On a cloudy southwest Washington day, my family gathered around the embers of my parents’ outdoor firepit. We roasted hot dogs, munched chips and consumed salad. It may have looked like a summer barbecue, but it wasn’t. The air was brisk. It was my family’s pandemic Christmas. The Christmas tree stood inside, covered in its usual decor. We remained outside, hovering around the fire, hot buttered rums in hand. We shared memories. We reported news. It was my family in prime form. I knew then it was special. But I didn’t know it would be my father’s last Christmas with us.

When I look back on the confusion and chaos of the pandemic in my own life, it’s impossible for me to overlook the memories like Christmas. There were so many traditions set aside and so much time seemingly lost. But the time was not lost. Time pressed on, as it always does. We made new memories and had new adventures. If there’s one thing I will take away from the pandemic, it’s that God gives us occasions to look at our lives with fresh eyes. He gives us ample opportunity to see the trials of life not simply as struggles but to see them for their potential good. As the pandemic comes to an end, I ask God to give us all the ability to see the joys in life’s sorrows and to find happiness in times when happiness seems improbable.