Reflections Blog Tag

Happy Friday!

Today I’ve got another fun – but also very meaningful – post, as I was tagged to participate in the Reflections blog tag! JadeSky over at Stepping Stones Book Reviews tagged me (you can find her post here), and I knew instantly that this was something I wanted to participate in. In essence, the tag asks just one question:
What are eight things God has blessed you with and/or taught you in 2020?

A lot changed in 2020. Most are changes that have continued into 2021, and will likely continue for years to come. And while we’re very quick to think of the hard changes – the ones we don’t like or want, I for one am far less likely to dwell on all the good things.

And there were plenty of good things. Plenty of blessings. I learned a lot in 2020…about life, about people, about love, and most of all, about God.

So today, I’d like to share eight of the things I learned and was blessed by in 2020. I hope to hear your stories as well!

In 2020, I…

Graduated High School

Yup, I was one of the high-schoolers that got to graduate in 2020! As difficult as it made planning, and as much as I sometimes wished that our ceremony could have been held as normal, I wouldn’t change how it turned out in the end. Though it was postponed and very different than what we’d originally planned, my class did get to have an in-person ceremony, and I’m very grateful.

Before COVID broke out, I’d seriously considered going to a local technical school to learn physical therapy. After COVID happened, and because I wasn’t sure that physical therapy was what God was calling me to, I decided to take a gap year of sorts instead, and try out some things I’d wanted to experiment with. Things such as writing different genres of novels, starting a website/blog, getting involved in indie publishing, volunteering with certain organizations, working more, taking misc. classes, reading lots, and helping my family with some house projects. I’ve been very blessed by all the opportunities.

Got to Start This Website/Blog

As I just mentioned above, one of the biggest blessings I received in 2020 was the chance to start this website! My first post was on September 18th, 2020, and now, six months and fifty-eight posts later, I’m incredibly glad I did. What started as a way to begin my indie publishing journey and reach people with my stories has branched into so much more. I’ve gained valuable practice expressing my thoughts via writing, and have also had the privilege of meeting other bloggers and – I pray – encouraging those who read my thoughts.

And as for indie publishing, that’s something I really hadn’t even considered until last year. As I talked about in my post here, I always thought that traditional publishing was the only ‘real’ kind of publishing. And because that was so hard to do, I told myself I could never be published, and that I’d never be able to share my writing with the general public. However, thanks to a writing conference, supportive mentors and parents, a well-timed collection of books and courses, and a lot of prayer, I’ve discovered that indie publishing is just as valid – and a much better fit for me and the stories I’m called to tell.

Attended a Writing Conference/Workshop

This is something that came about directly because of all the lockdowns and quarantining – a precious example to me of how God can bring so much good from hardship. Last minute, the OYAN (One Year Adventure Novel) Summer Workshop had to switch from being in-person in Kansas to being online – which meant that suddenly I could attend! I learned so much from all the speakers, extra activities and classes, and my mentor appointment with one of the speakers (Allen Arnold, author of The Story of With), and it was a huge highlight of my year.

Some of my absolute favorite parts of the workshop were the daily critique groups, with fellow authors about my age. For several hours every afternoon, we shared (approximately) four-page excerpts of our novels and offered one another our thoughts, reactions, and suggestions for what could maybe be improved. I got grouped with some absolutely amazing, supportive, and helpful girls – girls that I’m very blessed to call good friends now – and we continue to meet every other week, almost 10 months after the workshop ended.

Wrote Over 281,000 Words of Fiction

Perhaps you’re sensing a pattern in what I did a lot of last year, haha! It was a very productive writing year for me, both in fiction novels and short stories, and in blog posts – as well as learning a lot about it all through the process. While I didn’t keep track of wordcounts for blog posts, I did participate in a challenge to see how many fiction words I could write in one year (from Jan. 1st 2020, through Dec. 31st, 2020), and my final count was 281, 222 words!

Included in that count were two new rough drafts of novels, a screenplay, three short stories, two rewrites of novels, and a couple pieces of flash fiction. I also worked on outlining four novels and am looking forward to writing the rough drafts off the two outlines I didn’t use last year! I guess when you take a writer with far too many story ideas and contain them at home for months at a time, you end up with a lot of things written, haha! It’s been a great opportunity to grow and learn about the craft, and I’ve loved it.

Spent More Quality Time With Family

Hey, something not about writing! Haha. Another huge blessing from last year was simply the extra time I got to spend with my family. Without heading off to college or moving out, and with being at home more than usual anyway, my family and I got to do a lot more together. We were already very close – for which I’m extremely grateful – but every moment was and still is another chance to grow even closer. Throughout the year, there were many movies watched, games played, stories shared, good conversations, and opportunities to learn together.

Honestly, that has been one of the best parts of the pandemic for me. Not that any of it has been easy, but it’s been such a blessing watching as many families have grown closer together as a result of last year. There’s something about being thrust together for every hour of every day that really forces you to get to know someone. Of course, there will be tension, but if people try, there can also be a deep new closeness. I rejoice with every family experiencing that new layer in their relationships with loved ones.

Figured Out Food Intolerances

I’ve struggled with feeling poorly for years – about five years to be exact – and no matter what we’ve tried, my family and I haven’t been able to figure out what causes it. Nausea, abdominal pain, and just feeling very sick, especially later in the day and evening. Very little has ever helped it. Late in 2020, I finally prayed and told God that I was going to stop searching for ways to fix it. I was going to just accept my ‘thorn in my side’ so to speak, and trust that He was going to work through it. It was an extremely hard thing to do, but afterward, I felt peace.

Shortly afterward, I read an article by someone who described almost exactly the same thing I dealt with, and she talked about an elimination diet called the FODMAP diet that changed everything for her. Huge lightbulb moment. I ended up trying a four-month plan that stripped a lot from my diet and, in the process, I discovered foods I never would have thought could cause issues. I’m still discovering ‘trigger foods’, but when I leave those out, I feel amazing! God answered my prayers for health in an amazing way last year – even after I decided to stop asking Him about the issue. And staying home so much really helped me to follow the diet properly, without stressing about what to do with food outside the house.

Learned to Trust God – With Everything

I wish I could say that I never struggle to trust God any more. That 2020 gave me the ability to be perfect in my trusting Him and committing everything into His hands. Unfortunately, that’s far from true – but God did help me make leaps and bounds in the right direction last year. I spent a lot of time in prayer, Scripture reading, and reflection, focused on trusting Him, and it changed me! It was almost disconcerting at first, not reacting to cancellations and disappointments like I normally would. Instead of sulking or crying or getting upset, I was shocked to feel genuine peace and trust that God was working all things for good.

All things. The deaths and sicknesses, the overhaul of our graduation ceremony and senior banquet plans, the canceling of the play we were three weeks from performing, the masks, the social distancing and isolation, the physical aching to see loved ones and give and receive hugs again… Romans 8:28 was my special verse last year. Every day I came back to it and prayed that God would help me take it to heart. And I’m so very blessed that He helped me do just that. Every painful disappointment that I trusted Him with ended up leading to blessings I wouldn’t have received any other way.

Experienced God’s Provision in Every Way

This one really sums up all the other blessings I’ve listed above – and so many more that occurred in 2020. Above everything else is just the overwhelming blessing that God has provided. Everything. My physical needs through a job I got to keep, the ability to stay at home, the FODMAP research I discovered and could apply to my well-being…His provision enabled a warm house, plenty of food, clothes to wear, and enough finances to be able to share those blessings with others; such as through sponsoring children with Compassion International.

And He’s also provided emotionally and spiritually on an even huger level. When I grieved, He held me close. When I was missing the people I could no longer see or wouldn’t see for a long time – due to COVID and graduating – He showed me ways to keep in touch, and introduced me to more people who’ve become very close friends. When I felt fear and uncertainty over the future, He reminded me of His past works and showed me places where He was redeeming the darkness. He’s taught me, surrounded me with loved ones, and most of all, just stayed very close – and I can’t ever express how grateful I am.

Thank you for joining me today! I really enjoyed revisiting the many blessings and lessons God gave me in 2020, and I hope you enjoyed reading through them as well. Even in the midst of uncertainty, darkness, pain, and sorrow, God is present. Always. Forever. Closely. And He’s working it all out for ultimate good. Praise the Lord!

What did God teach YOU in 2020? How did He bless you in the midst of the hardships? I’d love to hear from you, so let me know your answers in the comments below!

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