Got it!

Dose 2 of Pfizer is in my arm – a couple more weeks and I’ll be protected.

I’m thrilled that preliminary reports suggest that in addition to virtually eliminating the risk of severe COVID in vaccinated individuals, the currently available vaccines also reduce the risk of infection at all (and therefore spreading.)

Given that it doesn’t eliminate risk of infection, I’ll still be masking up when in the presence of potentially unvaccinated individuals – but this extra layer of protection is more than welcome and I look forward to the increased confidence it can give us in small groups of individuals whose health status/vaccination status is known. And, of course, I am hopeful that others will join the ranks of vaccinated so we can break the chain of transmission sufficiently to keep icky variants from gaining a foothold here in the US.

If you live or work in Sedgwick County, Kansas, the mass vaccination site at the old Central Library (so nice to visit my old digs again!) is very efficiently run and has had open appointments for anyone over 16 for a couple of weeks now. If you’re somewhere else, check with your local health department and get your vaccination scheduled – together, we can beat this!

#stickittoCOVID


Love Comes Easily. Charity Does Not.

“Let all that you do be done in love.”

~I Corinthians 16:14 (ESV)

I’ve tried to make it a governing principle of my decision making as it concerns this pandemic. “How can I love my neighbor in this instance?”

Should I venture into public or stay home? Should I invite someone in or visit on the porch? Should I wear a mask or not? Should I comment on this post or not comment on this post?

Well, how can I love my neighbor in this instance?

It has mostly come easily for me, thinking this way. Perhaps because I have relatively little fear of this virus for myself or my immediate nuclear family (and because we live far from our extended families, meaning that physical contact with them always requires advance planning and careful decision making.) Perhaps because I also have what I consider to be a healthy fear of infectious diseases from a population standpoint. Perhaps because I remember what it was like to have a baby the medical world wanted me to bubble wrap – NICU staff didn’t want me to take my first two even to church for their first year of life. When I took my preemies into public, I was relying on the conscientiousness of others to protect my vulnerable and not-yet-fully-vaccinated little ones from diseases that regularly put children in their situation back in the NICU and even kill them.

So loving my neighbors by taking COVID precautions has mostly felt pretty straightforward.

Love comes easily. Charity?

Not so much.

You see, charity would have me be patient with those who are (in my opinion) unnecessarily fearful regarding COVID – and patient with those who are (in my opinion) unnecessarily reckless regarding COVID. Charity would have me think kind thoughts and speak kind words about those people with whom I disagree regarding COVID.

Charity would not boast to my husband about how much smarter and more loving I am than all those other people out there who aren’t making the same decisions I am. Charity would not arrogantly assume that her perspective on COVID is the only one worth having. Charity would not be rude (even just internally) to those stupid people who… (do you see how easily my thoughts turn to rudeness?)

Charity would not be irritable toward or resentful of those who misinterpret my attempts at loving as fearfulness for self. Charity would not rejoice when someone “gets what they’ve been asking for” and finds out that COVID isn’t a joke after all.

Charity would bear the misunderstanding. Charity would believe the best of others’ motives. Charity would hope that even the reckless not be hurt or hurt others. Charity would endure the misinformed Facebook posts without having to tirade to her husband about those ALL CAPS EXCLAMATION POINT DOINKS who have no understanding whatsoever of science or immunity or how masks are supposed to work.

I am not charity. Not even close.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

~I Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

I have to repent daily for the uncharitable thoughts I think as I read the news or scroll through Facebook. I have to repent daily of the uncharitable words I speak when I complain to my husband about the latest ridiculousness that has me up in arms.

Lest I grow puffed up because of how well I have prioritized loving others during this pandemic, I must remember how poorly I have prioritized charity.

And I must fall upon the mercy of the God who is love, who in His charity reached down and redeemed me – impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, resentful, short-tempered, unbelieving, cynical me.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

~Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)


Love makes us do strange things

This past year has been full of strange things. Stay-at-home orders. Face masks. Cancelled events. Working from home. Foster care relicensure via Zoom. Court via Zoom.

It’s been hard to make decisions in a world cowed by COVID. Even harder when everyone has a different perspective on both the problem and the solution.

For us, we’ve tried to keep one thought at the forefront of our decision making process. We’ve tried to keep love at the center.

“Let all that you do be done in love.”

~I Corinthians 16:14 (ESV)

So when lockdowns were first implemented and our foster daughter could no longer have visits with her mother? We arranged to have daily video chats (as difficult as those are when the “chatter” is not yet 2 years old and there are four other little chatterers in the house.) And when it became evident that restrictions would be prolonged? We insisted on taking on the personal risk so that in-person visits could resume – which meant that we also took on personal restrictions so as not to pass that risk on to others. Our foster daughter’s contact with her mother became the only contact our family had with people outside our family. Because we wanted to love our daughter and her mother by giving them the opportunity to bond instead of letting the fragile bond that was just starting to be established to become a casualty of COVID.

When the time came to decide whether to travel to see our families at Thanksgiving, we opted to stay at home and to instead plan to see them for Christmas, when we had the time to isolate before and after. Because we wanted to love both our families and our community.

When Sunday school reopened this year after a spike of COVID hospitalizations in November closed it temporarily, we opted that I would continue to teach but our children would not attend. In doing so, we hope to reduce our family exposure sufficiently that I can stay well enough to not be regularly leaving my Sunday school team in the lurch when I (the lead teacher for our class) can’t attend due to illness. We want to love my Sunday school students and my fellow teachers.

And when the Southwest Power Pool, which regulates power across the plains, experiences unprecedented demand combined with record low temperatures literally “freezing” some types of energy production? We close our drapes (all day long) to prevent heat loss, turn the heat from 68 to 65, and keep both the lights and the computer off. The sourdough I’d planned to bake sits unbaked; I switch to disposable diapers so less laundry piles up while I’m eschewing the dryer; I handwash dishes instead of running the dishwasher. Because we want to love our neighbors – and if a dark, quiet, cold house for me means they don’t have to suffer from power outages? It’s worth it.

Because I want whatever I do to be done in love.

And love makes us do strange things.


It’s Still Christmas

Intermixed with the breezy autumn calls of “Happy Fall Y’all” and #PSLlove come the inevitable announcement of the first appearance of Christmas merchandise or music at [insert store of choice].

Everyone quickly agrees that this must be denounced and comments their own personal line in the sand for decorating for Christmas and/or listening to Christmas music.

Until 2020, that is. In 2020 we didn’t go into stores, so we couldn’t complain. Also, we’d been living Groundhog Day for several months by then and it seemed everyone was ready for a bit of cheer.

My Facebook feed filled with photos of homes decorated for Christmas on November 1st, complete with #sorrynotsorry.

Now that it’s January 5, I’ve been seeing a week of announcements that trees have been taken down and Christmas cleaned up. It’s a new year, on to new things.

Not here, though. It’s still Christmas at Prairie Elms.

For the past several years, we’ve chosen to celebrate Advent in a way that attempts to heighten anticipation.

I set up the Christmas tree on the first Sunday of Advent. And then we sit and wait with an unadorned tree for one whole week. The children ask, “Can’t we put on the lights? Please?” They know that they’re only yet seeing a glimmer of what the tree will become.

On the second Sunday of Advent, we load the tree with lights and plug them in. Beautiful. But we’ve barely enjoyed the lights before the children are begging, “Is it time for the ornaments yet?” No, no. We hold off on that for another week.

On Gaudete Sunday, at last we can enjoy the tree in its full splendor, loaded with ornaments.

The Prairie Elms Christmas Tree

Those couple of weeks of waiting offer opportunities for us to talk about how Israel waited year after year, decade after decade, century after century, millenia after millenia for the Promised Messiah. Like the slow revelation of our decorations, prophecies hinted at the Messiah who would come, whetting their appetites for the full revelation of the Coming One. And then, then – such a sweet revelation – Christ Incarnate.

But once the tree is up? We keep it up all Christmas long.

Through the first day of Christmas, the second day, the third day, the fourth, and on through the twelfth day of Christmas. We take our Christmas tree down on Epiphany, January 6, when Christmas (the liturgical season) is over.

So maybe you’ve moved on past Christmas into the new year (no shame in that!) – but we haven’t quite yet.

At Prairie Elms, it’s still Christmas.


We Got Shot

The Garcia family got our flu shots today.

We do every year, because we know that the flu is nothing to sneeze at. While influenza often just means a terrible couple of weeks of cold-type symptoms combined with awful muscle aches, not everyone who gets influenza experiences a mild case. In fact, over the past 10 years, influenza has killed about 35,500 Americans yearly (annual deaths range from 12K in 2011/12, by far the mildest season in the past decade, to 61K in 2017/18).

Post-shot selfie of the whole family
Post-shot selfie. Silly faces are from trying to get Shiloh to look at the camera. She wasn’t amused, obviously.

My own terrible experience with a “mild” case of the flu in college was enough to convince me that I NEVER wanted it again – but even if I was willing to get flu myself, I am aware that me getting the flu doesn’t just affect me. If I get the flu, I can also give others the flu – and others might not be as “lucky” as I was.

This year, it’s even more important that we not get and give the flu. An estimated 442,000 Americans end up in the hospital with the flu each year – and, this year of all years, if we can keep people out of the hospital and off of ventilators we should.

One common objection is that the flu shot is not 100% effective – this is true. Likewise, seatbelts don’t keep everyone from dying of car accidents and not smoking doesn’t keep everyone from dying of lung cancer – that doesn’t make them worthless. Flu shots remain a low-risk way to reduce risk of getting influenza. And, even when the influenza vaccine has relatively low effectiveness at preventing influenza infection, it still results in milder cases of influenza (which means fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths – still a win.)

So get your flu shots, people! Do it for yourself, do it for your neighbor.

The Garcia family did.


The data I shared regarding disease burden is from the CDC website. For science-based answers to common questions regarding the flu vaccine, check out the linked blog post from science journalist Tara Haelle at her blog Red Wine and Applesauce.