This week I read headlines and articles about the economic turmoil, the spreading virus, concerns about lost school time, lost jobs, and earthquakes happening in various places. I read about the plight of those who are homeless, refugees, migrant workers who can’t migrate to their agricultural jobs, and nations losing their crops to outbreaks of locusts. Many articles used the word “unprecedented” to try to give a sense of scale to the issues that surround us. Whole nations and great cities are sheltering in place. Hospitals running short on supplies are feeling overwhelmed. It can really upset your stomach to try to digest that much bad news.
I struggle with some anxiety and depression even in the good times, but I find that I can’t just turn off the news and pretend everything is normal either. Even if I turned off the news, I still have everyone home all week long. School has been cancelled for the next few weeks or longer. Steven is working from home. All the social and fun stuff has been cancelled. No birthday parties, outings, appointments, or activities. Believe it or not, dentist visits that had to be postponed were part of the fun list. My kids had tears over cancelled dentist appointments :) We will just do the best we can. Steven and I are now responsible for helping my family cope with their new normal. If we are scared, anxious, or upset, they will pick up on that.
A few years ago, Russell M. Nelson gave a great talk about finding joy in hard times. He said:
“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives…. Joy comes from and because of [Jesus Christ]. He is the source of all joy.”
He said that we could find joy regardless of what is or isn’t happening in our lives. It’s true, but how do we do it? This verse from the Hymn “Count your Blessings” explains one way:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Counting your blessings is a good way to focus on the things that are going well. It helps us feel grateful. I decided to count my blessings this week. Here are just ten!
1. I can still get up early, but the pressure to be somewhere on time is gone. I don’t have to hustle to make sack lunches or find lost things. I don’t have to worry that someone will have to choose between eating breakfast or catching the bus. We get to eat better breakfasts now that there is more time in the morning.
2. Steven is working from home. He has a job that can be done remotely and fortunately, he does this often enough already that we have a home office for him to use. He gets a lot done at work, and since he is not driving anywhere, we are saving on gas money and he gets to spend more time with us. We get to eat all our meals together, and he is really good at keeping the laundry going, which is a big help.
3. Robert is still serving his service mission. He serves at a food bank a couple times a week right now. This week he helped put together care packages for people losing their jobs. Some of his assignments have been cancelled, but I’m not sad because he is a great help at home too. We really needed his height and muscles on several jobs this week.
4. School is cancelled!!! I know that lots of you are working on online options for keeping the kids busy and learning. I don’t feel that kind of pressure. I’m really grateful for the break. I’m glad we will have them to help on the backyard farm. I’m sure we will keep learning, but it has been wonderful to just be at home with the family. I talked to my mom who was a school teacher about this. She wasn’t worried. We'll keep reading, and we’ll work math into everyday life like cooking. We’ll keep learning, but I’m not feeling pressure to recreate a whole curriculum overnight. It’s going to be fine.
5. Technology is amazing! Steven can do his job from home. We can shop online. We have been able to call family, stay connected with people on Facebook, and Rachel did her voice lesson over the phone. We bought a movie that came out early to watch yesterday. We can do online games with friends. We can listen to concerts and find helps and fun things to do. It is fun to see people become more creative in how they connect even though we are physically staying apart. Technology is even helping our plant sales. While we really enjoy the face to face interaction with fellow gardeners and we have historically only taken cash or check for payment, technology will allow us to accept cards or other money transfers making it possible for people to pick up their plants without interaction if needed.
6. We have a garden! It is much easier to think of something for the kids to do when I actually have something meaningful that needs to be done! They can tell if I am just making up chores. Right now, they are busy hauling strawberries out to the greenhouses. Exercise, sunshine, and contributing to the food they will eat this next summer and fall. Win. Win. Win.
7. We ordered seeds early. With all the unprecedented news, seeds are selling faster than normal. Several places we order from have shut down to catch up, and I suspect some things will sell out faster this year than normal. I’m glad we already have what we needed on hand. Steven has noticed a huge increase in new gardeners jumping on social media asking for help. While it is exciting to see the interest from so many new gardeners, Steven works for a seed company and knows that seed companies can’t change their supply this late in the season as most of the seeds being sold now were grown last summer.
8. We already practiced not shopping. With our recent 100-day limited budget challenge, and last year’s 50-day no shopping challenge, we have some experience in making do with what we have. We can make all the bread, tortillas, muffins, cookies, etc that we want to eat, and since we mostly eat plant based, we know how to make all those things without eggs and milk, and we already like and are used to rice and beans. As a side note, we have eaten a lot of dry beans over the years and our bodies have built up the microbes needed to properly digest them. When people started to panic buy, the first empty shelves we found besides toilet paper and bottled water were the dried bean shelves. Normally I have to pick through the dried bean shelves to make sure I’m not buying bags that are past their best by date suggesting dried beans are not very fast movers in the grocery stores. I am VERY grateful I’m not stuck at home with 7 others whose digestive tracts are not used to eating beans!
9. We still have lots of food from last summer in the freezer and pantry. We pulled out pesto this week to make pesto pizzas. Nothing tastes like summer more than fresh green pesto. We still have freezer strawberry jam too. The chives are already greening up and the peas we planted are starting to sprout.
10. It’s spring! Of all the times that we could have chosen to have this much drama in the world, this is the best time. We are headed into warm and sunny weather, if stores are short on fresh things, we have the whole summer of garden produce ahead of us. It is much easier to control cabin fever, when you can spend a little time outdoors. I even love the rain that makes splashy puddles everywhere. We can open our windows and get fresh air and I’m thinking about putting away the snow gear.
Your list might look different than mine, but counting your blessings really does help! The interesting thing about counting your blessings is that if you write them down you will find that the same things end up on both your blessings list and your challenges list. Do I put my kids being home on the blessing or challenge side? Yes. Is the garden a blessing or a lot of work? Yes. It depends which side you focus on!
It also helps to remember to smile! Hugh B. Brown (1883–1975), recognized the value of facing challenges with humor:
“A wholesome sense of humor will be a safety valve that will enable you to apply the lighter touch to heavy problems and to learn some lessons in problem solving that ‘sweat and tears’ often fail to dissolve.”
We are taking time to smile at home too. When someone in my house tried to make mint chocolate chip ice cream out of bananas, spinach, peppermint extract and chocolate chips, we chose to see the funny side when it turned out exactly like you are imagining it did (it was horrible!). When amid all of the cancellations and adjustments that we have made to our schedule someone had tears over not being able to go to the dentist, we smiled too. We took another tearful moment and turned it into a fun activity and a video that made us and others smile.
This won't last forever. In the middle of all the turmoil and strife we will find happy moments and things to be grateful for. We will continue to counting our blessings, and look forward for good things to come!