God, please grant us patience and grace with one another as we all navigate the challenges of COVID-19. Help us recall that different people are experiencing this pandemic in unique and different circumstances which influence their responses to it. Please provide peace especially to those who are navigating this time without the resources they need, or after job loss, or in isolation. Ease their burdens, God. Please protect each and every individual and provide extra protection for those who live in assisted living and nursing homes. Remind us again that we exist as part of broader communities, not unto ourselves, and allow us again to recall the values of bearing patiently with one another, sacrificing for one another, and limiting ourselves and our preferences in deference to one another. Move our local, state, and national leaders across our country, no matter their affiliations, to demonstrate and exemplify these values for our youth so that our young people may be encouraged. (John Joseph IV, Decatur, Alabama)
Genesis 28:10-22; Exodus 33:12-23; Matthew 28:16-20
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers from them all.” Psalm 34:18-19 (NIV)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
I’m skipping ahead today in recounting my emotional journey of what happened to our family in relative order, because I’m writing this on Father’s Day, and family is the topic on my heart, specifically missing the physical connection, touch, hugs, with my family.
Today is Father’s Day, a day on which we honor all fathers, dads, uncles, brothers, granddads, great-granddads, stepdads, foster dads, adoptive dads, teachers and coaches who stand in the gap for dads, doggy dads, cat dads, dudes who are like dads, dudes who are better than dads, single mamas who do the work of dads and then some, and anyone else who deserves a day to celebrate. Happy Father’s Day to you. We also remember those dads and other special guys that we have lost, and I can only imagine the raw grief that rises up to the surface for many on this day. I pray that God grants you peace and comfort on this day and always.
I had already decided that I was going to spend much less time on social media today. I’m really, truly happy for all my friends who are able to see their dads today. Honestly, I am. I am genuinely very happy for other people and today is no different. But I really want to see my dad today. And I really want to hug my husband today. Two things that aren’t going to happen. (I didn’t include Pop on that list because Flynn and I got to see him on our bike ride so we were blessed to wish him a Happy Birthday AND a Happy Father’s Day in person.)
My dad makes the best hamburgers. I mean, there’s nothing like them on earth. I lived in Miami for over a decade and I’ve traveled extensively. I’ve eaten in some of the finest restaurants in the world. But nothing beats one of my dad’s burgers. Undoubtedly if Coronavirus didn’t exist, I’d be eating one today and giving him a big hug and a terrible, but thoughtful present (I’m an awful gift giver; that is not my love language).
The worst is that when he called yesterday, I could hear the longing in his voice, wishing he could see us. He told me that he’d just finished weed eating at the house and was going to haul some hay over to the barn on the farm that afternoon. He asked what I’d been doing all day. Without thinking, I said, “Oh Flynn and I rode our bikes and Pop joined us.” Almost instantly I wished I’d left that last detail out. Flynn and I see Pop on our bike rides because we are all in COVID recovery and feel safe seeing one another outside like this. My dad is now 70. Even though he begs us almost daily to come to the farm during our recovery, I just don’t feel safe. I can’t risk it. I won’t risk his health. It’s heartbreaking because he would risk his life for us and he tells us he’s willing to accept the risk to see us. I mean, why wouldn’t he say this? He spent a career spanning more than four decades risking his life for us and a billion other people he’ll never know on behalf of, first, the US Navy and then the US Army. What’s some little virus compared to that? But I can’t. I won’t. And it hurts.
Then there’s Blake. If there’s ever been a superhero through all this, it’s him. Flynn was diagnosed first in our family. He originally chose me to quarantine with him, but quickly rescinded that decision and pointed to Blake after hearing he could play all the video games he wanted. (Next to being a terrible gift giver, I’m an even worse gamer. We all have our gifts. Those are not mine.) Once I tested positive, I came upstairs to be with Flynn and Blake went downstairs to be with Astin.
The downstairs parent bears the bulk of the responsibility during our quarantine. They have to cook the food and bring it upstairs for the upstairs crew. The downstairs parent does all the laundry. They wipe off all the deliveries, including groceries. They ensure everyone has their vitamins. They do the bulk of the cleaning since our downstairs comprises most of our house. When the upstairs crew calls for a snack or a drink, they deliver it (wearing an N95). When the upstairs crew wants to go outside to the yard, the downstairs parent stands at the door and opens it (again, wearing an N95), ensuring that the upstairs crew doesn’t touch any surfaces with our germy hands. And then they wipe and spray and clean again, on repeat. Basically the downstairs parent does the literal and figurative heavy lifting when it comes to running the house while we are split up during quarantine.
Today I awoke to Astin crying for me downstairs, “Mommy! Mommmmmmyyyyyyyyy!” With big tears rolling down her cheeks, she was pressing her back up against the front door, looking upward to the second story landing where I can come out and talk to her as long as I’m wearing a mask. She had a vice grip on a tattered and torn “Baba,” one of her muslin cotton swaddles from when she was a baby that she now carries to comfort herself. She was biting one end out of frustration. She just wanted a hug.
“Baby, Mommy loves you. Let’s air hug,” I offered from the landing.
“NO!” she screamed as Blake walked into view and I could see the torment on his face because he couldn’t pick her up either.
You see, last Wednesday Blake was diagnosed with shingles. Yes, shingles, while we are dealing with COVID-19. Add to this that he is the downstairs parent who is caring for Astin. Astin just turned four, which means she is only half-immunized for varicella, because you get the first dose at age one and the second at age four. And guess who hasn’t been able to leave their house to go to the doctor for that well visit? You want to talk about panic. God bless our pediatrician who made a personal phone call to talk me through all my fears surrounding Astin and the potential exposure to shingles.
Long story short, Blake cannot hug Astin because he has shingles and I cannot hug Astin because I’m still recovering from COVID. Try explaining this to a four-year old who just wants to hug her mommy, who just wants to hug her daddy.
But we try to explain it and we have adapted ways to calm her when she gets like this. Blake can rub her back and I can give her air hugs from the stairs. We tell her she’s loved and comfort her the best we can with our words.
When Blake was upstairs with Flynn and I was downstairs with her, Blake would stand on the landing and air hug Astin. Always the jokester, during the air hug he would say, “Oh, no! You’re choking me! You’re choking me!” and he would act this out. She would giggle and laugh and smile the hugest smile because even though she wasn’t physically touching him, she could FEEL him. She could feel his love.
This is how God is for us. We cannot physically touch God. Even as much as we want to, we can’t just reach out and hug him, but we can FEEL him. And we know that he is there. Just like my mouth is watering for one of my dad’s burgers, I rest in the faith that we’ll dine on the best burgers he’s ever made, once we’re released. I can literally taste it. Or how my arms physically ache to hold my baby girl, I rest in the faith that I will be hugging her soon. I can smell her hair and feel her soft skin just imagining it.
Just like this, we long to know God’s love, peace, and comfort. Even though we can’t see or touch him, we know he is there. We know he loves us and we can rest in that.
In one of the Bible readings today, Jacob dreams of a stairway to heaven and feels God’s presence in the place where he rests.
In the second reading, God tells Moses that his presence will go with him. But Moses wants more than just to feel his presence. God then says he will show his glory to Moses. After witnessing God’s glory, Moses was able to lead God’s people. God’s presence gave him great strength.
In the third reading, in the very last sentence of the book of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “And surely I am with you, always, to the very end of the age.”
God is always with us. And we are always with our loved ones, even when we are separated. Sometimes being with someone just looks and feels a little different than what we’re used to, especially right now.
Avoiding physical contact with family members or other loved ones during this time is hard. It’s especially hard if you are sick. I haven’t hugged my husband since May and here we are trying to close out June. I just want to hug the friend that I’ve had since seventh grade, the boy who’s made me laugh for more than three decades, my husband, my best friend, my rock. I just want him to hold me. I’d even take a hug after he’s run 20 miles on a long run day when he’s training for a marathon and he’s super stinky. I’d take that smelly, sweaty hug in a heartbeat right now.
Let God be your downstairs parent. Let him do all that heavy lifting for your heart and your soul. He will and he wants to. You can’t see him or hug him either, but you can rest in your faith that he is there. And he won’t leave your side until all those heart and soul downstairs duties are done. He is with you always.
Tips from a weary mama:
June is normally a busy month for us. We celebrate Blake’s birthday first. Then we celebrate Astin’s birthday on the same day as my niece’s birthday and my dad’s (Papi’s) birthday. Finally we celebrate Blake’s dad’s (Pop’s) birthday. Somewhere sprinkled in that mix is Father’s Day. As of today we’ve missed them all due to isolation. I have decided that we will celebrate next month in a glorious re-do of celebrations. Have you missed any significant events? If you have, pick a date in the future for a re-do celebration and start planning. It will give you something to look forward to.
On the upstairs/downstairs duties: if you end up in quarantine and you have help in your house, divide up the duties between you and the person(s) who are able to help you. It will relieve you of some stress. Trust Blake, you don’t want stress-induced shingles while you are dealing with COVID.
What physical connection are you missing most during quarantine? Journal some positive memories about times of physical connection with your family. Describe them in detail, such as how happy you were to hug your child on their first day of school or rolling on the floor with your dog to play. Remember these happy moments through physical connection. Then make a list of all the things you are going to do involving physical connection when you leave isolation. For me? I’m hugging that little girl and husband of mine like I’m a linebacker and they’re a confused offense.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for your sweet love and care for all your children. I seek this love and peace to envelop those who are sick with COVID. May you be felt as a comforting hug when physical touch from others cannot be. Touch their mind to bring your incomprehensible peace and help them feel the fullness of your spirit inside. I know that as they trust you, they will lack nothing. In Jesus’s precious name I pray. (Andrea Sharp, Decatur, Alabama)
The prayers I have chosen are from two parents who I think are good parents for a bajillion and one reasons, and two parents I think my entire community would agree are good parents for the same bajillion and one reasons and could then tack on a few more. We have been blessed to have lifelong friendships with both families and hold them in high regard.
I would also like offer a silent prayer today for those that have lost their dads or loved ones. Specifically today my heart aches for a family who recently lost a wonderful husband and father unexpectedly, another family who recently lost a beloved father and uncle, and a friend who lost her father to the same disease we are battling. June has been a hard month for loss. Please pray for their peace and comfort today and always.