It was lorikeets that woke me that warm summer morning, their rasping chatter carrying from the tree outside my window. Eyes closed, I rolled onto my back and breathed deep. A new day was dawning. My mind sifted upwards through its sleepy fog, trying to work out where I was, what day it was. Memories began to take shape—our family perched on a grassy bank the previous night surrounded by hundreds of people; bright sparks streaking upwards in the night sky before they erupted into colourful waterfalls. My eyes snapped open. Today wasn’t just any day. It was January 1st—the first day of a new year. And oh, how ready we were for a new beginning! Our hearts had soared with those fireworks, relishing the sense of freedom and normality after six months of stifling restriction. I was glad to leave 2021 behind, eager to start fresh. Sitting up, I propped myself against a bank of pillows, grabbed my pen and journal and began to write.
‘Saturday January 1, 2022
Lord, You’ve brought me through. Thank You!’
I felt my whole body relax as relief flowed through me like a gentle stream, carrying away all the tension and weariness of the previous year. My thoughts poured out through my pen, scribing reflections on God’s strong and tender care. Through all the days, weeks and months when my world looked so terribly foreign—all the upheaval and confusion and uncertainty—He had been my Rock. He was the steady one Who had held me close and led me gently through the rubble of my disrupted—and in some ways dismantled—world. Without Him, I too would have been a crumbling mess. There was only one way to express my thanks.
‘God, I offer myself to You afresh. Please keep showing me Your way and enable me to walk in it. It’s only by Your grace that I can do anything of value.’
Line after line filled with scrawl as I handed over every concern and looked to God for His way through this new year, whatever it would bring. As I slowed, He brought some familiar words from a psalm to mind, which I hunted out then copied into my journal.
‘The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.’
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The LORD is upright;
He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”’
I drank in those words like a thirsty desert-wanderer downing cool water. My God was always a God of hope. He was reminding me I could flourish in this new year if, like a plant, I sank my roots deep into Him—my life source. I could stay fresh and green, no matter the season. Hungry to know more, I started researching the meaning of some of the words. To flourish meant to bud, shoot and blossom profusely. Yes, profusely. That means a lot. I longed to be like that—to live a life so full of God’s goodness that the people around me were blessed by the overflow. Yes, I was already blessed and rich in Him, but I knew there was more—and always would be till the day I stood before Him, face to face. Then I would really flourish.
My research taught me that in bible times palm trees, with their long, straight trunks and plentiful fruit, were considered the most beautiful of all trees. And cedars were prized for their exquisite, strong timber and great endurance, often living 600 years or more. Through my faith in Jesus, I was now classed as righteous so this psalm was a promise I could lay claim to. I could be like those trees—precious to God and a blessing to others.
My eyes moved to the word, ‘courts’ and lingered there. What do you think of when you hear mention of the court of God? I’d always imagined a vast room inside a palace, complete with soaring vaulted ceilings, an intricately patterned tile floor and, at one end, an ornate elevated throne. When I looked up the meaning, I couldn’t help chuckling. ‘Court’ was simply another word for ‘courtyard’—a walled outdoor enclosure with bright blue sky as its only ceiling. Of course. Those towering trees could only grow well if they were outdoors. But what did that mean for me? How could I flourish in God’s courts?
I started thinking about the walls that bounded the courtyard. Those walls offered a barrier against the outside world, protection for everything inside them. Likewise, God places boundaries in my life to protect me from harm.
Walls provide a clear marker of limits. Just as we can’t stand astride a wall, so we can’t be half in and half out of God’s plan. We have to be all-in or we’re all-out, fully His or not at all. Sometimes God’s boundaries feel restrictive or don’t seem to make sense, but it’s inside His loving limits that we flourish. If we try to break out, we put ourselves in unnecessary danger.
Walls protect. They set limits. And sometimes they show us where we need to go, almost like they’re the sides of a corridor—hemming us in, as David described. There are times God seems to strongly direct our steps, nudging us into territory far beyond our confidence or experience. Even that new year’s morning as I spent time waiting on Him, He said,
Lay down any agendas or preconceived ideas you have about what this year will look like. It will be quite different to what you expect.
Change seems to have been the theme of our lives for the past four years—and, if anything, the stretch is only increasing. Many times, I’ve taken my eyes off God and instantly been overwhelmed—reduced to a blubbering mess. Again and again He reminds me that the only way I can live in the fullness of His plan (which is what I really want) is to keep my eyes on Him and my confidence in His ability alone. When I dwell in that place of trust, sinking my roots into His fertile soil, my vision becomes clear. God quiets my heart, speaks truth then leads me onward, hand in hand with Him.
My heart was light as I closed my journal that morning. ‘Thank You, Lord,’ I whispered, nodding. I’d been given a fresh reminder that His plan for me in 2022 was to flourish, no matter how the year unfolded. He was my Rock, and there was no wickedness in Him. As long as I stayed close to Him, yielded to His plan and rooted in His strength, I could thrive. To resist His leading and try to go my own way would be to shrivel like a tree in drought.
How is your year shaping up? Are you flourishing? Every day is a new opportunity to yield afresh to God’s plan.