I woke and the house was quiet. It wasn't necessarily early; we've grown very accustomed to the irregular weekday schedule that doesn't require an alarm clock or bus routes or school bells and take advantage of the chance to sleep in. Ryan had already gone up to the studio over the garage to start his workday and the otherwise sleeping house felt like just the opportunity I've been craving for some quiet alone-time with my bible and journal.
I tiptoed downstairs and as I quickly tidied up from the night before - fluffing the couch pillows and tossing stray shoes into the mudroom, lighting a candle and straightening the stack of magazines - the familiarity felt like a friend. I've missed you, quiet mornings!
I sat on the couch with my bible open and before I even began, I felt a sense of loss creeping in. I miss how things used to be. I miss the kids going to school and hours of a quiet house and alone time. I miss popping into my coffee shop and picking up a few things at the market without even thinking about germs. I miss friends dropping by and my Wednesday night bible study and the familiar faces at pilates class. I gave myself a minute to name the things I miss most and wrote them down.
Audrey walked sleepily into the room, fuzzy blanket wrapped around her and wild hair peeking out. Brady came next. I could hear the other boys upstairs. Just like that, quiet alone-time is over, I thought to myself. Grouchiness and selfishness rising to the surface.
Just then, I glanced up to see the sunlight shine in just perfectly, casting a glow on the chair across the way.
Lift your eyes up.
Sometimes I need a full-on heart-to-heart to get a message to sink in. Other times all it takes is sunshine coming through the window at just the right moment to shake me awake and reorient my heart. Today all I needed was that streak of sunlight. Take a deep breath; life your eyes up.
This morning's reminder was a fresh invitation to open up my hands on the loss and weirdness and disorientation and disruption of my lovely schedule (it really is a nice schedule). It was a reminder to pick my eyes up off myself so I might be able to see goodness, beauty and truth even in these curious circumstances. And it gave me (once again) the permission to trade the anxiety over the unknowns for lasting, enduring peace that is found in trusting God.
So right then, even though the room was no longer quiet and I was no longer alone, I carried on with my morning meeting with Jesus. It was different and a more distracting and I still prefer silence and solitude to help me uncover what's going on in my heart, but also, God isn't limited to perfect circumstances. He isn't bound by a schedule or routine or optimal conditions. He is with us and for us and is always at work renewing our hearts through whatever the means.
Under the list of things I'm missing, I made a second list: Things that are unexpectedly wonderful. Surprisingly, that list came even faster than the first and is much, much longer.
A self-made school schedule that includes bible and journal time for the kids.
More time for Ethan to play piano.
A walk on the beach with Audrey.
Nightly Facetime story-time with my niece and nephew, Ellie and Ryan (why haven't we done this before?!)
A pilates studio that is adapting to online classes.
Zooming with Aunt Lorrie for math. Again, why have we not asked her for high school math help?!
Bible Project church at home. So grateful for this resource.
Katie Couric morning emails. A new-to-me discovery that makes catching up on the news enjoyable.
Dinner together as a family every night.
The list went on.
Yes, this new normal is anything but normal and it's okay to be honest with the many ways it's messing with us. And also, perhaps the best part of the messing up is the ways it exposes the comforts and addictions and selfishness that need to be pulled out anyway. There is work being done inside my heart that wouldn't have otherwise happened if not for this momentary blip in my nicely-organized routine.
Audrey's little devotion of the day says it perfectly:
"I promise to meet all your needs. And while you may not realize it, your greatest need is for My Peace. I am the Gardener of your heart, planting seeds of peace. But the world also tosses in seeds. These seeds grow into weeds of pride, worry and selfishness. If these weeds aren't ripped out quickly, they will choke out all your peace. I get rid of those weeds in different ways. Sometimes, when you sit quietly in prayer, My Light shines on the weeds and they shrivel up. But other times, I use troubles to encourage you to trust Me. And that trust kills the weeds. So thank Me for troubles, as well as joys. Because I use them both to make your heart My garden of Peace."
So I lift my eyes and remember that this moment in time is, in fact, just a moment. I confess my worry and control and self-focused ways and thank him for using both the troubles and the joys to bring peace. And I choose to place my gaze on the unexpected blessings that only a slowed-down, messed up routine can offer.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13