By Kim Longden
At the start of each year, we have the tradition of taking down the previous year’s kitchen calendar and going through it month by month as a family. We started doing this several years ago after noticing discontent in some of the kids at the end of the year because they felt like we hadn’t done anything exciting. So, before I tossed out the old calendar, I had us all sit down and look through it so we could remember the cool things we HAD done throughout the year.
What started out as mom trying to prove to the kids that we have many things to be grateful for has evolved into one of our favorite traditions—spending time lingering over and reminiscing about the past year before plowing into the new. As sort of a New Year’s version of “highs and lows,” we each tell our most memorable high for the year, recounting the good, and then our low as we also recall the not-so-good. We say a prayer of thanks for God’s for faithfulness during the previous year and commit the upcoming year to Jesus. Finally, we not-so-ceremoniously toss the old calendar into the trash and hang up the new one.
I thought about this tradition the other day realizing it was time to take the 2020 calendar off the refrigerator. I was tempted to just toss the thing into the trash and skip going through it. I wasn’t sure these pages were something I wanted to revisit.
In fact, as innocent as it looked hanging there on our fridge, this calendar had become a messy bone of contention, with events scratched out after being rescheduled, re-rescheduled, and finally crossed off altogether when canceled. After awhile, we stopped writing events on it altogether. The calendar became just a grid hanging in our kitchen we used to cross off the days as they passed.
Thinking back, though, I knew there had been good things that had happened. Just like some of the kids needed encouragement in years past that we HAD done cool things, maybe we all needed encouragement this year—including me. So, I called everyone together and we started flipping through the 2020 calendar month by month.
January… February… all pretty smooth sailing… and then, March. We spent a lot of time looking at March. Remember the last event we went out before everything shut down? How we thought quarantine would only last two weeks? We marveled at how quickly everything changed.
“Remember how weird it was to have Lent and Easter at home?” I asked. “Yes!” answered one of the kids, “and remember making those paper palm branches?” “How about blowing out the candles one by one during our living room Good Friday service?” someone interjected. All weird and different, but memorable moments worshipping God at home as a family.
As we paged through the months recounting the highs and lows, we recognized a thing about life—that highs and lows are often intermingled together. The low of being homebound also had highs of new memories made together in different but intimate ways.
The ultimate low of grandma dying was mixed with the high of time with cousins and the outpouring of love and support from people God moved to come out of the woodwork. Meals, cards, flowers, and messages were bright spots during that dark time. We remembered the sight of a friend waddling up the driveway in an inflatable shark costume delivering goodies—and I remembered how much we all needed the laugh that day. God is so creative in using people to comfort us!
We talked about the changing of the seasons—about the summer weather, swimming every day in our little backyard pool, and soaking up the sun on the trampoline afterwards. We sadly noted the summer events that were crossed off—VBS, mission trip, weddings, retreats, and so on. Highs intermingled with lows.
Through all of this, we noticed that the changing of the seasons and even those mundane slashes marking off the days were proof of God’s faithfulness. As our world changed in ways that were disorienting, time continued to march on in its predictable rhythms. God promised that the sun would rise each morning; and it did. Winter turned into spring, and spring turned into summer. God put the moon and stars in the sky to mark the months and seasons, and they were there in their predictable patterns each and every night.
“Remember the meteor shower in August?” someone asked. “That was pretty amazing.” There were many things we noticed and experienced because we were forced to slow down and look around. God’s majesty and faithfulness were on display for us through creation, am I’m glad we were able to see it!
Jesus promised never to leave us nor forsake us, and it was evident that He was with us through this challenging year. Looking back reminded us that, though we had troubles, we were not crushed. Though we were very perplexed at times, we had not been driven to despair. God had not abandoned us. The Spirit’s peace sustained us.
We closed the calendar, and it was good that we had gone through it together. We were all reminded of many things to be grateful for. That is not to say there wasn’t sadness, angst, and tears shed during our remembrances—we are mourning losses, and emotions are still pretty strong. We are learning to trust even when we don’t understand.
Nonetheless, we prayed over last year and thanked God for the same faithfulness that will carry us through whatever 2021 brings. We won’t put our hope in a new year, but in a Savior who has proven Himself over and over in life’s highs as well as its lows.
And with that, the 2020 calendar was tossed not-so-ceremoniously into the trash. (Although we jokingly considered lighting it on fire.) The 2021 calendar went up on the fridge, and life continues to move forward one day at a time, in the hands of our faithful God.