Holding my breath

Life is a rollercoaster these days. Yesterday, I was feeling ambitious and energetic and I actually got the whole house clean. Except the downstairs bathroom. Cleaning 2 bathrooms is my limit. The day before, I had no desire to move from the living room. It was a good thing my laptop was in reach so I did manage to get some work done. And it seems there’s no predictability about what the day will bring. Could I do better with my eating habits? Probably. Would it help if I was more regular with my yoga prayer? Likely. But it seems that whether I’m taking care of my mind, body, and spirit, or not, each day is full of unpredictability and the anxiety that comes with it.

The pandemic has interrupted our lives in so many ways. People have lost loved ones. Many have lost their jobs. Lots of us had to learn how to homeschool, and likely will have another opportunity to hone those skills. For my family, the pandemic interrupted our connections to our new community.

In January, we moved from New Braunfels, TX to Charleston, SC. I started a new job at a social services ministry I love and was thrilled to return to (I used to be a pastor in town.) My son started at a new high school, known for the quality of their band program – the only thing he really loves about school at this point. I had high hopes that we would quickly find our favorite restaurants that we enjoyed walking to, that we would reconnect with all of my old friends from my former life here in town, that we would be overwhelmed with new people to get to know through band and Scouts and yoga and choir and all the other activities we love. And then, before we could even finish unpacking, life shut down.

Don’t get me wrong – we’re doing ok. I’ve survived the homeschooling of a ninth grader and used my engineering brain at work to reimagine food distribution outdoors. We have a roof over our heads and food on the table and since we’re both introverts, we like it just fine to be left alone a little bit. But we can’t really get out and try new restaurants – the streets are full of tourists and locals desperate for a not-home-cooked meal. We haven’t been able to connect with my old friends because we’re all staying home to stay safe right now. And we haven’t had the chance to meet new people at band practice or Scouts or yoga or choir because all of those things are either cancelled or online (not my favorite way to meet new people.)

But I didn’t realize how much I was missing community until I got to be part of a Zoom call with our Texas church family. We all gathered online to say goodbye to the pastor who’s moving and the experience just took my breath away. Now – I’m a pastor and I’ve spent my life working to create Christian community because I know it’s the foundation of discipleship and the place where people learn how much God loves them and an essential part of a life of faith. But our congregation in Texas was the first Christian community I’ve been a part of as an adult where I wasn’t in charge of all that. I just got to be me and show up and be loved and share my gifts when they were needed and watch my kiddo get wrapped up in love and acceptance and learn what following Jesus looks like. And that’s what I’m missing.

There’s no substitute for Christian community. No Boy Scout committee or band support team or yoga class or even choir can replicate authentic Christian community. When people make a commitment to walk as disciples together in the world, it changes things. When you ask, How are you?, you stick around for the answer and ask how you can help. You check in with all the kids and teenagers, making sure they know that they’re loved and seen and heard. You make room for disagreements because you respect one another’s contributions to the discussion, and you practice forgiveness together. At least, that’s what we did at New Life Lutheran Church. And I miss it.

Godly Play at New Life (outdoor) Lutheran Church

We haven’t had time to connect with a church here in Charleston. And so we’ve mostly been watching worship from back in Texas. But today’s Zoom call with all the familiar faces, with the kiddos who are growing up too fast, and with friends who are recovering from illness – that was church for me. I needed the connection. I needed to hear everyone’s excitement when we joined the call. I needed to share how much I’m missing them. And when I texted after the Zoom, I needed to know how they’re doing. Connection. Human, Christian connection. I need it like I need air to breathe. I just didn’t realize I’ve been holding my breath.

May we all take the time to breathe in deeply the love of God shown through Christian community. Praying that we will meet again, and soon.

Published by Kara Joy Stewart

mom, executive director, pastor, runner, yoga teacher, singer, seeker

3 thoughts on “Holding my breath

  1. Dear Kara
    You describe the present plight so well and I’m sorry that the timing has been so challenging for you and Your dear boy. I have found that because we too have food on the table, a roof over our heads and have managed to keep well, its been hard to allow the pain and anguish of this time to be spoken . The lack of touch and connection creates a huge loss and I find myself grieving the ease of being with others I had once before . My prayer is that the lessons I am learning will carry forward and I’ll never take those simple, life giving things for granted again. Bless you Kara and I hope, very soon, easy community and connection will return. What a time that will be!!! With love. Judy x

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