What Worked For Me in 2020

So many things didn’t work this year. The usual routines went out the window. I’ve got to admit — some of it was a relief to let go of. As an introvert, being told to erase everything off my calendar and stay home sounded like a dream come true. But the world outside my window told a different story. It seemed to convulse with distressing bad news. I wanted nothing more than to bring some order into the chaos, some compassion into the vitriol, some saneness into the crazy. I coped by finding some things that worked for me.

  • Walks. Walks around the neighborhood. Walks through the woods. Walks by myself. Walks with PB. The strolls provided more than exercise for the body — they offered a place for my soul to breath, a refresh for my mind, and some tranquility for my emotions.
  • Focus. That was the word I picked out as my theme at the start of 2020. After all — 20/20 vision, right? I can’t count how many times this year I breathed the prayer “Eyes on Jesus. Eyes on Jesus. Focus.”
  • Sermon notes. I saved some pages at the back of my planner for taking notes on sermons. This simple practice helped keep my mind from wandering on Sunday mornings and gave me food for thought in the week that followed. PB also loved it when I quoted him.
  • Blogging. In my 10 years at “a small drop of ink”, I’ve never written so many posts. There was a series on Psalm 23 in the spring and a series on “The One Anothers” in the fall, but my magnum opus was “The Long Song — Psalm 119”. I posted five days a week for 22 weeks, which surprised even myself. The conditions were right for lots of writing.
  • Food. Food worked for me in 2020. When I wasn’t writing, I was baking. Sweet rolls, bread, cookies, cakes. My son introduced me to Korean Beef and Mission Street Tacos. I read cookbooks like novels and have so many recipes earmarked, I’ll never live long enough to try them all. Comfort food is real.
  • Sewing. My sewing machine came out of hiding and I made my granddaughters dresses this summer. It was just the project I needed. Something creative and functional, pumped full of love.
  • Frother. Yes, a milk frother. A little cream in my coffee cup, worked up into a foamy lather and then steaming coffee poured in — such a small thing, but so delightful.
  • BRP (Bible Reading Plan). Every year I put together a plan that helps me stick to consistent study of God’s Word. While I did flounder a while and missed several weeks during the summer months, I got back on track in September because I had a plan. Those early mornings of study and prayer anchored my soul this year. The plan for 2021 is up and ready to go.
  • Words. So many people came through with helpful, encouraging words this year. One of the quotes I copied into my journal as I wrestled with the reality that the pandemic is a “marathon without a finish line” came from journalist, Alex Hutchinson.

It turns out that, if you ask yourself “Can I keep going?” rather than “Can I make it to the finish?” you’re far more likely to answer in the affirmative.

Yes. I can keep going.
We can keep going.
Even after we hit the pandemic finish line,
we will keep going.

God bless us, every one.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

Favorite Listens from 2020

I know.
I turned a verb into a noun.
(“Listens” are not persons, places or things).
Oh well.

Podcasts, apps and music provided for some wonderful listening experiences this year, so they are all lumped together here. The fact that I won a free pair of Airpods only enhanced the adventure of finding good “listens”. Podcasts, apps and music are very personal choices, so take these lists or leave them. But get something good in your ears.

Podcasts

  • Wild at Heart Podcast — I’ve always enjoyed John Eldredge and the content he and his team put out on “Wild at Heart”. This year I needed it. Every Monday, from the onset of the pandemic until now, he has been a calming voice in my ear. Yes, the world is “gnarly” right now. These days call for maturity. God draws near and is full of mercy. His messages kept my chin up and my eyes on Jesus.
  • Pastor Writer Podcast — A weekly talk about books, ministry and writing by Chase Replogle. Three of my favorite things. He’s a very humble guy and is a top-notch interviewer of real quality guests. Plus, he sent me the free Airpods.

Those are the two I try not to miss. Here are a few others I tune in to from time to time:
The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman
Knowing Faith, Jen Wilkin, JT English and Kyle Worley
The Habit: Conversations with Writers About Writing, Jonathan Rogers
Tony Evans’ Sermons, Tony Evans
The Village Church, Matt Chandler

Music

  • Grace and Mercy, Jess Ray (song)
  • Behold the Lamb of God, Andrew Peterson (album)
  • Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1, Andrew Peterson, (album)
  • Yet Not I, City Alight (album)
  • American Standard, James Taylor (album)
  • Song of the Lamb, Harvest (song)
  • Psalm 119, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Exodus Music (albums)
  • God So Loved, We the Kingdom (song)
  • Goodness of God, Bethel Music (song)
  • Psalm 116 (I Love You, Lord), Mission House (song)
  • No Doubt About It, We the Kingdom (song)
  • Evergreen, Audrey Assad (album)
  • Birdsongs (Time to Relax), (album)

Apps

  • Lectio 365 — a free 10-12 minute daily devotional by the 24/7 Prayer movement. It’s so good.
  • Dwell — a scripture listening app with 10 different voices to choose from. There are 64 Bible listening plans, 55 themed playlists, and 286 passages. This one isn’t free, but so worth it.
  • Libby — the library app that lets me borrow audio books. I plan to use this more in 2021.

Silence

  • This is also a very good idea.

Favorite Movies/Shows of 2020

When “Stay At Home” orders were issued in March, PB and I started taking a walk every evening. Then we would sit down and watch “The Andy Griffith Show”. Every evening. It was a routine that provided some comfort, a bit of stress relief and a little escape from the headline news.

We watched more TV than usual this year, something I ordinarily consider to be a colossal waste of time. But I discovered that it’s not all twaddle (trivial, silly or tedious). In fact, I welcomed the entertaining diversion and even learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite films and shows from 2020.

  • Little Women — I love every version ever made of this classic. PB and I saw this movie in a theater in January. Haven’t been inside a theater since.
  • The Great British Baking Show series (Netflix) — seasons 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Yep, we got hooked. I even bought a thermapen and a digital scale.
  • Somebody Feed Phil series (Netflix) — One of the happiest people on earth, traveling all over the world, eating amazing food. A perfect trifecta.
  • The Chosen series (free app) — The best Jesus film I’ve ever seen. Finally, a Jesus with personality. I have so much appreciation and respect for the director and his approach to this project. Beautifully done.
  • Chef’s Table – BBQ (Netflix) — Especially episode 1: Tootsie Tomanetz, an 85 year old pit master.
  • Lars and the Real Girl — A sweet movie about the power of community to help a young man work through mental health issues. Don’t let the blow-up doll throw you. We borrowed it from the library, but I bought a copy so I could make all my family and friends watch it.
  • Hamilton (Disney+) — PB and I saw the show in Chicago, but watching it in our living room, with subtitles on, was such fun. Then we watched it without subtitles. Twice.
  • Pioneer Quest series (Amazon Prime) — Two couples spend a year out on a Canadian prairie, living like it’s 1870. Filmed in 2000, it’s reality TV before it was a thing. I would have lasted a week. Maybe. Pioneers were tough folks. Alone series (Netflix) was a modern day version of survival in the Canadian tundra, but had a competitive twist. I would have lasted a day. Maybe.
  • The Crown series (Netflix) — Can’t stop watching those British royal historical dramas. Also Victoria (Masterpiece Theater – PBS)
  • The Mandalorian series (Disney+) — I never was a serious Star Wars fan, but it was fun watching this series with our son and daughter-in-law every Friday night this fall. Mando is so cool.
  • Enola Holmes (Netflix) — A smart, quirky mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes’ sister, Enola. Pure fun.
  • A Most Beautiful Thing (Amazon Prime) — A documentary about four young men from rival gangs from Chicago’s west side who became a rowing team.
  • The Movies That Made Us (Netflix) — The behind-the-scenes stories of how movies got made. We just watched the “Home Alone” episode. Then we caught the “Elf” episode on The Holiday Movies That Made Us. The insider information produced in an engaging style was interesting and entertaining.
  • Just Mercy — PB and I saw this in a theater in January, too. We didn’t know then how poignant this film would become in the coming year. As I write this, I am reminded of a quote from my #1 book of the year, “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers”.

“But God, being rich in mercy…” (Ephesians 2:4) Nowhere else in the Bible is God described as rich in anything. The only thing he is called rich in is: mercy. In his justice, God is exacting; in his mercy, God is overflowing.

Dane Ortlund

May the same be said of His people in the coming year.

That’s just a sampling! We watched about 50 movies/television series this year. I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I also feel no shame! After all, it was 2020. Got any film recommendations to get me through the winter?