'I know the title to this blog post seems to be in conflict with what most people think of when they think, "2020". It has even become a catch phrase on social media. "That's so 2020" (along with many more). In no way at all would I want to diminish the trials, heartbreaks, and sickness that many have endured this year. This year hasn't been easy for my family either. But looking back it has been a blessed year. But I tend to be a cup half full type of person. My survival and sanity depends on not letting the hardships be in vain. "Make it count, God" has been a mantra of mine for several years. The pandemic for me started sinking in upon the sudden dismissal of school and the realization we wouldn't be going back in the expected two weeks. I've touched on this in previous posts. I read somewhere that teachers, (along with many others) had to restructure and implement almost everything about their job in a moment's notice. That's exactly what happened. To those, who made comments on social media about how nice it would be to be a teacher.... how teachers were getting paid without doing anything...if inflicting a little jab into our hearts was your intention, you succeeded. If only you could have peeked into our windows to see that our work load doubled in an instant. We no longer had regular hours. We had to be accessible until literally bedtime because of differing work schedules. If you could see the teachers scrambling to figure out the technology. If you could feel the frustration of knowing that even our best efforts would not be good enough for some learners...or their parents. But here's the blessing: Some parents did develop a new appreciation for what we do. We DID go back to school eventually, and thankfully our school has stayed open. We aren't quite the same. There is a loss of support and interaction among teachers as we herd our 'pods' around. But we are there. Oddly the new procedures have become our norm. When someone asks me how the year is going my answer is usually, "I'm not crying at night anymore." They think it's humor. PANDEMIC REALITY #2: That first day we met at the school to pass out assignment packets, I thought to myself, as long as we can stay away from places like hospitals we will be ok. About an hour later, my son called me. It took me a minute to figure out he was in a full blown allergic reaction and was trying to drive himself to the hospital. I kept saying, pull over! I'll call an ambulance! But thankfully he didn't listen, because there wouldn't have been time, and I had no idea where he was. All I could hear on his end was labored breathing as he tried to talk but couldn't. Thankfully, Chris's sister works at the hospital and could get there quickly. As I arrived and rushed past the temperature takers at the door in the emergency room (oops...sorry) I discovered there was a concern he may also be having a heart attack. And there we were at the tainted hospital. But here's the blessing: He survived. Period. PANDEMIC REALITY #3: Not long after that we got a 1 a.m. call from our daughter saying she had experienced an unexpected medical situation as well. But here's the blessing: As scary as those middle of the night calls are, she survived. Period. And as I cried out to God (because I pray protection over her all the time) He put in my heart clearly: I did protect her. I was there. PANDEMIC REALITY #4: During quarantine (about a month later) I got a call from my mom. I could tell something was wrong. She sounded very weak. She told me she had fallen and didn't know how long she had been unconscious, but she knew it was bad. It was one of the hardest things I've done to hang up with her. But I had to call 911. I was scared that was the last time I would hear her voice. Friends, please excuse the visual, but upon arrival at her house it definitely was bad. It looked like a crime scene. She had fallen in the kitchen and over the course of TWO HOURS (we did a time line later) she had crawled to the other room to get her phone. The amount of blood loss was an image I pray God dims for me. It hurts to not be able to ride in the ambulance. It hurts not being able to go into the hospital. But here's the blessing: My mama is one tough cookie. God woke her up each time she lost consciousness and kept her moving to that phone. My sister works at the hospital and was able to be with her. It was a rollercoaster kind of night. First they're transporting her to Little Rock...nope change of plans. She can't go there. My sister finally went home around midnight, so I thought I would try to sleep a bit too. Minutes later the doctor called. She said my mom's heart had stopped and they were working on her bed side. We both needed to come. I probably don't have to describe that car ride over. And once again the torn emotions when we learned that she had stabilized and was in ICU, so now we're back to not seeing her. We sat in the ICU lobby that night. Every time they called a code over the intercom we tensed because we didn't know which bed she was in. There was another family across the room. One of the women kept singing pretty loudly. She had her ear buds in and didn't realize her volume. It was Christian songs, but honestly it was annoying. Then I realized she is self soothing. This is her prayer. Here's the blessing: My mom survived. Period. So what else happened in 2020? My aunt was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. She also developed spots on her liver. She has endured so much. She still is fighting all the side effects of treatment. And just last week was in the hospital with complications. Here's the blessing. She is considered to be in remission from the cancer. She is still here and fighting. Period. What else? Let's see...Only my family and close friends know this, but here it is. My doctor told me he thought there was a good chance I had breast cancer. I had an appointment to see him about a locked shoulder. The breast issue came up suddenly. Here is the blessing: As I sat in that little room filled with other women waiting to learn their fate, God humbled me. And the doctor was wrong. And a few months of physical therapy later, my shoulder has much better range of motion. Another precious family member found out she indeed did have breast cancer. Here's the blessing: she is doing very well after a double mastectomy. Throughout this pandemic my heart has broken for friends, who have suffered loss. The loss of lives, jobs, homes, and hope. I haven't even mentioned the nights I laid awake praying safety for my daughter, who in the midst of the rioting, happens to work at the state capitol. (I spoke about this in a previous post.) Here's the blessing: most of that time she was able to work remotely. And we all still have our jobs...when so many have income and food insecurities. During a pandemic I was still able to witness my beautiful niece get married. And yes, as I rushed around and had a heart spilling over, I prayed a hedge of protection around every person there. It has definitely been a challenging year. In spite of other family events that were cancelled, I still have my family. And in the midst of the pandemic, God says to the Triple Faith ladies, "You have prayed for growth for your business. Let's see if you have the "faith of a mustard seed". Now is the time to expand into a store front." LOL! NOW?! And here's the good news: Our families and communities have swooped in and supported us. And yes, some have questioned our sanity, but God's timing isn't to be questioned. And even with another scare the week before our grand opening (My sister killed a 10 point with her car...another trip to the hospital) We are blessed. And if you're still reading after all of this, let me leave you with some more encouragement. One year, on our wedding anniversary, I described my marriage. I said if our years together were a movie it would be a "heartbreaking tragedy mixed with suspense and lots of comedy...but mostly it's a love story." That's how I feel about 2020. The love story part is God. He brings beauty from the ashes. We sometimes have to really dig through the ashes to find the beauty, but it's that journey that pulls us closer to Him. The thing on Facebook that says something about us all being in the same storm (meaning the pandemic) but not the same boat has truth to it. I choose to focus on how God has worked our trials to our good. That's how I survive. Friends, I pray for your boat to be strong!