UPDATE FROM SEPTEMBER 17, 2020
O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me,
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think
I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe
that the desire to please you does in fact please you,
and I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire to please you.
and I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
There fore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to make my journey alone.
- Thomas Merton
I shared this prayer at the beginning of my maternity leave, back in May. It is a prayer of discernment. It is a good prayer to use once again as we find ourselves in a period of discernment for the church. The road ahead is scary because we don’t know what is coming. We don’t know what Grace will look like if we go forward with an adoption, which gives us anxiety. Fear of the unknown is a very powerful emotion. But it says over 300 times to fear not in the Bible. We are called to fear not because God is with us. God is with us as we go wade our way into the unknown. God is with us as we make difficult decisions. God is with us when we are fearful. God gives us the courage to move ahead.
We may not know for certain where we are going, but we know that God is with us.
UPDATE FROM SEPTEMBER 9, 2020
Give Yourself Grace
Many of us are a day or so into the new school year. I am certain it is a trial for parents, students, and educators this year more than usual. In person, students have to learn to wear a mask, use frequent hand sanitizer, not share anything, not give hugs, and use plexiglass. Online students (and their caregivers) have to adjust to lots of new technology, distractions at home, and not being around other children. Teachers have to wear many hats as they teach in person and online in some cases.
As a parent assisting the teacher at home, it is really easy to get frustrated getting your child to do the assignments exactly as they are instructed to do. It is easy to forget that their teachers have training on how to redirect student’s attention. It’s easy to forget that teachers have training on what kind of expectations are developmentally appropriate for the different ages. It’s easy to beat yourself up for what you don’t know, what you misunderstood, or when things don’t work as you expect, but remember to give yourself grace.
Things won’t always go as you want or expect. Give yourself grace. You may not be able to emotionally handle as much as you normally would. Give yourself grace. You may forget things more easily or feel lost in a fog. Give yourself grace. You may need to let activities that you were once able to participate in slide to the sideline. Give yourself grace.
This is an unprecedented situation. No one knows how to handle this perfectly. Give yourself grace. We will get through this. We will pivot a bunch. We will find new ways of doing things and being.
Give yourself grace, and don’t forget to give it to others too.
UPDATE FROM SEPTEMBER 2, 2020
As I write to you, I am anxiously awaiting a call or email (or something) from Grace’s teacher so that we can schedule our Meet the Teacher virtual session. I am a planner. I like to plan. It helps me with anxiety. I feel like at least I can control something in an otherwise chaotic situation. When I plan events for the church, I like to have things nicely planned so that someone can just plugin and go. But I can’t plan if I don’t have the information yet, and that is making me anxious.
We are all very anxious right now. The fear of the unknown is high right now. We usually know how to plan for things. If we have children, we have carefully planned childcare or chosen schools. If we are working, we have our job or know how to look for one. We know where to go to church or how to find a community. We know how to get our entertainment, go to the library, go shopping, and so on. But everything is different now. We are refiguring out how to make things work, and we encounter anxiety through the growing pains and our discomfort.
Everything about school will be different this year. Children and staff that will be in person will be masked, socially distant, surrounded by plexiglass shielding, unable to play on playgrounds, and walking one way down a hallway. Children, staff, and caregivers who will be learning online will face connection issues, technical difficulties, and the ever present question of what is developmentally appropriate for each age. Everyone will be fearful of catching the virus. Everyone will be fearful that they won’t be able to catch up from the school closure earlier this year.
So instead of continuing to worry, let’s pray. Let’s give God our anxiety and do or very best to not pull it back to us like a yo-yo.
Calm our fears. Be with our teachers and administrators as they plan for the school year. Be with our parents as they make difficult decisions for next year. Be with our students as they prepare for the unknown. Help us when we grow anxious. Sooth our emotions when we become angry. Grant us patience to roll with all of the hiccups. Amen.
UPDATE FROM AUGUST 26, 2020
Nathan and I followed the lectionary when we were pastors, and one week was the story of The Good Samaritan. As we were mentally doing sermon prep, a sermon illustration arrived on our doorway. Long story short, we ended up taking a person to a hospital in Houston, from the Baytown area, so that he could get treated. I joked from then on out that I should be careful of what I preached because I never knew what sermon illustration would pop up.
We have been doing a sermon series on Waiting because we are all waiting to see what happens next with Covid, and school, and the election, and many other things. Now we are all waiting to see what becomes of the hurricanes in the Gulf, particularly Laura. One of the sermons we planned in the series was not about a hurricane, but the irony is not lost on me that we are waiting to see what will happen with the storm, with a lot of anxiety and dread.
As we wait, remember do breathe deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Deep breathing helps get oxygen into your blood stream and calm you down. Stretching helps too, as does turning off media and taking a break.
The stories in the Bible of people waiting are all stories of faith, that God would see them through whatever crisis they encountered. Jesus waited in the wilderness as he prepared for ministry, Elijah waited and rested before he continued his mission, Jonah waited inside of the fish, and so many other stories. Remember, God is with us through this storm and all of the other ones that we face.
I will leave you with the words of Isaiah 43: 2, 5.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched
and flame won’t burn you.
I am with you.