Today is the winter solstice: The darkest day in what has arguably been the darkest year of modern history. Here in Seattle, the sun didn’t rise today until 7:55AM, and just 8 hours, 25 minutes, and 26 seconds later the sun will dip back down below the horizon. At this time of year the darkness is pervasive, and I find myself building my life around the presence or absence of The Dark. That’s physical darkness.
But this year, we haven’t just experienced the absence of light that ebbs and flows with the seasons. The Dark has new meaning in 2020. We’ve experienced profound mental and spiritual darkness, too. 2020 has reiterated darkness through sickness and struggle and discord in our communities and around the world. When our thoughts haven’t been plagued by the pandemic, they have been punctuated by political strife, racial injustice, loneliness, and fatigue.
And it’s easy in times such as these to be engulfed by The Dark. To think in terms of where I can’t go, of what I can’t do, of who I can’t see, of what I am missing. The Dark takes away, it obscures what is there. The Dark can blind us to rays of light that are hidden within its folds.
And yet, those rays of light are always there. The good was never gone, it was just covered up. But no matter how much The Dark covers, light always finds a way to peek out from the hidden dark corners. So as I think back on this year–of the changes and challenges that rocked my world–I want to find those bright spots and bring them to the forefront. I want to recognize the bits of light in the darkness of this year and never forget the lessons they have taught me.
This year has been the sudden screech of brakes when you’re cruising down the road at 40MPH and the car in front of you halts for an animal in the road. It has been a swift and sudden stop to the busyness that we had come to expect. Overnight, my days shifted from a rhythm of 6AM lunch-packing – 8PM sports practices to…well…nothing. Nowhere to go. Nobody to meet. No schedule to balance. And do you know what? I love it. Maybe I’m more of an introvert than I tend to admit, but I absolutely treasure these slow days of setting my own agenda–even if (especially if) that agenda involves staying in our pajamas until lunch. I have realized that we don’t need so many balls in the air and we don’t need our plates so full. There is a beautiful balance in the empty space that remains when we remove some of those balls and make room on our plates for what will be.
When the fluff is stripped away, you’re left with the bones of a more basic way of life. This year we have replaced museums and movie theaters with nature and togetherness. I miss the museums and the movie theaters and all the rest, but I see the value in really simplifying how we spend our time and resources. We have discovered beautiful places that we were too busy to see before. We have experienced creation in new and wonderful ways. We have used our creativity to turn simple things like a walk in the woods into a treasure hunt. Through simplicity, our bodies and our minds have been used in new ways that will strengthen us for years to come.
This year–the year of being physically separated from just about everyone I know and love–I have felt more connected to my community than ever before. Through our common shared struggle, we have been brought closer together. I can not think of another time in my life where literally everyone I know has gone through a shared experience together. It’s mind-boggling! My friends down the street are going through the same struggles as my friends in Ireland. My family in Washington is facing the same challenges as my family in Alaska or Arizona or California. And there’s something unifying about that. We understand each other in new ways and have come together to support each other like never before. If there is one take-away from this year, I hope it is that we will continue to love our neighbors sincerely and deeply.
Drive-Thrus, Curbside Pick-up, and Online Ordering
Ok, this one isn’t very profound..but gosh darn it, it’s one of the most important turning points in my life! Can we PLEASE keep remote ordering and drive-thru everything forever?! As a mom with 3 young-ish kids–and a mom who once had 3 toddlers at the same time–I have literally dreamed of this day coming. Order my groceries and never once have to set foot in an actual store? Pure bliss. Get takeout from my favorite shmancy restaurant so I can have a date-night at home without having to pay this month’s mortgage to a babysitter? Done deal. I could go on and on about my love for delivery apps and curbside pick-up, but you people have other ways you need to spend your day.
I don’t know if anyone has made it thought this year without becoming an activist. From politics to systemic racism to poverty and home insecurity to the rights and role of public education, this year has shone a spotlight the rights-and-wrongs of our society. There are causes that have spoken to us. There are opinions that have been shared and contested by others. There are problems that we didn’t even know existed until they were shoved in our faces. For all the sifting of sand that has happened in 2020, the stones that remain are worth our attention. What a privilege to think deeply about hard things. What a privilege this opportunity is to work toward a better tomorrow.
This is a bit cliché at this point, but I really have loved the togetherness our family has experienced this year. With Jon working at home and the kids learning from home since March, this has been the longest stretch of togetherness our family has ever had. The benefits are hard to even quantify–the relationships we’ve built with each other, the new understandings we have of one another, the moments we have shared and the memories we have created together are priceless. I will forever be grateful that we were given this year to just be together.
Our family went into 2020 with a great need for Big Change. The details of this season for our family are personal, but I want to share the results of our Big Change as a way of giving you encouragement and hope.
In January we were at a pivoting point. I didn’t have the courage to make the necessary changes. I knew we needed a Big Change, but I wasn’t exactly sure what that change would look like or how to even take the first step. I didn’t have the courage to make the Big Change on my own, so I was in a bit of a holding place–waiting for the right moment, the right circumstance to take that leap of faith.
Then 2020 came. Everything changed, and so we changed. I couldn’t hide behind comfort or complacency any longer, and so we just did what we had to do. When everything else was stripped away, the truth and the way through became apparent. Our Big Change has literally changed our lives, and I think it may have even saved us. I still don’t know how we’ll move forward once things go back to “normal” (Gosh, that word gives me goosebumps!), but I know now that we can do this one hard thing. I have built confidence. I have gathered resources and support. Hard things do not have to break us, they can actually give us a new and better way forward.
The Light That Never Leaves
I couldn’t end this post without acknowledging the light that never leaves: Jesus. During this year, and especially during this season of Advent leading up to Christmas, I have been moment-by-moment reminded of the hope that comes from faith. These sufferings–and I do believe we have all suffered in some way this year–have been profound. These sufferings are mourned by a God who loves us. But these sufferings are not in vain. And these sufferings are not a surprise. Suffering is something that is actually promised to us (Luke 13:1-4)–but there is hope in our suffering. Hope because Light once came into The Darkness and changed the world forever. Hope because this, too, shall pass (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18). Hope because there will be a better tomorrow (2 Corinthians 4:17).
So, as this year-of-all-years comes to a close, don’t be too fast to push it all behind. There are bright spots all around if you’re willing to find them. And once you find the light that speaks to you, hold onto it and remember it. Because light always defeats The Dark.