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Join us for  HOPE GROWS 2024!

Morning streaming in the window in a dark room

New year, new you. Can I be honest? I’ve repeated that phrase in my mind with two completely different voices. One voice has more of a yesss-let’s-go sound. But the other one? Well, that’s not quite what it sounds like.

The other voice is … uhh … perhaps a wee bit mocking. New year, new you. Ooooh … Yippee … What.everrr. That voice is full of scorn, full of contempt, and laced with fear. It’s that fear that mocks me and laughs in my face.

In my bones rests a feeling that this year might be like last year. This year might be full of more hard, more no’s, more months of one step forward and forty-three steps back, more months of grabbing broken bootstraps and pulling up for dear life. This might just be the year that breaks me.

And that feels like the sinking awful.

The sinking awful is a place that opens its mouth wide and invites you to step over the edge and fall in to be swallowed whole. It reminds you of your heartbreaks, your missteps, your betrayals, it whispers, it sneers, and it croons a siren song that beckons you to walk around its edge until you can see nothing beyond it.

When you’ve tiptoed around the brim of your own sinking awful, it can be very hard to believe in good things. It makes you clench your jaw, grit your teeth, and gird yourself for more disappointment, more struggle, more reality. It is a vacuum for hope.

That hideous sinking awful does its best to convince you that it’s your only reality. It steals your focus and attention. It masks hope and reason. It stifles your memories of anything good, of life working out in your favor, or any of the blessings you’ve been given.

But.

That’s a comfortable, easy lie. It isn’t your only reality. Your other reality requires intentionality, it requires trust, rest, and hope.

When the adults and powerful relationships in your life failed to create experiences that taught you healthy coping strategies, unconditional love, or safe conflict resolution, your brain wired itself according to those lessons as a result. Those lessons prepared you mentally and emotionally for the existence of your sinking awful. Not every life lesson is meant to be absorbed and integrated into how we function.

This is your life. So, be intentional with it. Be intentional with your heart and mind. Make the effort to purposely rewire your thinking. If you don’t, the experiences of this world will continue to boss you around, wiring your brain for you. Experience will tell you what to think, how to respond, push you to walk around that pit, and grab your ankles to hold you there.

Reach for hands that pull you back from the edge and walk you into steadiness and calm. Hang on to the hands you can trust. Those are the hands that call your mind back to confidence in yourself, compassion for yourself, grace for yourself, and belief in your worth.

Truth can be spoken in the presence of trust. When you can’t tell the truth, when a person denies the truth or cannot see what’s true, that person isn’t safe. You’re not crazy. You’re in a relationship with a person who isn’t trustworthy.

The people you trust can hold your big feelings and messiness, they face conflict shoulder-to-shoulder with you, and they are a soft place to land. When a trustworthy person hurts you, they give you the space to address it and they take responsibility for their choices and actions. They don’t blame-shift or gaslight.

When you’re in relationship with a trustworthy person, your heart and mind are not spinning. Your mind is no longer on a hamster wheel, running and running. Your heart isn’t overcome with wave after wave of emotion. When you have relationships that you can fully trust, your heart and mind can rest.

When you’ve been circling the mouth of that sinking awful, a person who takes your hand and provides rest for your weary heart is a welcome friend. Rest gives you time to heal. Rest makes room for grief, compassion, and growth. If your relationships continually exhaust you, it’s pretty hard to grow for the better.

As your heart and mind rest, that rest allows you the freedom to lean into believing what is possible again. Remember that feeling? Kids know it. Optimists know it. And people who relentlessly pursue the goodness of God know it. It’s a little spark.

That little spark can be snuffed out or kindled into a fire. That is your glimmer of hope. And when you’ve been focused on your sinking awful for too long, you lose sight of that spark. It’s forgotten, buried, or covered with the ashes of lies and experiences that have burned you.

Hope. It’s the wings of a bird. It’s the sail on the ship. It’s the ladder hanging down in the pit when you’re sitting on the bottom. Hope is what you need to lift you out … and what you fear when you reach the top.

It’s that fear of allowing yourself to hope that convinces us to turn our eyes back to the ugly, to face the familiar. The familiarity of rejection, loss, heartache, and despair feels easier to face than the possibility of hope being deferred. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick …” (Proverbs 13:12)

Yet, that isn’t where the verse ends. God doesn’t stop by leaving us languishing in unrequited hope. We are not meant to spend our days circling the drain of our sinking awful. The eyes of hope cannot stay fixed on the hands of life that grab our legs to trip us and pull us backward.

Hope faces forward. Hope waits. Hope trusts. Hope rests. Hope believes in the better. Hope longs for more. And “… a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

There is hope in the hands that never let go when they reach for you. Hope in the hands that guard your spark. Those are the hands you can trust as you walk into a new year. Take hold of the hands that guard your spark.

Hands that guard your spark are life-giving. They make space for opportunities to kindle your spark into a flame. These hands hold your spark gently and when it dims, they offer their own light.

New year, new you?

If the you who retreats from hope and runs to the familiarity of despair is taking a walk in your shoes, it’s time to put on a pair of shoes that no longer fit that person. As you grow and heal and change, you have to walk differently because you’re heading toward something new.

Right now, you might be inwardly groaning at the very hint of rah-rah-go-team advice coming your way. I get it. I get it more than I want to admit. And you know what? No shame in having that initial reaction.

That’s an old you reaction. It’s normal. Your brain and body are used to the way you feel every time a new day starts. And you can do some small things to make changes.

“Very early in the morning,

while it was still dark,

Jesus got up,

left the house

and went off to a solitary place,

where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV)

This one verse is very telling. It was a priority for Jesus to begin his day in solitude, to walk outside, and to pray. He focused on his heart, mind, and body first thing in the morning. It is purposeful.

God made mornings magical. Do I think mornings feel magical? Uhhh … hard no. More than half the time, I don’t sleep through the night. Blame it on hormones, anxiety, whatever. That’s my reality. I go to bed thinking that I’m going to wake up and get a jump on my day. But my alarm goes off and my body feels quite dead.

Still. There is magic in the morning. Neuroscience backs up what God already made plain. Our brains and bodies are primed for positive change when the sun comes up. (I’m scowling just a little as I write because I know it’s true … and I want 2 p.m. to be magic in the making.)

So, start small. Commit to yourself that you want to change your mind. Before anybody else talks to you, talk to yourself. Yep. You can do it. You have the tools to change your mind. And you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your covers to do it.

Think of the new you. Imagine the mindset that person has. Imagine that person leaning toward hope. Imagine what that version of you would say. Use those words to speak affirmations over yourself. You don’t need to say anything aloud, just repeat the words and phrases in the stillness of your mind.

Before you look at your phone. Before you roll out of bed. Prioritize positive change. Prioritize your well-being.

Now, get up and move your body. As you begin to train your brain to believe good things, get your blood flowing, lower your cortisol, boost your energy, and encourage optimism. Even if it’s for a few minutes, do it for your own good. (If you can get outside and walk, even better!)

No more last-year lies. No more last-year living. New year, new you doesn’t have to be this big, outward showing that other people watch you do. New year, new you is for you. But you have to choose it. Over and over, you must choose to hope and choose how you will begin your day

Because when you begin your day with intention, you become your own catalyst for change. Every sunrise brings new possibilities for you when you decide to look for them.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

(Lamentations 3:22-23)

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”

(Psalm 39:7)