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Grief 101

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Grief 101

See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did e’er such love and Sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown. (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts)

Grief is part of our world. Love and sorrow twist together in our lives.

To love, to open our hearts to others? Is to be vulnerable.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.                              C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Grief takes a toll on us all: Men and women and children. So many of us are responding to this in “Social Isolation.” But how do we experience it? 

Elisabeth Kübler- Ross did extensive studies on grief, and it helps us understand what is happening to us now. She envisioned grief as an inverted bell curve, 5 stages.

Shock & Denial

In this stage we can hardly believe what is happening. It is like nothing we have experienced so we do not have a frame of reference. 

Shock gives way to surprise as news unfolds of the event. In this Pandemic, it is disturbing and unsettling. It is frightening and brings on fear. It is a jolt to our system. Trauma intertwines with distress.

Denial comes hard on the heels of shock. Certainly, these reports cannot be true. The Pandemic may be effecting Europe; but how could it ever reach America? We are a medically sophisticated society, and surely our medical community will stop this in its tracks. The facts and figures coming in from China, Italy and Spain must be exaggerated. And as we examine the statistics on American soil, it seems negligible.

And it can’t be worse than the flu—can it? A bad flu.

We experience this every winter. And this, too, will pass.

Anger

The anger stage is multifaceted. How did this Pandemic get out of control? How can it be happening here? In our Country? State? County? Borough?

The invisibility of this beast adds to out exasperation. Give me a visible enemy, and perhaps I’ll be able to take him on. But this? Just how many times do I have to wash my hands? Studies have shown we wash our hands a total of 6 seconds. So there has been a suggestion of singing verses of “Amazing Grace”, or your favorite rock song or “Happy birthday. Tell me: exactly how many verses do I need to sing? Clever methods calm my annoyance for a short time, but give way to irritation.

I become more irritable as time goes on. Do not tell me where I can go. And the distance I have to stand from my neighbor. And how I have to handle my groceries. Or when I shop.

Irritability gives way to annoyance. I may have never baked bread before, but now I insist on buying yeast and bread flour. How dare the store be sold out! Never mind that there are plenty of Pepperidge Farm loaves on the shelves. And the bread dilemma is national in scope. Yeast cannot be found throughout the land.

I may have lost my job, been furloughed, or reduced hours. My finances will be a mess.

Or, I may be working in the medical field, delivery for UPS FEDEX or supply chain. Can’t I stay home like everyone else? Just how much exposure can I have without exposing my family?

Bargaining

Bargaining is subtle in nature. As if we could bargain with a Pandemic! But we try. It is hard to predict how long this will last. If I pace myself for 2 weeks, perhaps the worst will be over. If the extension of “Social Isolation” is for 4 weeks, I can manage. But no longer. That is all I can promise. I’ll make an agreement for the end of April, but surely not into May.

Let’s make a deal! I promise to stay isolated, but how can I see my family? My children? Don’t tell me we can’t have Easter dinner!

Perhaps all of us can have our own Easter dinner, and meet “virtually” through Zoom. That is the solution. I’ll barter with this Pandemic.

Depression

The longevity of this Pandemic begins to wear on us. 

I want out! I want my independence back and I want my freedom! I feel dejected as my routine has been disrupted. A sadness prevails, as I pace from room to room. There is only so much that I can take of these 4 walls! Cabin fever abounds.

I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of life. I may not get up in the morning, but instead, lounge in bed in despair. After all, why get up?

I am despondent as I look at myself in the mirror. My hairdresser is not open, and my roots are beginning to show.

I’m eating or drinking to console myself, feeling guilty about the comfort foods that try to ease my internal ache and melancholy.

Being “in the dumps” has never felt so real.

The internet is ablaze with jokes:

“If I hold a glass of wine or a beer in each hand, I can’t touch my face.”

“Pretty soon I’m going to need a magician, not a beautician!”

“Breaking news: Wearing a mask inside your home is highly recommended. Not so much to prevent COVID-19 but to prevent eating.”

We laugh at them, knowing there is a deep truth here. We see ourselves. And we know that others feel the same way.

Acceptance

As this Pandemic drags on, we recognize that we have to do our part.

To successfully shelter in place means nothing will happen today. But the decreasing numbers of infections will be the reward of our patience. A commitment to other’s safety will become our foremost concern.

We know there will be a “New Normal.”

Learning to manage the home front, even with humor, helps us through the “daily days.”

There are innumerable sites for parents and children to engage in fun activities.

For adults? Netflix, reading, and perhaps video games. But these all point to being at home. Alone and isolated. 

The ideal: time spent in God’s Word and with Him.

And so we reframe this time: Instead of being stuck at home? We are safe at home.

The end is in Sight

Perhaps you’ve seen yourself in parts of the Grief cycle. Perhaps this is a moment, of “Aha! Me too!”

It is not linear and most often, we take “two steps forward and one step back.”

We offer grace to others, knowing that we are each on an independent journey through this time. There may be similarities. But there are also differences.

“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us.” (Rosaria Butterfield)

We receive this time in faith, being confident that He is at work in us, and in His world.

We trust Him to work in us and through us to accomplish His good will.

And while we may not have a definitive date for this Pandemic to end, we do know that we have a Savior who is doing all things well.

“The tomb, normally a place of endings, became a place of beginnings. Out of if came the new hope of Resurrection life.” (Paul Tripp 4/10/20.)

Let us live in this time anticipating the resurrection He is doing within us.

Of Daffodils and Spring

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/07/2021

Spring If you’ve been outside at all, you’ll know that spring is upon us, and (hopefully) there will be no more snow.
At least if you live in the Metro Philadelphia area.
And with the coming of Spring comes the flowers. If you have been reading my blogs, you already know that I love flowers. (See Flowers and Their Legacy.)

Yellow

Yellow isn’t really my favorite color. But how can you resist the upturned fluted bowl of a daffodil?
Sure, there are forsythia. But they are standard fare.
The daffodils range from a soft buttery shade, to a bright sunshine filled sharp mustard. Then there is the variety of orange centers, pink centers….the list goes on.

March

They seem to be such happy flowers, and they cheer me at the end of March.
By that time, I don’t think I can hold out for Spring much longer.
Winter has drug on and on and on…..
And actually, they pop up in January. But they must know that they will be covered in ice and snow if they should open. So they weather the cold with patience and wait until the fullness of time.

Timing

Funny thing about my flowers, and gardening in general:
I post their joyous arrival from the dirt as they tentatively poke their heads up. And every year they seem to push their way through the soil about the same time. Usually within a one week span.

New Life?

I thought my lungwort had died. We had about 6 weeks of ice and snow and we all seemed to hibernate. My lungwort seemed to be trampled and dead. It usually begins to flower in February.
But wait….

About the beginning of March, I spied new sprouts coming up and sure enough, new buds and blossoms.
And my rhubarb comes up near the end of February as well.
Sometimes I have to brush away leaves, but sure enough, the green stems and flowers are pushing through.

I am so delighted to see the plethora of colors that I speak to them:
“Well look at you! Welcome!”
And I post them on Social Media.
This is like my gardening journal as I chronicle the arrival of each plant in my garden. People almost expect me to post the pictures.

When I ask who is ready for Rhubarb pie? There are many takers.

Fullness of Time

What amazes me about my garden is the reliability of each species.
Each has its’ own growth path and season.
Before their arrival, the garden is stark and bare, a flat brown canvas hiding a treasure beneath its crushed leaves.

It is almost like “The Strange Magic” of Narnia that bids it come forth in its’ time.

Random Time?

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.

What if each of these plants is destined to burst forth in it’s own time? What if each is individual in color, form, and even purpose?
What if none of this is random….at all?

Perfect Time

I’ve just come in from gardening, and it is a perfect day for it.
It’s also the perfect time: digging up perennials and splitting them must come early in the season. And I, impatient as I am, eagerly dig up clumps and carry them unceremoniously to a new home.

Faithfulness

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” is a classic Hymn of the Faith and it speaks to the Rhythms of the Seasons:

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided— Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong recorded “What a Wonderful World” in 1967:

I see trees of green Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself What a wonderful world!

All is Right with the World

The long winter is over.
Spring has come.
It is the time for gardening.
But as I look at my daffodils, and emerging plants, I am reminded again of the Creator who has set all things right in “The Fulness of Time.”
He is ever faithful.
And my joy is full as I remember:

“God is in His Heaven, all’s right with the world.”

Covid Easter and Babka

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/03/2021

Babka

Easter 2021

There is no way we could believe that Covid would have us in its ugly clutches this year. Last year? The Pandemic was new, and jokes abounded about our situation.
We could hold out for Easter and other holidays knowing that this, too, would end. Soon. Or so we hoped.

But Easter 2021 is upon us and there are still restrictions. Some churches are still closed. Some are meeting although socially distant.
What is a person to do?

How is this Year unlike any other Year?

Again, reminiscent of the night of Passover, when significant questions are asked—and make us think of the significance of this sacred holiday.
It is Easter.
And often families arrive to celebrate with us.

Easter egg hunts are created, even inside if the weather does not permit an outside romp. Traditional meals are served.
But this year has brought Covid.
And some families are not able to gather.

Some families have lost loved ones, and this may be the first Holiday without them.
Others have family abroad who are unable to come home due to country lockdowns.
And still others have family close by physically, but unable to join us.
There may be a bit of melancholy as we remember how Easter was celebrated; the differences can be stark.

Bake!

For those of us inclined to bake, it is a fantastic way to relieve stress—not to mention the wonderful baked goods that are created in our kitchens.
But really? Bake for just us? Bake just for me?

Paula

Then I got this message from my dear friend Paula:

“ I am enjoying myself with a baking project. It’s a family recipe (Joe’s mother with my tweaking) for Babka! After several rising and shaping and adding I have finally put this baby in the oven. It should be done by 1:30. After it cools may I bring you a chunk?
I feel my family around me when i do these things.”

Who am I to say “no” to a chunk of baked goods?
She invited me over to savor the aroma.
When I entered the back door, the kitchen was filled with the intoxicating scent of cinnamon. The recipe was her husband’s mothers’, embellished with her own additions. The original recipe was in Joe’s handwriting, with small changes scribbled in the margins.
And on the center of the table? a small display of hand dyed Easter eggs.

Easter past and Easter present

Holidays are a time of bittersweet joy mixed in with sorrow. Remembrances of holidays past, and the reality of what we have now. By recreating cherished dishes and traditions, we feel our families once again near to us.
Paula found joy in the creation of Easter present, fueled by Easter past.

And she shared that joy with us.

The Aroma of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

Easter Morning

Our senses are alive with the presence of Christ. Perhaps it is an early morning service, misty with the dampness of the new day. Or the sweet fragrance of Easter flowers when we enter the sanctuary of worship, bright with hope and joy.
Our senses come alive in the shades of Easter eggs, whether they are “real” hard boiled eggs, or plastic; in the aroma of our homemade meals and traditional menus.

In Christ, we are the aroma of Him to all those around us.
What better way to remember this than with a thick slice of Babka? Come Easter morning, I’ll cut a large slice of that Babka and rejoice in good food, good friends, and most of all the goodness of our Risen Savior.
Hallelujah!
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Easter Eggs

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/02/2021

Easter and Eggs

It is that time of year where Easter eggs are being dyed. Sure, there are the plastic ones that get reused every year.
There are Ukrainian eggs that are lovingly and meticulously painted.
But dying Easter eggs the old fashioned way?

It is a classic rite of childhood. And parents and grandparents enjoy it as well.

Dye

So what is a Grandparent to do when a little one is here with you?
Dye Easter eggs. It sounds simple enough doesn’t it?
But the new razzle dazzle methods are not sufficient. No mixes for us. No, these had to be the regular water, food dye, and a touch of vinegar.

Dunk

So we got out several mugs and added the food dye. Many combinations were created, and patience was required as we waited for the dye to do its job.
Of course, who can resist lifting it out of the murky solution to check on the progress?

The Roll

As eggs were dyed, they were brought out and placed on the counter.
Or maybe on a plate.
Either way, I don’t remember specifically.
I do remember hearing the slow roll across the counter. Almost in slow motion, and then the…..

Splat

Splat

The egg dropped onto the floor with not a crunch, as we’d expect from a hard boiled egg, but a “Splat.”
Uh-oh.
Her big eyes looked at mine as if to question my reaction.

What is a grandmother to do except laugh?

The Messy Clean Up

Eggs are a nasty business to clean up.
And why the “splat” and not the “crunch?”
Evidently, I had not cooked the eggs long enough. Maybe 5 more minutes would have done the trick.
So back into a simmering water bath they went.
Who would have known that the dye would have been lost in the new bath?
Now they looked mottled and grey.
Not quite the colorful plethora of shades we had anticipated.
This was more the color of death.

Good Friday

Considering what Jesus did on the Cross, there is much to consider. His body was beat and broken and hung on a tree.

Matt 20: 17-19
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests

and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Crushed and Broken

Isaiah 53:5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jesus was crushed for our iniquities, for our sins. The punishment we deserved was placed upon Him. In a miraculous exchange, we are healed through His wounds.

Splattered Lives

But perhaps we don’t feel healed right now.
Perhaps our lives seem to be “splattered” all over the floor.
Perhaps we can’t seem to find our way forward through the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Perhaps our lives look dull and grey like death.

The Reality

In reality, we may as well be dead in our sins.
The stores may be selling brightly colored plastic eggs and decorations.
Easter is getting more commercialized with gifts galore.
Bunnies smile at us from display shelves.
It seems innocent and cute and adorable.
But the reality of the Cross stands in stark contrast to the commercialized hype.

Friday is here….but Sunday is coming!

So we take our broken lives, that may look gray and shattered, and we offer them up to Jesus. He alone can fix the chaos of our lives.
He can look at the mottled mess smeared across the floor.
He takes our sin and casts it into the depths of the sea.

What kind of miraculous exchange is this that takes our broken, crushed lives and gives us new life?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Fully Known

Cynthia L. Eppley 03/24/2021

I didn’t recognize her at first. She was geared up with a heavy coat, hood up, and masked. We spoke briefly about the cold weather and then she turned to walk away.
Something resonated within me: her gait. And then it clicked: her voice!
It was Nancy!

I had not seen her for years, and yet I remembered her gait and her voice. What is it that is uniquely ours?
What is it that imprints us in others’ minds and hearts?

Hair

Many of us have noticed…shall we say….changes in our hair in the past year. With most of the area shut down on March 12, 2020, salons were included in that list.
That meant significant changes for those of us who color our hair.
Or that should be past tense: colored our hair.

Many decided it was time to go au naturelle. If we couldn’t get into a salon to color our hair, why not try it?
Others went with the box look, trying home coloring.
But there was a large group who decided to go the gray way.

It was clearly evident:
Going gray is not an easy process. It takes years to grow out your long mane.
You can spot the tell tale signs: Gray on the top, sneaking down several inches, with various shades of color at the ends.
Where is the grace that would allow full color coverage at one time?
Full disclosure: in my case, I am white in the front and sides. Then follows a variety of silver speckling. But once you’re past the front, darker colors ensue.
Thus, a riot of color combinations is found.
Most of us take it in good humor.
My brother, so well known for his teasing, lovingly calls me “a skunk”.
You know…..streaks.

Makeup

In this past year, makeup has taken a hit.
Why wear makeup if we are going to stay home?
My own stash has remained dormant in a bag.
Until I need it for a significant event.
One friend told me: Her daughter saw her donning makeup and exclaimed: “Mommy, No! You don’t need that!” She had become used to the “unmasked” version of Mom.
And another friend saw me with makeup and noted: “You look so pretty!”
I’m always amazed at what a little lipstick and rouge can do: the under eye shadows are banished for a short time.
So for the most part, throw the makeup to the winds and go au naturelle.

Clothing

Let’s be honest.
Many of us at home have not donned our more formal attire for a year. Sweat pants have ruled the land.
We may as well be casual and comfortable, right?

And if we have to attend a Zoom meeting, we are fortunate that only the “top half” shows. It is “Business Casual” run amok.

Earrings

I wore earrings for the first time in a year.
It took some nudging to get them through my earlobes. And now my ears are a bit sensitive. Why wear earrings at home, when the casual look is reigning?

Masks

And then there is the issue of masks.
Most of us wear them to go out in public.
But at home, we are “safe and sound.”
Why bother to wear them when we are in our safe zone?

Stripped Away

And so this brings me to my major thought:
This past year has brought us to our knees in so many ways.
But who would have thought that it would strip us of any outside conventions to supplement ourselves in some way?
Who would have thought that it would bring us to our very selves:
the unmasked naked version of reality.
This is reality.
Is it sufficient?
Is it acceptable?

Naked and Unashamed

There was a Garden, and in that garden, Adam and Eve knew a peace and easy acceptance by God. He walked among them in the Garden, in the cool of the day.
What a fellowship! What a joy Divine!
There was full acceptance.

They were “naked and unashamed.”

Fully Known

Isn’t it that type of relationship we all long for?
Don’t we want to be “naked and unashamed” before those who love us?
But we often hide behind fig leaves.
We hide behind masks and clothing and creams and potions to make ourselves more acceptable.

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared
believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Timothy Keller

1 Corinthians 13: 11-12
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

What a reassurance that I am fully known.
Gray hair, in various stages of color?
No make up? No lipstick? Dark circles under my eyes? Fatigue? Weariness?

It all shows au naturelle on my face. In my countenance.

But I rest in the knowledge that I am fully known. For today, that is more than enough.

A Year Anniversary of Covid

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA March 13, 2021

Milestones

Important dates and times are etched into our minds. Usually it revolves around a crisis of some sort:

Where were you when JFK was shot?
Where were you when 9/11 happened?
Where were you when everything shut down on March 12, 2020?

It is fitting that as we have passed the one year anniversary of Covid among us many people have been weighing in on it.

“A Year ago this was our last normal week and nobody knew it.”

From a teacher: “It’s been a year now since I’ve taught in a school building. If you go in my classroom, you’d see that the calendar still shows March 12, 2020. On that day I never thought that I would be going home to “stay safe” and teach over Zoom from my dining room table. What a year it has been (and still counting!)”

Time Stands Still?

Or does it?

March 12, 2020

1 Year Ago See Your Memories: “All Montco schools closed for 14 days….state mandated.”

Yes, Covid has taken much from us. There have been struggles. It would be harsh and cold to ignore what we have experienced. But we are a resilient people. There have been surprising blessings as well.

Count Your Blessings

One year ago, on March 12, 2020, there were long lines at grocery stores as people filled their carts with toilet paper and other staples.
Today, we have plenty of toilet paper and other staples. The supply may be lower, or intermittent, but most things are generally available.

Zoom

Zoom deserves a separate category all of its own.
For those who have been forced to work from home? Zoom enabled folks to continue to work and hold seminars and meetings.
While families have been distant physically, Zoom allowed for family get togethers virtually. Perhaps not the best option? But certainly useful to stay connected.

Home Sweet Home

For some, Zoom meant being able to continue to teach their students. I have several neighbors who are teachers. Their creativity and dedication has been top notch. Managing students at home through Zoom, as well as students in person in the classroom has been a juggling act. But these teachers have dug deep to make this year happen.

More time at home has been stressful but also a surprising blessing. The pace of life has slowed a bit so that families have had more time together. And some have found that leaving the confines of an office building has its perks.
Working from home has been more casual, but please remember to wear clothing if the camera is on.
And some have found that working from home is preferable to the daily commute.
Finally, some have lost their employment but found new ventures; taking on new skills they have begun a new career.

Faith

Even the faithful have been challenged to find creative ways to worship. There are churches that offer in person worship, with a mask. Singing is questionable.
Others have only virtual worship, available through zoom.
Some are a hybrid.

But it is clear that people of faith have risen to the challenge to find ways to meet together.

Hebrews 10:24-25.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Restaurants and Businesses

So many small businesses continued operations by offering curbside pickup. Others suggested buying gift cards to be used at a later date so that income was continuous.

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

I asked people to give me what they’ve struggled with this past year? And what has been a surprising joy. Consider these comments:

Struggle: Not having seen my son for almost a year and a half. He’s in Jersey, I’m in TN so with that being said, I’m just happy we’ve escaped contracting Covid – so far.
Best: I did a deep dive in my closet and drastically reduced the content, slacks, tops, shoes, hand bags etc.

Greatest struggle: anxiety & lack of socialization.
Surprising joy: the absence of busyness & being over scheduled has allowed quality to replace quantity. Happier with far less than we could’ve ever imagined.

Struggle- dealing with division, especially in the church and navigating the waters of rules and regulations vs freedom. Also struggling with who to believe. Why can’t we all agree???
Best part? Learning and maturing because of above struggles!!

Struggle: Missing my kids, esp. thanksgiving and Christmas; being alone at those times. Best: cleaned out some drawers and closet junk; got back to my knitting.

Essential Workers

So many have given so much. On 9/11 we saw First Responders rushing towards the World Trade Centers. And again, in this crisis, we have seen those who gave themselves willingly and fearlessly. Their dedication is evident. Doctors, Nurses, Sanitation Workers, and the list is endless.

The Invisible Helpers: Christy

I’d like to mention my Niece who is in a group of “Invisible Helpers”—Laboratory Professionals. These silent partners work in the background researching and testing our specimens. This is the group that stepped up to test the millions of swabs to determine Covid positive or negative.

Christy posted this one year ago:

“Please everyone, I realize everyone is in panic mode. Just stay calm and wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. We’ll take it from here.” (March 13, 2020)

And take it from here, she did! She was tasked with developing a vaccination program from a major medical institution. In two weeks time. She assembled a team of over 100 people to organize the program. Supplies were ordered, people employed, applications accepted. This required 16 hr days, often beginning at 4am. She once noted that her “Step” indicator on her phone logged over 20,000. In one day.

This is her reflection today:
“Wow……What a year it has been… There is no way I could have predicted then, how the past year would challenge and change me forever.” (March 13, 2021)

I am so very proud of her self sacrifice (and her family), dedication, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.

The Light

There are many with silent stories. There has been good news this week. Some restrictions are lifting. CDC has issued new guidelines in gathering together. Restaurants and gyms can now open at 50% capacity.
While this year has been wrenching in so many ways, there have also been blessings.

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Takeaway

This past year has had its dark time.
But there have also been moments of light and hope and encouragement.
And so perhaps a takeaway from Pandemic 2020 is that like Christy, it will challenge us but also change us forever, and for the better.

Snowmelt

Cynthia L. Eppley   03/09/2021

Slip Sliding Away

Many of you know that we have a dog, Ella. And Ella needs walked about 4 times each day. I’ve noticed several things on my most recent walks, as they have been complicated by snow and ice.

Snowmelt

The snow is beautiful, isn’t it?
But it begins to melt. We have a stream at the bottom of our block and it is a living indicator of the melt off. If I hear it from the top of the hill, I know it is a frothing, roiling torrent, rushing through the park. But more often, it is quiet with just a few sloshing rapids.

Observations

I lean over the top of the bridge, and can gauge how the stream is doing.  But last week, the water was up. And the snow had not melted! 

Or so it seemed.

On further investigation, the snow had creeped up and the run off was racing down the street to the storm drains.

Under the snow banks.

On the surface, the snow looked immovable. Impassable. And very slippery. But underneath it all, a different dynamic unfolded.

Life and Snow and Peace

Snow can cover ugly streets and muddy fields. It can look white and pure, pristine. But often, digging beneath the surface brings us greater truth.

Is there Peace?

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”  Jeremiah 6:14

Specifics

We know the quarantine and isolation has been hard for so many people.

But then we see intensive need:

A Young Dad “He is a young dad of 3 kiddos!  This is a lottery game when COVID strikes. 46 days on the ventilator. 48 days since I talked to you last. We’re still hoping and praying.”

Toby Mac From Christian song writer TobyMac Feb 19: ( TobyMac Yesterday at 12:00 PM )  I wrote “Help is on the Way (maybe midnight)” after a season in the valley of sad songs. With a broken heart after losing my firstborn son and stepping almost immediately into quarantine everything was dark. I woke up one day and turned to the Psalms. I read that “God is rolling up His sleeves”. What beautiful imagery. This picture turned me from having hope to yelling it from the rooftops. The God of all creation is rolling up His sleeves on our behalf. What a promise. We are not forgotten, not at all. That very morning I started writing;

“It may be midnight or mid day,  never early, never late  He’s gon’ stand by what he claims,  I’ve lived enough left to say… help is on the way”.

Tim Challies Fellow blogger Tim Challies: His son Nick died unexpectedly. (Mar 5, 2000-Nov 3, 2020.)  Jan 15, 2021: A Family Update:

https://www.challies.com/personal-reflections/a-family-update-3/

Tim wrote this on Nick’s 21st birthday:

https://www.challies.com/articles/to-my-son-on-his-twenty-first-birthday/

Close to Home

Bob’s sister, Carole, died from Covid in early Jan. (The Dawn of 2021: Every Moment Counts ) His cousin died Feb 12. We have both had Covid. We are still in recovery, going on over 3 weeks. Lungs are slow to clear and coughs and fatigue remain.

Still Waters Run Deep

Sometimes, when things look peaceful and calm on the surface? They hide pain and suffering that resides deep within. 

Each of us has struggled in a variety of ways in the past year.  But often we hide it.

Run Silent Run Deep

Edward L. Beach  wrote Run Silent Run Deep which became an immediate bestseller; it was later made into a Hollywood blockbuster 1958, starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.

I watched it with my father.

I’m sure I didn’t understand the finer details of submarines and conflict between captains. 

But I did understand that safety for the submarine was in silence and being unknown—invisible.

Really?

Is this the best we can do?

In these troubled times, perhaps we are called to look beneath the surface. Perhaps we are called to compassion, intentional caring, and reaching out to one another.

See: Chicken Soup for the Soul

Spring Rain

As sure as summer follows spring, the snow will melt.

The run off will pour into the streams, and make their way to the rivers and ocean.

Hosea 6:3

“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

Fulfill the Law

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Let us be the nourishing rain for our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, our church family.

Let us dig beneath the surface to encourage and lift up one another. Let us not be put off by surface snow and ice and crusty appearances. Let us press on to know Him, and to know others, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Valentine’s Legacy

Cynthia L. Eppley 03/01/2021

I know Valentine’s is past; but it was only last week. I’m a bit behind in blogging with still recovering from Covid. But the heart and the mind are still active with topics!

Valentine’s

Valentine’s Day Tree

To be honest, I’ve never had a Valentine’s tree. I started a small kitchen tree—you know, the kind to “bring me joy.” First it was Christmas, and what better way to decorate than old cookie cutters? Both of our mothers had them, so they were the first thing to adorn the tree.
Next came Easter, and “Summer Holidays”, then Harvest and Thanksgiving. But Valentine’s?
I didn’t think too much about it until…..

Little Girls

There are a few little girls in the neighborhood who have become dear to us. And as they looked at my Christmas tree, their innocent question? 
“Will you have a Valentine’s Day tree?”
Well. I hadn’t thought of it. It wasn’t a regular feature in our house.

But why not?
How can one resist their imploring request?

So with my trusty friend, Paula, we made a trip to Hobby Lobby and behold!
It was like a Mecca for every holiday, and Valentine’s Day was smack dab in the front of the store.

Decorations

What to use?
First, all of Christmas was put away.
I knew I needed to leave some ornaments.
My Father’s baby cup is there, and rightfully takes its’ place at the very top. Next to it is a tin plate picture of my Grandmother Lippincott.

Bob’s father’s dog tag from WW2 is near the top.

Cookie Cutters

But then I found “Heart” cookie cutters. Perfect.
And Paula gave me a small cardboard Valentine’s box, that may have held chocolates back in the day. Inside? Her own little heart cookie cutter.
Gingham hearts were added, but they needed some “Pizzazz.”
I pilfered through my mason jar of antique buttons.
There, I found unique pieces that enhanced the plain hearts.
And even old strips of cloth from old dresses, with buttons still attached.
Who knows how old these were?
Most of the buttons were from my grandmother, so they were at least 100 yrs. old.

Embellish

What else?
In those mason jars, I found old pins, and clips, earrings, and hair clips. The prize in the mix was a silver pin from Paris, with 3 silver charms hanging.
A little polish buffed them up to a soft shine.
If only they could talk and tell me of their travels.

Pictures

I haven’t put pictures on my tree before. But I realized I had pictures of my Grandmother, Elizabeth A. H. Lippincott. One in particular, is a portrait of her as a young girl. Ringlets frame her face as she strikes a pose.
A portrait of my father, Joseph G. Lippincott, Sr. fits perfectly on the other side; he is dressed in a white smocked dress, typical for baby boys in 1920.

Final Touch

If you have been following my blogs, you may know that Bob’s sister, Carole died of Covid in early January. It has been a great loss to our family. We sorely miss her. (The Dawn of 2021: Every Moment Counts )
We received a small package that she wanted us to have: in it, pictures of Bob’s parents on their wedding day.

What speaks of love more than wedding hopes and dreams, with your life ahead of you? It took its’ place at the base of the tree.

Legacy and Roots

I’ve enjoyed my holiday trees for so many reasons.
They brighten up my kitchen. It is so much more than “Feng Shui.”
Everything on my tree has meaning and purpose.
But it wasn’t until I received the picture of Bob’s parents that it was complete.
From the top of the tree, with my father’s baby cup, and his mother as a baby about 1889?
To the bottom of the tree, rooted in Bob’s parents wedding day.
The soft glimmer of the lights reflects on the treasures on the tree.
The trinkets are a reflection of the legacy of our lives.
The tree whispers through the ages of “The Hope and Fears of all the Years.”

Roots

Our family and legacy has always been important to us.
And where to we find our legacy?
Where do we find our treasure?
During this time of quarantine and isolation, we may feel more isolated than ever. But our roots go so much deeper than family, don’t they?

Foundations and Restlessness

“Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee.” Augustine

Our hearts are restless, aren’t they? We may have our roots and traditions grounded in family and in ritual. And these are good things.
But at the end of the day?

Our restlessness will only be satiated through knowing Christ and Him crucified.

And that is a legacy through the ages that will never disappoint and never leave us. It is a legacy that gives us roots but also wings to fly.
Knowing Christ is the very foundation that springs us forward.
It is a Love that will Never let us Go.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Cynthia L. Eppley 02/11/2021

This has been a tough year, a tough season.
I haven’t written about it, but now seems the appropriate time.
In the Fall, I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and at least 4 Pulmonary Emboli. It took until December to recover.
Bob’s sister died of Covid in January. (The Dawn of 2021: Every Moment Counts)
The past two weeks my husband and I have battled through Covid ourselves.

Chicken Soup

A first rate soup is better than a second rate painting. Abraham Maslow

What does this have to do with chicken soup?
A lot, actually.
When you’re sick, you really don’t want heavy, spicy food. The simplicity of chicken soup is warm and appealing.

Here’s to your Health!

But it even has health benefits:
“During cold and flu season, when your throat feels scratchy, your nose is stuffy and you’re achy and tired, your first instinct may be to reach for a bowl of chicken soup. Many people rely on chicken soup when they’re sick, not just for its familiar, pleasing flavor but for its soothing, healing qualities.”
What’s not to love about Chicken Soup?
I can personally attest to the benefits of this golden elixir.

Home Delivery

I even found a site that will deliver the soup, just like Mama used to make:
Homemade Soup delivered. http://www.spoonfulofcomfort.com
“Show them you care, even when you can’t be there. Shop Gourmet Gift Baskets Now! Gourmet soups delivered anywhere. A comforting gift of love and support.”

But notice they’re delivering more than just soup: They’re bringing comfort, love and support.

Love and Support

And so this isn’t so much about Chicken Soup, is it?
For the past 5 months, when we have needed it most, meals were delivered. When I was too sick to even think about a meal?
I could open the refrigerator and there would be a meal waiting to be warmed up. Groceries were picked up.
“I’m going to the store anyway—let me know if you need something!” Prescriptions were dropped off.
We never lacked for food; and more food was offered.
We received phone calls, texts, cards, and “social distance” visits.

Meal Trains

“A meal train is when a group of friends and family organize homemade meal deliveries for someone in need. The name comes from mealtrain.com , a website that lets you create a meal sign-up sheet to organize a meal train and assign days to anyone who wants to get involved.” This is a great organizational tool.

But honestly? Meals being delivered is as old as time.
As long as there has been need, there have been those who throw in an extra potato into the pot, or set an extra place at the table.
The spirit of generous giving is rooted in our humanity.

Who ARE these People????
They are the neighbors.
They are neighbors that went the extra mile.
As we’ve walked our dog, Ella, they’ve offered to take her for a day.

Snow Removal

We’ve had more snow in the past 3 weeks than the past several years combined.
No worries: there is our neighbor that fires up his snow blower and walks around the entire block: “Because I care for my neighbors, and this is one way I can help.”
And the neighbor who comes over with a shovel to clear the front walk for us.

The People of Oreland Evangelical Presbyterian Church

At OEPC, we’ve been providing meals for decades.
Our Meal ministry: provides a meal (or meals) for families during a time of illness or life changing event.”
And now the meal ministry has expanded to become an Outreach:
In November, we realized that many people were feeling the stress of being at home, trying to work, as well as teach children.
What’s more comforting than food? Chicken Soup to the rescue!
A flurry of activity responded, as food was made and delivered to the church.
“We started off with 19 deliveries.The response was overwhelmingly positive.
We then delivered another 17 and even had a chance to pray with a mom of 4, and chat with some of the neighbors. Many were grateful.
We have 31 deliveries to make now, using all of the food that many of you so generously provided!”

Soup for the Soul

So we are onto something aren’t we?
In our time of need, so many reached out to us in tangible, practical ways.
At OEPC, the community of faith enfolded us in their care.
Sometimes, faith comes through with skin on, and a meal.
These are the people of our lives.
These are the connections that make living so very worthwhile.
These are the connections that have been so strained under Covid restrictions.

Connection, Faith and Soup

I made a Costco run this morning with a dear friend and we picked up their Chicken Noodle soup: almost as good as homemade.
And this was her reaction:
“I know we needed groceries for the pantry. But this was also soup for the soul.”

And indeed, it is.

Emotional Exhaustion

Cynthia L. Eppley 01/16/2021

One of the reasons I partake in Social Media is to put my finger on the pulse of our culture. At least, part of it.
So when counselor Esther Lee posted this on Jan 13, I took notice:
“I’m sure so many of us can relate to this. It’s time to readjust expectations of ourselves and others.”

And then she referenced an article from USA Today:

“That Feeling You can’t name? It’s called Emotional Exhaustion.”

Emotional Exhaustion

2020 was a hard year. I’ve already written blogs addressing it. And 2021 has started off in a similar fashion.
How would we define it?
When stress begins to accumulate from negative or challenging events in life that just keep coming, you can find yourself in a state of feeling emotionally worn out and drained. This is called emotional exhaustion.

For most people, emotional exhaustion tends to slowly build up over time.
Emotional exhaustion includes emotional, physical and performance symptoms.
And 2020, with Pandemic and Covid? It has had a way of slowly building up over time.

How is Today different from any other Day?

I reference, of course, the question from the events described in the Book of Exodus. Is 2021 really any different from 2020?
Yes, and no.
Our country has just gone through a major election.

Tensions run high, and there is certainly enough blame to go around for us all. The political climate has added to the emotional load we all carry.
But this is not a political post: it is a post for all of us.

It Must be in the Water

Tensions and opinions run strong and deep. Just look at someone’s innocent post and then a diatribe back? There is so much anger.
And it is all around us. Like a fish in the water, we can barely escape it.

What is a person to do?

1. Recognize it.
We are living in unprecedented times. The Pandemic has been very real. The threat of Covid has hung over our heads for almost 1 year now.
The Vaccine is not yet readily available.
Our health workers and first responders are exhausted.
And we, who observe from the sidelines, absorb the exhaustion as well.
Political events add to our stress, no matter what “side” you are on.

2. Come up for air.
We cannot keep our head in the sand. Ignorance is not bliss.
But holding our head under a deluge of continual information, reports, videos and analysis doesn’t allow us to breathe.

Practical Tips on Self Care

I wrote on practical issues last Spring. Who would have thought we would still need them? See Loss in a Pandemic, Grief 101 and Grief 102. Do we see ourselves in these descriptions?
Check “How do we Get Through Quarantine?” for practical steps.

Practice the Presence of God.

As Christians, we have the Body of Christ to encourage and renew us.
We have the Scriptures to remind us of the marvelous message of a Savior.

We have hope:

Lamentations 3:20-22 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

We lift our eyes up to Him: Psalm 121: 1-2 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Pie in the Sky?

This is not a “Pie in the sky, bye and bye” unfounded hope.
This is a resilient, gritty trust that has placed its faith in a God who does not fail.

Psalm 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

How Firm a Foundation

The hymn “How Firm a Foundation” is full of Scriptural Truth:

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word
What more can He say than to you He has said To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed
For I am Thy God, and will still give you aid
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call you to go The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow For I will be with you, your troubles to bless And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie My grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply The flame shall not hurt you, I only design Your dross to consume and the gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to His foes
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Leaning

In these times of emotional exhaustion, let us find our foundation in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith.
Let us know that He is our refuge; He upholds us.
And in these times, let us lean into Him, knowing He will never forsake us.

The Dawn of 2021: Every Moment Counts

Cynthia L. Eppley 01/03/2021

New Beginnings?

It is the third day of 2021. But this isn’t just any year.
This is the end of 2020.
We all anticipated it so much didn’t we?
We are weary of Covid, Pandemics, illness, and death. We are all looking toward a new year and new beginnings.

New Year Resolutions

And then there is the hopeful New Year’s Resolution:
lose weight, drink less, exercise more, eat healthier, be more diligent in good things. We all have hopes and dreams in the New Year, don’t we?

But Wait….

The fact is, 2021 rose and shone much the same way as any other day in 2020. Sure, there were fireworks and celebrations.
Banging pots and pans into a dented wreak.
And the cynic within might even agree with the Teacher:

Ecclesiastes 2:11

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

What is Left?

The world keeps spinning round, doesn’t it?
Hindsight might be 2020, but what does the year before us hold? And how do we manage it?

Going into the New Year

We manage it by carefully noting the daily moments more than the long term resolutions. Giving thanks for life itself, and every breath as a gift.
The daily days may be tiring, but they are full of purpose and potential and pleasure.

We rejoice at the birth of beautiful new babies.

A dear friend notes that 1 year ago today her mother was taken unexpectedly. The pain of loss is still fresh and raw. The cost of love runs deep.

Yet another is taken by Covid.

Difficulties and Pleasures

St. Augustine said, “The very pleasures of human life men acquire by difficulties.”

“There are times when the entire arrangement of our existence is disrupted and we long then for just one ordinary day – seeing our ordinary life as greatly desirable, even wonderful, in the light of the terrible disruption that has taken place.
Difficulty opens our eyes to pleasures we had taken for granted.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

Haven’t we all longed for just one ordinary day?

Clarity

It is in such difficult moments that the clarity of life comes full circle and full center.
In these times we take off the glasses of the “Year to Come” and instead center in on the blessings and realities of each day.

Lamentations 3: 22-24 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him.”

10,000 Little Moments

Paul Tripp hit on a truth for our New Year:

”You see, the character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life.”
Paul Tripp Jan 1, 2014

Live Love Now

Rachel Macy Stafford is the author of Live Love Now, and blogger of Hands Free Mama: Letting Go, to grasp what really matters.
She speaks to living in the daily days and little moments: Christy passed away on September 1, 2012. The following pledge is how I will live out my days here on earth—inspired by Christy, the remarkable one whose life was the epitome of grasping what really matters.
In your honor, I will stop prefacing sentences with “when I lose 5 pounds” and “when things slow down.” In your honor, I will live life now, not “someday.”
In your honor, I will say, “I am sorry.” Even when it’s difficult to say. Even when I think the other person should say it first.
In your honor, I will bless the butterfly that crosses my path. For you taught me everyday miracles are abundant if we just open our eyes and look for them.
In your honor, I will not let life pass me by.
Rachel Macy Stafford© “Remembering Sunscreen & Butterflies” http://www.handsfreemama.com/…/remembering-sunscreen…/

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn…

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
There is a time for every purpose. There are seasons in life.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 There is a purpose to every day. Every day is a gift. Every breath is a gift.

The Conclusion of the Matter…

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
Ecclesiastes 12:13

(Please go to Youtube to access: Chris Rice: “Life Means So Much” with lyrics.)

Teach us to number our days. Teach us to make the days count. Lead us in better ways.
Life means so much.
(Chris Rice, Life means so much.)

Our Conclusion

Live Intentionally. One moment at a time. Live with Purpose.
Fear God. Love well.
Make every day count.

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