Tomorrow marks one year since it all began.
On March 11th 2020, Sean stayed home from work and we watched the news. Much like the rest of the world, we exchanged “what the heck is going on” texts messages with friends, observed plans and commitments quickly be cancelled, and rushed to the store because everyone was convinced that there would be a run on flour. Sean and I sat in the kitchen, slowly sipped coffee, and stared blankly at the computer screen – watching journalists make predictions about how this new virus might kill over 2 million people in the first 6 months. It was wild. We all have our stories of “where we were” when everything changed. I will never forget the walk we went on (with the girls) that day, and all the questions they asked.
I can’t believe it’s already been a year.
It’s been the fastest year of my entire life. There have been days and weeks that felt like they were moving at the rate of molasses dripping down a tree, but even still, nothing has ever moved this fast. It almost feels like the last year disappeared over night. Our girls are taller, my jeans are tighter (thanks to all-day yoga pants and weekly cheese-plates,) and four seasons have passed. It’s surreal. It’s flown by faster than I would have predicted, had I know the level of change that was going to happen. It’s like a whirlwind that I just slowed down from – what just happened?
When I look closely at the past year, there have been so many really, really good things that have happened for our family. There have also been some hard things that we’ve watched happen. It hasn’t been a perfect year and at times there have been downright heartbreaking situations that have occurred, but I have decided not to write about those at this time. Instead I desire to reflect on the beautiful ways in which we felt the warmth of the sun and the grace of the Lord in our lives. Heartache was present, but goodness shined so clearly.
- This year our family joined a new church. After watching church online for almost seven months, Sean and I agreed that, although we desire to do all we can to keep our fellow man safe and healthy, this routine was not tenable for our family. It was at this time that our dear friends told us about an Anglican church they attend. Although the Anglican tradition is completely different than any church we have ever attended (and resembled the Catholic church a little more than we felt comfortable with) we still decided to visit and give it a try, after reading about their doctrines of faith and values. What we ended up finding has been a treasure I can confidently say neither Sean nor myself would be able to fully articulate. A small parish, surrounded by woods and a lake, next to a cottage where we have have coffee after services – this is what we found. It is full of tradition, reverence, and history that we didn’t know we were missing. It’s been a most incredible gift to worship in a way which is so removed from what we have grown accustomed to. No flashing lights or contemporary music. No guest speakers or sermon series’. No offering baskets or videos. No youth groups or segregated classes based on age. Instead we found kneeling benches, an organ, the gospel and epistle candle, stained glass, the hymnal, the Bible, and the book that is quickly becoming one of my favorite books of all time. Anglicanism is something I’d read about in the history books but had no idea was alive and well America. While the Reformed Episcopalians are a small group, we are mighty. Our family is currently moving through confirmation and just thrilled that the Lord brought us to this place at this time. I can’t say how grateful I am that He did this work.
- Our homeschool changed in several ways as well. The weekly co-op that we normally met with had to suddenly stop in March like every learning group across the country. We soldiered on – this wasn’t a great struggle for us….in the almost 8 years we’ve been doing this, the majority of our time has been spent without a committed group. I’ve always preferred it that way – we like our flexibility and the ability to work at our own pace and on our own timing. But, we loved that group – it was a hard blow to my girls who enjoyed weekly meet-ups with their friends, for the older kids who had been organizing a Shakespeare production, and for myself and the other teachers who had 8 classes pre-prepped that wouldn’t be used (I was the U.S. History teacher.) It had to happen and we adapted, but it was still disappointing. When looking at the Fall of 2020, things for the co-op were again changing. Many of the kids who were Kensington’s age were going to be attending a local private school while we had decided that we would be continuing to homeschool. A choice had to be made due to that change and also because of the continuing virus and larger gatherings. In the end, we felt led to start a smaller, weekly co-op with just one family. That choice turned out to provide us with not only a beautiful place of learning for all involved, but also a special friendship that might not have otherwise flourished so quickly and intensely. God was in the details.
- Our family has changed. I wasn’t sure we could get closer, but we have. When you homeschool, you are always together. For better or for worse, you experience all of life as a unit, rather than as individuals. You become intimately involved with the other people under your roof and as much as this can be a challenge at times, it is truly beautiful. With the addition of Sean working from home for the past year, we have truly been navigating the waters together. The difficult moments were waded through arm in arm, and the moments of joy were experienced in tandem. It was bonding and life-changing, in small ways that weren’t visible at the time, but are obvious on this side. There will be one day when all this togetherness comes to an end, but no matter how far apart we may end up, we are irrevocably woven together because of the years, months, days that we have sojourned together.
- We have read, watched, and listened to more books and movies than we can count. At the onset of 2020 we had finished the book series, “Little House on the Prairie” and decided to watch the made-for-tv production. We started watching one episode a night, popcorn in hand. When March hit, this became a special ritual that happened, no matter what was going on outside the walls of our home. We all looked forward to it, had our favorite episodes, and laughed/cried. It was odd how much we all depended on that one hour. We talked about it over breakfast, bought the cookbook and tried historical recipes. We even printed out paper replicas of the homes and built those one weekend. In the Fall of 2020 we finished the entire series – all nine seasons and the specials. I remember the last episode and how the screen went to black. I was sad. Not because the show was over (the last two seasons and the specials weren’t the best television ever made) but because that season of newness and expectancy was over. The show was a bright spot in an unsure time and our family will have memories for years to come. We also read some incredible read-alouds, and listened to some wonderful audiobooks that kept us entertained for hours. Books became a safe haven for our family even more than in years past – we turned to literature in the moments where it was unclear what was happening in the world.
- Our VICTORY GARDEN and its yield was a bright spot in 2020. It was a weird coincidence that I was personally reading about WW2 when the pandemic began. All of a sudden I started hearing news reports about how vegetable seeds were sold out and how our favorite hatchery had no baby chicks to ship. Everyone was discovering the magic of growing their own food! It was a moment that has since passed but was magical while it lasted – the concept of getting outside, providing for your family, and learning to sustainably live. Our small little plot provided much food for our family and was an escape during the early months of this upside down year. It’s bizarre to think that the time has come again to get our seedlings planted under the grow-lights!
- We became closer to our neighbors and community. By simply reaching out and offering baked goods, we forged closer relationships with multiple neighbors and made new friends that live within a mile or two of us. We’ve gathered for dinners, hayrides, and outside bonfires. It’s been wonderful.
When I look back on this past year, or read my journal entries, there are certainly many things to lament. Pain that I had witnessed loved ones endure and personal revelations I had chosen to not fully acknowledge (but needed to.) However, when the dust settles, I know that I will be extremely grateful for the way the Lord showed His kindness on our family through the simplest blessings. Through people, His earth, His gospel truth, His promises. Even in the dark, He is there. If only we should look for Him.