Time for another monthly review, joining with Heather Gerwing and friends for Share Four Somethings.
While I continue to have a love/hate relationship with Zoom, over the last month I have appreciated the opportunities it has given to connect with others even though we may be far away geographically.
I was able to take part in two writing workshops and particularly enjoyed one on writing for children.
Also, for the last few months I’ve been taking part in an exercise class on Zoom. It had appeared at the start of the year as a social media recommendation and it looked like exactly the kind of class I enjoy so I had signed up to take part. Until then I had only done pre-recorded YouTube workouts during lockdown so it was great to do something live with others, even over Zoom.
For some reason, I thought the person running it was local to me, but this week I discovered she lives at the other side of Scotland! It means I won’t be able to continue when the classes return to being face-to-face they have been a blessing during these months of lockdown.
Something Read (Or Said)
Unusually, I’m going to recommend a podcast episode this month rather than a book.
It’s from Annie F. Downs’ podcast “That Sounds Fun” and it’s episode 281: John Eldredge and a Year of the Pandemic.
Especially if you’re feeling a bit weary after the events of the last year I’d highly recommend it – it’s one of the most helpful things I’ve listened to in a long time! The conversation reflects on the impact the pandemic has had on people’s emotional and mental health and gives some advice on slowing down and finding rest in God in the midst of it all.
Two insights particularly struck me. The first was when John Eldredge described how he ran a session with his ministry staff where he encouraged them to reflect on how they were doing in different areas – how much energy they felt they had, how focused they were, how clearly they were thinking etc. – and to rate the percentage of their “normal level” they felt they were functioning at. When all the scores were added up, their average was 36%!
As he pointed out, these were people with a strong faith and relatively functional lives, and yet the toll it had taken on them was tremendous. And even those who felt they were doing better felt their reserves were very depleted.
The other insight that struck me was when he pointed out the number of similarities between all we have experienced over the last year and the techniques used to torture people in prisoner-of-war camps. A stripping away of normality, an overabundance of confusing and conflicting information, a removal of any sense of control, uncertainty over when it will end…
I found his perspective really helpful. It highlighted that it’s normal not to feel like you’re functioning completely normally right now. His words were full of encouragement to be gentle with ourselves and with one another, and he also provided some helpful resources to focus on God.
As we marked the one-year anniversary of lockdown this week, it was an opportunity to reflect on the past year, and one thing I definitely treasure is my church!
Almost five years ago, I moved from a larger city centre church to be part of a church plant in my local area, and it has been a huge blessing on many levels, but it has struck me how wonderful it has been over the last year to be part of a church in a local community.
With the travel restrictions and limited social contact it has been comforting to know that there are several people close at hand. I knew that if I ever had to self-isolate there were people that would be happy to deliver groceries. It has been lovely to meet people while out walking, and to see all the creative ways people in the church have kept in touch and encouraged one another during this time as well as continuing to find ways to connect with others in the community.
When I imagine how different my experience of the pandemic would have been if it had happened five years earlier, it makes me even more grateful for my church than I already was!
Now I just long for the day when we can actually gather, not as boxes on a screen but as people in a room!
In the continued uncertainty, writing about “something ahead” each month doesn’t get any easier!
However, I’m overjoyed that we finally have some potential dates for easing certain restrictions here! Since the promised easing at Christmas that was cancelled at the last minute, I’m hesitant to fully believe it until it actually happens, but if all goes according to plan, the key date is April 26th when I will hopefully be allowed to travel and see my family again. Since Christmas I’ve literally only been to the supermarket and for walks in the local area, so I can’t wait for the world to get bigger again!
In the meantime, I am looking forward to a couple of Easter events. The first is an Easter trail that I’m helping to organise with my church. It’s like a COVID-friendly version of an Easter egg hunt where families will follow a trail looking for clues to discover the Easter Story. It’s so exciting to plan for an event that we know can actually happen!
And on Easter Sunday, I’m taking part in a concert… obviously a virtual one.
It won’t be quite the same as normal, but I recorded my clarinet part in February, and on Easter Sunday I’ll get to hear how it sounds along with the rest of the orchestra.
Since it’s free to watch on YouTube, I can even invite you to join me if you’d like. It will be available to watch here and it premieres at 7pm BST on Easter Sunday, 4th April.
What about you? How has March been for you? Feel free to share a highlight or prayer request in the comments.