Hey, everyone! Today I'm going to be veering off the usual review schedule and participating in the Reflections blog tag, which I was linked for a couple of weeks ago on the Teen Writer's Nook site (thanks a ton, Issabelle!). I'm really excited to type out my thoughts about this prompt. I hope that it'll be fun for YOU to learn more about me and possibly feel led to do some reflecting of your own.
Unlike the Narnia Blog Tag or Liebster Award challenges I did last year, this tag had only one question:
What are eight things God has blessed and/or taught you in 2020?
Especially with all of the stress and craziness that has rippled through the world lately because of COVID-19 and its effects, I feel like this is a perfect moment to step back and really focus on the better parts of last year's craziness. So here's a list of eight things I was blessed with, and the ways God used each of those blessings to teach me.
1. I got to spend more time with my family.
Before COVID-19 hit, I was already pretty close to my parents and siblings. However, I'd like to think all of the plans derailed and all of the extracurricular activities shut down gave us a chance to connect even more. For a while, we were able to step back from everything stressing us out, and find ways to spend time together. I hope I'll always be thankful for all the ways we were able to support each other and grow closer during all the difficulties of 2020.
When it comes to my family, God has definitely shown me what it's like to both give and receive unconditional, sacrificial love from them. And in my opinion, that's pretty cool!
2. God provided for us financially.
With all of the unemployment and job uncertainty that has come with the pandemic, it was a real blessing that my dad was able to continue his job from home. Suddenly going from "uninterrupted" homeschooling days to a fragile balance between schooling and office space hasn't been easy, yet we've been able to make it work.
Through this blessing, I'm reminded every day of all the ways God has lavished His grace and care on me physically.
3. I started my first blog.
I started this pet project in May 2020, hoping to reach people with book recommendations worth their time, learn how to run a blog, and honor God with my website's mission. It's been less than a year now, and so many opportunities, interviews, and readers than I expected have come my way, which is a huge deal for me! I'm so thankful that God has given me a passion for great stories and given me a way to connect and help others with that same enthusiasm.
If you have ever taken the time to read through one of my posts, comment, or share about this blog with others, it means more than you'll ever know. So, thank you!
4. I read some great books.
As a years-long book lover, I was devastated when our local library had to shut down due to COVID concerns. I couldn't find myself to be too excited about flipping through books we already owned and I'd read. Even though I have a Kindle, before and right after COVID hit I couldn't muster the willpower to pick up an e-book, deciding that it didn't feel the same and wasn't worth my time. Necessity (as well as that burning desire to read something new) eventually led to me giving e-books a try, and to my surprise I learned to see the appeal in them too, through this and purchasing some other e-books (some of which I've recommended on here!).
Despite the uncertainties of 2020 as a whole, I can happily say I was able to find so many new and wonderful stories to enjoy, in a variety of genres. Since then my library has re-opened, and I've been even more thankful that God's blessed me with the ability to get my hands on lots and lots of books, no matter what form.
5. I wrote something new. (Actually, a lot of somethings!)
When I first started writing seriously, I was most comfortable reading and writing in fantasy. Most of my stories were fantasy, and so I didn't feel the need to write anything else. Both reading and writing-wise, though, 2020 introduced me to a lot of new stories and story ideas in different settings and worlds. Now, though I still have a soft spot for fantasy as a whole, my second completed novel is the exact opposite genre-wise, and I'm really excited about that.
Through pushing myself both as a reader and writer, I learned that it can be fun to experiment with different types of genres, and continue to pursue growing as a writer. And, of course, I was reminded how God can use so many unique stories for His glory!
6. I joined the Young Writers' Workshop.
Speaking of writing, last summer I received a series of emails that persuaded me to "take the plunge" and join another writing community. I initially signed up for the high school academic program (YWW Academic), but later found out being part of the "YDubs" online forum came as part of the package.
At first I felt a little out of place. There seemed like so many people also on the community that it was overwhelming. I'd only been part of one other writers' forum for the past three years, and it was hard for me to even want to be active, when I felt closer and more familiar with the users there. It was also a challenge to get used to the different terms and ways the Young Writers' Workshop offered guidance.
Through various people reaching out, me getting more comfortable with the layout, and time, I was able to feel a bit more grounded and even got confident enough to reach out to other interesting writers, or YDubbers, instead of the other way around. Through trying out the Young Writers' Workshop, and YWW Academic, God blessed me with new perspectives, opportunities to grow as a writer, and outlets to make friends.
7. I got a great reminder.
Another awesome thing that happened to me last summer was that I signed up for a Bible study. When I actually started, there were five other girls in the group: two casual friends, my sister, and two other girls I didn't know. It felt a bit uncomfortable at first learning to open up and get to know one another, but in the end we were able to become close and have fun studying God's word together.
God really spoke to me through the study itself. We used the eight week "Defined" curriculum by Priscilla Shirer, which was supposed to be based on the 2019 movie Overcomer. In it there were a lot of great reminders about who we are in Christ, and about how we can overcome all of the sins and struggles that keep us from embracing our identity in him (reference intended). I learned a lot from just being encouraged to stay close to Him and remember that my failures, successes, behavior, regrets, or past don't define my worth. That, especially, was and is a great reminder to me!
(If you want to read more about this but don't necessarily want to go through the Bible study yourself, check out Priscilla Shirer's book Radiant, which is based on some of the lessons in the movie and curriculum. You can find the Amazon link HERE. Though it's aimed toward teen girls and young women, I think there is so much in it that everyone needs to be reminded of!)
8. I found out that change is sometimes better than doing it "right".
Overall, though I had it pretty good in 2020, things still changed for me. Businesses and workplaces shut down, rocking our schedules. Most (if not all) of the activities we were involved in had to go online. My family watched as America's division made headline news.
But also, there were so many memories that I wouldn't have experienced, so many blessings I would've walked past if 2020 hadn't happened the way it did. As for everything shutting down? It gave me a chance to connect with my family. As for all of the virtual activities? In the case of my summer writing conference that went online, I found out there were perks to relying on the Internet, including the ability to join a Minecraft server, directly comment on samples of writing, and interact with speakers and students that wouldn't have been able to make it in person. (Can't forget the silly Zoom names either!) My dance studio finished the year strong: despite being delayed for several months and then switching to virtual classes, they were able to re-open and host a series of socially-distanced recitals. And as for all the stuff happening in America? I trust that God has it safe in His hands, especially now.
Many are calling 2020 one of the worst years in history. I'm not arguing that it wasn't overwhelming, stressful and painful for a lot of families. Yet for me, 2020 definitely had a lot of good things, along with the hard-to-deal-with ones. I hope that later in life, I'll look back and be able to remember all of the ways that pandemic complications strengthened my faith and showed me even more of the Lord's grace and mercy.
Yes, God blessed me in 2020.
Today I'm tagging:
Thanks for joining me for this blog tag! I hope you enjoyed reading through my list.
What about you? What has God blessed you with in 2020, and beyond? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments. If you have a blog, and have already posted about this topic, I'd love to get the link.
Like always, I am open to post requests. Check out my Review Policy page for more details. I'd also like to note that from now on, I will be posting every Friday. Hopefully this should give me enough time to write a great review or bookish post each week, and, if you want to keep up with my posts, give you enough time to scroll through the post during the next couple of days.
So, until Friday!