Something New

It's that time of year when we're all looking for something new: a habit, a routine, a discipline, a skill, a word, a life-change.

I have 48,000 emails coming in to my inbox daily that are reminding me of new planners I should get and new courses and accountability groups and studies I should be involved in to start 2018 off right, and as I meticulously unsubscribe to almost all of them (I don't even know how I got on so many lists), I wonder how in the world people choose The Right New Thing for them. There are so many options.

I've taken to narrowing my options. My burdens for the new year are lifted with each unsubscribe and it's ridiculous, but I feel I've already accomplished something just by saying no.

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Our oldest daughter left Tuesday for two months—just got on a plane by herself and flew away to India, for two whole months, alone.

Obviously she won't be alone in India and obviously, at 19 years of age, she is going with our blessing; but we've taken some flack for letting her go alone and it does feel a little bit like crazy.

It feels a little bit like life beyond my control, like grown children stepping out into the world we (hopefully, dear Lord) prepared them for. I have to trust that the world has also been prepared for them, both ready for them and pre-pared-like-a-beautiful-guest-room for them. God has this amazing plan we don't see until we step into or are thrown into it, or until it drops itself into our lap in the form of a child with a dream. A dream with a child. It all unfolds as we move along and you don't plan a life of faith on January 1st with your special pens and your new journal.

You don't plan for most of the things you end up worrying about, either. Instead, you plan to avoid those worries and you do everything you can to live a life that skirts causes for concern. But sometimes you just wake up and there they are—all those things you worried your life around.

The things I'm currently worrying about are typical of most worries: they're beyond my control. Honestly, my child leaving for India is one of the bottom-rung concerns. She's wanted to go back ever since her first trip with us, when she was 11 and it just sounded like a cute idea. Now it's reality and so are a billion other things she could decide she wants to do.

You always tell your kids, 'You can go anywhere! You can do anything!' So when they do, what can you actually say?

Saying no is not always an option.

We can't preach to our kids to follow the Lord and go where He sends them and then question their discernment at every step. Granted, we have a lot of experience with the particular area and people she's going to, so that makes a big difference. If one of our kids wanted to go to the jungles of South America we'd be at a loss and saying no would be a little easier. But whether they go or they stay, we have to give them two feet to walk on and be a support to their dreams.

(Yada yada yada. That all reads good on the screen but check back with me in a month, okay?)

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I've been thinking about the new year because beginnings are my favorite and I like a bit of change now and then. I am praying for one word this year to hold my feet to the path, one word that will re-focus me when I drift and remind me when I forget. I haven't settled on one yet and it's January 3 as I write this, but oh well. I can start over whenever I want and I'm not interested in stressing about time.

(Again, that all sounds good, doesn't it? But I do stress about time. I'm just trying to convince myself that I don't.)

My word might be STEWARDSHIP because so much has been entrusted to me—time, people, talents, resources—things that belong to the Lord but that rest in my hands. I need to re-focus and be aware of how I'm stewarding those things.

Or my word might be LIMIT, because limiting options and choices is one of the best ways for me to make decisions. Adding something new is not high on my list of priorities this year, but limiting myself in certain areas would be a good discipline.

It would be funny if I chose NO as my word of the year, right?

Can I go to...No.

Do we have time for...No.

Can I have a...No.

Do you want to...No.

Whatever I choose or don't choose, I know I'll be making some plans for the year that include ways to worry less, ways to avoid worrisome situations, and ways to communicate with a remote village in India with spotty electricity.

How about you? Are you choosing a word for 2018 or making big, new plans?

Beginning Again

All creation groans for a new beginning, and here we have January—the clean slate of new calendars and new planners and new expectations. The two week period after Christmas, when we take down the tree, pack away the Christmas decor, give everything a good cleaning and prepare for a new year, is my favorite.

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Often my own groanings are more about regrets and missed opportunities, though, rather than an earnest expectation of glory to come, and a new year can look like the false hope of The Year We Finally Do Things Right.

The trap is in thinking that new equals better, that starting over fresh will create an opportunity to live failure-free. When I wake in the night with the crushing burden of all my shortcomings—some of which are real and true and some of which are just the enemy’s rummaging through my garbage—the way out of the trap is not to develop a new plan or system or list, though I try.

The way out is only ever through Jesus.

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