I love the start of a new year so, so much. Every year, at some point either on December 31 or January 1, 2, or 3rd, I weep with gladness and awe at God’s faithfulness for the year past and I am filled with giddy excitement for a brand new, fresh year full of new things and new starts. Confession: I absolutely swooned over everyone’s instagram collages and recollections this year. I love it all, because it’s such a climax to the grand paradox of this earthly life: the hard and good are almost always the same thing, and that’s such grace. Joy and pain go hand in hand. God’s goodness is lavish and abundant as much in the bitter times as it is when times are sweet.
This new year came up slowly, softly, and silently. I first felt it to be anticlimactic, but it was perfect after a year of wild crazy moves and goodbyes and transitions. Andrew and I were driving down from a wedding in Virginia to spend the weekend in Charleston with friends, and when I looked at the map and saw we wouldn’t make it in time to countdown with everyone, I all but threw a fit. My absolute favorite part of each year is watching the old slip away and cheering and celebrating when the new begins. And to make it worse, I’d missed the last 2! (Two years ago I fell asleep at 8pm, oops. and last year Andrew passed out from jet lag and I watched k-pop and fireworks on TV with our air b&b hosts when the clock struck 12). Even though I was disappointed that our road trip took hours longer than we originally planned, and most likely everyone at the house would be asleep by the time we got there, I didn’t throw a pity party for not getting to join the real party. As soon as I wanted to snap at Andrew for not driving faster, a better kind of thought snapped into my mind. Simply, this: how in the world can I be bitter and ungrateful about not getting to celebrate a small, short, 10 second countdown when in reality, the whole spectrum of 2015 has been nothing short of incredible, amazing, wonderful, mind-blowing, wild, and undeserved, abundant goodness. Andrew kept driving as I turned on my favorite Sleeping At Last song, took his hand, closed my eyes, and didn’t open them until I heard him whisper, “Happy New Year!” and we celebratory-kissed at the next red light.
So to be honest, I really only wanted to write this post to share two things, and I’m caught rambling, as usual. The first thing I want to share is an idea I will be doing this year, as daily and often as I can. The slowness in which we welcomed the new year inspired my goals and intentions for the way I want to spend 2016, and so I’m sharing here to give an idea for someone who happens to be reading and might want to try a simple practice as we begin this new year.
It’s called a daily examen. I did this every night for a few weeks when I was in Korea and I cannot tell you how profound and special it was to me! The daily examen is just a simple set of questions that help you reflect on the day, and to help stir your heart towards deeper connectedness to God (I think there’s even apps out there that are pertinent). It begins with questions and ends with a prayer of gratitude, and each time I sat down to do it, I was tired and empty and felt useless. But I would start jotting my thoughts down and suddenly, like a ripple effect, I was swelling with joy and peace and thankfulness. The practice is simple and open, allowing freedom to process however is best for you: it may be pages and pages of thoughts (my version usually), or simple bullet points (Andrew’s version most likely), but no matter how you do it (I even combine a few questions to make it even more simple), it is deeply stirring and profoundly meaningful, and it is so special to have days and weeks and months captured in such specific ways. I treasure the pages that hold these thoughts because they are beautiful snapshots of both the good and the bad, why they go hand in hand, and why they matter. So if you have any intention for growth and deepening in any way — faith-based or not! — I encourage you to ponder these things and see where they take you:
D a i l y E x a m e n
— Acknowledge by faith that you are in the presence of God,
who loves you unconditionally —
[remembering moments of desolation]
– Ask God to bring to your awareness something for which you are least grateful for today. Examine what it was about that moment that made it difficult. Be with that experience, not trying to make it better, or fix it, but holding it gently in the light of God’s forgiveness and love. –
> When today did I feel life draining out of me?
> When today did I give and receive the least love?
> When today did I have the least sense of belonging?
> What was today’s low point?
> When did I feel saddest?
> For what am I least grateful today?
[remembering moments of consolation]
– Ask God to bring to your awareness anything for which you are most grateful. If you could relive one moment, what would it be? Bask in the remembrance of what you experienced in that moment. –
> When did I feel most alive today?
> When did I give and receive the most love?
> When did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, and God?
> What was today’s highest point?
> When did I feel happiest today?
> For what am I most grateful for today?
– Close with a prayer of thanksgiving –
As for me, I am easing into 2016 nice and slow, but eager and hungry and with all my might. It’s going to be one of the biggest, most important years of my life, for in it I will say goodbye to the whole life I’ve ever known and begin a new one becoming one with someone else. I don’t want to rush into a year that holds that moment. I don’t want to rush into a year that will hold most of my first year of marriage. But oh, how I am thrilled and energized by the hope and excitement of that upcoming adventure!
With that in mind, here is the second thing I came here to share. I found this quote when I was reading some of my old journals tonight and it was long enough to prompt a whole, rambly blog post! This is my prayer for myself, and for those I love. Either get this whole book and read it for yourself, or take this conclusion from The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney:
Embrace your creatureliness. At the heart of creatureliness is receptivity. God is fundamentally a giver [and] to be a creature is to be a receiver. “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). The great privilege of man is to receive everything that God gives in all the ways that he gives it, and then to know it and enjoy it and delight in it and sing about it, and to know him in it, and to enjoy him in it, and to sing about him in it. All things are truly ours- “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future; all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:21-23).
So embrace your creatureliness. Don’t seek to be God. Instead, embrace the glorious limitations and boundaries that God has placed on you as a character in his story. Embrace the fact that creation is a magic glass, the kind that allows you to see God more clearly the thicker it becomes. Embrace time and space as glorious and wise features of creaturly existence. Embrace your body and your five senses and the wonders that they can perceive and receive in the world. Embrace your heart and your mind, your ability to think and feel, your understanding and your will, that amazing image of the triune God that he has embeded in your soul. Anchor yorself in a supreme, full, and expanding love for God and then let your enjoyment of his gifts run wild.
And then, seek to be like God– generous, overflowing, lavish. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those near and far as a way of spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all the things you have gladly received from him through Jesus Christ.
And, as a final exhortation, let me commend you to a life of gratitude. Gratitude is the proper response to an abundance of gifts. Gratitude is the posture of the soul that most readily increases receptivity. Gratitude demands humility, since only those who acknowledge their dependence, their need, and their delight in the goodness and kindness of others can be grateful. Give thanks always and always and for everything. And be specific.
To that end, my fresh thanksgiving comes from dwelling in the bright, clear, newness of a year yet untainted and unknown. I am thankful for bravery in uncertainty, for getting to hold Andrew’s hand, for my mom who serves and my dad who helps and my brothers who stir up deep laughter, for surprisingly stumbling upon Wawa and for coffee and hoagies on late night road trips, for chacos in the winter, for new sweet memories with my sister and brother in law that involve really tasty beer, for Charleston SC, for lifelong childhood friendships, for watching fireworks on the edge of a dock, for hot sauce on collard greens and black-eyed peas, for sunny, chilly mornings on the beach, for moments orchestrated far perfectly than I could ever try, and for the way Andrew and I drove into 2016 the way I hope we spend all the years to come: moving forward and side by side.
Happy new year, sweet friends!
The greatest things have yet to come.