What’s Your Search Engine?

Anna and I faithfully watch our favorite show, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, each week.  I love sitting down with her on the day after it comes out with a cup of coffee and bringing it up on Hulu.  Yesterday I woke up with the song “Mad World” in my head because I had been listening to the playlist from the show the night before.  I was humming it all day and kind of laughed at the irony of the name of the song in this time.  Then  I realized that, like many songs from my growing up years, I didn’t know most of the lyrics.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have found out that I was singing made up lyrics because despite the best efforts by my teenage self doing the whole “play-pause-rewind-play-again -and-write-things-as-I-went” process, I still couldn’t quite catch what they said. I will always remember laughing at my sister because she thought that the words “You make me feel like a natural woman” were “You make me feel like a mature woman.”  Often when I google the real lyrics now and it comes up instantly I think, “Well, that makes much more sense.”   Kids today – they don’t know how good they have it!

I guess in some ways that’s true about so many things.  The internet is a powerful tool.  Recently I heard someone didn’t own a Bible.  No worries – open up Bible Gateway or any number of other apps.  Not only do you have instant access to almost any version of the Bible you want, you have commentaries and concordances galore to make your reading more in depth if you desire. This is true of any books – unlimited libraries instantly.

I love smart phones.  I never have to wonder too long about anything, really.  My personality loves that.  Want to know what that flower is?  Google lens, snap! Do you want to know what actress played on a certain sitcom?  Ask Siri.  What’s the weather supposed to be like Sunday?  “Alexa, tell me the weather for Sunday.”  And my favorite invention  – Google Maps!  My husband hates it because he thinks it makes people not think.  But for those who get lost going two blocks away (ME!) it is the invention of the century.  FREEDOM!

But here we sit in pandemic still.  Believe me, I am still very thankful for the internet.  We were on lockdown in places before where the internet shut down when things like this happened, or power was so sketchy you could never be assured of even keeping your phone charged.  Forget streaming Netflix when you can barely pull up your emails.  But having been in this 1 year now (1 year,  people!!) we are feeling so weary.  It feels like I have watched all of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.  I have walked so many miles around my neighborhood that I could do it with my eyes closed.  The novelty of being able to bake my own bread and food from scratch in case of a real apocalypse has definitely worn off.  I miss my family and friends – many of whom I have not seen in real life in over a year!  I miss parties and gatherings without social distancing.  I miss hugs and high fives.  I miss walking around without a mask.  And I miss worshipping together on Sundays and feeling the power of so many people lifting praise at the same time.  All I want is an answer to, “Alexa, when will this be over?????”

Sometimes I try to use God like a search engine.  “Hey, God, tell me the plan.” I want an instant answer that is clear and filled with concrete data – no grey areas of faith. My mind has been trained to type or talk instantly and receive the answer just as fast.  Sometimes I am even guilty of accepting the first thing that comes up without researching a little more.  I just want something that sounds like it could be the real answer quickly so I can move on to the next thing. I don’t like waiting.

I know the end of this particular crisis seems to be coming soon, and I am so thankful for that. But there will be another thing that happens – another crisis, another trauma, another time of waiting in the unknown.  I am asking God to help me be ok with not knowing the answer, but rather knowing the One who does knows the answers.  Because I know that is the real meaning of life anyway – to glorify him and enjoy him forever.

God is not a search engine, but he does have all the answers.  I just need to trust that he will reveal in his time for my good and his glory.

The blog From a a Year Ago

I was going through my blog in the “drafts” section to see what things I had started and then never finished to try to clean it up.  I came upon this blog that I had started a year ago – the night before Anna was coming back from Kenya unexpectedly early and we were getting ready to go on what we thought would be a singular lock-down just to make sure she wasn’t sick.  By the time I reached the store the news of Europe closing it’s borders was hitting and people were starting to panic, so I walked into a jam-packed store (that was pre-mask and social distance order) and this is what played out:

“It’s real…That knot in your chest.  The lump that you try really hard to swallow.  The short, fast breaths that make you tell yourself to breathe deep and count slowly.

In this time of uncertainty I feel it pressing in constantly.  Last night I was in the store and it was as though I was walking through a movie scene for a dystopian movie.  The lines were all the way to the back.  People’s carts were full of whatever they could put in.  The store had no milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper, flour…the shelves were empty.  I had only gone in to get a few key things, but as I sat and watched others I started to panic and anxiety crept in.  Maybe I should stand in line for the next couple of hours and buy all the cheese, pasta, and peanut butter I could find. Or maybe I really do need all the gatorade I can fit in my cart.  Or maybe I should buy all the medicine I could find because we are bound to get this virus and have fevers and might run out of gatorade but Tylenol would take the fevers down, but RJ can’t swallow a lot of pills so I should buy a bunch of kinds so that I could be sure of having something he could take, but then what if he still can’t and then he’s really sick and we have no food and people have gone crazy…kind of like my mind in that moment.

Last night in the store I came across a few people that reminded me of something important – this life is not all about me.  I stood as I was waiting (patiently, I promise!) for a store employee to move his cart that he was stocking shelves with and I looked around me.  There was a young man about my oldest son’s age.  He looked a little shell shocked, honestly.  He had some pasta, some granola bars, and a box of milk in his hands.  He was looking at Tuna but seemed a bit like he had no clue what he should be doing.  I wanted to tell him to walk alongside me and let me help him figure this out, that he wasn’t alone. I wanted to give him some sort of assurance that he was doing the right thing in buying a little extra, but that he should not give into the fear that was pulsing through the store.  I wanted to – but I didn’t.  Because in the moment I was scared and panicky.  I was thinking of my own son and wondering if someone would help him in this situation, because how does a 22 year old young man on his own for the first time know how to react and prepare when it seems like the world has gone mad?

I also saw an older woman trying to get a few things.  I helped get something off a shelf for her as people rushed by ignoring her because by this point I was starting to get my senses back.  As I prayed against the fear I felt my own panic subsiding.

I think we are going to be facing some new, uncharted things here in the next couple of months.  We are not a country that really knows how to do crisis well. We’ve lived in places where we had to evacuate from war and go on lock down due to election instability, and I never saw the chaos that I saw last night in the grocery store.  May God show us clearly what he wants us to learn from this. “

Did you catch your breath as you read? I know that now, on this side of things, I can see how scared we were as a country. We have seen half a million deaths in the US during this pandemic that were related to the virus. Probably no one reading this was spared knowing someone personally who suffered greatly in some way because of it. Jobs have been lost, houses lost, marriages and families that were already taxed disintegrated during quarantine, and some people who lived on their own spent months never seeing another person or having any sort of human touch.

Yet here we are at what seems to be the end of it. What did we learn? Or better yet, what are we learning?

This weekend I saw my newborn nephew. I had been considering and reconsidering going, worried about if I would bring something to him unknowingly. But my sister really wanted me there, and as I sat and cuddled him and I stroked his fuzzy, perfect little head and breathed in newborn baby, I felt hope again. My niece who had come as well fell in love with him and said he was a powerful baby. I had to agree – there was something almost intoxicating about this new little, extremely miraculous life that we were holding. He reminded me that God was not absent from the events surrounding us this last year, but that even in those he showed himself powerful, merciful, and redemptive.

See, my sister and her husband had tried for over a decade to have kids. Hope sprung up a time or two only to be dashed violently in the pain of miscarriage. Then Lincoln happened. In the middle of trauma and chaos and pandemic and pain, a new life was formed. He was not the “Covid” baby – ones that were birthed from the extra time at home that we are seeing happen all around us (not that those are any less miraculous or full of hope!) But here was a living, breathing, beautiful, seven-and-a-half-pound bundle of life that we had prayed for over and over again for years. God chose to answer that prayer in the middle of one of the darkest times our world has seen in recently.

It makes me think of another baby born into chaos, darkness, and hopelessness. One who came and brought joy, healing, and True Life with His birth. So what have I learned this year? I have learned (and forgotten and relearned many times) that no matter how dark it seems my God has not forsaken me. He leans in and listens. He catches my tears. He hems me in, behind and before. And when it seems darkest, he brings redemption and life that starts to seep into the cracks of the walls I have built up around me and he reminds me of the true victory that is mine through him. I am so thankful for that.