Just Breathe

silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime

This Rona season has me contemplating the simple things, the things I sometimes take for granted.  I miss eating out with friends and family.  I miss seeing people’s smiles (the rare times I’m out in public these days) because masks are covering their pearly-whites – which I’m thankful for healthwise, but it’s a little sad for my heart.  I miss chatting it up with the person in front of or behind me in the checkout line.  I miss running up to my friends and hugging their necks.  I miss having people over my house.

In all of this, I have been trying to find the simple and the good and I’m happy to report there has been an abundance of both.

I’m grateful for the air that I am able to breathe.  I’m not stuck inside my house.  I am able to walk outside and take in the air that just HAS to be cleaner now without as many vehicles on the roads, or airplanes in the sky, right?  My allergies have been pretty awful, so I’m not loving that, but in the whole scheme of things, allergies are a booger.  Except when I’m out in public, feeling terrified of coughing or sniffling, because people look at me like I’m purposely infecting everyone with the rona.  I’ve gotten really good at holding my sniffles and clearing my throat behind the new mask that my beautiful friend, Lisa made for me (and my entire family).

I don’t even know what I’d do without our little backyard.  I ordered a 10′ X 5′ inflatable pool that is a whopping 2 feet deep and it is giving me life!  My grandboy loves being in there with me, squealing and splashing.  He is JOY incarnate.  When our kiddos were young and we lived in the Mitten, we had a beautiful in-ground pool, complete with diving board and slide.  This is a fraction of it in every way, except that I love it just as much right now, perhaps more because I don’t have to clean it for an hour every morning or pour my life savings into chemicals to keep it clean and balanced.  I keep giggling at how hillbilly I look lying in that thing.  I’ve no doubt we will laugh about Nana in her kiddie pool for years to come, but right now, it is my private respite and I am thankful!

My garden is bursting in every row and it’s right outside my bedroom door, so starting my day with the view of all that new green life is the stuff!  My Honey has been trimming trees, and working on the yard and patio daily for the past two weeks and I am enjoying the fruits of his labor.  I’ve had to continue (meaning I am SO blessed to be) working for my nanny family.  My hours are long, although I only work 3 days a week, but coming home to a clean house, with dinner on the table and extra deep cleaning and/or yard work being done is my love language.  My Honey has always been a hard working man and I so appreciate how he takes care of me and our kiddos.

Curbside has finally settled down so that I can get groceries in less than 7 days, instead of in no less than two weeks or not at all.  I’m so grateful that we don’t have to go into grocery stores nearly as much as we were having to the past several weeks or so.  Also, the shelves are stocked once again!  It’s such a blessing to get organic food and just the things we prefer, again.  I’m incredibly thankful for the grocery and restaurant workers & delivery people.  WHAT would we do without them?!  They continue to risk their lives to bring us what brings us life.  Please tip them extra and extend grace during this exhausting and risky time.  We need to appreciate and care for them.

ZOOM!  I don’t know how we would get through this time without seeing the gorgeous faces of our friends and family.  There is nothing like a real hug and conversation over a yummy cup of chai, but this app is literally keeping me sane and saving my life some days!  I don’t have to clean my house to have lifegroup!  I don’t even have to wear pants.  If I want to yell at my Honey or blow my nose, I can block myself out and mute myself for a quick minute and no one is any the wiser.  Also, I only have to make myself a cup of chai and I can meet in my bedroom!  Seriously, this is my best life on some level.

Michelle Obama is doing a Read-Along on PBS every Monday from April 20 – May 11!  If that doesn’t make you do the Happy Dance, I don’t know what will!!!

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My home that is small enough to keep clean and big enough to find a quiet place when any of us tires of the others – which happens a time or two in 5 or 6 weeks – is one of my favorite blessings.  It is cozy and colorful.  There is food in the cupboards and fridge.  There is always coffee and tea at the flip of a switch and a big, comfy couch to melt into in the living room.

Our property manager called today and told us to only pay half of the rent for the next two (May and June) months! – He already told us that April was free!  How does THAT happen?!  God is faithful and generous beyond measure.  And we, in turn, got to bless friends and family that are going through some really difficult times right now.  His economy is beyond magnificent!

Our children, their families and friends, our parents and our siblings and their families are healthy.  Today we got a card from my mother and father-in-love in the mail.  It was so encouraging and full of love.  Such a simple thing and it blessed us so big.

Our auto insurance company emailed us that they are giving us a 20% rebate for April and May.  Huge!  After I received this message, I went to their page and found out they are doing all sorts of kind things, like:

  • We don’t want you to worry about losing your insurance if you can’t pay right now. Starting April 1, 2020, we’ll waive late fees, pause collections, and hold off on canceling or non-renewing any active policies due to non-payment through May 15, 2020. Some states have already issued leniency guidelines, so we will adjust this timeline to either meet or exceed any state-specific requirements.

This was my favorite part:

First responders, health care workers, and delivery drivers are at the front lines of the crisis, and we’re doing everything we can to help by:

  • Providing expedited roadside assistance
  • Expanding coverage for personal auto customers who are temporarily delivering food or medicine
  • Offering meal delivery for our for-hire truckers
  • Providing a full-service claims experience for first responders and health care workers who experience a car accident. We’re providing transportation to work and expediting tow and vehicle repairs. And if needed, we’re deferring deductibles and providing a rental vehicle.

These acts of kindness are how My Pappa God brings joy into these crazy, unsure days of mine.  There are plenty of horrible things happening out there, I am aware.  I am praying for people stuck in abusive situations.  I’ve been there and I can’t imagine how awful that must be during this time in history.  People are losing loved ones to this virus and the victims are often dying without their loved ones anywhere near them.  Many are facing financial crisis unlike they’ve ever known.  I’ve no desire to minimize that or ignore it, I’m just, like many of you, trying to manage all of this as best I can and I am thankful for the heroes, for the acts of kindness that arise when things fall apart.  I think it’s important to share the good stuff so that we can bless others with stories of the beauty that comes from these ashes.

Do you have a story of kindness or generosity during this pandemic?  Please share it here in the comments.  Each day is a challenge for all of us on some level right now, and I’d love to have a bank of “the beauty” right here for anyone who journeys through to hold onto.

Bless you.

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More ‘Rona Ramblings

Last night (Good Friday), my Honey, our 3 youngest and I were gathered in front of the big screen watching Gateway’s Good Friday service online.  We had a bottle of sparkling grape juice and a fresh baguette for communion and our 14-month-old grandson, Arlo, was stumbling around the room being silly and spreading joy.  I was reminded of the meaning of “Good” Friday and the sacrifice Our Pappa God made for all of us.  Reminded of how enormous His love is for each and every one of us and what it must have been like for His devastated followers at the time, who didn’t have the luxury of knowing about the empty tomb, like we do.  When I get into that space, worship is so natural.  Adoration is only the beginning of what I am inspired to do for my Lord.

This year was exponentially different than years past, for all believers, I imagine.  I missed my church family immensely.  I look forward to my time with this precious group of sisters and brothers who share in my family’s struggles, joys, and everything in between, as we share in theirs.  I am the crazy lady with shoes off, hands raised singing at the top of my lungs in a dark corner at the back of the auditorium – and they love me just as I am.

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Typical Sunday at South (pre-rona). Photo credit: Ben Petree (thanks, Benny).

I long to empty myself out and fill up with Him during these times of musical worship, and though I’ve had private times of this at home and online times with my church these past weeks, it is a beautiful thing to gather with other followers to sing adoration to Our Father and I am longing for a return to this, knowing it will be something different and better because of the work He is doing during this season.

So, as I looked around at my beautiful husband, children and grandchild last night, I felt such gratefulness for all that I am blessed with.  The realization that we may all very well be back at church next Good Friday (God willing), gathered with our Gateway family, caused a bunch of feelings to well up and swirl around in my head and heart.  I missed our traditional church Good Friday gathering, but my family is typically all playing/singing/both at church – and not all at the same campuses, so I either attend multiple services at different campuses or go to one and feel guilty that I didn’t go to the other.  Most of the time I am sitting alone – or without the people who are related to me by blood because they are leading worship.  Don’t misunderstand, it’s this mama’s answer to prayer that her babies and Honey are serving this way, but I do, occasionally, miss the days of the row being filled with my Honey and our babies.  Last night, I got to sit in the middle of the whole bunch of them, while worshiping with music (pre-video-recorded of them!), taking communion and thanking my Pappa God for this rare moment.  I have no doubt that next year, I will be reminded of His faithfulness as I gather with my church family and be a little sad as I remember how precious Good Friday Rona 2020 was.

This evening we are going to celebrate my Honey – his bday was yesterday, but we decided that today was going to be all about him, sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter.  We’re getting wings from Pluckers and he’s choosing his favorite early release movie to watch at home – Have I mentioned movies are his love language?  I have some yummy hors d’oeuvres and Hannah will make him some popcorn (his favorite, that he only eats on very special  occasions).  Birthdays past were days filled with running to restaurants, movie theatres, and every social event available for my enneagram 7 Honey. This birthday is obviously very different, but he feels incredibly loved by the people he most loves, so last night as I looked over at him and saw tears in his eyes as he watched Caleb & Aaron “wrestling” with a giggling Arlo, I was again reminded that God is in all of this beautiful mess.

Bob Bday 2018

Tomorrow morning I will wake my children by telling them quietly that, “He is Risen,” as I have all of their lives.  (They think it’s cute to say it to me on Christmas, birthdays, etc., but I know deep down they look forward to it and they will do the same with their babies one day.  Okay, I hope they will.)  We will have baskets filled with a little less candy because there is less money to spend, but there will be a new basket because there is Arlo and that’s just more wonderful than just about anything.

 

We will gather together in our living room – with pre-recorded videotape of the 4 of them leading worship and I will be with my family, celebrating Our Risen Lord and all He blesses us with.  I will be reminded of how faithfully He walks through every season with each and every one of us.  I will not pretend that this isn’t a scary time and that we haven’t all suffered various losses through this time in history, but I will rejoice that I have a Pappa who knows what is to come and has never stopped working through all of this to make us more into the image He has for us.  I will never again have this kind of time with my Pappa, my husband, my children and my grandson.  We will all drive each other crazy, here and there, but I refuse to take this time for granted.  I will see it for the gift it is and thank Him for all of it.

Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

 

Anne Frank, Blessings, and Checking Myself

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As we are settling into sheltering-in-place, I find myself, like most of the people I know, riding a sort of rollercoaster of emotions, now and then. I wonder if you can relate.

I am SO thankful to have my husband, our children and our grandbaby with us during this time.  I also want nothing more than to have my house to myself and do whatever I want BY MYSELF.

I love to cook yummy organic food, make kombucha, fresh juice, bake gluten free yummies and have a really clean kitchen and now I finally have the time to do that – and it feels like that is all I do, around the clock and I just want to go to a restaurant and be waited on and not clean up after my family, but walk away from the table, leaving a nice tip and a big “thank you” for the amazing wait staff.

I had this idea that we would have all of this extra time to deep clean our house and that happened for a minute and now it just feels messy ALL OF THE TIME and I can’t get away from it, mostly.  If I’m stuck in here – especially since it’s been raining for days here in Austin – then I just need my space to be clean and orderly or my depression level goes through the roof and that’s not fun for anyone.

I enjoy grocery shopping and going to the local farmer’s market.  I miss the luxury of running to my neighborhood Sprouts when I’ve forgotten a recipe item, seeing all of the other shoppers’ smiling faces and returning home in less than 15 minutes.  Now, getting food means trying to order from curbside, only to find I can only get about 60-70 percent of what I ordered and that the quickest delivery is over a week away.  Or, going myself, waiting in line for an hour and a half outside the store, separated by tape on the ground from the other shoppers who are wearing masks and gloves and looking at one another suspiciously.  I’ve noticed in these most recent days, people are physically swaying away from passerby’s in the aisles.  It’s like an end-of-the-world movie out there, except, it’s not a movie and it isn’t the end of the world, is it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did some research on Anne Frank’s life recently.  As a girl, I was fascinated by her and every time I read her story or watched a production of it, I would ache for a different ending.  While this is a different situation, with no human being trying to exterminate us (right?), I think there are some valuable life lessons Anne recorded for me.

There were 8 people who shared 450 square feet of living space for 2 years and 1 month!  They did not have the option of going outside during this time.  The group was made up of 2 families and a single man.  They had to wait for very rationed food to be brought to them and risked horrific death every day.

While I am giving myself permission to mourn what has been lost, I am trying to keep things in perspective.  I have enjoyed my garden since I planted it a week ago.  It gives me life.  My Honey and I have been taking our grandboy out for walks in his stroller every day that the weather allows and it has lifted our spirits immensely.  Last week, Arlo and his Auntie Hannah painted on our back deck and then we filled his water table so that he could play and simultaneously wash the paint off of most of his entire body.  It was such a great day!

In the past two weeks SO MANY blessings have reigned down on our family.  Our landlord called me recently and asked how things were going.  After I laughed, told him things could be better for everyone, I imagine, he then told me that we didn’t have to pay rent for the month of April because of the rona.  How does that happen?!  The people I nanny for have repeatedly told me that they won’t let anything happen to me or my family.  They’ve offered to pay our rent or anything else we need.  I’ve told them repeatedly how much their support means to me, but we are okay, they then gave me a generous raise and asked me to do more hours!  They’ve been quarantined for over a month, so I don’t feel endangered.  The added income is huge during this time of my Honey and son being on furlough.  We filed our taxes last Monday and the money for our return was deposited on Friday, just four days later! I was at Costco and as I was leaving, I saw this and it reminded me that we are called to care for one another. Thank you, Costco!

We have food.  We have a roof over our heads.  We  have the choice to go outside and exercise and breath in fresh air.  (Also, have you noticed how many more bees there are out there?  Is that because there are less car/truck/airplane emissions killing them?)  I have friends and family checking in on me.  I have my garden and my Kindle with a bajillion books I’ve been wanting to have the time to read.  (I just finished THE WATER DANCER by TA-NEHISI COATES and it was SO AMAZING!!!!)  I have a computer to write on and more journals than any one woman should claim.

These are scary times.  As of yesterday there were 1,039,439 cases of the coronavirus worldwide, 347,003 of those are in the United States.  There have been 72,638 deaths worldwide and 10,335 of those human beings were Americans.

When I think about the families who can’t be with one another once someone has the virus and too many of those people then die without the humans they most love by their sides, it is utterly heartbreaking.  I pray that they feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and fall into the arms of Jesus.

It all feels surreal, I think, to many of us who haven’t lost someone in our immediate circle of friends or family.  It’s easier to complain about our inconveniences when the threat doesn’t feel real, yet.  My prayer for myself and everyone is that we come out of this kinder, more compassionate, less entitled and closer to Our Pappa God and His calling.  I pray we slow down.  My hope is that we come out of this season more loving human beings than human doings.

 

There’s a Lesson in Here, Somewhere

 

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

For a little bit I was frustrated with people whining about being stuck inside with nothing to do.  REALLY?  If we are the ones fortunate enough to be healthy, then sheltering isn’t a terrible alternative, is it?  There are plenty of things to do…               Write a letter to someone who would love to hear from you.  Call a friend or relative you should check up on or just haven’t had the time to really talk to in a while.  Do yoga – youtube has some great free ones.  Our favorite: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene .  Read a book or write one.  Cook really good food for yourself and/or your family.  Draw, paint.  If you can afford it, order books, food, paint, paper, whatever supplies you need, online or locally and have it delivered so that you can support someone trying to get through this.  If you are cooped up with family, take advantage of this.  We’ve been making yummy dinners and putting puzzles together and playing board games.  We’ve also binged a couple of shows together, but I can only do so much of that.  We’ve been purposely rotating our activities so that we don’t get bored.  We’ve gone on lots of walks and spent time in our backyard.   My favorite thing is to look online for ways to help others during this time.  There are elderly people who can’t leave their homes and they need food, medicine, books, etc.  You can pick it up and simply leave it at their door with a note of encouragement.

I spent the last several days enlarging my garden and planting all of the seeds I saved from last year.  I’ve deep cleaned a room or two – and still have several to go.  I’ve doubled my kombucha production to keep my family healthier and to share with friends and I’ve been cooking up a storm.  Although, if I’m being completely honest, I’m tired of cooking and cleaning.  It feels endless and futile, at times.

This. is. hard. 

It’s important that we take the time we need to grieve.  We can’t really move forward and do good things with a “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” mentality.  Our Pappa God wants to walk through our grief with us.  When we are honest about our pain, and we sit with it, offering it to Him, only then can we move ahead and walk in the identity and plan He has for our lives.

 

So, let’s be honest.  THIS. IS. HARD.

But, it’s been revealing to me.  I’ve seen my privilege and it’s time to take a moment – or a couple of months – and really look at how I’ve been spending my time, how I react when things get “limited.”

I did not go crazy for tp, but if I’m straight with you, I already had 12 rolls in my linen closet because I’m blessed to have a Costco membership and I usually have an abundance of tp and papertowel.  There are people who don’t have the money to stock up more than a 4-pack on payday.  We used to be in that boat, I remember.  Now, I did go a little crazy for organic food and food, in general.  My fallback is to find my security in cash and food.  When my kiddos were little, I always had much more peace when the cupboards were full and some cash was in the bank – which, as previously mentioned, happened because I was busy running up our credit cards.  When those ran low, which was more the norm than the exception, you could find my babies parked in front of the television, with me behind a closed door desperately crying out to God to “bless” me with the stuff that made me feel secure.  With that I would frantically spend the next hours trying to figure out how to get out of our financial crisis completely on my own, with no waiting on Jesus to be found.

So, I found out a couple of weeks ago that the tendency to rest a bit in my full cupboards isn’t completely gone, but more than anything I have rested in my Pappa God.  It seems to me that He is telling me to get still with Him.

It feels a little like the church is very busy making sure that no one gets left feeling alone, meanwhile, maybe we could all use a little or a lot more quiet time with Our Pappa.  Perhaps, we could all use this time to get to know Him and our earthly family members in a way that we just couldn’t when the world was spinning as fast as it always does.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m using this time to reach out to my friends and extended family members.  I’m praying for them and talking to them, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Zoom meetings and the seeming panic about keeping everyone SO connected to other human beings.

I’m incredibly thankful that my church is streaming our services and I get to worship “with” my church family – MY WORD!  I have missed this.  I was in tears almost the entire service this past two Sundays because it filled me up so almost completely.  There are so many blessings in the technology available to us during this time and I appreciate that.  I appreciate all my church leadership is doing to keep us connected to each other.  It just feels like everyone and their sister or brother is doing a Bible study, a daily devo or lesson, etc. during this time and we aren’t leaving any space for The Big Guy to be heard.  I’m not so sure He wants us to keep things “as normal as possible” because I don’t think He was terribly thrilled with our old normal.  I think this may be our chance to create a new normal based on His Word and His leading and we can only do that if we get still before Him and stop all of the busy-ness.  We have to trust that He can care for His children better than any of us can.  He is faithful.  He knew this was coming and He will work through this to make things better, if we will only follow His directions.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am finding joy in this quiet.  I am feeling a shaking out that will bring a new order, closer to what He calls me to.

My husband got his last paycheck (a few days late) – last week because his (very small local) company is struggling.  I lost one of my jobs 2 weeks ago and didn’t get to work at all last week.  We have enough money in the bank for next months rent and some money for food and our next car payment.  Our son, who lives with us and is a dad, lost his job, as well.

I am not worried.  When I look back over my life, He has ALWAYS been faithful.

A L W A Y S.

I’m thankful that He has patiently and generously walked this earthly journey with me, waiting for me to trust His faithfulness.  The gratefulness for this peace I’m experiencing in areas I used to be overwhelmingly enslaved to, is a gift that I cannot fully express in mere words.

I am committed to getting quiet with my Pappa God so that I can hear His still, small voice speak truth over my life.  I so do not want to waste this time He has blessed us with – forced upon us.  I think we would be foolish to not see His hand in all of this and ask Him what He wants us to do when this season is over.

People will come from faraway places to pitch in and rebuild the Temple of God. This will confirm that God-of-the-Angel-Armies did, in fact, send me to you. All this follows as you put your minds to a life of responsive obedience to the voice of your God.  – Zechariah 6:15