Thursday, April 2, 2020

Staying with Grace


I've been trying to write a blog post for over a week now, but the words keep escaping me. What can I say to you, friends, that you're not already experiencing yourselves? Yes, it's hard to stay home all the time. No, nothing much has changed in the past few weeks. Yes, some days are harder than others. No, I'm not handling everything well either.

Sometimes I think we're doing great. We already homeschool, so that was something stable in our little world. I'm grateful that we can stay in touch with friends and family through technology, and I'm so thankful that we can still get together with our church family on Sunday mornings online. Having James here with us, teaching from home, has been an absolute joy. He brings encouragement to all of us every day -- playing board games with the girls, giving my parents a hand when they need it, and always there to listen to me and make me laugh.

Other days I can feel myself coming apart a little bit. I give in to tears or make frequent visits to the bowl of cookie dough in the refrigerator when I'm frustrated or discouraged. I stay up too late at night and struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I had a near panic attack sitting in my car at the Walgreen's drive-thru last Monday as I watched the clerk bag up my dad's medication and place my change into an envelope, suddenly wondering if both were covered with the virus. James and I are the only ones who run errands right now so that my parents can stay safe, both of them being in the high risk group due to their age and health issues. I've had nights when I couldn't sleep for worrying over whether we're doing enough.

And then this passage from Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist spoke to me last weekend:

"It's easy to be liked by strangers. It's very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you're always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you're giving them aren't cutting it....It seems to me that one of the great hazards is quick love, which is actually charm. We get used to smiling, hugging, bantering, practicing good eye contact. And it's easier than true, slow, awkward, painful connection with someone who sees all the worst parts of you. Your act is easy. Being with you, deeply with, is difficult. It is better to be loved than admired. It is better to be truly known and seen and taken care of by a small tribe than adored by strangers who think they know you in a meaningful way. We know that's true. But many of us, functionally, have gotten that math wrong in one season or another....Quick charm will always be easier for me than deep connection. People out there are easier than the ones in here. But quick charm is like sugar -- it rots us. It winds us up and leaves us jonesing, but it doesn't feed us. Only love feeds us. And love happens over years, repetitive motions, staying, staying, staying. Showing up again. Coming clean again, being seen again. That's how love is built....It's all in here, not out there."

I've wondered if one reason why this temporary life change is so difficult is because all the coping mechanisms that we've used for so long are being stripped away. When you're confined to your house with your family for days on end, there's no room for quick charm. Even worse, your quirks and irritations and insecurities have nowhere to hide. You have to deal with them and so do the people you love. And though right now we have no choice except to stay where we are, there's a big difference between staying resentfully and staying with grace. I can be a very generous, patient person on social media . . . over the phone . . . when I'm all by myself. It's harder to be any of that when the dogs are barking incessantly and the sink is full of dirty dishes and the girls are fighting with me and each other. My family needs my love, and the truth is that sometimes I feel so worn out that it seems like I can't even muster the will to try. But I have to keep trying, even when the best I can say is, "I'm cranky and tired and not happy with you right now, but I'm going to love you anyway because you're mine." I've told my girls so many times that love isn't a feeling; it's what we choose to do. I'm learning that lesson over and over again these days.

But like I said, there are good things happening at our house too. So let's talk about some of them...


1. Quarantine is delicious. I've been cooking so much more and making a greater variety of food. We've also been eating more meals together as a family which is wonderful. Preparing food for seven people each day can quickly become an endless job, so I've started making a large meal at lunch which can then be stretched for leftovers at dinner. Mom makes a loaf of her famous oatmeal bread in our bread machine almost every day, and we use any stale slices that don't get eaten to make croutons for salad. A big pot of soup or stew can last us for two days or more, and every now and then I'll make extra pans of pasta bake or enchiladas that can go in the freezer to be pulled out on a day when I'm too tired or busy to cook. All in all, I think we're wasting less food and making better use of our groceries than we have in ages, and that feels pretty great.

2. Time stuck at home is the perfect chance to tackle all the jobs that we've been putting off because we didn't have the time. James has been working on replacing old sink drains in the upstairs bathrooms. I'm deep cleaning our closet for the first time since we moved in five years ago and slowly getting my sewing space reorganized. It feels fantastic to get some of these jobs finished after they've been on my to-do list for so long. On the other hand, though, I'm not freaking out over dog hair on the floor and a cluttered pantry stuffed full of food and paper products right now because nobody's going to see it but us. So it's good to walk that balance between taking on some long overdue organizational projects while not going crazy over the day-to-day stuff.


3. Being together as a family is the best. For a few days the pool was (just barely) warm enough to go swimming, so we made the most of it. James has been taking the girls outside after lunch or in the afternoon to play basketball, soccer, foursquare, or just walk laps around the front circle. Sometimes we go for walks as a family, and sometimes my husband and I go out for a "date walk" while my parents stay home with the girls. Almost every night we watch a show or movie together. Since my eighth grader is studying World War II, we've been introducing the girls to some old movies from the time period that are favorites of ours. The girls have enjoyed To Be or Not to Be and Casablanca, and we had some great discussions about both films. I've also been reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder aloud to the family while the girls take turns practicing hairstyles on me in the evenings before bed. It's been interesting to talk about the Ingalls family's isolation brought on by blizzards versus our quarantine due to the virus. We all agree that we definitely have it better than they did.


4. Quiet time is good for the soul. I find that I make it through the day much better when I start and end with some simple encouragement. So before I face the news on my laptop in the morning, I read my Bible for a few minutes as I drink my coffee. And each night before I head to bed, I spend some time at my desk writing my thoughts down in a journal and reading a short devotion from Each New Day by Corrie ten Boom, a woman of deep faith whose writings have meant so much to me over the years (read her book The Hiding Place if you haven't already -- it's unforgettable). These small, quiet moments have been anchors for my soul. Some days they're the only thing keeping me from flying all to pieces, and they're habits I want to keep even after this crazy time is over.

5. Sewing still makes me happy. The days are busier than I would have expected, but I still try to sneak off to my sewing machine when I can. Making pretty little things just because I want to is such a wonderful way to spend an hour, and it always lifts my spirits.

I'm thinking of you often, friends. You're always in my prayers. Be safe and well, and know that you're loved.

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for the words of encouragement...we're all feeling a variety of emotions these days. Just this morning my DH and I were lamenting the state of the world and I caught myself. I realized I was going to have to start consciously thinking about all the good things I have to be thankful for, and one of them is community like you. Thanks again, blessings to your family and stay well!

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  2. Stay strong! Don’t be so hard on yourself. I am on week 3 of isolation in NY. I am caring fir my granddaughter as my son and dil are essential workers. Life is very precious and scary right now. I have been reading and sewing, as well as cleaning out here and there. Stay safe and thanks for sharing. Hugs to you.💕

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  3. hej heidi,
    it's nice to read how you're doing It is really a difficult time that affects all of us worldwide, there are bad and good days. We don't test a lot, so the numbers here are unsettling for me. I work here as a nurse. We are actually Germans who emigrated to Denmark many years ago: 0) My parents are also in the high-risk group, both of them very old and not so healthy anymore. I can fully understand you there. They live far away in Germany and I cannot see them. Unfortunately we cannot use the media, the two of them cannot use the Internet and do not have a computer. My mother doesn't hear well on the phone, we can only write. Now I was even glad that she broke three ribs and is currently only in the house, grotesque, right? We will definitely do it. I love your sewing and your fabrics, I am very happy about your posts. Right now! Stay healthy and I wish you all the best! very best regards from Denmark, Ulrike: 0)

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  4. I am so glad that you are still posting occasionally. I know there are a lot of people out there right now who can relate and use the encouragement. This really has been good in so many ways even with the bad it has been good. God is being so gracious to all and helping so many find their way through this season.

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  5. This is a great post, Heidi. Thanks for sharing. Some days it's an effort to look forward and stay with grace, but we need too. And we need to enjoy the little moments and joys that we find as we spend time together. Thank goodness for sewing, too!

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  6. Sounds like you are coping well. I think about my mother who did not work, and was a typical housewife when I was growing up. She put three meals a day on the table. She cleaned her house and was always busy doing something. She was not a soap opera person. So washing clothes and hanging them put was just part of her week. What people are adjusting to is like stepping back into a simpler time. Many won't like the slow pace. Some will discover that it is nice to have so much free time!
    I love Corrie Ten Boom. I have read many of her books. I love this time we are experiencing. I know many are sick and that is extremely sad. But without that, this would not be happening. Who thought the whole world could almost shut down? Pretty amazing actually.
    I enjoyed your post. Keep writing. It is healthy. God bless.

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  7. The Waltons is a wonderful series to watch, I highly recommend it for the family! Quite a few years back we watched it as a family and even my husband and then teenage daughter loved it!

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  8. This post has touched me deeply. Although all my children are your age and older and I do not face the day to day challenges that you do I still face the universal challenges of remaining present for my family, spouse and myself. I try to be the anchor while all their concerns whirl around me, be present for each of them and meet them where they are at the moment so the struggle to choose love never really ends. Thank you for your thoughtful and kind post today. You are doing just fine.

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  9. You are blessed to have family with you, no matter how they sometimes rub you raw emotionally at times. It's good that you can play with fabric...helps to soothe over the rough spots. I am with my two dogs and when talking to the big one yesterday, the little one barked at me...it's been a while since she's heard me talk to someone!!

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  10. This post is so encouraging. Thank you for writing so eloquently.

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  11. Yes, life is different, but for me so much the same. For years I got to be a stay at home mom, and now that my kids are grown up, I'm still at home most of the time, so that hasn't changed. But my daughters, who don't live at home, haven't been home due to their fear of bringing the virus home to parents who are 61 and 65 yrs old. So funny that in some homes you get your kids 24/7, and in other homes the kids can't come. I'm glad you are spending some time in the morning with the bible. It does create calm. I find my days go so much better if I remember to read my scriptures before I start other things. I wish I could be there to give you a hug (which, of course is taboo today!). I'm sorry that it has been so much of a struggle for you. :-( But you are right to see the good of it too: the extra time with family. I think that is so much of what is missing in our life style today, and I'm hoping that when this is all over, our kids will look back and say they loved how much they got to be with their families during this time. I think you are creating some wonderful memories with your children: the walks, the movies, the increase in family dinners (yes, we are using our food in the frig so much better now too :-).) I see this effort that we all are doing as something that is similar to what was done during the 2nd World War by our nation. There is a book that I felt was just amazing that you and your family might be interested in reading about the amazing effort that was put forth by US industry during WII : "Freedom's Forge" it's here on Amazon if you are interested: https://www.amazon.com/Freedoms-Forge-American-Business-Produced/dp/0812982045
    I don't have any interest from recommending this book, I just really was astounded at what the industrial companies did to produce what was needed for the war effort. It just reminds me of what our current companies are doing to all of a sudden produce masks and protective clothing for the health care providers, the efforts to produce immunizations and therapies and ventilators. Sorry that went on for so long! :-) I want you to know that I admire what you are doing to be with your family, you are "in the trenches" right now, and I know God is so happy with your work as a mother to his precious children, and He is so happy with your work in taking care of your parents. Keep up the good work!!! Hugs, H

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  12. You are so right- homebound includes both trials and delights! Sewing really is therapy, isn't it? Lovely post.

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  13. Well said. This, too, shall pass.

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  14. Such a thoughtful, uplifting post! Thank you. I'm not sure how I happened across your blog, but I'm glad I did and I have bookmarked it so I can read along.

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