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Category: COVID-19

What if…

I found this on Instagram posted by a teacher friend and immediately felt a wave of relief wash over me. I quickly posted it to my stories and followed @miles_of_pe who shared it. (If you know who created it originally, I’d love to give credit!)

After I posted it, I received so many comments and responses from fellow parents. Parents who have been worried about sending their children anywhere because they aren’t sure that it is safe. Parents who don’t have a teaching background wondering if they are engaging their children enough or whether they are falling behind. Parents who have made the decision to keep their kids home for the fall. Parents who are planning to send their kids to school in the fall and are worried that the stint of e-learning last Spring caused them to fall behind.

What if…it’s enough?

What if…our very concern over the well-being of our children is enough to help them know that they are loved and seen? What if…our sleepless nights and early mornings fitting in work before they get up and after they go to sleep is enough for them to understand that we are doing whatever we can to make sure they have time with us? What if…all those walks and outside time and playing in blow-up pools in the backyard is actually they’re absolutely favorite thing to do even though they have done it every afternoon?

What if, dear parent, you are not just enough…but more than enough?

A New Way

As we were doing our weekly grocery pick up, our four-year-old asked which walk we were going on. I reminded him that we were going to get the groceries and he insisted, “But which walk way are we going?” He was trying to orient himself and determine where he was in relation to our house and to our neighborhood. Over the last four months, the majority of our mornings have started with a walk. We’ve developed loops and turns and he has given each of the walks a name.

Now that he is exploring these same ways that we have walked on his bike, he has developed some favorites. Just yesterday I told him that he could choose the way we went. He was so excited to show us the way for a change. As we go I’ve always pointed out the different roads and the different ways that would take us back to our house. I was so impressed that he led the way on a 2.5-mile loop without ever making a wrong turn.

As we have been in this period of quarantine, our community of faith was finishing a study of Acts. Something about the followers of the Way took on a new meaning for me as we were literally developing a new way of life, learning, and being together.

Acts 9 talks about Saul who was persecuting followers of the Way saying:

so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

This new Way was so threatening to the establishment that they were bringing in followers to try to stop the movement.

We are developing a new way of life. It is a threat to our capitalistic, individualist society because it means we are valuing time together, time outdoors, and simple acts of kindness like food left on a neighbor’s porch. We are finding paths and ways in our neighborhoods rather than traveling out of our communities.

This is the Way of caring for each other and being community together. Let us walk bravely into this new Way.

Whispers of the Divine

As I was cleaning one of my bookshelves, a notecard fell off the bookshelf. It was from a time when I would write quotations on notecards from books I had read to remind myself of the way those words had spoken to me. This one was from Thoreau’s On Walden:

The surface of the earth is soft and impressionable by the feet of [humanity]; and so with the paths the mind travels. How worn and dusty then the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity.

As the reality that our world is changing all around us and we will not be returning to the “normal” we used to know, I see this more and more. People are digging in their heels white-knuckled from holding onto what they used to know with a fierceness that threatens violence towards those who would remind them of the changes that are happening.

What if instead, we taught our minds not to cling to tradition and conformity, but instead to look down at the impression we are making on the earth and indeed on the world and wonder if that’s the impression we want to leave behind? What if we taught ourselves wonder and awe at each new day?

I want my steps to tread lightly, disappearing as the wind and rain nourishes the earth. I don’t want my steps to be preserved in concrete reminding the world that it was more important that I walk the way I always had rather than step around the wet concrete with awareness and intentionality to reroute my steps.

Perhaps you would say there is no real significance to the notecard “appearing” at this point in time and space and it’s more a testament to my bookshelf being too full. Perhaps you are right, but for me this is the whisper of the Divine nudging me to remember to tread lightly, to notice everything around me, and to step intentionally into this day.

 

Why We Can’t Open Communities of Faith or Schools

This week the stark contrast of what we have valued as a country has become crystal clear.

We concentrated our initial reopening efforts not on opening the communities where our children learn and people gather together to be in the community together to gain hope and healing, but instead restaurants, bars, and beaches. Our top priority was getting back to entertainment, not education.

To be certain, America is an entertainment-driven society. Our economy depends on our desire to distract ourselves. The average teacher makes $60,477. The average NBA player makes $6.7 million. The average MLB $4.4 million. The average well-known actor makes $15million. The average clergy makes $32,000-$48,000.

Now that we have reopened, our numbers are climbing nationwide. The number of cases is climbing. The number of hospitalizations is climbing.  As we approach the end of the summer, suddenly our collective attention is directed on opening schools. We understand that if schools can’t open if we end up with virtual schooling, we are going to have overtaxed parents and families. We realize now that we focused our reopening efforts on entertainment over education.

As the weight and the toil of living in the midst of a global pandemic and a racial reckoning bear down, we realize that we need hope. We need spiritual guidance because we are mentally, spiritually, and psychologically exhausted from all the uncertainty and living with collective trauma and grief. Voices are calling out for churches to reopen because we know that we need each other. We know that we need hope. Even as some voices call out to reopen, other voices recognize where we are. We are at a place where we have valued escaping from our reality for a trip to the beach and a night out at a restaurant or a bar over coming to terms that we will not return to “normal” in the foreseeable future. We have valued escapism over compassion.

And so here we are.

Government leaders are threatening to remove funding from schools if they don’t open up. Government agencies are threatening lawsuits if schools don’t reopen. This is after political leaders ordered churches to open. As we get closer and closer to the fall, we are realizing that when we value entertainment over education.

We are left without the covering that schools offered as they fed the one and nine children who live with food insecurity every day, twice a day, and sent food home. We are realizing that without schools, we don’t have low-cost, reliable childcare for working parents. We are realizing that we have put the pressure on schools to be the savior and stopgap of a broken system for far too long.

As numbers continue to rise numbers and the possibility of having a loved one die alone in the hospital and the fear for our lives for much longer continues to live with us, we realize that we value escapism over compassion. Churches and communities of faith, driven by their moral codes and caring for those in need have guided and challenged our culture of consumerism.

As churches are deemed a major source of COVID-19 exposure, we realize how important coming together each week reminding ourselves that this one life that we have to live is not about gaining more stuff, a bigger house, or a cruise around the world, but instead about caring for each other. We are in a religious awakening.

Our eyes have been opened.  As a society, we value entertainment over education and escapism over compassion.

The question is now that our eyes have been opened, will our hearts be?

Morning Light

When case numbers in SC began to rise, I realized it was going to become more and more difficult to find light and hope. The climbing death rate, the uncertainty about the fall, and the growing unease among people were all causes to be on alert constantly. South Carolina now has higher case numbers than any other country in the world. South Carolina ranks number three on case numbers per capita. It feels as if the virus is closing in our state.

I know some people have taken the approach that “it isn’t that big of a deal” or that “we are all going to get it,” but after reading some of the potential long-term effects this virus could have on the neurological system especially, I simply can’t come to those conclusions.

As the days seem to drift into a mundane routine, I needed a reminder that there was light all around. I needed a reminder that even if we are walking and biking the same paths over and over again there something new to notice. I needed the reminder that the Divine was among us.

Even as I asked for my eyes to be opened, I began to see morning light all around. I began to notice the subtle ways flowers bloomed over the course of a week, opening a little more each day. I began to notice the possibility that our morning walks and bike rides just might instill in our four-year-old and seventeen-month-old the desire to escape to nature when things seemed chaotic or scary. I began to notice that everything looks just a little bit more magical and mysterious in the morning light.

And I began to awake each day with open eyes and open hearts to the promise:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 

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.

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?

On Being Together

Over and over again, I have heard people saying that they “needed a change of scenery” or that the way we were doing life during quarantine “wasn’t sustainable.” While this is true to a certain extent, here in South Carolina, the travel and the unwillingness to wear masks is having devastating effects. Our case numbers are rising, more people are dying, and our medical professionals are being taxed to unnecessary extremes. Other states are asking people who have visited South Carolina, to quarantine for 14 days because the rate of increase is so steep.

All because we “needed” to get out and go somewhere.

Molly Spearman announced this week that if we in South Carolina continue not to wear masks as we go about our business, then there is no way that schools will be able to meet in person in the fall. Quarantine helped to flatten the curve, but it did not make COVID disappear. Our inability to wait and change our practices is having a terrible consequences. We are no longer at the point where this is a disease that impacts “the grandmas.” “Since April 4, data from the agency shows that there has been a 413.9% increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases among the 21-30 age group.”

It is much easier to close our eyes and pretend things are the same as they always have been. It is much easier to cling to things that say, “We go to the beach every summer,” and “our policy has always been,” but this unwillingness to change will indeed harm others.

It is harming others.

The question is will we continue to harm others? Will we finally wrestle with the truth that our actions impact others? Will we finally look at ourselves in the mirror and confront our short-sightedness?

 

On Being a Spiritual Director for a Year

 

This week the pictures began to pop up on my social media feeds reminding me that it was just a year ago that I was commissioned as a spiritual director after a two-year certification program at Lutheran Southern Seminary. I was shocked to realize that it had only been a year since our last intensive when I had a baby in tow learning about the desert fathers and mothers for the last time in that kind of setting. Last June, I remember the greetings and the celebrations of being together. I remember everyone being surprised at the baby in my arms because the last time we had gathered I had been carrying her within me. It isn’t surprising then that this baby almost a year to the date would choose this week to finish nursing. Her whole life has been inextricably tied to this journey to become a spiritual director.

As I was looking back at pictures, I found myself also looking back at our coursework. The study of men and women who were looking for a deeper relationship with the Divine, not in search of answers but in search of wholeness. My journey was the same. I wanted to know more about what I didn’t know. I wanted to know more about how to walk intentionally and purposefully with people who were looking for healing and hope. I wanted to know more about this Divine breath that resides within my lungs.

Over the course of reflection, I looked back at the monastic daily prayer schedule. As I looked over the times, I looked at my phone calendar and realized, the times of prayer are awfully close to the times I have fed our baby over the last year. Perhaps there is something beyond coincidence to those parallel schedules. Perhaps much like an infant needs nourishment throughout the day, so too do our souls.

Perhaps there is something to humbling ourselves throughout the day remembering that we are not in control and we do not have the answers that provide our souls the nutrients they need to keep going. And perhaps after we have drawn close to the Divine, we find that the refreshment brings us much needed rest and peace.

May we listen to the cries of hunger from our souls and pause to give our souls nourishment throughout the day.