jars of clay

Knowing me well, my husband told me I needed to be prepared that “this”, the situation resulting from the pandemical world we are currently living in, might not go the way I think it will go. In a worst case scenario the world is at war. With sore and ever strengthening arms, we’re team-hauling five-gallon buckets from the lake. The kids are bare-foot and sun-kissed, waiting for the fish to bite. I’m in the woods gathering roots and tree bark, with the intention of treating injury and illness with poultices and tinctures.

Even our nightmares turn into fantasies. I told him I kind of assumed the Christian virtue of love would still apply, that should the financially worst thing happen and he loses his job or the camp runs out of money and heaven forbid, be forced to shut down, it’s not like they’d kick people out of a house. It might not look like that at all. It could just mean going back to work at the hospital or long-term care facility. There’s a “Now Hiring” sign outside the local nursing home after a recent outbreak of tenants and staff.

And working at a nursing home would look a lot like putting cream on Jim’s ears and helping Mary with her eye drops. You’d be spoon-feeding purees to the ones who won’t swallow and brushing out Lucy’s dentures at bedtime. It’d be squatting down to pull off Esther’s TED hose and rubbing lotion into her snow-flaking legs. No matter how many baths this person gets, there will always be the room that smells. There’ll be the man who takes one gigantic multivitamin in the AM and one who needs three cups for his pills.

Honestly that wouldn’t be too bad at all, but again, what good comes by flipping through the channels of what-if’s? What good does it do to spin the future in your mind, when you are not the one who holds it? It’s our faith being tested right now, not my arms. This is all too big for God not to have His sovereign hand in it. My Calvinist family members use that “sovereign” word a lot, and I think this just naturally ties into the Lord’s prayer part, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

The situations are big, but the prayers don’t have to be. And when my mind wanders off to a fearful place, a place I’ve not been led to by God, I imagine the good shepherd meeting me there saying, “Why don’t we turn around here and go back.” The real thing, the present moment, requires us to live with disappointment and loss, with pain and uncertainty. I don’t like that about life, and I never, ever, ever will. But while those things are real, they are not all that is, and are nowhere near the greatest and most powerful.

odds and ends

Spring feels a lot like being the new kid at school. There was a spring when my family moved from Illinois to New York. The major things this meant was that we got to live with my grandparents for several months until my parents found a house. I also had to start Kindergarten at a new school.

It was all scary to me, but the scariest part was riding the bus. The positive was I only had to ride the thing for no more than ten minutes. The negative was I hated riding the cold, friendless, tube of a bus. One time I was so nervous about riding the bus that I threw up my Trix cereal while waiting before school in my grandparent’s driveway. I still remember the colors.

School went through mid-to-late June in New York. This was April, which to me seemed like a terrible time to be starting a new school. The kids were fine and my teacher was kind. Every student had their school picture made into a magnet where the teacher sorted us into two groups on the chalk board, hot lunch or cold lunch. My school picture was from my Illinois school, a close-up face shot. It was a picture of a bright and bright-eyed, happy child. I only remember this because the New York pictures were bust shots. One of the kids asked me one time why my head was so huge in my picture. I told him it was because I had gone to a different school.

I’m now on a tangent, but here it goes. One time a girl threw up during nap time. She threw up in front of the class mailboxes. I had had a classmate throw-up in school before. In my Illinois school, a girl once threw up all over the Pink Piggy reading chair. I was acclimated to my Illinois school by then, and a kid throwing up didn’t bother me. But when it happened in New York, I was imprinted with a terror not only of people throwing up, but also of people throwing up in places I could not get away from. In third grade, when I looked across the desks and saw a girl quickly put her hands up to cover her mouth, I thought she was getting ready to throw up. I stood up immediately and asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom.

She said I could, and I gratefully left. I don’t remember if I went to the bathroom or not, but just that I walked through the halls, around the corners, up the stairs, into the high school section of the K-12 school and past the high school principle’s office. I had no intentions of going back to my classroom, but had decided that I was leaving school and walking home. I walked out the high school doors, across the lawn, and no one saw me or said a word about it. Home was two or three miles away and I knew exactly how to get there. While walking past the gas station, our pastor pulled up in his tiny red car and asked where I was going. I told him I was going home and he asked if I wanted a ride. I got in his car and he drove me home.

(*Later I learned the girl had not thrown-up in her hands. She sneezed.)

The elementary school secretary was in the gas station and saw this happen. She didn’t know it was our pastor, all she knew was that she’d just seen one of her students walking on the side of the road and get picked up by an old man in a red car. The pastor dropped me off and briefly talked to my mom before he went on his way. I didn’t have much to say to mom other than that I didn’t want to be at school anymore and I wasn’t going back. I don’t know who got a hold of who first, but either my mom called the school or the secretary called my mom and both of them knew that I was alright.

Eventually I had to go back. I must have refused to ride the bus, or begged my dad to take me himself, because not long after my dad took me to school. He walked me to the classroom door and tried to tell me goodbye. I went from standing by his side to sitting down on his foot and wrapping my arms and legs around his leg, holding on to him as tight as I could. He couldn’t pull me off, or maybe wasn’t trying to as hard as he could have. Whether it was my dad or the teacher, I don’t remember, but someone must have convinced me it was okay to let go of his leg and go back to school.

I was not allowed to go to the bathroom, get a drink, or go anywhere by myself for the rest of the school year. On the last day of school while out at recess, I hopped off the jungle gym, walked over to my teacher, and asked if I could go to the bathroom by myself, just to show her I could be trusted to come back. We’d talked about this several times and she’d always said no, but not without the hope that it would one day be possible. It felt like we’d been working for this, like this was something she and I both wanted, and the moment we’d be waiting for had finally come, and again, I was grateful.

She let me go.

the time being

Our governor announced that next week he plans to extend our shelter-in-place order to go until May 30th. The rationale given for this action was because the cases in our state, originally predicted to peak in April, are now expected to peak in mid-May. Modifications will allow hospitals to have elective surgeries once again. Retail stores can be open for pick-up and delivery. Face coverings will also be required in public indoor places.

I’m not one to express my opinions on such things, partly because I don’t know what to think about them. The numbers + limitations don’t add up to me. I don’t much trust the main stream media, but the alternate news sites can be their own kind of “off” and out of touch with reality. When H1N1 was going around there were people saying this was part of President O’s plan to bring in mandatory vaccinations and usher in the mark of the beast.

That didn’t happen. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen ever, but just that whatever is happening right now, it isn’t happening outside of God’s control. God is in control, and I find comfort in that. Whatever evil that exists in the world will be avenged. Whatever suffering we experience in this life will not last. The sorrows, the lingering pangs of unrighteousness, the tears we know now will one day be wiped away and gone forever.

The longer this goes on, the more it brings change to the life that I know. As of yet, these shut-downs have not had much immediate effect on my day-to-day life. I have actually felt at least 10x more productive than usual. There’s always something to do in the house. I’ve enjoyed shopping for, stocking up on, and preparing food for my family. I’m trying new things like planting potatoes, canning pork, and fermenting my excess garlic in honey.

When we moved here and started homeschooling, there were two major things that stood out to me as essential things my kids needed to know how to do in this life: to work and to sing. I always felt bad that their dad and I didn’t have more useful hands-on skills to teach them. My husband and I did have this in common however, and that was our willingness to do the dirty, low-man on the totem pole jobs, to sweep the floor and dig the holes.

I taught my daughter how to play Amazing Grace on the guitar, which is something I learned to do at camp. We’ve been singing it through most school days since this started. I’d always wanted to incorporate hymns into our homeschool day, but I never regularly did it until now. The next one I want to learn and teach them is My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, not the slow one, but the fast one. The songs will get us through, my friends.

without a doubt

We cleaned up the schoolroom over the weekend. There’s the functional mess and then there’s the we-can’t-even-use-this-space-right-now mess. I don’t mind the army men and legos being out. I start to mind when there is no room to make any functional mess, to spread out our books and learn.

For the first time during this shelter-in-place period, my husband made a trip to the pharmacy specifically for beer and wine. In all of my ongoing womanly dieting, in trying to limit things like sugar and alcohol, I’d kind of forgotten how enjoyable a simple half-glass of white wine could be, as well as how much it can “take the edge off” as far as feeling stressed and worn.

Monday morning the boys were setting up army battles.

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It made me happy.

We’re still waiting to hear what our governor says about what the plan is regarding anything beginning to open up next month. I’m trying not to hold my breath, but to continue moving forward in this new current normal. We finished planting our potatoes yesterday. I’m hoping to work a little in the yard this morning, to plant the hyacinth bulbs I bought to plant with the kids last fall. I love the simple joys of home, family, and life, and this period of time has solidified that.

Christmas and Easter

Everybody dressed up for Easter. We put on our Sunday church clothes and gathered around the television for church. After that we took the obligatory family picture outside. Last Christmas I bought a phone stand with a tiny handheld remote for us to take our Christmas picture. It was somewhere around fifteen bucks, which I will say was definitely worth it.

I don’t suppose it does any good to wonder what Christmas is going to look like this year, but the thought has crossed my mind several times. Last year we talked about doing something different, like waiting until the trees were $5 at the local grocery store before bringing one home. When I was out at the store this past week, I walked past the toy section and wondered whether or not I ought to go ahead and start picking up a few presents.

I didn’t buy presents, but I did buy food to have on hand that I could use for both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners if need be. If you can do without a fresh ham or turkey, you can pull an entire holiday meal out the pantry. Believe it or not we have never owned a deep freezer. The parsonage had one in the basement which we used, but once we moved I just never felt the need for one, and still don’t. Speaking of the past, I especially miss the food that people used to give us there. It was and still is, a tremendous blessing.