At the beginning of the year, I wrote a blog post about how I wanted this to be the year of growth. After a hard year in 2020 where I was consumed by grief and “survival-mode,” I wanted to start setting goals and working toward them again. I also knew my tendency to go too far with such goals and then quickly burn out, so I decided to simply embrace small steps of growth throughout the year.
I didn’t know if I would hit exhaustion or grieving in ways that would make me slow down, but I just decided to do what I could each month and be faithful to what God had called me to. And now, looking back over the year, I am incredibly grateful for what God has done in my heart and life this year.
Before I share my list of growth areas this year, I know it can come across as a brag-fest. You might read this list and think, “Wow, doesn’t she think she’s so awesome. What a perfect little life she leads.”
So first, let me say that my life wasn’t perfect this year. There were some really, really hard things in my life that only those closest to me know about. Some things aren’t fit to share in public blog posts but suffice it to say that there were many tears and moments of brokenness this year—over my own sin and the sin of others. There were also many days of continuing to grieve the loss of my dad, and I know there will be more in the years to come.
And second of all, I don’t share this list to show how great I am, but rather to celebrate what God has done in me this year. When we’ve gone through dark times, we have to celebrate the return of the light in all its forms, big or small. And I hope this list encourages you to consider the ways you’ve grown in the last year. You might feel like you haven’t, but each step forward is worth celebrating.
We can’t compare ourselves to one another because we’ll instantly feel defeated. My growth in fitness and nutrition will seem paltry to those who can complete half-marathons. Yet my growth in reading might seem too much for those who’ve only read a few books this year and too little for those who’ve read 100 books this year.
But guess what? There aren’t any scorecards in real life. No trophies for accomplishing more than someone else. That’s not why we should be working toward growth—so that we can feel better about ourselves compared to someone else. Instead, we should work toward growth so that we are being faithful with what God’s given us, stewarding our time wisely for the Kingdom.
If you have some ways you’ve grown this year, I’d love to hear about them so I can celebrate with you. And if you have some goals in which you want to grow next year, I’d love to hear about those, too. May we keep moving forward, even when it feels slow and cheer each other on along the way.
So here’s my list of 33 areas of growth in 2021:
- Got an article published with a national publication (“Teach Children to Value Singleness” on The Gospel Coalition).
- Lost seven pounds by cutting out sugar and cutting back on carbs.
- Kept plants alive all year.
- Cut way back on social media time (social media-free mornings and 40 days off for Lent).
- Read 3-4 books every month, including lots of new nonfiction, for a total of 40 books this year.
- Was actually informed about who I was voting for this year.
- Studied and memorized the book of 1 John.
- Trusted God to provide money and he did.
- Finished my first year teaching at a Christian school and a middle school – and loved it.
- Discovered my hypoglycemia and started educating myself about it.
- Continued learning how to grieve.
- Learned to use a curling wand well.
- Learned how to have some hard conversations.
- Picked up crocheting again and realized how therapeutic it is.
- Shot a gun for the first time.
- Taught myself some hand-lettering.
- Made some cards for single people.
- Took a 1-second video every day with the app 1SE.
- Kept daily habit trackers and monthly reviews for the whole year (for the first time ever).
- Started a new prayer system.
- Went for walks almost every morning this summer.
- Read more classics this year.
- Grew my bangs out.
- Gave online dating a try.
- Eliminated my streaming services.
- Learned new ways to make money.
- Paid off my car and another student loan.
- Learned to grow in honesty and accountability.
- Became a better teacher this fall by trying new things.
- Learned to really stick to a budget.
- Learned to depend on the Lord like never before.
- Learned more about the publishing world.
- Focused on a different word each month: Progress, Love, Sacrifice, Physical Health, Abiding, Writing, Motivation, Trust, Peace, Rest, Missional, Delight.
The Lord is gracious and led me down new paths this year as I learned to try new things, take some risks, make things with my hands, discipline my thinking, and spend my time wisely. I failed a whole bunch. There were days when I chose laziness over discipline and self over Christ. And God gave so much grace.
He always meets us where we are, and he never gives up on us. I’m so thankful to be walking this path of life with my hand in his. And thankful for my community of friends and family who keep cheering me on and helping me grow every day.
I look forward to continued growth in the coming year.