This is the time of year when everyone gets very business-like about life. We ask questions like,
How can I get my book published this year?
What is my goal weight and how I am going to reach it before Thanksgiving?
How many books can I read in a year?
What steps can I take to pay off all my debt by the end of the year?
New Year’s has become a time to plan to build for ourselves the best year we have ever had. This habit is not a bad one. It is important to stop at some point in our ever-moving lives and ask if what we are doing is good. This is healthy.
But what about the times that you just don’t have it? What about when it is still January but you are out of steam for this assault on ordinary living?
What can you do when trudging through is all you are capable of doing in January? First, I would suggest taking a deep breath. You are not in a bad place; you are in a human place. Give yourself permission to be human. Breathe. Eat something delicious and take a nap. Care for yourself as fully human. God does this for Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Perhaps you could benefit from it, too.
Second, remember, with purpose, what God has done in your life throughout the last calendar year. This is your moment in the cave like Elijah’s. Pull out the pictures you have taken. Take out your day planner, or Google calendar, and literally walk through the last year a week at a time. Remember the times God met you in these ordinary places. Remember the times you were surprised at what God had in store. As you remember, make a note of the five or so that really stand out as meaningful to you. If you need to do this over several days in shorter sittings, great. If you can’t stop on a Saturday, then plow all the way through. When you have your list of five moments that God showed up in 2016, it is time to take another break.
Breathe. Eat something delicious and get good rest.
Every day, for about a week or so, bring those five moments to prayer. Thank God for them. Remember the longstanding consequences of those moments. Notice if they share any common themes. This can take as short as five minutes at each sitting or as long as 30 minutes. When you feel done, stop for the day but come back tomorrow to be grateful again. Listen for the quiet after the big events, for these are the voice of God.
Throughout your day, breathe. Eat good food. Rest.
After a week of praying with these significant moments, what stands out to you from them? Are there things about these moments that you want to always remember? Could there be gifts that you want to carry with you into the new year? Write them down or doodle about them.
This is the process I use every year to discover a theme for the upcoming year. Sometimes it is a word, sometimes it is an image, and sometimes it is a phrase. But whatever form it takes, it is firmly rooted in who God has been revealed to be in the last year in relationship with me. It always grows from the common threads that I discover in these moments. This theme has also served as a reference point for me to notice where God is inviting me to grow and how I can pay attention to that growth.
When the theme has found an identifying moniker, I set out creating ways to remember it. This takes several forms for me, and it can be adapted to your personal preferences. I look for a way to artistically represent it. Let’s be clear that I am not an artist, but I am inspired by images. So I want an image of the theme to sit on my desk or a picture of the image to be my computer’s wallpaper. I also look for a Scripture story that resonates with the theme I have found. It becomes my go-to place to be with Scripture. At the beginning of every month for the rest of the year, I set a reminder on my calendar to spend some time with the theme, usually no more than an hour. During that time, I purposefully notice what has been happening in relationship to the theme, and write or doodle about it. I also spend some time considering what is coming up in the next 30 days and anticipate where the theme will play out.
This is the fourth year that I have personally used this process. Two of the four themes are very obviously linked at first glance. However, all four of them are related to each other and build on each other. I don’t intentionally try to do that; I simply discover the connectedness as the year proceeds.
My prayer for you is that this process opens your awareness to God at work in you, through you, and around you. I pray that you will see the places where the kingdom is coming and the places where you are invited to open the door for the kingdom’s advancement. I pray that this is a nurturing opportunity that gives your soul a breath of fresh air and relights your candle.