Mining for Gold in Challenging Times

Dear Valor Families,

We care about your social-emotional and spiritual well-being during this time. I’m confident your academic learning will go on because you have dedicated and gifted teachers who are leaning into this process. I know you will continue to receive an excellent, Valor education. I want to encourage you to take great care of yourselves as you navigate online learning. Perhaps a mindset of “trying softer” vs. “trying harder”, as therapist and author Aundi Kolber encourages us, might best support your mental health as you approach this new experience and learning curve. 

“Trying softer” simply means giving yourself heaps of self-compassion and grace during this season. It is listening to what your mind, body, and soul need, and responding to those needs by caring for yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and relationally. It’s continuing to give your best while being kind to yourself.

According to new neuroscience, resilience is actually how you rest, not how you push harder. If you simply “try harder” you may miss the opportunity for resiliency to grow and expand during this season. Interesting, isn’t it? 

I want to teach you a resilience strategy I use in my own life to build strength and resilience: it’s called Mining for Gold. 

Learning Through Grief

Three years ago exactly, life as I knew it changed dramatically. My dad, Murray Kula, a beloved high school educator and coach became suddenly very ill during spring break. Over the course of just a few weeks, he would lose his memory, his ability to speak and communicate with us. My numbness quickly turned to fear, panic and the deepest sadness I had ever experienced. I learned that as Christ-followers, we can be brave in Him and afraid at the same time.

After several medical tests it was finally confirmed our dad was suffering from a very rapidly progressing, and devastatingly terminal brain disease. There was no answer to our crying out and prayers. My dad passed away on May 7th, 2017 with all of us by his side. And it was unrelenting sorrow and grief. 

I share this story with you because I have had some similar feelings over the past couple of weeks. I find myself looking around trying to make sense of all of this chaos and rapidly changing pandemic. I grieve for how things have gone from bad to worse in such a short amount of time. I am heartbroken for those without resources. I grieve for our community as we have all experienced loss on some level…for those who have lost opportunities, experiences, health, finances, and employment. I am very mindful of our seniors and their parents who are grieving the loss of the “lasts.” It is a season of grieving and it’s ok to lament. I’ve learned the valley of the shadow of death has another shadow that is hope and strength. 

Like the experience of losing my dad, I know the strength and opportunities that lie on the other side of chaos and devastating pain. One way we can collectively build resilience through adversity is to “mine the gold” from our own individual stories of painful and challenging experiences.

Gold mining is not to be confused with silver lining. It is simply an exercise in identifying and naming the golden nuggets – the meaningful, vulnerable, broken and beautiful parts of our human experiences and letting them inform our next breath. The human experience is full of suffering and grace, beauty and brokenness. I see the days ahead as golden opportunities to gain strength as families, perhaps engaging in some “holy mining moments” over meals, game nights, or quiet evening walks. Life has slowed way down. It’s a unique opportunity to listen to our stories of resilience.

He makes us lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside quiet waters. He restores our souls.” (Psalm 23)

If you try this “mine the gold” exercise, talk with friends or family members about what you learn.

  • When has there been a time we’ve had to overcome something difficult or challenging as a family?
  • What did we learn? How has that stayed with us? 
  • Students, when have you experienced deep hurt and pain, and what has helped you through?
  • Ask someone you trust to tell you where they’ve seen you show strength. Sometimes it is hard to see it in ourselves. 

Caring for Each Other

As a teacher, my dad painted a sign over the archway in our high school commons building one year that read: Through these halls walk the greatest students in Colorado. He loved his students well. Valor students, you are the object of our great affection. To us, you are the greatest students in all the land. And although we may not have you in our hallways, we have you in our hearts and prayers. If you need support in mining your gold or just finding your way through the day, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’ve created a form for you to fill out so that we can learn what would be supportive to you. 

Finally, parents, you can find supportive resources here to support your family’s mental health and well-being. Together we will do the brave work of supporting one another, acknowledging what is hard, grieving what is lost, and looking for what might even be gained in the breaking of our routines. We will look for glimmers of hope, and discover our strength through this season. Because, even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. For our God is with us. His rod and staff, they comfort us. (Psalm 23).

In Christ, 

Lindsey Ervin 

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