what hasn’t changed

I thought I was doing good by getting there early, before the sun was even up. I wanted more shelf-stable items for the pantry, lentils, dry beans, cans of peas and carrots, etc. There were no limits on canned items, but the selection was definitely thinned and picked over. I’d heard Aldi had limited their canned goods to four per kind, so I didn’t take any more than that.

My cart was still pretty full. I’d also grabbed butter, bacon, and a gallon of milk. My husband suggested looking for regular toilet paper, since our non-storage stash was running low. There were two packs left of the cheapest store brand, each pack having four rolls each. Those were $3.18. They also had individually wrapped rolls you could buy for 88 cents a piece.

Neither one of those seemed like good options to me. Beggars can’t be choosers, and I guess I haven’t yet reached the point of begging. I rolled up to the check-out line and for everybody’s sake I was glad to see they had put up clear shields between the cashiers and customers, that stores seem to be doing the best they can. The girl asked me if I’d found everything alright and I said yes, most of it. She was bagging everything herself and I told her I’d help her, that I knew it was a lot. She sent the cans on down the aisle.

I felt relieved when the whole thing was over. Somehow I felt like I’d taken too much. On my way out of the store I caught glimpse of a bright paper posted on the door, letting customers know that during the covid-19 outbreak, they would be reserving the early morning hours of 6-8AM for their senior citizen customers. Shoot. The sun was now up, and hiding behind my pink fleece mask, I steered my cart away from the main path toward the van. I laughed a little, but only a little. Had it not been been for the elderly, had it not been for a broken rule, had it not been for these entirely new weird situations and experiences, this would’ve been funny.

This is all so painfully self-centered, I know. Yesterday I was having a hard time mentally sorting things out, with not knowing what to think about everything. What is going on with this virus? What is real and what is not? Where is the truth and who are the ones hiding it? Distrust and paranoia could easily reign and drive me into unrest. It’s obvious right now that something has changed. Several people I’ve talked to have mentioned the importance of routine right now. They have their covid-19 routine, and that makes sense. I am responsible for myself and my family, and that is something that hasn’t changed. We have the ten commandments to guide our ways, and the hope of Christ to anchor our hearts. That hasn’t changed.

~~~

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Romans 12:8-13

~~~

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

pools of knowledge

The past few days felt almost normal. Dad and the kids stayed busy with projects like cleaning out the garage and clearing honey suckle from one of the hills. On Saturday, my body felt like it was telling me to slow down. The adrenaline surges and stresses of the past weeks finally caught up with me. I refrained from any more projects, made myself some broth, and rested.

There are patterns to the inner life. In addition to situational, the onset of my tiredness was almost certainly hormonal. I can’t stress enough how important it is for me to recognize this. Yesterday, after a normal conversation over the phone with my sister, and upon hearing that my in-laws were coming over to drop off some cookies, I felt sick to my stomach.

There was an overwhelming feeling that I needed not to throw up, but to cry. I sat out on the bench with my husband and all the kids running around waiting for Grandma and Papa to pull in, and the feeling intensified. I wondered if I should go and cry before they came or try to hold off until after they had left. I got up and went into my room and cried.

I cried over the loneliness that has been my life, the price I have paid for the life that I wanted. One of the boys ran into the house and ran down the hall and into his room. He saw me crying and asked why I was sad and I told him because I was lonely. He said, “You’re not lonely”. Had a grown man said anything like that to me in that moment I’d have flipped out.

But he was a boy. He ran and got the giant stuffed dinosaur we’d recently gotten him for his birthday. He sat him down next to my head, and I gave the dinosaur a kiss. The Wednesday before all this virus stuff blew up I’d been swimming at the Y. A 70-year old lady from Japan or Taiwan approached me in the water and asked if I would teach her how to swim.

She said she’d almost drowned when she was eleven and been terrified of water all her life. I showed her how to hold the flotation pole and kick. She practiced kicking up and down in the shallow end for about fifteen minutes while I continued swimming. After that I told her the next thing she should try once she felt ready is putting her head all the way under the water.

The woman was beside herself with excitement. She said she’d been taking swimming lessons at the Y for three months and hadn’t learned any of this. The teacher was a college girl and the older woman thought that the girl was too afraid to tell her what to do. “I too old for her”, she said. The whole thing started feeling weird and intrusive. I’d gone there to swim, not get involved with a lady I didn’t know. My stranger danger sirens started going off. I’m sweet and naive and this lady was a criminal, flattering me and trying to lure me in with her sad “almost drowned as a little girl” story.

It’s possible she was just telling me the truth. I feel better when I think of it that way. Somewhere in our conversation it came out that I had five kids. She immediately said, “Oh! I cook for you!” This was the point where I had the thought that maybe God had brought this woman into my life on purpose. I’d teach her to swim, and she could cook for me. Apparently she’d been a business woman who didn’t learn to cook til she was 45-years old. Her daughter had told her she was a great mom, but that she couldn’t cook. She decided to learn how to cook and now loves cooking for her family.

This is going somewhere. One of the things this lady said to me was that “being a mom very hard”, but “you never be lonely”. I thought again that perhaps God had put this woman into my life on purpose, to encourage me with words I could tuck into my swim bag and remember sometime later. They came to mind when I kissed the dinosaur. I finished crying and wiped my tears. My in-laws pulled into the drive and they stayed in the car while we circled around and visited from our social distance. It was good to see them, and good to go from crying on my bed to being all together again.

be still the unknown

Besides the weather, not much has changed since the last time I wrote. Though mild in temperature and snow, it’s been an grey and sunless winter. I’ve done my best to not complain or get depressed about it. There are, obviously, worse things than perpetually cloudy skies. I do enjoy taking pictures of the weather, and over the past several days we’ve gone from this

to this

to this

to this

It’s supposed to be cloudy over the next several days, so I am thankful for the fresh air and sunshine we had during the later part of today. I made a point yesterday to stay away from the news. I’m not against being informed, but I do need a break from the terrible sense of urgency. I feel urgency too, but I need it to be grounded in the peace that comes from knowing God is our strength, and that Christ is our anchor in good times and bad.

My nurse mind is treating this as a serious pandemic. My mother of many mouths to feed mind is seeing this as a threat to the abundant food supplies we’ve been used to. My wife mind is crying with the other wives crying over husbands potentially losing their jobs. My human mind is still in shock and disbelief that something globally awful is actually happening in real life.

My daughter and I baked cookies today. We ate our oatmeal and a simpler lunch. I declared this week to be our spring break and have been using the mornings for ordering supplies, revamping the pantry, and cleaning out the basement/storage/laundry room/tornado shelter. One of the boys wrote “8:30AM-9:00PM–Free Time” on the board. It made me smile, 1) because he thought it, and 2) because he wrote and spelled it out by himself.

It all feels so dreadfully anxious and stressful, not all the time, but it comes in waves. I find myself preparing for things and at the same time asking God just to not let this happen. I don’t mean to pass my anxiety on to you. We aren’t strong enough to carry these burdens, but God truly is, and He bids us to cast our cares on Him. God cares for us, friends. He truly does.

peaches and cream

My kids are going to remember this as the era of the oatmeal packets. While assessing our food situation earlier this week, I remembered a basket of instant oatmeal packets that had been sitting in one of our camp buildings for months. I’d bought them for guests to have as a continental breakfast type of amenity. I sent one of the kids to fetch the basket and bring it home.

When my husband went to Menards this week I asked if he could bring home a few boxes of oatmeal packets if they had some. They did. During his trip to Sam’s yesterday, one of the things on the grocery list was four large boxes of oatmeal packets. He was only able to come home with one because they’ve put purchasing limits on most things for right now. That’s alright.

The four youngest kids have been having one per day, and then I let them sprinkle some regular oatmeal into their bowl since an oatmeal pack doesn’t lend itself to much substance. This isn’t the most cost-effective way of doing things by far, but it seems like a little routine that we’ve started, something comforting and regular in these currently uncertain times.

Other than the general heightened sense of unknowingness, we’re doing well. It makes me nervous when my husband has to go out for something, which yesterday was a lot due to a grocery store run and several random errands that needed running. Yesterday the governor issued a shelter-in-place edict for the state of Illinois until April 7th, so we continue to wait.

We’re going to have clean-up time this morning. It’s the ongoing cycle of home-life to make-a-mess, clean-it-up, make-a-mess, clean-it-up. The clean-it-up, naturally, always feels so much harder. You can dwell upon the past or even dream about the future, but the present often seems the hardest moment to live in. Oatmeal packets become then those small, simple joys.

solid oaks

An inner peace returned around four in the morning. I’d been awake in bed since 3AM, and when it didn’t seem like I’d be falling back asleep, I got up and started sorting out the cabinet underneath the bathroom sink. When that was finished I moved to scrubbing the tub and shower.

This day felt a little more normal than these past ones. It seemed like a time for a fresh routine, which meant nothing more than writing out the structure of our days on the dining room chalk board. This quarantine thing is normal life, with the exception of all this talk about a virus now surrounding it. At least this was something everyone could see.

There were no major updates that I am aware of, other than that the church pastors and elders decided to cancel services for the next two weeks. The high school also, instead of having teachers work from school, sent them home. This still is very surreal to me. There’s the world I live in here, and the world I live in there, but now these worlds have somehow mixed.

I pray you all are doing okay* out there, friends. I’ve definitely been doing a lot more texting and checking in with family and friends. It’s been two days and I have yet to hear back from the neighbor across the road. Maybe she got a new number, and it’s been so long since we’ve talked I wouldn’t know.

(*okay is a certainty when we’re in God’s hands)