On mornings when I’m fortunate to wake up at the lake, I participate in a little ritual with nature.
I let our my fur babies, Max and Leo, to do their ‘greet the morning’ business, pour a cup of coffee, dry the morning’s dew from the table and chairs on our deck, breathe in the fresh, damp air and begin my Snow-White-like routine (sans the sappy singing) of saying hello to nature.
“Hello jumping spoonbill!”
Yes, I know- they have no idea what I’m saying… or do they?
It might sound a bit odd to you, but this time is my time. I converse with God here. I stare at the calm, clear waters, and thank Him for the beauty that surrounds me. I think about the present. The future. And sometimes? I think about my past, in awe of what He has brought me through and what He has brought me to.
But sometimes, I’m in a place of struggle, and it’s a bit more difficult to channel my inner Disney Princess to convene with my surroundings. There are moments and even entire seasons when holding the beauty in tension with the ugly is really difficult.
Recently, I found myself in the midst of one of those moments. And it seemed as though my little nature sanctuary was reflecting my internal state back to me in some unsettling ways. I hit all the marks in my routine. I let Max and Leo out to greet the day. I poured the coffee, dried the table, breathed the air- but my usual morning companions were suspiciously absent.
No hummingbirds performing their aerial battles over the feeder. No finches chirping. No spoonbills jumping. Just fog and quiet.
It had violently stormed the night before, with a threat of stray downpour still in the air. In place of my beautiful lake experience was a massive body of debris, trudging along the shoreline and threatening to spill out into parts of the lake. The irony was not lost on me.
The debris came from the river’s rapid swell. The obtrusive pile compromised of grass clippings and mulch, limbs and even entire trees, all snatched from the shore upstream by the winds and rain and current of the rising waters.
I looked down at the mess and murmured “Appropriate”, as the accumulation of clutter seemed to be mimicking my life, many obstacles, forming into one. I felt my irritation rise at the presence of this mess, and the absence of the beautiful things I thought I needed that morning.
But sometimes, even the good things need to be absent if we are to discover a lesson that needs to be found.
Begrudgingly, I decided to pad inside and grab a scoop of fish food to throw into the waters near our dock. There are several varieties of scaled visitors who camp out in our waters and we’ve grown accustomed to feeding them all, even when our most frequent attenders are Catfish.
At the same time, I figured it was unlikely any fish would be able to reach their breakfast amid the jumble of obstacles in their way.
To my surprise, within a few seconds of the food hitting the water, our fish friends started to surface. And as they feasted on lake pellets and puppy chow (who knew, right?) I couldn’t help but notice something.
Even the smallest of their movements set the debris in motion, clearing the pathway to their food. In spots where the wreckage was thickest, they mounted a seemingly strategic attack to get it out of their way.
They just kept coming. It wasn’t because they didn’t see the obstacles; it was because they were focused on the food.
They braved the debris to get to what would feed them.
Research shows us that what we focus on expands. It is called experience-dependent-neuroplasticity. We can, in part change our brain (and consequently, change our life) by what we focus on. This doesn’t require a state of denial about the difficult things in life. It requires that we allow ourselves to focus on helpful and salvific experiences in addition to the hard things.
Pain and struggle can leave our souls feeling starved. We must pursue what will feed it.
Said a different way,
“As someone thinks within himself, so he is.”- Proverbs 23:7
The focus on what feeds us, on what helps us, serves as a mighty force to help move the clutter and debris. We don’t pretend it isn’t there- but we don’t allow an unhealthy focus on it either. We don’t simply sit in it, we move. So that it can move. This is more than positive psychology or Pollyanna denial. It’s a real and intentional focus and pursuit of what will help us heal and grow.
I am grateful for what God showed me in the water that day. I am thankful for the quiet that gave me the space to find the lesson. But mostly, I’m grateful that the difficult moments and seasons don’t determine our destiny. It’s what we do with them that does.
And you, my friend? Are you in a hard moment or season? Are you finding it challenging to see anything beyond the debris? I promise you there is more. Start. Moving. Find some other “fish” to move with you too. Ask God to show you what will feed you; what will strengthen you and help you heal.
Oh, Hey! I am so glad you kept reading! This is the part where I tell you that we are here to help. What is the debris you want to move through in your life? Does it require forgiveness? Boundaries? Conquering an addiction? Healing a condemning internal voice or memories that won’t leave you alone? Check out some resources to help at www.itsmyoutloudvoice.com/resources. You can also reach out to me through this blog. I am happy to help in any way I can. Just keep swimming!