The Christmas wrapping paper is in the trash, new toys and gadgets are strewn about the house still awaiting their final homes on bookshelves, in toy bins, and in closets. My Christmas trees (yes, plural) are still up – I’m a late holdout and plan to keep them up through the first week of January. The twinkle lights make me happy. Do you like our new commemorative ornaments for 2020? 🙂
We debated on whether we were going to travel this year, but felt peace when we made the call to see our families who welcomed us safely for our lower-key gatherings. We drove 2,500 miles round trip to see loved ones, hug necks, and have a collective celebration of thankfulness that we made it through the year of our Lord 2020.
Tis time for reflecting on 2020 – January seemed like decades ago, do you agree? Early in the year, I was able to speak at a ladies’ event at my church, belt out ballads at a Celine Dion concert, and take family trips to the mountains and the beach – all before life slowed to a halt in March due to the coronavirus.
This year revealed a lot of weak spots for me personally – mainly mindless numbing or unwelcome anxiety and temperamental outbursts when faced with disruptions in my plans or tasks that I didn’t want to do. Have you ever seen a 42-year-old throw a tantrum? Not pretty, my friend.
Through it all, God’s faithfulness was evident and persistent. My 2020 word of the year was “worship” – and full disclosure, I failed in many areas relating to this.
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.Psalm 119:37
Just this week, I gave my time over to worthless scrolling instead of life-giving reading, studying the Word or even writing this blog post. Ugh, Erica, will you ever learn?!? But again and again, God reminded me that nothing will snatch me from His hand because I am in Christ (John 10:28-29) and that He will not abandon the work of His hands (Psalm 138:8) – including turning my stubborn, distracted heart to His glory.
So, while many things didn’t work this year (like my self-control), what did work? More reading, more time outside, more baking, and more praying. I’m going to share some of my favorites from this past year – I hope you’ll explore the resources below and discover they point you to God’s goodness as we head into 2021.
You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28 (NIV) – I needed this verse when my endurance, patience, and energy was waning only a couple of months into pandemic restrictions and “new normals.”
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8 – I struggled with nighttime anxiety and insomnia this year, probably more than ever before. I prayed this verse often, thanking God for my safety as I asked for sweet rest. A side benefit of these sleepless episodes was prolific time to intercede for others.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 – This verse has become my writing inspiration – to let God’s light shine in the dark spots of our lives that His glory may be seen, as we grow to know and trust Christ more and more.
I made a goal of reading 24 books this year. While that may seem nominal to some (I have friends and family who are voracious readers!), this was an accomplishment for me. What I’m really proud of is the variety of books I read. I typically stick to Christian non-fiction, which I read slowly because I often underline and take notes, but this year I added in more fiction and writing-related books. I also incorporated more audio books. In 2021, I hope to add more memoir, parenting and marriage books.
You can see my full list on Goodreads (plus some reviews), but my top five books I read this year were:
- Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age by Tony Reinke (Christian non-fiction)
- Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship by Ruth Chou Simons (devotional)
- Safely Home by Randy Alcorn (fiction)
- Relentless: The Unshakable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves by Michele Cushatt (Christian non-fiction)
- Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff (business)
*The above links are Amazon affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, if you purchase from these links, I will receive a small stipend.
I try to listen to podcasts while doing housework or driving around town for errands. This year I discovered listening at 1.5x speed, which is helpful for time management while still getting great content! Yay, technology! (My husband listens to 2x speed, which is too fast for me!)
The Alisa Childers Podcast – I discovered apologist Alisa Childers via the American Gospel films and have been making my way through her podcast episodes ever since. She combines truth and grace as she broaches false teachings creeping into the church and those perpetuated by some popular authors – a ministry borne out of her own period of doubt brought on by some of these teachings.
Some of the episodes are heady, but many help me discern biblical truth from trends and outright Gospel distortions. You can find her on your podcast app with newer episodes also on YouTube. I recommended these episodes to start:
- Episode 44: Pretty Little Lies: Spotting Bad Ideas in Women’s Books, Blogs, and Other Media – for a good overview of her ministry (Spotify, iTunes)
- Episode 45: Beautiful Eternal Truths: Counteracting Bad Ideas in Popular Media – for her backstory (Spotify, iTunes)
- Episode 57: Deconstruction and Reconstruction – Walking through Doubt with Dominic Done – this includes one of the best conversations about doubt that I’ve ever heard (Spotify, iTunes, YouTube)
The Bible Recap – In the fall, I began reading through the Bible. Though I joined a different plan from the Bible Recap’s (I’m a few months into To The Word on YouVersion, where I can also listen to it while I read), I hop on the Bible Recap episodes to get an overview and some of the historical nuances about the text.
I love these short episodes, as the host Tara Leigh Cobble spends hours and hours of research for these 10-minute recaps. The best part is Cobble focuses on the “God Shot” of God’s character, not a “me-focused” reading of the Word. You can find the chronological reading plan and links to the podcast on The Bible Recap website. (Spotify, iTunes)
Grace Enough Podcast – I “met” host Amber Cullum, also a Raleigh resident, when she plugged her podcast on the neighborhood app NextDoor – and I’m so thankful she did! If you want to hear incredible stories of God’s grace (from well-known authors to personal connections), skim the titles of this interview-style podcast for a topic that interests you. From amazing testimonies to practical spiritual applications (like family spiritual disciplines to technology to theology), I’m encouraged every time I listen.
Some of my favorite episodes this year were:
- Hannah Anderson (episode 97) – Goodness and the Lost Art of Discernment (Spotify, iTunes)
- Nancy Guthrie (episode 95) – God Does His Best Work With Empty (Spotify, iTunes)
- Rosaria Butterfield (episodes 76 and 77) – Part 1 Radical Hospitality (Spotify, iTunes), Part 2 Christian Identity, Intersectionality (Spotify, iTunes)
- Vaneetha Risner (episode 51) – When Suffering is Your Story (Spotify, iTunes)
Oh His Goodness
I’ve loved serving you this year, and one of my most honest offerings was the Rest in Jesus devotional that came out of those anxious nights I mentioned above. As a gift to you, you can download it free here.
Besides signing up for my monthly newsletter, where I offer stories and resources like those listed above, you can find me regularly sharing God’s goodness from my everyday life on social media. Click the images below to read the top Facebook posts from 2020:
And hop on over to Instagram to see my top nine of 2020 (pictured here).
Well, that’s a wrap of 2020! I have a “word of the year” ruminating for 2021 that I’ll share soon. As we head into a new year, whether weary or relieved, nervous or expectant, I pray you find peace in God’s abiding presence. He is always good, faithful, and near.