Several years ago, I was glad to see the year end and turn the page on a fresh calendar. I sat down with a new journal and pen to write a plan for the new year, but the pain of the past 12 months prevented the ink from flowing.
Ever been there? With a year filled with pain you can’t seem to move past?
That particular year had been filled with more months than there was money, hard health challenges, wrecked relationships, and careening careers.
As my pen paused over the paper, discouragement descended. I closed my journal and I wondered why even bother? When years are so filled with yuck, and people make poor choices and none of your actions seem to make a difference, why even try to set goals or resolutions or dream?
I moaned to my husband about the year past with despair about the year ahead.
“I know it was a tough one, but was it all bad?” he asked.
I was so focused on all the failures, that I honestly couldn’t remember any good gifts.
I pulled out my calendar and began to go through it month-by-month to jog my memory of the last trip around the sun. What were all the good blessings I had experienced?
I re-opened my journal and began to write. Every date on the calendar that prompted a good memory, I wrote it down. A new opportunity, coffee with a friend, an activity with the kids. I let my mind focus on all the good, true, pure, and lovely things that had occurred, no matter how small it had seemed.
I counted my blessings. I named them each and every one.
By the time I finished, I my scrawl filled several pages. I smiled, thanking God for each gift.
Yes, the year had its share of yuck. But in the midst of it had been many gifts.
Good words. Faithful friends. Encouraging experiences. All good gifts from the Father.
Then, I turned the page and wrote hopes and dreams for the next cycle around the sun and committed them to prayer.
Since that year, I’ve done the same exercise each year. No matter how hard the year was, I hunt through my calendar as a reminder for all the gifts God has given. Then I turn my heart and prayers to the coming year.
Friends, I know this has been a hard, hard year for our world. Forest fires, hurricanes and floods wrecking cities, a divisive election, and trauma in Aleppo.
Now more than ever, we need to look to the Father and remember His provision and promises.
So this year, I included my family in the exercise. I created a printable sheet that we each filled out, with prompts to think about family, friends, school or work, and hopes for the next year.
We read James 1:17 together:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Then we thought through each area of our lives, not to remember what we had accomplished, but what God had done in our lives and the gifts He had given us this past year.
I’d love to share this activity with you and your family. Click here or on the image below to download your copy.
We went around the table and shared our answers for each category, finding how often we were grateful for the same things.
I loved hearing my ten-year-old boy count the blessing of all his grandparents and list the hope for many more memories with them in the coming year. I loved hearing my husband’s hopes for projects he’s been scheming for years, and my daughter’s long list of places she wants to visit.
I tucked the papers away in a folder and will pull them out at the end of 2017 to review as we do the exercise again for the next year.
If you’d like to print this to use with your family, you may download the sheet here.
The activity doesn’t take long, and is great for a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day activity.
What good gifts are you grateful for in 2016? What are your hopes and prayers for 2017?