A New Year approaches!
I look forward to the week between December 25 and January 1. During those days I set aside time to reflect and ponder over the past year. I allow space to look with curiosity at each month and wonder about habits, changes, and growth in my life. I pulled out my 2022 notecards which helped set my intentions for this past year to guide me as I look back. I want to reflect inquisitively and authentically.
As I enter this thoughtful space, my soul experiences anticipation and perplexity. What will I discover? What will rise to the surface? I ask God to shine His light and love upon the mysteries and meaning of this past year. I look to God to order the perplexed spaces and moments of life with His grace and goodness. Most of all, I contemplate God’s companionship with me through the year.
Perplexed – To cause someone to feel baffled, puzzled, and mystified.
Do you have a reflective practice as the current year closes and a new year commences?
The Bible invites the practice of reflecting upon our lives through many different verses. A few examples are: Lamentations 3:40 – Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the Lord. Psalm 4:4 – Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. 2 Corinthians 13:5 – Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Matthew 20:32 – Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
A number of tools also exist to assist in the practice of looking back in order to look forward. Some people choose words, others create diagrams, but my favorite is called the examen. This way of reflecting includes *requesting God’s presence to give light to the reflection, *remembering God’s goodness, gifts, and grace, *reflecting on the specific time period by intentionally walking through the days, weeks, or months, *repenting of sinful attitudes and actions, *receiving God’s forgiveness and cleansing, *and moving into renewal by the power of the Holy Spirit and refreshment into the future.
Consider the state of your soul right now. I wonder if you notice resistance to reflecting on this past year or anticipation to remember? Before beginning a practice of reflection, pay attention to the responses within yourself. Live perplexed by what stirs within you.
In the account of Gabriel’s encounter with Mary, Luke described Mary’s response to the angel’s words as “much perplexed” (Luke 1:29, NASB translation). Other translations described her as troubled, confused, and alarmed. She likely experienced mystery, confusion, and puzzlement at Gabriel’s words.
As a young virgin girl I suspect questions rose within her soul. I wonder if instantaneously she reflected on her purity, family upbringing, engagement to Joseph, and commitment to obeying God. As I read Luke’s account, I notice that in her perplexity Mary pondered, embraced the peace of God’s presence with her, and positioned her soul to surrender to the power of God. The mystery surrounding Mary’s circumstances found resolve in the possibilities of God. She submitted and yielded to the ways of the Lord. Read Luke 1:26-38 for the full story.
Mary’s perplexity and response to confusing circumstances encourage and challenge me. What about the perplexities I encounter and experience? Do I get hung up on the why or the how? How often do I want an explanation in order to understand? What about you?
In what ways might living perplexed lead to freedom, delight, and transformation?
Living perplexed can lead us to the Lord. Opportunities to discover God’s presence, peace, and power abound in confusing times. Reflecting on the year might arouse feelings of unrest and overwhelm, but also of mystery and hope. God’s presence presided over each day, week and month of the year.
I continue to learn that the perplexities and puzzles of why, how, and what often lead to circular spirals in my mind and heart, but focusing on Who directs my heart to God: His character, promises, and activity. My soul settles when I let go of trying to find answers to befuddling questions from the year and look to the One who accompanied me along the way.
Take some space to reflect on 2022. Notice without judgment or critique. Just look. Perhaps choose a word or phrase to summarize each month. Wonder about God’s presence, peace, and power with you in each month. Curiously look at emotional, spiritual, physical, and relational change.
Ponder with God about this past year. Remember He always comes in love and His light brings exposure and healing. Look with perplexity for freedom, delight, and transformation in 2022.
After reflecting, consider God’s invitations for 2023. How and where is God drawing you to surrender? What work of the soul does the Holy Spirit stir within you? In what ways will you live authentically and humbly? Consider character traits God invites transformation. With whom do you need to reconcile? What practices prepare you to meet God face to face?
Be perplexed with God about His summons to your soul. To embrace perplexity is to acknowledge that His ways are not our ways and to live in a posture of trust. The Lover of your soul invites you to journey with Him into joy, healing, and change by the power of the Holy Spirit.
My daily questions for 2022 will continue into 2023. – What am I doing today to care for my soul?
– Who am I becoming in this moment? – How do I experience God in this space? – In what ways am I submitting to the will of the Father? – What actions am I taking to live a healthy trajectory in 2023?
I pray you join me and enter 2023 with desire and purpose with God. May perplexed living lead us closer to the Lord, surrendered to His light and His loving ways. Like Mary, when we experience being much perplexed, let us be secure in the presence of God and the power of His peace and plan.
Happy New year!
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Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
Luke 2:19 – But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 – Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Read these recommended books to fill your soul.
Mark E. Thibodeaux. Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day. Chicago, IL. 2015.
Kevin DeYoung. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. Wheaton, IL. 2013.
Sprinklings of Truth: Soak in meaningful songs. Check out these music videos to lift up your spirit.
ActiveChristianity. A New Start. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqcIIsl5ZSY
Victory Worship. New Beginnings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjjOXqJEhgw
Puddles for Prayer: Thank you for praying for upcoming travel and speaking engagements.
January 13 – Littleton, CO
Breathe Retreat (A two hour spiritual retreat for women) – Join us. Email me for more information.