2020 has been one of the most difficult years I have ever known. The whole world seemed to shut down with the spread of the coronavirus, while panic and uncertainty plagued our everyday lives. We wondered, “How long would this go on for? Is this the new normal?” Instead of receiving answers, however, we were left with more questions; yet, amid all the turmoil and confusion, God was at work and calling His people to rise and trust in Him.
There has never been a better year to mature in your faith than in 2020. If you can withstand losing your job, debt up to your ears, illness, isolation, and persecution, I think you can make it through anything. While it feels as though I’m crawling towards the finish line of this horrendous year, I know without a doubt that my God is faithful and answers our prayers. Despite enduring many blows, I cannot forget the blessings that have come amid all the pain and hardships.
Back in 2017, I dedicated my work and life to the Lord. Only through Him would I write blogs, reviews, books, and words of encouragement. My life was no longer for my pleasure, but His glory. It was not an easy decision and has proven to be one of the hardest to keep, but without the Father’s strength, I would not be able to write these words now.
Through all the wars and battles my family and I have faced this year, there have been a few messages the Lord has continued to remind me of as we fought to stay standing.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
How can one find joy when the enemy is beating them to the ground? Where is the happiness in that? As I asked the Father these questions, His answer came through a friend of mine. Joy does not mean happiness, and the joy of this world is different from the joy of Yeshua. We were not promised a “happy” life, but we were told that our God is ever-present, loving, and loyal. He does not let us endure more than what He knows we can handle, and everything can be used for His glory; so, why do we continue to allow the enemy to steal the joy of the Lord that is within us? I don’t know about you, but after this growing year, Satan can steal all that I own, but he has zero claims on my identity, faith, hope, love, or joy!
When I grasped this lesson, I laughed at God’s irony because that week, my family and I were planning a surprise 80th birthday party for my nan. Though the walls were closing in on us and pressure was on every side, we prepared the food (Psalm 23), invited guests, and worked on all the other details in love and glee. That night, we had an amazing evening of laughter, dancing, community, and hope. Finding joy through the pain doesn’t make the circumstances easier, but it does affect how we look at our tribulations and respond.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
No matter how hard life becomes, we are not defeated! And that is one of the biggest lessons I am taking into 2021!
While this year seemed to last an eternity, there was still so much I wished I could have done. Nevertheless, rather than dwelling on the what-ifs, I find it better to look at the events of this year and the growth that happened. I don’t know how you all reacted to the pandemic, but I found myself change a lot during these trying twelve months. Not only did I grow closer to God, but my confidence in my identity in Yeshua increased immensely! The change affected my entire life. My music choices shifted (though that doesn’t mean I got rid of all worldly music — any Swifties out there? We had a great year, didn’t we? #folklorevermore), I stopped reading books that didn’t edify my soul, spent less time on social media (something I’m still working on), and began disciplining myself to stop before I start my day and spend time with God. While I am not perfect in any of these things, my faith in 2020 has been drastically transformed! Going into 2021, my prayer is that God will show me how to stop wanting to impress people and speak up even when I feel intimidated so I can talk more openly about my faith and the incredible journey He is taking me on!
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
The biggest excitement of this year was finishing the draft of my first book!! It’s been an incredible journey to write this book, and while I still have a lot of editing to do, I’m super excited about sharing this novel with you all. The Lord placed the story on my heart at the end of last year, and it only grew as the Holy Spirit guided me through each chapter. Hopefully, next year, I’ll complete the manuscript and get it published before 2022! I’m also going to try to finish writing another book, which I had to put on hold to write this one. There are just so many stories the Lord is putting on my heart and not enough time to write it all! I have never been more sure of my calling as I was this year, and with confidence, I can finally declare, I am a writer!
One of the most painful parts of this year was, without a doubt, when I broke my toe. Israel is not the best when it comes to patient care, especially when your insurance instructs you to go to a clinic for soldiers rather than the hospital! After getting an x-ray, the doctor squeezed a splint on my guillotined toe, giving me zero painkillers nor crutches and leaving me to cry my way out the door. I’m sure everyone in the waiting room turned to look at the closed door when I screamed at the pain of the splint being wrapped around my poor toe. Thankfully, I was able to get some crutches later on, and within three months, I was back to normal.
Another big highlight was meeting the Librarian of Auschwitz, Dita Kraus, back in February. Our visit to her home was humbling and inspiring. Having endured so much during and after the Holocaust, Dita remains sharp and full of spunk. Spending that time with her and listening to her tell us her story was incredible. You can watch or read our interview HERE.
Unfortunately, Israel’s first lockdown brought a temporary end to my active involvement in the Shalom House Project. Due to the new regulations, we are no longer allowed to host the large events that brought so many survivors together with people from all over the world; nevertheless, I will hold the pictures and videos close to my heart and look forward to returning to this work when the pandemic ends (if it ever ends…). While Covid-19 hit many organizations hard, Helping Hand Coalition‘s work has not ended. The survivors of the Holocaust in Israel still require aid and support. If you want to learn more about the incredible work they are doing and how you can get involved, click here!
At the beginning of 2020, I wrote a post (read here) and ended it with the three words I felt the Lord give me that would be this year’s theme. As I read over what I wrote, I praise God for how spot-on they all were, though not in the exact way I had pictured (what else is new? hehe)
January 2020 – Three words and what I thought they meant:
Purpose – Following my calling and working on the projects God has placed on my heart!
Fulfillment – Finding a community in Israel and making new friends!
Completion – Finishing at least two books and getting my visa for the States!
December 2020 – Their fulfillment
Purpose – I became secure in who I am and the calling God has assigned me to do. I have worked on the projects and have not lost my faith.
Fulfillment – Rather than finding a community in Israel with adults my age, I started a prayer group full of young women from all over the world! Through reaching out, I have also rekindled and deepened friendships! It’s been a real blessing to get to know these young women, pray together, and hear their hearts!
Completion – While I didn’t finish two books, I am very proud of how the Father worked with me to finish my very first book!!! I also didn’t get my visa to the States, I am not sad about it. Everything works in God’s timing, and I’m patiently waiting!
What are some of your highlights from this trying year? How are you looking at the rest of this decade after this shocking beginning, with hope or despair? Has God given you the word(s) that will be the focus of next year?
I have been praying about where God is going to lead my family and me in 2021, and I feel that all we are going through is going to come together and form an incredible story that we will one day be able to tell! It’s all for His glory, and while it may not look pretty, the testimony coming is going to be exceptional! So, though I had hoped that the Lord would tell me that rest is coming, unfortunately, it’s not time to stop just yet.
Words for 2021
Get ready to fight – As you know, 2020 was not an easy year, but the struggles of these 366 days (yes, we were in a leap year) are not over, at least not for my family. On my birthday, my mom told me that this coming year would be war, and I can already feel the battles continuing to intensify as this war rages on and on. However, through great trials comes perseverance, maturity, and strength. One of the things the Father is teaching me is to take command of my flesh, no longer allowing the enemy to cause me to stumble and lose control of my thoughts, words, actions, and emotions. This is an ongoing lesson, so we will be continuing our Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones series, expanding on it throughout this new year.
“I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” Revelation 6:2
Drive on – While 2021 looks like it will be another war year, there is still work to be done outside of the trials currently threatening to pull us under. No matter how distracting the fight becomes, I felt the Lord tell me that I must continue to do the work He has called me to do, clinging to Him for comfort, strength, drive, and inspiration. God is my potter and continues to sculpt me with each new day! He is doing the same to you too!
New beginnings – A shift is happening. I’m not sure if that means we will be moving or that something new will be opening up in Israel, but I do know that we will not be in the same place at the end of next year. Seeking His wisdom, I continue to ask, “Lord, where are you calling me to lay my roots? Where do you want me to be? Is it time to move on?”
“Blessed is the one who TRUSTS in the Lord, whose CONFIDENCE IS IN HIM. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It DOES NOT FEAR when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has NO WORRIES in a year of drought and never fails to BEAR FRUIT.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Happy New Year, everyone, and CONGRATS on surviving 2020! No matter where God is leading you in life, I pray that this year will be an even greater year of breakthrough, growth, peace, healing, and joy for you! We all have a story to tell, and our testimonies continue to evolve with each fall and accomplishment! Hold onto the blessings, and do not be ashamed to share where the Father is taking you! This life is an exciting ride that I am honored to be on it with a Savior who remains by my side through every loop, turn, twist, and plunge!
“Believing gets hard
When options are few
When I can’t see what You’re doin’, I know that You’re proving
You’re the God who comes through
Oh, but I know (Woo, yeah)
That over the years
I’ll look back on this moment and see Your hand on it
And know You were here.
And I’ll testify of the battles You’ve won, yeah-yeah
How You were my portion when there wasn’t enough, oh
I’ll testify of the seas that we’ve crossed, yes, I will
The waters You parted, the waves that I’ve walked (Woo)
Oh-oh-oh, it’s the story I’ll tell (Yeah, yeah, yeah)”