Really, you should not be surprised that I put my dog in one of my ugly Christmas sweaters and then put reindeer antlers on her head. I don’t know why she looks so embarrassed. It’s festive!
But Merry Christmas! When we were little, my mom used to write a yearly Christmas newsletter. She mostly documented the humorous happenings and the little disasters of the year and they were hilarious. I wish she still wrote them.
Instead of that, you just get me. And my disasters. And my happenings. But not my humorous ones. Those are more likely to come in my dating blogs.
Some people have a hard time hearing about other people’s good stuff. So if that’s you today (because I realize I am that way sometimes, too, depending on my current situation), you can skip this part.
Work: This year has brought me some beautiful things. As many of you know, in 2019, I switched jobs to a different department at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Well, in 2020, I switched jobs again. I stayed in the same department but moved to a completely different team.
When we were first asked to work from home in March, I was temporarily assigned to help manage some of the communications around COVID-19 as we tried to keep everyone informed internally to provide the most helpful external communication. Now, I work with lots and lots of people, so don’t give me credit (or discredit) for anything. I was just an extra pair of hands.
But after several weeks of doing that job, and with some other miracles (because I don’t know how else to ascribe it), I was asked to take on a role in a different division and help on the Church’s global messaging team. I was also given a specific assignment working with Temple Square communications (related to the Salt Lake Temple renovation as well as messaging for web, social, and other experiences). This has been a significant change in job duties, all while working from home, and meeting people virtually that I’d never worked with before. But I feel incredibly blessed to be where I am and to work with the people I do. I am using my skills to help in ways I never even thought were possible for me. And I am grateful for that.
Healing: Some of the other good this year includes work toward healing. Some things are too sensitive to address, but many of you know I decided to change jobs in 2019 due to some challenging work circumstances. To leave it vague but also help in understanding, I struggled with some emotional challenges for months as a result and finally sought out counseling to help reduce some of the continued pain. Overall, I’m a supporter of mental health help. In this case, I think I just needed to feel validated.
In the first session, as I described the help I was seeking, the counselor noted that it sounded like what I wanted was justice. OK, let’s just jump right into it, right? But she asked me if I was willing to let someone else pay the price for justice. Did I need to execute justice personally? (And because this counselor and I share the same faith, she asked if I could let someone else specifically pay the demand for justice–because Christ already had). I wrote this question down on a notecard and placed it next to my desk for months. It is now on my bedside table. That question has helped me feel at peace with NOT having to demand justice in every situation. Now, I realize that in some situations, there very much needs to be and should be justice (legal and otherwise). But not in this specific situation for me. I just needed to let go. And ultimately, guess what? I don’t even want justice anyway. People mess up; I want there to be mercy and grace because I need it so much, too. But I did need a way to ease [my] pain (thanks, Field of Dreams) and gradually letting go of that need for me to demand justice has helped. This is still a process for me in this particular situation, and I also feel like it will be a lifelong process in other situations. But I am grateful for that perspective.
Answered prayers: Big (and small) life decisions continue even when there is a global pandemic. This year I had a few personal decisions that I needed some spiritual direction and peace about. In a normal world, I would often seek some peace from going to the temple to think things through. Not so this year. But I was reminded that answers don’t have to come in a specific time or place. God hears us wherever we are and will help us feel peace.
The dog: A direct result of the loneliness of the pandemic and also mysteriously purchased around the same time I ended a relationship. Ginny the fox red lab is my favorite dog that I have ever personally owned and she is also the worst dog I have ever personally owned. She is also the only dog I have ever personally owned. I have laughed hard this year at her antics–I never realized how much relief laughter brought me until it wasn’t a daily occurrence due to more limited and virtual interactions with people. But she also makes me lose my cool and revert back to some old yelling habits *sigh*. But she has helped me see that things are just things (although I really would like to know what happened to the Nativity lambie). Should I blog more about her? I don’t know. I don’t want to be one of THOSE people. I’ll think about it.
Creative service: In my local congregation, I currently serve with the women’s organization–the Relief Society. As our leadership has met throughout the year, we have had to change plans and ideas and ways to serve people over and over. It’s exhausting. But I feel like we repeatedly came back to the idea, “With all that we can’t do, let’s focus on what we CAN do.” I recently wrote up a history of our year and found myself with scores of things to write about–from our virtual activities, to our drive-by service projects, to the Relief Society presidency creating a truck and trailer caravan to take donations to Deseret Industries for everyone. I often felt like I just wasn’t doing enough (and TBH, there were many times I wasn’t. I also have an assignment to help people with family history and even though I love it, I couldn’t do it like I used to. This year took some energy out of me and that’s OK). But we did what we could and I have never felt more aligned with what God really wants of us–He just asks for what we CAN do.
Life: Ha. Do I even need to write this section? You all could just copy and paste yours here and it would be very similar. But I would say that the worst part of this year was actually finding out how much I loved my life. Strange, right?
I just like doing things. I like being with people. I like visiting friends and neighbors. I really enjoy serving people. I enjoy concerts, musicals, symphonies, and plays. I love being outside and enjoying nature. And I fill my life up with love and laughter and as much good stuff as I can. While some have found from the pandemic that there is a lot in their lives they would change, I discovered that I mostly just want it all back. It was a startling realization for me because I have certainly complained about having too much to do and not enough time and just being overwhelmed and having too many people my heart responds to that I can’t actually meet their needs and so on and so on forever and ever. But I would take (almost) all of it back. I miss people fiercely. I have managed fine and I really am not at all in a bad place, but the past several weeks can only be described by the words that ring in my head of “crushing loneliness.” I just want to be with people again.
Negative thoughts: The greatest attack of the adversary on me this year was a pestering thought, “You have no friends.” This, friends, is absolutely not true. Indeed, I have some of the most wonderful, supportive friends that anyone could ask for. But did the adversary get to me at times? Unfortunately, yes. Did my friends pull through stronger? Fortunately, yes. The blessing of this time is I have reconnected or maintained connections with so many people. I have an army of people who still want to be friends with me. Even when we don’t agree on everything (Thanks, 2020, for giving us SO MUCH to disagree about!) Even when we’ve hurt each other in the past and maybe not everything is entirely forgiven yet. Even when distance and time constraints pull us apart. Even, even, even.
This is clearly not all my happenings. My dating blog shared my bout with shingles, my bike incident, my breakup, and a number of other incidents. My home repair blog shared my doorbell installation and the tearing up of parts of my yard (I did finally finish the parking strip, so there’s that).
My book blog covered me reading WAY too much and WAY too late into the night. My Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers blog shared my re-entry into writing children’s books. And after reading all that, you still chose to read more of my silly ranting. Bless you for it.
But last of all, I AM grateful for the “extra” time I’ve spent connecting with my family this year. I am proud of my family members for who they are and what they do and I love them a lot. I continue to dote on my nieces and nephews, I loved welcoming a new niece this year, and I look forward to two more next year. Working from home has allowed me more opportunities to be there for family members in need. The pandemic situation has made me more creative in finding ways to connect. There’s so much more that involves the happenings of my family. But most of those are their own stories to tell, so this is where I will end.
May you all have a blessed holiday season and feel peace in Christ this Christmas. God bless us, every one. Yes, please, God bless us. Every one.