2020: eventful even without a pandemic

More miles than ever. Another book. Love. And a new experience. (No, not COVID-19.)

I didn’t need a pandemic for 2020 to be yet another remarkable year. Here are the four major events of my year.

Logging the miles

In 2019, for the first time I topped 1,000 combined jogging and walking miles. I set higher goals for 2020. I achieved them all.

1,200 miles

  • as of December 27, I am at 1,358.8 miles

100 miles every month

  • In 2019, I hit 100 six times, the most I’d ever had

Average 6 miles per outing

  • I’m at 6.07
  • My previous best was 2019: 5.46

Have no outings shorter than 5 miles

  • I’d never set this goal before

224 outings

  • I didn’t set this as a goal
  • My previous best was 2019: 215
  • Outing 222 was my second-longest ever. In 2000, I ran 10 miles. I’ve achieved 8 miles a few times. This one was 8.47 miles. Here’s my route:

My 2021 goals? I’ve struggled to come up with something challenging that I can stick with. At times in 2020 I was pooped out—physically and mentally—striving to meet each monthly goal, and never to have a run or walk shorter than five miles.

I averaged about 4.5 outings per week. I’d love to average 5 per week, so that is my first goal.

My second goal is to average 5.5 miles, allowing myself shorter outings—as low as 3 miles. The lower minimum will help on days I don’t feel up to it, and when the weather only allows, say, a half hour before rain comes.

If I make the two goals—260 outings, averaging at least 5.5 miles—I’ll achieve a new best for total miles, at least 1,430.

My second book

In August, I published Ministering to Transgender Christians. That’s two books in two years. I recently completed the first draft of my third book, Only on Sunday, which is a memoir of the ministry that takes place the other six days of the week.


My two unmarried children got engaged! Jackie will marry Matt Kroeger in May. Alex will wed Chelsea Smith in October.

Julie and I adore both Chelsea and Matt. We could not be more happy for Jackie and Alex, and for the addition to our family of these two splendid people.

A new experience

My new experience would not have occurred without the pandemic, though the experience had nothing to do with the pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, Julie has worked remotely since March 20. Working remotely, she could work from anywhere she had a secure internet connection and a quiet space.

In May, her mother had a serious stroke. We both went to Iowa for a week. On May 30, Julie returned to Iowa. She didn’t come back to Indianapolis until December 13.

Her mom died on July 3. A series of things necessitated Julie’s remaining at her dad’s into December.

By mid summer, I realized this was the longest I’d ever been alone. I learned a lot from it. I hated all of it.

When I was a pastor, I learned from those who had lost spouses. The biggest loss is that this most-loved mate is simply gone.

Our mate gone, we still have everything and everyone else—through those months, I kept jogging and gardening and writing, and though seeing people was greatly curtailed it was not totally cut off, and I went to Iowa twice—but that our spouse is gone, day in and day out, all day and every day, is the hardest.

Sure, I knew Julie would be returning. While that gave me hope, it didn’t put her in the house. The weeks and months grew long and hard.

There’s no vaccine for loneliness.

My life is structured so that I am busy during the day and I relax after supper. That’s when the loneliness crept up on me. Not every day, but too many of them. Many evenings were filled with Julie on the phone. But, too many days, the quiet in the house, being by myself—something I’d never in my first 62 years experienced longer than ten days—it just plain hurt terribly to be alone.

When my mom died, I recognized that my dad needed a mate. He was 59. Logically, I knew being alone was not good for him. That he remarried six months later seemed soon, yet I grasped his need.

Now, I get it both logically and emotionally. The need for a mate. By your side. In the house. To cook for her. That’s she’s there for whatever comes up. To watch TV together. Work in the garden together. Go for a walk together.

Simply, to be together.

As we are, once more—with our nineteenth wedding anniversary arriving December 30. That’s a great way to conclude a challenging year.

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