We are ending week 2 of Social Distancing to protect against Coronavirus in Maryland. Pictures show stacks of books I have high hopes to imbibe. Republic of Tea for days at home and – I have since learned- for doctoring up with Vitamin C for sickness immunity boosters. A family favorite chicken soup recipe to nourish sick ones, including me. The view from my bed where I rest as my son puts a mug next to him on his bed. A family that has fallen sick by ones, twos, and threes in a very unexpected way considering that we have been basically home and no where else.
Week 1 found me scrambling to adjust to one son going online for college while another was home on a slightly extended spring break. Decisions were being made with literally lightning speed and changed rapidly from one day to the next. On one memorable Thursday, life was changing every two hours until I collapsed into bed just before midnight and learned my homeschool review was postponed (it was supposed to happen the very next morning) just as I was getting ready to try to go to sleep. Before the end of that day, we also knew we would have both our college boys home with us for the duration.
In the midst, it seemed like almost every activity we participate in went online at all different times, and I found myself off-kilter trying to keep track of it all. Very off-kilter. I got times wrong. I even forgot one lesson altogether. With my smaller children, the Zoom life requires a lot from me. However, with older children, I have all different people zooming in different rooms in different classes and on, on. It makes for very unusual times. It makes me laugh, but it also makes me sigh.
Suddenly, I had all of my normal responsibility plus much more.
In general, I gather around myself reading material to nourish my mind, my life. As public activities began to shutdown, I gathered more choices, secretly feeling a delight that I might get to immerse myself in ideas and words and life-shaping thoughts. Then, I couldn’t figure out how to get a bit of reading time regularly partly due to responsibilities/partly due to stress/partly due to anxiety.
I wonder- is it merely the presence of books- or their content that brings me comfort? Because I have certainly gathered a mass around myself, and yet, in the past week, I have struggled to have the centered headspace for the quiet concentration needed to read. Ultimately, I realize it is the words themselves. I am better for time spent with a poem, a chapter, a verse. My mind settles and calms and centers. I find the deep stillness that is at the heart of my soul, that I need so desperately and am for which need I am so often oblivious.
Why is it so hard for me to know (and validate) what I need? Is this an Enneagram 2 thing? Note: I don’t even know if I am a 2-
Sometimes, I wonder.
Week 1. I began a practice of three poems a day. O, how it settled me. Lingering in the language and allowing the beauty to fill me and permeate my mind- I had hopes of tucked in days building a rhythm, reading, homeschool days, more rest, relationships, Yet, I began a battle with anxiety that scattered my mind and my focus; it has been a dark tunnel and a very much UNwanted companion. Todd, still going into to the office and working long, long hours. Trying to maintain the normal routines of our homeschool family with the addition of new routines. It was a bit of a bobble.
Week 2. Week two arrived and with it a surprising illness stealthily slinking through our family. My practice (three poems)- while not entirely by the wayside, certainly fell to inconsistency, as I myself got sick- and to bed, I went with a brain too fatigued to handle much of anything. At this time, we are pretty sure we are merely traveling through a spring virus, but it is no small thing to journey through illness during a pandemic when you have hardly been out of the house and can literally count the days patient zero could have been exposed to anything. We have been so healthy this year- hardly sick at all. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we went down with so many children with fevers and congestion. O, March. You are definitely putting February to shame. Todd, now working from home as precaution with illness at home. More changes in the day -to-day routine.
Grocery shopping for our family of eleven has been an interesting experience. Our most recent venture (just yesterday) was more hopeful and comforting than prior trips as we were able to get produce and frozen veggies and so much – pretty much everything- we need. Keeping two weeks’ worth of food in stock in a huge task with our family size. We buy giant bags of Mahatma rice at BJs, and we have not been able to find them for a few weeks there. We have never before considered even having more than one of those huge bags on hand at a time, but these days, I think we would have a spare if we could! Especially as we watch the bag on hand diminish each week.
It took us about the two weeks to adjust to the amount of food we need to make for our meals with our two grown sons home full-time, too; I think we’re good now.
One day at a time, for us, right now. The hopeful words of my mom as she reported on her shopping provided the wherewithal for Todd to try the stores again, and it was a good venture. Today, it looks like two or three children will be recovered by tomorrow; hopefully me, too. We have been riding the waves of tax season and with all the new legislation into effect because of the pandemic- the power of those waves has picked up a bit. With this, there are a lot of unknowns- an extended tax deadline and more.
I try to take time every day or almost every day to tune in to Sarah Clarkson on Instagram Live. I never catch her live. Instead, I listen later when I can. She reads a poem and a psalm for Lent. I feel like a small child as I soak in the absolute beauty of the ten-minute respite her reading provides. She teaches me about beauty and about hope. She teaches me how to analyze poetry and apply it to my day-to-day life; she uncovers inexplicable meaning and beauty. I adore it. This is, I think, the second year she has offered poetry readings for a season. She shares glorious photos, too. Her brother Joel Clarksonalso uses Instagram to witness beauty and truth. His photos and words are a treasure not to be missed. Such grace.
We (me and the children; Todd when he can) have also been tuning in to Andrew Petersonevery night with unabashed delight as he reads aloud from Volume 1 of his Wingfeather Saga (which we all love so much). What a gift this is!
We enjoyed The Gray Havens unplugged Thursday night, too. They streamed from YouTube and Facebook Live, I think- took requests and answered some questions. Such fun and delight to enjoy their music live. These are precious gifts in these unusual and sometimes difficult days.
My older children are experiencing large adjustments and transitions. I am trying to be intentional in my care for them: supporting their learning; acknowledging their adjustments, feeding! them enough and regularly; speaking hope into their futures.
Speaking hope into all our futures: our hope is in Christ, and He is Enough. The days are dark and scary. They are, and it is not foolish to regard it so.
My only centeredness is found in Him; I hope to settle in more fully. With more intention. With more love, joy, and peace. And, I won’t minimize. I won’t minimize the worry or the struggle or the pain or the fear. It’s real; yet, Christ’s power is real, too. I look for Him in the midst of these dark, constricted days.
I spoke to a son about creating rhythms of rest and delight in his daily routine that now involves only home and nowhere else. Build a routine that enriches and delights to provide breaks from the monotony and the feeling of walls closing in.
I need to, too.
Some poems for comfort:
My mind has scattered out like the tumbled pieces of a puzzle. But little by little, I can build it back again. One step at a time…
There is a sense of wholeness when the pieces all align. I can build myself back to wholeness through Christ. We have had some drizzled days of gray and even a rocking, wake- from- sleep Thunderstorm. Days of sun are coming; Easter is coming. As everything changes and roils without, Christ remains, and He provides what I need to “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (Psalm 37:1-6 NASB)
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2 For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and [a]cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
It is His goodness I want to celebrate.
How are you finding grace in these days?