Today I packed away the last few remnants of the holiday. Christmas is over with all its parties, presents, lights, decorations and high caloric, coma-inducing food. And, frankly, I could not be more relieved. That's not a comment on Christmas, per se, but more on my need for a return to normalcy.
Besides, this year never really felt like Christmas to me. In fact, I would have been fine without a tree or any decorations.
That is not like me.
I love my Christmas house. I love the smell of fresh pine needles, the warmth Christmas decorations add to our home, the external reminders something BIG is happening. But this year was all 'bah humbug'!
I usually participate in some form of Advent observance and enjoy focusing my attention on the waiting. The anticipation of hope dawning on a weary world. But I never established a healthy groove. I got carried along with the activity and programs and found myself easily annoyed with this disturbance in the calendar. I lost my alone time when the kids entered winter break, my diet was horrendous and the shorter days gave me a significant case of the blues. That is not a formula for Christmas joy.
So now I enter the New Year without living into the excitement of anticipation or the wonder of the incarnation. Bummer.
Not only did this negatively affect my Christmas spirit, it also generated a total funk around my usual New Year's excitement. I'm a sucker for new beginnings and ceremonial landmarks but this year it just wasn't coming together.
No sense of where God was leading me in 2014. No path. No verse. No word. Just silence. Of course, there's nothing innately spiritual about proclaiming a new beginning on January 1. I mean, the most dramatic changes often happen in the course of our ordinary lives, but I have come to enjoy this discipline in my life and was disappointed in its absence this year.
This is where it all comes together.
I tried out a couple of ideas to see if any of them resonated with me. I knew God was inviting me into a different kind of prayer practice, but still I had no sense of a theme or focus for the year. I read of someone else's word and I really, really liked it. I mean, there's no saying two people can't focus on the same thing for a year, right? Unfortunately, it wasn't the word God had for me.
On January 2 I sat down to pray and observed that I felt particularly happy; excited about what was ahead. I had no idea what that might be, but I had a sense of anticipation.
In an early December meeting with my Spiritual Director, I sensed God inviting me into a season of active waiting. Waiting with a sense of hope and joy and expectancy. Not waiting to act, but waiting for the fullness of what God has. Not forcing my agenda or manipulating circumstances, but living fully into whatever God puts in front of me.
And there it was...a year of Advent! I don't actually have the word or a particular verse, but I am confident God is inviting me into a season of expectant waiting. The kind of waiting that Mary understood...or, more accurately--didn't understand. Saying 'yes' to crazy things. Making preparations for the fruition of God's plan regardless of how people perceive me and whether or not it makes sense. A year of hope and curiosity and wonder. A year of questions and disappointment and abrupt changes of direction.
Perhaps that's what I'll call it. My year of Advent. Makes sense. I'm a very slow learner and I often require more time to grasp things than your average person. So God is giving me my own remedial course. How very thoughtful.
Or, maybe, its not my word for the year. Maybe its just for this next season--until God moves me to the next thing--however long that may be. This really is new.
I should probably wrap it up. Things are getting crazy! I'm winging it and there's no telling what could happen!
I'll keep you posted.
I love a new beginning. A clean slate. A blank canvas. You get the idea. Last January was the mother of all new years for me. I got a new state, a new house, a new church, a new life. For a whole year, everything was the start of something new.
A Slow Normal
This January is different. Thankfully. There is still the hope of a new year and with twelve months of data behind me I've got plenty of analysis to do. But much will stay the same.
I expected that such a dramatic transition would naturally produce dramatic growth. I still believe it will. But now I know that much of the growth comes later. At least for me.
Living in a perpetual state of discovery can wear a body down. Sure, it's exciting and fresh, but the real transformation occurs slowly in the stillness and the routine. In the persevering and the missteps and the loneliness and the adapting.
Looking back at 2012, I am encouraged by all that is new. But I'm even more excited about the 'new' that is to come. Not in the change of scenery, but in the depths of my soul.
Photo Credit: Duncan
What Road to Take
Now that much of life is established routine again, I have room to dream and plan and listen. Over the next month I'll spend time in reflection and confession and listening. And then I'll need to take some action. For some time now, I've begun each year prayerfully considering the following three questions:
How about you? Do you take any time to reflect in January? Do you have any deep desires for the new year?
I’ve got my focus for the year. Just like that. Well, not actually that suddenly. It’s been sneaking up on me for a couple of weeks now but I gave in today.
For the last 4 or 5 years, God has given me a focus for each year. A word and/or a passage that gives me some direction. Something to help anchor me to the circumstances around me and God’s redemptive plan. A focus for my learning and growing. Without it, there is just too much change required of me.
Three years ago the word was abundance. The passage was from Psalm 65–”Even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” When God gave me the word I had no idea that Richard would lose his job and our spiritual community would be beaten and scattered. But there was no time in that journey that God’s abundance was not evident. In fact, I was sad to end the year because it had been so rich.
Last year, the word was faith. No need to expound. See my earlier blog entries .
Each year I wonder if God will show me something else. It’s okay if he doesn’t. It’s certainly not a Biblical requirement or even expectation. January 1 isn’t really a magical date and he could give me direction without identifying a word. Two years ago he gave me three words. Watch. Walk. Work. It was while I was learning to adapt my spiritual practices to my new, productive work schedule. Nothing dramatic, just some simple reminders.
As my faith journey and 2010 drew to a close I began to try a few words on for size. “Freedom” was a possibility. “Strength” was another. But today, it was clear. The word is “Blessing”. And I’m quite afraid. This word is already a fixture in my vocabulary. Each day my prayer is, “Lord, make me a blessing.” I’ve been praying this for years after reading Abraham’s same plea in Genesis. In fact, this could be my life verse/prayer. But this is different. I believe God is distinctly promising to bless me this year. I know…he is blessing me all the time. Spiritual blessings, emotional blessings, physical blessings, family blessings. I have a blessed life. This is specific. I think he is promising to bless my ministry at Apartment Life. That’s a bold claim and it’s public. At least now it’s public since I put it in my blog. Apparently this is Faith 2.0. I was hoping for more of an internal reality and less of a bold claim. But if God can change the unseen, he can certainly affect physical reality. So now I’ve said it. The new journey begins.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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