Merry Christmas from the Rietkerks

A tribute to our Zoom life–top row: Lindsey, Kristen, Will; bottom row: Lauren, Tim Lilly

This past week, I saw an ad for a local church that asked people to consider 2020  as “the best year of our lives!” It seems a little too soon to make that declaration but I will admit that the past year did have some memorable bright spots. In March, the swift shift to distance learning and remote work brought 4 of us together at home, sharing workspace and tips for using Zoom and Canvas. We took turns in various “quiet zones” around the house (my favorite being the front patio) reconnecting at the end of each day to share a meal and conversation. My work with the Christian Reformed Church took on a new focus as church leaders collected and shared best practices for ‘being the church’ during a pandemic. It was messy and fast-paced but full of creativity. Tim’s work with Vitas Healthcare also shifted as hospitals and nursing homes made adjustments to patient care; visits were done by phone call and FaceTime which is not ideal but caregivers and staff rallied to make it work. Our son Will moved home from UC San Diego and easily managed to balance school work and visits with his girlfriend Callyn; he also picked up a job at the local Chick-fil-A (a bonus for our family—discount meals!) Lilly unleashed her artistic sensibilities and redesigned her bedroom, including buying a new desk and computer to complete the space.  She got her driver’s license during the lockdown; a bit anticlimactic but she’s figured out that going to the grocery store is at least going “somewhere” and she’s eager to make the trip. With the fall semester now in the books, I am happy to say I’m halfway through the Spiritual Formation-Soul Care program at Talbot Seminary. I’m not a fan of distance learning, but I’ve come to appreciate the little things it offers—such as not having to find parking on campus. As of this writing, the 3 students in the family will begin the next semester of school at home.

The slower pace of life encouraged us to enjoy simple pleasures: Tim and I must have walked hundreds miles around our Hidden Meadows neighborhood, sometimes alone but often with each other. In June, Tim, Lilly and I took an old fashioned road trip to Seattle to visit Tim’s family, hitting many of the same sights as on our honeymoon 31 years ago. Tim and I also slipped in a stay-cation to San Diego, a great walkable city. To close out the summer, Lauren and I took a last minute trip to Washington DC to help Lindsey move into her new apartment. 

Some of you know that I have a practice of selecting a word for the year by following writing prompts from The Abbey of the Arts. 2020’s word manifest was certainly an unusual one but it had such energy and I was eager to play with it and notice things that were “clear or obvious to the eye.”  As the months progressed,my wordbecame a verb; the virus manifesting in scores of people around the world. In mid-December, the Washington National Cathedral called attention to the tragic consequences of the pandemic in theUS by tolling the bell to mark the 300,000 US lives lost to Covid-19, ringing it 300 times, once for every thousand lives lost. 

2020 also saw a season of civil and political unrest bringing to light the deep-rootedness of systemic racism in our country. I’m grateful for the blog posts, sermons and book recommendations that challenged my thinking but most of all, I’m indebted to coworkers and friends who shared their stories of growing up in America; 2020 gave me time to listen deeply. I think Richard Rohr says it best: “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” While some may believe that positive thoughts can manifest a new world order, nothing of significance happens that way. It begins with an attitude of curiosity, a posture of generous listening that invites more stories to be told. And then, action must follow. We have hope that President-elect Joe Biden and the incoming administration will work for positive change but this demands average, ordinary Americans (like me and you) be actively involved in rooting out evil in all its forms. It’s hard work but together, we can make a difference.

For those who experienced loss this year, our hearts are with you. We pray for an end to the pandemic and a renewed sense of community and care for you and your family. May the coming year brings you much peace and love.