- The absolute slowing down of everything. We are retired so we had already slowed down to some degree. But we were still busy: traveling to visit family, planning trips in our motorhome, camping, shopping, working on household projects we had put off for years, running back and forth to church and community events, racing to finish writing projects, cramming in routine medical appointments, scheduling, planning, doing. We somehow were just as busy as we had been during our working years. All that came to a screeching halt when we went into social distancing and self-quarantine mode. We were forced by circumstances to slow down. In exchange, we received the gift of calmness, stillness, peace, and time for quiet reflection.
- Spending quality time with my husband. Weather permitting, most days we go outside to sit on our deck in the afternoon. We talk, share snippets from books we are reading, listen to the birds chirping in the trees, feel the gentle breeze, check the progress of the plants and flowers shooting up in all the flowerpots, soak up the sunshine, watch the hummingbirds flit around the feeders, and enjoy the beauty of nature all around us. We rock in our deck chairs and appreciate the gift of just being, rather than doing.
- Extended quality time with my mother. My mother has an apartment in an independent living facility in another city. When the coronavirus hit, she happened to be staying with us while she recuperated from a minor back injury. By the time she had recovered, her facility was beginning lockdown procedures. Instead of a thriving community of seniors enjoying lots of daily activities and social interaction, residents are confined to their apartments, all activities have been suspended, and no visitors are allowed. We decided it was better for her to continue to stay with us right now. I have been able to spend more consistent extended time with her during these past weeks than at any other time since I got married and moved away from home. We’ve talked, laughed, played games, and are thoroughly enjoying this time together.
- Appreciation of intentional time with our children and grandchildren. We live in the same town as our daughter and her family so we saw each other frequently at church, running around town, going to our grandson’s basketball games together, dropping in and out of each other’s homes. Now we plan social distancing visits sitting six feet apart on her porch or our deck. Before we didn’t think about what a gift it is to live in such close proximity. Now that we have to plan our visits, they are more precious and meaningful. Our son and his family live about six hours from us. We visited each other every few months before Covid-19. We were planning a spring camping trip that included spending a week or two with them when the lockdown started. Now we visit by setting up zoom meetings. I'll never again take for granted the gift of spending unfettered time with those I love. I’m so thankful for technology that allows us to stay connected with family from a distance.
- Online church services. Speaking of technology, livestreaming is a great blessing. I miss meeting in person with my sweet local church family. On the other hand, I’m getting to experience worship services all over the place each Sunday now. We drop in on our local church service, attend services at the largest Methodist church in America from our den, watch portions of services from churches where friends minister, and even zoom into churches meeting in South America where we know several pastors from our years of serving as resident missionaries in Colombia and volunteer missionaries in Ecuador. This past Sunday, I saw pastors and musicians sharing the Good News in English, Spanish, and Quichua.
When we began social distancing in March in an effort to slow the spread of the novel Covid-19 coronavirus, it never occurred to me that there were unanticipated blessings waiting to be found in quarantine life. Coronavirus is a terrible illness that is negatively impacting countries around the world. Life as we know it has been turned topsy-turvy. The global economy is on a downward trajectory. Illness and death are widespread. In our country alone, as of yesterday, 1,360,705 people have tested positive for Covid-19 and 76,617 have died. During the past two weeks, many states have started to open up businesses that have been closed. Some churches are planning to start in person meetings again. Many epidemiologists and ordinary citizens are worried that we are reopening things too quickly and that this will result in a huge spike of new infections and deaths. I am one of the worried people. My husband and I are in a vulnerable age group. My 91-year-old mother, friends, and family members with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses will almost certainly have serious complications if they contract Covid-19. My state is one of the places that has chosen to reopen most businesses with insufficient guidance as to how to do this safely and no plan for enforcing the few guidelines available. The idea that there might be space for reflection and blessing while all of this is going on seems farfetched and impossible.
There is something to do besides worry. I have discovered much to be thankful for during these unprecedented times. I have experienced blessings that I had certainly not anticipated. These are five of them.
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When I was a child, my Mother hid brightly colored foil wrapped miniature chocolate eggs tucked in nooks and crannies all over the living room for my brother and me to find on Easter morning. We had so much fun hunting the eggs and adding the treasures we found to our baskets. Afterwards, we ate breakfast (and chocolate), dressed up in our new clothes, went to church, and then to my grandmother’s house to enjoy a family feast with the aunts, uncles, and cousins. What memories do you have of childhood Easter mornings? What fun things do you do with your children and grandchildren?
I’m no longer a child. But I still love Easter. One of my favorite things about celebrating this special day is our church tradition of decorating the cross with flowers. All the black coverings placed over the altar on Maundy Thursday are removed, candles are lit, the cross is carried to the front of the church, and each member of our congregation goes to the cross to add a flower. It’s such a beautiful reminder that the darkness and death of the crucifixion have been replaced by the light and life of the resurrection.
Whatever traditions you usually enjoy with your extended family and your church family at Easter time, one thing is certain: Easter will look different this year. Churches are closed. Extended family gatherings are currently on hold. We are sheltering in place to protect our families and our communities from the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus that continues to infect and kill people all over the world.
I’ve been thinking during this Holy Week about what Easter must have looked like to the early disciples. Over the centuries, we have added so many layers of celebration and tradition that we can barely fathom what the followers of Jesus experienced on that first Easter.
They were sheltering in place in their homes grieving for what they thought they had lost. They were fearful of impending doom. Their leader had died. Would they be next? Life as they knew it was over. Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb. They wept and whispered and worried and wondered what the future held for them.
And then Sunday came.
Early that morning, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women went to the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus. They discussed how they would move the heavy rock that had been used to seal the tomb. When they arrived, the stone had been rolled away. They thought thieves had broken in and stolen the body of their beloved friend.
They ran back to the house where the disciples were hunkered down in fear and mourning to share this astonishing news. The news that changed everything. For them. And for us.
For the first time in over two thousand years, we have the opportunity to feel and understand down to our core what that first Easter must have been like. We are huddled in our homes, fearful of impending doom. Some of us have lost our jobs and incomes. Some of us have lost loved ones to this voracious disease. Some of us are sick ourselves. We’re contemplating what might happen next.
We can weep and whisper and worry and wonder what the future holds for us. Or we can let it go. We can let go of all the cousins coming over to dye eggs and the neighborhood egg hunt, and instead plan special treats and activities for our children in our individual homes. We can let go of in-person church gatherings. Instead, we can watch church Easter celebrations online and rejoice that thousands of others are watching services from thousands of churches online with us. We can let go of huge extended family dinners and instead create delicious intimate meals for our precious immediate families.
And after we let go, we can remember. Remember what the first resurrection Sunday felt like for the first disciples. Remember what Easter means without all the cultural trappings we have heaped upon it. Remember that while we are quarantined in these days of uncertainty, waiting for the darkness to lift, that we do not wait alone. Light and Hope wait with us. Because Jesus waits with us. And that's something worth celebrating every single day of the year while we bloom where we are planted as we grow a faith of hope and joy.
He is risen.
He is risen indeed.
I love to read and write devotionals that focus on joy and practical faith. I'm a fan of camping, traveling, healthy living, and practical life hacks about everything.