© 2019-2020 Maggie Wallem Rowe

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View from the Ridge

Maggie's Blog

  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Are you feeling distracted and confused, finding it difficult to concentrate and finish tasks?

Maybe you can’t tell one day from the next, as if every day is Groundhog’s Day after you’ve lost the normal rhythm of work, shopping, church, volunteering, and social events.

Do you struggle with keeping anxiety under control as each day seems to bring news that’s more foreboding, and the loss of once innocuous activities that are now forbidden?

Me too. You are not alone.

Beloved friends, for the past 15 years I have sought to share simple thoughts, now from the Ridge, that speak into the needs of those of you who mosey by my online home for a visit.

But never EVER has a global crisis occurred like the pandemic assaulting us now, where every single one of us wakes us to a world that has changed almost overnight.

My friend Charity Singleton Craig describes this phenomenon so well:

Years from now, COVID-19 will not evoke the same kinds of memories that other international crises do. We won't ask, "Where were you when ...?" kinds of questions. Because this isn't a "normal" kind of crisis. The news hasn't come like a hurricane, ravaging the coast for a day and then dissipating. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic has fallen on us like a winter storm: just a few flakes at first, but eventually mounds and mounds of snow that we have to do something about. And in this case, the "snow" just keeps falling.

Since my last lighthearted post two weeks ago (seems like years) about doughnuts, of all silly things, I have wrestled every single day with the desire to reach out to each of you individually to make sure you are OK, that you are safe and healthy and well cared for. I’ve mentally composed at least a dozen posts and not published a single one because circumstances changed before I could even hit "send."

But in moments like this, as my friend Becky says, we can only do the next right thing.

So I’m brainstorming with Mike and my kids about ways that each of us can do something – the next right thing – to alleviate in our own small ways the social isolation, loneliness and fear permeating our world. As often as I can, I’ll post small things – just one or two for each day – that we can implement together.

Here's an idea for you today.

Use this time to teach the kids in your life how to protect themselves and others during this pandemic when good hygiene is crucial. Earlier this week, I quickly rewrote the lyrics to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to teach our grandkids how to “Do the Five” steps recommended by the World Health Organization. With all American kids and many around the world currently being educated at home, call this Music Class!

[ If helpful, feel free to pass this along to the littles in your life!]

And while we’re all sheltering in place, unable to physically hold, hug, and comfort one another? As Lynn Ungar has so beautifully expressed in her recent poem Pandemic, let’s reach out with our hearts instead.

What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath— the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down. And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live. –Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

We are not alone. We never have been.

Immanuel – GOD WITH US. He loves you so dearly, and I do too.

Copyright 2020 Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie's first book, This Life We Share: 52 Reflections on Journeying Well with God and Others, releases in hardcover May 5, 2020 from NavPress.

Which among you are seriously scared about something this week?

You have my sincere sympathies, because worry’s always trying to win the war in my brain too. Sometimes that old bully bloodies my nose a time or two or ten, so I fight back with those tools I told you about last week, and meanwhile I take a nice long drive for something calming and life-sustaining. A spa would be lovely but give me a simple pleasure I don’t need a credit card for.

Like a toasted-almond sesame-encrusted cinnamon doughnut that it takes a quarter tank of gas to get to.

Honestly, who would be obsessed enough to drive forty-five minutes for a doughnut, even if you did just see a pinup picture of one of those sweet ‘rings in a glossy magazine and knew such a trip to be in your destiny?

All photos by Michael Rowe

So you tell your honey, yes you do, that you need a trip into Asheville to look at cars. After all, your ride’s a teenager now and sure is acting like one. She’s noisy, balks at gettin’ going in the mornings, and eats up way more of the family resources than she oughta. So if plotting her replacement involves a Saturday trip to the city, why, you might just need to fuel up for the hunt.

And that means a trip to a hole in the wall on Haywood Road that makes the best darn doughnuts this side of the Mason-Dixon.

At Hole (weren’t they sly with the name), the only thing more indulgent than the donuts is the smiles.

We walk in early of a Saturday morning and look around like the uninitiated newbies we are. There are no racks of ready-to-go doughnuts, only a row of earnest young doughnut-makers shaping those magical golden orbs by hand.

Educated in advance by our state magazine (cleverly called Our State magazine), we know that Hole doesn’t offer 37 flavors of cake doughnuts or bagels (imposters!) We step up to the counter, but before we get down to business we get introduced around by Laurie ( It’s “L-a-u-r-i-e”), who has the broadest smile this side of the M-D.

“Hey, y’all,” she calls over to the crew, “This here’s Mike and Maggie and it’s their first visit!”

One we’ve been properly welcomed, it’s decision time. I’ve been known to stand at a Dunkin’ Donuts airport counter dithering over the choices until the people behind me begin to mutter about missing their planes.

But Hole keeps it simple. You choose from just three varieties always on offer – cinnamon sugar, vanilla glazed, and that insane toasted-almond sesame combination - plus a rotating special.

Brilliant marketing! If you’re going to stand in a line-out-the-door on a busy morning, OF COURSE you will choose all three. It would be poor stewardship of time to do anything else.

“But I thought we were on a diet,” hubby said on the way into Asheville. Not complaining, mind you, just making sure he wasn’t aiding and abetting a food prison escapee.

Nope, no diet, as my dear readers know. I’ve made my vow to make mostly healthy food choices for the rest of my life, which last time I checked was shorter than ever. Besides, a healthy diet sometimes includes benevolently inhaling a doughnut or three to keep the delightful people we’ve just met gainfully employed.

Moreover, these are stressful times, y’all. During the Great Depression, child star Shirley Temple lit up movie screens. Her precocious talent aside, the curly-haired moppet provided an inexpensive, joyful escape to millions of movie-goers beset by worry. During the last recession, sales boomed for comfort items like wine and chocolate.
Now I’ve no degree in doughnuts, but I suspect they accomplish much the same thing. The academic types claim we crave sweets when we’re tense or traumatized.

Maybe so, maybe not, but give me a sunny Saturday morning at a joint like Hole, where they take the time to know your name and bring magic to your table fresh and hot.

The only thing more indulgent than the doughnuts is the smiles.

- Another View From the Ridge, copyright 2020, Maggie Wallem Rowe

A powerful tornado that roared through Nashville this week. A stock market plunging wildly. A worldwide panic over a possible pandemic.

Sometimes the things we fear may not touch us personally, but we can't turn away from the images online that grab our hearts or the texts from friends that send fear racing through our veins.

A loved one's mother hospitalized with double pneumonia and possible sepsis. Friends scrambling to put their lives back together in the middle of rubble. One very dear to us quarantined far from home awaiting test results to determine if he has contracted COVID-19 as his host has.

A hand-wringer by nature, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to distinguish worry from its sibling, concern. They share a family resemblance, after all. Both are kin to care. Each has its ancestry in the state of apprehension.

How do you separate these conjoined twins?

When I reentered the corporate workforce in a new profession at age 53, I sat at my desk the first morning staring at my computer, wondering whether I’d ever learn enough to truly be useful. Worrying about failure? Futile. But caring enough to work hard to reward the confidence of those who hired me? Totally legit. I printed out a simple sign in big block letters to remind myself that every day I learned something new would be a good day at work.

There’s been plenty to worry about in other corners of life, though - medical crises and sudden deaths in our extended family, financial pressures weighing on many we love, once-valued relationships that turned a corner and slipped out of sight.

I care deeply about these situations. You have them too. So how do we disentangle legitimate concern from its illegitimate brother, worry? You’ve stayed with me this far because worry has waggled his fingers in your face too. He’s the playground bully who pokes and prods and steals your peace of mind as if he could spend it for lunch.

If you’re as sick of being bullied as I am, here are a few strategies to kick worry to the curb.

· Talk it out. Verbally processing concerns helps. Seeking information and talking it through with trusted advisors goes a long way towards alleviating anxiety. Talk to medical personnel, your pastor or a counselor. Take notes, seek second opinions. Take your dark thoughts on long walks to expose them to the light. Pour out your pain to God.

· Resist the rut. Someone described persistent worry as carving a rut into which all other thoughts drain. Once you’ve processed your concerns and taken them to those who are in a position to help, switch lanes. What you fear most might well run off into the ditch before it ever reaches you.

· Pay attention to the positive. It’s there, you know. That half-full glass. The loved one who is getting better. That friend with Stage Four cancer who has a 50% survival rate. The marriage that might improve or dissolve, but in either case will not leave the suffering spouse in limbo forever.

Don’t fret or worry, Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

I have an awful habit of inquiring anxiously, “Is everything alright?” when one of my kids calls unexpectedly. They know me well enough to laugh and say, “Yeah Mom, everything’s fine.”

But you know what? The next time a call comes, I’m gonna say, “Hey, what’s new and good today?”

What you fear may never arrive. But even if it does, you can still kick worry to the curb.

Let him go bully someone else. Or better yet, come alongside them and put your arm through theirs. Then link both your arms through God’s and face the bully together.

Worry and concern can feel like conjoined twins, but prayer has the power to sever the connection.

Adapted from This Life We Share by Maggie Wallem Rowe. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.