For the Living of These Days—A Word from Renee Purtlebaugh

By nature, I am a future thinker, thinking and planning and playing out what if scenarios in my mind. Sometimes, this skill is incredibly helpful. For example, it allows me to plan for children’s activities, think ahead to might what go awry, and try to solve problems before they happen or create effective transitions so that learning can happen best.

For the living of these days though, this particular skill has the propensity to be anxiety-producing. It can send me, and anyone who has the privilege of hearing my future thinking thoughts while externally processing (sorry, dear colleagues!), toward an anxiety-filled precipice.

Last Friday, both Tyler and my child fell ill, one with a bacterial infection and one with a fever-only virus with no other symptoms. I’m certain you can imagine where my future, what if thinking brain tried ever so hard to go. Of course, it was completely right and normal in these days to be concerned. But consuming me to the point of not being functional? This, I needed to try to avoid for all the reasons—first among them being that they needed me to care for them. It was hard mental work, exhausting work even—and honestly, I waffled back and forth on the spectrum throughout the weekend, some moments better than others, until finally on Monday we emerged back into health when the last fever broke.

So now as I’ve entered a new week, I’m finding it necessary to intentionally fill my mind with a new set of questions in order to give the anxious questions less power. I typically try not to let Facebook be my source of wisdom, but when I recently saw this meme of quarantine questions float by, it stuck in my mind. On the other side of our weekend, I keep returning to it again and again.

When I dwell with these questions, I’m discovering that they remind me of the ancient prayer practice of Examen. Generally, Examen encourages us to pause, be still and pray with the same cadence or rhythm either daily or weekly. I use a planner called Sacred Ordinary Days that describes the prayer practice of Examen in this way.

  • Draw near to God. Become present. Rest your mind and heart.
  • Reflect on the previous week (or day) with a posture of humility and gratitude.
  • Note what surfaces. When have you been near to or far from God’s presence?
  • Ask God to guide your reflections to be both faithful and gracious.
  • Reset for the week (or day) to come. Move forward in a spirit of hope.

I don’t know about you, but I’m realizing my heightened need for a sacred moment each day that calls me to re-center and re-calibrate my future thinking, what-if driven, anxious spirit with God’s calming, grounded spirit of Love and grace. In these days of living a “new” given life, perhaps ancient practices like these might be our greatest help to making our way through healthy and whole in mind, body and spirit.

Love to each of you this day Highland. I miss you!