Blank Pages

January can be a tricky month for me. My wedding anniversary is December 31, a new year begins on January 1, and my birthday is January 12. There’s a lot to celebrate in the span of two weeks, yet I often feel sadness at the passing of what has been. It feels like the completion of three different chapters–year 24 of my marriage, 2017, and my 47th year. Like it or not, it’s time to begin writing new ones.

Before I enter into the new, I try to pause and reflect. It is a way of honoring all that a year held—for my marriage, my family, and my life. Tim, the boys, and I each wrote a list of “top ten blessings of 2017,” which we shared with each other. It was a sweet time reminiscing, and I loved noting where we had crossover on our lists and also what moments were specific to each person.

2017 held unexpected invitations, epic adventure, terrible loss, and tremendous milestones. At its dawn, I was anticipating three significant events: my oldest son’s high school graduation, his departure for college, and our family’s long-dreamt-of trip to Europe. Last January, I worried that my heart could not hold all that the year would bring. It’s true; I didn’t know what was coming.

First came the invitation to speak at Red Tent Living’s Brave On conference; then the untimely deaths of two friends; and finally a surprising trip to Australia. These unforeseen events led me into places of deep courage, grief, and joy. As I reflect, I marvel that my heart was able to hold it all—both the expected events and the surprises. Not only did I hold it—I entered in, engaged fully, and as a result, my heart has been enlarged.

As the book of 2018 opens, I find myself wondering, “What’s next?” Unlike last year, there aren’t any milestone moments and upcoming plans on the horizon. Instead, the calendar stretches before me like a desert—a wide-open space that honestly scares me a little. I have a sense of what’s to come, but these ideas seem more like wavy visions on the horizon. I fear they are a mirage.

This uncertainty unnerves me. I prefer a plan. I like to know what season I’m in, what I’m moving toward, and what’s required of me.

Instead, the pages before me appear blank—waiting to be written. I feel pressure to figure it out.

Yesterday, this pressure weighed heavily on me, and I felt tired, anxious, and weepy. Today I woke with a lingering headache, yet I chose to attend my first yoga class of the new year. On the drive there, I began listening to a podcast that discussed the idea of “consecrating” the new year to Jesus. The speaker explained that consecration means dedicating or handing over the new year to God.

I realized that I hadn’t done this yet; in fact, I hadn’t released 2017 to God either. I was still holding on to the fullness of 2017, reluctant to let it go, and I was fretting about the emptiness of 2018, not ready to enter in. The root of my anxiety had been exposed.

When I arrived to yoga class, I unrolled my mat and reclined on it in the dim studio. The instructor began walking through the room, placing a drop of essential oil on each participant’s palm. She said that the name of the oil was “Be Present.” I smiled, noting the creative ways that God speaks. I’m so thankful that I was paying attention.

I rubbed my hands together, brought them to my face, and inhaled deeply. At the top of my inhale, I made a decision to release 2017 and welcome 2018. As I slowly exhaled, I felt the anxiety and pressure retreat.

After yoga, I returned to my car and the podcast. As it began, the speaker shared a simple prayer: “Jesus, I consecrate 2018 to you. I give you my apprehensions, fears, desires, and plans; I surrender them to you; I want you to be the intimate Lord of this year.” Right there, I began to pray.

A new chapter begins with the words “Be present.” My heart is now ready to hold all that it will bring.

Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.