Paper planner

Pastoral Messages | December 22, 2020

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).

-Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

11 Comments on “Paper planner”


    January 2, 2021 at 8:35 am

    I love my paper planners!! Some things you just can’t do online. Happy Holidays to you & Clark!

  • Diane Nauman

    January 2, 2021 at 6:54 am

    SO beautifully expressed, dear Sara. I agree!
    And…….it was great to read that a ‘younger generation gal’, also, enjoys the permanence of pen and paper as well as the reflective looking back on the memories of a previous year. 🙂

  • Lisa Meloy

    December 31, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Putting 2020 into perspective takes someone with that sweetness and light…and who better than you, Sara? Thanks for helping us remember that there is always hope and that God speaks to us even in our hard days. A nd I too love the “real” planners…!

  • Karen Rathje

    December 31, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    I use a paper calendar as well. There were many many events crossed out but luckily we didn’t add any losses to the reminders . I have so many memories on that paper calendar that I always use to remind me that things will always get better if we take it one day at a time. For the new day I am grateful!

  • Linda Allebach

    December 31, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you, Sara! I love a paper calendar and use it in tandem with a Google calendar on my phone. The Google calendar tells me what my extended family, kids and grandkids, are doing and the paper calendar is mine. It’s like keeping a journal but so much more fun. Happy New Year!

  • Beth Repp

    December 31, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    I love this :). I too am a big fan of the paper planner, and I save them all as well. It is so much more than a calendar. May we meet all of this next year’s appointments with grace and joy.

  • Sheila Mesick

    December 31, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    Putting pen or pencil to paper helps me in the process of why I am taking time to write something down. I don’t think I’ll ever make a transition to any electronic format. The words that Paul wrote to the Philippines bring an outlook of hope and promise. What better place to deposit our past year but in God’s keeping. Happy New Year to you and your family Sara!

  • Sue Grove

    December 31, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    Oh, Sara, me too. Every year I get my purse planner at the Hallmark Store. We have a family one too so both Rex and I can see “what’s up.” Like everyone we had a lot of blank squares in 2020. At our ages the only issue with these great paper planners is we need to remember to look every day! They are great memory joggers as well when we are trying to remember, “When was?” Even in this strange year there were blessings. We will “strain forward ” to God with us in 2021.

  • Shirley Monkman

    December 31, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    I am going to remember that bible verse Philippians 3:13 not only for 2020 but for things I regret not doing in 2019. My girls keep telling me that I cannot change the past. It is hard when I wish that I had done many things differently.

  • Kathleen Hurty

    December 31, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks so much for this reflection. I used paper planners for years. The joys of writing and remembering are priceless. Now I use an on-line calendar — not the same. Thanks for bringing back the memories!!

  • Shirley Monkman

    December 31, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    I am going to remember that bible verse Philippines 3:13 not only for 2020 but for things I regret not doing in 2019. My girls keep telling me that I cannot change the past. It is hard when I wish that I had done many things differently.

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