He stopped the radio on 107.9 FM. Oldies were playing. Not just any oldies — “Beach Music” — the kind of music my Dad listened to for decade upon decade. The music that transports me back to salty sea air, sandy feet and tangled hair, the gush of air conditioning that hits you when you open the door of the condo. My Dad at the grill, chicken wings whistling and crackling (and mysteriously disappearing) and me fetching one more Miller Light with a lime for the grillmaster.

My eleven year old, scanning through radio stations stopped when he heard that old-fashioned music and started dancing along from the passenger seat of the car. 

I wondered if it was embedded in him somehow — even though we lost my Dad when he was just four, is the music in there somewhere? 

I couldn’t stop smiling, thinking about it.

Until someone threw a diaper from the backseat and I had to turn off the music and start a lecture about the dangers of throwing things at the driver. 

Sometimes saying goodbye to a year that has passed feels a bit like saying goodbye to a person who meant a whole lot to you. It’s grief on a much smaller scale, but still it’s grief. 

Maybe you didn’t achieve what you’d dreamed. Maybe this was the year you would _________ but _________ just didn’t happen.

The truth is we don’t exactly wave goodbye to the years we live — it’s more like we take them with us. They are a part of us, maybe they’ve built us, maybe they’ve broken us. Probably both. But surely we’ve grown in understanding, hopefully in wisdom because these past 365 days are a part of our story.

The music isn’t gone. Even if we don’t remember every moment in our minds, our souls still bear the weight of the stories.

As the final moments of this year have their time on the stage, I’m trying to focus on two thoughts to frame the road ahead.

More Gentle

I typically find myself at the end of a year regretting what I hoped to accomplish but didn’t, while I fail to celebrate what I did accomplish. I can’t count how many home-cooked meals I served my family this year, but I know it was often six or seven days a week. I think that’s something worth celebrating. How many times did I smile at a stranger or offer a kind word? I hope a lot and can think of at least a few — that is time well spent. I began to write consistently this year and offered a word of encouragement in this space on a weekly basis. That’s something worth celebrating.

Instead of looking for reasons to rake myself over the coals, I’m thinking about things I can count as blessings. We read sooooo many library books together. We prayed at bedtime together — all six of us — almost without fail, except for those months when Blake was in the hospital. 

It’s a new kind of joy, and you might find it, too, if you worry less about the number of the scale and instead celebrate the walks you took with a friend. Or if (like me) you didn’t beat last year’s goal for the number of books you read (I tied!) — instead you can celebrate, I read 25 books this year!

Be gentle with yourself. Look for reasons to celebrate. Yes, make mental notes about the things you aren’t celebrating, but still, find the reasons to celebrate. You showed up when that friend needed you. Other than a sick day here and a vacation there, you were faithful at work. You fed your family or watered your garden or kept some plants alive. (Maybe all three… go, you!) 

Celebrate the wins!

More Firm

This week I read these words that challenged me deeply in thinking about the year ahead:

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
{Essentialism, Greg McKeown}

I didn’t like the idea that someone else could tell me what was important to me, but I realize that there are times when I say yes to things I should say no to, because we cannot have it all and we cannot do it all.

Every yes is also a no.

And I want to carefully consider the things about this 365 days that I don’t want to celebrate. Were there times when I let others’ expectations define my priorities for me — at the expense of myself, my family and what I believe is truly important?

If I am always trying to do and do and do and always feeling like I haven’t done enough, then my expectations for myself — and the ones I’m placing on myself because they are the expectations of others — are probably the culprit.

If overwhelm is our ‘normal’ we are perhaps trying to do more than God has given us to do. I do not want an excuse for laziness, but I do want to accept the invitation to slow down and be in step with the Holy Spirit. And I cannot travel in a flurry of activity, flitting from one task to the next, and still hear His voice clearly. Maybe you’re like me?

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with my eye.
Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding, 
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.

{Psalm 32:8-9}

If we’re like the horse, we’re trying to run ahead, and if we’re like the mule, we’re lagging behind and needing the encouragement to keep up. Either way, God’s promise is the same: “I will instruct you. I’ll teach you the way you should go. I’ll guide you. You’ll look at me and see the way forward.”

What is necessary to carve out the space to listen and to hear and to choose wisely how to live the days you have in front of you?

More firm. Committing to be more slow with your yes, more careful with your time, more eager to discern those “good” things that lead us away from the best. 

If we want to live a life led by the Holy Spirit, we will have to spend time with Him. If we want to live a life where the most important things take the center stage, we have to know what those most important things are and plan our lives and calendars accordingly.

No one gets to the end of their year, or their life and thinks, “Gosh, I really wish I’d spent more time doing all the secondary, non-important things other people expected me to do.” 

As you reflect on the year that has passed and prepare for the year to come, be gentle with yourself and celebrate the wins. And be firm in your resolve to listen to what doesn’t feel like a win, and consider where more ‘no’s’ might have created opportunities for better yeses. 

Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” 

So instead of getting overwhelmed with setting a couple of big resolutions to steer us into a New Year, perhaps we need to get quiet and look for the clues in our soul about the little changes that could make the biggest differences. Even with a whole new year unfolding in front us, we will still have to live it one week, one day, one moment at a time.



I hope you’re encouraged today, friend!
If so, I’d love to welcome you to 
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If you’re hoping for a little more advice on majoring on the big things and minoring on the small? I’d love to recommend:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (Think of this one as a closet-cleanout strategy for your life priorities.)

Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy (Think of this as a personal coaching session to help you strategically think through EVERY area of life and discern the why behind every yes or no.)

The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman (I’ve shared this one already, but gosh, I so appreciated the gentle self-care, the pastoral coaching of this book as it relates to decision making. Freeman expressed specific things I’ve actually LIVED and put words to things I couldn’t. If you have big decisions ahead this year, please grab this one!)

And, with love, from here… perhaps just a little extra love for your January 1st? This is a fan favorite from the Archives to wish you a Happy New Year: Happy New Year, Love God.

One last thought? If you subscribe to receive weekly Love, From Here, I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox every week along with my Five Steps to a Fantastic Meal Plan SystemIf you’d like to live this year more encouraged, and make a plan for your kitchen, this is definitely a win/win!

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