As it has for many of you I'm sure, this season of life has held a lot of disappointment, anger, stress, frustration, and grief for me. It has not been an easy 5 months by any means, but the two lessons God has reminded me of through this time are 2 of the same lessons he has been teaching me for years and years, and they have never proven as true for me as now.
First, I am constantly needing the reminder that it is okay, healthy, and even good and not "sinful" somehow to feel - really, actually, deeply feel - my "bad" emotions. This is the only way they get processed and don't get stuck in our hearts and minds as built up bitterness, anger, anxiety, and depression. I think at times I have felt that the "Christian" thing to do is never get angry, always be positive, and never let life get you down. But Jesus wept. God got angry. And He invented our emotions and feelings, and our ability to feel these hard and uncomfortable feelings are what also give us the ability to at other times feel full and total joy, and to also be able to share in what others around us are feeling and experiencing when it is our turn to support them.
It's okay that I was absolutely devastated, heartbroken, mad, sad, and felt robbed of any sort of closure or goodbye when my grandma passed away from Covid19 in April, in Quebec. I am so thankful for my friends and fiance who gave me space to grieve, helped me let myself feel what I needed to feel, and a God who weeps with me and does not look down on my emotions but instead holds me in my pain.
It's okay that I have felt angry, robbed, frustrated, and so very disappointed that my wedding plans have had to change drastically because of this pandemic. The constant changing of plans, wondering what our day will really look like, and letting go of the expectations I'd had for this day for so long has been so challenging. There are times it feels shallow or "worldly" to care so much and feel so upset about not having certain things or people I imagined having at my wedding, but again, I am so thankful for incredible friends and family who have validated my emotions, cried with me over the frustration, and reminded me that God also loves weddings - he invented them! - and it's okay to grieve certain dreams I had.
Lastly, being an essential worker has been a confusing and challenging role to play in this time, and it's okay that I have felt angry that I needed to go to work despite most people being ordered to stay home. At first, when there was so much unknown and fear, I was constantly anxious about being at work with so many people around (I work at a live-in treatment centre for children with mental health conditions). That anxiety has slowly lifted for the most part, but the burn-out has set in, and again, it's okay to sometimes feel defeated. I was already feeling fairly burnt out from the shift work life before the pandemic, and I am learning to let myself feel validated in my burn out but to also allow myself to care for myself however I need in light of that. We have all worked so much over-time at the program as staff need to take sick days if they have any symptoms, and we have needed more staff in the program than usual because our kids are not going to school, not going on home visits, and not going to any of their usual summer day-camps or activities. And watching our kids feel their own frustration and confusion over how things have changed and their lack of visits with families has been heart-breaking. However, I am so thankful for my co-workers - we all get along so well, are able to vent and process with each other, encourage each other, and feel supported by our supervisors. This is a huge blessing when working in these times at such a job.
This leads me to the second lesson I keep reminding myself of to get through these times and that God has been teaching me over and over for years - gratitude changes EVERYTHING. It truly renews my soul, refreshes my perspective, reminds me of what matters and how much God has blessed me, and makes hardships seem smaller day by day. It is good to feel the hardest emotions and release, but it is also good to find the good, even on the hardest days.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. - 1 Chronicles 16:34
I have mentioned my gratefulness for the people in my life who give me space to feel and remind me it is healthy and good and holy to feel all emotions and bring them before God, and who support me and love me through it all. Community is everything and I have one of the best ones around, I'm sure of it.
I am marrying a man who is everything I could ever have hoped for and more in a life partner, and I thank God every day for bringing us together. I am SO excited to marry him and though our wedding day may not look as we had originally expected, it will still be so beautiful and exciting and blessed. And I also am thankful that restrictions have opened up somewhat to allow more of our friends and family to be there than previous restrictions allowed.
I am SO grateful to still have my job, and I know this is currently not necessarily common. I'm also grateful that I do work with such amazing people that I tend to go home smiling even on our hardest days. I'm grateful that the program I work at exists, as the kids who live there so desperately need the help we can provide.
I could go on and on - that's the thing about gratitude, see. Once you start really looking at your life and finding the things to be grateful for, there is ALWAYS more and more to find and it really does change everything to focus on these things. As I write this, I already feel much lighter, so blessed, and excited about the next two months. To be completely honest with you, this was not the case last night - when thinking about the next two months, I was feeling very anxious and emotional and had a good, long cry.
But my God is so good. My community is so good. Being vulnerable and open and feeling is so good. And there are still so many good things in the midst of this weird, weird season.
So cry if you need to. Go yell at God if you need to, He can take it. Tell someone you trust what you're really feeling. And then, take a breath, and list a few things you're grateful for.
I'm grateful for you, Varsity. I can't wait to worship our God together again one day soon!