Our 2020 Christmas Letter
If you look up the word "capacity" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, this is what you find a few lines down the page:
the faculty or potential for treating, experiencing, or appreciating.
// Example: capacity for love
I would say this word sums up 2020 for the Brookses, and it might describe your year as well. Like many of you, we have experienced a lot this year. The maximum capacity we thought we had was multiplied, even when we thought such a thing was completely impossible. Across the globe, humans have collectively experienced unprecedented sickness and difficulty, we have adjusted our lives to the unexpected, and we have watched each other's lives from a distance.
In the midst of uncertainty, there have been many moments of love and joy—fear and chaos. But we are going forward. 2021 is quickly approaching, and with it comes a whole new set of expectations, hopes, dreams, and realities.
Our prayer for all of us this year is that we'll discover an even greater capacity to love.
This year Andy and I pioneered our first 100% online TESOL course, with Andy carrying a large part of that load by himself. Much of our work for this project has been done while in quarantine or lockdown, sitting in our backyard or at our kitchen table. Amazingly, we've had over 20 participants in the course from every continent! Through this course, we have crossed borders digitally to train teachers around the world—places where we could not travel. Places like Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Bahrain. While we couldn't go overseas, others who were already there have been able to be trained as teachers to serve in their communities. Read more about this new online course! >>
I also began my year-long studies for my Master's degree in Education and International Development, and I'm due to finish in September 2021. Every day, I am inspired and challenged by educators from all over the world who have dedicated their lives to bringing hope through education. My brain is tired, but my heart is so full. In April 2021, we have an opportunity to go to the Middle East to complete research for my dissertation on resiliency, hope, and education from the perspectives of refugees. To be honest, I am both scared and excited, but I think my excitement outweighs my fear at the moment. And everything about this trip will be used to assist and serve our partners and TESOL graduates who are working in that region, which is something that gives us a deep sense of joy and expectation for this opportunity. Read more about this upcoming research and outreach trip! >>
At our home here in Montana, Lulu began Kindergarten this year. It is everything she had dreamt it would be. Liam has continued at his preschool and shocks us daily with his new-found abilities, such as writing his name and counting to twenty. Eoghan and Finn are both being homeschooled since that was a somewhat better fit for them this year. As many families around the world experienced this year: homeschooling is hard. Balancing work with schooling your kids has been even harder. To all the moms and dads out there, you are incredible and we will get through this! (Probably with a few more grey hairs.)
This anxious and busy year has shed a new light during the season of Advent. I am sure we could all say that we long for the happy and peaceful days of old. My heart aches for this world—every day brings with it new heartaches. Some days the heartache hits us close to home, and other days we hear it affecting our friends and loved ones across the world. It is often easy to miss the beautiful moments that are bookended by brokenness.
For years, God has reminded us of the passage from Ephesians 2:19-22 where outsiders and enemies finally find their rightful home—together. We have not yet seen the fullness of this ultimate home with our physical eyes, but it is the place our hearts know and long for. This year has made us long for our home. Our true citizenship. And it has highlighted our need to be connected and reconciled as a family, as a community, and as a nation.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, we celebrate the coming of Jesus—who, himself, was born into a shelterless young Middle Eastern refugee family—who then made a way for all of us who were exiles to his kingdom to finally come home.
I also think of Mary. A young, expectant mother, carrying her child that would mark the world with his life, love, death, and life once more. As a mother myself, I can remember the labor pains of childbirth, and it is in this way I begin to truly understand the meaning of Advent. It's about expectation. It's about choosing to love and to make a home, even when the world is filled with all kinds of impossibilities, opposites, and challenges.
"As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community. Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God's Kingdom on earth. As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world."
Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
Our prayer for all of us this year is that we'll discover an even greater capacity to love. Even when we think it's impossible—when we think we are too broken, too wounded, too busy, too afraid, or too lonely ourselves.
We believe we can love greater.
Our hope for this new year is that we will reach out and take the hands of our friends, loved ones, and enemies—and run together into the new season. Where faith reminds, hope instills, peace reigns, and love is a free gift that we can share with all. May we make way for the coming King who made a way for us. May we do for each other what he did for all of us. By showing that his love was endless, and unconditional, and meant for the whole world (and even our neighbors next door).
And may we rediscover the "thrill of hope" that we sing about in the Christmas song, O Holy Night. That despite our long year of weariness, we will see "the weary world rejoice" at a new year, and a new and glorious morning. God is with you!
The Brooks Family
How to Get Involved in 2021
There's more than one way to make a difference:
Unlike that little inn in Bethlehem, there is room for everyone here...
You can donate, pray, host an interactive movie night, make a Middle Eastern meal and invite your friends, shop for outreach supplies, volunteer, and more. How do you hope to participate? Share your heart with us. Thank you!