December Reflections 2020

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends!

Do you have plans for the evening? We definitely do, even though our plans are looking a bit different than they have in the past.

This year, we’re staying in and celebrating New Year’s on the couch!

I have a soup and sourdough loaf ready for dinner. I have all the fixings for our traditional New Year’s Eve charcuterie board so we have plenty of snacks throughout the night. There’s also quite a bit of water kefir to go around for the kiddos and some sparkling wine for me and Dean. We have lots of games we can play together. We even saved our Yule Log and our traditional releasing ritual for tonight! (We usually do this on the Winter Solstice or on Christmas Eve.) 

All the Christmas decorations are still up, so the house is looking festive. We have our cozy pajamas on and plenty of throw blankets and pillows on all the chairs. The house is a comfortable 70 degrees, and there’s some folksy winter music playing lowly in the background.

I’d say we’re ready to party! Wouldn’t you?

December Reflections 2020

Each autumn I try to identify the lessons I’ve learned over the previous year and the things that I value in life. I call this autumn work, and one way I do this is by looking back over what I’ve shared on my social media feeds as well as the things that I’ve journaled about. In winter, I sit and think about these things — asking myself why I value them, what they say about me as a person, and what possibilities these things hold for me in the future.

While winter isn’t quite over, I do want to go ahead and share some of my thoughts on this past year with you which means it’s time for my traditional December Reflections post. I’ve been doing these for a couple of years now. You can find 2018 and 2019 here. It was really interesting to read over the last couple of years, looking at how we have grown and changed together during that time.

Each year I share my word for the year and how I embrace it (or didn’t!) as well as my word for the coming year. I also share things I’ve said yes and no to over the year, lessons I’ve learned, soul work that I’ve gone through, and what some of my goals are for the coming year.

2020 has been one doozy of a year, so I feel that this December Reflections post is a bit longer than my others! Regardless, I hope you enjoy reading through my 2020 reflections.

My Word for 2020

The word I chose for 2020 was “systems.”

Systems are basically like a set of steps you move through for those predictable areas of life. You know, those things you do over and over again. Having systems set up for this sort of thing helps you to finish things that need doing without having to think through how to do it each time it comes up.

While I wish I had embraced this word a bit more in 2020, the fact of the matter is that I only did it halfway.

As soon as the world seemingly stopped in March, thanks to the Coronavirus, I think I completely forgot all about my word for the year and simply went into a survival mode of sorts. 

While the effects of the virus didn’t really reach my little hometown here in upper East Tennessee until late fall of 2020, a lot of things did shut down and there were a lot of unknowns during the spring months. I think my mind just went to a place of focusing on priorities instead of thinking about how to make the routines of my life easier.

So while I probably could have done better with this word in this area in a normal year, I did actually establish a couple of systems in my life this past year. 

One system was our school schedule. I really feel that the way I laid it out this year worked well for us. We had a four-day school week, and each day we had a start and end time. The boys started their day with their independent work, and they knew when it needed to be finished, so I didn’t have to stay on top of them the whole time. We also had a set time for group work where we were all together. This also started and ended at a certain time. Lastly, we had lots of little things to help break the day up so it wasn’t school, school, school all day long. 

At the beginning of each school year, if I adjust our school rhythm in some way, it takes a bit of time for us to adapt to the changes, but the way we approached school in 2020 seemed to work really well for us. I’ll be doing all my hard-core school planning next month, so I’ll definitely update things here if I make any additional changes to this system.

The next system I incorporated was one for cleaning and chores. I started using the free FlyLady app on my phone, and it helps me to clean the entire house from top to bottom (for the most part) every 12 weeks. I have found that using this app helps me to stay on top of things better than I was before. No, things aren’t perfect. Yes, there are some things in the app that don’t apply to our home. Sometimes I even have to add little cleaning bits to my schedule that aren’t in the app. Nonetheless, I’ve found that it’s been helpful to have because it pops up on my phone every day at my scheduled chore time to alert me of what I need to do that day. I also don’t have to think about all the things that need to be cleaned in my home since the app does it for me!

I’ve also changed the boy’s chore schedule around as well. Before this year, the boys had to make their beds and clean their rooms every morning, and they had a different individual chore each day of the week. Each Saturday, the boys would all work together on one larger chore. However, that was also a lot for me to keep up with so we’ve switched things around and are taking a more seasonal approach with their chores.

At this point, each kiddo has a daily chore, and this chore is theirs for 3 months! This way they have time to learn and master their chore. When the seasons change, they will get a new chore. Each Saturday, instead of all the boys working on one large task together, everyone has individual tasks to do. This minimizes arguments and gives everyone more personal responsibility. 

The last system I incorporated this year was a better approach to meal planning and grocery shopping. This has always been an area of struggle for me, so this year I tried something new. I decided to start meal planning again, only this time, I decided to avoid internet recipes like the plague, and instead, only choose meals from one of my favorite cookbooks. While I’m not sticking with theme nights for dinners, I am trying to keep a good bit of variety in our meals each week (weekly soup, chicken, beef, fish, vegetarian, leftovers, etc.). I also tried to plan meals and do my grocery shopping for two weeks at a time rather than every single week. Lastly, I’ve been ordering groceries online and picking them up at the store. This saves me time and money since I’m not impulse buying.

So like I said earlier, I do feel that I could have done a bit better in this area this year, but when I look at the systems I did create, I feel good about them and what they’ve brought to our lives. Here’s hoping they continue to serve us in 2021! 

Yes and No

A couple of years ago I chose to say yes less and no more.

Why you might ask?

Well, I was feeling stretched pretty thin. I had taken on too much, and I felt like I couldn’t do all that was on my plate as well as I’d like.

This required a mindset shift, and it was not an easy task. However, I’ve kept up with it over the years, and it’s really helped me to feel like I can better manage my life.

So, in 2020, I said yes to:

  • Taking better care of my skin. (I’m in my mid-30’s, and I would totally like to go into my 40s looking as youthful and glowy as I can.)
  • Being smarter with our money. (Quality over quantity. Reuse if possible.)
  • YouTube and vlogging as a way to capture family memories, to connect with like-minded individuals, and to share what I know in a new way.
  • A new business with my hubbie. (More details soon!)
  • House projects galore so we can make our forever home exactly what we want and need.
  • Going back to school for clinical herbalism. (I’m not sure I’ll ever work as a clinical herbalist, but I’m a knowledge junkie!)
  • Embracing the homeschool life I want for myself and my kids. (Forgetting all of the “shoulda’s” and doing what works best for us! Focus on life-schooling versus exam-schooling. I’ll share more about this in 2021 after my big homeschool planning session.)

And I said no to:

  • Working for someone else. (Because, honestly, I need more time for priorities here at home.)
  • Filling every weeknight with activities and responsibilities that take me away from home. (I’m a borderline introvert/extrovert, so being out and about too much stresses me out.)
  • Feeling guilty or anxious for things I can’t control. (Queue the “Let It Go” lyrics here.)

Soul Work

This past year has been a challenge, not only physically and mentally, but spiritually as well. At least it has for me.

In spring, when quarantine began and restrictions were at an all-time high, I really had to re-evaluate some of the things that were spiritually fueling me. 

You see, I was raised in a Christian home where we were heavily involved in the church. Yes, every time the church doors were open, we were there. As an adult, my family and I are still heavily involved in our church, although our church is quite different from the one of my childhood. 

Regardless of how involved in the church I have always been, this year has taught me that my spiritual connection to God should not solely rely upon whether or not I’m inside of a church building each week. Yes, I personally believe that gathering together with other like-minded folks is extremely important. It keeps us connected, encouraged, and accountable, and it is not something I would ever want to forsake.

However, when church meetings were postponed, I felt a bit lost. Yes, I continued to keep up with my morning devotional rhythms, but not gathering and serving the way I was used to felt strange to me. I felt separated and distant, not only from my friends and acquaintances, but in a way, from God as well.

This sudden change of routine caused me to look deep into myself and ask myself the question, “In what is my faith truly rooted?”

The answer is something I’ve always known, but it’s obviously wasn’t something I thought about all that often.

My faith is rooted a this deeply intuitive knowing that the God of all creation created me with intention, that he has a purpose for my life, that he placed me when and where he did in time for a reason, that although I was separated from him, he loved me so much that he made a way to bridge the divide so we can be together, and that he wants to have a deep, meaningful, and connected relationship with me on a daily basis. He loves me, and he cares for me deeply. He is invested in little ole’ me.

When I sat down and thought this through, it helped me to see that my faith is indeed rooted in Him, not a church building or a weekly routine. I also learned first-hand that I truly could meet with God anywhere — in my bedroom, on a hike or out on the lake, or in a church building. I could meet with Him on my own, with my family, or with other like-minded friends. I mean, in my mind, I knew these things before, but I’d never really had the opportunity to experience what that actually looked like in my life.

So the soul work of 2020 was knowing that even if all my “normal” spiritual practices and rhythms are removed, I should still be able to remain grounded and established in the One who is the root of my faith.

As I realized my shortsightedness, I began to make changes to my daily routines that help me to connect with God on a deeper level. I don’t ever want to rely on a church building or a weekly meeting to fulfill me spiritually. I need to be able to connect with God’s spirit any and everywhere I am, and to know that He is what fulfills me.

With that said, for the time being, my morning devotions are consisting of reading scripture, not devotional writings from other individuals, spending time in dedicated prayer, and meditating and memorizing large passages of scripture. And just like the soul work I did in 2019, I’m still working toward being sensitive to God’s Spirit as He guides and directs me through life. I can’t tell you how much freedom this has brought and continues to bring to my life. 

Lessons Learned

2020 has most certainly taught me quite a few lessons. As I did my autumn work earlier this year, I identified some important lessons learned this past year.

  • Becoming in tune with my body and heart is important, not woo-woo. I need to learn to listen to myself and go with my gut. With that said, I also know how important it is to fill my mind and heart with things that are true, so I need to be selective with the things I expose myself to as they can positively or negatively affect me.
  • Anything worth doing will require effort, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated or hard all the time. At this season of my life, I need to remember to keep things simple and pursue things that feel easy.
  • Grab inspiration by the horns when it strikes and forgo all else until that inspiration fades away. Normal rhythms and routines can then resume.
  • Our home is the center of our universe during this season of life. I want to curate a home environment where my kids want to spend time, where friends look forward to coming for a visit, and where our minds can grow in knowledge and creativity. 
  • I am not in control. I can choose to stress, worry, and fret over situations in life, or I can let my experience and thoughts flow freely into my journal and share my feelings with close friends if needed in order to let it go. I have also found that I need to let things go over and over again as I have a tendency to pick burdens back up.

Future Plans

Okay, so here we are at the end of the year and the end of this crazy long post. If you made it this far, thank you for reading and letting me share my heart with you. I’d love to hear back from you in the comments below (or you can shoot me an email) about your thoughts on anything I’ve shared here today, or even something you’ve learned and reflected on from 2020.

While I’m not sure what 2021 holds, I am looking ahead in a positive light. I’m excited for our upcoming homeschool year. I’m excited to plan our next family vacation. I’m excited to see how God provides and directs us through this next year. I’m excited about the plans I have for Growing Up Herbal.

So with all of that said, I thought I’d share my word for 2021 with you.

I’ve taken some time to find the word that feels right for this next year — asking myself a lot of questions and exploring a variety of words and how they make me feel. Finally, I’ve whittled my way down to the word “tend.”

In 2021, I don’t want to put a ton of effort and energy into starting new things. Instead, I want to tend to what I already have going on — developing them more, nurturing them, and letting them grow as they will. I also want to be able to continue to tend to my home and family as well as the relationships I have with my friends. I want to get back on track with my fitness goals and tending to my own health needs as well.

So there you go, these are my 2020 December reflections. I’d love it if you share yours with me in the comments below (or link to them if you shared them on your own blog or social media feed)! 

Love and light, 

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