Tonight, we will say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021. For some, the goodbye can’t come fast enough.

This year hasn’t been the easiest. When I reflect back on the year, it feels like a dream.

Did all of that really happen?

Kobe Bryant and his daughter passed away. Tragedy hit our small town, and many hearts were filled with grief. The week after that, the tornadoes struck Nashville, devastating large parts of the city. Days after that, the pandemic hit our country, consuming the news, and our minds. And shortly after that, the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor were taken, causing people around the country to flock to the streets crying for justice that is long overdue. Schools shut down. People came home to work. Businesses shut their doors. Grocery shelves were left bare. The number of those becoming sick grew, and sadly, so did the number of lives lost.

New words like: pivot, social distance, and out of an abundance of caution were on many lips. The concept of six feet took on a whole new meaning, and the war of the masks began.

Life as we knew it came to a screeching halt.

And during all of this, there were strange headlines talking about things like: murder hornets, locust swarms, saharan dust plumes and derechos.

And let’s not forget that we just endured one of the most contentious elections of all time. Judgement reached an all-time high as people began to discount one another based solely on how they voted and whether or not they were liberal, conservative, Republican, or Democrat.

It’s no wonder people are ready for this year to be over.

But the reality is, when the clock strikes midnight, the year will change, but the obstacles we are facing from the pandemic will not magically disappear. 

We still need to practice social distancing. We still need to be safe. We still need to look out for those who are at high risk. We may want the pandemic to be gone, but for now, it is still here.

So what are we going to do with it?
How do we say hello to 2021?

I believe we say hello with hope.

I believe that in the midst of the pain and the struggle and the difficulty, we were all given gifts. For some, those gifts may be harder to find. For some, the pain and the loss is so great, that even the idea of sorting through it to find something good to cling to seems cumbersome and pointless. And that’s okay. I pray that God will show you a glimmer of good. A bit of hope. Something to hold on to. A smile. A hug. A hand of a loved one placed in yours. A warm meal. A soft blanket. A good book. Looking into the eyes of someone you love. A walk on a warm day. Flip flop and sweatshirt weather. Your favorite song playing. A hot bath. Water flowing from a faucet. A pet sleeping soundly on your lap. A baby napping in your arms.

Goodness has not gone away. Kindness still exists. Love is everywhere. 

And that is what I will hold on to as I head into the new year. The acts of kindness. The lessons learned when all was stripped away and the calendar was left bare. The joy of being with family. The gift of friendships that can weather the storm of a pandemic and not being able to see each other face-to-face. Missing small things and realizing all there is to be grateful for. Finding joy in simplicity. Spending time with God. Finding new ways to worship.

There is growth that takes place in pain. There are lessons learned in struggle.

We have grown this year in some way. We have learned things we weren’t expecting. We have changed. I have to believe that.

God wastes nothing. This year will not be wasted. 

Let’s take the ashes and turn them to beauty. Let’s hold on to the gifts we unwrapped in the pain, and in the struggle. Let’s cling to hope.

The year is not ending how we imagined, and the next year will not begin in the way we are used to – but we will get through it. One week. One day. One hour. One minute. One second at a time. And we will be stretched. And we will grow. And we will learn.

And we will love.

For me, that is something this year has shown. In the end, that is what matters – isn’t it? When all else is stripped away. It’s love. It’s visiting elderly relatives through windows when they are in lockdown. It’s dropping off food to a sick friend. It’s delivering groceries to those who are high risk. It’s Zooming to see the faces of those we haven’t been able to gather with. It’s waiting to give a hug again, and rejoicing when it finally happens. It’s health care workers sitting by the bedside of patients who cannot have family members visit. It’s Thanksgiving meals made over FaceTime with distant relatives.

That is what I will remember when I think back to this year. I will remember the love that I saw. I will remember that when so much threatened to tear us apart, love continued to bind us together. And I will remember that God wastes nothing. He uses things in ways we cannot begin to understand, or fathom. 

Friends, as we head into the new year, I pray abundant blessings on you and yours. I pray that wherever you may be, and that whatever you are facing, that you will find hope. That you will see goodness. And above all, that you will feel, and know, how loved you are.

Happy New Year, friends.

Truly Yours, Jen

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