Plow in Hope: A Look Back at my 2020 Goals

Jan 9, 2021

One year ago I wrote these words: "Hope requires energy . . . If you're plowing in hope, then you're actually up and doing: you're not waiting for your life to be better; you're making it better."

Those words turned out to be prophetic.

When I shared my focus for 2020, plow in hope, I had no idea how much hope the year was going to require of me.  

I think we can all agree that there were many things about 2020 that felt like a cruel joke, and this focus was one of them for me. It was almost as if someone was saying, "Oh, so you want to work on plowing in hope, do you? Here's a seemingly endless pandemic for you. Let's see how well you plow through that."

It felt like real work to face each day and not succumb to the uncertainty of the future, and there was definitely more than one occasion where I wailed to Mike (or a patient friend), "What is to become of us? Will we ever get to see people again? Hug them? Smile at them? Sit next to them?" 

I wish I could say that my mantra to "plow in hope" fortified me to press forward, but the truth is that I am not naturally prone to optimism, and there were some heavy moments in 2020 that felt distinctly hopeless.

However, while I may not have been a shining example of faith-filled hope, it was a word that was on my mind a lot. I paid attention to every scripture, conversation, song, poem, or story where it was mentioned.

Mike and I went to a play at the end of February, two weeks before the world shut down. One of the characters said something that struck me, and so I wrote it down when I got home: "Is it better to know or to hope?" While "knowledge" might seem like the obvious answer, it doesn't have the ability to change things the way that hope does. 

There were a lot of things about the future I didn't know in 2020 and still don't know in 2021. But "hope is the thing with feathers." It can lift us out of even the darkest of times and give us the strength to remedy the future.

One of the things that brought me light and hope in 2020 were my goals. I thrive on routine and structure always, but especially when things feel out of control, as they did in 2020. So it was nice to have these goals to fall back on--something that gave me a little bit of purpose and direction and also that feeling of accomplishment I'm always craving.

However, it wasn't a knockout year for me. I fully completed only a few of my goals, while some of them were left partially complete or weren't even touched at all. I don't like to blame everything on 2020, but in this case, maybe I will.

Here's a complete rundown, broken into the categories I used (spiritual, physical, intellectual, spiritual):

Spiritual

  • Make a master list of hope. I kept a running list of references to hope throughout the year. These mentions of hope filled me up and taught me more about this topic.  One of my favorite scriptures was, "Who against hope believed in hope" (Romans 4:18). Sometimes we have to hope in hope. 
  • Begin a practice of meditation. I took Brooke Snow's 40-day Christian Meditation course with my  friend, Sarah, last January. Then we actually did the whole thing a second time in the middle of the year. During both times through the course, I was very diligent about meditating every day and implementing the different techniques and types taught by Brooke (I highly recommend this course if you're wanting to start meditating). Then after the forty days were done, I tended to gradually slack off. So I wouldn't say that I picked up the habit of meditation as quickly or naturally as some of my other habits. However, even when I am not officially meditating, I have gained a deep appreciation for taking time to be still and quiet every day, and that is something I am planning to continue with in 2021 (perhaps on an even more purposeful scale--hint hint).
  • Visit the Joseph Smith exhibit on Temple Square with Mike and the boys. This was the second time in a row this goal was on my list and also the second time in a row when life made it impossible to complete. Maybe it will eventually happen, but I'm not planning on it for 2021.
  • Find and take at least three names to the temple. If I had known what 2020 would bring, I could have rushed to finish this goal in January and February. However, I thought I had all the time in the world, so I didn't prioritize it the way that I should have. The temples were closed for most of the year or opened only on a very restricted basis. I took the one opportunity I had in September (when my nephew went to the temple for the first time), and I did the work for a family name then, but that was the only one. In the absence of regular time in the temple though, I found myself drawn to stories and information about my ancestors. Going forward, I want to know more about them for my own interest and not because I feel obligated to. 

Physical 
  • Make a meal plan every week. This goal was a covid casualty. I attacked this goal with a vengeance in January. I planned out meals for the week and made a grocery list every Saturday or Monday morning. I picked up my groceries. I no longer had the 4:30 panic attack of "what's for dinner?" I made dinner at least four times a week, letting Mike handle Wednesdays and the weekend. I felt like I was rockin' at life and being a true adult. And then, the world fell apart, and since cooking is something that brings, rather than relieves, stress for me, I dropped it like a rock. And thankfully, it's the opposite for Mike, so he was happy to once again pick up my slack. But one thing I added in 2020 that wasn't planned but is somewhat related was my weekly baking sessions with Ian. So maybe I can get a few points for that?
  • Try out grocery pickup. I used (and loved) this service for the first ten weeks of the year and then stopped the third week in March and never resumed it after that. However, we started getting our dairy delivered and also participated in a weekly produce co-op, and both of those things have continued into the new year. 
  • Learn how to parallel park. Mike and I had one date night in May where he set up boxes in the church parking lot to create a little parallel parking learning station. I didn't have a chance to put my skills into practice in the real world since I hardly drove anywhere during the entire year, and now I'd probably be too chicken to try if I got the opportunity. So although I made an attempt at this goal, it was maybe a little half-hearted.
  • Learn how to fold a fitted sheet. Done! My friend showed me how, and it was like the lightbulb went on, and I finally understood the puzzle of the fitted sheet. Easiest goal to check off. And now folding fitted sheets brings me all sorts of pleasure.
  • Go on four new hikes. I actually forgot that this was a goal. Now I'm trying to think back. We went on quite a few hikes, but I'm trying to remember how many of them were ones we hadn't done before: We did two new ones by the cabin, one by the salt flats, the suspension bridge hike (still one of my favorites!), and a bunch of new ones in Bryce and Goblin Valley during fall break. So yes, I think I can give this goal a firm check mark. 

  • Continue habit of exercising four times a week. I think it's safe to say that this has become a lifestyle for me. I hardly even think about it anymore. I just do it. When the weather is nice (and the mornings aren't dark), I run outside. Otherwise, I run on the treadmill or do a Maggie Binkley video. It's only for about twenty minutes each time, but I'm very consistent.
Intellectual
  • Write one poem every week. I went through spurts with this goal, writing for several weeks in a row before taking unplanned breaks. It taught me one thing: I am better at reading (and appreciating) poetry than writing it. However, as I looked back over the poems I wrote, I was actually surprised with how they captured certain feelings and details that I think would have been lost otherwise. Here is one I wrote on February 10th:
Hopeful Green

Today I spied a spot of bright green
Poking through a crack in the driveway.

It was vibrant and vivid and oh so very fresh.
There was nothing old about it.

And I had to wonder . . . 

How does it know that spring
Is just around the corner?

Snow is still on the ground.
The temperature is well below freezing.
Icicles adorn the gutters.

But it wasn't there last week.
And now it is.

Is it the changing light?
The lengthening days?
The call of birdsong?

Somehow, without a calendar,
It senses that winter can't last
Much longer.

And even though I do have a calendar
And am watching the days inch by, 
Those tiny green shoots bring me 
More hope
Than any arbitrary date ever could.

  • Write one book review each month. This was a much more realistic goal for me than trying to review every single book I read. Even with it being more manageable though, I still didn't write a review in October or December.
  • Read a book about writing and/or participate in some sort of writing challenge. I must confess to a big, fat no on this one. I never found anything that excited or motivated me, and so I just let it go. My relationship with writing has been rather rocky these past few years, and I'm still trying to figure out how to get back the joy it once brought me.
  • Knit something out of linen. I had an idea for this goal. I wanted to make this shawl out of this yarn. I'm pretty sure I even had it in my online cart one day before I decided it wasn't in the budget right then. I ended up making this sweater from a linen blend, so I felt like I could count it for my goal. However, it wasn't at all what I had in mind when I made the goal, so I kind of feel like I settled for something that wasn't the real thing. 

  • Sew something with serger. I checked off this goal in January and then checked it off again and again in the months that followed. I'm dubbing 2020 "the year I fell back in love with sewing." My serger (and sewing machine) have been putting in many hours of work and, for the most part, they have been treating me well (but I am always wary of machines--they are unpredictable creatures).
  •  
  • Spend more time in books and less time on phone. I think it would have helped if I had been a little more specific with this goal. I read a total of 38 books in 2020, which was more than I read in 2019 (26) but not like 2016 when I read 70. Basically, there is always room to improve when it comes to cutting down time on my phone.
Social
  • Edit family videos. I took an online class about making family videos (this one). I just wanted a quick and easy way to capture important moments or events in a way that my kids would actually be able to revisit and enjoy. I made a practice video in March. Then I helped Aaron learn how to do it over the summer. And finally, I made videos of our fall break trip and Christmas. I like that it's fast and uncomplicated but still turns out something really meaningful. (P.S. I really wish I had been making videos before I lost all of my footage between August and November 2019. I'm still so sad anytime I think about that.)
  • Teach someone to knit and/or start a knitting group. The knitting group obviously didn't happen, thanks to covid, but amazingly, I actually taught three different people how to knit, as well as consulted quite a bit. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am happy to pass on this skill to anyone who wants to learn. (Also, I'm still really hoping for that knitting group--fingers crossed it can happen later this year!)
  • Weekly communication with siblings. Did I communicate with my siblings in 2020? Yes. Did I talk or text with all seven of them every week? No. If I'm being honest, two of my brothers did a better job with this than I did, and I don't think it was even a goal for either of them.
  • Give hugs to Mike and boys every day. I think physical touch is so important and probably more so in 2020 than ever before because we've all been forced to keep our hugs to ourselves. Luckily, I can hug my boys, and I did (and will continue to do so).
  • Take Aaron on a trip to celebrate his 12th birthday. It will come as no surprise that we didn't get to do this one. But maybe in 2021? 
  • Find a way to store journals safely. I write in my journal every day, which means that I've accumulated quite the collection. I really love being able to look back through them for certain information or just to reminisce, so I felt like I should find a way to keep them safe in case of a fire. But then I realized that they wouldn't really be easily accessible, and I decided I would rather use them than protect them. So they're just on a shelf in my closet, and that's probably where they will stay.
Even though some of my efforts were less than stellar on these goals, I feel like 2020 was still a year of good progress where I tackled some things I'd wanted to do for a long time. I'm not quite ready to share my plans for 2021. I like to take the first month to brainstorm and try out some ideas before I commit to anything. But they're coming, I promise.

In the meantime, please tell me about some of the things you did in 2020, as well as what your dreams are for 2021. If we put in our plow and hope, I have confidence we can do great things.


2 comments:

  1. I have a small fire safe in my closet. I don't think it was that expensive. I still keep important documents in it (deeds, birth certificates, passports).

    It's not actually fire-safe anymore, as my nephew stole the key when he was two and hid it somewhere (he's 17 now and we still haven't found it) so my BIL drilled out the lock, but at least I know where everything is. But if you wanted someplace easy to story your journals that's something to consider.

    I think you had a great year in 2020, and I've really enjoyed seeing the pictures of your family. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Have you ever thought of typing up all your journals and saving them in the cloud so that you have a backup? That's what I ended up doing with my mission journals--I rest a bit easier knowing that I now have those in two formats!

    As always, I love the goals updates! So inspiring to see what you can accomplish over a year, even if was a crazy one :)

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