The Secret Muscle You Need to Crush Fear, Seize Joy & Be Strong in a Crisis

There’s no shame in saying it out loud: I am fighting off fear these days like kicking back an attacker in the heavy thick of night.

Because the only way the soul doesn’t get sick right now is to self-distance from fear while having absolutely no distance between God’s thoughts and ours.

Because no news stories can steal the story of the joy found in the Good News — and if you let anything steal your joy, you let it steal your strength, and if there were ever days to fight for joy, these are the days.

I’ve already been 14 long days far away from home on the other side of the planet, Down Under in Aussie land, sharing about Jesus and His Upside Down Kingdom —  and am now back on this side of the world and at day 8 of 14 days of self-quarantining away from family. 30 days away from home?

I keep telling myself what we are all telling ourselves: Just one day at a time to go.

Till I finally get to gather up my Baby Girl again, fall into the arms of my one fine man, till I get to touch my people, eat around a table with them — till we will keep self-isolating indefinitely, but definitely at least all of us together.

Because  our baby girl has half a heart, and our 6 ft 5 son has Type 1 Diabetes, and those with underlying health issues like cardiac conditions or diabetes are most at risk to fall to COVID-19. And staying home and staying flat on our faces in prayer is what can flatten this curve.

All social-distancing right now is actually social-togetherness: keeping our distance from each other is the gift we give each other to get through this together.

We all get to change how we live,
So others get a chance to live.

Acting like you have the virus
is how to act like Jesus  toward others right now.

And there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think:

Isolation is isolated to the privileged.

In many places in the world, the financially vulnerable aren’t rich with sufficient space to isolate, don’t have water at hand to wash hands, can’t  shelter in place because they don’t have a place.

As we get to self-isolate — we can’t isolate ourself from the needs of those who don’t get this privilege.

When I step outside every day for my run alone, I pray for those in healthcare, in delivery, in groceries, in essential services, who step outside of safe zones so none of us weather this crisis alone.

Though we are in uncharted waters — the One we follow walks on water.

Though these days are unparalleled in recent history — the One we follow stands at the Crossroads of all of history so we are unshakeable.

Though we are sheltering in place — the One we follow is is our safe shelter and always dwelling place. All is well.

Though we may be here at home, we are praying about the world, to the One who holds the whole word, and this is our act of loving the whole world.

In the midst of self-isolating, when I get outside every day, for my daily run, for my daily glory soak out in His creation — because the whole earth is still full of His glory and my soul needs more of it — my feet pound down the street, my heart pounding out my thanksgiving, and I begin to see the secret way to kick all this fear to the curb.

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I had no idea what crisis we were all on the brink of when, a few weeks ago, I met a woman who fought for joy through a crisis by counting one thousand gifts, grace upon grace — and then found herself unexpectedly expecting, and nearly named her newborn baby Eucharisteo or Charis, before she named her: Grace.

She  held 27 day old baby Grace through a seizure that left the swaddled newborn with cerebral palsy.

You are living through this crisis because?” Her trauma therapist sat across from this brave mama after she explained her practice of counting gifts and giving thanks.

“You are literally finding the strength to live through this crisis — because you have — just like a memory muscle —  you have a gratitude muscle.”

In the middle of her crisis — this woman was already in the middle of strengthening her gratitude muscle — which was giving her strength.

To stay strong in crisis, you have to exercise your gratitude muscle.

A memory muscle means you’ve worked and practiced a motion, so your body “remembers” what to do.

When you practice your gratitude muscle, your soul remembers what to do in crisis.

When you work out your gratitude muscle, even in crisis, your soul remembers how to move toward joy.

Exercise your gratitude muscle — to grow strong in joy.

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I can see brave church steeples when I look out my window in the middle of this quarantining and nothing could be more true:

Our churches may be closed,  but now is when the church needs hearts wide open in praise and worship and thanksgiving.

Our churches may be empty of worship and thanksgiving, but certainly not our days.

When the world shuts down — is exactly when our thanksgiving needs to rise up.

When the world shuts down, our worlds can grow quickly small — but gratitude for the seemingly small is the seed that plants the giant miracle in the midst of it all.

Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life—even the hard—is made up of the minute parts, and if we miss the infinitesimals,  we miss the whole…

There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things.

It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.”

~ One Thousand Gifts

When one of high school friend tells me her freezer is stocked up and her husband is working from home and because their young son has cystic fibrosis, their medical team advised their family of 6 to self-isolate indefinitely, I am not surprised, but what she says next:

“So we are taking pictures every day —  of all kinds of small things, small joys, smalls graces!  Because I am determined to focus well enough to see God and His crazy grace — right here in the midst of all the crazy.”

How does your heart about explode with YES, YES, YES! Because Jesus, Himself, when He was staring right into the face of the most horrifying dark — what does He do?

Out of a universe of supernatural options at the tip of His fingers — what does Jesus do?

And on the night He was BETRAYED…
Jesus He broke bread & lifted it up & GAVE THANKS.’

If Jesus can give thanks in that —  we can give thanks in everything.

If Jesus chooses gratitude as elemental in destroying evil — doesn’t that prove that gratitude is the best weapon to wield against the dark?

And I can’t tell her fast enough about my daily New Year habit that I’m still doing daily in March of a year I could never have imagined when I committed to this habit back in January:

Every day I’m brazenly flexing my gratitude muscle by just grabbing a few pics with my phone, capturing the poetry of the ordinary — swaths of sunlight on the floor, steam rising off coffee, blue jay perched on a branch  outside the window — so that in the evening, I can add them to my Day One Journal app.

And then I jot down right there for each day’s entry, 10 things I am grateful to the Lord for this day.

And the days stack up, the graces and gifts and gratitude stack upand no matter what is shutting down, my thanks will rise up.

“And then? At the end of every month — or at the end of this season — you can export all your counted gifts to be printed as a bound book. Your own bound book that bears witness to God’s Love in the Time of Corona,” I tell my high school friend, scrolling through all my entries, all my pics of the poetry of the ordinary, all the gifts upon gifts.

Even now, there is an abundance of gifts.

There can still be an abundance of joy.

And no matter what is shutting down, nothing dare shut down our thanksgiving to God, our joy in God, and our worship of God.

(Take a screenshot of this slide & and fill in every day on IG Stories with the hashtag #1000Gifts & #GodsLoveInTheTimeOfCorona — let the thanks rise up no matter what is shutting down! Nothing can shut down our worship & thanksgiving to God!)

When, in the midst of these unusual days, I jot down gifts I am thankful for — I can feel this gratitude muscle growing stronger, surer, more certain in moving the soul forward toward joy. 

I pull on shoes for a run through late spring snow, to keep moving to move the stress through — and I can feel it as I run, air filling expanding lungs:

Work out your gratitude muscle  and you see how everything’s working out  — because you see how God is at work.

And I can feel it, no matter what is attacking or overwhelming in days like these:

Flex your gratitude muscle to fight off fear. 

I can feel everything lifting —— like praises rising.

 

What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long –and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?

My story kinda unpacks how I figured out just that:

One Thousand Gifts & the 60 DAY DEVOTIONAL with 1000 numbered lines to count your #1000gifts: One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflecting on Finding Everyday Graces

Need freedom not only beyond the fear & pain, but actually  within it? The Broken Way 

How do you find the way that lets you become what you hope to be? 60 steps from heart-weary brokenness to Christ-focused abundance: The Way of Abundance

Give yourself the gift of grace that He already has — and give yourself the beauty of: Be the Gift