It’s Saturday and on this hazy smoke-filled morning, I spy a sparrow pecking at what appears to be part of a leaf from our fallen sunflowers, casualties of the wind storms of the past week. As my bleary eyes adjusted, the bird’s beak reveals the remains of a grasshopper. My husband saunters into the kitchen and stands behind me to determine my view. I explain my gaze and he questions, 

“Does that mean the locusts have arrived?”

We faintly chuckle, not whole-heartedly because it is too soon, too fresh for a belly laugh. There has been a heaviness hovering over our days and now is not the time for jokes. 

It does feel like locusts have begun to inhabit our land. Along the west coast, the days have contained windstorms, power outages, and the incessant spread of wildfires. Our family has not experienced the ravages of fires as countless have been devastated by, only the byproduct of smoke, lots and lots of smoke. It’s a constant reminder of being on the periphery of suffering. It’s a call to pray for those who won’t soon forget the smell of smoke even once the skies return to blue.  

I snapped the above photo on a morning when I should have stayed indoors. I attempted to water our plants after the previous days’ wind storms had stripped every bit of moisture from the earth. Debris needed to be removed before accessing the ground. A vivid green grasshopper seemed unbothered by the destruction or the shower of my hose as it surveyed its landing place. Okay, maybe this metaphor rings hollow when recalling the bird’s activity from the first sentences. Perhaps it only emphasizes the cycle of life. We are living in a time where the contrast between death and life are ever before our eyes. This reality is monstrous to our souls.

What can we hold onto when in an instant there can be elements designed to take us out?

Many people choose a word for the year and my new tradition is to choose one on my birthday. However, determining a word as a path for the next 365 days can be as daunting as trying to contain a fire.

I propose choosing a word for a season, month, week, day, or even moment. 

Selecting a word isn’t reaching into your pocket to grasp a rabbit’s foot or shaking a magic eight ball. It is driving a stake into the ground or burying an anchor into the depths. It’s admitting our suffering is not shallow and requires an equally weighty resolve. It reminds us that suffering is collective and not comparative. Last week, I found myself in the midst of a text thread comparing air quality levels when hazardous is hazardous no matter the number. We don’t need to quantify or compare our discomfort. It’s shared suffering but what brings me strength may be different than another’s person’s needs.  

What word would help guide each day with its unique amount of challenges?

What word could be whispered when life feels overwhelmingly difficult?

Carl has been using the word resilient a lot lately. Soon I will write about my birthday word, but lately I have been tightly grasping the word “fixed”.

I want to keep my mind fixed when the whole world seems to be coming unglued.

Here is a list of possibilities:

  • trust
  • resolve
  • courage
  • hope
  • peace
  • joy
  • remain
  • faith
  • breathe
  • love
  • steadfast
  • strong
  • soft
  • abide
  • rest
  • exhale
  • safe
  • brave

If this exercise feels too difficult, simply copy these words or others onto small slips of paper and fold. Empty all these folded words into a jar or bowl and draw one out whenever you feel in need of an anchor or stake.

I keep going back to one of my favorite psalms which gave me hope during the first tender days of the pandemic. Psalm 46 continues to have the staying power I need to navigate these days. It’s a fitting benediction for this Monday in September.

God is our refuge and strength,

    an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

    God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,

    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease

    to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

    he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

4 thoughts on “heavy

  1. Oh how I needed these words this morning. The locust comments especially. Thank your husband!
    I wrote a long (8 pages) journal entry yesterday. I said I felt like I was in a cage that had just gotten smaller, more confining and what I saw outside the cage had become scarier.
    Thinking about my word for these times.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a word each year, and my word for 2020 is SERVE. At first it was hard to see where it fit, but even in a confined world, there are many opportunities. And now it seem needs were never greater.
    Bless you as you endure yet another trial in this unusually trying year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how a word can come to us when we aren’t completely sure of its application and then with time the richness is revealed. I love your word and know it has been a blessing to many!


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