Home » community

Category: community

On Feeling Stuck

Yesterday, our seventeen-month-old walked into the kitchen with a slinky stuck on her foot. She was picking up her foot and putting it back down, again and again, trying to loosen her foot from the entanglement but she couldn’t quite get loose.

I had to laugh (and maybe take a short video before freeing her) because there have been so many times during this time of quarantine that I have felt the exact same way. I feel stuck in uncertainty and fear. I feel like I can’t get a good stride going because it’s so hard to plan ahead when there is new information every single day. I feel like there is something around my ankle that is holding me in place.

And maybe this is exactly where we need to be in order to remember how much we need help. We need to help each other stay safe. We need to help each other because so many people have lost their jobs. We need to help each other by checking on each other because the mental stress and anxiety of completely changing our lives so quickly while also constantly mitigating risks and managing a myriad of responsibilities are exhausting.

We need help to ask the Divine how we can continue to offer hope and life to each other during these strange times. We need to ask the Divine to help us not get stuck in fear and uncertainty. We need to look at what is holding us in place and ask for help finding a way out of that stuckness so that we can create and imagine a new way of being community together.

On Holidays in a Pandemic

It’s supposed to be a holiday weekend. It’s supposed to be a time and an excuse to take it easy, spend time with family, and rest.

Except we are in the midst of a global pandemic.

As we watch cases numbers rise, hear about travel bans, and testimonies that the case numbers are only going to rise, it seems like there is no time to rest. There is no way of avoiding or getting away from where we are. The pandemic is not gone. The cries of protest to examine systemic and historical racism have not stopped.

It’s getting more and more difficult to escape into distraction and avoidance.

Thanks be to God.

Thanks be to God that we can’t hide from our role and our responsibility to take care of each other, to fight for equality, and to work to bring the ecosystem of God here on earth. Thanks be to God that we are being challenged again and again to consider the way our decisions impact others. Thanks be to God that we are having to pause and reflect on the choices we make. Thanks be to God that capitalism is being brought into questions. Thanks be to God that we can’t live the way we used to live.

May God watch over all the essential workers who are bearing the burden of our attempts to hide and distract ourselves.

On Figuring It Out

This week has been marked with our four-year-old learning how to pedal a bike with training wheels. The first day and the first tries were frustrating especially as he accidentally reversed his feet and brought the bike to a complete stop not knowing there were foot brakes on the new bike. I watched his face as he tried to push the pedals down. He was trying his very hardest and wanted to figure it out so badly.

Now more than ever, we are trying to figure out how to be community together, how to be family together, and how to be church together in a way that keeps each other safe. It is frustrating when technology doesn’t work and when we know that we will have to continue in this struggle for a longer period of time as we watch case numbers rise. It is a struggle to teach our brains new patterns. It is frustrating to continually create, innovate, and imagine each and every day.

Figuring it out is exhausting, but this struggle is teaching us not to take each other for granted. This struggle is teaching us to adapt and to believe in ourselves. This struggle is making us stronger.

Even before breakfast, our four-year-old was asking to get back to his bike. By the end of our time outside yesterday, he was able to do a loop without stopping. He woke up ready to confirm to himself that he had figured it out.

I pray that we will find that four-year-old confidence within us as we figure out new ways to be church and be community together.

Turning Into Something New

Over the course of our e-learning, we found a lot of things that we could turn into new things. Used toilet paper rolls turned into binoculars. Use milk cartons turned into bird feeders. Pillows turned into rocks to jump through rivers of lava that were threatening the side of the boat which the ottoman turned into. Putting away laundry turned into trips to Mars, the Moon, and the Sun the laundry basket rocketship transporting us to the different destinations.

Creativity and imagination guided our learning and changed my eyes.

There is so much in the world and in our lives today that is limiting. We feel restricted because the life we use to know was taken from us quickly and swiftly. We feel angry that local leaders are telling us that we must wear masks in order to keep other people safe. We feel overwhelmed that the things we used to do like going out to eat or gather with friends and families now require risk assessment and the constant monitoring of our own bodies and our loved ones to see if those gatherings were dangerous.

In the midst of trying to manage so much, our creativity and imagination have been switched off. Our survival instincts are on full throttle.

It’s not until we reactivate our imaginations that we will be able to reimagine what life can be. It’s not until we access our creativity that we will be able to switch from being defensive about all the changes to seeing those challenges as invitations to experience a completely new way of life.

I remember the times when a letter of acceptance to college, a summer program, and a scholarship to teach overseas came in the mail. My heart started racing and my breath shortened because this was a doorway leading to a completely new experience.

So too is this time and this place a doorway, not a closed door. The question is will we step through to create a new scene, a new chapter, and a new story of what it means to be family and community together?

Walking in the Backwoods

Yesterday, we took some time to go to Croft State Park. This was always a place that provided retreat and respite because it was so close to where I grew up. Also, I knew that this is where my grandfather was during World War II. There was even a desk from the administrative office at our family business growing up.

As we walked the trails by the lake, I found myself imagining what it was like a training camp. The number of soldiers who came to train in the woods or backwoods as some may call it. So much of the landscape and the foliage was familiar to me. It felt like my backyard, but to those soldiers coming from around the country, the heat and humidity and bugs must have been surprising.

I knew where we were going and I knew the significance in my own story of that place.

This is a significant point in our history personally, culturally, and societally. This is an invitation to stop and to decide how you are going to participate. What conversations are you going to have with your family? What conversations are you going to have with your kids?

In Exodus chapter 35, we find the reminder that when Jacob was fleeing for his life, God appeared to him and after God appeared to Jacob, he built an altar to remember that God appeared and that God was with him.

Jacob built an altar there and called it “God of Bethel,” because that was the place where God had appeared to him

How are you going to mark this time in a way that you will remember? What will you build to remember? This is indeed a remarkable time to be a part of history and to be a part of much-needed change. May God grant us strong memories to remember and courage to continue the work of change.

Entering Eastertide: Hope

We are just days away from Pentecost, which marks the end of the fifty days of Eastertide. In the season of Eastertide, the church calendar follows the stories and journeys of the apostles who have received the Spirit of Truth and have preached this good news all over. This is where the story of the life, death, and resurrection spread so that we are still talking about it today.

If you follow the book of Acts, you’ll find that there is a pattern where Paul goes into the synagogue to teach and is the message of hope is received by the Jewish people. Then after a day or two, the Jewish leadership gets involved and they either run Paul out of town of beat and imprison him. This is when Paul is often taken in by a Gentile and the message of hope transforms whole households.

Our congregation was already studying Acts before the pandemic and before the Eastertide season began and now as we study together, I am amazed at how much we need these words. We need the hope of those first apostles. We need the courage of those first apostles. We need the imagination of those first apostles.

Because we are creating church together in the most unusual ways. We are spreading the message of hope to new communities in new ways. Thanks be to God for the Spirit of Truth that leads and guides us on our way.

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.