Ride 16 – Love Love

Opening Prayer:

Dear Lord, You are the amazing God who does over, above and beyond all that we ask or imagine. Please touch our hearts and minds during this crisis.We acknowledge that . . . without You, we are nothing. We also acknowledge that without You we are helpless and powerless to do anything. So, during this time of crisis, we come humbly before Your throne of grace. We ultimately know that You are the Great Physician and the Great Healer. More importantly, we know that when we surrender our hearts, our minds, our very lives to You . . . You will NEVER leave us, and You will never FORSAKE us! To that end, we are eternally grateful. You ARE the God who heals. You ARE the God who sustains. You ARE the God who says, “Fear not for the battle is the Lords!” Thank You Lord for Your grace and mercy. Thank You for Your divine provision, sheltering us in the shadow of Your wing, upholding us with Your mighty right hand. You are God . . . and beyond You . . . there is no other. All these things we humbly request in your name . . . AMEN. (Michael T. Klein, Command Chaplain, US Army Materiel Command)

Readings: 

Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:40-48

Bible Verses for the Day:

10Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:10)

13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

Devotional: 

Today we took another first ride. Flynn started back to school and, appropriately, we rode our bikes to get there. I’m going to be honest with you, two months ago, I questioned whether or not we’d see this moment. 

We decided to ride our bikes today for many reasons. The students and faculty at Flynn’s school are all required to wear masks (which I fully support and for which I am thankful). As someone who trains others in PPE, I felt that if I was going to ask my child to wear a mask all day, I wanted his lungs to have as much freedom to breathe fresh air as they could beforehand. It’s exactly what I would advise in my training, and what I prefer to do personally before I wear PPE all day. Also, he’s an active child and what better way to work out all the jitters before having to sit at a desk most of the day. He’s an active child because we are an active family, and we live less than a mile from his school. A small part of me has always felt silly driving there. Plus I loved riding my bike to my elementary school and wanted him to experience the same joy. And exercise gives you endorphins which make you feel happy and what better way to start your first day of second grade. 

Then there’s the obvious reason. You’re reading this blog because this is Ride 16 of our 17 bike rides. It was only appropriate that we show up today in the same way that gave us the motivation to beat COVID in June…on our bikes. 

It’s been six weeks since we were reunited with our family downstairs. We’ve been cleared by our infectious disease doctor and hopefully by now, my family doctor’s office has contacted our state health department to let them know we belong on that glorious “recovered” list. 

Since gaining our freedom, we’ve had antibody testing done. Blake was not surprised to find out he was negative for the IgG COVID antibodies because he never tested positive for the disease. I was delighted to confirm that Flynn had antibodies. But we were absolutely baffled to learn that even after I tested positive twice (no conspiracy here, two different PCR tests conducted at two different testing sites and analyzed at two different laboratories), I tested negative for IgG COVID antibodies. 

I struggled with this news. I was SICK. Looking back, that was the sickest and most scared I’d been in a very long time, if ever. My road to recovery was hard, with symptoms that would return just when I thought I was well. How could I test negative for antibodies after all that? 

I did a lot of research. I talked with several physicians. I almost had more tests done, until my “dream team” of doctors talked me out of it. Each of them separately asked, “What will it do for you? What if you are positive for antibodies? What will change?” The answer to that is nothing. I still have to be careful for my husband and for my daughter. Having antibodies wouldn’t change a thing, other than give me a possibly false boost of confidence that would do nothing for my actual safety. 

My “dream team” talked with me extensively about the power of T-cells, the cells that would retain memory of fighting COVID long after my body recovered and my IgG levels had waned. They told me to have faith in my body, to treat it right and keep practicing good hygiene and safe health habits. The words “have faith” were used many times while discussing my invisible immune defense. 

I equate this to my walk with God. I need to have faith in Him. I especially need to have faith that if He trusted me with this beautiful family, that He also has a beautiful plan for us, a plan to create something beautiful from all this suffering. He will not forsake us. 

We lost the entire month of June to a 39-day isolation. We waged war with COVID until it had taken eight, yep that total increased, EIGHT family members hostage to its ravaging effects on our bodies. Some were lucky and were asymptomatic. Some of us were mildly ill. A few were hospitalized. If COVID didn’t affect our physical bodies during that time, it wore us down mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. 

COVID is HARD. 

Today was the first day of school for Flynn, a day that I wished for every day during the month of June. Not for me, although when I was trying to get back to teleworking, I may have wished for it a little last month. But I wished for school to start back for Flynn. He needed to be there. We had to find a way out of our isolation and get to today.

As I’ve talked with a few friends about how we’ve chosen to navigate school and live our lives through the rest of this pandemic, I have the luxury of looking at things from the BC and AC perspective (remember that ride? Before COVID, BC, and after COVID, AC). Flynn has antibodies, so there’s that nugget of knowledge. I also lived out the fear we’d all been watching unfold on the news since March. From the first phone call of our loved one’s positive, to the night I couldn’t catch a good breath, those things we feared in the spring came to life in our house this summer. 

Looking back, there are a lot of things I’d do differently, and a lot of things, I’d do all over again and then some. The problem is that I have a hard time taking my work hat off at home. I’ve been looking at my family and my house like an environmental engineering problem. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around an ever-evolving situation and it’s just caused it to spin out of control. I’ve blamed myself, felt shame, and worked through immobilizing anxiety and fear. 

What I’ve discovered on this journey is this: There is no right answer. There is no right way to do things. And there is no wrong decision if you’re acting out of love. 

Have you ever had a really good porch sit? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are missing out. Just writing this, I long for a really good porch sit. I can feel the cool autumn breeze on my skin. I can smell fall in the air. I can even taste the warm dips and barbecue. I can also hear the words of a very special friend and I can almost see him saying it. 

LOVE LOVE. 

We had this really amazing friend (my husband’s lifelong friend) who loved a good porch sit. Sometimes he’d just stop by for no reason but to sit on our back porch and talk. We could be really raw in our conversations with him. We could bare our souls and our brutal honesty would always be met with unconditional love. In his words, love love. 

This friend was a talented artist and I’m lucky that the walls of our house are covered in his art. Some pieces we commissioned. Some pieces we bought from him at art shows to show our love and support for him. And some pieces were gifts. 

At my sickest, I isolated in our guest bedroom. We once had this geriatric cat with fiftyleven health issues. She loved that bed. When she died, our friend painted her portrait and when he brought it over, he hung it himself over that bed, where it has stayed ever since. If I’m being honest, I really want to move it, but I can’t bring myself to touch it, because our friend hung it about a year before he passed away.

While I was fighting COVID in that bed, I would look up at that painting and I would think of our friend. It brought me a lot of joy to remember him. But during that time, I really needed to hear his words. The whole damaged world needed to hear his words. Love love. 

Our friend once brought over a painting of our dog that now hangs in our foyer. I remember him pulling up to our house, his car still running, and shouting at me to come look at something in his trunk. It was that flat 5×7 canvas of our dog. It looked like a watercolor and was absolutely stunningly beautiful. He had captured our tough Doberman so delicately and exquisitely. Then he told us the story of how he painted it. He said he’d been driving by a construction site and saw some workers shoveling dirt. He loved the color because it reminded him of our dog. He rolled down his window and yelled, “Hey! Can I have some of that dirt?” He made a face imitating the weird look the construction workers gave him. When one cautiously said, “Sure?…?…?” (seriously, who asks for dirt?) our friend jumped out of his car and began mixing it with water, and finger painting on the random canvas he found in his trunk (those of you reading this that know who I’m talking about know that you could pull anything out of the trunk of his car, am I right?!). When the mud dried, he traced our mud-painted dog with a Sharpie (a good chance that was also found in his trunk) and that’s how the delicate, exquisite, beautiful, simple 5×7 watercolor-looking painting of our dog that hangs in our foyer came to be.

One thing I missed most about having to live upstairs for the month of June was walking past that painting. And I missed being able to lay under that painting of my geriatric cat in the guest room. What I learned from that mud painting is this: You can take the dirtiest situation and create art and love. You can turn something ugly into something beautiful. 

Since I get to speak from the luxury of AC, I think it’s important to remind you of all these things: There is no right way to navigate COVID. There are no wrong decisions when you make them out of love. We all need to love love a lot more than we’ve been doing. If we do all that, I promise you that you will make something beautiful out of this ugly situation. 

We did. On our bikes a few months ago. And on our bikes again today. We ride to remind ourselves to have faith and to hope and to trust the Creator who will not forsake us. We ride for love love. 

Tips from a weary mama: 

Let me repeat: There are no right answers. There is no one right way to manage this. There are no wrong decisions. You are doing your best. Love love, yourself included. 

Journal: 

Starting back to school in the middle of a pandemic is crazy overwhelming. What worries you most? How can you have faith that God will see you through those fears? 

Closing Prayer: 

Most merciful and Triune God,
We come to You in our weakness.
We come to You in our fear.
We come to You with trust.
For You alone are our hope.

We place before you the disease present in our world.
We turn to You in our time of need.

Bring wisdom to doctors.
Give understanding to scientists.
Endow caregivers with compassion and generosity.
Bring healing to those who are ill.
Protect those who are most at risk.
Give comfort to those who have lost a loved one.
Welcome those who have died into Your eternal home.

Stabilize our communities.
Unite us in our compassion.
Remove all fear from our hearts.
Fill us with confidence in Your care.

Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus, I trust in You.
Amen. 

(Contributed by the Rev. Allison Lyles, Priest-in-Charge of St. Stephens Episcopal Church, Hurst, Texas)

Footnotes:

In loving Memory of our dear friend Jason. Love love.

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