Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Slowing Down Time

Friends, we are living in crazy times. Schools are closing in an attempt to contain the coronavirus, fear and cynicism are rampant, and people are hoarding toilet paper… I don’t think any of us ever expected this! 

I have read a lot of different perspectives and comments over the last couple weeks, and the words I’ve been noticing are frustrated, frightened, irritated, unnecessary, confused, and afraid, to name a few. 

The one thing I haven’t heard anyone say is, “I am so thankful for the coronavirus and the quarantine.  I wish time would slow down so we could really enjoy it!”

Nope, I think most people are just ready to get through this uncharted territory and get on with life… 

**************************

I don’t usually choose a “word for the year.” I’m not sure why; it just hasn’t been something I felt compelled to do. 

But this year, a word chose me. 

As I prayed over all the changes and transitions this year would hold for our family, especially with Sarah graduating and going off to college, I found myself dreading the days to come. The years we spent homeschooling have created a strong bond within our family, and the thought of this stage of life (having all my baby birds in the nest) ending just makes me sad. I get teary-eyed even thinking about her last show and last prom and graduation. I never would have dreamed it would be so hard to launch a child into adulthood! How I wished I could rewind the clock or at least just slow down time!

So I poured all these things out to the Lord, all my grief and fears and dreading. And as I sat there lamenting the change of this season, the Lord whispered a word to my heart.

Embrace.

Embrace these moments, I heard Him say. Don’t dread them. Savor them, treasure them, immerse yourself in them. For you are right, they will be gone in the blink of an eye, and you don’t want to miss any of it because you are too wrapped up in your own pity party. Lift up your eyes, open your hands, and receive these little gifts of joy. You can’t make time slow down, but you can slow yourself down enough to embrace it.

Embrace.

That word has changed everything for me this year.

I find myself returning to it again and again. I’m not going to lie- there are still tears in this season of “lasts.” But they are joyful tears, the kind that overflow from a full heart, marking these moments as something to be treasured.

And that word- embrace– it shifts my perspective when I start holding on too tightly. It reminds me that all our days and years and moments are known and numbered by One much greater than me. It enables me to rest in His promises and seize the day, leaving the future in His hands.

***********************

This word, embrace, has been echoing in my mind these past few days as well. 

Obviously, I don’t rejoice in people getting sick or being afraid or missing work. I realize it is a hardship for many, and it has altered everyday life for all of us. People need help with childcare and groceries. Events are being cancelled, and school and worship services are being held online. These are strange days we are living in… I mean, we just delivered a package of toilet paper to some friends, for goodness’ sake! Definitely strange.

Am I really suggesting we should embrace it?

That is exactly what I am suggesting. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to “Rejoice always, pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Give thanks in all circumstances, not for them…

Sure, our lives are being disrupted. But in the midst of this strange circumstance, what can you be thankful for? Gratitude is the key to embracing.

For me, I am grateful that, just for a little while, time is slowing down. Our hybrid school has transitioned into a more academic, private school model over the past few years, and while there are advantages to that, I have really missed our homeschooling days. Between school, church, drama, small groups, college ministry, sports, Jeff travelling, and the girls working, it is not very often that all six of us are in the same place for very long. It has become difficult for us to even eat dinner together one day a week! 

And I miss it. 

So, the thought of having all of us under the same roof for a whole week, maybe two, with no outside activities and no place we have to be is like an unexpected gift! As I watch these not-so-little-anymore people growing up before my eyes, I have longed for time to slow down… and now, just for a little while, it has. 

For just a few days, we will sit at the table and do school work together, just like we used to. We will look for opportunities to be generous to those in need and share with our neighbors. We will eat home-cooked meals and play board games and watch movies. There are books on my nightstand and cookies ready to go in the oven. And yes, like any good mom, I have several cleaning projects for us to tackle as well!

On a bigger scale, I am not really sure what the next week or two (or more) will look like, or how this epidemic will ultimately affect our country, our world, and perhaps even our family. The reality is, it is way out of our hands and far beyond our control. Dreading it or resenting it will not help anything; it will only rob us of peace. 

Instead, I choose joy. I choose gratitude. 

I choose to let time slow down, and embrace it.

(And I am happy to bring you some toilet paper if you need it. Just sayin’!)

Putting on my Peace Shoes (and Walking What I Talk)

It never fails.

Have you ever heard the old adage, “Be careful what you pray for, because you might just get it?” Or maybe “Don’t pray for patience or the Lord will put you in situations that require you to use it”?

Well, whenever we are teaching on Biblical truth, you can bet that we will promptly be presented with opportunities that require us to put that truth into practice. 

Yesterday was no exception.

I have been leading my 12th grade girls small group through Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God Study for teens over the last several weeks (which, btw, I highly recommend!), and this past Sunday we talked about the “shoes of the gospel of peace.” 

We discussed how peace is not the absence of chaos or conflict, but a sense of calm in the midst of it. We mentioned how Paul associated peace with the Roman soldier’s shoes because God’s peace moves with us wherever we go and the spikes help us keep our footing when we are on rocky or slippery ground. This kind of peace isn’t natural to us- it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit living inside us, and has to be accessed. Like shoes, it is something we have to intentionally “put on” each day. 

I had them write down some areas in which they were struggling to feel God’s peace, whether in their mind or heart or relationships. We talked about different things people substitute for the peace we so desperately long for, things that numb or distract us, such as social media or alcohol or relationships. 

We finished our discussion by looking at what the Bible says about how we go about putting on those “Peace Shoes;” how choosing to focus on Jesus and be grateful enables us to access peace in the midst of the crazy circumstances of our lives. They went through each of their areas of unrest and found something in each situation for which they could be grateful- a way they could see God working, the fact that it caused them to depend on His strength, an opportunity in which they could be a Light, and so on.

And then, before we left, we prayed that the Lord would help us intentionally put on the Shoes of Peace this week; that no matter how crazy the chaos around us became, we would choose to be grateful and stand firm in His peace.

Do you see where this is going?

I should have known. The Lord is faithful to always give me the chance to live out the truths I claim to believe when I teach. But more than that, the enemy is not going to let me teach a lesson like that and not use it as an opportunity to make me feel like a hypocrite!  

So, when the bottom dropped out yesterday, I should not have been surprised. 

And yet, I was. 

Jeff and I are in the middle of preparing for multiple major events this week, and just about everything that could possibly go wrong yesterday did. I won’t bore you with all the details- I’m sure you’ve had a day like this before. But we spent all afternoon working through challenges and putting out fires, only to have another one pop up somewhere else!

Let’s just say I wasn’t really feeling a lot of peace when I woke up this morning.

Before I even opened my eyes, I was going over my endless to-do list in my head, and before my feet touched the floor, I already felt defeated. 

Where are you, Lord?  

As the wind and waves of my circumstances swirled around me, I couldn’t even concentrate. How are we supposed to handle this, Lord? What do we do now? How are we possibly going to get everything done? Help me, Lord!

Help me!

An image popped in my mind of Peter standing out there on the water, storm raging around him, arms outstretched towards Jesus. “Lord, help me!” And that’s when I remembered our Peace Shoes from Sunday. 

Peace is not the absence of chaos, but a calmness in the midst of it”… and boy, was I in the midst of it! I wish I could say my first response to the craziness was fixing my eyes on Jesus and finding something to be grateful for, but it wasn’t.

Not even close.

It wasn’t until I was neck-deep in the waves of my chaos that I remembered where to lift my eyes. When I finally looked up, I saw Jesus. And something began to change. 

I remembered that peace doesn’t come naturally to us; we have to choose it. 

So, I took off the fear and frustration that were consuming me and strapped on my “peace shoes” in their place. I reached out to my sweet Small Group girls for prayer. I looked around at our shifting circumstances and then focused on Jesus, my solid Rock.

I thanked God for the opportunity to show my girls that I am willing to live out what I’m teaching them. I thanked Him for answering my prayer, even when the answer didn’t come in the way I wanted. I pried my fingers open and turned my palms up to the Lord, willing to receive whatever He would give. And with each exhale of thanksgiving, I breathed in peace.

His peace. 

The kind of peace that can’t really be explained, that defies all logic. The kind that helps you catch your breath and makes you feel grounded, even when the terrain around you is uneven.  The kind that expands to fill all the crevices which were carved out by the fear and frustration, until it all becomes a little easier to let go of. 

I’ll be honest- it took some effort. My thoughts kept returning to those stressful conversations, while my emotions fluctuated like an EKG. But 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we can demolish the enemy’s strongholds by taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” and so I did. 

I visualized Peter, walking on water, keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus while the storm raged around him. I found myself singing an old hymn from my youth, proclaiming in faith, “It is well with my soul.” And I continued to look for reasons to be thankful. 

More peace.

So, I am grateful tonight for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days we sometimes face, as they provide an opportunity to lean into Jesus. I am grateful for the chance to put legs on my lessons and walk out what I teach, even when it’s hard. I am grateful that a delayed response to my Savior does not disqualify me from receiving all the good things He offers His children. And I am grateful most of all for His unexplainable peace.

Now… what should I teach about next week?