It has been a crazy time in the world of late. As if we are seemingly moving from one pandemic to another. First COVID-19, then racism (an accumulation of hundreds of years of racial injustice, but in this present season, triggered by the death of George Floyd in the States). Who knows just what is next?
Earlier this week, the UK government announced the next phase re. emerging out of lockdown in England. And as we move further away from quarantine, I am reminded of what a beautiful yet challenging time it was. Challenging for obvious reasons- the restrictions, the uncertainty, the sickness and death all around.
Beautiful because it felt like we were in a ‘Selah’ moment, like a holy pause button was pressed on the world, affording us the opportunity to step out of our normal treadmill existence, and focus on what really matters.
I know this would not have been the case for all.
Emergency service workers and essential workers were working harder than ever before. Many people continued to work through the pandemic, probably working more hours than when they are in the office. Many struggled to balance childcare and work, others lost their jobs altogether. Many struggled to heat their homes and feed their families and there were those, are those, living in what can only be described as hell – with a significant increase in domestic violence incidents being reported worldwide during this period. Others still were mourning the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19 further compounded by the inability to say goodbye properly – either at the hospital and / or at funeral due to restrictions…
All of this serves as a reminder to count our blessings. And counting them is just what I am about to do. Here are 5 things I am supremely grateful for during this time especially:
Family – Even though we could not be together, I appreciated the marathon phone calls, Facetime catch ups and doorstep conversations with those shielding. I also loved having catch ups with various relatives including my oldest family members – my grandmothers and my great Aunt. Times like this make you appreciate them more than ever before, to love and honour them and to glean from their life experiences whilst they are still here.
Friends – I am richly blessed with wonderful friends across different phases of life. From secondary school to 6th form, from my original church family to my current spiritual ‘home’, this time was full of rich and meaningful catch ups. We scheduled in weekly zoom calls, many with babies in tow, had various WhatsApp groups to either share our concerns, jokes (as a means of stress relief) to deal with the stress or just to simply check in. We also celebrated the arrival of several babies birthed in the pandemic (such warrior women), had zoom birthday gatherings but also grieved with those struggling with sickness and loss. True friends are worth their weight in gold.
Faith– During this time, I was more intentional about reading the Bible, worshiping through song (on my little out of tune keyboard) and just spending time sitting with God. When lockdown began, I thought it would be time to ‘do’ lots of things for God alongside my already busy workload (10-15 hours days, 6-7 days week). But God simply wanted me to spend time with Him, without an agenda, to park the checklist – no matter how spiritual or good these items are. It was a time to pause and go deeper still. What a gift.
Fitness – I started running as part of my lockdown fitness routine. It has been a few years since I have run and being newly post op (6 months) I was nervous to begin with but so glad I persevered. I used the NHS Couch to 5K app which was brilliant for motivation and can now run for 3-5K nonstop which is a big deal! I live near a beautiful park / woodlands with many dog walkers present in the morning. Inevitably, you end up seeing the same people and building a rapport with them – moving from a sheepish grin to a full on conversation. These encounters were beautiful.
I committed to 3 mornings a week – twice in the week before work and once on the weekend. This was an enjoyable time, listening to 80’s and 90’s soul, sprinkled with a little bit of garage and jungle music for a boost. Running is a good stress reliever and a great way to improve overall well being (mind, body and soul).Healthy bodies are a gift from God, and this season really brought this home. The least I could do was to look after it, as an act of worship and thanksgiving to Him.
It was also a great time to commune with God through nature, which I like to do already but was particularly heightened because there is little else I could go out and do! Listening to the different birds singing, looking at the beauty and variety of trees and plants, it’s hard not be in awe of all His wonderful creation.
Food – When the lockdown was announced, mass panic buying ensued, which made it difficult to get hold of some essentials (I missed pasta so much!). However, I am blessed to have good local shops nearby and well enough to go out buy what I needed and also go shopping for others who were shielding. Never have I felt so grateful for food, a home and a stove to cook it off.
Lockdown was also a time to get creative. I baked a flapjack (which came out surprisingly nice), tried to make Jollof (didn’t turn out great) and other dishes. I also purchased a few great quality products online. This included the delivery of fantastic fruit and veg from Africa and the Caribbean by a company called Windrush Bay.
I normally buy plantain from my local shop, 3 for £1.20 but when lockdown kicked in they tried to raise the price to 2 for £1.20 for two tired looking plantain. No Sir. Plantain was included in my Windrush Bay order and it didn’t disappoint – in value and quality. I also purchased an Aloe Vera leaf (never used it before!) which I used in smoothies but also to make homemade hair butter for the first time.
I made the hair butter using Aloe Vera gel, Almond oil, Lavender essential oil (Neal’s Yard) and raw shea butter from Akoma Skincare (fantastic quality and price, also hooked on their African Black Soap). My hair seemed to enjoy it, so will do this more.
As we emerge from Lockdown, I don’t want to forget the beauty of ‘simple’ living, investing in relationships, being creative like a child and just slowing down to really engage and experience life and the beautiful people God’s placed in it. This season will end, but I want to be intentional about taking the lessons I have learned and applying this moving forward.
What have you been grateful in this time?