I kind of feel bad for 2021. We put a lot of pressure on it. We wanted 2021 to redeem 2020, or at least be 25% better. So far, things don’t seem to be improving. It’s been a heavy 14 days so far. And yet, despite all the heaviness, joy is everywhere: beautiful sunsets, a new vaccine, weddings, anniversaries, job promotions. Blessings are abundant.

As we step into the new year, let’s do so with confidence that God goes with us and before us. He wants to help us forge through 2021, maybe even with a smile on our face. As the circumstances around us press in, we are invited to find joy and seek God’s peace in new ways. The pandemic and breaking news aren’t going anywhere, so this isn’t about denial of current events or our present pain, and it’s not about trying to make 2021 the best year of our lives. This is about giving our hearts and minds a little breather in the midst of hardship.

If you’re looking for a lighter way to begin 2021, read on for five ways to make the most of your new year. 

1. Say yes. I went ice fishing last weekend. Do I ice fish? No. Do I think fish are slimy and gross? Absolutely. However, I’m glad I said yes to trying something I would normally say no to. (I just hope the next thing I say yes to is warmer than -6!) Your next Yes might bring your heart needed joy. Maybe it’s a new hobby, a volunteer opportunity, a new small group or just taking a walk with your neighbor. What “yes” might God be inviting you into this year? Whatever it is, God can use it to bring joy and renewed perspective to your everyday life. 

2. Have fun! When’s the last time you played Scrabble or dusted off your chessboard? Have you been sledding recently? Having fun, laughing and smiling are all good for our physical, mental and emotional health. Whatever you can do to crack a smile will go a long way, so watch a funny standup comedian like Trey Kennedy, play a game with your family or plan a fun adventure outside. Want to keep things virtual? Check out Jackbox for games you can play with friends and family online! God is a God of joy (Galatians 5:22), and we have free access to cultivate that joy in 2021.

3. Seek beauty. Poetry, art, music, novels, photos, sunrises, snowstorms, movies and gardens all reveal God to our souls. It’s important to place ourselves in the way of beauty. Whether we admire the sparkling snow at dawn or find a new band to listen to, we were made to be partakers of beauty in this world. Better yet, why not try creating some beauty of your own? Put your words into a poem or try your hand at photography or watercolor. Participating in the beauty of this world can bring the year ahead into perspective and draw you closer to God’s own creative heart. If you’d like to immerse yourself in beautiful art from across the world for free, click here to virtually tour some of the best museums in the world.

4. Look up. My husband and I drove out of town the other night and looked at the stars. I was amazed at how sitting under the vast starry night sky reset my entire outlook on life. Matthew 24:30 tells us that when Jesus comes again, our eyes will be on the sky. I’ve decided to start practicing now so I’m always looking up. It’s good to lift our eyes off of this world and our earthly problems for a minute. I have found so much relief in the sky: clouds, stars, sunsets, birds, rays of sunlight – they all invite me to set my gaze on God. If you don’t want to freeze while stargazing, check out the Hubble Telescope; you can view amazing photos and live shots from the comfort of your warm home!

5. Celebrate! Did you finish a project at work? Clear out your inbox? Walk 1/4 mile farther than the day before? Manage to not burn dinner? Nothing is too small to make a big deal about! So pop a cork (or sparkling water), turn up the music and express your joy for the little victories. Celebration and gratitude are first cousins, so if you’re not sure what to celebrate, begin by making a list of all the things you’re thankful for and you’ll surely have a reason to celebrate when you’re finished. As you rejoice, your heart can’t help but worship God for all he has done and will do.

As we step into 2021, may we do so in the words of poet John O’Donahue:

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.

Becky Young is a counselor and spiritual director at Faith where she has been a member for five years. She also serves with Faith’s Photography Team and Writing Team. Becky enjoys writing about soul care and cultivating a deeper life with God.

Becky was born and raised in Colorado and enjoys spending time with her husband, gardening and exploring God’s creation.

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