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Reflections on a Rough Year

2020 is over.

I remember thinking in March, when the first round of shut downs came, “How will I make it through this whole year?”

By the grace of God, I did it. We did it.

At the end of a year, people often take the time to reflect on what they learned and set goals for the next year. But this was no ordinary year, and honestly, I cannot produce an ordinary reflection. 2020 was a rough year for me and for so many of you too.

For those who have been with me for awhile, you’ll remember that 2020 brought me and my family some hardships beyond the global pandemic and distance learning with my kids.

First, my mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer (after surviving breast cancer 20 years ago). Second, my mother-in-law passed away, and because of COVID, we had not seen her for awhile. And lastly, my sweet grandma passed away after a month-long battle with COVID-19.

I will undoubtedly look back on 2020 as a tough year. I think all of us will. But because we have Jesus, we don’t have to focus on the tough trials. We have hope, even in the face of cancer and death and global pandemic.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (NIV). So that is what I am choosing to do on this last day of 2020.

1.God hears and answers prayer, even if the answer doesn’t look like we want it to. When my mom received her cancer diagnosis, we prayed for healing. We saw God’s hand every day and in every test. Her cancer had not spread to lymph nodes outside of the throat. It had not passed into her trachea. God walked her through daily radiation treatments for 7 weeks. And God cured her of cancer through the marvels of modern medicine. He answered that prayer.

We also prayed that my grandma would be healed of COVID-19. God answered that prayer differently than we wanted; grandma receiced full healing when she entered heaven. I cherish the gift of my grandma and thank God for the impact she had on me, my family, and all who knew her. As I said at her funeral, she was one of God’s brightest lights, and she shined for him wherever she went. What a blessing that she was my grandma!

2. Blessings are present every day…even in dreary times. In spring, we all found ourselves at home with our families for many days. Everything looked different from schooling to work to meal time. But, buried in the boredom of being home all the time was the gift of togetherness. My family and I had many precious moments together. We were even able to vacation to Colorado Springs and enjoy the great outdoors, and we took advantage of distance learning by heading to Florida. I’m sure we made memories my kids will never forget. After all, it’s not every year you get face masks in your Christmas stocking!

3. Hope abounds. Always. Even in the face of grief, there is hope. The pastor at my grandma’s funeral shared this verse: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have diedf so you will not grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13, NLT).

We have hope in each situation because we have Jesus, our Living Hope. 1 Peter 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Jesus lives, and because of that, we will live also. That is our promise.

We also have hope in the day to day. We can know that a better future awaits us because earth is not our final destination. We can know that God will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5) and that nothing can separate us from his love for us (Romans 8:38-39). We don’t walk through the hard days, weeks, months, or years alone.

This is the good that shined through the bad of 2020. These are the blessings I had to search for, but these are the blessings I’ll remember. We have Jesus. We have hope. We are always blessed.

“Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”- Hebrews 6:18b-19a, NLT

As for 2021? Bring it on. With Jesus as our anchor, we can face anything.

***Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

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Kristen Johnson

Kristen is an "accidental farmer's wife" and stay-at-home mom of 3. Accidental, because it was never in her plan to "just" be a mom. But it was God's. Former English teacher now turned MOPS Coordinator and Speaker, Kristen now writes at nap-time, blogging about her silly kids and her farming adventures, as a mom Called by God. She lives in Minnesota on a farm with her family, dog and 5 cats.