the ugly truth about 2021

I feel so passionate about what I’m about to type I can hardly handle myself. But before we jump right in, I guess I should fill you in on a monumental step in my life.

I put up my Christmas tree. Yes. Thank you for your congratulations. Listen. It’s beautiful. You may admire it now.

It is a new tree we purchased at the end of the season last year. For the last seven years, we’ve put up a little tree with fickle lights and sparse branches. But THIS year… my flocked tree is full with little pinecones and soft lights. It makes me tear up almost daily and I am not sorry.

Can I tell you the truth, though? I’ve put up my tree right after Halloween for the past three years now. And this year is the only year that it has been acceptable to the general public. I have really enjoyed seeing posts all over Instagram and Facebook this year that have essentially said: “2020 has sucked. We need some joy. Christmas can come early: put up the tree.” I mean, I totally agree. But every time I see one of these posts, the deeper corner of my heart asks the question:

Why?

Why are we deciding for one another what is acceptable in their own life to bring them joy? The real truth is that maybe for the first time in many of our lifetimes, we are all experiencing one collective crisis. It is rare for our entire nation to walk through grief, loss, and fear with the same common denominator. It brings us together in a way. It helps us to extend grace to our neighbor. When someone wrongs us or doesn’t seem themselves, our logic tells us that it’s been a hard year and maybe we should cut them some slack.

But here is what I want to scream for the entire world to hear: none of this is new. Sure, Coronavirus and pandemic are words that weren’t in our vocabulary until this past March. But there has always been someone in our life who is walking through a crisis. Grief. Depression. Sickness. Miscarriage. Cancer. Addiction. The list is endless. It just so happens that in 2020, we typically know the root because we’re experiencing it, too.

In 2017, my dad died on Thanksgiving morning. And I vowed to myself that I would never wait again to choose something that brought me joy. And in this season, it’s lights and garland and ornaments. So each year since, when the sun begins to set at 4:30 in the afternoon and we’re disoriented and tired, we will feel cozy and bright because of a Christmas tree in my living room.

This is about so much more than seasonal decor. It’s actually even more than simply extending grace to ourselves or those around us. It’s about humility and surrender. If 2020 has taught us anything, let it be that we simply allow others to cope in the way that works best for them, whether it makes sense to us or not. Let it be acceptable that what brings joy to me may not bring joy to you. Let it be an awakening of empathy. Because, honestly? For many of us, 2020 has not been our worst year. We’ve already walked through that, either through abuse or death or sickness or depression. And we struggled deep on the inside because no one knew about it, and they expected us to live life the way that they perceived as normal.

So the ugly truth is that the numbers 2020 which represent our calendar year do not define our season. When the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2021, nothing will have magically changed. There is no guarantee that 2021 will be a better year for you.

But you know what is guaranteed? Tomorrow’s mercies are brand new, and Christ’s love is enough. So right now, in this very moment, you have a choice. You are not a slave to the negativity of a season or the date on a calendar. You get to make whatever choice you want right now.

You can say no to the stale Halloween candy and yes to a walk in fresh air.

You can say no to judgement and yes to humility.

You can say no to cynicism and yes to joy and delight.

You can say no to doubt and yes to faith.

You can choose not to be defined by what has happened to you, but by who you were truly created to be.

So who were we truly created to be?

“…[We] are God’s chosen treasure – priests who are kings, a spiritual “nation” set apart as God’s devoted ones. He called [us] out of darkness to experience His marvelous light, and now He claims [us] as His very own. He did this so that [we] would broadcast His glorious wonders throughout the world.” [1 Peter 2:9]

Let’s act like it.

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