Thinking about the new year: A year for HOPE!

It's no secret that New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday. The blank slate, the new outlook, the tangible opportunity to make a chan...

It's no secret that New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday. The blank slate, the new outlook, the tangible opportunity to make a change for the better, to leave the old behind and embrace a new way of living, of thinking, of being. What is better than starting fresh?

But it's only a fresh slate if you are willing to let go of the one you've been scribbling on for the last twelve months. Good, bad, or indifferent, whatever occurred in the last year has to be released, relinquished, renounced, repented. It's time to embrace a "new normal" and get busy with life!

But first, go ahead and take a few minutes to wallow... Write down all the negative, bad, sad, painful, horrible, traumatic things that happened to you (or affected you somehow) during the past year. Acknowledge the things that marked you, the things that dented your armor. By doing so, you give those things their due (this is a kind of mindfulness exercise... yes, I learned that in therapy.) Then, having acknowledged them, release that stuff back into the universe. Don't worry, God is big enough to handle it appropriately. The key is to release it. You don't want to drag all that baggage into 2015 with you... can you imagine the fees???

When that's done, write down all the good, positive, beneficial, answer-to-prayer, blessing, good Karma kind of things that happened to you (or affected you somehow) during the past year. Yes, it's often harder to remember the good things. Don't fret about it, just acknowledge the good things and give them their fair share, too! The amazing thing about gratitude is that it doesn't weigh anything!

Now, it's time for the hard work: HOPING.

Notice I didn't say "planning." Planning (I can't believe I'm admitting this) tends to be an exercise in futility. Sure, you can plan an exercise program, a diet, a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year (I'm doing it again, anyone with me?) scheme, but you can't really PLAN much of anything in advance. I'm not talking events (weddings, graduations, etc.), I'm talking LIFE. Every day is a gift, a blessing, a surprise... and there is no guarantee. We assume we'll have tomorrow, but there's no guarantee. OUCH. (Painful life lessons experienced in 2014.)

So, instead of planning, let's start HOPING in 2015.

Hope, by definition, is the expectation of something good, or a good result. If you are a worrier like me, hope feels a lot like throwing up...  turning everything in you around and making it go the opposite direction. Seriously, I don't know any other way to explain it. Hoping is hard. Hoping is especially hard when you've had a blow to your faith, or a cherished hope has been deferred or destroyed. That's when hope gets a bad rap. But that doesn't mean hope is dead... it just means it needs a new direction, a new purpose. Sometimes what we hope for (particularly when it depends on other people) isn't possible.

So separate out all those "hopes" on your list that are dependent on someone else's choices or behaviors and pare down to the hopes that have to do with you, personally, separate from what anyone else says or does or believes. (I know, as a mother I hate this... I want my hopes and dreams for my children and my loved ones to come to pass just as much as I want my hopes and dreams for myself, but it doesn't work that way.)

Now take a close look at that individual, personal list... hope is what empowers us to push through the difficulties and complete our goal. Hope is the answer to WHY. WHY are you applying yourself to such-and-so endeavor? Faith is the WHAT. Without hope (why), faith (what) dies at the gate. Don't poo-poo the power of faith. Faith is, by definition, your belief in something. We all believe SOMETHING (remember, it's the WHAT). But WHAT is pretty pathetic without WHY (hope). Hope is the generator for faith, it keeps the lights on, so-to-speak. Without hope, we would quit exercising when our first few workouts don't result in dramatic weight loss or muscle growth. Without hope, we would quit school when the expense and the effort seem too great compared to the future reward. Without hope, we would give up stop pursuing our dreams when the payback is less than the output. Without faith, we wouldn't even bother to try.

I can look back at my 2014 "resolutions" or goals, and see where hope was in play and where it was absent. Where hope (the why) was alive, energized, and activated, I accomplished things. Where hope was dim, sketchy, questionable, or applied as a "should" (I should do this or that), accomplishment was minimal or nonexistent. Interesting. I'll take that into account as I make my 2015 goals and resolutions.

And I encourage you, in these days leading up to 2015, to do the same. Look at your "whats" and your "whys." They should be connected. If they aren't, something needs to be adjusted, somewhere!

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