It is the time for new beginnings, yet again. Isn’t it lovely that we have a whole new year spread out before us like a beautiful landscape? The path is before our feet, and though we cannot see clearly to the horizon of December 31st, 2015, we can see what is in front of us. We can look to the blue, hazy horizon, beyond the hills, valleys, mountains, and streams we must cross before we come to it. We can prepare well for our journey, with prayer, hope, faith, and a decent map. We may not know with any certainty what is over the next hill, but we can know the general direction we must take. We must keep to the straight, narrow way, and turn neither to the right nor the left. Put one foot in front of the other, and trust to God to lead us where we need to go.
The main thing is to understand that we cannot trust that our plans will hold. We can chart our course, but God himself has laid the landscape before us already. He knows every hill, valley, mountain, and stream. He knows every obstacle and choice of roads that will confront us. He knows that we are only dust, and we may be convinced that turning off the main path is a good idea, but he is faithful, and will steer us in the right direction once again. Even if we have to backtrack a bit, that doesn’t mean our whole year is derailed. As C.S. Lewis writes:
“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
Of course, we can turn back to the right road any time, but the New Year usually has all of us thinking about how to go about that. We make (and break) resolutions. We set goals, but fail to reach them. I have found, for me, that rather than too many specific goals, I like to chart a direction. To find the straight and narrow path God wants me to tread this year, and plan for ways to stick to that road, with as few distractions and detours as possible. As long as I am moving forward on that road, I am content.
Over the last few days, I have been praying about my direction for this year. One of my favorite tools, which I have used for several years now, is this printable at The Art of Simple, outlining thoughtful goal-setting questions for various areas of my life. She also has reflection questions, so I can evaluate my previous year. I haven’t filled those out yet, because I kinda forgot, but they are very useful, practical tools to evaluate myself prayerfully, and to help me look forward with faith, hope, and a fresh light.
Yesterday morning, I filled most of it out, but there are sections in which I needed Levi’s input. I was nervous to ask, because in the past, Levi shunned this kind of thing. He hates worksheets of all kinds, and hates writing things down even more. So, I’ve always just done it by myself, taking responsibility for my own growth, regardless. No sense in annoying Levi into doing things my way, when it just doesn’t work for him.
However, a little over a year ago, the Lord did something amazing inside my husband, and he has become a new, different man. Still very much Levi, but with some serious meat on his spiritual bones. I like it. Anyway, I decided to ask him to help me with the marriage and family section, and not only was he willing, but he went through the whole handout, and contributed to every section! We set goals together, for the first time in our marriage. And behold, it was very good!
I stand in awe of what God can do in a man. It’s amazing. Now, I just have to catch up, shunning my old habits, and embracing and helping this new man of mine to grow, even as he has already begun helping me.
We prayed over our coming year together, and I tucked the sheets into my prayer journal, so I can pull them out again at the end of 2015.
Also for the last couple of years, I have decided to choose One Word for the Year. A word that will chart my course for the year, and become a focus for me to grow in. Two years ago, after Dad’s death, I chose the word, “Everyday” sometime around March. Last year, my word was “Diligence.”
This morning, while I was reading Jeremiah, this verse jumped out and grabbed me by the throat. I couldn’t let it go:
“A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? ” ~Jeremiah 5:30-31 (NIV)
So, I wrote it down, and picked up this worksheet to help me decide what my One Word for the year would be. It’s not a Christian resource, and talks a lot about “manifesting,” and “attracting,” and all that junk. However, I know good and well that I can manifest nothing. It is all about surrendering to the Holy Spirit, and listening to his still, small voice. That said, I thought it was an excellent tool to get me thinking. Off the top of my head, I chose several potential words: Prayerfulness, Action, Growth, Heal, Release.
I prayed. I asked God to show me if I was headed in the right direction. He immediately drew my attention back to the above verse. Especially: “But what will you DO in the end?”
This year, my One Word is “Action.” The verse in Jeremiah is clear: in spite of circumstances, the corruption of government, church leadership, and any other hindrance I could name, I am still responsible. What will I DO?
Though words are my strength, this is the year I need to turn my words into deeds, in all areas of my life. Instead of talking about taking the kids on field trips, spending more time with the people I care about, finishing projects around the house, becoming a midwife, it is time to do those things.
It’s about action.
Moving in the direction of more and more action, less and less talking about action.
I will fail, I know, but I stand encouraged, because I have already begun. With the help of my husband, my God, and my friends, I have set goals for the year centered around taking action. Instead of living in the “shoulds,” I am going to do some of them.
Some goals are more personal and private than others, but I would like to share a few of our goals and desires for 2015:
Levi & I:
- Walk together 30 minutes, three times a week.
- Finish three major home projects: 1) Remodel the bathroom, 2) Paint the house and bedrooms, and 3) Clean up and make our backyard presentable again.
- Pray together daily, even if just a minute or two.
My Personal Goals:
- Find an older woman to be my mentor.
- Create something beautiful each month, especially paintings/art.
- Complete 15 skills pages out of the 43 I need for my midwifery training.
- Learn new embroidery stitches, and complete two samplers.
- Read 30 books.
There are other, loftier goals I have, but I don’t feel that this blog is the place to share them. I want this year to go beyond the superficial, but starting small is so important. I don’t want to overwhelm myself the first week, and give up by Valentine’s Day.
These goals may not look like much on the surface, but I feel very optimistic about them. This is because I have learned to be flexible. I may not have chosen the right specific goals, but if I am sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, I can make the right changes at the right times. Yet, I have a feeling that 2015 is going to be a landmark year for my family and me. I don’t know what it holds, but I have a feeling this will be a year of change and growth–and some of it is going to hurt a lot.
Thanks for sticking with me for a 1300+ word post. I didn’t intend it to be this long, but then again, I never do. It is what it is, and while I don’t feel quite ready to tackle this year head-on, I do feel ready to wade in a little at a time, and put my words into action.
How about you? Do you have any goals or desires you want to work on this year? Do you have a Word for the year?
Grace & Peace,