• Carolyn Norton

Finding Purpose in Isolating Times

Incubation Period. Self Quarantining. Social Distancing. Isolation.

We may recognize these terms as being related to the Coronavirus, a global pandemic that we're facing right now. We're hearing them on a daily basis actually- on the news, on social media, on phone calls. Staying at home, online classes and even church, virtual meetings, city-wide curfews, businesses shutting down, a shortage of toilet paper (and even food in some places) has quickly become our new normal. Talk about being forced to "wait well" the hard way!

For me, and many people I know, these terms (especially isolation) have been somewhat the norm already, just disguised under a different name- loneliness. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but until you've truly experienced it, you won't get it. So what's another few weeks, months or longer of this? The difference is, if you live alone, you're still used to going to work, meeting with friends and having somewhat of a social life. What we're facing now feels even more isolating than normal.

As I sit here writing this, I'm at the beach- alone. Coca-Cola told us we had to work from home until April 13th, so when friends told me I could use their cottage for the week on the gulf coast of Florida, I jumped at it. I'd much rather be here working (and vacationing 2 of the days) than stuck in my condo. My St. Louis family is staying at a beach 7 miles down the road for Spring Break. I've seen them a few times, but have been coming back to this cute, little cottage each night by myself. Same story, different setting. I know, I'm very blessed and these are first world problems -but still.

It's spring break here and families and friends are out on the beach together playing, laughing and "quarantining" together- however crazy that may be. I'm the only one sitting by myself, but it's unfortunately something I'm all too used to. The gift of that is that I've had a lot of time to self-reflect and talk to God. Given the recent news and severity of the coronavirus, life feels more precious than ever. People are living in a state of fear- of the unknown of what's to come. But if you've read the Bible or studied biblical theology you know that these kind of diseases and "plagues" are nothing new. Personally, I'm not fearful of it as I know whose I am and who is in control, and I know God doesn't give us a spirit of fear or anxiousness, but I am still being careful- mostly for the sake of others.

You may be in the same boat, or know people who are- single and alone, widowed and alone, alone in an unhappy marriage, a kid or adult who is being abused or in a bad home situation, senior citizens like my parents, those with compromised immune systems who feel like no one understands what they are going through etc.. I just ask, if you are reading this and know of someone in those categories, to reach out to them. Just a simple "how are you?" can make someone's day, which was the text I just got from my brother-in-law Chris. My sweet friend, Shannon, married with four kids, sent Marco Polo videos back and forth to me yesterday too, just checking in with me on her walk around the neighborhood. When I called my friend Brandi feeling a little sad, she quickly talked me through it and prayed with me over the phone. Again, it's the little things....

For those who are living alone, feeling lonely or just trying to manage this "new norm" with your kids/family, here are things that may help you find purpose in this hard time:

  • Connect with friends virtually (using Zoom, Facetime, Google hangouts..)

  • Continue to learn and grow (through books, podcasts, ted talks...)

  • Deliver food to those in need (check with your local food bank or Hands On organization)

  • Organize your home (rooms, closets...)

  • Journal or blog about your experience and use that to encourage others.

  • Write letters, send cards (the old fashioned way-truly a lost art!)

  • Do your taxes (if you have procrastinated, like me)

  • Support your favorite local restaurants, businesses or retail stores (some of them have no idea where their next paycheck is coming from during this crisis)

  • Start an online book club or community group

  • Create something (paint, draw, needlepoint....), maybe even to give to a friend.

  • Check in on your neighbors or friends who live alone (drop off a card, baked goods, their favorite drink....)

  • Organize your photos from over the years and put them into albums (physical or online, like on Shutterfly)

  • Do a Puzzle or build something

  • Follow national guidelines and do your part to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

  • Dig into the Bible and share some some of these God-breathed verses with others who may also need to be encouraged or reminded of His love for us. Verses like:

Ephesians 4:16 says "From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that builds itself up in love."

Hebrews 10:22-25 (The Message) says "So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching."

Philippians 2:1-4 (The Message) says "If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

Friends, we are living in uncertain times. Fear is all around us, but hope is too! God is sovereign; He is in control. Let faith guide your fears. Love each other through this, help each other, pray for each other- let's pull together, now more than ever. If we can do that, we may learn and grow and find purpose in the pain in ways we never imagined. It may even change our course of life and our future in a good way, as stated here in "The People Stayed Home".

In the words of Corrie ten BoomWorry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.” Stay strong my friends.

(Comment below and let me know how you are spending this time. What activities, websites, apps, podcasts etc. have you found helpful that you can share with others? I'd love to hear!)

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