Almost everyone loves the start of a new year.  A clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to change (or resolutions to anyway!), and a sense of expectancy and hope.   For Christians, that last one should be even more true – actually should be true every day – because we live each year and each day confident that God is sovereign and good and has a good plan for our life that He is working out step by step, day by day.  Each day has a reason to rejoice because it is the day the Lord has made.  And each day is one filled with purpose when we look at it in light of a loving, sovereign Father who will use us to glorify Him that day if we just walk with Him.

Back in the 1990’s, Steven Curtis Chapman had a song called “The Great Adventure”.  I love that idea – that the Christian life is really a great adventure as we “follow our Leader into the glorious unknown” as the song goes.  This idea hits home to me when I read stories in the Bible of those who have gone before us.  When we read about their lives, we are able to see God’s overarching plan – how He orchestrates events to accomplish His purposes which are ultimately His glory and our redemption.  Honestly though, sometimes as I read these stories, I get frustrated with the characters.  One example is the book of Ruth.  How can Naomi be so bitter and hopeless in Chapter 1?  Can’t she just trust that God is good and is doing something?  One day as I was thinking this, it hit me that I know the end of the story!  That’s the difference between Naomi and me.  In Chapter 1, she is in the midst of incredible grief after moving to a foreign land to flee a famine and losing her husband and both of her sons.  She doesn’t know the end of the story – that at the end of the Book of Ruth she will be holding a grandson on her lap who is in the lineage of the Messiah.  But I do.

As I pondered that idea, I realized that, like Naomi, I am also in a story.  I am in my own story, the one that God ordained for me before I was born.  One that is woven into His story of His Kingdom.  And I am just in the middle of my story – I have no idea what is around the corner.  Just as Ruth “happened” to go to Boaz’s field (literally “her chance chanced upon” – I love that!), all kinds of things can just “happen” in my life today, directed by the sovereign hand of God who is playing out Alison’s story.

Another Bible story where this “happenstance of God” struck me is in I Samuel 9 where Saul meets Samuel.  As the story goes, Saul’s dad’s donkeys are lost so he and his servant go out looking for them and are gone for a couple of days.  When Saul suggests going home, his servant mentions going to see a seer which leads them to Samuel which leads to Saul being anointed by Samuel to be the first king of Israel.  God uses lost donkeys to cause Saul and Samuel to cross paths.  Verse 16 in Chapter 9 is fascinating – God tells Samuel that at around that time tomorrow He would send him a man from the tribe of Benjamin.  My guess is that if you asked Saul and his servant, they would say that they were the ones who chose to see Samuel and the servant would take credit for his great idea!  But God doesn’t see it that way – He says He is the One who is sending them.

At the time that I read this as I did a study on 1 Samuel, I wasn’t really content with life.  I was struggling with being single and was feeling hopeless about things ever changing.  So I’m reading Saul’s story, and it strikes me that, just like Ruth and Naomi, Saul had no idea what was around the corner.  Can you imagine wandering around for two days after lost donkeys?  I would probably feel frustrated and like I was wasting my time.  And yet God has something incredible for Saul, and He was using donkeys to take him to it.  The Lord used this to remind me to not be hopeless because I had no idea what was around the corner that day either – or the next or the next.  But He did.  I could meet my husband the next day.  (Or in several years as it turned out.)  But I couldn’t be hopeless in the middle of the story.  I had to have hope and expectation!

So welcome 2016!  I wonder what will unfold in my story this year and in your story.  As I reflect on 2015, there were some things that happened that I hoped and prayed for, some that turned out to be wonderful surprises, some things that I knew would happen one day and it turned out that 2015 was the “one day” (like our car dying and being replaced), and some things I would have never imagined (like my oldest stepson moving back to Raleigh after 6 years in Minnesota).  With 2016, there are some things I am expecting to happen – several graduations and the two women closest to me going through the empty nest, Women with Purpose events that are already on the calendar, another trip to the first round of the NCAA tournament.  But most of 2016 is going to be full of surprises – things that just “happen”.  Some may be joyful, some may be painful, but God is in all of them, writing my story, writing your story – all as part of His story.

So saddle up your horses for the great adventure of 2016!