whew, what a year.

I don't know that this post is really important to anyone besides me. We all know 2020 was a hard, painful, and overwhelming year. And honestly, I'm sure a lot of people are tired of hearing the same '2020 was a hard year but I learned so much, and next year will be so much better' But the truth is that 2020 really was a hard year for me - but I truly did learn so much - and i'm also really hopeful the New Year will be better. No, I don't think COVID is going to go away the second the clock strikes midnight or anything, but I am hopeful that for the entirety of 2021 that we are all little more empathetic, giving, and patient.

I rang in 2020 actually on a plane, flying from South Carolina to Japan. Drew and I clinked Champagne up in the sky, blissfully unaware of how the next 12 months were going to unfold. A few weeks later, we flew to Tokyo with some friends, and it was truly one of the best trips of my life. Mainland Japan is so beautiful, historic, and so full of life. It was cold and rainy and I absolutely can't wait to go back and do it all again. We got home late January, and that's when the first rumblings of COVID began.

Even still, I got to experience my first flower season in Okinawa and took way too many pictures of the cherry blossoms and Sakura ice cream. I found a community in a few of my coworkers. I got to go whale watching for the first time, I got to spend Valentine's Day with Drew at home for the first time in a long time.

In March, I went on a church retreat that taught me so much, a weekend that really grounded me & taught me so much. Ironically, this was the same weekend that COVID hit our little island and the restrictions got real. From March - May, we couldn't eat at restaurants, go to any attractions, but most importantly - it started becoming really weighing on me that we couldn't travel anywhere. I had a trip planned to go back to South Carolina in June, and knowing that it wasn't going to happen was really hard for me.

But in the space between - we visited other islands from Okinawa. We explore our home more than ever. Drew got a drone and it's allowed us to see this island in a whole new way. We celebrated our 1 year anniversary, and I decided to dive into something I've wanted to for years - I kicked off Leeann Mae Photography and prayed earnestly that I wasn't crazy for doing so during a pandemic.

I also started running - and if you know me - this might be the weirdest thing I did all year. I've always hated running, but when all the gyms closed for months, a group of us decided to start a running group. 209 miles later, and I've found a whole new admiration for what our bodies can do.

2020 - whew. It really did take so many things from so many people. It took away flights home, health, and jobs. It took away traveling, time off, movie theatres, gyms, time with our loved ones - so many big and small things that added all together just felt so overwhelming and heavy. There were so many days this year I just felt so defeated. Even now, as I type this, knowing there's a chance that the flight home I have in April could very well get taken from me - I feel pretty defeated. But i'm also encouraged - I look back on 2020 and see a lot of hope shimmering from even the deepest fractures.

It doesn't mean I easily recognized the good while I was going through this year. I spent a lot of time angry, sad, and honestly just tired. Most days it felt like everyone else was starting new things in quarantine and I felt uninspired and weary. But - I really did learn so much this year. So much joy and pain really can be intertwined - they come and go in waves. And just like pain comes rolling in - so does mercy. So do new beginning, new adventures - new ways to enjoy this new way of life. So many things were taken, and yet I also received so much more. Things like more time with friends that were set to move months ago. Things like more time with Drew when he was supposed to be sent away. Things like deeper friendships with the people near you walking through this hard thing together. The losses are deep - but what I've received have been life-changing. Every time I felt like I was drowning, it felt like these small waves of joy were able to carry me back to shore. So many gifts, and I can't thank God enough for them.

I guess all I can say is that i'm trying to walk in & through 2021 with courage and hope. I want to ask myself more often if I brought joy to someone's day, and work harder towards being more of a light to the people around me. I want to stop getting lost in comparing myself and my work to other people. I want to work on not filling my life with noise, and instead focus on the things that matter most.

I want to prepare my heart for good things - I know they'll make their way back.

Here's to being all the things the Lord knows we already are in 2021. Here's to embracing His plans fully & fearlessly. Here's to hope, and clinging to it all the way through.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”