Spiritual Practice: Preparing for the New Year

            Well, 2020 is winding down, and now is an excellent time to reflect and prepare yourself for a new year. I mentioned this to some friends, and they looked at me blankly as if 2020 has been such a dumpster fire there was no way to switch gears and even think about a new year. But alas, the new year is upon us, so first we need to process 2020, then perhaps we will have the capacity to prepare our hearts for something new in 2021.

Give yourself some time to think about or journal these questions. You might need to open your calendar to remember anything positive.

Thinking back over 2020; what new things did you learn?

For me, one thing I learned was Glennon Doyle’s mantra, “We can do hard things.” This has been hard! Zooming constantly for work, not being with people we love, finding out how to work from home — hard things. Yet, we did them, and we will continue to do them.

Thinking back over 2020, what are you proud of?

I’m proud that I decided to use the pandemic to get serious about my health to give myself a fighting chance if I did get COVID19. I started Weight Watchers and lost thirty pounds. I exercise almost every day. This makes me happy, and I feel stronger than I have in a long time. I don’t share that to make anyone feel bad. Most folks gained the “Covid 19,” which is what they needed to do, but it is a huge win for me.

Thinking back over 2020, what do you need to grieve?

Oh, so much, but not as much as those who lost people they love, or jobs, or health. Not as much as those essential workers who never stopped working and were exposed every day. The things I grieve are temporary. I grieve traveling. I grieve not being able to go on my monthly spiritual retreats. I grieve getting hanging out with my friends and hugging people. Others have faced crippling loss, and I recognize that.

Thinking back over 2020, what are you thankful for?

I’m thankful for the world to slow down, for nature to have a chance to recover, for me to keep writing because I have a wonderful critique group to hold me accountable. I’m grateful to have started two new spiritual direction training cohorts and to be able to do my work from home. I’m thankful to be well and that my family is well.

Thinking back over 2020, what else comes to mind that you need to get off your chest?

For me, it’s the election and the train wreck of our country, and the extent of the racism that is remains in our nation, and the deaths of so many. Oh my, I could go on.

Thinking back over 2020, what has helped you the most?

I’d have to say the Memes have been fantastic. Humor really helps, and streaming services like Netflix offered some great shows, allow us to relax and blow off steam.a As a therapist, I can see this pandemic tends to make or break a marriage. I’m grateful that my husband and I still like each other. This New Year’s Eve will be our 37th anniversary! I’m glad I married my best friend.

Writing about these questions will help clear your mind to begin to think about the New Year.

What word or phrase might you want to press into for 2021?

I’m thinking mine will be related to teaching others some of the things I’ve learned. I’ve enjoyed teaching writing classes and spiritual classes. My fifties were the best decade ever! I learned not to care as much what others thought, to stand in my truth against tremendous pressure to conform, and to tell my stories. Now I’m on the cusp of 62 years old! I want to share more about what I have learned.

What dreams do you have for 2021?

I’m hoping and praying for a vaccine so we can all live without fear. I long for a sane government to restore humanity to whole of Washington. I long for racial healing to move forward and the recovery of our environment to be taken seriously. And, I’d love to travel and see more of the world, and publish more books.

What fears must you face about entering 2021?

For me, it’s that the dreams I’ve listed above won’t happen, that we will continue in this polarization and ridiculousness. But I’m not going to dwell in that place. I want to look forward with hope.

What else do you hope for 2021?

I hope to release a new book by the end of January. I’ll keep you posted on that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on 2020 and what you are hoping, praying, and working toward in the New Year.

Photo 2020 by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Photo 2021 by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: Journaling

Journaling

I always say I’m not a journaler, but I just typed an update on the computer in a journal file that I’ve kept faithfully since 2009. And, if you dug around in the recesses of my basement, you’d come across boxes of notebooks I’ve been writing in since 1977. So, am I a journaler? I guess I am.

Where’s the breakdown? I think the problem is that when I think of journaling, I imagine a diary, something people cherish and update daily. I tried that as a child, but I had little success. My life was just not that interesting. I tried again when my life finally did get that interesting, those diaries had to be burned!

We need a new idea of journaling that includes a broader definition. Here’s mine: Journaling as a spiritual practice is any way of keeping an account of the work of God in your life. If that is true, I am a journaler.

Eight years ago, I took a spiritual direction class that included the book, Journaling As a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God Through Attentive Writing, by my professor, Helen Cepero.

As part of that class, we did the journaling exercises set out in the book and after the class, I continued. The difference was I only wrote in this journal once a month when I was on my silent retreats. I have continued this practice for eight years now, but never really thought of it as journaling because it wasn’t a daily practice. Still, over time it has become a record of the work of God in my life through the tremendous experience of the last eight years. It counts!

What about the boxes in my basement? When I was eighteen I arrived at college as a newly minted Christian. I didn’t know anything about being a believer so I found the first mature looking Christian I could and asked how to go about growing my faith. She suggested that I find a spiral notebook and divide it in half. In the first section, I was to read the Bible and when something stood out to me, write it down. In the second section, I was to draw a vertical line down each page and use one side for writing out my prayers and the other side for writing the answers to those prayers. This was very doable and I’ve been doing it for forty years. I don’t often go back and read the old ones, but the idea of having boxes full of forty years of answered prayer is very encouraging. It counts!

So, how do you make journaling work for you? I think a journal can be as different as the person writing it, or drawing in it, or painting in it, or placing photographs in it. I’ve seen some people who cherish their journals and go back often to re-read them. They are modern-day examples of memorial stones that people of ancient times set up to mark a spiritually significant event. Some find writing too cumbersome and prefer to draw or paint. I have a friend who does a photography blog, which is very much a way to journal. It counts!

journaling 2

What’s stopping you? For the next two weeks, try a journal of your own design. Find a way to make it work for you. The point is to record the work of God in your life. Maybe it will be a purely mental journal, or a list of bullet points, or some kind of fitness tracker where you note significant aspects of your workouts that have filled your soul tank. Think outside the box – or in this case the notebook.

*For more on spiritual formation exercises, check out my new book, A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.

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