So here I am, here we all are, in the midst of a pandemic. These are unusual times. I feel it. As I go about my day, doing the mundane tasks of laundry and lunches, I feel it. It feels different, everything feels different. And it isn’t just that the kids are home when they would normally be in school, or that I grocery shop for 2 weeks rather than 2 days, or that we don’t leave the house for gatherings with friends, or that the wide world of sports has come to a screeching halt. Yes, all of these things feel different, but there is something more. There is an unsettling, an uneasiness, that seeps into my very soul. Sometimes I feel it more strongly than others, but it’s always lingering there. I think it is the uncertainty. There is just so much unknown. Like I said, these are unusual times. But, when I really look at the beast of uncertainty, I recognize it. Because even though it seems so large and ominous right now, it has been there all along. I have faced it before and I’m not the only one.
On any given day, of any given week, there are husbands that kiss wives good bye for the last time, there are mothers who send children off to school for the last time. We have faced it in unforeseen illness and accidents. So yes, I have faced uncertainty before, we all have, and it’s always there, so why does it feel so large, so strong, in these times? It seems to me that our current circumstances have pulled off the blanket of false security with which I am usually covered. You know the one, the perception of control. And now, in the midst of this pandemic, I recognize it. I recognize it fully. I see it completely, no blanket hiding it or hiding me. I am now completely exposed to the full force of uncertainty with numbers and news changing daily. I have no idea how many people will be infected and how fast. I have no idea what the consequences will be personally, locally or globally. Experts keep trying to predict, but there are too many moving parts, too many variables. The simple truth is that only time will tell and we just have to wait.
I am not very good at waiting. I am used to fast service and next day delivery, instant messaging and Netflix. This is the society in which we live. It’s fast and it’s convenient, but now I have to wait. I waited for the news of first cases in our country, then our state, then our community. I waited for closures, cancellations and new mandates. The waiting has just begun. I will keep waiting until we get the first signs that we have seen the peak and then the fall (I hope), but I just don’t know when that news will come. So as I find myself face to face with this beast of uncertainty, no longer shielded by my blanket of false security (you know the one, the perception of control), I am picking up pennies. I am not picking up pennies for any financial purpose or gain, but as a reminder. Inscribed on every penny, are four little words, “In God We Trust.” These are words I can cling to, because in these uncertain times (and all the times before), God is in control. So, in the midst of all this uncertainty, I’m picking up pennies.
As Holiday season is about to begin,
We know that we'll gather with family and friends.
As we gather around for Holiday feasts,
There are bound to be some empty seats.
For some, it's the first time a loved one's not near,
For others, the seats have been empty for years.
They say it gets easier with the passage of time,
But their journey through loss may be different than mine.
So know if a seat sits empty this year,
Your heart may feel joy while your eyes brim with tears.
I hope that seat at your table that's bare,
will serve as a memory and gratitude chair.
Sit down with in it and pause for a prayer,
Thankful for the love that between you was shared.
Time is so fleeting and too soon it has passed,
But Holidays are for memories and memories last.
I recently began my annual read of Six Hours One Friday, by Max Lucado. For the last few years, it has served as a reminder for me, a reminder of the sacrifice made by Christ, a reminder of those hours spent on the cross, one Friday, on a hill in Calvary. This year, this Palm Sunday, I am reflecting on the week before the crucifixion. Jesus entered Jerusalem as a KING! “Hosanna to the Son of David!” the crowds shouted, laying down their cloaks to provide a Red Carpet welcome to the KING! But, Jesus knew what was coming and He knew it was coming soon. I can’t help but wonder how He felt at that moment, knowing those same voices that were shouting “Hosanna” today, would be shouting, “Crucify,” tomorrow?
I am a runner, since the age of 12, a runner. First, it was for sport and competition, but soon it became something more, so much more. And 3 decades later, it is still so much more. There is a peace that comes from running. While running, it is just me. Only my feet pounding, my legs pumping, my lungs breathing, my heart beating. I am the machine, the means by which I travel. I am these legs that carry me for miles. I am these lungs that heave the heavy breaths. I am this heart that beats, beats, beats...
I will kiss you good night and kiss you good bye, while I still can. I know the day will come when you ask me not to, especially in front of the school or in front of your friends. I will still sneak into your room to kiss your cheek while you sleep.
I will tuck you in tight and say bedtimes prayers, while I still can. I know the day will come when you will turn off your own light and say your own prayers. I will still pray to be the mother you need me to be.
I will give piggy back rides and carry you off to bed, while I still can. I know the day will come when you have grown too big or I have grown too weak. I will still want to then.
I will sit through sports practices and play catch in the back yard, while I still can. I know the day will come when you drive yourself to practice and no longer want to play ball with your mom. I will still be your biggest fan.
I will put candles in pancakes, cupcakes and donuts, while I still can. I know the day will come when you will think you are too old for birthday parties and birthday breakfasts. I will still celebrate the gift of being your mom.
I will tell you and show you, I love you, again and again and again, while I still can. I know the day will come when you will make a mistake you are reluctant to tell me about, but don’t worry, son. I will still…no matter what…I will still.
Just days ago, I stood on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is, arguably, one of the most amazing natural wonders on earth. Of course there are look out points and visitor centers, hoards of people and buses transporting them from point to point, but the canyon itself is naturally majestic. The depth, the colors, the rugged landscape, the wildlife, all left me breathless. I am 45 years old and this was my first glimpse of the canyon. I don’t recall when I first learned of it’s existence, but I do know that I have longed to see it for at least a few decades. When I finally passed the park gate and reached the visitor center parking lot, the promise of the view filled me with great anticipation. Well, it would still take me some time to actually reach the rim. The parking lot and visitor center complex is overwhelmingly large. There are clear signs directing you to the bathrooms (thank goodness, because I really had to go), the gift shop, (which I also needed to visit to gather a few souveniurs for my kids), but actually finding the rim was not as easy as I expected. I know it sounds ridiculous that I was right there, at the Visitor’s Center and could not find the Grand Canyon! Well, fortunately, I finally wound up on the right path and it did not disappoint. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was breathless (and it wasn’t from the walk). The expanse before me was far greater than I could have imagined. I felt like falling to my knees and praising God. I resisted the falling to my knees part (I didn’t want the other canyon gazers to think I had collapsed and call an ambulance), but I did praise God, or at least tried to. The only words I could softly utter were, “Oh God, Thank you.” Nothing else would even come to mind. There were not words that could adequately express what I was seeing, feeling, experiencing. I just stopped and let the beauty and the joy penetrate my soul. The fatigue from the 4 1/2 hour drive and the hunger from skipping lunch to get there, evaporated. I felt great awe and great peace, but also great gratitude. Gratitude for the presence, the beauty and the opportunity. You see, I almost missed this.
For those who know me, this will come as no surprise, but I was late in arriving! An entire day late to be exact! I was booked on an early morning flight (mistake #1) on Saturday morning (mistake #2), but when my alarm went off at 4 a.m., I hit snooze (mistake # 3, 4, 5 and 6, yes, I hit snooze 4 times), despite getting out of bed 36 minutes later than planned, I decided that I had time to take a shower (mistake #7). I didn’t have time. When I approached the airport, my mind flashed back to another flight I was scheduled to take from this airport, one that I had missed. My departure time was still about 30 minutes away, but in my sleepy state, I failed to recall the fact that the ticket counter agent turned into gate agent 30 minutes prior to departure. To my disappointment, the United desk was dark and no one was present. The kiosk gave me a last glimmer of hope and I frantically tried to check in. As I heard the ticket agent turned gate agent announce boarding groups just on the other side of security, I saw the message, “You are unable to check in at this time.” I missed the flight. There was nothing I could do. I called United and sat to wait. My only option was to see if I could get on the next flight. Finally, the gate agent turned back into ticket agent and I told her my story. She typed away, searching for seats. She could get me to Chicago on the next flight, but Las Vegas was my final destination and the best she could do was put me on stand by. There was a high probability that I would sit at O’hare airport until the next morning. I decided to simply fly out the following day and I returned home. Despite my disappointment, I found myself excited. It was as if I had been given this gift of time to spend with my family that I did not expect to have. Here was a full Saturday with absolutely nothing scheduled or planned. No birthday parties, practices or appointments to run kids to. I found myself contemplating “Missed Flights.” I figured I could see this missed flight as a missed opportunity to spend a day at the Grand Canyon or as a new opportunity to spend a summer Saturday with my family. I decided on the latter and I am so glad that I did.
We spent the morning watching a movie, kids still in pajamas, and eating Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast. I fixed my kids spaghetti for lunch (one of their favorite meals) and then we all headed out on the boat. I said “yes” to tubing with my 6 year old even though I really didn’t want to get into the water at first. I had so much fun bouncing along in the wake with my blue eyed baby girl bouncing and laughing next to me. I was transported back in time to my own childhood, tubing behind my dad’s boat with my brothers so many summers ago. These were great memories and I was now making them with my own children. I watched as my son reluctantly climbed onto the tube with his dad. He was a little scared, but he trusted me behind the wheel, knowing that I would not go faster than he wanted me to, would stop when he was ready and would not abandon him in the middle of the lake if he fell off! As I looked back at him, his smile told me that he had no regrets. He was happy to be riding that wake. I then convinced my oldest daughter, the most cautious of all three, to take a ride with me back to our cove. She was nervous at first, but soon we were laughing together, but fell off short of our dock and had to float/swim the rest of the way. There was a good deal of joking and joy. My heart was happy. After all of that time on the water, I was a bit tired (after all, I had been up since 4:36 a.m.). I contemplated heading in to the house to rest, but spotted our kayaks sitting on the shore. Kayaking has become an activity that my oldest daughter and I have come to enjoy together so I suggested a paddle and she said “yes.” So out we went, on our next adventure. There on the water, we talked and enjoyed the peacefulness the lake can provide, especially in a non-motorized vessel. Looking over at her, I noticed how much she has grown, but I also her youth and her innocence. I know there will come a time when spending an afternoon on the lake with her mom will not be high on her list of priorities, but until then, I will make sure that it is high on mine. It was truly a spectacular summer day, one I will not soon forget and one I hope is forever etched in the memory banks of my children as well. At the end of this spectacular day, I also felt the urge to fall to my knees and praise God, which is exactly what I did.