Happy New Year From the Noteworthy Mommy…An Unprecedented Year and My Wish For You in 2021

If you had asked me in March if I would give up playing with my musical groups, terminate travel, give up my educational consulting job, go without live musical theater, stop singing in the choir, limit my visit with friends and spend Christmas without my parents, in return to spend more time with my family of three at home, I doubt my answer would have been an enthusiastic YES! Although 2020 was filled with its fair share of challenges, struggle and loss, as I look back on the year, it was also filled with many blessings. And spending more time with my family of three is at the top of the list! When all the distractions of my usually busy lifestyle were taken away, it left time for me to focus on a few things… the two people who matter more to me than anything else in the world, my loving husband and our little girl. Don’t get me wrong, there were days and still are (a new year doesn’t make the struggles go away) that I long for nothing more than a night away by myself but in 2020 my eyes were opened to prioritizing my life and putting my family and my faith ahead of everything else.

I almost feel ashamed that it took a pandemic for me to figure out the obvious but I’m grateful that I finally understand what is important. I have tremendous respect for Dan Presgrave, a brilliant conductor, teacher and the founder of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony, which I am a member. He was headed down a very dark path, constantly searching for something to give him a “fix” and then he found Jesus and his life was transformed. He became a pastoral counselor, writes a weekly Christian blog at http://meetpastordan.com/blog/ and created a Christian counseling program for veterans. When he resigned as principal director of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony, I was shocked. How could such a talented man, who devoted his entire life to music completely walk away from such a passion? Now I get it. Now I understand. Although Dan still appreciates music, through Christ he has completely prioritized his life and now he has peace and happiness that was only found when he put Jesus first.

My mother-in-law recently asked me what thing I missed the most in 2020? I think she was surprised when I shared that I didn’t miss anything. That wouldn’t have been my answer in March when we were in full shut down or even the months that followed. But once I began to concentrate on the gifts God has given me instead of what was taken away, I found an inner peace that has brought tremendous joy even during this difficult year.

My daughter’s amazing kindergarten teacher has her students write in a thankful journal every week. The entry for the weekend after Christmas asked the children why they are thankful for Christmas? My daughter looked at me and said, “That’s easy. There’s only one answer…Jesus!” Tears of joy filled my eyes because my young daughter understands what is important. I pray that she continues to put Jesus first.

Without my faith, my church, my talented pastors, my family and most importantly, Jesus, I would have never survived 2020. I don’t know what waits ahead in 2021 but I know that Jesus will get me through. He will continue to walk beside me through the joyous times, the hard days, the unthinkable and all of the days in between.

I close this New Year message with hope for you and your family. Patrick Swierczek, a childhood friend, posted this on social media and the words accurately depict my wish for you in 2021.

“Christmas Is”…A 2020 Christmas in Quarantine

Christmas certainly looks and feels different for everyone this year. My daughter and her sweet kindergarten class are quarantined for Christmas. It will be the very first Christmas that I won’t be celebrating with my parents. And the second Christmas birthday, in forty-nine years, that won’t be spent gathered around the dining room table in my childhood home.

So many Christmas traditions have been lost in 2020 and many of you may be feeling a bit down. But maybe it’s time to take a look at which traditions are truly important and focus on those? My daughter’s former preschool teacher told me she is beginning to dislike the word “tradition.” Her young adult children show no interest in them. It got me to thinking how many times I got caught up in doing something because it was a “tradition” and in the process completely lost sight of why it was even significant. Maybe some traditions are meant to be short term, to make way for something new.

After a rough year, where so many have experienced great loss, we all need to take a moment to count our blessings. We won’t be following our familiar traditions this year and our family Christmas celebration with grandparents will be delayed. But instead of mourning the usual tradition, I’m going to focus on quality time with my family of three and look with excitement at the fact that we get to extend our celebrating! A dear friend lost her father to COVID this month. I know she would gladly delay her family celebration by two weeks if it meant she had just one more day with her father.

A quieter Christmas has allowed me to focus on living generously and thinking of others. Instead of giving presents out of expectation or tradition, I reveled in surprising friends and loved ones, even strangers, by leaving mystery bags on their doorsteps. Seeing their appreciative smiles and receiving messages of gratitude from the little tokens given, was one of the best gifts I have ever received!

COVID may have kept you from going to face to face church on Christmas Eve but isn’t it amazing that through the power of technology we could worship with our families safely at home and even wear our pajamas if we chose! If COVID has changed your Christmas plans think of that first Christmas. Mary and Joseph weren’t surrounded by their families. They weren’t even in the comfort of home but in a lowly manager with animals when Mary gave birth to the Christ child. I’m sure this wasn’t their plan. But it was God’s plan. And what an amazing plan He has for each and everyone of us!

This year some of our Christmas traditions didn’t happen but that’s ok. In fact it’s more than ok because celebrating the birth of Jesus is the only Christmas tradition that is important. Jesus is the tradition that we need. And Jesus is the only tradition I care about passing down to my mini me.

Many of you will be surprised to see that Noteworthy Mommy’s Christmas post ends with lyrics written by Dolly Parton. I have a new fascination with Dolly and the words she penned for this song resinated with me because they truly capture what Christmas is.

Christmas Is by: Dolly Parton Christmas is a time for caring
Being at your best
Christmas is a time for sharing
Knowing you’ve been blessed
Christmas is a time for giving
Love is made of this
That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is a joyful time
If you’re the lucky ones
Some are blessed with gifts and trinkets
Others havin’ none
Some have feasts up on the table
Others havin’ crumbs
There are the haves and the have-nots
And you could be either one
It’s all about kindness
Love and compassion
Better to give than receive
That is a true fact
But those who don’t know that
Well, they are the poorest indeed
And I hope you remember every December
That bright shining light from above
The promise from God’s lips
The greatest of all gifts
Wrapped up in His wondrous love
So rejoice in His glory
The great Christmas story
And to all that you’re sharing it with
You go tell it with passion
Of love everlasting
‘Cause that’s what Christmas is