Our 2021 Christmas Letter
How is it possible that 2021 is over and that 2022 is approaching at light speed? I blinked in January and Octovecember was here. You know Octovecember, right? That 90-day month that coalesces to form a never-ending cycle of holidays, band performances, and parties. All this to say, the year was quick to come and go, and now I am looking into the new year and wondering what possibilities and adventures it holds.
I am looking into the new year and wondering what possibilities and adventures it holds.
ANDY » This year has been a big one for the entire family. TESOL has been steadily expanding, and with it, our capacities have tried to keep up. Andy has been diligently adding and creating elements to the online course, making it more accessible and interactive for all the various types of learners in the world. Our students and partners have more than doubled since last year, and our community of teachers is rich in diversity and purpose. We meet weekly with a number of our students and have been blessed by their presence in our life. We are continuing to dream with God about all the future possibilities of TESOL, and pursuing new avenues of teacher training, international development, and bringing hope to refugees through education.
CORTNIE » I am in the final stages of my Master's degree. I only have my dissertation to complete (gulp. Pray for me!) This last year has been filled with late nights, gallons of coffee, and thousands of pages of reading. Looking back, I have seen how perfectly this degree fits within everything that Andy and I are doing or want to do through TESOL. It is an incredible joy to study and put into action all that I am learning. I also serve on the PTA Board for our local school district; we are a tiny but mighty group that supports our schools, students, and staff. It has been a great experience so far and I love all the relationships that have been created through joining this group. In my spare time, I substitute teach at the elementary and middle schools. By subbing I get the perks of eating lunch with my kiddos and getting involved in the many young lives that come through my class.
LULU & LIAM » The kids have had a fun year of school, hiking, camping, and exploring new activities. Lulu is loving First grade. She is excelling in Math and enjoys gymnastics, drawing, and pranks. Liam has transitioned to Kindergarten where he has made many new friends. He spends his afternoons practicing the piano, playing with friends in the neighborhood, and gardening when the weather is good.
EOGHAN & FINN » Finn is working hard in Fifth grade and has found some amazing friends. He has been challenged this year after being homeschooled for a few years but has risen to each challenge with kindness and courage. He started playing the trombone this year in the school band, which he loves. And we officially have a teenager this year! Eoghan is in Seventh grade and is absolutely loving school. He has fostered some deep and meaningful friendships in band where he plays the trumpet. He just finished basketball season and will resume his normal routine of creating melodies and LoFi beats with Finn in their downtime.
I don't know what is in store in 2022, but I am...optimistic. I am expectant.
I know to expect successes and, of course, failures. I can expect that some of my plans will be detoured or halted, and others clearly marked and ready to move forward. I can also expect that it will take a lot of work, trust, and courageous obedience to live into all the potential that awaits. I say this now, as a reminder of sorts when my faith and trust in God's character trails behind my fear and insecurity. I can also expect these moments to insert themselves into the timeline of 2022, catching me off guard and presenting me with all the possible negative outcomes of my choices.
"The difficulty in letting God grow you is the trust that is asked of you when you aren't quite clear what the outcome looks like."
Honest Advent by Scott Erickson (page 55)
Expectation and hope are funny things, seemingly intertwined and still very different.
I tend to plan. I have (1) my ideal plans, (2) my contingencies, and then (3) the worst-case scenario situations. I like to say that this planning and categorizing is to set my expectations appropriately. In reality, if I expect the worst, I can be pleasantly surprised by good outcomes. And this, I think, is where "hope" deviates sharply from "expectations."
Hope. A mystical-but-tangible feeling that somehow it will all work out... perhaps not in the way I planned, but still good. Perhaps even better than my plans had expected it would go. Hope is not that fuzzy-and-intangible feeling that "everything will be perfect." No, hope resides instead as the assurance that "all will be as it should."
I can trust that the God of Hope has a plan.
I will often try to cope and protect myself from all the emotions of unmet expectations by not expecting too much. What I am in the process of learning is that by changing or expanding my expectations, and filling in the fault lines of uncertainty with hope (instead of my best-laid plans), I can begin to let go of the possible failures and disappointments I will most certainly face. And I can trust that the God of Hope, who is sovereign and loving, has a plan. And his plan may not look anything like I expect right now. The best moments of 2022 will probably not be what I planned, or what I wrote at the top of that list in my Notes app: "Things to expect in 2022..."
This Advent season, I have been reminded of the goodness of God's plans, and the unlikely circumstances he uses to carry them out. And I'm becoming more aware of the human process of learning to trust and hope, despite what our eyes see and our hearts feel. I am grateful to the God of Hope, who took on the form of humanity and wore it like an ugly Christmas sweater (and boy, did he wear it good). And in our most dire of circumstances and our most helpless days, he showed us his plan. It was his foolproof plan of redemption, orchestrated from the beginning, and carried out because of his great love for us.
But when you say to the Giver of your life, "I want my life to be meaningful. I want to serve You with my life. May it be so according to what You desire," you have no idea what secret cosmic strategies have been put into play to answer that request.
Honest Advent by Scott Erickson (page 55)
Hindsight is always 20/20. It's nice to look back and see all the people God moved around the world to bring Mary and Joseph to the stable, the wise men to come bearing gifts, and the shepherds to see the promise fulfilled. We have centuries of God's careful planning on full display. I wonder though how the people in this story felt in the moment without our view of the redemptive plan God was orchestrating? What whispers came from their hearts as their plans were detoured to pave the way for something new and unknown? What radical trust did they place in the God of Hope?
We see how it played out. We know now why the inn was full, why the shepherds were in the fields, and why the frankincense and myrrh. We see how hope was made tangible through Christ. And now, we too, have been brought in on God's cosmic strategy to redeem all the broken places, disappointments, and unfulfilled expectations.
We pray that you carry this hope with you into the new year. That in the moments where your vision of the future is blurry, you can see clearly that God is moving and is sovereign. May you walk into 2022 with a radical trust and the assurance that the God of Hope will see to it that things will be as they should.
The Brooks Family
One quick note before we go our own ways.
We want to invite you to a collaborative project with us and others around the world. The goal for this project is that we would be able to inspire others as we express—through poetry—this dichotomy that exists between "exile" and "home." Between antonyms such as "stranger" and "family." As a family, church group, or school, you can start by writing your own individual poems/prayers, and then go to the interactive map on our website to share your poems and prayers with others around the world. Together, we can weave these pieces together into a collection of poetic prayers for refugees.
Click on the link below to see more ideas and to add your Christmas prayers and poems to those being prayed across the globe.
Click here to share your prayers of Hope for the new year by participating in the Refugee Poetry Project.
How to Get Involved in 2022
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!