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  • janetmchenry

Finding the Up Side in this Year's Downs

A year of ups and downs, huh?

“Ups?” you say?

Yes, despite what’s happened, I am determined to keep #lookingup.

A year ago Sunday I flew home from several days visiting with my brother and his wife, who live in Palm Desert CA. While I’d heard of the coronavirus before flying there, I had no idea the impact it would make on the whole world and life as we had known it.

I should have had a clue when my flights into and out of Palm Springs were nearly empty. I loved having a whole row to myself. But my brother, sister-by-love and I enjoyed our times together seeing the sights, even a packed tram from about zero elevation to 8,516 feet up the mountain–from hot on the desert floor to cool with snow in minutes. I remember making sure I wasn’t facing anyone–just in case.

As I review my 2020 calendar, I see lots of things crossed off. Trips. Visits from others, to others. Church programs. An Amy Grant concert.

And then Zoom meetings started filling my calendar. Writers conferences. Prayer meetings. Speaking events.

Surprisingly, we had more company in our guest house than any other summer-fall season. People wanted to go somewhere where they could feel safe . . . and our little county has stayed virtually virus-free. I love hospitality, so those connections have proved heart enriching.

Nonetheless, I felt stagnated writing-wise for months. Even though I blogged daily, I was stuck creatively. And what good is a writer who isn’t writing? Or producing books?

I started feeling really bad about myself . . . and the comfort eating packed on pounds.

One day last fall I picked up the bullet journal and beautiful set of finely-tipped colored, felt-tip pens a friend had given me and decided to start using it. The concept is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. I voted for simple.

A bullet journal is just that: pages and pages of lined bullets. No words, just bullets. What I do is write the day and date, then list the various tasks I want to accomplish that day, each starting with a bullet (the punctuation mark). When I complete a task, I put an X through the bullet. If I partly finish the task, I put a slash through the bullet. If I don’t finish the task, I move it to the next day.

I had some pretty major goals for myself:

– Write a book proposal.

– Complete a certification course in life coaching.

– Put together a writer retreat program.

– Write an online masterclass in prayer.

– Record PrayerWalk in audio book form.

– Continue to read and creatively journal through the Bible.

– Lose the Covid-12 pounds plus another 10 or more.

– Read a book a week.

At first I got the routine things done but struggled to break through the major goals. Eventually though, I got tired of moving those bulleted items to the next day. I wanted them crossed off the list entirely.

And I did. I wrote not one but two book proposals, got the coaching certification and started taking clients, scheduled the retreats and created the web pages for them, and finished the online course creation last week. I’ve lost almost all my Covid weight . . . and am on a much better course of health. Only the audio book is still on my agenda.

At the end of a year I can say I’m in a better place. Had I done all the traveling I would have liked to have done, I doubt I could have focused as much to get the hard goals accomplished.

The greatest thing, though, of the last year has been the slower-paced lifestyle that has allowed me more time in God’s Word. I’ve seen scripture open up in a way I’d never seen before. And despite the virus and the riots and the political frenzy that was last year, I refused to step into fear, because each day God showed me something in the Bible that encouraged me and kept me #lookingup so that I could encourage others around me.

Yes, there are things I have missed.

The handful of times I’ve visited my mom in her senior living apartment I’ve been unable to sit with her. We visit through her window, each of us on our cell phone.

I miss real, full church. I long for 3D Bible study times–rather than just the 2D of Zoom.

I miss conversations that aren’t monopolized by chat about the virus.

Bottom line is that while I haven’t always had the best attitude about all the boundaries and while I know I stagnated for a spell, I hope and pray that the last twelve months have moved me closer to the Savior I love . . . and that his light shines just a little bit brighter in me now than it did a year ago.

Janet McHenry is a speaker and the author of 24 books–six on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalkand her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. Her masterclass called Prayer School answers questions we all have at some time. Why pray? How should we pray? Why do we need to pray more than once? Why doesn’t God answer our prayers? The introductory price for the course just covers the price for the three course textbooks! More info at

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