by Katie Julius

This time of year, we often find ourselves reflecting on the year we’ve had – the challenges, the triumphs, the hurts, the celebrations. Some of us have had a very positive year. Maybe we traveled frequently, we welcomed a new addition to the family, or one of our children had a major breakthrough after struggling for so long. Others of us have had a difficult year. Maybe we experienced the loss of a loved one, received a devastating medical diagnosis, or struggled with a new stage of life as we graduated our last student.

Whatever kind of year you’ve had, a new year always brings about the hope for wonderful and meaningful resolutions that so often end up abandoned and forgotten once we’re back to our old routines. We always have the best of intentions, but life often gets in the way.

But this doesn’t mean we should discard the idea of making positive changes in our lives, especially when the calendar provides us with the opportunity to start fresh every January 1.

An alternate approach that I use is to select one word or short phrase to focus on during the next year. Instead of making a list of goals for the year and another list of “to do’s” (we all know we have plenty of those!), it’s about how you want to live your life; the kind of person you want to become.

One of the things I like so much about about this take on making changes at the new year is that it’s not a harsh set of goals that you either meet or fail to meet by December 31. Instead, it gives you the opportunity to explore what that one word can look like in your life, in whatever circumstances you find yourself this year.

Selecting a word can be a difficult process. Prayer is the number one suggestion I can make to aid in that. Ask God to reveal to you where you need to put your focus and attention this year. Every year, I’ve selected my word because it keeps popping up in a variety of places, whether through Scripture, sermons, articles, books, or conversations with friends and family (who don’t usually know I’m seeking my word for the coming year).

Keep in mind that your word doesn’t have to be an action word, though they are a place to put your focus if that’s where you feel called. Words like “less,” “peace,” or “intentional” are also great options.

Accountability is always an important part of any change you want to make in your life. Invite the people in your small group to select a word with you and hold each other accountable during the year, offering encouragement and advice when appropriate. You could also do this with your homeschool community, perhaps incorporating it as part of your next moms event.

If you have children old enough to understand this concept, I encourage you to sit down together as a family and discuss what word might be a good focus for each of them as well. You can incorporate it into your schooling throughout the year, revisiting the word they’ve selected regularly and either through discussion or writing, evaluate how that word has helped shape their decisions during that period of time. You can have them create a small poster to place on their wall or mirror as a reminder of their word for the year.

However you choose to make goals and changes in 2019, we pray you and your family have a year that is filled with a lot of love, joy, and learning.