Well, kids, this one goes back to February of 2015 — way back then our struggles were building our muscles and preparing us for today. Each of us faces different levels of difficulty, but for all of us, the struggle is real. Last weekend I struggled with a high school senior who is trying to […]Struggle is real, Re-visit — Next Chapter
Month: April 2020
Coronavirus Diary #5: Stating the Obvious (and the not so obvious)
Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Friday morning that we would continue our stay-at-home order until May 15. This makes sense to me. While our numbers in Michigan are leveling out and we haven’t had quite as many new cases every day, that seems to me to be the result of us all staying away from each other — slowing the spread, flattening the curve. Since the virus still exists, and many are still carrying it, it would seem foolish to all of a sudden drop restrictions and start interacting with one another face-to-face.
And no one is suggesting that we do that. Not for a while.
In fact, it seems that for a while we’ll be experimenting with tightening and loosening restrictions and seeing what happens. Some states are being criticized for ‘opening up’ too soon, putting financial stability ahead of public health. Other states are being criticized for keeping the restrictions too strict for too long.
I’m not in any position to have an opinion about the best way to proceed, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m told — sheltering in place, going out for necessity only and with an abundance of caution, washing my hands, and covering my face.
I can do these things with little difficulty because my husband and I can work from home, we have everything we need, and we have not been infected. We eat well, have access to all kinds of television shows, read good books, and sleep comfortably each night. Our loved ones are all safe and well, and we are able to communicate with them regularly.
Not everyone is so fortunate.
So, so many have lost their jobs and are suffering from the financial impact. Over 20% of our country is unemployed at the moment (26 million as of April 24, 2020). I can’t imagine the stress they must be feeling. While stimulus checks have been promised and unemployment payments have been subsidized, no one can really be sure when those dollars will arrive or if they will be enough. While more than half of qualifying Americans have received their stimulus checks, most of those who have filed for unemployment will be waiting a while to get financial assistance.
Many do not have what they need. Many families and individuals do not have enough food. Grocery stores are short on certain items due to shifting demands and the reorganizing of supply chains. Medical facilities continue to struggle to obtain necessary supplies and equipment.
Many, many are sick. As of this writing, over 2.8 million cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed around the world; over 200,000 have died. In the US, over 965,000 cases have been confirmed; over 54,000 have died. In Michigan alone, there are over 37,000 confirmed cases and over 3,300 deaths. And this is far from over.
Many have no time to rest. Parents of school-aged children are juggling their own work responsibilities while managing the educational, physical, social, and emotional needs of their children. Governmental leaders are doing their best to make decisions that impact all of us while facing criticism, protests, growing death tolls, and and a devastated economy. Essential workers have been burning the candle at both ends to provide medical care, necessary supplies, and food to the rest of us. They’ve been going steady for weeks on end, and they’ve got to be exhausted.
Some are unable to communicate with those that they love. We all have heard stories of people who have loved ones in the hospital who are sick or dying alone. Because of the danger of contagion, no one can visit. Often, it’s challenging to make contact of any kind — even a phone call. Some have been separated from loved ones who live in nursing homes — a generation that is unfamiliar with Smart phones, FaceTime and Zoom rooms.
So why am I writing all this? Am I just stating the obvious?
But I think right now the obvious needs to be stated.
Because the obvious is heavy, and it’s a burden we can’t put down — now or anytime soon.
We’re lugging this load down a long dusty road, whipped by the wind, parched and tired, and we can’t see our destination — the place where we can set it all down.
We don’t know when it will be safe to hug our aging parents, when we’ll be able to play with our grandchildren, when we can sit across the table from our friends, or when we can simply get a haircut.
We don’t know when our finances will recover, when we’ll go back to work, when we’ll reschedule our vacations, or when we’ll worship together in church, gathering at the altar for the bread and the wine, joining our voices in song, hearing one another in prayer.
And what is not obvious is that walking around every day with this very heavy burden is exhausting. We’re tired, and tender, and emotional.
We feel weepy, then angry, then giddy, then hopeless, then resolute, then determined, then disappointed, then devastated, then weepy….
So, we think to ourselves, “let’s do something fun — go see some friends, have a party, go to the beach, have dinner out,” but then we realize the obvious:
we are under quarantine,
Covid 19 is a killer,
the only weapon we have to defend ourselves at the moment is social distancing,
supplies are tight,
people are suffering,
there’s not much we can do but to keep doing our part.
The obvious is heavy, so if you’re tired, it makes sense. Have a seat. Take a break. Call a friend. Laugh. Cry. Yell.
If you can, extend a hand. Connect with someone else.
Consider sharing — some time, some money, some food, some resources, some hope.
It’s a long dusty road, and the burden is heavy.
Let’s help one another along.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2
Narrative threads, re-visit — Next Chapter
This post, written almost exactly two years ago, speaks to my heart today. Though winter seems to keep blasting on, though we’re still quarantined inside our homes for almost a month now, all is not lost. My rhubarb has once again dared to break through the frozen ground to remind me that this plot has […]Narrative threads, re-visit — Next Chapter
Coronavirus Diary #4, loss, grief, and encouragement
This past week as we faced snow-covered ground and chilling temps, I started to believe that life as we once knew it was over and we be quarantined forever. I started feeling anxious and a little bit desperate. What if this continues for months and we can’t see our parents or our children — our siblings or our friends?
I started considering scenarios in which my husband and I threw provisions in the car and drove the three hours to check in on his parents and then two more hours to check on mine. I saw us driving twelve hours straight east to see our daughters — to eat lunch with them at a picnic table out in the open — keeping space but close enough to touch only if we dared.
My emotions are heightening. I guess because this coming Saturday was supposed to be our son’s college graduation day — after four years serving in the Army and another four years going to classes, he was set to walk across the stage to roaring applause. We’d already envisioned ourselves there, yelling, clapping, whooping, and hollering. Last night, I checked his university’s website — again — and found next to the original details the word ‘canceled’ in red. Just canceled. Period.
Next week, our daughter was supposed to celebrate her college graduation, too. After six long years of studying and getting sober she was going to proudly don her cap and gown to celebrate her achievement and her recovery. We had the plane tickets, the days off, and the desire to cheer her on, but her university’s website says that the graduation will be held at a “time that is determined to be safe,” which right now feels like a long way off.
Because really, despite recent talk of Phase One, Phase Two, and Phase Three plans for coming out of quarantine, no one is bold enough to imagine a time when we’ll feel comfortable packing a stadium or an auditorium. No one is picturing a crowded courtyard where families kiss and hug and snap a million pictures. No one can say when those kinds of meetings will happen.
And so I’m trying to find ways right now to celebrate them. I’m trying to find ways to let them know that we care — that we are thinking of them — that we love them — that we are so, so proud of all that they’ve done and all that they are. Even when we can’t see them or be with them.
And nothing I can think of feels like enough.
I know I’m not alone in this. Surely countless individuals across the globe have cancelled parties, graduations, weddings, and even funerals. Worse, thousands now have lost their lives — over 166,000 as of this morning. Experts say that number would’ve been exponentially higher had we not all gone inside and closed our doors last month. We could be grieving much, much more.
And so we stay at home — we keep our distance — because we know it’s our job right now.
That, and grieving.
I’m grieving the loss of these celebrations — grieving them hard. I’m trying to remember that quarantining/social distancing is necessary action in order to save the lives of those we love so that we can celebrate another day, but today that’s just not helping me.
A few things are helping a bit.
Work is helping. I’m thankful — I am — that I have steady work. In fact, we are busy providing online instruction to kids who are trying to understand why they are suddenly not allowed to go to school, see their friends, go to church, or participate in sports. We are providing consistency by showing up every day and providing high quality instruction, and we’re trying to have a little fun — playing tic-tac-toe and battleship online, telling jokes, giving prizes, and being silly.
My friends are helping. I am part of a small group of women who have met for breakfast and prayer for the past several years. We’ve read several books together, we’ve retreated together, and we’ve stood with each other through significant life struggles, so it makes sense that we would continue to show up for each other now. The other morning we were meeting and one shared about how she is processing her grief.
She said she had read, “wailing women teach one another… in grieving we take time to experience and feel the emotions…it’s a way to bring everyone home…”
We all agreed to make ‘grief’ a focus of our prayers and our study right now…we might as well, because we had already begun grieving.
On Friday and Saturday, I ‘met’ with a broader group of women — 100 pastors’ wives who meet each Spring. Our in-person gathering was cancelled, but the leaders decided to offer an online gathering. We started on Friday night with a welcome video on Youtube which offered worship music and streaming photos from previous gatherings. Then, we met on Facebook to “play games”. A post would pose a question, “What is your favorite ice cream flavor?” or “What would you never purchase ‘used’?” Dozens of women replied and commented in the moment, and I found myself sitting in my home office smiling and laughing. I felt so connected. Saturday morning, 100 of us met in a Zoom room for Bible study and prayer. I was so happy to just click through the four screens of familiar faces that I found myself asking if we could do this again soon — let’s not wait a whole year to get together again.
My family is helping. Like many of you, I’m talking to family more — we Zoom, we FaceTime, we phone call, we text. We crave connection from within our walls. We long to see one another — to check in, to laugh, to talk about this experience. It’s so good to see the familiar — those who’ve known us and loved us through all the seasons, who’ve seen us at our best and worst. Connecting with family feels like an anchor holding me in place reminding me of what we’ve already survived and that we’ll get through this, too.
My husband is helping. I’ve spent more than thirty years with this man, and he continues to be the one who sees me, understands me, cares for me, and wants to hang out with me. Right now we’re walking, laughing, hand washing produce and wiping down surfaces, and exploring obscure British television. I am so thankful he’s the one I’m sheltering in place with.
My dog is helping. Pure and faithful companionship — that’s all.
My church is helping. We love our church. We love the people in our small group who we meet with every Thursday for conversation and prayer and who we worship “with” every Sunday as we sit in our own homes — joining each other on Facebook Messenger video chat while we stream our service on YouTube. We love our pastors, Gabe and Marcus, who continue to provide quality leadership through thoughtful messages on Sunday and twice throughout the week and who are coordinating and overseeing numerous activities to serve our congregation and our community during this time.
So, I’m grieving, as many of you are grieving, but I’m also hopeful because I’m connected — to friends, to family, to my husband, to my dog, and to my church. I’m gonna be sad in the coming weeks as I grieve the loss of some celebrations — some markers of significant life events for the people that I love — but I’m going to be ok.
The time of mourning will pass; we will celebrate again.
Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.Jeremiah 31:13
Bits of Truth, Re-visit — Next Chapter
In Monday’s post, I shared how my pastor’s words on Sunday connected so strongly with me and how they were able to help me start to shake off the funk that had settled on me. I remembered what he said because I scratched down his words in a small notebook I carry with me to […]Bits of Truth, Re-visit — Next Chapter
Coronavirus Diary #3: Feeling the funk.
I lost my sense of humor this week. I found myself walking around with a scowl on my face, side-eying the dog, and unintentionally snapping at my husband.
I can’t trace it back to any moment, any inciting event, or any offense.
Instead, the funk descended on me, as the sunny skies of last weekend turned gray and then started spitting — rain, then hail, then snow. My facial expressions tightened, my tone darkened, and my sensitivities heightened.
Maybe you’re feeling like this, too. We’ve been sheltering at home for a million days, the death toll keeps climbing, and we don’t know when this will end.
Maybe you’ve got other stuff going on in addition to dealing with a pandemic.
Maybe, like me, you’ve got family members who are aging or have health issues, and you feel the weight of not being able to take an active role in caring for them right now.
Maybe, like me, you now know one or two or more people who have contracted the virus, or worse, some who have died. The whole earth is practically groaning with the deaths of over 114,000 from coronavirus let alone all the deaths from other causes in recent weeks.
And if all that wasn’t enough, it’s Holy Week and we can’t be with our people.
I tried to “make the best of it” when we participated in the livecast of our congregation’s Palm Sunday worship service last Sunday. We ‘joined’ our small group on Facebook messenger video chat while we live-streamed the service; then we ‘stuck around’ after church for coffee hour with our friends. It was great to see everyone; it really was. We truly are making the best of a bad situation. Still, I want to be at church. I want to hear the babies crying and the papers rustling. I want to gather in a circle for the bread and the wine. I want to hear the voices of the communion of the saints singing “Hosannah!”
But not this year.
I felt deflated on Thursday afternoon as we prepared to virtually share our Seder meal with our community group. It would be different, too, this year — with each family scavenging their homes for whatever they might use to represent lamb, charoset, parsley, and horseradish. We’d hear the story of the Passover, asking “why is this night unlike any other”, and remind ourselves that “it would have been enough,” but somehow, it doesn’t feel like enough.
And then on Good Friday, I paused from work at lunchtime and sat on my couch to hear music come through our television and to listen to the story of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and burial.
I couldn’t stay through the end — the stripping of the altar, the darkening of the room, the closing of the tomb — because I had to sign back in to work, to meet a student, to put on a smile and behave as though everything is as it should be.
But it’s not. Not this year.
I’ve been trying to shake this funk — I’ve been exercising, eating right, practicing yoga, and getting outside whenever I can. I roasted a turkey breast and shared bits with my husband and our dog while I sliced it for dinner, and still I was left feeling weighed down, irked, and out of sorts.
I don’t typically give up easily, so even on Saturday, I crawled out of bed, did my morning routine, finished a couple housekeeping tasks, and threw on some clothes. The sun had come out, and I felt a spring in my step as I ventured out to the grocery store clad in mask and gloves, got the few items we needed this week, brought them home, cleaned them, and put them away. I took an extra long walk, ate a delicious turkey sandwich, soaked in the tub, and read a good book. I was doing all the self care that would shift this mind, this heart, this attitude.
Since I had a block of time, I decided to make some progress on the medical masks I’ve been sewing for a local hospital. I had several prepped for sewing, it shouldn’t take long to zip them through the machine and finish this batch so they could be delivered. I had everything running smoothly and was beginning to move efficiently, when all of a sudden, ‘clunk’, my needle broke. I didn’t have a spare, so I checked online to see if I could pick one up from JoAnn’s or Target, but no, not when everyone in the world has turned to sewing projects and every store is open only for limited hours. So, I tossed a few packs of needles in my online shopping cart, clicked ‘purchase’, turned off my sewing machine, tidied my area, and walked away.
This morning I woke up — Easter morning. Not a jelly bean in the house, not one egg hidden, and no reason to put on a dress.
I started by doing what I do every morning, reading my Bible reading plan, writing three pages, practicing yoga, and taking a shower.
My husband handed me breakfast as we walked to our living room sanctuary and turned on our church’s Easter service. We sang a few songs, and I confessed to my husband that I wasn’t feeling it. I was still in a funk.
And as though he knew, our pastor started by saying that while some of us were excited by the resurrection, others of us “can’t shake the uneasiness, the ‘not-at-homeness,'” of this season — the coronavirus season.
I leaned in. You mean I’m not alone? I want to be excited — even Easter-level excited — but I can’t seem to shake this funk.
And as though just the two of us where having a conversation, the pastor replied, “You may be tempted to look at this situation through the lens of common experience, but God is at work.”
This is not a common experience. We don’t have a frame of reference for life during a pandemic, but we can trust that God is at work.
Our pastor said that we might feel like the disciples did when they went home on Friday, knowing that their friend, their leader, their Messiah lay dead in a tomb. They must have felt shaken, uncertain of their future, and a little light on hope.
So when they heard the stone was rolled away, they were surprised — even though Jesus had told them He would rise, even though they knew He was the Messiah. They had gotten lost in their grief for a bit — they had forgotten that while they could not see Him, Jesus was still at work.
And He’s at work right now — He is always at work to heal and restore all things. Even right now. Even during a pandemic. Even when I can’t shake this funk.
Our pastor ended by saying this:
It may seem like the coronavirus has ruined Easter, but Easter has ruined the coronavirus.
It may seem like death has ruined Easter, but Easter has ruined death.
It may seem like sin has ruined Easter, but Easter has ruined sin.
It may seem like this funk has ruined Easter, but Easter is right now ruining my funk.
“Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free!
“Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me!
“You have broken every chain; there’s salvation in your name!
“Jesus Christ, my living Hope!”
**After the worship service, we chatted with our community group during our virtual coffee hour. We went for a walk, then I spent some time here processing my grief, my disappointment, and my hope. Then, as we spent our afternoon videoconferencing with our siblings and our children, I could feel the funk lift a bit. We laughed, we smiled, and we believed that God is indeed at work.
***I will link Pastor Gabe’s sermon here, in case you, too, need a little lifting of your funk.
Whatever you do…Re-visit — Next Chapter
Whatever you have to do right now — stay at home, travel far away, go to school, or look for work — is God’s work. It’s His work in you, through you, and for you.Whatever you do…Re-visit — Next Chapter
Coronavirus Diary #2, And so we continue…
Now that we are who-even-remembers-how-many-days into our confinement, we’re settling in to some rhythms.
We were already getting up early every morning to read, pray, write, and exercise way before this all started; and we’ve continued. We had been going to work between 7 and 9 every morning, and that hasn’t changed. Our commutes are shorter, of course. My husband’s 300 yard walk to central campus has diminished to a mere 15 feet from bed to desk, and my four mile drive has shrunk to just a few steps across the floor.
His work focus has changed from supporting 1000-plus students on campus to continuing to meet their needs from afar while also keeping an eye on the physical campus and working with university leaders to respond institutionally, departmentally, and personally to in-the-moment changes.
My work has remained much the same. The company I work for has long provided remote instruction. I’ve worked with kids from Great Britain, California, Utah, Ohio, Florida, and Georgia. We have always preferred, of course, to have our students physically with us — close proximity allows us to more easily build rapport and create a culture of fun. However, I am seeing in this time of necessary distancing, that our staff is rising to the challenge to ensure that we don’t lose those elements. Last week two of my coworkers dressed as Wonder Woman to celebrate Superheroes day. Yesterday, during a break in an evaluation, four of my coworkers popped into my online “room” to greet the student I was working with — to say hi, be silly, and offer encouragement. For many of our families, the fact that we’ve been able to keep instruction going right on schedule and to continue to bring some elements of fun has been a stability in this otherwise disrupted season.
We both continue to work all day, but it seems that now that we are in the same space, we are finding time to go on more walks together — sometimes over lunch, often at the end of the day or on the weekend. We hear each other’s voices and perhaps have a better sense of what it is the other does all day long.
One change that I have welcomed is the decrease in the amount of time I spend in the car. To be fair, my commute was — during the height of rush hour — no more than 20 minutes, and even on a very errand-heavy day, I spent a relatively small amount of time behind the wheel. Still, now that I rarely leave my home, I wonder if just the act of getting in the car puts me in go mode more quickly than I am aware. When I jump in the driver’s seat, do I automatically start rushing — trying to get to work on time, squeeze in one more errand, and get home as quickly as possible?
I ask because I seem a little more chill these days. I don’t really get fired up on the five second commute from the kitchen to the home office. I might rush the last few minutes if I’ve spent too much time in the shower or if I’ve lingered over my writing a little longer than I’d planned, but it doesn’t feel the same. I don’t find myself arriving at work buzzing with adrenaline.
In fact, I feel less rushed and harried over all. I mean, I’m not gonna get caught in traffic, I don’t have to plan extra time to get gas, I won’t be rushing to the mall to walk on my lunch hour, and I don’t have to speed home to start dinner, because seriously, what’s gonna happen if we don’t get dinner made before 7pm?
My husband noticed that meal preparation has helped us both shift from the work day to the evening now that the lines between the two aren’t as obvious. We’re eating well. He’s enjoying building sandwiches every day for lunch. I’ve made fresh salads, roasted a large turkey breast, and made two kinds of soup. And after to all the work that goes into making sure that food is safe, we find ourselves appreciating each bite a bit more.
We — like many — have begun to handle our food much differently. I’ve become the designated shopper, and when I come home with bags of groceries, we do our best to “clean them” as we saw recommended in a video put out a couple of weeks ago. Once we’re done with that, I head straight to the shower and wash head to toe.
I went out early this morning to two different grocery stores where I, and all the other shoppers, practiced social distancing. Wearing masks and gloves, we walked down one-way-only aisles, stood at least six feet apart in line, and got what we needed and left quickly. When I got home, my husband met me at the door, and we removed boxes, wiped down plastic bags and bottles, and transported a mountain of produce to the kitchen he had sanitized in preparation. Then he began to wash and wash and wash.
By the time everything was clean and put away, we were wiped out and starting to question how much we actually need Brussel sprouts in our lives.
We’re reassessing a lot right now.
What do we really care about? Mostly family, friends, our health, and our faith.
How do we want to spend our time? Priority goes to self-care: Bible study, prayer, exercise, and healthful eating. Connecting and caring for others comes in a close second.
As we’ve Zoomed and chatted with others this week, consensus seems to be that we all feel a little powerless. We wish we could help those serving in hospitals, support those who are sick, and relieve those who are incredibly overwhelmed or lonely.
Last night as we “met” with a small group of friends, one man mentioned, “I just wish I could do something.” Another in the group, a physician, said, “If you are staying home right now, you are doing the most important thing. The only way to beat this is for us to distance ourselves from one another. This is your service right now.”
And so we continue.
And as we continue, we find little ways to help — phoning friends and family a little more often, tipping those who serve us a little more generously, offering one another a little extra grace as we get frustrated and grumpy, and praying that God will have mercy on us.
“Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us.”Psalm 123: 3
Practicing Yoga, a revisit
During a particularly difficult time a couple of years ago, a good friend reminded my husband and I, “none of this is a surprise to God.” He saw it …Practicing Yoga, a revisit