Familiar Feelings in Unprecedented Times

 Last week was my son’s 4th birthday. I had planned a surprise overnight birthday getaway to St. Louis to celebrate. As the boys were getting ready for their normal school day, I pulled out the packed suitcases and to their amazement told them my big secret. The screams of joy and excitement were totally worth it. We quickly changed gears, packed up the car and set off for an adventure. We created some fun memories together. We played at a museum, stayed in a fancy downtown hotel, went swimming, had a birthday dinner, visited the famous St Louis Arch and topped it off with the zoo for my son’s love of animals.  We left on a Thursday morning and by the time we pulled back into the driveway the very next evening it seemed as if our world as we knew it had completely changed. 

Our family trip before the Quarantine

These days we are living in unprecedented times. For all of us last week looked completely different than this week. Last week we were living our lives without much hesitation or uncertainty. We had schedules and routines that we followed. We knew what to expect when a Monday came around. We walked into grocery stores without worrying if there would be enough of essentials on our shopping list. We met friends for coffee and family for brunch and didn’t think twice about the freedoms we had to walk in and out of these establishments. We dropped our kids off at school assured they would be safe and taken care of until we came back for them at the end of the day. We called our parents without much apprehension or concern if they were out and about it.  We couldn’t have imagined that in just a few short days our lives and our community would look completely different.  

Although I have never walked through a pandemic in my lifetime, I found all these feelings of uncertainty and drastic change oddly familiar. I had a strange feeling like I have been here before. As I stopped and reflected on all of this, I put it together. I understand what it is like to look forward to a week ahead full of plans and expectations and have one day change it all.  I have walked through the disappointment and loss of unfulfilled agendas. I have lived in a week that looks drastically different than the week before. My life has had radical change more than once. I have walked the path of complete uncertainty and unknown for the future. Truth be told, it’s not a fun place to be in at all. It’s a rough place to live.  I say this not out of self-pity, but from a place of empathy. Some of you may be in the same situation where this pandemic is activating past wounds of trauma and heartbreak and you can relate with me. Some reading this may be dealing with this type of level of anxiety and unpredictability for the very first time. I thought I would share what I try to remember in times like these. 

Not knowing what tomorrow brings makes you fully dependent on God for today

 It’s cliché but in times like these you really can only live one day at a time.  I have not seen the light at the end of the tunnel and felt like a season was never-ending. I have to focus on my today otherwise it all begins to overwhelm my heart and my head. My boys and I say the Lord’s Prayer every night before we go to bed. As we say “give us this day our daily bread” we usually don’t mean it literally as we physically lack for nothing. With this pandemic some of us are literally in situations where we can’t find bread or other essentials we might be used to having on hand.  Some are worried about the future of their jobs and if there will be one to come back to after this all blows over. We don’t know how we are going to accomplish homeschooling our children and working from home at the same time. As much as we want to worry about these things, we must focus on getting through today. It becomes a spiral of thoughts and worry with questions that don’t have answers today, so maybe it’s best to put them away.  We focus on the now, try our best to prepare for the next thing, and rest in the unknown. (easier said than done, I know!)

  • Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.- Matthew 6:34 

Reach out to your community to remember you are NOT alone! 

Often times in hardship we begin to distance ourselves from our friends and family. My experience is when the grief is too much, I go deeper into isolation, and in turn the depression and anxiety only grow. If I choose to go it alone, I am often crushed by the weight of carrying my burden. If I reach out to my people and share the burden, they help carry it with me.  This week we are actually being mandated to distance ourselves physically, but that certainly doesn’t mean emotionally. If we are going to get through anything challenging, we must realize that we were created for community and interdependence. It is not a sign of weakness to reach out for help or even just a hello. If today was a hard day, tell someone. When we open up and share our struggles, we usually learn that we are not alone in them. We may not be able to go out for coffee and talk face to face, but what a blessing it is in this time that we have apps such as Marco Polo, Voxer and Zoom. There are so many options for us to push against the social distancing and like friend of mine said and practice some “distant socializing”.  

Even in the darkest circumstances, get some perspective and look outward 

Walking through times of struggle I find it to be so easy to be all consumed with my own pain and difficulties. Even in my darkest seasons, I have found joy in the moments when I have seen the opportunity to serve someone else.  This is not advice to fake it until you make it or to push through and bare it. This is not saying your pain isn’t legitimate. There are true disappointments and losses to mourn over and grieve. It’s okay to sit in the sadness. You can hold the heartache in one hand yet grasp for some perspective and purpose with the other. However there is value to this idea of realizing others have it harder and looking up from our circumstances to think about someone in a more vulnerable position. I may be facing several disappointments, but this quarantine is not costing me all that much in comparison to so many. Today I read about refugees in camps who cannot leave to find food and have no way to feed their families. I have seen the families in our own communities who rely on school meals to feed their kids and have lost that for an indefinite time. I know those who are in the hospitals facing major surgeries or a critical prognosis just trying to survive through the threat of this virus. Gaining a bigger perspective helps get me out of myself and puts me on course to take action to help others. In this case, staying home may be the best way to help the vulnerable. Other ways to help are sending money to organizations such as Preemptive Love Coalition or World Relief who are helping those in the direst situations. You might call someone who is shut in or mail them a letter of encouragement. If we are not high risk, we could offer to do some grocery shopping for our elderly neighbors. There are so many ways for us to find joy in serving others.  Remember “we’re all in this together”

Friends, I know we are living in very uncertain times. Every time we turn on the news there’s more information that seems different than the hour before.  These familiar feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and desperation are rearing their ugly head at me. They are trying to spiral into fear and paralyze me from living with joy and purpose in each day. However I remember that God is faithful in every circumstance. He is near to the brokenhearted. He is still in control. He still cares. He still is ever present. He still doesn’t change. I know this because I wrote this all down the last time I walked through these feelings and knew I would forget this time. Let us keep reminding each other of these truths as we walk this road ahead.  

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