Enjoying a Christmas blend coffee on New Years Day with all my sugar-free favorite flavorings. Hot drinks and reflection blogging always go together for me.

2021–it was a great year overall, and it went by so quickly! While I reflected on some of the tough realities of this year in my previous post, it was only a fraction of the other pieces of the year, which were wonderful.

I love blogging, especially at the end of the year. I find that writing any time during the year is fulfilling, therapeutic, and relaxing, but it’s especially fun for me at the end of the year. This marks ten years of being blessed with having a Christmas break to end the calendar year—a big perk of working in the education field. Ever since I was a child, a big part of Christmas break has been time to enjoy more time to write and think about the new year ahead. Even as a little girl I would make lists in my diary of things I was excited for the next year.

If I had to describe 2021 with a couple of words, it would be these: simple and slow. While there may seem like nothing simple and slow about having two toddler boys, working part-time, being on-the-go to see family, friends each week, etc., our overall pace of life has slowed down and remained that way. It has been a remarkable year simply because of those changes. As a natural “fill-my-schedule, fast-paced, work several jobs” type of person, this type of life change (which we decided back in 2020) had to be intentional. It has taken sacrifice, dedication, saying no, and keeping our priorities in check. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

My work hours switched from full-time to part time after our second son was born, which was wonderful. That continued into 2021. In the spring, I cut back my track coaching to only one day a week and just helped at some meets. Was that a big (and weird) change? Absolutely. I had more than a few people ask if everything was ok because I was actually “stepping down” from being head coach. Everything was just fine, but I had decided to have more time with my family. It was definitely a transition, but we were thankful for it.

By summer I was working even fewer hours and I was able to add a couple more piano students, which was so fun. Music has always been a passion of mine, and giving lessons was something that fell into my lap a few years ago, never something I sought out. To still have pieces of my day that involved teaching, music, and being with my family was a dream come true for this stage of life.

This summer we enjoyed a family vacation to the beach with my husband’s family, and I was truly reminded of the relaxing pace that life can be while we spent time in the sun and in the ocean. Traveling with a toddler and a baby had its challenges, but the beautiful sunsets at the end of the day was a good perspective check of God’s beauty and simplicity.

Many days this summer and fall were spent outdoors with the kids, spending time with cousins, friends, and extended family. Many days didn’t have a schedule, and we could spend hours in the sun, hours reading books, or just being “bored”—something that I think more of us need to slow down.

The boys spent lots of time in the garden, doing projects in the yard, and chasing the dog. I read a lot of books, took many walks, and continued to organize and simplify our home and lifestyle. Back in 2020 we had really found that the slower, simper lifestyle was better for our family. After reading a couple of great books that highlighted the fulfillment of simple lifestyles, I was hooked. I found that the more space, stillness, and quiet from the noise of the world created more room to hear God’s voice and learn more from Him. It allowed me to live in the moment, not dwell on the past, and not continuously look ahead to the next minute, hour, or day.

So what did this mean for someone like me, obsessed with schedules, organization, and seeing goals accomplished? A lot of good things. Over this last year, I’ve gone through every room and space in our home, and cleared out things we don’t need, use, or have any extra of. I quickly found how much extra stuff we had that just took up space. I lost count of the number of bags and trunk loads of extra things we were able to give away. It was so nice. We downsized the number of all of our belongings—clothes, coats, shoes, books, kitchen utensils, linens, tools, craft supplies, toiletries, and just about any category of household item you can imagine. It may sound silly, but our home feels so much bigger, freer, open, peaceful, and calm. It didn’t seem chaotic before, but we noticed a big change over time. It was fun spending 12 months doing this—no schedule to get each room done, didn’t feel rushed, and just took my time.

We came up with a plan to remodel a good portion of our kitchen this summer, and were able to have a great contractor to carry out our plans. Transforming one of the areas that we spend the most time in our house was so much fun. We love hosting at both random or planned times, and having a more spacious area now has been a blessing.

Some other simplifying included kids’ clothes and toys, revamping my recipe organization and creating smaller books, limiting the number of things we could have on a calendar week, and changing the way we budget and spend money.

We do have two young boys and two energetic dogs. Of course there are loud, crazy times each day, however we have been amazed at what simplifying our belongings and creating physical space has done for the emotional space and freedom we feel. It provides a huge sense of calm, even with little kids, dogs, messes, and energy. We rarely have the television on. We do like to listen to music, sing crazy songs, and have dance parties sometimes, but besides our own voices and the dogs’ barks, we don’t have many extra sounds. We have 3-5 toys in the house that make noise total. It’s wonderful.

I used to like the go-go-g0, having music or “noise” on in the background in every area of life. At the time, I thought it provided security, however it really wasn’t good for me. Having the distractions prevented me from learning what quiet was. I realized that my multitasking skills had gotten out of hand, and to the point where I couldn’t finish a task (or sometimes a conversation), without jumping to something else. For me, that was unhealthy. It lead to me being scatterbrained, not-focused, inattentive, rushed, stressed, and anxious. None of these characteristics are ones that I want modeled for my children. I had very little space or quiet to spend good time with the Lord, or to even begin to hear his voice. Thankfully, things are different now.

Other fun things from 2021 include having successful fruit and vegetable gardens, teaching part-time preschool, our son starting preschool, replacing our downstairs furniture, lots of time with people, having three successful surgeries in our family, and having an extremely relaxing, slow month of December and Christmas season.

As tradition, I’m finishing up writing on the evening of the New Year, and I am thankful. Ending a year and anticipating a new year is always fun, and I am thankful for how peaceful, simple, and meaningful this season has been. We had almost half the number of gifts under our tree this year than in years past. We said no to more social events so that our schedule wasn’t overloaded. We had lots of time together as a family, reflecting and enjoying the anticipation of Jesus’s birthday, and we rested. We didn’t have to put much effort into having a simpler, slower holiday season because it was a continuation of most of our year. We spent time with all of our parents to celebrate New Years Eve and the New Year, and the boys loved the time with their grandparents. We relaxed, watched the snow, ate good food, had fun desserts, and made great memories.

For the first time, I didn’t make a frantic list of all the things I want to accomplish in 2022 tonight–accomplishing, checking things off the list, advancing, setting way too many “goals”, etc used to be high priorities for me, but they were things that kept me from fully living/enjoying the current, and took up too much brain space so that I couldn’t hear, listen, and be still in Jesus. Sometime this week, I’ll journal and pray through what God might be having me “do” this year, but more importantly I hope he will give wisdom for who he wants me to be as a woman, wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend.

God has shown us a lot this past year, through the good, the fun, the difficult, and the confusing. He has provided, healed, loved, comforted, and guided us through the year; we look forward to this new year ahead—2022!