I wouldn’t be joking if I said 2020 was a very difficult year. I also would be honest, I think, in saying that 2020 was a year most of us did not see coming. Like the title of this post suggests, 2020 seemed a decade long at times, and yet, over the past few days, I’ve felt like it was only yesterday that my siblings were running to put wrapped presents under the tree and not a year ago.
My friends, especially my writing friends, often joke I’m psychic because of certain things that have happened. (The most creepy being knowing peoples’ names before I ever get introduced to them simply because that felt like the sort of name they would have, among other things.) At any rate, the only reason I’m mentioning this at all is because, rereading over journal entries a year ago, I see things that make me wonder if perhaps I knew something was going to happen in 2020 that wouldn’t be exactly positive. (Yes, I keep a journal. It’s more of a diary, but that name sounds lame. Journal sounds more epic.)
I don’t consider myself superstitious, but I have noticed a pattern of every three years of losing something or someone. I know this is weird, for most people at least, but I hate saying goodbye. I hate saying goodbye especially when I don’t know when I’ll see those people or those times again. It traumatizes me, literally. Three years ago was 2017, which I still consider the worst year of my life yet, even if 2020 comes close. Without going into a whole long story about it, I can summarize it in having to say goodbye to the first real friendship I’d ever had, goodbye to a well-beloved pastor and mentor, goodbye to a piano teacher of over five years, among other things. Those of you who know me well know that God blessed me with the friend group that I had always longed for and I love those people very much. But, 2020 was coming, the three year mark, and most of these friends would be heading off to college after our last year of church camp.
Ominous, I know.
In my journal, I have marked one of the verses to the song Auld Lang Syne, which, if any of you can stomach reading Scots’ English, the verses are heart-breakingly sad. (The song’s title literally translates to days long gone bye). And this verse especially, though I wrote it in memory of the most precious moments of church camp last year, haunted me throughout 2020.
So here’s a hand, my trusty friendAuld Lang Syne
So here’s a hand in thine
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet;
For auld lang syne
After I have this verse written, I continued with the following:
Here’s to the future, dark though it may be. God’s light shines the brightest.
“And it shall be said in that day, Behold! This is our God; we have waited for Him.” ~ Isaiah 25:9
As we all know now, 2020 was the year none of us really expected.
But let me back up.
I’m very old-fashioned in that I try to make and keep New Year’s Resolutions. Something I started back in 2018 when trying to recover from the mess that I became in 2017, and it’s a habit I’ve kept since. For 2020, I had a much smaller list than normal, but in a sense they were much bigger goals. I’m including this list in this post because this is important. (At least, for the point I’m trying to make.)
- Grow closer to God and surrender everything to Him; my goals, my interests, my dreams, my friendships, everything, and wait for His perfect timing
- Strive to be an encouragement and support to my family, friends, and those around me
- Move up to prizewinner
- Sign book contract for Between Two Worlds
- Trust God
And some lines further down,
Perhaps it is a good thing no one could see the future. I would be so afraid.
Looking back, if I could have seen what 2020 would bring, I probably would be terrified out of my mind. Like I said above, I hate saying goodbye. I hate change. Even if it does bring good things, like it did in 2018 and beyond.
As we all know, 2020 started out like any other: a fairly normal year.
In the beginning of February, I participated in my first vocal (English and Gaeilge) and Irish penny whistle competition. I was the only contestant, so I guess getting first doesn’t count, but I got a good score. I was nervous, especially as I was also competing in Irish dance in the morning, but I was happy with the result. The next morning, I was competing for the first time at novice level, and was hoping to secure a few first placements to start checking off the list to qualify for prizewinner level. I didn’t get any firsts. But I placed in most of my dances, and even though I didn’t place in the dances I thought I did best, I managed to secure a third place in my largest group that day, in my weakest dance, despite struggling with nausea and internal pain. God took my lofty-minded plans, flipped them upside-down, and gave me results that I hadn’t foreseen—something He would continue to do that year. As some might have guessed, that was to be my only dance competition for 2020. So no, I didn’t get to move up to prizewinner. But, here’s the beautiful irony that seems to be God’s plans for me this past year: I didn’t move up and am still in novice level; but my dance teachers have begun teaching me all prizewinner dances. So yes, I’m in a sense, at prizewinner level.
From January 30th onward, having finished the final edits on my debut novel, Between Two Worlds, I set out on a querying journey that would last six months. About twenty-something queries later and several pitching events, I signed with New Degree Press for the publication of my novel whose first draft was written November 2018. As most of you know, I ended up pulling out and am attempting to self-publish, while running a preorder campaign to help support publishing funds. (If you want to support me, the link is in my previous blog post and also on the Between Two Worlds page.) But anyway, this was another one of those things that God had to pry out of my hands, remind me that I’m not actually the one in control here, and to trust Him with all of it. Not an easy lesson for control-freak me to learn, but I’m trying to learn it.
As we all know, March opened with a bang as the lockdowns began. Without getting into a political tangent here, all of our lives were turned upside down. Now, I didn’t mind getting to stay home. As an introvert, this made me immensely happy. And worried. Yes, worried. In 2017, I wasn’t going out as much, and my mental health spiraled downward. Sounds weird, but when I’m not constantly having to deal with anxiety, it becomes a bigger problem because I’m not dealing with it and when I have to confront it, my mental barriers are weakened. I guess the only way I can really explain it is like a warrior who’s battle-hardened and ready to face anything due to constant practice and real-life experience versus a warrior who was battle-hardened but whose skill has grown dull from just sitting around. So yeah, my fears were proved once I started to go out again. And there was another thing that made it a big problem.
Worried about what these lockdowns may result in (and yes, they did result in that) and struggling with bitterness and anger, I drowned myself in work. It didn’t help that on social media and other places that I saw people talking about how much writing or whatever they were getting done because of the lockdowns. A very important point that I should have remembered was the fact that these people were no longer in school or working because of the shutdown. I, on the other hand, being homeschooled and still babysitting, had no more free time than I had before—with the exception of a few hours regained since I was no longer driving to Columbus for piano and dance lessons. But, trying to forget the fact that most things I had been looking forward to had been cancelled, I began to write like mad.
Instead of trusting God and His promises that His plans are always best, I tried to take things into my own hands. Most people—or I should say—adults, drown their feelings in alcohol or taking drugs or by smoking. I was writing. And, let me tell you, it was equally devastating.
One of my closest friends asked me several times throughout this year whether I was getting enough rest. I would reply something along the lines of, “Yeah, I’m trying.” But it was a lie, and I think maybe he knew it too. Because I wasn’t. Yes, I wanted to rest, but I couldn’t abide the thought of slowing down.
For those of you into the personality stuff, I’m an INFJ-T and 4 wing 3, with my tri-type being 461. Without going into a very nerdy discussion as to what that all is, I am a perfectionist and a performer, someone who feels different from everyone else and wants to be recognized as such while also wanting to fit in with the rest of the crowd. In practice, I was struggling through this past year of wanting validation for accomplishing so much without taking joy in the actual act of creating. Instead of enjoying the process from the beginning ideas to the finished product, I based my worth on the finished result and the fleeting feeling of validation from finishing it, and wore myself out trying to achieve it over and over again. Because that feeling of satisfaction only lasted a short while and I was back to square one, trying to find another project to finish and likewise get that feeling.
So much for trusting God and surrendering everything to Him, right?
The real blow came when my last year of church camp was cancelled, which was only because Pennsylvania wasn’t allowing overnight camps. My gang, as I call them, was equally devastated as we were all to graduate this year. My “brother” (we adopted each other as siblings, long story) had made a post back towards the end of March saying something how he had to surrender to God the fact that he was no longer free to say goodbye on his own terms. And, I had to do the same thing when the announcement was made. It was very hard to accept.
Yet despite all my short comings and failures, God still has patience and mercy.
No, POH Camp 2020 never happened.
But the same friend who asked me if I was getting enough rest had a graduation party and all of us were invited. I almost wasn’t able to make it, but I did. And seeing my friends again that I hadn’t seen since February at their speech and debate tournament was a blessing I had not expected. Not to mention, I was able to say goodbye to those going off to college like I had wanted to, even if the circumstances were different.
I still haven’t seen my brother in person since last November at the youth rally. But the night before he headed off to college, we were able to facetime and say goodbye.
No, I didn’t get to say goodbye on my own terms. I had to do it on God’s. And His plans are always best.
Not to mention, while I didn’t get that last year of camp experience, I participated in Bible Bee for the first time this year, which I talked about in a blog post months ago. The topic was Trust, something I’ve greatly needed to learn and still am learning. I’ve included the link to that post where I talked about the study more in depth than I can do right here.
And so the year went on. I continued to waste my energies writing like mad while tackling duel enrollment classes and piano tuning since I was no longer babysitting. There was also college applications and audition recordings that had to be done in order to qualify for scholarships. I received news that one of my best friends had attempted to take her own life, and that sort of brought my world to a stand-still. Since then, I’ve been able to reach out to her, and the things I’ve struggled with for years and the lessons learned from that have enabled to me to minister to her in what way I can. So I suppose another lesson learned from this year is that God can take even your own pain and your own sin struggles to allow you to encourage another in the Lord.
Then the end of the year drew nigh. And I was a wreck. I put writing on hold after NaNoWriMo, but it was already too late. The stress of constantly pushing myself combined with that of the political turmoil our country has been facing among other things had finally gone too far. So yes, once again I’m dealing with trying to recover from adrenal fatigue and the mental-health spiral I had thrown myself into.
2020, the one year we actually got a white Christmas, the year I actually nearly succeeded at keeping those New Year resolutions, and yet the year where I fell back into old habits. Those of you who have been reading my posts for awhile know of the many lessons I had learned earlier this year that I wrote on, lessons I don’t have the space to write about here, but which are equally important.
It’s been a hard lesson to fall back all the way to where I was in 2017 and have to start all over. It’s a challenge, one that I’m already weary of, even though it was my fault.
Trusting God instead of trying to control everything myself is something that does not come easily to me. And this year was full of such times when I had to throw myself completely on His mercy.
Every year, there’s been a verse or specific Bible passage that has been with me throughout that entire year. Psalm 42 was one for both 2019 and especially 2020. But there are two verses in particular that have stood out in my mind throughout this year. And they are found in the Gospel of John.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”John 14:27, 16:33
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
This year has been a whirlwind. While I didn’t go into political details because that’s a whole other thing, this year has been uncertain and difficult for many, if not most people. And as someone who struggles with anxiety, peace is something more valuable than gold. These verses, spoken by Jesus to His disciples while telling them the harsh reality they will face as His followers, speak of the peace that only Jesus can give.
When I did my recap post for 2019 last year, I wrote the following:
I don’t have 2020 vision—I have to wear glasses or contact lenses—but I do know this. Whatever this next year brings, whether Trump is reelected or we get another president, whatever party they might be, or whatever else might happen, God is still in control.
And, three hundred and sixty-something days later, that truth is still as true and powerful as it always has been. God was in complete control of all that 2020 brought us and He will continue to guide us into 2021. I don’t know what will happen, none of us do. All we can do is trust Him.
And, whatever you all decide, I’m going to try and rest, placing my worth in Christ’s redeeming act on the cross instead of vain accomplishments. Because even if I did write 170k words this year, I would give it all up to not feel as fragile and exhausted as I do right now.
It’s good to remember the good ol’ days long gone, the days of auld lang syne. But we cannot, as I tried to do this year in my bitterness against God, to try to relive those memories. The past is the past, even as wonderful or horrible as it might be. We live in the present, not the past. And the future, hidden from our view, is known to our sovereign and merciful God who will continue to guide us throughout the coming days and years until He finally brings us home.
As I bring this extremely long post to a close, I want to quote a section from The Lord of the Rings, which I just finished rereading for the 4th time.
“Do not trouble your hearts overmuch with thought of the road tonight. Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them.”J.R.R. Tolkien; The Fellowship of the Ring
Whatever 2021 brings, God is still in control. He is still faithful. And we can still trust Him.
I wish you all a happy New Year!