Another Year of Grace

by Christine Sine
Four point star,ed (2)

by Elaine Breckenridge

The sun has set on December 31 bringing closure to another year. And of course, having risen on January 1, the sun has launched us into 2024.  In her book, Kindling the Celtic Spirit, Mara Freeman notes that because the new year follows on the heels of the winter solstice, the new solar cycle represents both closure and renewal. She also describes how the turning of the year gives us the opportunity to create new space in our lives to live in a more sacred manner. 

There are many rituals associated with the turning of the year. I observe the New Year’s Eve custom of opening the back door, taking a broom and sweeping out the old year. In the past I have swept out the remains of the old year and closed the door quickly, as if to make sure the year was both finished and banished into the past. This year I felt called to be more reflective, to take time to process what could be understood as having survived a year of trauma. 

This passing year was marked for me by two joint replacement surgeries, a dog attack which has left permanent disfigurement and scars, a partial mastectomy and a grueling round of radiation treatment for breast cancer. And yet, remarkably, I have experienced both physical and emotional healing this past September and October. While the Earth was letting go of her leaves and preparing for the long winter’s nap, I was entering springtime in my heart. With a new hip, I was happy to walk again and still feel green and born anew. 

I am at peace and am thankful for the prayers and love I have received from family and friends. I did not slam the door shut on 2023!  Yes, there is closure, but with it, I am humbled and in awe for how suffering has changed me. Indeed, I am grateful.  

The renewal aspect of the New Year custom is to rise at dawn on January 1 and open the front door to welcome the new year. I have done so (though I missed the dawn!) with anticipation and I admit-a little anxiety. After having been housebound for a year, I wonder. How will I choose to begin not only a new year but what feels like a new life? It is clear that I cannot resume my previous life. No. Too much has changed. I have been changed. 

I am unclear of what my next steps should be. Should I resume an active ministry in the church? Find a way to volunteer in my local community? Devote all my time to my grandchildren and their parents? Find a new vocation? Travel? Honestly, I am a little nervous to do anything. I am not used to having the freedom to make choices.     

It seems fitting then that my sacred word for the coming year is “courage.” Rather than making traditional New Year’s resolutions for the past few years I have instead asked God for a word to live by throughout the coming year. The word courage seems to have chosen me. 

On one level, I should be ecstatic like the healed lepers in the Gospel story of Luke (Luke 17:11-17). Healed by Jesus, each of them immediately left Jesus and headed back to their hometowns, presumably to be reunited with loved ones and to resume their former lives.  One leper, however, made the decision to turn back, to go to Jesus to give thanks for the healing.    

Perhaps, as an antidote to my anxiety and confusion about what to do next, I am being called to simply spend some time giving thanks for the physical, emotional and spiritual healing that has happened to me in the last few months. As Freeman wrote above, I will give myself space to find new ways to live my life in a more sacred manner.    

I opened my front door today and simply raised my arms in gratitude to God for the new life that I have been blessed with. I will offer this prayer daily through January 6, written by John O’Donohue:  

May I have the courage today 

to live the life that I would love
to postpone my dream no longer 

but do at last what I came here for
and waste my heart in fear no more.

I am not sure what my dream is and what it is I am called to do next, but with courage as my mantle, with love in my heart and with enthusiasm for the continuing journey, I do vow to practice letting go of fear. I greet the coming new year with joy and anticipation as I let it unfold, moment by moment, day by day knowing that God is with me. 

May you my friends, also know that God travels with you, especially during this time of sacred turning. Happy New Year!     

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