As the year winds down

You know those letters that are tucked into Christmas greeting cards? You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Some folks find them boring, some folks call them boastful.

Personally, I truly appreciate getting those letters from friends and family at Christmas time because it gives me a little peek into what the year was like for them.  Plus, it seems more personal than just signing your name on a greeting card.

As a natural-born writer, I’m keen on writing Christmas missives and have been doing so for…well, as long as I’ve sent holiday greetings by mail (43 years of marriage). Back in the day, I hand wrote all of those letters – what a task! – but as we joined the home computer rage, it was easier and more efficient to type our greeting and print it out on Christmas themed paper.

This year – this crazy, abnormal as can be year when it seems like our world was topsy-turvy – I still managed to write my annual holiday letter.  Even though we spent a good majority of the year social distancing, sequestered in our home, etc., believe it or not, I still found worthwhile things to share.

How? By concentrating on thankfulness. Why? Because my desire was to encourage those who received our letter to do the same, to remember this year’s aspects that made them grateful.

And even though this Christmas is now relegated to our memories, I’m sharing my 2020 holiday letter with you, not to brag or boast, but instead to demonstrate how we chose to look at the challenges we faced, although I recognize many of you experienced more hardships than most.

As this year winds down, many of us review what transpired before we put the past year to rest, and that’s simply what I did in this letter. But more importantly, my hope is that you may find my words a source of encouragement to reflect on your own past year and find gratitude for something in it, no matter how small or insignificant it seems.

So here goes – our annual holiday letter for 2020:

We sincerely hope this greeting finds you and all your loved ones healthy and well in body, mind, and spirit. What can we say about this past year? Most of us will be happy to see it in our rear view mirrors.

Despite the challenging year it’s been, here’s our attempt to place a positive spin on 2020 because my favorite passage of Scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Notice God’s Word says give thanks in ALL circumstances, not just the pleasant ones.

Our year commenced as usual – providing child care for our oldest grandchild and sometimes driving her to preschool while our daughter worked. As the new year arrived in order to escape the winter doldrums, Papa and I ventured into Pittsburgh to tour the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History and on another occasion, we accompanied daughter and grandchild to the Children’s Museum. Little did we know, outings like those would become non-existent in the coming months…BUT we truly enjoyed those experiences.

Our family celebrated our grandchild’s 5th birthday and as March arrived, Papa and I prepared for an upcoming planned trip. Then news of the corona virus hit the air waves…BUT we already had flight tickets purchased, rental car and hotel accommodations booked so off we flew to Arizona.

After arriving in Phoenix, we drove to the Grand Canyon National Park, a place neither of us had ever visited. Drizzling rain and extremely foggy conditions met us there preventing us from catching a good view of this amazing natural wonder. We feared we would not actually see it…BUT the sun came out and the fog cleared to give us some spectacular sights.

From there, we got some kicks on Route 66 and eventually arrived at my sister and brother-in-law’s home for the rest of our trip. Pouring rain and some unheard of flash flooding (in the Arizona desert) greeted us on our first day there. Adding to that, my sister suffered some back pain issues which nixed all of the sightseeing she had planned…BUT we had already seen many sights on a previous trip there, the guys were able to go desert ATV riding, Papa and I enjoyed morning walks through their neighborhood each day, and we had a relaxing time just spending it with our loved ones.

By now, the pandemic panic increased and our kids frantically texted and called us imploring us to be careful and urging us to fly home sooner than planned…BUT since we were mostly staying put with only my sister and brother-in-law, we didn’t have to worry about being exposed to crowds.

As shut-downs occurred, concern for driving our rental car to Phoenix, staying the night in a hotel, and flying out of a crowded airport the next day or finding our flight cancelled loomed…BUT we managed to find an open drive-through place to get our dinner, a fairly empty hotel, and social distancing in place while waiting for our flight, disinfecting as we went, and because many people cancelled trips, we had a row of seats to ourselves on the plane.

We safely arrived back at our nearly deserted home airport, collected our bags, and were picked up outside by family members. Due to stay at home orders, our nearby city looked eerily like a ghost town…BUT with no traffic on the highway, we made it home in record time.

As you may recall, our middle daughter is a hospital nurse. She was extremely concerned about being Covid-19 exposed and thereby spreading it to her child and us as caregivers for that child, so she made the difficult, heart-breaking decision to separate herself from her child and us for the next 8 weeks…BUT Nana and Papa enjoyed every minute of being with our precious little one 24/7, playing games, make-believe, crafting, preschool learning at home, and thanks to nice weather, being outside.

During that time, our daughter actually was exposed to Covid-19 positive patients and endured a case of the virus herself AND a middle-of-the-night trip by ambulance to the ER while ill…BUT she recovered well, passed a painful kidney stone to boot (ER visit), and experienced so much love and concern from others with prayers, meals, gifts, and well wishes delivered to her mailbox and front porch.

Being apart from the rest of our family (our other grown children and grandchildren who live in other states), for special holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, our littlest grandchild’s first birthday party, and middle grandchild’s fourth birthday certainly wasn’t easy this year…BUT we were grateful for technology providing video conferencing and virtual parties.

As things seemed to calm down and cases subsided by the end of May, our entire family reunited at our son and daughter-in-love’s home in the state next door for a family gathering weekend where we still practiced tons of hand washing and sanitizing…BUT it was so good to see each other in person, spend quality time together in beautiful weather outside on their lovely patio, and watch our three grandchildren play and have fun.

Our family had long planned to take a 2020 beach vacation, renting a house big enough for all 10 of us in order to spend an entire week together. Before the pandemic, we had already booked a place for August. Since virus news continued, we bantered back and forth discussing with angst about what decision to make…BUT all of us decided to go anyway.  We stayed sequestered in our rental; brought food and ordered groceries online; cooked all our own meals; enjoyed the very unpopulated beach where it was easy to social distance every day; and spent time with our little ones in our private swimming pool while the adults enjoyed the private hot tub. We relished relaxing together as a family and it helped our sanity and outlook. Some of us may have cried when it came time to depart for home at week’s end.

This has been a year unlike any other we’ve experienced…BUT we are very grateful for so much:

  • Being retired and able to stay at home;
  • No one in our family lost jobs;
  • Attending church via online worship;
  • Both of our daughters were able to have necessary surgeries and recovered well;
  • Oldest grandchild started kindergarten this fall in school and loves it;
  • Middle grandchild gave her heart to Jesus at the tender age of almost 4;
  • Youngest grandchild learned who Nana and Papa are in person by spending a week with us all at the beach;
  • Because of other activity cancellations, we’ve finished home projects and have time to pursue our hobbies;
  • Taking day-long car trips to get out and about, no need for masks/social distancing when we’re in nature by ourselves and eating picnic lunches outdoors;
  • I managed to lead several women’s Bible study sessions via video conferencing, thanks to my son-in-love who provided tech instructions on how to do so;
  • And that so far, everyone in our family is staying healthy and managing as best we can to endure this time.

We hope and pray that, despite the hardships of this year, you find many reasons to be thankful and that you are blessed beyond measure with peace, love, joy, and mostly HOPE.  May your 2021 be a truly happy and healthy New Year.

My wish for you, my readers, is the same as the one above sent to our family and friends. It’s my daily prayer.

“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” ~ Germany Kent

© 2020

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