Blogger: Ginny Paynter
Two weeks ago, I was charging headlong into the biggest transitional season in my life to date. In one day, every plan I had laid out, including graduating with my masters, an annual family gathering for Easter, a culminating project to complete my masters, and plans to move out of my current residence and into a new one, all came to a grinding halt of uncertainty. One-by-one on the same day each thing was cancelled or indefinitely put on hold. I cried that day, and then reminded myself God knew every circumstance before it manifested, and He was still in charge of what was going to happen.
I didn’t allow myself to wallow too much, I let myself have that day. It’s important to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, where the danger can set in is when we start to roll around in the feelings. I gave myself that day, and then the next day I kept my heart grateful, I reminded myself of the scriptures that have led me thus far through every season of life, and to invite my friends to help me in the isolation of sitting in such disappointing circumstances – not a good combination for an isolated people-person.
In the spirit of wasting nothing, I’ve taken stock of what’s helping me on the days where I’m just short of cracking up – or feeling like I will. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in healthy thinking is what thoughts are bearing fruit and which aren’t. The ones that don’t I’ve been learning not to cultivate. It’s not been the easiest journey, but I think what I’ve learned has helped me a lot in this season of uncertainty and isolation.
Here are five ways this introspective, extroverted-feeler is minding her thoughts to keep from wasting my time and emotional energy on fruitless thinking.
Tips for Fruitful thinking:
1. I am honest with myself and with my friends. There’s nothing wrong with being who you are. It’s ok if one hour you feel ok and then the next you feel a wave of overwhelming feelings. No one knows how to handle what we are facing, your experience in this is the first of its kind, just as mine is. How we handle this is new information and sharing it with others helps.
2. I’ve decided to put myself on a news “diet.” Today, I’m fasting. If something powerfully important comes out, I know my circle will fill me in. I’ve learned who I can listen to speak and who I need to just read the recaps after their statements have been made. How did I do this? I take emotional inventory after each person says something. If how they have delivered the information is breeding fear, anxiety, or something that is truth but not wrapped in grace then I take them off my list of people to let speak “into” my current situation. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m not listening to their leadership mandates, it just means I read the highlights of pertinent information, I avoid their live broadcasts. This is my experience, not my roommate’s, my neighbor’s, my parent’s, it’s mine and my experience is unique to me. No one will handle this the same, and to compare ourselves is only going to breed more of the same emotions we’re trying to navigate. Grace for yourself is as important as grace for others.
3. Scripture is not a cliché, it’s a weapon designed to bring hope and light to the whole world. It is not just something Christians tell themselves to make themselves feel better. It is a steel rod of truth that will strengthen any soul that chooses to read it for meaning and useful application. It will not fail you, you can trust it, and every single promise is valid. These current times do not change it rather, it heightens it and elevates it.
4. When the terrors of the night try to keep me awake, I’m choosing to take every thought captive, and ask God to help me have faith by reminding myself of every single goodness in my life. He’s never failed me, even in the areas where I didn’t think I would ever change – I did, He has never failed me.
5. I may be at home and my entire life has suddenly changed from active and full to what I would imagine a stay-at-home mom might face less the kids. I get up, I have a coffee, I get dressed, I have time to sit with my bible and then I get to work. I’ve tried to set a routine and a plan of action items for the day, finding ways to make this feel like “normal life” as best as I can helps keep the stir crazies away.
These are just a few things that are helping my thoughts produce fruit. It keeps me available to help others, as the paralyzed feelings I was battling earlier aren’t holding me hostage anymore. I have friends who prayed me through those hard days and will do it again when the next one comes.
Today, God is still on the throne, He knew this was coming and we can make every plan we want, even when they are God-breathed plans, but He orders our steps. Don’t get bogged down on the “what it was supposed to look like” because He makes beauty from ashes. Focus your thoughts on the good things, wrap yourself in worship music, seek His sweet presence, and let the church rise up in this time stronger, reaching out to our neighbors who need help, and when we gather together again in person we will find ourselves stronger, more grateful for our community, and in a habit of building fruitful thinking in all seasons.
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”
Proverbs 16:9 NLT