on the reality of “God with us,” in every moment and emotion. A simple journaling-style means of prayer, this way of communicating with God invites the writer to see themselves from God’s perspective by listening to his voice and responding to it.

The series of six questions, plus the seventh option of reading what you’ve written aloud, was developed by E. James Wilder, Anna Kang, John Loppnow & Sungshim Loppnow in their book, “Joyful Journey.”

My favorite part about this journaling is that it has also helped me hear God’s voice more clearly even without a pen in my hand. Listening to the Shepherd speak to me personally, both on paper and in our personal conversation, has been a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything.

The topic of hearing the Shepherd’s voice seems to find its way into my monthly letters on a regular basis—if you’re interested in hearing more, subscribe right here:

Resources for exploring Immanuel Journaling:

A simple overview of the process by one of the authors

A pdf is available near the bottom of this page

If you’re interested in joining an Immanuel Journaling small group, my friend Summer Joy Gross offers opportunities to do this through Patreon; and her upcoming podcast season will be all about the IJ process.

N0. 6 All relational division is rooted in insecurity.

This thought burst on my brain during a Sunday morning conversation with our tiny (online) church community. It made so much sense, and since then I’ve been holding it up to examination as I encounter or observe different kinds of division.

What I think I’m seeing is in every sort of inability to be unified, either one or all parties involved holds a belief/opinion/desire they feel is threatened.

Insecurity results because the belief/opinion/desire is subconsciously attached to the individual(s)’s identity or sense of worth. Then with the sense of insecurity, feeling rejected follows. Rejection is ten times more powerful when it is connected to someone’s identity. Unity becomes very difficult.

Unity requires humility…and humility is always deeply embedded in security. For a Christian, healthy humility, which is very different from self-degradation or a downplaying of their personal worth, is rooted in a deep security in who they are in Christ.

My takeaway—if I feel at odds with someone/something, I ought to check in with my sense of insecurity—and take it right to Jesus.

N0. 7 Key lime-flavored La Croix are super delicious.

I used to hate sparkling water. Like, hate it. It seemed like a complete waste of both water and carbonation.

But especially during a go-nowhere do-nothing summer, I’ve discovered sparkling waters as a nice change of pace when there’s a decent level of flavor attached.

Let the reader understand: not all sparkling waters are created equal. For instance, mango flavored La Croix sparkling water? Meaningless. And Pellegrino’s lemon/lemon zest? Might as well drink a citronella candle – it will taste the same.

But every so often I try a flavor that actually has good flavor, and I’m a convert. La Croix’s Key Limes are the best I’ve found to date.

What about you? What sorts of simple + serious + silly lessons are you learning this season? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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