“Be still and know that I am God…” -Psalm 46:10

March—what a strange month it has been for us all. I remember January and February flying by for me. I wasn’t sure how March, April, and May could get any faster, but I figured they would because spring always flew by. Little did I know that March 2020 would be the strangest change of pace I had ever experienced.

Spring was always fast, fun, and full of energy. It was the same every year for the last 24 years. I knew I would have my regular job, tutoring, piano lessons, chasing a toddler (and a dog), Bible study, and then a season of coaching. I remember putting all the things in my calendar on my phone, and thinking, “This might be a lot, but each year it is always fun.”  I was determined to not let the busyness get in the way of enjoying life, so I decided to make a plan. I remembered two years ago being tired during the season because I was pregnant, and this would be a replay with almost identical timing.

I made freezer meals to last us most of the eight weeks of the season. That way my husband wouldn’t have to cook as much, and when I got home, we wouldn’t have to scramble/stress about what to eat. Plus, it was fun to cook a whole bunch of soups, chilis, etc. I had set times in my schedule for spending time with Jesus (because if I don’t intentionally set a time, I become lazy very quickly and just don’t do it), times to work out, etc. The planner in me was having fun with this, and the weekend before the season started, I was completely relaxed. I was excited for Monday’s practice with a new team. I was excited for a little change of pace, and my husband was looking forward to a bit more time with our son. The kids were excited for him to run around at some practices and meets with them, now that he wasn’t a baby anymore. I was getting a little more energy now that I was through the first trimester. It was like that excited, nervous feeling you get at the starting line of your race. I had just looked up, taken a deep breath, and was ready…

Bam! The first week of the season came and went. The first day, Monday, March 9th was so much fun. Coming back to Cornerstone is always a blast. It’s like coming home to family. I love spending time with my two coaches. I love hanging with middle school kids, and always comment on how much they’ve grown up since I had them in fifth grade (or even the previous season). Surprisingly we had 28 students show up…I was thrilled! I left practice that afternoon thinking, “Wow. This is going to be awesome.” I thanked God for this new season, prayed for protection over my team, and drove home.

Tuesday, March 10th was unexpected and scary. Our son had an accident while we were at work, which resulted in second degree burns and a trip to the ER. It involved rushing out of work, being in a state of shock and fear, and voice-texting my coaches telling them I wouldn’t be at practice that afternoon. Who would have thought that a small bowl of hot water could change the course of an entire day? I sure didn’t. My heart was pounding as I drove to Children’s. I was hitting that point in the morning where I was nauseous because I hadn’t eaten, and my head hurt like crazy. The headache had started March 2nd and still hadn’t gone away. I remember praying, asking God to at least bring my heartrate down and allow me to breathe. He answered with a yes immediately. I was sitting at a red light. Everything in me calmed down. Even though I was scared and had a screaming child in the backseat, I knew God was with me. My headache temporarily passed. My breathing slowed down, and my heart was no longer pounding. I safely pulled into the parking lot to meet my husband, and we headed in. The doctors took great care of our son, told us things were going to be ok, and the nurses were so encouraging me (all of them were moms), reminding me that accidents happen, that it’s ok, and I even got to hear some funny/not funny stories of things their kids did. God is good. My parents helped us out that evening and brought dinner. They have a calming presence through just about anything that our family very much appreciates.

On Wednesday, March 11th we headed to Lincoln to meet with the burn specialist. He was so encouraging, and our son really liked him. We were thankful that things were going to be ok. On the way there we decided to stop at Runza for a healthy (I wish) snack of chicken nuggets and ranch dressing. I made a quick phone call to my doctor to tell her my symptoms of my heart pounding and headache (I did not tell her of my unhealthy snack I had eaten five minutes before), mainly because long headaches during pregnancy aren’t “normal”, and I was following the “rules” by making the call. I’d be seeing her on Friday anyway for my appointment. Well, she wanted me to come in…like as soon as possible. Another thing to add to our day. My mom came to watch our son while he napped that afternoon, and I headed to Lakeside. Sure enough, super high blood pressure. High enough that I was starting meds immediately and that now our baby was at risk. Maybe this explained my 9-day headache. Although I felt physically unhealthy that day, God gave me so much peace. My blood pressure sure didn’t show it, but my heart was calm. I was thankful.

Thursday, March 12th was going to be a more “normal” day, or so I thought. Our son was already doing a lot better, I had gotten some sleep, and I was hoping my medicine would start to kick in soon. We had a couple friends stop by to help with things here (I didn’t know that high blood pressure could cause dizziness and literally not being able to walk), and I felt at least a little more rested. I was looking forward to going to work, dropping off our son to our babysitter (he is in love with their family), and going to track practice. The weather was supposed to be beautiful!

I had put our son down for a nap, had taken my blood pressure with my sweet new arm cuff (it was still pretty high), and was ready to do some reading for fun (I was trying to stay away from the recent hype about the coronavirus). “Thank you, God, for time to relax,” I prayed. “Thank you for a more normal day, that Rylan is sleeping soundly, and for pretty weather. Thank you for another season with these kids and for the opportunity to coach them.” Time to read. Wait, maybe I’ll check my email. Here it was—school was closing for a “week” due to the virus. I had tried to avoid the rumors of schools closing down, and the thought of it not actually being a week, but much longer. My heart sank. What about the track season I had just thanked God for? What about the kids’ education? Just a couple minutes later, I had texts from my coaches asking me to get workouts ready for this week off to send home. Writing workouts as a coach isn’t actually “work”, right? It’s fun—usually. Until you realize it might be the last ones you write that season.

As I drove to practice that afternoon, I almost spiraled into my “bummer” mode, but then God caught my attention. It was a beautiful day. The sun was out, a little breezy, but a perfect “track” day. Today might be my last day of coaching for the season. I may not see these kids for a long time. “Enjoy today. Have fun and relax,” is what I heard in my heart before I could go on with my negatives. Obviously that was from God, and just what I needed to hear. I was immediately excited about practice today. It was going to be fun, even though it might be tough. It’s so cool how God can instantly change your thoughts when you listen to him. He gives immediate peace when we let Him. Practice was fun. The kids knew it was their last day for awhile, but they had good attitudes. They ran hard. We laughed a lot. We prayed. It was a great practice. At the end of the day, it wasn’t quite a “normal” day, but only according to my thoughts. God’s plans took place, they didn’t match up with my own, and that was ok. I was again overwhelmed with peace. How that happens when your heart is pounding I don’t know, but He did it. I slept well that night.

Saturday, March 14—we had just finished celebrating my husband’s birthday with his family. It was great to spend time with them. We were on our way home, and I knew I’d be making a phone call to the doctor just to check in with my symptoms. I didn’t feel that my medicine was really helping my blood pressure yet, and I wanted to be smart about it. Ok, that’s the flowery version. I felt horrible. I basically put on a face (with some extra makeup) that morning that I was feeling ok, mainly to see if that “mind over matter” thing actually worked, and because I didn’t want people to worry. I had checked my blood pressure a couple of times, and if you had looked at one of those charts, it would have either not been on there because it was so high, or it landed in the dangerous/heart attack coming zone. The nurse told us to get to the ER ASAP. Here we go again. My mother-in-law quickly came over to watch our son (she even folded our heaping pile of laundry to help us out), and we went to UNMC. The doctors were able to get my blood pressure down and for a couple of hours, my headache went away! I was so thankful. Just to have some pain relief was an answer to prayer. No real answers that day, but it was ok.

The final couple of weeks in March were weird. Eventually my blood pressure started to decrease, but the headache came back shortly after we returned from the hospital. I had a couple more appointments to monitor things, but then the appointments had to decrease because of the virus. I hadn’t realized that pregnancy put you in the “at-risk” category during this time, however I enjoyed the perks of early morning grocery shopping because of it. The doctors said to take it easy—don’t go out, don’t do much of anything. Normally that would be tough for me to do, however with as weak as I felt, I really had no other option. No track practice—weird. Schools continued to close and remain closed. Stores and businesses closed, and people were told to stay in as much as possible. What a strange world this had quickly become. We were being told to slow down, but it sure didn’t slow down the hype or pace of peoples’ anxieties. I kept going back to one of my favorite verses—“Be still, and know that I am God.” It was tough to let sink in, but I just had to repeat it in my head.

The virus is definitely scary, however I am really thankful for this time of staying in. Some days it is difficult, because I love spending time with people. I’m naturally a go-go-go person, and it’s reminding me to slow down. It’s strange not seeing our families, going to Bible study, or hanging out with our friends, however FaceTime has been great for still feeling somewhat connected. While life feels a bit strange, there have also been many good things that have come with this already. I anticipate more to come. We have had more time as a family—taking walks, playing in the yard, reading together, and spending more time with the Lord. We have had more time to sleep, more time to cook and clean the house, and more time just to be still. We are both still working (in and out of the home at this point), and we are thankful for our jobs. We’ve had several meals dropped off from family and friends, some quick “window visits” from parents (so hard for no one to give hugs), and phone calls to friends when we can’t go out much. I have been able to read, write, and pray more. Maybe it isn’t the same for everyone, but when I get too busy, I lose sight of what matters. I become more anxious. I worry about things that don’t matter. I overthink. I feel that relationships are strained when they actually aren’t. My brain, mind, and heart basically go insane, and it isn’t healthy. Anyone else? A couple of weeks before this pandemic hit, I was out for late night pizza with a close friend. We talked about how our lives used to be this hectic schedule of busyness, and how we used to think that was fulfilling. We were always busy. Now, although both in different life stages, our lives have slowed down, but we agreed that our lives have now become so much more fulfilling and meaningful. Little did we know that the next week life would slow down and change even more.

When we only have a tunnel view of life’s circumstances, there is no way to avoid fear, anxiety, and utter chaos. When we focus on the world situations, the uncertainties, the unfair things that happen, we become unhappy. However, when we focus on Who is in charge of those circumstances, Who overcomes the uncertainties, and Who had an unfair death on the cross, our perspective changes. I’ve heard so much of, “Life is crazy. I’m so nervous. This totally sucks.” Looking at the situations alone, yes. I completely agree with those statements. When we leave Jesus out of the picture, life stinks. When we focus on the hope, the freedom, and the life He gives no matter what, there is unexplainable peace. There is calmness. Jesus slept through a massive storm on a boat. Can we chill, take an extra nap, spend more time with our families when we are told to stay home? I think so. God has given us a wakeup call this last month. Our society has been hit with a nasty virus. It affects us all in so many ways, and I know it is difficult for everyone. If I look at March as the month of ER visits, health issues, job shifts, and craziness, I’ve lost focus. Without these things, would I be as focused now on Jesus? Would He have been able to teach me the things He has in the last couple of weeks during tough times? It’s a good reminder for me that His plans are best. My blood pressure sure doesn’t show it this last month, but my heart has been calm overall. I am thankful.

God doesn’t promise easy plans, but he promises plans that are good. While at times it is definitely scary, it is a wonderful opportunity to stop, refocus, and put even more trust in Jesus. He loves us too much to let us get by with a comfortable life. Some of our best lessons are learned through great hardships. I hope that during this time you’re able to focus on what is meaningful and know that I am praying for you!

Isaiah 43:2-5 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush[a] and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.”