12 Movies About Mental Health for Your Summer

Writing over at Partners in Prevention about some awesome mental health movies to watch this summer. Definitely some of my favorites on this list!

Depending on how you count, there are either twelve or thirteen weeks throughout June, July, and August. Partners in Prevention thought it might be fun to provide a list that would allow you to watch at least one excellent movie each week that would not only be enjoyable, but also serve to increase our understanding, compassion, and mental health awareness. Without further ado (but with a quick reminder to permit yourself to say “no thanks” if it is too much or triggering) here are twelve awesome mental health movies for your summer!

Inside Out: These movies are in no particular order but I put my favorite first. As a mental health professional, I believe this movie should be on the standard curriculum for any counselor-in-training. The cast members are personifications of emotions living in the mind of a preteen girl, helping her (and each other) navigate the challenges of internal and physical transitions as she moves. It is delightful and incredibly well researched in terms of emotional intelligence, brain function, and memory.

Patch Adams: Gosh, this one is wonderful too, albeit more intense than the cartoon above. It feels even more poignant to enjoy the incredible talents of Robin Williams, knowing that his own life later ended by suicide. He is hysterically funny, touching, and powerful in this role that pushes the envelope on the boundaries of medical care, compassion, and humor.

Silver Linings Playbook: When I worked as a counselor at a college, we got permission to play this movie as part of a mental health movie lineup. It is a great story about what it can look like to have bipolar disorder, both treated and left untreated. Plus, there’s a love story interwoven with a passion for American football. Sounds like summer to me!

A Beautiful Mind: This movie captured my affection years ago. I was touched to see something as uncommonly portrayed as schizophrenia be told in such a raw, and hopeful, way. Yes, you see the main character, his family, and his career struggle. But, you also see them find a way forward. Even better? It’s based on the story of a real person, Nobel Laureate, John Nash.

Matchstick Men: If you are into heist movies, this one may be intriguing. Nicholas Cage stars as a con artist trying to steal a lot of money. All the while, his character also has to manage difficulties with obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, and panic attacks.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story: I haven’t seen this one but I am extremely intrigued by the storyline. It is a comedy set inside a psychiatric ward and it is one of the recommendations made by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health). Hospitals are supposed to be a place of healing, not fear, and it sounds like maybe this film gets it right!

Click here for the other six movies!

Waiting on God’s Timing

Writing over at The Glorious Table today about how patient David was sometimes, and that he really struggled other times. Waiting on God’s timing isn’t often easy but is always worth it. Read below for a preview or link to the full post here.

When we look toward some of the Bible’s most recognizable characters, David really stands out on the ol’ Sunday school felt board. I mean, he’s got the whole shepherd thing going (1 Sam. 17:34-36), the slingshot that takes out Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50), and many times he made a heck of a king (minus the whole Bathsheba/Uriah debacle, but we’ll get to that later in 2 Sam. 11).

On the front end, David is a picture of incredible humility and patience. I’m guessing that being the youngest of eight brothers means he didn’t always get to do what he wanted. Considering that his father, Jesse, offers all of David’s brothers to Samuel for anointing and doesn’t even David in the lineup (1 Sam. 16:5-13) as well as his brother’s elitist attitude toward him (“Who do you think you are leaving the sheep?,” (1 Sam. 17:28) it seems that David was not exactly the most esteemed member of the family.

Despite the disregard David is shown by his fellow men, God chooses the young shepherd to be king over Israel. Considering what David’s life has been like up to this point, his anointing certainly had the potential to be pretty heady for a young man.

This is why it is so incredible that for years after his anointing, David remains inexplicably loyal to Saul, the established king, even when the guy tries to murder him! Then, after Saul dies, David still doesn’t hurry the process, instead waiting for Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth to get out of the way as well (2 Sam. 2:10). Finally, after “the war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time” (2 Sam. 3:1 NIV), David becomes king of Israel at age thirty (2 Sam. 5:4), at least fifteen years after he was first promised the crown. Incredible.

a turquoise Bible on a dark wooden table

I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be so patient–not to mention so mistreated—while waiting for something that you-know-that-you-know-that-you-know is yours to claim.

Sadly, David’s Patience Waned as an Adult

Because David displays such incredible patience and integrity during his adolescence and early adulthood (not exactly years that are known for restraint), we might expect him to display even greater integrity as he ages. Unfortunately, that’s not how it plays out, and the history of David’s reign is marked by a major character stain: his affair with Bathsheba.

The details of the story may be familiar. While David’s troops are out fighting for the kingdom, David is hanging out at home and notices the beautiful Bathsheba bathing on a nearby balcony. David calls for her and sleeps with her, resulting in a pregnancy. Not wanting to be caught in his misdeeds, David then does some military order shuffling that ends with Bathsheba’s husband dead on the battlefield and Bathsheba being taken into David’s household as his wife (2 Sam. 11).

While it’s easy to get distracted by the salacious details of the story, what we want to focus on here is the drastic change in David’s character. Unlike the years he waited to become king, with all its discomfort and difficulty, he displays neither patience nor integrity here. He sees Bathsheba. He wants what he wants when he wants it. He sacrifices his integrity and the life of another to cover his indiscretions.

What can we take away from watching this drastic change from a patient, trusting young man to an impatient, occasionally reckless adult?

We need to trust, wait, and ask about God’s timing. No matter what the answer is.

To finish reading the full post link here.

Important Connections Between Exercise & Mental Health

Writing over at Missouri Partners in Prevention about the connection between exercise and our mental/emotional health! See below for a preview or link to the full article here.

June is a fantastic month. It is the host to many weddings, outdoor events, and summer nights before things get too sweltering in July and August. For this reason, June is also a great month to talk about exercise. Given how comfortable it is outside, maybe we’ll all get a few more steps in!

The connection between mental health and exercise is long-established and personally experienced by so many who “just feel better” when they have gotten outside, to the gym, or even a video or yoga session in their own home. But how much exercise makes a difference? What kind of exercise do we need? How exactly does it affect our mental health in a positive way? We will explore these questions today.

How Much Exercise Improves Our Mental Health?

Many people are keen to improve their mental health, but they want to know exactly how much exercise is supposed to make a difference. In a recent comparison of fifteen studies, the researchers concluded it is often not as much as you might think.

For adults, the public health recommendation for exercise is at least 2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise or just over an hour to 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise (health.gov). However, it is important to note that even accomplishing the lower end of that recommendation was connected to a lower risk of depression than those who did not exercise. In fact, not moving at all was associated with an increased risk of depression of 18-25%. The recommendation for beginning an exercise routine is to begin with five or ten-minute walks.

Woman outside kneeling down on one knee and tying the shoelaces on a tennis shoe

What Kind of Exercise Improves Our Mental Health?

As offered above, several hours of moderate-intensity or around an hour or two of more intense aerobic exercise has been connected to a lower risk of depression. But, are there other kinds of exercise that can improve our mental health? Any exercise can have benefits but yoga, often paired with meditation practices, are a frequent recommendation for people suffering from mental health concerns. No matter what type of exercise someone chooses (cardiovascular, strength training, balance, or flexibility) there are benefits to movement of any kind and pursuing activities we enjoy.

Man who uses a wheelchair playing basketball

How Does Exercise Improve Our Mental Health?

To finish the full post and see the answer to the above question, link here.

Why Feeling Pain is Important

Years ago, I saw a documentary about a little girl who could not feel pain. She was adorable and did many of the same things as other children but, she almost never cried. Her parents became concerned because she kept getting hurt but did not stop or seek comfort or care when she was injured.

As it turns out, this little gal had a rare disease called CIPA (congenital insensitivity to pain and anhydrosis). It affects the body by making people unable to sense temperature, pain, or the ability to sweat. Since these kiddos don’t feel anything or have the ability to regulate their temperature, they can end up in some really dangerous situations. As you might imagine, it’s hard to know what pain needs your attention if you can’t feel it to begin with.

Since I’m not a doctor but a mental health professional, you might be able to guess where I am going with this today. Our emotional protection system is designed in many ways like our physical protection system. However, because emotions can feel more subjective, sometimes we ignore or fight against this important information. So, to help us give our emotional system the attention it deserves, below are some tips to help us tune in, understand, and appreciate it.

5 Tips for Engaging with Painful Emotions

  1. Painful emotions usually have a purpose. Sometimes we know why and sometimes we don’t. Regardless, they’re asking for our attention. If you are feeling sad, scared, anxious, unsettled, or anything else uncomfortable, your body is trying to tell you something. Listen.

  2. One of the best ways to listen to uncomfortable emotions is from a neutral mindset, almost like a detective. Instead of judging the emotion as “bad” or pushing it away, treat it as information. “What is this feeling trying to tell me?” “What has been going on that might have me feeling this way?” “How can I observe this rather than let it take over/control?” “When have I felt this way before?” (See a great process for doing this here.)

  3. As mentioned, painful emotions usually have a purpose. However, some people do experience painful emotions that are unfounded (generalized anxiety is a good example). In these cases, sometimes you can move into a more peaceful space via self-compassion and focusing on what is true. However, if painful feelings keep up with no obvious cause, you may need therapy or medication to figure things out. There’s no shame in that. Brains sometimes need intervention to run right, just like the rest of our bodies.

  4. If you were physically sick or injured, a doctor would give you recommendations for medicine, rehab, rest, etc. The same is true for experiences with emotional pain. If you suffer from PTSD, anxiety, or depression, or have gone through a difficult experience, I’d tell you to avoid your “triggers” and take good care of yourself. That may mean setting boundaries around your sleep, activities, workload, or even the company you keep. If you want to heal and/or maintain your health, you have to do what’s necessary to let that process take place.

  5. Lastly, feeling painful emotions is normal and necessary sometimes. It’s the way our brains and bodies were designed to grieve, stay safe, address fears, etc. When we give our emotions permission to be felt, they often resolve in time. Reminding ourselves that painful emotions are not bad or permanent can help us accept them for their intended purpose and then let them go when they’ve done their job.

The baby we talked about at the beginning of this post kept getting more and more injured because she couldn’t feel the pain that was designed to help keep her safe. Similarly, please know that your emotions, even the painful ones, are gifts designed with information to help keep us safe, healthy, and connected to ourselves and others.

Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash, used with permission

Children: Paving the Way Forward vs. Praying the Way Forward

Exactly one year ago, I shared the story below. It’s about a moment where I had to choose between paving the way forward for my kid or “just” praying. Sure, one sounds holier. It’s also much harder sometimes. Fast-forward to last week as people we love now know our son’s name, greet him with a smile, and call him a friend. Life is hard sometimes but God is so good, especially when we give Him time to work His way. We don’t always get a follow-up on how stories turn out, but I wanted to share this one. I hope it encourages you.

(June 2021) The other day I passed my son in the school cafeteria. Unlike his usual involved and chatty self, he was sitting on one of those round plastic seats far from the other kids. He was trying to look like he had it all together but, I’m his Mom. And, he’s not so fantastic at hiding his feelings 😉 I sat down and asked quietly, “What’s going on buddy?” He leaned in. “I just don’t know anybody Mom. I don’t have any friends here.”

Ugh, cue internal heartbreak. Poor kid. We are moving and this scene was from one of his first summer encounters with the other boys his age. The kids he doesn’t know yet. After leaving a bunch of friends he loved in our old place. I hate it for him.

The part of me that wanted to fix it rose up quickly. It’s the part of me that wanted to start moving the pieces, picking the people, and manufacturing situations so he would feel better as quickly as possible. It’s the part of us that gets labeled “Mama Bear” and I’ll admit, sometimes, she’s needed.

But, this time she wasn’t. And I knew it. As much as I wanted to intervene, I knew that on this day, in this circumstance, my job was not to pave the way for my kid but to pray the way for him. I gave him a hug, a strategy or two for meeting new folks, and walked away with my heart in a puddle. It wasn’t the first time and, I’m certain it won’t be the last.

Like when he walked into preschool.

And when we moved last time.

And when he was scared to try a new thing.

Like when he’ll go to high school.

And when he chooses the girl.

And when he’ll drive off to college.

Anne Rulo Children: Paving the Way Forward vs. Praying the Way Forward

Parenting is the most challenging exercise I know in learning when to tie our own hands in prayer so we can loosen and equip theirs.

Onward and forward my son, as you forge your own path. Nothing I could ever do for you will ever compare with what God can do. My goodness, how I love you.

I’ll pray your way forward.

#parenting #momlife #dadlife #trust #moving #prayer #prayingforkids

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash, used with permission

When Jesus Knocks

Writing over at The Glorious Table today about my nostalgia for knocking on my friend’s doors as a kid, asking if “so-and-so” could play. We don’t knock on people’s doors like we used to, but Jesus still knocks on ours. I’m so glad. Read on for a preview below or click here for the full post.

I think I may have thrived in another era. Not to say that I’m doing poorly in this one, but I do carry a bit of nostalgia for some social constructs of decades past. As an example, one of the things I loved as a child of the  ’80s, which has since faded, is the normalcy of showing up at someone’s front door unannounced.

As a kid, the only thing I had to wait for before I knocked on a friend’s door was for it to be at least nine o’clock in the morning. An early riser most of my life, I had friends (more likely my friends’ parents) who were less than thrilled if I showed up to play before they were even out of bed—or out of their pajamas. But once it was normal hours for the world, it was an acceptable routine for me and the other neighborhood kids to show up and ask if so-and-so could play.

Changes such as these have fueled my interest in the increasing social phenomenon of isolation. While more recent narratives point to the increase in technology as the culprit, books like Bowling Alone by Robert Putnamsuggest American social life began to shift as early as the 1960s. In the decades since, we have become less likely to be involved in civic life, either through organizations or activities, which he suggests is to our detriment. Pairing this research with his commentary on “the disappearing front porch” tied to gun violence, interior comforts, and reduction of sharing resources and experiences, makes me long for the days when we shared our lives more fully and spontaneously than we do today.

Why all the waxing poetic about days gone by? The other day, I ran across Revelation 3:20, and it struck me as inviting. Anything inviting with Jesus attached just seems like it deserves a reflection.

Here’s the verse:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (NIV).

a turquoise door open to the outside

Now, before we get into what the verse says, I thought we’d spend a little time focused on what it does not say. Sometimes, this can give us as much insight as anything else. Here are a few examples:

  1. It does not say, “Here I am! I stand at the door pounding until you open it. I will get you to open this door against your will.” Jesus may show up at our door, but he does not bust his way in. He is a deeply loving but also free-will-supporting neighbor. He wants to be involved in our lives, but we have to open the door and let him in.
  2. It does not say, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, they will be subsequently read a list of rules as well as a review of their good and bad marks in my ledger. Good times for all.” No. Of course, we know Jesus receives us with grace. However, our hearts sometimes still fear criticism. Remember, it is safe to open the door to Jesus.
  3. Finally, it does not say…

Finish the full post here at The Glorious Table!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Enjoyed writing a 40,000 flyover about mental health for this month’s mental health awareness. See below for a preview or read the full post here. Thanks to Missouri Partners in Prevention for the opportunity to continue to write with you!

2 people sitting in separate chairs talking, as if in a therapy session

Year after year, the culture improves in awareness, advocacy, and accessibility of mental health knowledge and services. In that same breath, we also acknowledge that great strides are needed. Concerns related to insurance, availability of providers, and a lack of health equity mean we have much work to do. Despite these challenges, we wanted to take some time to provide some broad-stroke information about mental health that will remind us all how important this month of awareness is and how we can be a part of the solution.

General Mental Health Information

Young Black woman walking outside with headphones in, holding a folder and looking down at her phone

Mental Health Statistics

It is hard to offer confident mental health statistics. The reasons for this are many. Mental health care is still, in some ways, a developing field with a complicated history. Many mental health disorders used to be criminalized or used as grounds for removing people from society. And, while brain mapping, chemical studies, and blood samples can tell us some things about a person’s mental health experience, much of what we know still comes down to someone’s described experience.

For this reason, as much as mental health disorders are physical health experiences that can improve with therapy and/or medication, it is harder to point to a test number or result as a guide for treatment. Scientists are working hard to find more concrete ways to understand mental health disorders, so providers have increased ways to be more accurate and effective with treatment and medication. And, of course, many people who are suffering don’t (or can’t) seek treatment. All of this means that it’s just not as easy to say how many people have a mental health disorder as it is to pinpoint a number for a physical illness.

With these parameters in mind, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) cites that 1 out of every 5 people, or 20% of the population experiences a mental illness. Other organizations offer numbers closer to 1 out of every 4 or 25% of the population. Some other commonly cited statistics are:

  • The symptoms of many mental health disorders often first appear in someone’s late teens or early 20s although they can occur outside of this range. It is important to remember that experiences such as trauma can bring on mental challenges at any age.
  • People can have co-occurring disorders (i.e., depression and anxiety) that require support for both concerns.
  • Depression and anxiety are the most commonly experienced mental health disorders.
  • Suicide is often connected to the mental health diagnosis of depression and/or substance abuse disorder. Men are more likely to die by suicide while women are more likely to attempt it. The discrepancy is typically associated with the difference in the lethality of the method.
  • We have barely scratched the surface. There are hundreds of classified forms of mental disorders in the DSM-5.
Group of people sitting in chairs in a circle talking

What Part Can We Play in Mental Health Care?

To finish the full post link here

Responding to Loss by Suicide: The Beautiful Example of Ashley & Wynonna Judd

*Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide.

For the past several weeks, I have been quietly grieving the headlines rolling across our news feeds. Chelsie Kryst. Katie Meyer. Sarah Shulze. Lauren Bernett. And, on April 30th, Naomi Judd. All of them beautiful, talented women. All of them lost to suicide.

What the world does not need is another commentary. We know our mental health resources are not enough. We know that the stigma needs to end. What we do need are more people using the language of mental health and suicide that is helpful, empathic, and compassionate. Last week, Ashley and Wynonna Judd did that beautifully. I’m honored to highlight them.

Anne Rulo Responding to Loss by Suicide: The Beautiful Example of Ashley & Wynonna Judd

Offered below are reflections and excerpts from Ashley’s May 12th interview with Diane Sawyer (video here) as well as the formal statement released by the family on the day Naomi died. Each contains powerful words about the experience of mental illness and losing someone to suicide.

  • “My mother is entitled to her dignity and privacy.” With the Judds’ very public platform, there is some information they could protect and some they could not. Even without a public platform, many people who lose someone by suicide find themselves the subject of curiosity or, at worst, gossip. She did a beautiful job of highlighting this tension that so many families face. In response, she offered what she had to and protected other details that will remain their private memories.

  • “She was seen and she was heard in her anguish. And, she was walked home.” Gracious. This may be the most succinct way I have ever heard someone talk about supporting someone who suffers from mental illness. Whether we saw warning signs or not, for all who have lost someone to suicide, please consider it wasn’t that our love (or theirs) wasn’t enough. In fact, it may be that love let them live longer. Even with their mother’s life ending the way it did, they know they loved her well.

  • “When we are talking about mental illness, it is important to be clear and make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It’s very real…it lies…it’s savage.” “Our mother couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the hall of fame by her peers. That was the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her because the barrier between the regard in which they held her couldn’t penetrate into her heart. And the lie that the disease told her was so convincing. The lie that you are not enough. That you’re not loved. That you’re not worthy. Her brain hurt. It physically hurt.”

    If the earlier quote encapsulates supporting someone with mental illness, this one is about understanding it. As a therapist, I have sat with several people who wanted to end their lives. Did I think that was the solution? Of course not. Could I understand why, in the pain of their circumstances, they wanted to? Absolutely. The experience of mental illness is quite literally a filter that turns positive messages and experiences on their heads. And, in some forms, it is mentally, emotionally, and physically painful. It needs empathy. She clearly articulated her mother’s years-long struggle to survive in that condition. This is likely why she used the phrase, “…my mother chose not to continue to live” and in the formal statement as a family, “We lost our mother to the disease of mental illness.”

  • Toward the end of the interview, Ashley read a letter from her sister, Wynonna. “I need to take some time to process and I need this time to myself. I’m not ready yet to speak publicly about what happened. So I know you understand why I’m not there today. We will do this piece differently…I’m here.” I loved this so very much. They are handling the loss of their mother differently and honoring the other’s choice to do so. People can journey together through loss in very different ways while still serving as support for one other.

Ashley’s interview closed by doing two things I have seen people do over and over again when they lose someone to suicide. She highlighted her mother’s incredible qualities. She reveled in the memories. In effect, she offered what so many survivors say, “Please don’t forget what an incredible person they were.” “Don’t let their exceptionalness in life be canceled by the manner of their death.”

The other thing she did was ask people to seek help and offer resources, which is exactly how I will end as well. While many people have the experience of feeling suicidal at one point or another, many get the help they need and never feel suicidal again. There are local resources you can access through work EAP, insurance, or self-pay. There are online resources like BetterHelp, TalkSpace, and Faithful Counseling. There is a national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk or suicidepreventionlifeline.org to chat. And, in July 2022 a national three-digit number (988) will connect anyone who needs to talk to local, trained helpers who can help someone through a crisis.

Reach out if you need help and reach out if you think someone else does too. And, thank you, Ashley and Wynonna Judd for how you’ve honored your Mom and undoubtedly helped others. I hope your grief journey is blessed by the great love you showed her and that which she shared with you.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash, used with permission

It’s Hard to Be Present in Our Fast World

In our fast-paced world, I feel like I am constantly trying to set personal and family “busyness boundaries.” I am so grateful for the improvements in our technology that allow us to cook faster, go more places, instantly communicate, or get the information we need. But, the hustle is also confusing.

It’s confusing because it is hard to know what is a helpful hurry and what is a damaging one. And, it’s also hard to separate ourselves from the endorphins that come from checking off lists, padding accomplishments, and avoiding the discomfort of waiting. Believe it or not, that “ding” in our mental slot machines from getting “just one more thing done” is pretty addictive. So, even when we have the space and time to slow down, it can feel uncomfortable.

In a recent, relevant example from my own life, I take you to Walmart. I had several errands to run that night, one of which was making it to Sam’s before it closed at 8:00 pm. These stores are only a stones throw apart so when I checked the time at 7:20, I certainly had plenty of time. At this same moment, my children asked if they could read a book. Like, take a book off the shelf, sit their booties down in the aisle, and read the whole thing. So, because we had the time I said, “Sure!”

Anne Rulo It's Hard to Be Present in Our Fast World

At first, I was pleased. Who doesn’t want kids to read, right?! And, because the aisles were not crowded, they weren’t hurting a soul by plopping down and reading whatever caught their eye. Truth be told, I was rather proud of my chill. Unfortunately, that unraveled pretty quickly.

For the first few minutes, I was good. I checked my e-mail, social media, sent out a text or two. But then, I noticed I was growing uncomfortable. Nothing had changed. My children were still reading quietly and I still had plenty of time to get to Sam’s—but I started feeling anxious. Not anxious like nervous but anxious like I couldn’t sit still. I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable “being in the moment” because I wasn’t moving forward with tasks, purpose, and checking off of the proverbial list.

Thankfully, despite being uncomfortable I managed not to hurry my kids and we still made it to Sam’s in plenty of time. However, the whole situation caused me to reflect on how conditioned I am by the world’s pace and how I could stand a bit of reprogramming.

This pursuit of presence is not a new theme in my writing, but its repetition suggests how hard it is to accomplish sometimes. And, I know I’m not the only one who struggles with feeling so hustled by all the things that it’s hard to turn it off when we actually have the time and space to do so.

In the days ahead, my hope is that we can each take some time literally practicing being still. Being unstimulated. To test the boundaries of our to-do slot machines that don’t need to “ding” quite so often. While we are certainly designed to do work, we were never designed to operate at the levels the world will tempt us into if we chase every convenience, notification, and final drop of midnight oil.

Be still. At least sometimes.

When You Can’t See What God is Doing

Writing over at The Glorious Table today about a sweet little lesson I learned from the 2017 eclipse that swept the United States. See below for a preview or link here for the full post.

I am typically an “in-the-moment” kind of gal. I’m all about spontaneous adventures, being present, and looking for magic in the little things. But when a solar eclipse was on a path to be witnessed by a huge swath of the United States in 2017, I found myself completely underwhelmed. Definitely not like me.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I just thought the whole thing seemed overblown. For weeks, there were T-shirts in Walmart and commemorative cups at work. I received endless communication from my kids’ school, telling us how they were going to let them safely witness the event without destroying their retinas. Of course, the headlines about it were everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong. I generally thought it was neat and understood that it might be a once-in-a-lifetime event. But, was it really going to be so cool that it deserved all this hype? Fast forward to August 21, solar eclipse day.

At the time, I was working on a college campus, and everyone received a little packet of solar-eclipse-related swag. It included the aforementioned commemorative cup, as well as sunglasses and a little screen-printed towel. We all left our offices and headed out together, pulling up chairs and blankets around the campus football field. The time the sun was in partial eclipse was long, nearly an hour and a half, but we were told “totality” would last only about a minute. I chatted with my coworkers and prepared to think, “Well, that was neat” and move on, underwhelmed. I could not have been more wrong, but not for the reasons you might think.

Anne Rulo When You Can't See What God is Doing

As I lay there on the grass, the darkness of “totality” was quick. It was shocking how dark it got, and I could hear the gasps of surprise from the hundreds of people around me. The most incredible thing was not the eclipse itself, or even the darkness, but the response from the natural world around us. As the sky went dark, the birds and bugs went absolutely bananas, making all the noises of nightfall. It was not just normal nighttime loud—it came on like a roar, all the natural things responding to this unique event.

Isn’t that interesting? The focus was a visual event, but because we couldn’t see it safely, instead, we had to pay attention to the awesomeness of everything around it, echoing how they were affected by the event.

In the time since the eclipse, I’ve felt foolish about my pooh-pooh attitude toward the whole thing. But as he does any time we don’t meet a moment with the right attitude, God has used that experience to teach me. One, to check my gratitude, and two, to show me how he doesn’t just show up in ways we can (or should) directly see. Sometimes, we only get to witness his awesomeness by paying attention to other signs.

Here are just a few of my own real-life examples:

  • I can’t look directly at this pandemic and see the good in it. However, I can see how it has prompted several family members and friends to quit jobs, change careers, and take risks that have benefited their lives in immeasurable ways. I can see how people have been forced to pause and reevaluate their lives.

For more examples, link to the full post here…