When thinking back on 2020, we all have stories to share. We all have impactful moments that happened or strong opinions on what could have gone differently. I am excited to share about a recurring theme in the year 2020 for me.
In 2019, my husband began the interview process for an internship with a tech company in California. We knew the opportunity could not only help advance his career, but also fulfill a dream he had shared with me on our very first date: moving to California. We lived in Minnesota and knew that the six-month long internship would mean long-distance - something we thought we had left behind once we got married. Ultimately, we knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up and he accepted the position. We came up with a travel plan for how often I would fly out to see him. It gave me a lot of excitement to know I’d also get a taste of the California sun during Minnesota’s longest winter months.
In January 2020, he drove to California and I sat with a lot of uncomfortable feelings. I had never lived alone because we got married while in college and I had roommates before our marriage. I was an emotional wreck the first few weeks as we navigated time zones and our busy schedules. My coworkers invited me over more frequently and friends encouraged me to join them for yoga. I began to fall into a rhythm and by the end of February, I hit a stride I was pleasantly surprised to love. During February, I saw my husband two weekends in a row which felt like Christmas morning! My next visit was scheduled for mid-March.
March 2020 in California was different than in many other places in the United States. My husband began sending me more and more news articles about coronavirus and how it was starting to appear in California. I don’t really watch the news, so I appreciated that he kept me informed. As I boarded my flight on March 12, the principal at the Christian school I was teaching at let the staff know it was likely the school may end up closing the following week while waiting out the virus. I didn’t think much of it, other than maybe I could extend my trip with my husband a few extra days. Over that visit, we couldn’t avoid the news: California was shutting down. Non-essential travel had to be canceled. Two weeks to let coronavirus disappear. I texted my boss the night before my flight and asked if I could stay in California since school had confirmed its closing. Her response: No - the students needed to say goodbye to me, I had to be there to help pack their things, and we wanted to close in all-school worship. I was a mess. I felt frustrated that I was being asked to put my safety and emotional wellbeing on the back burner to be at my job. We had been told we would have one or two days of meetings in person and the rest would be remote for those two weeks. But, I have never been a rule breaker, so I got on my flight home. At that point, I was quite certain I’d be able to at least fly back to California for my husband’s birthday in April.
But we all know how the story goes... Two weeks got extended time and time again. All of our staff meetings and devotions were virtual. I was not only physically not at my job, I wasn’t there mentally or emotionally either. I had worked hard to build routines to cope with the change of long-distance, only to have those routines uprooted in the most unpredictable way ever: a global pandemic. I became closer with a few coworkers as we virtually worked together in new ways - talking more and more each day. We found companionship in griping over the daily difficulties of teaching young children through recorded videos. Some also invited me to watch their church’s online worship. I hadn’t consistently gone to church when my husband left for the internship and I struggled to stay focused with church online.
faith had to be my anchor...
I knew that faith had to be my anchor though.
I spent many evenings in reflection, primarily through journaling. I thought back on all of the many ways God worked through unfortunate events, poor timing, and human frustrations. I still felt angry with Him though.
I began re-developing my routines once it became clear that Covid wasn’t going to just disappear after a month. A key routine I developed was a mix of movement and worship music. Each day, I became intentional with either going for a walk or doing yoga while listening to worship music. One day comes vividly to mind as I think back on those months. I was ending my yoga practice in savasana, the laying down pose. I was listening to a worship playlist and “Peace Be Still'' by Hope Darst began. As I laid there, the song spoke to me on a deeper level than ever before. Tears began to roll down my face and then suddenly stopped. I felt the most miraculous level of peace sweep over me. The anger I had developed, the frustrations I had bottled up, all of the negative feelings, they disappeared. I laid in the pose much longer than ever before. As the music changed, the peace remained. Eventually I sat up and I wrote this in my journal:
the peace only God can give...
As I sit here 2+ years after this experience, I still reflect on that moment of superior peace. I don’t feel it as intensely anymore unfortunately, but I now know how to better access the calm among any level of chaos. Because of sin, that’s what life will continue to throw at us: chaos. So I invite you to find your routine that pushes you to the peace only God can give.
Elisebeth is a Jesus-loving woman who is enjoying life in Northern California. She finds joy in exploring national parks with friends, finishing a good book, and soaking up all the sunshine.
Blog photos by Carly Kristin Photography. Headshot provided by guest writer, Elisebeth Rodriguez.