first steps to ending well

Before Christmas arrived, my wife and I finished an annual ritual at our house. Besides decorating the house for Christmas and buying and wrapping presents, we close out the year with a yearly task. I’m talking about a more basic—perhaps considered mundane and insignificant–habit. We bought a wall calendar. One of those with large blocks of open space around the dates for posting things to remember.

I sat down with the new calendar beside the current one so I could transfer (and not miss any) family members’ special days. You know, birthdays and anniversaries. With five children, their spouses, and ten grandchildren to record, it takes a bit of time. I think we have only one month out of the year that does not have someone’s special day.

As I methodically turned the pages, checking and double-checking, I looked at each past month and remembered the stresses of fitting in doctors’ appointments, procedures, non-family events, and more into the blank spaces around our family’s special days. The month’s page that had been a field of mostly white became darker with each inked entry until every week had at least one thing added.

Seeing that made me realize the importance of our end-of-year project. First, the project is not so much a way to end the year. Rather, it is the first step to beginning the new year as we make this simple preparation.

Second, recording these family dates is a statement of conviction and commitment that these days and the loved ones they represent are the most important moments for the year ahead of us. We can’t expect one or two days of recognition to fill their cups for feeling loved, but seeing that they have been thought of long in advance and not set aside for other things brings joy like little else.

Third, it helps us be on our guard to protect and preserve those days from all that would throw at us. Unexpected events always come into our lives and usually at the worst possible times. We can’t avoid that. However, we can do our best to work the schedules around them so the most important days on our calendar don’t get sidestepped. Moreover, when the dates pop up on the next calendar page, we have some time to make early plans to give special honor to a member.  

I recently chatted online with a cousin who told me about her family’s Christmas. I could feel the warmth in her soul as she said that last Christmas was not about gifts. Instead, it was all about the family being together, enjoying the time together, building memories, layering love. And so it should be and can be if we purpose to make the special days on the calendar extra significant. Those small patches on each month’s field become the most valuable piece of real estate on the calendar and the people or events attached to them the most loved.

It’s a little ritual we do that helps us start the year right so we can end the year well. It also reminds me of some words of encouragement Jesus gave his disciples. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13 NKJV). It’s like each of us whose names are recorded in the Book of Life. We have our names written on every day of the Father’s calendar. No event or interruption ever displaces us from his commitment toward us. His love is far greater. So as good children, be sure your calendar prioritizes and reserves time with Him. Start your year out right to end well.

Charles Huff

Charles Huff is a Bible teacher, minister, speaker, husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife have held pastors seminars and taught in various churches, including remote mountain churches in the Philippines. His writing has appeared in, The Upper Room; articles in three anthologies: Gifts from Heaven: True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer compiled by James Stuart Bell; Short and Sweet Too and Short and Sweet Takes a Fifth, both compiled by Susan Cheeves King.

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