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Plans Can't Keep Up With Changes (especially during a pandemic)

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It's still humbling to recall how, when news of the covid-19 pandemic first broke, I didn't think it was going to be a problem here.  Months and thousands of deaths later, with friends who have suffered from sickness and loss, it's obvious that I was incredibly wrong in my assessment of the situation.  I couldn't have guessed at how the spring and summer would unfold, at the changes that were written in the next few pages and chapters of my life that I never would have seen coming.

April went by in a blur of confusion and exhaustion and grief as the US scrambled and reeled and states staggered with making decisions about how to cope with an incoming wave of devastation.  Pennsylvania's governor instituted a stay-at-home order that was prolonged a couple of times for the county I live in, which brought a twist I had never imagined to Jason's and my season of engagement -- in the same country, even the same county, yet not seeing each other for weeks.  
That hurt.

S…

Church in a Pandemic

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Some moments feel like not only ordinary moments, but bear a weight of being a moment in history.  Times that I want to remember in years to come, to look back and recall we were together and what a time that was.


Thursday evening a group of us tugged and lifted and hauled all of the furniture and accoutrements of the sanctuary back towards the spaces where they belong.  And we followed a seating map for how to group chairs, measuring the distance in between (and being thankful for once that humans are such creatures of habit that we mostly sit in the same spot week after week anyway.)


I've been back in the US for a year and a lot of my life has flowed through that building -- Sunday mornings, confirmation classes on Tuesday afternoons, and most recently, my wedding.  It felt good to be back in it, to look around and think, These are the people who I get to figure out how to do church during a pandemic with. 


Although we wouldn't have chosen a pandemic, there is something swee…

Culture Shock and COVID-19

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After the months of watching COVID-19 roll west from China, like waves coming in that seem far away until suddenly they're knocking you over and pulling you under, it felt like life in the US changed overnight.  Many of us have been groping for the words to use to describe what we're living through.  Worldwide trauma, waking up in a dystopian movie, so weird, unfathomable.  We try out different comparisons: is it like the influenza pandemic of 1918?  like 9-11?  like fighting in the US war with Vietnam?  Each person, it seems, has their own story of when the crisis became real to them -- stories that I expect we'll be processing and listening to and talking about for years to come.


More and more, the unfolding of this pandemic reminds me of my experiences living in China, only this time, it's like the entire world just got slammed down into a foreign country -- one that none of us chose to be in, one that we don't have a return ticket from (yet), one where some thi…

When the Way is Blocked

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Yesterday afternoon I went on a walk and after a short distance, saw this ahead of me.


Well, that's how life feels, I thought.

If you don't know me, this is not how I work.  I don't slow down for speed bumps (sorry, Dad, about what that does to the car) literally or metaphorically (sorry, Susan, for always making fun of you for doing the same thing.)

But there I was, with a tree down across the path, and then a chainlink fence right after that.  Okay, I guess that's the end.

I can't say it had been a particularly happy walk up to that point.  I was on the verge of tears, trying to wrap my head around how much the world has changed in the past week.  I'm grieving the loss of normalcy, of good rhythms and structures.  And I'm grieving the very real possibility that Jason and my wedding in June may not look anything like what we had planned.

It's not as if I think that our marriage is going to be seriously harmed or that the world will fall apart if that da…

COVID-19: Grief and Hope

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(I'm not a medical expert and I'm not writing with any claim to extraordinary perspective on the unfolding situation; I'm guessing that in a few months -- or weeks -- I'll look back and wonder what I was thinking.  But writing is how I process, and I'd rather be able to look back at some of the process later on than rewrite my thoughts to sound wiser than I actually am.)



Grief

When the news of COVID-19 first hit, an epidemic in China, I was concerned for my friends and former students and colleagues in China (and the ones who were just leaving China for a conference in Thailand.)  I was not particularly concerned about it hitting the US; there has been plenty of panic in my lifetime over possible terrible pandemics that either didn't turn out to be nearly as bad as the hype or didn't end up coming anywhere near where I lived.  A few students messaged me about being stuck at home and bored; friends shared updates as they scrambled to figure out plans, knowing…

Lent 2020

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A week or two ago, I posted on social media:

"Out of the depths I cry to You/
In darkest places I will call/
Incline Your ear to me anew/
And hear my cry for mercy, Lord.../
I will wait for You, I will wait for You/
On Your Word I will rely/
I will wait for You, surely wait for You/
Till my soul is satisfied." {Shane & Shane}
This time of year is, weirdly frequently, one where there seems to be incredible amounts of chaos and devastation going on in the lives of people I love. Whether it's cancer, depression, anxiety, suicide, break ups, or other drama, it usually feels like there's this desperate attempt of darkness to achieve a strangle hold as winter dies and we look forward to celebrating Christ's resurrection. I've appreciated the words of other Christians -- psalmists, songwriters, story tellers, prayer warriors -- who give voice to the depths of the darkness we experience and the sure hope of the light to come. And today, I'm thankful for sunshine and …

Learning about Love

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I had a realization this weekend, which seemed blindingly obvious once I got there, but it took a while.  While I believe that God loves me, I don't really trust Him to keep loving me.  I hope that He will.  I know, intellectually, that He will.  But on a practical, gut-level, I don't fully trust it.  I want a backup plan. 

That doubt spills over into a lot of other areas of my life -- if I don't trust God to love me unconditionally and always, how would I trust other people to love me when I don't feel like I'm earning it?

Dave, by the grace of God, ended up preaching a sermon on Sunday that spoke to the exact things that I was thinking about, and reminded us that the gift of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing evidence of God's faithful love to us. 

I am also reminded of God's faithful love, that He knows me and loves me, by small signs in my every day life.