There’s something about turning the calendar to a new year. It represents a chance to start again.
God has been weaving our stories throughout this past year. Each story has now come to an end, with all its twists and turns, traumas and triumphs, joys and heartaches. The ending of the old story signals the beginning of a new one.
We don’t know what experiences and opportunities will fill our new year of 2021. We can’t predict, and that’s by God’s design. He protects us by giving us only glimpses of today and telling us not to worry about tomorrow. He knows if we were aware of everything that lies ahead, we would either tremble and worry, or dash ahead in dependence on our self-sufficiency.
Planning can relieve stress, in some respects, because we arrange steps to take. However, our human thoughts and plans will never compare to God’s plan for weaving our individual stories.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
As you walk into this new year, it’s important to stay attentive to the amazing connections God will create in your daily life to enable you to experience the perfect and unique plan He has formed for you.
Do you want to hear about an unexpected connection God arranged for me recently? I dashed to the grocery store to buy more eggs and another container of orange juice for my nephew and niece who were staying with me during Christmas week.
In the back corner of the store, near an intersection of aisles, I reached for a special brand of orange juice. Behind me I heard a cheery voice. “What a pretty sweater.”
As I turned around, the young woman added, “Turquoise is my favor color.” I quickly agreed, and as women do, we exchanged a few more clothing comments.
I don’t remember what my fellow shopper said next to pave the way for a continuing conversation, but suddenly I was listening to her sad story about an accident that rendered her unable to think clearly at times. Then she confided in me that she had also left an abusive home situation.
To my amazement, in the midst of such sadness, she began talking about God and how He had helped her. While leaning on her near-full grocery cart, she waved her arm toward a man who had hovered nearby without intruding on our spontaneous and personal time. “Tommy, has been amazing.”
I noticed Tommy’s numerous tattoos but also his handsome face and a smile that radiated care and compassion for his obvious partner. As the three of us drew closer together to make room for other customers to walk, Tommy told me more.
“I’ve been sober for five years. But this year, I began to think more about the Higher Power I learned about in rehab. I decided to accept God into my life.”
With a big smile, I confirmed that I knew God personally and He had changed my life, too. When they told me what church they were attending, I silently thanked God for the good teaching they were receiving to help them grow in their young Christian lives.
Unexpectedly, the woman asked, “Could we connect with each other on Facebook?”
“That would be fine,” I said, “but perhaps we could talk about personal things more easily if we keep in touch by email.” She agreed, while Tommy nodded, and we exchanged emails and names.
Then Elisa, Tommy, and I began laughing because here we were in the intersection of a grocery store talking about God and telling our stories. We parted ways with a wave and a smile that spoke volumes. Without saying so, we all knew God had been with us.
Later that day I pondered the intricate circumstances God had arranged to make everything happen as it did. That cold morning, I remembered my new turquoise sweater. After tugging my jeans on, I reached for the warm sweater in my closet and pulled it over my head.
By God’s design, my 12-year-old niece Piper declined my invitation to go with me. God knew an adult conversation awaited.
God orchestrated the time I would be in the store, and prompted me to go to the juice section first. He knew Elisa would be there and our shared love of turquoise would be revealed.
He built an immediate safe environment that gave Elisa freedom to share her story. God invited me to become part of His plan to minister to these dear new believers. Through our conversation, He poured love, caring, acceptance, and assurance into their hearts. I’m grateful I followed His leading because the ripple effect of that special encounter will remain in my heart.
God has already created a plan for how He wants you to be part of His story this year. Will you follow His lead? Notice His ordained connections, like I did, because you will feel more a part of His plan as it slowly unfolds. Anticipate with wonder what tomorrow might bring and keep trusting Him, thanking Him, and praising Him for His faithfulness.
LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You,
I will give thanks to Your name;
For you have worked wonders,
plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.
Isaiah 25:1 (NASB)