Stowed away in our attic, I dusted off my high school diary. Paging through memories of old, I am instantly transported to a time in my life when school, friends, boys, and parents triggered to-do lists and declarations, resolutions, and remorse. A time when affirmation was currency and attention was the payment. Years have passed since those musings, but hidden in the heart of this brand new, fifty-year-old woman, still lurks glimpses of that sixteen-year-old.

Lose weight. Stop snacking late at night. Get more organized for class. (Yes, some of my resolutions have spanned the decades.)

Talk quieter. Talk less (Does anyone else still hear their grade school teacher’s reprimand?)

But my heart swelled when I read the next challenge:

Look for a lonely girl and become her friend.

While that resolution stemmed from the high school girl’s yearning for a collective identity, some things never change. I had no idea that a heartbeat of my book, “Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation,” was already etched in my diary.

Whether sixteen or seventy-six, our hearts ache to be included. We crave connection. Knitted into our DNA is a hidden longing for deeply-rooted relationships that journey through life with us: someone to notice, acknowledge, and see us right where we are with no ulterior agenda. And while no one can know us fully or fill our intimate longing in the way that God can, He has designed us to come together in community because He created us for fellowship.

So with my old diary’s resolution in mind, I gathered the kids for our New Year’s family meeting.*  Every January, we carve out time to reevaluate and reflect on the past year. We ponder lessons learned, talk through challenging failures, and honor goals completed. As we mark the ways God has worked in our lives, we celebrate His goodness and then cast a vision for the new year.

This gathering began with a new twist. I have a box of conversation starters on our table that I printed out years ago, and one of them asks the question, “If you had one week to live, how would you spend your time?” Instead of creating the bucket list experience one might expect, we opened to 1 Peter 4:7-11. I urged the kids to examine Peter’s stated priorities and brainstorm ideas from this passage.

Before you continue, won’t you join me in reading and create your own list from Scripture? Peter casts a vision for our future. What does it include?

The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7-11 (CSB)

Peter gave his own prognosis when he announced to the believers that “the end of all things is near” (v.7). He knew time was of the essence, but his priorities were not what we’d expect. If I announced to you, “The world is ending soon. What are you going to do?” You’d likely not reply, “I’m going to show hospitality.” I was shocked when I filtered this passage through the lens of that question. Yet if we had any doubt as to the importance of showing hospitality, loving deeply, and serving others, this is our answer without question.

As Christ followers, these are the expectations, and one of the easiest ways to show His love in a tangible, life giving way is to invite, include, and welcome others into community: to practice hospitality (and yes, to do it without grumbling).

January is the perfect chance for a fresh start — a time to reframe resolutions and cast a new family vision with kingdom purpose in mind. Love deeply. Open doors. Serve others. Create margin to pursue hospitality so that God may be glorified.

I can’t wait to hear what He does in 2020.

If Peter mentioned to you, “the end of all things is near,”
how would you spend your time?

*How to plan a family meeting: Take time this month to think back on 2019 and mark the ways you’ve seen God work personally in your own life, as well as your family’s. Express gratitude in tangible ways to those who have invested in your life and/or impacted the lives of your children. Write a note or invite them to “thank you” dinner. Outline core family values for the new year including specific ways you will serve on mission and extend hospitality in 2020.

Read additional comments over at  (in)courage where I also published this article.