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On January 1, 2020, we began a new decade! We celebrated with family and friends and wondered what this new beginning in time would bring. Most of us were likely very optimistic and had no clue of what 2020 would ACTUALLY bring.
I like to think that the craziness of 2020 started for me in February. On Tuesday, February 11th, my dad went to a doctor for the first time in a long time to be formally diagnosed and begin treatments for basal cell skin cancer. By the end of that day, I was working on an e-mail with my senior pastor to send out to the congregation to let them know of what treatment would likely mean for me (lots of traveling to be with family) and I was also informing my District Superintendent (one of my supervisors) of the news. On Wednesday, February 12th, I was going about my regular morning business when I heard my phone ring. It was my District Superintendent. I knew cabinet was meeting...but I had also just told him about my dad. It was honestly a toss up as to why I got the phone call. I answered it and he asked how I was doing. I took a sigh of relief, realizing he was calling to ask about my dad. Then he said, "Well, that's not why I'm calling. Are you alone?" I knew what was happening then--I was being reappointed.
I snuck off to an empty room in an empty building and was told what was going on. "A church has opened up in your home district and the bishop and your new DS and all of us on cabinet think you'd be perfect for this opportunity." They told me all about Centerville and all that they do, especially their focus on children and youth. They were right--it was a great appointment and opportunity for me and my skill set.
I numbly walked to my office and closed the door, taking deep breaths. Within a matter of 24 hours, my world literally turned upside down. Dad's diagnosis was real and he was seeking treatment. He was sick and we didn't know what was going to happen. I was moving. I would be leaving people I had grown to know, love, and care for over the past three years and start all over again. What on earth was happening?!? So much change and transition and anticipation of that change and transition set in. While it was exciting to be reappointed to a church that I knew fit me well, with everything else going on, I just felt overwhelmed. By Sunday evening, I had met everyone in Centerville and made the announcement in-person to our youth and by e-mail to adults. It was official. Oh, and by the way, that Tuesday I got on a plane to go to Universal/Disneyworld for a week! So, yeah, life was a little crazy!
I've never had a "normal" appointment experience, and this would be no different. Sunday, March 15th, was the last "normal" Sunday I would have at Athens FUMC. It was the last time I would preach in all three services in person. It was the last time I would stand in the Revival service that I loved so much. It was the last time I'd start in the Traditional service, quickly finish my sermon and run over to the Modern service. It was the last time I would stand on the preaching riser in the Modern Worship service in front of a group of people. I wish I had known that was the last time--I think I would have cherished that moment a little longer.
The pandemic was in full-swing after that. Nothing was normal. We did online-only worship for nearly two months. I was honestly afraid I would not get to say goodbye (I did, but it wasn't the same as in a non-pandemic time) and I was afraid that I would not get to properly get to know everyone in Centerville (which kind of happened...it has been a much slower getting-to-know-you process than I have wanted!). I began to worry about things I never thought I'd have to worry about and all the while, the picture of life in America was growing dim. People lost their jobs, retirement accounts dropped in value (yours truly included), children were not in school and therefore were not being watched to be sure they were being cared for properly, those in nursing homes suddenly were feeling like they were prisoners, and the joys of life could no longer be celebrated in-person but instead via Zoom. No hugging (honestly, my favorite part of it all--not a hugger!), no handshakes (this one killed me), no close in-person contact. These are just a few examples of how life had changed--there are so many more I could list, but this is a blog, not a book.
It's easy as we look back on 2020 to look at all the negative things that have happened. It's easy to miss out on the blessings we still had throughout the year. I, for one, have many to be grateful for! I got a personal record in the Disney Princess half marathon on that trip to Florida. I completed my first (and let's be real, probably only) marathon! I learned that I have high-functioning anxiety and that there are excellent medicines out there that can help me feel normal. I moved closer to home and into a beautiful home that is probably three times bigger than where I used to live. I am the pastor of an AMAZING congregation of people. I got a dog who has become my whole world. My dad's been going through treatments which includes what we call a miracle drug that has melted years of cancer off of his skin. We even walked a 5K together before Thanksgiving! Speaking of Thanksgiving, I hosted it for the first time ever--that was fun! My brother got engaged to an amazing woman and I finally get a sister and a nephew (officially)!
Don't get me wrong--this year has been tough on us all. But I refuse to let the bad days and the tough moments define the ENTIRE year for me. And I hope you don't let all the negative things let it define the year for you! 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." We are not to dwell on all the negative things, but instead be grateful for the good things around us. Absolutely take time to grieve the losses and change of the year, but don't let that be all you do. Before the year ends, I encourage you to take some time and think about where you have seen God this year and what your blessings have been. If you take the time to focus on gratitude, maybe you won't think this year was a complete waste (even though it sometimes feels like it has been).
But even still, I hope you all have a safe and Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and an even better 2021!