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Nora Swango Stanger: I am a creature of habit

I am truly a creature of habit.

Every morning, rising at the same time, throwing on jeans and taking the dog for a walk before others in my house or even my neighborhood have opened their eyes.

The difference this morning was that I had to wear a sweatshirt and could see my breath in the chilly autumn air.

I love the quiet of the early morning, the sun just barely beginning to turn the deep blue hue of the sky into a myriad of colors from blue to orange to yellow. As the sun grows in the sky, its rays hit the oranges, reds, yellows and green leaves of the fall trees. It’s truly a grand performance, quiet enough to not wake the sleeping but dramatic enough to energize my spirit.

One of the great gifts of COVID-19 is that it has made me slow down. Pre-COVID I would be on the highway by 6 a.m. Though I always tried to make the hour drive to work into a devotion/meditation time, I have constant interruptions with my mind reviewing the many tasks, meetings and decisions I have to make in the day ahead.

In addition, I strive to keep a safe distance while staying aware of the sometimes bumper to bumper speeding traffic.

Still, most of the time, I loved this crazy morning drive to work routine. It was my first and perhaps only alone time of the day. I’d listen to inspirational music and contemplate words of wisdom in my heart. Though I sometimes miss the drive, this era has forced me to find another way to have those holy meditative beginnings to my day.

As a young child, I remember being frustrated when the old folks would talk about the good ole days and how much better things were in the past. Now, in my mature years, I realize the old days were not easier, just different. Somehow, our memories are but golden wrapping on the past when comparing life to what we have to deal with today.

The truth is life always has had and will always have challenges. Our task is to make the best of what is in our path. I don’t know what today or tomorrow holds, but as a woman of faith I see a mighty Presence guiding me, sometimes even carrying me. When I look back on troubles I have known, I can see good that has come out of it, even if it’s just that I was in the path of another lonely journeyer and offered hope to them.

I also recall people who have entered my life at just the right moment of my need. Some of these people offered only a flash of light while others have remained solid in my life.

Life is very much like being in the midnight hours. Just when you think the cold loneliness of your troubles have swallowed you, the sun starts to peak through the horizon. Beautiful colors surround you and within moments you can see clearly. You hear that gentle whisper, “I’m with you,” and you can resume your journey.

My walk is finished for this morning. I’m sitting on my back porch drinking my coffee as I write this. I feel the warmth of my sweatshirt in the cool air. I can hear the birds’ song. I stop every now and then to smile as the squirrels are chattering and chasing each other about. I feel contentment. And my heart is turned to you, my readers.

My advice to you is to slow down. Take an early morning walk and purposely notice the fortunes of creation all around you.

Realize how gifted you are to have the ability to breathe, walk and even think. Intentionally bring to mind those who have championed you and those who need you to be their champion.

Life is a journey, sometimes the path is broken. But God allows the sun to rise and the promise of better to come is with us.

Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at norastanger@gmail.com.