Two Lists that Help Me Find Joy in the Midst of the Negative

This summer I’ve been making two lists. The first list I actually started in the spring. It is a sad list of what I didn’t get to do as a result of the pandemic.

The second list I started after I finally accepted the reality of our new normal—at least for the foreseeable future. It is the list of what I did get to do instead of what I didn’t get to do.


My first list—

What I didn’t get to do—

Family vacation with the whole family

Finish leading my women’s Bible study at church

My usual errands with ease

Go to my niece and nephew’s high school graduation

Go to one of my best friend’s daughter’s high school graduation open house

Going to church

Talking to people face-to-face with no fear of germs


After I grieved my list and said goodbye to my pity party, I started paying attention to all the gifts God is giving me in the midst of this crazy time.

Below is my second list.

What I did do instead—

Lots of play time with the Grands. We have played in the yard and treehouse more than we would have normally because no one had any other place to be. We have watched the garden grow and pick the veggies as soon as they ripened—the same with the raspberry bushes. We have watched the endless antics of the geese on our little lake. Grand #2 gets so excited when the geese are here. It’s a real event for him.

A couple of our kids came home for a few days. We had the best July 4th—games in the yard, eating outside, and then one of our neighbors treated us to an amazing fireworks display. No crowds, no sitting in traffic to get out of the parking lot, no long drive home. It was the best day.

We went to see a couple of the kids for a few days. It’s always so fun to see them in their own space. The guys built a piece of furniture together. My daughter and I took a couple of safe-socially-distanced outings. We found a farm market with the best peaches and zinnias to pick. My son-in-law taught me about cooking with okra, something I have never done. We got a real flavor of living in the South, especially when I asked for “regular” iced tea at Chik Fil A and the server said, “What is regular tea?” She only knew of sweet tea. It was a classic Yankee meets the South moment.

Instead of my usual summer busyness, I am taking time to soak in the moments. I know I say this often, but it is true. I am learning to see and savor what or who is in front of me—


~Our deck and backyard

~My little writing desk in our treehouse

~Fresh produce

~The morning sky

~Time with Gene and the girls, either in person or on the phone

I also am learning to cook more vegetarian after learning more about the Blue Zones and the healthy people who live in them.

I miss not seeing my friends and the ease with which I used to live my life. But what I have received instead is the gift of really enjoying the simple parts of my life that I used to take for granted. The pandemic has forced me to slow way down, look to God, and see what He has for me. It’s been really good.

Yes, I wish the virus would disappear tomorrow. But until it does (and hopefully even after it does), I will do my best to thoroughly enjoy each moment and squeeze every bit of life from it.

I would love to hear what gifts from God are you savoring in this time of slowing down and being at home more.

Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

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