Grab a drink and sit a spell. This one is going to get long-winded. Here are some thoughts which have been swirling around my mind.
I can't change cold, ice, snow, or dark winter days. I CAN control my attitude and actions in the midst of a rather isolated/locked down season. I've been consciously turning my mind to focus on what I CAN do, rather than what I can't do - be that due to winter, covid, or caregiving.
"What CAN I do?" has become a running thread in my mind. "What CAN I control in this situation and what is simply out of my control?"
I CAN walk inside, if I can't walk outside (honestly, it is 5* outside and I don't WANT to walk outside). I CAN move, even if I can't make it to the gym. I CAN meet with friends via zoom and polo when we can't meet in person. Many of our covid related restrictions are easing in Alaska. BEFORE last March it was my practice to meet face to face with women. Most often we would do this in coffee shops. For me to leave my home now requires someone else to stay engaged with Dad. This isn't a matter of being in the same home, but being present in the room with him. He is NOT obnoxious, he IS much stronger - but he often forgets he falls at step 4, he needs his walker, his balance is simply off. To leave home requires me to be intentional and it can't happen 2 - 3x a week in this season of family. I'm also exhausted as Dad is up several times a night, disoriented and looking for people and things which existed decades ago...but not in our home. It's easier for all of us if I make home the center of my circle. OK y'all God is the center. We know that. ::wink::
At the start of this month we added a local Zoom Bible study to the schedule. That is working well. Next month we plan to have an in person study one week and Zoom the other 2 or 3 weeks....working to find a workable balance for all...the group, me, my family...we'll get there.
I continue to internally "fuss" about not being able to connect with women face to face... The nook...the sanctuary seemed to be part of the answer, but I wasn't sure how. I've written about the concept before - here. In short, I believe God impressed on me to "create a sanctuary" in the nook of our home. I did that. BUT over time...it was easier to run out to a coffee shop, Dad moved in with furniture some of which landed in the nook, we store things in the nook, the recycling is sorted in the nook...it was NOT a place to sit, relax, invite others to linger...it was a cluttered storage room with a recliner in it and a computer desk...it screamed storage and solitary pursuits. One day I commented to Michael I needed to clear out the nook and make it another area for Dad to enjoy. Michael's response surprised me, "No. That's your nook. It's important you carve out that space."
His response stayed with me. His words prompted me to remember the intent to "create a sanctuary" in this space. I am aware this is much bigger than a physical location, but God directed us to set aside a physical location, as well as creating a place for sanctuary in all of life.
Sanctuary, according to Merriam-Webster, is a holy or sacred place set apart for worship, a place that provides safety or protection, it is protection from danger or a difficult situation that is provided by a safe place.
Sanctuary - it's what my heart longs for, it's what I long to provide for others. One of the characteristics of our ministry the past 30 years is walking WITH others, and that can be messy - for them, for us. We need sanctuary as we provide sanctuary.
In Bible study last week one of the gals mentioned being aware of the need to "make a place" for the presence of God in her daily life....and all the jumbled strains swirling around the nook settled into place in my heart, mind and spirit. I needed to clean out the nook. Not because I'm selfish and want "my space" but because God impressed on me 3 years ago I was to create a sanctuary in this space.
In the past three years I have used this space to meet with Jesus. We have counseled in this space. I haven't invited women to linger in the space with me. Why? It was convenient to meet in town. I'd allowed the space to become cluttered and it was no longer relaxing or welcoming (BTW that can happen internally as well as externally). I always feel like it is inconvenient for people to drive "out here," going to others is much more my "natural bent." We had fallen short of the original vision of creating a sanctuary in this place - though I think we've done well at making our home, our land, a sanctuary. (The moose seem to love it. ::snort::)
There are lots of hours in the day when all the kids are working or out and about and the only ones home are Michael, Dad, and myself. I can't run out to coffee shops as often as I previously did...but I CAN invite people to meet here. Dad often naps after lunch. Even if he IS up, if I create a welcoming sanctuary in the nook...I can sit here with cups of tea and connect with women. We can do some of our counseling here, instead of having to wait until other family is home for Michael and I to both leave. God KNEW I needed to create a sanctuary. He knew it would be essential for my personal mental health, for our ministry, for continuing to connect with women in this season when I can't run out as easily as I used to.
And so, after we rearranged our bedroom, I went to work in the nook. I'm about 95% done. I still want to move the carpet in here to our room, and bring up the carpet which is stored to the nook. I also need to consider taking down Christmas decorations and delivering the rest of our little Christmas gifts and that will clear the last two storage tubs from the nook. I am taking recycling to the garage daily, rather than letting it pile up in the nook. I added twinkling lights - the other strand was 70% blown out.
Standing in the kitchen by the tea things looking into the space
I moved cookbooks to the bottom of Mom G's hutch. There is currently nothing in the drawers. Excess tea and "tea things" are in the middle section and our selection of sugar-free syrups perch on top. Moving those items to the hutch, made this tea nook much less cluttered. I DO miss the butler's pantry our home in CA had. LOL Have I mentioned we have a barista living with us? Stacia can make fun drinks as needed: London Fog, Mocha Breve, steamers, chai.
I guessed two could sit comfortably in the spot. One in the recliner and one in the rocker. The desk chair can be turned and another chair brought in for four to sit and visit comfortably. I think.
What remained was to try it out. Would it work to have company and NOT be in the living room with Dad? Would he feel left out? Would anyone WANT to drive out here for tea? Would it be comfortable? Would I be able to relax with the project "mostly done?" It felt threatening to invite others home, rather than to a coffee shop, and that has led me to more musing.
I extended an invitation to my home for a cup of tea. I invited Rose because she's mentioned repeatedly to me we haven't been able to sit and visit since last March. She misses Life Group. I knew she'd been the caregiver for her parents for years and would have words of wisdom to share. Rose is also one of the most gracious people I know. I figured if it was too odd sitting in the nook....or if Dad needed help in the middle of our "tea" - she'd be fine. She agreed to come. I made scones, sat out some nuts and prepared to offer a variety of coffee and tea. It was HARD for me NOT to put out a real "tea time spread," but I reminded myself to do what I COULD do with a thankful heart and it would be accepted in that spirit. Most often we didn't EAT at the coffee shops anyway -just a drink and conversation.
Y'all it was perfect! Dad laid down for a nap about 20 minutes before she arrived. The kids were working, or out and about. We sat and visited...and it was much more intimate than a coffee shop. The conversation was sweet and I am thrilled God provided a way for this aspect of "me" to continue into this season.
JaRissa sent lovely birthday flowers which arrived as we visit...what a special bonus to the day.
If you're local, and you wouldn't mind driving "all the way out here" for tea, I'm back in business and ready to visit. If there are only two of us we CAN be 6 feet apart and masks are fine if you want to wear them...though I've not learned how to drink tea well with them. I'm game to practice. I DO wipe all surfaces down quite regularly at home as we don't want to get ANY kind of winter virus with Dad in the house. This is the 2nd winter we've had him here....without ER visits or pneumonia...we aim to keep it that way.
Create a sanctuary...yes and amen.