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What was the best book you read this year? 

Mine was Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I listened to the author read it, actually — revelled in her calming voice as I walked my dog, as I drove past stripmalls to check errands off my list, as I deboned a chicken in my kitchen. Her Indigenous wisdom, her natural-world wisdom, her feminine wisdom filled my menial moments and offered me a whole new way to see, to savor, to participate in the world.

What was the best choice you made this year?

Mine was to join a group spiritual direction cohort. I struggled, all through the fall, to fast every Wednesday from some food, all social media, and most thinking about Trump. I struggled to pray in new ways, and old ways, and more genuine and true ways. I realized the deep connectedness I share with others who simply don’t know how to do this life of faith perfectly, either.

What was your most valuable mistake of 2020?

Mine was thinking that I wanted to try being a church pastor. Going through the process of pursuing a call, and then withdrawing from it, disappointed people I care about. It was awful. And I gained some priceless lessons about my very real flaws, about trusting my gut, and about leaning on grace.

Best purchase of 2020?

Mine was a vintage Pendleton Glacier National Park blanket. It’s so old that the yellow stripe has faded completely, and someone had sewn a silky border around its edges, hiding the pre-1930 label from all the other thrifters at the Salvation Army. It’s the warmest blanket, and it lets me literally wrap myself in my own thrifting vainglory.

The scariest thing? 

Racing a travel trailer out of Mexico, toward the heart of a brand new pandemic, no idea what would lay ahead.

The delight of my year was brushing my hand along the barnacled side of a grey whale.

The eye-opener of my year was the murder of George Floyd and what it exposed of the true heart of the white Evangelical church. 

The frustration of my year was navigating the relational fallout of a global pandemic.

The accomplishment of my year was keeping a sourdough starter, a fiddle-leaf fig, a bearded dragon, and two children alive and well. 

The grief of my year was the thousands of deaths from COVID, some of whom were dear to those I loved, and the unknowns of a socially-distant community of support.

As we round the bend to 2021, I wish I had a sneak-peak for what’s to come. I want to know if the vaccine will change everything, if the economy will stabilize, if my kids will go back to school, if my neighbors will get a puppy. But of course we’re never given this chance to cheat; like every year, we must simply breathe, pray, see with each new day whether the sourdough has bubbled yet again. 

No plans, no promises, no goals for 2021. Instead, I invite you to look back on all that 2020 offered you — blessings, overt and hidden — and join me in deep gratitude for what that this year gave and what it took, all that it grew and all that it let die.

I know not what 2021 will bring, but I’m certain that whatever it is… something about it will be the best.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

7 Comments

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Thank you for you transparency. If only we knew the true inner life of so many of those around us. We arm wrestle daily with the roll of a world that seems too much to bear, the constant call to service, the longing for true belonging, and feeling like we can never be enough to fix it all. But then there are good books, grand family and friends, small slivers of beauty that break open the spirit, and promises that truly are ‘new every morning’.

  • Tim Van Deelen says:

    Two twelve essays in a row mention Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass.” I wish I could go back and read that book again for the first time.
    Thanks for this, Kate.

  • Kathy VanRees says:

    Thank you Kate ♥️

  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thanks, Kate. Now I have to listen to the book you mentioned. Here’s to a great 2021!

  • I will accept your invitation, with gratitude for an annual spiritual practice. The description of your group spiritual direction practice is a good example of the deeper work I believe God is calling many in the church to do. As a spiritual director I get to watch the Spirit change people. It’s one of my “bests” of 2020! Thank you for this essay.

  • Kathy Hoedeman says:

    Thank you, Kate, for your honest reflection and beautiful prose. Your words provide a useful template for each of us as we pick up our pens and accept your invitation to “look back on all that 2020 offered”. My journal awaits.

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