thoughts for a new year (and thanksgiving for the old)

Every new year, times seems to go faster. Here's how I slow down, reflect, and welcome 2018.

Every December 31st, when I hear the fireworks popping at midnight (from my cozy bed - because I'm not really one to be out ringing in the New Year at that hour), I get a little panicky and a little nostalgic, realizing how quickly time has gone by. It always feels like a whole year has passed right under my nose, and I barely took a breath long enough to live any of it. (Admittedly, it probably doesn't help that my birthday is in the first half of January, which lends itself to a little extra nostalgia I think.)

But there are two things I've found that seem to slow time down, almost magically so: One of them is setting a goal not to eat any sugar or white grains for a month (I speak from experience - it will be the slowest month of your life), and the other is to make a conscious effort toward giving thanks every single day, even for the tiniest things.

In 2018, I want to live thankful - moment by moment and day by day, so that not a drop of God's grace passes me by unnoticed.

In Leviticus 2, Moses details the Law of Grain Offerings. This offering has a special role in Jewish Law as an offering of thanksgiving - a tribute to God from the firstfruits of His blessing. It might consist of new shoots of growth from the field, or freshly ripened grain heads, or an unleavened cake, depending on the season and the stage of the harvest. What mattered wasn't the form the grain offering took, but that the people simply gave thanks from what they had been given in that moment - thankful for what God had given, and opening their hands to give some of it back, trusting Him to provide even more.

That is the posture I want to imitate in 2018.

Like the patient farmer who abides by the cycles of the seasons, I want to rely on God to faithfully bring His work to completion in me, even when it takes longer than I think it should.

Like the Israelites who offered back to God the very first produce of their harvest, I want to give Him the first and best of my life, trusting that He can multiply it.

And like the ones who brought whatever they had - whether it was tiny seedling growth or baked unleavened bread - I want to offer God my "now" in faith that He knows and controls my future.

And in all of this, to give thanks, because that's what the thanksgiving offering is for.

So with this in mind, here are a few images of God's grace showered on me and my family in 2017. I look ahead and know He will keep giving and giving while time flies, because His grace and His goodness are inexhaustible.

Hallie Liening

Olympia, WA

Hallie grew up on a small farm in rural eastern Washington. At 18, she moved across the country to go to Bible school, and then married the Boy Next Door at 20. Now 22, she is a graduate of Great Commission Bible Institute with a Certificate in Biblical Studies and resides in Olympia with her husband and her two cats. She survives the claustrophobia of living near the city by making frequent trips back home to visit her family and her horse, writing sentimental blog posts about the countryside, and by filling her house with photographs of Mt. Adams sunsets.