We had a whole day of road ahead of us, only a few hours of it behind. My heart anticipated a few hours from that moment, when the snow-heavy pines of the Wisconsin Northwoods would take over the lull of gray highway. But for now, to pass the highway miles, I pulled out my new journal. A fresh beginning. But before we began building upon that new start, we had to first look back.
This is my favorite part of our year planning practices—gazing back over the past twelve months and searching them through and through for God’s hand. “Ok,” I turned to my husband, pen hovering over blank page, “what can we celebrate from 2017?” We began dissecting the year. Line by line a story was drafted, simple sentences giving a humble tribute to God showing up in our year.
Grayson transitioned to self employment
Renovated and sold home
Eryn spoke at four events
Completed 936 Pennies book manuscript
Took a two-month road trip to the Pacific Northwest
New baby on the way!
Paid off the car
Took a trip just the two of us
The writing was fast, then slow. As we thought over all of the blessings, my heart filled with what we saw God do in 2017. It’s not this easy every year. There have been years when we have pulled out the journal and pen, and had to squeeze those twelve months hard to find the good within. Maybe you feel that way as we step into the New Year. Sometimes it’s hard to want to look back because of the shadows that linger.
And yet, shadows are proof of light. “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
He doesn’t promise that the darkness will not be there—He promises that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
We have had our years with shadows. This time last year as we wrote our list, my heart ached with the loss of our baby nine months before. But God was faithful. His light shines straight into our shadows. And that gives us hope as we walk into a new year. That is why this act of naming gifts is so powerful, even when they are hard to find. When we spot them in the shadows we know it—He was there, and He will be there in whatever unfolds over the next twelve months.
In that journal, twenty-eight pages of plans and agendas and to-do lists over from that page celebrating 2017, stands another list I cannot do without this year. A plan I cannot fail to make. A plan that will shape the entire new year. It is one I began making several years ago. One that has put a name to the shadows in my life that I can do something about; a name to those things in my life that are uprooting my peace.
Too much social media scrolling
Tension between wanting to work and wanting to spend time intentionally with the kids
Not enough time in God’s Word
Not enough fresh air
Rushed and frazzled mornings
This list looks different each month, ebbing and flowing right along with life’s challenges. But here is the thing about that list: I can change it.
“Those who plan peace have joy.” Proverbs 12:20
Those were the words that convinced me that my list of Peace Thieves is not something to live with. Rather it is a catalyst for uprooting the tension and uneasiness of my days, and being more intentional about peace in my home, family, and life. These words are where my Peace Plan was born.
I began to write.
Read with the boys every day
Color with the boys
Time in God’s Word each morning
Sit down and enjoy a cup of hot tea
Slow mornings at home or at the park
Basket by bedroom door where phones are put in the evening
“What had I always wanted to write onto the canvas of our days but dropped down to the bottom of the schedule, left unattended? These were the things I wanted more of—activities I knew would bring peace, but had yet to be made a priority.” -936 Pennies Book
It’s not a binding to-do list. That’s not what we need as we think over the next twelve months. We need a freedom list. “Those who plan peace have joy.” That word there, plan, it strikes me every time. At its roots it means this:
To deliberate peace
To resolve peace
To advertise peace
To advise peace
To consult peace
To determine peace
To purpose peace
How will this year look differently in our homes and hearts if we will determine and purpose toward peace?
How might our list celebrating 2018 look brighter after twelve months of this pursuit of peace?
In all of our strategizing for the new year, let’s not miss this all-important plan that really could shift our homes and families’ entire year. Let’s plan for peace, and make it happen by writing out that plan each month. Begin with whatever practices, habits, and circumstances are eroding away at your peace, and then move on to specific changes you can make to combat those Peace Thieves.
Let’s plan for His light to shine through the shadows this year, whatever 2018 might bring. That way, when we sit down at the end of this year with a blank page and pen, we’ll see it—traces of God’s hand, His stepping in, His gifts, and His provisions that can leave us with only one declaration:
“Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17