It was Monday 27th April, day 35 of lockdown, when my boss scheduled in a Zoom call with news that showed the impact of the Coronavirus was now at my door.
I work for a charity, managing a team of five, but we are all dispersed now, trying to work from our homes around the country, having a Zoom conference call each morning to check in.
It’s not ideal, not only because of dodgy countryside WiFi, but also it’s hard to keep motivation when we are not all together physically. We can’t run the events that make up a core part of our roles, there are no impromptu brain-storming chats in our open-plan office, no quick catch-ups over making a cup of tea, no companionable walks to Tesco for lunch. It’s just solitary me, at my solitary desk, in my parent's dining room.
That’s another thing; I am with my parents. It seemed the best idea for lockdown. They are old, and may need help, my siblings are all married and live at least three hours away, so it made sense for me to be here.
Thankfully my parents are amazing, so it hasn’t been difficult, and my mum is a good cook, so I am eating better than I have in years. I am surrounded by fields and cows, and not much else. As an introvert I have slipped quite easily into being a hermit.
But I have been incredibly grateful for the routine of my morning team meetings, and the responsibility of emails and managing people – all harking back to the old days, when things were normal, and we were not all quarantined to our homes for an indeterminable amount of time.
While it hasn’t been an easy transition, I do love my job and feel grateful for it. But everything changed on Monday, with my boss’s Zoom call:
‘I’m sorry, but after talking to the trustees, we are going to have to furlough you for two months. We have to save money somehow, and this seems the best way to do it’.
I think he was worried it would be a blow, but in fact, his words brought a sense of relief. I didn’t have to worry about money, as I would still get paid, I could stop feeling stressed that I wasn’t doing my job properly, and I could perhaps, think of something to fill the time…something creative, maybe.
The truth is, a few years ago I wrote a novel. It is a historical novel, set in Victorian times and while it is a finished book it still needs a lot of work. I have always had in the back of my mind that I would finish it one day - but when?
I saw a recent Instagram post by an author and adventurer called Alastair Humphreys, who asked the question: ‘If you could pause everything for a year, doing whatever you wanted, what would you do?’
I immediately knew I would go to Hawaii – one of my favourite places in the world - and finish my novel.
I can’t go to Hawaii, sadly, because of - you know what - but I realised I could use this furlough to do what I really want to do, which is to finish my novel. When I started, many years ago now, I had quite a significant prophetic word about the story and I took this as real encouragement to keep going.
If God has given me this story to write, then I have to finish it, and in this season of fear and uncertainty, I have been given time to do so.
I have seen the surprising blessings God has given me each day, and I think furlough might be a really big one.