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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.

Entering Eastertide: A New Morning

Here we are starting another week in this strange new life. The aspect of this new living that has been so surprising to me is how quickly we have adapted. I now keep masks and masks or some kind of covering for the kids in my car on the rare occasion we drive through to pick something up.

My mornings begin earlier than my children in order to try to get some work done and to try to have an open mind and space to be attentive to their learning and needs for the rest of the morning. My days end later trying to think ahead and get a little more work done while they rest.

So many mornings I am brought back to the mornings of rushing to get everyone ready to get to school and get to the office and the constant strain of hurrying from one place to another. While there are certainly new and different strains, the constant going has left. Over the last three months, I have used only one tank of gas.

As I look at our four-year-old and our fifteen-month-old I often wonder what these months are instilling in them. Maybe that having a sanctuary away from the rest of the world is important? Maybe that work and the way we do work is ever-shifting and actually can be adjusted much more than systems and leadership might like to think? Maybe that time with family is non-negotiable?

I don’t know in what ways this time will ground them and their view of life and what is important, but I know that my mind has shifted. There are so many things I thought I needed that I simply don’t. There are so many things that worried me and kept me up at night that just aren’t worth the energy.

What is important is being refined each new day we discover and create and live together in this new life. I can’t wait to see what day’s revelation will be.

Entering Eastertide: Losing Connection

Since there are so many people who are working from home in addition to having children who are home trying to do schoolwork, there are several times throughout the day that we lose internet connection. This connection is important for uploading school videos as well as the work my partner and I do.

As I thought about what a frustration it is to lose connection especially in the middle of uploading something, I thought this is a pretty good representation of where we all are now. We have lost connection.

We have lost connection to our families because we are trying to keep those in our families who are most vulnerable safe. We have lost connection to our school communities. Now those times catching up with someone in carpool line seem so very important. We have lost connection to our church communities as we miss those conversations we had before worship and after worship.

In so many ways, connection was easy because we were in the same place at the same time. To be sure, we missed opportunities to connect and check on each other, but at other times that connection was so strong that it was almost visible.

This is the hardest work we are going to have to do in this new normal. We are going to have to find ways to reimagine connection. Ways that keep us safe, but also that ground us and wrap us in a web of belonging.

Holy Spirit, connect us to each other in surprising and mysterious ways. Amen.

Entering Eastertide: A New Normal

Here in South Carolina, stores and restaurants are opening back up. If you drive the same routes you used to drive, you can pretend for just a minute that it is “back to normal.” There are many places and people not requiring masks and social distancing guidelines are proving difficult to enforce when there are small spaces and so many people who are ready to be back in the world again.

Even as much as I want to be “back to normal,” there is a whispering within me that suspects we won’t go back. Life never really does go backwards does it? It pushes us forward into new experiences and new normals again and again.

I hear this a lot from people who are grieving. It’s the waking up to the new normal without a loved one, without a job, without a marriage that is the most difficult. It’s the waking up to the new normal that causes you to confront what you have lost.

We are grieving after a traumatic experience. We are wanting and wishing to find equilibrium because we as a people always seek balance and predictability. If you find yourself trying to get “back to normal” only to be confronted with the reality that there is nothing normal right now, you are not alone. We are all trying to adapt and adjust to living with a virus strand that caused a global pandemic.

As much as we want to get “back to normal,” let us work together to create a new normal where we can live and work together without endangering each other of the people we love.

Entering Eastertide: Waking Up

I am always struck that the women go to check the tomb and attend to the body of Jesus “at early dawn.” Just as the world is starting to wake up, they are starting to wake up to the miracle that Christ has risen.

I have to be honest with two young children who often wake up “at early dawn,” I often don’t have my heart and mind ready to receive miracles. Mostly, I am ready just to receive coffee and lots of it!

In the monastic tradition, morning prayers are often uttered before dawn breaks and before you break fast to consume food. The implication here is that the first thing we do when we rise is offer a prayer to realign our minds and hearts to the light of Christ.

O Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ, dispel the darkness in our hearts. Til our blessed light makes nightime flee and brings the joys of day to me.

Perhaps in the midst of these uncertain times, the darkness of the night has followed you into the day. Perhaps the weariness of not enough rest has lingered on your shoulder and in your back all day.

Let us remember to realign our hearts and minds to the light and hope of the Resurrected Christ.

Entering Eastertide: Things Are Different

This morning the four-year-old looked out the window and said, “Mama, things are different now.”

I let his profound statement hang in the air for just a little bit before responding.

“Yeah, they are buddy. What were you thinking about?”

“Well, well, I mean like no with homeschooling and everything is different.”

I wonder sometimes what this little mind will remember from this time. I wonder what he will take with him. Will he take the importance of finding sanctuary in the midst of these uncertain times? Will he take that he really is the one who leads and guides his learning? Will he take with him the idea that you can work from home and be with your family all at the same time?

Or will his memories like so many, disappear as he grows up.

Eastertide allows us to reimagine a new life, a different life. Eastertide allows us to say with certainty, “Everything is different” because Christ is Risen. Even as we are reeling from all the changes in such a short time and as we are reminded that everything is different each and every day, let us cling to the hope of the resurrected Christ.

Entering Eastertide: Dazed and Confused

In the book of Acts the story of the ascension of Jesus goes like this:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But yc; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

I love the ending of this passage. The disciples are looking up dazed and confused as to what they have just seen when all of the sudden two figures clothed in white robes ask them why they are looking up. During Eastertide, we follow the stories of Jesus appearing after the resurrection to many different people and then the story ends with the promise of another who will help the disciples tell this story.

If you stop to think about what they have experienced for just a moment, you will realize the disciples are in shock. They have watched their leader whom they have followed for three years be crucified and buried. They have run in fear hoping the authorities decided not to round up those who followed him and give them the same fate. They have waited and grieved and prayed.

Then the stories of the resurrection met their ears. They stood by with hope and then Jesus appeared in their midst as they were gathered together and they celebrated. They rejoiced and wondered what this meant. They listened as he told them the stories of the scriptures.

Then he was gone, taken up in cloud. They gazed up listening and wondering what this all meant and where they were supposed to go from here.  Then they heard the message from the men clothed in white, “Move on, there’s work to do.” So many emotions in such a small amount of time. They were dazed and confused. Not sure really what to do next.

This is a pretty good description of the last six weeks for me as well. The wide range of emotions I have felt from one day to the next often leaves me feeling dazed and confused wondering what to do next, wondering what to feel next, wondering what will come next.

Maybe the promise of Jesus here to his disciples is the same promise for us:

you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you

You will receive power to take that next step, to do the next step and to be the witness of the way God continues to dwell among us.

Come Holy Spirit come. Awaken us again.

Tiger King and Spiritual Abuse

We finally took the plunge and started watching Tiger King. I barely made it through the first episode I have to be honest, but as I continued to watch there was a character, a woman who appeared. She once worked for Doc Antle who left. She described the terrible conditions she had to live in and the way you got to a better position in the community. She described all of these steps and expectations had theological underpinnings and reasonings. All of this happened in my home state of South Carolina.

I couldn’t stop listening to her story. Her story is my story. And so many other women’s stories.

In a recent article after the show was released Fisher said:

I feel like I’m finally being understood and finally being heard.

When I watched her story and her eyes, I felt like I was understood. There was someone else out there who had been where I have been. In the midst of the shock and trauma of our current state, shock and trauma from the past can resurface.

Please know that you are not alone. Your story is not my story, but our journeys may just cross.