How to Stay Grounded When Chaos Strikes

by Christina Hubbard. “Dangerous lightning” popped up on my weather app that morning. Every few seconds thunder bellowed, then a flash lit up the sallow sky. In order to keep ourselves safe from lightning’s danger, we take shelter in a place which is electrically grounded. (I love watching storms from inside my four warm walls!) It gives the negatively charged particles a positive place to connect. In the same way, a lightning rod on a tall building gives the strike a focused place to go, averting shock or fire.

When life gets chaotic with a schedule, work, emotions, or stress, which are often unavoidable, we can prepare grounding places for our souls. You might be thinking of a weekend away or a planned retreat to escape. While these are wonderful, they are not always a possibility. I’m talking about minimal prep and a few minutes of thought, which is. We all desperately need soul grounding spots of peace, sanctuary, and safety.

Five Minutes of Focused Rest

  • Go outside for a walk.
  • Read aloud from a storybook.
  • Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths.
  • Listen to a song (check out the Verses Project).
  • Look at a piece of art.
  • Read a poem.
  • Notice five new things around you and say, “Thanks, God.”
  • Doodle or draw.
  • Shift your perspective. If you’re sitting, stand. If you’re standing, lie on the floor. (If you’re already on the floor, you’re hilarious.)
  • Shut off your screen and just be.

These are a few ways to give the electricity in your life a protected place to land, while you watch the show in complete protection. Think of it as practicing presence in the midst of distractions and disruptions. The peace of God does not promise the absence of chaos. Lightning will strike and mayhem will muddle up plans, but we can take cover in Christ. He’s solid and grounded.

The next time dangerous lightning pops up on your mental radar, remember you belong inside where it’s safe and warm.

What Christopher Robin Reveals About Productivity and Personhood

winnie the poohby Christina Hubbard. It was one of those movies where I looked over at my 9-year old son, still so small in the plush oversized theater seat, and I gulped back tears. His little life matters so much. He bounced a bit in his seat like Tigger because that’s what he does when he’s engrossed in a good story.

Here we are in this big black theater in the middle of suburban normal Kansas. This kid, whose only job is to have fun and learn about the world—does he know how much he matters? 

I put my arm around him and turned my eyes back to the screen. I hoped he couldn’t hear my sniffles, and I vowed to preserve the poignant lessons we were learning from the imaginative movie unfolding before us: Christopher Robin.

The Screenplay in Short

The plot begins after Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor) leaves The Hundred Acre Wood, which is his world of imagination and play, and heads to boarding school. His friends Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, Tigger, Roo, Piglet, Kanga, and Rabbit remain behind, holding fast to his promise he will return often. His father passes away and at the wake, he is “deemed man of the house.” Christopher grows up, fights in the war, marries, becomes a father, and gets a job as a luggage department manager at a large company.

We no longer see Christopher Robin, the exploring creative boy, but a withdrawn workaholic faced with a weighty choice. Preserve the last days of summer and reconnect with his wife and daughter for a long-promised and desperately needed holiday in Sussex or work the weekend and figure out how to save the company by 20% without laying off his entire department and losing his own job.

Sticky Points

I won’t ruin the beautiful story for you by telling you what happens. But I will tell you two things:

  1. Winnie the Pooh (who is animated superbly and keeps Christopher cleaning up his disasters with honey), offers many a jot-worthy line and proves an unlikely fount of simple wisdom.
  2. Now, more than ever, we need stories like this to remind us: Productivity does not define a person’s value.

The Real World

In a world bent on rewarding overwork and high achievers at the expense of connection, creativity, and imagination, perhaps we don’t realize how much we opt into this mindset without even thinking.

  • We rush ourselves and even the smallest of children to multiple weekly activities under the call of well-rounded opportunities, which leave us exhausted.
  • We keep our phones on and laptops open in the name of staying connected and being available while not quite feeling “all there” in our real lives.
  • We cut off our presence to people who need us under the pseudonyms of not right now and there’s never enough “me time” while we wonder why we feel so isolated and alone.

As we ping from opportunity to commitment, we can lose ourselves in doing and forget what it means to be truly human. To get lost in the woods. To laugh. To fall asleep to a fantastic story. To feel. To color outside the lines. To listen. To do nothing on a weekend. To wonder. To sit under a tree. To play. To be.

God designed us to live with the gift of significance.

In a post-modern world where slavery still exists and technology allows us to always be working, and thus, producing, we can lose ourselves in a dehumanizing machine of more. I would compare it to Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann’s depiction of our contemporary lack of Sabbath. He likens it to serving Pharoah.

In the film, Christopher Robin’s boss Giles Winslow says, “We should be working this weekend, Robin.”

Christopher protests, “I promised my wife and daughter I’d take them away this weekend.”

Giles’ responds, “All hands on deck.”

Work is good and necessary, but at what expense to our souls?

Pooh Can Teach Us a Thing or Two

Pooh is not a mouthpiece for Christian belief by any means, but he does point us to glimpses of how to live today with an eternal mindset. Let’s look at some moments from Christopher Robin and examine the rather simple, but profound truths they speak into productivity, personhood, and the present.

We don’t have to fill every moment with busy.

A scarlet thread line runs throughout the film, first spoken by a young Christopher and later by Pooh, back to him as a reminder of what to do: “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.” Great creativity and ideas often when we are doing seemingly unproductive activities like daydreaming, imagining, and playing.

We can say thanks for the gift of today. 

Winnie The Pooh: What day is it?

Christopher Robin: It’s today.

Winnie The Pooh: My favorite day.

We can see people, not as problems, but as fellow creatures. (And if they are human, made in the image of God.) 

Upon seeing Pooh for the first time as grown-up Christopher Robin, he shouts, No, no, no! This can’t be happening! It’s stress.”

But it’s not stress. It’s Pooh.”

We have enough.

Christopher Robin: If I work really hard now, in the future our lives will be…

Evelyn Robin: Impressive? Worse? We don’t care. We want you.

We can rest in the One who knows us inside and out.

Christopher Robin: I’m not the person I used to be.

Winnie The Pooh: You saved us. You’re a hero.

Christopher Robin: I’m not a hero, Pooh. The fact is, I’m lost.

Winnie The Pooh: But I found you.

We have more power over our lives than we believe.

Evelyn Robin (Christopher’s wife): You won’t be coming to the cottage?

Christopher Robin: It can’t be helped.

Evelyn Robin: Your life is happening now, right in front of you.

We are most truly ourselves when we live unburdened by the cares of this world.

The adult Christopher Robin encounters his old pals in the Hundred Acre Wood, “Hello, Eeyore!” Eeyore pauses and sees the boy underneath the wrinkles and suit, “Christopher Robin, it’s you, playing again!”

When we celebrate small delights, we are really living big.

Christopher Robin: There’s more to life than balloons and honey!

Winnie The Pooh: [doubtfully] Are you sure?

We were made to find glory.

Winnie The Pooh: There’s always time for a smackeral of wonder.

Everyone Needs to Know This No Matter What

Life, in its harsh reality of putting productivity over personhood, tends to strip us of our sense of wonder and worth. Maybe we have not forgotten completely, we just got a little lost, like Christopher Robin.

As we exited the theater, Kyle asked, “Who’s your favorite character?”

“Kanga,” I said. She’s such a calm, reassuring mother (which I hope I am, but still have a long way to go).

“Yours?”

“Piglet.” This surprised me. In the film, Piglet is rather fearful and doubtful of his worth to the rescue plan:

Piglet: I-I think I’ll just s-stay here… Y-you don’t really need me anyways.

My son is incredibly unique and bright. He has a vocabulary beyond his years and a deeply, caring heart. But most people wouldn’t know his giftedness brings immense challenges in a society which overemphasizes staying on task instead of making forts in the woods and ranks performance way above imagination. My son’s bouncy exuberance covers up a universal question resonating in his soul: Do I matter?

Winnie The Pooh: Oh Piglet… but we DO need you…

Piglet: Y-you do?

Winnie The Pooh: [takes Piglet’s hand] We ALWAYS need you, Piglet.

Ultimately, what will save Piglet, Christopher Robin, and us, is love.

 

August Shakeup (It’s a Crazy Ride Between Centered and September)

by Christina Hubbard.

I swear. There’s an earthquake

Each year come August.

Here’s Summer, mosying along,

Cannon-balling into the pool,

Climbing trees,

Riding her bike.

Chlorine-soaked strands

Stream behind.

Free.

Then the tectonic plate of school,

(With some ungodly fury of busy and hurry)

Drills its gargantuan nose right under

The ground upon

Which she stands.

 

Wheel veers.

 

It’s not her fault. Or yours.

Or mine.

She always sees it coming.

Buckle your seatbelt, sister.

We can’t escape it.

Prepare, as we do.

 

A bone-throttling jolt.

Then the split.

 

A little shaken, a whole lot stirred.

She pushes herself up.

Frame bent, hair disheveled.

 

Close your eyes, breath deep.

Look up at stars.

Read aloud.

Walk. A.

LOT.

 

Embrace routine’s help.

Loathe anxious thoughts.

Change it up.

Spot life.

NOW.

 

She picks up the bike.

Mounts.

Welcome the fall.

10 Summer Reads to Spur Your Kids to Courage and Compassion

by Christina Hubbard. One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is combing the library shelves for great summer reads. Not for me. For my kids. I love matching their interests with books which will challenge and expand their understanding of the world. If you’ve spent any time on my blog, then you know courage and compassion are core values in my family. I want my kids to be confident, empathetic, and brave.

Sadly, one of my kids has decided reading is not his/her thing anymore. I’m out to prove that wonderful kid wrong! Here are a few things that help us with our summer reading, including a list of what we’re reading.

It’s not quite bribery…

It can be hard to motivate our kids to read when they’d rather be playing XBox or living at the pool. In our house, we dangle carrots. When a kid completes a set amount of books on the list (they get to choose the ones they find most interesting, they earn a reward. For my 13-year old daughter, this year will probably be a gel manicure. For my 9-year old son, the incentive will be a sleepover or a cool outing. Consider what would motivate your child to stick with it.

Real books, audio books, and snuggle time all help

Did you know? Most kids prefer physical books. I don’t know where I read that recently, but I think it’s pretty true. There’s something about touching those pages which helps the brain to connect the tangible with memory retention.

No matter what anyone has told you, audiobooks count as real books. My kids listen to them for hours on end. It builds auditory skills and allows the brain to really engage with the text in a way that reading from the page cannot.

Snuggle time and reading aloud promotes authentic connection. Not only can you practice your silly voices and accents, you can even encourage your child to read to you. You also get to love on that rambunctious kid and tighten that parent/kid bond while you’re at it.

What I do

I don’t read every book on the lists I create. It’s impossible for me to keep up with my kids’ voracious reading (at least one of them), BUT I do research each book. I look for compelling characters, descriptive writing with fabulous vocabulary, and solid recommendations. Great sources for amazing reads have been Sarah McKenzie at the Read Aloud Revival, Tsh Oxenreider’s lists on the Art of Simple (search for summer reading guide: there’s several), and Amy Sullivan’s Gutsy Girls Facebook group.

Here are ten reads I’ve pulled from my kids’ lists to encourage kindness and boldness.

Most of these books will get a thumbs up from either gender. Keep in mind, these recommendations are for a tween and a high-level reading upper elementary kid. I hope one of them finds their way into one of your kids’ hands or your own! (Also, if you have an adblocker turned on, you will not see the images.)

    1. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga) Description: Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
    2.  The Apothecary (The Apothecary Series) Description: It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows – a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies – Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.
    3. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (P.S.) Description: William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams.
    4. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young GirlDescription: Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
    5. The Green Ember (The Green Ember Series: Book 1)Description: Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.
    6. Watership Down: A Novel Description: A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for more than forty years, Richard Adams’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
    7. The Bronze Bow Description: The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forcing the Romans from his land of Israel. A fast-paced, suspenseful, vividly wrought tale of friendship, loyalty, the idea of home, community…A powerful, relevant read in turbulent times.
    8. The Trumpet of the Swan Description: The delightful classic by E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, about overcoming obstacles and the joy of music.
    9. Emily of New Moon Description: This early work by Lucy Maud Montgomery was originally published in 1923 and we are now republishing it with a brand new introductory biography. ‘Emily of New Moon’ is the first tale in the ‘Emily Starr’ series, and tells the story of an orphaned girl using her wit and courage to face the harsh world.
    10. Edge of Extinction 1: The Ark Plan The Edge of Extinction Description: Five years ago, Sky Mundy’s father vanished from North Compound without a trace. Now she has just stumbled on a clue that not only suggests his disappearance is just the tip of an even larger mystery, but also points directly to the surface. To find her dad—and possibly even save the world—Sky and her best friend, Shawn, must break out of their underground home and venture topside to a land reclaimed by nature and ruled by dinosaurs.

(Book descriptions are copied from Amazon. Also good to know: links above contain Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a book through one of them, I get a small percentage, which goes to keeping the lights on the blog.)

Happy reading!

The Break (Life-Saving Pause)

poppy

by Christina Hubbard. It doesn’t take much

to slip, when

we think

we’re strong. When we’re doing

what we love, going for

dreams, making

waves in the world.

But maybe doing

Needs to stop,

Breathe,

Remember

Who gave 

Feet their strength to run.

Hands, their grip to write.

Throat, its voice to praise,

Head, its thoughts to lead.

Body, its grace to stay

Bowed,

Restored in the break.

(Life-saving pause.)

This post is part of Five Minute Friday. Our one-word prompt was PAUSE.

How Survival Mode Enables You to Harness the Storm’s Strength

storm

by Christina Hubbard. Storms heal. Last week, a perfect downpour swept through my neighborhood. It bent the top branches of the oak tree. New leaves rustled an intoxicating whisper against a slate sky. In the backyard tree, a lone bird chirped a song, seeming to beckon and harmonize with the darkening landscape. I was in a somber, restless mood myself and in need of a real rest, for many, many reasons.

I went up to the second-floor library away from the family. I opened the window and sat on the carpet where I could see, hear, and smell the storm. The chaos inside me was due in part to this process of recovery. Just that day the orthopedist had told me I needed physical therapy to speed the healing of my broken ankle. I had already been putting in an hour of exercises each day and three hours at the pool per week. I was tired of the tight tendons in my foot, shuffling from here to there, and the perpetual looks of pity. I was weary of trying to stay strong and be positive. I was exhausted from steering every conversation away from my broken state. My deepest desire that night was to brood like a thundercloud.

The Accident

Storms descend on us with force, sometimes rather suddenly. Angels bowl, as my mother used to say, with thunder and lightning. They downpour a darkness, both refreshing and ominous.

My injury happened unexpectedly. I fell off a step on the morning of my sister’s baby shower. Really though, it was the tipping point after months of previous trauma. On an October morning, my daughter was riding her bike to school. A car turned left, didn’t see her, and struck her. She fell to the pavement, staggered a few steps, and then collapsed a few feet away.

She had left the house in the dark before I even woke. My husband was in Romania for work. It was shortly before 7 a.m. when my phone lit up with a call from an unknown number: “Your daughter has been hit by a car. She’s okay.”

What does one do in such a crisis? I went on autopilot. I fumbled for pajama pants and my glasses. I woke my eight-year-old son with a shake and said, “I have to leave. Abi has been hit by a car. Get ready for school. I’ll be back soon.” He opened his eyes. I hoped he heard me, and I hoped he didn’t.

I got in the van. As I turned right around the block, I heard sirens. They were for her. That was the beginning of the season of survival.

Someone asked me last night at a party, “How have you been?” It all spilled out: seven months of survival. Recovery has been an elusive idea, just out of reach. “I had no idea,” the asker replied. My daughter’s accident, three months of the family being sick, then my ankle break, and two days later, surgery to repair nerve damage from Abi’s incident. In other words, we’ve been swaying in an endless storm.

Wanting to Forget

Life has bent us sideways, testing our rootedness, bashing us with force and elements. So many times I have wanted simply to duck into the basement—as we do in our Midwest tornadoes—and forget these past few months ever happened. I have wanted to forget the way I saw my girl helpless on the pavement surrounded by EMTs and police. How the officer asked if she halted her bike at the corner before crossing the intersection. How she lowered her eyes as she lay on the gurney and said, “I should have stopped.”

I wanted to erase from my memory how that officer lifted her bent up bike and asked for my keys so he could place it in the trunk of my van. How we couldn’t figure how to get the seatbelt across her aching shoulder so I could get her safely home. I yearned to forget how I went into task mode as I drove her to the house, left her in the car, and fetched my son, miraculously calm, eating cereal at the table, and dressed for school. I wanted to forget how he asked her if she was okay and all she could do was moan. How I dropped him at my friend’s house, and how she told me she prayed with him after I left.

I wanted to forget how her school principal called me on the way to the hospital, and I don’t even know why I answered. How I hung up and called my husband, choked back my croaking voice, and said with a tremble, “Abi’s been hit.” The trees seemed to glow their greenness against the morning sky so blue as we drove like it is after a storm.

I would like to erase from my memory how I didn’t realize how hard I wanted to weep as I sat across the room and watched the ER doctor examine her in that big white railed bed. How I wanted my parents to hold me, but they couldn’t because they were hundreds of miles away and probably too afraid to call me back after my text. Yes, I wanted to forget it all.

Stuck and Struck

Survival bends you backward like a storm you never saw coming. When no one is there to hold your hand, and you don’t know what to do because you’ve never been here before. In my case, I didn’t know whom to call or how. I wanted to phone the pastor of the small church we had started attending, but I couldn’t even think of how to do it or what to say.

Survival is the state of being stuck in a moment. It’s the doctor saying, “You can go home,” but you barely believe him. It’s trusting your feet are going to get you to your car somehow. It’s saying yes to the first family member who offers to come and be with you, even though they’re thousands of miles away. It’s saying, “Oh, God,” in your head over and over.

Survival is being struck by life’s miraculousness and the fragility of breath. Its a heart beating alive so loudly within your own chest and being paralyzed at the same time. Survival is life breaking and marching forward before your eyes, and still, somehow, you keep going.

As I write this, my head throbs thinking of all of this again—how what we don’t want to happen often hits us with a gut-punch and leaves us reeling for days, weeks, and months. How even when we see the wonder standing mostly unscathed (she just had a few broken bones), we are still hit hard. In surreal moments later, we think we’re coming up, standing upright, stronger even. Then repercussions and winds knock us down: sickness, PTSD from cars coming at us, driving by the place we survived, and trying to hold ourselves together.

The Release

Thunderstorms can only hold their watery burdens so long. They loom and push us with gusts, but eventually, the skies must let their contents go. They must release the rain. In the library, as I watched the storm through the window and sniffed wetness through the screen, I surrendered a sense of holding on.

There is something cathartic about a storm, a supernatural strengthening. Roots push deeper into dirt as rain descends. Plants shoot up and out of the ground, seemingly overnight, while lightning startles the senses. We feel uprooted and sown in a single moment. The dust of our lives abruptly watered.

I will not forget this season of survival. As much as I want to, I cannot. If I cease to remember how I endured, how my family persevered and held on, despite nearly facing our worst fear, then I cease to heal. We are here to listen to the storm and to be in it, not run from it. The storm tests and tries us like nothing else. We must remember.

We must not forget what happened and what could have. Denial is no heart’s friend. We have been saved from so much, but not hardship.

To the ancient desert fathers and mothers, suffering was not a trial, but often, a desire. Later, Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century monk, encouraged his friends to suffer well and to embrace it wholeheartedly, “Love sweetens pain; and when one loves God, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage.” This bothers me and makes me incredibly curious. Dear Jesus, my faith has so far to go.  

So in our anxiety, doubt, discomfort, in our so-very-tired states of surviving with only enough hope and patience to cup in our hands and drink feebly, we hold on. Our lives do not end in our irritation, discomfort, or even our earth-shattering losses. If we live in God’s kingdom, death cannot hold us. This is a mentality which is missing from most of our lives. Today’s storms are training grounds for heaven. I may never know how, but gloriously, we are made more whole through periods of suffering.

Teach Us, Oh, Lord

When the heavens cease their emptying, everything looks verdant, almost neon, and smells of fresh, damp earth. Thunderstorms heighten the senses and swathe the world in an urgent realness.

That storm last week marked the end of my survival season and the beginning of recovery—from everything. From almost losing a child, trying to be her rock and help, from rotating shifts with my husband, and finally, becoming the cared for.

The rain soaked to the earth lightly that dusk while the bird sang her song sweet and shrill. I breathed deeply in and out, of dark, sodden soil, leafy growth, and recovered life. This is a time of coming to understand pains’ great change, the wear it bears down on body and soul. Suffering presses us to our limits and pushes us to the brink of our nothingness. This is the kind of healing that hurts. It stretches sinews and cynical thought processes we never knew we had. We sacrifice time and create a space to make way for the hope of recovery. Survival is both storm—destructive, dark, and beautiful—and it is miracle, alive, and so, so fragile.

Storms cleanse the land and us. They revive what is dry and dying within us. This summer we recover and find a resiliency which lives beyond and moves forward with such a power and grace—we must not only wonder at it, we become it. I will not forget.

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