Carry On

Exploring a construction project behind my Dad’s house one Saturday afternoon was an exciting adventure for a nine-year-old kid. I had never walked through an unfinished building before. It seemed so strange to imagine where walls and furniture would be, and what it would look like when it was done. We got to the end, where a door would open onto a patio, just across from my Dad’s back door. There was about a foot-wide gap between the new building and the existing patio. I knew I could jump it, but just to be sure, I gave a little extra umph to my leap. I more than cleared the crevice but overshot my landing just enough that my knee scraped a cement block sitting on the patio. The sharp edge sliced deeply into my skin. My dad whisked me into the kitchen through the back door where my stepmother shook her head and said, “That’s a six stitcher.” She was right.

What I remember most from that day was my dad carrying me. He had picked me up off the patio and carried me into the house. Then he carried me to the car and drove me to the hospital. He lifted me out of the car and carried me into the emergency room, where he never left my side as a doctor sewed my knee back together with six stitches. What I don’t remember is anything he said. He was a quiet man, so maybe he didn’t say anything. But if he did, I don’t remember it. I remember the feeling of being held tightly and carried by him. Sometimes when I’m feeling especially low or vulnerable, I recall that feeling.

Years later, as a teenager in the 70s, my room was adorned with inspirational posters. My favorite was “Footprints in the Sand” by an unknown author—I would love to take credit for its prose. It is summarized like this: we walk through life alongside Jesus, but in our most difficult times, he carries us. I have found that to be true. There are so many crevices to jump, mountains to climb, raging waters to traverse, sand to slog through. The dangers and obstacles can seem insurmountable. But then I remember that feeling of being carried.

A few years ago, I participated in what I’ve come to call “that stupid Spartan race.” If you are unfamiliar, it’s an endurance/obstacle race for the more hardcore athletes among us. I am not one of them. I do enjoy exercise and challenging myself to a degree, and I find ziplining and rock climbing a lot of fun. But I do not find any enjoyment in carrying a 5-gallon bucket of rocks up a mountain. And crawling under barbed wire should be left to boot camp trainees. What I did like about the Spartan race were the spartans. They helped each other. If someone was having trouble getting over a wall, another spartan offered them a hand. Sometimes they connected themselves to become living bridges or steps or whatever was needed to get their fellow spartan to the finish line.

I think that is how Jesus sometimes carries us. He uses the hands and feet he has here on earth, each of us helping the other when the strain of this life becomes too great. We lean into him, and he carries us. Sometimes it is through the peace only he can give. But sometimes it is through the loving arms of his body, the church (individually and corporately), helping each other over the obstacles and around the pitfalls and finally across the finish line, even if they have to carry us.

The Perfect Butterfly

Tragedy struck. In mere moments what had once been beautiful, perfect, was left in ruins. At least that’s what my six-year-old granddaughter, Emma, told me. She and her almost-three-year-old brother, Sam, were drawing with sidewalk chalk on my front porch. It was a happy time until Emma realized Sam had scribbled over her butterfly.

“He ruined it! It was perfect and now look at it!” I closed my eyes briefly, knowing the meltdown was gathering momentum.

“You can draw another butterfly, Emma.” I tried offering a solution.

“I can’t. This one was perfect. I’ll never be able to draw another one like it. Why do I even have to have a sibling?”

“Oh, Emma, he didn’t ruin it on purpose. I think he was trying to add some more color to it and just got a little carried away. But if you drew it once, you can draw it again. Maybe even better. That first one can be a practice drawing.” I was racking my non-perfectionist brain to help my perfectionist granddaughter.

“It wasn’t practice. It was perfect. I don’t remember how I did it. I’ll never be able to do it again.” Emma was inconsolable. I’m sure most of the neighbors knew this by now, but I kept trying. I can’t help it. She’s a perfectionist, and I’m a fixer.

“It’s just chalk, Emma. It wasn’t going to last forever. It would be gone in a day or two or the next time it rains, even if Sam hadn’t scribbled on it.”

“I hate chalk! Why can’t chalk be permanent? Then my perfect butterfly would be here forever.” Emma’s lament went in a new direction. Whoops. I opened that portal, didn’t I?

“It’s chalk, Emma. It’s made to wash away. If it was permanent, you couldn’t draw on my porch with it.” I tried to bring her back to reality.

“You’re just making it worse, Mom-mom. Stop talking.” Emma advised. It was good advice. Once a perfectionist has gone outside the lines, there’s no eraser big enough to fix the problem. I’ll just stop talking and let her get it all out. The neighbors have the option of going indoors.

I walked over to where Sam was sitting, quieting drawing on himself with the chalk. How could he possibly get in trouble for that? Something about the butterfly picture jumped out at me. I probably should have kept it to myself, but sometimes my thoughts come out my mouth before my brain can stop them. “Emma, you know what? You drew the butterfly in blue, and Sam drew over it in yellow. So, I can still see your butterfly clearly under the yellow.” Emma came over to look. She hesitated a second then yelled, “He ruined it!” Here we go again.

As I looked at Emma’s butterfly drawing, now smudged from Sam sitting on it, I thought how God has designed and fashioned me and is perfecting me for His purposes. I tend to mess things up and often can’t see myself as He does. The ruins I make of my life or the ugly stuff other people pile on will one day be washed away. Fortunately, He is a perfectionist, and His perfect design will eventually shine through.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 ESV

Guardian Angels, the Bigger, the Better

I don’t know how it happened, but in the process of raising three boys, somehow, we only ended up in the emergency room twice seeking stitches, once each for child #2 and #3. I could be wrong. My memory fails me as frequently as Sonic changes its menu. But I don’t think our #1 child ever had stitches in an ER. He is the only one who rode in an ambulance after a near-death experience, but no stitches. (As it turned out, what looked like a deadly sledding accident wasn’t nearly as bad as all that.)

Was it good-parenting practices? Did we cover them in bubble wrap? Maybe they never stepped outside or made a wrong move. We were homeschoolers, after all. Ha! Maybe it was because their dad was a nurse and didn’t feel a need for emergency intervention until body parts were pretty much falling off. Child #3’s injury was a pinky, and he was small, so it only needed one stitch because that’s all it could hold. Child #2’s injury was a little worse. On the phone call with the emergency room, Dr. Dad asked what plastic surgeon was on call. Before you get worried, it was an elbow, and there just wasn’t much skin left.

The boys didn’t make it easy. I’ve blogged about the William Tell reenactment using an onion, bb gun, and bird feeder (in lieu of #2’s head). If it doesn’t ring a bell, it’s worth scrolling through my archives. There were baseballs and bats, hockey sticks, pucks, and balls landing on body parts not covered by PPE (not the COVID kind), spills on granite rocks too numerous to count, roller blades, boogie boards, bikes, projectile toys and sports equipment, even (dare I say) lawn darts. How they survived childhood is anybody’s guess. Then they got older and started driving and using axes and chainsaws and power tools, but still no ER visits. How could this be?

I don’t believe in luck or coincidence. So those were ruled out. I know my boys were not excessively careful. So, that’s out. I’m sure God had plans for them which required them to live, but a few stitches now and then wouldn’t have changed those plans. So what was it?

Finishing up a class with Dr. Derek Thomas, I think I may have an answer. Guardian angels, maybe more than one per child. He was commenting on how God assigns “guardians” to us to bring us “all the way to glory.” What a comforting thought. I have joked in the past that some of us need the really big, brawny angels to keep us from harm. Some of us need more than one. I don’t know exactly how it works, but I am glad God sends them.

Our boys have made it to adulthood. Number 1 is a teacher, #2 is a pastor, #3 is a surgical technician. They are all trained to help people in different ways. We are about to embark on a family vacation. We may need to employ all their skills with all six grandchildren together. I hope #3 can just relax, but should we need him, I’ve heard good things about his suturing skills. Maybe we can still avoid the ER. And I am also confident that same band of guardians is still on duty, along with another squad, maybe a platoon, either way, we’re in good hands, granite rocks and all.

“He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:10-11 ESV)

A Little Room, Please

I needed to get my steps in before the day became unbearably hot. Gathering all the necessary gear: water, phone, pedometer, poop bag, leash…where is Yué’s leash? In the playroom, of course, there’s a two-year-old running amuck. Out the door we went, stopping 10 feet from the front door to poop. The dog, that is.

Some of you know Yué, most of you don’t. My professional dog colleagues would describe her as having “poor composition.” The rest of you would say, “she ain’t right.” Both are accurate. Regardless of how you feel about Pit Bulls, this Pit mix doesn’t look particularly friendly. She is, but it’s that composition/not right thing that would give you pause. Is she snarling? Nope, her lip is just stuck in her teeth…always.

She has been staying with us for the last 10 days, along with my son, his wife, and the two littles, while some work is being done on their home. It’s been fun, and I have a walking buddy, since Doug has been busy. So, we hit the pavement and are walking briskly up the first hill. I see a woman walking briskly down the hill. She has a definite advantage at moving briskly. I position myself on the right side of the sidewalk. This puts Yué between us. I know you’re thinking, well that was dumb. Why didn’t you put the dog on your right side? There’s a simple explanation. Habit, not the nun kind.

After 20+ years of Seeing Eye puppies, I still walk dogs, all dogs, on the left. Yué is in no way, shape, or form a service dog. Service dogs are smart. Yué’s not only a few fries short of a Happy Meal, what fries she has are a little undercooked. But, she’s family.

So, we’re walking. She’s on my left, and there are small trees on my right, giving me nowhere to go. The lady coming toward us has choices. She can move into the grass between the sidewalk and the curb. Or she can step into the street. That would also give us the proper 6’ social distancing protocol, since neither of us is wearing a facemask. I realize too late that Downhill Walking Briskly Lady is not going to yield an inch. I have no time to get Yué into the street without taking out DWBL. Sidebar—I don’t care if you are the Dog Whisperer himself, if you are approaching a dog you don’t know, you ought to give him some room. Not to mention the fact that this woman doesn’t know me. She has no idea if I can handle this weird-looking Pitt-mutt, straining at her leash making throaty, gasping sounds. I’m not too sure myself.

 I’ve got Yué on a nice, short leash right next to me, so the worst I hope will happen is this woman will get slimed. But it’s her own fault. So, we make the pass. Yué slimes her. (She’s lucky we just started out. If this had been a mile in, Yué would have worked up a good lather, which she likes to fling, splattering everything in its wake, and landing in an perfect circle encompassing her head.) I say, “No, Yué.” We get a few steps farther, and I say, “Good girl, Yué.” A smarter dog might wonder if it was corrected or praised. Trust me, this dog doesn’t care. 

Some things to remember when you come across an unfamiliar dog or dog walker:

  1. Give them extra room.
  2. Ask from a distance if the dog is friendly and IF you can approach it.
  3. Assume the person handling the dog really can’t handle the dog and refer to #1.
  4. Never, ever, allow you, your children, or your dog to distract a real service dog.

A Father’s Whistle

My husband has magical powers. When our kids were young, Doug whistled, and our children magically appeared. No matter what they were doing or who they were with, when they heard that whistle, they came running. They knew their dad’s whistle. They ignored other whistles, but not his. Even now, with the boys all grown up with their own children, I’d be willing to bet, if their dad whistled, the boys would at least turn their heads toward him.

I’m not sure how it started. But having three boys, I imagine Doug whistled to get their attention because they were doing something they shouldn’t. But it was most often used when we were out somewhere, like the Little League fields, and the boys were scattered all over. One whistle, and our family was reunited and ready to go in a matter of seconds.

I can’t whistle. I mean, I can whistle a little bit, but it’s mostly air with a slight melodic sound to it. I sound like Wheezy from Toy Story—the little plastic penguin with a worn-out squeaker. My husband’s whistle is not weak or squeaky. It’s ear piercing, and he does it effortlessly. He has done it automatically, without warning, if he saw that one of the boys needed immediate attention. If I happened to be standing close to him in those moments, my ears would ring for a while. Maybe that explains my poor hearing now, hmm.

My husband hasn’t needed to use his whistle in a very long time. It’s not that he doesn’t whistle at all. His child-calling whistle isn’t the only whistle he has. He can imitate almost any bird. He’s had long conversations with a number of birds. I don’t know what he’s saying to them, but I’m pretty sure he invited one of them to move in with us. It built its nest in our dryer exhaust, which required it to enter the outside vent and make two 90-degree turns to get to the dryer. Doug needs to stop whistling to birds.

As I was doing my daily Bible reading one day, I came across a verse that reminded me of those days when Doug would call the boys with his whistle. God said, “I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before.” (Zechariah 10:8 ESV) How cool is that? God, our Abba Father, will call us in with a whistle. This portion of Zechariah is a prophecy of the end times. I wonder if that trumpet blast we wait anxiously to hear is God whistling for us. I know how loud my husband’s whistle can be, so I’m sure God’s whistle could be a trumpet blast that will be heard to the ends of the earth. I don’t know about you, but when my Abba, Father, whistles, I plan to drop everything and run to Him. Finally, it will be time to go home, to be gathered in together with all my brothers and sisters to be united with our Father. Our brother, Jesus, promises He will come soon to gather us up with Him. I’ll be watching the clouds, praying He comes quickly, and listening for that unmistakable whistle.

My Family Was Racist

I will admit it, my family was racist. We try to whitewash it, but my grandmother’s generation talked about black people in a way that could only be considered racist. They were born just before or after 1900 in Philadelphia. One great aunt, who never married, lived and worked in the city until she was about ninety years old.

I would pick her up from her home in Olney (pronounced Ol-eh-nee, like Ack-a-mee [Acme] by locals) for special events and visits to our house in the suburbs. As we would turn onto Olney Ave., she always commented, with a sweeping wave of her hand, “Olney used to be such a nice neighborhood, but now it’s all black.” We forced her to leave the city after she was mugged a second time, breaking her shoulder. Her neighborhood was too dangerous. She blamed the “blacks.”

Another great aunt lived a few blocks from us. She was not at all happy when a black couple moved into the home next to hers. She couldn’t believe “blacks were coming to Lansdale.” She had a “there goes the neighborhood” attitude, sure that “blacks didn’t take care of their homes.” But over the first year of being neighbors, her attitude changed. She didn’t receive any race-relation education or had any sort of spiritual awakening. What made the difference were the black people living next to her. They were really nice. They took good care of their home and offered help with hers. They were kind to her, and their kindness and character changed her. Dr. King would have been proud.

My mother’s generation wasn’t as overtly racist, and I am sure my mom never taught us to be racist. But I don’t remember her ever teaching us that people of other races were no different than us and should be treated as such. She did have one mantra that I remember, “kill them with kindness.” If someone mistreated you, be kind in return.

The town I grew up in simply didn’t have many black people in it. There were none in my elementary school. Then in sixth grade a new student joined our class. He was from Uganda, East Africa. Wow, I wondered why he came to live in my small Pennsylvania town. It didn’t take long to find out. Our teacher asked him to share why his family had moved from Africa to the United States. He said that in his home country, a very bad man, Idi Amin, was killing people who, in his opinion, didn’t have dark enough skin. Since this boy’s family had lighter skin than the average African, his father decided it wasn’t safe for them in Uganda, so they escaped and fled to the United States.

I remember thinking how awful to be at risk of being killed because of the color of your skin. They were able to bring their whole family with them. At least they had each other to start a new life in a new country—a country offering freedom for people of all skin colors. This experience changed my thinking toward black people. My family was wrong. A person’s skin color didn’t make them any better for worse than anyone else. It was their character that counted. Racism in my family was losing its grip.

My family’s come a long way in just a few generations. Racial barriers have been demolished as people of different races became family members. I think my grandmother’s generation would be happy about the change, because they would have the privilege of knowing and loving other races as family. I believe our country has come a long way too, but obviously we still have work to do. Like any family, Americans won’t all hold the same political, spiritual, or moral beliefs, but we can still show love and kindness to one another because that’s what family does.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 4:31-5:1 ESV)

Meeting Together or Not

Church sanctuaries remain empty after ten weeks of restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In some places, drive-in church services are happening, just like when I was a kid and went to Herbie the Love Bug at the drive-in movie theater. But where I live, we are still in the “red” zone, which does not mean we are within twenty yards of the endzone. For us, the endzone seems a long way off. As long as we are in the red zone, we cannot meet together for worship.

I’m concerned about my fellow Christians. It seems some are becoming discontent, grumbling and complaining about the rules of isolation. In Pennsylvania Dutch, we call that being gretzy. I understand and have been a little gretzy myself. I don’t agree with the arbitrary nature of closing businesses and organizations, and the fear being propagated. But this week I was convicted about my attitude.

There are a handful of churches who are meeting despite the governor’s orders. The primary reason given for violating the order is that the church is “commanded to meet together by God.” They cite Hebrews 10:25, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” The problem is context, which indicates that the church was not forbidden to meet, but that some members were choosing not to meet.

This section of Hebrews 10 is really about encouraging one another. When the book of Hebrews was written, that would have been difficult to do without meeting in person. But today it is fairly easy to encourage someone via a phone call, a video chat, a Zoom meeting, or even good, old-fashioned snail mail. Sure, meeting together, being face-to-face, offering a hug of encouragement would be preferable. But in the age in which we live, there are alternatives. This exhortation is about being committed and intentional in encouraging the members of their church family.

And how do these churches balance this verse with the whole of Scripture? Where does obeying civil authority come in? “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1) They would counter with Acts 5:29, “…we must obey God rather than man.” But again, the context of that statement was the apostles being told they could not preach in the name of Jesus. We are not being told that. Preaching the Gospel, witnessing, praying, Bible study, none of it has been prohibited by our government. And then there is the rest of Scripture – patiently enduring suffering (2 Corinthians 1:6), loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, being a light, rejoicing when persecuted (Matthew 5). Above all things, Christians are to be known for their love, which does not insist on its own way (John 13, Colossians 3, & 1 Corinthians 13). You would have to do some Simone Biles-level gymnastics to balance all of Scripture against a verse or two taken out of context.

So, what about meeting for worship? Is the point of a worship service to gather people together or to worship God? There is something necessary about corporate worship which builds up the body of Christ. And we shouldn’t neglect it when we can be together. But it isn’t necessary to be together physically to worship God. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that true worship is not about where it takes place, but the heart of the worshipper. Right worship of God is done in spirit and in truth. (John 4)

If we are gathering because we “need to get back to church,” are we making worship about us? If our source of comfort and contentment comes from meeting together, have we made meeting together an idol?

I’m going to take that even a step further. If we are willing to violate an order because we want so much to have something that we don’t have, isn’t that the very definition of coveting? Are we fueling discontentment in our lives by longing for what was and not being content with what is? Now we’ve got coveting, discontentment, and idol worship. They don’t belong in the life of a Christian. They need to be repented of and forsaken, not fed and nurtured.

What does God really want from his church? “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) Right now we can accomplish those things by waiting patiently for the time we can meet together for worship. We find much more in Scripture about waiting, patience, and longsuffering than about defying the government. I have not cultivated longsuffering in my life, proven by my reaction when the light turns green and the person in front of me doesn’t hit the gas.

COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown did not happen outside of God’s sovereignty and goodness. Individual churches may close permanently, but the Church, the Bride of Christ, will not. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Let us redeem this time of waiting. Let’s learn new ways of communicating and “meeting together.” And, most importantly, let us reflect Jesus to a fearful, impatient world.

Our Isolation Anniversary

This is the week we were supposed to be in Italy, celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary (May 25). We had it planned. Had the dates and the villa in Sicily. We hadn’t pulled the trigger on the flights because they were much more expensive than we had hoped. We were waiting to see if they would go down. They probably have gone down. A lot. I haven’t checked.

Our first trip to Italy, 2015

Our second choice was going to be an Alaskan cruise. Doug is not interested in going on a cruise even a tiny bit. But I have always wanted to do the Alaskan one and thought I could convince him because Stephen Curtis Chapman is hosting one that happens to be over my birthday. It was the perfect storm: favorite musician, 35th anniversary, my birthday…enter COVID-19. That swirling and gurgling sound coming from the bathroom is my one and only shot of a cruise going down the toilet.

Oh well. Instead of spending a week in an exotic place, we have spent the last two months at home together. With elective surgeries being cancelled, Doug’s hours were cut in half, and he had zero on-call hours. We were able to spend most of our days together, organizing the basement, taking long walks and scenic drives, and giving lots of foot massages. It has been fabulous! I am looking forward to retirement, if this was any indication of what that will be like.

We’ve “eaten out” a lot more than we normally do. In an effort to support our local restaurants, we’ve ordered take-out every weekend from at least five different restaurants. It’s good we’re taking longs walks together every day, since we’re “eating out” so much. When we started walking, I was doing about a mile a day. Now we are up to almost four miles a day. On our walks we’ve met more of our neighbors, talked over some really deep stuff, and explored more of our neighborhood, all while holding hands. Our walks often end by sitting on the front porch sharing a little bit of Merrymead ice cream.

Nope, this week wasn’t what we had planned. We haven’t visited Sicilian villages filled with overflowing window flower boxes and quaint trattorias, sampling the gelato at every chance. The last few months haven’t been what we would have planned. But it has been a time of increased spiritual growth, physical strength, and emotional connectedness that we otherwise may have missed.

Most importantly, our love for one another has deepened. I feel for those who have been completely isolated during the shutdown. It has been such a blessing to go through this time with the love of my life. I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal soon and especially seeing our kids and grandkids in person. But for now, I am completely content spending my time with the one person who has meant the most to me for 35 (plus) years.

Power Source

My sewing room has turned into mask-making central. The elastic I ordered online never arrived, so I needed to make tie-on masks. Some people preferred them anyway. They don’t put any pressure on your ears, which is especially helpful for hearing-aid and eye-glass wearers. The only problem with them is they take about four times longer to make than their elastic cousins.

By the time I started making masks, I didn’t think many people would still need them. Most people are more on top of things than me. But as it turned out, when I let it be known I could make masks for family, friends, and neighbors, orders for nearly 100 masks filled my newsfeed! I pulled fabric from my embarrassingly extensive stash and got busy.

My sewing machine was humming along, making mask after mask. I noticed after being at it for a while, my leg was stretching farther for the foot pedal. Sometimes after being away from my machine, when I returned to restart mask making, I couldn’t reach the foot pedal at all. How had it walked so far away during my last sewing session? And how hadn’t I noticed that I had pushed it so far out of reach? I would peek under the table to locate it, hook the cord with my foot, and drag it back into place.

The foot pedal was a very important part of my mission. Without it, mask making would take even longer, maybe too long to complete 100 of them before the mask-wearing mandate was over. The foot pedal powered the sewing machine. I would be in trouble without it.

One day, while lassoing the foot pedal once again, and wondering again how it had gotten so far from my foot, I thought of how sometimes I move away from the source of power in my life, God Himself. Sometimes I drift away from Him, other times I push Him away. I’ve tried to run my life on my own, but it was a futile effort, making little progress in the things that matter.

Jesus painted a word picture of being our power source. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4 ESV) Abide means live in or dwell in, much like we are all abiding at home right now. The fruit of my sewing machine’s power source these last few weeks has been over 100 face masks. The fruit of being plugged into Jesus are things like strength, love, peace, contentment, joy, and so much more.

So, every time my foot reaches for my sewing machine’s foot pedal, I think about how I need to reach out to God. Every day. It made mask making a genuinely spiritual-growth experience. And it’s not over. Someone who procrastinates more than me just asked if I could make just one more. Sure, I can. I just need to make sure my power source is in place, and off I go.

Uncertainty

I’ve sat down at my computer several times today to write this blog post. If I had a typewriter, there would be a lot of crumpled pages in and around the trash can. I thought I knew what I wanted to write, but each idea fell short. What would be best for this week? A funny anecdote? A serious reflection? A hopeful exhortation? Nothing felt right. Maybe I should just write what I’m feeling.

We are all going through a strange time in our history. Most of us haven’t experienced anything like this before. I don’t really know what I’m feeling. It isn’t fear. It isn’t worry. It definitely isn’t hopelessness. I think it’s uncertainty. I like having all my ducks in a row, and I don’t know how this pandemic will play out. I’ve read so many contrary opinions from the “experts.” But the truth is, no one knows.

In the last two weeks, three close friends have lost loved ones. Two more are not expected to live through the week (none are virus-related). Their families can’t hold services for them now and can’t have visitors. I’m a hugger. Everything in me wants to hug my friends or at least be by their side. But I can’t get within six feet of them. My only choice is to turn hugs into words, which for me right now, fails to express my love and desire to comfort them.

Today has been especially uncertain. My husband left for work this morning where he will be helping in the ICU instead of his normal job in the OR. It left me feeling a little nervous. Then I got word this afternoon that one of our family members has tested positive for COVID-19. Those feelings of uncertainty mounted. How will these things work out? Sometimes I want God to pull back the curtain and show me the plan, especially the ending. But where would my faith be? It would be in what I can see and not in the God who holds it all together.

In these uncertain times, I need to ask myself, “Do I really trust God for all things?” Usually I can figure out how things are going to go. But these last few years have taught me that life can change on a dime. I have learned to trust God with every little thing so when the big things come, it is second nature. I heard Veirdre Jackson say at a conference recently that she could run in the thin air of the mountains because she trained hard in the valley. The air is feeling thin right now. It’s hard to take a deep breath. But, thankfully, I have had a lot of time training in valleys. I know where my hope lies and who holds the future. If this is more of a training valley for you, take one step at a time and trust God for the next.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)