A blank document staring at you on the computer screen or a crisp, fresh calendar can be so freeing and exciting — full of possibilities! Both may also feel overwhelming if you contemplate the vastness of the open space and all that’s yet unwritten and unknown.
Our society tends to heighten our awareness as the new year barely begins to come into view. While it’s still months away, society begins shouting out all of the prospective things we need to change — whether it be with new fashions that will look great on us as we kick off the new year right, the diet change that will help us lose weight and be happier, or a new tech gadget that will make our busy lifestyle much easier to navigate. Will all of those things truly make life in 2019 any different than 2018? Maybe physically they might, but undoubtedly many of us could use the challenge to make some tweaks and adjustments in our lifestyle and our Christian hearts.
What if we took advantage of the fresh slate and beginning of the new year to take inventory? What if we sought out ways that help us (to use author Matthew Kelly’s phrase) become “the best version of ourselves” and acted on them with real intention this year?
Maybe all God is asking of us is to be open to receiving what he has in store for 2019, planned and unexpected, favorable and tough. Sometimes we don’t need a lofty list to launch us into the new year, only to feel like we’ve failed by mid-January. We’ve become a people of great hope during the Advent season! While still lingering in the Christmas season, we don’t need to feel deterred by the checklists of those around us.
Over the last several years, I’ve been drawn to being open to and prayerfully considering a “Word of the Year” in preparation for a new year. Each year, as the calendar nears December or during the Advent season (sometimes even later), I’ve prayed and asked God to open my heart, mind, ears and eyes to a word he may be asking me to focus on in the new year. While sometimes the hints at the word have been unremarkable, other times he has almost directed me to them with bright neon signs!
It never fails that I may have a vision of what the word may mean for me that year and then God surprises me with an unexpected twist to how it comes to fruition. It has also meant that sometimes the word has taken on a different meaning as I’ve grown that year, gone through unexpected trials or while God used someone else to teach me a new meaning in that word. I didn’t know that “Joy” would shine through a young teen (named Joy) who battled cancer and whom my family grew close to in prayer and relationship. I never saw the ending to that story being her “Joy” in passing into eternal life. In 2018, when God presented “Flourish” as my word, I found it only fitting that it represented new opportunities and surprising endeavors as I embarked on my 40th year.
We aren’t all called to take huge leaps in 2019 or to compare notes with those around us on who’s jumping in with the most zeal. One small step may be all you need to move closer to some amazing things God has in store, or closer to his heart so you can lean on him more. He knows the reasons and he knows your life season.
Welcome and move toward something new (adventure, friendship, parish ministry, etc.), or maybe embrace again something that was left behind last year when life became too overloaded (daily prayer time, reading Scripture, a hobby, local volunteer project, service in your parish, a family relationship, etc.).
Whether you feel stuck with an empty piece of paper as your directive for 2019 or you already have high hopes and expectations, may 2019 be a year of blessing for you!
Sarah Heidelberger and her family are members of St. Bartholomew Parish in Villard.