At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. 2 Timothy 4:16
Sheltering in place has allowed for a whole lot of extra around the house. Yes, I’d say the percent of increase has gone through the roof in certain areas. But also, so has the percent of decrease. And I can only attribute the ups and the downs to something I call the COVID-19 factor…
Which in its simplist form, is staying at home.
No doubt, the COVID-19 factor is directly related to all the recent additions and subtractions to my life. As to exact percentages, I can’t say for certain but I can assuredly name the changes…
First, there’s stress, the rate of increase directly proportional to the increased time my children spend in the house. And I know how this can sound… selfish. Ungrateful. But for today, it’s truth. My stress level has gone through the roof and it has to do with the increased level of noise coming from their direction.
If Annabelle shrieks one more time, “I’m serious, stop, stop, stop, I can’t breathe,” I may lose it. And frankly, I’m proud of myself for not having done so already. Which brings to mind another through the roof increase…
The loudness of my voice. Oh, I’ve shrieked myself once or twice but overall, I feel a real sense of accomplishment. See, I’m keeping it level more than I used to. Even when it appears my daughter can’t breathe again because of the kids’ newest game, “Scarers.”
Other shenanigans having the propensity to send my voice into the back reaches of my neighbor’s yard, and into the outer atmosphere, are “Pushers,” “Shovers,” and “King,” all of which involve physicality and knocking each other about.
If my calculations are accurate, the extra noise from the extra time my kids are in the house attributes to at least 32% of the increase in my stress (and my loudness).
The COVID-19 factor (staying at home) means extra. More food consumption, more laundry, more needs only I can address, and more talking. Sometimes both kids talk at the same time, one right over top of the other, which decreases my ability to hear.
And there are other decreases like personal time and space. Yes, Annabelle’s supplies replaced the easel I recently topped the yellow table with in my office and Levi’s work moved my writing binders right off my desk and onto the book shelf.
And though it sounds like I’m complaining (yes, I think I am), I can’t help but contemplate the whole lot of good that’s accompanied this COVID-19 factor. Other increases and decreases…
Coffee dates and occasional lunches are 100% decreased. And though the initial workload for my at-home job skyrocketed, the steady subsequent decline, coupled with additional time at home, has allowed for noticeable progress on the house.
My work productivity has increased exponentially. I washed my car inside and out, cleaned two years of grime off of my windows, and dusted six years of dirt out of those hard to reach areas. And I finally planted a flower garden. I’ve never done that before.
I put an entire downstairs together after our basement finishing project and now, everything in my home has a place. There are no spare heaps or piles. All items are where they need to be, and my home is in order for the first time since we moved in nine years ago.
And the truth is, had we not been forced to sit still, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to accomplish all that I have. I attribute every bit of the increased work productivity to staying at home.
It was because of the COVID-19 factor.
Yes, the COVID-19 factor (staying at home), has changed everything. There’s been additons and deletions. And with all outside distractions cut off, including people, everything that needed to be tended to on the inside has been tended to. And I’m not just talking about work and house-hold projects.
I’m also talking about my heart. Because although there’s someone here with me all the time, an isolated and lonely feeling appeared anyway. It happened as March closed out and April made her entrance.
Without fail, a sense of rejection and abandonment assails my soul with a regularity I can count on. Spring ushers in this low period and because it coincided with the shut-in, home projects and homeschool, I experienced something new that soothed me more than anything ever had.
Or ever will.
It was the discovery of the COVID-19 equation, which I’ll get to later. And because of it, I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. Ever.
At least I hope not.
I tell you, I don’t know who’s learned more through Kindergarten math, me or Annabelle. Because though she’s been learning simple addition and subtraction, the titles of her worksheets have been speaking to my heart. Especially this one here…
Take away stories.
If I were to put a name to my story, perhaps there wouldn’t be a better title. Because if I had to put a name to my wound, the one that never healed, this would be it. Take-away. Because once upone a time when I was young, something was taken away from me. It happened when I was left behind.
More than once, those who should have loved me the most decided to take someone else the the party of the year. Someone else was deemed more fun, and I was left at home, alone, at sixteen and again at seventeen. And though this sounds petty in light of the plight of the land, this is what happened to me. It’s what damaged my heart in an irreversible way and I swear, it damaged me all the way up. Till April.
A mere month ago.
It was the second time that really did it for it was a double whammy. The details aren’t important, but suffice it to say, I felt utterly forsaken. Left behind and left alone because the one I depended on left me hanging. She didn’t stand by me when I needed her to and it broke my heart.
For Annabelle’s math purposes, the take away story is simple. Two take away one is one. But my heart tells another story. It says when one leaves another behind, you have one left… A left over.
That was my incurable wound. Because of it, any little bit of confidence and security I might have possessed was stripped away. This is what Annabelle’s math homework brought to mind when I saw particular words highlighted at the top of the pages.
I’m thankful to God because the past few weeks of homeschooling have allowed me to put a name to my hurt. God helped me dissect it in such a manner that I can name it, define it, and see it for what it really was and is.
And more, He healed my heart through the very wound itself. Honestly, I don’t know if I can find the words to describe just how God used the very thing that hurt me to heal me…
It was the COVID-19 factor. Staying at home. The only reason I found healing is because I stayed home.
But see, for so long it was the place I avoided. I’ll tell you why. If I was home, it meant I was unwanted. Home meant I was left behind because there was someone better to go out with. Being home implied I was not “fun” like those my beloveds chose. Yes, staying at home meant I was not loveable.
Thus, at eighteen, I made being the life of the party my aim. I figured if I could be as fun as the chosen ones, I would be, too. The girl who made everyone laugh and knew how to party was the one who received love.
And so, if I could help it, I went out. At nineteen and as a young twenty-something, I never stayed home. Because as long as I was out, I was “chosen.” And as long as I was out, I didn’t feel the hurt.
Only when I stayed home, did the ache return. And only when I was alone. Or lonely…
I spent a year in Korea when I was in my early twenties. The best part was never being alone. I had a group of ready-made friends through work and my living quarters and oh, how I loved my girlfriends…
And though there were lots of parties (one every night if you wanted), what I loved best was the girl time. Drinking coffee and shopping at the commissary and laying out in the sun on the far reaches of base in the most secluded spot and going to the gym. The list goes on…
I loved being a part of a crew and knowing they loved me and I them. I felt confident and secure as long as we were together. Surrounded by my new friends, I started to feel loveable.
Alas, I found myself pregnant. It was the Spring of 1995. A heartbeat had been added to mine, and yet, I decided no. I didn’t want the child and aborted. Why? Honestly, I didn’t think twice. When asked, I said no to a sonogram. I rushed ahead in my decision and allowed the doctors to take away the little one whose heart beat inside me…
It was a true take away story. Two minus one equals one left alone.
Afterward, a friend told me to go home and lie down. She said I should rest. You know what? I never, ever did. Because there was no way anyone could make me stay home. To me, it was a punishment. Home meant everything it meant at sixteen and seventeen. Unwanted and unloved.
And if I stayed home, alone, while everyone else was out, the ache returned. That lonely rejected feeling I suppressed over and over. So, I kept moving. For years and years and years.
Oh, I made sure to keep myself busy. One, to keep the hurt at bay. And two, I had to be out. Out, out, out. Because only when I was out, could I be loved. Even after I was fully grown, with a family of my own. Those feelings remained…
The COVID-19 factor (being forced to stay at home), has truly allowed for a whole lot of extra. Like understanding. Yeah, I’d say that’s increased 100%. And hindsight. It is the year 2020, and hindsight surely is that. Because I can see now.
I was co-dependent. At five and eleven and sixteen and nineteen and twenty-two and all the years after. I needed a friend to love me to make me feel worthy. And if I didn’t have that person, well, I felt so bad about me.
But after reading the story of Martha and Mary at least 20 times, I saw something this past week for the very first time that moved me to the core. It was how Martha spoke to Jesus and the hurt revealed in her words. She said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me all alone to serve…”
I’d always focused on the serving part before. But perhaps the reason she was so busy is found right there in the preceding words. She was left alone. It’s the wound I sustained at an early age and carried into my adult life…
Left meaning to abandon, to have remaining, to forsake, leave behind, to be left. Alone meaning remaining, sole or single, mere, without a companion, forsaken, destitute of help, merely.
My wound spelled out through the definitions of these two words. I was forsaken because I was merely. Not enough. I was left alone without a companion because other companions were deemed more worthy. Thus, I was compelled to act a certain way. In my early twenties, I partied hard. In my early thirties, I served hard. And for years afterward. All in hope of receiving the same reward.
And I can’t help but wonder if Martha’s obsessive serving was born out of a wound, like mine, that hadn’t healed. Lord, my sister left me alone…
The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us. Hebrews 13:5
Yeah, God spoke to me through Martha’s take away story. But also, He spoke through another woman who was left alone. She’s the adulterous woman mentioned in John 8…
Some religious men brought her into the center of court to put her on display and to demand an answer of Jesus. “The law says we stone her!” They demanded, “What do you say?” Jesus ignored them and simply stooped down, writing in the dust.
When they persisted, Jesus straightened and said the one without sin could throw the first stone. After He stooped again, they all left…
Until Jesus was left alone with the woman.
She standing before Him in the center of court. And that’s when Jesus stood up again. When He was left alone with her. Or when she was left alone with Him. And I’m not surprised to find the very same meanings for the very same words in this woman’s life. Those that were in Martha’s and in mine…
Three women left behind. Remaining, forsaken, abandoned, and caused to be left over. Alone, sole, single, and mere. And who knows. Perhaps this is why the adulterous woman felt compelled to sleep around.
Maybe she’d been wounded, and left to her own devices, she sought the love and warmth in the circle of another man’s arms. And in the end, after her wound and sin was exposed to the world, that’s exactly what she found…
Because left alone with Jesus, Him standing by her side, she encountered love instead of condemnation. He simply said, “Go, and sin no more.”
Oh, how that speaks to me this day. Because this is exactly what He did with me last month. It was April, the time of my season. But also, it’s an anniversary. The month of what I did at twenty-two. I was so very low. Overwhelmed by that cyclical sense of rejection and loneliness. No doubt, exacerbated by being at the house. For I was home, the place that accuses me of being mere and unwanted.
It was here the voice of my accuser found me, when all other sources of comfort and distraction and dependency were taken away. But this turned out to be my salvation. The very best of take away stories…
Because when the devil reminded me of my past and what I had done, I found I was not by myself this time. Though it seemed I was alone, deserted and forsaken, there was another standing by my side. And He answered for me. I didn’t even have to open my mouth.
But see, it had to happen just this way. When every bit of extra was removed. That way, I’d understand. Healing wasn’t from any outside source of comfort. No other person, no other thing, just Jesus. My healing came only through Him.
And had it not been for the COVID-19 factor, staying at home, I wouldn’t have discovered the beauty of the COVID-19 equation, which is adding one. See, His name is Jesus and He is the +1 we should always add.
Because He is right here with us in the midst of it all. As for me, though, I had to be at home to comprehend it…
I had to be alone.
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47
For so long, I avoided home because it allowed the hurt place in me to rise. But how like God to heal me here, at home, where I first sustained injury. Not at church or at a friend’s house or on a coffee date or in a counseling session…
It happened at home. Just the two of us.
But you know, He’s been trying to get me to sit still here for years. Hindsight tells me it goes all the way back to 2010 when I first came back home. And when I first began to sense what He was saying, I tell you, it felt like punishment. Like I was being disciplined.
But I had it so wrong. It wasn’t that at all. No, the truth is, God simply wanted to love me. He wanted me to receive what He was offering, lavishing me with His love…
But me? I could only bring myself to accept His mercy. It was January 31, 2014 when I found forgiveness for the abortions of my past (there were two). I had no doubt. Through Jeremiah 31:20, God assured me, “I will surely have mercy on you.”
The word surely and mercy are the same. It’s mercy squared. Mercy + Mercy. Double mercy for my double abortions. Later that day, a bracelet I’d worn while in Korea disappeared from my arm, never to be seen again, proving my past was gone. And later, I heard my daughter’s heartbeat at her first sonogram. Proof of my future…
I was forgiven and I knew it. And yet, somehow, I missed the first part of the definition of the word. In addition to mercy, it means to love, love deeply… to have tender affection. It means to fondle. This is what God wanted to do in my life.
But see, after so many years of being beat down, life teaches women like me (and Martha and the adulterer), that we don’t deserve love. No, we have to work for it. Serve for it. Perform for it.
And that’s why God’s love didn’t touch me. I missed it because I kept striving for it. Proving myself loveable. On the outside. Out, out, out. Never at home.
So God tried. For a whole decade, He tried to still me. Finally, the virus attacking our land forced me into staying home. And while homeschooling my children, I find He’s been homeschooling me. Thus, after sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teaching, I comprehend truth.
I realize I have to sit before I can stand. But more, I know He’ll stand with me when I do. And only through the support of His love can I move forward. This is how I overcome the voice of my accuser (Rev 12:10-11). Through God’s love, and His take away story…
For God so loved, He gave the life of His Son for mine.
And by the blood of the lamb and by the word of my testimony, I have victory.
Yet another take away story, for the power of my past no longer has a hold on me. It no longer remains and I am free.
Yes, the COVID-19 factor sure has caused a lot of extra around here. Extra stress, extra noise, extra projects, but also, there’s a whole lot of extra love. In every capactity. Percent of increase through the roof…
And sure, my kids have pushed my buttons many times. And the schoolwork, if I’m being honest, has caused me angst more than once. But through me teaching them, He teaches me. I’ve learned so very much.
But I’m not the only one who’s understanding has increased. My little girl suprised me a month back when we talked about prayer…
“Where two or more are gathered, there I am with you.” I asked Annabelle how many people were at the table and she said four. I said no, because there was me + Levi + her. Immediately afterward, though, I smiled and told her she was right…
See, she got it. Even before I did. At five years of age, she understood to apply the COVID-19 equation, which is +1.
You always add one for Jesus.
As I said, I learn so much through teaching them. Even in March, God was showing me then. He is with me always. I am never alone…
But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength… 2 Timothy 4:17