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It’s probably being a bit overly dramatic to say we only tasted freedom for a short while. It was brief, but glorious. Feeling cautious at first, I finally allowed myself the freedom to feel comfortable seeing and hugging friends and family again, meeting at restaurants, shopping in stores, and singing in church. And I had faith that we were on our way out of this pandemic. I also naively thought everyone would be as excited as we were to get the vaccine. The world doesn’t work that way, though. I knew that, but just for a fleeting moment I was caught up in the dream of how our world could and should be once again.

So, here we are again. Mask mandates are returning; deep in my gut it feels like it is just a matter of time before we will be shutting down places and canceling events again. It feels all too familiar, yet worse somehow. Before, the vaccine was the carrot -- it’s out there, we just have to be patient! We’ve done our part, we paid the dues...well, most of us did.

Today, I heard about two more friends testing positive for COVID. As with the others, they were fully vaccinated. The first ones I heard about had received the one-and-done vaccine, so I convinced myself that was the reason they contracted the virus. They just didn’t get the right vaccine. Then the next four I heard from proved that theory to be incorrect. Now what? I had put a lot of faith in this vaccine...too much. I lost my bearings for a while and thought a vaccine could answer all of our problems and give us back all that we lost.

Most of the hymns I had finally been able to sing again, even UNMASKED, shared very clearly where to find the source of our faith. And I believe that with all of my heart and soul. But I lost touch. After all, scientists created this vaccine; health professionals tested and administered the vaccine, and we stepped forward in good faith to receive the vaccine from these experts and professionals. And, of course, the vaccine has done a wonderful job of protecting hundreds of thousands from this dreaded virus. And the vaccinated, even with this breakthrough variant, are surviving. So, why am I afraid...more afraid than before the vaccine? Because I followed “the rules.” I stayed masked, kept my distance, ordered groceries, and didn’t eat in a restaurant for over a year. I signed up for a vaccination at the appropriate time and I waited for two weeks before cautiously stepping back out into a somewhat normally functioning society. Like so many others, we quarantined more than once in order to finally see family; we got tested many times in any location with an available appointment (I still have the hole in my brain to prove it). These are not hardships by any means compared to what is happening in so much of the world. There was a lack of gratitude in my thinking that we were guaranteed something just because we had worked for it or wanted it so badly.

Our grandchildren returned to in-person classrooms today for the first time since March of 2020. It’s funny that for years we have been sending our children to school to be among many other children, knowing full well they will pick up colds, stomach bugs, even head lice. This feels very different. It’s unnerving that deep down we are pretty sure these little ones will not be able to resist this variant and we still have no idea, really, how it will affect them. These children are trusting us, the teachers, and the school system. Are we doing the right thing...what is the right thing?? It’s a tough time to be a parent, a teacher, a healthcare worker, a senior citizen...we are all affected.

Then, a dear friend recently reminded me in just a few words who is in charge and always has been. And it was like a light bulb suddenly turned on. How had I lost sight of that, thinking that we are somehow in control of all of this? Now, I do believe that God expects us to use our brains, our kindness and our love toward our fellow human beings. But there is not a single, solitary thing I can do right now beyond what I have already done. So, I will wait and pray and cry a little. I’ll use my mask and remind myself where to turn when I’m feeling lost and afraid.

Early in the pandemic, this same friend confidently shared these words , “we will get through this.” So simple, yet somehow believable, and exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I will take a deep breath and believe it once more. With God’s help, we will get through this.

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oh, Janice! How perfectly said.

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