by Sara Simons
At the turn of 2020, I wrote this reflection exercise and shared it here at A Life Overseas. It included a simple, transferable process to gain altitude and perspective on the year that had passed. Little did I, or anyone at that time, know the disturbingly drastic change of events that the year ahead of us would hold. That, on top of our normal ebbs and flows of transition, grieves and losses, and major life change. Every single life would be complicated that much more by an increasing pandemic. As we’ve lived it, it has been mixed with racial injustice, poverty, and already terrible tragedies around the world. 2020 seemed like a never-ending stream of bad news.
That is the predominant feeling most had, and yet the truth included moments of goodness, purpose, redirection, and creativity amidst the pain and suffering.
As I personally wrap up an incredibly challenging year of global transition, in many ways I can’t wait to tear up the calendar and throw it away as soon as possible. While there will still be no ripping of calendars like my mom’s tradition growing up (see the 2019 article), this year’s calendar may have many pages repurposed for lack of use. And still, I long to glean from 2020 what is mine to learn. And to celebrate so many gifts that came in spite of it all.
Rather than remember the long days of confinement, the multiple cancellations of flights, all that didn’t come to be, I want to capture the full picture and instead focus on the good that may otherwise get lost if I don’t pause to remember that which came from my Covid year.
What became of your covid year? What successes did you experience? Where did you see personal growth?
Whether you’ve had an incredible amount of change or loss or a year full of amazing surprises (yes, I’ve spoken to some who have experienced 2020 that way); or whether you anticipate transition or more uncertainty on the horizon, the opportunity to take a deep reflective pause and make note of the year prior affords us space for both gratitude and perspective.
Here is a summary of what I wrote last year, along with a special offer:
While I love to reflect and process for hours, I’ve found the desired space is not always readily available in this season of life and during the holidays. I’ve found grace in giving myself the whole month of January, as of late. But even still, a less comprehensive and intimidating reflection exercise was needed for me to be able to enter in. Here are a few carefully chosen questions and 4 suggested approaches, depending on time.
Four Processing Options:
While you may begin by just diving in, I find a few approaches aid my processing best. Begin by creating a quiet reflective space. Set aside distractions. Choose one of the following 4 visual prompts depending on how much time you can afford.
- 15-30 minutes: Take a look through your calendar and make a list of the top events on your calendar. Let these events prompt your thoughts as you contemplate the answers to these questions.
- 30 minutes-1 hour: If you take pictures, take a look back over the year’s pictures and allow the visual stimulus to jog your brain in reflecting.
- 1-2 hours: Look back over your journal from the last year and note the important events and areas that concerned you or caused you great delight. You took time to write them down, note how they impact the questions above. (If you don’t journal or didn’t this year, looking back over emails or Facebook posts may stimulate some of the same thoughts).
- 1-3 hours: Utilize one of the above methods together with this visual reflection exercise. Having already made a list of important events, Draw a clock with numbers corresponding to the months of the year (Jan = 1, Dec = 12). Starting with 1, meditate as you draw or write simple words that represent the highlights, breakthroughs, consuming thoughts or God’s delight of January the year prior. Where were you as the clock turned last year? Who were you with? What has changed since?
Top reflection questions:
1. What are the most important events that took place in the last year? Who are some of the significant people?
2. Where did I see the greatest breakthroughs (physically, emotionally, relationally, vocationally, spiritually)?
3. What area(s) consumed my thinking and attention most?
4. Where did I experience God’s delight?
Give yourself time to go through each month, draw or make note of the thoughts or feelings you want to capture within or outside of the clock.
If you’re like me, doing this in a group creates a unique dynamic of community and accountability. Come join The Way Between and a small group of others like yourself who want to process this hard year in one of the three, three-hour sessions available this 2020.
December 28 – 4-7pm MST,
December 30 – 10am-1pm MST,
January 5 – 10am – 1pm MST
There’s a discount code for A Life Overseas readers. Pay just $25 using the code ALIFEOVERSEAS.
Register here: https://thewaybetween.churchcenter.com/registrations
Sara Simons & her family just relocated back to the US after 8 years living & working in Spain. Moving during a global pandemic has only increased her compassion for working with global workers in major life transition. You can learn more on thewaybetween.org.