Don’t Go Back to Normal

What was normal before COVID-19 rocked us all? I truly believe we all desperately want our world to be healed, but what is the “normal” we are waiting to get back to? What desires are driving us to escape our feelings of uncertainty? We all want that sigh of relief. We all want that day to come where, if we want to, we can buy an airplane ticket to Fiji, or even more luxurious, enter a supermarket with fully stocked toilet paper. Are we waiting to throw a gigantic party and celebrate the end of a “boring” few months? When you say, “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal” think about what that really means to you specifically. Does going back to normal mean only alotting the evening hours to our kids and families? Does this world really have compassion for the sick and other countries when there isn’t a pandemic to focus on? After this is over will countries resume their hate for each other, and disregard that we were all human together for a short while?

Although we were busy last month, we were still idle to the things around us. Scrolling through Facebook is just as popular now as it was before there were Coronavirus updates to check on. It is a convenient source for news, and the memes keep our spirits up, surely, but it still has the power to distract us from a huge opportunity that we all have to unite together. It is admirable that teachers, entertainers, and even normal “Joes” are using the Internet to spread hope during this time, but I shudder to think about what happens when this is all over. The hope and the unity will be quickly forgotten and dismissed. The news will quickly shift from a world united by quarantine to 2020 election mudslinging. What about in Venice, Italy where the water is more clear now, and dolphins have returned? What happens when they go back to normal there? Will the restored beauty not be enough to drive the apathy that created murky waters?

Don’t misunderstand this blog as a message of despair. I, myself, can’t wait to whisk my kids away to something super fun and exciting outside the four walls of our home. Staying home has taken it’s toll on me, and I know the day this pandemic is over, there will be so much joy in this world, it will be amazing! My intention is to help people realize that we have a gift. Do not wait until the quarantine is over to do good and to let out the same amount of joy that comes from attending a sporting event or taking a family vacation. If we start fueling the joy now, it will grow. Define a new normal where love and encouragement is so strong that all the noise of the world will be just a hum; a tiny mosquito that comes to annoy and suck life from you, but you have the power to swat it away and live a life with purpose. Don’t let the quarantine continue to live in you spiritually after it is lifted physically. We have all been quarantined longer than we think we are. Change your life now, before the “normalcy” returns. Don’t allow it to mess with your brain and compell you to continue staying put. Use this time you have with your family to grow closer. Don’t stop spreading the good in the world. Keep believing that the panic will die down and the financial woes will end. And if you haven’t already, turn to Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Nothing is impossible for Him. His promises are not lies.

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.
Matthew 13:15

So produce fruit that is consistent with repentance [demonstrating new behavior that proves a change of heart, and a conscious decision to turn away from sin]
Matthew 3:8 AMP

“I Give Up”× 3000

If you read the blog title and automatically thought of the Marvel reference, welcome, my people!

At what point does saying “I give up” lose it’s credibility. I know I am not the only mother who feels like she has said this phrase way too many times, in my head and out loud. What if we shared every single “I give up” on social media? I can just imagine the comments:

“There there…don’t let a bad 10 minutes label it a bad day.”

“Yes…you give up…we KNOW!!!!🙄”

“Did someone hack your account? Your status updates are all the same.”

“You give up, huh? Obviously not praying hard enough.”

These comments might not surface during our world’s current situation, because there is more solidarity with the “I give ups” among people trying to cope with all of the changes.

As I said in my blog last week, the Covid-19 pandemic is capable of heightening anxiety in parents everywhere. I have heard stories of parents stressing to re-create a full school day for their kids. Some parents are adjusting to working from home, some parents are stressing over daycare and babysitting, because they canNOT work from home. Some parents are waiters and waitresses who are not able to work. With the stress of hanging onto the last few rolls of toilet paper, and any of the above scenarios, I know there is potential for a wave of guilt to sweep our world.

I truly admire the way the school in our city came together and provided resources the best they knew how. Our schools even came together and provided meals for families. THAT is the America that makes me happy and proud. NOT the greed that drove people to empty grocery store shelves. I wonder, however, how administration letters were worded when contacting parents about said, resources. In this world where we communicate by text messages, the tone can be misconstrued many times. I wonder if the letters made parents think that they were responsible for sticking to ALL school resources and educating their kids 24/7, so that they won’t fall behind academically. I don’t think administrators intended on adding to our stress, but sometimes the wrong message can be sent, because we are human, and we sometimes interpret things differently. Whether they are printable worksheets or working online, I wonder if there are some parents out there thinking “They told me to make sure he was practicing his sight words. They said to make sure he practiced typing for 20 minutes. Oh no! He didn’t wake up until 10, and he played outside all day! I screwed up!” Breathe. No, you did not screw up.

Trying to shift gears to be employee, parent, and educator has the potential to be overwhelming. Yes, it is important to make sure your kids keep learning, but please know, that there can be small nuggets of learning in things that are not solely academic. The first day of my kids being home. I started with 2 hours of playtime. Don’t think that playtime isn’t important. It is! My kids were planning, thinking about solutions, and sharing their desires and dreams with me through their play. That is valuable!

Don’t be guilty if homeschooling is getting weird and complicated and you decided to take a break and binge watch all day. Don’t be guilty if you have a friend who is posting positive outcomes from their homeschooling experiences. “OH! You’re crushing the homeschooling, huh Mary, well my kids can quote a whole episode of Phineas and Ferb, over and OVER again. So there.” Try not to slack on your self-care either. If you need to spend some time alone in your room reading or napping, there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t even feel guilty if you have a week long staycation, especially if one of these quarantined weeks was going to be spring break anyways.

As for me, I am currently taking this one day at a time. I plan to use some of the materials the school sent over, but I am not going to stress about my kids falling behind, because I know that there are learning opportunities in many things. A good friend of mine said that she doesn’t want her kids to get into bad habits, like, sleeping late, watching tv, and going through the next week without any reading or writing. She says that teachers do not deserve us sending kids back to school and having to start all over. I agree. Don’t feel like you need to school them all day long, but don’t give up on the importance of reading and writing either. It can be as simple as writing a letter to a family member or writing down a monologue they have memorized from their favorite movie. Snail mail is becoming a lost art, so teaching how to address an envelope is a great learning opportunity as well. It is the first day of spring, so preparing a garden or talking about the changes of the season can be beneficial from pre-schoolers to high schoolers. Having your kids help with the chores is educational, and not child labor, no matter how many times your teens may roll their eyes. Put on some music and have a dance party while you wash dishes and sweep the floors.

There are many great resources out there. I have shared a few below. I also listed some books I have read over the past few months that have helped encourage me. I love that there is a movement of women writing books to encourage moms. Do not let the guilt push you down. If you feel like you are surrounded by grief and panic, don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends. No doubt, they may have similar struggles, and there is worth in working together to benefit you and your kids.

This past week, my city has had a record rainfall for this time of year. Yesterday, I stared at my backyard, gazing at the drenched grass and my tulips that are about to burst open. It was a gray day, with very little color. There was a veil of fog draped over the mountains. “That is beauty.” I said to myself. I automatically thought it was so strange that I said that. After all, gray is a gloomy color, and I had an English professor who labeled days like these as “vampire weather,” a symbol of darkness, isolation, and despair. Rain for our part of the country is always a blessing. The more rain we have, the less dust storms we will have. I saw the gray day that the rain brought, but I saw beauty before the color appeared. About 30 minutes later, a rainbow brightened the sky. Not a faint half rainbow, but a full, vibrant rainbow. There was more purple illuminated than I have ever seen in a rainbow before. My husband and I walked outside, gazed at it and embraced. “You have to think that is for us,” he said. And I truly believe it is. The Bible says that God will “heal our land”. Use this time of isolation and uncertainty to connect with God and to put your trust in Him. You may give up more than 3,000 times, but He will never give up on you.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
Psalms 72:6 KJV

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV

I set My rainbow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring clouds over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the clouds, When the rainbow is in the clouds and I look at it, I will [solemnly] remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
Genesis 9:13‭-‬14‭, ‬16 AMP

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
Revelation 4:3 KJV

Recommended Self-Help Books:

1) The Proverbs 32 Woman, by Kerri Pomarolli

2) Fierce Faith, by Alli Worthington

3) Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis

Educational Resources:

First of all, there is no harm in experimenting with challenging your kids. Read aloud from a chapter book just above their reading level, or see if they are ready for times tables. See if it interests them. If it doesn’t. No worries, but it may make them feel proud to sound out big words or learn something that won’t be covered until next year. Give them a block of time to read on their own, because they do this frequently in the schools.

Also, many museums and zoos have live streams and educational resources at their websites.

I have this on VHS. I loved it when I was a kid.

Does Your Anxiety Have Anxiety?

I am so thankful that two weeks ago, while, I normally just buy a 8-count roll of toilet paper, a little voice said, just get the big one this time. Jealous? Okay. We obviously have a sickness that is endangering many people. We are called to be cautious. I can understand people sharing articles that pass on vital information. I can understand that people need to be informed of who is at risk. What I do not understand is why people are sharing the articles that promote fear and anxiety over the Corona virus. It is not helpful to anyone to elevate news mediums that continue making their money off of exploiting our emotions and inducing panic. And everything nowadays has to be political. This stupid virus still hasn’t kept political sides from spreading nastiness and hatred. Ugh! Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t stand politics, so that is all I will say about that.

Someone posted that we should not go out with our kids, otherwise there is no point in closing schools. Hmm…alright. So we need to shut our doors, stay inside, and live in fear until the virus dies down? What exactly is this teaching our kids? We may as well board up our windows, right? We should take vitamin D supplements, for lack of sunshine, (that is until the grocery store runs out of those too). But, wait, doesn’t the Bible say “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” (Proverbs 27:12) Yes, it does, but it also says, “The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7). So, yes, take precaution, but you don’t need to withdraw your life savings and spend it on toilet paper over a respiratory infection that might infect you.

Based on the level of hysteria that is going on, it is adding a lot more anxiety to many people. I know I am not the only one that feels this craziness is giving my anxiety, anxiety. What are YOU sharing on social media? Messages of hope, or messages of negativity and outrage? Granted, I have laughed uproariously at some of the memes highlighting the ridiculousness of the situation. Some may say it is bad taste, because of the people suffering. Whether it is single digits or hundreds of infections, yes, those lives matter. But at least laughter is better than dwelling on fear of the future. I am not denying the seriousness of the virus. I don’t even expect everyone to agree with me, but my faith instructs me NOT to live in fear, and my belief is that if we don’t give into fear, the panic will dwindle and peace will overcome.

I know my fellow mamas out there have anxiety, and now that a threat of sickness is looming, it is not making our job any easier. Now, in addition to the anxiety of raising our kids and keeping house, and keeping up with jobs, we need to make sure our kids are washing their hands correctly. Maybe if you are extra anxious, you have created a hand-washing schedule. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. I wish I could be that committed. Our heads pop off the pillow in the middle of the night if we hear a sniffle or cough, because, what if? We are hanging onto our Clorox wipes like they are precious gold bars. When our kids ask questions about what is going on, we need to put them at ease. Maybe some of their friends are spreading more panic into their little minds, or maybe they are scared by the crowds fighting over soap and toilet paper. Some of us might not feel prepared for this. It’s way too much, and now the pressure to self-quarantine you and your kids without symptoms is a pressure that is circulating on social media. I am not planning on keeping my kids cooped up. I will not let this fear overcome them. If they get sick, of course I will keep them home, but I am not going to teach them not to live life. If your kids are home from school for the next few weeks, and you do choose to stay home, please try not to let the screens take over as the only entertainment. Turn off the news and don’t allow the worry to spread any further. Read a fun fiction book that requires little brain focus. Walk around the block. Teach them how to bake something. Play games. Talk. Use this time to be a family and to grow closer.

I was in a play when I was in 6th grade, that was promoting awareness of many serious issues. My character had a monologue about a brother who was in a gang and how I was afraid to go to my own mailbox. This is the world we live in. Threats are always there. Anxiety is always there, but we need to stop using our technology to heighten it. My pastor shared statistics about what average people worry about. 70% is worry about things that might happen, but never will. 22% is worrying about the past. So, 92% of what we worry about are things we have no control over. Yes, by avoiding large crowds, we have the power to defeat the virus, but we also have the power to choose not to be afraid.

I am praying for our world. I am praying for those affected by the virus, whether they are infected, recovering, or are family members of those affected. Skeptics will say that it won’t do any good. Some may criticize me for not protecting my kids the way that the world is saying I should. God is still in the healing business. God is still in the miracle business and God is NEVER responsible for spreading fear.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet, a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”
John 14:19 (ESV)

In My Van

A floor covered in cookie crumbs, School papers stuck in bubble gum,

Legos covered in Cheeto dust, exploded pens and pizza crust

Glittery slime trapping coins in the cupholder

Apple juice stain on an important work folder

Electric bills and paper clips

Sweaty hats and moldy Fun Dips

Ten fast food bags still wet with grease

A toy left behind by my niece

Collections of rocks, and a bottle of glue.

Soda cans and play-doh too.

Winter sweatshirts AND summer goggles, the mess making my mind boggle.

Candy wrappers and scrunchii hair ties.

Surprised my van doesn’t have flies

Alright childern, time to clean out the car

They roll their eyes and say it’s too far.

We have our backpacks, they are heavy enough!

Our day at school, it was way too tough.

The groceries in my arms are pulled up high.

All the kids can do is sigh.

I’d rather do it once on my own.

Then take a second trip into the van zone.

The January Effect

What? You mean it’s only the 19th of January? We still have two weeks left of a month that is famously long, drawn-out and dull? Two more weeks of dry, cracked, bleeding skin that has put holes in all the heels of your socks. Two more weeks of bundling up the kids in scarves and poofy winter coats for the below freezing morning, only to have them sweating in 60 degree weather when it is time to pick them up from school. Two more weeks of coughing, sniffling, and praying to God that we won’t get the flu. After a holiday season full of excitement and joy, we go back to our daily lives. Kids all over the country are back at school instead of looking for the elf on the shelf. Parents are sifting through the Christmas bills, dreading tax season. The radio is blasting Monday, Monday instead of Jingle Bell Rock. I have seen the January blues everywhere. I experienced it when I took down my Christmas tree. The end of a fun and happy season made my heart heavy every time I carefully wrapped an ornament and placed it back in it’s box. All of the excitement and happiness drained from my body and spirit with every sweep of pine needles into the dust pan. The cold, gray January skies matched my inner thoughts. Anyone else experience this?

Thinking about the effect this month has, I wondered about the Last Supper. This was a celebration followed by a very sad day. Did the smell of the Passover feast still hang in the air as Jesus’ followers mourned him. The Bible says the sky grew dark as Jesus was crucified. Did it stay that way? Did it reflect how others were feeling? Was there a horrible shadow replacing their custom that celebrated deliverance and hope? The disciples were in denial about Jesus’ betrayal and shocked over his washing their feet, so I wonder if they inwardly criticized him and felt he was “putting a downer on the party.”Is this why the disciples still couldn’t grasp what Jesus was about to do for all humanity?

Jesus said: You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
John 14:28‭-‬29 ESV.

Jesus warned the disciples ahead of time and told them they should be rejoicing even in the wake of his death. But they were in the world, much like we are. They let their fears drive them into hiding. When sorrow is abundant, we yearn for a breath of fresh air and look for happiness in all of the wrong places. Of course the weeping and dark days did not last very long. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave, and there was a new reason to rejoice and celebrate.

There are two houses on either side of my street, still clinging to Christmas cheer by refusing to turn off their lights. It makes me smile. I believe in hanging onto the magic. I believe in keeping the Spirit of Christmas all year round, but this world does not make it easy. It can be difficult to get back into the routine. It is easy to put all of our energy into a big celebration and crash immediately afterward. Especially when we fail to see the good in every-day life. I don’t know everyone’s story. Perhaps you didn’t even put much energy into the past few months because you had a difficult year. Perhaps the gloom of January only emphasizes your hurting heart. God never promised that life wouldn’t be hard, but he did promise that those who call on Him are never alone.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27 ESV

You heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’
Lamentations 3:55-57 ESV

Jesus speaks to us even now, to tell us that we should rejoice. His word is filled with messages to not give into the doom and gloom. January may be long, but if God is forever and God is love and joy, then gladness and peace can be for us all.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalms 73:26 ESV

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Philippians 4:4‭-‬7 AMP