Update 2021

January 14, 2021

Some of you have asked how I’m doing. Others have probably wondered if I’m still alive. I am alive—very much so! But like you, I’ve had a rough year. It was hard for me in all the ways it was hard for you: the uncertainty of everything—the long term effects of a brand new disease, the abrupt end to life as we knew it, virtual school, far too many zoom meetings, the aching to worship God with my church family like we used to, and the realization that I’m never alone anymore (tough pill to swallow for this introvert), and of course, the fracturing of society—both inside and outside the church—along racial and political lines. But this year was hard for me in some very personal ways as well. In early January, Jared and I were faced with a difficult decision: whether Jared should remain on pastoral staff at CrossWay in Kenosha, WI or move to Minneapolis and teach at Bethlehem College and Seminary. I cannot overstate how difficult this decision was for us. Our hearts still grieve for the loss of our church family in Wisconsin and for the sense of community we were building in our hometown.

I will never forget huddling together in the dark hours of the early morning on the floor just inside our front door (why there?!) begging God to give us wisdom to make this decision. Jared and I plead with God for a sense of unity in how we should proceed. And that’s exactly what God gave. After months of internal wrestling with this decision, I looked at Jared and said (without choking, even), “We need to go.” I wanted more than anything to stay at the church that nurtured me at two critical phases of my spiritual development. I wanted to stay at the place where God had given us both fruitful ministry. I wanted to stay at the place where our hearts had been knit together with our ministry partners. I never imagined I’d have to pick up and move at 40. That kind of adventure is meant for young people. Been there, done that! But once I had spoken those words, I knew I would never take them back. At that moment, I began to set my mind on the task ahead, trusting God to take care of my heart.

Jared is by disposition a seminary professor. He is made for the classroom and for focused study. Of course I thought he was a wonderful pastor too, but the varied and unpredictable nature of pastoral work took its toll on him. He does his best work robed in tweed, enveloped by books, and hunched over a desk. He’s also pretty good behind a lectern with a dry erase marker in one hand and a coffee in the other. Seeing his flourishing in this new role has confirmed that we made the right decision. I’m grateful God gave me the strength to give this gift to my husband.

Telling our kids was as difficult as making the decision. Once again, I cannot overstate what a terrible day that was for our family. A whole year later, the memory still traumatizes us. The kids were devastated. One wept loudly and dramatically for a solid hour before collapsing in exhaustion. Another stormed away in hot, angry tears. A third sat sullen and quiet on the couch, but then softened as he watched his parents cry. 

And so our year began. We set out to make the most of the remaining time we had in our beloved community. In early February, I spoke at our women’s retreat.

Jared coached the boys’ indoor soccer team to victory.

Jared preached his last few sermons at church and taught through an overview of the OT. In March, Jude suddenly got sick and could not get better. Doctor’s visit after doctor’s visit, two weeks of missed school and church, a missed orchestra concert, missed field trips, a chest x-ray, sudden asthma, chest pains, difficulty breathing, an ER visit, another chest xray, a negative flu test, and the repeated inquiry, “Have you traveled out of the country recently?”, before Jude slowly began to improve.

Though he was easily winded, he was finally able to return to school, only to be sent home a few days later when the mysterious coronavirus shut down the entire world. I was out of the state with four other women from church at a Simeon Trust conference when we got the news. After we returned home, we hugged and said our goodbyes, not really knowing when we’d see each other again. 

Lockdown wrecked all our plans to enjoy the last of everything in Kenosha. Soccer? Canceled. Spring Auditions? Not a chance. 5th grade graduation? Yeah right! Youth group lockdown? Nope. Saying goodbye to school friends? Didn’t happen. Going back to church? Our last Sunday in Kenosha was our first Sunday back to CrossWay. We were thrilled to be back together, even if numbers were restricted and masks muffled our songs.

There were other disappointments too. For two years, we had been planning a three week trip to Europe. It went the way of Covid. We didn’t get to see those friends and family this year. Our anniversary getaway was sidelined. Jude’s promised 11 year birthday party was a no-go. My parents had to cancel their planned visit, and a Covid exposure mid-Fall kept my kids from visiting my parents. We were in a potentially fatal car accident just before Thanksgiving. 2020 brought with it another divisive election cycle and racial unrest, an unrest that saw our beautiful Kenosha burn.

Just when I thought 2020 was about to breathe its last, it struck one final blow. My dearest friend Erica called to say she had breast cancer. My beautiful friend—more accustomed to suffering than many of us—was facing yet another hardship. Why, God? Why couldn’t you spare her this? But even as I prayed those words, I sensed the grace God intends in this most unwanted of trials. See Erica’s blog to read her story. See how God has redeemed the difficulties of her past, and watch how he will redeem the ugliness of cancer in her future. Her testimony will bless your soul, and your prayers and encouragement will bless hers. Subscribe to her blog to get updates. I know you’ll be encouraged by the work God has already done and is still doing her beautiful soul. 

Even as 2021 fights to outdo 2020, I find myself feeling grateful.

  • I’m grateful that we were able to proceed with our CrossWay women’s retreat last February. I spoke on rest from Matthew 11:25-30. What grace God ministered to my heart through studying that passage, and what timely truths for the women God assembled that weekend. We had no idea what was in store for us or how desperately we’d need those lessons. But God knew and was busy preparing us through his Word. 
  • I’m grateful for the time God provided to say goodbye to our church family. They put on a farewell drive-in service for us in the CrossWay parking lot. At the end, attendees drove through a receiving line to say their goodbyes. What a joy it was to see the faces we had been missing during that early shut-down. Besides that lovely service, I’m grateful for CrossWay’s generous care for us to the very end: cards, prayers, kind words, cash gifts, meals, gift cards, child-care, drop by’s, packing, moving and cleaning help, shared coffees on our deck, and so much more. The ladies’ ministry team even showed up on my deck with breakfast to celebrate my 40th and to say goodbye.
  • I’m grateful we were able to hold a Christianity Explored Bible study with many of the parents on our boys’ soccer team before we left. With the help of our gospel community who provided meals, childcare, and transportation to and from youth group, we packed into our living/dining room and studied the book of Mark over dinner together. We love and miss these dear faces!
  1. I’m grateful for some much needed time with good friends. So many of our plans were upset by Covid, but we were still able to travel to Midland, MI, Clearwater Beach, and Jacksonville, as well as host a few who traveled to see us.
  • I’m grateful for our new neighborhood. It is quiet and lovely. On one end it backs up to a nature preserve and on the other, a lake. As grateful as I am for the setting, I’m even more grateful for a friendly neighborhood full of KIDS. My children play outside for hours every day with a whole pack of kids from the neighborhood. In the summers, they ride bikes, play ball, and roam the nature preserve. In the winter, they sled down the hill at our neighborhood park or skate on the lake for which our neighborhood is named. These new friends have made our kids’ transition 100x better than we had hoped or prayed. Isn’t that just like God to gift us with things we’d never thought to ask for?
  • I’m a qualified grateful for virtual school. I have a love/hate relationship with virtual school, but overall, I’ve enjoyed having my kids around more this year. I’ve observed new things about each of them. I’ve admired the way they’ve embraced their new routines and have tried to make friends in a less than ideal setting. The other day we got to watch a Chelsea game in the middle of the day together. That would never have happened pre-Covid. I text them during class to see what kind of waffle they want for lunch (ask me about the stuffler sometime). I get to eat lunch with them. They come find and hug me over breaks. They take five minutes to help me with groceries when I come in the door. And although there have been plenty of ugly moments too—ones I won’t miss and ones I will almost immediately forget when this nightmare is over—I’ll never forget the sweet and unexpected moments brought to us by Covid-19. 
  • I’m grateful for Freshmen Grammar. I stepped back into the college classroom after a 16 year hiatus this Fall. And to my surprise, I loved it! It was good to teach alongside Jared at Bethlehem College, plus I enjoyed my students immensely. I am grateful to God for giving me something to do besides feeling sorry for myself after all the losses of 2020. I needed a focusing project and freshmen grammar was just the thing.
  • I’m grateful to be reteaching my Psalms study—A Song for Every Season—at our new church. Our women’s ministry director is stepping into teach alongside me, adding several new psalms to the curriculum. I can’t tell you how much my soul needs these psalms right now. This past year, I experienced some of my highest highs and lowest lows. Who knows what this year holds? But I know I’ll need these songs and prayers to help me pour out my heart to God when loneliness, sorrow, or fear threaten to silence me. I’m considering doing an 8-10 minute video lesson each week on the psalm we’re studying. Please let me know if you’re interested in following along. And if you know others who could benefit from the study, send them this blog. 

I hope you’re sensing reasons to be grateful this year as well. I pray God is using his word to stir up hope and faith in your hearts. God bless you in 2021! May it be a year of strengthening our faith. May it be a year of unity for God’s people. May it be a year we see God’s word go out with power into our communities. May his people rise up and boldly proclaim the truth of the ages—that through Jesus, God has made a way for us to be at peace with him and at peace with each other! May we spread the good news that even in this darkness, God is building His kingdom of light on the foundations of righteousness and justice. 

You Might Also Like