Looking Back On 2021

If 2020 was a strange and difficult year, in many ways 2021 has been stranger and more difficult.

From the first three months spent in yet another lockdown to some heartbreaking situations with family and friends, it has been another year of uncertainty and change. My word for the year was “faithfulness,” and it was definitely a useful focus. In all of the upheaval and disruption it was comforting to reflect on God’s faithfulness, and it was also helpful to look for how he was calling me to be faithful, often in circumstances that were less than ideal.

2021 has been a year of fewer words – partly because of weariness and partly because of dealing with things that were not my stories to tell. One of the insights that stood out to me about faithfulness is that it is often quiet and unseen.

2021 has also been a year of gratitude for the little things. At the start of the year, I made a list of things I hoped to do this year. It was a list I would have laughed at in 2019 because it would have been describing normal life, but it has provided many moments of celebration this year as I got to tick items off the list.

  • Seeing my family after four months apart
  • Meeting my work colleagues face-to-face
  • Real life work with young people
  • In-person church
  • Playing with my band again
  • Going to the theatre

There is one stand-out highlight from 2021 which means that, despite the challenges, I will always look back on this year with an element of joy. Once again it is not my story to tell, but I did write a short piece which gives a flavour of it from my perspective. This was written for the Scottish Fellowship of Christian Writers’ magazine “Showcase,” which had a theme of “Gatherings”.

The Gathering

“It can’t be a gathering.”

As we began planning our church Easter outreach that was the one certainty. Too many times now we had made plans, only for restrictions to change. Whatever we did, it had to be outdoors and definitely not a gathering. It had to be something we knew could go ahead. Gradually a plan came together for a story trail in the park…

Good Friday arrived – cold and crisp, but bright – the ideal day for a walk in the park. And as families arrived to collect their sheets and begin the trail, there was joy in the air. Even though it couldn’t be a gathering, for the first time in three months, they were in the same place, doing something together.

Fortunately, by this point, two households could gather outdoors because a woman appeared with her two daughters. A woman at the end of her rope, ready to give up, who discovered the trail in passing but got talking to a church member along the way, and there in the park they prayed…

The following week as we gathered on Zoom, she joined us – unsure what she was getting into, but eager to explore…

As summer came, we gathered regularly – just the two of us, but “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV)

And God was certainly there. I felt like a mere spectator with a front-row seat to his healing, faith-building, life-transforming work…

Until one Sunday morning in August, we gathered on the beach – a proper gathering this time. The first in-person gathering of our whole church family in seventeen months. A gathering to celebrate a new member.

As she shared her story and was baptised in the sea there was hardly a dry eye, and I can only imagine the joyful gathering in heaven.

Even in a pandemic, God’s work of gathering the lost and bringing them to himself can never be restricted.

I’d love to hear: how was 2021 for you? What were the stand-out moments?

Wishing you all the best for the New Year and a good start to 2022!

Linking with: Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Let’s Have Coffee, Recharge Wednesday, #HeartEncouragement Community Link-Up, Grace & Truth

31 thoughts on “Looking Back On 2021

  1. A lady in our congregation invited a college intern to church the first of this year. She came. She confessed Christ and was baptized. I’m praying for opportunities to disciple her. Praising God for not being limited to pre-pandemic conditions.

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  2. I’ve missed reading more of your words this year, Lesley, but what a blessing to be able to look back and see God’s hand on your word of the year choice. I’ve had words that encouraged me throughout the year in similar ways, and it’s always such a comforting reminder of God’s presence. I especially appreciate this thought: “One of the insights that stood out to me about faithfulness is that it is often quiet and unseen.“ So true.

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  3. Leslie, this is just beautiful. How precious to see God work in the midst of another weird and challenging year. Thank you for reminding me God’s work will never be restricted. He is always at work in the seen and unseen. Praying we all continue to encourage one another in the coming year. May 2022 be filled with stronger faith, God’s peace, and health! Grateful for you!

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  4. Lesley,
    I loved your piece, “The Gathering,” especially since there hasn’t been much gathering in the past two years! So thankful that where two or more are gathered…He is there. In 2021, I feel like I lost my “umph” and my focus. I need to get back on track — being a messenger to a broken and weary world. Just curious — what instrument do you play in your band? What’s your band’s name. I come from a very musical family 🙂
    New Year’s blessings to you,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bev! I’m glad you liked it and I definitely hope that 2022 will have more gatherings. I identify with the feeling of losing your “umph” in 2021. It has been hard to keep motivated with all the changes and uncertainty.
      I play clarinet in my band. It is a wind band/ sometimes a marching band in the summer and it is called the Central Band of the Royal British Legion Scotland.
      Happy New Year to you too! xx

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  5. Thank you for the hope-filled reminder that “Even in a pandemic, God’s work of gathering the lost and bringing them to himself can never be restricted.” Lesley, I truly missed reading more of your words here this year, but I totally understand. What you did share was so encouraging, so thank you. Love and blessings of a hope-filled 2022!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Trudy! It is encouraging when we see that God is still working even in difficult times. Thank you for your lovely comment. Your words always encourage me too. Hopefully we’ll both manage some more writing in 2022. Love and blessings to you too and I hope you have a happy New Year!

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  6. What a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness to minister through us even during frustrating and confusing circumstances. I’ve been grateful for the many ways God’s people have persevered and become creative in the face of the restrictions of the past couple of years.

    Visiting from Let’s Have Coffee

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  7. Lesley thank you for your faithfulness in meeting us here! Your gleanings from your WOTY were both impactful and enlightening for me. Such a rich word and God revealed so much to you through it. Looking forward to walking in fellowship in 2022. May the New Year bring more opportunities for deeper intimacy with Christ, dear friend!

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  8. You’re right; I thought 2020 was strange (and it was, of course), but 2021 brought another level of strangeness as well. I’m ready to see it go. Just two days we were exposed to covid at our family Christmas gathering. Now we’re waiting to see who gets sick and who doesn’t. I’ve needed the Lord’s mercies fresh every day. Thankfully he provides. Happy New Year to you, Lesley. May your 2022 gatherings be plentiful and filling.

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    1. I hope you and your family are all ok, Lisa, and that if any of you do get covid the symptoms are mild. Happy New Year, and I hope you know God’s blessings in 2022.

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  9. FAITHFULNESS is a wonderful word-of-the-year to focus on! God IS so incredibly faithful! I started a notebook-journal in 1983 to record God’s faithfulness to our family. Our children were 4, 6, and 9 that year, and it’s still a work in progress today. More than 1400 entries affirm that through trials and pain, confusion and desperation, God never leaves us. Problems may continue for awhile, but he manifests himself in the most amazing ways–through the ministry of other people, special blessings, serendipity circumstances that only HE could have engineered, scripture that speaks exactly to the need of the moment, etc. It is possible to look back on every year with an element of joy!

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    1. That sounds like a beautiful record of God’s faithfulness over many years – definitely something to treasure! I have been keeping a gratitude journal since 2017 and it is encouraging to see that even in hard times there is always something to be grateful for! Hope you have a happy New Year, Nancy!

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