What will you remember most?

After one year

Good morning, friends,

My lovely friend, Laura Tremaine has a podcast called 10 Things to Tell You where she regularly walks us through journalling prompts. I’ve found this deeply helpful for my personal journalling life this year because one can only write “here’s what I did today” while in the midst of a pandemic so many times, you know? (Answer: The same thing as yesterday and every day before that, dear diary.) This past week, she recorded an episode called 10 Questions to Mark One Year of the Pandemic. Since then, I’ve been quietly thinking about this and journalling through the prompts. A few of them have unlocked some deep lament and honesty in me, but I decided to share my thoughts on just one of the questions with you this morning.

What will you remember most?

I will remember the day the NBA cancelled their season on March 11 as being the day that I realized the full extent of what we were dealing with now. Early in January, I had surgery to repair some of the damage done in a car accident a few years before and I spent six weeks confined to three rooms in my house. The week that I became slightly mobile again was the week that our news channel became a 24-hour coronavirus crisis and the school shut down and my kids came home. My husband lugged his ancient computer home from his office and set up a table in my tiny office. We began to isolate. We learned how fragile we all are, after all.

There were a million memories rising to my mind now. I’ll remember how uncertain we were, how little we knew about the virus in those early days. One friend went into isolation and still hasn’t emerged. The seniors home outbreak at Lynn Valley and the people standing outside the windows of their elderly mothers and frail grandfathers just to say “I love you” and press their hand to the glass. The rise of curbside pick-ups. The way we gathered outside at 7 o’clock in the evening to bang on pots and pans and clap and cheer for healthcare workers. The first time I wore an N95 mask to get groceries. The rainbows and colourful construction paper hearts pasted on our windows. The white-out all over our calendar as one after another the activities and appointments of our life disappeared. When others baked sourdough, my husband decided to smoke meat (reader: it was one of the few bright spots). Building new routines for homeschooling kids. The heroism and sacrifice of those still showing up to work. Learning who the actual essential workers of our society are and how little they are paid or valued. The first of my friends to lose a parent, then another, and another. The uncomfortable feeling of a swab up my own nose for testing. My nightly bath to read a paperback alone for just an hour as a primary sanity saver.

Be safe. Be kind. Be calm.” as our mantra in the beginning. “This is not forever, it’s just for now” as the mantra when we began to falter and tire. My own mantra of “love this in particular” as the year lagged on. Phrases that will never leave our lexicon now along with “social distancing.” My disappointment and anger at anti-maskers and churches-defying-health-orders and conspiracy theorists. The racial justice reckonings of the summer and rise of anti-racism conversation and activism. The way we somehow all just kept going, kept working, kept trying to keep things as normal as possible even when everything around us was harder and sadder; we planned and re-planned Evolving Faith three times and ended up with a beautiful online gathering which was a learning curve I hope to never repeat in my life. We launched a podcast. I released a collaborative book. My grief as every day the numbers of losses rose, each life known and beloved by God.

In the past few years, I’ve navigated our four children out of my public life and ministry. Their faces have disappeared from public social media, old essays featuring their inner lives have been removed. They aren’t babies anymore and they deserve their own narratives, I feel quite protective of them. And yet the reality is that this is the biggest, widest, deepest, truest part of my life, all happening offline. Mothering our four children is the centre of my life. So I’ll remember how we navigated this year as a family, both the highs and the lows. The million log-in passwords for four kids to school from home. The nightly watching of Jeopardy! and our joy when the library finally reopened. We were together and honestly? I have loved it. It’s not been easy (I am an introvert and hi, kids have a lot of words) but our little routines, our conversations, our walks, our laughter, our tears, and every night gathering at the supper table to debrief and talk and eat together have meant the world to me. We have been together and so I am satisfied.

It’s raining this morning and the dark clouds are moving quickly. The little girls woke up early for their peanut butter toast and now are watching Phineas and Ferb. Joe is here with me (reading, as always), Anne is still sleeping. She’s turned into that typical teenager routine of coming alive right when her poor tired parents just want to go to bed and then sleeping late on weekends. We are making changes as a family right now - some of these changes are directly because of the pandemic as we began to dream about the future and what we want for our lives, our marriage, our children. We also have had some very hard, sad days - some of those are connected to the pandemic and others are just simply because we are human. And I’m not trying to be vague, just protective. But it’s worth naming that sometimes the social media and the newsletters are not the totality of a life, you know?

Years ago, blogger Heather King wrote a post that I have always remembered: “Your hard is hard.” Simple and true. We don’t need to play the pandemic hardship Olympics. Everyone has been dealing with something and just because someone else had it harder didn’t mean your hard still wasn’t hard. We can downplay our own grief or suffering because we know it could be worse or harder or we know someone who is suffering deeply. And so our empathy leads us to pretend to be fine or shrug off our own suffering. And yet: your hard was also hard. And it’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to be sad, to feel scared or cheated or worried. It’s okay if you are worn out by isolation because you have navigated this alone or the noise if you have navigated it locked in a house with a big noisy family; if you lost some income or all of it; if you are overwhelmed by homeschool or the loss of routines or loss of a friend or whatever. Our experiences have been so different in this pandemic.

You don’t have to earn your own gentleness. Your hard has been hard, too. Be gentle with yourself. We are still in this together.

Because some days were a Stay in Jammies and Let Myself Be Sad and Mad Day. Other days were a Gather Tulips, Wash the Floors, and Feel Hopeful Day. Beloved and worthy both days. Productivity and relentless positivity don’t make us winners to Jesus.

I’ll remember how life became rather small, quiet, and ordinary this year. And those small things became the most important things of my life. I almost can’t imagine returning to the pace and chaos of our lives of the Before Times. I think I’d like to keep this pace, this quiet, this revelation of ordinary small things.

And then other days, all I want is to get on a plane and go hug my friends that I haven’t seen in so long, to buy tickets to a noisy crowded arena concert and sing at the top of my lungs with a crowd of strangers.

A Prayer

God, you hold our memories of this past year in your capable hands. I imagine you’re weaving the moments that have shaped us into what will be a beautiful quilt, bringing all of the collective grief and the individual sorrow, the small delights and ordinary goodnesses, the moments we were afraid and angry alongside of the moments when we felt joy and contentment, all stitched together with your grace for it all. Wrap us up in the warmth of your love, knowing we are held, beloved, worthy just as we are in this moment.

We have been living in an apocalypse, Jesus, a true unveiling: help us to see clearly ever after this. Help us to name and remember what we have lost, what we have gained, and where we saw you at work in this broken and beloved world. Help us to be gentle with ourselves and with each other, we’re still not done yet. Help us to see the world more clearly and to love each other more particularly.

May we rest in that imaginary quilt of the totality of this year, be held by your grace, your love, your faithfulness, and your tenderness with us. May we always find you in the small ordinary things of our lives. May we always see the world as it is now and always, and love it all the more for the very things that break our hearts.

And because I am who I am and I just can’t help it, Jesus, would you give us unexpected hope today? May we be surprised with a moment of joy, a good meal, a deep breath, a bit of beauty. May our roots go down deep into your marvellous Love. May we bear fruit even in times of famine. May we be small outposts of truth and love together. May we read good books, be gentle with our wounds, text a friend, or simply go for a walk with You.

May we know you in the silence, in the exhaustion and anger, in the grief and joy, and in our humanity which you blessed and called good. And we ask for an end to the suffering and for your justice to roll down, your healing to mend us, your love to hold us all even when we are in pieces. We love you.


Your turn: what will you remember most?

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Love S.

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