2020 – The year of plenty.
The year that we all welcomed with open arms and hopeful hearts – blissfully unaware of the pandemonium that was around the corner. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that our world would be hit with a deadly virus, a worldwide shutdown and our lives turned upside down.
I don’t know of one person who hasn’t been affected by the heartache and pain of this year, not one. Each person has been affected in some way – I have heard and experienced heartbreaking stories of death, illness, loss, suffering, racism, divorce, affairs, abuse, liquidation, discrimination, suicide, miscarriage, mental health, losing lives, losing homes, losing friendships, losing businesses, losing family, losing marriages… The list is endless.
As a family, we have experienced so much of the above ourselves. Our social media platforms are just a highlight reel of our lives and as much as I remain true and real online, openly sharing our trials and tribulations and proving we are not perfect or exempt from pain and heartache, there are some things that remain private and I focus on the positive and all that sparks joy in our lives. 2020 has been no walk in the park, I have walked a heartbreaking journey of loss and heartache. As a couple, we have experienced one of our toughest years yet with all that has been thrown at us individually and as a family, and we have had to lean on each other or carry each other when neither of us had any more to give. As a family, we have sailed some very stormy seas and we have had to navigate this all, together.
But in this darkness, we fix our eyes on Jesus. We lean into His promises, and our faith. We trust, we hope and we believe. As hard as this year has been, it has been the greatest of blessings – as we have learnt some life-altering and valuable lessons about ourselves, about who we are and what we stand for, about the world and community we live in, the relationships we pour into, and the life we want and are building for our family. We have grown so much in this year. And this is the true blessing of 2020.
Twenty of the valuable life lessons I have learnt this year:
Jesus is the centre of our lives. Without Him, we can do nothing. We have spent the year on our knees in prayer, in tears through Worship and calling out to God in moments of gratitude and pain, and trusting in our faith as only Jesus can carry us through these storms.
Tomorrow is not a promise. We only get one life to live and we never know when that may end. Every goodbye could be our last. This doesn’t mean we cannot acknowledge the pain, and sit in moments of grief and mourning but we cannot take things and people for granted, we cannot waste days and energy on things and people that don’t enrich our lives and bring joy. We need to live for this moment, today.
I married the finest man in the world. I have never doubted this but this year proved it over again. He is my greatest gift and God’s greatest blessing. There is nothing I cannot do, conquer or overcome with him by my side. He is my rock, my saving grace, my voice of reason and my biggest cheerleader. He is my everything, through Jesus.
Family comes first. Our family of five is what truly matters, the strongest unit there ever was. And our greatest blessings to each other. I still pinch myself some days that Jesus entrusted my with the man of my dreams and three perfect miracle girls. Our time together this year was magical, and time we will remember and treasure forever. Time that we will probably never get again, in its entirety. Sometimes we get caught up and lost on so many other things of the world, when all we need is right in front of eyes or beside us.
All we need is each other. Months of lockdown and being together, and losing so much showed us that as long as we have each other, we don’t need anything else. Money and material things are fun, very helpful in times and always appreciated but we can live anywhere, with very little, as long as we have each other.
The gift of being present. Lockdown taught us so much about the crazy rat race of life and how we can savour slowing down, resting, being present and intentional and not doing it all. What a gift it was to have nowhere to be or things to rush around doing, but being at home in our sanctuary and being truly present and intentional with each other. I will always treasure the moments I shared with MC and each of our girls, walking through nature, watching the stars, learning new languages, playing board games, watching cakes rise in the oven, bedtime stories and slow, lazy mornings together.
Staying true to what you believe in. This year taught me so much about who I am, what I believe in and how I will never waiver my values and beliefs for anything or anyone. Gone are the days of worrying what everyone thinks about me and changing who I am because of their view on me, or trying to change myself to please others. I and we stand firm in who we are, what we believe in and how we will live our lives, raise our family and cultivate our friendships and relationships based on these beliefs.
Shifting my focus and energy. This year has given me time and space to truly understand who and what matters. I have realised where my focus has needed to shift in relationships, hobbies, mental health and personal well being and where my energy and love should be poured in. I found myself realising that I was pouring so much of myself into things that didn’t enrich me, didn’t bring me joy and only sucked the life out of me, as well as pouring energy and my heart into people and relationships that didn’t value me, didn’t appreciate me and didn’t deserve all this energy. Making this shift, gave me so much more to pour into other directions and other people which has brought so much peace, joy and happiness.
The importance of speaking up and speaking out, but switching off and being silent too. The online world has been a crazy space this year. With everyone in the world being stuck at home, and set behind their computer screens – there has been great conflict, differing opinions, mixed messages and misinterpreted tones, jumping on band wagons and being cowards on the keyboard. There have been moments where we stood united in beliefs and having our voices heard but there have been moments when we needed to switch off and not feel pressured into adding our opinions. Our lives are not only lived through our online presence – what happens in our hearts and homes is the most important work of all.
Learning to love myself. We are often our harshest critics and are the most judgemental about ourselves – I have sat through days and nights, looking in the mirror, and saying all the ugly things to myself: you are not worthy, you are too much, you are too fat, you are too lazy, you are too young, you are too inexperienced, your hair is too thin, you are a bad mom, you don’t care enough, you shout to much, you don’t deserve him, you are a disappointment, your skin is bad, you are too proud, you are too selfish, you are an unsupportive friend, you are too flabby, you are a failure. Some of these are physical things I have seen in the mirror and believed about myself, something of these are personality traits or weaknesses that I have allowed to sneak into my mind, and some are things that have been said to me or about me. But what I have realised and truly believed this year, is that I am me – full of flaws and imperfections but waking up daily, to be the very best version of myself. Some days I fail at this and I can do better but I am constantly trying and I no longer believe in any of these things about myself. I am a work in progress and will never be perfect, but I will never give up trying.
We don’t all have to agree, but we can agree to be kind. This year has taught us that we will all disagree. We all have different views, different opinions and different ways we would do or say things. And that is okay. We don’t have to agree with our family members, we don’t have to agree with our friends, we don’t have to agree with our work colleagues. We can all disagree but we don’t have to be judged or outcasted for what we believe in. We can disagree with family members and question their ways of believing without causing a family feud or cutting each other out our lives. We can disagree with friends but encourage and support them through life. We can disagree with business colleagues and still work successfully for the same company and towards the same goals. We have to be open to people questioning our beliefs and calling us out when we do wrong, and listening to them and accepting when we may be wrong. This year, MC and I have disagreed on many things but HOW we disagreed is what got us through these moments. After a long day of homeschooling and parenting, making meals, cleaning our home etc, I was less patient and shouting at our girls – MC called me aside, encouraged me to take a time out and let him take over bedtime with the girls because I wasn’t being the best version of myself. He disagreed with my parenting and behaviour, I apologised and stepped away from it. MC and I disagree on how to deal with fidelity and divorce in marriages – it is something we may always disagree on but I still love and respect him more than anything.
Sometimes the unexpected people will show up the most. This year has brought some of the most unexpected friends closer to us and into our world. Friends that checked in almost daily when we were all stuck at home, friends who did drive by’s when they were allowed, friends that sent little deliveries to brighten up our days when things got tough, and friends who sat listening to our tears of hurt and pain when we walked some dark roads. Friends who just listened, friends who cried with us, friends who gave sound advice and friends who pointed out when we were in the wrong. These friends haven’t always been front and centre in our lives but they chose to show up when we needed it most, and become a solid part of our hearts and lives.
Not everyone will love the way you do. One of the things that shocked me the most this year, as we were all locked down in our homes, was the saying: “Out of sight, out of mind.” I’ve never really grasped this saying as over the years of people moving away, or myself moving between different schools, different jobs or different countries – I have always placed such importance on maintaining and cultivating enriching relationships and friendships. I remember a best friend who emigrated when we were in high school, yet spending hours writing each other letters and sending our news across the seas, messaging each other when phones came out, and even visiting each other when we found ourselves in each others countries again. I fondly acknowledge the many friendships I have kept with teachers from primary and high school, business colleagues from different jobs and even family that live around the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than understanding that life gets busy, everyone is going through so much and we are all fighting our own daily battles – and keeping in contact is something I know I am pretty good at, when others possibly aren’t. But this year, I have been hurt by the friends and family that have “lost touch” – people who I deeply loved and valued, who struggled to find the time for me, no thoughts of me or my family during a difficult year for us all – but who have found time for other people or other things during this year. It hurts because it doesn’t take much to send a one line, once a week, just to check in and say hi, check in when you know times have been tough or rough, and be forgotten when its the “thought that counts.”
Take note of who you spend your time with, and all that you watch and listen to. And switch off when you need to. Don’t answer the calls or messages, turn off your phone notifications, turn off the news, the TV and the radio. And protect your heart. You don’t have to know everything. This year has taught us that the media can mislead us in so many ways, and that we can still be in the know and stay safe and aware without knowing the daily Covid numbers, the daily protests and the daily corruption in so many governments. We can take days off for our well being without reading all the differing but very loud opinions on Facebook, Twiiter and Instagram or read and watch people being bullied or attacked online. We can live without the extra negativity and chaos when we are just hanging on by a thread. You do what is right for you, and make wise decisions about your consumption.
The power of prayer. Only when I was down on my knees, in tears and in prayer, did I realise the power of saying my prayers. And the power is found more in the act of praying than in the hope of our prayers being answered. Being on my knees, surrendering to God and His Almighty power, handing over all my anxiety, all my worries and all my fears. And letting him take the wheel. That is where I found my peace, not always in the prayers being answered. We have had many prayers answered this year, some in His timing that we struggled to understand, and many prayers that haven’t been answered. But we continue to stand in faith and keep praying.
Our children learn from us. In a year where we have spent more time with our children than ever before – limited time at school, sports and activities and with friends, we have learnt that we have the greatest influence on our children. We sometimes doubt this influence as they spend many hours at school under the care of teachers and leaders, afternoons at sports and activities under the influence of coaches and instructors, and weekends and holidays with friends and family. But we have learnt this year, that even with all these hours away from us – we are still their greatest influence. They watch and learn from us, the way we speak, the things we do, the way we look in the mirror, the way we treat each other as spouses, as family and as friends. They see and hear so much, they are little sponges and we see how our words and actions impact them in every way – both positive and negative. I have learnt that I always want to be their greatest role model, their biggest cheerleaders, their encouraging teacher and live a life that they cam be proud of and aspire to too. This influence was shown through so much this year – in the way I loved their Daddy through his darkest hours, the way we explained that months would look different when we experienced financial difficulties, the way we deal with our own emotions and allowed ourselves to cry and feel pain in front of them, but also dust ourselves off and be courageous when we wanted to curl up in a ball, the way we adapted to the changes of our world and chose safety over fun, learnt to respect each other in our spaces and as we navigated homeschooling, and the way we can hold on to and remember the fun times during a global pandemic – the board games, the baking, the family walks, the swimming fun, and the magical way we got to celebrate Christmas. May this year always be a year that we remember, for the good and the bad but how we made it through as a family.
Letting go isn’t easy but it is necessary. Letting go of all you cannot control is one of the greatest keys to peace, grace and happiness. I am an A-type, OCD, control freak, empath who likes to be in control of all my situations and fix things when others are hurting or broken. But a very wise friend told me earlier on in the year: “you cannot control or change this” and “you cannot fix him/her”. This was a very tough lesson to learn (the hard way!) and to accept but the freedom that comes with this lesson is greater gift I could give myself. Letting go of situations that I cannot change or control, and allowing the people who can take the reign. Letting go of other peoples dramas, I cannot fix it all – I can stand side by side and encourage and love through it but I cannot fix it. Letting go of toxicity – I don’t want to be a part of toxic drama and constant negativity, in my family, in my friendships and in my community and I have every right to remove myself from this and not be a part of it. Letting go of relationships – some family, some friends and some acquaintances. We learn as we walk through life that some people are in our lives for a reason or a season, and letting go of people doesn’t have to be dramatic or catastrophic, it can be done in kindness and maturity. It is only natural that as we progress through life – as we get married, as we have children, as we start careers, as we move homes, as we take on new projects, as we celebrate our wins, as we walk through the darkest storms, and as we embrace new relationships – our ideas, values and opinions may change and be different than before. We don’t all move at the same pace or in the same directions which is healthy and necessary. But in these changes and shifts, we can be grateful for the times that we had with these people, all that they taught us and and blessed us with but finding peace in that we can move on without them.
We are stronger and more capable than we think. This year we were called to be wives, mothers, daughters, housekeepers, business owners, chefs, drivers, personal shoppers, carers, teachers, markers, coaches, counsellors, negotiators, leaders, believers, activists, role models, and so much more… And we made it though. It was tough and difficult, and some days we didn’t think we could do any more but we did. We have lived through a year that no one could have predicted, or changed but we tried our very best and we saw it through. We can do hard things.
But we cannot do it all. I asked for help more than I ever have in this year. Because I realised that I cannot do it all, even when I want to. We have to find the peace in asking for help, calling in support and delegating to others. This year this meant so many different ways – asking MC to step in and parent when I was completely and utterly broken emotionally, asking teachers for online help or messages when my girls were struggling with me as their teacher and needed extra encouragement from their real teachers, calling on friends to pray for us or sound advice when I had the lost the will to carry on or think clearly, or delegating to colleagues when we cannot handle the load or not our area of expertise.
Everyone is fighting their own battle, and we cannot judge. The amount of judgement, policing and abuse that has been shown this year saddens me. And believe me, I have been quick to make my own judgements, ready and waiting to pull the trigger on policing people when they are doing or saying things that I don’t agree with but it is not my place, and not my judgement to make. Don’t judge the mom who chose a natural birth (because she may be scared of surgery), don’t judge the husband who left his wife (because she was abusing him), don’t judge the family who got together for Christmas (because they may never celebrate together again), don’t judge the family who emigrated (because they lost everything here but have an opportunity overseas), don’t judge the happy Christmas Instagram photos (because a parent is trying to keep the magic for their children), don’t judge the woman who doesn’t want children (because of the trauma she suffered as a child), don’t judge the dad who chooses to stay at home (because he lost his job), don’t judge the friends that spent their holiday together (because without leaving their home town, they would never have had a break from work pressures), don’t judge the family that couldn’t contribute to charity (because they lost their financial savings), don’t judge the family sending their children back to school (because they cannot afford the childcare), just don’t judge… Because you never know the reason why.
We say goodbye to 2020 with gratitude for all that was learnt, and we welcome 2021 with hope and faith for the year ahead.