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A Look Back + Look Forward


It’s a Gaines family tradition for each of us to begin the new year by choosing a word or phrase to define the coming season–it’s often an idea or a hope that we feel led to shore up or lean into more fully. For most members of my family, there’s an expectant thrill that comes with choosing a different word every January, but for me, it has been a consistent choice the past several years. My word? Rest.

I say this as someone who truly enjoys having a lot on my plate. Too much downtime and I get antsy. Not enough projects and I get bored. The act of doing, doing, doing could easily keep me on a treadmill until the end of my days. But the key for me has been seeking out what it is that brings me true rest alongside raising our family and in the midst of doing work we’re passionate about. It took me a while to realize that rest doesn’t have to look like a longer night's sleep or more frequent afternoon naps (a good thing since I’m the worst napper). Rest for me is saying no to the idea of being busy for the sake of being busy, and instead, allowing everyday, simple moments to fill me up. I have had to discern the difference between the things that drain me and the moments that fill my tank. There are times when I have chosen to scroll mindlessly through social media thinking it would give me “rest,” but in the end, I felt even more exhausted and drained than before. On the other hand, I have found that the energy I spend playing with the kids, working in the garden, sitting alone journaling, or cooking in the kitchen is something that somehow magically gives back and feeds my soul. Rest is less about the act of doing nothing and more about ensuring that how I do spend my time and my energy align with the things I care most deeply about.

This has no doubt required me to make space for new rhythms and to instill a few genuine disciplines into my daily life. It has made me more conscious of what I say yes to and perhaps even more conscious of what I say no to. But today, on the last day of the year, when I look back at the months that brought us here, instead of seeing only a year blurred by busy, I can also see more clearly moments that will forever carry personal significance–time with my family and time spent doing things that actually bring me life and goodness. Moments where I fought for rest over progress, over perfection, over fill in the blank, and I see the difference it has made.

It has become an all too familiar pattern for many of us to arrive at the end of the year, look back at the past twelve months, and wonder where the time went; how even the most anticipated moments were here and then gone in a flash. There’s no use in pretending that life will one day no longer be marked by full schedules, routine appointments, and all the big and small commitments in between. While those things are reliably constant, I can’t help but believe that our days are worthy of becoming more than the sum of those to-do’s.

For the winter issue of Magnolia Journal, our magazine team put together an end-of-year reflection that prompts us to take an honest look back at the past year as well as a hopeful look forward at the year to come. In the thick of the hustle of the holidays, it can be natural to see January 1 as just another day, but I have found this exercise to be worthwhile not only as a space to honor the milestones that led me to where I am today, but also as an opportunity to consider the things I want to fight for in 2020. And for those times in the coming year where I’ll need to regain focus, I know these pages will serve as a source of renewed intention.

If you don't have a copy of the winter issue the magazine, I've linked a printable version of the end-of-year reflection below. My hope is that, on the edge of a new decade, we all give ourselves permission to pause, reflect, and consider how we want to shape the days to come.

Click here to print.

Chip and I want to wish you and your family a happy, healthy, and hope-filled new year. Here’s to 2020!

-Jo