Happy New Year!

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I have read there is an old Irish custom of opening the back door of your house just before midnight to let the old year out, and opening the front door to let the new year in.

I like that idea. In fact, I’m really tempted to open the windows as well, just to be sure 2021 is totally gone! And maybe even get the broom out as well and chase 2021 out just in case!

And then we should welcome 2022 with confetti and a champagne toast!

Who agrees with me? Let’s all do it together!

When the Confetti is Gone

Times Square was filled with people. Thousands of them cheering and screaming and waiting for the ball to drop. There were party hats and noisemakers. Streamers and confetti. Entertainers and TV cameras. Each and every one couldn’t wait til that magic moment.

You could almost feel the anticipation as we watched the activity on TV in the comfort of our home, like millions of others across the country and the world.

Like us, they were waiting. Across the globe other time zones had already passed into the new year, and the cameras would occasionally switch to show the other celebrations that were already over….almost as quickly as they began.

In the scope of mere seconds, another year had ended, and another had begun. We were all excited, as we celebrated a new beginning, watched fireworks and tossed confetti, called and texted friends and wished them “Happy New Year!”, and then….what next?

Within a half hour Times Square was almost empty, except for those whose job it was to clean up after the party was over. The celebrants had left, moving on to other parties to find another reason to celebrate, or going back to hotel rooms or homes, as the feeling of euphoria and excitement they’d just experienced slowly left them, and the same old feelings they’d tried to leave behind returned. The confetti and streamers that had been tossed in the air a short time ago, were already being swept away and discarded…forgotten. They were no longer needed or wanted. Because there was no more anticipation or excitement; nothing to look forward to. Really? Are you sure about that?
Life often hits us like that. We spend so much time preparing for and anticipating an important event…and when it’s over, we’re let down. Almost depressed. We dissect what took place, look at the pictures, share memories with friends, but we can’t quite seem to capture that exact feeling again. We keep looking for that same excitement to reoccur, and we’re disappointed when it seems to be back to business as usual.

Or is it back to business as usual because we allow it to be?

We forget how to look ahead with expectancy and excitement, unless it’s for some big special event coming up. We forget there are little things to be excited about, as well as the excitement and anticipation of things to come that we don’t even know about. There are things we’ve been hoping for, and praying for, but we’re almost to the point of giving up on them. Because we’ve been waiting so long, and we just don’t think it’s going to ever happen.

But guess what! It is! Isaiah 43:19 tells us, “Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it?” (NCV) We only need to look with our spiritual eyes and heart. We need to see it as already accomplished and begin thanking the Lord that it’s already done. Because He has promised us, and we know that those promises are always fulfilled!

I’m guilty of feeling that way, too. More often than I’d like to be. But this year I’m making a serious effort to change that! I am determined not to go back to that old way of thinking, and I’m going to start seeing all of those things as already done. There’s so much to look forward to in this coming year. The birth of our first granddaughter in May is the only one I really know about, but I know there are many more exciting blessings coming our way! I just don’t know when they will occur, or exactly what they will be, but I know they are coming.

So I’m getting out the confetti and the streamers (and maybe a few balloons), and I’m getting ready!

How about your joining me in the celebration?

New Year’s Traditions…What Are Yours?

We’ve all heard about having black eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day. Friends of ours have an open house on New Year’s Day and there’s always a pot of them included in the party fare. But here are a couple more I hadn’t heard about. And I wish to give a huge “thank you” to my friend Dianne Disharoon for sharing them with us. As well as another big thanks for her giving me permission to post it here. [With my comments added in brackets, of course!]

“Sauerkraut is ready for tonight. Black eyed peas ready for tomorrow. I just need a tall, dark-haired male to be the first visitor tomorrow. Then, I’ll be all set for good luck in 2016!

My grandmother ALWAYS had a pot of homemade black eyed peas (Blackeyed-peas1with ham hock or fatback) on New Year’s Day. She was Southern to the core. I’ve got my black eyed peas ready, but not in the manner she ever would have considered serving….they’re in a salad. She’d probably be appalled! [Now this sounds interesting]

Her English heritage was evident in her observance of the Northern England and Scottish tradition of “First-Foot.” The First-Foot is the first person to enter the home on New Year’s Day and is said to be a bringer of good fortune for the coming year. It is said to be desirable for the First-Foot to be a tall, dark-haired male. A female or fair-haired male are regarded as unlucky. The dark haired male is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your door step most assuredly meant big trouble. [Now I can go along with this being good luck, especially for certain of my female friends who are single…send him over and I’ll keep him here until they come over!]

My father and his two brothers were always my grandmother’s first visitors on New Year’s Day. However, as my Uncle Mervin was blond, he had to wait until either my father or Uncle Wilson crossed the threshold first. [Wow! Hope they all arrived in one car!]

However, my grandmother took the tradition one step further. She wouldn’t allow ANY female to cross her threshold all New Year’s Day! One year my Aunt Mary Anne (her daughter, no less!) came for a visit. Nope, wasn’t going to happen; she wasn’t walking in that house! My grandmother stood at the back door and barred her entry. [Probably with a broom!] My poor aunt went back to Virginia [Dianne and her family live in Maryland] without stepping foot inside her own mother’s house.

Since my mother was half German, she always had sauerkraut on New Year’s Eve (to my father’s chagrin – definitely not his favorite!). Thankfully, the one-fourth German in me [Dianne, that is, I only like sauerkraut on a Reuben sandwich] loves saChucrutuerkraut. German tradition says eating sauerkraut will bring blessings and wealth for the new year. So before the New Year’s Eve meal, everyone seated at the table wishes each other as much goodness and money as the number of shreds of cabbage in the pot of sauerkraut. So I’m sure that pot is always overflowing!]
I’m all set for New Year’s Eve and Day except for the tall, dark-haired male visitor!”

Sounds like an interesting combination, don’t you think? What New Year traditions do you have?

Happy New Year to each and every one of you!

Looking Ahead…Not Back

The last two years have been challenging, to say the least. In fact, for our family as well as so many of our close friends, it seems like it’s been one battle after another. Hard fought battles, I should add. Not mere skirmishes that last for an hour or so, but in some cases battles that have lasted almost the entire two years, and are still continuing.

Last New Year’s Eve we all counted down the seconds as we watched the ball drop in Times Square (on TV of course), toasted each other, yelled Happy New Year to everyone in the room, and said, “Thank goodness that year is over! This one has to be better!”

Surprise! Although 2015 saw our daughter happily married to the man of her dreams, which has now led to our status as future grandparents in 2016, this year was as difficult as the year before. And for some of our friends, it was even worse.

Job losses and its resulting financial crises. Broken marriages and sudden spousal/parental desertion. Serious illness and terminal diagnoses. Runaway children turning to drugs. Auto accidents. Unexpected deaths of parents and spouse. Not to mention dealing with the stress from all of these incidents, whether our personal situations or our friends’; when our friends are hurting, we’re hurting as well.

There were times we dreaded answering the phone because it could bring more bad news.

I can’t count the number of times all of us have asked each other, “Lord where are you in all of this? Why are you allowing this to happen? When are you going to intervene? Why have you deserted me? I look at others who aren’t believers and their lives are so much easier. What’s going on? Have you forgotten us?”

How do you answer that when your friends are hurting so much? And so are you?

Why are we experiencing all of these trials? I have no answers. Except that we live in a fallen world. Things happen. People make bad choices that affect others as well as themselves. God gave us all free will. And although He wants us to live the way He intended us to live, the choices we make, as well as choices others make, do not always align with His word. Although He could easily control all of our lives and our actions, He allows us to make our own decisions. Some good, and some not so good. And many decisions we later regret.

We know John 16:33 tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” But so much trouble at one time? We look back and wonder what we did wrong. What if we’d done this, or that? What if we’d worked harder? Gone to the doctor more often? Done things differently in our marriage or with our children?

It’s all too easy to mire ourselves in our past. We dwell on all the negative things that have happened and are still happening. We talk about them all the time and we relive each moment of the pain and over and over again. We try to figure out what we could’ve done differently to change things. As one friend says, it’s like opening up a wound over and over…a wound that is starting to scab over and heal, but we won’t allow it to do that. And then we wonder why things don’t change.

The longer we dwell on the past, the longer we stay in the past. We can’t seem to look ahead because we keep looking back. When Lot and his family were told to leave Sodom, the Lord told them not to look back. But Lot’s wife disobeyed and looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt. There was a reason He told them not to look back. He had a new life waiting for them; something better. But they couldn’t experience that new life if they kept looking back and dwelling on the past.

Isaiah 43:18 tells us to “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” So why do we continue to do so? Is it because sometimes it’s easier to try and dissect what went wrong, rather than look ahead to the better things the Lord has in store for us? Because we can’t see them yet?

In 1 Corinthians 2:9, we are reminded, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” If we love Him, we are to trust Him. Because He has this under control, whether we think He does or not.

If you remember, Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to “take this cup from me.” He felt abandoned by the Lord as well, and He was His SON! And He knew the ending of the story. If the son of God can feel that way, no wonder we have our own moments as well.

The Lord told us, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) And He doesn’t. Even when you feel at your lowest, He’s there, preparing to give you something so much better than before. And it will be in His perfect timing, at the perfect opportunity. We only have to keep our faith. It won’t be too early, or too late. Because He knows best.

This year, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, don’t look back. Look ahead. The Lord’s promises are about to be fulfilled in your life…and in ours as well. It may not be in the way we expect, but it will be exactly as He has planned.

Happy New Year, and may the blessings of the Lord be abundant in your lives in 2016! The best is yet to come.