A friend recently asked me to think of one item that would represent the past year of my life.
One physical object to sum up all that was 2017.
Those who know me well should understand how much an assignment like this thrills me.
A given opportunity to think in metaphors? Yes please.
I went through a few options in my brain, all of which felt a little cliché, so eventually I gave myself permission to table the task.
Then, a few nights ago, Lily and I were working through an activity book she got for Christmas, and she turned to two pages of nearly identical pictures.
The task? Spot the differences.
I started off last year with a headache.
I woke up to a blank canvas that felt shrouded by post-travel chaos and kids who were considerably out of rhythm.
I set one measurable goal (yes, I did read at least one book each month!), but other than that, I didn’t resolve to make any major changes in 2017.
Instead, I made some slow and subtle alterations to my rhythms and priorities. I started paying attention to the words I was consuming, and (most significantly) I changed my approach to the one hour a day I can count on all my kids either sleeping or playing quietly. Simply, I gave myself permission to rest as well. I sat in the same chair every day, studied my bible, prayed intentionally, napped occasionally, and, wouldn’t you know, felt rested.
Now, of course I didn’t do this for 365 days straight, but 2017 brought a shift in my priorities and the way I allot my time each day. It brought small changes to my daily disciplines and a clearer focus when I looked at everything else around me.
It was not a year of great change. It was a year of small, intentional choices each day.
At a quick glance, pages 16 and 17 of Lily’s Christmas Creativity Book look identical. The woodland animals are caroling happily as the snow falls softly around them. (Is this an appropriate place to note that the mouse is weirdly larger than the moles?)
It’s only upon closer inspection that you notice the subtle differences.
Some of the differences don’t alter the picture much. The worm is facing a different direction. The rabbit doesn’t have flowers on her scarf. The badger’s hat is orange instead of green.
But other changes, while still subtle, will, no doubt, have larger implications.
The smaller mole isn’t wearing glasses. The badger isn’t holding a light. The mouse’s lamp is facing in a different direction altogether.
The animals all sing happily with unchanging faces between the pages, but I can’t help but think about how the mole with glasses must see so much more clearly than the mole without or how different things are illuminated based on where the light faces or whether it even exists at all.
The start of 2017 next to the start of 2018 doesn’t feel largely different to me. (Yes, we are *for the most part* sleeping through the night now. No, I didn’t manage to figure out a way to get residency cancelled indefinitely.)
But, when I start to examine the two more closely, the differences are so pronounced that I feel it almost tangibly.
As we step foot into 2018 and look forward to all it has to offer us, I feel remarkably more centered on the things that matter.
You know, like a mole wearing a new pair of glasses or a badger who finally has a light to illuminate the night.
This, of course, has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the fact that God taught me a million things this year and then used those things He taught me to help answer the prayers I was praying. And I guess I can’t help but wonder how much different the picture would look hindsight without that one small change to that one single hour of my day.
Maybe I’ll ask the mouse. He obviously seems like the one in charge, don’t you think?
All this to say, I don’t have any grandiose plans for 2018.
But I do have a sneaking suspicion that, if I continue to prioritize the right things, God will continue to show up in grandiose ways.
And that’s something to look forward to.