Today marks one month since I returned from my trip to Texas to attend a friend’s wedding. When I left for the trip, everything was normal. When I came back, the restrictions had begun. A week into quarantine I started writing a journal, so that one day I could look back on these strange times and remember what I did to pass the time and how I felt as the days went by. When I started it, I thought I’d only be writing about all this for a month, maximum. It’s funny how much things can change in such a short amount of time. I don’t know for how much longer quarantine will be in place. I may only fill up half my journal before we’re “released” or it may last long enough that I’ll have to pull out another journal.
But as I reflect on the past 30 days or so and the many changes that have happened in my life because of the pandemic, this time in quarantine has helped me realize 5 things I take for granted in my normal, everyday life.
As most of you know, I’ve been working at a half-day preschool at my church for almost four years now. Going into work every morning has been a part of my daily routine for so long, I don’t think twice about it most days. It’s just a given. It’s just what I do. Did I love it? Absolutely. But did I fully appreciate it? I used to think I did. I’ve always known that I have an amazing boss and co-workers and I’ve always had fun with the kids. But did I know what a blessing it is to wake up in the morning and have somewhere to go, somewhere I needed to be? To have people waiting for me to arrive and get things prepared? To have children hanging off my arms and begging me to play? I took all that for granted. Complaining (even about things we ultimately love!) comes second nature to us as humans. Why did I used to complain about getting up early? One thing I’ve noticed during quarantine is I have little motivation to get up in the mornings because I have nowhere to be. I’d give anything to have a reason to get up early now! (Well, most days… 😉 )
This one is easy. I knew before this that I took school for granted. I’ve always complained about homework, deadlines, exams. I’m not pursuing anything beyond a Bachelor’s degree solely because I’m tired of exam stress. But there again, schoolwork was another reason besides work that I got up in the morning. Because there were deadlines! There were assignments! There were things that needed to get done. Because my schooling is online and I take one class per month (usually) I’ve been in between classes for a bit while waiting to see how my financial situation would pan out due to this situation. This week I’m starting my next class (yay!), but until then, I didn’t even have homework to get up for. It was fun to have no homework for about two weeks and then I found myself missing it. I literally have never ever ever missed schoolwork before. I’m even surprised at myself as I type this, but it’s absolutely true. Because I love learning–I love history–I love learning about history–and I love my classes. Besides College Algebra (which made me cry), I have loved almost every class I’ve taken in college because it’s taught me something about myself or the world around me, and that knowledge is invaluable. Simply having something to learn about is definitely something I took for granted.
This realization surprised me. I’ve always loved my friends and tried to be intentional with them, and while I’m still reaching out to them through Zoom or FaceTime, I didn’t realize how much I took for granted being able do things with them: go out to lunch, see a movie, go to an event. To be able to hang out at each other’s houses and be with each other. I have quite a few long-distance friends, so I’m used to having to find other modes of communication besides being in person, but now all my friends are “long-distance”! I didn’t know how much I enjoyed hugging someone or being present with someone until I couldn’t.
This one is hard to admit, but I’m hoping by this point, you may relate to some of what I’m describing anyway. I have the privilege of teaching choir to 1st and 2nd graders as well as participate in the adult choir, both at my church. But again, how easily do we slip into the mundane and monotony of ordinary days. Every Wednesday night, I go to adult choir practice. Every Sunday morning, I teach kids choir. And every week, it’s the same. While I love both greatly, I would complain about getting up early on Sunday mornings or having to prepare for a difficult song. But I called both a privilege above because that’s what it is! I didn’t appreciate the fact that I get to serve God in this way–in a way I enjoy! And there is beauty in doing the same thing every week, in knowing what to expect and being able to participate in it.
5. Free Time
This one is a little different, mainly because I wanted to end on a more positive note instead of just talking about all the things I can’t have right now. 😉 During my normal, very busy life, I don’t necessarily have a lot of free time, but there is definitely a decent amount. So, why is it that I’m always saying “I don’t have time” to write, read, take a walk, etc.? I used to think I had legitimate excuses–but now that I see all that can be done in a day, I’m starting to wonder if that’s all they were: excuses. In the past 30 days, I have finished reading a book (as well as started a couple others), written in my journal almost every night, went through the self-publication process for The War Within (my favorite achievement so far! 😉 ), written 8,000 words in Everlasting’s prequel, chatted with someone virtually three or four times a week, gone on a walk almost every day and made great progress on my Beauty and the Beast cross-stitching project while watching a number of movies and TV shows (many that I’ve been meaning to catch up on for a while…). I’m willing to admit that because I don’t have work or a social life anymore ( 😛 ), I have more head space to be creative, but still…I know I could be implementing at least some of these things daily–if I really wanted to–if I really tried.
In conclusion, I’m beginning to think that God is using this quarantine to help me reevaluate my priorities and what I put my identity in. When literally everything is stripped away, who am I? This has been such a humbling experience for me, as I’m sure it has for many of you as well. What do I put value in and why? At the end of the day, what really matters? I’ve pondered these questions and more as I’ve gone through the ups and downs of several emotions in the past 30 days. Ultimately, I know three things for sure in this uncertain time:
God’s plan is not my plan.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8
But while I am not in control and am confused, God has complete control and understanding.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure. – Psalm 147:3-5
And my job is simply this:
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:14
I hope this encouraged you. We are living in very strange times, but we have a very powerful and loving God! I hope when all this is over, we hug our friends, go into work with a huge smile and love our life more than we did before. I hope we don’t take any of it for granted.