With the holidays behind us, now is the season for resolutions, planning, and setting goals for the up-coming year—the thought of which causes me to break out in stress hives. I’m not sure if I should admit this or not, but I’ve never been great at goal-setting or vision-casting. Truth be told, it’s a stretch for me to cast a vision for dinner tonight, let alone for an entire year. So, although I may manage to pull together a few menus (at least one of which will undoubtedly involve cereal), I’ll be leaving the major goal-setting to my infinitely more skilled husband.

My New Year’s task is prevention. In the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I am all about scheduling check-ups. Each January, I check-in with my dentist and doctors to make sure this old bod is still in reasonable shape to blunder through another year.

In addition the physical maintenance, I often conduct a spiritual check-up of sorts in January. This is the time when I go back through old journals and review lessons learned, remember where the Lord has taken me over the past year, praise Him for the prayers that have been answered, and press into those that will carry over into the new year. Additionally the hindsight perspective helps me notice any “pre-cancerous” attitudes that may be creeping into my life before they can take root.

This year as I read through my “archives,” I noticed a practice that had inadvertently become a habit. Starting sometime in the early months of the year, each journal entry begins with the words “Lord, thank you for another day to __________,” with the blank filled with some attitude or action that the Lord impressed on me that day. The habit began as a response to a note to myself.  Earlier the previous fall a mentor had asked me to write a note to myself—whatever was burdening my heart at the moment.  She promised to send it to me months later as a reminder.   The note simply read:

“Dear Mary,

            You are running out of time.”

It wasn’t any grand premonition of an early demise or anything dramatic. I was just feeling painfully aware that my babies are now full-blown adults, and that I am a few years past the half-century mark. (If I refer to myself as being middle-aged, my husband lovingly points out, “You’re only middle-aged if you plan to live to be 108.”) Both realities combined to make me very aware that I don’t, in fact, have all the time in the world. Life is careening by.

Added to the impact of the note, I had attended three funerals in the time since writing it. One was the stunning and sudden loss of a 24-year-old from our homeschool community. A vibrant young man who lived passionately for the Lord, he went to run errands with a friend and didn’t survive the trip.

The second loss was more “expected” in the sense that my friend had been battling cancer. However, her joyful vivacity in the face of illness lulled me into thinking that I had more time to enjoy her than I actually did.

The last funeral was for the gentle giant of a man who married my mother-in-law a few years ago. After a trip to the ER with a heart hiccup, he died peacefully in his sleep the night before we expected to bring him home to recuperate.

The three losses brought a whole new depth to the realization that life is short.

My journal entry habit started shortly after my friend Barb’s funeral and the almost desperate gratitude I experienced as I woke next to my husband one morning and realized what a gift it was to have one more day with him. That morning I was compelled to write in my journal: “Thank you, Lord for one more day to love this man in a way he will feel to the depths of his being.”  Each day afterward, the Lord has given me at least one thing that turns that day into the gift of “one more day to__________.”  His faithfulness created my habit.

The truth is, I am not the only one running out of time. We all are.

I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to love Christ in a way that overflows to everyone around me and draws others to Him. God does not need me, but while I draw breath He has given me the unfathomable privilege of joining Him in His work—and I don’t want to miss it.

This year, may we each live every day as the gift that it is.