I love the turn of the year. New Year’s Day may be my absolute favorite holiday. There’s something about the fresh slate, the new date, the hopeful expectation of something new that excites me. All the scriptures about mercy being new every morning, grace upon grace, and sins being washed away seem more true to me in January than any other time of year.

Every year I spend a week sometime in January or February to retreat. I’ve been doing this since 2007, and every year it’s looked a little different. Sometimes I go away, sometimes I stay home. I usually do a detox of some sort, cleansing the system of all the junk of the holidays (this is heavily symbolic for me). I forgo coffee for tea, and sleep a lot more. I do yoga every day. I journal a lot, try to keep the main hours of prayer. I examine the past year and look to the new one, set goals and determine to grow in every possible area of my life. This never actually works.

Last year I planned to focus my prayer on my job situation. Student loans were going to be coming due and I just wasn’t going to be able to cut it with what I made. I’d been at the same workplace for over a decade, my entire adult life, and had always hated my job. The company was a good employer and they blessed me in many ways, but I felt like I was wasting my life. So for the first three days of 2012 I shut off my phone, ate a lot of vegetables, and prayed. On the fourth day I turned my phone on and listened to several messages from a friend urgently asking me to call him. Long story short, that day he offered me a job. Two days later I interviewed with his company’s board, and when I went back to work on Monday I had a resignation letter in my hand. Rarely have I been aware of God answering my prayers as I have been praying them. I spent 2012 acclamating to this new job, two different new apartments, a new industry, and basically a whole new lifestyle. It was a good but stressful year.

Last weekend I did a shortened retreat to kick off 2013. For the first time, my detox menu was guided by paleo eating so instead of grains there were a lot of grilled meats on the table. I didn’t get nearly as much “done” as usual. But in looking back at last year I feel…content. And looking forward I feel…hopeful. Hope is not a word I like very much; it makes me feel anxious and afraid of disappointment. But I believe that good things are waiting at the edges of 2013, and they are going to fill the space with peace and maybe even that elusive joy all the Christian devotionals and plaques go on and on about. My areas of focus for growth are much fewer than every before and they feel a little self-centered. But I get the feeling that’s okay.

My church sings a song some Sundays called “Beautiful Things.” In this song we look at our broken lives and world and we remind God that He makes beautiful things come from brokenness. Last Sunday while we were asking “Could a garden come up from this ground at all” a picture of my life formed in my mind. I saw craters where stones had been removed, holes where thick weeds had been pulled, large spaces where garbage had lain rotting but was now hauled away. The ground was finally clear of all the things that impeded growth. Now the sunlight could warm the ground, rain could soak deep into the dry places, wind could blow seeds to plant new and beautiful and exotic new vegetation. The ground could finally grow a garden. For so many years, my life has been cluttered with chaos and drama and pain and crisis. Now there’s peace, stillness, and the quiet assurance that He is making a beautiful thing out of me.


1 Comment

  1. December 31, 2013 at 8:11 am

    […] have written before about how much I love the new year. I’m a sucker for symbolism, so the sight of a new […]

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