I share a guest post for you today, a treat from a girl named Luci-spelled-with-an-i…just like mine. The reason for the i is because her full name is Lucinda…just like mine. Often when I read her blog, I feel the strangest rush of kinship and I think I have a twin-a pretty, younger twin-who lives in Wisconsin. She is a twin who writes oftener and more articulately than me. But she is a small-church Mennonite like me. Like me, she cares too much and thinks too much sometimes. And in February she is often SAD. We have our differences too, of course.
But this isn’t about Luci and Luci. It’s about a guest post by Lucinda Miller, about wishing you could swear and nursing home singing and joy.
Luci in Wisconsin writes:
Some peculiar malady often falls across me in February. Dreary skies stretch on to dreary skies. The weather makes me sneeze. And snow lies on the ground, all crunchy and crusted and dirty, its December sparkle long gone.
Around this time of year, my bed grows strangely comfortable–so much so that I have trouble getting out of it in the mornings. Life takes on a gray tint like the surface of the snow outside and, with the panicky feeling that if I stop moving I will melt into a muddy puddle, I pack my time with activities and tasks that absolutely must be done.
I used to call this malady the winter blues until just this winter when a friend clued me in to the fact that its proper name is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
SAD. Sure, that’s fitting. While I doubt my feelings of listlessness are prolonged enough or immobilizing enough to be classified as medical depression, there is no doubt the seasons affect me.
Last Sunday, I woke up SAD. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep and my head held tired at its back. I decorated Valentine’s cookies for the carry-in at church and, when the decorating took twice as long as planned, grew grouchy enough to swear. There are times when I wish my conscience allowed me that–not actually to take the Lord’s name in vain, but a few short and effective four-letter words. It would be a great satisfaction.
But I rushed around and managed, without swearing, to get ready on time and out to my car.
And my steering wheel was locked.
I sat in the bitter below zero cold; pushing, turning, jamming my key into the steering column; little flecks of yellow leather from my gloves grinding off onto the key ring because I was trying so hard. Nothing happened. That steering wheel was locked up tight. Maybe it had frozen.
I wanted to cry.
I went with my brother to church and walked in late with tears just below the surface.
After church and after the carry-in meal in the basement, while the others talked and cleaned up dishes, I snuck away to the baby room. I curled up on one of the toddler-sized crib bunks, made with slatted sides that slid up and down to keep the baby inside, and tried to take a cat nap. And lying there, staring at nothing in the dimness, not the curtains, not the bright sheeted cribs, not the toys overflowing their tote or the wooden rocking chair, I saw only my unhappiness, my deep tired.
“I figured out that you might be religious,” a non-Christian friend told me recently, “but your everyday life is just as stress-filled as mine.” Her words bothered me quite a bit. I worried that it meant I had been a bad witness, that I had portrayed nothing to her but words and emptiness, that my relationship with Jesus was nothing but ritual and she could tell it. That worry became part of my SAD week, my failure as a Christian, my lack of a devotional life lately.
I stared at the curtain empty and prayed that God would give me joy again.
And then it was time for church people to climb into vehicles and drive uptown to sing at the nursing home, and I forgot about my prayer.
I forgot myself in trying to make the old people happy. I watched their sad sleepy faces–the lady with the neck brace, Norma with the bright smile and stiff arm, the mumblers and the nodders and the sleepers–and put my whole spirit into the words and the music. Smiling, trying to wake up the sleeping ones, shaking hands afterwards down the long row of tired faces. Theirs is a permanent SAD, I think, caught in the longest season of winter.
When it was over I felt as though I had been taken from my body for a while, a liberating sensation.
At home, I went upstairs, changed into pajamas, and napped.
When I woke, I felt…joy.
I lay in bed marveling at it. It was the old joy, the genuine overflowing from God and in God that I can never imagine beforehand nor manufacture on my own. Heart like lightning bolts, if lightning bolts could be peaceful and gentle.
It had been so long since I had felt this way, and why now?
And then I remembered my prayer.
Truly God is good. He’s never failed a prayer of mine yet.
Oh, and by the way, the locked steering wheel that caused me grief? Turns out I had been using the wrong key. My brother’s looks almost the same.
Lucinda J. Miller writes from Rusk County, Wisconsin, where she lives with her parents and siblings on a small dairy farm and teaches the tiny school held in the basement of the Mennonite church just down the road. She is learning, little by little, how to put to practice Christ’s words: “Abide in me,” and finding the joy that comes with that. Lucinda blogs at Properties of Light and would love to hear from you there.