I began this year much like I’m ending it: sitting at the table in our front room, bathed in the light of the sun through the biggest window in our home, typing away on my laptop. I’ve sat in this same spot pretty much every Monday-Friday this year, as I began working from home even before the 2020 shutdown.
Though this window I’ve seen all 4 seasons come and go. I’ve seen the grass go from brown to green and quickly back to brown. I’ve watched our huge oak tree go from barren to bud, from bud to bloom, mercifully shading my window seat just in time for the onset of summer’s heat. And right at the beginning of Fall, when the leaves were just hitting their explosion of color, I watched a freak ice-storm came through, leaving our mighty oak more barren than ever, having lost many of her sprawling limbs to the weight of ice and gravity. When I began writing this post, I was gazing out on a snow-covered landscape thanks to our second round of the fluffy whiteness in 3 days.
I’ve witnessed the gorgeous explosions of color found in Oklahoma sunsets. I’ve seen Great Plains thunderstorms roll through, full of sound and fury, praying for no Tornado warnings close by (thankfully, we didn’t have one this year…which is kind of amazing). I’ve bird-watched and squirrel-watched while the little brown and red balls of energy tormented our dog Chewy (so close, yet so far).
I’ve waved at my neighbors and friends from this spot, thanked the postman and the UPS deliveryman. In retrospect, I should have kept a tally on the number of times the Amazon van came by. That would have been eye-opening, no doubt.
What I haven’t done much of is what I’m doing right now…writing. Way back in January 2020 one of my new year’s resolutions was simply “write more” just like every January before it. Despite that resolution I think my output is the lowest it’s been since I first put fingers to keys and started blogging well over a decade ago. Which is ironic considering the one thing we’ve all had more of in 2020 is time.
Much of the reason for this lull can be discovered if you care to read the few posts I did create throughout the year (I think they were some of my best, if I’m allowed to say that, especially this one). I was dealing with my own “junk” as well as the overriding truth every one of us were facing: 2020 has been HARD. No one has been immune. We’ve dealt with the effects of Covid-19 in shutdowns, job losses (or fears of loss), boredom, depression, lack of community, isolation, the pain of being unable to see loved ones. We’ve watched the spikes in cases and have seen folks we love endure the fear, sickness, separation and pain this disease brings.
I’ve sat at this window and watched my son swing blissfully under the big oak while at the same time our nation experienced more unrest and division than I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, socially and politically. We’re still feeling it. The turning of the calendar isn’t going to wipe that away, nor should it. I spent way more time than I should have on social media trying to keep up with it all which no doubt also influenced the fact that I dealt with what I can only call depression for a big portion of both 2019-2020.
Like so many of you, I’ve worried every time anyone in my family has had a cough or a headache, or every time I saw my parent’s number on my screen (or a sibling’s, or my in-law’s), my mind immediately going to the worst case scenario. And though that dreaded moment has not come for us personally, it’s hard to celebrate when I think of those I know who have gotten that call.
Again, 2020 has been HARD.
And yet…and yet…there have been some amazingly beautiful things happen this year.
- My daughter came through major back surgery, and is doing great 8 weeks removed from it.
- I got to see my family every day this year. Every. Single. Day. If you’ve followed this blog for any time, you know how much that means to me, to us.
- Our church planted a new congregation…in the middle of a pandemic, and it has been a huge blessing to see folks loving one other and our city in the midst of this insane year, to see the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, not only proclaimed but lived out.
- I started running 3 days a week with my oldest. As she all-too-quickly grows up, I’m very grateful for the time with her, for those conversations as I wheeze my way back to normal breathing after trying to keep up with her.
- I realized more clearly than ever how precious the gift of friendship is. Not acquaintance, but deep, true, love-you-at-your-lowest friendship. I’ve also realized true friendship is a two-way street requiring a level of honesty and trust I’ve not always been willing to give.
- And at perhaps my lowest point this year God did something I can only describe as a miracle. This one is hard to even type, as there are so many layers. Thanks to the encouragement of my wife to step into some things I really didn’t want to, and to some very dear friends for holding up my arms, for the first time in 4 years I was able to stand up straight without an invisible weight holding me down, an underlying anger and bitterness which I carried every single day. Miracle is not too strong a word.
And now, as the year winds down to its final moments, as the light in the window fades on the last days of a year no one is really sad to see go, I find myself ending it as I began: in front of this big window. I’m resolved only to not make resolutions. I was so hopeful coming into 2020, after a very hard 2019, only to have things go…well, all 2020. I’m inclined to simply bid adieu to the year that was and turn towards the one to come in hope. Even in this year, I’m sitting here thinking of things I’m grateful for. Even in the hard, beauty has grown.
On the night of her 12th birthday, just a few weeks removed from surgery to correct scoliosis, my daughter told me, “It’s been a good year.” Ummmmm…excuse me? I was dumbfounded. How could this not-so-tiny-anymore human say that after this year? My facial expression must have revealed my thoughts, so she explained: “Yeah, it was a hard year, but I’m learning it’s in the hard things that you grow the most. It’s in the hard that I’ve come to know who God is better.”
Yes, I cried.
And while I know we all are ready to wave goodbye to 2020, I also know we won’t soon forget it. The world won’t change on Jan 1, 2021. Covid won’t disappear with the turning of the calendar. The racial, social, political issues will not be solved instantly. Our job fears, health concerns, and worries won’t simply vanish. But in 2021 we get another beginning, and beginnings, while difficult, are also hopeful. I pray that all the hard of 2020, both world-wide and in my own heart and soul, and in yours, won’t lead us further into fear and bitterness, isolation and sorrow, but rather deeper into faith, hope and love.
In that spirit, I’ll end this year with an ages-old blessing from Scripture. May it lift our heads and hearts today and throughout the coming year:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”Number 6:24-26