Discovering a New Year of Grace

by Melissa Taft
English Boom December 2021 chaos

by Elaine Breckenridge

We stand on the threshold of another year. I love some of the Celtic rituals that mark this special passage. In her book, Kindling the Celtic Spirit, Mara Freeman 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. Because the new year follows on the heels of the winter solstice, the new solar cycle represents both closure and renewal. She writes, “This was a time to forgive and forget old debts and grievances and to heal any rifts among family and friends. Old failures could be allowed to fade into the past while the new gateway opened up vistas of hope for the future.” 

Perhaps this is where the New Year’s Eve custom of opening the back door, taking a broom, and sweeping out the old year came into being. I look forward to sweeping out the remains of 2021. In many ways, 2021 for me was sprinkled with more loss and trauma than 2020.  I am hopeful that on the morning of January 1, when I open the front door, I will step across the threshold to welcome the new year with open arms. Just the other day I wrote these words, I hope that my ritual will mirror my intentions and my prayers—to let go of what was and embrace what is yet to come. Do you ever mention your intentions and prayers out loud, only to experience that God often gives us a chance to exercise those same very good intentions?  

This past week, I set off to take a walk on a trail at a nearby nature preserve on the island where I live. Walking along the familiar path, I suddenly found the path was gone! Logs barricaded the way. Recent high winds and rising tides had changed the landscape almost beyond recognition. Even the little footbridge to cross the small tributary had been blown away. For me, climbing the logs was not an option. I was a little miffed that I was not going to be able to take my customary walk. Resigned to sitting, I began to reflect on how the geography of so many of our lives has been altered by this past year. Wildfires, flooding, and tornadoes have devastated so many lives, and here I was complaining because I could not take my familiar walk! I heard God asking me, “Are you truly ready to let go of what was and embrace what is?” 

I looked around and realized just how beautiful the terrain was even in its messiness. I was amazed that I was able to discover stillness in the midst of the chaos. And then came the divine gift of insight. God had given me my sacred word for the year. Discover.    

                            Blue Heron at English Boom

Rather than making the traditional New Year’s resolutions to improve myself, for the past few years I have instead asked God for a sacred word to live by throughout the coming year. Following an ancient desert monastic tradition which I learned from Christine Valters Paintner of the Abbey of the Arts, I had been in discernment to find my sacred word for 2022. At that moment sitting amongst the scattered “yule logs” I realized that the word “discover” had chosen me. 

At first, I resisted this word. It did not sound “spiritual” enough. Images of the credit card and the PBS program came to mind. “Really, Spirit,” I said, “Are you sure you got that right?” I heard “Write about it.” Right there on the beach, I pulled out my pad and pencil and drafted what would become this:  


Dream and dare 
Imagine and intuit
Surrender to joy.  
Come alive again 
Outside and in. 
Vibrations and energy are    
Rewiring you to 
Discover what it is you love.    

It turns out to be the perfect word for me because I am not sure what to do or even how to live my life at the moment. I retired on the threshold of the pandemic which changed many of my hopes and dreams for retirement. Even with vaccinations and a booster, little seems to have changed in my life.  

I am hearing from the Holy Spirit, that it is time to live in new ways. “Old things pass away, behold the new is coming.” That is not a reference to the world and culture around me. It is an invitation for me to boldly step out my front door into the “now” and find new ways to come alive.  

Discover is such a playful invitation to be open to whatever comes and to take some risks to try new things. Rather than thinking about my “purpose” or my next “vocation,” I will be guided by Mary Oliver, who wrote, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Rather than wondering what others think I should do to serve, I will be guided by Howard Thurman who wrote “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Who knows what January 1, 2022 will bring? Once I close my back door on 2021, I will see it as an invitation to repent, to literally walk in a new direction with a new and open heart and mind. 

As I open the front door in the new morning, throwing caution to the wind, I intend to pray these words on the threshold: “Now greet the swiftly changing year with joy and penitence sincere; rejoice, rejoice and with thanks embrace another year of grace!” (Hymn text by Jaroslav J. Vajda)  

Happy New Year! May yours be filled with another year of God’s grace as you make your own discoveries of love and joy.    

Invitations to consider:  

Might you have already or might you endeavor to find your own sacred word to live by this coming year? 

What new horizons or landscapes do you see in your life? Are there adaptations and innovations that you feel forced to make that may in fact be God’s calling to live in new ways? 

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