By Kristi Barth
When a forest fire occurs naturally, it ravages trees, houses, wildlife and anything in its path. Nothing can survive the 1400° temperatures. Yet, there is a positive side to this devastation. The landscape can be reborn as the disastrous blaze makes way for new growth and rich soil. In order for this to happen, we have to have the fire first. Guess what? We are in the middle of the fire.
The Coronavirus feels like a wildfire burning across our world, creating hardships for everyone. While the fire is burning, it seems like it's the worst, because it is.
I've never been in the middle of a wildfire, but I can only imagine what it would be like for these people watching their homes, their hopes, their dreams go up in flames. Yet, there's always healing that takes place after. Having a visual of that healing in your sights might help you get past the part we're going through right now.
At some point, there will be a vaccine. If all goes well, it will be safe. A lot of people will be scared to take it, but a lot of people will, soon after cases will drop rapidly. Movie theaters will open, we can have gatherings, and all these restaurants that are about to go out of business will start bringing back their family restaurants and creating a better experience for their customers than ever.
It's easy to complain about technology pulling us apart as people never look away from their phones, but this is an opportunity to create experiences that bring people together. This fire will pass and when it does, the world will be different. Do I miss the way the world was before COVID-19, sure I do. But I also understand, that since the beginning of time, giant changes like this have happened, and in the end, they make our lives better.
So yes, we are in the middle of the hardest part, the Wildfire part. And as long as the fires are burning, everything will be a little harder. But there is a better day coming. Wildfires don't burn forever. Visualize the healing, the changes and how we can make our world better together
Can I give you a piece of motherly advise? The type of advise from someone who'd sacrifice everything for your well-being? Please view people you meet online as strangers, because they are — strangers.
Why am I telling you this? My family and I found ourselves in the middle of what felt like a bad movie. Even as I write this, I can't shake the surreal and anxious feelings that came with this particular circumstance.
Due to privacy, I won't share my family member's name, but I will tell you it involved a young teen and a very real need to feel connected after months of isolation. We thought that being holed up at home during the pandemic would ensure our teen's safety, but we were naive. This isolation allowed a stranger to enter our home and invade our sacred space.
Yes, he seemed innocent enough, coming over the technology with sweet talk and compliments, as strangers often will. He joked, played games, and empathized the way a friend would. All of this attention made the teen feel wanted, appreciated, and warm inside. But those feelings didn't mean that the online person was a friend; they only meant that our teen was human. This type of attention, regardless of where it's from, always feels great. Until it puts you in danger.
It wasn't long before this person over-stepped his bounds and showed his true colors, putting our teen at risk. It took us all by surprise. Luckily, our family has a close relationship with one another and we were able to intervene. This time. We're working hard to ensure there isn't a next time.
I'm not going to share all of the details because I want to come back to you, my friends. Believe the movies that show teens being persuaded to do dumb things by strangers online. You never think it's going to happen to you. You think you'll be able to know if someone is scamming you or is intending to do you harm, but it's never that easy — not when strangers know how to make you feel safe and cared for. Not when strangers know how to pretend to be friends.
They may be fun gaming partners. They may be good flatterers. They may even be the cutest entertainers you've ever seen. But they remain strangers through all of it, or at best, acquaintances you know little about.
Since you can't always trust your instincts, make sure you tell family and friends about your acquaintances online. And if your family or friends have a bad instinct about them? Trust the people you know. Hoping you stay safe out there, friends.
I've been sitting for a while in pain, watching the people close to me deal with the devastating affects of adversity. Some are reeling from the loss of their home — others from the death of a friend or relative. One is drowning in the pain of racism, and another is drowning in the pain of cancer (now stealing the sweet toddler from her arms.)
I feel powerless knowing I can't take away their pain. None of us can. That's one of the hard parts about life and love and family and friendship.
Perhaps you've been there, watching people you love hurting and wanting with all of your heart to switch places with them and make it better. What do you do when you can't? When life demands everyone walk through the mess it's handing them?
The only thing I've been able to figure out is to show up. A text. A call. A visit. A meal. A care package. A listening ear. Sometimes it feels like it's not enough, but according to the ones suffering, it's appreciated and makes them feel loved. That's one of people's greatest needs — to be loved. It's comforting to know that something I can do will meet a deep need, even if it can't change the situation.
With everything that is going on in our world—Corona Virus, Racial Injustice, Protests, people have a lot they are processing.
I am wondering how I can truly understand the racial injustice piece. You see I come from white privilege. I was born into a middle-class white family. I can’t apologize for that, but I need to understand that I have an unearned advantage. I have what Peggy McIntosh, an associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, refers to as “An Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege.” I have assets inside like code books, guidebooks and blank checks that unknowingly I have used all my life. I grew up in a neighborhood with people like me-white. I never had to worry about the color of my skin. I never worried about people following me around in a store, I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t be accepted in my neighborhood because of my skin color. If I did get pulled over by the police I got the benefit of doubt.
All of this happened without me even thinking about it. It is only in my later years did I realize all that I have in my life. Honestly, some of this realization didn’t happen until we adopted 2 foreign born children who did not have our same skin color. With one adoption we lived in a rural community in Montana and our child was the only Asian individual at their school. I’m not saying I fully understood then, but it started opening my eyes to our world.
I believed if I treated everyone equally and with love, I was doing my part. But sometimes when we hesitate or do nothing, we are signaling silence to the hurting. Just being cool with everyone doesn’t mean we are advocating for anyone. I think that is what these latest protests are helping me realize. I don’t think the blame, shame or guilt game is a way to deal with this. I think we need to decide what we are comfortable doing—or maybe even uncomfortable. For some of us attending protests is a way to support, for others making donations, others make posters and signs. We need to Listen, Learn and Advocate.
So I’m going to take off my lens of white privilege and do something positive. Do you have a lens that you use to view people or the world? I challenge you to reach out in understanding and love. We can change the world, even one interaction at a time.
Seems all I do is wait anymore. Wait for test results that could shake my world. Wait for financial provision. Wait for paperwork. Wait for the day I can live a "normal life" again - whatever that means. Waiting is hard. And through all of this waiting I cry out as many of you do. When will this end? What will happen if...? How will I make it?
When these thoughts get too overwhelming, I go to a quiet place. There, away from the world, I give myself a pep talk. My anxious mind doesn't want to listen, but I tell it the truth I don't always feel in my heart. "It's normal to feel upset and anxious. Times are hard, but these times won't last forever. I've been through trauma before, and I know that after each event there came a time of peace and happiness. I can do this. I am strong."
I'd love to be able to tell you that this little time out makes me feel instantly at peace, but I can't. It's just a step in the right direction. It helps me take my thoughts captive so they don't run amok. That's the first step. I also set boundaries, have a little fun each day, reach out for connection, exercise, and do something kind for others. All of these things help my emotional health.
But the one thing that helps me the most is prayer. It brings me the most peace, and it's something I can't explain to you adequately. If you want to stop reading now, you may. But if you're curious, I pray the same thing I'll pray over you now:
God give them all they need to get through the day — the strength to endure, a wisdom to make sound decisions, the ability to discover joy in the chaos. Give them an overwhelming sense of peace, one that comforts them to the very depths of their being. I pray today that as they read this, they will feel your presence in a tangible way and will discover the incredible love you have for them, a love so deep it can get them through their loneliest hours. Today I pray hope over them, God, as they wait. As we all wait. Together.
Cynthia Downing Finlay
I can’t sleep tonight. I keep getting the nudge to share this photo and my story with you.
Today was a hard day. Chaos. Frustrations. Tears.
I found myself crying in my parked car. Nowhere to go. Just needing to be alone for a minute and get it out. Our lives have been turned upside down, and everything looks different now. We are living in the unknown.
I find myself living in the pendulum of grief and gratitude. They are existing together and that metal ball is swinging so fast I don’t know who has the upper hand right now.
And I’m here to just acknowledge that. To share from both sides. To say that we all exist in a word of “and”.
I’m grieving and I’m grateful.
I’m blessed and this is hard.
I’m capable and overwhelmed.
All the emotions, all the hard and all the simple - exist together. We don’t live on one side or the other of that pendulum. And no matter where you find yourself swinging today, you are safe to acknowledge it.
What two emotions are currently co-existing in your pendulum?
Someone I love recently told me she was just taking up space. In a quiet, shaky voice she tried to convince me she had no real purpose in life because she wasn't contributing to her family or society in "any positive way." Then I heard her whisper under her breath that we'd be better off without her.
She couldn't have been more wrong. This person is a very important part of our family. She's the first person we call when we're struggling, because we can count on her to listen and help. She is selflessly generous with her resources and time, and she gives sound advice.
This lady is incredibly valuable and "useful," but she can't see it right now. Depression has wrapped its hands around her heart and eyes, and she is blind to the truth. This is how depression deceives. It takes negative feelings and weaves them into our thoughts, trying to convince us that these thoughts are reflecting facts instead of emotions. Just plain, negative emotion.
Emotions can be overwhelming. They can crash over us like waves, sometimes catching us off-guard with their power. The dark ones are the worst, making us feel as if we're drowning because we're suffering negative thoughts repeatedly.
My loved one is drowning in emotion right now. She is lost in a deep depression, and I am desperately trying to pull her out of this deep, dark place so she can breathe the air of hope again. How am I doing this? By loving her. By surrounding her with continuous words of affirmation, even when she dismisses them. By confirming her worthiness. By telling her she is loved. By pointing out the truth. By listening. By calling her daily and sending her notes and texts to remind her how valuable she is to me. By asking how she's doing, if she's taken her medicine, if she's talked with her doctor. I help by being there.
There are so many stories where one sole person made a difference. I want to be that person for my loved one. She's my mom. Her life is incredibly valuable to me. What things do you do to help the valued people in your life when they're struggling?
I am from journals.
From pages of dreams and scribbles of frustration.
I am from diagnoses on paper
(tangible proof of a hidden illness I desperately wish would heal.)
I am from pain and sleepless nights.
From pulling myself up by the boots and forging on.
(Despite the fatigue,
Despite the looks from those who couldn't possibly understand,
Despite the words from those who choose not to.)
I am from faith.
From choosing to be kind and choosing to be humble.
I am from a mind and a heart that believes
the best days of my life have not yet been realized.
(So I'm strengthened,
and very, very grateful for another day and another opportunity
to live my best life.)
I am from hope.
"Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery."
Trying to understand what your depressed teen or family member is experiencing? We
polled the teens at our Armed with Hope Conferences this Fall, and here is what they shared:
What does depression feel like?
Feeling sad and not knowing why.
A weight in my chest
Constantly tearful or irritable
Unsteady sleep and eating habits
Dark and overwhelming
Like being in a hole and I have no way out
A heavy weight
What does it mean to have bipolar disorder?
I like mania because I’m on top of the world
The depression piece that comes after the highs means I can’t make myself get out of bed
Your world changes in a minutes and irrational thoughts become your reality
What does anxiety look like?
Racing mind and thoughts
My mind shuts down and I am uncontrollably crying
Rushed, insecure, unbalanced, unprepared
Fluttering in my chest
How do you quiet the negative thoughts or voices? Or If your mind doesn’t shut off, what do you do?
Redirect to preferred activities
Use tools like puzzles, rings spinners to help distract in the moment
Listen closely to lyrics in music
Take a walk
Play some word games
Listen to music
Positive mantras and affirmations
Find a friend to talk to who helps me know what’s accurate
Turn the negative thoughts to positive thoughts like I suck at math to this was only one test. I can learn
Music to help me through the emotions
Listen to podcast
Take a walk
I play my drums
What do you do when you can’t sleep?
Progressive relaxation exercise
Deep breathing or guided meditation
Cuddle my animals
Slow down and try to watch something low key like discovery channel
Try to stop the negative voices
Listen to music
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