A Virus Manifesto – What this hot mess may be telling us about ourselves.

This Halloween picture we took a few years ago feels more & more like reality lately. The end of the world, every man for himself, protect you and yours, Armageddon.

Ryan & I thrive off a “live off the land” ideology – it makes us a bit giddy – making bread & soap & homemade wine & growing food. It’s why we lived in rural TN for 6 years. But – there is an unsettling fear when this lifestyle is forced upon us by the threat of a virus. Maybe the fear has been manufactured by the media or perhaps by our internal desire to survive at all cost but what I’ve found interesting is this – along with the fear is a bubbling of anticipation.

I’ve tentatively posed this question to a few people – barely whispering

“Do you feel it too? The tingle of expectancy?”

Afraid that maybe I was the only one who felt the silver lining, but I wasn’t. There was agreement – yes, there is a sliver of anticipation attached to the anxiety and fear.

And why? What are these emotions telling us?

I believe these feelings are screaming out our desperation. Desperate to return to the basics. Desperate for our lives to have meaning; desperate to defend our loved ones in the face of danger; to act valiently & courageously & have someone come through for us – that’s why books like The Road and Grapes of Wrath are world wide best sellers and movies like Armageddon and End of Days sell out at the box office and The Walking Dead is on its 10th season – we are achingly desperate to have something replace the never ending scrolling & online shopping & google searches & accumulating & acquiring & rushing, and, and, and…. & we detest our habits, but our addictions hold us firmly tethered to their poison & now we see this world wide catastrophe – everything everywhere shutting down & we’re being forced into our homes with our loved ones – like cattle forced to the feed lot – & we see it as an opportunity, a glimpse, of maybe stering our lives back on track & that’s exciting.

We are so ready to defend our children against illness rather than against online bullies and pornography which seems like a battle we can not win. We are so ready to have meaningful conversations with our teenagers because we’re actually home for more than 5 minutes. We’re so ready to protect our loved ones within the safe confines of home & we’re so ready to make meals together & gather for family games & educate our children & kick the ball on the front lawn. We’re so ready to have time again.

Our hearts are screaming to slow down, but we have no idea how to make it happen and this – THIS may be our ticket out of the craziness we call life.

Go home.
Exhale.
Stop scrolling.

Practice gratefulness & contentedness & patience & self control – manna for the moment – values buried in the madness of modern life. Be still & silent. Teach your children these long lost arts: reading & baking & looking one another in the eyes as we speak.

Do what matters. Be in life fully with those you love.

Whether this madness pans out to Armageddon or fizzles in a few weeks, let’s examine our lives. The busyness, the constant stress, the depression. What is our heart aching for in these troubled times. Family? Peace? Joy? Follow that thread as we collectively hunker down. Not detracting from the hardships many are enduring but perhaps these might be self induced & aren’t really serving us to begin with.

Myself included.

Just keep livin

A Resurrection Only Occurs After A Death.

When Ryan and I met in 2010 we were in a season of death with the passing of our spouses, & this death included a burial of lifelong dreams and expectations.

The next few years we enjoyed a resurrection as our lives merged and birthed new realities: our marriage & family, a simple life in rural America, the birth of a book, a teaching career, a non profit & another child. Lots of growth & beauty.

We now find ourselves back in a season of decay; broken bodies over the past year: Ryan’s, mine, and Luke’s; broken ideals and dreams as we restructure & determine how we’ll proceed, lots of unanswered questions and concerns & the burial of systems that no longer serve us emotionally or spiritually, and we wait because we know. We know because we’ve been here before – this is familiar soil, deep & dark & rich soil where we’ve been planted and now we await our reemergence into the light.

We wait for our resurrection.

And we are confident that it will arrive in due time because that’s how life works.

Everything remains in motion; a continuous movement of death and resurrection, waves upon waves washing away the brokenness and moving what remains to the shore – natural disasters and coronavirus and despair not excluded – it’s all involved, collectively and individually; ashes to beauty and back to ashes again, circular movements until the maestro sweeps his baton for the last time & bows his head in holy reverence, that moment when his beloved creation leans into the finality & releases a labored breath – bursting through the birth canal into an everlasting resurrection.

And until then?

We just keep livin.

WHAT HAPPENS?

I spent an intense morning with Luke at the eye doctor. Honestly, we’ve been frequenting doctor’s offices most days. Yesterday was PT for Ryan my husband, today, eye doctor for Luke, tomorrow and Friday PT for Ryan, Saturday, family doctor for a new wheelchair for Luke…

This is life for special needs families.

I made this appointment months ago – before Ryan had committed to his new surgery date in Feb – before when the original date was Jan 6 but then Luke was still in PICU & so we rearranged our schedules.

Today – 8:30 a.m. Feb 25, 2020. 5 days post op for Luke’s father who usually joins me on these exhausting excursions because it’s hard. But Ryan couldn’t join today with his arm in a brace, and I bribed my oldest daughter Mya to help. Bribed her with the promise of Starbucks. She agreed because that’s the kind of person she is. A lover of people and a lover of hot chocolate.

At 15 years old, Luke hates almost everything out of his ordinary – “GO TO SCHOOL!” was heard loud and clear – repeatedly- during our time spent in the serene waiting room added with the ants in his pants which resulted in a loud “GO WALK!” to the cacophony of chaos as mothers quickly shielded their children from his outstretched, unstable movements which threatened to grab or lick or stumble headfirst into their small toddler’s bosom.

What happens?

I asked myself – my blood pressure rising and heart palpitations quickening with each high pitched scream as Mya and I stared at each other with helpless looks as we tried to wrangle our big man child back into his stroller.

What happens when he becomes too big, and I can no longer physically restrain him?

What happens when he can’t go out in public because he might cause harm to another person?

What happens when my mental stability is hinging on instability?

What happens when his iPad isn’t interesting to him anymore?

What happens if he needs a diaper change and there’s nowhere to change him?

We were able to calm his anxious soul today quite by accident. The nurse played classical music from a contraption with green blinking lights (price tag probably $5000) to get an idea of vision capacity. He loved it and relaxed. I asked if we could keep playing the song on repeat for the remainder of the visit. She agreed & patted his knee “it’s ok buddy, it’ll be ok.” She was looking at me.

It’s okay is what happens. Mercy happens. Compassion happens. Occasionally someone really sees us – that’s what happens. Hot chocolate and strong coffee happens.

Moment by moment as we “just keep livin”

That’s what happens.

Gathering

The past couple of months there has been a lack of peace in my home, and I often thought, this mothering gig really isn’t my thing anymore. 4 teenagers, one with profound special needs, a pre teen, a 10 year old, a 9 year old, and a four year old who has no lack of confidence. It was a lot. Between health and job and hormonal issues which led to emotional issues and arguing and backtalk and snarkiness and bad attitudes and the older kids teaching the younger kids things they had no business knowing; the whole thing was a big honkin cup that overfloweth… or perhaps, it was more like a kitchen sink or the bathtub spilling over & it was causing significant damage. And we – the parents – should have immediately steered the ship back on course, but instead we bickered & bitched & complained as we held on for dear life to the raft boat the kids threw us when they made us walk the plank.

This sudden change in the family dynamic was attributed to a few circumstances: one, everyone was getting older and hormonal and becoming more opinionated & two, our move to an urban community where the kids had opportunities for activities, sleepovers, and jobs and the focus slowly shifted from the family unit – a strong unit we had in rural America where we relied heavily on each other because it was all we had – to individualized focus “You take care of you, and I’ll take care of me” & as long as the older crew took ownership of themselves: jobs, food, school, homework, play – we didn’t question much. We reasoned it was simply a stressful time in our life and “this too shall pass” and then…

Then, a few weeks ago, I said to my husband “I really miss family dinners.” You see, with the introduction of jobs and late nights and neighborhood kids to play with and everyone fending for themselves, and in turn each individual grabbing a bite to eat here and there, dinner time as a family had become almost obsolete – the rare exception in our family since our conception in 2011. For 8 years, we have religiously sat down at the dinner table and enjoyed a meal together – religiously until the move this past December. When Ryan and I married, we knew this tradition would provide a foundation to our success as a blended family – the art of gathering around a table for a home cooked meal and offering a blessing for not only the food we were about to eat but also for his faithfulness through our lives. We knew that the table would provide the foundation for community and connectedness in our newly blended home and the absence of the table would only leave a void and disconnect.

We recently reincorporated family dinner night. It looks a little different than it did in rural America, and we eat later – around 6 now because of play time with the neighborhood kids. We’ve made it a requirement for any child who is home that evening, and my oh my, what a difference we’ve seen already. Attitudes have changed and lightened as we laugh around the table partaking in fresh pasta and warm bread. I like my kids again & I think they might like me too as the focus has shifted, and we get to know each other on a heart level – on a real level- rather than just co-existing.

There is so much chatter in the world today about how lonely we all are, how depressed and isolated and longing for community, and this is not only true for ourselves as adults, but it’s desperately true for our kids. Our homes need to be safe places of respect & connections and what better way to foster these desperately needed essentials than around a table? What better way to encourage conversations? And what better way to show love than to invest our time, our most precious commodity, in them? Give it a try. You won’t regret it ❤

Just keep livin.