I am not in a great place right now.

My family and I are still reeling from the physical and emotional trauma of a devastating tornado three weeks ago that directly affected my sister and her family. On top of that, I returned to my job at the hospital this week (after a two week hiatus to assist my family), and it was absolute chaos.The COVID-19 pandemic has everyone scared and confused. I am a nurse in the surgical department, and there has been much debate over the last week about cancelling all elective surgeries. Starting next week, all elective cases will be postponed for eight weeks. So on top of everything else, now the operating room staff is panicking about how they will pay their bills. Hospital-wide, visitor restrictions keep getting tighter and tighter. Patients’ worried family members are rude and hateful to us, the health care providers, who have been assigned to screen visitors at the doors. Never mind that we’re just as worried and uncertain. Never mind that our safety guidelines are literally changing by the hour. Never mind that we’re literally putting our lives at risk by just being in our place of work. You could cut the tension at the hospital with a knife. 

We’ve also had a few days of severe weather since the March 3rd tornado. Greg and I bought an intense weather radio with all the bells and whistles. My google history includes a search for the best kinds of helmets to wear during storms. We want to install a $5,000 solid steal storm shelter in our garage. I’ve downloaded about seventeen different weather alert apps on my phone, and I sleep with my phone on loud every single night. Sleep is sacred in our household, but it hasn’t been coming easily. When I try to go to sleep at night I start imagining the terrors my sister, her family, and her neighbors must have experienced that night and I get scared. Restless, I toss and turn, which also keeps Greg awake. Not to mention, the constant weather alerts (even for things like fog) going off on my phone have been interrupting our sleep. But my peace of mind seems more important right now. The lack of sleep is starting to catch up with us though. We are irritable and fatigued. And now we’re trapped in the house together trying to self quarantine and stay safe from the coronavirus. We have been supporting each other, but we want to commune with our family and friends. I’ve been feeling lonely and depressed as a result of the social distancing. 

My niece, Harper, who sustained a brain injury during the tornado is truly making leaps and bounds in her recovery. I firmly believe that with a lot of hard work and therapy over the next several months, she’ll be back to the spunky, smart two year old she was before the storm. But, I’m just frustrated that she even had to have this setback. She is so bright and full of personality. Three weeks ago, she was on the road to developing into a wonderful human being. She’s still on that road, but this new obstacle in her path just seems so unnecessary. And when I start to dwell on these thoughts, I just get overcome with emotion. Like, right now as I’m sitting here weeping while typing. 

The combination of all of these current life stresses has caused moments that feel not quite unbearable, but almost. And unfortunately, as a result, I’ve been overcome by this spirit of fear over the last few weeks.

"Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?"
- Luke 12:27-28

I’ve always been afraid of being caught off guard, especially in the middle of the night. That’s why I can’t ever sleep when Greg’s not home. If he goes out of town, I usually try to tough it out alone for a few nights, but always end up sleeping at my parents’ house. For some reason, I have always had this thought that if something awful happens while Greg and I are together, it will be much better than if the same thing happens while I’m alone. I think that’s why the tornado hurts so much. I’m sad that my family experienced one of my worst fears.

I’ve also always been afraid of dying in some tragic, frightening, or painful way. My ideal way to go out is in my sleep, when I’m 95, and right by Greg’s side (obviously dying together). I’m a Christian, and I truly believe that I will be going to Heaven and spending eternity with the Godhead upon my death, but I still think it’s human nature to fear death a little bit and to long for a peaceful exit from this earth. So again, I’m devastated that many people in my home town, including my family’s neighbors and friends, lived out this fear of mine. 

When my niece was born, I had a hard time adjusting to all of the attention bestowed upon her and my sister. It probably didn’t help that I was experiencing a quarter life crisis of my own at that time and had been struggling with the pressures of seemingly everyone in my age group deciding to have kids when I wasn’t ready. I was stuck in this place of feeling like my sister was better than me just because she procreated, and I regret to say that my relationship with my sister wasn’t great (mostly due to me and my actions) during the first year of Harper’s life. Luckily, the good Lord blessed me with a family that calls you on your sh*t, and we eventually worked out our differences. Plus, I’m not a natural with babies, so as Harper grew into her toddler phase, it literally just became easier for me to be a helpful and loving presence in her life. And, subsequently, my relationship with my sister was flourishing again.

I babysat Harper for a couple of hours one morning back before Christmas. We sat in the big chairs (bar stools) and had breakfast. She was eating this muffin (most of which landed in the floor to Luna’s delight), and I remember at that exact moment feeling suddenly overcome by how much I loved her and how I never wanted anything bad to ever happen to her. I wasn’t even thinking on as large a scale as a tornado or a brain injury. I just always wanted her to have friends and to never be made fun of and to never be cheated on and to never have anyone ever be mean to her. I wanted her to always be safe. To never be in a car wreck or get some horrible illness. I wanted her life to be picture perfect, just like her. Sadly though, I couldn’t and never will be able to keep bad things from happening to the people I love, and that stirs up fear in me as well.

The silver lining in all of this though, is that even though this spirit of fear is defeating me at times, I know that it’s not from God. The apostle Paul said that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). The Bible tells me over and over again to be strong and courageous, to fear no evil, and to not waste time worrying. And why? Because, “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:38-39

These verses remind me that there truly is nothing to fear. Whether I die tomorrow in some tragic way, or in 60 years after a long healthy life, I will be with Jesus and those who have gone on before me! Leah DiPascal with Proverbs 31 Ministries says it better: 
“Regardless of how much suffering we’ll experience in our lifetime, one thing is for sure. A day will come when there will be no more sorrow or pain, no more heartache or tears, no more loss or suffering. Our joy will be made complete and we will come face to face with Jesus - the One and Only, who embraced the cross and bore the greatest undeserved suffering completely for us.” 

Friends, I know the entire world is feeling some anxiety and tension right now. You may be experiencing more than others. My prayer is that God, who is with us in our sufferings, will cover you with His peace that surpasses all understanding. And I also pray that if you don’t know God yet that you find Him soon! A life with Him is a life of hope. Hope that even through the darkest days of this earthly life, there is literal light at the end of the tunnel. An eternal, light-filled life with Him. 

Lots of love.