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Entering Eastertide: Loss

We lose a lot of stuff around the house. There is a basket full of cars, but we can’t find the one car we really really need before we can do anything else. Our sixteen-month-old has figured out how to open the toy drawer and the trash can, so we lose pacis left and right. Although there seems to be an abundance of them, there is only one that will offer comfort she needs to drift off to sleep.

As we move throughout the day, I find myself saying when we confront one of these missing items: “It will show up. Things always show up.” This has provided time and space to let us look for things now or later without frustration and tears.

Losing items around the house or forgetting where you put something down is not uncommon, especially in the midst of consistent change.  My congregation jokes with me because during high, holy seasons at church I always lose my keys.  They have learned to laugh and help me look. My mind and my heart are in a different place during these seasons and so the every day remembering gets put on the back burner.

When things that we have been looking for do show up, we all get excited. We share the funny place we found the item and we share in the show of recovering the sought after item.

Collectively, we haven’t lost something that will show up eventually. We have lost over 100,000 people. Human souls connected and invested in families and communities. We can’t forget. We remember every day when we wake up and as we try to get a little bit of sleep at night. As we reached this devastating milestone, we hold onto being the country that has the most deaths and most cases of COVID-19. In seventeen states around the country, those numbers are not decreasing, they are increasing.

Loss surrounds us. Grief engulfs us.

And as we grieve for many of us, we are still alone at home trying to do our part to help those numbers stop increasing so drastically. Loss has always been a part of inhabiting this dusty bodies, but that doesn’t mean that loss doesn’t bring us back to remembering we have but one life to live. One chance to care for others. One chance to offer hope. One chance to offer love.

I know that there are many states that are opening up. I know that there are many states without mask laws. I know that there are other people and other families traveling and getting together. I know that it can all be confusing and overwhelming because there is so much information out there. I know that you are tired and weary and just want a change of pace. I also know that bearing this amount of loss is sometimes just too much to carry.

The loss and grief won’t go away. These will be the things that change us. My hope is that it changes us not to be people who hold onto to our lives and our desires so desperately that more loss comes. My hope is that by remembering this loss, again and again, every day, 100,000 minutes every day, we will transform into more caring and compassionate people.

Entering Eastertide: What’s that smell?

Spring has always been full of new smells. Flowers blooming. Trees budding. And those wonderful evenings after the rain comes through.

On our daily walks, one of the questions our four-year-old almost always asks is “What’s that smell?” Sometimes I know the answer, especially if it’s a Bradford Pear tree, but many times I don’t. So I ask him back, what do you think? If it’s an unpleasant smell he is always convinced it’s a skunk and hopes he will see. If it’s a pleasant smell his answers range from honeysuckle to rose bush to tulips.

Smells trigger our memories of summer camp and long afternoons in the pool or at the lake. Smells remind us that we are connected to a deeper earthiness. Smells warn us of danger as well. Without smell, we can’t taste our food.

Stop and smell the flowers is a phrase used to remind us to slow down enough to notice your surroundings. But really stop and smell the flowers and when you do you will find your body and soul reunited in memories and hope for this the new life we are creating.

Entering Eastertide: Do you hear what I hear?

NPR recently reported on the way lockdown and limited mobility impacted the natural world. One of the most poignant observations was:

We can hear subtlety of life around us that we haven’t heard in a long, long time.

Maybe it’s because we have the time to notice sounds that have been all around us but have been overshadowed by the constant to-do list running through our minds. Maybe it’s because there isn’t as much sound from cars and buses that are drowning out the natural sounds.

Whatever it is, we are hearing the world around us a little more clearly. We are hearing the sound of birds and bugs and frogs. For me, those sounds remind me of the spring and summer at my parents’ house out in the boondocks where we would spend hours spitting watermelon seeds over the porch railing and catching lightning bugs in the front year.

As I listen, it reminds me of the joys of having nowhere to go. I breathe a deep breath of gratitude that maybe this is what our four-year-old will remember too. As we listen to the calls of the birds in the morning and as we read stories at night, maybe we are growing something in him during these strange times that he will remember later on when the world gets noisy and busy again.

Entering Eastertide: Going Back

On Saturday, we walked to the park and playground where we have gone innumerable times with all of our kids. The playground still isn’t opened, but the park is opened for walking and moving activities. I thought it would be a way to “return to normal.” It wasn’t. It was strange.

The playground equipment still had yellow caution around it. There was a school group gathering in the parking lot for some sort of end of the year drive-by parade. The kind that have become the way we celebrate birthdays and big occasions.

After we had done one loop around the park, we kept moving and headed home, not lingering or playing there. It was nice to have an option for our walk that wasn’t just a neighborhood loop, but it didn’t remind me of the way things used to be. It reminded me of how different things are.

I can understand the desire to do the things we used to do. I can understand wanting to do things that we normally do in the summer and on holidays. Some of these things can be done, but they can’t be done without a certain amount of risk involved. This is a great article for deciding which risks to take and what level of risk the activity you are considering is.

We can’t pretend that we aren’t living with a deadly virus. We can choose activities that meditate the risk of spreading and contracting that virus for ourselves and for others.

There’s no going back. There’s only learning to live with the virus and the risk it brings with it.

Entering Eastertide: Don’t Lose Heart

Just this week, I talked to many parents about how this new life has impacted our kids. Some days the changes are positive and promising. Siblings are developing deeper relationships. Learning and imagination have time to flourish and expand. And we are all noticing the way nature is growing and changing all around us.

Other days the changes are challenging and disheartening. Tempers flare. The question, “but why can’t we?” and “when will be able to go?” seem to start every sentence. We as parents don’t have the answers for ourselves much less our children.

The up and down and back and forth carries us along the same path of gratefulness and hopelessness. The emotional roller coaster we are all riding leaving us whiplashed and exhausted.

The epistle lectionary passages for this Eastertide have come from the 1 Peter. At the heart of 1 Peter is the idea of suffering. The audience: a group of strangers in a strange land who are trying to keep their faith and hold onto hope. I can’t think of a better text for this Eastertide.

Here are the words of encouragement from 1 Peter 4:8-10:

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

In the midst of this season of uncertainty, maybe what will be left is the reminder to love each other through all of the ups and downs and to be hospitable to one another understanding that we are all in this together and acknowledging that our actions do indeed impact other people.

May God grant you the grace and love for today in all of moments of gratitude and all of the moments of challenge.

Entering Eastertide: Forgetfulness

I am seeing less and less masks.

I am seeing less and less patience in staying six feet apart.

I am seeing more and more demands to make things “normal” again.

It’s as if collectively we have forgotten why we were staying home and staying apart from each other. It’s as if collectively we have forgotten the stories of doctors and nurses from New York and Italy and around the world about people lined up in the hallways waiting for a bed that isn’t available.

Forgetfulness is a means of survival, but ultimately it’s pretending.

Pretending that we aren’t still living in a global pandemic. Pretending that we can go back to a life that used to exist. Pretending that there aren’t millions of people without jobs and livelihoods. Pretending that the time at home hasn’t changed us to our very core.

Our minds will forget parts of this life even if we have taken time to journal and remember. Our minds will forget because they are trying to find equilibrium.

But our hearts won’t forget. Our hearts will remember the suffering and the grief and the loneliness. Our hearts will remember the way the numbers continued to rise every day, every hour.

And maybe just maybe our hearts will remember the hurt and remind us to love and care for each other.

Entering Eastertide: Rest

On our morning walk yesterday, our four-year-old looked at me and said: “Mama, my feet just can’t go anymore.”

I knew exactly the feeling he was describing. The weight of loss and grief combined with the severance from community is exhausting right now. Not to mention the additional responsibilities of trying to work and homeschool and care for children. The allowances that were given to people working from home in regards to presence and performance have disappeared as businesses start opening only perpetuating the exhaustion we feel.

“We can’t continue like this.” Behind those words, I hear fatigue and loss and loneliness.

This is soul talk.

When words like these come from our mouths, our souls are trying to get our attention. Our brains have not been able to solve or change or control our circumstances. We have been continuing to live like this much longer than we expected. We hear the news that we may have to continue to live like this for longer.

And so our souls cry out for rest. Some way to rest and replenish so that we may receive the strength to do the very thing we don’t think we can do any longer.

But how do we find soul rest?

It may be reading a good book, taking a nap, listening to hymns, talking to a good friend, or worshipping virtually with a community of faith. During this unusual season, I am finding my soul is reminding me of things she has always loved. I didn’t remember how much I loved watching birds until we saw two pileated woodpeckers on our walk. I didn’t remember how much I loved baking until I had time to be home and smell pumpkin bread and chocolate chips cookies being created in the oven.

Souls are tricky to find. They hide beneath other voices that have raised us and tried to train us into compliance. Souls also ask for the strangest things like guitar lessons or a new set of pants or a certain type of pen.

Practicing deep breathing with your hand on your heart and the other hand on your core is a great place to start to give your soul room to breathe and rest.  When we do give this time and space, our souls become less camouflaged and more insistent with their needs.

Your soul is trying to speak to you. Your soul needs rest.

Grant us the time and space to replenish our souls we pray O God, Amen. 

Entering Eastertide: Endure

This is incredibly difficult. If you find yourself uttering at the end of the day, “Why O Lord?” or perhaps, “How long O Lord?” You are not alone. This is our prayer together.

Over the past three weeks, the reminder I have received was to find joy. Find joy in time to make better coffee. Find joy in hidden pathways to the pond. Find joy in siblings that get more time to play together. This has helped immensely. It was as if I was given a scavenger hunt each day. There was something out there that would bring joy.

This week the reminder has changed. Again and again I have heard friends comment, “This life isn’t sustainable. Something has got to give.” If you have thought this or spoken this, you are not alone. We are all feeling this.

But with reports coming out this week of churches who have gathered and now have to close back down because of the number of people who were infected by just one worship service, it would be good to remember that the virus hasn’t gone away even as places open.

Perhaps the reminder for all us is the reminder I received from Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father:

Her voice sounded different to me now. Behind the layers of hurt, beneath the rugged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure-and make music that wasn’t there before.

Endure. Don’t lose heart. We are only just getting started in this new life even though politicians and business owners and even at times church leaders try to convince us that it’s time to get back to normal.

Endure. May God grant you the strength and perseverance to continue to keep your family and the most vulnerable among us safe.

Entering Eastertide: After the Rain

Even in the midst of this week’s storm, we have been able to sneak in our morning walk. Yesterday as we were walking, I was struck by the brightness of blooms. The way that they were glistening with the previous night’s rain only drew me to them more.

Have you ever woken up in the morning after a tough night that was filled with tears trying to hide the puffiness around your eyes? Trying to hide the fact that last night was a tough night?

I don’t know why, but I have always tried to hide the effects of crying. Maybe it’s because as a professional woman I didn’t want to be considered too emotional? Maybe it was because crying is an intensely vulnerable thing? Maybe it’s because at least when I cry, it isn’t one single tear, but a messy all-in experience?

As I walking yesterday after the rain, I felt tears streaming down my face. There was something about this after the rain world that gave me hope. It made me think that after the storm we are encountering there might just be some beautiful blooming in all of us. It made me hope that we would always appreciate a beautiful flower that can stop us in mid-stride drawing us in with its uniqueness and complexity.

These last three months, I have cried much more often for you and for us. For the lives lost and the plans canceled. I’ve cried for the doctors and the nurses and the scientists. I’ve cried for our kids and our grandparents. I’ve cried because there are no words and too many words. I’ve cried because I’m exhausted and everyone is exhausted.

After those tears, for the first maybe ever in my life, I haven’t gotten up and tried to hide the puffy eyes and cheeks. I’ve let me face and soul glisten in the rain of those tears showing that something beautiful is growing.

Entering Eastertide: A New Routine

When we do have to go out to the grocery store to get groceries or pick a prescription, we are following the CDC guidelines to wear a mask. This is something of an anomaly in our part of South Carolina. We are also sending only one member of our household on these trips.

There is so much information that it is hard to process what to take in and what to disregard. And in the midst of everything we are learning and changing, sometimes we simply forget to put a mask on or to move six feet apart from each other.

We are developing a new routine, adjusting the way we have done things that we have done hundreds of times. As we are moving in this new reality, our brains haven’t quite caught up to this new routine. It takes sixty-six days to develop a habit. Many of us are closing in on that time where the way we have been living will be our new routine because we have been in this new normal for almost sixty-six days.

In some ways, it is insufferably long and in other ways, the days have run together making it difficult to decipher one from the other.

If you find yourself balking at the recommendation from the CDC and DHEC, you may just be balking at yet another change after so many changes right in a row. Your brain needs time to adjust, but your brain is also in a state of stress.

New routines are incredibly difficult to establish. Around 82% of New Year’s Resolutions go unrealized. This is hard work. This is important work. This is the work that will keep us safe and those around us safe.