Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Of Prayer and Promise in the Pandemic


According to my journal, I write this post on Day Five of Phase Two of “reopening California”—following 63 days of Sheltered In status of the COVID19 pandemic. I have written in my journal every single morning during this historical time-- recording accounts of the news updates as well as my thoughts, fears, prayers, joys, recipes, books, movies, and new ideas. My preferred writing area is the small patio outside the French doors that open from my great room. Each day I would seat myself with my candle, coffee, blanket, Bible, journal, highlighters, and my favorite Bob Goff and Oswald Chamber’s devotionals. (Now that's a dynamic duo!) Over the weeks of writing and reflecting, I observed new blooms open on my “Fourth of July” roses, tiny purple and orange flowers emerge from my succulent gardens, and baby birds born in the two nests on my porch, hollering and squeaking for food with open mouths and hungry tummies. It has been a time of illness, death, panic, fear, frustration, sadness, and the daily unknown. It has also been a time of bravery, honor, resilience, hope, patience, and compassion.  It has been a time of judgment, hurt, blame, shame, comparison; and also a time of laughter, joy, creativity, discovery, and innovation and flexibility.

I, along with all of you, including educators, politicians, scientists, reporters, doctors, and essential workers, have been making decisions based on hour by hour changing news. This virus came at us and we had to respond—many times making decisions quickly and at times unwisely. At first it was easy for me to think that everyone should have the same response as me (the right one of course), but as I listened, learned, and kept my head and heart in God’s Word, I recognized wave upon wave of grace emerging in the neighborhoods, the hospitals, the work places, and the backyards. I experienced the love and kindness of neighbors as we walked our dogs, and greeted each other with warm hellos. I met dads who I had never seen emerge from behind their rolling garage door—out walking their babies in strollers along the path of the playground—equipment wrapped in yellow caution tape, forbidding play. But families created their new forms of play—side walk chalk messages proclaiming “we are in this together” and “peace” and “love’.  I greeted families out on bicycles--freshly pumped tires, spiky helmets, neon shoes, pink streamers flowing behind handle bars—calling hello with bright smiles and big waves.

On March 9, I had met with my oncologist who told me that I would not have to be in treatment for cancer and that he would wait until June for my next scan. Of course, any news of NO treatment is great news, but this turned out to be a sweet gift from God—especially when two days later the Shelter In requirements hit California. No appointments, no chemo, no radiation. While the rest of the world was hunkering down, so was I—able to rest and heal my body. My boys were home from college, and they, along with my husband, Saint Greg, did the grocery shopping and errands when needed, so I was able to stay away from people and maintain safe social distancing.
I am sure it was a combination of rest, walks, exercise, cooking and eating well, lots of reading and praying, but my body has grown stronger and stronger each day. I know others are weak; I know that many have died and are suffering grief and loss, and for them, I pray. But for me, in this space and time, I have a reprieve from my treatment, my side effects and my pain.

As I was reflecting and praising God for getting me through this time, I realized with new clarity how much energy I have expended in battling cancer. When I finally had time to pause and begin to feel better, I became acutely aware of how cancer had sucked so much life out of me and how I have pushed and pushed my way forward. This has been my time to heal, renew, and restore. This has been a time of reading, watching Disney movies, baking, delivering goodies and gifts to front porches. It has been a time of welcoming babies and the celebration of new life, of street parades with festooned cars for birthdays and graduations. It has been a time of creativity—as our church has looked at ways of continuing/fostering community, as I have been working on my book, writing letters, and even starting up a new business which I am excited and passionate about. Check out this link to learn more about FLIP Book Club—a learning/reading environment for kids and teens. Flip Book Club

This has been a time of walking the trails and crossing the streams, of trips to Farmer’s Market and getting the yard summer ready. A time for book clubs and Zoom happy hours, and family game nights with Dominoes and Sequence and cards; a time for morning reflections, for reading and sleeping, for cooking and cleaning, for strawberries and fresh whipped cream, for homemade biscuits, grilled steaks and roasted veggies, for backyard barbecues, ice cream pies, and gin and tonics with fresh lime, for cool evenings with purple skies and sparkling market lights over the pool and palms.

This has been a time rest, of anxiety, of loss, of mourning and lament, of celebrating our heroes, of sacrificing our comforts for the concern of others, of cancelling weddings and graduations and retirements and sports banquets. But it has also taught us to lean on each other, to share the sugar, and borrow the cup of milk, to drop off the daffodils, and bake the cookies and renew our friendships with our neighbors…for small and grand acts of kindness and compassion.

As we begin to “re-open”—whatever that might look like for you, wherever you are, let us not forget the promises in the pandemic. That God is with us and has never left us. That we are never alone. That God reigns, has always reigned, and will forever reign.

Those who live in the shelter of the most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him. 
Psalm 91:1-2

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