Finding the good in 2020

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2020. What a year, right? However, despite everything that’s occurred this year, I am still determined to find the good in this year. I have been reframing my perspective, placing my hope in something far greater, clinging to faith and belief, and finding joy in the littlest victories. Life – this beautiful, wild, wonderful, unpredictable life – is happening now. Despite life looking far different right now than most of us ever predicted or planned or hoped, nevertheless, life is unfolding right now, moment by moment. Instead of wishing these fleeting days away or hoping for a return to the past or growing angry at the present (sometimes easier said than done), I am choosing to find the good in this year and to celebrate the little moments however I can.

When I look back on this year, what do I want my story of 2020 to be? How will I have handled this year? Will I have merely survived or did I choose to thrive, even amidst the hardships? What will I remember? What did I do to love God and love others well? How did I help others and how did I create joy in our own home?

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Though I don’t have all of the answers and am, of course, quite far from perfect, I’ve been reflecting on the little moments of joy, the lessons being learned, the goodness of this year despite the trials, and the hope that comes through faith.

Some ways that good has emerged throughout the year already:

Our marriage. Rob and I have been able to have more time than ever to devote to each other and into strengthening our marriage. For the last five months, we’ve had so much more time than we usually do to really invest in one another, as we’re together all day, every day. We already spent a lot of time together (we both already worked from home), but over the course of the last five months, we’ve been together pretty much nonstop. And truly, there’s no one I’d rather be quarantined with for all of this uninterrupted time together! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m really glad we both love and like each other a whole, whole lot. We’ve had deeper and longer conversations than ever before, have time to be still with one another rather than running to the next event or activity, and to pause an savor quieter times together. We’ve also had the time to focus on the little things – and not the grand adventures or the travel – that bring us closer together and really connect us. From long walks to playing games together to happy hours on our deck and more, I’m grateful that this pandemic has blessed Rob and myself with so many hours and months together. I believe our marriage is stronger for it, and I’m really glad he’s not sick of me yet! Joking aside, I know how blessed we are to have a happy, thriving marriage where we value, respect, love, support, and encourage each other. We’re not perfect by any means, but our marriage is a constant source of joy and love, and even more time together has only strengthened us.

Time with my sister, brother-in-law, and newborn nephew. At the start of 2020, I never, ever would have predicated that my sister, her husband, and their newborn would become our roommates during a pandemic! Just typing that sentence still feels a little surreal. Long story short, the three of them live in New York City, and at the very start of the pandemic, when their baby was just a month old, they decided it was safer to leave New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic at the time, and come to North Carolina. For a myriad of reasons, they lived with us for a few months while we all quarantined together! It may sound a little crazy, but it was SUCH A BLESSING. I can’t even begin to tell you how special this time together was, despite the very difficult circumstances for them (leaving their home at a moment’s notice, having a newborn, having a newborn in the middle of a pandemic in the heart of the pandemic, recovering from having a baby, trying to navigate parenthood, working remotely, leaving behind their home, their church, their friends, and so much more). Let’s just say, they are strong, brave, and resilient! My sister has been my lifelong best friend, and we’re both married to Robs (two incredible men!). Despite how close we are, I think we’ve always known we wouldn’t live near each other, as their home is NYC and ours is Raleigh. Our nephew being born and having him in our lives is the single best thing to happen this year by a landslide! So you can only imagine how very, very special it was to have them live with us. Getting to watch him grow and develop before our eyes was the deepest joy, as was spending hours every day with him, reading and singing and walking together. It may not have been ideal circumstances, but having them live with us is something I’ll forever look back on, and it was the biggest blessing imaginable. From cooking challenges to filling out house to the brim to swimming in the kiddie pool to turning our home into NYC for the day to double dates at home and game nights and fun conversations on the couch… it was simply the best and helped make a hard season of life so much more joyful.

Our home as a haven. On a similar note, Rob and I had always prayed that our house was more than just a house and would have, in some way, a bigger purpose. We feel like this year, our house has felt even more like home and has been used for something much bigger than just ourselves. Whenever we had dinner parties or friends over before the pandemic, those times were small tastes of what we imagined for our home. Being able to wholly and gladly welcome my sister’s family into our home felt so purposeful and so aligned with what God has always wanted for our home. I can only hope that they felt incredibly welcomed, loved, and cared for every minute of their stay with us. We want our home to be a haven, especially given the current conditions of the world: where you can come to feel safe, loved, welcomed, invited, and comfortable. We have long wanted our home to be filled with love, warmth, and generosity – and not just the two of us. And though we had to get creative with how to rearrange our rooms to accommodate four adults and a baby (and all of the home offices that needed to fully function!), it was so much fun and worked so seamlessly. Our home has never been happier than when there’s a play mat and changing station and bouncer taking over the living room, or when all three bedrooms are completely filled. The foundation of our home is built on welcoming and loving others, and I feel like we’ve been able to do that this year in a very unexpected, big way – and a time I’ll never forget.

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Creative ways to stay connected with friends and our community. While it’s been incredibly hard not to see our friends and much of our families in person, I am proud of how well people have come together virtually, have found creative ways to stay connected and live life, even if not in person, and have seen over and over the sheer importance of community and relationships. There’s little more important than this, and I feel that more than ever before. Even if not in person, this year has reinvigorated many of my long distance friendships, I’ve made use of Marco Polo with family and friend group videos, kept in touch more than usual, had virtual baby showers and bridal showers and graduations and yes, even weddings, been on countless Zoom calls, been able to have articles club every month online, had virtual game nights and double dates, had our weekly community group online, and gathered virtually with our church every Sunday. While, of course, I very much wish that it was safe to be with all of our loved ones in person as we usually are, and I miss gathering together more than I ever thought possible, there have been some wonderful pivots and adaptations made to stay connected as best as possible.

Cooking and our cooking challenges. I’ve shared much more about how we’ve embraced cooking here and also here, and it’s so true: our adventures in the kitchen and our cooking challenges have been such fun saving graces this year. We’ve been at home more meals than ever before (we have yet to go to a restaurant and have gotten food delivered just a couple times), so cooking is a bigger part of our days than ever in the past. Some nights we have frozen pizza or a very simple meal (no shame in that; we love it!), but all of this time at home, as well as having family live with us for a few months, has been pretty revolutionary for our cooking prowess and experiments in the kitchen! From several firsts (poaching eggs, making hollandaise, homemade biscuits, homemade pimento cheese, shrimp and grits, and so much more) to cooking our way through the Half Baked Harvest cookbook (seriously, the best!) to experimenting with new homemade ice cream creations and making our own popsicles to crafting cocktails and organizing our favorite recipes and finding new favorites that are in our constant rotation… it’s been so much fun to cook together, to become even more capable and confident cooks, to enjoy time with my sister and brother-in-law in the kitchen and around the dinner table, and to create new, happy memories when there haven’t been too many ways to do so this year!

Ample time outside. I am thankful that the stay at home orders coincided with spring, my favorite season, as time outside was so crucial for my mental health. It makes me a little nervous if we need to be cooped up this winter, I must admit. I have never been so grateful for our yard and our deck/outdoor space, and having this has made a world of difference. I love being outside and feel so connected to nature and my faith when I am. From reading on our deck to meals outside to walks around our neighborhood to picnics in our yard and really just so much time spent doing anything and everything we can outside. We’ve explored further from home as phases have opened up more (but have still been incredibly socially distanced and cautious). Being in nature, going on walks, enjoying our little lake, breathing fresh air, and watching the flowers bloom, birds chirp, and seasons change has been lovely and so beneficial, for sure. I feel very thankful to have a home with a bit of outdoor, private space, as fresh air is so good for the soul.

My faith and becoming closer to God. I’ve had this conversation many times with some of my close friends, and it rings so true: if I didn’t have faith and hope during this year, it would have done me in. Even during harder seasons and days, I know that joy comes from the Lord, and I firmly believe that I was put on this earth to glorify God in all that I say and do. I’ve had more consistent, purposeful quiet times in the morning than ever before, reading my Bible and daily devotionals, in prayer, and writing in my gratitude journal. I’ve also felt closer to God, since it’s often in our hardest seasons that we cling to Him the most. I believe that He is good, He is sovereign, and He works everything – even a pandemic – for His good, even when I don’t always understand it. I also don’t want to live my life in such a blur that I don’t savor and delight in the beauty, wonder, everyday miracles, and joy that life is made up of. When I pause to take it all in – or in this case, am forced to pause – and when I don’t rush through my day and my to-do list, my eyes are even more opened to see the inspiration and beauty in even the smallest details and littlest moments that surely make life richer.

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What about you, friends? It’s not easy, and it certainly doesn’t always happen, but I want my story of this year to be filled with so much more focus on the good things. There have been a lot of hard circumstances, news, days, decisions, headlines, and moments this year, but I know God is still here and He is still good. There is still so much joy and gratitude to be found and recognized. I want to reframe my perspective of this year so that good is still claimed and blessings can still be counted. We have been given a lot of gifts this year, even when it can be hard to see or know that. Everything I’ve shared here is proof that, while it has definitely been a harder season than ever imagined, we have been given opportunities to claim this year as a good year, to triumph through the struggles, to do the best that we can with where we are, to live our lives with faith in something far greater, to thrive however we can right now (even if it may feel like anything but), to serve others and live selflessly and share hope and joy, and so much more. This is my story, and this is how I choose to live it: seeking goodness, loving others, and filled with hope.

ā€œI have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.ā€ John 16:33