The Fabric of My Life

This past week I found a home for most of my fabric. A friend is making lots of masks and other items healthcare workers can use, and I have good material she can have.

This is actually a big deal for me. One of the first things I started exploring when I began going to Celebrate Recovery and did my first Step Study was a two-part issue I’ve had as long as I can remember.

Saving things I’m not currently using or needing, and procrastinating.

About the time I began digging into these issues five years ago, my mom’s health was declining, and that fall she moved into a nursing home and we had to sell her house.

It became crystal clear to me that I came by both of those faults I was exploring honestly.

I spent several weeks that fall trying to pack up and sort through Mom’s belongings. Both she and Dad had kept records of our church that they were involved in from early on, Dad’s radio shows, and everything else.

Everything.

Clothes, toys from our childhood, tools, Christmas decorations, furniture, you name it, she kept it all, long after Dad had died.

And fabric. Actually she had made baby quilts for several of the grandkids and shorts and shirts to pack in her Operation Christmas Child boxes, so there were good reasons for some of her cloth. The rest she had accumulated over decades.

That was a stressful time. We were under a deadline hoping to preserve some of the value of Mom’s house by selling quickly, and we had just a few weeks to get it auction ready.

Several nights a week I would go and fill garbage bags to put in the alley, and box after box to take home to my house.

For the last couple of years Mom lived in her house I knew the day would come when we’d have to go through all her stuff. In my mental scenario it would have been after she had died peacefully in her sleep at home, and we would have taken our time and put the house on the market after plenty of discussion to decide how to handle her things.

I’d been through this with my in-laws, and for the most part it wasn’t too difficult.

For a couple of years I had tried to go through some of her things when the kids and I would come visit or take her grocery shopping. I’d carry an interesting box up from the basement and hand her things to look at and decide if it could go in the garbage.

We never got very far. Mom got talking about the memories the items brought back to her. Since she was starting into dementia I felt that was more important at the time than emptying out her basement.

So when the day came to tell Mom we were getting her house ready to sell, she wanted to go home one more time.

We spent time in every room. I asked her to tell me which items of furniture and keepsakes she wanted someone in the family to keep, and we put post-its on them. We had a list of things she hoped we’d want to keep for good, and others she just wanted to be able to see again if she had the desire before she died.

We prayed before we left to get dinner before going back to the nursing home, thanking God for her years in the house and for whoever would come to own it. She prayed for all of her kids.

At the restaurant, her favorite, she forgot that she liked iced tea to drink.

I think that was the day I knew Mom wouldn’t be with us completely any more.

So each night I came home with a van loaded with Mom’s stuff, I felt a weight of responsibility to keep some of her memories.That fall and winter my family room had a double row of boxes stacked as high as the couches running around two walls, and underneath a large, square coffee table. Also under and on top of Mom’s dining room table she had given me a few year’s before.

There I was, with plenty of my own clutter, and Mom’s added in to the mix. And being faced with a need to start digging into why I kept my own things, it was nearly impossible to figure out why Mom had kept all of hers.

That winter and spring I went through box after box, at first trying to organize, and then just trying to minimize the space it took up when I got overwhelmed.

I’m not an organizer by nature.

It was the next fall, after Mom had died in the summer, when I went through things a second time. I cleaned out a large closet in my family room and transferred the boxes into it.

This time I threw more things away, though there is still plenty I should let go. That will come another day.

Because in the past few years I’ve faced a lot about myself and learned much along the way.

I don’t know how I never recognized how much I rely on my senses for my memory. I’m known as having the best memory in the family, which is true. And I’ve learned my memories are sparked by my senses. Like Mom I start looking through a box of my own things and I want to tell someone the stories of times long ago, friends I’ve lost touch with, what my life was like back in the day.

It was no different this past week as I washed up decades of saved fabric, ironed it smooth and folded it neatly to send off to it’s new home.

I was amazed at the memories running through my mind as I straightened and pressed pieces of cloth that I’d used to make clothes for my family.

There were many more large lengths I’d bought because they were so pretty, but I got out of the sewing mood and never used them.

Those were hard to part with.

So I didn’t, entirely.

There were some smaller pieces, leftovers from projects I’d made, that I washed and ironed and folded up for me.

And one bigger one I’d always meant to make dresses out of for my girls and I. As I finished ironing the eight yards of purple flowers I asked Baby Girl to come look and see material I thought was really “me”.

She gave me a great idea. Wouldn’t that be a pretty backing on a quilt?

The smaller pieces I’d been setting aside, I had told her someday I’d like to make myself a quilt and include these pieces of my memories in it. In all the things I’ve made for other people, I haven’t made many things just for me.

It had been many years since I’d looked through so many scraps and lengths of fabric, and the memories are still clear. So I’m okay not keeping it all. I have small bits of many of them, and I have a purpose and a plan for them.

And someday I’ll wake up leisurely and my hand will play over the feel of the stitches and the segments, and as I focus on a random square a memory will surface.

Of the time when I made pajamas for my kids, a vest for my son and a dress for my daughter, or presents for extended family.

And also of the time that came when I was okay with letting most of it go.

Lifelines

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling adrift while sheltering at home. I look at my phone to see the date, my calendar to be sure of where I am in the week. And since my out of the home job has dried up for now, I have nowhere pressing to go.

When we were first urged to stay home, so many things changed at once. Jobs let us know everything would be on hold indefinitely. Stores were chaotic and shopping trips had to be opportunistic, basing what we would eat on what was left on the shelves. Kids were sent home from college.

Our church suspended all activities and services, and it took a couple of weeks before they came up with a game plan to post recorded services online. Celebrate Recovery meetings at a different church were also put on hold, though they were able to get a Friday live broadcast up the first week.

Suddenly all my normal activities, all the people I’m used to spending certain days and lengths of time with, stopped.

My biggest outings have become driving across town to get samples of the new asthma inhaler I need every couple of weeks combined with a stop at a bakery we like for bread.

Exciting stuff here.

And then there’s the shopping days. We spend a couple hours making up the list.

Before this pandemic I was in our local store probably five days a week, picking up fresh meat and produce as we needed it and stocking up on staples as they were on sale.

Now we try to go at least two weeks between trips, and it’s exhausting to my blowing-in-the-wind personality to have to plot out meals and make sure I’m putting all the ingredients on the list.

Baby Girl has been doing the bulk of the shopping so far, with me running a cart full at a time home to put away, while she fills another cart.

It takes two to three hours, and we are worn out when we get home.

All my normal lifelines have disappeared.

That’s how it seemed in the beginning. All those people that I would stand and chat with throughout the store, or at the bank, or in the library. My friends at church and in our care group, the hugs and smiles and quick conversations, or the deeper ones at Bible studies and group meetings. My every Friday night Celebrate Recovery times of fellowship, teaching, and sharing.

These connections were suddenly inaccessible.

When I got over the initial shock, I realized that if I didn’t do something purposeful I would drown in all this uncertainty and change around me.

So I finally got back into something I hadn’t done for a couple of years. I started doing a Bible study with my Celebrate Recovery Bible that will have me reading the whole Bible in a year, along with slowly going back through the 12 steps and 8 principles of recovery.

I cannot tell you how much this has meant to me. When everything in the world seems like it’s spinning off into space, God’s word grounds me in his love. It has been my strongest lifeline, the thing that has given me strength to at least look like I’m unfazed by all the changes. And I’m getting insight into how I can take one day at a time and handle whatever we are faced with.

For several weeks before the pandemic I had missed my CR meetings because of other commitments, including Dear Husband’s hip replacement and my bout with pneumonia. So March 13 was going to be my first Friday back. Instead I tried to watch a live broadcast put out by the church on my laptop, but without headphones I couldn’t hear it over the other noises in the house.

So I didn’t attempt to tune in, even when they announced the broadcasts would be more organized, and they were setting up Zoom meetings for our open share groups to follow the broadcasts.

Then our little local computer store opened back up, my “b” key went haywire, and I needed to break down and buy a new laptop. And it didn’t occur to me until a week later that I could just buy myself headphones so I could “go” to CR!

We had already been watching our pastor’s sermons and designing our own worship sets with YouTube videos, but that we did as a family on the tv. For CR I really need to be able to keep the other participants safe and anonymous, and be in a room alone.

When you first stop doing something you are used to doing, you miss it at first but it can soon become easier and easier to sit it out. I was shocked to see, once I got out my calendar, that I had missed 13 weeks, a full 3 months of CR! No wonder I was getting pithy!

For those who have never been to Celebrate Recovery it’s hard to describe the benefits. But I’m going to try.

I think when I tell people that it’s a place where you can talk about whatever issues you are dealing with, there is a stereotypical idea of what that means. It includes complaining or whining, maybe looking for sympathy and wanting others to tell you how justified you are to feel the way you do.

Maybe people think it’s a place to reinvent yourself, to convince others that you really have it together, you can control your life, you just need to vent a little.

Let me tell you what it’s really like.

We all have things that bother us, things we don’t really like to take out and examine in our day-to-day lives. Things we know we need to name, examine, and figure out how to deal with them.

I have found that the sooner I can turn those things over to God, the sooner he helps me work through them. And that’s the only way he can heal me of my hurts, hang-ups and habits.

So the process of speaking out loud about those deep hurts and what they’ve led us to do to protect and defend ourselves and those we love is an important step. Saying out loud what we are struggling with takes away the power they’ve had over us, the control they’ve wielded.

It isn’t about boosting our egos, or making ourselves look good. It’s 3-5 minutes at a time to share whatever we need to speak out loud, and begin the battle to vanquish it from our lives.

And it’s a solitary thing done in the company of people who promise to keep our struggles private, to encourage us as we allow them, and to cheer us on as we meet week after week and watch each other grow stronger and more confident in our ability to let God be Lord over everything.

I’m so glad I’ve reconnected with another lifeline.

If you are struggling to get through these days, I would encourage you to seek out a Celebrate Recovery group near you by going to celebraterecovery.com. You can look for a group and call the contact to find out if they are doing online meetings. And every night of the week at 9pm(E) Celebrate Recovery national leaders are doing a half-hour live Facebook session I would encourage you to catch.

Because we all need something outside ourselves to help us get through this uncertain time. And I for one prefer to hang onto a lifeline I know will hold me safely through the storm.

Not Sick Enough

Last week I was planning to add a part three on the general theme of intercession.

Last week I was sick.

Nothing serious, I hope. We had taken a road trip to move Middle Son’s belongings out of his college dorm room (during his finals week), and at first I thought it was possible food poisoning. Except after I’d thought I was recovered for a couple of days, it came back this week.

As I laid in bed most of a full day, in pain, I was faced with the question of what I could do if I thought it was something serious.

I also had to laugh (okay, actually grimace) at the irony that I, who has said probably hundreds of times that I have a high pain tolerance (with varying levels of pride), lay moaning and almost writhing in between naps.

The naps were to avoid the pain.

Can I just say that Sprite is a miracle drug? Not that it completely removed or cured my stomach and intestinal pain, but at least it relieved it quite a bit.

I lived on it for two days this week, and Vernors the same last week.

And on day two for the Sprite, I anticipated a slow day of recovery, trying some food and getting more refreshing rest.

Instead I found out a little of what to expect if I really needed to be seen by a health professional.

Baby Girl woke me up. She’d talked to Dad on the phone, and he wanted her to tell me he needed me to drive him to probably get stitches.

Hazards of his job.

Except it’s been about 34 years since he cut himself on a job badly enough to need stitches.

So, up and running, I was ready to chauffeur him to the local urgent care. Or as we’ve often referred to them, our family doctor.

As I pulled in the parking lot Dear Husband asked if I wanted to go in with him, like I had the last time he needed stitches, when we were newlyweds and every outing was an adventure, but I answered that I didn’t think they’d let me. Even though it would have meant more excitement than I’d had in a couple weeks.

And as he stepped up on the sidewalk outside the doors, a man in a mask opened the door for him, thermometer in hand, asking why he was there.

Nope, I was waiting in the car.

It wasn’t long until he came out, hand wrapped in a blue sterile pad instead of the paper towel he went in with, as well as a spiffy cloth face mask. They couldn’t stitch him up there, just in case he chipped a bone in his fingertip. So we headed just down the road to our little local hospital emergency room.

I figured, rightly, that there was no need for me to even walk in with him. Luckily there was no wait and he went right in, again met with a masked attendant, thermometer, fast and efficient check of vitals, and little wait for the doctor to come in ready to put in stitches.

While I waited out in the van, it was my first quiet moment to assess how I was feeling that day. Better but not great.

So I considered my own options for health care right now.

My primary care had already canceled my annual checkup, rescheduled from mid-March to this week, so I suspected I would have to be pretty sick to get seen in person. I could head in to our familiar urgent care, but in my experience the symptoms I’ve had aren’t anything that can be observed during an exam.

Prior to this pandemic, I might have gone in, just to find out what viruses are going around right now, and what the treatment options would be.

But now I hesistate. Not for fear of catching something, a little that I’ll pass something on.

Mainly I don’t want to strain the system in any way.

And I don’t like this feeling. I would want any person who is sick or hurting to be able to be seen by a knowledgeable professional, both for an accurate diagnosis and the peace of mind of knowing they are doing what they can to regain their health.

But in these strange pandemic days I feel like my probably minor illness is not serious enough to seek treatment.

I can’t really describe the way it felt to know I couldn’t go inside with my husband. Not that he isn’t capable of navigating it alone. We just usually do those kinds of visits together. Extra ears, at least one person thinking clearly and pain-free are pluses.

To be living in a time when health care is on an urgent level only is completely new to me.

And it makes me feel for the people I know who are dealing with truly serious health issues during this time. I pray for their safety, for their peace.

And after this week, I’ll be praying for strength in the times they have to walk into that emergency room alone.


Because even though the public service announcements assure us we’ll get through this together, when I’m sick and vulnerable, having someone with me who knows and loves me is what I want.

So I’m praying for you all, wherever you are, that you also can stay healthy enough to wait this pandemic out. And if you do fall ill, I pray that, like my husband’s mishap and my friends’ more serious issues, you receive great care and know the love of God that never leaves you alone.

Intercessor and Friend

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some relief from sheltering at home. I’d really like to go to a concert right now. Packed with people. And I’d also really like to be all alone for a whole day, and eat dinner at a restaurant. Dining in.

People are debating whether we will all go back to “normal” or if we should never be the same normal again.

Me, I’d just like to take my laptop in to our local computer shop, once he reopens, and see if he can fix the “b” key. It was sticking so I took the little cover off it and cleaned it and the adjacent keys (that usually works) but it’s now to the point where I have to leave the cover off and push it just so with the flat end of a pen, and then quick hit the backspace key to keep it from typing that letter over and over!

My name is Becky. I type that letter a lot.

This is just a little thing, yet it irritates me and makes me a little pithy. Multiply that times however many hundreds of things are different and irritating during this pandemic, and I can see how people would long for normal, whatever that means.

I think it would be better to work towards a new standard where the little things don’t irritate me as much, where I have learned to handle the stress in better ways.

I wish there were someone who could help me face these things, who could feel my frustration, who sees my heart even when my mouth is spouting pithiness.

Which is why I am so thankful that Jesus is right now interceding for me, sitting at God’s right hand, telling him what it feels like to be human and scared and irritated and frustrated and all the other things I’m feeling.

This week I was reading in Job, and he went through a lot worse than we’re going through now, yet he also was thankful someone knew and loved him enough to plead his case.

Job 16:19-21 New International Version (NIV)

19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
    my advocate is on high.
20 My intercessor is my friend[a]
    as my eyes pour out tears to God;
21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
    as one pleads for a friend.

These words were penned long before Jesus lived on earth as God inside the body of a man.

Last week I had been pondering the new life Jesus rose from the grave to embrace, and now this week I read this passage in Job and it gives me even more to think about!

What a unique perspective. Job lived very close to the creation of the first people. When I read Job I find it odd that unlike most of the Old Testament there are not references to Israel, so I wonder if he lived before Abraham.

He had wonderful conversations with God – “Where were you…!” God sets Job straight on his power and majesty, his creativity and provision.

And Job feels the very real actions of someone interceding for him.

“My witness” he says. Someone who sees inside him, who knows not only what he does but the state of his heart when he does or thinks anything.

John 1 tells us that Jesus is the Word, and that in the beginning, through him ALL things were made.

Even Job.

Who better than your creator to give witness to how you are made and everything you are capable of doing?

“My advocate…” The word means a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. Synonyms are champion, upholder, supporter, promoter, protector, to name a few.

Job was in the middle of being put through everything Satan could throw at him short of taking his life, and he felt someone in heaven was his champion, his protector.

And he seems to look at this supporter as different from the person of God, the one he feels he has not spoken against.

“My intercessor is my friend…” I just LOVE this! If there were someone advocating for me, I wouldn’t want it to be a stranger who is just out to promote their own agenda, and finds that if I am on their team it makes them stronger.

And it’s not someone who knows me casually, who is okay with me joining them, again to help their own cause have more support.

Job sees his intercessor as his friend! Someone who knows and loves him, who cares about his well-being, who has contributed good to his life.

Someone who would one day lay his life down for his friend.

I will never forget a long ago Beth Moore study I did in which one of the many words she went back to the original language and defined was “intercede”.

Her explanation was that it is when someone who has the right to speak to another, the right relationship and the authority, takes the other person’s face in their hands, looks them in the eye, and once they have their full attention, speaks on someone else’s behalf.

So whenever I read “intercede” in the Bible I picture it.

Jesus, equal with, part of, intricately related to God the Father, faces him. He takes the Father’s face in his hands, looks him straight in the eye.

And says, “Becky needs…”

“On behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”

I read Job’s words, and I get the sense that he had an image of someone looking Father God in the eye, pleading with him.

“Job needs…”

But there’s a difference I see between Job and me, between that time in history and today.

Jesus always was and always will be, but in the course of human history he had not yet inhabited the body of a man and lived a human life. He knew exactly how Job was made, what he had designed him to be able to do, so he could speak with authority.

Job could trust his maker to look out for him.

How much more can we? Can I?

Jesus not only made me, he lived on this earth and was tempted in every way. Every way I ever have or ever will be.

He knows what it feels like to be me.

So I can trust him to know what I need.

And so can you.

A New Life to Live

Jesus returned to heaven completely different from when he left it to become our Savior.

I read that idea in Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for his Highest, the April 8 reading. I don’t know if I ever thought about Jesus that way before.

This past Sunday was Easter. Resurrection Sunday. The basis for Christianity. The reason for hope.

He is risen!

And without a physical church to go to, it was hard to focus on why we celebrate, the difference Jesus’ death and resurrection makes for me.

I never thought about the difference it made for him.

Chambers writes, “When our Lord rose from the dead, He rose to an absolutely new life – a life He had never lived before He was God Incarnate. He rose to a life that had never been before.”

I’ve been thinking about it all week.

How strange did it have to be in the first place for Jesus to become a person. He went from being everywhere all the time, to confined in the skin and bones of a human being.

It’s more than I can grasp, what God is capable of doing as a spiritual being with no boundaries.

Yet Jesus let himself be bound in the 24/7 of life on earth, for the sole reason that we people needed someone to save us. Someone not only good, but sinless.

Genesis 3 talks about how sin entered the world and that one day Eve’s offspring would crush Satan under his heel.

And that day came, and we celebrate it as Easter.

So I’ve been thinking this week about Jesus and how he was more different yet, in a brand new way, when he rose from the dead on the third day and walked out of that tomb.

He had lived as a baby, a child, a teenager, a young man, working and learning and growing in knowledge and wisdom.

He never sinned.

That’s so hard to wrap my head around, because opportunities and temptations to choose the wrong option come to me every day. If they came to him as frequently, he spent a lot of time consciously saying no so that he could show us all a better way to live our own lives.

He was out in the desert alone and tempted by Satan for 40 days early in his public ministry.

I wish I could know more about how, specifically, he was enticed. But God chose not to tell us the details. And maybe that’s for a reason.

So that whatever it is each one of us is tempted to do, we can imagine Jesus being faced with a similar choice.

Yours may not seem like a big deal to me, and mine may seem silly to you, but they were all real to Jesus. He was tempted in every way scripture tells us. So I believe that all the ways that any person can, is, will be tempted, Jesus went through it.

He heard every lie from Satan and he was able to resist and stand firm.

Another mystery is what was happening to Jesus between his death on the cross and his resurrection.

I heard possibilities when I was a child that I can’t find in the Bible now. All I know is that when Jesus rose from the dead, God’s face was no longer turned away from him, and he sent his angels to roll the stone away that covered the tomb.

The sin of the world he had carried on to the cross was gone, and his relationship with the Father was fully restored.

Jesus didn’t appear the same, or at least those who knew him weren’t able to recognize him. Again, it doesn’t say, but it seems all the wounds from the lashes, the beatings and scourging were gone. His raw, oozing sores, skin hanging from his limbs, would have made him instantly recognizable.

Except the nail holes in his hand, the hole where the spear had pierced his side. Those he had Thomas, one of his disciples, feel to prove he was really Jesus.

And as far as we know, just a few weeks later when he ascended back into heaven, he carried those scars with him.

He lived in a body like ours, and as his time to suffer and die drew very close, he asked God if there wasn’t some other way.

That right there always strikes me as so thoroughly human. I can syke myself up to do something hard, and at the last minute be searching desperately for an easier way to get the job done. Or better yet, call it off until a more convenient time.

Jesus was human like me. But unlike me he was also God, and he refused to give in to those very human fears. He was willing to follow through, to do whatever Father God required of him.

And look at him on Easter morning! Not only free of agonizing wounds, but alive!

Here’s the unknowable part. When Jesus rose from the dead he still appeared as a man, but he was no longer bound by the laws of this earth. He appeared here and then there, walked through closed doors, traveled distances quickly. People who knew him didn’t recognize him, and then later they did. And eventually he rose into the clouds, ascending back to heaven.

Did he resent those few weeks being chained here, eager to return to the Father? Or did he see us all in a brand new way, now that the plan had been a success?

When I read Chambers’ devotion, it made me think that every person Jesus saw or thought about, what he was thinking was how much he wanted every one of them to feel what he was feeling, to be totally and forever alive in a body that was changed and ready for eternity.

Far from begrudging this world a little more time, I imagine he was eager to get on with his new life, this life he had never lived before.

Because now he had done it. He had conquered death. He had made a way to live forever. And he needed to get back to work, doing what his few short years on earth had equipped him to do.

Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us as you read this.

Not one minute of his time on earth was wasted. He stored it up, learned from it all, became intimately aware of every temptation we could face, felt the feelings we feel.

And now, in heaven, there are no philosophical discussions of what a person might feel like if this or that trouble came to them.

There is God the Father in control of all that happens, and Jesus looking him in the eye saying, “Let me tell you how this feels, what they are going through.”

Redeeming every minute of time he spent on this earth for our good.

So that we can join him, doing our forever jobs, when our few years on this earth are over and we also start living our more real and eternal lives.

Attitude Check

Character doesn’t change in a crisis.

An old saying rings true these days: Character is how you behave when there’s no one around to see you.

While as individuals and families we are currently, for the most part, stuck in our houses, that means there are few people around to see how we behave with each other.

That’s a good thing most days.

Because there are certainly lots of situations where the worst qualities we have are being tempted to rear their ugly heads.

In our house when someone starts to get an attitude we are coming up with creative ways to describe it. Like …pithy. An old-fashioned word we often use to describe my mother-in-law, who died 20 years ago.

Dolores would get a look on her face, her lips pursed and nose wrinkled, and she’d say something…pithy. Meant to sting a little or cast a bit of a bad light on the subject of her comment.

She wasn’t a gossip, she didn’t egg other people on, but once in a great while she would let her feelings be known.

While we all can get a little edgy, I’m thankful that we are loving, concerned people, that we are looking out for each other, and that so far we don’t have any really obnoxious character flaws that could result in someone getting hurt.

At least up to today.

In our local area I’ve heard stories about a lot of people showing just how kind and other-centered they are. People making cloth masks to cover the official ones, groups assembling meals for health care workers, likewise for truckers and others who need to be on the road.

Food and supplies seem to be the main focus of those getting out to do some volunteering, taking care of people’s basic needs.

At least in the efforts they are putting forth, I think it shows their good character.

And then there are others.

I want to start by saying that I don’t open and follow and get sucked into all the so-called news items that I see scrolling on Facebook or that people send to me on my phone.

But I have heard about some of them.

And I’ve gotten phone calls that seemed opportunistic and were probably scams. I don’t engage with them either.

Because a person’s character really doesn’t change in a crisis, good or bad.

Actually, I think people tend to exercise their strongest traits when under pressure. People who would help any stranger they meet are frustrated at home, looking for ways to reach out and help. And people who are only out for number one will still find a way to advance their own welfare.

I bring this up because there is a lot of blame going around on social media and in many fake news types of posts (at least in the titles I see scrolling), and beyond being frustrating and … okay, I’m going to use what qualifies as a cuss word in our house … stupid! … it’s not doing anything to help anybody where they are currently living through this pandemic.

I wonder, as I’m sure many people do, where this novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 came from. Exactly how did it start. But I don’t want to know so I can point a finger and say, “Aha! You’re the culprit!”

I want to know that scientists are doing some real scientific investigation and figuring out why all of a sudden a virus that usually causes a cold or flu is sweeping around the globe leaving thousands of people dead and many more affected.

And I know that takes time, and isn’t glamorous.

I want to know that if this is like flus that tend to come back year after year, that some of those scientists are developing a vaccine to help us all fight it the next time around.

I want to see a list of symptoms that don’t change, sometimes daily. Perhaps there are official sites that have unchanging information, but what is being passed around anecdotally seems to have altered several times over the last few weeks.

I want to have an actual description from people who have had the virus and lived to tell about it as to what their personal symptoms were like, because as I hear from friends of friends about people who are sick with COVID-19, they seem to have symptoms different from what the media is telling us.

If those were the types of stories out for common consumption, I might bite and take a look at them.

But really people, is there any logic at all in saying that any country, government, or government official is to blame for the spread of this virus?

Because we just don’t have that kind of control over these things.

We can sit around with all this time on our hands and second guess each other. Or we could start studying to become epidemiologists so that we can then, and only then, say with any authority how COVID-19 got started and spread.

A virus cares nothing about any country, state or city’s public policy, nor will the amount of information shared about it and the timing of that information make a bit of difference in a pandemic running its course.

As I listen to and heed the measures our state of Ohio has been taking over the last weeks, I’m glad that there is at least a system in place that can communicate the current best practices to the general public.

But whether I choose to follow those guidelines or mandates comes back around to character.

I know it is frustrating for many Americans right now with the political season of presidential politics being disrupted by something too small to see. And it is very tempting to take out ones frustrations on people you don’t have any respect for, or who you feel have in some way adversely affected your life.

I would like to suggest that instead of spreading around these non-stories that only inflame one group against another, that we all look around us for someone whose life we can make a little bit more bearable until we can be out and about again.

After all the fake news people keep sending me, a newsy account of what’s been going on in your life and household, preferably on paper in your own handwriting, would be something I could spend all day reading over and over.

Even if you get a little pithy.

Time to Grow

Three weeks.

Twenty-one days, just over 500 hours, which is just over 30,000 minutes.

That’s how long it’s been, and ticking, since our family started sheltering at home, the day our governor urged everyone to do so while this pandemic runs its course.

Time.

We have exactly as much of it as in any other three week period, looking at the numbers.

But when your options have narrowed it gives you a whole new perspective on time.

One day we were running normal errands, taking Baby Girl to the chiropractor then dropping her at AWANA at church. The next day Dear Husband and I have a two hour adventure at the grocery store to buy what should have taken us half that much time, seeing the panic and confusion on every face.

Our clothes and dishes stay washed up. I’ve been slowly doing some spring cleaning (not usually an annual thing at our house!). We’ve binge-watched all kinds of things. Our games have been getting used.

And there is still time to spare.

Baby Girl has been toying with the idea of growing a garden this year. I bring this up because I think it’s a great idea for lots of people to do.

I personally do not have a green thumb. I’ve told you that I love to dig in the dirt so it may be stained brown, but the only thing I grow well and consistently is weeds.

But thinking about it, many people have the time it takes over the next month to start some seeds and remember to water them. To set them in a sunny spot for the day and take them back in for cold nights. To transplant into bigger pots or rig up a mini-greenhouse for a small garden plot with old plastic and wire coat hangers, or whatever you have on hand.

We’re going to the store way less than normal, but I’m betting the seasonal area of our grocery would have a pretty full rack of seed packets, and with a little research we could have some cool weather vegetables out in the ground or pots by the time three more weeks have gone by.

The date I’m hearing to stay mostly at home is now June 1. And I want to give a plug for your friendly local greenhouse growers, because they have acres of plants already growing long before we started hearing about coronavirus.

Thirty-four years ago I was working at one. Growing up one of our family’s closest friends was the owner of a greenhouse and farm, and I spent a lot of time out there as a girl. Once I was married I quit my job as a maid at a hotel and was looking for something less full-time. My mom reminded me of the good times she’d had working at the greenhouse years before, so I called.

That year I spent January to April planting seedlings in flats, then worked the sales floor watering, fertilizing and restocking the plants through summer and fall, and then hefting Christmas trees before having a few weeks off.

The next planting season I ran the table, which involved punching holes in all the flats using a treadle-type machine invented by a man in my town. Then I’d send them down the middle of the planting table where eight women would take out a new flat and plant the seedlings, then put the full boxes onto carts. I got to move the carts around, find the next seedlings, get the picture stakes to put in the cups.

That year I got pregnant with Oldest Son, and after the planting season was done I retired.

It was probably my most fulfilling job ever.

Those plants didn’t make it into my ground, so I didn’t have to keep them alive all summer as they grew bigger. But I still love the day I go out to the greenhouse each spring and make the selections of what I want to grow.

Or at least try to grow.

And this year I intend to do the same.

It will be different than other years, most things are right now. I’ll go earlier in the season than normal to avoid being around many people. I’ll probably make one of my famous lists, and try to stick to it. I’ll need to be deliberate about what I really think we’ll be able to plant over the next few weeks and not spend more than necessary. And unlike other years I won’t be able to make multiple trips to pick up things I forgot.

In addition to vegetables and herbs I’ll also get some flowers for the family graves. Those will definitely wait until after May 15 around here to get planted in the ground, but I can keep them alive for a few weeks. I hope.

The hardest part of the whole thing will be staying six feet away from the people I’ve known and loved that still work there, my friend who took over for his dad as he got older. His family that was young and growing when I worked there so many years ago, now adults with their own kids helping in the family business.

There are lots of things that could be done with my time over the next month. Friends are making masks for health-care workers. Others are checking in with various people, making sure they’re okay and stocked up with supplies. Some are tackling projects like painting and other home improvements. I know someone who has ordered a keyboard and is planning to learn to play it over the next few weeks.

So this is just another idea, in case you don’t like any of the things you are hearing about, or have already done them all and need a new project.

Start with something easy, like leaf lettuce. Buy a packet of seeds, planting medium, an empty flat and cups. Plant them, water them gently and set them in a sunny window and in a couple of weeks you can put them out in the ground or a bigger pot or whatever you have to grow them in.

One of the many benefits of keeping even a small garden is the time you get to spend with your hands in the dirt, weeding and coddling and eventually harvesting.

And less time needed shopping for fresh produce in the stores.

You know, while I’m spring cleaning, I may even find some unusual containers to hold my plants.

That’ll save me time later, when I don’t have to take the containers to Goodwill.

Not a Germophobe

I’m not sure if it puts me at a higher risk in these pandemic days, but I’m not a germophobe.

I confess, I haven’t gone over every surface in my house with something meant to kill anything living on them in the past couple of weeks.

I actually have cleaned more than usual for me, but mainly because my husband is now four weeks past his hip replacement and it wouldn’t be a good time for him to pick up an infection of any kind and need to go to the hospital.

There are many places I could lay the blame, if necessary, but the reality is that I just don’t care that much about cleaning things.

I grew up having the most fun playing in dirt piles or sand, fashioning “buildings” out of branches and leaves, stirring up mud puddles and mixing up different things just to see what could happen.

I still love spring, sticking my hands down in the dirt, squeezing the lumps out of to make a smooth path for the roots of the plants I’ll put in my barrels after the 15th of May has passed.

Or pulling out the weeds that I let go the year before as they emerge young and fragile for a few weeks before really digging themselves in. I can spend hours just working through the soil with my hands. It’s very satisfying to me.

And when I finally need to clean up, there is always a nail brush and a sturdy bar of soap to get the job done.

So for me, I don’t get too excited about cleaning things. When I can see the dirt, it’s time.

And I am puzzled by my friends who clean obsessively. Since this pandemic started I’ve seen lots of Facebook posts about how much/often/vigorously people are cleaning.

In my mind I don’t see the need. I’m not saying we shouldn’t wash our hands often and well. But our reality is that we are not out and among other people hardly at all. We have been staying home, and when we do venture out we wash up good when we return.

I will clarify by saying I do know how to clean. And when I do it I do it well. The two and a half years I spent as a maid at a hotel taught me a lot about deep cleaning, so it isn’t lack of knowledge. Just personal preference of how I’d rather spend my time.

I don’t like to clean, but I like making lists about cleaning. I could write lists for a living. I love breaking things down into the component parts. And I can see that in order to get from point A to point B in a project things 1, 2 and 3 probably need to happen. And I can include all those details that will get the job done well.

I actually have wide-eyed hopeful lists of cleaning chores I wrote when I was brand-new married. They are something to see! (Yes, I kept the notebook I wrote them in, it’s somewhere in a box in a closet.)

We had just built our house, it wasn’t quite finished on our wedding day, so everything was fresh and new. I had lists of daily, weekly, semi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual cleaning chores to be done. Even a few five to ten year things like painting.

I sure had my work cut out for me.

It wasn’t until we’d been married ten years that my husband told me something I’d never ever known about myself.

He said I was a perfectionist.

Well. If that were the case, wouldn’t I have been able to complete all the tasks on all those lists?

But the reality was that I hadn’t.

And the context in which Dear Husband shared this truth with me was in talking about the household chores and how we split them up between us.

I thought about this new idea. Was I a perfectionist?

Well, I certainly knew in my mind exactly how I wanted things done. And I could see every step that needed to be taken to get the outcome I envisioned. But I had lived life with other people for so long that I had learned a basic fact.

If there is a way for things to stop your plans from being realized, it will happen. In my case someone else’s needs usually came in the middle of whatever I wanted to accomplish.

It wasn’t that their needs were more important than mine, just that they were important. They needed to be taken care of. So I learned to let the things go that really didn’t matter as much as I thought it did all those years ago when I made those starry-eyed lists.

So I don’t clean like I could, maybe even like I should. It’s more hit and miss than I’d like.

But in these times when things aren’t going the way they normally would, when grocery shopping has become an opportunistic hunt and work is slow coming in, when everyone is home and tempers flare and we all are more needy than normal, I’m okay with it.

I’m fine not being a germophobe. I have more important things on my mind.

Eye Contact

A couple of weeks ago I had never heard of the idea of social distancing.

And give it time, a few years maybe, and we will probably have fading memories of the March when we needed to isolate ourselves from most social situations, put physical distance between us and other people.

For all of our protection.

On the latest trek to the grocery store Baby Girl and I saw it in action.

Per the advice given, we had a list and a plan. Start at the pharmacy end, zip straight across to the produce/fresh meat/bakery, then around the edges for staples and down a quick couple of aisles for things we were out of.

As soon as we started across the main aisle we noticed neon-bright tape X’s at intervals down the floor. One at the aisle end of every checkout lane, one at the paypad end.

We soon saw a worker on his knees putting down the tape. I asked if the X’s were 6 feet apart – the distance recommended to stay away from others to avoid contact with anyone’s droplets – and he said yes.

I thanked him, and said I was glad the store was giving us a visual aid to help comply.

The X’s continued down the length of the far side of the aisle, so that when there are long lines like we ran into last week, people can stay a good distance apart while waiting.

Here in Ohio I hear we have a reputation for hoarding toilet paper. If the shelves in the store I usually shop are an indication, that’s the truth. I’m curious for someone to connect why that was the hot item in our state, though it is a convenience people don’t like to be without.

Also in Ohio we are gaining a reputation for a governor who has put forward some very cautious yet radical plans of action. Schools are closed, universities and colleges, day cares will soon follow. Restaurants are take-out only. Large gatherings are not allowed, though churches are deciding on their own. Most are complying and not holding in-person services.

Governor Dewine is being looked at as a template for other states from what I read, and I am glad if he is erring on the side of caution. I don’t mind being inconvenienced for a while to keep more people healthy and lessen the impact this pandemic will likely have on the health-care system.

And as far as social distancing, I’m afraid our modern age has taken care of that in many ways. We can sit in a crowded room and no one is talking to each other. Everyone is busy on their phones, as if there weren’t any real people sharing the space with them, only the games and apps and “social media” that lets everyone isolate while thinking they are still “connected” to their many friends and followers.

As my family is learning to navigate our new normal for each day, we are venturing out in very limited contact with anyone else. Trips to the store are the most exposure and infrequent compared to our previously normal daily stops.

Work has been the biggest adventure. We have a small family business that’s been around for 58 years, and as Dear Husband is healing from his hip replacement, he has been coaching our two youngest through some basic jobs they can handle.

The training had started long before the surgery, but it wasn’t until just a couple months before the date that they started planning this slow return to work for DH. So as the jobs come in, he picks and chooses the ones he thinks the kids are ready to handle.

The plan sounded great three weeks ago, the day of the surgery.

And then the world changed dramatically.

In the 34 years we’ve been married, we’ve seen a lot of change in the world. A lot of change in our business.

The one thing that has never changed is that God has always provided work for our hands, food for our table.

And no matter what is going on in the world, I have no reason to doubt his ability to get us through this pandemic, this game-changer that is reshaping the way we live our daily lives.

So on the days we have a job or two to take care of, I drive, the kids help their dad work in a garage or two, at the most they see one or two other people who stick their head out to check how it’s going, and pile back in the car to head home.

Way less contact with the outside world than they are used to having.

And I sit in the car and knit while they work, or run for supplies, or cancel appointments as they come to mind.

And I watch.

Workmen at a neighboring house, people walking their dogs, moms with kids on a bike or a stroller. Mail carriers, garbage men, homeowners checking for mail.

Almost all walking quickly, purposefully, eyes straight ahead or on the ground, that heartwrenching look of being on the edge of breaking on their faces.

So I’ve decided I’m fine with putting physical distance between me and everyone else. I can try to remember to stay six feet away.

But I will not distance myself emotionally from the fear and confusion I see on almost every face.

I tried it today, with the man picking up the garbage bags next to my car and the one backing the truck into the condo driveway. With the frowning man walking his dog. With everyone else I saw, mostly through the windshield of the car.

I made eye contact. Or tried to.

You see, I have hope. And I believe that I need to be ready to give a reason for the hope that I have. And I can’t begin to give you a reason if I am too scared to look you in the eye.

And I am not too scared.

I want you to see that Jesus is not a liar. When he says he will be with us always, he didn’t mean except for when the world is flying apart at the seams and we can’t make sense of anything.

I think he means that is EXACTLY when he will be most with us.

So if you see me across a store or parking lot, don’t be surprised if I attempt to catch your eye. I can’t touch your hand or hug your neck, but I can let you know that I see you, that you matter, that you are not alone.

It’s one way I WILL try to make human contact while we are encouraged to keep our distance from each other.

Making all things right

I don’t have any Y2K water left.

My three youngest kids have no memories at all of 1999 and the mass hysteria that eclipsed a lot of people’s time and joy, especially in the last few months of that year when the entire world waited to see which if any of multiple disaster scenarios might come true.

In case you don’t know, none of them did.

But people certainly let the doomsayers steal their contentment.

The worry, if I remember correctly, was about computers mistaking 1-1-00 as 1900 instead of 2000 and shutting down systems controlled by machines.

Midnight came and went, the electricity and gas didn’t go off, we still had running water, gas pumps still worked.

And many people’s garages and basements were filled with gas-powered generators, water filtration systems, canned goods of all kinds, dried and powdered survival foods, camping gear to cook on open fires if needed, extra blankets, toilet paper and paper products of all kinds, shelf stable groceries and cleaning and other dry products of every imaginable kind.

And Y2K water.

I hope whoever thought of the term Y2K (year two thousand) patented it.

While there was some fear that all of a sudden at 12:01am 1-1-2000 hospitals would go black and health care would be severely affected, those fears didn’t come to pass.

I happened to be nine months pregnant with a baby whose due date was 12-31-99. Fortunately he was born over three weeks late. When things were back to normal.

In the current worldwide climate we are facing a new fear that is all about the health and welfare of us all.

I don’t claim to know much about coronavirus (COVID-19), other than what I read in the many daily updates, hear in any newscast, see on the faces of the people around me. Even what is being reported changes throughout the day, so that the conversations I overhear in public are full of speculation and misinformation as often as not.

I am not making light of this pandemic. People far smarter than me have decided we need to take this disease seriously, so I am.

But I will not let it steal my hope.

This afternoon, the day after Middle Son was sent home from his university, the day before my weekly Celebrate Recovery will be indefinitely postponed for the foreseeable Fridays, Dear Husband and I trekked out to the store.

Yes, we actually needed to get some toilet paper. And basic groceries.

DH is now two weeks out from his total hip replacement, and we felt a short walk would be good exercise.

The parking lot wasn’t overly busy, and it didn’t seem that crowded, but after 40 minutes of increasingly hectic shopping where we were surprised to actually find only a few packages of some items still on the shelves, we waited another 40 minutes in line to check out and pay.

Dear Husband had to take a sit break after taking a few pictures of the chaos. We reminisced about the Y2K days, the uncertainty, the panic even. It seemed very familiar, but in a whole new category.

As we had made our way to the areas we needed to shop, others had intense looks on their faces. Frowns, scowls, wide-eyed surprise and consternation. Bent on a purpose, or maybe trying to calm a rising anxiety about why there were so many people in the store.

Depleted items were somewhat predictable: toilet paper, tissues, disinfectant wipes, bleach. We’ve all seen Facebook jokes about selling cars for a few rolls of toilet paper. It’s one of those things that doesn’t really make sense – it isn’t an intestinal virus – yet those of us whose parents lived through the depression still understand the sense of calm you get from knowing you’re prepared. Just in case.

Others, not so much: flour, butter, bananas. Although baking from scratch can be very therapeutic.

As we continued around I felt myself wondering if I didn’t need more groceries than I had planned on getting, you know in case things weren’t available to restock soon.

Then I started thinking about the Serenity Prayer that I’ve been missing the last few weeks as life has kept me from attending Celebrate Recovery.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

This midafternoon trip was supposed to be a quick in and out. Running errands.

But when we turned the corner and saw that not only were most of the available 25 regular lines in use as well as all the self check-outs, but the lines jammed the whole front aisle of the store, we had no choice but to go with the flow.

There was no reason to get mad or frustrated or anxious.

“…the courage to change the things I can…”

The whole spirit in the store was frantic. And I hated that. I couldn’t change the way anyone else was seeing this from their own viewpoint, but I could show that I wasn’t letting it get me down.

We saw people we knew and we chatted easily, catching up, poking a little fun at the craziness.

Yes, I was tempted to start piling ALL the remaining whatevers in my cart, but I chose restraint. I fully expect the trucks to bring more items, the nighttime stockers will replenish the shelves, and I will return to shop another day.

“…and the wisdom to know the difference.”

My real desire was to change the way some of the people seemed to be seeing this. I saw the fear on their faces, the concern, the anger. I wanted to look them in the eye and tell them that they would be ok.

But that isn’t up to me. It’s up to each one of us to choose hope over fear.

So I did what I could.

I smiled. Big and genuine. Full of the peace and calm I was able to feel in the middle of the madness.

“Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is; not as I would have it;”

If you’ve read my blog over the last year you know I’ve struggled a lot this past year with respiratory issues. Asthma, allergies, hospital admissions and emergency room trips. In just the past couple of months the respiratory flu and in the past couple of weeks now, pneumonia.

I know that I am in a higher risk category than many people. But I am not afraid of these things that can kill the body, and I will not live my daily life in fear of the what ifs. (And yes, my kids are scolding me about staying home and letting them do the running.)

I choose to look for the familiar faces and offer a normal conversation and a reassuring smile. We’re in a little time of hardship. Let it draw us all to a greater peace that only comes from trusting that God is not surprised by the nightly news reports, the canceling of public gatherings, even the deaths of those who have and will succumb to this new threat.

“Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.”

Make all things right.

Looking around the store today, that was my desire. To make all things right for all these people. If I had the power…

But I do. Because I intimately know the source of all power. And I know that Jesus is trustworthy, honest when he says he can meet all my needs.

My need for calm in any stormy situation, for peace when there is nothing but chaos in the world around me. Knowing I am loved and cherished when very real threats to my health, my life, may be coming, no matter what happens.

These are my needs. Not toilet paper or Y2K water.

And if you are feeling panic, anxiety, anger, take a moment and consider.

What is your source of hope?

And if you’ve never given God a second thought, now might be a good time to start.

We all can use a little serenity.