How to Launch Into Winter with COVID All Around Us

My stupid COVID dog (not that she has it, but we bought her because of it) woke me up way too early one morning. I wouldn’t mind if our Governor mandated all humans shall not stir before 8:00 a.m.

Vie (my COVID dog’s name – which is French for “life”) needs a walk immediately upon waking or she’ll poop in the house. So at the crack of dawn I headed outdoors in my pajamas for a dog walk.

With sleepy-eyes and morning breath I bumped into my neighbor just two doors down. She was loading her last piece of luggage into her car before heading to the airport. She was meeting up with her parents so they could tearfully send her off to live in the Middle East. She’s young (25?), very blonde, very attractive, and traveling solo to teach at a high school in Afghanistan. Yes, you heard that right:

Af-freakin’-ghanistan.

God knew this one last impromptu meeting was needed by both of us. We had a precious exchange there on the sidewalk and I was able to send her off with a blessing. With mutual  tears, she departed. I wondered how in the world her parents were handling this. Afghanistan. Who even does that? (Okay…. So maybe I did that. But WE went as a family. I had a brave husband at my side along with two strapping, tall teenaged sons and two very confident daughters. I was not ALONE. And Morocco is no Afghanistan. Not even close. People actually take vacations to Morocco.)

Before I had much of a chance to process the bravery of this young woman, I turned the corner and ran into a homeless man. He was picking at garbage in the park across from our home and so I greeted him warmly, “Hello!”

He launched into a rambling apology, “I’m sorry. So sorry. We didn’t mean it. We’re leaving.” It was then I noticed his tent that was erected just beyond the children’s play area. A second man was exiting their “home” as we spoke.

“Sorry for what?” I asked.

Without making further eye contact, he shuffled away saying, “We slept too long. We’ll be gone soon. So sorry.”

Homelessness in Grand Rapids is a thing – as I imagine it is in every city. But I’ve heard we are known as a destination for the homeless because we have plenty of shelters and food distribution centers, clean parks, friendly police and a plethora of Christian organizations that will do anything to help. But COVID has definitely made the homeless issue worse here in GR.

One thing I know for sure: Homelessness is not of the kingdom of God. This is not the way things are supposed to be.

I quickly realized the reason my stupid COVID dog woke me up so early is because God knew I needed to run into my Afghanistan-bound neighbor and my neighbors with no home because I needed the reminder that life is rarely what we thought it’d be or even what it’s supposed to be.

Watching my neighbor leave for Afghanistan I thought, “I bet when she was born and her parents first saw her rosy little cheeks, blonde tufts of hair and blue eyes they never once thought: “I hope that someday this one will move to Afghanistan all alone – a place where young beautiful blondes really stand out and American’s are not particularly welcome.”

I bet her parents never once imagined this for her future. But…

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.” Proverbs 16:9

I bet when my two homeless neighbors were in high school, they never once thought to themselves, “I hope someday I will be without a home. I just know that I’ll end up jobless, with no prospects, and unable to secure safe shelter.”

 But…. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.”

We were invited to 3 weddings this fall where the bride and groom watched many lifelong dreams shatter as they moved up their wedding date, changed the venue, and shrunk the guest list due to COVID.

But… “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.”

Our college graduate daughter was supposed to be living abroad in France or Spain or Honduras right now developing her language skills but instead she is home here with us working as a barista.

Because a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.

Referencing changed plans and directions is not meant in any way to minimize those who have lost loved ones from COVID. Those losses are incalculable and we can’t even begin to make sense of that. But I think that, without exception, we ALL had plans, dreams, and hopes for 2020 that look nothing like the 2020 we’re living. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

THESE WERE NOT OUR PLANS, GOD!!! DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING???

Never before have we all been so at the mercy of the Lord’s plans. We can barely plan next week, let alone next month or next year.

But one beautiful takeaway of this COVID reality is to realize I am not in charge of me and you are not in charge of you. We can plan all we want and hope and dream and whine when these things may have to be changed, cancelled, or never come to fruition – but the truth is that The Lord Our God alone is sovereign and we can never take his place on that throne no matter how much we think we belong there.

We can only surrender our plans and trust Him.

That’s it.

That’s all.

Whether in Afghanistan, a COVID-unit at the hospital, the Champs-Elysees in Paris, in a tent in the park, or stuck under the same roof between the same 4 walls for an entire year, the Lord has indeed directed those steps and he alone establishes those steps that lead us into our futures.