“I like your shirt.”

That’s what I told a college student walking the beach last week. My friend Peggy and I stopped to chat with the young man, whose shirt read, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”. He and another student were on spring break, then heading back to clear their dorm rooms, move home, and complete college courses on-line. Their lives, like others, have been disrupted and dramatically changed. He pointed to his friend sitting on a beach chair. “He’s a senior. I guess there won’t even be graduation for him.” Commencement has been cancelled. Before we went our separate ways, we encouraged them to persevere, wishing them a safe trip.

Others, not just college students, feel life has been cancelled. Stores, restaurants, and other establishments have closed. I know someone who can’t get a marriage license and won’t have a wedding. Facebook posts and conversations with my grandchildren confirmed cancellation of school musicals, trips, proms, and sports. Seniors especially, are disappointed events, that culminate a senior year, will not happen.

As closings, statistics, and lives change from one hour to the next, we wonder how long this will go on. We don’t know, but we can choose how we will live in it. By now, we realize this is more than a snow day when we organize cupboards, drink hot cocoa, build a snowman, and know the snow will melt and the roads clear. It’s legitimate to say we are grieving our lost way of life: hanging out with friends, Sunday lunches, church services, and going out as we please. We look at our real losses of face to face life with people we love.

This morning when I closed an email to my daughters, I started to write, “persevere”., just as I told that college student.But after several days inside, instead, I wrote, “keep walking the treadmill.” 

Photo by chattersnap on Unsplash

I came home Friday after five days of watching sunrises over the ocean, looking out at waves coming in and receding, walking four miles on the beach, and much laughter and meals with friends. Now, metaphorically speaking, with social distancing and in “that age category” for self-isolating, I’m walking a treadmill within my four walls. I start my day with coffee, and end it resting my head on my pillow, thankful for another day. In the past three days, I added steps, but didn’t leave my house, except for a walk in my neighborhood, and very short selective distancing from my grandchildren and painfully, with no hugs.  My interaction is via phone, FaceTime, texts, and emails.

Our “treadmills”, as we self-isolate and implement physical distancing, bring opportunities in a new normal. In grief, we don’t deny reality; we do what we can when we are able to. In this crisis as we grieve loss of our former normal activity, we rest, process, and do what we can as we can. When we grieve, we grieve with hope and in this pandemic crisis, we can live with hope.

We can encourage one another (last week’s post). We can connect with a call, text, email to check in. Do you know a mom at home with children now supervising school at home?  A Facebook post gave links to virtual museums and resources of free sites for diversion, entertainment and enrichment. Share with her.

Many church staff and blogs have connection posts, encouraging thoughts, and on-line services. Church buildings are closed, but the church isn’t. A sermon may be given to an empty room, but the words are not empty. Once you view, share the links. Hold a watch party for your discoveries.

Use on-line streaming music. Let someone know how it encourages you; pass it on. Music can calm or energize us as we walk our treadmill.

Be creative. Check out my friend’s’ post on reaching out to others.

Read the scriptures. Jesus said, “Search the scriptures. They speak of me.” What is God saying to you in these uncertain times?  Peace, strength, trust, perspective, hope, security? What a time to study the Word and know the Author better. In our quiet house, away from outside distractions, can we hear the still small voice? Keep a journal of what you are learning and living.

Call someone so they and you (if you are alone) hear a live voice. I have enjoyed connecting with out of state friends, relatives, a shut-in, as well as locals and appreciate when they check in on me.

Pray with someone, or a group, over a conference call. I was blessed to be part of that creative opportunity last week.

Pray for others to be encouraged and safe, for those in authority to act with insight and wisdom; for medical researchers and scientists to work effectively; for health care workers to be safe and have renewed strength; for families to find joy, creativity, and security; for the virus to flatten and diminish; for those who are sick and for families who have lost loved ones; for people not to be afraid and to rise above disappointments with perspective, and _________.

Take time—we certainly have it- to engage in “old fashioned” activities with children: sidewalk chalk, board games, 500- or 1,000-piece puzzles. (My grandchildren are doing these.) and to send a card or note via snail mail, .

Be careful how we use our words in conversation and in social media. Let’s encourage, lift up, and be responsible. Criticism, or what someone thinks of as humor or sarcasm, can be negative, demoralizing, and destructive. Use social media to post encouragement- a quote, verse, humor.

Find humor and share it. The internet has clips of old comedies and clips that never get old.

When we walk on treadmills, we check our distance and increase or decrease speed. We adjust the incline. We do the same with our interactions: positive attitudes, thoughtful actions, wise words, and action within our ability.

So, on our walk on a beautiful beach, we had an opportunity to encourage two college students. But even on our daily treadmills, we have a significant opportunity to live and offer hope, to add steps and miles without leaving our homes for long periods of time, contribute to cardio health of personal growth, and encourage one another. We address this crisis realistically, practically, and spiritually remembering “The prudent see danger and act wisely, but God has not given us the spirit of fear.”

As you look at these opportunities for growth and reaching out, I hope you’ll share yours in the comments, May we be amazed at the outcome in these uncertain and changing times.

“Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)

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