I’ve learned in life that it is really important to look back. To reflect. To pay attention. While COVID-19 still moves among us, many of us are beginning to step back into the very gray area of normal. I don’t know about you, but I want to emerge into the new normal different from when the virus began. In some ways, I don’t want to go back to the life I lived before the virus.
The way the world stopped caused all of us to tremble, worry, and anxiously wonder what will happen next (at least a little bit). It caused us to literally stop in our tracks, cancel all of our plans, and sit still. We have all felt the question…”Now what?” come alive within us.
Several of my girlfriends have said to me that they don’t want to get back on the hamster wheel of life before the pandemic. In order to do this, we need to intentionally look to see what we have learned through this difficult time and identify practical ways to not get back on the crazy wheel.
Here are some things I’ve come to love about this season:
1. Unscheduled time.
The beauty and fulfillment of unscheduled, lingering conversations. It has been a joy to chat with a neighbor—six feet apart—or on a Zoom call without a time table or a schedule in place. Without having another place to be or a to-do list to accomplish, conversation and quality time becomes organic and rich and allows me to be fully present.
I have seen the power of simplicity. I have learned to live with less. I have not had my hair cut or bought any new clothes. Even that one ingredient I think I need for dinner, I’ve gone without. I’ve learned to make do with what is in my pantry. I have worn the same pair of worn-out pants a little longer. Or, as many women say, I have found the joy of living in my leggings. It’s simple—the same two pairs every other day. It’s so beautiful to put on my daily “uniform” without thinking twice or agonizing over what looks right. It’s super freeing and makes me want to live this way in the future. I’m able to see that having everything at my fingertips means I’ve convinced myself I need these things right away, or I need them to live, rather than denying my desires a bit and living with less. In fact, I find that I am happier and more content with less options. Funny how that works. Simplicity brings freedom. (If you can relate, don’t miss this article on how to create a capsule wardrobe!)
In the past, I have desired to slow down and be a better steward of all that I have been given. The events of the last few months have caused my hubby and I to hit the breaks and reevaluate where we spend our time and money, and reminded us of the importance of taking care of what we’ve been given. Being forced off the wheel has been such a gift. It has prompted us to ask the hard questions about our family. Where is our time being spent? Does it match what we value? If we want to continue down those courses, why are we doing it? Because we want to or because everyone else is? This time has also allowed us opportunities to give to those in need in very tangible ways. It has reminded us that God is the giver of our time and money, and we are simply stewarding it. So, are we doing it faithfully and well? Do we want to do it the same way moving forward?
This time at home has helped us to see our home. It’s been fulfilling to clean it well, to go through our piles of stuff and give it away if necessary. It’s been so nice to fix broken faucets and work to spruce up the yard. In our normal life, it’s so easy to run in and out of our house and not take care of it. I have learned that stewardship represents intentionality.
How many times have you been going through a difficult time and the people you interact with can’t relate? It may be the death of a loved one, infertility, hard day at work, marriage difficulties, or parenting woes. Whatever it is, we usually save our heartaches and talk to our dear friend or someone who has gone through something similar. Or when we are on the opposite side (the one listening to the heartache, but not experiencing it) we offer a listening ear and prayers, but can’t relate in a deep-down way.
This is the first time in my life when we truly are all going through the same thing at the same time. We are all quarantining, wearing masks, wondering how the re-opening works, deciding if we should let our kids play with their friends, or if we should go on vacation. We are all asking the same questions. Since the beginning of the pandemic, in every circle I’ve been in, all of us can relate to each other and feel each other’s emotions deeply. Even with people who live a very different life than I do, I can find a bridge to let my guard down and let them see me and we can feel together. How beautiful is that? In such a divided, broken world, there are places where we have unity and in the midst of this crisis, we can enter in, support one another, and feel together.
5. Recognizing the blessings.
COVID-19 has showed how much I love my life. While deadlines, stress, schedules, and expectations can easily cloud my vision, this time has caused me to remember and embrace how much I love my people. It’s caused me to believe that real joy and contentment comes from pursuing less. Less of all things, not just material. I don’t think we are meant to be filled to the brim with busyness. I have been reminded how much I love teaching, my classroom, my school community, my relationships, and people’s stories, and of how much I love cooking, nature, and empty time. It’s given me cause to stop, pay attention, and reflect.
6. Greater purpose.
I’m assuming that like me, many of you felt disappointment after disappointment during this crazy coronavirus time. Like you, my family has had so many things canceled. I was supposed to go to Israel with a group of educators, and it was canceled. My son’s college visits, all canceled. My other son’s lacrosse trip—canceled. Our 20th wedding-anniversary trip—canceled. Dinners out—canceled. Birthdays, graduations, simple time with friends—all canceled. I have had to grapple with the heavy feeling of being let down time after time.
The only way that I can reconcile this feeling is by remembering and believing that God is holding the whole world in His hands. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes His steps.” While I have been frustrated, and mad, and have done my fair bit of ugly crying, I have reminded myself that God has established my steps. He so clearly has had other plans for our family. This truth is one of many that led me to start writing down the good I am finding through this time.
Moving forward, I hope that I will continue to look in the rear-view mirror to notice all that I am learning but might otherwise miss in the busy shuffle of life.
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