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New Beginnings

New beginnings! We have this conversation every year at this time. Some call it resolutions. However, some of us have learned that resolutions are difficult to maintain. Many of us abandon them inside of 30 days. Not all of us, but you have to admit that some of us are challenged! Our challenge during this past season has, perhaps been the greatest we have ever encountered.

2020 was a year like no other! Our lives were uprooted on various levels depending on our circumstances. Some of us found ourselves in roles we never imagined and probably had no clue as to how to fulfill. Yet, somehow, we made it work, it may not have worked exactly like we wanted it to, but it worked, on some level. Give yourself credit for doing the best you were able to do at that moment in time, given the resources, knowledge, and ability that you possessed. We always say hindsight is 20/20 and we sometimes allow ourselves to be consumed by the “shoulda,” “woulda,” “coulda,” or “if I knew then what I know now.” Unless you laid in bed the last 10 months and did absolutely nothing, please give yourself credit for getting through it in whatever manner you managed to do so. You are here!

We were sheltered in place and confined to our homes where we may or may not have been in the best environment. Home is supposed to be a sanctuary, a place of safety and comfort. Unfortunately, that is not always the case for so many. Some had to navigate and co-exist with difficult circumstances. Those circumstances may have tainted, traumatized, angered, caused bitterness, or stressed us. 2020 was an exceedingly difficult year. We, as a people, have been stretched to new limits, we have endured unimaginable circumstances. We have not been able to visit or hug loved ones in months. Grandparents have not been able to physically be in the presence of grandchildren. Nieces, nephews, and so on. In addition to all of that, some of us have endured the loss of loved ones and friends. Due to travel restrictions and distancing, many of us have not been able to say our goodbyes to loved ones and have not received the closure necessary to heal. 2020 has been traumatic.

We all have that opportunity and ability, no matter how bleak our current circumstances, to embrace a fresh start. We all have the opportunity to move and think in a new direction. So, what is a new beginning and how can we embrace it in this season? A new beginning suggests a new start, a new direction, a new mindset. A new beginning is a release of past failures, difficult circumstances, disappointments, and abandoned dreams. A new beginning is an opportunity to establish a new perspective and to look forward to new possibilities. Here are 6 tangible suggestions on how to establish a new perspective:

1: Recognize where you are right now as a result of this past year’s experiences. Evaluate the experiences that have impacted you and see which ones you can acknowledge and release. If there are circumstances that remain, determine how you will move forward given the fact that you may still have to co-exist with those aspects.

2: Allow yourself the space to process through whatever emotional impact those experiences may have had. Many of us found ourselves frustrated beyond measure. Many of us had to process a different way of grieving our losses. Give yourself space to let those emotions out. So many of us don’t allow ourselves that space. However, eventually, those emotions will surface one way or another and it usually occurs in some random format.

3: Give yourself the opportunity to refresh. I don’t think any of us can say that this past year has not changed us in some way. Some of us are stronger as a result of what we have come through. Some of us are drained as a result of what we have come through. Take some time to see how this past year has changed you, especially if you are feeling drained or burned out. Consider taking some time, during this new season, to unplug and refresh. When everything has been drained out of us, we need time to replenish our mind, body, soul, and spirit. Give yourself permission to do so.

4: Start to develop a vision and a plan for how you will embrace the opportunities that lie ahead in 2021. Granted, you may still have to co-exist with remnants of 2020, but you have more knowledge, wisdom, and options now that you didn’t have last spring. If you must still co-exist with certain circumstances, develop a game plan that will not compromise your goals, dreams, and sanity. We now have to do things a bit differently and we have somewhat adjusted to some of those differences. Keep that in mind as you begin to write your vision moving forward.

5: Implement the changes that will help you navigate this season. My faith is a vital factor in my well-being. I have attended virtual services each Sunday since the start of the pandemic. I had to implement a new routine of getting up and getting myself centered to receive the word of God in a new format. I have to admit it was exceedingly difficult at first, but a mindset change helped me to make the transition. This experience was a vivid reminder that the early Christians did not have a building to go to for worship. They worshipped and prayed in their homes, on the streets, wherever they were located. I was reminded of the book of Psalms. Those poetic chapters were not written in a sanctuary somewhere. They were written while tending sheep. This was also a vivid reminder that it is not the religion but the relationship that matters most. We have now reached a point where we have the option to attend services in the sanctuary as well as virtually. Yet another shift. Members, who wish to attend in person, must register prior to each service, undergo a temperature check upon arrival and wear a mask throughout the service. It is what it is, another mindset adjustment, if I want to attend services. We have to learn to embrace adjustments! Adjustments may not be comfortable, so we have to make a choice. We must choose to make the best of adjustments or we must choose to defy adjustments and thus continue to struggle through the process.

6: Set short- and long-term goals for yourself. The short-term goals are so encouraging as they are the small victories along the way. Set reasonable short-term goals that, when achieved, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete those goals. Be realistic. This is not a race, it’s a process. You have been through a lot in 2020, this is going to take some time.

The choice to start anew is just that, a choice. This past year has reminded me of 4 things:

1: We have to deal with the hand we have been dealt. I often share the story from my childhood. My uncle use to play the card game called “Old Maids” with me. There was a particular time when I did not like the hand I was dealt. I tried to get some new cards, but he would not permit it. He reminded me that I must play the hand I have been dealt because life is not going to deal me a new hand just because I don’t like my circumstances. This childhood lesson has taken me through some undesirable circumstances. 2020 was one of them!

2: As new knowledge becomes available, utilize that knowledge to make the necessary changes so that you can move forward in a productive manner. Remember back when we were first told we had to wear masks? They sold out of the stores very quickly so many of us were left to improvise. Some of us were quite creative. My creative niece made a mask that looked like an N-95 mask out of an old bra. I hope she’s not reading this. LoL.

My daughters bought me a sewing machine years ago. I sewed quite a bit when I was younger but had never used this particular machine. You know! Yes, I pulled it out and began sewing masks. Now they weren’t the most fashionable, but they were functional and served the purpose. Let’s not even talk about the toilet paper! As a world traveler, I have learned that people do things differently around the world and are able to go about their daily lives just fine. I had to chuckle a bit one day when I read an article written by a woman in her 40” s. She was partly embarrassed and partly intrigued by the discovery of bidets. It’s an eye opener that there are other ways to “handle your business” in a very sanitary fashion without the use of the coveted toilet tissue of choice. Which brings me to another point I wish to make. Everyone should experience life outside of their comfort zone. So many stereotypes, perceptions, fears, and myths could be eliminated. This world would be a more loving and understanding place if we could all open our eyes to other ways of life. That’s a conversation for another day.

3: Don’t take ANYTHING for granted. I think we have learned the hard way that we must not take our lives and our way of life for granted. I have an even greater appreciation for so many things. I have not been able to see my grandchildren in over a year. As I reflect, I have to ask myself, prior to the pandemic, what was so important, that I couldn’t visit them more frequently? Work, commitments, etc. Those things now seem so trivial. A different perspective as a result of this past years’ experience.

4: We are living through Jeremiah 29:1-10. I know, you may be saying to yourself, “huh?” We always quote Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to give you hope and a future “(NIV). Many of us may have been asking repeatedly, this past year, “Lord! I am losing hope! I don’t see my future!” However, we often do not reflect on verses 1-10. The people were in captivity and were going to be there for a while. There were instructed to “prosper” in the midst of captivity so that they could be in position to receive what God had in store for them when they arrived on the threshold of verse 11. We must continue to live, thrive, and grow, even in the midst of a pandemic. This is not the world’s first pandemic; it will not be the last. I was reading an article about a couple who had been married for 83 years. They were 103 years old (husband) and 100 years old (wife). They expressed the fact that they have lived through pandemics, wars, the Great Depression, and more. We can do this! This is the dawn of a new year! We have come through the storm! We have the opportunity to take what we have learned, gained, lost, and seen, and start a new year with hope. I know we hear that all the time. We get excited and then we find ourselves in more of the same. This year needs to be different. We have come through a year like never before. Celebrate the victory and embrace the journey moving forward. What will you accomplish in 2021?

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