2020 was a tough year. Almost every conversation seemed to include some joke or comment about how much we could not wait for it to be over. As the months passed though, we started noticing that there were good things throughout the year. We began to see how God had been working, and it made us realize that, despite the hardships, we would not trade 2020 for anything.
There are two big things we learned in 2020 that we want to highlight today. We hope you find them encouraging.
- God Still Does Miracles
- God Uses the “Bad” for Good
Disclaimer: For those who do not know us, we are twins. So yes, this blog post is supposed to be in the plural, and yes, it is longer than some others. There are two people’s worth of words we have to communicate 😂.
God Still Does Miracles
Our journey with COVID-19 did not really start until June 2020. Like most Americans, we had worn masks, social distanced, limited social interactions, canceled summer plans, and adjusted to online work since late March, but COVID-19 was not truly real to us in a physical sense. We knew it was a genuine threat, but by the middle of the summer, we still did not know anyone who had suffered through it. It had not touched the people we loved. On Friday, June 26, that changed. We received a phone call from our grandfather that our grandmother was running a fever and they had both been tested for COVID-19. By Monday, both of their tests had returned positive. Our grandmother was admitted to the hospital a few days later.
At this time, both of us were working virtually at our apartment in Blacksburg, but we were planning on going home to celebrate the 4th of July. Unfortunately, on July 2, our parents called to tell us not to come home because they were starting to feel bad as well. Within the span of two weeks, our grandparents, parents, and brother all contracted COVID-19.
While our brother, parents, and grandfather recovered relatively quickly, our grandmother did not. She continued to decline and had to be put on a ventilator on July 7, which she remained on for two months. During this period, she even coded (her heart stopped) and it took almost fifteen minutes for the doctors to resuscitate her. It was a very scary time. By July 10, the doctors predicted that she would not survive, and they said that even if she did, she would never recover close to her previous strength.
Our whole family remained glued to our phones over the weekend, fearing the worst. On July 13, we were told that her body was shutting down and she likely would not survive the next 36 hours. We spent the next two days waiting, but we never received the dreaded phone call. Somehow, she miraculously pulled through. Over the next few days, she started improving. The doctors and nurses told us not to get our hopes up yet because many COVID-19 victims start improving only to decline again. However, our grandmother never did. She had setbacks, but from July 13 forward, she steadily recovered. The nurses in the ICU called her their miracle.
It has been a long road of healing. Between her time in the hospital and living in rehab, she spent a total of three months away from home. Even now, seven months later, she has not completely recovered. In all likelihood, she will be on oxygen for the rest of her life. However, she has made significant progress. She can stand on her own, climb stairs, and visit family. Most importantly, she is alive. God did the impossible and spared her life.
He did not stop there though. While COVID-19 almost killed our grandmother, God used it to save our uncle. Because of past heart issues, our uncle is very high risk. As a result, when his company started resuming some in-person functions over the summer, he requested to remain online. The company agreed but asked for a “doctor’s note.” When he went to his cardiologist to acquire one, his doctor discovered that his heart was failing.
He was sent to the ICU and was told that without intervention, he had only a year left to live. His only hope was to get a heart transplant. This occurred while our grandmother was still in the ICU, so he kept it a secret to avoid adding an extra burden to the rest of our family. As soon as she started recovering though, he told everyone. One family crisis shifted to another. In this case though, COVID-19 sped the process because it limited transplant surgeries to those like our uncle whose lives were on the line. He was placed on the transplant list and received a new heart within two months of his initial examination. This is ridiculously fast. There is typically a minimum six month waiting period for a new heart, and numerous people do not survive the wait. Again, God provided.
If you are like us, you often find it hard to imagine God performing miracles in your life. We know God can perform them, but it seems like something he only did in the past or reserves for others. We knew He could, but why would He? So many others had lost loved ones recently, and God did not intervene. What would make us different?
The answer: nothing. We did not “earn” the miracle through fervent prayer or godly living. If anything, we should have been disqualified for our failures in both of those areas, but we were not. He gave us two miracles as gifts. Why did we get them when others did not? We will probably never know. We are just choosing to rejoice in His blessing and trust in His plan.
Though painful, these two experiences changed us. In the future, even while we surrender our desires to His plan, we will cling more tightly to the hope that He will perform miracles in our lives. We hope our story encourages you to do the same. God can and DOES still perform miracles, so keep praying expectantly. He may perform the next one for you.
God Uses the “Bad” for Good
The second truth we realized is that God can use “bad” periods to produce “good.” COVID-19 has been hard. Millions of people have died since the virus emerged a year ago. Thousands of Americans have lost jobs. Students lost valuable time with instructors and missed graduations. Family members have been forced to remain apart to protect each other.
None of it has been easy. We have struggled with confusion and anger just as many of you probably have. We have missed friends and grown frustrated with the inconveniences of social distancing and limiting gatherings. At times, we even turned to God and cried out in anger and confusion: Why did you allow this to happen? Why have you separated us from our friends? Why have you taken away our last year to play music in college? Why do we feel so “limited?”
In those moments though, God was still faithful. He listened to our questions and let us cry and rail. He acknowledged our pain, but when we were spent, He lifted our chins, pointed, and said, “I know this hurts, but look what I have given you.” It was hard to see at first. All we saw were the friends who did not return to Tech and the graduation, worship services, concerts, and BCM socials we were supposed to have this year but will never get to enjoy.
As the months passed, however, we eventually started to see the blessings He was pointing to. He pointed to our roommates and the special moments we have had with them this semester. He gestured to our friend Maddi from high school that we were able to reconnect with. He indicated our Among Us game nights that we have enjoyed with our brother, cousins, and a few friends. He directed our gaze to how intentional our bible studies have been. In short, He showed us His blessings.
In looking back on this year, we can finally see clearly the good God has wrought in the hardship. We would not give up this year, even if it meant we could avoid the pandemic and the pain it has caused us. The blessings God gave us far outweigh the trials.
For those of you who do not know, we live with two other amazing roommates: Kirsten Anderson and Kendall Staunton. They were by far the largest blessing we received from COVID-19. We started living with them in the fall of 2019 and had a great year getting to know them. Since we are all introverts, it took some time for us to grow comfortable with each other, but we cherished each moment. We bonded over the enneagram (if you do not know what that is feel free to ask one of us), shared meals, and late night conversations. We were overjoyed when Kirsten left a short note on each of our desks a few weeks into the fall semester, and we loved the mornings when Kendall decided to bake crepes or pancakes for us to share. Over the course of our first year together, we became friends, and we cannot praise God enough for His goodness.
Little did we know though, He still had more in store. When we all returned for the fall of 2020, we hit the ground running. We watched the first two Harry Potter movies before classes started and then watched the last six within the first eight days of the semester. By the end of the week, we had created a movie list on our whiteboard that included all of the Star Wars movies, the Sound of Music, and Hamilton, among many others. Thus began our tradition of Sunday evening movie nights. Every week after church, we grab dinner and then sit down to watch a movie together. No matter how busy we are or what might have happened that week, we set aside those couple of hours to spend together.
Because of the pandemic and the resulting online classes, we all spent more time at the apartment too. This resulted in more impromptu conversations as well as more planned time together. Since we would not be eating on campus as much, we created a weekly calendar on our whiteboard so each of us could pick a day to make dinner for the apartment. It started as a way for us all to eat home cooked meals every night without having to cook all the time, but it turned into another time of fellowship that we have come to treasure dearly.
We are not just people who live together anymore. We are not even just lifelong friends. We are family. God is so, so good!
2. Revitalizing Old Friendships
God used COVID-19 to draw us closer to others as well. Over spring break last year, we met with Maddi, one of our old high school friends, to catch up and discuss the very vague possibility of COVID-19 moving our classes online. Two days later, Tech sent an email announcing just that. We were shocked and immediately started texting each other to process what that would mean for us and our bible studies. Our friend had been doing a study at her church, but it was canceled for the immediate future until her church could figure out a way to meet safely. As a result, we decided to go through Acts together.
We started meeting a few weeks after spring break, and we met each week over zoom for the rest of the semester to discuss a chapter (or parts of one) at a time. Over the summer and the following fall semester, we had to be more flexible, but we continued to meet every few weeks. We finally finished on January 17, 2021. (Yes, we realize we took over nine months to go through 28 chapters. Do not judge. 😂) Though COVID-19 has separated us from many friends, these meetings helped us restore our old relationship with Maddi and connect on a deeper level than we ever had before. Once again, God brought good out of the darkness.
Yes, we just identified zoom as a blessing. Bear with us. We all groan a lot about the excessive screen time and missing face-to-face interaction, but do you realize how amazing it is that we can literally see people who are hundreds of miles away? Our parents could only talk to our grandparents for an hour every week after we were born because of the cost for long-distance phone calls. In elementary school, our parents did not even have cell phones. Now, we have Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom, all of which allow us to see people who are far away. Yes, it is not the same as face to face, but it has given us opportunities we would not have had just fifteen years ago.
We have the privilege of attending classes online and maintaining long-distance friendships. We had the chance to hold bible studies with people living in different cities, and we had the opportunity to learn new ways of connecting with others. In trying to discover ways to socialize virtually, we also realized we could play games online with our brother and cousins who were still at home. As a result, we started holding Among Us game nights over Zoom (and then Discord) as a way to spend time together. COVID-19 actually helped us discover how to spend more time with our family while away at college.
4. So Many More
These only scratch the surface of the blessings God bestowed upon us during 2020. There are numerous others, including time to rest, new research opportunities, vulnerable bible study discussions, and Maroon Family Hangouts. All of these demonstrate God’s abundant provision, abounding love, and overflowing grace. God is with us and watching over us, and He delights in blessing His children (Matthew 7:9-11).
This is not to say that “good” always means happiness or success. Rather “good” can mean spiritual growth, such as learning to trust God when our plans fall apart or recognizing idols in our lives. In reality, God’s ultimate purpose is to conform us to His image (not fulfill all our desires), and that only occurs through our sanctification, which is often hard. Though 2020 was in many ways the most difficult year of our lives, it was “good” to us because God taught us more about Himself.
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to keep many people alive.” In many ways, COVID-19 is like Joseph’s brothers. It has hurt many of us, but it has also brought about much good. God used it to reveal His power as a miracle worker, to remind us to look for His blessings, and to teach us to trust Him. It is our hope that in sharing the good God brought about in our lives that we might help you see the good in yours. We know we have been forever changed for the better by 2020. Have you?