Hollow Easter bunnies are a mean trick. I mean, spend another dollar to ensure your kid doesn’t get broken chocolate and enjoys the experience, right? I don’t love chocolate, so as a kid my basket would always be the one with the white chocolate bunny. (Distinctly different taste for a kid who doesn’t like chocolate.) I remember getting those hollowed out ones and watching as they often came out broken with that weird candy eyeball staring you in the face.
Solid bunnies, on the other hand, kept their shape. They didn’t come out all goofy after a little pinch. You had to really try to break (or bite) off a good piece. Superior to say the least.
We just surpassed one year of pandemic craziness. One Year! Sometimes I can’t believe all the weird stuff we’ve been doing has been going on this long! I remember the decision to close the office and work from home. What a struggle it was to decide if the church would meet in person on March 15, 2020. I remember the first time I had to wear a mask to the store, and then to work. It all felt like we were living inside a movie.
But then it started getting hard. Really hard. We started grieving. Grieving the loss of prom and high school graduation ceremonies. Grieving loss of life and loved ones. Grieving loss of jobs and interaction and touch. And the list goes on really, doesn’t it? Think about what you’ve lost over this last year.
How did you handle the pressure? Because if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that if we’re not solid the pressure can make us crack. Just like those hollow Easter bunnies, if there’s nothing solid inside of you, you’re going to break. And, honestly, maybe some of us have. And now we are picking up the pieces.
I know there have been moments where I have been broken, where I’ve cracked a little, where I just wasn’t strong enough to shoulder everything that was coming at me. That’s when I had to find my strength.
How do you do it? How do you find your strength? How do you withstand the pressure? The difficult times. The grief. The despair.
I think this comes through small, everyday rhythms. Little practices that we implement into our lives on any given day. Things that make us stop and reflect and grow. Habits, practices, rhythms, these are the things that fill us. That strengthen us. That grow and stretch us. Let me share some of my favorite rhythms.
1. Have a time of daily reflection and meditation.
I am a person of faith, so for me this means time in God’s word. It is so important to me to be in the Word every single day. I’m an early bird, so for me it looks like getting up before everyone else to read and meditate. But, I also love to wrap things up at the end of the day with something like the Examen. (Which we’ve discussed in earlier posts.) Morning or night, who cares? Get yourself in the habit of enjoying this time to read, reflect, pray, meditate, whatever.
2. Surround yourself with people who will edify you.
This world is too crazy to be spending our time with people who have their heart set on protecting their point of view and fighting endlessly and needlessly in places like social media and group settings. I have seen too many things that are contrary to scripture, contrary to the teachings of the church, and frankly contrary to Jesus come from the mouths of people who claim to be believers. It saddens and disheartens me every time I see someone spout angry, demeaning, troubling, or racist words with their mouths (or keyboard) but the evidence shows that their hearts are far from God. Friends, you can’t “unfollow” these people fast enough. Where will the arguing take you? What’s the point? To “stick it to them?” Because if that starts to be your point, you’re only becoming like them.
You need to surround yourself with people who will lift you up when you are discouraged, not tear you down.
3. Choose to be a river, not a marsh.
John 7:38 says, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Rivers flow. They have a water source, and they flow into others. Have you ever seen a marsh? Here in the midwest it’s like a swamp land with tall grass and stagnant, stinky water. Who wants that? Don’t create a dam in your life. Don’t hoard the blessings that you have received until you have enough. The freshness of the water is in the flow! I want to be the kind of person that receives every blessing with open hands, willing to pass it on if called to do so. Are you willing to let blessings flow? To break up the dam and freely give as you receive?
4. Be a grateful person.
I know that I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but I do. I know this because I’m continually telling myself. It seems like everyone has done a study on the benefits of being grateful. But, studies are good because it means that there’s proof, right? Actual, real, mathematical, scientific proof. Gratitude improves our health. It improves our physical, mental, and emotional health. It also improves your spiritual health. To keep yourself strong during the hard times, be grateful during all times. Keep a gratitude journal.
5. Cultivate a healthy prayer life.
It goes without saying that sometimes we just need to get things off our chest. Sometimes we need someone to listen. Sometimes we need to be the ones listening. Sometimes we just need stillness.
This is where the rhythm of a healthy prayer life is invaluable. There will be times when prayer is the only thing you have. There will be times when letting it all out in sadness or anger or frustration to God will change your entire perspective. You need to begin a healthy prayer life to be able to cling to it in the darkest of times. So, start now. Start today. Develop a rhythm that works for you. Do you have a few minutes in the morning? Do you have some time before bed? Maybe you’ll learn that the car is your favorite place of prayer. Wherever it is doesn’t really matter. What matters is starting to develop the habit.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve given you just a few simple ways, simple rhythms, to build your strength. These things will strengthen your faith and make hard days (or years, am I right?) more bearable. They have been so important in my journey, and I pray that you find them encouraging for yours.
May God bless you in unimaginable ways!