Looking Forward

digitally rendered 3d illustration of a stairway to heavenNew Year days are always a time of reflection and hope. I spent New Year’s Eve at a local Baptist church I’d never attended. I was disappointed that the pastor had been called away on an emergency, but I later found out that he was called away due to the death of an American soldier in Afghanistan. The pastor’s military duty was to inform the family of the loss of their loved one. Besides feeling sad, I was reminded that I’d forgotten that our country is still at war! American men and women are still dying for what feels like a lost cause.

A family’s last day of the year was disrupted by the news that their soldier would return home deceased. I could hardly bear the unexpected emotions that I was experiencing. The pastor returned to the church just after the service was over and the New Year had been rung in. Smiling, he extended his hand to me, offering me a hearty welcome. All I could think was, “What a job.” Besides the challenges of leading a congregation, he was also responsible to share the saddest news that one could ever carry—the news of the death of a loved one. News that no one wants to share. Yet, he returned seemingly undaunted by his task.

On the same day, New Year’s Eve, I learned that I’d lost my cousin to his valiant fight with cancer. As I awoke on January 1, 2018 I thought of those two people who had passed away. I thought of how close my own pastor had come to injury and possible death, not a month prior, while on a routine shopping trip to a department store. A robber had pointed a gun at him while he stood chatting with a store employee! As pedestrian as it may sound, life is short.

The time that we take for granted can never be retrieved. The suddenness of death, the shock and sadness of hearing such news, the estrangement of a cherished friend, the intrusive realization that evil is rampantly persisting in our world all assaulted my senses as I was awakening on the first day of the year. Numbness abating, I arose as silent tears trickled down my face. Habitually, I brewed my coffee. Grasping a clutch of tissues, I sat at my dining room table to allow myself to feel.

I thought, “It’s 2018, and 8 represents new beginnings.” I perused the reason for grace. A new year represents a chance to start over. Many are claiming this year to be the year of individual empowerment. I’d read several proclamations, even, of this being “the year of the woman.” I’ve challenged myself to squeeze every bit of purpose out of each day of this year—to honor those who fight for America’s freedom, even to their deaths. How dare I forget the fallen—and those who are fighting in foreign lands? How dare I take their sacrifices for granted? How dare I squander my gifts and talents, taking my next breath for granted? How dare I forget it could be my last?

This year, I challenge you to pursue what a new beginning looks like for you. Create a vision board. Don’t procrastinate with fancy plans for its creation; instead, grab some poster board, open a word processing doc, grab a piece of paper—whatever—but be sure to grab some crayons, markers, colored pencils, or paint and write down what you will accomplish this year. Envision yourself walking into what you’ve initiated with your words. Declare your statements aloud. Imagine its materialization, then prominently display your vision where you can see it every day. Make your life a priority.

Many of us have faced death in the eye and defied it. Many of us have contemplated ending our own lives, but were refocused. We’re here for a reason. Let’s discover what that is and embrace it. Let’s concern ourselves with what our hearts long for and not with what’s expected. Let’s anticipate our futures. From Two for the Money, “anticipation is the ability to see the future and respond to it.” Create your vision board to reveal your new beginning, then live on purpose. LYLA!

Happy New Year!


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