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I sat staring at the Christmas tree thinking about how soon, Christmas will be behind us. I’ve always been one to welcome a new year full of hope and potential, a clean new slate. My mind shifted to how right after Christmas at the beginning of the year, my sister and I like to go shopping to find all the great after Christmas sales, as well as use all the gift cards we may have gotten. We have done this the past few years.
The beginning of 2020 was no different. Last January we took a road trip to Carbondale, something we like to do sometimes. We always have a blast! As adults, we have formed a great bond, closer than we were growing up and she has served as my best friend for many years now. We have had so much fun traveling, vacationing, going to concerts, and when I just need a little break, she’d invite me to a sleepover at her house.
Now, at the end of the year, I have been reflecting on what these previous twelve months have entailed and how much has changed. Realizing that due to finances and family dynamics things may look different at the start of a new year. It’s baffling to me the changes that have occurred in just one year. My personal life and the world around me are nearly unrecognizable to how life was in January.
A New Endeavor
During our shopping trip last January, I bought a new journal Bible, a prayer journal, a planner, and some notebooks. Faithfully, I began to write in them every day. I started a new hardback devotional from Charles Stanley and became more intentional with reading scripture and understanding it. I found myself spending hours writing in a notebook and studying the Bible.
Lately, I find myself flipping through all these documentations reflecting on this past year. Revelations I wrote from scripture that spoke to me, the prayers I wrote and prayed over, the events I documented, it’s so surreal reading it all back and seeing how the year played out. Here we are in the twelfth month and life is different. There are some good things that came out of 2020 but to be honest the bad kind of tipped the scale this year.
For my family, finances were a struggle all year. Looking back at my prayer journal it seems I was always praying for some sort of financial relief. It never came despite trying different avenues to increase our income BUT God provided all year. Our bills were paid and we didn’t starve, although when school was out last spring it sure felt like we might with a teenager in the house all hours of the day.
My prayers for a healthy pregnancy ended with another early miscarriage in April. Although there has been a lot of grief over that loss, confusion has been the predominant emotion. Teetering back and forth with what this could mean, why God allowed it, and what to do or not to do next.
Relationships have been another strange dynamic this year. For me this time, it’s not my romantic relationship. My husband and I’s first year of marriage (the second time around) has been pretty good actually. There seems to have been a shift in the atmosphere, it’s the only way I can somewhat explain it.
My mom and step-dad sold their 16-year-old home they built in the country and traded it for city life in a duplex. This puts them a little farther away from our family. But even before that, there has been a distant feeling. The same with my sister. We’ve all grown farther apart this year than ever before. It seems valid to blame it on the current pandemic, which of course is a lot of it, with everyone trying to stay safe. But the distance and isolation have also seemed to a drive wedge in between our hearts. This is also the longest I have ever gone without having any healthy communication with my father. No one has been on the same page this year, emotionally.
Due to the previously mentioned events, my panic attacks made a comeback. As an adult, I have struggled with health anxiety and hypervigilance on and off for over a decade. A global pandemic and a traumatic miscarriage are some of the WORST things that could ever happen to someone that thinks they are always on the verge of dying anyway.
God’s Mercy and Grace
But by God’s grace, it hasn’t ALL been bad. There have been so many unexpected blessings that took place this year. I am thankful that God has shown mercy during such trying times.
I love this version of 1 Corinthians 10:13 from the Good News Translation:
Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.
There have definitely been some days, weeks, and months this year where I questioned if my family and I would make it through, when it seemed as if things could not get any worse. And even when God would not change the circumstances, He always offered a glimmer of hope in some form of little blessing to get us through.
Little Blessings Here and There
Sometimes temporary opportunities would arise for my husband or I to do side work, providing enough to get us through another week or month. Angels appeared in the form of long-distance friends or mentors, that offered guidance and encouragement through emails. New friends with similar situations were put into my life throughout the year allowing us to connect giving me hope as well as a new perspective.
We were able to go on a family vacation to the beach. Being able to enjoy the sand and the waves were a wonderful escape from the pandemic during the summer. Other than that, we stayed in a lot. Our health has been good. I have healed from my pregnancy losses. My son had a moderate case of COVID he was able to heal from fairly quickly. I learned more about writing through an online writing course and got to attend my first writer’s conference. I’ve been allowed an opportunity to write for an online publication for 2021.
Transformed by the Trials of 2020
Life this year has had a much slower pace, and that’s a good thing. That has allowed me to spend so much time reading the Bible and devotionals. My relationship with God has grown to a new level. I have had to rely (more like cling for dear life) on Him this year more than any other time in my life. This year has transformed me. A hard year shows you what you are made of. I feel stronger in my weakness, and find myself appreciating the little things. One thing is for sure, no one is the same after 2020. And although I look back at the year with a lot of sadness, I know these trials have helped to prepare me for whatever the future may hold.