“Today felt normal – and it felt oh.so.good.”
I wrote these words as we emerged from our Hardest Year following my diagnosis of Vascular EDS. Countless hospitalizations, emergency room visits and life-saving surgeries all left us craving the mundane. A simple day as wife, husband and baby was a gift.
I recently read the same sentiment from the late Elisabeth Elliot, author and missionary, when they were going through her husband’s cancer treatments: “We remarked how wonderful it would be to have just a single ordinary day.“
Two weeks ago, we had no idea how much we’d be longing for the ordinary. Like much of the world, our lives in America have gone from no gatherings of over 100 people to 50 to 10. Businesses, schools and churches are closing their doors (temporarily, we pray) all in an effort to slow the spread of the world-wide coronavirus pandemic – to love our neighbors by keeping our distance. Every generation I’ve talked to said this is the first time in their lives they’ve seen anything like this.
“Social distancing” is the new phrase of the year, and almost-empty store shelves are now our new normal.
My trip to the store yesterday yielded these non-scientific observations. The chip aisle was stocked full, so naturally I bought a bag of Fritos and Jalapeno Cheetos. The soup aisle was half full; I bought three cans. The toilet paper aisle, of course, was empty. We’re down to
six five rolls.
A Needed Inconvenience?
For our family, frankly, this has served thus far as only an inconvenience. My son’s school – from preschool through 12th grade – is doing online learning. The administration and teachers acted quickly and barely missed a beat. All I can say is, THANK YOU, TEACHERS! Yes, this means I’m more involved on a daily basis with my second grader’s schooling, plus helping our ninth-grade international student stay on track. But I am not homeschooling or filling all hours of the day with Pinterest-worthy creations, so this is certainly a huge blessing. I’m also learning why my son loses minutes at recess for talking during class (ahem) – he has lots of words!
My husband can work his office job from home. We have taken numerous family walks. My eight year old and I braved the yellow Southern pollen to swing in the hammock and read together in the sun. I’ve played Monopoly and Memory. I’ve purged toys and clothes. “Sometimes you just have to let things go, Mom,” said the wise child as he cheerfully helped me sort the piles (remember, we’re only in week one of social distancing). We’ve hung pictures on the wall. I finished a 500-page book.
I’ve cooked stuffed peppers and ribs, grilled chicken, taco soup and homemade banana muffins. Our gas bill is down, but our grocery bill is way up. I am thankful.
Our own church had to drastically scale back on our annual missions conference. Usually, we spend the week gathering and giving to visiting missionary families – food, time, material goods, dental appointments, eye doctor visits, shopping trips, and shared meals. We hear stories of God’s faithfulness in faraway places, and our own faith is renewed by how big God really is. This week, we were only able to host two online services for the families who could come – and offer our prayers and generosity from a distance. I pray they felt the church uphold them, even in our physical absence.
From Normal to the Unwanted and Unknown
But for many families, this virus has gone way beyond an inconvenience, causing a seismic shift. Some parents have lost schooling and child care, but still have to work. Others are employed by businesses that are closed for an unforeseen amount of time, earning no paycheck and afraid of how they’ll pay their bills.
This has delayed wedding celebrations, graduation ceremonies and the loss of memory-making from final semesters of high school or college. Family members are banned from visiting elderly loved ones or those sick in the hospital. Still others like nurses and doctors (including those in our extended families) are at high risk for exposure to the coronavirus.
All of these hold grief, anxiety, fear, disappointment or a mixture of all of the above. While we recognize these are real problems with few short-term solutions, we look for ways to temper our anxiety and to release our sadness to our Savior, who is well acquainted with grief.
We can focus on our loss of “normal” or we can submit these strange days as an offering to our loving God who is not surprised by any of this.
“God’s sustaining providence provides relief, even when life becomes unspeakably difficult,” I read in my morning devotion this week (90 Days of God’s Goodness by Randy Alcorn). While my family has not experienced the devastating loss of schedule, health or income due to COVID-19, we are all-too familiar when life suddenly changes and is pared down to the absolute necessities, scrambling to find our footing in difficult times.
I’ll share what I’ve learned about how to endure hard seasons with hope – a talk I gave just two months ago at our church’s ladies brunch. I probably won’t offer you anything new under the sun, as I’m simply thinking out loud through my keyboard – that’s how writers think, after all. But in these days filled with uncertainty, changing news reports and hunkering down for the next few weeks (months?), I offer you my experience, my compassion and my prayers.
As we long for “normal” in these abnormal times,
may we do these 3 things:
I know this is a weird thing to say during these days of social distancing. But I encourage you to disconnect from technology and connect with each other. Turn off the news and social media feeds, and look at the faces in front of you (even if that means video chatting). Cook. Walk. Read. Play. –Together. Check up on your neighbors or your far-away loved ones. This forced interruption can be a gift.
There are some really good things on the internet right now, too. Here are some that have made me smile:
Peace in Christ (5-year-old Claire Crosby and her dad)
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – Psalm 34
FBC Singspiration Service – My home church’s music pastor put this men’s group of hymns and Scripture reading out this week for your encouragement. The lyrics are included so you can worship along.
Do the next thing.
No, this isn’t my original idea, but it’s a practice that has given me life during my worst days. When my days started with unhooking my IV feeding and putting on a new pain patch, doing the next thing of feeding my baby his bottle gave me strength and hope.
This often-quoted phrase is all over the place – books, podcasts, even a song in Disney’s Frozen 2 movie (which released early on Disney+ for all you Frozen-lovers out there). Elisabeth Elliot said it. Emily P. Freeman has a book (the Kindle version is FREE with Amazon Prime right now) and weekly podcast The Next Right Thing, offering simple wisdom and calming narratives. The phrase was most likely originally sourced in a lovely English poem from 1897 – you can read the poem and find a printable here. Post it on your fridge.Doing normal tasks in abnormal circumstances can give us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Click To Tweet
While the big picture of our circumstances may be overwhelming, taking small steps of obedience by doing the next thing in front of us can give us purpose and joy. Wash the dishes. Fold the laundry. Hop onto that online meeting or record your next class (again, thank you, teachers!). Read God’s Word. Help your child with math. Stop and pray. Doing normal tasks in abnormal circumstances can give us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” – as we trust Christ’s presence to cheer and to guide us. (Listen to Chris Rice’s acoustic version of Great is Thy Faithfulness.)
We hear it often in the Christian walk. Countless Bible verses encourage us to give thanks. Even science confirms that gratitude changes our brains and improves our lives. Years ago, I did a daily “thankful five” list – seems like a good time to renew this practice! My friend Susan Ely posts a daily #countingitalljoy list on social media (find her blog here) to reset her heart and mind on God’s gifts no matter the circumstances.“Gratitude never comes from avoiding difficulty, but from finding yourself sustained through it.” Randy Alcorn, 90 Days of God’s Goodness Click To Tweet
Remembering God’s past faithfulness and His current good gifts (even the small ones) helps turn our anxious thoughts to His comforting presence. Yes, these are times of real troubles, but gratitude can keep us from despair – and purposeful thankfulness also seems directly related to our peace.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Ways to practice gratitude:
- Journal a daily list (physical, relational, mental, spiritual – it all counts)
- Make a list of God’s spiritual provisions and His characteristics
- Turn your gratitude outward by writing a thank you note (with real paper and ink!) and sending it
- Pray out loud, expressing thanks to God. I don’t do this nearly often enough!
- Sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.
>>Do those last two as a family. We have this week and it’s lifted my spirits!
As we long for the return of ordinary days, may we do this “new normal” with love, purpose and gratitude.
This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase from one of the links above, I will receive a small stipend at no additional cost to you.
Scenes from Social Distancing