New Year’s resolutions rarely turn out well for me. By mid-year—sometimes by mid-January—my best laid plans almost always fall apart. I forget or give up, and then make excuses about why my carefully crafted goals, objectives and methodologies weren’t so important anyway.
After half a century of beating myself up over my lack of self-discipline, I replaced my New Year Resolution tradition with something better. Something that works. Something that matters.
Instead of planning for and prioritizing those things I want to accomplish in the upcoming year, I’ve shifted my focus to the person I want to become. Instead of spending the last week of December establishing “resolutions,” I choose one word to focus on in the upcoming year that will take me a step closer to becoming the person God created me to be.
My first Word-of-the-Year (WOY) began with a desperate need for trust in 2014.
Unlike any resolution I’ve ever made, that word changed me. So that I wouldn’t forget, I posted it in all of the places I was most likely to need it—on the top of every page of my journal, in my office, in my checkbook.
By the end of that first year, I’d come a long way. How could I help it? I was witnessing what seemed to be one much-needed miracle on top another. Six years later, it’s still working. My trust continues to grow even as my words change with each new year.
My current WOY, generous, served me well over 2018.
I remember being resistant to the word as 2017 came to a close, but it kept coming at me from all directions. I didn’t want it, mostly because I thought of generosity in terms of money, and I knew that I’d already come a long way in that regard. Was God asking me for more? I didn’t know. So I pushed back, stalled, and fought for a better word. But generous kept popping up, so I reluctantly sighed it in as my 2018 Word-of-the-Year.
What I realized as I began to analyze its effectiveness at year-end was that being generous encompasses a lot more than giving away money and other material things. While I continued to conscientiously loosen my grip on the stuff of this world during 2018, I found my definition of the word itself expanding, and my own generosity along with it.
Increasingly throughout the past year, I gave away more of myself, more of my time—that other precious commodity. I started answering the phone when I didn’t feel like talking, taking the time to slow down and to really connect with people. I began to notice how often strangers are so responsive to a kind word or simply a smile. I’ve been paying attention to those who need a little of whatever I have to give, sharing my gifts of mercy, hospitality and faith more freely.
I believe it boils down to love…and I’m far more generous with my love at this end of 2018 than I was at its beginning.
So as is now my habit, by the start of December I’d already begun thinking and praying about my 2019 Word-of-the-Year. For me, clarity around what my focus should be began with tips from my daily devotionals and Scripture-Application-Prayer (SAP) practice, like this one from December 4th:
Psalm 139:16: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (NLT)
Another translation of this verse leads to a slightly different interpretation:
“You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book.” (TPT)
What a pointed reminder that not only is God in charge of it all, but that He had every twist and turn of my life plotted out—all leading me exactly to where He wants me to be—who He wants me to be. I wonder, though, what that means in terms of important decision points? Was I predestined to marry wrong? Was it God’s intention that it took me nearly 50 years to find Him? To miss the boat on bringing my kids up in a truly Christian home? To continue to open my mouth when I should be keeping it shut, to criticize when I should be encouraging?
The last little bit of today’s Our Daily Bread devotional deserves quoting:
We don’t know how God will use the circumstances of our life, but we can rest in the knowledge that God knows everything about us and is directing our footsteps. Though His sovereign hand may seem hidden, He’s never absent.—Poh Fang Chia, God’s Hidden Hand, ODB – 12/7/18
That same devotional closes with a question directed specifically at me:
“What steps can you take to discern God’s leading or to act on His call for your life?”
Good morning, Father. I completely believe every word of Psalm 139:16, regardless of the swing in translations that takes me from looking at the content of my life to the fact that You named the date of my death before I was born (TPT), reminding me that I only have so much time left to act out Your purpose for my life. I’d hate to miss the boat on Your end goal for me.
It’s time. I’m old. Best case scenario, I’ve got another 10 or 20 years left on this earth. A decade or two sounded like a lifetime when I was younger. But now I know it will pass in a blink. So please help me figure out my focus for the upcoming year. A particular word popping to the forefront in various environments as did “generous” would be nice! Thank You for guiding me in the right direction, for giving me the boldness and confidence to finish well. Amen.
* * *
With that prayer, the theme for my 2019 WOY emerged. The word itself took a while longer, but when it finally came, I knew it was right.
As we round the corner into 2019, I encourage you to think about what God might be telling you to focus on over the next year. Diet and exercise are probably not at the top of His list.
What’s really important in light of the limited amount of time you have left on this earth?
Don’t know where to start?
- Consider the word art at the top of this post.
- Use the resources available.
- Get quiet.
- Ask God.
- Listen for that still, small voice.
Contact me with questions, then check back to learn how my own 2019 WOY took form. And feel free to share yours in the comment section below!