"Happy new year!" my voice cracked. With only two of my four children still living at home, our traditional celebration of finger food and movies wasn’t quite as festive as it used to be.

Happy? Such an illusive word. New? I hadn’t had anything new in a long time. Year? The idea of 365 more days of struggling as a single parent stuck in my throat as I put on my best face for my kids.

My teenager threw her arms around my neck. "God will make a way," she began to sing. "Where it seems there is no way . . ."

Can You make a way for a happy year? I half-prayed, half-doubted.

"He works in ways we cannot see. . . ." she continued, and I knew she was right. Still, I wondered how.

It’s only a new year, I thought, and we made it through the last one. A new year. My heart perked up at the word new. God’s mercies are new every morning. He makes all things new. I am a new creation. New. The key word in "happy new year" is new!

"It’s a new year!" I shouted.

My daughters thought I was weird, but I was hopeful. It felt good to let go of the expectations for happiness and simply hope for new.

How hope and gratefulness work together

I woke up early the next morning, brewed a pot of coffee and wrapped myself in a blanket on the sofa with my Bible and a notepad. What came next has become my personal New Year’s tradition. Over time, it has helped me work alongside God to put the pieces of my broken life together into something new and wonderful.

I asked God to fill me with hope for the coming year. I opened my Bible, determined to immerse myself in His words. As I read about pressing on toward the goal (Philippians 3:14), throwing off everything that hinders and running with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1), something began to stir in me.

The previous year had been difficult, but it was behind me now. God had provided in remarkable ways, and He wasn’t likely to run out of resources now.

I decided to make a list of everything I was thankful for, and my heart warmed as I wrote. Several pages later, I started a list of things I wanted to "press on toward," things I hoped to do and have. I asked God to show me His vision for the year ahead, then I wrote what came to mind. As I scribbled, I envisioned the possibilities. When I finally exhausted my imagination, I closed my notebook and handed it to God.

A record of God’s faithfulness

The next New Year’s Day, I pulled out my notebook and read my lists. To my delight, many of the things I had recorded had come to pass. I transferred the rest to my next new year list. And the next year, more dreams had transpired. Some things on my lists were simple, such as organise my closet, buy new shoes and plant daisies. Others were more daunting, like finish my degree, publish my writing and buy a house.

I wasn’t always sure how any of it would come about. However, I will graduate from university this year. I have plenty of shoes in my closet, my name is in print and daisies dance outside the windows of my very own house.

It’s not a magic formula, but anything is possible when we throw off the hindrances of the past and press on toward a new future.

As you begin this new year, why not write your own vision? Start by listing everything you can thank God for, even the small things like sticky little fingers and clean laundry or heat and electricity. How did God provide for you in the past year? Make your list as long as you possibly can.

Now think of things you’d like to do or have in the coming year. This is not a list of resolutions. This is a dream list, a written prayer, a vision of possibilities. Then ask God for His vision. Write it down and hand it back to Him. Let go of expectations, but hold on to the hope of new possibilities.

© 2009 Alice Crider. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in the January 2009 issue of Focus on the Family magazine.

Alice Crider

Alice Crider is an editor and life coach, who enjoys spending time with her four adult children and two grandsons.

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