Dispatches from Covid-ville: An Unintentional Ebeneezer

This series is about life within our new global community, Covid-ville. As our world universally moves into shelters and sanctuaries to fend off this vicious disease, here are some stories from our bubble as we navigate this time with a perspective on mental health, adoption, foster care and family life.

Here I raise my Ebenezer/ Hither by Thy great help I’ve come / And I hope, by Thy good pleasure / Safely to arrive at home

Week 4, or is it 5, of quarantine is here and there is a decidedly different feel in our home. Gone is the novelty, arrived is the mire. While the virus rages all around our lives, we’re finding ourselves struggling into routines. School-at-home is quite hard. Especially when there are special needs that aren’t being met. Balancing paying work, with all of its stresses, is hard when both parents need to work, teach and care for a toddler.

Yet still, my pastor’s encouragement to “not waste our quarantine,” has resonated deeply, but I don’t know how to add one more thing to our already long days. (Teaching/toddler care during the day with an attempt to work, family chores/dinner, housekeeping, and then focus on more work at night before passing out.) So, we go about our routines and try to find ways to make meaning in the days.

This past weekend, we needed to get outside. And, it was perfect weather for it. We started working in the yard… together… as a family. When my wife found a deal for overstock nursery plants that could be picked up without contact, we decided to tackle a few yard projects that were on the wishlist.

Our yard is oddly shaped. Part of it borders a walking trail and people often bring their dogs on our lawn or think it’s neighborhood common space. Because #HOA, we can’t fence it in, but we embarked on planting 18 plants along the path to delineate our yard from walking space. (I am totally going to be the ‘get off my lawn’ guy one day.) We also spent time clearing vines from our backyard and planting another 16 plants there to give our back border some much needed definition.

Music to write by: During Holy Week, I tend to gravitate back to the hymns for peace & reflection.

We put in nearly two full days of work, chasing daylight both days to complete the project. It was one of those efforts where you’re really proud of the tired and sore you feel the next day. I’m most proud of our pre-teens, who really took ownership in the work. Whether it was digging holes in the thick NC clay, preparing and watering the holes for new plants or helping to clear brush- they really took to the work. There wasn’t one request for screen time in two days.

They also grew in their own skills. I taught my eldest how to use a pole saw. My middle (for better or worse) learned how to use a number of garden tools, including a machete. I may regret that later. They learned about plants and how to avoid thorny vines and poison. Even toddler helped by spreading dirt and pushing his wagon full of grass seed around.

In all that work, we transformed our yard into something I’m really proud of. The work that we did will be around for years to come. It’ll also be a positive reminder of our time in quarantine. It will be our ebenezer, our stone of remembering how the Lord helped us during this time. Years from now, as we’re sitting on the patio enjoying the Gardenia’s now lining the back yard, I hope we can recall how the Lord worked on our family during this time of retreat and seclusion.

We certainly didn’t intend to create an ebenezer, it just happened. But, I’m grateful that the Lord put it on our hearts to do this thing. I don’t know how long this period of life will last, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to pour into my kids and my wife during this season. We may not be in a place to do much for our community, but we can all certainly take small steps to pour into those closest to us during this season.

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