New Year’s Eve: the last day of the year, and a great day for looking back on the previous year before jumping into the “new” that New Year’s Day brings. Every year I pick a word to focus on that year and then, on this day (which also happens to be my birthday), I look back on the year through the lens of my word.

For 2019, my word was GRATITUDE.  I knew, 365 days ago that 2019 was going to be a rough one–potentially the worst year ever and so I chose GRATITUDE.  I knew that as I forged through the year, I was going to need something to anchor me so I chose that word. For me, gratitude is a choice to actively choose thankfulness and to find something to be thankful for even when the skies are the darkest. I feel like gratitude helps me be intentional with my thanksgiving and I feel like it brings out my inner joy regardless of the circumstances.

So, every year I go month-by-month listing the thing or person or situation or answered prayer that I am most grateful for that month before putting the year “to bed.” I’ve enjoyed this exercise in anticipation of today.  I’ve been thinking of my 12 things for several weeks and I have loved looking back on so many blessings during this really hard year. Looking back, I see God by my side faithfully as He walked with me through 2019. I saw Him open doors and lead the way towards new horizons. I saw Him build on old relationships and bring new wonderful people into my life.

I saw Him answer so many prayers: He answered prayers in small, seemingly insignificant ways. He answered prayers I didn’t even know I should be praying. He answered prayers in ways that were not my own. He delayed answering some prayers because His timing is better than my own. And he answered prayers that I wasn’t even brave enough to pray (that is my favorite). In my head, I have my gratitude highlight for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December, and God is good.

So, cheers, today to 2019. Good riddance is what I would say to it if I didn’t have my list of all of the ways I am grateful that God showed up. I’m thankful to be putting this year to bed and I am excited for the year ahead. I hope that you can look back on 2019, regardless of how amazing or how awful it was and find one way God showed up for you each month—and then wrap it in a neat bow and move forward tomorrow with great expectation. The best is yet to come!

Jamie Jo Braner, Director of Alumni Engagement