I still use a paper planner. They’re filled with pencil written appointments, services, reminders, and to-do lists. While our family shares an online calendar to make sure we never abandon the kids at choir practice, I still use – and love – my paper planner. I love the sound and feel of the pencil and paper, and being able to see everything at once. Plus, I am convinced that writing something down helps me remember it.
Beginning in November, I carry around two planners, one for the current year and one for the next. But on December 31, before I put the old planner away, I do a ritual to mark the end of the year.
Starting with January, I look back through the planner month by month. I see celebrations and adventures. I notice big happenings at church, when new colleagues started or when we said goodbye to beloved members. I think of beloved people as their names are written down where we celebrated a baptism or wedding or commended them to God at a funeral. Looking through those calendar pages, I take time to honor accomplishments and realize my mistakes. I am full of such gratitude and a little regret. And, having spent some time in prayerful reflection of this past year, I can close up that planner, and tuck in onto the shelf with the others.
As I look back on 2020, this year has been one of particular strangeness and loss. My calendar bears erase marks from events and adventures that were changed. It shows funerals that were unanticipated and heartbreaking. I’ve outlined complicated hybrid school schedules and huge pivots in plans.
But it’s not all loss, there are open spaces on my calendar that were filled with spur of the moment things like trips to the park and baking with my kids, Zoom calls with old friends, and so many phone calls. Looking back on this year, I see both struggle and blessing, joys and despairs. And, through all of it, God’s continued presence.
I hope you can find some time at this year’s end to reflect back on this year, to notice God’s care woven through those blessings and struggles. And after some time looking back, we’ll gratefully close the book on 2020. We can let it go into God’s keeping, so that our hearts and hands will be open to receive whatever 2021 will bring, and step boldly into new opportunities to love and fresh chances to serve. With hope, we can, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “let go of what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).