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To Carry Forward or Leave Behind? A New Approach to a New Year

Every year, in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, my husband and I engage in an unusual tradition. Coffees in hand, we sit down in front of our beautiful Christmas tree, enjoy some conversation about the holidays and upcoming year, and begin the debate as to when the tree and all its accompanying décor should be put away.

If it were up to me, twinkling lights would be a year-round tradition, as would much of the festive affair that goes with the Christmas season. My husband, on the other hand? Not so much.

You see, he is not a fan of carrying over any of the Christmas trappings into the New Year (except for Jesus, that is.) He prefers the “clean slate” approach to January 1st. And I get it. In some ways, I agree.

As this year draws to a close and we think on all that might come with rolling over the calendar, it’s a good idea to be intentional about what we choose to carry with us from this year into the next. And if we’re being really honest with ourselves (and each other), there are some things that got our attention and energy this past year that simply have no business drawing on our resources in the future. Here, as the sun is setting on 2020, it’s helpful to commit to what (and even who) we will bring into 2021.

Things to Leave Behind in 2020

The quest for perfection. Stop chasing something that does not exist. The dance of progress and process is messy but beautiful. The ups and downs are how we learn and grow. Anything that seems to always be “up” is most likely full of hot air. That’s not a way to live. Unless you’re a balloon. Rehearsing our wounds. While it is important to work through the things that are hindering us from living the healed life we want, rehearsing our wounds only serves to reinforce them. Processing a hurt and rehashing it are not the same thing. One frees us--the other tightens our chains. Draining influences. What are the things and who are the people that you allow to have the most influence over your life? And I mean all aspect of your life--emotional, physical, spiritual and even- professional. Have those influencers encouraged you, fed you, healthfully challenged you? Have they promoted growth, compassion and grace? If the answer is no, then this might be the year to leave those people, places and things in the past.

Poisoned Positivity. The frenetic pace at which we run from difficult emotions is exhausting us. It makes sense why we do this—no one wants to feel pain. But the research is clear. Avoiding our feelings is toxic. Forcing ourselves to be “good vibes only” all the time isn’t realistic and, in fact, requires an unhealthy emotional disconnect from reality. It also creates a divide between us and the people we love. We can all too easily believe the lie that people don’t want to know we’re hurting, or, especially if we are followers of Jesus, we sometimes feel pressure to embrace a flawed interpretation of “be anxious for nothing” and “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” If we really want to lean into the idea of “doing all things through Christ”, then let’s trust He will walk through the hard things with us to bring us to real healing.

Abandon Resolutions-Embrace Your Theme

Now, you might be thinking “this is all good and well, Gina, but what about my resolutions? My goals for the New Year? Are you suggesting I not make them?”

It might be that you feel driven to set lofty goals for 2021. Maybe you simply cannot fathom a world where you would forgo that tradition in favor of the less-measurable, less tangible, “leaving unhealthy things behind” approach I’m suggesting.

Perhaps you were raised in an atmosphere that praised accomplishments and punished emotionality or admitting weakness, so you can’t imagine stepping up to the New Year’s resolution plate and not swinging for the fences.

But this year, just this once, I’m asking you to take a different approach. Commit to leaving some things behind this year. Consider the space this can provide for creating a theme for 2021, instead. Themes allow for movement--for some back-and-forth, some up-and-down. They also allow for trial and error. And for layers. Themes can be built upon and evolve with time, growing with us.

Themes have facets and make room for “the whole person.” With that, comes space to focus on our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Think of your theme as a banner that flies at the gate of the incoming year, announcing what the coming days will be about. Choosing a theme will help you make decisions about what you will allow through your gate.

If you’re thinking about what this might look like for you, here are some themes to consider for the New Year.

· Healing

· Growth

· Compassion (for self and others).

· Boundaries

· Surrender

· Change

If you’re not sure what to choose, pray about it. Did you just cringe? It’s okay if you did. Praying may or may not be your “go to” these days. You might be coming out of a year that finds you weary in the prayer department, because most of what you prayed for doesn’t seem to be happening. The idea of praying about what to bring into 2021 isn’t your first thought. It’s hard to wrestle with the hard things that happened over the last twelve months and hold in tension the fact that God is still God and He is still absolutely for us.

He is still absolutely for you. But there is an enemy who is not, and He would love for you leave God out of your 2021 plan. He’s the one who would have you bring all that is heavy and soul-defeating with you into the New Year and every year thereafter. He’s also the voice behind the curtain reminding you of all that hurts and haunts and taunts--all that distracts you from pressing forward with new hope.

He is a liar. Don’t fall for it.

Whatever 2020 has left you feeling--anger, grief, disappointment, uncertainty-- whatever tried to deplete you, be honest about those things and emotions. Share with someone you trust, and yes, share with God. Work through what is weighing you down. And work free of it--leaving it in this place. It does not get to pass through the gate.

In the coming year, I pray you find the hope and healing you need. I pray you discover you are enough, even when it feels like you aren’t. I pray you embrace all you’ve been created to be. And I pray you experience freedom in letting go of what has hindered you and weighed you down. Joy in embracing your theme for 2021.

Happy New Year to you. May this year bring you peace and contentment in who you are and the realization of your precious, incomparable worth.

If you are looking for help and encouragement for your journey into 2021 and beyond, check out our resource page at When you get there, be sure to subscribe, because we have some exciting new projects coming in the New Year and I would love for you to be a part of it!

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