As a young girl I loved using chalk. The powdery substance decorated our driveway, sidewalks, and even my pretend classroom. I made colorful designs or sketched out hopscotch games and the cleanup was easy! While dry erase makers have almost totally replaced chalk, this earthy substance is making a comeback with the invention of “no dust” chalk and chalk markers.

A custom known as “chalking the door” exists in many parts of the world. This practice, which dates back to the mid-1800’s, finds biblical roots in the Exodus account: when the Israelites marked their doors as instructed by God for deliverance from the angel of death who passed over every home in Egypt (see Exodus 12). Today, the occasion of marking the doors accompanies the celebration of Epiphany, which takes place 12 days after Christmas and ushers in the new year in the church calendar.

Traditionally, this custom commemorates the arrival of the Magi with their gifts to baby Jesus and invokes God’s blessing. Chalk markings adorn the main entrance to the home and represent prayer for God to bless those who live, work, and visit the dwelling in the year. This practice acknowledges God’s presence and welcomes God’s grace for a fresh year of life, growth, and community.

While not commonly observed in the States, the motivation behind chalking the door floods most everyone’s mind in January as a new year begins. Some people adopt resolutions. These might include exercise programs, financial budgeting, simplifying lifestyles, balanced schedules, character development, travel, etc. Improved patterns for living explode and new ideas infiltrate daily rhythms.

In more recent years, the idea of choosing a specific word or a few words for the upcoming year has increased in popularity. Some of my family members and friends have chosen words like health, balance, joy, moxie, and kindness to characterize their hopes for growth and change in 2019.

What about you? How do you commence the new year?

Let me offer a suggestion to increase the effectiveness of whatever you aim to do at the outset of 2019. Reflection must precede movement forward into anything new, challenging and hopeful. If you haven’t already, take 10-15 minutes to remember 2018.

  • Notice the joys, sorrows, hardships, and growth.
  • Recognize changes in relationships, hobbies, passions, and character.
  • Come clean before God by confessing sin, failures, and struggles.
  • Receive cleansing, healing, grace, and hope.
  • Release the past and lean into the present.

Now, having reflected, look toward the year 2019. While a resolution to change or a word to guide provide a beginning, approaching the new year expands beyond these confines. How does the Holy Spirit integrate what you learned into your 2019 considerations? Plans void of the Lord may last for a season, but will fail to endure. Invite God into the stirrings within your soul for the new year.

  • Focusing on health? With the Holy Spirit, give attention on the care of your soul in addition to your physical well-being.
  • Simplifying your home and living? Let God show you ways to simplify your heart’s desires for single-minded living.
  • Balancing work and family? Ask God for discernment to set healthy boundaries and to know when to say yes or no.
  • Drinking more water and eating healthy? Study the Bible, partaking of living water that satisfies and the Word that nourishes your soul.
  • Practicing a slower pace of living? Engage in rhythms of solitude and silence.
  • Desiring purity in thoughts and actions? Memorize Scripture to help you take every thought captive.
  • Looking for ways to volunteer your time and talent? Allow the love of God to flood your heart and recognize the needs around you.
  • Wanting to act more decisively? Focus on the Fruit of the Spirit and join God as He develops His character within you.
  • Distributing God’s gifts of abundance? Reflect on the generosity of God recognizing all you have has been given to you by God to make Him known.

What if we all approached the new year like Moses? God asked Moses to lead His people into a new season and into a new land, yet Moses understood the futility of moving forward without the blessing of God.

“Then Moses said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people unless You go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (see Exodus 33:15-16)

Moses asked God to bless him and all of Israel. As the leader of God’s people, Moses knew God’s presence and blessing would distinguish them from all other people on the earth. Do others know you belong to God? Is there a distinguishable difference between you and those who do not follow Jesus? Have you reflected on where you have been and asked God to bless your new year?

Whether you choose to chalk your door, start new rhythms, or select descriptive words, begin the new year by reflecting on the past year, asking for God’s blessing, and dedicating your path to Him. Dedicate your dreams, work, family, service, longings, friendships, and ministry to God. Like Moses don’t move forward without the blessing of God.

May God’s response to Moses move within your soul; “And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (see Exodus 33:17)

May God be pleased with you. May He lead you into 2019 with hope, joy and peace (see Romans 15:13). May you follow His path and walk in His ways so you hear Him call your name.

If you have some chalk :–), you might even enjoy placing a simple cross above the threshold to your residence, asking God to bless all those who live, work and visit your home in 2019.

Dedicate yourself to God’s ways and receive His blessing. Welcome 2019!

Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.

Numbers 6:23-27
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Check out these suggested readings.

Charles F. Stanley. Finding God’s Blessings in Brokenness: How Pain Reveals His Deepest Love. Grand Rapids, MI. 2017.

Patricia Raybon. The One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional. Grand Rapids, MI. 2011.