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Posts Tagged ‘#pandemicyear’

Hubby and I got to enjoy a meal, in a restaurant recently. What a joy it was to be seated at a table (indoors) and to have our meal served to us. We were also particularly impressed with how the restaurant had pivoted when indoor dining had been banned. They utilized one of their parking areas for covered seating which looked fantastic. In speaking with the owner, we learned that this outdoor seating was not going away, but has helped them to birth the idea of how to make this extra outdoor seating permanent and incorporated into their indoor seating. The owner said, “we had a choice, to curl up in a ball and cry or to think creatively. We chose to think creatively.”

It makes one think of the proverb, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

This pandemic year plus has been one of lemons … cases of lemons.

There is much that has been lost, missed. There have been sorrows, injustices and forced alterations to our lives.

There have also been discoveries, innovations and creativity that have been stirred into the mix.

Poet Mary Oliver said, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Wild, indicating the the unpredictability of our days. Precious, reminding us of the value of our life, our days.

John 10:10 tells us :

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”

That is a verse about lemons. It is a verse that reminds us of how loved we mere mortals are, by the one who gives us breath.

Because sin (lemons) entered into our human DNA in the Garden, through the disobedience of man, we needed saving. Through the very son of God, whose willing death paid the price of that sin, we have been redeemed, made new. God could have left us as we were, but his love for us was too great for that.

Life delivers lemons … right to our doors. But we have been given the example of making something good, better out of what we are handed. What will we do with this pandemic (and the struggles and losses that have accompanied it)? What will we do with the other tough stuff, the sour stuff that enters into our days? Will we curl up in a ball and cry, or will we get creative, adding to the sour to create something sweet?

What will we do with this wild and precious life?

“I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

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Though it was a pickup line by the character Joey, in the television show Friends, how you doin? is a most perfect question for these pandemic days.

We need to ask and be given space to share our experience of these days … the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the past year, I have had many experiences of asking this question to people, often inserting really into the question (how you really doin?) and it has been asked of me, as well. I think we all acknowledge (no matter our perspectives on the pandemic and how it is being handled, that we are living in a time of an alternate normal and that reality has to take a tole on us.

But, there is more.

These questions are opportunities to share the hope that God gives in our lives. Not a Pollyanna hope, sugar-coating our sorrow, struggle and confusion, but hope that exists in the midst of the struggle. A hope that exists while tears are falling down our cheeks. A hope that exists in the One that will never leave us … even when we are in the pits of sadness.

” … you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”
1 Peter 3:15

So, prepare for the question … how you doin? … and yes, share the dark and twisty times you might be going through, but share the hope of Christ in your life as well. For the world around us needs to know of Him and of the peace that He brings.

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It’s spring!

Is it just me or does it seem that winter lasted an entire year?

Though Easter came and was celebrated, last spring. Though the days got longer. Though the weather warmed. Though we experienced vacation time and even a bit of (more local) travel. The restrictions and cautions connected to this Covid pandemic have made it feel as though, like in Narnia,

““It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been for ever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas Spring.””

This year, as the calendar, the news and even Google’s search bar announces the start of spring … it actually feels like we might get to experience the hope that spring heralds.

Many have already received one (or two) shots in the arm of vaccination against the Covid virus, with many of us awaiting our turn at, what I like to call,

the arm jab to a more normal existence

With this rollout of the vaccine, we feel a spring in our steps, hoping that things like travel, concerts, sporting activities, church services and hugs will soon come back to us, to our open arms.

This past year has been the liminal time … between what was and what is to come.

And I wonder what is to come …

The experts on business are discussing the probability that working from home will be around long after the globe is vaccinated. That online ordering and curb-side pick up of various goods will continue to increase in popularity. That people will continue to make more meals at home. That online meetings will continue to be utilized. That shopping local will carry on.

Will churches continue to offer online services, realizing that they are not just an opportunity in a pandemic, but an option for distanced connection? Will school districts and private schools consider how beneficial distanced education was for the students who struggle with anxiety, or who simply learn better with less distractions? Will restaurants, pet food stores, grocery stores and pharmacies continue to offer home delivery and curb-side pick up? Will doctors keep a few appointments available for online patient care? Will we continue to look at nurses, doctors, grocery store employees, emergency workers and delivery drivers as cheer-worthy?

Will we continue to look into the eyes of people passing by?

Like the season of spring heralding the switch up of weather, plant growth, daylight, activities and wardrobe changes, the vaccines can lead us into the time after the pandemic … from the liminal to whatever is to come.

And this puts a spring into my steps.

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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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