Sometimes God just has to paint a picture for me to see something clearly!
Wife, Mom, and Grandmother, a.k.a. Nonnie...those are my favorite hats! After several wonderful lives as a teacher, an Army wife, and a children's minister, I am now stretching my writing wings, that have been tucked away too long.
Being married to a former Consultant to the Surgeon General of the US Army in the area of Infection Control, I can promise you that we take the CDC guidelines very seriously around our house! I am schooled…oh, believe me! I am schooled in the appropriate way to wear the mask to achieve the desired benefits of protection for myself and others; nose covered, mouth covered, and so on and so on. But why, oh why, can I no longer see properly when I have the mask on? It’s like I have the thing over my eyes! I checked…and I really do NOT!
I have a new found respect for daily mask wearers who have done so in their chosen healthcare field all their lives. Again…married to one of those! However for those of us who are new to masking, vision impairment seems to be a real thing.
In my first foray into the grocery store since early March, I found myself sweating and hyperventilating a bit inside my mask around the paper products aisle. Might have picked up a paper bag to put over my head, but I’m pretty sure they were out of them!
And having a bona fide hearing loss for many years, I’ve become accustomed to leaning in to better hear people and to watch their lips carefully. Those tools are ‘out the window’ these days since I must not get into someone’s space and try to see what’s going on behind their mask.
So if you see me out there, and I don’t see or hear you, feel free to shout out! Like you, I’m adjusting…slowly, but surely! And laughing at myself…a lot!
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Usually, I move through my day with the grace and agility of a gazelle…pausing here for laughter…yours, if you know me! From marinara sauce on my white shirt, to kicking table legs with my wayward toes, that’s the way I roll. What I lack in fluid movement, I make up for with speed.
Like many of you, social distancing, a.k.a. quarantining, has been the name of my game for weeks now, and actually the calendar says we can start counting it as ‘months’. However, with an abundance of precautions in place…mask, hand sanitizer, and a healthy respect for the measurement of six feet…this week I ventured out to a store that had some items we required and could not have delivered.
Everything went really well. I never felt endangered by the people around me, most of whom were taking the same precautions. I went. I purchased. I sanitized. I returned home. I sanitized again. It went well.
Then I lost my balance. It was an odd feeling, having been out and about after so long of being in and within. I caught myself, safe and sound back home, feeling a great sense of something…loss…sadness…frustration…surprise at how the world had changed… Not sure any of these words describe it, but it was real and it caused a sensation in my being that reminded me of losing my balance. Like when you stand up too fast, or you forget to eat breakfast and it’s afternoon…my equilibrium just fled for a few minutes. A perfectly normal activity, a quick shopping trip, felt so out of the norm. What was up with that? My spirit was a bit dizzy.
And just like that, balance was restored. A ‘check in’ with someone who loves and understands me reminded me that we all are likely to feel a loss of balance in these extraordinary days. So if you start to lose your balance…there’s help in 1 Peter 5:7; “Give all your worries to Him, because He cares for you.” Gradually we will begin to move about our world more freely, though with changes, for sure. And we will find our balance. Again and again.
Evidently, I am a quitter! Something I never realized before…but this morning, after weeks and weeks of staying home and staying in and just…staying…I said “I quit!”
For my QB (quarantine buddy), this whole unwanted adventure is a lark. He is a happy camper just sticking around here, going from project to self directed project with occasional interaction with his fellow QB, me. He is happy as a clam, a literal ‘in a shell on the bottom of the ocean’ clam. In fact, he says he has been in training for this his entire life!
I am a people person…family people, friends people, lunch pal people, shopping people, out and about people…all of that. So this morning, I threw in the towel. Thus, the “Picture This” moment. I sat having my breakfast yogurt and declaring I could not do this again today, let alone for many more weeks. I quit!
Then I got myself dressed, ready for the day, made my bed, spent some time quietly contemplating God’s goodness to me…and I unquit. Because I know this is what it takes to protect myself, my family, and others. I will stay home and stay in and just stay…for as long as it takes.
Hebrew 12:1 challenges me with “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” The verse continues with “looking to Jesus”. So I did. And you can, too. Maybe it’s ok to quit, as long as we remember to unquit, too. See you at the finish line…whenever and wherever that may be!
So here we all are, walking down an unfamiliar path, but of course, safely distanced from each other! We remember where and when we got on the path, but looking ahead, it isn’t clear where the path is leading or how long it will take to travel the length of it. Our perspective is somewhat limited by the fact that our view is from the position we hold, walking along with our feet touching the ground beneath us.
On this particular path that is pictured, if I choose to climb one of the tall trees along either side, (don’t hold your breath…put your iPhone away…that’s not going to happen so there’s no photo op coming up!) my perspective totally changes. From above I would see clearly that this path leads to a picnic table by a dock on the river, then bends and takes me out into the bright sunshine of a place that is much more familiar.
So while we walk on… on this path, trust and hope are the name of the game. Romans 15:13 says “May the God who gives hope fill you with great joy. May you have perfect peace as you trust in Him…”
The Father is seeing all that’s going on from a very different perspective…a perspective that can see the beginning, the end, and all the steps in between. Keep on the path…you’re getting somewhere!
Right now there seems to be a bunch of rocks in our path! Stay home. Don’t gather. Don’t touch. Keep away.
And the more challenging ‘don’ts’…Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. Don’t panic. (It would help if it wasn’t called a ‘pandemic’…I mean, panic seems to be built into the name of the thing! )
But for today, do what you know you are supposed to do to keep yourself and your fellow beings well and safe. Call. Write. Wave. Pray. Love from a distance. And do it with some joy! After all, “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7”
One of my favorite social distancing explores takes me down by the Savannah River, where everything’s beginning to wake up and turn green. There is a very curious plant that grows wild along the path. It has beautiful white flowers nestled against the toughest green two inch thorny spikes you can imagine. The familiar name for the plant if Crown of Thorns.
The thorns could be the overwhelming feature of this plant, if one isn’t willing to look beyond them at the flowers. Another observation on that same walk…my neighbors…all choosing flowers in the middle of the thorns. Here they are, with their normal lives turned upside down, keeping themselves to home and family, and doing a great job of it!
Flowers amid thorns I saw on my walk? Two sister riding bikes around their driveway. A dad watching two littles play with bubbles as they laughed and run about. A family outside; dad and daughter drawing with chalk on the driveway while mom and big sister shoot hoops. Another dad running with his two young sons, slowing his pace to make it a together activity. Two teenage sisters washing the family car. No one I met (from a distance) complained about the situation. Instead, they were looking at the positives by making this time count.
What flowers you’re finding? Learning to cook something new? Straightening out the kitchen junk drawer? Weeding the flower beds? Writing notes to friends? Checking in virtually on the people who need your attention? Spending focused time with your living companions? Psalms 133:1 says “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in peace!” So, in the middle of some thorny times, get out there and find the flowers!
You and your kids just might enjoy this when the walls start closing in on your home/classroom.
Guess I’m not a good ‘just hang around’ person, yet the need to protect our fellow humans is strong. So we packed up our lunch of tomato sandwiches and Oreos, and headed to a nearby lake. We landed at a recreation area near the Strom Thurmond Dam Visitors Center. There were a few people here and there, but it was easy to maintain personal distance. After a ‘socially distant from others’ picnic, we walked around the recreation area.
Spring is peaking out everywhere! You can take a trip like this, maybe without even leaving your own backyard. Or there are plenty of public areas where you can enjoy the outdoors without bumping into anyone.
What do you need?
~ Your smart phone and the “Seek” app by iNaturalist
With this handy free app, you can identify many types of flowers, plants and insects. Voila! Science, Botany, Biology lessons…check! check! check!
Job 37:14 says to ‘stop and consider the wondrous works of God.’ There’s plenty of them out there if you look!
This morning began with a thick blanket of fog obliterating the view in every direction. It felt a bit like maybe many of us are feeling during these early days of ‘social distancing’. Not quite sure what is and isn’t permissible, plans canceled or at least postponed for the foreseeable future, normal rhythms out the window…just not able to have access to the usual line of sight that we possess on any given day for what comes next. And while it may feel like rubbing our eyes will get rid of the foggy feeling, we aren’t supposed to touch our faces!
Today is a great day to put this reminder out there. 2 Corinthians 5:7 nudges us to “walk by faith, not by sight”. My favorite definition of the word ‘faith’ is to believe in something you can’t see because of something you can see. (Thanks, 252basics for that clarity.)
Believe with me that the world is still spinning on its axis, the sun is there beyond the fog, and God is firmly in control. Have a great, however distanced, day…and wash your hands!
Just six years ago around this time of year, we were huddled around the fireplace for warmth, and cooking on the grill outside whatever couldn’t be rescued from our freezer as we enjoyed our four days without electricity due to the ice storm of ’14. And news reports remind me that in ’73, before I became an Augustanite, there was a record snowstorm.
In this season of unsettled weather, it’s 75 degrees and sunny, followed quickly by a front that moves through bringing rain and colder temperatures. Pictured is a recent day my weather apps blew up my phone with warnings…Severe Storm Warning….Wind Advisory…Tornado Watch…and then, Tornado Warning!
I’ve been caught in a tornado, and am well aware of the fury and strength it delivers. The sound is unforgettable; the sound of a train, just like they say. The ‘out of controlness’ of the situation with flying glass from windows blown out, and giant cement planters with trees rolling by like they are made of plastic, causes one to hunker down in the nearest corner and pray. In the middle of the storm, there is no time to think, but plenty of time to feel…fear!
As we move through our lives, the sun may be shining and we may be in the middle of a fair weather type of day. But that person that you see in the grocery store, or the coffee shop, or even in front of you at the stop light may be in the middle of a storm you cannot see. Be gentle. Be kind. While it may not be storming on you, the next person may be in the middle of an emotional, life altering, hunkering down tornado. Here’s a PSA from Zechariah 7:9: …”show kindness and mercy to one another…”. Be kind!
Summer…the hotter the better…I am an avowed lover of all things summer! Once we’ve cleared the Christmas season, where cold weather is a fitting accompaniment to the snowy holiday songs, if there’s no hope of a lovely little snow day, then January and February stretch on and on in endless unpredictability; sunny and warm one day, cold and rainy the next. So I’ve been known to look at the bare trees with a bit of a snarled lip. The beautiful green leaves that soften the landscape for so many months are no where to be found… and I miss them.
This particular picture caused me to pause and think a bit more generously about wintertime. As I stood in the middle of a beautifully wooded path near the river, I was struck by the lines of the bare trees around me. Unseen when covered in their leaves, these branches…the support system for all things shady for much of the year. Without their foliage, I can see the structure and lines, somewhat like beautiful architecture against the cold blue sky.
When life, with its hard places, strips away our own leaves, James 1:2-4 reminds us that that we can keep going; “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
When you’re down to the bare branches, be grateful for what remains. A strength and structure that supports you through good times and bad. Good bones.