I am excited to introduce you to a fellow blogger and dear friend, Katie Taylor. She is my first guest writer!
I met Katie last month in a virtual Bible study small group. During one of our zoom meetings, she shared an excerpt of a journal entry inspired by the witty video below. I was struck by her insight, wisdom, and transparency. She put words to so many of my own heart’s stirrings.
It’s my honor to introduce you to Katie….
Dear January 2020
One of the hardest parts about this season has been missing loved ones. My heart aches to give big hugs and share meals again. But one of the surprising, unexpected blessings has been meeting new friends. Like Naomi. The Lord knit our paths together in an online Bible study through Philippians called the Jesus Joy Ride. Please join us! We are looking closely at Paul’s true joy despite challenging circumstances. We’ve gotten to share prayers and encouragement, and so here we are virtually connected in Christ!
Another surprising blessing through this heavy season has been humor. To anyone who has taken part in creating the hilarious memes, thank you! Laughter is truly medicine to the soul. “Explaining the pandemic to my past self” might be my favorite. It’s just brilliant!
This creative video inspired a journal writing exercise for our family. We were each challenged to write a letter to our January 2020 selves sharing both the bad news and the good news. I encouraged my kids to include honesty, humor and hope. And until writing my own, I didn’t realize how much I needed this opportunity to express my thoughts. Naomi asked me to share my letter, so I share this in hopes it may resonate with you or inspire you to put words to your own.
Dear Katie of January 2020,
I remember you well. You were so looking forward to that trip to Jamaica and the kids’ passports had just come in the mail. You were so excited for their first international flight, to see brightly colored fish underwater and to spend the night of your birthday in a fun resort with Pat Pat and Fuzzy. John was about to have his first season of coach pitch, Anna was approaching that special preschool graduation, and Mary was playing spring soccer. You were looking forward to some upcoming 5ks, the Daddy/Daughter dance, the Marketplace at the Academy, field day, field trips, Rivertree’s new campus opening on Easter Sunday, that retreat in April…
Well, I have some bad news and some good news. Let me get the bad news over with:
None of that happened.
Like. Not. A. Single. Thing.
I know, I know. You’re probably feeling like I just kicked you in the stomach. Take a deep breath because, guess what? You’re still breathing. You’re still here. You didn’t die. And that’s a gift because a lot of people have. The COVID-19 virus, which you may have heard of in China, spread all over the world and you have spent the spring at home. No one is allowed to leave the house except to go to the grocery store for fear of contracting the virus. You did not spend your birthday in Jamaica, but were genuinely excited to receive rolls of toilet paper because all the stores ran out. There is a global recession, people are now losing jobs every day and Will is working harder than ever from the home office. And the kids…yep, you guessed it. They are experiencing homeschool. That’s right. You have become a homeschool mom.
Okay, keep breathing. Inhale deeply and exhale. It’s all very shocking and sometimes feels like a dream. But, let me say this…it’s not an all-together bad dream. In fact, I sit here in April at the top of the yard looking at a glorious spring day, watching John playing football with Sammy, seeing Mary writing in her journal and watching Anna bounce on the trampoline, and I wanted to tell you the good news too.
The bad news is so shocking and such a blow. It’s real, it’s big, there is so much loss, it blows a punch. It’s unpredictable news, but the feelings from it are…well…predictable. The good news, on the other hand, is not like a swift blow. It unfolds more slowly like a flower opening. It’s delicate, full of life and color and surprise. It draws wonder and it demands tender care. And just as I write this, Anna hands me a wildflower.
Much like a spring flower, the good news has roots, it is connected to something bigger, it needs daily sunshine and water and good soil without the cares of this world that have been vying for your heart and attention.
The good news of this time when everything has been cancelled is that now you know you can live without it. And not only will you survive, but you will actually thrive. You’ll have Jesus, the word and family, and you’ll learn that is all you really need. Your homeschool will be called the John 10:10 Academy because while the virus came to steal, kill and destroy, we know that Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly. There will be beautiful artwork all around your kitchen, the kids will learn oil pastels and watercolors and discover new gifts inside of them. Instead of seeing beautiful fish in Jamaica, they will paint them for you. The kitchen table will become a classroom, you’ll grow your own grass in science, relearn history with Mary, we will journal together, and sweet Anna will live her best life outside the minivan. She will learn how to read, write her last name, roller skate, and best of all, ride a bike without training wheels. Spoiler alert – that will happen on your birthday!
Saturdays will include hikes to waterfalls and family bike rides on the greenway. We’ll develop the routine of family walks with Daddy every evening around Southwood, looking at the cow fields, sipping refreshing drinks, laughing and catching up, talking about our challenges and breakthroughs. The kids will play in the woods, learn flips on the trampoline, have stuffed animal parades, write their own stories about candy and vegetable battles and fall in love with Harry Potter. We’ll finally clean out the game room closet and play every game on the shelves. We’ll watch awesome movies you’d forgotten about from your childhood and find a new tv series on the life of Jesus called The Chosen.
We’ll sleep soundly and sleep in later, the time in the word in the mornings will be alive again, guided by Rica and a joy ride through Phillippians, Be Still videos and podcasts from old friends on grace. You’ll be reminded of the miracle of grace. You’ll have family devotions during Holy Week and wash each other’s feet. Easter will not be about the new campus, but will include a sunrise service with the kids participating and singing hymns along with the keyboard. The neighborhood will come together like never before. You’ll reconnect with high school and college friends over zoom. For the first time in a long time, you will all be on the same page again, sharing a common life experience. Life will not be rushed.
And Sammy. Did our puppy plan this? He will have the best life a dog can have and skeptical-about-puppy Will will actually learn to love him and will become his walking buddy, wrestling buddy and affectionate caretaker. Music will fill the house in the evenings, old school music and Hillsong “King of Kings” on repeat. The words on the new art in our playroom will read, “in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) The words are true and will feel true. And true will also be the challenges, the weight gain, the fighting and the intensity of close quarters. Quarantine is not all roses. It will have thorns. But mostly, it will be like wildflowers — an unexpected and unplanned burst of color. The kind of thing you didn’t plan for, the kind of thing considered a weed, but it bursts up to remind you that some of life’s most beautiful gifts are ones you would have never planned. Messy and free, wildflowers make you want to spin around in a wide open space like you have nowhere else to be…because you don’t.
And so I’ll ask you this, Katie of January 2020. If this were all just a journal entry and words on paper and not something that had come to pass, would you choose it?
I know you well. I know you would give it some thought. And then your phone would buzz and you’d run out the door and press on. For an enneagram 7 who lives for adventure and finally has children old enough to experience it, this quarantine is your biggest fear. You would never choose it, even after reading this.
But from where I sit, as I listen to Mary and Anna rubbing rocks together and singing in the backyard, I see through different eyes now. It has only been a few months, but I’m not the same. Slowing down and having every single distraction taken away does a deep work on the soul. And while I’m so excited for the reconnection to come when this is over, I’m discovering that life’s greatest adventure might be learning how to love the people right in front of you. “…love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) You have so much to learn about that. If I could choose your path, I wouldn’t miss this adventure for all the miss in the world.
And you won’t.
Happy New Year!
Katie of April 2020
To read more by Katie, visit her blog, “The First Day of Spring.”