Families in Lockdown: Give us this day our daily bread

Until he passed, my Uncle Graham had a notebook in the drawer beside his bed filled with the names of people he was praying for.

To this day, my Grandma has family members assigned to each day of the week and prays for them individually on those days. I’ve known since I was a teenager that I am her “Friday girl”.

Interestingly, they both lived through World War II in different parts of the world, and it makes me wonder, When and why were these prayer habits formed? As it turns out, their habits have informed mine, and even more so during lock down.

A year ago, I moved in with my sister and her family in Mangere Bridge. For these past few weeks of lockdown, I’ve been able to spend some more quality time with them and I’ve also been able to witness some of the many ways that my sister and her husband’s behaviour and practices, as well as my own, can have an influence on how my niece and nephews see the world.

The youngest in our house is Harley Brave who turned one last week. We had planned to go to the Auckland Zoo to celebrate, but instead we took him to the “Family Zoo”. Showcased around our yard were a variety of wooden and stuffed animals and a paddling pool featuring his bath-time fish toys. His siblings and I got brave and dressed up as animals (I got to be the Hippopotamus because I happen to own a grey dress). Every day Harley walks in to my room (now office) to pull things off my shelves, to speak to me in baby language (which I happily reply in), and to remind me, in the way that only babies can, that it’s alright to smile, laugh, cry, want food, try new things, and be in another’s company.

Dorinda (10) and I are slowly working our way through our list of “fun things to do while on lock-down”. She’s been joining me after work for my F45 workouts in the backyard, and we periodically send videos to our family Facebook chat of her reciting original poems. In response, my family has been replying with a Tik-Tok dance, encouraging words, or an update on their day’s activities.

I hear Joel (12) singing most of the day, playing on his PlayStation, cracking jokes, playing with Dorinda and Harley, saying grace (whilst praying for the world to be healed from Coronavirus), and burning off energy when we go for our walks around the neighbourhood.

Did I mention there was a good dose of screen time, and ups and downs in there too?

Then there’s Somer, my older sister, and Marty, her husband––two of the most unflappable people I know. Somer is “off work” with the kids (if there is such a thing when you have kids), and Marty’s been continuing his pastoral work for people in their local church, albeit in new ways. I get to witness them, in their own words, “getting better at communication”, continuing their normal parenting ways, and not feeling pressured to buy-in to all the tips and methods out there to help manage their kids during this time (thanks for those words last week John).

And then there’s me. I’ve still got the joy of working for Venn Foundation during the day and I get to say all those things above because I’m the Aunty, not the parent!

A couple of weeks ago I got a big piece of brown Kraft paper and wrote “Lord have Mercy” in big letters at the top. Underneath I wrote, “Give us this day our daily bread… deliver us from the time of trial”. Below, again, I wrote headings such as Medical Workers, Business Owners, Friends and Family Overseas, Elderly, Pregnant, CEO’s and Leaders, Health Issues, the World, Self-Employed and Essential Workers. Under each heading I wrote names of everyone that I could think of, known and not known to me, so that I can light a candle and be praying for or reaching out to them. This simply helps me focus my hopes and concerns into prayer during this time when my mind could easily run away into anxiety.

I tell you about this practice, because my 10-year-old niece’s reaction to it has been eye-opening. When she walked into my room and saw this up on my wall she said, “Oh man this is so cool, I should do this”, and we got to talk a bit about the Our Father prayer together. She often comes into my room and looks up at the wall, and I wonder, what’s going on in her mind as she contemplates it? What will her practices and attention be turned towards now, and in the years to come, because of it? While I can’t know for sure, I can be confident that my Uncle and Grandma’s prayer habits have left an indelible mark on me. And for that, I am ever thankful.