Freerange Friday: The Practice of Looking Back

by Lilly Lewin

By Lilly Lewin

Welcome to 2019. It’s seems like we were just learning to write 2018 and now it’s time to flip the calendar and start a brand new year! I’m thankful for that. I don’t know about you, but last year wasn’t my favorite.
I had all of these expectations, all these great plans and hopes for productivity, and most of them didn’t happen. Sadly, I felt like the hopes and dreams that I started with at the beginning of 2018 really never got very far.

How about you? How was 2018?

My friend Carrie Larson, asked this on her Instagram,
“What is one word you would use to describe your last year? “

The word that popped into my head was FRUSTRATING!
Not exactly a positive word for the year. And not exactly what I’d hoped for my 2018.
But it reminded me of the need I have to look back at the year and see what really happened, before I make a start taking the road into the new one.

Too often we rush right into the New Year and plunge into activities and busyness and race down the road. We don’t take time to look back and see what God has been doing in our lives. We too often don’t stop and see what we’ve learned and where we’ve been. I’ve found that stopping and taking time to reflect on last year can help me have a better start to the new one.

TAKING TIME TO REVIEW THE YEAR. It’s a PRACTICE that I’ve been doing for the past several years and it started at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky. I am blessed to get to retreat there in silence, going away on a Monday
coming back home on Friday evening. And in the silence I reconnect with Jesus and myself. I will write more about practicing silence in the next week or so, it’s also a great practice to practice. But you don’t have to be at a monastery or on a silent retreat to start this Practice of Reviewing your year. My friends Cindi Slaughter was house sitting for a friend last week, and being in a different place with a time of quiet allowed her to have the time to reflect on 2018 and look towards 2019. My friend Fran started her review of 2018 by looking over her photos in her phone during our journaling time at our thinplaceNASHVILLE gathering on Sunday night. The hardest part is starting!

Set aside TIME…. a few hours, yes a couple of uninterrupted hours, will help you look back at the entire year. If you can do a half a day, or a whole day, all the better. That will give you more time to reflect on the year and time to pray and sit with what you see and notice. Or you could plan to spend some time each day in the week to come to look back over your 2018.

Get somewhere without Distractions, where the kids, the laundry, or Netflix are not calling your name.

Gather your SUPPLIES: I start with my calendar and my cell phone, and I use different colored post it notes and sharpie markers. If you journal, you can use your journal to look back on your year.

Throughout the year, I take lots of photos on my phone. Looking back through my photos jogs my memory and gives me a visual library of what’s happened.
The pictures help me remember things that my calendar may not show.

LOOK AT THE CALENDAR. I use post it notes to create a visual calendar of what took place during the year.

Since I’m doing this on retreat, I leave the post it notes up for a few days so I can add to them and see what I’ve missed, and review what God has been up to in my life. And I take a photo of the notes so I can remember what I learned.

If post its aren’t your thing, you might use your journal or a pad of paper to make a list going month by month.
Put down places you went, work projects, people with whom you met, friends who came to visit, milestones, etc.
Doctor visits, vacations, celebrations and funerals all make up our year.
You can also list any emotions, feelings, memories that you have about each month or season.

What do you Notice?
What are the trends? What are the gifts?

Anything missing?

How have a I spent my time? Usually I see just how much I’ve been doing, how busy I’ve been with work and travel, etc and I finally figure out why I’m so tired.
By looking at all the post it notes, I can see things I’ve forgotten.
I can see things I’ve been holding on to that have made me angry, frustrated and depressed.
I can see the things I’ve forgotten to be thankful for! The gifts God has given me!

This week I went back even farther than 2018. I looked back at 2017 too. I felt like there were some things that took place in 2017 that affected 2018. There was lots of hosting and hospitality in 2016 and 2017, and I think that led to less in 2018.
My dad had heart procedures at the end of 2016 and 2017 that also ended up being a big part of 2018. I’ve learned a lot about cardiology in the past two years. And in 2018, I discovered a heart issue of my own got me exercising consistently and eating well for the first time in over 25 years!

I realized we went from a geriatric cocker spaniel in 2017, to a very active toddler in a golden doodle who is now twice the size we expected him to be! While Jake has been great for my exercise routine, his addition has been a much bigger disruption than I’d planned or expected.

I also noticed that I spent a lot of time helping others fill up their cups and connect with God, but i didn’t do a great job of filling up my own cup. I made a list of ways I’m planning to find refreshment and connection in the New Year.

I saw gifts of friendship, gifts of beautiful places, and lots of laughter that I need to remember and celebrate and carry forward into 2019! But I also took the time to make a list of the things that I needed to give to Jesus to carry. The pain, the loss and the grief of last year. And this included things I need to forgive myself for and forgive others for so I don’t drag that baggage any further down the road!

The beautiful thing about 2019 is that the road is long! We don’t have to hurry. We have time to PRACTICE and to review and take a look back, and we have wonderful days ahead to journey into the new adventure of the New Year with Jesus. And I’m very grateful that He’s got the map!

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