I've always loved the time between Christmas and New Year's Eve. The celebration of Christ's birth has just occurred — renewing me spiritually and reminding me that the gift of salvation is due to God's grace — not anything that I have accomplished. This understanding is then juxtaposed against the coming New Year, which provides a time to think about how to accomplish more in the 12 months to come.
It is a time to reflect on God's grace, which is given, and accomplishments achieved through work and diligence.
Some years I reflect on all that I accomplished during the prior 12 months with satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Other years, I am just glad that the year has come to an end — certain that the year to come will have to be better.
Occasionally, I look forward to the coming year with more dread than anticipation; luckily, this rarely happens.
The week between the two holidays, Christmas and New Year's, is a time to reflect on what was and to be thankful for what is coming to a close — both the joys and accomplishments, and the events I feel lucky to have survived.
Life is neither all good nor all bad, but made up of both joy and sorrow. Some years might hold more of one than the other, but the bad provides the foil to make the good even sweeter when it occurs.
Last year, in an attempt to loosen my focus on control, I decided to focus on joy rather than on making resolutions. By joy, I do not mean pleasurable or entertaining activities, but the deep joy that comes from God, from simply being alive; the joy of being with family and friends; the joy of being able to get out of bed pain-free in the morning; the joy of playing with a dog or petting a cat (if they allow you to); the joy of arguing a point with co-workers; the joy of working with others to reach a goal.
Since I did not make any resolutions, I will spare you any mention of my lack of progress. But I can tell you this about my focus on joy: some days, I did better than others.
The best joys were simple ones: watching our daughter cheer, play violin or host 12 friends for an overnight party; watching our son play string bass in his band, or act in his middle-school play; hosting a fundraiser with my husband, Jimmy, to keep the animals on the farm at the Atlanta History Center.
I've loved battling wits with others on the Political Rewind radio show on GPB with Bill Nigut. the live hits on CNN on political topics have kept me on my toes, and the ability to work on strategy with really smart, dedicated, creative people, has drastically improved my world.
Tennis has provided me with both an outlet for exercise and a way to socialize with my fellow team members, whom I love. While I will never play at the U.S. Open, I love spending an hour focused on nothing but a small yellow ball. For me, it's meditation in action.
It's hard when things happen that remind us that God changes our paths by closing doors and opening windows that we might not have noticed before. It is our job to be ever present in the changing landscape, taking advantage of windows and not beating our heads against closed doors (easier said than done). That holds true even when the changing landscape appears to hold little of import.
Today, sitting in an airport waiting for a flight that, so far, is scheduled to take off two — and-a-half hours late, I am reminded that this delay allowed me and my family to make it through a security line that is so long we would have missed the flight -- had it left on time.
It is also allowing me to finish this column before takeoff — an accomplishment that will lead to a more relaxing flight so that I can enjoy being with more family tomorrow to celebrate New Year's Eve.
May you, dear reader, enjoy the joys of the year to come.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.