Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Human Connection

I am a people person born before the days of internet. I love a good text message to share a meeting time or answer a quick question, but in my world texting isn't for conversations.  I love to talk on the phone with friends and family.  I love meeting a friend for lunch or at a coffee shop.  I love spending time getting to know people.  That is just me.  Its how I am.

The rise of the internet has gifted us with abilities and opportunities that were once unimaginable.  I love being able to video chat with my mom and my sister in Ohio.  I have friends in different states, countries and continents, and its amazing to stay connected and see their children grow up.  I can expand my business beyond my city and state, order my Starbucks from home, I can glean from ministries all over the world and even watch the daily life of my favorite celebrities.  It has amazing possibilities.

However, computer relationships are not the same as face-to-face human encounters.  When you look at our social media culture, I'm not sure it reflects this truth.  Sure the rise in suicides seemed to stand side by side with the increase in time spent online with social media "friends," and researchers and authors have shared that connection, but by and large, I don't think we truly believed we were missing much by replacing human contact with internet relationships, and if we did see it, we weren't doing a lot about the living online problem.

Then came COVID-19.  Thank God for the internet!  We would not survive without it, but even with the year supply of toilet paper delivered to our homes, and a weekly, or even, daily zoom meeting, a month or more into Shelter in Place and its obvious something is missing.  Can you feel it? There is this void where human connection once lived, because no video can duplicate the power of a human in your presence that you can hug and hang out with.  Something weird is happening, all of a sudden I'm getting phone calls from my introvert friends!  Why? Even those people who are fine on their own without many people around, still need human contact.  Their need for people time may be lower than mine, but its not, non-existent.  (I know, that is a double negative).

God created man and woman in the garden.  He started our world and he sent us out into the world he created with a desire for him and each other.  Guess what?  Relationships are an essential need.  I think this may just in fact be the jolt we all need to recognize a pivotal shift is imperative as we create space for more meaningful face-to-face relationships.

I hope this is a reality check that we need to block out time in our lives, put down our phones, and be with other people.  This isn't just to be there for others, but to fill an intrinsic need within our own selves.  Taking care of oneself involves relationship, both spiritual and human.

We need human connection to survive.  Something that has hit me in all of this, is the fact that if this were to be the new normal for the rest of life or even life for the next few years, then that is not a life worth living.  Taking out the personal freedoms and connection with people, takes all the life out of life.  I love my family and I love the time I get with them, but being able to move about the earth deepens those relationships.  Being able to be with friends meets needs I have that my family can't fill.

So what about you?  What have you noticed about human connection in this time?  Who are the people you miss most?  How can you let them know their value to you, even now?  How can you re-prioritize when all this is done?  How have you taken human connection for granted?  We have an opportunity to take advantage of this gift and balance out the benefits of our internet and local worlds.  Obviously, I'm not advocating you break Shelter in Place, but I am advocating for more intentional living when we are able to resume a life with people outside our homes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Letter to Your Future Self

Life right now is crazy.  My reality is a husband still going to work, me, working from home.  A special needs stepdaughter overcome with grief that her norm has been upset, a 9-year-old, 3rd grader in private school, doing all his work, quizzes and assignments from home. A five-year-old that wants us all to pay attention to her, and currently a kitchen with a sink that refuses to become unclogged.  Trying to make it all work, while trying not to cling too hard to the life rules of several months ago, is exhausting, overwhelming, and a bunch of other emotions I am not fully aware of.

In contrast, I am loving the extra time with my kids.  I love the slowed pace of all the extra things gone.  I love the walks and seeing complete strangers wave to me from afar as if we were besties.  As a girl who grew up in the 80's and 90's, I am reminded of a similar life.  Sure we did a lot wrong back then, and I wouldn't survive now without online connection, but we moved at a much slower pace and I didn't realize just how wonderful that was until it came back with COVID-19.

At this stage in the game, my focus is on a hug from a friend or a coffee date or lunch out.  I desperately want to quietly browse the aisles of a store and get lost in racks of junk I don't need.  I want normal.

One day, though I'm not sure what day, this will all be over.  We will be back to normal life, eventually, at least in some form.  When I think of 9/11, getting back to normal came with permanent changes, but hope still has me longing for some form of the life I lived prior to Shelter in Place.

There is another part of me.  This other part is calling for my attention.  This other part of me wants to take a minute and re-evaluate my life.  What if we could do more than just survive this pandemic?
There is an opportunity before me, don't I owe it to myself to take advantage of it?

Its an opportunity to re-calibrate.  What was in my life before everything came to a screeching halt that never should have been there?  What was I doing to impress others or do what was perceived as expected?  What wasn't happening that needed to be?  How could I keep some of the slow down and narrowed focus as I move out into life again?

Then I thought, I could write a letter to my future self.  I have a notebook of letters to my kids, and as I go through it, I remember some amazing moments that I have sense forgotten.  Being able to go there again, was wonderful and had I not written it down, I wouldn't have remembered it.

So go grab some actual paper.  Write yourself a letter.  What do you want to remember?  What do you want to learn?  How do you need to prioritize?  Put it in the end of your 2020 calendar or attach it to the side of your fridge and add a reminder to your phone to read it in 6 months or a year - sometime in the future.  Take advantage of the lessons our current situation is offering us and thank God for how he can transform us in the midst of what honestly, SUCKS!

Happy Wednesday! I'm pretty sure its Wednesday and I'm pretty sure its still April.  Not gonna lie, when I look at expiration dates in my fridge, it takes me a minute to figure out if they are still good.  I know this is hard, but I know my God is bigger and we all can come out of this with more gifts than we ever expected!  If you need someone to talk to, let me know.  I'm here.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Toddler Vibe

Ironically, I began writing this before our world got flipped upside-down with COVID-19.  It just seemed to become even more relevant afterwards.  So here is a mix of what I started writing few months ago with edits and additions today.

It started with a conversation I had with friends (face-to-face - do you remember when we could do that). One of them has an almost adult child that has had a ton of crazy stuff thrown her way.  My friend is trying to navigate parenting and is facing some major challenges.  As we discussed, another friend mentioned that maybe the challenge they faced was there because it was the only thing that she could control.

If you've had children or are around them, you know, that toddlers tend to cause problems in areas of food and potty.  Why?  Because that is what they can control.  Life is pretty much in the control of everyone around them, and powerless is a hard feeling.  You don't need years on earth to figure that one out, it seems just baked in from birth.  

Very little in life is in our control.  When life is going well, we can trick ourselves into believing we are in control, but even the most disciplined person faces obstacles they have little to no control over.  

Sickness, financial changes, loss, weather, crime...all of these things, and more, are things that we can't control.  We work to do what we can to help lesson the damage or cushion against the hardship headed our way, but truly eliminating trials just isn't an option.

Crazy just how true that is, now that we are all quarantined in our homes.  Truly knowing the hard feeling of powerlessness, is real for so many of us.  You may find yourself grasping for what you can control or throwing toddler-like fits over little things just because they are all you have left to hold onto right now.  Maybe you now have a toddler at home and are face to face with constant fits with no breaks because they don't understand why we can't go anywhere.

So how have you adopted your own toddler vibe?  All of this has shown me just how controlling I am.  I have my ways for grocery shopping and getting life done and all of they craziness in stores has disrupted that and I don't like it.  I've organized photos, DVD's, CD's etc because, sure, I'm not going anywhere, but mainly because its something I can control.

What does the toddler vibe show us?  I think when we understand it fully we can take a step back and look at our lives.

We can acknowledge the loss in our circumstances and grieve that loss.

We can create new rules and expectations for the current reality.

Then we can focus on what we can control.

Right now, I can avoid getting sucked into the drama and fear surrounding me, be informed and respond, rather than react.  I can be intentional with my time and focus on the beauty in slowing down.  I can have a good attitude in the face of hardship and nasty attitudes, because my attitude is something I can always control.  I can enjoy the beauty of my family and extra time with my kids before they get so big and grow up that I won't have them anymore.  I can reminisce about life in the 80's before the internet.  A lot of things weren't perfect then, but life was slower and that was better for us.

So now its your turn?  What in your life, whether COVID-19 or other life related, is out of your control?  What are you grasping for?  What do you need to grieve and how can you refocus?  What can you control?

Let's be honest, this sucks!  I'm not always sure its being handled the best way, and even the experts can't agree, but I can lean into God.  He's always in control.

This being Easter week, I got some great perspective because last Sunday being Palm Sunday, was a celebration.   As Jesus entered the city, people were out to honor him.  He was thought to be the promised Messiah  (which he was), but their expectation of what the promised Messiah would do and what we actually did, didn't coincide.  So when he was sent to die, they turned on him and instead of shouting, "Hosannah," they shouted, "Crucify Him!"  I guess that was their own toddler vibe.

But God hadn't disappointed them.  He wasn't doing what they were asking for and yet he was doing so much more.  By dying on the cross he became the last sacrifice needed.  He gave his life for us.  No more sacrifices needed.  He was and is the way!  But he didn't stay dead, he arose!!!  He was and is alive.  Whether we are congregated in our homes or in buildings we call churches, we are still the church and maybe this change in tradition can give us some fresh perspective on what Easter really means!  God bless each of you!