Digging Deep and Getting Through

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.

– Psalm 19

I have noticed lately when I have been chatting – talking – visiting – and Zooming with Lutherans that this winter has been hard on most of us.  I hear a general weariness from my beloved sisters and brother in Christ.  Most folks sound a bit deflated.  Most of their smiles (on Zoom) seem just a bit less zippy these days.  

We are lonely.  Some of us are feeling both lonely and overwhelmed by the ongoing intensity of the relationships we have with the folks we live with.  Never have we spent soooooo much time with the same people day after day after day.  Seriously – 12 months with the same people!  We are tired, and we are stressed.  Some days it feels like Gilligan’s Island but with much – much worse weather and so many more dirty dishes! 

We are overwhelmed or bored depending on our situation or the day. 

We had to call the plumber last week and it was so cool to get to catch up with Joe.  Jason and I had really missed him!  Seriously – the leak in Jack’s bathroom is elusive and Joe couldn’t find it.  This didn’t even make me all that sad, BECAUSE Joe will need to come back if it leaks again!!!!  Joe is well-read and well-traveled and teaches Sunday school at his church.  We have a lot to talk about.  Joe is so cool!

Even in the best of years winter can be a challenge – but this year it has been particularly stressful.  So very many of us are feeling the stress.

I am right there with you!  Winter is always hard for me.  It wears on my soul.  The dark and the cold and all of time inside leave me feeling like a grumpy bear.  (My family just loves this!) And now I am learning that winter and the cold weather it brings are making my autoimmune disease symptoms so – so much worse.  (We all love this!) 

I promise I do have a point, and I am not just complaining – venting – whining and generally whinging.

I don’t enjoy feeling this way – so I make a point of staying as active as I can.  Jason and I walk outside most days.  Often we walk outside twice a day.  We do this because walking helps me feel so much better.  And I am not alone.  Supposedly – walking and getting outside makes everyone feel better (even in the winter – shocking – I know)!  According to my doctor and I would guess your doctor too – walking has surprisingly good health benefits.  I won’t go into the blood pressure control – weight loss – diabetes control and all of that – because I am a pastor and don’t have a medical degree. 

I am a pastor.  Hearts and souls are my line of business and my concern.  So – I will stick to that.

I know I sound like an evangelist for nature most of the time – but did you know that getting outside (even in the winter) helps reduce anxiety and depression?  Seriously – I am not making this up.  Sunlight also seems to improve the functioning of our immune systems.  (Oops – just a little medicine-y stuff – but that was just too cool to pass up!)  These are both things that I think we all could use help with right now. 

If you want an intriguing read about just how awesome nature is for you check out “The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams.  I have read this delightful book at least twice (maybe three times).  I learn something new every time I pick it up. 

Did you know that children and adults who spend time outside are more creative?  Yes – science has proven this to be true too.  I use this as an excuse to drag the McFarland sons outside on almost every possible occasion. 

I have seen this in the McFarland sons (and myself) over and over and over again.  Sure they might initially express a deep burning desire for their electronic devices – but soon they are climbing and exploring and making all sorts of amazing discoveries.   After 15 minutes they are deeply engaged in what they are doing and perfectly happy to get covered in mud while digging for worms.  

Winter worm discovery!

Or they so busy climbing over and through a huge pile of fallen trees that they barely know I exist!  And when they don’t know I exist – I get a break.  We all win!

Being outside in nature for just 20 or 30 minutes significantly reduces stress levels and cortisol (your body’s main stress hormone).  And seriously – who isn’t feeling stressed these days?  It can’t just be me who is finding living in this Covid-19 world stressful!  I can’t be the only parent who finds NTI both a delightful blessing and a huge stressor depending on what I need to accomplish that day?!?

According to newer research being outside in the sunlight also seems to boost our self-esteem and puts us in a better mood (seriously cool).  Again – who doesn’t need more of that?

I know these are such emotionally draining times.  I know we are feeling exhausted and frustrated.  I know we long for “the good old days.”  So many things we used to do just aren’t wise or safe or good for us right now – but nature is.  Nature is safe.  Nature is available.  Nature won’t cause us to spread Covid-19.  Nature will even make us feel a bit better!  Nature is God’s gift to us. 

You are all in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

– Psalm 96:11-12

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