Onward: Becoming Okay With My Quarantine Struggles

My Quarantine Mood Might Never Quit: Sometimes I feel invisible, like I don’t matter, and that I am insignificant.

Will this ever end? I’ve been stuck at home since March! I am sure you know how I feel. I think I am becoming invisible, maybe I don’t matter any more, maybe I am insignificant, and maybe I’m being unjustly judged by the world. I’ve been disconnected for so long I have no idea what the people in my community think! That’s why I go to the worst possible outcome. I need people in my life! I need normalcy!

A year ago this weekend I went to see Star Wars: The Return of The Jedi with my good friend Luke. I shook hands with a random stranger (who happened to be Rian Johnson’s brother), but now I am stuck inside.

At this point it would be more surprising to hear from someone who hasn’t been quarantined due to a Covid scare than about someone having to do multiple quarantines. Yet, I refuse to allow the covid quarantine life to be the new normal. It should not be normal to be stuck inside of my house with a weird fear of whoever is delivering my toilet paper. It will never be normal to have to meet all of my students through zoom, where I try to be as entertaining as the best podcasters and as relatable as their best friend. And it will never be normal to work day in and day out in the same sweat pants no matter how hard I try! I want to go out to eat inside a restaurant again! I want to go to movies!

Speaking of movies, no not the 158 movies April and I watched at home last year, but real movies in the theater! The last movie I saw in theaters was Onward on March, 6th 2020. April and I love going to movies so the fact it has almost been a full year since I stepped into a movie theater astounds me. At first I didn’t mind it even though April and I go out of our way to have fun movie going experiences. We went to the O2 arena in London to see Spider-Man: Far From Home while on our honeymoon. Before last March I couldn’t remember the last time I went more than a month without going to the movies. Even when I lived in Guatemala, I made sure to travel to the theaters (I have a blog about traveling to Guatemala City to live it up in luxury which meant going to the movies), even though most of the movies were horribly dubbed into Spanish or had lousy subtitles (and the theater leaked any time it rained and it always rained in Guatemala). But now a year without theaters has me sad and a little mad.

But as I move onward through this pandemic maybe I should take a lesson from Onward. If you haven’t seen Onward, it is a fantastic Pixar movie about two brothers, Ian and Barley, going on an adventurous road trip to reconnect with their dead dad. Like the two brothers in the movie we could all use a little reconnecting right about now and maybe a road trip too. Yet, our world is forcing us to hold each other further away than arms length. I am not a huge hugger, but I do love a good hug and well, we could all use one.

Yet maybe Onward was a great last movie to see in the theaters and it could be a great hope for the future of theaters and the end of quarantine life. It is a great last movie experience, not because now it is just easier to watch movies at home on Netflix, HBO Max, or any other streaming service, but because it reminds us that there is good in our world. As the lockdown started last March, I had Onward on my mind. Ian Lightfoot, the young protagonist voiced by Tom Holland, only wants to reconnect with his dead dad, but throughout the movie life blocks him from satisfying those desires. That is what it has been like for the past year. I have desires to travel, to go on a road trip, but Covid has blocked that. Instead of driving up the west coast of California this summer, April and I will be staying in because it is not safe for us to travel with a baby girl on the way. I am very willing to sacrifice for my family and my future baby girl, but it still sucks to be stuck at home.

Memoirs of traveling at hyper speed on the Millennium Falcon

Being forced to stay in makes me feel off. All year I have been staying in. I teach remotely due to health reasons (which are now double due to baby Hermione (not her official name) and so sometimes I feel invisible to my coworkers. Like when they are all provided a free lunch and I don’t get any because I am home. This can lead to me feeling insignificant. The feeling of insignificance is compounded when my opinion is not considered for how to teach something in my class. Then I feel unfairly judged because I am being told to run my zoom meetings a certain way even though I do not feel like the person judging me has the whole story, nor the best interest in mind for my students. And then my school district keeps on making decisions for my life and our community that I disagree with which makes me feel like I do not matter. And yet, all of this is okay. I must be okay with being invisible, with being insignificant, with feeling like I don’t matter, and with being unfairly judged.

In Onward, Ian struggles with not knowing his dad and therefore not knowing his true identity. What I am realizing is that it is okay to struggle because that helps us become who we are meant to be. Importantly, if Ian hadn’t struggled he never would have become who he was meant to be. But his true struggle was one of letting go of his desire to connect with his dad. As Ian fights to truly reconnect with his dad he causes problems. His desire to connect with his dad is not bad, but like all desires, if they are held onto for too long they can be our ruin because they do not truly satisfy. Ian is forced to choose between connecting with his dead dad or letting go. If he chooses to let go, it will be a humble sacfrice. I want to let go of my desires to fight and sacrifice. No, not because I want to be like characters in a movie, but because I want to follow Jesus.

On a deeper level than movie analysis, I need to be okay with feeling invisible, insignificant, unfairly judged, and that I don’t matter sometimes because Jesus felt all of that too. In the fight, flight, or freeze response to fear and adversity, Jesus knelt and sacrificed. I would imagine that if Jesus was asked to quarantine with us, he would feel frustrated and lonely, but he would respond to it all in love. Just like he did when he was persecuted and forced to march to Calvary. He did not fight against being told to do something he disagreed with or unfairly judged, but carried the cross for all of us. He took on all of our loneliness, isolation, separation, thoughts of insignificance, and invisibility when he did not fight back and allowed himself to be nailed to the cross. If he can do that maybe I can too. If he felt how I feel at times, and yet choose love I can find freedom in choosing to become more like him, even if I can’t go on the next adventurous road trip. And until my next adventure I can still dream of my next trip back to Hogsmead at Universal Studios.

Social Media Shakeup: Living A Beautiful Adventure For Lent

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Fifteen years ago this February, I opened up an account on Facebook.  It was probably a Friday night and one of my friends felt like I would fix all of my problems by finding friends on what was then called The Facebook.

Flash forward to 2011 and I decided to give up Facebook for Lent.  I was living in Guatemala and I used the heck out of Facebook to stay connected to all of my friends and family back in Colorado.  Forty some odd days off  of Facebook was freeing.  I stopped feeling the need to post my every thought.  But I also felt like I lost contact with certain people and to a certain extent I don’t feel like I have ever reconnected with everyone.  But I had wanted to give God my time that I typically gave Facebook.

I also wanted to make funny videos of my time away from Facebook (they used to be posted to this blog, but have since vanished).  I think I wanted my time off Facebook to make me a popular blogger.  Maybe my dream was for people to finally see all the awesome things I was writing about in Guatemala.  Nine years later and I am still not sure if anyone is reading.

But I don’t blog so that I get found.  At least not anymore.  My goal for my blog and for everything I post is to help spread joy.  In the past fifteen years, along with Facebook, I have joined Twitter and Instagram.  Typically these networks are very positive elements in my life (I tend to stay away from harmful interactions).  If I post a picture on Instagram, as I have for nearly every day over the past six years, it is meant to help people see something fun, beautiful, and joyful.  When I blog I’m hoping to tell a story about God’s goodness in my life so that my readers (you amazing few) might see God in their own stories.

Yet tomorrow Lent starts and I want to shake up my life on social media.  Lent, for me, is all about surrendering something to God so maybe when I crave what I surrendered I seek His comfort.  I want to be hungry for Christ this Easter.  I want all of me to long for him to be resurrected.  So I am going to step away from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Posting a daily photo is a challenge for me because it forces me to look for joy and beauty so now I am going to have to find a way to see beauty without needing to take a picture and share it.  I will have to trust that people will find joy and beauty without me.

As I write this I know it feels a little odd to be talking about how I am letting go of social media for Lent on a social media platform, but I want everyone to have an adventure and so I blog.  Maybe by surrendering things I love I can find the freedom God has for me and inspire those around me to take a risk and trust God too.

So no story about how I saw God’s beauty in the trash or how I experienced Him in the wild, maybe those will come in my next blog.  Tonight I want to leave you with a beautiful image of a door.  I am going to open that door and seek out more of the beauty God has for me and I hope you do too.

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(well I won’t be opening this particular one in the picture because I would have to travel back to England and go to the Cotswolds where this door sits at the North End of a Church and many years ago inspired J.R.R. Tolkien)

 

 

March Madness: How To Be A Winner

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I know all of my faithful readers have been wondering why I haven’t been posting?  Don’t you know that March Madness has taken over my life?

The games have started.  My bracket has been filled out.  And by the end of today my predictions will have amounted to a pile of slop.  I have Indiana winning it all in one of my brackets and my very own University of Colorado winning it in another. Both will probably be wrong.

But the tournament isn’t what has really been keeping me busy.

My March has been a little maddening, no not because of all the Harlem Shake videos out there, but because of school.  On March first I thought I had my positioning set for student teaching, only to have it fall through.

I have been in and out of so manny classes this month for school, I’ve gone a little mad.  From watching kids read Dr Seuss to teaching vocabulary and writing lessons, I’ve been busy!

By the second week in March I was scrambling to find a new car.  I bought a Nissan Sentra.  It has a squeak in it that is driving me mad, but I think it will turn out better than my basketball brackets.

And through all of this madness, (are you going mad because of my over use of the word mad?) I’ve started each morning doing the same thing.

For Lent I decided to spend each morning reading a devotional.  I’ve quoted the Jesus Calling devotional a couple of times, and I really think it’s helped me stay sane.  Yesterday I read this,” Thank Me for the glorious gift of My Spirit.  This is like priming the pump of a well.  As you bring Me the sacrifice of thanksgiving, regardless of your feelings, My Spirit is able to work more freely within you.  This produces more thankfulness and more freedom, until you are overflowing with gratitude.  I shower blessings on you daily, but sometimes you don’t perceive them.  When your mind is stuck on a negative focus, you see neither Me nor My gifts.  In faith, thank Me for whatever is preoccupying your mind.  This will clear the blockage so that you can find Me.

Through all of these maddening events in my life this March, God has assured me that he loves me and is in control.  I know I have a lot going on in my life right now, but I wouldn’t stop reading my bible and doing this daily devotional just to have some more time to relax.  I need to have this in my life so I can rest in God’s hands.  He is reminding me daily that he is in control.

Yeah, March is a maddening month, but we can be thankful for that, because when all seems mad, we can remember that God is in control.  So take time each day to look for God’s blessings, and know that God has his hand on us.  He is in control and will set our adventures down a path leading to him.  So take the time to thank God for all He has given you, because if you do so, your life will be a grand adventure and you will become a winner.  Maybe not with your bracket, but in life, and that’s what counts.

What To Do When It Snows

Out My Back Yard

I woke up to the sound of my phone, church had been canceled.  My parents are flying back from Tulsa today, and if their flight get’s canceled it will be due to an act of God.  So, can you say God canceled Church?

It's Cold Out!

After I made a couple phone calls to let the rest of the people at The Neighborhood Church know it was okay to stay at home and worship at home, I decided to figure out what to do with my snowy day.

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I decided to attend Lifechurch.tv online and read a devotional, the same devotional I quoted when I wrote about my worst Valentine’s ever.  Here is what Sarah Young has for us today,

“Be still in the Light of My Presence, while I communicate Love to you.  There is no force in the universe as powerful as My Love.  You are constantly aware of limitations: your own and others’.  But there is no limit to My love; it fills all space, time and eternity.”

Snow Art

God’s love seems to be as big as the snow storm that is howling outside.  His love, according to Craig Groeschel, is also big enough to forgive our sins.  If I have been forgiven, then I need to forgive as well.

Snow days are a great reminder of forgiveness.  When the snow covers the ground in a fresh white layer, it always reminds me that God can cover up my dirtiness and brokenness.

Today seems to be a great day to be still and know that God loves me and has forgiven me.

It’s also a great day to take a couple of pictures.

Let It Snow

I tried to use the snow-blower, but it is still broken.

The Snow-Blower

So I had to shovel.

Lamp Post To Narnia

Winter-Wonder-Land

Little Windy

Through The Trees

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures, and if you are here in Denver, stay safe, and be still and know that God loves you and will forgive you.

Not The Valentine Adventure I Wanted

My Car

Every year for Lent, season before Easter where I get to prepare myself for Christ’s sacrifice, I either give something up or add something to my life that is meant to bring my closer to my best friend (ie. Jesus).  This Lent I decided to read the  Jesus Calling Devotional by Sarah Young.  I typically do all of my reading and journal writing at night, but I figured Lent could be a little different.  So here is what I read on the 14th of February:

“Give yourself fully to the adventure of today.  Walk boldly along the path of Life, relying on your ever-present Companion.  You have every reason to be confident, because My Presence accompanies you all the days of your life-and onward into eternity.

“Do not give in to fear or worry, those robbers of abundant living.  Trust Me enough to face problems as they come, rather than trying to anticipate them.  Fix your eyes on Me, the Author and Perfecter of your Faith, and many difficulties on the road ahead will vanish before you reach them.  Whenever you start to feel afraid, remember that I am holding you by your right hand.  Nothing can separate you from My Presence.”

Hebrews 12:2; Isaiah 41:13

After a long afternoon of classes I was on my way home when the most unexpected thing happened.  My car spun out and I ended up off the road, in a parking lot, facing the other direction.  Snow had just started to drift down to the ground, and my path home was very icy.

My Car on Ice

I walked away without a scratch.  I wasn’t planning on this being my adventure for the day, but I know God’s hand was on me.  I felt very blessed by all of the people who responded to the wreck very quickly.

The true purpose of Lent is to remember that God must be first in our lives.  Well, if this wasn’t a reminder, then I don’t know what is.

I don’t believe that God makes bad things happen to us, as I was just reading in James, He’s the giver of perfect gifts.  He has a plan for all of this and I guess the true adventure will happen next.

I’m excited to see what happens!