How to take the next crisis in stride

The world reopened but then it shut down again.

The smoke cleared but then came another hazy day.

The heat dissipated but then came another high-temperature, red flag warning wave.

Are you in the camp who continues to think, “It will pass. It will pass”?

When it passes, do you breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Okay, good, that’s over with”?

Or are you in the camp who says, “It figures this would happen now” or “just our luck.”

And when it passes, then say, “well, what bad thing will happen next?” or find it difficult just to believe the bad thing has actually passed, sitting waiting for it to come again.

Our minds try to grapple with the uncertainty of life. We like certainty. We want to know that if I do x, y, and z, then I will find peace, security and happiness; I will be safe.

But life keeps coming, making it seem impossible to find security and hold on it.

Often we look at the intense waves, the storms, the dark times as things to just be gotten through, grit our teeth, hold on, white knuckle it and press on till it passes.

This works most of the time.

Until it doesn’t. Until the waves come one after another, until the storms pile high, until the air is so full of smoke the meters tell us it is hazardous to breathe outside, until we have gone seven months without hugging our loved ones who live beyond the boundaries of our homes.

Then comes the time to figure out a plan of action because sitting and waiting no longer works. The emotional reservoir is drained. The energy is depleted.

Then comes the time when we must face facts.

Life is uncertain.

Photo by Luemen Carlson on Unsplash

And yet, there still must be a way to live it because people have thrived and succeeded in great things despite the uncertainty of life. Imagine all those great achievements before modern medicine and technology? They had fires and pandemics then, too.

We risk never believing the good thing is actually here. We risk never accepting the easier moments when they change place with the difficult. In making the effort to predict what will happen next or how long things will last, we risk never focusing on the moment…right…now.

This is the first task to finding peace in the midst of uncertainly, legitimate worries, righteous anger and ongoing grief.

The present moment is what we have. We must find a way to accept that this moment is what we have in our possession. The future has not yet come. We cannot control it when it does come. It does us less good to spend our energy trying to predict what it will look like when it does come.

And when we accept its presence, we can look at the present moment and say, “What is there for me here?

What meaning can I find? What purpose can I find?”


Solidarity with those suffering directly from natural disasters.

Delayed gratification at the never-ending California heat when all of social media and the Midwest have entered autumn.

There are ways you and I can grow in those good qualities called virtues during this crazy year.

And there is a purpose we can discover in it as well, a mission we can support.

Are politics your passion? Maybe finding a way to keep politics civil and allow for actual nonjudgmental listing, conversation and view sharing – but avoid social media, aka, the pit of anger and despair.

Is community your passion? Support, volunteer for and attend events that are still happening like the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Find a way to further cultural traditions like Halloween or Thanksgiving within your comfort zone and safety precautions.

Every day is an invitation for us to grow.

That invitation begins with learning to take what comes as it comes, and make the best of it, to the betterment of our hearts, our families and our communities.

Lessons from The Hospital

What a long week it was.

It was alarming but not life-altering for my family when the shutdown began in March. When the smoke billowed into the San Joaquin/Central Valley, that changed our lives for the time being. We had just bunked the four older children in one room to create a nursery for the littlest. The school desks moved to the living room as a temporary solution.

Life is a constant juggling act when there is a houseful of bodies.

The children could not go outside. When one napped, they must be quiet in the living room or dining room as others strove to complete their work. There was little place to play.

I got caught up in the crankiness and frustration of everyone in the house. What could we do? It was hazardous outside, told me. 

But this was getting out of hand. 

The days shortened. The nights lengthened. 

We moved the van out of the garage, took the outside patio furniture and play furniture from storage, put them them in the garage and made a play place. A playhouse with a custom border of Costco size diaper boxes and clothes waiting to be grown into.

This was my best moment coping.

There were plenty worse.

As this strange year of 2020 begins its fall season, I continually asked myself how my past experiences of suffering are helping me to face the reality of the present moment. No answer.

Surely, I must be more patient, more trusting, more adaptable, more loving.

Surely, I must have the secret answer to suffering.

Surely, the wisdom of embracing the present moment, which I learned so well beside my son in the hospital or visiting my daughter’s grave, would have some impact on me.

I cannot say that it did, other than that I remember a time when I did it, and I know when things get difficult there is a way to do it again.

Beyond that, I go in green and must learn a new way in new circumstances. The bustle of a house full of children itching to go outside and bickering until they have space to get away from each other is miles away from the quiet of a hospital room and solitary walks around a strange city.

In this case, it was a house, a room with a view of a garden I ached to tend, where my coping skills lie, and little lives to manage and persons to educate. Though the days were taxing I appreciated the way school filled our days with routine and occupation.

I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

On the weekend, with little to do, I put on a movie. Then my husband came home from work. I put on another movie. Sometimes you just do what you have to do to get through as pleasantly as possible. I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

For a few nights, I stress ate, I admit it. Nachos and ice cream worked well. But I also know the toll this diet will take on my body. I remember both those lessons from the hospital room.

I made space to stretch though I never quite got to exercising. 

We bounded outside as soon as the air was moderate or good, which happened but little the week of this writing. We took full advantage of the opportunity and relished in it. I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

It seems the past experiences shape us more than we realize.

When we take the time to pause, reflect, see what we have done well or not well, and make the connections, only then do we see. Otherwise it may feel like we are floundering now like we floundered then. I’m not entirely sure what good the reflection does, except to say that we got through it then, we can get through it now, and maybe pick up some new tools along the way.

Four Simple Questions for 2020

Make your life perfect in 2020

Photo by Alexa Williams on Unsplash

or they say in a thousand little iterations this time of year. I am home and online enough to read their variety. Why not jump on the bandwagon?

Join a reading challenge.

Make a book list.

Exercise goals. Career goals. Family goals. Bucket list goals. Organization goals.

How many are tempted to set these goals, savor the positive vibrations that come from setting them, only to never follow through because that first wave of good feeling was enough? We go through the of the year, much as we have done before.

Being in my last month of pregnancy and quite overrun with a cold virus at the time of the writing, I imagine a simpler path ahead.

When I last took the temperatures of my children, I recalled a fancy thermometer we purchased, the box of which promptly discarded. We never felt confident about where exactly it ought to be pointed for an accurate reading. So we never use it. Why do we keep it, I wonder?

Laying in bed, with my tea, magazines and stack of books beside me, I look round my room. We became farmhouse residents in March, unpacked our things, marveled at the sheer quantity of cabinets, and moved on with our lives. Some cupboards are orderly, some less so, some still have construction materials from the good people who lived here before us, some have make-shift cabinet liners hiding whatever unsightly things those good people spilled in that particular cabinet.

What do you see when you open your cabinets?

A goal met, a project procrastinated, abundance or want?

I could go through each room and pause at a given place (my closet, the hall cabinet, the children’s toy storage) and ask myself,

“Who does this space serve?”

There is a particular way I would organize that child’s room if I did not have to consider the child. But the room is not for me. The wonders of the Instagram pantry spaces lie untapped in our cupboards, because it is a shared space and a space that must serve a large family.

The house, like my life, is shared. Not every ambition will be for my sake. They will, like this house, be shared, so that we work together, play together, and grow together not as autonomous individuals but interdependent members in this little school of love.

Next, I ask:

“What purpose does this place serve?”

A closet could be simply for storing clothing. Or as my 9-year-old would have it, a place of wonder, to hide and recharge when her introverted self is over-whelmed.

The cabinet in the laundry room could be a medicine cabinet or it could be an apothecary’s paradise showing my expertise and prowess in managing colds.

This shelf by the back door with tumbling down candles could be a display at Pottery Barn rather than a bargain bin.

I take inventory:

“What is necessary here?”

In knowing who this is for and what this is for, I can narrow down what is essential.

“What is unnecessary here?”

And then I can identify those items that are superfluous, that weigh us down, clutter us up, and confuse the tasks we must complete each night before bedtime.

These four questions will work for my cupboard, yes, and beyond. I consider relationships that have evolved over time, projects and hobbies I have undertaken, ministries or causes I have committed myself too. It is easy to become overtaxed in a world that demands us to move in so many directions. I begin to lose sight even of the place of my life within the bigger world.

When we focus in on one place, letting the endless spaces beyond quiet themselves for just a moment, we find our world a little brighter, a little better, and a little more focused.

This is the space where we live.

This is the space that matters.

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

2020 Resolutions: Lemon trees, the present moment, and change

By all accounts, the world kept turning for one more year.

The dark clouds at dawn grow slowly illuminated as the secondhand tick along our analog clock. The cars race down the road, the noise of their engines cut through by the sound of water as they pass through puddles on our soggy corner.

The world outside seems bleaker than it did a year ago.

In the slow movement and growth of my third trimester, I oscillate between reading the news daily, commenting in abundance on social media, and realizing how happier I am when I withdraw from both.

We send money and pray for victims of natural disasters, but our efficacy in the world of Washington, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Nigeria, seems small. What can I do as those around me continue to receive dismal diagnoses? Is any change possible as I observe the tents moving from place to place across the bigger cities that surround us?

My generation was raised to believe we could be anything, do anything, we could change the world.

In the dawn of new millennia, John Paul II preached from Denver, Paris, and Rome telling the youth of the world to put out into the deep and be not afraid.

Our sights turned across the world and  Mother Teresa said it starts at home, in our own living room, and to change the world drop by drop.

The goals still matter. Have in mind a vision of what you would like to achieve. Consider the short-term goals necessary to get there.

Allow these plans to hover over the thing that matters most now: the present moment.

Adjusting to, accepting, embracing and utilizing the present moment in its unpredictability, chaos and otherness take primacy over the other things. It is in the present moment that what we can do to make a change takes effect.

Virtue is the habit of practicing the good, the things that makes more human, less-animal like. It is the moment I choose not to snap at those around me when my work is interrupted.

The moments add up

but like the tasks of gardening, it takes a long time before we can see the fruit. Little shoots sprout up, but it is the photograph after multiple springs that show us how things have changed with all this practice.

At home, we hold a winter and spring recital. The children showcase their accomplishments for the year to the delight of family and friends.

In my heart, I consider what reflection to make this New Year.

Should I bother setting a resolution when the only thing I know for sure is that things will change? When so much uncertainly lies around the corner, the best resolution may be the smallest one. We shall plant a fruit tree, one that was gifted to me and grows surprisingly well in its little pot. We will transplant it to the garden bed outside my window. Perhaps in its next bloom, we will smell the delicate, sweet scent of lemon blossoms wafting through the window. Maybe we will add two more that could use a dose more TLC than they receive in their present location.

For my children, I resolve to seek more slow moments, moments of being, moments of conversation. Those conversations are rarely spontaneous. I must be engaged and willing to ask a question and listen for the answer.

My youngest reached our greatest goal and hope for the year, one we especially had no control over. All of 2019 passed without hospital admission. We once thought things would never change. Yet they do. They always change.

The sun is up but we cannot see it through these rainy days of winter.

It lingers there, quietly illuminating the world around us, faithful enough for those who choose to remember, offering from time to time a rainbow. The rainy season is a great time to pull weeds from the garden, my mother taught me. And when the days look bleak, we can still sew seeds of hope and change in the world around us bit by bit, moment by moment.

Photo of light coming thrugh clouds by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash