by Connie Vandeman Jeffery—
My new wardrobe consists of T-shirts and shorts. It’s summertime, after all, and I’m working from home. For Zoom meetings, I wear my nicest T-shirts—the ones that haven’t been washed a hundred times until they are a tad threadbare. Or on some Monday mornings, I may even put on a blouse, but the shorts stay. No one can see the shorts on Zoom. I make sure the shorts match, my one attempt at putting together an ensemble.
I have an eclectic collection of T-shirts. Everything from a navy-blue shirt with the New York skyline complete with the World Trade Center and an American flag with the words “Always Remember” to one of my latest additions, “I Was Social Distancing Before It Was Cool!” I wear “Always Remember” only once a year—on September 11. It has stayed in pristine condition, folded neatly in the bottom of my T-shirt drawer.
My “London 2012” black Tee with 24 small colorful boxes depicting Olympic sports is a favorite. It matches my black shorts and adds splashes of color. It’s threadbare from at least 100 washes in the past eight years. I never wear my “Atlanta 1996” sweatshirt— a gift from my late brother Bob. It’s slightly small on me. But I keep it, folded in the drawer, a reminder of my brother, gone too soon.
My coronavirus collection of T-shirts includes funny shirts and thought-provoking ones. I wear the “social distancing” one all the time, as well as a royal blue Tee with the words “Non-Essential” in white block letters on the front. I know I’m a “non-essential” worker. I don’t save lives, nor do I provide any services that would put me in the class of an “essential” worker. But every time I wear it, my co-workers who see me on Zoom from the waist up, say, “Of course you’re essential!” I get such a boost every time I wear it. It helps my self-esteem and makes me feel so essential to my team.
Not all of time, but most of the time, I feel truly thankful and blessed. These past four months at home have given me a spirit of gratitude I haven’t felt, down deep in my soul, for as long as I can remember. I am blessed that I’m able to do my work from home. I’m so thankful for my “team” of co-workers who make my work and my life so fulfilling. I’m grateful that I am able to care for my husband—who is elderly and has a multitude of serious, underlying health issues—at home, while I work. I stay safe so that he can remain isolated and cared for, and hopefully, not contract the virus. I’ve taken time to appreciate the very small things, as well as the big, giant, in-my-face, blessings. Which is why, when I found the size M, white T-shirt with the words “Thankful & Blessed” in gold letters on a palette of pink on the front, well, I had to buy it! It’s so me! I am thankful and blessed. It is a true statement.
Do I get down? Discouraged? Two steps forward, one back; hopeful one day, disheartened the next? Yes, I do. Events have been cancelled. No camp meetings this year. No General Conference session. Vacations have been cancelled. Church is online. I have Zoom fatigue. Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that we can stay connected and still “go” to church. I think of our 2020 graduates of all ages. Were they disappointed that they didn’t have a “real” graduation? You bet they were. But they improvised and had meaningful graduation ceremonies—drive-bys, drive-throughs, virtual graduations. They made it work with a spirit of hope that amazed me. I want to be like them.
My favorite T-shirt, the most perfect of all, is dusty blue with the words “Hope is Not Cancelled!” in a cursive style of writing with the British spelling of “cancelled” with two “l’s.” This one says it all—everything for which I’d been trying to find the right words. Yes, I feel “thankful and blessed” most of the time. But I’m hanging on to hope like there’s a bright tomorrow. Because I know this to be true. Hope is not cancelled! It will never be cancelled. Not in 2020. Not in my lifetime or in yours. “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
Connie Vandeman Jeffery is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference, and has had a long career in media.