Last March, my daughter declared she was the only one in our family who would have a pandemic Birthday. At that time, the statement didn’t seem ludicrous. It seemed optimistic to think she may be the only one, yet plausible. We had no clue. We had sympathy for her, and doted on her accordingly.
Now, everyone in our home has celebrated a pandemic Birthday. Today, I am the last of the six.
And it seems only fitting to share some of the life lessons learned on my most recent trip around the sun.
You Are Braver Than You Think
One of my biggest fears has been a virus mutating and spreading out of control. It may sound silly, but it’s true.
I would talk about it with my husband, “What if?” And refused to watch all movies even slightly pandmicish. “They are too close to reality. That could happen someday you know,” I would declare.
And then the images from across the sea, of people in Wuhan being stricken by a new virus, began playing out on the television and newsfeeds. And my heart would beat a little faster. I would think how scary that must be for them, and there was no way that it could make its way here.
Well, we all know how that story goes. We are still living it. How very wrong I was.
But here is what I have learned. We can face our fears. We can do hard things. And a lot of times, what we create in our mind is actually so much worse than what plays out in reality.
These past months have been hard, but not nearly as bad as I would have dreamed up if someone would have told me years ago that this is what 2020 would look like. I would have imagined everyone walking around in hazmat suits, with helmets over our heads. Yes, we wear masks, but I will take that any day over one of those suits.
In living in this fear of mine, it has lost its power over me. I can watch pandemic movies now. I no longer worry about “what if”. I wake up and I move forward one day, one minute, one second at a time. Living in the pandemic has taught me how to be more present. And has reinforced the lesson that I learn over and over again; there is so much in life that we have no control over. And I am brave. And you are brave. And we can face our fears. And do hard things.
Grief Comes in Waves
Over the past year, I think it is safe to say we have all experienced grief on some level.
There have been moments when I have found myself shedding tears over things I am missing. They have fallen silently, and they have come in big sobbing buckets, with my head buried in the pillow as I released all that was pent up inside.
The grief comes, and it goes. In and out. Like waves washing up to shore, and back home again to the sea. It has become a rhythm in our days. Moments when we are hit with all that we are missing can strike us at the most unexpected of times. And then we move forward again, and find the joy that also exists in the moment. In and out.
This year, we lost my father-in-law to cancer. I will think of him, and feel my heart fill with gratitude for the gift of his presence in my life, and at the same time, sadness that he is no longer here with us. There are moments when the missing is greater than others. Like today.
My father-in-law would call every Birthday to sing a Happy Birthday song. Sadly, I rarely picked up the phone. My ringer is usually off, and I don’t answer my phone often when it rings. I know he understood, but I wish I could hear his voice. I know he is in heaven, and I rejoice for that, but I miss him. And right now, that missing is greater than it is at other times.
We all grieve at times in our lives. Really, when I think of it, many times grief exists because of the loss of precious gifts we have been given in life. Had we not experienced something so wonderful, we would have nothing to grieve. And when I think of it this way, my grief becomes woven intricately with gratitude. And as my heart breaks. It soars.
Gifts Arrive in Unexpected Packages
Like in a pandemic. Remember a few paragraphs ago when I talked about this being one of my greatest fears? I never would have imagined that it would have brought anything good along with it, but it did.
In this past year, I have learned the value of rest. Real rest. The kind of rest that happens when the calendar is wiped bare and you are stuck in your home with nowhere to go. The kind of rest that is delivered in a pandemic box.
Every day is now spent at home with my family. We have fallen into new rhythms, and in our own ways – are each finding joy in this unexpected time.
I can now sit, midday, and pick up a book without feeling an ounce of guilt, or like I should really be doing something more productive. We have gotten into the habit of doing family devotions, and recently yoga, to start our day. There is no yelling and rushing and hurrying out the door.
In this stillness, with the lack of anywhere to be, or anything that must be done – I have learned to rest. To be still. To be present more than I ever have been in my life. I have learned to find peace amidst struggle. And that days spent in pajama pants can sometimes be the very best days of all.
You Are Never Too Old To Follow Your Dreams
This year, I have begun the process of following a dream I have had for as long as I can remember.
I am writing a book. And it feels big, and scary, and even writing that makes my heart beat a little faster. I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy and have had to silence the voice in my head telling me nobody would want to read my words. The process is way more involved than I ever imagined, and sometimes feels a bit overwhelming.
I have had to accept that rejection could very much be a part of this chapter in my life, and that’s okay. Because this is my dream. And dreams are worth pursing.
Pandemic Birthdays Are Actually Pretty Incredible
Being the last in our family to have a pandemic Birthday, I can say this with confidence – pandemic Birthdays aren’t what we are used to, but they are magical in their own way.
In the past year, there were no big parties, no goody bags, no elaborate themes – yet at the end of the day, each of my children has declared their pandemic Birthday was the best yet.
The days were simple, yet intentional. The expectations were few, which made everything seem that much more special. We created balloons out of our island light fixtures when we were unable to run to the store to get the traditional Birthday balloon. We had an outdoor, socially distanced scavenger hunt. We swam at our neighbor’s pool. Our oldest daughter took a trip to Barnes and Noble and was so excited to be able to pick out books at a store. And today, my husband and I are going to go to a couple of the small shops in our town, and I am so excited.
Simple things have taken on new meaning.
We don’t need something to be big, or elaborate, for it to be special. Just being with those we love, and having family around the table, is really one of the most precious things we will ever get to experience in life. And I am grateful for that gift.
God is Good All of The Time
Okay, I knew this before this past year – but over the past year this has been highlighted. God is good. So good.
And in a year when church attendance has been moved into our living room, and life is all wonky and upside down, I have found solace in His presence. I have run to His arms and found strength. He has filled my heart with peace and joy and gratitude. I have found comfort in His Word.
My faith has been stretched, and it has grown, over this past year. I had been in a dry patch I didn’t even realize I had wandered to, and this past year of struggle, and moments of anxiety and uncertainty, have brought me to my knees. And as I have looked up, I have found strength. I have found joy. I have found peace. In His goodness and in His promises, my spirit has been refreshed.
Regardless of what we are experiencing in life, God is good. All the time.