Coronavirus Diary #20: Please, Wait.

Note: I finished editing and recording this around 5pm yesterday — right before Governor Whitmer announced new restrictions for Michigan that will start on Wednesday. It just makes sense, friends. The numbers can’t be denied. Please stay safe and stay well.

I’ve completed my ten days’ isolation after my positive Covid-19 test, and my husband is almost done with his fourteen day quarantine which resulted from my diagnosis. (He is still testing negative.) After patiently abiding our sentences, we are tasting freedom, as it were. I’ve taken my first venture out of the house to the grocery store, and he has relocated his quarantine from the hotel where he was staying while I was contagious to the confines of our home that have now been deemed safe.

You’d be amazed how little one needs to survive 10 days of Covid confinement — even a mild case pretty much obliterates the appetite and renders one exhausted. One can survive on a little chicken soup, hot tea, cold medicine, sleep, and prayer — prayer that the case will be mild, that it won’t spread to anyone else, and that recovery will come quickly and fully.

And when recovery comes, one wants only to disinfect the whole house and give thanks that it’s over.

That’s where I am today, or that’s where I almost am. Although I’m cleared to go out in public, I am not symptom-free. I’ve never had a fever, but I still have a lingering headache and some mild congestion. I am still sleeping 9-10 hours each night, and am trying to take it easy. I will continue to wear a mask everywhere I go, and I won’t come within six feet of others, because although my case was indeed very mild and although the Health Department has said I’m not contagious, I am going to act with an abundance of caution because I wouldn’t want anyone else to get this.

I mean, it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever if someone got a case as mild as mine, but what we’ve learned from Covid is that it is unpredictable — some skate through fairly easily, like I did, but some spend months in the ICU. Some never come home.

And, we all know that cases are on the rise. It seems almost every day we set a new record. For the past several days, the US has had more than 150,000 new cases each day. Hospitals across the country are filling up again, and our frontline workers are overwhelmed.

While last week you might not have had anyone in your immediate circle who has tested positive, before the end of November, you likely will. Some predict that we will have more than 200,000 new cases a day by December 1.

But wait, that’s not great timing! Thanksgiving is two weeks away! We always do Thanksgiving with family. We always have a house full of people. I mean, everyone’s being careful. None of the members of our family have been exposed. Certainly we can share one meal.

But here’s the thing, guys. I was being very careful. We still don’t know how I was exposed. Every time I leave the house it is with a mask. Even then, I stay six feet away. I go to work and to the grocery store. Period. I eat healthfully, I take my vitamins, and I wash my hands like it’s my job. I did not know that I had been exposed, and you don’t know either.

Right this minute, you could be Covid-19 positive. Health experts have been telling us this since last spring — they’ve said, “assume you are carrying the virus and act accordingly”. In other words, wear a mask to keep the virus to yourself, wash your hands so that you don’t spread the virus to surfaces that you touch, and stay away from people, particularly people who are older or in some way health compromised.

I know, I know — we are tired of this! We’ve been isolating in some way, shape, or form since March — March! This has been going on too long! Certainly we deserve a break! What are we going to do, socially distance from one another forever?

No. It won’t be forever. This is temporary.

If 2020 had an instructional goal, it would be this: Humans will learn how to wait.

We haven’t had to practice waiting for a very long time. I remember when I was a little girl, television shows were on when they were on. If memory serves me correctly, Welcome Back, Kotter came on Thursday nights at 8pm. I loved that show — a beloved, if slightly annoyed, teacher in a classroom full of barely invested students finding the teachable moment and making us all laugh. I waited for that show. I came home from school, completed my homework, and made sure my butt was plunked in front of the screen at 8pm. I didn’t want to miss it.

Today, if I want to watch a show, I stream it whenever I want. I can pause it to go to the bathroom, answer a phone call, or go get a snack. I don’t have to wait for a show; the shows wait for me!

We used to know how to wait. When my husband and I were dating, email did not yet exist, nor did cell phones. Calling each other from a landline was expensive, so we did most of our corresponding by letter – you know pens on paper. He would write me a letter, put it in the mail, and then wait. A few days later, I would get the letter, write him back, put it in the mail, and then wait. We did this for most of the first year that we dated. We didn’t have the luxury of firing off texts in the moment, but we had the luxury of reading and re-reading each other’s words over and over again. We took time to think through our responses and to ask thoughtful questions because we knew it would be several days or more before the other would receive our messages and we wanted to make sure that our meaning was clear.

When our children were small, if their grandparents wanted to see what they looked like, we had a few options. We could get in the car and drive a few hours for a visit or we could take some photos, have the film developed, then send pictures in the mail. The grandparents checked the mail each day hoping for photos and treasured each visit since they didn’t know how long they would have to wait before they saw the children again. A few days ago, even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, even though my husband and I were quarantining away from one another, we were still able to have a face-to-face visit with our granddaughters at the drop of a hat — we heard their voices, saw their faces, and laughed with them. We seldom have to wait long between such visits.

But we might have to wait a while to have a visit in the flesh. It’s just the right thing to do.

I am as upset as anyone else. Just a couple of months ago, I still held out hope that perhaps we could jet to Boston to see our daughters — wouldn’t it be great to take the whole family there? When reality struck, I actually shed real tears. Of course I want to have everyone together. However, the absence of family gatherings is temporary.

Covid-19 has taken almost a quarter of a million American lives, and I don’t want the next one to be my son or daughter or mother or brother. I want the opportunity to get together with all of the people that I love next summer or next Thanksgiving or next Christmas, and I am willing to wait.

This year? I mean, we have any number of ways to be “together” while being apart. We can have a Zoom meeting every single day of the week if we’d like. We can call; we can FaceTime; we can text. It’s not the same as being in the same room, wrapping our arms around the ones we love and miss, but it has to suffice — temporarily.

All kinds of scientists have been working around the clock since January trying to create an immunization and they are very, very close. All we need to do is be patient, and wait.

We can do it. We can stay put, roast a turkey or grill some burgers at home, put on some music, and call each other up. We can tell each other that we’re thankful to be alive, that we’re thankful that we have people that we love so much, and that we’re thankful that help is on the way. We can plan our reunions and tell stories of holidays past. We can pass the time “together” until one day when we can be together.

That’s all we gotta do — just wait.

We can do it. We are strong; we are resilient; we have the technology.

Will you join me in staying the course, staying at home, and waiting a little bit longer to get together so that more of us will be here when it’s safe to do so?

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14

Seeing The Gift

My Bible reading this morning was about Abraham and Isaac.  You know the one, they are walking together — father and son — with sticks and flame and knife toward Mount Moriah to make a sacrifice.  Isaac, though young, is pretty sharp.  “Hey, Dad, I noticed we don’t have an animal with us for the sacrifice.”  Abraham assures him that God will provide what is needed, knowing full-well that God has told him to sacrifice Isaac.

Can you imagine?  I don’t think we can.  Here we sit in the United States of America — the land of the free, the home of the brave, the place where parents give their children everything. Everything. I am not exempt from this.  I remember my mother telling me when I was younger, “If I had the money, I would buy you everything.”  And I knew she would.  Still one of her greatest joys is giving to her children and her grandchildren. Like mother, like daughter.  I love to give my children what they need and what they want.  I sometimes go overboard.  I sometimes lose track of what they need and what they want, and buy them things that I think they need or want, and even things that no one needs or wants.

So, can I imagine depriving them of something? Or, gasp, agreeing to sacrifice them? No.  Not at all.

But Abraham had heard from God, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and…offer him there as a burnt offering…”

Abraham “rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac.”

Say what? 

Abraham had waited for this kid.  He and Sarah had Isaac in their old age.  They had longed for him.  Prayed for him.  And, finally, they had welcomed him.  And now Abraham was supposed to lay him on an altar, put a knife into him, and then burn him? 

Hebrews 11 says ” By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he … was in the act of offering up his only son…” when God said “Do not lay your hand on the boy…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22).

He didn’t make him go through with it! He Himself provided a ram for Abraham,… and a Lamb for us.

If we picture ourselves placing our own children on an altar and raising the knife, we can see our eyes squeezed shut, the sweat beads forming on our brow, the sheer anguish, praying that God will provide.  What relief Abraham must have felt!  God had provided.  His only son didn’t have to become a sacrifice.

But His Only Son did.

And how do we celebrate this?  How do we mark the relief, the thankfulness that we feel when we realize that we have been rescued?

It’s hard to do this with integrity in a culture that hauls out Santa in October, pipes holiday muzak from every speaker, and pressures us to have the perfect gift for everyone on our list.  We are so bombarded by a consumer culture that we can’t even fathom giving up having a Christmas tree, let alone giving up a child.

That is, after all,  what Christmas celebrates.  The Child.  The Sacrifice.  The Gift.

I forget about that.  I am so consumed with finding the perfect gift for my kids, my spouse, my parents, that I forget about The Perfect Gift.  I online shop and run from store to store in order to find that special item, and I overlook The Special Item. Sure, I squeeze in Advent worship and Christmas Eve worship.  I sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Joy to the World” but if I am going to be honest (and you know I am) I put my focus on the gifts instead of The Gift. 

But things are shifting over here in the little house by the river.  As I continue on the Minimalist Challenge, and trim out the unnecessary, I am finding it easier to see the things that really matter.  I am unwilling to forfeit my Bible, my journals, my laptop, or my family photos.  I am willing instead to get rid of old puzzles, dusty books, unworn clothing, an extra crockpot, an electric roaster, and a yoga mat that I never use anyway.  I am hoping that as I send more clutter out the door, I will be less distracted and more able to see all the blessings that The Gift has provided for me — not the things that I can pick up on clearance at Target, but the priceless gifts of family, health, love, faith, friendship…

I am learning a lot in this next chapter, guys.  I’ll add learning to my list of priceless gifts.

Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

 It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions,

and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.

Thanksgiving in the Next Chapter, the rest of the story

I gotta tell you that Thanksgiving in the Next Chapter is different!  I really was planning on making the green bean casserole and baking the pie on Wednesday.  I was!  But it didn’t happen.  And it was ok! Let me tell you how it went down.

Wednesday I did go to the Post Office and I did try to look the clerk in the eyes, but he wouldn’t have it.  I swear he is a cyborg.  Every time I go in he says the exact same thing, moves in the exact same fashion, and perfectly avoids all eye contact or casual conversation.  I did manage to say, “Have a great day!” I think his automatic response was “You, too.”

I did hit the gym — thirty minutes on the elliptical, a few reps on the weights, ten laps in the pool, a short sit in the jacuzzi, a run through the shower and I was on my way.

I drove through Starbucks en route to the grocery store thinking to myself, “Really? You planned all week to go to the grocery story on the day before Thanksgiving?”

My daughter joined me on the phone and walked with me round the store, up and down the aisles, back and forth as I remembered and forgot different items on my list.  I let others go ahead of me and intentionally moved slowly. I think I was there for almost two hours.

I got regular text updates from my other daughter as she made her way across the country to join us for the holiday.  And I did pray over and over that her trip would be safe.

And by the time I got home from the grocery, I didn’t even have the steam to unload. Bye-bye, pie.  Bye-bye, green bean casserole.

I did have the presence of mind to purchase a rotisserie chicken, some deli cheese, assorted crackers, and such, so that I wouldn’t have to make dinner, but I had to lie down and rest before I could even think about attempting to put out the spread.

My son carried in the groceries, and he did also vacuum.  No one dusted.  And, you know, I watched as the new Kristin was ok with all of this.  She sat in bed watching three episodes of Gilmore Girls.  She closed her eyes for a while.  When she felt she could, she rose out of bed and put out some food for supper.

After hugging, eating, and chatting, everyone slept.

On Thanksgiving morning, we all rolled leisurely out of bed.  I put the turkey in the oven and made the green bean casserole.  The stuffing was a group effort with three people contributing their expertise.  A daughter made cranberry sauce expertly and whisked gravy like an old pro.  A boyfriend owned the pumpkin pie.  A son mashed potatoes and set the table.  The husband did the heavy lifting and much of the pre-, during-, and after-dinner clean-up.  Everyone helped get the feast on the table. We all chatted and enjoyed one another. And ultimately, everyone was delightfully stuffed.

We had no schedule.  No pressure.  No disappointment.

I climbed in bed with a book around 6:30.  I read and rested for a few hours before I was finally ready for sleep.

For the forty-eight hours of Thanksgiving, I didn’t once rush, and it all went perfectly.  Why didn’t I figure this out twenty years ago?  Because I thought my soldier strategy was working just fine, thankyouverymuch.  Let me be clear here, my soldier strategy sucked. (Sorry, Mom — she hates when I say ‘sucked’.) This is one more lesson in process over product, journey over destination, being over doing.  I’m getting it, guys.  It’s taking a while, but I am getting the message.  I can be still and know that He is God.  I can rest in the palm of his hand.   And, it’s much better for everyone when I do.

Psalm 46:10

Be still and know that I am God

Luke 12:32

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.