Christmas Letter 2020

I’ve been writing these year end reflections for over a decade now but the last few have also served as a digital Christmas card in years when I haven’t sent them at all or only sent a small stash to blood relatives.

Photo credit: Liz MacMurray

(Read previous letters here: 2017 || 2018 || 2019)

The takeaway–if you don’t make it to the end, or the TLDR version–this year was a doozie but God has been incredibly good and faithful as always.

I’ll begin with my seasonal timeline review:

Winter (January, February, + March)

  • absolute LOL of kicking the year off with an event to go make 2020 vision boards
  • Ryan and Thomas went to see the Dawgs play in the Sugar Bowl in NOLA
  • I mastered the New York Times Beef Bourguignon to my family’s delight and I began making mega master lists for things to purge in preparation for our summer move
  • the kids kicked off their final semester of homeschooling at Fort Polk (6th Kate, 8th Mae, and 10th Thomas)
  • we had lots of dinner guests, started an IF Table, and continued homeschool game days for the kids and a monthly mom’s night out for the moms
  • we were immersed in lots of chapel activities: Ryan preaching, the girls children’s church volunteering, Thomas running sound and slides, and I facilitated another round of FPU; Ryan and I were on a couples panel for a MOPS event, and we helped to host a ChapelNext Valentine’s dinner complete with a dance floor
  • Claire and Ryan turned 43
  • I got to attend the IF Gathering in Dallas thanks to my wonderful friend Brenda
  • Mae got her first cell phone
  • lots of Leesville hometown dates to eat Mexican food at the Motel 6 and see movies at the Fort Polk movie theater where there’s only one feature at a time
  • Mardi Gras came and went
  • I got to write a feature for Books Make a Difference on United Through Reading which turned into a reading event for OPS Group–always a fun time when my passions get to collide with Ryan’s work
  • we began hearing rumors about this virus from China and how it might impact us in the United States, weird, huh?

Spring (April, May, + June)

  • felt a mild sense of panic because we weren’t allowed to leave our homes or a 50 mile radius, which when you live in Leesville/Fort Polk won’t get you very far
  • our tiny duplex immediately shrunk and we tangibly felt the walls closing in
  • we watched a LOT of television and movies, plugged along with school work as we were already homeschooling when in-person schools closed down, we played hundreds of hours of board games, took multiple sanity walks per day, and organized and cleaned like nobody’s business
  • I cut my hair twice and started a regular paid writing gig as a content contributor for a company called Millie
  • just about every activity or responsibility Ryan and I had was “pivoted” to Zoom and recorded videos; Ryan was doing multiple-part sermons each week to help keep our chapel community engaged spiritually during very uncertain times
  • we cooked, we baked, and we had a standing Chili’s takeout order nearly every Friday night
  • we panic-bought groceries, Berkey water systems, books, paint by numbers, puzzles, and the kids all got TVs and Xboxes in their bedrooms for the first time in their lives
  • we spent hours sitting on our front porch, sunning on our cots in the side yard, walking in the woods behind our house, and on phone calls with family nearly every day to see how this pandemic was playing out back home
  • we celebrated Easter
  • we feared our move out of Fort Polk was put on indefinite pause–PANIC
  • Kate learned to sew masks for all of us
  • we read, watched TV, took walks to the mailbox, took walks around the neighborhood, took walks all over Fort Polk, multiple. santity. walks. per. day. multiple. per. day.
  • the kids all finished up their homeschool year
  • we heard about and became very familiar with the term “ETP: Exception to Policy” which was basically signed permission to leave Fort Polk when things with our move got delayed–we paid our respects to Fort Polk–the kids and I drove away in early June with faith that Ryan would eventually get to join us

Summer (July, August, + September)

  • for nearly all of June and most of July the kids and I bounced between my parents’ house, my in-laws’s house, and my sisters’ house–we don’t ever want to forget their generosity of hospitality welcoming us in during a pandemic for an undetermined length of time– lots of swimming, lots of fishing, lots of Hamilton
  • by late July, we met up with Ryan and made our way to Fort Campbell, KY–(fun fact, we live in Tennessee–our house sits in Tennessee but our post office is in Kentucky so our address is Kentucky, also we live in Tennessee but the kids all go to school in KY)
  • speaking of school, Thomas, Mae, and Kate, transitioned to public school after a long tenure homeschooling; they have done so with grace, resilience, and much excellence
  • Ryan started his new job as the 716th Military Police Battalion Chaplain; he is also sponsoring Navigators and Officer Christian Fellowship–where every single Thursday night Ryan and I go and study God’s word a chapter at a time with about 20 of our (new) closest (masked) friends–I’m also volunteering weekly with the Deployed Spouses group that meets on Tuesday nights
  • we got our house set up and welcomed Mimi and Papa and Nana and Granddaddy for overnight visits
  • Kate got braces, turned 13, and got her first debit card
  • Mae got contacts
  • Thomas got his first car, a Toyota 4Runner
  • Ryan and I had a lot of sunset drives around Fort Campbell seeing lots of giant, healthy deer and I got my local library card
  • the kids all started attending a weekly Bible study in the Woodlands (our neighborhood) with about 25 of their closest (masked) friends
  • we traveled to see family for Labor Day

Fall (October, November, + December)

  • Ryan went on a deer hunting trip to Illinois with his Dad where he didn’t kill a deer but came back to Fort Campbell and killed two does– one is in our freezer and one was donated to Hunters for the Hungry (both processed, of course–not whole frozen does…)
  • I retook my Praxis tests and reactivated my Tennessee teaching license
  • the kids all earned academic honors for their first quarter of school–I have been obviously proud of their academic success but mostly I’ve beamed with pride and sighed with relief that they are so highly self-motivated and take such initiative with their own learning–my homeschooling years were not in vain!
  • once DODEA approved some afterschool activities, Kate began Dance club, Thomas started basketball but the season was cancelled so he joined Mae at Archery; they both attend FCA and Mae has been invited to the Math Club and Mu Alpha Theta
  • the kids and I traveled to Chattanooga for my mom’s birthday and Halloween while Ryan was in Illinois: Thomas was Bob Ross and Mae and Kate were Mario and Luigi–every year I think it will be their last to dress up and every year they continue to dress up?
  • Thomas turned 17 and Mae turned 15
  • All three kids have enjoyed attending weekly Crossroads Youth Group and have done a few service projects around Fort Campbell
  • we had a quiet Thanksgiving at home
  • Ryan and I attended a military chaplains retreat at the Billy Graham Training Center, The Cove– Mimi and Papa held down the fort here at home with our three human kids and two pups
  • we have decorated for Christmas (TWO!! trees and outdoor lights, who even are we?) and anticipate a quick trip to see grandparents

I think that just about covers it.

We have thankfully avoided major illness (including the dreaded COVID-19) and enjoyed good health. Every single material need and want has been provided in abundance. We have had immense and incredible amounts of family time solidifying our love and bonds to one another. We relocated our entire life from one state to another–DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC and lived to tell about it. There has been LOTS of laughter, fun, memory-making, and few tears as we have all re-adjusted to life in a new place, again.

For so much of this year to have felt chaotic, unpredictable, scary at times, and like nothing we have ever experienced–in most moments it has also felt very much made up of normal mundane moments where we have chosen to see the good and the blessing of what we have and who we are sharing it with. NONE of this has been by our own power or strength but as a generous, gracious gift of a loving, faithful Father who has gone before us and stood beside us through it all.

When I think back to that fateful January night that I made that vision board I think about how for all of our vision-casting, goal-setting, resolution-making, and control-seeking, it really is true what Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his coursebut the LORD determines his steps.” So very thankful God has determined our steps in 2020 and will continue to do so in 2021.

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