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The new year comes at the exact right time, doesn’t it? As much as we all love the holiday season, there’s no denying that it’s a period of extravagance. But then, when we’ve just about reached our capacity for food, fun, and festivities, we get a fresh start. A new year! 

As clichéd as it may be, I love the clean slate that comes with the new year. There’s nothing magical about January 1st, but the self-improvement enthusiast in me can’t help but get excited about any opportunity to reflect on how things are going and make some improvements. I’ll harness that New Year enthusiasm and ride it for all it’s worth! 

My New Year’s fervor tones down a bit when it comes to the topic of resolutions. I’d say that in the past, I had a love/hate relationship with them: I loved to make them, but hated how I felt when I was unable to reach the lofty goals I’d set for myself. For a time, this disillusionment scared me away from making New Year’s resolutions altogether. But a few years ago I had a change of heart. I realized that there was nothing wrong with setting aspirational goals. . . and there was also nothing shameful about failing to meet every one of them. Even if I only achieved half of what I’d set out to do, that was still a great step in the right direction.

Since having that mindset shift, I haven’t jumped back into making hardcore resolutions every January, but I do like to set some loose goals for myself each year. And I’ve found that even with this laid-back approach, I’ve had a fairly high success rate in achieving them.

This year I’ve made a list of “18 for 2018,” which is just what it sounds like: 18 things I’d like to accomplish this year. This list of goals contains everything from find a great pair of jeans to update the photos in our home and host a dinner party. There are a few goals that will be harder for me (I’m still not sure how committed I am to cutting back on diet soda) and some that are on the list, but largely outside my control (get pregnant), but I’m eager to see where the year takes me, and hopeful that I’ll be able to look back at my list one year from now and see that, at the very least, I’m doing “better than before.”

While I’m excited about these resolutions, they’re not my biggest focus in 2018. That spot is reserved for my Word of the Year. I began choosing a personal word for myself in 2015. I took my cue from Claire Diaz-Ortiz, who described the practice this way: “One word that means everything you hope to achieve and catalyze and crystalize and create and live and breathe. One word. For one special year.” That year I claimed Open as my word, with the intention of becoming less rigid and more open to the changes headed my way, especially as I made my entry into the crazy realm of motherhood. In 2016, my word was Integrity: that year was all about gaining clarity about my core values and manifesting them in my life. Last year my word was Love, and more than either of my previous years, I was intentional about living out my word from from January through December. And my experience with love has largely shaped my Word selection for 2018: Grace.

Grace is a small word with a whole lot of meaning. One of Webster’s many definitions for grace is, “the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.” This was an attribute I pursued during my year of Love and one that I hope to embody more fully in 2018. Demonstrating grace involves kindness and courteousness, and goodness knows the world could use more of these things. I’d like to do my part to bring more kindness into the world.

Another definition for grace—and my primary reason for choosing this as my 2018 word—is “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” Last year, my goal was to become better at loving others, but my biggest takeaway for the year was a deeper understanding of how much God loves me. As a lifelong follower of Jesus, I’ve always known about this love, but it’s only been in recent years that I’ve begun to recognize the enormity of this gift. It required my coming to terms with my own shortcomings to see how desperately I was in need of a Savior. And then, when I was at my lowest, God reached out and gave me the undeserved gift of his love. Grace.

Choosing grace as my word for this year frees me to ruthlessly confront the junk lurking within my own soul, because I know that as terrible as it may be, God is there to help me work through it. Embodying the gift of grace means waving the flag of Imperfection—because acknowledging my flaws makes room for God to fill in the gaps and brings glory to Him. Grace leaves no room for black-and-white thinking, but opens my heart up to infinite shades of gray. And I imagine that living out grace will inevitably spill into my dealings with others—because recognizing God’s graciousness towards me mandates that I see His grace towards those around me. How can I pass judgement when God Himself has shown favor, forgiveness, and love?

God’s grace allows us to be all that He intends us to be. It is truly amazing, and I have no doubt that my year of Grace will be amazingly sweet. 

Have you set any goals or resolutions for 2018? Leave me a comment telling me about them! If you’d like to choose your own word for 2018 and are still in need of some inspiration, check out this site for some great ideas. 

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