Refocusing in 2020 certainly isn’t an easy accomplishment — as if a pandemic wasn’t enough, we’ve had a rollercoaster of other items come up (including, but certainly not limited to, what feels like a science fiction movie in the form of murder hornets). However, if we rewind back to to the beginning of 2020, Garden Valley Church launched the new year with a vision of refocusing our priorities the next twelve months (as, I would be unsurprised to learn later, many churches desired to do). With a roadmap all lined out by our executive leadership (the esteemed Pastors Craig Schlesinger, Russ Wilson and Shaun Konopaski, with support staff assisting in moving it forward), there was no doubt in our minds that it would certainly be a ground breaking year.

January and February certainly were laying down the stones to move forward on, that was for certain. And then March hit. Oregon shut down near the end of March in the midst of a bubbling pandemic around the globe, with no one quite sure what the future would bring. And then everything continued to spiral in an almost comic, 50s science fiction type movie way; or maybe if we had entered into the Twilight Zone (because that was a totally valid option in my mind when we hit May). 

If someone had told me 12 months ago that churches would be shut down, everyone would spend weeks locked into their homes (if not months, for those that are immunocompromised), and that we would spend a large amount of time going solely to the grocery store and work? Well, I probably would have laughed and shrugged it off as a crazy conspiracy. Either way — 2020 has proven to be a year that has tested many people’s faith and certainly people’s ability to innovate in a time of extreme distress. 

I spent 2020 in a state of maintaining. Maintaining my sanity, maintaining my family, maintaining my identity — just simply maintaining. With all the grand plans that I had for 2020, feeling like I was successful in just breathing hadn’t been on my list of possibilities. Starting the year with a job that I was in love with, passionate about and excited to make a change and a different in young adult’s lives, my entire direction shifted when I was let go at the end of April and I spent the next six weeks doing nothing but laying on my couch, trying to figure out what had gone wrong and certainly trying to figure out how I had gone from being in a position that I loved and expecting a new baby to join our family to being unemployed and entirely unmotivated.

Job 1:21 (NKJV) says:

"Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Certainly, I won’t say that in the midst of this change and transition in my life, I blessed the name of the Lord; I might not have been cursing God for the chaos that my life felt like it was in while the world was in even more chaos, but I certainly didn’t seem to approach it with the same peace and certainty that Job did. It’s easier to figure that when one door closes, there certainly is a window that opens, but this year has been a year of feeling as though there are no windows opening and that we, as Christians, are wholly out of control and other forces are the ones that are able to control what is happening around us. It almost feels easier to throw our hands up as though we have no control of what is rumbling around us than admit that God has called us to innovate in the midst of chaos, to bring a light to the dark places, to bring an entirely different perception to governmental entities with a voice of grace.

We have had one heck of a year in 2020 and while next year certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down from the sound of it, I want to encourage you that in the midst of what seems like an impossible jungle, God knows the way. Lean on His strength and His understanding to speak through you when you are drained and out of your element; after all, He has a history of picking the unprepared to move a generation and shift thought processes and He loves to provide innovative ideas that seem just a little too crazy to work in just the right moment.

Emily Lowery is a wife, a mother of three (Isaiah at 10, Harper at 2 and Adeline at 2 months) and works at a local real estate office in Roseburg, Oregon. She spends her free time as the Social Media Director at Garden Valley Church, as well as assisting in coordinating all of their Sunday services with the Coordinating team. You can find her on social media on Instagram here.