Reflecting on 2019 + Looking Ahead Optimistically to 2020

I am not exactly sure why, but I love these in-between days after Christmas and before the New Year.  In some ways it feels kind of awkward. One big celebration is over, but another one is just a week away, so you don’t really know if you should get back to your normal routine or just wait a few more days.  I love these in-between days partially for these last few savoring days of waiting to fully get into the swing of things. This week is feeling slow and simple and I am quite frankly, loving every second.  

The days before Christmas, even with my intentionality of staying more present and focused, still felt like a scramble this year.  I think this is part of the reason why these slower days after Christmas feel so good and are so necessary.  

Recently, I have been writing a lot about routines.  But today, I want to write about living in a space where those routines are let go of almost entirely.  Routines are necessary, but I am learning this week, that a non-routine week or so is also very necessary.   

This past month I have really been struggling with low energy, low motivation, low everything.  I finally in the past day have felt better, a bit more alive and have a bit more energy to give.  This largely is from these past few days where I have fully let go of my normal routine.  

Since Christmas, I have woken up when I woke up.  I have only gone on runs when I have really felt like it, which has been only a couple times.  I have finally finished my book I started in the fall. I have done a whole lot of sitting on the couch with no agenda.  I have spent time just sitting there and watching Hudson play and my goodness, it has refreshed me. This might sound crazy to you, but I simply do not do things like that.  I have a lot of goals and hopes for 2020, but probably on the top of my list is to have more moments like this; more moments of just sitting and noticing the beautiful, little things of my life.

These past few days, we have gone on lots of walks.  We have picked up doughnuts because it felt like a good idea.  We picked up take out food on our way home from one of these walks (this might sound normal, but we rarely do things like this).  We did not have much on our agenda. I made minestrone soup that filled 2 large containers and this has been the main food in our refrigerator (I have eaten minestrone soup for lunch three days in a row). 

We also put away most of the Christmas decorations and took out our very dry tree. This may sound weird, but I LOVE putting away all the Christmas things. I love Christmas, but I think all the stuff and the decor and needles scattered on our floor start to really weigh on me by the end of the month.  I felt lighter almost instantly after everything was put away. Our house looked so simple and clean and blank. I loved it. My eyes felt like they could rest.  

This may sound all very strange, but these in-between Christmas and New Year’s days have convinced me the power/importance/necessity of living outside of your routine.  Of turning off that 5:30 am alarm and just waking up when you wake up. Of only working out if you really sense that is what your body needs. Of sitting on the couch.  Of minestrone soup that lasts for days. Of doughnuts. Of take-out food. Of leisurely walks.  

These in-between days have been life-giving.  I have gotten more clarity and peace and joy in these days of no routine.  In fact it has been these few non-routine days that are making me want to be back in my normal routine of waking up early and running consistently and actually taking Hudson out to do something.  I am almost ready to get back into the swing of things, but I am still savoring these final 2 days of 2019 to not fully be in it yet. 

I plan on using these last couple days to be a bit more structured, I am actually up early this morning writing and have a run over 6 miles at 8 am.  So clearly some of the strucuture is back, but besides time to write and run, the plan in these next two days is to still keep things quiet and simple and reflective.  

2019 Reflections

In these final days of 2019 (when this publishes it will already be 2020), it is hard to not reflect back on the year as a whole.  It makes it especially helpful if you had something written out at that start of the year.  This is a tangible way to help you reflect on how the year actually went. If you don’t do this already, I highly recommend that you take some time TODAY, and jot down some hopes, some prayers, some goals for 2020.  You can read my thoughts at the start of 2019 here.  

I must warn you that if you take the time to write down your heart for the year to come, you might read it at the end of year with some disappointments.  If you are ambitious at all, it is quite likely that some of your goals for the year did not happen. When I read back on my post from January 2019, I feel a tinge of disappointment when I look at my specific goals.  I laid out 5 specific goals:

  1. Get Up Early
  2. Write Daily
  3. Read Daily
  4. Invest in Friendships
  5. Take Sabbath More Seriously

And here’s the thing.  I feel like I did #1 and #5 very well.  #2-#4 I definitely did, but maybe not as consistently as I would have liked.  Especially #3. Anytime you use the word daily in your goal, you are making it really difficult to follow through.  No, I did not write every single day, nor did I read every single day, but as a whole my year was absolutely marked with more consistent disciplines of rising early, writing, reading, gathering, and resting. And for that I feel like I lived my year well.

Word for the Year

I love to choose a word for the year.  I get it, it is cliche, but there is something really powerful about not just choosing a word but actively and intentionally coming back to it as the months go on.  For that word to be on the forefront of your mind, heart, and prayers. It gets tricky and disappointing when we focus on the minute details of our goals, but it becomes much more encouraging when we focus on the heart and intention of our year as a whole.  

2019 was the year of open for us.

When I reflect back on 2019, I see how my heart has opened up this year and for that I am really thankful. 

The thing with your word being open, is that you might end the year feeling a bit drained and exhausted.  I know that is how I currently feel. This year, I said yes much more than I said no.  

Run a marathon? Yes.

Spontaneously get together with friends? Yes.

Host dinner? Yes. 

Occasionally lead bible study? Yes.

Sign-up for the toddler class? Yes.

Road trip to Arizona? Yes.

New York? Yes.

Hawaii? Of course.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Lessons the Lord Taught Me in 2019

I am thankful for this openness.  I am thankful for this season to say yes more than I said no.  I am thankful for how much we got to travel and do this year. So different from last year with a newborn. And I am mostly thankful for the way the Lord has helped me to better see who He is shaping me to be this year.  

The thing with 2019 was that there was no big ah-ha moment. There was no big day of delivering a baby or getting married or starting a new job. However, 2019 held a lot of small choices, small decisions, ultimately of saying yes. I will join that. I will do that. I will help out with that. There were lot of miles done in secret. Lots of early mornings of pouring out my heart onto a blog that only a few very kind people read. Lots of talking with God and quite a lot of waiting. These types of years can be hard but they also can be wonderful. It is a time of preparing and pruning and getting ready for what is to come.

2019, you were good, solid, consistent. Lord, you were faithful. You protected, blessed, provided, answered prayers. And I firmly believe that you will continue to reveal your faithfulness in this new year.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year’s Day! I so appreciate all of you that keep coming back here to This Mama Needs Grace. I look forward to everything that is in store for this little blog of mine in the year and hopefully years to come!

2019: The Year of Open

Last Friday, Lance and I had our first date night in a while, and it was amazing.  One of the pieces of advice we both seemed to hear a lot in pregnancy was that you must prioritize your marriage when you start having kids.  Already, I can see how true this is.  The reality is that life is so much busier and more structured than it used to be and if we do not intentionally make the time to just be Lance and Kelli, husband and wife; we will live our lives solely as mommy and daddy.  This is not good for anyone, including Hudson, especially Hudson.  I want my son and any future children we may have to look at our marriage and see a strong Christ-centered marriage that sets an example for them.  We realized that we need to be more intentional about having date nights once a month.  Since this date fell just a few days before the New Year, we ended our date at Urth Cafe and set intentions, goals, and habits we hope to strive after as a family.  We first attempted to come up with what we wanted our overarching theme for the year to be.  What one word did we want to really focus and embody in 2019?  While a few words were tossed on the table, we landed with open.  I wrote it in big letters in my planner: “2019: The Year of Open.”  In many ways, this directly aligns with a vision and campaign at our church entitled The Open Campaign.  In the way that our church is striving to be more open to the surrounding community, Lance and I also hope that we can live 2019 well with an open heart, home, and hand.  The aspect I really love about this concept of openness is that it is two-fold.  In one sense, being open allows us to pour out into others, but the opposite is true as well.  Embracing a posture of openness, also allows us to be filled up.  Both are essential.  Unfortunately, I have a tendency to hyper-focus on the pouring out, that I forget to fill up.  This year, I personally want to better embrace this idea of allowing time and space to be filled up.  I wanted to share 5 ways in which I am attempting to do a better job in this area.

  1. Get Up Early.  When I was teaching, I woke up every morning at 5am.  While I initially dreaded that early morning alarm, it allowed me to be so much more productive and efficient with my time.  I did not realize it at the time, but that early morning commute was a really important time for me to wake up, plan the day, and pray.  It gave me a pause before the day fully started.  Once I stopped working, I stopped setting the alarm and chose to have Hudson be my new alarm clock.  This worked initially, but I began to realize I was starting my days grumpy and unprepared for the day ahead.  Even if it is just 15 minutes of uninterrupted, quiet morning time, I am able to start the day at peace and in joy.  While I don’t quite feel ready to set my alarm back to 5am, setting it to 6am this week has allowed for time to sip my coffee, drink a glass of water, light a candle, write down what Hudson did the previous day, and spend some time alone with the Lord reading my Bible and praying for the day ahead.  These sound like such simple things, especially the one on drinking water, but I am finding it is these simple acts that put me in the right frame of mind to be open to loving and pouring out to the people in my life.
  2. Write Daily. Writing is something I really enjoy to do.  I have always been the journal keeping type of girl.  Journaling and just writing in general really helps me process how I am feeling and why I am feeling that way.  While I really love writing, I have not prioritized it.  I hope to keep a daily practice of making sure I am writing on a daily basis. It might not always be a full blog post in one day, but regardless of the type of day I am having, I hope that I can take at least a few minutes of it to practice my craft of writing.  Even in just a week, I have experienced certain days where the words just rolled off my fingertips and others where the interruptions were abundant and the words scarce.  I am not concerned about length or even initial quality, I really just want to write because it is something I love to do.  The other goal in writing is that I can share some of what I write to be open and vulnerable.  It does not come naturally to me to want to share personal pieces of my life, but I want to be more open in this way.  I know that I am not alone in a lot of my experiences, especially recently in motherhood, so I hope some of what I write can connect well to others.
  3. Read Daily. Like they say, garbage in, garbage out.  Some of my very worst days are the ones spent scrolling on Instagram at every free moment.  Some of my very best days are the ones where I forget where my phone even is and I pick up a book or am outside.  What I consume in a day greatly affects my mood and outlook.  While I am a very slow learner at times, I am finally coming to terms that I cannot handle Instagram.  In the past few months I have deleted and re-downloaded it basically every single week.  I delete it because I am consuming too much of it and then re-download it just to check one thing and the next thing I know I have scrolled away an hour.  Time is now even more precious now, and I do not want to waste it away scrolling through content that often times does not even motivate or inspire me.  I close the app and I feel tired and unmotivated to do anything at all.  I am done with it (hopefully for at least a longer stretch than just a week).  I am very intentionally training myself to pick up a book rather than my phone.  Similarly to the writing intention, I am not expecting to finish novels in just a couple days.  I am a slow reader. This week I have just been reading a chapter a day.   This may seem small, but it is a whole chapter more than what I previously would read in a day. To me, it is not about going through all the bookshelves.  It is about slowing down and just reading.  And not just reading to read, but really delving in and being invested to the people and the lives I read about.  This past week I keep having an image of myself as a little girl staying up past my bedtime reading The Boxcar Children in bed.  I can still remember how those books made me feel.  All I wanted was to be in bed reading about the adventures of Henry and Jessie and the other Alden siblings. I craved those stories.  For quite some time now, I have not craved reading like I used to.  I think schooling and being forced to constantly read material that was not always the most riveting created this lack of desire within me.  I also think I became tired.  Reading is more effort than Netflix.  Whatever the reason, I stopped reading for pleasure and I am really missing it.  I want to return to that little girl curled up reading The Boxcar Children.  Reading, along with listening to really great podcasts, fills me up.  It opens up my perspective and feeds my love for words and storytelling.  Reading is good for me, Instagram is not.  So here’s to hoping in 2019 I read more and scroll less.
  4. Invest In Friendships.  We are built for connection.  God intended for us to live in community.  I love community and I love people, but I am learning more and more that I am naturally more introverted.  It takes more internal convincing and pushing to get myself out to meet with friends.  I always leave a phone call, a brunch, a walk with a friend in such a better mood and mindset.  I love connecting.  I long for connection, but I often times forget that this is a need of mine.  This year, I want to be more intentional about having an open schedule and calendar that allows for planned meetings with friends and even last-minute ones (because sometimes these impromptu meetings are the most important ones).  Friendship is a gift of God.  He is so kind to place people in our lives that make us laugh and make us better.  I never want to be too busy to take the time to invest in the friendships I already have and reach out to make new ones as well.  This year one of my hopes is to be slow to say no when it comes to friends and connection.
  5. Take Sabbath More Seriously. Recently, I have been extremely convicted in not taking the Sabbath as seriously as I should.  When I was running in college, I used to be annoyed that our coach always had long runs on Sundays.  The longest run of the week was on the day that was meant for rest.  I felt like I could not fully practice a Sabbath when I was running 12 miles at 7am on Sunday morning.  Now I am no longer tied to this obligation of Sunday long runs, yet still I find myself not fully embracing the Sabbath.  I still find myself scrambling to get things done even on a Sunday.  I am not fully satisfied with the work that I have done, so feel like I still need to get a few loose ends taken care of.  This is not the Lord’s desire for us.  If even the Lord needs the seventh day to rest, how much more I need it.  He does not care how clean our house is by Sunday; he wants us to rest regardless the state of our home or the length of our to-do list.  So much of my days and weeks are filled with obligations and things I must do, I really want to strive towards using the 6 days of the week in more intentional ways that will open up my Sundays so I can really have no agenda other than church and small group.

Did you notice that word open pop-up in each of the 5 intentions?  2019, my hope and prayer is that I can live out these intentions, not with obligation or pressure, but with joyful willingness because I know these things will allow me to ultimately be more open to your will in my life.