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

Dethroning my social media god

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My mornings had fallen into a predictable pattern.

  1. Wake up.
  2. Eventually roll out of bed.
  3. Shower.
  4. Proceed to my laptop.
  5. Read and answer emails.
  6. Read national and local news.
  7. Scroll down my Facebook feed.
  8. Take far too much time on 5, 6, and 7.
  9. Realize I’m running late.
  10. Rush to cook breakfast.
  11. Quickly read a few Bible verses while scarfing oatmeal.
  12. Pray in-between bites.
  13. Hurriedly finish my makeup and hair.
  14. Dash out the door to work.

Then one day, as I was wishing I felt stronger in my faith, it hit me.

An idol had crept into my life. Continue reading

Are you ready for Christmas?

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The calendar had barely flipped past November when I started getting the question.

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

Translation:  “Do you have all your Christmas presents purchased and wrapped, your house impeccably decorated, 100 Christmas cards sent, dozens of cookies baked from scratch, and holiday family gathering plans finalized?”

My typical response is, “Uh . . . not yet, but I’m working on it.”

What they don’t see, is that under my ugly Christmas sweater, I’ve broken out in red and green hives. Just thinking about the expectations behind the inquiry stresses me out.

One of my coworkers, however, doesn’t let it phase him.

It was only a few days into December when someone lobbed the question to him during a staff meeting. Without losing a beat, he responded: “YES, I am ready for Christmas.”

At first, we didn’t know whether to be impressed or jealous. But then he left everyone speechless when he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m ready because I have purchased zero presents and that is exactly the number I plan to buy.”

Inwardly I applauded his audacity for bucking the system.

“How nice it would be if ‘being ready’ didn’t equate to running about in a frenzy for a month and going into credit card debt,” I thought.

Then one day, I was poring over my mile-long holiday “to-do” list and flipped on the radio for some background music. As I numbly hummed along to “Joy to the World,” a phrase suddenly broke through and hit me between the eyes: Continue reading

When nowhere feels safe

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I was standing in line at Walmart when the thought crossed my mind, “What would I do if gunshots suddenly rang out?” I knew it could happen, because shoppers in a Colorado store recently experienced it.

Driving home, I passed my church, and reflected on the massacre in a house of worship in Texas only a week earlier.

Nearby I saw the college where I work, and envisioned our regular “active shooter” drills.

It seems as if our country has become a place where we can’t buy groceries, attend church, or go to school without fear that bullets will begin flying.

Maybe like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the rapid-fire succession of news stories detailing mass shootings. I’m almost reluctant to turn on my TV, computer, or smartphone, for fear of hearing about another incident. (In fact, since I began writing this blog, several more horrific gun violence incidents have been reported.)

It’s tempting to live in a state of denial, become de-sensitized to tragedy, or exist in a constant “fight or flight” mode in response. Yet none of these options are healthy over the long-term.

So, how do we keep engaging life with a sense of peace and purpose when nowhere feels “safe?”

Continue reading

When it’s okay to break a secret

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Can you keep a secret?” she asked. “Sure!” was my quick reply, thinking I was going to hear something light-hearted.

My friend then confided that she had been doing something inappropriate for several weeks. It wasn’t illegal, and it wasn’t hurting anyone, but I knew it was wrong . . . and so did she.

I immediately offered an alternative so she could stop what she was doing, but she adamantly declined.

We parted ways, and I felt the weight of an ethical dilemma sink like a boulder in the pit of my stomach.

If I broke her secret, I would betray her confidence and risk losing our fledgling friendship. Yet if I stayed silent, I would be part of a cover-up.

I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Continue reading