What was supposed to be two weeks of COVID-19 shutdown, has now turned into an unpredictable season. Now, an end to social distancing doesn’t seem to be anytime soon. It’s been more than a year and they say we will be back to normal this fall–nearly two years gone.
After spending time apart in social distancing, and witnessing the devastation caused by COVID-19, most individuals just miss simple social interactions: a latte with a friend, browsing Marshall’s on your work lunch break, or dining with friends and family in a restaurant. Wouldn’t it be fun to argue about who’s covering the check again?
Gone are the days of my normal routine: Get up. Bible Study. Jazzercise. Shower. Get kids ready for school and commute to work. Whatever your routine may have been, it’s gone largely by the wayside as we trade work pants for sweatpants and going out for staying in.
The interesting thing about how God works in our struggles, is that these everyday, ‘mundane’ moments of once-daily routines now are beginning to feel like a luxury that people are already eager to have back.
From my perspective, here are nine things I took for granted before COVID-19 interrupted, making me re-evaluate the blessings in simple gifts:
Chips and Salsa
Every Tuesday I would meet my best friend at Agave restaurant for margaritas, chips, and salsa. On the days when we had more to debate or discuss, we’d add on a bowl of queso cheese and guacamole. We’d talk for nearly two hours about everything under the sun: our marriages, the latest issues our tweens dealt us, the Bible.
We’d always dive into healthy biblical debates about when the rapture will occur…pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation. We’d talk about life in a small town and push each other to realize our deepest dreams and gifts. It’s been seven Tuesdays and counting…revealing to me that these ‘small things’ are what I’m missing big time.
When I missed one of my friends, we would simply throw out dates for coffee until one of them stuck. Eventually, a few of us formed a moms’ group that met Monday mornings at Calico Coffee. Before the sun was up, we would clamor out of our beds, hair unwashed, most still in their jammies, others dressed for work and one by one we’d find a seat at the table.
Our voices would echo off the exposed brick and old beams as fresh ground coffee and spices of vanilla or hazelnut permeated the air. Sharing closely in this comforting way is one of the most ‘worth it’ experiences of life.
When I felt stress about work deadlines, or had a rough day with the kids, I’d “Jazz” it all off in Jazzercise class. I miss our makeshift studio. I took for granted the tight space and getting there early to get a spot in the front.
I loved being surrounded by women of all ages, loud music, dancing, sweating, and working issues out with weights. It was my sanity-saver, and the women there are my tribe.
We now gather once a day on Facebook live for a workout, which I am truly grateful for. But I cannot wait to walk onto the dance floor together in person.
Going into Stores
Before the days of curbside pickup, my husband Chris and I would go to Hy-Vee together to shop for groceries. It was our unofficial ‘date night’ as we conversed with friends we ran into, sampled cheeses, bread, and other treats.
The store shelves were always stocked, and there wasn’t a need to stay on the taped line in the store. Nor did we have to wait our turn to come into the store.
Now we’re lucky to find simple things like flour, chicken…or toilet paper. Or, whatever suddenly becomes high demand that week. The ability to browse our favorite stores like Hy-Vee or going to the mall is nonexistent, and the chore of searching for a parking spot in a packed lot is a memory. A memory that increases in fondness.
A friend dropped off a meal the other day. She knocked on the door and waited for me to answer. As I came to the door, she set the meal down and quickly walked backwards the appropriate distance. We stood that way for a while—me on the porch and them in the yard, talking back and forth.
This distance was painful.
As we said our goodbyes we both hugged the air, and our tears threatened to spill down our cheeks.
The gift of a warm embrace says so many things: You’re human. I care about you. I miss you. I cherish you. I love our friendship.
The next time I get to hug others aside from my immediate family, I plan to hold them tightly and hold on a little longer than before and this is coming from a person who doesn’t like hugs. I took hugs for granted and didn’t realize what a gift a pair of arms are.
The Grieving Process
As the last song played at my father-in-law’s funeral, all three of my children wept bitterly.
My husband held our youngest as I moved to sit in between our older two kids and wrapped them both in my arms. COVID-19 has changed the way we mourn. The normal healing process has been disrupted.
The grieving process—the kind I was expecting my children to experience for the first time—has been altered because feelings, comfort, care, community and connection cannot be contained or conveyed in a text, FaceTime, or phone call.
As we laid Mike to rest, we sat in a nearly-empty church except for the seven of us. I keep thinking of what should have been:
- We should’ve had friends and family filling the church.
- We should’ve had a 21-gun salute.
- We should’ve had more warm embraces and strong handshakes.
- We should’ve heard more stories being shared, and memories reminisced.
Mike won’t know the difference, our kids don’t know the difference, but we do. COVID-19 has taken so much and made isolation feel even more isolating.
The gift of carrying one another’s burdens in close contact will mean more to me than ever when we are invited back into each other’s arms and lives.
Sending Kids to School
For the love of all things educational (or perhaps for the love of my sanity) the day that school is back in session I will be kissing the feet of my children’s teachers. I don’t know how they make education fun. I don’t know how they get my kids to answer questions or study without snark and sass.
I’m thoroughly convinced teachers are like rare, precious, magical unicorns or God’s angels in disguise. They offer the unique gift of instilling precious knowledge into the brains of my holy terrors.
I love my children, and they are the biggest joys of my life. But when it comes to homeschooling, I can’t. I just can’t. There are tears, misunderstandings, and gnashing of teeth—and that’s just the list of what I’m doing. For every educator on this planet, BLESS YOU. The day school re-opens parents everywhere will be shouting Hallelujah in gratitude for schools!
Sitting with Neighbors (a Nebraska Favorite)
Every evening our kids would clean up the kitchen after dinner as Chris and I strolled through the streets of our tiny Nebraska town. Every so often we’d stop and catch up with the neighbors. Our neighbors could almost always be found sitting in lawn chairs half-circle to chat, keep the neighborhood kids in line, enjoy the sunset, and watch traffic go by.
Now when the weather is nice a few neighbors are out with their families. They smile, wave and ask how we’re doing so long as we keep the appropriate distance. Gone are the days of pulling up a chair or watching kids run from house to house. Oh, how I will treasure the return of this togetherness.
Going to Church
Small talk always made my insides squirm. I’ve never liked chatting about the weather or what I’m getting out of the sermon or any other surface talk. I also didn’t like the “meet and greet” part of the service.
Before COVID-19, there were days I didn’t want to leave the house because I didn’t like what I was wearing or I hadn’t won the battle of taming the hair.
But now, I would give anything to sit close to someone in a church, listen to my pastor’s message, and smile when someone in the choir sings off-key with passion. What a blessing it was to bring my imperfect being into the company of imperfect brothers and sisters.
The ability to gather, worship, listen to the Bible being read aloud…are all gifts. With the novel coronavirus spreading rapidly, this is now simply out of the question for church-goers.
When loving your neighbor means keeping your distance, we commit. We gather online and look forward to the day we can gather in one place.
In the meantime, we remind ourselves church isn’t a building. We’re a body of believers that have been dispersed…to be Jesus’ hands and feet in our neighborhoods.