2018 Reflection: A "New" Year!
Selfishly, I wish I could sit on the other side of your screen and tell you about all of my unmet expectations from 2018. About the wishes and dreams that didn’t happen. About the desires that are still longing deep within me. Selfishly, I want to pour out all of my laments and be the real, raw and honest person I have been in private for the last few months. But I cannot bring myself to that point. Not because it is not on the cusp of my finger tips and at the forefront of my mind, but because when I sit to look at each of those failures or disappointments, I see grace laced throughout. And we all know that when grace is involved, itʼs hard to be ungrateful for the story God has asked us to journey through.
At the beginning of each new year I pray for a word to carry me through the next year. That means every lesson, every blessing, every relationship and measure of accountability is rooted in that word. It is not an uncommon practice in any stretch of the imagination, but I think it can be a fleeting practice. Sure we hand letter it all over Instagram the first week of January, but how about in the middle of June when life might not be reflective of that word? Or how about when you forget your word for a few months and have to find it again. Been there, done that. I forgot my word from March to November. My word…I forgot it. *all the eye rolls* Luckily, my past self knew my future self would need some help to remember, so I had a nice and dainty bracelet made in January. Technically, I was supposed to wear the bracelet more than I did, but I will just skip over the excuses. I dug around in my jewelry box towards the end of November and found it. “New” was stamped into the faded gold. I began to reflect because obviously most of the year lived under the word “new” was about gone. I immediately looked at my word for the year and then looked back over the last 12 months. The material and tangible things circled in my mind. A new job, new car, new relationships, new clothes...blah, blah, blah. But, there were still some things missing. Like a new romantic relationship (hi, single life)? New business? New ideas? I could really keep going. I simmered on the things I did not get this year that I thought were for this year. Ever do that? As I started to get a little frustrated, I decided a brisk walk around my house was best. That night I asked God, “What was the purpose of that word if you are not going to fulfill each of those things? Yes I know I have some days left in the year, but really” In all honestly, I built up an end-of-the-year expectation list. I thought surely this is the year I can do one of those dumb collages on Facebook and showcase all the “big” blessings I got. I thought by stamping that approval on it, it would be done. But, it was not looking too favorable.
Still, no answer from God.
I went the next few days praying a little harder for how I wanted the last month of the year to look. I told God I needed all these things for the word “new” to really mean something. I hesitantly stepped into December knowing in t-minus 31 days God had to turn a few things into miracles. A little more scared of the answer, I asked God again, “Why give me this word if I do not get all I wanted?” No answer. I let a couple more days pass and came back to my lingering, unanswered question. This time talking a little louder,” Did you hear me, God? Why this word? Where are the blessings tied to this word?” I settled in silence. Again, no answer.
The next morning, while in the shower, I was running through my normal to-do list. With soap running into my eyes, I began to think on my year. If you are like me, you always have a life crisis in the showers and somehow you solve world hunger, too, all before 7:00 am. Granted, 2018 was not as hard of a year as 2017, but it was challenging nonetheless.2018 brought really good things into my life, but it still left me with a few questions and not so good things. It seemed like more of a mess than I had anticipated at the end. But, here I am. As I continued to wash my hair and rinse soap from my eyes, I heard the soft voice of the Holy Spirit say, “Hannah, I have given you new things. I have made good on my promise to you. You just have to look differently at them.” He was right. Now with actual tears streaming down my face (both from the soap and the emotions), I thought on all the new.
A new grace for the times I messed up.
A new hope for those dark days ridden with hopelessness.
A new song in exchange for the old one that carried me from 2017.
A new perspective for a whole new level of life.
A new depth of love for all the times I felt drastically unloved.
A new set of desires that were from God, not from myself.
A new way of escape from the old way.
A new prayer life when the old one was not working any longer.
A new season full of new mercies.
A new heart for an area of ministry that had been stirring in me for four years prior.
And lastly, the most unexpected, a new praise that will carry me into a new
As I thought to myself, I became overwhelmed with realizing a whole new area of God too. I heard one time each new season of life requires a new you. And as a result we have to meet God again. It is not that He changes, it is that we change in Him. And just like any relationship, growth means we have to shed old pieces of who we were and learn to embrace a new version of ourself and how we fit within the relationship. To make the relationship work and grow, we have to get into this uncomfortable, messy and weird transition season. It is the transition I honestly hate the most. Just when I think I have perfected an area of myself, a new shift happens and I realize, oh I need to grow that way too.
See friend, we go on throughout the year and only measure it based on the unmet things. The reality is we most often do that because it is easy and convenient. But if I have learned anything about the cross, it is that it was not convenient. It was hard, difficult and treacherous. And just like Jesus died to give us new life, we have to do the same to ourselves. Dying to yourself is hard, difficult and a dangerous slope. If I slip on my own, it means Iʼm done. But if I slip into grace, it means I get a new life, a new hope and a new future. It means I see all of what He promised, even if it does not look like how I imagined.
I do not know what your gauge is looking back on the last few months. They might have been some of your most difficult. They might have left you completely broken and utterly disappointed. Or they might have brought so much joy all year that it is indescribable. Wherever you are on your yearly reflection, I just want to let you know that you do not have feel shameful or boastful. You do not have to compare yourself to your neighbor. You just have to say, “Okay, now what Jesus?” No, I did not get the ring or the guy. I did not get the job or the promotion. It feels like I lost more than I gained. Or, I hit a lot of high notes this past year, but I still could do better. I did not loose the weight I wanted, and that darn scale keeps lying to me.
Listen, it is one thousand percent okay to be where you are because it is where you are supposed to be. Alignment in God’s will is the main goal for our lives. Knowing that youʼre where you need to be, as unbelievable and uncomfortable as it might seem, is still where God has you. He has not left. He has not forgotten you. Heʼs just working on some inner details that need to be healed first.
Sweet friend, take a moment as difficult or fruitful as it might be and reflect on this year. Reflect on the good, bad and ugly. Reflect on the dreams accomplished and hopes crushed. Because the reality is every single one of those moments has brought you to this moment. And my greatest prayer is that as you read this, you can see the banner God has over you. You can see that He has marked you for a greater purpose than the current reality. He has really good things in store, but sometimes it just takes a little longer for the pieces to match up. Delayed blessings and unmet expectations are not final destinations. They are just stepping stones to the on-time blessings and met expectations.
So, as I desperately find myself clinging to the last moments of 2018. I cannot help but want to sit here for a little while longer. Just to marinate in how good and kind God actually is. There were moments I did not think He was this year. More moments than I would care to admit, but in all of that I just want to sit here for a minute longer. Because He did make good on His word. Whatever promises were stored up in the word “new” He released every single one of those. And that just means that at the turn of the clock for 2019, I can show back up to heaven’s door and knock one more time for all those He has not released yet. But this time, I will show up with a little more fervor, thankfulness and anticipation because He is still a good, kind and loving God.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19, NIV