True story. Two weeks ago the music teacher at my school made the mistake of telling me that yes, singing “Happy Birthday” is the duration that you should be washing your hands, but also, the chorus to “Mr. Brightside” is the same. Since then I’ve been singing The Killers numerous times a day. I told the girls in my Bible study that information, and then I proceeded to start singing “jealousy turning snakes into the sea.” One of the girls looked at me quite puzzled and said, “it’s turning SAINTS into the sea.'” Hmmmmm ok then.
Now that we are past The Killers, I’d like to introduce you to a very dear friend of mine named Melanie Shankle. Now, in full transparency, we aren’t actually friends, but I just know we would be if we met. She’s a blogger and an author and a lover of 80s movies. If you’ve never read any of her books, I highly encourage you to make some purchases right now. They are easy, fun reads, but they are full of wisdom and little a-ha moments. I was reading her most recent book “On the Bright Side” a few weeks ago, and I was overcome by this passage and took a picture and immediately texted it to some close friends.
She is referencing the moment when the Israelites escaped from the Egyptian army and crossed the Red Sea on dry land.
“God does deliver them to the other side, and Miriam and all the women get out their tambourines and begin to dance. Think about what that means. It means that in the midst of what had to be the scariest time of uncertainty they had ever faced, they packed their tambourines. Because, yes, they were afraid, and, no, this wasn’t their plan, but they trusted, God, so they packed their tambourines. They believed and trusted that a day would come when they would dance and rejoice again. And you know who led the dancing? All the women. The bright side is knowing that our lives are forever changed for the better by the women God gives us to walk with through life, to be each other’s greatest cheerleaders, encouragers, teachers, and tambourine players.” -Melanie Shankle
Are you verklempt? I’m verklempt. I’ve been having a difficult time finding a reason to play my tambourine, that is my metaphorical tambourine. But my roommate bought a ukulele off Amazon to learn to play during quarantine, and I have a harmonica that a friend bought for me when she was judgmentally impaired, so a band may be forthcoming. Stay tuned. Really and truly though, I’ve been struggling to function, but we’ve got to flip that script, henny.
Alright, here we go. “Coming out of my cage, and I’ve been doing just fine.” Bright side moment one: I went to Trader Joe’s the day the governor of Georgia announced that all schools in the metro Atlanta area would be closing. Ok. Trader Joe’s in midtown is crazy on any given Tuesday, but when people think that there’s a chance that they won’t have access to their Joe Joe’s and kombucha for a time, it’s pure chaos. I went. I stocked up. I survived. Y’all, people were actually talking to one another in line while we all waited. It was such a throwback to actual human connection. No one was on a phone. We were talking about the products that we were getting for “the apocalypse” and sharing our favorite TJ products. A man even held my spot so I could get out of line and get dark chocolate peanut butter cups because I’ll be darned if I’m going to be quarantined without those. Talk about a humanitarian.
Also side-note, my roommate got this picture from her boss. Apparently she was at Trader Joe’s the same time I was and was taken aback by the chaos. You may notice someone familiar in a gray top and blue skirt who is now spending quarantine working on her posture. (And I know it doesn’t look like people were talking, but they were. And I was answering a text message not mindlessly scrolling. DON’T INVALIDATE MY EXPERIENCE.)
Bright side number two: I don’t really watch the news. I don’t really keep up with things, but I know all the words to “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. You can’t win them all. Based on what I DO know, this started in 2019 hence COVID-19. What if it had spread to the United States in January/February? What if we legitimately had to stay inside because of the cold and rain?
We are experiencing this right as spring has sprung and new life is emerging, and I don’t know when I’ve been so conscious of watching trees and flowers bloom. I’m outside every day either running or walking just taking it all in, and I am so grateful. It’s a reminder of one of my favorite songs by Gungor called “Beautiful Things.”
Give it a listen if you don’t know it, but a lyrics goes, “all around hope is springing up from this old ground, out of chaos life is being found in You. You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust.” Now after all that time outside, I’ve realized that pollen is still alive and well too. Every time my roommate or I sneeze we exclaim, “Pollen. Not rona.”
Bright side number three: I have always loved the 1950s and have thought if I could go back to any time period, it would be then. The soda shops, the clothes, the quaint, I love it. If I could hopscotch in a driveway with Wally and the Beav next door, I’d be a happy girl. But y’all, it’s like it’s 1953 in 2020. People are walking and playing in their yards every where you look (“Every where is a heart is a heart a hand to hold on to.” Name it.) And when you pass by, they wave. What. Is. This. Life. I’m here for it. I walked the Atlanta beltline (it’s basically a strip of concrete that circles a lot of the city) and saw a man in a leather jacket flying a kite. I was having some serious “I Like Ike” vibes.
Bright side number four: I think people are just more heightened to the fact that we need to be kind to one another now. A little goes a long way. Saturday morning I was reading book “Trustworthy” by Lysa Terkeurst. The question that I was answering was talking about God’s character: He is good. He is faithful. He is a provider. He is always near.
I received a phone call from an Ohio number. I ignored it. They left a voicemail. It was a delivery person. One of the parents in my classroom sent over a delivery of pastries, yogurt, granola, and coffee to my apartment. Grand scheme of things….are yogurt and granola really God’s provision? I can’t be sure. But that act of thoughtfulness set the tone for my weekend.
Bright side number five: I love Atlanta. I truly do, but I spend an exorbitant amount of time in my car. I mentioned above that I know all the words to “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” well I learned them sitting in traffic day after day. One time (and this stays here) I wet my seat sitting in standstill traffic on I-75. Put all those Dunkin Donut napkins to good use.
Traffic has been incredible. I don’t really have anywhere I can or want to go, but the city has stilled. On one of my usual running routes, I run through midtown down a street called Peachtree. It’s always busy and always backed up. I ran down the middle of the street last week at 5:30 pm and nary a car did I bother. It’s madness.
Bonus bright side: I love how so many artists are using social media to entertain and reach out to people right now. Ben Rector will always be a favorite of mine. He is such a gifted lyricist. If you’ve never listened to “The Men that Drive Me Places,” stop what you’re doing and listen now.
Anyway, he has been doing a series since quarantine started called “Covers from an Empty House” where he plays covers in an empty house. Brilliant. I couldn’t sleep the other night and was scrolling through instagram at 4:30 in the morning. This doxology made me tear up. Quarantine has me all kinds of emotional apparently. It’s beautiful.
Cheer on your people. May the Zoomers and Boomers unite. Approach each day with the attitude of Mary Kate and Ashley’s detective videos series. Be a super duper snooper and find the bright side and the gifts that have been lavished upon us. They are everywhere.