• Shirley Larson

My friend Q: A Journey Along the Shore


(Disclaimer: Quarantine is the name for all things COVID related in this season...stay at home, shelter in place, actual quarantine, socially distancing) After 6 weeks people in my small community were done with my friend Q. They had spent enough quality time with those in their households and needed to express other love languages and other people. You could see traffic increase and slowly it was as if the town had resurrected from a deep sleep. I work for the municipality and at one time I had the watering flowers gig. (Let me get one thing straight before we dive into this next thought...I am no morning person, I like sleep and I like coffee and it takes me a whiiiiile to wake up.) To beat traffic, because you have to drive on the opposite side of the road to water hanging baskets, the shift started at 4:00 am. STARTED AT FOUR!! Gross. I'd love to tell you my body adjusted and it was a beautiful way to start the day but I actually developed a permanent eye twitch. It would annoyingly pulsate below my left eye...constantly. ALL. SUMMER. LONG. All of that being said, once I was awake and working there was also something so peaceful and calm about the still and quiet of downtown. Slowly the town would wake up, it would start with a few vehicles who also had early shifts, or people coming off night shift. But you could feel the buzz, get louder until it was full blown organized chaos. I still look back on that summer of watering and recognize and appreciate the quiet stillness of the early mornings. Now there is a general consensus that quarantine is awful and that solitude is making us stir crazy and incapable of doing yet another puzzle. While I agree that my normal social constructs have been abruptly obstructed I have learned a lot through this time and I have welcomed back that quiet stillness. The slowing down, reflection and calm. My friend Q has introduced me to things I may not have come across otherwise, here are a few of them.

My passion for writing was rejuvenated in the Fall, followed with this Blog simply to practice writing more. Q has allowed me to sit and evaluate my goals, to really take time and research how and what my writing will look like. I REALLY had no clue what I was doing or where to start. Now I have a clue, only one, and we're still investigating the process but there is hope and some direction. (I have also learned that everyone's pace and process might look different.) With writing through quarantine I initially thought I would produce more content, however its been more education and training, which has been good for my soul. There has also been this divinely ordained train of progress where one thing has lead to another with ease. The train may speak less to my friend Q and more to God lighting each step of the path, but Q has been a conduit none the less. Here is the train.

The Holy Spirit stirring/reigniting a desire to write is truly the beginning of the train however, I can't really put a timeline on it. I suppose its been my whole lifetime. It has flown in and out of my thinking like an ocean wave on the beach. Sometimes it would swell and crash on the shore, and other times it was a nudge that rolled up on the sandy beach and rolled back out. October I felt the swell building up just prior to attending the Joyce Meyer Love Life Conference in Anaheim. During the conference my hero Christine Caine was speaking and I spent much of my free time hanging around her product booth engaging with her staff. Finally I asked them about writing and they said Mrs. Caine told them to start with a Blog. We kept talking and the Chris Caine staffer stepped out from behind all the books and asked to pray for me. She prayed words of encouragement and prophesy over my call to write. All of which confirmed the things that were in my heart. Crash!! That swelling wave hit the shore and I knew I was in for a ride. The Joyce Meyer conference announced the following years speakers in Denver...one of which is Annie F Downs. Cool, I've never heard of her but Joyce has yet to have a speaker that didn't challenge and inspire my journey. They also advertised for their podcast "Talk it Out," an hour long hang with Ginger, Jai, Erin where they literally talk out life's issues. I signed up immediately. I spent the better part of the rest of the fall into December catching up on all their shows and starting "I have this Friend." Then in February they hosted Annie, who spoke directly to my soul and reminded me to check out her stuff.

My new friend Annie F Downs. I started listening to her podcast, "That Sounds Fun," and was instantly hooked. I would throw on a podcast while I worked and I loved the content, her laugh, and every guest she had on. I wanted to purchase every book she endorsed, but my amazon cart was looking rather full of "save for later" (when you have money) and I still didn't have an Annie F Downs book. I had only been listening for a little over a month but listening to two episodes a day I was all in. Her interview with Beth Moore was particularly emotional for me. There was this moment when Beth exhorts Annie after Annie has expressed how she has become the fruit of Beths work. Beth goes on to say, "Someday someone is going to say this to you," ....teary eyed I raised my hand and heard Jesus say, "That is going to be you." To which I affirmed, "its going to be me." Maybe one day I'll tell her in person and we will be real life friends but for now I'm holding onto the promise that part of the fruit from my life will be because of the fruit of Annie F Downs. Enter Corona virus.

I was privileged enough to keep working through the first few weeks of Covid-19. But the ice rink I work at was shut down so it was "spring/summer" maintenance time.

A lot of cleaning and painting, and an opportunity to listen to an additional show TSFQuarantine, where Annie F Downs joined Eddie Kaufholtz on a show that helped us all be real with what was happening around us and still be able to laugh. If there is an overall BIG lesson I could take away from Annie its that "its both things," (Im waiting for her to adopt my pitch for her to write that book.) It's both grief and joy. Maybe not initially, but we eventually discovered the joy of slowing down and being present, that there were/are so many positive things and heroes stepping up AND there is also a great deal of loss. Eddie added that in this whole thing there are layers of grief, but we all get to be sad. You can be sad about missing out on grad, loss of sports, not going out to eat, or being around strangers, cancelling trips, and all the things that we're sad about while someone else can be grieving the loss their job, their company or small business, and possibly the hardest: grieving the loss of a loved one. Its both or all of these things and we don't need to judge others based on our filter of grief. Q introduced me to Eddie Kaufholtz, to which I cannot thank Q enough. I adore his banter and wit with Annie and also his authenticity and compassion for others. Not to mention his adorable children. There is so many great things I could write about them but I again encourage you to just go listen to "Annie and Eddie keep talking." (No Im not sponsored by any of these podcasts just sharing what I've found encouraging and noteworthy in my quarantine travels) Painting alone in a rink (socially distanced from all my co-workers in the other building) I had gone through just about every podcast I subscribed to. I was "caught up" unless I decided to go back through years of old content....which I considered and had visited but how far back do you go, or how many new podcasts do you introduce yourself to? Well, I remembered Eddie and Annie talking about his Esther series on the New Activist and had on a list of haven't gotten to listen to yet. Hear me when I say I cannot recommend this enough...The whole podcast, but in particular, this series of Esther, a girl in Ghana rescued from slavery. Eddie literally changed my storytelling world with how well he approached this story and the people he chose to interview and the questions he asked. He is a storytelling genius and I can picture the every part of the tunnel I painted at the rink with every part of her story. I have goosebumps as a write just thinking about how incredibly good it is, which is feels so understated. Again...without my friend Q I may have missed out.

By week 2 of "Quarantine" my future lay off was up in the air, but also held a feeling of inevitably. I held on to hope that maybe city officials will keep us working even though we are not essential, we are still able to get work done socially distanced. But I knew it was coming and that I should purchase some Annie books while I still had money to do so, and at this point I aside from going to work I was staying at home and going to need more "activities," Everyone else was hoarding toilet paper and I was frivolously buying books, and I rarely read. (I know not a good quality in a writer, but speaks to the depth of God divinely stepping in) When I do things...I go all in. So I bought, "Let's All Be Brave," "Looking for Lovely," and "Remember God." (100 days to brave was in the save for later pile....which now just shipped this week) A couple weeks later I ordered two copies of, "Don't Forget to Remember," by Ellie Holocomb," as well as, "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day," by Mark Batterson (We are going to rabbit trail for a moment because again it so speaks to God showing up in seemingly little ways) The Mark Batterson book stood out to me because, long story short, lions had been popping up everywhere for my friends and I, including and dominantly at the Joyce Meyer conference back in October. I thought it was an interesting title for a book, as I live in Northern Canada so I see a lot of snow but no lions. (Case in point...I give you April:


However, my general knowledge of lions in snowy climates is apparently very limited, and I thought rare, so I bought the book intrigued by what spiritual lessons could be extracted from a lion and snow. Pause here, hold this thought. I did get laid off, at the end of March. Not ideal, but my Annie books arrived shortly after and I got reading. There were so many things in her writing that spoke to me and sat with me, and connected me to my own writing. I had never read anyone who wrote like her and I felt I write in a similar tone (obviously not the same but could hear her storytelling coming out of my mouth, later learning that it could be the enneagram seven-ness). I entered a new level of fandom and respect. Then...I kid you not, as I am reading her book and she starts talking about this guy Beneniah. Never heard of him. Who is this guy??? I keep reading...OH its a story in the Bible about a guy in a pit with a lion on snowy day....I HAVE THAT BOOK ON ORDER!! [Enter lightbulb moment] I love those lightbulb moments, and this one was about being brave, and stepping out. Also within my time being laid off I got sick. Likely a combination of stress and stopping my hamster wheel paced life. While this helped #stayhome so did the snow...(see above picture) But in a time of a worldwide pandemic your thoughts wander when you are sick. How sick am I? Do I have the Rona? If I do, how long have I had it? Have I given it to others? I can't breathe...Jesus are you taking me home? I had to reign them in often. When I would walk my dog, with no one around, I felt like a biblical time leper. Cars would drive by and I would think, "don't get close." Stay away. Our community didn't have any known positive cases of Covid-19 so my doctor thought it was highly unlikely that I got it, but there had been a nasty cold going around since before Christmas. Not once did I get fever but my lungs were quite unkind to me. This did not stop me from looking for work in a COVID ridden world. Lay offs were everywhere, but if nothing else, Im resourceful and stubborn. I thought this cold will pass in couple of days and I'll be good to go, besides I'm probably sick from not working, and having a mini depression. God was saying stop and slow down and I was still trying to go and get back to work. Wouldn't you believe it, miracle of all miracles, I was offered a job that was a 12 hour commute to the coast of BC that was two weeks on, two weeks off. This must be God providing I thought, who else gets a job in a world shutting down. It's His favour. But as my start date approached my cold was getting worse not better. I sadly and respectfully declined the position as I didn't want to put anyone at risk of anything, although I was sure I was COVID free, there was still a piece of doubt that lingered. In realty it was God protecting me from myself and showing His kindness rather than His favour. I was sick for almost an entire month...and my regular employer called me back to work in a different department, to start at the beginning of May. My cough had finally improved and I had another week to get better, but this time I made my doctor get me tested for COVID, to put my mind at ease and keep my co-workers safe. My cough was practically gone before work started and completely disappeared about a week after being at work. Two lessons that Q taught me: One don't take going to work for granted ever again, and two: we are complete human beings mind, body soul, when one of these is unhealthy it will show up in the others. The peace of mind of having a negative COVID test took the pressure off of "getting better," which was becoming mentally straining. Even though I would combat the thoughts and received the prayers and declared healing, I recovered just days after my negative test result. Did God heal? Absolutely. Did I need to get passed my own mental pressure cooker? Absolutely.

I was laid off and had all kinds of time, again more podcasts and reading...and puzzles. Another thing Annie often refers to is Enneagram. I had taken a test to before to figure out that I'm a 7, and with all this extra time I decided to actually study the Enneagram. I bought the book, "The Road Back to You," which I read in two days, when it finally arrived, and went back and listened to That Sounds Fun Enneasummer, where Annie interviews an male and female friend of hers in each number. I learned so much about myself and others around me, and much like the lion, I started seeing it everywhere. ( Just this week a friend posted that she was just discovering this Enneagram thing...Being a pro now :) I gave her all the info I currently have.) Of course I'm still learning but this has already helped me understand so much more, and be a part of the conversation. One of my biggest take aways was that I referred to myself as a lazy perfectionist. Sometimes the lazy side would take over and sometimes the perfectionist. I don't really identify as perfectionist and as it turns out, Im not one...I only have the tendencies to lean that way in stress..which speaks volumes to my attempt at being a teacher and being in an almost constant state of stress. It was this contradiction within myself that felt like Jekyll and Hyde and my poor students didn't know who they were going to get. Thus I stepped away, but isn't that again God's kindness that my journey has lead me here. During my Enneagram enlightenment another light bulb went on and I felt understood even if it was merely the book that understood me. Q had given me this time I probably wouldn't have set aside to engage in a system of personality that gave me a new freedom not only for myself, but also in how I love those in my circle of friends. It allowed me to see that at the core of who I am is not a lazy perfectionist, but an enthusiast that has a message of joy for the world who can get a little OCD when she is stressed. Within my adoration for all things Annie F Downs in this season, I was talking to an old college friend who also enjoys her books. As part of our discussion she told me about hope*writers, a group to help writers in their journey and an organization that Annie endorses and has given content to. I started following them, and they had a writing prompt exercise that I decided to partake in. [Enter another divine appointment.] I knew if I'm really going to cultivate this thing I'm getting to a stage that Im going to need to invest some money. I started by buying a domain that is easier and upgrading my website account prior to being laid off. I knew that was a relatively small investment but could feel the excitement growing with each step I took. I researched diving into a publishing deal....a significant amount of dollars, but I don't have a book pitch currently or the needed significant amount of dollars. I looked at going back to school, again I could hear the cha ching of the till rather than the click of typing. Hope*writers felt like the next right step. It was affordable enough for right now although still enough of a sacrifice that you have to commit. Its a whole community to help me grow and navigate the writing waters. I had just started back to work, at least for the summer season, so I have some money flow again. It would've been so easy to say not now, I'm catching up. I could've rationed that logically/financially this is not a good decision, but it could be later. This was one of those gentle rolling of the waves on the shore. The Holy Spirit prompted me to write within the context of this community and then asked me to dive in. I ignored the financial fear and the gentle roll of the wave turned into that white capped crest that is fun and playful and splashing in its own wake. My very nature is playful so I plunged.

While I might have already been on this path I feel like my friend Q helped expedite it a little. It helped give clarity, tools and reflection and to slow down and be more intentional with my time. Q connected me to people and content on a short cut that may have taken a longer road, or not at all. It has taught me the value of prayerful consideration and that not every opportunity is the right one, especially if its a 12 hour commute every two weeks. Q has guided me into a place of investment and growth that I may have otherwise avoided. Most importantly my friend Quarantine has deepened my relationship with God, and reminded me how much He cares about and shows up in the little things and directs our paths. He is God Emmanuel, who is with us everywhere, in everything and in every circumstance. Even a worldwide Pandemic. The Holy Spirit keeps coming in waves of writing ideas and personal conviction. Sometimes its stormy and sometimes its calm, but He's always invited into the journey along the shore.

Friends come into our lives for all kinds of lengths of time and for different seasons and reasons. Q, I can't say I won't be somewhat happy to see you go, and that we keep this season of our friendship short. You don't need to visit again, I'll send you off with all my well wishes and gratitude, including a very heartfelt thank you for all you have done for me.

 

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