What Happened to Being “In This Together?”

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When the COVID-19 pandemic reached U.S. soil, the phrase, “We’re all in this together” sprung up across the nation.

As we made radical adjustments to our way of life, the statement somehow brought us comfort. It reminded us that we were not alone. It bonded us together in a fight against a common enemy. It helped us cope with a scenario none of us had ever imagined.

We hunkered down, joined forces, and knocked this insidious illness in the jaw. We saw the fruits of our sacrifices as we “flattened the curve.”

But sometime between that initial state of solidarity and now, something changed. The novelty wore off. The economic impact became more devastating daily, and we ached to return to our “normal” lives.

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Finding Peace During the Pandemic

Global pandemicState of Emergency.  Corona virus.

These are words that have rattled our sense of well-being and fed our fears.

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I’ve watched as the unseen enemy creeps closer. First it was overseas, then the virus arrived in the U.S. and spread to my state. Now we have the first confirmed cases in my rural county.

Even if you or someone you know doesn’t have COVID-19, I’m sure you could list multiple ways your world is different now.  I know I can.

The first wave of impact hit me at the college where I work. We’ve been scrambling to move classes to online learning, cancel multiple events/travel, and mobilize staff to transition to working from home.

Then the effect became even more personal. The community theatre production I was looking forward to participating in was cancelled. My 401(k) began to tank as the stock market plunged. My church moved its services to Facebook Live broadcasts, and my hairdresser suspended her operations.

But perhaps nothing provided greater evidence that life has changed than when I made a trip to Walmart two weeks ago. The gaping shelves and people nervously foraging for staples was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. Even the behemoth Amazon, who I could always rely on to deliver whatever I wanted in two days can’t keep items in stock.

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And of course, there’s the infamous toilet paper shortage. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have to ration TP—but I’ve learned that I can get the job done with just three squares. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited as when a box containing toilet paper arrived on my front porch.

Obviously, the things I’ve experienced can mostly be described as inconveniences in comparison to what people who have lost income or are fighting the disease are going through, but the stress all of us are feeling is real.

In times like this we often feel powerless, so I’d like to suggest seven things you can do to help increase your level of peace and help others in the midst of the crisis. Continue reading

The Quest for Contentment

I surveyed the empty chairs in the meeting room, estimating that a handful of people might show up. After all, the “popular” seminar topics were scheduled in the larger rooms and would draw the majority of conference participants.   Soon I began to see a steady stream of figures coming up the walkway and entering the room. They poured in until it was standing-room only.   I never dreamed that a workshop on contentment would have such broad appeal.

The lesson I learned that day is that the quest for contentment is universal, and for most of us, never-ending. But what is this elusive contentment? Bing Dictionary defines it as “a feeling of calm satisfaction,” and goes on to describe that it is results from “a circumstance, or a feature or characteristic of something that gives rise to satisfaction.” The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes it as “the feeling experienced when one’s wishes are met.”

These definitions may well capture how many of us view contentment. We’ve all had those moments (however brief) when we’ve emitted a peaceful sigh and felt that all was right with the world. It’s a beautiful feeling.   Unfortunately, if we are only contented when circumstances are perfect and all our wishes are met, we will spend the majority of life in a state of dissatisfaction.

Scripture lends a new light on contentment. My favorite passage on the topic is Philippians 4:11-13. The author, Paul, who certainly did not lead an easy life, states boldly, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

What is this great secret? Paul states “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”   He knew from first-hand experience that trusting Christ was the only way to be content, regardless of circumstances.   Whether chained in a prison cell or in the fellowship of family and friends, Paul knew that Jesus would never leave him.   He trusted God to meet not only his physical needs, but to give him mental, emotional and spiritual strength. Christ faithfully gave him an eternal perspective that enabled him to find peace and purpose in the harshest of times. As a result, he confidently proclaimed, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).”

The Holman Bible Dictionary defines contentment as “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.” Now that’s the type of contentment we can all have hope of achieving.

 

No one wants to be me.

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“You are living a woman’s worst nightmare.”

“No one wants to be you.”

These statements clustered like barnacles in the back of my mind, their sharp edges piercing my self-worth.

Of course, no one had said these things to my face. But the words were a composite of input from myriad sources . . . movies and tv, social media, books, work interactions, family conversations, even Christian circles. Sometimes the message had been subtle, and other times . . . not so much.

Before you protest such alarming self-talk, let’s look at the facts:

I have never been married.

I will never have any biological children or grandchildren.

I live a celibate life.

Can you honestly say this is or was your life goal, or something you pray for others (especially if you have a daughter)?

I didn’t think so.

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Money, money, money

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Amazon Prime makes it too easy. In two days, I can have just about anything I want delivered to my doorstep. Add Alexa to the mix, and all I have to do is make a request from across the room and she places the order for me.

To be honest, I’ve been on a mini-spending spree lately. There’s something about planning for a vacation that transforms my normally frugal self into a zealous shopper.

Some expenses can’t be avoided . . .like the airline ticket, lodging, and the dog-sitter. But the travel wardrobe is my downfall.

With limited suitcase space, I’m trying to put together a collection of clothing and shoes that is color-coordinated so I can “mix and match.” Then there’s the fact that some of my warm-weather clothes mysteriously shrunk during their winter hibernation . . .hmmm.

Bottom line, it’s easy for me to justify my frequent online shopping trips.

But the “high” I feel from my short-term retail therapy always comes crashing down when I receive my credit card bill.

One morning, as I was reading in the book of Hebrews, I caught a glimpse of God’s perspective on finances.

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