A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

If someone had sat me down in January 2020 and told me what the year would hold, I would not have believed them.

It would have seemed so incredibly out there that I would have laughed and wondered what bad pizza they ate the night before.

A worldwide pandemic?

Closed borders?

Frantic embassy emails warning us to go home now?

Stay-at-home orders?

Curfews and quarantines and masks and online school and zoom meetings and shortage of toilet paper?

A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

Looking back at the unrest, the political scene, the intense conversations, the deep loss, unbelievable grief of missed opportunities, canceled events, failed travels and interrupted dreams, it’s still difficult to imagine a year quite like the one we’ve all endured.

Although not here on this blog, I actually did quite a bit of writing and processing this year. Through themes on other platforms, I was able to think through and write out the lessons God has been working in me. I’ve been able to express the ways He’s been teaching and developing my heart.

As I looked back over the posts from this year, I can see these lessons and the flow of how God patiently works in us while lovingly encouraging us to keep going, to keep pushing, to keep resting, to keep trusting and to keep sharing.

Here are a few lessons from 2020

1} Holding on to Hope – January started with a post about pilgrimage. By definition, a pilgrimage is a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place. I wrote, “In the life of a worker overseas, there are many such moments of pilgrimage. Strung together in a longer space of time, these moments connect to a much larger, much longer pilgrimage of faith… Wherever you find yourself in the bigger pilgrimage, hold unswervingly to the hope you profess. The sacred moments, however small, will happen. One day, you’ll look back on your journey of pilgrimage remembering and giving thanks for all He has done.”

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

2} Living an Exodus Life – In February, I wrote about Moses and the Exodus. “If I sit and think about the exodus from beginning to end, from the birth of Moses to the first foot set in the promised land, I’m overwhelmed. There is so much pain, disobedience, attitude, struggle and death. Yet, spread throughout the story, we see God’s presence, guidance, healing and provision. We see God’s love, forgiveness and mercy on full display. But we must not let that overwhelm us. Instead, let’s cover our exodus journey with the simple, powerful and truthful Word of God.” I included a link to a list of verses {you can grab that printable list here} to encourage us all on this Exodus Life. Standing in December of 2020, how applicable this post is today.

3} The Importance of Mottos – on the field and at home – In March, I followed up the post here on our blog about family mottos with a post of how to apply that to team mottos. The practicality of having principles to live by during a year of unknowns, grief, transition and chaos is so refreshing and badly needed for us all. I wrote, “Mottos are a big part of our lives. My husband started the idea of having family mottos when our girls were very small, and we’ve incorporated these mottos into the fabric of our family. Our mottos are fun phrases and silly words that help us remember important things for how we interact with each other, with the world around us and with the God who created us. From the decisions we make, to our attitudes about life, mottos are how we communicate on common ground with common goals and common starting points.” How desperately mottos are needed this year.

4} Remaining Surefooted in Unsettled Times – April began with a need to find sure ground beneath the very unsettled times we were all experiencing. Staying surefooted when things were crumbling around us. I shared that, “…over coffee, I quietly told my husband that one of my overseas life goals was NOT to ride out a pandemic in a developing country. This was not in the plan. This wasn’t even a thought in my brain as we packed our family up to move and work in West Africa.” I went on to say, “Again, so much is unsettled and unknown. Surefootedness seems far, far away. Yet, as women of faith, we do have one thing that remains, one thing that is firm, sound, unmoving and unchanging. We have one thing that holds us strong, keeping our feet sure on the paths set before us. Friends, we have a loving, gracious, merciful Father in heaven who is surefooted in every single way, on every single day.”

Using Habakkuk 3:17-19, I reminded us that whatever we are facing, we can rest, sure and fast. No matter what comes our way.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”

A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

5} A Checklist for Transition – The month of May brought the reality that transition can happen even faster than any of us imagined. Transition can be forced on us or needed at a time we least expected it. I wrote a checklist for people in transition, something to have on hand just in case you find yourself in that position at some point during this crazy year. “Transitions like these are incredibly stressful, exhausting and detailed. During these moments, we need to stop, breathe, and make a plan. Slow down enough to get your thoughts in order, write a list, figure out the most important things, drink some coffee and then, get to it. But, who has time for that in the midst of a crazy, intense, emotional season? That’s where resources like this can jump in, ease the crazy and support you and your family through whatever transition you are facing, for whatever reason you are facing it.” There is a printable list in that post.

I was also a guest on Taking Route Podcast in May… talking about persevering through intense times. Big lessons of faith and trust overseas.

6} Helpful Tips for Mentorship – Also in May, the world realized the power of video chats, zoom meetings, online platforms and the importance of staying connected through real relationship with real people. “In this time of quarantine, stay-at-home and social distancing, we’re in a unique time for mentoring and relationships. This is the day of telehealth, online church services, zoom office meetings and online schooling. Face-to-face isn’t possible so we’re creatively connecting in ways we haven’t tried to do before, to an extent that no one imagined before.” What does that look like? Read it here.

“Life is not meant to be lived in isolation. We are better together. Stronger. Braver. Our willingness to be vulnerable will suffocate shame.” – Cristi Dozier

A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

There wasn’t any writing in June. I do have a post to write about June. A story about health, doing hard things and not throwing away this shot we’ve been blessed with, to keep going in this work that God has placed before us. Stay tuned for that coming soon.

7} Building a Daily Foundation of Renewal – In July, as we all realized that the 2020 crazy wasn’t going away any time soon, the need for going back to the basics, digging in deep, rediscovering faith and hope and joy became vital. Vital for health, vital for our relationships, vital for our families and our work. I wrote, “In comparing the seasons, I realized that, although this year does feel different, I need renewal regardless of the day, the stress level, the tension or emotion. I need to stay grounded in faith, turn my eyes on Jesus, focus on His Word, remember His promises and live with eternity in mind no matter what is happening around me. On the seemingly simpler days of the past or on the possibly more difficult days to come, I must have a foundation that remains firm.”

2020 has definitely taught us that we must have the foundation of His Presence in our every day lives.

A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

8} Ten Real Ways to Invest in You and Your Family – Time. 2020 has been lots and lots of time. Time at home, time with our kids, time with family, time to think… time to order our days in ways we don’t normally have time to do. Not to say that we haven’t all been busy. In some ways, busier than before. But this year highlighted things differently and we found ourselves in unknown waters. In my August post, I said, “In those moments, I have to pause and remember that there are things I can do to invest in myself so that I can invest in my family regardless of the stress, tension, and frustration of the day. When I’m healthy, when I’ve invested in my heart and soul, I can better invest in my husband and my kids. When I’m doing things that build me up and fill me up, I’m much more prepared to build up and fill up my family.” I went on to give 10 ways to make that happen. “In these small, practical ways, with realistic goals and purposeful moments, we can be healthier spiritually, emotionally and physically.”

9} Simple Ways to Connect With God – As the year kept going and September arrived, I felt like simple was a message God was speaking to me. In my journey with Him, I needed basic, simple ways of connection. I wrote, “Yet, we all have experienced seasons where finding the time, resources, energy and perseverance to maintain our daily connection with God can be very difficult. In those seasons, I love to picture Jesus looking down with love. I see him lifting off the burden we often place on ourselves to do or be or have or read or accomplish anything other than being still in his presence.” With that simple picture in mind, I gave 7 ways to connect with God in stressful or busy seasons. You can read them here.

10} A Response to “Here I Am”In October, I wrote, “Every lesson I’ve been learning this year boils down to the phrase, “Here I am.” This year has renewed a hunger for simple things, heightened the desire to experience the calming presence of Jesus, and brought a new fervor to stand on the promises of God’s Word in ways that impact my life and those around me. To simply pray, “Here I am…” For me in this season, saying those three short words has become a prayer, a hope, a cry, a place of rest. It’s a simple phrase yet I’m learning that it’s also packed with meaning and purpose. When we quietly whisper, “Here I am,” we are praying exactly the right words.” With a walk through I Samuel 3, I learned that this prayer is a process. It is a choice every single day, to keep saying Here I Am.

A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

11} Life Hacks for the Holidays Overseas – November had us all thinking about the holidays and in my normal list making way, I wrote out a few life hacks for my overseas friends. Somewhat light-hearted, this post also reminds us of what it’s like to experience the holiday season overseas. “The holidays overseas can truly be a mixed bag of emotions, extra work and a lot of stress. They can be times of sadness and remembering. They can be times of joy and new adventures. Planning ahead, keeping purposeful traditions, knowing what’s best for your family and allowing your family to grow are just a few ways to enjoy peaceful, beautiful and beneficial holidays while living overseas.”

12} When Provision Doesn’t Seem Good – I closed out my writing for the year with this post, a post about the provision of God. What happens when his provision isn’t what we thought it would be? What do we do when it doesn’t seem like he provided something good? Living and working overseas gives us daily moments to need his divine provision. 2020 has given us daily moments to need his provision. “I’ve often joked that the simple act of leaving our house requires God’s help and provision. I know that things on the other side of our gate are beyond my control. I need his help in every coming and going, provision in each step we take in the community around us. We go in faith that God’s provision is before us, behind us and around us.” In answering that need for his provision, I continued, “Provision is in the knowledge of our God, in our sweet relationship with him, in our hope for eternity with him. It comes in daily lessons of trust, quiet moments of desperation, precious laughter and long nights full of tears. Provision is peace in the storm, calming of waves, faith that moves mountains and an understanding that God’s story is unfolding before our eyes.”

A Look Back at Lessons from 2020

In a year full of chaos, challenges, struggles and grief, we can still see the hand of God at work.

There are still lessons to learn, faith to develop, miracles to pray for, opportunities to take hold of and journeys to walk. 

As I look back through these posts from 2020, I see a process, a plan, a journey.

In it all, I’m grateful, thankful and challenged anew for what God is speaking and doing as I write out and walk out this journey with him.

Can you look back over your year and see what God has done?

Are there lessons you’ve learned in a very unexpected, difficult year?

As you go into 2021, what lessons will go with you?

Feel free to share in the comments. Let’s journey into the New Year together.

Also, please visit Global Trellis and Velvet Ashes. I’m blessed to be a part of these communities for resourcing, helping, and connecting overseas workers. Many of the images in this post are from my Velvet Ashes posts. Thanks, Karen!

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