Saving My Live – COVID-19 Edition

We are just over 24-hours into a stay at home order and on day -5 of home learning. Our spring break started this gradual-but-fast lockdown and I’m so thankful we had a full week to rest, get outside, and not worry about schedules, routines, and the rest of the school year. This past week has been a “soft start” to finding new routines and rhythms. We’ve gotten outside as much as possible, knowing that even our trails may be taken away if we’re not responsible.

Frank and I were reflecting on the tension of this new normal. In some ways, staying at home and together suits our family dynamic well. The girls love slow mornings, self-guided learning, and playing together (most of the time!) Frank has moved his office to the basement and we are so thankful for the fact that he already had a dedicated space mostly set up – it didn’t take much to switch over completely. I created workspaces for the girls in our library, right in the center of our house. And yet, there’s always that reminder that this sweet time is happening because the world isn’t normal. While I love having Frank home for every meal in the midst of tax season, I also recognize that this shouldn’t be happening.

But also in the midst of all the unknown, spring is arriving. The bulbs in our front yard are blooming and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on those seasonal changes that are saving my life. Like everything else, they look different than usual and specific to our circumstances. I think it’s important to mark these moments and I hope you will, too in the coming days and weeks.

In no particular order, these are my current lifesavers:

Republic of Tea Daily Greens
I had bought these packets of dried micro-greens back in January as an impulse buy at World Market and have been mixing them into water for occasional mid-afternoon energy slumps. These days, I’ve made them part of my daily routine. Usually, I enjoy them after our outdoor excursion while the girls are watching some pre-dinner screentime. I know it’s mostly psychological but in these day of limited freedom, I enjoy an extra boost of greens.

Nivea Creme
I brought several tins of Nivea Creme back from Paris last May and bought a few more this winter because Bea’s hands were drying out from the soap at school. With increased washing, I would massage it into her chapped hands each night. Now that we’re home and not using industrial soap, her hands have healed but using the creme has been a nightly help as we’re all still washing more than usual.

Quiet Rest
We haven’t done “quiet rest” since Bea was four years old. (I never really tried when Elle gave up her naps.) But now that we’re in close proximity and together all day long, an hour after lunch in our own bedrooms is necessary. Bea listens to an Audible book, Elle watches Storyline Online, and I’ve been working my way through Me and White Supremacy. I leave my phone downstairs and try to keep this time to truly rest. Earlier this week I was feeling heavy and sad and I was thankful for time to nap and rest my body.

Nightly Opera
We’ve started watching the Met Opera channel each night after dinner. We usually just get about a half hour in before bedtime but it’s been a fun way to end our evenings. Some operas spark our imagination and the girls beg for more at breakfast. This week is all Wagner and it’s a bit intense so we’ll just start it but usually don’t continue. We’ve never watched an entire 3-hour performance but I love introducing the girls to one of my favorite things.

Outdoor Spaces
Last but certainly not least is getting outside every day. I’ve never been so thankful for our backyard but there’s also something wonderful about getting out of our neighborhood. We have a state park just ten minutes away with a large network of trails. It’s been easy to find secluded areas to play and explore without running into other people. Watching other areas in the world and in our nation shut down even more because people aren’t following instructions, I want to be sure to get the girls out on trails as much as possible in case they close.

I know that these lifesavers will likely change often but for now, these simple things are what keeps me grounded. We are doing our best to follow the most extreme version of the guidelines so that we can help flatten the curve quickly and effectively.

What is saving your life in these early days of spring? How are they different in light of COVID-19?

The World’s Best Helper

I’m wondering if Elle’s love language is “Acts of Service.” Of our two girls, when it’s time to clean up, Elle is the one singing the song, putting away legos, being intentional about where things go. (Well, as much as a two-year-old can be intentional about tidiness.) Whenever I fold the laundry, she gets the greatest joy out of putting her clothes away herself.

IMG_8191The first time she tried to help, I wanted to distract her with books or games. She finally wailed, I just want to help you!! This declaration stopped me and I started looking for ways she could help. I give her one pair of pants at a time to run down the hall to her dresser but she loves this.

The other day, when it snowed, she insisted on using her little shovel to help move the icy chunks off the driveway. It takes longer and it’s hard not to redo her assistance but I’m remembering that we learn by doing.

I’ve been leading a discussion about Original Blessing by Danielle Shroyer. Her premise is that we are born out of blessing, not sin. That God’s ultimate intention for us is to bless us, not to curse us. It has been an incredible book. Shroyer digs into the first three chapters of Genesis – chapters describing how good the Earth is and God’s love for creation. The actions in the Garden of Eden are framed through curiosity rather than disobedience. As a result, the human journey is filled with the potential for perfection.

I am reminded of this as I try to fold laundry or tidy our house. I see a lot of potential but because people live here it will not be perfect. Even when the girls are grown up and Frank and I have the house to ourselves, I have a feeling that I’ll still be striving for this unattainable perfection.

I wonder how God sees us as we learn and fumble? Is God hoping for us to slowly get toward perfection? Is that what the restoration of the earth means?

Or is the point the potential for perfection? Did God create an imperfect world on purpose so that we always see the potential?

I kind of like the image of God, creating humans to help shovel snow like two-year-olds. The work isn’t really getting done, but we’re learning. I’m wondering if that’s the point – that we are learning and fumbling? That we won’t get it right and that’s ok. That having faith like a child means embracing the desire to help enthusiastically, even as we’re kind of creating more work.

I can get overwhelmed when I look at how far this world feels from restoration. We have such a long way to go. And yet, maybe this is the point. It’s not that we stop trying and just wait for heaven to come. It’s that we keep on trying enthusiastically, imagining that we really are doing a fantastic job of helping.

I’m learning to embrace the enthusiasm. In her own mind, Elle is the world’s best and most efficient helper. I hope she keeps this image of her worth and gifts. I hope that her enthusiasm doesn’t wane as she grows older. And I hope that my own is rekindled as we fold laundry and shovel snow together.

How do you make space for potential over perfection? What tasks do you find yourself most connected to God’s patience?

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Books referenced in this post:

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Mod Podge Isn’t Easy

When I was a teacher, I banned the word easy from my classroom. It stemmed from kids who got their work finished quickly loudly complaining, That was too eeeeeeeasy! And then the kids who took longer (for whatever reason) would get discouraged because they weren’t as fast. But, fast wasn’t always best. Some of my slowest kids were my most meticulous and rarely needed to go back to fix things.

When I knew our class had mastered something, we’d do an activity and get to call it easy. The kids would make up rhymes: Easy peasy lemon squeezy macaroni cheesy! And we’d celebrate mastering a skill as a community.

Even with other adults, I try to restrict the use of easy. What’s easy for my super crafty friend is not at all easy for me. Anything involving mod-podge puts a project into the extremely difficult category, in my opinion. And I’m sure that things I call easy are not at all for others.

I’m learning to ask for help from others who find my difficult work easy. When I surround myself with people whose strengths are different, I find that not only do they help, but I learn that those difficult tasks perhaps aren’t as difficult after all.

Do you like to outsource difficult projects? How do you find the balance between learning something new and recognizing strengths in others?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “easy.”

Thankful for Help

A couple weekends ago, we went for a hike at Butterfly Hill in Cherry Creek State Park. It’s a favorite hike for us – just over a mile with views of the mountains and lots of prairie dogs to spot. At the top of the hill is a large cairn where we stop so Bea can rearrange the stones or add new ones.

IMG_9172.JPGI posted a picture of her in action and a friend commented that it reminded her of Ebenezer stones. In Hebrew, Ebenezer means “stone of help.” It’s mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:12, when Samuel places a stone as a remembrance of God’s help against the Philistines.

Today, Ebenezer stones are used to help us remember a time God has been faithful. Some write a word on a stone in remembrance; others place stones in a symbolic pile. Our church sets aside a Sunday each year to listen to life stories and place stones at the front of the church.

I’ve loved preparing for Thanksgiving this year. Doing our nightly thankful tree leaves has helped ground our family and ready our minds for Thursday’s celebration. I love looking at the leaves each day. We’re thankful for friends, for time changing diapers, for community, for paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, family, our table, bathrobes, and hats. We’re thankful for big things and small, for every day things and masterpieces.

In this week before our Thanksgiving meal, I also want to take time to recognize and be thankful for how God has helped us. As we balance exploration with boundaries in our parenting, I need God’s help. As we deal with vacillating expectations at work, I need God’s help. As we learn to love as Jesus has taught – the least first and our enemies as our neighbors, I need God’s help.

And I’m learning that God’s help comes in so many forms. It comes in partnering with Frank on this parenting adventure. It comes with encouraging texts from my mom at my lowest mothering moments. God’s help is in friends asking and listening and advising. It’s in a poem read and a devotion written.

While I’m thankful for so much, I’m mostly thankful for the help I receive on this journey. In big ways and small, in every day moments and masterpieces, I’m learning to stop and place a stone for the moments God has helped me.

How have you experienced God’s help recently? As we approach Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?

ButtonDon’t forget, if you’d like to contribute a prayer for Advent, I need it by November 30 at the latest. Thanks for sharing your voice!