the year of open palms

We rang in the new year with sushi, card games, sparkling cider, and a marathon of The Office. And when the clock struck midnight, I breathed normally but the metaphorical lungs inside my head let out an enormous sigh of relief. Because 2014 had felt like a lifetime in itself; so many ups, and so many downs.

And even though it’s just a passing of intangible time and we’re all still basically the same at 12:01am on January 1, 2015 as we were at 11:59pm on December 31, 2014, it feels like such a giant leap. I still can’t decide if I like that feeling or not.

Here we are, five days into 2015, and resolutions and goals and new habits are being formed and broken as you read this. Frustration is already present because some thought this would finally be the year that everything would be different, but it turned out to be exactly the same as all of the other new years of disappointment and frustration. Time can do a lot of things, but it cannot perform your goals. [sorry, the cynic in me is showing].

I’ve been thinking about resolutions and goals and hopes for this year. This year, 2015, holds so much potential for big changes, but when I think about it too much, it just makes me want to crawl underneath my giant fuzzy blanket and lay on my couch for the whole year. Because it’s overwhelming to plan out your life by yourself. Too much pressure, I think. And then I remember something. I’m glad I don’t have to do that, and that someone else has it taken care of. I just get to see it unfold as I follow where He leads.

And so, I’ve deemed this year — and hopefully every year following — as the year of open palms. Unclenching my fists, letting go of all the control I’ve tried to gather in my feeble little hands, and lifting my hands up to the one who holds everything. If His hands are bigger, stronger, more powerful and loving and good than mine, why would I try to hold my life in my own hands?

Thinking about this idea of open palms reminded me of a conversation that I had in the spring of last year.

“Hold your hands open, palms up. Hang onto blessings loosely. The only things that should be grasped onto oh-so-tight are Jesus, and the man you make a promise to on a Saturday morning — I know how much you want a morning wedding –, wearing a white dress, as he slips a ring onto your finger. Other than that, everything else this world has to offer you should be held gently, loosely, able to slip through your fingers when its time to leave has come.”

Her face shines. Her eyes sparkle when she talks, and they squint when she smiles big, her dimples spreading across her cheeks. She is one of the most stunning people I’ve ever met, and not because she spends hours in front of a mirror with all of the latest tricks and tips for outer beauty. Her inner joy and light shine right out of her skin, giving her a glow that could never come from any sort of man-made beauty concoction.

She is wise beyond her years. She holds onto truth and grace more than most. She gives advice, but not in a way that says “Let me tell you how to live your life because you are stupid and immature.” No, instead she says “Here’s what I’ve learned to be true during my struggles that I still continue with. Let me share what I know about our Savior, so you can find freedom in this life too.”

When Jess and I get together and bear our souls to each other over steaming cups of coffee, we often get on the subject of action: doing, doing, doing in this world. Endless opportunities. Job openings. Mission trip offers. Class commitments. Organization meetings. Coffee and lunch dates with strangers and best friends. Internship possibilities. Career goals. Networking. The list is endless. And we’ve found we’re really similar in that we both often taint opportunities with a sickening obligation to them: we HAVE to do this. We MUST. Otherwise…there are negative consequences.

We both have to remind ourselves that obligation has its place, but it should never be what leads us to do the things that we enjoy, the things we love. Loving Jesus is not an obligation; it should just be the best thing ever because he’s Jesus, this radical, whimsical Savior who wants us, and we desperately need him.

Getting hit left and right with opportunities can be so exciting, but it also means that some commitments that have been crusted over with obligation are now things to let go of. When we keep our hands open and loose, we have less of a chance of locking ourselves up in guilt when we decide to end a commitment. We have less of a chance of being heartbroken when someone waves goodbye and heads on out the door of our life. Keeping our hands open means that we are willing and able and ready and ecstatic to accept any blessing thrown our way, and keep it for however long Jesus has intended, whether that’s a few months, a few years, or an entire lifetime. That’s an important part of the story to remember — we’re not closing ourselves off to intimate relationships, to deep-down messy work, to life-changing opportunities. Our hands are open. We are ready for those things.

When a blessing falls from above into our open palms, we grasp it, and take advantage of the time that the blessing is in our hands. We work hard at the job. We invest in that person with all our might, showing love and grace and truth and serving them as best as we can, because that’s what Jesus did. We dedicate time and effort to whatever has been given to us.

And then, when the time is over and the blessing falls gracefully out of our hands or it’s time to pass it over to someone else’s readily open hands, our thankfulness for the time that was had overpowers the negative emotions of guilt for letting it go, heartbreak for wanting to hold on forever, sadness that it’s over. We may still feel those things, but living with open palms allows us the freedom to realize that our greatest reward and treasure lies beyond this life. Nothing that this world can offer us will be greater than that, so we are free to watch blessings come and go, give much and receive little, put others first, show grace to those who have never seen it, love and serve those who’ve never been served before. Open palms mean strong, courageous hands that are secure enough to not hold onto a fleeting moment or thing or person for dear life, believing that those things can save us.

By opening my palms and giving my life completely to Jesus, I’m free to simply walk in his footsteps and allow His will for my life to overwhelm my worries and anxieties. Sure, I can continue to stress about how to best use my time this spring as I take a break from school and emotionally recharge, and I can worry about my summer plans, and overthink where I should be in the fall and what I should be studying, but what good does that do me? Has it not been said that worrying only robs you of what could be your present excitement and happiness?

Now, don’t get me wrong; we’re all human. I’m human. I will still worry and stress over a lot this year. I will probably try to clench my fists again, desperately seeking control. But when I start to overwhelm myself with scattered thoughts and anxieties, I hope and pray that I remember to open my hands, as a symbol of letting all of that go. God’s plans for my life will always be so much more fulfilling than anything I could plan for myself, so I am incredibly excited to see what unfolds this year.

I hope that you are able to open your palms a little bit too, and allow peace and contentment to flood your life, instead of stress and anxiety. Sometimes it feels impossible to do that, but His peace is always there for the taking.

Open palms. Allow God to be in control of your life, and let him lead you. Accept blessings from Him graciously; but hold them loosely because those things will not save you; they only point to the one who can.

happiest new year to you,

claire

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