“Grace will lead me home. Through every trial I have come; only Your grace will lead me home.”
~ “Grace Will Lead Me Home” by David Dunn ~
It’s been a beautiful fight, lovely humans. And it still is.
Perhaps that seems like romanticizing hardship. Perhaps it seems like I’m glossing over all the horrible things that happened in 2020: the blood-shed, the coffins lowered into graves, the burning buildings, the financial ruin, the loneliness, the erosion of sanity…
But lovely humans, one of the lessons the Most High taught me this year was how little I understand of reality in the light of eternity. One of the Puritans prayed to have Eternity stamped on his eyeballs, and that changes things. My goodness, that changes everything. We focus wayyy too much on physical realities as if they were all that mattered. We forget that knowing Jesus Christ means we can rise above our circumstances. His Spirit dwells within us and if we really understood that…REALLY understood that, I’d venture a guess that we’d be complaining a lot less and giving Him praise a lot more.
So it’s been a beautiful fight, lovely humans. And it still is.
Far from romanticizing, this recognizes 2020’s complexity. It’s been a fight, there’s no denying that. But there’s been Beauty too and that’s what I want to focus on in this post.
The goodness of the Most High has been running through this year like Fire. A refiner’s Fire, yes, but Fire. It’s blazing a trail and I want to outline it a little bit in my life and the lives of my loved ones in the hopes that it encourages your soul. If you’ve struggled to see His hand in all of this, grab a cup of coffee, curl up on the couch with a blanket, breathe, and welcome to 2020: the year of the Most High’s relentless goodness.
He’s here and He’s never left us 🙂
2020 started with a wedding (and it’s ending with a wedding too which I find incredibly fascinating). The wedding of Erulisse and her Wolf-hunter. I’m not going to spend much time on this bit since I wrote an entire post about it called The Saga of Hope Part I | January 2020. Short recap: the Most High taught me what it means to rejoice and weep simultaneously and it was one of the grandest things I’ve ever experienced.
Then, DVYR 2020 happened and I’m not going to spend much time here, either, since I wrote about it in The Saga of Hope Part II | January 2020. Short recap: a few days in PA refreshed my soul like you wouldn’t believe and re-branded in my mind the high importance of conversation and face-to-face interaction.
February rolled around and I helped cater a wedding (noticing a theme? there’ll be at least two more weddings by the time you reach the end of this post haha). Two people from my friends’ church tied the knot in my friends’ large, lovely home and it.was.grand.
There’s something about working together with other lovely humans to get a job done. Something about toiling behind-the-scenes. Something about all that thrills the heart and sharpens the senses for Eternity. You begin to realize that there’s so much, oh-so-much more to this life than you and your finite problems.
:: to those who fear their lives will drivel down into nothing because they toil in the shadows of life, in forgotten places, hovering just outside the action. to you lovely humans, I say “raise your heads and toil on” ’cause there’s Beauty in forgotten places” ::
That Saturday, I learned that deeds will not be less valiant because they are un-praised. Myself and several other lovely humans prepped food, played instruments, washed a mammoth amount of dishes, stayed on our feet for nearly 9 hours, vacuumed a shocking amount of stubborn glitter (see the photo below), took down decorations, teased one another, sang along to music blaring over the stereo as we cleaned, and discovered that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive.
I was exhausted but it was the happy sort of exhaustion; the one that leaves you with an ache in your soul and reminds you that you were created for more than the toys of this world, for deeds of valour which, though they may go un-praised in this life, will echo throughout Eternity.
March saw the onset of the virus and altered rhythms as Quarantine began. There was quite a bit of confusion and a huge sigh of relief for us introverts, let’s be real haha. But things were up in the air and still, even there, the Most High met us and allowed me and my church family to be a part of something that still brings an enormous smile to my face whenever I think about it.
On the last Saturday in March, the Most High showed me what it really means for a church community to be a family. Mandy & Judah had resigned themselves to NOT having the wedding of their dreams. This mysterious virus had intruded into everyone’s lives, cancelled celebrations, and left sadness.
But the women of my church had a plan.
In our FB ladies group, someone mentioned how they’d seen another couple do this thing called a “drive-by wedding reception” (all the new terms we’ve coined this year are gonna be legendary one day, just you watch; we’ll be throwing around things like “social distancing” and “proper mask etiquette” and “lockdown” and “Quarantine” and saying “six feet apart” won’t mean we’re leaving room for the Holy Spirit (if you know, you know).
Someone casually asked if we could organize a surprise drive-by wedding reception for Mandy & Judah. Tears leapt into my eyes as, in the space of several hours, the women of my church, my sisters in Christ jumped all over that lovely suggestion. Everyone got the word out, made banners and signs, blew up balloons, and a day later, we all showed up at Mandy’s front door after the ceremony. Only her immediate family, our pastor, one friend, and the photographer were physically present to witness their union. It wasn’t the wedding of their dreams but they got the surprise of their lives.
Rain poured from the sky but the Most High held it back just long enough for all of us to cluster in the street in front of her house, holding our home-made signs, safely distanced in our family units, whooping and hollering, and singing the Doxology. Before we got out of our cars, we drove around in a parade, honking our horns and yelling “Congratulations! We love you guys!” outside our windows.
Her neighbours peered out their windows, some took videos, and wonder of wonders, we made the news headlines of our lil town. Someone alerted the city photographer and she snapped photos and wrote up an article on how these Christians came out to support two of their own in spite of all the fear and sadness.
And the thought crept into my head: what a time to be alive. It’s rough out here right now, but let’s be honest, it’s rough out here always. And things like this are signs of life and Hope in the wilderness. What a time to be alive for Moments like this. Moments when the people of the Most High showed themselves to be a true family because the joy of one of us is the joy of us all. This is living and may we never forget it.
:: by the grace and strength of the King, by the royal blood coursing through our veins, we rose to the occasion and were magnificent. When ordinary people serve a majestic God, extraordinary things can happen ::
By the end of May, I had begun to really feel the pain and sadness of prolonged separation from the people of the Most High, my brothers and sisters in Christ. As a legendary pastor once said, there’s no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. You can’t thrive without community; another lesson I learned in 2020. We weren’t made to go it alone and that’s why I’m pleading with you, lovely humans;
if you’re reading this and your church is blessed enough to have in-person Sunday worship, don’t stay away. Wearing masks is an inconvenience, I know. I’ve gotten light-headed and nearly passed out twice because of it. I know it’s disorienting and strange and feels like oppression.
I know there are loads of opinions about mask-wearing and whether or not its ethical but it’s not persecution, lovely humans. It’s just not. If we think it is, then it just shows how soft we really are as American Christians. Our brothers and sisters in other lands are being beaten, tortured, imprisoned, killed for the Name of Christ and we’re playing the “persecution” card because many of our state governors have mandated in-door mask-wearing in public places (not just in churches…)
(see what I mean about having Eternity stamped on our eyeballs? when we move past secondary causes, take a deep breath, and re-calibrate our minds with Scripture, things begin to fall into their proper place) *I’m not going to get into things like “government over-reach” etc ’cause my blog isn’t the place for that. I want this to be a place of Hope and Courage in our walk as Christians and political commentary isn’t the goal here*
So please don’t stay away from in-person church. Your soul will suffer. I know some of us are more at-risk than others and need to exercise serious caution which is a different story. However, I’d venture a guess that quite a few of us are staying home ’cause we’re silent protestors and have forgotten which War we’re really fighting on this earth.
I went to PA in September (which is jumping a bit ahead of the timeline but hang with me for a sec haha) and one of the dear ladies I talked to there said the same thing: she could feel herself slipping spiritually in all those months and weeks when we weren’t able to have in-person church. That separation just does something to us mentally. We get complacent and the staying-in-our-pjs-all-day mentality will murder your spiritual health.
Enough about that ’cause this post will ramble on to infinity if I don’t reign it in 🙈
June saw The Return of in-person church and I’ve never been so grateful and glad to see the faces of my church family. We sat outside for as long as the weather would permit so we wouldn’t have to wear masks. But July careened toward us and with it, intense heat and humidity. So air conditioning and masks it was. But even then, we were just happy to be there. Back where we belonged. Sitting at the feet of our Saviour, ready to hear what He had to tell us through the mouths of His servants.
In July, my family moved house and I once again saw the love of the brethren as you lovely humans (I know some of you are reading this 🙂 ) lent your muscles and cooking abilities to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Another manifestation of His goodness. I truly don’t know how people survive without church families. It’s an incredible blessing and I pray everyone reading this will experience it one day 🙂
August brought one of the biggest blessings of 2020 for me. Restrictions had lifted enough in my state to allow for limited gatherings and parties once again. And something pretty stellar happened.
Darius moved into a new apartment and wanted to have a house-warming party. Sooo he invited several of us young adults from church and we had a smashing time. It was so smashing that a week later, Akron had us all over his apartment for tacos and we celebrated his birthday. That night, *the-group-that-shall-not-be-named-’cause-we-gave-it-a-cheesy-name* was born and the young adults in my church came together after a few years of just “hellos” and waves.
We laughed till tears ran down our cheeks and we wondered why we’d taken so long to come together. And then it hit a few of us in October in a minivan on our way back from a lil trip to the store: it had taken Quarantine and loneliness for us all to realize the importance of community and friendship.
And that’s the Most High’s goodness. That’s Him reminding us that, in the midst of bewildering year, He’s still making all things New and bringing Beauty from ashes even, and perhaps especially, in a year like 2020.
September had me visiting PA two weekends in a row and the first weekend was something I can’t put into words so I won’t even really try. ‘Cause I’m a firm believer that some things are meant only for those who’ve experienced them.
The second weekend was filled with laughter, feeling a baby kick inside her mother’s belly, loads of food & coffee, impromptu photoshoots, and a reminder that of all the times to be alive in the history of this world; this time is the best. It’s the best because this is where He has us, lovely humans, and He makes no mistakes.
The young adults from my church & I also went to the beach in the wee hours of the morning to watch the sunrise. That was another Moment. I’ve already written about it on my private Instagram account but I think I’ll give you a lil bonus post tomorrow with some more recaps ’cause there’s just too much to share here.
October saw apple-picking, bonfires, pie-making, singing around the fire, more coffee, and the smoky scents of Autumn in all her glory.
In November, the skies turn grey and hearts often turn grey too. But the Most High allowed Liz, Laura, and I to reconnect once again. We discovered the sweetness that comes from old friends with shared history and quiet days spent doing nothing but breathing.
The virus re-launched its tentacles and Friendsgiving on November 7th proved to be the final gathering of the year for our newly-formed friend group at church. We hiked, petted alpacas, drove down winding roads in the countryside as the afternoon cast its final golden rays across the land. And then just over 20 of us came together for a night of feasting. We celebrated our diverse ethnicities through food while reveling in the deep unity that comes from a shared relationship with our Saviour.
And somewhere along the way, two of us got engaged and gave us Hope in the darkness. Hope that despite all of this, Love has not died. The Most High is still in the business of weaving hearts and lives together despite the passage of time.
Now, it’s December, and our breath fogs at night as we stand outside with chilled fingers and toes simply because we want the pleasure of seeing one another’s smiles while we talk after church.
And sometimes it’s hard to see the goodness in all of this when we can’t have our holiday parties. And we begin to wonder when it all will end.
But in the middle of it all,
Julie & Aidan are getting married on New Years’ Eve,
John & Esther tied the knot just over a month ago now,
the Harnicks gave birth to a child who had lain frozen in a sterile facility and might have otherwise never been born,
4 babies were born in my church,
my dear friends welcomed lil SJ into this world on Thanksgiving morning,
and sure, these babies have been born into a world of masks and social distancing;
and sure, Mandy & Judah and John & Esther and Aidan & Julie are getting married in a world of small receptions;
but Eternity, lovely humans. Eternity will make amends for it all.
Can you trace the Most High’s goodness through 2020? Can you see the ways He’s been faithful, carried your heart, dried your tears, answered your prayers, given you unexpected joy? If you can’t, then you’d best start paying attention ’cause it’s a Golden Age and it’s high time we awakened out of darkness into His marvelous Light. It’s not always easy to see His goodness but it’s always there to be found.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares we have already come;
’twas grace that brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us Home.
and lo, He is with us always, even to the end of the Age 🖤
:: we’re in a War, my friends, and we all need Courage on the Front Lines 🖤 ::