The holiday season has always been my favorite time of the year. In fact, when I first began writing this, we were digging around old boxes for the tree skirt, hanging garland, mistletoe, wreaths, and ribbons, rearranging our antique nativity scene in the corner by the window, and untangling an absurd amount of Christmas lights.
With 2020 being such a turbulent year, decorating the house and doing the same things we’ve always done feels particularly special. I think it’s necessary to create some sense of normalcy and stick to what traditions we can, if not just to remind ourselves that there really is so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate.
Rarely has the world been so collectively burdened. But in that, I’ve witnessed such a remarkable time of empathy and compassion that has encouraged me in the hard days. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I hope as we look back at all the lows and yes, even the highs from this year that everyone is able to realize the goodness and kindness of many of their neighbors and find comfort and confidence in that.
This year, I saw my family go through some difficult circumstances, and as a mother, this was hard to watch at times. When the pandemic consumed our lives in March, my husband, Matthew, threw himself into the work of serving thousands in need. I know he never shows it, but it did take a toll on him. My kids who are just as energetic and sociable as he is were really put to the test when the lockdown meant they’d spend practically an entire school year studying from home.
Of course, there was a lot I needed to adjust to as well but I know the pandemic was catastrophic for everyone in different ways. I’m thankful though, as a family, we were able to face these challenges and be flexible.
Hard times have a way of actually helping us refocus and prioritize our lives; they remind us why we need each other, and that we’re not as independent and self-sufficient as we’d like to pride ourselves sometimes. The pandemic has found a way to make sure we are living on purpose.
Through it all, I’m thankful God is still God, Jesus is still my Savior, and the Holy Spirit is still my comforter and guide. God has allowed the Dream Center and Angelus Temple to keep their doors open, and I’m thankful that 2020 was the year the Dream Center exceeded its mission to find a need and fill it, as there were countless needs to be filled. I'm grateful that this place has been able to stay open to continue providing relief to so many in a time of despair. I’m equally grateful for our wonderful, selfless team of angels that serves tirelessly, some of them seven days a week.
As we round the corner into 2021, I’m tightening my grip on the confidence that God will continue to deliver us. No one knows what exactly the new year will bring. I’m pretty certain a switch won’t just flip with the virus suddenly disappearing and financial instability magically wiped away. But I do believe that God is going to do next year what he did throughout much of this year – miracles of healing, provision, revival, and transformation. It is only with God that all things are possible, and all He requires of us is faith.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 we’re told to “rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” When I re-read “ALL circumstances” earlier this year, I knew it was important that I keep this passage front and center throughout 2020. And I’m keeping it top of mind in 2021 as well. I pray you will too.
Pastor Caroline Barnett and her husband Pastor Matthew Barnett are at the helm of the Los Angeles Dream Center in Echo Park, two miles from downtown Los Angeles. The LA Dream Center, founded in 1994, turned the 400,000-square-foot Queen of Angels Hospital off the 101 freeway into a non-profit organization that provides long-term programs, housing and recovery services to individuals, families and veterans, free of charge.