May 2020 | by johanna kennedy
Disclaimer #1: The following anecdote doesn’t touch on the virus itself. This is just my reality this week. I would love to hear yours.
Fifteen years ago, I married a great guy. 13 months later, we jumped on the treadmill of childbearing and rearing. When the kids were young, I stayed at home while my husband both ran and expanded our business. Picture me at home buried in laundry, tears, food, and breast pump parts while he was off navigating customers, employees, countless communications, and problems. Regardless of his stress level, there were nights when he walked through the door and accurately ascertained that if he didn't peel our progeny off my legs and from my arms, I could not be held responsible for any ensuing actions. The household joke (not always a joke) during those years was that I was a flight risk.
Fast forward a few years, and here we are, the whole family at home together under an order from the governor. Countless times over the past month of cleared calendars and COVID commands, I’ve stood in our kitchen up to my ears in sifted flour and sibling squabbles once again dreaming of flights to distant (quiet) lands.
These days we alternate between moments of sweet connection and hiding from one another. Each morning I declare that education will fill our minds and vegetables will feed our bellies only to have all screens alight with escapes while we eat cookie dough from the bowl before dusk.
Following a flurry of SOS texts yesterday, a few friends and I decided to connect over Zoom to check in and pray. We talked about marriages, husbands, kids, jobs, our town, nation, and the world. All this time, together in our homes, is bringing much to the surface. Like squeezing a dirty sponge.
Ironically, this was my prayer during the first week of this ordeal. I prayed this unexpected pause would be a gift. I prayed that marriages would be restored, there would be forgiveness, words needing to be verbalized would be said, parents and kids would reconnect. I thought the gift of all this added time together would reignite and renew relationships.
I didn’t foresee that, before all this wonderfulness could emerge, things would have to get worse before they got better.
While my friends and I talked about all the icky-ness dripping from our own sponges and those of our loved ones, a phrase popped into my mind.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these two words.
What is love? And stay where? In what?
Love is willing the best for another person.
Love has nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with actions.
Love stays in the hard conversations.
Love stays during the devastating confession.
Love stays at the table throughout the entire math lesson.
Love plays Monopoly. The whole game. Without cheating.
Love stays in the room, in the relationship, when it’s uncomfortable.
Love stays long enough to ask, “Why?”
Love stays in the marriage.
Love stays engaged mentally.
Love stays and finds a way when there seems to be no way.
Love stays…fill in the blank.
Disclaimer #2: There are times when Love needs to leave. Wisdom discerns between the two. Though, I would submit to you that Love probably needs to stay more often than leave.
I also realize that sometimes we need someone in our lives willing to help us stay when it’s hard.
If you are in this camp of needing to stay but don’t have the strength, might I encourage you to reach out to someone who will stay with you as you stay in it. Look for the person who will tell you the truth and not just pet your pain.
If you don’t have anyone, call me. I’ll walk with you. I’m not certified in anything, but I will be your friend.
When we all gather with our loved ones at Thanksgiving this year, I pray that we would actually be thankful for what transpired in our circles because of COVID-19. I pray that we will look back at this unexpected pause as a gift when relationships mended, dreams were realized, children were heard and rescued, and new things began all because we courageously stayed.
Running beside (well, six-feet from) you,
Originally printed in the May 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine
Never miss an issue, check out SLM's digital editions here!
Love, Adoption, Loss, and Hope
“How am I supposed to raise our kids by myself?” she asked. This May marks Jodi Blakeslee‘s second Mother’s Day as a single mom. She involuntarily took on this role bravely and boldly in February 2018 after her high school sweetheart and husband of 19 years, Ben, passed away at the age of 38.