The past few months have been a difficult and emotional time for all of us. This is especially true for Sissy and Sherwood Dance. They received the joyful news last fall that they would become grandparents this spring. Their daughter Mary and her husband Stephen were expecting a boy. Mary and Stephen live in Hillsborough, NC.
The Dance’s waited patiently as Mary’s due date approached, but then COVID-19 hit and the world changed overnight. Suddenly we were all immersed in a world of social distancing, travel restrictions, and sheltering in place. Then, on March 28, with pandemic panic in full swing, August Graham Berry was born. Seeing their new grandchild got complicated very quickly. A two-and-a-half-hour drive to Hillsborough felt as impossible as a trip to the moon. One Doctor said they could come to see him, but he cautioned that the visit should take place outside, they should remain six feet away from August and they’d have to wear a mask. Sherwood said, “That just didn’t seem very personal.” So, they waited, and waited and waited. Finally, in late May, two months after the birth, the Dances got to travel to North Carolina to see and hold August for the first time.
How did it feel to have to wait so long to see their first grandchild? Sissy said, “It was a long two months! It was unreal that something so exciting was happening and we couldn’t participate. We felt helpless. We wanted to be there to help Mary and Stephen, but we knew we couldn’t. We felt for them. New parents need all the help they can get, but we couldn’t do anything, but they did a tremendous job. They are wonderful parents. I guess I’ve learned through this process not to take things for granted and every moment with family is a treasure and every true gift is from above.”
Sherwood said they were able to keep up with August through an app called “Tiny Beans.” He said, “They sent us photos over the app every day.” I asked what he thought when he first saw a picture of August and he said, “Oh, he’s the cutest baby I ever saw!”
I asked how their faith helped them through this time and Sis said, “I just gave thanks and was grateful that August was OK and Mary was OK. What a blessing that the Lord has given us a perfect little child in the midst of this chaotic world. It was love at first sight.” Sherwood added, “The Lord did exactly what we prayed for. We could not have asked for anything more.”
Sis and Sherwood have now made several trips to Hillsborough and each time they see August there is overwhelming joy, but there is also a sense of trepidation because being in North Carolina means being away from Sis’s mother Bernice. Bernice has been dealing with some health issues and Sis doesn’t like being too far from home. It’s hard for Sis to be in one place without thinking that she should be in the other place as well. Isn’t that where we spend a lot of our time though? Our thoughts are often conflicted and torn. Life seems to be a balancing act between wide ranging, and often conflicted emotions. This has been especially true during this pandemic.
Sherwood said something that helped me to think about how to balance our emotions. He said, “The novelty of August hasn’t worn off. If you wait a week to see him, he grows. Wait another two weeks and he grows some more. I suspect the novelty never wears off. I’ve lived everyday of Mary’s life and the novelty hasn’t worn off and now we have another person to love and bless us. August has brought so much joy in the midst of the pandemic. You go to visit and you forget about the outside world.”
The word “novelty” caught my attention. Novelty means, “The quality of being new, original, or unusual.” With the Lord every day is a novelty; new, original, unusual. Whether it’s dealing with the worries of COVID-19, or the joy of holding a new baby, or the concern for an aging relative, each day we deal with something new and novel. The idea that each day is a novelty reminds me of Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” I also think of the words from Psalm 98:1, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.”
In the midst of these chaotic times when the world often seems to be a wasteland we have to trust that God is doing a new thing every single day. Indeed, God is making a way in the wilderness and streams through the wasteland. One stream that God has made in this wasteland of COVID-19 is named August, a perfect gift of grace given to the world by our loving, heavenly Father. As we wake up to a new day let us try to look for something novel and new throughout the day and at the end of the day I suspect that we too can exclaim, as the Psalmist exclaimed, “He has done marvelous things!” May God bless Sis, Sherwood, Bernice, Mary, Stephen and especially little August and may God bless you and Bethel Baptist Church. Amen.