The beginning of a New Year is a time of reflection for most of us. Some of us like to look back over the past year; we try to process the many events that took place. Some like to focus on the future, what the coming year will bring. Others will focus on an inward reflection, whether it is spiritual, emotional, or intellectual. There are people who manage to do all three.
In my position as Executive Director of Villages of Hope – Africa Society I am forced to do all three. As I prepare annual reports I look to the past year to see what has been accomplished, the challenges we faced, and the victories. I also need to spend time looking into the future, planning and thinking of what we need to focus on during the coming year. As a leader I must reflect on how I am doing as a person; good leaders know themselves and are self aware of areas that need growth.
All that being said, I am not a big fan of setting New Year’s resolutions, never have been and probably never will be. The reason for this is I have seen too many people give up on their resolutions early on. Many do not make it past the end of January and most won’t even remember what they had set as their resolution. I also noticed by the end of the year you seldom find people talking about the resolutions they set 12 months earlier.
I am not saying it is a bad idea to set resolutions, just don’t take them too seriously as they can lead to discouragement.
I also don’t like themes; many organization and churches set themes for the coming year. I think this is too restricting. We need to be open to what God has in store for our lives, organizations, and ministries. Who are we to say what God has for us? Maybe a good theme for 2014 is to be open to God’s leading regardless of what you thought the direction should have been.
I like the idea of focusing on growth, especially personal growth. Each year we should be able to look back on the previous year and see growth in our personal lives. This could be anything from knowledge gained through study, spiritual growth through prayer, emotional through restored relationships. There should always be a focus on growth, whether it is something major or minor; there should always be signs of growth in our lives.
I hope to focus more on “being” in 2014 over “doing.” I like what Thomas Merton said about this:
“We are too obsessed with doing that we have no time for and no imagination for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.”
This is a challenge for us in this day and age, for there is so much that needs to be done. The demands on individuals are greater now than ever before. Many of us come from a culture that values busyness and measurable accomplishments.
My challenge to myself and to you is to fight the temptation to be busy for busyness sake. Take more time for relationship, things that cannot be measured in this lifetime.
So in the midst of all that needs to be done this coming year, I hope to be able to keep things in perspective and never lose sight of this valuable truth Thomas Merton pointed out to me. I also hope to value others not based on what they do or accomplish, but on who they are as people.
What about VOH Africa? What is on my radar for this coming year?
The focus this year is on fund raising, as we continue to grow and care for more and more children, the need for resources increases as well. As we focus on fund raising I do not want it to be just about money, though. I like what Henri Nouwen said about fund raising:
“Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.” (The Spirituality of Fund Raising)
As we reach out to past donors and new ones as well, I hope we will be able to welcome them into the VOH family. I hope and pray they will receive as much of a blessing from participating with us as we receive from their generosity.
Our other focus will be to continue equipping local leaders to ensure the children are well cared for. This is the only way we can reach out and care for more children. Our many African partners who have engaged with us in the vision and mission God have called us to, are a blessing to us and the children. So we pray new partners and leaders will be raised up in the years to come.
So I encourage you to take the time to reflect on the past year – look for lessons learned, opportunities for change and growth. Look to the future; take the lessons learned and move forward with them. Look for new areas of growth in your personal life. Allow God to work in your life, to change your course even if it means diverting from your original plan that you set out for yourself at the beginning of the year. Learn to live in the present, even as we look back and into the future.
Most of all focus on being over doing, even if it means getting less accomplished; the world will be a better place with a better you regardless of what you accomplish.