All year, I’ve thought back to the words I wrote at the end of 2019, looking ahead into a year we knew would be full of transition and upheaval: “and even if everything we think we know changes tomorrow, we trust Him.”
It turns out that we very much underestimated the amount of upheaval 2020 could bring. Admittedly, it’s challenging to sit down and reflect over a year marked by so much sadness and frustration. And yet, God is still completely sovereign and wonderfully good. Let us recount to you just a few of the many ways we’ve seen Him at work in our family this year.
We moved from Vacaville, CA to Monterey on March 2nd. One week later, the world shut down and most of the things we’d anticipated about living here disappeared. Even so, we praise God for his perfect timing and provision in every detail of that move. We didn’t spend time in limbo with uncertain logistics or unavailable housing. We were together, something we do not take lightly when so many other families we know found themselves facing extended separations with indefinite return dates. We were able to move right into an apartment we’d been hoping and praying for over the past year, a little cozy for a family of five, but a mere two minute walk from the beach.
That cozy two bedroom apartment became a lot cozier when we realized that John’s studies at the Naval Postgraduate School and French program at Defense Language Institute would, in fact, take place in our bedroom. Despite the less than ideal circumstances, his program at NPS in the spring and his French studies so far have gone well. Following language study, John is scheduled for 6 months of overseas training (without the family). As we anticipate that separation in the year to come, we are all the more grateful for the unanticipated togetherness right now.
Kirsten’s days are full: keeping little ones busy, homeschooling first grader Daniel, and finding meaning in the mundane. Daniel (6) spends much of his free time refining his LEGO skills and building forts while Audrey (4) loves to draw, dress up, and make up songs. Ronen (21 months) follows them around, jabbering with increasing intelligibility these days, generally content to be a part of the action. He adores Kaia, our now eight year old German Shepherd, who tolerates his aggressive affection because he likes to share his food (although, incidentally, he also eats hers).
We had anticipated quite a lot of traveling and visiting with family over John’s break from classes this summer, but military-imposed restrictions prevented him from leaving Monterey. Thankfully, Kirsten was still able to take the older kids for a much needed respite, attending family reunions in Ocean CIty, NJ and Door County, WI while John hung out with Ronen at home. We also enjoyed a couple of visitors here – both of our moms and Kirsten’s sister made it out to spend time with us.
Our greater backyard has been a sanity saver. We’ve been able to do a lot of hiking in and around the gorgeous Big Sur region just south of where we live, appreciating the rugged central coast and lush redwood groves. Daniel and Audrey both learned to ride two wheelers this year, enjoying long bike rides on the extensive paths we can access just down our street. We’ve introduced them to a bit of paddle boarding, boogie boarding, tide pool exploring, and plenty of sandcastle building. They’ve been able to spot sea lions and dolphins and whales from our beach while looking for sea glass. In this strange season where there aren’t really any other out-of-the-apartment options, it’s been a gift to be able to so easily access a great expanse of sand and thundering waves, daily reminders of God’s unrelenting grace to us.
Well acquainted with the challenges of seeking a new community after a move, we know that we need to push ourselves to jump in right away in a new church, cultivating intentional relationships even though the time is short. This year one of our greatest struggles was the impossibility of doing so. On one hand, it’s not difficult to quarantine from family and friends when you have neither. But as the weeks turned into months which became half a year of isolation, even we, independent introverts that we are, felt the weight of loneliness. At last, our prayers were answered this August when we met a few like-minded families with a bunch of kids on the beach, promptly jumped into church-on-the-lawn and life group together and embraced them as our family away from family. Only God can accomplish the growth and depth we’ve experienced in these relationships in such a short window of time and we praise him for it!
As 2020 comes to a close, we look ahead with joy and confidence that the same God who has been faithful in every unforeseen challenge of this year goes before us, preparing the way. We’re also excited to welcome our fourth child in March!