I remember when I was a little girl my parents were having a New Years Eve party. I was so excited and I begged and begged to be able to stay up until midnight. I wasn’t quite sure why that was so exciting, but everyone else was doing it so I wanted to also. My mother compromised by saying that at midnight, she would wake me up so I could be a part of the celebration.
I went to bed as promised, believing that I would be able to easily stay awake, when the next thing I knew, my mother was gently waking me up. I can remember to this day how tired I was and I could have cared less about saying, “Happy New Year”! I just wanted to go back to sleep.
Now that I’m an adult, I believe that welcoming in the New Year is an important ritual. It’s important to say good-bye to the old and hello to the new. It’s also important to examine what needs to be changed and what needs to be added to our lives.
Beginnings are exciting to me! A new year is like opening a brand new journal full of clean, white paper ready to write on. It’s like a new school year when you get to buy new clothes and new school supplies and none of them have been used up or lost. Or watching the beginning of a marriage and seeing a couple taking vows which will be the start of their new life together.
Some people fear a new year. They fear change. They fear the hardship of making changes in their life, even if the changes will be positive for them. God understands every emotion we have; He created them! And, one reason He came to earth is to show us that He loves us and wants to help us along the path every day. He said, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1). There is a great peace when we really realize that God the Father is with us every second of every day. So when a new year comes around, He wants us to prepare for it with joy.
So, what is the best way to prepare for a new year? Many people, of course, make resolutions. I think they are very important. But, I’d like to go a step further. Perhaps we should make resolutions based on what we want in our life and what has challenged us in our life. Preparing for a new year requires smart planning by choosing the right goals for this time in our life.
First, plan some time for yourself alone when you can reflect on the past year. What has challenged you the most: your weight; in-laws; finances; children; home changes, etc.? Then, think carefully about what you want. Most people really don’t know what they want but when they find out, it can totally change their life. Do you want to: work; stay home; cook more; clean less; hire someone; start a new hobby; exercise; read more, etc.?
When you are able to write down your real thoughts and truths, then sit down with your husband so you can jointly write down your goals for the new year. I know some husbands don’t want to write goals together. Don’t let that deter you. Go ahead and write yours down along with your children’s. The success rate of a written goal is almost 95% more than those not written.
I also encourage writing specific resolutions rather than vague ones. It is easy to write down that you want to lose weight. But add a specific way you will be able to achieve that goal, such as planning to walk every day for 30 minutes. That way, you will set your walking shoes next to your purse to remind you to walk that day. You might also want to keep a pad of paper and pen in your kitchen and in your purse so that you can easily record everything you eat in a day. The resolution to lose weight is now matched with specific steps that will be enormously helpful in achieving your goals.
I mentioned earlier having your children make resolutions for the new year. One year, my youngest daughter said she wanted to dance in the Denver Ballet’s Nutcracker. I wrote it down along with other goals she had. A few months later as I was cleaning out my desk, I saw our list and realized that maybe I should get the phone number of the ballet company and I could at least call them to find out when try outs where. I found out the try outs were in a few weeks and much to my surprise, she made it! If she had never expressed a desire to be in the Nutcracker, I never would have taken the steps that helped her attain her goal. I also thought her goal was too high! That taught me a lesson that nothing is too hard for the Lord: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). Where is our faith as we make our New Year’s resolutions? Nothing is impossible for the Lord.
I do understand that many of us sabotage our very own goals. Or, they seem too hard and we just stop trying. This time, cover your goals with prayer. Ask the Lord what goals you need in your life. I promise you He will let you know and then, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the power to make the changes. Remember that God’s ultimate goal for each of us is to conform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. So, let your New Year resolutions lead you in that direction.
Here are some questions that might help you develop your resolutions: Is what you are doing in your life working? Are the results of what you are doing in different areas healthy? Are you making everyone happy except yourself? Is the cost of what you are doing or having to live with too high? Are you having problems with anger or bitterness? Are you getting enough rest? Are you too stressed? Are you being spiritually fed?
As you write down the answers to these questions remember to write down the steps that will help you. If you don’t know how to solve some of your major problems, find a counselor at your church who may be able to help.
I do know one thing we can do every day that can totally change our lives and that is to express gratitude. Being grateful and thankful to the Lord and to others takes the emphasis off of ourselves and is certainly a cure for complaining. In fact, the Father wants His children’s lives to be characterized by gratefulness. His Word tells us that a thankful attitude should be evident in our worship, giving, relationships, and problems we have day to day. In other words, being thankful to the Lord should permeate everything we do (Romans 14:6).
The Lord actually commands us to be grateful: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. (I Thess. 5:16-18). Some people don’t understand why this should be done. They question it because it doesn’t make sense to thank God for the death of a loved one or a lost job or opportunity. But He knows how a grateful attitude affects our hearts. When we thank Him it keeps us aware of His presence in our life, reminds us of our total need for Him, focuses us on Jesus Christ which reduces our pride, makes us look for His purpose in our situation, replaces anxiety with peace and joy, and takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts it on Him.
I am excited about beginning a new year with you and sharing my thoughts and prayers. May the New Year be one where you are in the center of God’s will…and then you will know it was a great year!