For the past several years on New Year’s Eve, our sweet hosts have pulled out a sheet of cardboard on which everyone writes their goals for the year ahead in permanent sharpie. One year I wrote that I would find our dog, Bailey, and I did. Another year I wrote that I would run a half-marathon, and I did. Last year, I had a specific running goal in mind, and I wrote it down on the cardboard with a lump in my throat. Specificity in goal-making hadn’t been working well for me in that season. Still, I wrote it and we all clinked our prosecco glasses, and a new year had begun.
I didn’t come close to meeting that goal. A combination of injuries, long recovery, and passivity derailed my running time and again this year, and as of this writing, the furthest I’ve gone in 2019 is a little more than four miles, but man, did I walk.
Walking felt like retreat when it was all I could physically do, but there’s a particular beauty in walking, step by step. I saw a lot of sky, breathed a lot of air, listened to a lot of wisdom in podcasts, and kept moving forward, slow but sure. It was a picture of what was happening in my inner life.
For the past several years as December comes to a close, I’ve picked a word for the year ahead. I picked ‘story’ when I needed to see how God was making sense of the pieces of my life, ‘see’ when I sensed I needed more understanding, and ‘cultivate’ when I intuited that God was growing something new in me. This year, a scripture screamed out at me and I hoped I’d find a word there.
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43: 18-19
I saw the word ‘springs’ and I wanted it. After being cultivated this past year, it just made sense that this was the year I’d spring up and forward with lots of momentum and velocity. There are quite a few places where I can imagine that happening, too. Lots of small beginnings of things that could for sure grow bigger, and I was on the verge of choosing it when I remembered: you’re not choosing with specificity anymore, dummy. You’re not predicting or calling the shots. You’re walking in light, one step at a time. It was a lesson I had learned the hard way, and I didn’t want to go backwards.
For the past several years (forever, really), we’ve gathered together as a family on Christmas. There’s always chaos and a lot of emotions, balled up wrapping paper and onion dip. But I’ve never seen grace abound like I did this Christmas. In acts of kindness and shared memories, affirmation, appreciation and pure relational joy, harmony and peace, this one beat them all. It was a Christmas my mother would’ve loved, one she surely prayed for, and one for which my Dad had a front row seat. Each member of our family had mirrored a particular part of our mother this year and on Christmas Day, it was crystal clear: Mom had planted the seeds and in time and by grace, we had all walked it out.
As I remember the hard-fought lessons I’ve learned this year, and think on the year ahead, there’s one word that floats to the surface: walk. Letting go and allowing God control has resulted in more unexpected good than I could have imagined in absolutely every area of my life. I no longer feel the burden of planning but instead intentionally walking out the good things God has planned for me and mine. It’s a good place to be.
So in 2020, I’m stepping out on the road and I’m not really sure where it will lead. Maybe I’ll spring up and sprint or maybe it will look more like purposeful steps, one by one, into the light. One thing’s for sure, this year has changed me, changed my prayers and my practices. I’m listening for direction and I’m doing my best to walk it out in obedience. I’m much smaller in my imagination than I’ve been, and because of that smallness, I seem to be abundantly much more useful, which is just the kind of crazy upside-down way God works. Who knows where it will lead, but now I know, it’s somewhere good.
My 2020 prayer for you, me, and ours: God, this year, choose our thoughts and our direction. Choose our locations, our vocations, our interactions, our friends, jobs, partners, and everything that crosses our paths this year.
Open the doors you want open and close the ones you want closed. We trust you.
Give us the grace to walk it out well in Jesus’ name, Amen.