Goodbye 2020. Hello 2021!

Most years on December 31st, I write a blog post reflecting on the past year and make some sweeping declarations of what went right, what went wrong, and then give some encouragement on how we all can be better in the coming year. I started writing that post this morning, and abandoned it shortly afterward. This year, it all just feels…different.

Certainly many have tried over the last few days and weeks to encapsulate this year into words. It’s a challenge. Even now, sitting here beginning to write this post for the second time, I’m struggling to focus. We’ve just experienced a year unlike any other – a global pandemic, a particularly hostile election, civil and political unrest, wildfires that ravaged entire communities, and continued terror across the globe.

Everyone I know is exhausted.

That’s why, this year, I’m not going to add to the noise. I’m not going to talk about the struggles of the year – the anxiety, the politics, the deconstruction. It’s certainly been a really challenging year – even for those of us that have made it through relatively shielded from the worst parts of 2020 – but we’ve all heard enough about the hardships.

Instead, I want to look forward, into a hopeful future, even if the near future promises to look a lot like the not-so-distant past. While things may not change much as the clock strokes midnight tonight, let us for a moment acknowledge that heaviness, and point our heart toward hope.

This time each year, many of us talk of resolutions. We seek a healthier life, better habits, or to finally accomplish that goal that’s been alluding us. Oftentimes, those resolutions fall by the wayside in February (or let’s be honest, by mid-January). I didn’t make resolutions last year, and thank goodness for that, as I’m sure it all would have fallen apart when the pandemic set in. Maybe you did make resolutions, and the uncertainness of this year just washed away any hope you had of attaining them. Let me say this without judgment or reservation – if you didn’t reach all your goals in 2020, I have great news. Welcome to the club, you made it, and you get a pass.

So we’re looking ahead to 2021. I want to offer only encouragement, and perhaps a practical way you can set some new resolutions even in an uncertain time. This year, we as a family are going to focus on two very simple concepts for the new year.

  1. Looking In – what can we work on internally to learn, grow, stretch, and heal?
  2. Reaching Out – what can we put into action that has a positive impact on the world around us?

It’s really that simple. Nothing complicated.

If it helps you to make it measurable (a specific number of pounds, chapters written in your novel, or even the number of days you changed out of your pajamas), then go for it. For me, progress is more important than the end result, and maybe just being healthier physically or spiritually in 2021 is a more attainable outcome than something more specific. Either way, the questions should be simple, am I a better human being today than I was a year ago, and did I point people toward hope in tangible ways?

So here’s what we’re working on as a family this year with those two concepts. We’d love it if you’d share some of yours in the comments below or on social. We’d love to be a source of encouragement and accountability in 2021.


Looking In

As a Family

  • More intentional outside family time. We know our life from the outside looks like one big camping trip, but that’s not reality. We spend a lot of time working, behind our computers, and watching TV. This year, we’re going to be outside more. That could be a hike, a bike ride, a picnic, or just sitting in our chairs around a fire – quality time is the key.
  • Recognize joyful moments every day. When we go to bed each night, we ask Baron for “three good things” from that day. Sometimes they’re big things, and sometimes it’s just some funny meme or video we saw. Finding and creating joy in the midst of a difficult season couldn’t be more important. We want to continue this daily tradition in 2021.

Harlan

  • Read more. In 2020, I wanted to read 12 books. I didn’t make it, but I was close. For 2021, I’m just planning to read more than I did last year.
  • Cook something from my TikTok at least once per week. I LOVE cooking. My wife will attest that I am obsessed with chefs on TikTok. It’s my not-so-secret shame. But how many of those recipes have I actually prepared. One. Exactly one. That changes in 2021.
  • Ride my bike A LOT more. I’ve started mountain biking in the last couple of months of 2020, and it’s incredibly challenging for me for a lot of reasons. This is my one big health goal in 2021 – to make mountain biking less work and more fun.

Yvette (in her words)

  • Buy some plants (and keep them alive). I really want to be a plant person, but I often feel like my attempts look less like a thriving nursery and more like providing hospice care, easing their transition to go be with Jesus.
  • Find new ways to pursue art for myself. This year I’d like my art to be more of a relaxing creative outlet, even if it’s not instagram-worthy.
  • Don’t wear PJs all day. This may sound silly, but getting dressed and doing basic hair and makeup helps me to feel better and more ready to take on the day. We’ve worked from home a long time, and this cycle is hard to break.

Reaching Out

We decided this would be a better list as a family, because all of us have similar goals. In 2021, this is how we’re reaching out:

  • Be intentionally generous. We want to give more of our income to communities and causes that we believe in. We believe being generous is core to our faith, and we want to be better about it. Practically speaking, we’re making a list, and taking the steps to give to that list.
  • Find more volunteer opportunities. It’s difficult for us to commit to one specific thing on a regular basis as a service project. But we’d like to do more than just visit these communities that we travel to. This year, we’d like to find at least one good thing to do to serve the community wherever we land. Maybe that’s picking up trash on a hike, helping at an animal shelter, or providing for someone in need.
  • Connect better with our community. We’re naturally introverts. That was ok when we had built-in time that forced us to connect with people. As we discovered when we started traveling (pre-pandemic!), staying engaged and connected with our community was a much bigger challenge than we anticipated. One thing the pandemic has done is put everyone in that same space, and created even more need for us to use the tools available and be intentional. We think about our family and friends constantly, and we could all be better about letting them know.

It’s incredibly difficult to make sweeping resolutions of life change when you have really no idea what your life will look like in the coming year. We’ve tried to be as open and flexible with ours as possible. None of them are impossible, regardless of what society throws at us. But most importantly, all of them have room for grace. It’s very likely we’ll look back on 2021 and find out that we didn’t accomplish all we hoped. But then again, maybe we’ll surprise ourselves and discover things we never thought to put on the list in the first place.

Be flexible with your resolutions. If you need some accountability, reach out and get it. If your resolutions need to be monthly rather than yearly, do it! If you need to ditch all the resolutions and just let it be, then let it be.

Be encouraged. Give yourself and others some grace. Forgive someone this year. Love deeply. Speak intentionally. Listen more.

Here’s to a healthy, joyful, hopeful 2021!


1 reply on “Goodbye 2020. Hello 2021!”

  1. Laurie Bowling says:

    Love you guys! Looking forward to see where life takes you this year. Love seeing your pictures and adventures! Tommy and Laurie. Happy new year!

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