It’s been the longest winter ever. The winter of our discontent, you might say, even though I don’t have fond memories of that book.

Months of cold and rainy weather. A crazy election. Half of America acting like we’re not in a pandemic and now half a million people in our country are gone. Steinbeck’s words could not be more appropriate for all we witnessed this winter: I know three things will never be believed – the true, the probable and the logical.

All that during a time without church, activities, happy hours, travel, or even two-hour staycations to the movie theater. Homegrown terrorists attacking the capitol was almost a fitting wrap up to this year of upheaval and uncertainty.

And yet our year of quarantine hasn’t been without benefits, learnings and blessings. Time with family – uninterrupted and without the constant hustle from school to work to activities. Time to read, watch, dream, listen, research, and create. Time to discover new music.

Gratitude by Brandon Lake is my favorite new music discovery.

Time to assess priorities and wants and needs. Time to set goals. Time to rest. Time to heal. Time to help. Time to talk. And talk and talk and talk…about everything from mean girls to anxiety to TikToks to the guy on New Amsterdam to voter suppression. And time to just think.

A few months ago, someone I’ve known for a very long time accusingly told me I’ve changed. A couple of other folks had previously said something similar and I dismissed it. But you know what? They’re right. I have changed. And, in fact, I’m glad about it. And I really should have responded by asking them why haven’t you changed? We’re all supposed to be learning and growing and getting wiser all the time. If we don’t learn from our mistakes and our life experiences and what’s happening in the world around us, what are we doing? Who wants to just run around on a hamster wheel to nowhere?

I am different. Motherhood changed me – I think of everything in my life in relation to the two most important people in it, because every place I go and decision I make impacts them. Responsibility changed me, in my personal life and in my professional life – it’s not my job to bear all burdens but it’s also not right for me to share all burdens. A cancer diagnosis for my child changed me – it made me question my faith but ultimately strengthened my faith, and it also changed how I think about health care. That’s the thing – experiences are supposed to yield learnings and also greater empathy for others. If we’re staying the same our whole lives, we’re doing it wrong. If we don’t care more about people as we age in years and experience, we’re doing it wrong. If we don’t prune areas and people that don’t want to grow and be better and do better, or that want us to stay the same, we’re doing it wrong.

Perhaps that’s my most significant quarantine realization: I’ve changed, and it’s good. My lesser learnings can be summed up in a couple of bullets.

  • When I cannot wander the aisles of shoe stores and I don’t have anywhere to wear shoes anyway, I will have Amazon deliver slippers of every kind and in every color so that all work from home outfits still have matching footwear.
  • What the world needs when locked up at home is not at all complex: carbs and Bridgerton.

A year ago in my wildest dreams I did not imagine that I would not hug my Mom and Dad on Christmas Day, that school would be virtual even though I was clear with the universe and God that I did not find that plan acceptable, or that my temporary home office would become my permanent office. I had no idea how much I would miss lunch with my faves and the sounds and hugs of my church’s hallways. I have missed worship, even though I was not generally a loud singer when I did go in person. I went to two funeral services recently and while I was sad about the passing of both women – both lives well-lived and both women walking the streets of heaven now – my eyes filled with tears in each service because I was in a church and singing old hymns with a group of people. There is something really special about voices in unison, in prayer or in song.

My very smart friend Joy recently reminded me to read from Job, a book I never turn to. And I realized that the lessons of Job are the lessons of quarantine. We are never alone, even in isolation. We won’t always know the why, and we have to be OK with that in order to grow. Bad things don’t just happen to bad people – they also happen to good people. The times when it’s hardest to have faith are the times when we grow and change the most. And as Job trusted God more…he grew and he changed.

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