For over a year now I’ve had a date on my speaking calendar that, quite honestly, I couldn’t wait to attend. I always look forward to the privilege of speaking, but was especially looking forward to this one. The event was at a church in Houston, right in the heart of the community where I used to live. I knew so many friends who were coming and I couldn’t wait to see their faces and hug their necks. The words had been written and the talk was ready to go. The event was supposed to be today.
Moving last fall to a new city (after living in the same place for 23 years), caused the strangest thing to happen to me … everywhere I went, the grocery store, Costco, visiting churches, my son’s new school, anywhere …. my mind constantly felt like there was a browser open and it was searching for someone I knew. Over and over I could feel myself scanning crowds looking for a familiar face. My mind felt like the little circle on the computer screen that spins and spins and yet, when I would go to those places, it never found what it was looking for. It never found people that I knew. It was so weird! It happened so much that I asked a friend, who is a psychologist, if there was a term for this “syndrome” I was experiencing or if I was just weird (or both, haha!!). He thought about it a second and then he said “No, there’s not a term for what you’re describing.” I laughed and said “I knew it! I’m just weird.” And he said …“no, you’re not weird, you are a highly relational person. You love people and being around them fills you up. God wired you that way. This is all unfamiliar (and a bit unsettling) for you to go places in the city where you live and not know anyone.” He assured me that my mind would settle down over time. It did get better but I still miss seeing people I know along my walking route or at the grocery store or anywhere my day takes me.
All that to say, I knew when I got to Houston the google search in my brain was going to find what it was looking for … a room full of familiar faces and dear friends. And, even better, while I was there I was going to get to talk about Jesus.
I know that what I’m missing PALES in comparison to the disappointment of so many. It’s not even close. The graduating seniors, the brides, those with loved ones in the hospital or nursing homes that they can’t visit, birthday parties and family celebrations. It’s a lot.
Yesterday I thought about the talk I was to supposed to give and decided to go back and look at my notes. I was speaking on the faithfulness of God and how we can live lives full of faith. Right there at the top of my notes, (and I had to laugh), the opening story was called “when things don’t go as planned”.
I think we can all agree that things aren’t going as planned. These weeks look so much differently than anything we could have ever imagined. There are days I’ve felt as if I was living in a movie that I would never choose to watch.
There’s a familiar verse in Jeremiah 29, (verse 11), that says “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future”. It sounds so good… hope! And a future! But if you look at the scriptures before verse 11, you see that these are words God is speaking to people in exile. In verse ten he says they will be there seventy more years. Entire lifetimes. God says to these people in verses 5 and 6 … “build houses and settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce”. Basically he says… “you’re gonna be there awhile so make the best of it. Plant some flowers, play some board games, work a puzzle, take a walk”.
One of the joys of the quarantine, with my kids being home from college, has been having a walking partner again. My daughter tells me what time we are going to walk each day and then sets a (very fast!) pace. I think our dog Gretel and I both have shin splints. ?After a few days of walking with her along the path that I’ve walked along since moving here, she asked “mom, why do you always turn right on the path? Let’s go left”. And you know what? I loved the route to the left. It’s been good to change up the view. Something I’ve noticed along the route during these days is that parents are taking their children out of the strollers more and letting them splash in puddles. They are taking the time to blow the dandelions and pick the flowers that perhaps before they only viewed as weeds.
They know we’re here for a while and they are taking the time to find some joy along the way.
I think the lessons we are learning in “exile” (aka quarantine) are similar to the ones the Israelites were learning way back in the day. Enjoy where you are right now (and we’re here at least 30 more days). There is hope, and a future is coming.
I can only speak for myself but I’ve enjoyed more leisurely meals around the family dinner table, longer walks than normal and we finally hung some pictures up on the walls around here. I even told my husband I want to plant a garden.
Perhaps all of our minds right now are searching for the familiar. Our minds are spinning, looking for how things are supposed to be. And one day normal WILL return and I know all this social distancing is going to make our next hugs all the more sweeter.
I don’t know when I’ll get to give that talk on God’s faithfulnes but I’ll tell you this now …. He is oh so faithful. He has good and hopeful plans for our future. Keep looking for the joy along the way. Search for it, choose it… spread it.
And maybe even take time to blow some dandelions too.