Categories
Encouragement

5 Habits to Keep After COVID-19

It’s been three weeks of social distancing and self-containment, and truthfully, I’m growing restless. But as I think of the world slowly transitioning back to reality in the coming weeks(or months?), I want to take advantage of the lessons I’ve learned in the midst of COVID-19.

As I’ve been praying about where God is in all of this, I’ve gotten the vision of a seed. Just as a seed is planted in the darkness, hidden yet nourished by the dirt, at the proper time, the seed grows into a strong oak tree that cannot be shaken. Seeds are being planted in this season, and in due time, we will reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9). Here are some seeds I pray will take root in the world, even when life goes “back to normal.”

1. We Keep Washing Our Hands

This is an obvious point, but I’m not just talking about physically. This virus has taught us to be more aware of how our actions, attitudes, and illnesses affect those around us. “If one member suffers, we all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we remember to practice purity in our words and our actions. That we can remember the power of life and death that rests in the tongue, and that we would choose our words carefully. Though we shouldn’t distance or isolate ourselves, we should be wise in what we share with others.

2. We Stay Home When We’re Sick

During the beginning stages of the quarantine, we received an e-mail from a local business about their protocol to handle the virus, “Employees who don’t feel well will be required to stay home.” My inward response to that was, Shouldn’t that always be the case?

I confess that I’m guilty of going to work even when I struggle to get out of bed. I’m guilty of being scared to call my boss and tell them I’m too sick to come into work. When I do take a day off, I try to justify why it was the right thing to do instead of embracing rest. But this virus has taught me that going to work sick doesn’t help anyone. Especially not me.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we would see that our lives are more important than our salaries. That we would have the courage to admit when we genuinely shouldn’t go to work or participate in that event. Though we shouldn’t cheat the system, we should use the PTO time (or even the non-PTO time) given to us by our employers to refresh and restore ourselves, so we can return from our breaks as healthy, hardworking members of the company.

3. We Make Time to Rest and Grieve

During this quarantine, we’ve lost a lot. Seniors in high school and college have missed a chance to participate in graduation activities. Sports events have been cancelled. Some people have important events, like birthdays, weddings, baby and bridal showers, and welcoming new family members into the world.

Loss happens in this world, but when “life goes on,” the pain and grief we feel often gets pushed to the side. We have to put on a happy face and keep going. It doesn’t give glory to God to power through our pain. We need to be authentic.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that when we’re going through seasons of difficulty in the future, the world would be forgiving and let us reflect on what we’ve lost. But even when it’s not, that we would be bold in our tears and pain, knowing that our Lord holds our tears in a jar and is with us in the pain.

4. We Keep Up the Relationships We’ve Cultivated (Including With Ourselves)

In this season of quarantine, we’re getting the opportunity to see our loved ones up close and personal. I’m personally thankful for the chance to spend more time with my husband, who has been working from home instead of driving an hour each day into work. I’ve genuinely enjoyed the video chats I’ve been a part of and the chance to get to know my friends “face-to-face.” I’ve also found a new love for myself, discovering gifts and passions that had yet to be awakened because of lack of time.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we will become so saturated in love for our friends and family that meeting with them would never be a burden. May we be free from obligations and instead invest in where we want to be. Though we should still go to work and participate in the world, we should intentionally carve out time to sit with our friends outside and laugh at the memories created during the quarantine. And that we can recognize that self care is just as important as pouring into the lives of others.

5. We Wait on the Lord

The whole world is in waiting right now, begging for this virus to stop wreaking havoc on our land. While the day we see a break will be glorious, it will not signal the end of all waiting. There will be many seasons where we’ll be crying out to God just as loudly as we all now, our voices straining in desperation to be set free from this wait.

We were in that season of waiting for a house for a long time. After weeks, months, and years of prayers, saving, and sacrifice, we are driving to the bank to close on our first home. As we live in our new house, our new house, we will never forget the prayers we’ve whispered in desperation to God, the promises that He can do the impossible, and the faithfulness that carried us to see the fulfillment of those promises.

The same God who met us in our need is the same God who is with us now. And He’s the same God who will be with us the next time we’re in a season of waiting.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we never waste the wait. I pray that we lean into God and bring the deepest cries of our hearts to Him. Even though it hurts, I fully believe that God hears our prayers and He draws near to us as we draw near to Him. May we never take His presence for granted, even when we get everything back that we lost in this season of waiting.

Amen.


If you are interested in fiction stories, check out the short story I wrote this week about how I believe God is working during our global quarantine period. You can subscribe to my e-mail list to have an encouraging short story sent to you every Monday morning.

Categories
Encouragement

It’s Time to Rest

I love my job. Working from home, writing thousands of words a day, learning a treasure trove of information, and being part of an uplifting team. At this job, I truly feel like I’m doing what God created me to do for this season. After each shift, I’m so excited and grateful that I have the opportunity to work in my dream career.

Except, why am I so tired?

I Experienced Burnout, Even in My Dream Job

Truthfully, my first month on the job was fun, but it was also information overload. As a result, I was tired. I could even say a felt a low grade of depression. For a couple of weeks I wondered, if this is my dream job and I’m depressed, did I follow the wrong dream?

Over time, I learned that I wasn’t in the wrong career. I was just burned out. Even though my job is exactly what I want to be doing, it was too much. I needed to make time to rest, especially since I hadn’t worked full-time in more than two years before this job.

We all need rest, even from good things. Just ask Elijah.

Elijah Was Burnt Out, Even in His Dream Job

Elijah was a powerhouse prayer warrior prophet for God. Everywhere he went, miracles followed. One of the most prominent miracles of God that he experienced was up against the prophets of Baal, a false god. You can read about it in 1 Kings 18. God shows up in a supernatural way, putting the doubt of all people to death. Oh, and He also brought rain down on the land after a long drought.

But shortly after all these miracles happened, Elijah wished he was dead. Wait, what? No, seriously. In 1 Kings 19:4, Elijah says what we’ve all said at one time or another: “I’ve had enough, Lord.” He asks God to take his life. You could say that it’s the one prayer God didn’t answer, but actually, He does.

Elijah Needed a Nap and a Snack

Right after this declaration, Elijah falls asleep. Sometimes, we just need a nap! But then when his nap is finished, an angel wakes him up and tells him to eat.

A literal angel made Elijah literal food. All of a sudden, there was bread and water in front of him. So, he did the wise thing. He ate. The food so strengthened Elijah that he traveled forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God.

During this dark time, Elijah learned the value of rest. He learned that, even when good things happen, these good things can’t sustain him. He’s human. Like all of us, he needed to rest after the emotional roller coaster he endured, even in the midst of the miracle.

The Importance of the Rest in Our Lives

Rest is so important to God that even He rested on the seventh day. He set an example that we all need to follow. The Sabbath reminds us that we’re human, that we can’t give our 110% all the time. We need to intentionally step back from our ministries, our jobs, our daily lives for just a moment to unwind and reflect.

Oh, and of course, to take a nap!

Most of my close friends know that I can’t stay out past ten o’clock at night. It’s a boundary I’ve set for myself, because I know that I can’t be (ahem) very Christlike past that hour. The truth is, I wake up early in the morning, so I’m tired by the end of the day. I’m human. I’ve recognized the importance of sleep for my sanity.

Key Takeaway

While most of us in the world are in isolation due to a virus that’s still not fully known to us. As a result, we have a ton of time on our hands. Of course, life goes on. We still have to work. But maybe, in our free time, we can make some time for rest.

Even though it seems like nothing is going on (you’re stuck in your house!), you’re going through a lot of mental and emotional stress right now. Recognize your need for rest, and make time to unwind.

This week, I challenge you to literally schedule time to rest. Here are some questions to get you thinking about how to rest properly:

  • What basic necessities (sleep, eating healthy food, working out, spending time with family, etc.) do I need right now? How can I fulfill what I need?
  • Think of your life as an empty cup. What activities and people fill the cup of your life?
  • What would spending a Sabbath with the Lord look like for you? What activities would you give up? What activities would you take part in?

 

Categories
anxiety

Hope in the Storm

The images of Hurricane Sandy are still in my mind.

In October 2012, nearly eight years ago, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast. If you live in this area, words may flash through your head to describe the experience.

Tragedy.

Destruction.

Nightmare.

Apocalyptic.

Even after the storm had run its course, we still suffered the consequences. Lines at the gas station clogged traffic for miles. Our homes were without power for weeks. Trees were everywhere, knocking down sheds and crushing cars. And I know that all I need to do is type the word flood for every Long Islander to shudder.

Are We Still in a Storm?

If you’re not from the east coast, you may not believe that some of us are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Some homes, especially near the water, are still being rebuilt. Those looking for homes need to consider property taxes and the massive flood insurance tacked onto the price of a house. Many of us live in fear of another destructive storm wiping away everything we ever knew.

I could argue that we are in a storm right now. But instead of a visible storm, it’s one where we can only see its effects. This post isn’t to make light of the severity of the situation. We have enough people making jokes about stores running out of toilet paper or the President cancelling student loan interest. This post isn’t to ignore what has already been said about how to respond. We should keep washing our hands and staying alert as the world tries to navigate this virus. But what I don’t see a lot of right now is hope. And I want to encourage you to look for hope, even in the midst of isolation, fear, and uncertainty.

Allow me to do that by sharing my experience during Hurricane Sandy.

What Happened to Me?

In 2012, I was in my junior year at Nyack College. I was dorming with my best friend in an all-girls hall. Besides my roommate, I didn’t really talk to the other ladies on my floor, except in passing. I had no reason to leave my personal bubble to pursue a friendship with any of them.

Suddenly, the news in the dining hall warned us that a storm was coming our way. The rain, wind, and darkness came almost as soon as the warnings. Before we knew it, classes were cancelled and we were asked to find shelter. We waited days that turned into weeks for our life to go back to normal.

Lots of Darkness, Wind, and Uncertainty

If I could describe my entire experience during Hurricane Sandy, it was what I saw out of my window each morning. From the third floor corner room, a tall, thick tree swayed in the wind. Every day, I wondered if the wind would eventually rip it up from the ground and send it flying into our window. But even after the storm, it stood strong and in place.

That’s how I want to be in the middle of life’s storms.

Even though classes were cancelled, we were required to complete homework assignments and midterms. When I tried to flick on the light in my dorm room, I was only met with darkness. Oh no. The power was out. It was dark in my room, and I was alone.

Until I opened up the door to my room and discovered the hallway light was on.

Coming Out of Hiding

Apparently, the other ladies on my floor had this same thought. We all ended up sitting outside our bedrooms, our laptops plugged into outlets in the hallway. And suddenly, we started talking to one another.

Our conversation started out as complaining about the weather and the spotty internet. But then it got deeper, and as the winds and rains pounded on our windows, we were laughing at each other’s jokes and playing UNO on the floor.

We made a daily habit of hanging out in the hallways. We worshiped louder and stronger than ever before, because we had a reason to believe that God is faithful in every season of our lives. Even the ones where the darkness overshadows the sunlight.

The Silver Lining in the Dark Cloud

During Hurricane Sandy, I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I would’ve never paid any attention to them if it wasn’t for the tragedy that we all shared together. Even after the sun came out, we chatted with each other on the way to class and ate meals together in the cafeteria.

The images of Hurricane Sandy were brutal, but they were also beautiful. In the midst of darkness and depression, I discovered true friendship. While eating microwaved bean burritos in the dining hall and covering myself in blankets to keep warm, I found joy. Even though my school made an announcement that we should go home in this state of emergency and my home was without power, I learned how to be strong in the face of fear.

Hope in the Storm

So while we are washing our hands and stocking up on essentials, like we should, we should also be aware that these storms are part of life. After this coronavirus has ended, we’ll face another one in a couple of years. I know this because we’ve been through a number of storms in the past few decades. I mean, have you seen the news? Violence, destructive weather, and deathly illnesses have been on our headlines for centuries. We’ve gone through storms before, and we’ll get through this one.

I’ve gone through some storms in my personal life, as well. These personal storms that may seem small to you, but were catastrophic to me. But, like the tree that rocked back and forth in the harsh wind, God kept me grounded and secure.

May God strengthen us and give us hope even in the midst of these uncertain times. I thank God for all the medical staff and experts who know how to handle this virus better than I can ever imagine. But I know that we will see the end to this.

For now, let us be grateful for the chance to rest, for the opportunity to connect with family, and for the promise that God is doing something so great in our midst that we can’t even comprehend it.

An Ever-Present Help

Psalm 46 is a reminder that God is in control and He is with us:

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

“The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

“Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.

“He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

“The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Amen.