• Jenna Van Mourik

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (Comfort from Scripture during COVID-19)

#EmptyChairs #COVID19 #Quarantine #StayHome #Isolation #EmptyChairsatEmptyTables #Hope #TomorrowWillBeKinder #DoNotBeAnxious #Anxiety #ComfortingBibleVerses

There's a grief that can't be spoken / There's a pain goes on and on ... Empty chairs at empty tables / Where my friend will sing no more.

I had planned to save these photos for a post on hosting events and planning dinner parties. Ever since my husband and I moved back to California late last winter/early spring, I was excited to be closer to friends and family members. I had always loved planning parties when I was young and I leant more than a helping hand to my mother each time my birthday rolled around. It wasn't even about celebrating me, more often, it was about making other people smile and planning good times for them.

That's a trait I definitely share with my mom, the ultimate family reunion coordinator ;)

Needless to say, setting up our first real home together was an exciting task for me. In every detail I thought of how I would arrange things at holiday times, what would be the most convenient set-up for hosting Christmas Eve dinner, and how our furniture arrangement might be adapted for family gatherings.

My husband has stockpiled board games (not toilet paper) for nights when we have people over, and I have written down recipe card after recipe card of dishes that I think will be crowd pleasers. We held our first real party for Father's Day 2019, where we invited lots of family over for a backyard dinner full of trivia, outdoor games, prizes, and desserts. (I'd love to do a more in-depth post on that event if any of you are interested in Father's Day ideas) We've looked for more opportunities to plan events ever since, and I have always adored adding in small details to make them even more special. It's that "extra touch" that I love giving people, to show them we care.

These particular photos of the place setting are from a mini-engagement celebration we held, congratulating my childhood best friend and her fiancé on their milestone. I loved setting up the decorations and wrapping up their gifts so that they would be neatly arranged on our coffee table when they walked in. My husband pulled out the monopoly board after dinner and a good night was had by all!

I had no idea that just a week or two later our doors would be shut due to the threat of a virus.

This time of year, springtime, was one I'd long looked forward to since purchasing our house. It was to be our first "real" Easter where we would decorate and plan celebrations. Now none of us our sure what Easter will look like.

My place setting sits empty. "Empty chairs at empty tables..."

Normally at a time like this when we have so much "free time" (I use that phrase lightly, since this is not a vacation), my first instinct would be to invite people over, but I can't do that because I'd rather keep them safe. I would want to plan meals, but even that's difficult with the grocery store situation as it is, aisle upon aisle with missing or out of stock ingredients. If I couldn't host people at my house, I would want to invite them on an outing perhaps to a local activity or restaurant, but most of those places are shut down as well.

I have often been described as an introvert, but I think I'm more accurately described as an "extrovert with social anxiety." I do get worn out from being in groups and I do need to "recharge" but I attribute that more to my anxiety than I do to introverted-ness (thankfully, my anxiety has been more of a winning-battle than a losing one as of late. Thank the Lord!).

The fact is, I love people.

Even if it's just going out and sitting at a café and people watching! I miss people! I don't want there to be empty chairs at my table...

You may have noticed a running theme with this post (references to Les Misérables)

My guess is that if you've looked at any posts on any social media platform, you've definitely heard the people sing, "singing the songs of angry men" loud and clear. You may not be able to physically go out and hear them, but the anger, confusion, and chaos is there.

Les Mis one of my favorite stories because of its enduring message of hope and love. I'd like to close this post with some more encouraging lyrics:

One day more / Another day, another destiny / This never ending road to Calvary ... Tomorrow we'll discover / What our God in / Heaven has in store / One more dawn / One more day / One day more

I know that this time is feeling never-ending to many of us. We may be asking ourselves, will the end of come? Is there a light at the end of this tunnel? My hope for you is that you may take this period one day at a time. "One day more" until we discover what God has in store.

I would like to close with sharing a few passages from the Bible that I think may also be comforting during this time, and say everything better than I could:

Lam 3:21-Lam 3:23 ESV But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
James 4:13-James 4:17 ESV Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Rom 8:18-Rom 8:25 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Matt 6:25-Matt 6:34 ESV “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Stay safe everyone, and take each day one day at a time...

- Jenna