What are your dreams and aspirations for the new year? Do you have lofty goals, or are you playing it safe? Can we even set goals with so much continued uncertainty all around us? After another hard year, my tendency is to huddle up and prepare to be sucker-punched by another one.
But this perspective has all eyes on circumstances, not on the One who sidles up close in their midst. So how do I begin? A thought occurred to me as I walked among the few Christmas lights still twinkling; start where last year ended. At the manger, with a King born to die.
Let’s walk with Him along the dusty Galilean roads, learning His unforced rhythms of grace, hanging on His every word, mesmerized by His winsome ways, marveling at miracle after miracle.
Then solemnly, we turn cross-ward with Him. We watch His passion play out in horror, cry at the cross, and stand in awe-filled disbelief with His disciples at the empty tomb. Finally, we see Him gloriously resurrected: making breakfast, sharing meals and walking along roadsides with friends.
Close to our Shepherd is the safest place to be, even if it’s in the middle of a mess.
Does this mean there won’t be lions and wolves lurking nearby, occasionally attacking and even scattering the flock? No; we live in a broken, fallen world, but we can trust our Good Shepherd.
Sometimes what’s best for us does not seem good, but if we wait, watch, pray, cry out, press in, we find He’s with us. This doesn’t mean it’s easy, but He will bring us to those green pastures and quiet waters to restore our soul.
Now that we have our focus set, we can get back to those goals. But maybe you feel there’s not much to dream about. Life’s been rough at best, miserable at worst. I get it. I haven’t walked in your shoes, but I’ve walked the valley of the shadow of death.
Why can we look forward to this year with hope? Because our King sits on the throne.
You are one in whom Christ dwells and delights. You live in the strong and unshakeable Kingdom of God. His Kingdom is not in trouble, and neither are you. James Bryan Smith
However, before we look ahead, we need to look back. In reflecting on the past, we gain wisdom and vision for the future.
I firmly believe very little life change occurs without reflection, and I’d love to share the trusty tools that help me effectively look back.
If this idea is new to you, may I recommend giving this practice a try before running into the new year with guns blazing? Even if it feels like you’re crawling into the new year, this will be life-giving, not because last year was stellar, but because it helps you see God’s presence, even in the hard places.
Reflection is how we walk into the new year clutching the swaddling clothes of the Baby in the manger.
If you don’t have any practice in place, allow me to suggest this free resource. I worked through these 10 questions for reflection and discernment by Emily Freeman. They are simple, thought-provoking and revealing. You need to submit your email, but you won’t be disappointed.
This resource helped me discern important things I never considered, in addition to:
- What was life-giving?
- What was life-draining?
These questions from The NRT Guided Journal are recommended versus a pro-con list for decision-making. Even if you reflect on just these, you’ll be amazed at what you discern, but I highly encourage downloading the questions.
It is in reflection we see the goodness, beauty and truth of God in our lives.
Next, after looking back, we can turn to the new year. While I share what works for me, know there are many quality planners out there.
The Dream Planner is my preference for planning. It guides me through discerning with Jesus what I want to accomplish, helping me narrow that down if I’m unsure. The quarterly planning helps reflect on every area of my life, creating goals for each. If it sounds overwhelming, it’s really not. It took me about an hour to complete, and I now have a direction and focus for winter!
You will never rise to the level of your goals. You will always fall to the level of your systems. James Clear
Whether we sprint, saunter or crawl into the new year, reflection reminds us of God’s presence in our past and provides insight into His purpose and plans for our future. And while we’re peering, He beckons us to Himself, because His presence is sweet and soul-satisfying. It’s where we discover our heart’s desire—something we will find nowhere else.
Surround me with Your tender mercies so I may live, for Your instructions are my delight. Psalm 119:77