We Do Need Our Peeps

We’d not seen them until a couple of months ago.

Then they showed up in droves.

They’re unusual birds, with red beaks and feet that dangle when they fly. The sound they make is somewhere between a squawk and a tweet, and when they’re moving, it’s nonstop noise.

Whatever they are, they’re never alone.

We were on our back porch one evening and heard this ruckus above us. There had to have been close to twenty birds, all flying together, all talking at once.

Who was in charge of this fiasco?

They circled our pond once before alighting on the grass by the bank.

Then about ten more flew in. All of them with a voice. Then more came.

They stood close to one another, beak to beak, all of them warbling together.

They reminded me of our family during the holidays. Everyone speaks a little louder just to be heard over the cacophony.

It’s the loud of love. When those who care for one another are so excited to share with those they love their thoughts, feelings, and whatever runs through their minds.

I see it happening now. In zoom meetings, we constantly interrupt one another, wanting to share thoughts, not having been physically present with one another for quite some time. Without a physical presence, it’s easy to miss subtle nonverbal cues as others are talking.

That, or you do what I do, and forget to unmute myself. My lips are going and nothing is coming out.

We’ve grown somewhat accustomed to interacting over devices. Younger people do it all the time and find it sustainable. For those of us who enjoy being in the presence of the other person with whom we communicate, it can be difficult to feel really connected, that we’re really understanding the nuances of all that’s being shared.

We can’t afford to lose those connections now. More than ever we need one another to help us bear tough burdens, hold challenging confidences, be the affirming words we all need to hear.

Jesus reminded us that the second great commandment was to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with what we need or want right now, to sense despair and disappointment with what won’t happen as we’d planned. Self-focus isn’t hard; it’s what we do naturally. Choosing to love others with that same perseverance, that focused mindset, is harder.

Especially when we’re not feeling like we have it together.

The night before His crucifixion–and He knew it was coming–Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. An act of love and service to them that reflected His deep commitment to them. And as an example of how they should treat one another, selflessly other-focused. He didn’t moan and groan about the burden He was about to bear. He encouraged His men instead to be unified in heart and mind, to support each other because it was about to get very hard for them.

Even with emotions at their tipping point, we now need to reach out to help others. With Jesus’ help, we can learn to genuinely care.

And like those delightful birds, we’ll be able to fly better together.

 

 

 

 

Bearing Beastly Burdens Isn’t Bravery

Confusion and uncertainty are exhausting. Fear causes a physical response that saps energy like a faucet turned on and left running.

Until there’s nothing left.

I’m not talking about me. Our two new four-legged houseguests are struggling to figure out what’s going on.

Aspen is a two-year-old Lab with a lot of spunk and playfulness. He’s the forever puppy, the one who is ready to romp in an instant. Estes is a year-old Australian shepherd who is more mature and responsible than her counterpart.

She’s a herder. We’re not sure what he is.

Both are trying to figure out their new normal with us. Smaller space, no fenced-in backyard. A slippery staircase that they’ve had to figure out, sliding down the stairs as much as walking down them.

Their neediness is tangible. They stay close to people, and if they’re left in a room for too long alone, they show their displeasure with nonstop barking. Anytime the door opens, they’re ready to bolt. The thought of being confined is not at all appealing to either of them. The first day they were with us, Aspen escaped three times; Estes was only able to follow him once. Returning to the house didn’t appear to be what they would have chosen.

Their unfamiliar is uncomfortable.

The comedy is where Aspen chooses to nap. And he has to fight Estes for that space.

I’ve had a rebounder for a few years because bouncing is easier on my knees than walking or running. It has become the bed of choice for the dogs. When they’re on it, there is a calm that comes over them–unless one is trying to unseat the other–as if they’re in a secluded space, adrift in their own thoughts.

It’s not real. The calm is temporary; the other dog or one of the kids will unseat the current ruler of the rebounder. Chaos then becomes the norm as they try to figure out how to do life in this new house with more people and less room.

Their stress response? They pee in the house.

We’re all in need of a safe place right now where we can have a sense of quiet, calm rest. Where we can step away from the infringement of fear, frustration, and uncertainty and not be consumed by when this will end. When we can get back to work. When life as we know it will resume.

I’ve read a variety of self-help articles and positive-thinking blogs that try to help us refocus our flustered minds. The problem with that is it doesn’t offer a sustainable method of coping.

Fear creeps in when circumstances become harder. All the positive thoughts won’t keep fear at bay.

But God.

Jesus invited all who are tired, afraid and struggling to come to Him and allow Him to bear those burdens with us. To walk with Him and work with Him to learn what true grace and rest are about. It’s not a mindset nor merely meditation but a relationship. A chance to be with Someone who is greater than our fears. More powerful than this virus.

Take Him at His word. Give Him your worst.

You won’t need to find a place on the rebounder.

 

And Then There Were Ten–No, Twelve

 

We could be accused of disregarding the requests of those in authority. Our home appears to be an extended-stay motel. But the house was sold before the virus hit. And closing is happening now.

My daughter and her family of eight, plus two large dogs, have moved in with us until the home they’re purchasing is ready for them to occupy. Not a huge deal. They’ve faithfully practiced social distancing, as have we. We’ve been careful about going out, and so far no one is sick with anything.

Maybe sick of the circumstances.

It does change the dynamic of how life is now looking. John and I have moved into a routine of just the two of us over the past five weeks. There’s a sense of quiet that has rested on our home that hadn’t been our experience before. We’re used to people coming and going, staying for days, and moving on. We’ve had our home referred to as Grand Central Station, and I enjoyed that.

I’ve grown familiar with quiet and minimal activity interaction. It hadn’t been my choice, but it was my reality, so I’ve embraced it. I’ve groused regularly about loneliness, missing the closeness of family, restrictions that have felt disruptive.

I have now received what I’ve longed for.

It wasn’t what I expected.

It’s always easy to romanticize what I don’t have. To picture the idyllic setting and believe it’s so much better than what I have. I have been overwhelmed and somewhat immobilized by quiet. Now it has ceased to exist completely.

The Grass Is Greener Somewhere Else.

We’ve all got ideas about how we’d like to see this end. Or at least have some of the restrictions lifted. Some states are actually opening up businesses, and that can be annoying, aggravating, or cause for celebration for different people.

Nobody likes to be restricted. What everybody else is doing appears to be so much better than what I’m doing. Everyone else’s lot in life is far superior to mine.

Isn’t that the mind trap we all fall into? The lie that hovers over us like a stealth bomber ready to drop its payload?

COVID19 is merely the current issue that prevents us from doing what we want to do. It’s a huge problem globally, and it needs to be dealt with in a manner that respects its capacity to do serious injury to people and world economies.

When this ends–and it will–there will be something else that will be a new concern. A new fear.

God reminds us that He is our Sufficiency. No matter the circumstances, the state of the economy, the health of our loved ones, the fears and anxieties of all around us, He is the strength and courage of those who choose Him. He is the eternal hope of those who put their faith in Him.

We will always have unexpected losses and grief in this world. Hard times, if we’re not in them, are just around the corner.

God is in our stories. He longs for us to come to Him in our need.

No matter how big the crisis.

He’s there for us.

God doesn’t social distance.

 

 

 

 

I Didn’t Dream It Would Be That Way

It’s almost finished.

Building out our tiny porch to something that could hold our whole family has been a dream for years. We’ve saved and waited, often with frustration, because something else always came up where the money needed to be used.

We imagined what it would be like to have everyone sitting together for porch time. Enjoying the outdoors together. Or the chance to entertain in a space that was made for hospitality.

A year and a half in the making, due to permits, timing, and everything else that goes into–and can go wrong with–a project, and the end is in sight.

But the dreams for what it can be used for will have to wait. The anticipation of a sweet people-space will be put on hold.

I didn’t anticipate having something we can’t use.

Not like we wanted.

More waiting. The longer this social distancing goes on, the less able I am to wait well.

The porch will be used. John and I will sit out there early in the morning with a cup of coffee.

It’s not how I’d have written the script. I’d have made it a party, a chance to invite family and friends to gather, to enjoy this gift of space. To enjoy one another in a place made for crowds.

Not for just two people.

This isn’t a big deal. The porch will still be there when the fears and frustrations of this virus have passed.

However long that may be.

Impatience is the product of fear and a lack of control. At least it is for me. When I have no means to guarantee the end I desire, when circumstances arise that I can’t shape to my liking or fix to help others, I become impatient with the process.

I feel the need to talk about it.

There’s something about having others hear my whining and complaining that gives me a sense that it’s truth. I’ve said it; others have heard it; my reality is now theirs.

This is the bigger issue with our current situation. Everyone is voicing fears, frustrations, anger, and anxiety.

It’s all valid.

Our emotions and perspectives are part of who we are. Products of our stories.

We’re not helping one another with our complaints. We drag others deeper into the black hole with us.

It’s easy to catalog all the wrongs that are happening right now, personally and communally. Locally and globally. We can’t unsee it all that’s going on.

Jesus reminds us that we will have problems in this world. We’ve seen that over and over again. This isn’t ever going to be a place of true peace and rest.

He is the One who can give inner peace even when problems raise their ugly heads with persistence. When my impatience overrides my understanding and responsibility and I scream in my soul that I want what I want.

He’s not surprised or shocked by my response. Or anyone else’s.

Jesus is available to all who will call on Him. He offers strength to those who seek it, courage to those who need it.

He’s with us. If we ask.

He sees it all.

He sees all of us.

So I’ll sit on my porch and know I’m really not alone.

 

 

 

 

Is It Time To Hope Yet?

We are all doing life differently.

A friend is having a drive-by birthday party for her husband, where those who love them have a half hour to drive past their home and acknowledge another milestone passing without the opportunity to celebrate in person.

Birthday celebrations meant to be fun.

Mason turned two this past weekend, a milestone of his own. He’s discovering his autonomy, making sure everyone knows who he is.

We have a tradition of celebrating family birthdays together, for whoever lives close. With close being the problem now, family members who are hunkered down together held cell phones as we FaceTimed and sang Happy Birthday to the little guy.

His mom had made a beautiful cake with Cinderella’s castle in blue fondant and the monorail streaming around the base of the cake. Creative and cute.

Mason is a huge fan of the Mouse.

When it came time to blow out the candles, Mason, in his fascination with flames and eagerness to snuff out the small fires, dipped too close to the candles. He singed his hair and barely burned a bit of his forehead.

Not what he expected from his birthday cake.

Not what anyone would expect from a birthday cake.

He popped upright, and the tears and wails came quickly. Being a phone-distance away, it was hard not to chuckle a bit and still feel sorry for the little guy. Neither response seemed fully appropriate.

In a time of continued isolation from others and needing to communicate over screens and devices, I’m finding that my emotions have lost some of their strength. It’s a numbness that’s uncomfortable. My empathy, joy, sadness, delight all seem to be on mute. Or have hit a rough patch of complacency.

Yet this is a time when our compassion needs to be poured out to others. Our hearts need to be touched by the plight of those hurting with the disease and lost jobs and confusing lives that don’t make sense anymore. Many families are hurting because they’re not used to being together all day, every day. Couples are struggling because they have no space to be individuals and no capacity to be kind. People are reacting to personal pain and discomfort and are causing hurt to others without meaning to.

But God.

When Jesus hung on the cross for a punishment He didn’t deserve, He called out to His Father to forgive those who had put Him there. Because they didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know the ramifications of their actions, nor were they privy to the greater plan of God.

There are so many out there who are truly giving of themselves during this hard time, sacrificing time with family, health, and convenience for the rest of us. Those of us who are in forced quarantine need to rethink our attitudes.

We need to see others through the gracious eyes of Jesus.

Our compassion toward one another needs to be real. Generous hearts are required right now to be kind, caring, and focused on other’s needs.

We can do this with the help of Jesus.

The struggle isn’t over. But hope is still alive.

Will we choose hope?