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Posts Tagged ‘#covid19’

Today I will be getting my first vaccination for Covid and I feel a bit like a kid at Christmas.

I have been telling people the vaccination is my ticket to travel again … but you don’t have to think exotic places, for I just want to be able to fly to the other coast of Canada to see my family (especially my mom who has experienced this Covid year largely alone).

But, this vaccination is more than just that for me.

It is also an exhale from deep in my lungs … like I have been holding my breath for over a year, as we have two daughters with a chronic health disease that requires being on a medication that can lower the body’s ability to fight off an infection … aka a greater possibility of being extremely sick (or death) if they acquire Covid. Though we are cautious and following guidelines from public health, it has been a yearlong concern that we might acquire then pass the virus on to one of them.

This has been a constant concern for the past year.

Added to that have been the glib perspectives that I have had to encounter from those who feel the whole Covid thing is a world-wide government plot, or that it is “just like the flu”, or “enough already with the shutdowns and closures”.

Most of the time I file such perspectives as arrogant, thoughtless or simply idiotic … a couple of times my inner momma hen has verbally pecked the one whose words cut so close to this momma’s heart … most of the time, I just try to ignore and pray they don’t ever have to be in the position I am in, as a mom, feeling such concern for their own kids.

Each wave of Covid has literally felt like a punch to the gut, as I check in with them, ask about their job safety and find myself on my knees on their behalf.

So, today, I get to roll up my sleeve and I consider myself privileged, blessed, thankful. One step closer to being in a position where I will not share this virus with my girls (or anyone else).

And exhale from deep in my lungs.

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Never has a spring break been so anticipated by so many.

I recognize that not all have a spring break in their life, through their own work or through the children in their lives. For those who do, my thoughts may reverberate in your own heart and mind.

For some it started a week or two ago, or maybe not for weeks yet. It might be called Spring or March or reading break. It might be just a week, or two.

Whatever it looks like, this break is starting differently than last year’s, when we were introduced to lock down, closures, cancellations and Tiger King as people all over the world were repatriating to their home countries.

Though we Canadian’s are still not jetting off to sunny destinations (lest we would have to quarantine for two weeks upon return to our home country), I think we are thankful that, just like the days of growing daylight, vaccine rollouts are providing the light in the darkness for our constitutions.

For those who work within learning environments, Spring Break this year is particularly appreciated. From teachers, to custodians, to office staff, to educational assistants, to maintenance crews, to bus drivers, to administration this has been a year of stretching, additional responsibilities and fatigue like none other. Then there are the students … who have encountered at least as much change and challenge.

A year ago at home learning was being whispered about, leading to at least two months of zooms, online conferences and all of the technical issues that came with them.

When (many, but not all) classes resumed in the fall, they do so differently. Cohort became a daily used word. Online daily health checks started our days. Physical education and music classes changed significantly (and changed throughout the year). Masks became expected fashion accessories. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize!

In many school districts, high school schedules changed exponentially from full year or half year semesters to ten week semesters, with only classes each … I even know of a district where students only have one course, for five weeks at a time (think about that … a teacher and their students are together ALL day, EVERY day for five weeks!).

Barriers were brought into the office reception area, parent-teacher interviews were completed by phone, field trips all but a faded memory and many teaching staff (in high schools) have gone without much of a break in one semester or had half a day in another (sounds good on the one hand, but ten weeks of little break from working with students does little to enhance quality of teaching).

All school staff are fatigued of being mask police …

“mask on”
“over the nose too”
“mask on in the hallways”
and, similarly,
“no, you cannot eat in the hallways”

and, believe me, the response is not always compliant or kind.

Then there is Covid itself. Schools all have staff who, themselves, are immunocompromised. For them, going to work could feel like a daily play of Russian roulette. Or those who live with loved ones whose health is equally fragile. The thought of possibly bringing a virus home, that could have much more severe consequences than just a cough and malaise, has been a daily fear.

So, Spring Break, we welcome you, with open arms …

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I remember one year ago, today. I was so excited that our son was returning from his six months at YWAM in New Zealand, where he had also travelled for a mission short mission trip to Thailand. We had missed him and were so excited to learn of his experiences.

We were also eager for him to get home, on Canadian soil, for the word Coronavirus spread was quickly becoming a common topic in the news. Days later, on March 11, 2020 the WHO (World Health Organization) declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

I remember the days after our son returned, as each day closures and cancellations were taking place, from concerts, to flights, to cruises, to Disneyland. By the time that week ended, our Spring Break began … in lockdown.

Can you believe it has been nearly a year?

A year of challenge, and change, and adjustment.

We have learned to worship together by Zoom, YouTube, etc … hopefully we have learned that, though the doors to the sanctuary are closed, church is not closed, for we are the church.

Some have lost jobs, others have lost loved ones. Some have lived in fear of leaving their homes, others have lived in fear for they work in the public places, while others have lived in fear of running out of toilet paper. We have all adjusted to (at least) temporary isolation, so as to avoid the virus, to learning to live with the virus with our applied armour of hand washing, masks and physical distance. We have had schools zoomed into our homes and back to class again. The home office has become the norm … perhaps this will be a permanent norm. We have learned to shop following arrows on the floors (and we all know that not everyone has adequately adjusted to this), online or by call, with home delivery of delivery to our car in the parking lot. We have begun to notice and support small, local businesses. We have leaned to wait in lines, socially distanced …

Now we wait in line for a vaccine that will protect us from the virus, protect us from spreading the virus. We are seeing light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. Could a form of normal be in the near future?

When I realized that this pandemic has been with us almost a year, I began to reflect. As I, personally, look over the year I see the struggles of missing being with others. I have missed singing worship songs with my church family, and hugs as we greeted each other. I have missed events, travel, going to movies. I have felt fear, worry for our two daughters who have a disease that makes them more at risk of a severe response to Covid, if they contracted it. I have felt sorrow for my mom, who lives so very alone and whom I cannot visit.

Things that haven’t been a problem are wearing masks (never have to worry if there is food in my teeth), washing hands, being aware of others in public places, online sermons. Even working with online schooling, though not preferable, though fully exhausting, what a joy to still be able to assist students with their learning (and, for some, online was an opportunity to thrive as peer pressure was removed). As one who tends towards introversion, staying home was a delight … most of the time.

Maybe, if you have a moment today, this week … reflect on the past year. Think about what has been hard, what has been good, what you most look forward to.

For me, looking back over this pandemic year, I have been reminded that I was never truly alone.

“In this world you will have trouble,
but take heart be courageous!
I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

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A few days ago I was organizing photos of 2020.

I found myself smiling as I noted that through January and February I had taken ten photos. In March I had taken thirty-three. The numbers remained high throughout the rest of the year.

There were photos of birthdays, nature, a bathroom reno, short local trips in summer, the Wonderdog … but there were also pics of my self-haircut, me sitting at my desk during online schooling, zoom pics and so many morning sunrises that I would text to my mom.

This Covid pandemic has changed our world, how we live but also how we think about things in our lives.

The small amount of photos at the start of 2020 illustrates to me how I was thinking before the pandemic in my collection. I was busy, going and doing. No time for taking pictures.

When I think of those first two months of 2020 I hear John 13:7 echoing in my mind :

you don’t understand now
what I am doing,
but someday you will

Those two months were before change became the new normal. They were the days of innocence, in a way. Days that were self-driven, self-focused.

Then the calendar turned to March and as the second week enfolded, we were faced with change … cancellations, closures and limitations on the daily, the hourly.

It was quiet, so quiet. The streets were not longer bustling with morning and afternoon traffic. The calendars were not longer directing our waking hours.

As I was organizing and editing images to move off my computer I was struggling to know which photos were worth keeping and which were unimportant. I deleted few, for each one held significance for me, of this year. Each one helped tell the story of 2020.

At the beginning of the year, I might not have saved an image of a cup and saucer I wanted to buy, but it’s message was part of my (our) 2020 year story. As are the ones of a vase of iris’ daily blooming, the many selfies of the steps of my self haircut, or the sunrise photos I would take to send my mom. All of them, together, wordlessly speak the history of my 2020 year.

Let’s back to John 13:7, “you don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

Peter had just refused Jesus desire to wash his feet. Peter, instead, wanted to wash the feet of him. Jesus, though, had a plan behind his act of hygiene for his followers. He needed them to see and understand that as followers of Christ, they (and we) could only be cleansed by his act of humility. That they (we) cannot accomplish this (or anything) on our own. This foot washing was a hint of the coming cross and how he, Jesus, would take away, would cleanse the sins of the world, through his humility.

If I have learned nothing in 2020, it was that prior to March, when the pandemic shut down our lives, we were primarily doing things in our own will. Busily working to do the will of God … but often on our own steam, in our own strength, prioritizing things as we saw fit. We spent so much time doing in our churches, in our communities, with others. Then we were forced to be face to face with the ones who God put most intimately into our lives … maybe God had a bigger plan? a different plan?

Maybe our social distancing was to remind us of our first loves? Of our relationship with God, our relationships with our spouses, our children, our parents?

In the Pulpit Commentary, on John 13:7 (including a few more verses), we read a re-wording :

If you refuse this manifestation of humble love from me, if you put your own pride between yourself and me, if you disdain this act of self-surrender, claiming to understand me and our mutual relations better than I, you have no part with me. This is a symbol of my love to you, and of what is to be your love to one another”

I truly feel that this pandemic has been an opportunity to re-set our lives, on what is important. On the value of humility, community. On the place of Jesus in our lives. On living and walking, not as we have always done, but how he desires. Remember, we only see in part, a few pics … he’s got the whole album in view!

We may not understand what he will do with this pandemic, but he does … and that is enough for me.

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As this 2020 is sliding in for home, I have been pondering the year, through the rear view mirror … which is how, I expect, most of us have been desiring to view this year.

This has been the year of the Coronavirus disease, resulting in memories of a year that leave a bad taste in one’s mouth (unless you had Covid-19 and lost your sense of taste).

  • isolation
  • toilet paper hoarding
  • cancelled plans
  • halted travel
  • sanitizer
  • online schooling
  • working from home
  • face masks
  • cancelled arts, sporting and other entertainment
  • cancelled plans
  • cancelled parties
  • closed businesses (some permanently)
  • job losses
  • illness (so some)
  • death (sadly, also true for some)

And all of this on top of the non-Coronavirus struggles of life like racism, politics, riots, natural disasters, relationship struggles, ended marriages, illnesses and … murder hornets?!

This Covid Pandemic season has tested us in ways our communities have not been tested in a lifetime. This year with Covid-19 will be talked about in terms of the tough, the struggles, the hard stuff, the losses, the negative.

Yet, as I have been looking back at 2020, there have also been amazing, encouraging and uplifting aspects that have shown human kindness, strength, resilience and love. Truly the cream has risen to the top, as I look more closely at 2020.

  • society is celebrating real community heroes … nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, those who work in senior’s care homes, those who work in daycares, preschools and schools and (add your own)
  • we are learning to say than-you, for through our wants and needs, we are leaning appreciation and gratitude
  • people have had opportunity to really get to know who lives under our own roofs
  • hand crafts, baking, board games and puzzles have reemerged in our homes
  • we opted, choose to stay connected through distanced meet-ups in parking lots with lawn chairs, outside windows of senior’s homes, Zoom meetings, FaceTime, live (online) church services and small groups, online games and even letter writing
  • weddings still happened and were more intimate
  • graduations occurred with great creativity
  • we started noticing others
  • we cleaned out our closet, basements and garages
  • we got out in nature to exercise by biking, hiking, walking, running and (fill in your preference)
  • we began to see that we are part of something bigger, that our actions can have affect on others … that staying home, wearing a mask are little things done with great love … for others.

2020 is coming to a close and it will go down in history as a pandemic year … but this coronavirus storm has also a year when we began to look at our jobs, businesses, education, shopping, needs … at our lives differently. Though we are all looking forward to returning to many of the good things that have been on pause this year, our new focus might not have us return to the rat race of before, maybe, just maybe we will begin to realize that there is more to life than what we had before …

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Advent arrived this weekend … with hope as it’s theme.

I had intentions this weekend. Intentions to haul out the Christmas decorations, to stand the tree in the window to declare to our neighbors that we are celebrating.

It didn’t happen. Other things happened, errands, grocery shopping, chores, but mostly I sat on my behind, watching too much TV and going to bed early.

I find I am so … weary.

I think this Christmas season we are all weary. Though this pandemic may not have touched most of us directly with illness or the death of a loved one, we are all feeling the effects of isolation, withdrawal from social activities and an almost palpable tension in the air.

Then, this morning, I read quote, that a friend had posted :

“As my prayer become more attentive and inward, I had less and less to say. I finally became completely silent. I started to listen. I first thought that praying entailed speaking. I then learnt that praying is hearing, not merely being silent. This is how it is. To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking, Prayer involves becoming silent, And waiting until God is heard.”

Søren Kierkegaard

And I found myself wondering … what if, rather than just be weary, lifeless and silent … what if I listened? What if we listened in the silence, until a still small voice cries out in our pandemic desert? What if, rather than succumb to weariness and apathy, what if we listen for the one who gives us reason to rejoice, to hope?

It is not trees, and concerts, and parties, and gift exchanges, and church services that are the reason for the season … HE is the reason that our weary world can rejoice, can have hope!

Perhaps we need to fall on our knees … and hear.

… the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine

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Old Man in Sorrow
(On the Threshold of Eternity),
by Vincent van Gogh

I remember years ago hearing of the delays of children who had been in orphanages in Romania (known as dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu’s children). They spent their days in cribs, where they were kept alive with bottles and diaper changes. What they were deficient in was physical contact, stimulation, love.

The impacts of their growing up in that environment went beyond the fact that these rooms full of babies and toddlers were without cooing or crying. These little souls were impacted in their physical, mental, emotional, social and probably every other area of their health and development … all because they were deficient in that which all humans need … human contact, interaction and love.

Now, thirty some years later, another group of humans is experiencing a type of failure to thrive, brought on, not by a nation’s dictator, but by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The news this week had been of a report finding that loneliness is impacting the mental health of Canadians (no doubt others as well). But if we, who are able to go to work, who have the ability to get out of our homes, who have human interaction every day are struggling with our mental health due to loneliness …

what about our seniors?

what about those who are living in isolation?

I have been reading lately that loneliness is a greater fear to those who are alone than Coronavirus. Read that again …

And, some studies hint that during our current pandemic more people may die of the effects of loneliness than of the virus itself.

For those who are isolated from human interaction, stress of this pandemic as well as the the loneliness that accompanies it can mean that they may be at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, depression and even premature death.

“I very much feel my solitude.”

Renata Cafferata (87, Italy)

What that says to me is that this is a need human need that we need to address … and I don’t mean that we need to write to our government officials.

What we need to do it to check in on our neighbors, friends and family who may live alone. Offer to pick up their groceries. Stop by for a visit on their porch or deck, or in their garage (make sure they are bundled up warmly). Take them a meal, drop off flowers, make a call to them, write a note, a letter … make contact with them!

These connections could save a life! This is important … it could be life or death for them!

In an article in The Atlantic, Charles H. Zeanah, a child-psychiatry professor (who was part of a study of orphaned children in Bucharest in 2000), said,

“Imagine how that must feel—to be miserable and not even know that another human being could help.”

He was speaking of babies, or children, who knew no better. They had been born into a world without their need of human interaction and attachment being met.

During this duel pandemic of Covid19 and loneliness, those who are miserable DO know that another human could help … but they are alone.

It is up to the rest of us to ensure that they do not feel the weight of that loneliness … that it does not reach down to the depths of human despair.

This, my fellow humans, especially to those of us who claim the name of Christ, is our opportunity to be the hands and feet of God.

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Back to school is always a paradox of excitement and anxiety. This year, this 2020 September … in the midst of a pandemic … there might just be more anxiety than excitement.

Returning to work in a secondary school, last week, I found myself less anxious as I leaned into the F-word that needs to be the focus of the school year … flexibility. I also gained strength by praying … for the administration, for colleagues, for the students and their parents.

Prayer is our best back to school tool. It reminds us that we are not in control, but we know who is and that he doesn’t leave us in our time of need, our time of anxiety.

Prayer gives us a place to speak our fears, to name them, to be real.

Prayer gives us an amen … meaning ‘so be it’ or ‘truth’. It is the release of our burden … not just the giving of our worry and concern to God, but trusting him with our prayer (ie. not taking it back).

So … let’s pray for this school year:

God,

We come to you, acknowledging that you are God … we are not, Coronavirus is not … only you are God and you are God over everything.

God our kids (we) are starting a new school year and we confess that we might be allowing worry to control us. We confess that we have given far too much attention and time to social media and it has left us anxious, even hopeless. We confess that we often look first to those in government, in education to calm our fears. Lord we give the things that cause us to be anxious to you. We seek you first for confidence, for protection, for comfort.

We also seek your leading, for some are unsure about their return to school. There are staff, students, or family members at home with compromised immune systems, or pre-existing conditions that make us unsure about the wisdom of returning to school. Please, Lord, guide and lead those who are unsure. Lead them to their physicians who can help them make the best decision for themselves, their children and those they love. And Lord, if they choose to not return, help the rest of us to embrace them in their personal decision.

There is such anxiety about the start of this school year, Lord. There are those who may be frozen with fear. Bring them reminders of peace and comfort. Bring your people to them, to embrace and encourage them where they are, but also who will walk them through the fear to a place of ease.

May we, who follow you, hold tightly to you, so that we can be beacons of your love to those around us.

Thank-you that you give to us a spirit of power, and love, and a sound mind … those are your gifts to us (the evil one brings fear). With our sound minds we can make the decisions that are best for those we love. With the power from you, we can be confident in our decisions. With love we can make decisions based on what is best for not just we and those we love but for those around us … and in doing so, we are your hands and feet.

May we encourage those who are returning (or have already returned) to work in classrooms. May we hold up in prayer to you those who will be cleaning, teaching, administrating, assisting students in our schools. May we be like Aaron and Hur for Moses, holding his hands high in the midst of Joshua’s battle … holding school staff up to God as they battle for educating in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

God, we give this school year to you. We give the families represented, the school staff, those who sit in tall buildings making decisions about education and safety … to you. And we walk in faith that you will not leave us alone in the path ahead of us.

Amen … and amen.

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It can seem that our world is a dire place, with so many evil acts, selfishness and hatred. It can seem hopeless … we can feel hopeless.

For Christ-followers, hope is the gift that we have accepted, that we are purposed to share, in acts and attitudes of love.

1967 might have felt similarly hopeless. It was during the time of the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, Detroit riots, China tested it’s first hydrogen bomb, the Six-Day war (between Israel and neighboring Arab countries).

It was at this time that song writers Bob Thiele and George David Weiss wrote a song, that would be sung by Louis Armstrong … What a Wonderful World … in the midst of such a hopeless time in history.

Thiele stated, “We wanted this immortal musician and performer to say, as only he could, the world really is great: full of the love and sharing (that) people make possible for themselves and each other every day.”

Though this song was not written or sung as a song of praise, or from a Christian perspective, I find myself thinking of the words of writer and theologian, Fredrick Buechner:

“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

As a Christ-follower, I have been called to my family, my community around me physically, as well as this virtual one. My deep gladness is simple, it comes from the gift of love that God has offered and I have accepted … this is where I meet ‘my world’, who is hungry, ravenous for the life-giving hope of the love of Christ.

But I cannot meet my world’s hunger, I cannot offer nourishment from a place of hopelessness, from a place of fear. I need to first be fed the good fruits, be encouraged in hope which will allow the love to grow … hopefully spilling over to the world around me.

Garbage in = garbage out

Good people, we do life in the midst of such sorrow, for so many reasons these days … but we cannot allow it to dim the light that is in us.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.

LR Knost, author, feminist, social justice activist, said:

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

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O Canada
by Fran Alexander

Today may well be the quietest Canada Day in our one hundred and fifty-three year history.

Though provinces, cities, towns and even villages are slowly opening up, large crowds are not gathering, fireworks are not happening, nor will we stand shoulder to shoulder and sing O Canada.

And that is because we are Canada … a vast land filled with leaders from coast to coast.

I don’t mean elected officials or public health offers. I mean the over 37 million individuals who call Canada home. We who recognize that the whole is of more value than the individual, that self sacrifice is for the greater good. That the greatest way to attain freedom as a citizen is by looking out for others.

During this pandemic we have done what the public heath officials have asked of us … kept our distance, stayed home, washed out hands (again, and again and again), worn masks and, when we didn’t quite feel well … we stayed home. Our united goal was to flatten the curve, stop the spread of Covid 19, protect others … our families, our neighbors, others who have never met.

In our following of their health orders, in our others-centered living, we, the citizens, have become leaders in the world … in our home and native land.

“This is one country. We’re all playing for Team Canada right now. Making the announcement as we did today was just part of getting Canada back on its feet and healthy again.” (CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie after the league postponed the start of its regular season)

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

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