Wrapping up 2020 (August - December)
Another six months went by without me writing a blog post. (face palm) Thank you all for having patience and trust in me. Both your prayerful and financial support are greatly appreciated even though I do not say it often enough. And thank you for trusting that it is going to good use. For a long time, I didn’t feel like there was much to update you on this year. We're all going through this weird year. Yeah 2020 was very weird! For everyone else this year probably drug on forever, but for me it went by pretty quickly. (Except the last two weeks of my pregnancy, those did feel like they took a lifetime.) In some ways 2020 sucked and others is was great, which I will get into detail later.
Like I said before I didn’t feel like there was much to update you on, but I went back to Jackson for Christmas and it made me realize how different our two countries are in regards to the pandemic. I kind of assumed that Missouri was at a similar, if not on the same, level of shut down as Alberta. But after spending a couple weeks back home, I see that Alberta has much more strict restrictions and is much more compliant with the restrictions than Missouri is. I won’t get into the politics of it but I will share how things are different at the moment. As of mid November, Alberta reinforced restrictions on restaurants, social gatherings, and non-essential businesses; Masks are required everywhere (and everyone actually wears one) restaurants are take out only. No social gatherings are allowed, not even over the holidays with extended family. Most retail shops were open at limited capacity, and I believe it was only because Calgary’s economy couldn’t handle another hit.
Now places of worship were allowed to gather but only at 1/3 of buildings capacity and many added precautions put in place. We at Multiply church were waiting for the theatre to open back up before we could meet again. Finally the theatre opened at the end of August during phase two of Alberta's reopening strategy. We waited a little longer to see how schools reopening effected the number of cases. Then we FINALLY started to meet in person again mid October. The first Sunday was great, and it was so good to see familiar faces (or just their eyes thanks to masks.) The rest of the staff and I did our best to comply with Alberta Health Services (AHS) mandatory precautions. AHS could show up without much notice to ensure we were following the restrictions. If we weren't we could be fined at least $10,000. So for us that required a little extra work and stress. Before Sunday morning, our congregation had to go online to pre-register, promising that you had no covid symptoms before attending. Mindy, our pastors wife and connections leader, stood at the door to make sure everyone who walked in the door was on the list of pre-registrations. If you weren’t then you had to sign a sheet of paper saying you are covid symptom free. We couldn’t serve any cookies like we normally would. We could serve coffee but the rules there made it not worth it. Hand sanitizing stations were set up at every entry and we had to use one door of the theater to enter and the other door to exit. Inside the theater there were dividers between every other seat and we had to social distance and wear masks. We were even encouraged not to sing but hum instead and not to congregate after service (but we couldn’t help it with those two).
For children’s ministry I decided that it was best that I didn’t have the older kids class but only the preschool. I chose this because most of my volunteers chose to play it safe and not return to church quite yet. So with no one to help I couldn’t be in two classes at once. So I still filmed a lesson for my older students and encouraged them to come to service and watch the lesson with headphones on during the sermon. In preschool we were only allowed to have children ages 2 and up and all had to wear masks. (Try keeping a mask on toddlers for an hour) We set up our usual play pen with baby gates and foam mats. I limited the toys to only large items that are less likely to end up in a toddlers mouth. Then after service we had to take it all down and sanitize it before putting it away. Keep in mind that I was 9 months pregnant while keeping up with these rules haha. But Layne and the pastors four kids (ages 7 and up) did help me set it up and take it down which I am very grateful for.
October 18th was our first service with 40 people attending. After that week the number decreased to an average of 15 people a week with no kids in the preschool class. This breaks our hearts because in February we hit a record high with just over 100 people attending service and had 5 people scheduled to be baptized. I had an average of 25 kids attend children’s ministry and 12 in preschool. But we still have an online presence that many members of our church follow. My student’s parents are giving me good feed back on my video lessons but man, do I miss teaching them in person. I took a break from anything else outside of the Sunday lessons because I was super pregnant and then adjusted to having a newborn and a toddler in the house. Now I plan to resume extra things like: we did a zoom children's small group, we handed out gift bags for special occasions just to let our kid members know that we are thinking about them, love and miss them, and are praying for them.
I was able to attend the first three weeks of service before going into labour. On November 6th, we welcomed our beautiful baby girl, Everly Jo. Her delivery went by really quick and our hospital stay felt even quicker. I started to have contractions early that morning and by 10:30 they were about 7 minutes apart. So I drove Thaddeus to my pastors house where he had a blast with his three favorite people. (Nee, Den, and Yack, as he calls them) I called Layne to come home from work, and he drove as fast as he could (after stopping at McDonald’s *eye roll*) By the time he got there the contractions were 4 minutes apart. Luckily the hospital is right across the street. I was admitted and got the epidural by 1:00 and chilled until she arrived at 8:02. We were discharged from the hospital by noon the next day, which seemed so quick to us, and I don’t know if that’s normal for Canadian hospitals or just due to Covid. But either way we are both doing fine, she’s absolutely perfect.
After two weeks recovery I went back to church, didn't need to do anything for preschool since no one came anyway, and I recorded 8 weeks of lessons for the older kids before Everly arrived. But it was really nice for my sweet little family and I to sit together in service. We don’t even get to do that very often without a pandemic. The next week though is when Alberta upped the restrictions again so the staff decided it was best to return to online only. Most of the staff did get to go home for Christmas. US citizens can come into the US without any problem and those with a work permit can get back into Canada without a problem. So we all desperately missed family and made it home. Except our pastor, Chris, who went co-vocational and started his police training, he had to stay in Calgary by himself. (Sorry Chris haha)
We didn’t think we would be able to go home either. Everly doesn’t have a passport yet but ends up that she’d only need one if we flew. If we drove she can get in and out with a birth certificate, so that’s what we did. We packed up and drove there for 28 hours with a toddler and an infant. (Yes I know I am crazy) since we figured this out so late we decided not to tell our families that we were coming home and and surprise them. That was fun! It was great to be home and let someone else chase the toddler for a bit. Both Grandmas loved it! It can be exhausting keeping up with Thaddeus. As I’m sure any mother knows, going from one kid to two is hard. Thaddeus has more energy than our apartment can handle, so going home was a much needed vacation for this tired mama.
We will still be in our apartment until August when our agreement with Apartment Life is up. We did have an interesting few months, waiting to see if we would still be living here or not. Boardwalk, the company that owns the apartment complex, had a drop in occupancy since the pandemic began and needed to do some budget cuts and Apartment Life was one thing under consideration. We hosted a survey for them to see if Apartment Life was worth keeping and the residents responses were raving about the program. It felt like they drug their feet trying to make that decision, but they decided to continue with Apartment Life.
Covid has put a damper on our experience with Apartment Life; we were excited to do this because it was a great way to build relationships with residents that eventually lead to sharing the love of Jesus with them. But with covid, we cannot do in person events. Normally we are supposed to host two events each month, welcome new residents to the building by visiting them, and we visit those whose lease is up for renewal. A very interactive job to have during a pandemic. So instead we’ve mostly been hosting online events and text the new residents and renewals. The residents still appreciate this but we miss getting to know people in person. We were able to do some in person events over the summer because the weather was so nice, its easier to social distance outside. Then when weather was colder out we did one event inside, a pizza take n bake event. It was a grab and go type thing and we had a lot of people attend. That was great but with so many people coming and going didn't leave any time to really connect with any one person. I am thankful for this program as it was such a blessing to provide a place to live on a budget. But I will be glad when we can move to the southwest part of Calgary. Our church is on the southwest as are most of our members, but we live in the southeast. It’s really not far but if we wanted to host a Bible study or something most people wouldn’t come because they feel like it is too far. So once we move to the other side of the river we would be able to invest more into our church members. Plus we’d be renting a house for our kids to run around in without making neighbours mad.
Overall I am thankful for the extra time to spend with the family but am looking forward to returning to normal church service. We are currently aiming to open again in February. Layne and I are continuing to do online Apartment Life events. thank you for your prayers. I'll try to write more often, but I can't make any promises. Mom life is hard. haha