One thing we can take away from 2020 is the appreciation of every sign of progress.
We have endured many adverse situations, suffered great losses and adapted to a way of life that was unexpected.
Yet, I am reminded that we should see God’s grace and mercy in every episode or situation to equip us for the coming New Year.
One recent morning, I heard the sound of birds chirping in my backyard. It captured my attention as I have not heard birds chirping as the weather has become increasingly cold. I looked out the window, and sure enough, a pair of red cardinals were enjoying the elements as they fluttered in an area we created a memorial garden to honor our ancestors.
The presence of the birds was comforting as my family has always associated the cardinals to symbolically represent a calming heavenly presence.
Then, a few days ago, despite the heavy snow on its branches, I could see roses still in bloom on our bushes. As a chilly breeze reminded me that it's still cold despite the sunshine, I reached up and grabbed a branch. It's encouraging to notice the little signs that what you want is on the way — it reminds you that you are moving forward even when it sometimes feels as though the season you are in will last forever.
It is very easy to ignore the simple signs, but when you do, you miss the beauty of transformation as it occurs.
My guess is that your life is in a process of change right now — whether it's a relationship, your finances, your health, your work or your spiritual life. New Year, New You! There are opportunities for changes you have been considering or even currently undertaking.
Resist the urge to hasten the process. Many times we feel as though the change isn't coming fast enough!
As we enter 2021, I challenge you not only to notice the ways in which you need to practice patience but also the ways in which you need to embrace the process. In our world of quick-fix makeovers and instant gratification, we have lost our appreciation for the journey. There is something to appreciate at every stage of your journey.
Here are a few simple ways you can appreciate the little signs that your desires are unfolding:
• You've learned to do something that previously was a struggle to you, such as saying "no" or standing up for yourself.
• In a difficult relationship, you no longer just "react" out of emotion because a button has been pushed, but you actually pause to gather your thoughts and then "respond" effectively.
• In your effort to be healthier, you've changed something simple by lowering the number of soft drinks you consume or eating dinner by 7 o'clock rather than late in the evening. Small steps can yield great results,
• In your finances, you've started saving consistently, even if a small amount. The little sign appears every time your savings grows.
Acknowledging little signs of personal transformation empowers you on the expedition of self-discovery. Remember the expression, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step!” Believe and take action that you can accomplish the things you set out to accomplish. You build confidence when you notice and celebrate your progress. Change seldom happens all at once, it’s a process.
While you are waiting for the "big" goal to be achieved, don't miss out on the milestones along your journey that are worthy of celebration.
Admittedly, 2020 has been emotionally and physically draining for many of us. If you are still looking for gifts to share with others I offer for your consideration the following 20-item Emotional Gift Guide. The beauty of these items are they fit everyone, never expire and the “return policy” is amazing!
Jack Levine, a beloved brother, created this guide which he encourages others to share liberally among family, friends and colleagues with his compliments. Jack is a child welfare advocate and the founder of the 4Generations Institute in Tallassee, Fla.
- To yourself: Respect, confidence, faith and fortitude.
- To a family member: Communication and understanding, even if there have been relationship challenges.
- To a friend: A heartfelt, caring spirit and appreciation.
- To our natural world of animal and plant life: Admiration, protection and preservation.
- To a good cause: Generosity of time and treasure and ardent advocacy.
- To a traveler: An open door of hospitality.
- To our military forces, first responders and their loved ones: Honor, admiration, and support to heal the wounds.
- To the ill and hurting: Conscientious concern and comfort.
- To the hungry and homeless: Compassion, emergency services and creative community solutions.
- To the abused, neglected and abandoned: Representation, security and hope.
- To someone with a special challenge: Recognition, acceptance and a path to independence.
- To the addicted and troubled: Open arms, forgiveness and a positive path to recovery.
- To an infant and toddler: Attention, attachment, safety and learning opportunities.
- To a child or teen: Patience, guidance and a positive example through mentoring.
- To a parent in need: A helping hand and guidance.
- To an elder: Reverence, gratitude and dignified care.
- To a customer or client: Excellent service and lasting value.
- To everyone you see, friends and strangers alike: A warm smile, acts of kindness and positive energy.
- To people of every age: Unconditional love and sincere gratitude.
- To all the peoples of the world: Justice and peace.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. As we embrace the arrival may God do a new and exciting thing within you. Don’t get frustrated in the process; your blessing is within the waiting! Delayed does not imply denied. Pursue the year 2021 with a sense of hopefulness as you continue to keep the faith!
— The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department and local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and seven grandchildren.
— All biblical citations are New King James Translation unless noted otherwise.