I started using The Next Right Thing Guided Journal by Emily P. Freeman in 2021, and at the end of the journal there’s a section to list out what worked and what didn’t throughout the year. I loved getting to read her list in her newsletter, and I also loved reading Ashlee Gadd’s list on her blog. In the spirit of reflection and sharing my stuff, I’m naming and sharing what worked and what didn’t for me in 2021.
Using a Bible reading plan
My church followed a 5-day/week reading plan that covered the whole Bible chronologically over the course of the year, and following along with the plan was one of the most transformative habits of my life. Completing the plan at the end of the year felt like a huge accomplishment, not because I could see each week of reading checked off as complete, but because (by God’s grace) I developed the discpline, desire, and habit of spending time in the Word at least once a day. This was the first time I read through the Bible in its entirety while focusing on the larger story of scripture, and the chronological organization was helpful in understanding how all of the books and stories fit together. My life has been changed by using this plan to consistently show up and meet with the Lord through His word, and I’m excited to continue this practice for as long as I can.
I used the Well-Watered Women Give Me Jesus Journal to take notes and reflect each day, and this tool was great to use alongside the reading. The simple prompts and ample space for notes was just what my mind needed to stay engaged and focused during my reading time. I also set up a level of accountability to show up daily by snapchatting my friend, Amanda each day with something pertaining to the passages I’d read. This was a fun and engaging way to encourage one another to make time to be in the Word together.
I loved this quote from Naomi Vacaro that I came across last year and it perfectly sums up my heart behind following along with a Bible reading plan: “The purpose behind my Bible reading plan is not to cross something off my list or see how quickly I could read through the Bible. Rather, it is to encourage focus, diligence, and consistency in my approach to God’s word.”
Rhythmic time off of social media
I take random breaks off of social media all throughout the year, usually for the Lenten season and always one to two days a week. I saw that Ashlee Gadd took every other week off of Instagram for the last half of the year, so I implemented that rhythm here and there too. I can always tell when my time on social media has become addictive; my brain feels overloaded, my feelings of loneliness skyrocket, comparison creeps in, and I feel like I’ve wasted precious time during the day. Intentionally and regularly stepping away from all of the sites and apps for periods of time is always so good for my soul.
Doing things with my hands
I picked up a lot of hobbies in 2021 that haven’t been touched since I was in grade school, and it was SO FUN to just DO things with my hands purely for relaxation, creation, decompressing, and simple fun. I practiced scales and hesitantly sight-read through hymns on piano, completed 5 cross stitch projects (3 of them were gifted to friends!), and completed a 500 piece puzzle with a friend throughout the year. I’m so excited to continue playing around with these hobbies and adding new ones in 2022!
Church on Wednesday nights
I grew up in a church that always had Wednesday night activities – meals, services, kids and youth ministry activities – but I never attended them because 1. I thought I was too cool and smart for them and 2. I was a competetive gymnast and in marching band, both of which came with a very demanding practice schedule that didn’t leave Wednesday nights open. Since becoming a member at my current church I had only gone to a few Wednesday nights at my church for our discipleship meetings, but I had gone to those with my mom and now with her gone, returning to those felt uncomfortable and kind of painful. However, one Wednesday in February I was feeling a bit of weariness in my soul and spirit and knew that the first half hour of Wednesdays at church were spent in prayer. I decided on a whim to attend the meeting that night, knowing that hearing the prayers of others would be helpful and grounding, and I’m so grateful for the prompting of the Holy Spirit that led me there that evening. I left feeling refreshed and a bit more settled in my spirit, and I enjoyed getting to talk to other people in the church that I normally don’t get to interact with there.
Deciding to show up to church on Wednesday nights, regardless of how I was feeling or what was going on in my life, was an act of faithfulness on my part that the Lord gradually showed me His faithfulness in. What started as a small decision to go and be present led to the blessing of prayer with other believers, learning more theology and orthopraxy, serving in the kids ministry, and committing to serve and teach middle school girls. It has been such a blessing to be more and diversely involved in the discipleship in my church body, and I love that the Lord used each step of obedience to lead me to where I am now.
Trying new things
I tried a handful of new things in 2021 that pushed me a bit out of my comfort zone, which is exactly the challenge I needed. I had the opportunity to be on my church’s podcast to discuss a week’s reading in the Bible reading plan we read through together, I went ax throwing with my friend, Kayla and was surprisingly great at it, and I participated in a virtual speed dating event for kicks and giggles and had a lot of fun! As someone who’s typically scared of looking like a fool and not being great at things, I know how important it is to try new and different things every now and then. I’m so proud of the new-to-me things that I tried in 2021!
Listening to a worship playlist on repeat
There were many hard days in my life in 2021 when I just needed something to help get me through the day. I created a calm worship playlist on Spotify and would listen to it nonstop multiple days a week. I love how hymns and other worship songs give you words to meditate on and use to pray when you can’t find words yourself. Be Thou My Vision was my anthem for 2021; no matter what kind of day I was having or mood that I was in, the words of that hymn were the desire of my heart – for God to be the one and only thing/person for my eyes and heart to be set on.
Reading more long form content
I made a conscious effort in 2021 to train my brain to gain back some of its lost attention span, and one of the ways I did this was making sure I was reading long form content through email newsletters and articles (the entire piece, not just the headings and one sentence of supporting text) in addition to other books. One of my favorite things about newsletters is that the writers tend to share other writing that they’d enjoyed, and it’s been really fun branching out to read others’ words that I wouldn’t otherwise stumble upon myself. My favorite newsletters to read are in my favorites post, and you can subscribe to the new newsletter that I’m launching myself here!
Braving through hard conversations
I initiated and engaged in multiple hard and weighty conversations in 2021 where boundaries needed to be set and communicated, truth needed to be told, and feelings and vulnerability needed to be shared. They were some of the toughest and heartbreaking conversations that I’ve had to endure, but the peace that came from saying what I felt in my spirit needed to be said was so freeing and worth it.
What Didn’t Work
Lack of consistent sleep
I’m disciplined in nearly every area of my life except when it comes to a sleep schedule. Getting to bed and waking up around the same time every night and morning is a losing battle that I’ve quit showing up to, and my body increasingly feels the repercussions. I want to get better at sticking to a schedule. My body and mind needs me to do it. If you have any suggestions on how to help please send them my way!
Buying more books before I’d read the ones I already have
I cleaned out my bookshelves of the young adult fiction novels from my youth at the beginning of 2021, so I was excited to fill the gaps in with new books that I was actually wanting to read now as an adult. I bought way too many books to even out the ratio between unread and what I was actually capable of reading (I only average about 20-22 books a year). In my defense, the deals and steals on them were amazing! But I’m making conscious effort to not buy books in 2022. If a book gets added to my overcrowded and packed-in shelves this year, I want/need it to be because it was either gifted to me or pre-ordered and releasing this year. I have no where else to store them and not nearly enough reading stamina to get to them all at the rate I’ve been adding to my collection.
Wanting to be with someone who didn’t want to be with me
This is actually the bane of my existence. I have no idea why I have such a hard time letting go of hopes of being with someone after I’ve decided that I want to be with them, even though they always give me clear and ample reasons as to why I should and need to move on. I don’t have much to say about this except that this was not great for my emotional well-being, and I’d like to learn how to only want to be with someone who wants to be with me. Please, Lord, let it be so.
Cleaning up other people’s messes
One of the hardest challenges I’ve recognized in adulthood as an eldest daughter/older sister/step-in matriarch of the Lansfords is only taking charge of what is mine to handle. I only realize after I’ve taken on something I didn’t need to or shouldn’t have that I’ve crossed boundaries and enabled poor, lazy, and selfish behavior. I want to get better at recognizing those decisions before they turn into action.
Buying things that only had a one-time use
If I could get money back on every purchase I made last year on the items I used only once and will probably never use again I would be one happy camper. I’m going to try and be more thoughtful towards my frivolous and impulse purchases this year and hope that future Hannah and her bank account thank me for it.
This practice of naming what worked and what didn’t over the course of a year has been immensely helpful in showing me what to continue on with and what to change and do away with in the coming year. I hope this list has given you some inspiration or insights that would help you in naming yours too! If you have anything you’d like to share that would make it on either list, please leave it in the comments. I’d love to hear about them!