Reflecting and Considering and Giving Thanks

These 2 are numbered among the greatest blessings in my life!

The end of any year might cause us to take some time to reflect.  It can be a natural time to pause and consider all that happened over the past twelve months.  I usually take some time as each new year begins to think over the previous year’s events and happenings.  And I think the end of this past year is a particularly good time to pause and consider all that has transpired.

2020 was quite the year wasn’t it?  It was a year like no other I have ever experienced!  

Of all of the many things my extremely vivid imagination has conjured up over the years – I never – ever imagined raising our sons or pastoring a congregation through a global pandemic.  

Flood – tornado – fire or another natural disaster – sure – I had considered how I might respond to any of those (my imagination is a busy place).

Illness – yep.

Major recession – covered that!

Theological schism – been there done that twice now.  First was Called to Common Mission and the Historic Episcopate.  (Wow – did some folks get angry about that one!)  Next was how we should treat our LBGT brothers and sisters in Christ.  

But this pandemic – well – I was really and truly blindsided and totally and utterly unprepared for it.  This time last year I blithely thought the news I was hearing made it sound like it was going to be a bad year for the flu . . .(Naive much?)

This time last year I had cancelled in-person worship a whole 4 times in almost 20 years of active ministry and then came 2020.  Sometimes it feels like we only had in-person worship 4 times in all of 2020 . . .(And yes I know we worshipped together in-person many more times than that – but as Jason will tell you – there is nothing I love more than to exaggerate in an attempt to prove my point.)

Holy Week at Saint Stephen was painfully quiet . . .

Honestly cancelling in-person worship was just the tip of the iceberg.  2020 was an awful – wretched mess – wasn’t it?  I have heard 2020 called all sorts of really interesting things (most of which I won’t put into writing . . .). Dumpster fire is the most polite one I can remember hearing.

2020 was the year we cancelled in-person worship for Easter and Christmas Eve.

2020 also brought: 

The need to record EVERYTHING.  I am not someone who ever wanted to start a Vimeo – Youtube or whatever account!  This recording business could be listed up there as Kerri McFarland’s worst nightmare!

Masks

Masks and Halloween costumes – very 2020!

NTI

Social distancing – can you even remember life when we stood close to one another?

Staggering unemployment numbers and the equally staggering national debt

Hand sanitizer

TP – hoarding and shortages

Zoom meetings

PPE for EVERYONE

Cancellations on top of cancellations on top of cancellations

Working from home

Learning to be agile and to change and adapt and grow!

So many really – really sick people

So much loss

The frustration – the fear – the sorrow – the isolation – the heartache – the pain and everything else.  

Such a strange – disappointing – stressful – hard – sad – year 2020 was.

But that wasn’t all 2020 was.  There was so much more to this past year – so very – very much more.  And I don’t want to focus on the bad all of the time.  2020 was filled with blessings too.  I know being negative exhausts me.  It hurts my soul and makes me someone I don’t want to be.  Of course 2020 was hard and filled with disappointments and pain – but there was more too.  It feels lazy just to focus on the bad.  Focusing on the bad is easy.  That’s low hanging fruit.  Being negative takes very little thought.

So I have spent the last few days seeking the blessings of 2020.  I have been walking through the past 12 months in my mind and remembering and giving thanks for all that went okay (tons).  I have been tripping over blessings for which I am truly thankful.

Some of the coolest blessings of 2020 for me:

Listening and watching our sons play on their trampoline.  Those two are absolutely – positively fearless and their laughter always delights me.  Sometimes their bravery terrifies me – but they are who they are!  And I love that too . . .

Twice daily walks with Jason.  Before Covid-19 we were only able to walk together once a day – but now we try to walk during lunch most days too.

Serving our Lord with Rod.  Saint Stephen is so incredibly blessed by our church president and by Cheryl our church secretary too.  I don’t know what I would have done this year without Rod – Cheryl and Buddy.  Buddy checks on the church almost every single day.  Buddy has counted our offerings and has done our banking every single week during the pandemic.  Talk about faithful dedication to our Lord!

Even though I find balancing NTI with a 2nd grader and my job (very – very) stressful some days – I have loved this time with the littlest McFarland.  I have delighted in being so involved in all he is learning each day.  I have also delighted in getting to know Will’s teacher so much better than I ever would have otherwise.  After all – she drops into my dining room and my church office and my home office 5 days a week!

I don’t particularly enjoy recording my sermons.  Preaching to an empty sanctuary is really NOT this pastor’s dream – but spending one-on-one time with my personal videographer has been a wonderful blessing.  I love hanging out with our oldest son.

The kind notes and loving words of encouragement from my sisters and brothers in Christ have been such a wonderful blessing.

Exploring God’s creation with my family was an incredible blessing.  Searching for snakes with our sons – hiking the hills of Kentucky and delighting in the great outdoors together.

Taking the time to seek God’s loving presence in my life.

Gardening and growing flowers.  One of my favorite memories of 2020 will be of watching our hibiscus plants bloom and delighting in their riotous and wildly colored blooms all summer long.  We had so much fun seeing  what color the blooms would be each day.  The yellow ones were our favorites.

I rediscovered a hobby I really enjoy.  I have been embroidering.  Wild – crazy  – riotous designs – not your great-grandma’s teapots and kittens (not that there is anything wrong with those).  It has been a blast to play with color and design and just to play.  I don’t think grown-ups play nearly enough.  I am trying to play more.

I could go on and on listing blessings I experienced in 2020.  2020 was an incredibly challenging year in so many – many ways – but the blessings were always there.  God was always present.  We are never alone.

2020 was difficult.  It was filled with all sorts of changes and challenges and sorrow and sickness and stress.  But – there was so much more to the past year.  There were blessings too.  I encourage you to join me in looking back over the past year and considering your blessings. 

What are some of the good things that happened last year?  What did you enjoy doing?  What made you smile or laugh or just feel happy and content?  What is your favorite memory of 2020?

You are in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

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