With Christmas behind us and the year almost gone, I love to step aside from the busyness of life to stop and ponder. It still seems like yesterday that I was making goals and asking the Lord for specific requests for 2019. Now, the year is almost over, and I sense the need to stop —
To look back on all God has done over the year.
To relish the little blessings God brings in each season.
To contemplate the people, books, or ideas that have influenced how I’ve grown over the year.
And more often than not — to remind myself that even the hard things have been blessings in disguise, even when they still don’t make sense.
What are some ways to practically look back over the last year? Here are a few ways I have found to develop a discipline of remembering.
There is something about putting a pen to paper that does more to untangle my thoughts, vent my feelings, and bring renewed vision and purpose than anything else. For me, journaling changes in different seasons. In the middle of a tough semester this year, I found myself merely trying to survive each day mentally and emotionally intact, much less attempt to journal. Other times, particularly when I’m on break, I journal extensively each day. But even if the entries are only once a month, they still form an account of the journey God has taken me over the year.
For me, journaling has rarely been a diary recounting events, although that can certainly have value. It’s the means by which I work through questions, analyze problems, and process events. And more often than not, the entries turn to prayers because I have no idea how to do solve any of my questions! It is these very entries that I love to look back on as the year draws to a close. Often, a solution was just around the corner, and looking back, I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness. Often, the challenges haven’t disappeared, but through old journal entries, I get a glimpse of the growth happening in my heart. God is at work!
If you haven’t journaled before, why not start this year? You’ll be surprised how encouraging it can be to look back on.
If you remember the story of 1 Samuel 7, the Israelites had just conquered the Philistines, and Samuel raised a large stone to remember the battle. He named it Ebenezer, or stone of help, to remind the people that “thus far has the Lord helped us” (1 Sam. 7:12). I love that idea of creating a tangible way to remember God’s work in the past — and the assurance of His continued presence in the future.
For the past four years, I’ve taken a rock and recorded on it words and phrases to remind me of what God has done over that year. I’ll also choose a verse that encapsulates what God has taught me. Here are pictures of a few of them.
Have you ever tried having an Extended Time Alone With God? The end of the year is the perfect time to set aside a day (or even a half day) to spend in seeking the Lord, processing the last year and seeking direction for the next. I love doing this in the mountains where I can hike by myself and spend time with the Lord. This year, my mom and sisters and I are going to try to find some cozy nooks at the Broadmoor to do our end-of-year XTAWG. If you’re interested in doing this, please email me and I’ll send you a pamphlet from the Navigators that guides you through spending a significant chunk of time in the word and prayer.
Do you have disciplines or traditions you’ve developed to help you stop and remember? Please let me know in a comment. I’d love to hear!