There is always something special about the New Year. It signifies a clean slate – a chance to start over, to try again, to do things a little bit differently than before. While the unknown typically tends to be scary territory, there is just something about a new year that brings hope instead of a sense of foreboding.
And I’m all here for it.
You will hear a lot of people say, ‘Here we go again with the new year resolutions!’ as they roll their eyes with disdain. Please feel free to ignore them ( and if you are one of such people, I still love you all the same). There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting up goals and dreaming for a new year; I seriously question the passion of people who DON’T go into a new year with new goals and visions. Timing is important when it comes to vision – especially God-vision. There are some things that if not completed, achieved, walked out, or overcome next year, may simply remain just dreams. And that’s why it’s so important to spend time dreaming with God about what He wants to accomplish with, through and for you in the year to come.
But that’s what makes the difference right? Not just creating a list of attainable, semi-attainable and unattainable goals you hope to achieve for yourself, but that you make time to spend with God working on those things because He is the difference between simply writing some well-meaning stuff down, and actually seeing them come to life. He is the force that will empower you to see the things you dreamed of together come to pass. Whether it’s starting a business, switching careers, having children, losing weight, moving to a new country – God is in the business of helping us bring dreams and visions He’s put on our hearts to life, and He wants us to live our very best lives.
Last night, my friend and I talked about our plans for NYE. He said he planned to go to church and then stay home and just rest and reflect, maybe with a few friends. He told me about how a few years back, he spent his NYE getting wasted and partying, and then for the entire year that followed, he found himself getting wasted and partying. In hindsight, he realized just how much his mindset and attitude going INTO the New Year created the tone for what it would look like all year long.
And I totally agree with that notion.
When I was growing up, the night of NYE was spent in church, praising God for what He had done in years prior, and praying and worshipping Him for what He was yet to do. While 21 year old me would much rather have been out partying with friends and perhaps securing a bae in time for February 14, 28 year old me definitely misses those simpler times because I understand the importance of reflection, gratitude, dreaming, planning, and preparation.
So if you will humor me, I want to ask you to take a moment out of your day today to pause. I know you have several parties to get to, and there is champagne to be drunk, and I am more than ready to raise a glass with you, but this task I’m setting before you might be one of the most important things you’ve done all year.
First, spend some time today writing down all the things you have to be thankful to God for this year – basically, create your praise report for 2017. Doesn’t matter how bad this year might have been for you, you can ALWAYS find something to be thankful for. Your life, the lives of friends and family, a job (even if you hate it, it feeds you in more ways than one). As you begin to write these things down, you will begin to set a tone for yourself – one of looking out for God’s hand in the tiniest of things, shifting your perspective from human to the heavenly to see the ways in which all things continue to work out for your good.
Next, spend some time with God asking Him about where He wants you to go together in 2018. Don’t start off by telling Him what it is that you want – hear what He wants for and from you. Write it all down. I’m betting you that some of the dreams and visions He gives you might be a little scary – some of them might be a lot scary, and others might seem downright unattainable. Many of them might just be a small dream you’ve dreamt on your own on steroids, and suddenly bigger than you ever imagined for yourself. But that’s the great thing about the dreams and visions that God gives us – because they are His, they are not ours to attain. If God gives us a vision or a promise, then it is both His to keep and bring to pass. We need only trust Him and obey.
And if you can hold off the partying till after midnight, spend the last and first moments of 2017 and 2018 with God. If you are at the party, step off to the side for a few moments to say a quiet prayer. Remind Him – and yourself – of where He stands on your list of priorities: first and foremost. There’s a reason Jesus asks us to seek His kingdom first; putting Jesus above all else is the first step to seeing Him move mightily in your life in any and every season.
As next year begins, I want you to start working towards those God-visions while continuing to practice a spirit of gratitude and the act of putting God first with everything in your life. Every time you find yourself waning in your commitment, I want you to go back to that list of visions and dreams you made with God and remind yourself that He who promised is faithful to fulfill and that He always finishes what He started. I am SO excited to see the ways in which you reach new heights as you press into God and everything He has for you in 2018.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a NYE post if I didn’t share some list of things to do/not to do in the coming year, so here are some words of wisdom I came up with for myself, that I hope you find halfway helpful as you step into 2018:
- It’s OK to say NO to things. 2018 is all about prioritizing. We always complain about there being not enough time to do everything God wants us to do, or we want to do, but let’s face it, everyone from David, to Paul, right down to Beyonce had/have the same 24 hours that we do and were still able to do amazing things with their lives. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) distract you from what’s most important in your life. It’s OK to say no to dinner because you have to study. It’s OK to take a rain check on the girls trip because you are trying to pay off that loan quicker. You are responsible for yourself, and sometimes saying no to things is what is best for you. There will be a lot more opportunities to say yes. So relax. “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.” Luke 12:29-32
- Learn to say YES to God. God-vision can be scary. But He sees a lot more in us than we see in ourselves. He knows our potential because He created it. And He is made strong in the places in which we are weakest. So learn to say yes to the things God asks of you – especially things that scare you. My life has been chock full of saying scary yeses to God, and I have never yet been disappointed in the outcomes. I’m looking forward to saying yes to more things that scare the living daylights out of me in 2018 so I can see God at work in my life.
- Take the limits off of God. One of the greatest barriers in our journey to get to where God wants us is the limitation we put on His ability to do what He’s said He can and will. We see the Promised Land He has for us filled with milk and honey, but we also see the giants and find ourselves dismayed and turning back from the places and things He has already given us. Sometimes God doesn’t drive all the giants out of the land before He asks you to go in. Sometimes the giants serve a purpose. Trust God with the big, scary things in your life that seem too big for you to handle, because everything is little to Him, and He’s in the business of handling things (much better than Olivia Pope).
- Dream big and pray specific prayers. God is only limited by your expectations of Him. If you only expect Him to give you a Toyota Corolla, you’ll only ever get a Toyota Corolla. If you expect a Porsche, God gets honored by the fact that you know He is God of Porsches too! Now, this isn’t about prosperity gospel though – our dreams and prayers should always align with His. But when you dream with God, you can’t help but dream big dreams and pray specific prayers. Don’t just pray for a new job – pray for a new job, with life-giving coworkers, a good salary, good healthcare, and an espresso machine that is to die for. That way when God answers, and with the kind of specificity that only He can, you will know without a shadow of a doubt that it is Him. “Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]— To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it).” Ephesians 3:19-21
- Keep the main thing the main thing. 2018 is a year to keep your eye on the prize – Jesus Christ. Don’t get distracted by people and things going on around you. Love and serve them, enjoy your life, turn up, but keep Christ the center of it all. When God begins to answer all your prayers and you begin to see the vision become reality, don’t forget to give thanks. When you meet that special person that you prayed night and day for, still remember who is the love of your life. When you keep your focus on Jesus, everything else around you can’t help but flourish. “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Hebrews 12:1
- Write it all down. Map it out. One of the ways to see God most vividly at work in our lives is by mapping out our lives on paper and seeing the story unfold. We see God most clearly in hindsight. Write down your prayers, your dreams, your visions, your disappointments, what God said to you, how you felt – and watch how He shapes your story over the course of the year into something beautiful.“And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters, so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” Habakkuk 2:2-3
- Become more of yourself and be him/her. And you can only get to know who you are – who you were created to be – by getting closer to your creator. Find a good Bible believing church and commit to it. Fellowship. Spend time in your Word. Communication is a two-way street, so as much as you pray to God, listen TO and FOR Him. He is always speaking to you. The more of yourself you become, the clearer your strengths, weaknesses and purpose will become, and the easier you will find it is to walk them out in truth.
- Mobilize your tribe. 2018 is all about team dynamics, supporting each other, and cheering each other on in whatever goals and dreams we have been given. If you have not found your tribe yet – the group of people who share the same values as you, ride for you, and compel you to be your very best, start praying for God to bring them into your life. There is no dream or vision God will give you that you can achieve all alone. David didn’t do it alone. Paul didn’t do it alone. Even Jesus, God incarnate, couldn’t do it alone. You need the kind of people surrounding you who will pour into you, pray for you, stand with you, and call you out when they see you headed down the wrong path, and the kind of people who are ready to celebrate your victories with you as well! And you need God to help you be that kind of person as well. Don’t get caught up in comparison – it is a thief of joy and of time, and will have you in someone else’s lane when you’re not even running the same race. Celebrate others and help them up. It is in furthering and propelling the dreams of others that God fulfills and propels ours. “Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” Acts 2: 43-47
- Forgive. Nothing will prevent God trying to use you more than a spirit of unforgiveness. Let go of wrongdoing – the wrongs of others, and the wrongs you make yourself. Learn to move on from upsets and bad outcomes. Don’t allow circumstances to shape you into someone God didn’t create you to be; bitter, angry and spiteful are not traits of children of God. They are the bonds that will keep you from everything good God has ever planned and prepared for you. Don’t let someone else – or yourself – stop you from receiving everything God has for you in this year!
- Live Free. Don’t allow things to get you down. Don’t get distracted by hearsay and gossip. Stay in your lane, unless you are going over to help others in theirs. Steer clear of things and people who are bad influences and who will distract you from your goals. Celebrate every day as a new opportunity to see more of God and live out His purpose for you. Enjoy your life. Do the things that set your soul on fire, and don’t waste time on things that don’t. Dance like no one is watching. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Trust the process. Your best life can only be lived in the wide open space of Grace. Live that John 10:10 life!