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(Today’s prompt at Five Minute Friday is NOW. Here is my free write contribution.)

Now I am sitting at my desk, typing, trying to figure out how to compose a snapshot of this moment in words.

Ok, now–at this moment–I am writing. My husband is on a Google Meet with a fellow teacher discussing how seniors will be able to complete their Capstone projects this year with adjustments necessary because they won’t physically be in school this year. My daughter, a sophomore in high school, is finishing up her last class of the day. She misses her friends, but she’s resilient; she’s adjusting to the new norm. My middle child, a freshman in art school, finished his one and only “live” class an hour ago. The rest of his (extended) semester will involve completing assignments and checking in with professors periodically. My oldest son is at the pizza place where he works to provide take-out. It’s probably for his last day for a while, as his boss is furloughing some employees until the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

And me? Well, just like the rest of the substitute teachers in the world, I’m unemployed at the moment. That is not to say I’m not working. Since school began in the fall, I’ve been trying to figure out how to fit in time to write while subbing full-time and caring for a family. It would seem, at least that particular problem is solved. . .Now.

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Identity Crisis during Coronavirus?

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Secret?

I love being home.

I almost feel guilty saying it. 

We are all urged right now to “Stay safe, stay home” during this Coronavirus pandemic. There are people getting sick. There are people dying. There are kids home from school and adults out of work. Everyone, in some way, is affected by this crisis. 

Many, I believe, are teetering a little bit as this ship rights itself in these uncharted waters. Who are we in this? What is our job? How are we to spend our days while at home and physically distant from other people? 

As a substitute teacher for the past six years, although I now find myself unemployed, I do feel a kind of advantage over those who normally hold regular jobs and now find themselves in a very new situation. The advantage I feel is that I am used to not knowing what job I will hold from one day to the next. One day, I may sub for a math teacher, the next day it might be gym, the next day I may work one-on-one as a paraprofessional for a student with special needs. Part of my job description as a substitute teacher is being able to adapt to different circumstances and execute whatever plans the school has for me. 

Many days, while I am getting settled in the teachers’ room at the beginning of my day, hanging my jacket and putting my lunch bag in the fridge, someone will come in and ask, “Who are you today?” What they are asking, of course, is who am I covering for. It used to bother me a little, but, since I’ve gotten to know many of the people I work with and they’ve gotten to know who I am, I don’t take the question personally. 

When school closed a week ago, I knew immediately I would be out of a job for the foreseeable future. I didn’t, however, suffer an identity crisis. I knew right away the role(s) I would assume: wife, mother, writer. Although these have long been my roles, they have been overshadowed by the income-generating job of substitute teacher. Now I can focus on my family and my writing.

I know who I am. I’m not defined by whatever position I hold or job I perform. I’m more than that. I am a child of God. I am who He says I am. Ultimately, I work for His kingdom. Even when I’m not able to work the job I get paid for, I know I am a capable, kind, compassionate individual who can accomplish whatever the day holds, “through Christ who strengthens me.”

(This post was inspired by newly-discovered Five Minute FridayToday’s prompt was: Adjust.)

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Holding on while on Hold

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

~Hebrews 10:23-25

 

Hmm. . .how do we “not give up meeting together” when we are ordered by the government to limit gatherings to less than ten people during this Covid-19 crisis?

Last Sunday, our church was closed for the first time since the crisis started. We invited my in-laws and a family of three over for breakfast and an online viewing of the church service. It was fun to host church at home, but this week, our gathering may be even smaller. With the push toward social distancing, as much as we would like to, we will probably not be inviting non-family into the house.

How do we meet when we can’t meet?

Maybe for now, the answer is to simply reach out to each other. Phone calls, emails, texts. We may not be able to physically gather, but we can do the other things those verses encourage us to do:

  • Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess
  • Consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds
  • Encourage one another

And don’t you just love that word “unswervingly?” While the news feeds threaten to paralyze us with fear and suffocate us with dire statistics, Scripture admonishes us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.”

It reminds me of learning to ride a bike. You hold the handles but not tightly enough at first and the bike swerves way to the left and then way to the right. You’re all over the road. You’re crashing into trash cans, falling down. Then you figure out you have to grasp the handles more tightly, with more intention. After all, they direct your path. You right the handlebars, use the strength in your core to balance, and finally you travel in a straight line. You just needed to hold on tight and not swerve.

I think I’ll add that to my list of best practices for such a time as this.

 

 

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God’s Abundance

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. … so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

~2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to run out of toilet paper.

It seems absurd to read it that way, but that was the conversation I had with a friend of mine three days before they closed the school where we work for two weeks (at least) due to the coronavirus. The conversation initially started over grocery shopping. It was a Wednesday. I was planning on grocery shopping on Friday after my husband got paid. When another friend mentioned the frenzy in the stores, I asked if she thought I could wait until Friday. She said no. I went to the store that day and bought toilet paper. 

In the conversation with the first friend, she said that she hadn’t been freaking out until the people around her started freaking out. I told her as far as I was concerned, the worst that could happen would be that I die. Since I’ve accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior, I’m going to heaven when I die. So the worst that can happen is not the worst. After I dismissed my fear of death, the only other fears were of discomfort and/or inconvenience. Suddenly, toilet paper didn’t seem like such a big deal. 

But that’s where our minds go. The scarcity model is our default. The emotion behind this mindset–fear. On the opposite end of the spectrum is faith. How can I lean into faith and away from fear at a time like this when so many people are in a frenzy? I can count my blessings. 

Grab the gratitude journal.

Turn around and look at yesterday. 

Did God provide for me yesterday? 

Well, yeah, but. . .

When was the last time I had to sleep on the street?

Well, never, but. . .

But what?

Well, how do I know I’ll have everything I need tomorrow or next week?

We don’t really know, do we? But whatever we’ll have will come from His hand. And everything we have now and have had in the past has also been from Him. 

It’s time to start saying thank you.

Thank you, Lord, for this home.

(So many have none. As of December, there were over 62,000 homeless people in NYC alone.)

Thank you for schools and teachers and school buses–and thank you so much for bus drivers!

(So many children are not able to go to school.)

Thank you for clean running water. (One in every three people around the world have none.)

During this tremulous time, let us not focus on scarcity but on God’s abundance and pray for our neighbors in need. 

 

 

 

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In Spirit and in Truth

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Feasting on the word this morning.

Reading the account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26), I paused at verses 23 and 24:

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.”

Curious to understand what Jesus meant by “in spirit and truth,” I dug a little deeper into the original language. “Spirit” in Greek is pneúma. It means the rational spirit, mind, element of life. “Truth” in Greek is alétheia meaning truth, verity, reality. In these verses, “spirit and truth” pertain to “truth, love of truth, both in words and conduct, meaning sincerity, veracity; with a sincere mind, with sincerity of heart, not merely with eternal rites.”*

Pondering what it means to “worship the Father in spirit and truth,” I pictured a diagram of the respiratory system as might be found in a science textbook. We breathe in fresh air. It fills our lungs, oxygenates our blood, benefits us in countless ways, and then we breathe out the carbon dioxide. Similarly, with the Spirit of God, we take in the word of God, it renews our minds and nourishes our soul. . .and then what?

What we do with the spirit of God in us is up to us. If we are abiding in Jesus, we are worshiping him in truth, in true sincerity and not just on display for others to see. Do my actions and the words I speak to others align with what I truly believe in my heart? If I am in a worship service singing praise songs loudly and raising my hands to heaven, is that a reflection of what is inside of me or merely a reflection of what those around me are doing? Conversely, if the Spirit of God lives in me, am I living out my faith by speaking life into the lives of others and carrying out acts of mercy, or am I hiding the light within me?

It seems a challenge to worship God with our whole heart, indeed with our life. It involves a continual checking of our motives through the filter of faith. But if I’m seeking the kingdom of God above all, it is a natural act of worship.

With every breath.

(*from The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates, 1993.)

 

 

 

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A Word to Guide the New Year

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One word of resolve for the new year

Last year, it was “Simplify.”

Declutter

Clear

Prioritize

This year, it is “Focus.”

On what’s important

On who’s important

On my purpose on this planet

Enjoy discovering your word.

Happy New Year!

(By the way, I only realized the correlation between 2020 and “focus” after I chose the word. And then I had a good laugh!)

 

 

 

 

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On Watch

I got a Fitbit for Christmas. I didn’t ask for one, but my husband thought it would encourage me to exercise. I hear this often from people. “I got a Fitbit because I thought it would motivate me to exercise more.” What comes first? Do you get the device and then get motivated, or do you get motivated and get the device to stay motivated?

I was already inspired. Before I received the Fitbit. I knew I wanted to figure out an exercise plan for the colder months. Something that would work for me. Over the summer, I walked and ran outside. I knew I wouldn’t want to go out in the cold of winter to do that. But I also knew I wanted to learn to embrace each day, and that meant even embracing bitter temperatures. That means I have to walk even though it’s cold. I’d already begun. These are promises I made to myself. I intend to follow through–gadgets or not.

Once I opened the gift, I realized, in some ways, it could help me accomplish my fitness goals. My husband helped me set it up. I looked at all the things it could do and decided which things were useful for me and which weren’t. I went down the checklist out loud. Yes, I want to track my heart rate since my doctor has told me I have high blood pressure. Yes, I want to track my steps when I do walk and run and find out how many calories I’m burning. That would be interesting.

But no, I don’t want to wear it while I’m sleeping to track my sleep. Why not? My husband wanted to know. I just don’t want to wear it while I’m sleeping. I already know if I’m awake or asleep; I don’t care to collect any more sleep data about myself beyond that. He likes to track his sleep, but I’d rather not.

“Well, you can also get text notifications on your Fitbit. That way when I text you, you’ll get it right away.”

“Nope, I’m not doing that either.”

I think I respond in a timely fashion to texts. Most of them aren’t emergencies. I think people are too attuned to notifications on their phones. To me, they can be a real distraction from healthy conversation and human interaction that we need so desperately now more than ever. When I’m talking to someone and they abruptly look down at their wrist to read a text from someone else, I find it very rude. But they had to tell me they had a cheeseburger for dinner. Do we hear ourselves?

I’m also not going to wear it all the time, log my meals or the amount of water I’m drinking, and I most certainly am not going to use it to buy things. That just scares me.

At this point, he must’ve thought he’d made a bad investment in this device if his wife was not going to use half of its capabilities. But I told him if I don’t have the freedom to say no to things–no matter what they are–I am not free. Just because it has all these applications, it doesn’t mean I have to spend my time participating in them. And aren’t these devices meant to improve our lives? If I’m spending time tapping data into it instead of doing the things I really want to do, how is that an improvement? I refuse to be ruled by a glorified pedometer. It’s just another form of bondage. And worse because this is one we actually pay for and submit to voluntarily.

I think he not only respected my opinion, but he’s starting to come around himself. When we went for a walk, we both wore our Fitbits (because that’s one of the things I really want to do with mine), but neither one of us had our phone. I never bring mine. He said he forgot his. But I wonder. . .

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