After the eve of turning has been properly celebrated with sparkly drinks and amazing friends, before fixing my mind forward with resolution and strategies for the newborn year , I choose something both simple and profound.

I carve out space for grace.

It is the very best groundwork to lay in a year that I intend to be rich and full and productive. It is the best footing to choose when I intend to be stronger, wiser, and more loving at the close of said year. And, as always, it is the deepest place of healing for all that has been, and all that will come.

Making time for this does not entice me as much as creating this year’s family dream list, or envisioning the pounds falling off me as I work my new exercise plan. But I know from experience how powerful this time actually is. How valuable. How essential. It makes real, rich space for all those other things to grow. It cleanses the year’s build-up – of hurt, of failure, of sin – our own and others. It is the one and only 5-star cleansing method, guaranteed by Jesus himself.

So what do I do in that space? Well sometimes if it’s been awhile, I give myself a refresher course. I pull out some of my favorite books on grace and read pieces, or relisten to some of my favorite grace messages. I read Jesus’s own words, like these, and let them soak into my spirit. I let myself be realigned as I turn away from my more natural bend toward justice and toward His supernatural ways of grace. Even then I feel the weight begin to lift, and grace begins to look less like a chore and more like glorious freedom. It is when we choose to release the old that He actually has space to make all things new.

Then I put on some worship music. So many great choices – this year Jason Upton, Will Reagan, and Jess Smiley flood the room. And then I invite the person of Grace. Because Jesus does not ask us to do something He did not already do Himself. He knows the pain of sin and betrayal and hurt and disappointment – He also knows how to look it all right in the face, in all its ugliness, and forgive. He knows the power and freedom in that forgiveness; and He knows exactly how to lead us down that path.

Then I let the Holy Spirit start bringing things to the surface. Oh how He loves to help and heal us! So I ward off the fears of letting them into the light, and I trust Him. As specific people and memories come to the surface, I acknowledge them for what they are or what they cost me – and then I push them over to Jesus. And name by name, I say,

Lord, I forgive them. I release them. I bless them.

They owe me nothing.

And then if God brings any specific action or physical blessing to mind, I do that as well (or write it down for later). And I continue: seeing, releasing, and then embracing the freedom that is rightfully mine in grace. The peace. The fresh beginning. It sounds somewhat dreamy – but it’s not. Sometimes it’s quite the opposite: messy and complicated and painful. Sometimes (often) there are tears. Sometimes I am resistant to actually let go, to trust Him that this crazy supernatural way is better than demanding my own justice or attempting to control. And the peace is not always instantaneous, though it will come. The Holy Spirit is patient, and gentle: a gentleman, as my counselor calls him – who will not ever force his way on us, even the way of forgiveness, but will fully walk alongside and empower us as we choose that way. He untangles the webs. He makes a way. He embraces us on the other side.

Sometimes I forget one of the most important parts: forgiving myself. I am often my own worst critic and judge, and choosing to walk in grace myself is just as important as all the other parts. God Himself is not judging me today, He is bending over backwards to shower me (and you!) with grace and love and mercy. There is nothing He would not do for us, He has already made that clear. This was a good reminder from Agapi Stassinopoulos:

I have lately found myself experiencing more worry, judgment and resistance than I would like. These patterns have a way of persisting when I fall into judgment of them. I have learned that if I move into forgiveness and compassion for myself for still having them, the patterns diminish and gradually disappear. This is what I call grace.

I have fallen short in many ways this year, often boiling down to just not loving well. Choosing selfishness, pride, and a critical spirit over love. I have too many times given place to an orphan spirit and acted out of that. I have been impatient with our children. I have been critical of my husband. I have been judgmental with my ex. I have kowtowed to fear. I’ll spare you the full list as I’m sure you get the idea, but the final word is still the same:

I am forgiven.

Freely, fully – as far as the east is from the west. I have a new start. In the way I love God. In the way I love the people he’s put in my life.I carry none of it into my brand new year – God doesn’t want me to! He has made a way for freedom, He wants me living out of that place even more than I want it myself.

Lord, thank you for giving us a way to be clean, and for reminding me to make the time to actually make that space.

I welcome you, 2012. With clean, open hands.

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