Make Quality Out of Quarantine

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Things are different these days. We really didn’t need a blog post to bring that to our attention, huh? Well, don’t worry… This isn’t an “enjoy the blessings in this moment” post or a “suck it up and protect the people around you” post. This is a post for all those parents who are struggling being home with their children and are having a hard time enjoying anything about it. I see you. I don’t blame you. I was you.

This is NOT a judgement. I come from a place of understanding, because I hit a patch of the self-quarantine lifestyle before quarantine was a normal part of our vocabulary. Your life right now is something you never could have seen coming. Even if you heard of it, it’ll never be the same caliber as living it. This was me falling into parenthood. And I say ‘falling’ because it felt like I took a giant dive off a cliff, not knowing if there were sharp rocks or soft pillows on the landing (much like how we are feeling today, no?). My case of postpartum depression left me unable to make sense of anything, let alone my new role and family dynamic. So are you ready for the truth? Because I bet it’ll surprise you.

You have post-normalcy depression.

Listen, it’s 100% appropriate to grieve the state of the current world. It seems we are inundated with graphics depicting the dire situation, the death tolls, the overworked healthcare workers and the system that’s supposed to manage it all. Rightfully so, we need to take strict precautions to stop the spread of Covid-19. As a result, our world has gone into an almost total shutdown, leaving many out of work, students without school, and businesses in a bind.

You have no choice but to feel like you have to be thankful you’re healthy and safe, but you’re also clouded by worries of what’s happened and what’s to come. There’s this uneasy nudging inside you that things are not okay at home. This new state of imbalance between our work (or lack of work) and our kids’ schooling and everybody’s needs has left us gasping for air. The last thing we are able to throw ourselves into is being teachers of our kids while barely managing our own selves. Having kids at home all day makes it feel near impossible to accomplish anything and that’s just the plain truth. Dare I say that some of us actually hate it?

Let’s pause for a second and allow me to put words in your mouth: You don’t hate having your kids at home all day. What you actually hate is the loss of routine and the sense of normalcy you once had. You don’t hate having to school your kids. You hate that you haven’t figured out how to teach them successfully yet while maintaining your own prior work and home life. You don’t hate that they ask for snacks a hundred times a day. You hate that it’s one more thing you have to manage and you wished they would manage it responsibly for themselves.

For some wretched reason, we’ve all come to believe that parenting is mostly instinct. That is a lie. Would anybody dare venture and say that marriage is instinct? Never! In fact, it appears to be widely accepted that marriage takes work. You don’t wake up one morning and just know how to live with another person in your space all day, and expect it to go smoothly.

PARENTING IS NOT INSTINCT. It’s only instinct in the same way that you know to blink and shield your eyes when you see something flying at your face. It gives you zero guidelines for controlling something from ever being thrown at your face again, though. You might know that the general idea of parenting is to help your kids survive which loosely translates to feeding them and sheltering them. You may also hear “just love them,” but even THAT looks different in every family. If there was a formula, I know a lot of authors and a lot of psychologists who would be out of a job for lack material to write about.

Being in a new relationship dynamic takes work no matter what the scenario looks like. You have to take time to understand it. You have to fail at it and try again. You have to develop and foster the relationship with your kids and it takes time. Let’s also not dismiss that your kids need time to adjust, too! They also have to learn to see your family in a new light. You all had just figured out how to do life while they were in school many hours a day and then meeting up for homework and dinner. You all had just figured out how to make it to the extracurricular activities while balancing personal commitments. All of that has to be completely abandoned in this situation and nothing is as it should be or would be.

It took me literal years to understand myself as a wife, then a mom, then as a stay-at-home mom. I doubted myself and my abilities every step of the way and there were many times I wanted to U-turn or dig a deep hole and bury myself in it until it passed. The amount of sheer distress when I realized neither was an option and I just had to keep pressing forward left me tired and drained. I can feel through many statuses I’ve read and memes posted and comments liked and conversations shared that this isn’t too far from how many of you are feeling right now. Can I offer some hope? For the sake of your sanity and theirs, stop expecting yourself to be great at something you’ve literally never done before.

You get to make this whatever you want it to be, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. Everything takes training and time and commitment. I called many of my friends after staying home full time when I had children and cried about how it just wasn’t working. I even confessed a few times that I thought I hated that I had kids. I know that’s completely awful, but they were real feelings because of my uncertainty. (Note the difference: I hated that I had kids, not that I hated my kids.) It guts me now to remember that, because these days it’s the only thing I see myself doing and I love it.

What changed? Did my kids become easier? Did they miraculously become well-behaved, obedient angels? The answer is a resounding NO. I changed. I learned. I prayed my heart out for God to help me and I reached out to my support system. I gave and I took and I experimented until I found something that worked for us. Am I out of that learning phase completely? Absolutely not. Every milestone in their life and ours sends us darting back to the drawing board, and that’s just the story of life. I know this isn’t some groundbreaking news to many of you, and yet, I see lots of people upset that things aren’t going the way they planned, and it’s clouding their path of how to make it better.

So, practically, what do we do? First of all, throw out what you THINK life should look like and focus on what works. You may have in your head an image of each kid sitting calmly before their assignments, completing it mostly independently, and then playing peacefully with one another while you remotely work on your own laptop for a typical work day. Just go ahead and toss that in the trash now. It might end up that way, but not yet. If you think the best and most quality learning happens only in the classroom, you have fallen into a common misconception. I think any of us that have trained for a job know that the best practice is actually doing the job, not learning about how to do the job. Your kids learn a lot from school (praise the teachers!!), but there is SO MUCH LEARNING to be done at home. You tell your kid that you need a zucchini cut into halves or fourths, they’re learning math and then cooking it is chemistry. You go outside together for a walk and notice the texture of the bark on different trees, that’s science. You sit together on the couch and engage in conversation, that’s language arts. You play games together with winners and losers and turn-taking, that’s social-emotional skills.

But since you’re probably going to have to turn in assignments, a more practical approach is frankly, whatever works for your family. I can’t tell you what it looks like for you and that’s kind of the whole point of this post. I can give you ideas of what other people have done and things I’ve tried, though, and you can give it a test run:

  1. I know some parents have tag-teamed their work where one parent gets a 2 hour uninterrupted work cycle while the other parent helps the kids with their tasks, and they switch.
  2. If you’re in a situation where there is a single parent at home at any given time, this is going to take kid-training. Set realistic goals with your kids about what they need to accomplish and how much time has to pass before they are allowed to come and ask questions.
  3. Maybe in your family, it would work if everybody is sitting in the same room together working, fielding questions as they come, but there’s a sense of camaraderie that everyone has something to finish.
  4. Maybe your kids are pretty independent, but there still needs to be a point of connection which can be over midday dessert and no work is involved– you just sit and chat and catch up. Depending on the age and the personalities of the people in your family, this will obviously take different forms.
  5. Don’t make them do work every day of the week. Choose 3 or 4 days that are work days and the rest are breaks so nobody is burnt out. Let them help you decide what those days are. 2 of those days don’t have to be the typical “week day,” because time is actually in your favor, believe it or not! Choosing a Saturday might help since you probably won’t be working.

I have no idea if any of this will work for YOU, but you can try. So here’s my sage advice if you’ll take it: Give yourself LOTS and LOTS of grace, but don’t exempt yourself from the work. All these people out there who enjoy the company of their kids didn’t happen upon this feeling. They put in the effort and figured out what would make a beneficial environment for their family. This situation is hopefully temporary but we don’t know just how temporary.

If we are lucky, we won’t just go back to normal. Instead, all the things we will have taken for granted will be our prized possessions and we will guard them with our lives. If you ask me, investing in figuring out your family dynamic is one of those things that you get to keep with you forever! The novelty of having that won’t ever wear off, even long after quarantine is over. So make quality out of quarantine and take this time to see your family for who they really are– the people you love.

A Prayer for Those Fearing This School Year

During vacation, my husband and I managed to steal away a day alone at the beach, thanks to the grandparents.  It was the perfect time to relax and mostly reflect, as so often happens when all is silent around you except for the sounds of mostly waves.  It was a largely uneventful day, until the wind had picked up and the tide became quite vicious.  People were still in the water like always, scarcely heeding the ocean’s bellows to take caution.  

There were two teenagers in particular on bright green surf boards who were out pretty deep in the water. The lifeguard had begun blowing his whistle for wayward swimmers to come in from the deep, but these two weren’t really changing course.  Soon, we saw a woman walk to the shore and begin yelling out, “Campbell! CAMPBELL!”  She waited with hands on her hips for any of these girls to turn around, but either they couldn’t hear her or they were directly ignoring her.  The mom stepped a couple feet into the water, this time cupping her hands around her mouth for projection.  “CAMPBELL!!! CAMPBELL!!!!!” she kept shouting.  Still, no answer.  

My husband and I exchanged glances.   I sat up, literally on the edge of my seat, wondering if I needed to join voice forces and also start screaming for “Campbell” as if I knew her.  Even among the crashing waves, the lifeguard whistles, and the screaming mother, the girls were still blissfully unaware of all the warning signs.  They either didn’t seem to sense any danger whatsoever OR they thought they could handle themselves just fine. 

The mother turned around, looked back at the shore briefly, and realizing there was no other solution, dove straight into the water.  She was still clothed in her cover up, but she swam like a fish anyway to reach those girls.  By this point, my husband and I were tuned in fully, because we weren’t sure if this would turn into a rescue mission of three people instead of two.  Thankfully, all that tension I built up in my head was null and void, as the mother was finally able to get them to heed her calls as she got closer to them.  They all swam back to shore together, and the teenage girls took their walk of shame with surfboards over their heads, while the few onlookers stole glances at their faces. Their mother walked ahead of them, wringing her clothes of saltwater, and trudging through the sand. 

I looked at my husband and laughed a little sigh of relief.  I whispered to him, “That was awesome.” 

Nobody, assuming they’re of sane mind and love their children, would think twice in order to jump in front of a car to push their child out of harm’s way.  No parent would bat an eye at standing between our kid and a bullet, God forbid.  And like this mother, whatever fear of drowning or sea creatures or crashing waves she may have had was absolutely no hindrance, as the objective was clear—Save Your Child.

But as the school year is upon us, here we are standing amidst crashing waves and murky water, aware of the danger but not sure whether to jump in or not.  Our kids are there… RIGHT THERE.  What does “saving” them look like right now?  Letting them out? Keeping them inside? Many would read this and think “alive is better than happy,” therefore the choice is obvious. But to the people who say this, while yes in plain terms you would be correct… you have obviously never experienced depression.  Depressed isn’t alive, either. 

I’ve ached over this for so long and lost sleep several nights.  I cried in Target looking at the kid masks because I was overwhelmed at the idea of my little babies in masks all day. I didn’t know what to do or think.

So, are you ready for my big solution? 

If we, (speaking for believers, here) approach all our decisions with pure intentions, humility, prayer, and a sound mind with the belief that we are doing what is best for OUR children… God will honor that.  In whatever way that outcome looks, He will honor our parenthood.  He gave them to us to borrow, but they are His.  If we are turning it over to Him, how could it be for bad? 

Disease is of this world, not heaven.  Fear is of this world, not heaven.  Death is of this world, but certainly not heaven.  And as Christians, we are not of this world, either.

God knows our hearts and He knows our love for our children.  How much more does He love them since they were His first? For whatever reason, we have made our dream for what life here should look like more important than the one He promised us.  Maybe it’s because our brains can’t imagine the heaven He’s promising.  We have been consumed by brokenness and sickness for so long in our current world, that one without those things simply doesn’t seem real.  It’s a messy time and there is a lot of conflicting opinions out there right now, most of which reside inside my own head.  

If you’re like me in this way, then I leave you with a small prayer and hope you can use it to encourage you too:

Dear God, for reasons that you have deemed fit, you gave me beautiful children to minister to and take care of.  The world is filling me with lots of confusing information about what is right and wrong for them, and the noise is loud down here.  Please Lord, silence anything that isn’t coming directly from You.  Please make up for my shortcomings– my selfishness, my doubts, my confusion, my desire to control the situation—and show me what Your Glory can do.  Lord I am making this decision for my children but I know I am not making it alone. Comfort my heart and remind me in a big way that You are present in WHATEVER place my children will be.  I am trusting You to give me Your strength as needed for whatever may come.  I am begging you to honor my decision and know that it comes from my desire to please You, so that I may take care of them in a way that honors You. God, I will do my best, and I will let Your grace, Your sovereignty, Your wisdom, and Your love cover the rest.  As you told Joshua, “Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I trust Your protection, Lord, so I am handing this to You. Amen.

May the God of Comfort ease our fears today and always.

Shifting to My Inner Circle; Moving on From Social Media

Click: “Post”. Click: “Edit”. Click: “Share”. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Social media was once my entertainment and outlet for boredom. At some blurred moment in history, it has shifted into my source of news, taking over my emotions and sometimes my common sense. Finally… it became the place where I lost myself. The pandemic has spiraled me into a social media aficionado, even more than I was before, as it became my biggest, easiest, and “safest” escape from life at home.

I use quotes around “safest” because while it kept me from interacting in person with others during COVID fears, it most certainly isn’t the safest place for me mentally or emotionally.

Sometimes I wonder, “Is this the kind of parent I would be if I wasn’t looking at everybody else’s home life?” “Would I feel rage about this subject if I didn’t see how many angry, red-faced emoji’s responded to that status?” “Is it only a matter of time before my words are used against me in some future endeavor, seeking to destroy my credibility and blow up my life?”

Whatever I say on social media can and will be used against me either to slander me or to denounce me by people who do not know my heart or me as a person. It’s not that I’m scared of my own opinion or sharing it, but here’s the problem… I hate hate hate to say this, but most people on social media do not have others well-being in mind. You are everyone’s sweetheart until you dare to disagree, thus stifling the truth in many cases. They’re not seeking to educate or help or grow one another. It is the modern guillotine, and it’s only a matter of time before you find your own head on the chopping block. I confess that I have spoken foolishly on matters I know not enough about, and sadly, that’s what social media has done to a lot of folks. It has elicited a sense of pride or anger or sadness or joy in things that normally they wouldn’t waste their breath on. Sometimes this is for good because ignorance was rampant before social media, but many times, it’s also for bad, as people have begun to speak as if their tablets and phones are a shield. Their courage is misguided and used in breathtaking ways to insult and tear down and pick apart others– something they would never do without a screen.

I will not be bullied into saying I feel something I don’t feel or say something I wouldn’t normally say. I’m not insinuating that the reactions I’ve had to events have been false thus far, but I do often question who I would have been if I wasn’t so heavily shaped by what I take in through social media, either by reading through other statuses or reactions to my own. For better or for worse, it has stripped me of my natural sense of self and molded me into an “anybody” instead of a “somebody”. Without my realizing, my opinions have been diluted by other’s level of offense to it, and my stories have become nothing more than just that – stories – instead of lessons and a place of education and development and personal growth. I realize that this is more of a personal problem than a general one, but I desire true growth, and that is MY truth.

In earnest, I can say the following: Between having a conversation (or debate) on social media and having a conversation (or debate) with my inner circle, only ONE of these has resulted in personal growth.

The same words when spoken to my inner circle, are used to refine me. The difference is that my inner circle has my best interests in their hearts. They know me. They have the end goal in mind, and that is to reach heaven. They do not desire for me to crash and burn for the sake of them being right, but rather that they may use edifying words to lift me and guide my feet on the path. I am allowed to be wrong, I am allowed to change my mind, and I am allowed to be honest without fear of repercussions for what I’ve said in anger or exasperation or depression or otherwise. That is not to say I will not be corrected by my inner circle, nor do I wish to speak into an echo chamber by any means. But realistically, who are you more likely to accept correction from? Those who have shown their loyalty to your being and your spirituality, or from those met-once-in-high-school-during-an-extra-curricular-activity coming out from the woodworks 20 years later to explain to you why you are a menace to society and plain wrong?

I will not be taking to social media to express my advocacy for whatever the current season of anger or fear or injustice is, because I will be advocating within my own home where change is really made. My posts do not elicit change, but my actions DO. I need to come to terms with that. My “woke-ness” does not come from how many times I declare it publicly. It comes from how I raise my children, how I lovingly challenge my friends and challenged BY them, and how I carry myself.

Unfortunately, social media is a double-edged sword. While it has the power to tear down mentally, it also has become a fast and efficient route to getting word out. For this reason, I have decided to redefine my relationship with social media. I will be phasing out of my personal account and into a personal growth one, used for the way that I believe God intended me to use it. I do believe that God has given me the gift of words (something that has taken me an incredibly long time to recognize and admit out loud without feeling ashamed of it), so getting off altogether would be stifling that.

I will end with this: I do not desire to hurt a single soul, but I do believe it’s okay if we disagree. That is not a personal attack on you, and it is not a declaration of apathy towards you, but rather it is a place of divergence. We are not always on the same page, and I am comfortable with that. I pray you will be too.

If you would like to follow me on this journey, please follow my new page “Cognizance: A State of Mind.” It is the sister page to my blog by the same title.

May the God of all Love help us grow in peace and unity, for He desires us as ONE body.

Even When It’s Not About You, Your Voice Matters

“My daughter, my daughter, I can’t find her.  I can’t find her, she was just here.”

A small crowd started gathering around this distraught woman. We were at the Kite Festival in DC two years ago, and I was walking with my then 3 year old daughter.  I inched closer to the sounds of this woman. I didn’t know exactly what happened and yet, almost like tingling spidey senses, I felt a familiar “mother’s worry”.  My heart told me something was very, very wrong.  I walked up to the woman and I asked her, “Are you okay?”

“My daughter,” she said. “My daughter, she was just here. She was just here.” She absentmindedly repeated these words, her feet planted firmly in their spot.  She held one hand to her forehead and the other on her hip as she pivoted her neck back on forth, trying to see over the crowds, relentlessly pursuing her child with her eyes.  It was like she was frozen in time, afraid to move in case her daughter came back, her gaze darting all over, trying to make sense of any direction among the droves of people.

My heart sank.  I went back to my husband, instructed him to hold the kids closely and let him know briefly my mission and that I would be back. I returned to the woman and asked her to show me a picture of who we were looking for.

She handed me her phone and I laid my eyes on a beautiful brown, five year old girl, wearing a purple shirt.  It was a picture her mom had snapped just a few minutes earlier.

I walked to every blanket strewn along the Washington Monument, careful to step over water bottles and belongings and the people blissfully ignorant to the terror unfolding near them.  “Have you seen a young girl with a purple shirt?  She’s lost.  Her mom is looking for her.” I tried to speak up over the music and the announcers and the volume of people talking.  I repeated it a thousand times until I began to hear that same question being murmured by an army of other parents, as more and more mothers with the same fearful nightmare questioned all in sight.  It was louder there now, but no longer because of the joyful sounds of the festival, but rather the echo of that lost girl’s mother, heard through all of us as we took matters into our own hands.  That mother didn’t move an inch from where she was standing, but her voice and her fear resounded through our mouths as we paced along the National Mall hunting for this girl.

After a good while of searching and questioning, I made my way back to the mother to see if there were any updates, JUST in time to see a stranger hand the child back to her mom.

It was in that moment that the girl’s mother was reduced to tears, grabbing her daughter by the shoulders, screaming thank you to I’m assuming God, and shaking violently at the feel of her daughter safely in her arms.

I felt my eyes burn hot and I turned my face away quickly to not give away my emotions, only to lock eyes with all the mothers around me who also began to cry. We crumbled with relief, tears flowing freely from all of us, our deep collective breaths rustling the leaves.  We were able to see again and breathe again… and smile again.

Here is what is most moving to me about that:  We knew no strangers in those moments. That girl was not our child.  She wasn’t even a child we had met before.  She wasn’t part of a family we had any sort of connection with.  But every. single. one. of us felt within our soul the sheer terror of that mother.  We picked our hearts up from where they had fallen by our feet and marched to the side of that woman because we didn’t have to have experienced that kind of loss to know what a tragedy it would have been.

Now imagine if you will, that (God forbid) her story did not have a happy ending with a safe return.  

Imagine if any one of us there, while in pursuit of her whereabouts, would have seen someone hurting that child, or shoving her into a van, or pulling her by the shirt away from her family against her will.  What do you think would have been the reaction of all of us there?

I wonder how many of us would have stood by passively? My guess is, there would have been a collective uproar, with shouts and screams, an aggressive chase on foot, and we would have all momentarily been transformed into an army ready to fight and rescue.

I wonder if anybody would have questioned why we weren’t remaining calm, or why we were moving so fast, or getting so angry, or not waiting to pursue “proper avenues” to bring a swift justice?  I can’t see a world where anyone would question our drastic measures in that scenario.

Now here we are, witnessing the black men of our community being lost.  Their families are frozen in terror, while what should be normal every day activities, become death sentences.  They have waited patiently for far too long, and far longer than any one of us would have if it were our families being picked off before our eyes.

That little girl returned safely because we all became the eyes and ears and hands and feet of that mother.  Not a single aggressor would have made it out alive if that child were being taken against her will, because the band of humans on that day wouldn’t have allowed it. 

We may not call ourselves kidnappers, but if we witnessed a kidnapping and did NOTHING to try to stop it, then what are we? We may not call ourselves racist.  But if we witness racism happen and do NOTHING to stop it, then what are we?

It is of upmost importance that we stand up with our black brothers and sisters and support the cause and support THEM.  Of course nobody wants violence, and riots, and broken businesses, and flames!  But how many of your children would you allow to be taken before you began to take matters into your own hands?  How many ways would you try to get the attention of a vast majority who don’t even believe your words or dismiss the narrative of what you saw with your own eyes? 

Those black boys and girls ARE our children.  Those black men and women ARE our fathers and mothers.  Don’t stand by while your family is being taken from before your eyes. Don’t question the means in which they pursue justice if all their prior efforts have fallen on deaf ears.  Don’t belittle their reactions to murder, when it would have taken much less for you to fight if it concerned you.

We want the justice system to fight on our behalf, but sometimes that isn’t what happens, and it’s time to recognize that.  After seeing that officer’s rap sheet, we all should question what forces and powers protected him for so long that he even made it long enough to have the opportunity to kill George Floyd? And what kind of justice was he so sure he would avoid that with a smugness, he suffocated a man even with witnesses blatantly recording him and openly challenging him?  Tell me, what is the proper avenue for breaking down a confidence like that? I’m waiting.

I believe that God’s justice will rule over ours, but actions have earthly consequences.  I will also not be held accountable before God for letting His family be treated this way.

So, I stand with you. #BlackLivesMatter

Happy Lovers of Others Day

I have deemed today “Happy Lovers of Others Day”… This goes out to all the friends, coworkers, partners, loved ones, and family members who have never shared a last name with a little person by birthing them or otherwise… but offer support that rivals the strongest mothers.

We may set aside a day for mothers and fathers for the way they love their children (rightfully so), but this is to let you know that you too deserve a special day of recognition. Having never had a child does not make you void of the kind of love we celebrate on those days.

You are not forgotten and we love you. This is for you… Happy Lovers of Others Day!

For you, who would stand behind us to catch our falls, go before us to lead our way, and stand beside us locking arms to anchor us.

For you, who would willingly chase us through the mud, despite the debris being kicked up in your face from our careless steps, to keep us from making the worst mistakes of our lives.

For you, who would adorn our ears with highest praise, and acknowledgment, and honor, just so we would never forget our worth.

For you, who would kneel before God until your knees are sore and ashy and chafed, to intercede for us when we are troubled, or longing for something, or are thankful beyond words.

For you, who would touch the sky when leaping for joy, holding banners and posters, and deafening us with thunderous applause when we reach our goals.

For you, who wouldn’t mind tackling us to the ground, straddling us, prying our eyes open with your thumbs and forefingers, so we would see the chaos we have made of a situation we are being too stubborn or too blind to notice.

For you, who would weep bitterly with us in our losses, opening your arms far and wide, waiting to accept our very broken embrace as we crumble in yours.

For you, who would smile with your entire face when you catch a glimpse of our names popping up on your phones, or meet our gaze as we walk up the driveway to see you.

For you, who would know how to make our bellies ache and muscles we didn’t know we had intensely sore from laughter, because once again, you know us too well, or you brought up that inside joke, or you did or said that goofy thing we love.

For you, who would drop everything at a moment’s notice and show up at our front doorstep to provide us with nourishment; the kind that fills us physically with food, or spiritually with prayer, or emotionally with understanding.

For you, who would never stop teaching us, not only by what you say, but by the examples you set in how you treat us and conduct yourselves and your relationships with those around you.

For you, who would share all the practical and cool things we didn’t know like the cooking hacks, or the budget shopping trips, or the organizational tips, because you desire to make our lives easier if even for a moment.

For you, who would see inside of us, like TRULY see us… you know our darkest secrets, our deepest desires, our worst fears, our craziest dreams, our biggest regrets, our greatest insecurities… and you proudly declare as part of your heart anyway.

Thank you. THANK YOU… for making us the objects of your love. You have somehow unlocked the door to a really hard and pure love and you have kept it open for all of us to walk through. You deserve this day and more.

We love you, we appreciate you, and we see you.

Share this with someone in your life that should hear any or all of these words. Their recognition is important and this kind of love needs celebration, too.

Holy Week at Home, as told by Mary and Martha

Image source: https://www.stignatius-stmary.org/holyweekathome

While the New Year may symbolize the renewal of a calendar year, for many Christians, Easter seems to symbolize the renewal of their Christian faith.  We maintain our love of God year-round of course, but there is an inexplicable energy and revival that comes with Holy Week, the Paschal praises, and the Feast of the Resurrection. We spend every Sunday at church throughout the year, sure.  But undoubtedly, our day to day lives can make us complacent in our spirituality.  

Except for when Holy Week rounds the corner…  That is when we all take pause.  Our prayers are more intense.  Our understanding of His love is deeper.  Our time is intentional. For many Orthodox Christians in fact, time belongs to church and church only during that week.  In the Orthodox tradition, there are multiple lengthy services every day of the week leading up to Easter.  Though liturgy can seem long to some of us, we make exception for that week when we relish that extra time in the beauty of the church, letting the praises adorn our ears.  

Then this year happened.  None of that will be coming to fruition this time.  Home is where we will have to make our peace, for better or for worse.  I felt the grief from many friends when that announcement came out… and it got me thinking.

I cannot deny the necessity of being in the church, and the partaking of the sacraments, and attending the services.  But… what if this time at home is EXACTLY what God needs of us? 

Hear me out.  I am NOT saying (nor will I ever say), the church is extra noise and we have no need of it to have a relationship with Him.  That is a fallacy and I will never think it or speak it.  Now that I’ve put that out there, I want you to dive into this new perspective with me.

Is it possible, that maybe, JUST MAYBE, we have put all of our relationship with God into the church prayers and services, that we have forgotten how to be with Him on our own?  Is it possible that we rely heavily on the church’s guidance for how to pray during this time, and have used it as a replacement to our own personal efforts to connect with Him?  

Let me take you back to the story of Mary and Martha as a clue.  Back when Jesus and His disciples were making their rounds, they stopped at a village where two lovely women named Mary and Martha opened their home in service to them.  We are familiar with the events, but for recap’s sake… Jesus began to speak and teach, so Mary sat at His feet and listened intently.  Meanwhile, Martha slaved away in the kitchen doing the things that undoubtedly needed to get done.  These people in her home needed to be fed, things needed to be cleaned, and drinks needed to be served.  No one would dare blame Martha for the work she was doing.  It was an absolutely necessary service to all those in her home including herself.  

And yet, as Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was doing none of the work, Jesus actually applauded Mary for sitting, and learning, and listening.  In fact, He said to Martha (who was annoyed with her sister), “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

What is that one thing?  That one thing was GOD himself!  Mary chose the relationship over the service and He was perfectly content with that.  I’m sure at some point, the disciples would have been hungry and things would have needed to be done.  Martha was not doing a wrong thing… But in that moment in time, per Jesus, only one thing was needed.  Consider Jesus is speaking to you here.  I’ll put myself in context and you fill your name as needed: “Madona, you are worried and upset about many things (losing Holy Week and Easter in the church), but one thing is needed (ME).  Mary has chosen what is better (ME), and it will not be taken away from you.”  

Even though the world has taken away the church services as they happen IN church, God has not left.  He has not been taken away.  And it is the one thing that will NEVER be taken away from us.

So? What if He is asking us to be a little less Martha and a little more Mary concerning the Church?  Not always, but just in this time?  Can we make purpose in this and not take a backseat to our spirituality, using church as a cover?  Can we push out that noise of grief over what we are missing and focus on what we have?  In short, what we are willing to do inside our homes that will push us to explore our personal relationships with Christ? Maybe we will be streaming services, setting up altars, or preparing Biblical lessons for our kids. Yes, maybe it will all look different, but God hasn’t left and the glory of His resurrection will never be confined to the church walls.  It is plain and evident for all who look for it.  

There are so many resources out there right now at the tip of our fingers that can bring Holy Week and Easter to life in our homes.  We have an opportunity to be fully hands on with our children without fear of noise or distraction to others.  We can answer questions and we can teach freely what we know right in the middle of streamed services if we need to and even look up what we don’t!

** Finally, if you are looking for a way to help your kids have the right perspective, check out these FREE Holy Week Resources from Bridges to Orthodoxy!  https://bridgestoorthodoxy.com/pages/holy-week-resources

The website also has some amazing easy-to-follow lesson plans that any parent can download and teach Sunday School at home.  In fact, this blog was inspired by one of the lessons from “In One Peace” – a Unit from our new school year, which will be available after Holy Week. 

May the glory of this blessed week and Holy Resurrection be with us all, Amen!

About the Author

My name is Madona and you should know from now that I’m not this super exciting person who has lived fabulous adventures… but I do have a habit of trying to maintain perspective through life’s situations. I’ve come to find out that this is a skill I had to try to have, not one that came naturally. I also don’t believe I’ve achieved this fully, because it’s a work in progress. There are times when I get derailed and it takes time to get back on track. What I always knew, however, is that if I was going to survive living, I had to be cognizant of how I approached my life. Being cognizant meant that I would approach situations trying to understand rather than trying to make it what it isn’t. That means spending less time wishing things were different and more time trying to pray, seeking support, and making things work.

I happen to be a wife to an active duty Army officer, who is a solid rock in our family, and I honest to God don’t know what I did to deserve him. I haven’t met a man yet who is more devoted to doing what’s best for his family’s needs. He is one of those behind-the-scenes workers who does all the heavy lifting but never gets the credit. He also is an introvert who got stuck with an extremely extroverted family, so I often ask him to figure out what he did to receive us as punishment! As for my kids, I have the two smartest and most beautiful children you’ll ever have the privilege of meeting, if you get that chance. They will make you laugh and call you their best friends because they are some of the most social creatures. They will also make you want to plug your ears because they can talk to the day’s end without getting tired and have one heck of a scream. None of us are perfect, but we are perfect for each other.

All I know is that if it wasn’t for my strong support system of my amazing husband, wonderful family, beautiful friends, and faith in God’s providence, I’m not sure I would be mentally stable enough to get words out, and that’s the truth. I hope this blog provides insight that you may have needed or even just a sense of camaraderie that your feelings aren’t falling on deaf hearts. This isn’t just another blog. It’s another perspective.