In with the new.

Happy New Year!

I love the sound of those words. I don’t think I have ever met a person who isn’t cheered by them. Who doesn’t like new beginnings? Who doesn’t need them? Who isn’t occasionally glad to see the back of the old year? Who doesn’t hope that this will be the year when we will see solutions to long-lasting problems, old conflicts resolved,  or even dreams come true? Do we ever become so old and jaded that there isn’t even a glimmer of hope when we cross over the threshold into the new year?  Isn’t there a sense that a  new year brings new hope? There is a sense of anticipation in me at the thought of all those days ahead, as yet unspoilt and spotless, just like the freshly fallen snow with which we have been blessed this last week, snow that fell softly on barren fields and clothed them in beauty.

Certainly the old year giving way to the new is a reason for celebration in my mind. I look back on God’s faithfulness in the year gone by. I am grateful for God’s abundant forgiveness for my  abundant failures in the last 12 months and I feel hopeful because I step forward into the next twelve months in the grace God provides. And I am reassured that He will meet me every step of the way and  peaceful that He will be the strength I need for every situation I face.

So I begin the new year with both celebration and anticipation and I take stock of my life. I take stock of where I have been and where I am going. I take stock of how I am doing on this journey of life and I peer ahead, trying to make out the twists and turns of my path. I seek to start this year well, on the right footing and on the right path.

God has gifted us with another year. How will we spend it? Will we waste it or will we invest it?

How would you finish this sentence?

“This will be the year that I …..”

What are your goals, dreams, hopes or fears for these next twelve months? Where do you want to find yourself at the end of 2017? What memories do you want to be able to look back on? What do you want to build? Where do you want to invest your minutes, your hours and your days?

I realise that I need to be intentional about the good things that I want to see happening in my life and in my family.  They don’t just happen and memories are not built in an 2015-02-20-16-04-37instant, but over time. Choices need to be made and so do sacrifices. Building a family especially requires hard labour. It requires a willingness to put aside my agenda, my “me-time”, and my egocentricity, over and over again. Am I willing to make that choice again this year?

The feel-good parenting of Hollywood movies does not represent well the reality of good parenting, and of the hard   choices parents have to make day to day as they keep their eyes on their child’s future and his or her ultimate well-being. Parenting isn’t just for the warm cosy moments of life. Parenting is hard and good parenting is consistent through the hardest days. Good parenting keeps going when the parent doesn’t even much like the child he is raising, and … the feelings are mutual. For God’s love transcends “like” and moves beyond the bare necessities to something higher, harder and better. Parenting should be fun…sometimes but it is certainly not fun all the time or even much of the time. The trouble is that we have turned fun into a modern-day deity and when things are no longer fun we are far too ready to give them up. But parenting that is only fun is going to bring about some not-so-fun results in my child’s future. There are days without number where we just need to grit our teeth and get on with the messy job of loving our children when they are not lovable and disciplining them when we don’t feel like it and when it would be easier to simply keep the peace and go with the flow.

Parenting is good, parenting is necessary and good parenting is hard work. I have to remind myself of this regularly because I tend to let things slide and I get used to a certain unhealthy status quo. A new year is a good time for such a reminder. In parenting we have to keep our eyes on the end goal. We have to keep assessing where we want our children to be twelve months from now, or even twelve years from now.That is hard to do, especially when the present can seem so pressing, so urgent and so all-consuming. Sometimes we don’t see the wood for the trees. Sometimes we only see in retrospect. And sometimes God gives us another new beginning so that we can pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes.

I want to be a better parent this year. But for a dream to become a goal there must be a plan. What is my plan for growth this year? Where do I need to be more intentional?  Two things spring to mind.

  1. It is time for me to read again and refresh my memory of what other, wiser parents have written and shared from their own parenting journeys. There really is nothing new under the sun and I don’t need to feel like I have to come up with all the answers myself. I can learn from others if I am wise.
  2. I need to spend less time doing things for the children and more time doing things with them. I need to be less perfectionist and more inclusive of them in my daily routine. I need to stop seeing them as an interruption to my agenda. They are the agenda God has given me during this stage of my life. That needs my full and focused attention.

At the beginning of this new year I am stepping forth, God willing, into another twelve months of parenting. I am sure there will be mistakes. I am sure there will be days when I feel like giving up, throwing in the towel, and going on strike. There will be days when I hate my own parenting. There will be days when I bitterly regret the  harsh and unhelpful words I have spoken. But there will also be days when I will be deeply thankful for what I see being formed in the lives of my children. There will be days when I will feel blessed beyond measure.There will be days when I feel like the most privileged person on earth to be able to parent these particular four children. It is those days which make all of it, even the pain of it, worthwhile and which help me keep on doing what I do.

So what is my prayer for you and me for this year? Simply that we would grow through the experiences of these twelve months,that we would invest well in the opportunities we have and that we would be able to look back on 2017 without regrets and with a sense that we have done the very best we could with what we had.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:9-10.

Each of us face unique challenges. May we each experience how God uniquely meets us at our point of need and guides us in right paths for His name’s sake.

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