This morning, as I was walking around the house, wiping down counters, making beds and doing the things I do at the start of the day, I had a feeling of peace wash over me.

I was still in my pajamas, as I often am for hours and hours into the day. My son and daughter were sitting at the counter eating their breakfast of yogurt, granola, and berries, and I was just about to head up the stairs to check on our oldest, and make sure they were awake to start their last day of exams. The tree was brightly lit, Christmas music was playing softly in the background and the smell of the candle I had lit a few minutes prior was beginning to fill the air.

It was quiet. It was peaceful. It wasn’t rushed. There was no stress.

Peace flooded my soul as my heart turned to all of the unexpected gifts we have received this season.

Yes, these times have been hard and yes, I have moments of grief and longing for normalcy to return. And I also have moments like this. Isn’t it funny how they both exist parallel to one another? This grief and this contentment. They are not mutually exclusive. They do not have to live far apart from one another. They can often reside side by side.

And on this morning, just a few days before Christmas, my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude for all we have been given.

With our kids all learning online, we don’t have anywhere to rush off to in the mornings. Our days can be spent in pajamas if we choose. I created work spaces for the kids, but they often prefer to learn on comfy chairs, snuggled on the couch, or sitting on a fluffy bed, covered with soft blankets. Our meals aren’t rushed. I’m not yelling for kids to hurry up, grab your shoes, where is your backpack and why hasn’t your hair been brushed, and my favorite of all – What are you wearing? Don’t you realize it’s winter!

None of that is happening now.

There is a stillness and a peace that exists in our home that has come from the rush being stripped away.

We linger at meal times now. No longer am I looking at the clock and declaring that we need to hurry, or else we won’t make it out the door on time. We eat. We sit. We talk. We ask questions. We linger.

I learn a lot about the hearts of my family members during this precious time gathered around the table. And at the end of every meal, when my son is finished eating, regardless of if there is still food on my plate, he will walk over to me and sit on my lap. I wrap my arms around him and he puts his arms around my neck. And we sit that way for a few minutes. And I cherish every second of it, because I know that in the not so distant future, this time of him resting on my lap, with his arms wrapped around me, will be a memory.

On the weekends, we rarely have plans. We wake when we want and we mozy into the kitchen where coffee is brewed and talk of what we would like to do that day begins. We take naps. We read books. We watch movies. We do puzzles. We play games.

We are together.

And during this time, I am learning something it has taken me a long time to learn. Something it took living during a pandemic for me to learn. I am learning to be still.

I am a doer by nature. I make my lists, and cross items off. I get things done. This is the way I have always been. But with everything stripped away, I am learning the beautiful art of resting. I am learning that my worth is not tied to what I accomplish during the day, and that there is value in taking time to intentionally slow down. I will read, watch a little show with my kids, sit on the floor with the cats, make a craft, write a letter – simply because it sounds like something nice to do in that moment.

But the greatest gift I have received during this time, is a renewed longing in my soul for time spent with God.

For the past few years, I have found it harder to find time to sit and be still, to intentionally open my Bible, and speak to God. I wanted to, but was so distracted and so busy. I would think, I will get to that later; but later would never come. For a variety of reasons, we struggled to make it to church on Sundays, and in the busyness of life – I often found myself wanting to spend that time, but just not making it happen. I know for some, not being able to physically attend church has been challenging, but for our family, watching church in our living room has truly been a gift. Over the past months, I long to spend time with Him. To be in His presence. And I see this in my family as well. Now, when we do our devotions, my daughter brings down her own Bible and searches for the scripture herself. And I am reminded, these days are not what we planned. These days are not what we ever imagined, but God is using them.

He is growing us. Strengthening us. He is giving us gifts in unprecedented times, found in unlikely places.

Yes, my heart hurts at times. And yes, I struggle to make decisions. And yes, there are moments of grief and moments of pain and moments when I am just so very tired of it all.

But this morning, as I moved from room to room in our home and felt this peace wash over me, I was reminded of all of the gifts and all of the blessings.

Sometimes, I am ready for this to be over.
And sometimes, I can’t imagine returning to the pace our lives once were.

These feeling seem so contradictory, yet they both exist.

I hope and pray that when we do return to the lives we were once used to, that these gifts we have gained during this time at home will not be lost. I pray I will continue to see the importance of rest. I pray we will continue to linger at the table. I pray my desire to be with God and in His Word will not be pushed away by the distractions of the day. I pray I will not lose sight of the gift of simple pleasures that were once so commonplace – sitting inside a restaurant and enjoying a meal, attending a concert, going to the movies, gathering around the table with large groups of friends, watching my children perform in the activities they love. I pray this connection I feel with God, and my family, will continue to grow.

I hope I hold on to what I have learned during this time. I hope I remember to hold on to what is important, and to hold loosely to those things that are not.

I thank God for the gift of these days. For the grief. And for the joy. For the lessons learned. For the memories made. For blessings wrapped in unexpected packages.

For a year we were never expecting.
And for a year we will never forget.

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