Though it’s been my practice for a decade now, I admit that I found it hard—and deceptively simple—to write down a list of “things” that improved this particular year. Hard, because I’m deeply aware that we’ve been spared much of 2020‘s toughest challenges. Simple, because I can think of dozens of separate people and circumstances that have improved on the basic difficulty of this difficult year. In the end, begin this new year thankful for the ways we have grown and more aware than ever of the deep brokenness of the world around us, hoping that this list begins to unfold the complexity that I’ll be sorting out for ages yet.
- Rain Suits: This year, I resolved to take the kids outside every day. In 2020, this ended up being a far more important and useful practice than I anticipated, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the yellow waterproof suits that the girls spent what felt like half of those days wearing. Really, all weather IS outside weather, as long as you have the right clothes. Runner Up: Rubber boots and a waterproof jacket in the size I am now (as opposed to the size I was ten years ago).
- A Yard and a Patio: Specifically, the yard in my parents’ rented city cottage, conveniently near ours, and the little patio that Timmy transformed into a presentable hangout spot. So thankful for an outside space that felt safe and secluded for playing with the girls, and for the friends who came to visit for socially distant birthday parties, movie nights, and afternoon chats. I only saw a few faces this year, but the chance at even that much interaction was such a gift.
- Zoom & Marco Polo: More than any time since moving back from Germany, technology formed an integral link to friends, family, school and church. I attended Zoom meetings, birthday parties, baby showers, and happy hours, and spent many pleasant mornings listening to the recorded messages of mom friends near and far. In a year that could have been (and sometimes was) incredibly lonely, I’m thankful for the ways that we were able to reach out.
- Movement: Without the regular outside-the-home commitments, I found ways to exercise regularly for the first time in years, and our family took more walks together than we have since moving to Seattle, enjoying seeing the changing seasons on the 3-mile loop around Greenlake.
- Writing: With the wise and gentle guidance of a book coach (and also my friend from Germany), Dani Abernathy, I planned and outlined a novel I’d like to write someday. This project took up the spring and summer, and gave a fun creative outlet in the midst of an increasingly scary and uncertain time. Perhaps next year I’ll have the time to do the research that is the next step towards writing it!
- Legos: As far as family activities go, this was the year of the LEGO. We built through my brother’s and my childhood sets, assembled several Frozen structures (several times each), and worked for weeks on one massive castle, whose construction we’ve decided to make an annual event. It was a good year for building, and we loved this activity that we could share with our five-year-old.
- Podcasts: I’m about a decade late to this game, but this was the year I really got into podcast listening. As the national conversation centered on issues of race and politics, I found The 1619 Project, Nice White Parents, and The Last Archive incredibly moving and thought-provoking, causing me to ask questions about our world and my place in it.
- Preschool: Luci began preschool this year, another of our Zoom commitments, and it has been a delight to see her come alive in the presence—even virtually—of her talented teacher and the little class of peers. I look forward to the learning that looms in her future, and have been overwhelmed with gratitude for this wholly different, but still so excellent, opportunity for my daughter this year.
- Earrings: Sometime after having children, I stopped wearing earrings. This year, I started again. And in a year when pajamas stayed on longer, and went on earlier, my few pairs of earrings created a small but meaningful way to feel awake and pretty, along with the tiniest of celebrations that my youngest child will no longer threaten to tear them from my ears.
- Bread: I know that this isn’t the most original feature of 2020, but bread really was important to me this year. Not just because it’s delicious, though it is, but because making it was something beautiful and (mostly) predictable that came from all the staying at home, both a symbol and a product of the slow rhythms that this year brought to our lives. I’d been baking it before, and will continue, but this year more than ever I was grateful for this small practice. And also for my baker sister who sold me most of the flour for this endeavor, no small feat when flour was scarce.
As we enter this new year, I also want to thank you for reading what I’ve written here. Whether you’ve been with me since the missionary days, or this is your first visit to the blog, I hope that you find encouragement and truth here amongst the bits of what I’m learning these days. There are endless things to read, I know, so I deeply appreciate that you’ve chosen to spend a bit of this valuable time with me. Praying for grace, healing and growth in this new year, for all of us.