Reflecting on some Unexpected Gifts in 2020

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2020 has been ____________.

Well. Let’s see. Where to begin?

We could finish that statement in a variety of ways, right? And maybe most of the predicates we’d use to complete that sentence would tend to be negative.

But as I reflect on the end of one year and the beginning of the next, I’m struck by how many gifts have come out of 2020 in my own life. Good things. Unexpected blessings emerging out of all the chaos and crazy of 2020.

I’d love to invite you to join this conversation in the comments. Tell us your own unexpected blessings from 2020. Have there been lessons learned? Perspectives shifted? Goals achieved? I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

{This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclaimer.}

Unexpected Gifts from 2020

It’s not just a closet, it’s an office

I never really wanted John to work from home. It seemed like we’d all be a little too much in each other’s space. But now on the rare days when he’s not working in his home office (aka our bedroom closet)? I really miss him!

I love the time saved on commutes. I love that he doesn’t have to wake up so early and can get a little more rest. I love that I can sneak in and give him hugs when he’s listening to a long zoom meeting. I love just knowing he’s here!

I don’t think things will ever go back exactly to the way they were before, at least not at John’s current job. This year has given us the opportunity to adjust and figure out ways to make a home office work for our family. And I’m loving it!

There’s a podcast for that

Do you remember the first podcast you ever listened to or the first blog you ever read? My first podcast experience was the “Joy the Baker Podcast” probably 10 years ago. I loved the sometimes random and always hysterical conversations between the 2 co-hosts, and I dreamed of one day having a podcast myself.

(The first blogs I ever read around the same time were The Art of Simple and Simple Homeschool by the way, but that’s a topic for another day.)

In the decade since Joy the Baker, I’ve listened to (and loved) a lot of podcasts. (Some of my favorites are here.) And in the back of my mind, there was always this crazy idea that maybe, just maybe, one day I could host my own podcast. It seemed like such a crazy dream that I didn’t think it would ever really happen.

But in the middle of all the other crazy of 2020, my crazy dream came true! 43 episodes later, “Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology” is a weekly interview show chatting with a variety of real-life homeschool moms, dads, and other educators. I had to learn some basic audio editing, I got to buy a grownup microphone, and I’ve been able to talk to some of the people I look up to the most.

Homeschool Conversations has been such a delightful surprise project in 2020, and I look forward to continuing to bring scintillating, authentic conversations to your earbuds each week in 2021.

(Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the show, ok? It means so much and also helps other homeschool parents find the show!)

Pilates and Pelvic Prolapse

Those of you who have followed me on social media for a while may remember that in 2019 my issues with pelvic prolapse became significant. It was Not Fun. I spent summer 2019 going to a specialized physical therapist multiple times a week in addition to PT exercises on my own at home. Things improved quite a bit, but I quit PT at the end of the summer due to a combination of time/money issues.

I tried to keep up with some of the PT work at home, but as time went on, I began neglecting the work. It got super boring to do the same thing every day!

By early 2020, I was getting hints that my symptoms were coming back. I basically ignored it because Who Has Time For That?

But because 2020 shut down my regular gym and kept me from all my regular classes there, I had to look for something I could do at home. For many years I’ve enjoyed the Pilates workouts on the Balanced Life YouTube channel. Since I was saving money each month on the gym-membership-that-was-no-more, I decided to invest some of that savings in the Balanced Life membership, and I have been loving it!

My favorite thing is that the workout calendar for the month is completely done for me. I don’t have to make a decision. I just log in and it tells me which workout to do! And because there’s a different video each day, I never get bored. Some days I log in and basically get to stretch and breathe for 15 minutes. Those days are super fun surprises, let me tell you.

But the unexpected gift has been seeing an improvement in those nagging prolapse issues! I’m at least back to the level of health I had while actively participating in PT if not beyond.

If you’re looking for an at-home workout option for the new year, check out Balanced Life Pilates! You can try some of her videos for free on YouTube first to see if it is a good fit for you.

(Note: if you deal with urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, or any level of pelvic pain, you do not have to just grin and bear it. I highly recommend finding a pelvic PT specialist to kick start your recovery. The current improvement I’m experiencing from Pilates is most effective, I believe, because my PT gave me the tools I needed for alignment and mind/muscle/nerve connection. I also recommend getting a squatty potty. And those of you thinking this is TMI? At least 1 in 5 women will experience this issue, and a much higher percentage will experience severe issues who have born children. It can cause not only moments of extreme embarrassment, but it can also cause pain and a loss of quality of life. We need to be talking about this.)

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together

During the early part of 2020, like most places around the world, we were on a stay-at-home order in our state. Our church moved to Zoom. I would set up the laptop in the living room so I could play the piano while people at home sang hymns I couldn’t hear. My own family had to whisper sing in the other room, because we all know how weird that would have sounded if they’d been making their regular joyful noise. As soon as the hymn was over, I’d shut off my camera and run the laptop to the back room so we could hook the computer up to our big screen.

Everyone in their Sunday best, we’d sit around the living room while our pastor preached God’s Word to us from the desk in his home office. I’m so thankful for the sacrificial efforts of many in my church and in churches around the country to continue bringing the hope of the Gospel to those at home.

But it was not the same.

As I reflect back on 2020, the biggest takeaway for me is just how precious in-person worship and participation in the sacraments really is. As soon as the stay-at-home order lifted, my church found a way to resume in-person worship and the sacraments in a way that enabled most people to feel comfortable. My pastor reminds us that what unifies us is Jesus Christ, not our varying perspectives on any number of other matters.

I have never been so happy to be at church as I was that first Sunday back with the Lord’s people, singing Psalms and hymns, proclaiming our corporate confession of faith together, hearing God’s Word preached, and receiving the benediction from the Lord. And the first time we were able to partake of the Lord’s Supper together? I couldn’t help but cry.

The sad thing is that it is all too easy to forget just how joyous and precious this privilege is. You’d think I’d never feel grumpy on a Sunday morning ever again, but my heart has spiritual amnesia. I continue to pray that God will remind me of that urgency I felt earlier this year, and that I will never take for granted the assembling of the saints together.

Worship is worth sacrificing for. I pray I never forget that.  

(Want to hear more thoughts on worship and the rest God provides? Listen to my chat with my brother, Pastor Zachary Simmons.)

Hope for 2021

As I look ahead to 2021, I don’t know what the future may hold. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to predict back in December 2019 all that would occur in 2020 either for good or ill. But I know that my confidence and my hope is in the unshakeable anchor of my soul. I can rest secure in a God who “cannot deny Himself.” My Savior Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

So I rejoice in hope as I look to the future, knowing that “whatever betide, the promise assures us, ‘The Lord will provide.’”

Though troubles assail us, and dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail us, and foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
The promise assures us, “The Lord will provide.”

The birds, without garner or storehouse, are fed;
From them let us learn to trust God for our bread:
His saints what is fitting shall ne’er be denied
So long as ’tis written, “The Lord will provide.”

When Satan assails us to stop up our path,
And courage all fails us, we triumph by faith.
He cannot take from us, though oft he has tried,
This heart-cheering promise, “The Lord will provide.”

No strength of our own, and no goodness we claim;
Yet, since we have known of the Saviour’s great name,
In this our strong tower for safety we hide:
The Lord is our power, “The Lord will provide.”

“The Lord will Provide,” John Newton

Please tell your own stories of unexpected gifts from 2020 in the comments below!

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10 thoughts on “Reflecting on some Unexpected Gifts in 2020”

  1. I love this HONEST post. I was expecting some “we are all learning life lessons” post, and instead I am right there with you when it comes to the home office thing – and the prolapse. NOT FUN! Huge congrats on the podcast – what an awesome year for you!

    My big accomplishment this year was launching a Pinterest Management (VA) service called Pinterest DNA. This has long been a dream of mine – and what better time to start something new than 2020 lol. Anyway, I am loving this endeavor, and I am really loving bringing traffic to people’s businesses! I’d love it if you checked out my new Pinterest Management Services here!

    1. I’m so happy for you, Ginny, about your new endeavor. ❤ The month you managed my Pinterest was AMAZING! I can’t wait to see how Pinterest DNA takes off even more in 2021.

  2. The unexpected gifts this year include my husband working from home. It’s been nice to have him here and it’s been very practical for many reasons. One of the big ones is that we can share the car with two teen drivers – so helpful. Of course, I am not sure I’d trade it for the hardships, but it has been helpful.

  3. An unexpected gift of 2020 was being able to make more progress on our massive student loan debt (that once topped 325k). We have saved money on gas and other “fun stuff” and my husband was able to take on some additional projects, plus the moratorium on student loan interest helped our payments go toward principle, making a bigger impact. We now owe less than 90k– a huge accomplishment for us!

    Thanks for sharing your pelvic prolapse message. I also have suffered from some prolapse issues and am so thankful for finding a great PT + squatty potty + MUTU. It is so better to do something about it then just accept it as permanent!!!

    1. Wow, what a HUGE accomplishment! Congrats! I know that has taken dedication and perseverance and sacrifice. 🎉

      And thank you for sharing your experience with pelvic prolapse, too. I 100% agree that it’s better to do something about it. I wish more people talked about it so women would know we’re not alone.

  4. I learned some technology skills that I never thought I could learn. I was forced by needing to work from home to learn them, but I feel very thankful that I did and could learn all kinds of tech-y stuff!

  5. Many unexpected gifts this year, but one of my favorites has been the “bonus” time we’ve had with our college sons. As learning switched to remote, our sons have been home with us. In January 2020, I cried so many tears about my guys leaving the nest. Then in a way I never expected, we got them back in the nest again for MONTHS.

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