July 12 - December 31, 2020

July 12, 2020
» faith workout

"Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary."
~ Isaiah 40:31 New American Standard Bible

According to one modern-day proverb, when we pray for patience, although we tend to expect an instantaneous transformation in which our impatience is completely removed, God responds by providing opportunities to put patience into practice.

I'm starting to suspect that it's a similar process with learning to trust God. The answer to my heart's desire for a stronger faith may include situations that can give my faith muscles a workout.

Lately, for me, those situations often take the form of a sudden change that initially sparks a rush of anxious thoughts. I have to push past my emotions and refocus, grab onto faith and let go of fear, as I wait expectantly to see the good way God is going to work in this.

And in those small steps, my faith is made a little firmer.

August 8, 2020
» no news

A status report... recycled from my latest email to Michele. ;)

I still check the local news websites (for updates that directly relate to my life), but like you, I shun the Yahoo's, the MSN's, etc. Primarily because I realized that a disproportionate number of their so-called headlines are merely speculation. ["XYZ says the pandemic could deplete the world's supply of widgets!" :| Oh, it COULD? Then it also could NOT. Remember the good old days, when the news stuck to the facts??] Plus, even their valid reports can provide additional things to worry about. "No widgets?! Oh NO! I HADN'T EVEN THOUGHT OF THAT!!" :FretFretFret:

I'm sorry you've been anxious. Believe me, you're not alone -- and I don't think it's just the two of us, either! Especially when my work doesn't exactly keep my brain engaged, and my mind tends to camp out on worst case scenarios. More and more, I find myself turning on the radio to WayFM. The DJs consistently offer a positive, Biblical perspective, and song after song speaks deeply to my struggles. Many of the lyrics can double as a prayer, as in two of my top current favorites: "Peace Be Still" by Hope Darst and "You Already Know" by JJ Heller.

November 21, 2020
» those things I do, 2020 edition "climbing out of the rubble"

"It's been a hard year
But I'm climbing out of the rubble"
"Less Like Scars" by Sara Groves

While outlining thoughts for each of my annual reflections, I've considered using the quote above to wrap up the post, as a summary.

Then came 2020! Those lyrics seem spectacularly appropriate as I look back at life this year. For me, adventures in pandemia have included...

* Sinking in a river of tears. Count me among those who initially fell apart. As the coronavirus continued to ransack life as we know it, I found myself wearied by an old battle's prolonged new attack. For weeks, if I wasn't melting into tears, I was staring at the floor, shell-shocked and stuck on worst-case scenarios.

* Looking up, pressing on. A modified mental diet -- especially turning off the news -- helped give my outlook a boost. More than that, I was reminded of a lesson from dark days not so long ago: anxiety, not answers, tends to follow a laser focus on the details of my situation. The only path I've found to peace is to process my circumstance through the lens of faith, trusting that just as I've seen God work in past struggles for my good, I can trust him with "even this."

* Virtual officing. My co-workers and I were sent home in March and have continued to work remotely since then.

* Feelin' the burn... discomfort and malaise. In the true spirit of 2020, my body added distress with an extended flareup of the mystery ailments I collectively refer to as My Condition. Since February, a couple dozen aching, off-kilter body spots have supplied a vicious cycle of discomfort that dominated my thoughts even more than the pandemic.

* Growing my hair. My sole haircut for this year occurred in January, and it may be spring before I'm brave enough to visit the salon. Fortunately, I kept the hair clips, bobby pins, and ponytail holders from the intervals when I had, according to one schoolmate, "[darn] hippie hair."

* Going (Facebook) live. More than once I contributed to my church's online Bible studies by joining the teacher for a discussion of the week's lesson.

* Showing some skin. My first ever visit to the dermatologist was a win-win, with an a-okay for the spots I was concerned about and options for follow up, if needed, on another potential issue.

* Tending to the walking wounded. My mother fractured her arm right before Columbus Day, and that necessitated a whole new wave of schedule adjustments.

While 2020 has been something else (to say the least!), plenty of years have deviated wildly from my expectations. Now, as then, I can crumble or grow. Growing is hard, but (to paraphrase a quote I heard this week) crumbling brings some hard consequences, too. As I see it, growing is the more worthwhile choice. So, some days I can truly appreciate the ever-shifting "normal" as a refreshing change of scenery. Other days, I fall to feeling frustrated and overwhelmed... but more and more, I'm recognizing that doesn't mean I've hopelessly blown it. Bad days and good days are both part of the faith-building process. And so I can take a breath and keep going -- even if it's only the tiniest step forward.

December 31, 2020
» a year in review - 2020

1. What did you do in 2020 that you'd never done before?
appeared on Facebook live, attended a high school reunion, participated in a cookie decorating class, edited photos at pixlr.com, visited the dermatologist, ordered groceries online, streamed my church's worship service, used the dictation feature of Microsoft's Office 365

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
For 2020, my theme was to simplify. The pandemic contributed to that effort, minimizing my routine and offering a crash course in taking one step at a time. With fewer schedule-related activities, I had a chance to gain ground in streamlining various areas of home storage.
For 2021, I've identified a need to improve communication with my family. Actually, I've already started. And, unlike with past relationships, I'm inviting the other person into the process. For example, I'm being transparent when I'm clueless about the next step, and asking their input.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
In September, my childhood friend, Angela, passed away. :*( We mostly lost touch after I changed schools in 8th grade, but I'll always remember the fun we had on the elementary school playground.

5. Where did you travel?
Only locally, and little of that. This was probably the least travel of any year in my adult life. Even my former one-hour-each-way commute was cut to a 30-second walk to my home workstation.

6. What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?
the ability to move forward on my plans for my own home

7. What date or event from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory?
Aside from the obvious pandemic-related events -- the world grinds to a halt, aisle after aisle of empty store shelves, etc. -- two smaller-scale happenings: the washer flooded the kitchen, and a snake(!!!) got stuck in one of the windows(!!!).

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
In January, while I looked forward to my class reunion, I was intimidated by its potential for awkward chitchat. So I prepared brief answers to questions I could expect, and I braced to not be thrown if some responses seemed a bit cool. Mostly I told myself to RELAX and have fun with it. And, I'm happy to report, I had a blast! Plus, this experiment could be a gamechanger; I'll go forth armed with the knowledge that I can indeed make conversation. #WhoKnew? #ColorMeStunned :D

9. What was your biggest failure?
I've stewed a lot over perceived slights by someoneā€¦ until the oh-so-humbling day I understood that I've been guilty of treating them the same way.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes, significant illness. From February until the present, a couple dozen recurring ailments -- some new, bizarre and concerning -- have supplied a vicious cycle of discomfort that dominated my thoughts even more than the pandemic.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
big thing: hiring someone to mow the yard
small thing: a lamp, for next to my evening chair

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My high school classmates. Their kindness at the reunion has me thinking I should have ventured to speak up back in the day! <3

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
a certain person and two never-before scenes that left me reeling, sad that now I so often feel as if I don't know them anymore

14. Where did most of your money go?
To replacing several household things: washing machine, TV, coffeemaker, toaster, bathroom heater, hair dryer, computer keyboard, my fitted sheet.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
little things, such as walking in warm sunshine, the store having my favorite cereal, and the assortment of birds that frequently visit the window next to my desk

16. What song will always remind you of 2020?
Probably "Takes A Little Time" by Amy Grant. Plenty of mornings I'd wake up and be tempted to fall apart, and I'd repeat the lyric, "Well it may not be over by morning, but Rome wasn't built in a day." Then, praise the Lord, I was able to focus eyes of faith past the current body aches, the loneliness, the rampant uncertainty and anticipate a better day. A day when the proverbial Rome is finally built.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
Happier or sadder? definitely weighed-down and weary from the struggles
Older or wiser? OLDER!
Thinner or fatter? about the same
Richer or poorer? about the same

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
let go of what I can't control

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
"circling in deeply rutted paths"

20. Did your heart break?

21. How did you spend Christmas?
In our usual way. My mom, sister and I opened our gifts around nine-thirty, after I set up our low-frills video camera. I took pictures of our decorations and unwrapped gifts, and worked on computer projects before making lunch. The fam and I ended the day watching DVDs. One difference was that a bitterly cold polar blast had us struggling to keep warm all day.

22. How will you spend New Year's Eve?
I took the day off from work. I finished these questions and continued preparing for my year-end computer file backup. Later, the fam and I plan to watch DVDs, and then ring the new year in as we typically do: sleeping.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
I'm rediscovering my extreme fondness for childhood fave Knight Rider. I admit this somewhat sheepishly since, only a few years ago, I listed it among shows I was "over." After a futile search for TV options that are light and fun, KR came to mind; "It's cheesy," I reasoned, "but I *love* cheese! GIMME!" XD

24. What were your greatest food discoveries?
Two ingredient drop biscuits. And for breakfast, toast (usually French bread) topped with canned sliced, stewed tomatoes... it may sound weird, but I find that the mildly-flavored tomatoes produce a tasty, pizza-y effect.

25. What was the best book you read?
Since I found myself with regular times of unplugged waiting, I started re-reading "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The songs at WAYfm repeatedly surprised me with encouragement on the days when I would've said my heart was too heavy to look up.
Also, while radio-surfing, I stumbled on a classic country music station, which brought to light a strong affinity for the voice of Mr. Waylon Jennings.

27. What did you want and get?
Although we each had distinct bumps, my family and I stayed in good health overall.

28. What did you want and not get?
for our church to be able to safely meet again

29. What was your favorite film?
I only saw a few repeats of ones in my collection; of those, I enjoyed the 1990's remake of "Sabrina." I hadn't seen it in so long, I watched with a fresh appreciation for some details I'd missed before.

30. What did you do on your birthday?
took the day off of work, computered after breakfast, did some socially-distanced shopping, fixed lunch, took pictures of my purchases, loaded new audiobooks (of the Bible) onto my MP3 player, went for a walk -- twice, fixed supper, thanked the well-wishers at Facebook, and finished the day watching DVDs

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
less drama

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?
To borrow a phrase, I frequently changed from my night pajamas into my day pajamas. Working from home most of the year, I aimed for a notch above "day pajamas" during business hours, to help keep me in Work Mode.

33. What kept you sane?
As I wrote to Michele, "... even with so many low days, I'm thankful that this latest experience has again brought home the beautiful truth that our faith grows as we observe God at work in our lives. It's given me much-needed practice pressing on in faith in spite of my feelings and circumstances."

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
James Garner as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files

35. What social or political issue or news story stirred you the most?
At first, I closely (read "obsessively") followed stories about the pandemic, checking for reports every couple of minutes. Finally, taking the advice of the mental health experts, I turned off the news and quickly witnessed an improvement in my outlook.

36. Who did you miss?
my sweet church family, especially our Wednesday night Bible study crew

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I was reacquainted with some former high-school classmates.

38. What changed the most in your life this year?
Few things *didn't* change. I blogged about ways 2020 has rocked my world.
An addendum to that post: for now I'm okay with skipping the haircuts. As it turns out, I identify as a "long-haired, freaky" person. ;)

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020.
I can avoid a lot of frustration if I hold my plans and expectations with a loose hand.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"I know your heart's been broke again
I know your prayers ain't been answered yet
I know you're feeling like you got nothing left
Well, lift your head, it ain't over yet..."
~ "Move (Keep Walkin')" by TobyMac


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