It is the most wonderful time of year. The leaves have changed, the temperatures have dropped, and we are feverishly scrambling to get last minute holiday shopping done (make that list and check it twice!). Before we know it we’ll have closed out another year and we’ll be laser focused on all things new – new year, new decade, and new year resolutions.
The more I learn about process, cycles, and seasons, the more I love things that symbolize fresh starts and new beginnings. No matter how hard the previous year was or how weary I am, my heart cannot help but experience a surge of hope as we draw closer to January.
Our culture seems a little confused about what to do with the New Year. On one hand, there’s a tremendous push to “start things off right,” or commit to a “new you.” There is a lot of pressure to make changes and choices, to do a better job this time. On the other hand, there will be a barrage of articles and statistics about all the reasons resolutions are pointless and why you’ll certainly fail. There might be a few attempts at helpful tips, offering better ways to manage your goals; but, in the end, it kind of feels like one colossal gimmick. Do you realize that one month the advertisers are trying to make us buy health products and gym memberships, and the next month, they push us to buy chocolate? Oh, the irony! Perhaps you simply feel overwhelmed with all the possibilities—where should you even start?
Take a deep breath.
December speaks of the ending of one year and the promise of new beginnings in January. It signals the full emergence of the cold winter season (I know, I know – that’s questionable in Louisiana). Although it may sometimes get us down, winter implores us to remember that this is only one critical part of the cycle. Light, rebirth, and summer will soon return, and we will all be presented with a fresh start. Like the whiteness of a winter wonderland, we can use this time to purify ourselves and clarify our thoughts. It is the perfect scenario for it, as well. The cold temperatures often keeps everyone inside, which suddenly turns the world silent. It’s a time for peace, love, and joy. A time for family. It’s an opportunity to subtract from your crazy schedule so that’s more of you to add to the places that bring value to your life. Be still.
God wants to speak to us. The best thing we can do is prepare our hearts to take it all in. Every growth process requires practical action. And, here’s the good news – He’s not a marketing ploy or a trend diet – He never fails us.
What’s in a word?
For the last couple of years, around the holidays, I have prayed for God to give me a word for the coming year. A word that will be a theme, so to speak, for the next year. Last November, as I prayed, everywhere I would look, the message was clear – Total Forgiveness. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that when God wants to teach me something, He sends me a teacher, but I don’t always like the lesson – and 2019 was indeed a lesson in forgiveness. Every single day, we have the opportunity to rebuild relationships and heal wounds by receiving and extending God’s grace – especially where forgiveness is concerned. I saw that first hand this year. But, I also saw that the greater the hurt, the greater the blessing that will come as a result.
I didn’t come this far, to only come this far. Neither did you. We are always only one decision away from a completely different life.
365 new days.
365 new chances.
As I look down that road, to 2020, I cannot help but be overwhelmed with hope and thankfulness. My heart anticipates what it will bring, and I haven’t felt that in a long time. I know I am not alone. Some of you might be feeling the same, but standing on the edge of fear. If that’s you, let me say this………
Take your time.
I rarely set any goals or form any plans at the very beginning of the year. The entire month of January is set aside for listening, processing, absorbing. Identify what’s important to you as an individual. Sometimes we think all our goals need to be spiritual or profound, but God has wired you with certain interests, passions, and strengths for a reason. He gifts us with unique talents – our gift back to Him is to use them.
Ask and Receive. Ask God to help you discern what is meant to be a priority to you. There will be many great prophetic words and insights coming. There will be causes brought to your attention. There will be all manner of efforts and initiatives. Not all of these things will be your assignment. God has a way of highlighting what He is calling you to. Pay attention to what deeply resonates with you or to what you cannot stop thinking about. Also, consider the season you are in and what responsibilities you have. This can help you identify what needs to be a priority.
Be expectant. God can change the tides at any time. My daughter and I are starting a “good things” jar, labelled 2020. When something happens that we want to remember, big or small, we will write it down and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, we will pull out the squares of paper and remember all the bright moments. Sometimes we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life; and, we get distracted by the obstacles we face. If we are being honest, we all struggle with having faith for good things, at times – especially when we have deep disappointment in our heart. This jar will be an act of intention that we will see daily, believing it will be filled with good things. In 12 months when it is full, we will read each one and see God’s goodness in all kinds of places.
Acknowledge. Go fact to face with the disappointments, failures, struggles, etc. from the previous year, and release them. When we try to bury, ignore, or dismiss these things, we actually end up giving them more power over us; we also don’t learn as much from them. I like to write things out, then go over them one by one and talk to God about them. I’m not talking about lofty, spiritual language here. Get raw and honest with God; He can handle it. Then choose to trust Him with working it all together for your good.
My take-away from 2019 is this………God doesn’t give up on you, even when you’re tempted to give up on you. He has things He wants to show you and say to you. He has gifts to give you and divine assignments for you. New beginnings are God’s idea, even His specialty. Whether you are overflowing with hope or struggling to muster some up, choose to believe His promise and His character, and get ready to hear His voice for this fresh season of your life. I dare you to ask Him for a word.
After weeks of praying, the word ADVENTURE continues to dominate my thoughts. I have no idea what that means, but I do know this – wherever I go, I’m going to go with all my heart. I’m going to let my feet wander, my eyes marvel, and my soul ignite.
Growth never happens in a comfort zone; so, let the journey begin! Happy New Year, friends!