DIY Retreat #12: Welcoming the New Year

This retreat was adapted from one prepared by Mei Chang, a SoulStream partner who is a spiritual director and retreat facilitator with a heart to offer contemplative spaces in urban areas. Instructions on how to plan a personal or group retreat are here. For this retreat, you will need a stone for each person, collage materials (optional) and paper and coloured pencils or crayons (optional).

Welcoming the New Year

 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. –Joshua 3:14-17 (NIV)



At the turning of the year, let’s spend time together with God–to look back on the year that is past and to look forward to the year that is to come. If our life is like a journey, what landscape have you been traveling through? Imagine yourself there now, walking on a path. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Smell?

As you walk on, you see a river ahead and the path continues through the river and re-emerges on the other side. You can’t see what’s beyond, but you know you need to cross the river to continue your journey. Imagine God holding back the river so you can cross over. As you stand at the river’s edge, you realize you are going to have to leave behind what you know for what is unknown. This is where you are standing now as you leave behind the past year and prepare to step into a new one.

As you stand on the threshold and are about to cross from 2018 to 2019, look back. Remember this past year and how God journeyed with you and brought you thus far.

You can do this in one of the following ways :

  • Make a collage using pictures that represent aspects of the past year that stand out for you. 
  • Use a Prayer of Examen.

Examen for the Year

Pause and become aware that you are in the presence of God. Ask for the grace to know God and to know yourself as God knows you.

Look back over your year. You will recall joys and sorrows, accomplishments and failures, unexpected gifts and disappointments. Remember you are not looking alone; God is with you, shedding light. Receive the light to see your life as God sees it– with compassion and curiosity. God sees your deep desire to love and be loved.

Review the year with gratitude

As you review the year, pay attention to the good gifts you have received.

  • What are you especially grateful for this past year?
  • Name specifically what comes to your memory now, and thank God for them.
  • What do they say to you about your life and God’s love for you?

Pay attention to your memories and emotions

As you reviewed your year:

  • What memories speak most loudly to you?
  • What situations, events, relationships, or activities bring up the most emotion now, as you remember them?

Choose one feature of the year and pray from it.

While you are lingering with your memories and emotions, there may be one thing that keeps drawing you back to it. Perhaps it is a single event, a relationship, an interaction ,or a feeling. Stay with what is most alive for you now and pray with it.

  • What might God be wanting you to notice about yourself?
  • How is God present to you in this? What is your response to God?
  • Is there something new you notice now that you didn’t see before?

Closing prayer

Thank God for the past year–both the joys and struggles–and for the gift of Christ’s presence with you.


When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.–Joshua 4:1-9 (NIV)

After the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, God told them to take stones from the middle of the river and set them down in their camp as a memorial. Why? To remember how God was with them and how God brought them to the Promised Land.

  • Pick up a stone and let it be a memorial of how God was with you this past year. If you could inscribe a word or an image on that stone that has come from your looking back, what would it be?
  • Spend time with your collage or take a walk and see what word or image draws your attention or seems to speak to you.
  • Hold that word or image. What hopes, questions, fears or dreams arise as you enter the new year?
  • How does the word or image you imagine inscribing on your stone speak into those hopes, questions, fears, and dreams?

Perhaps you’d like to journal or draw a picture of yourself at the edge of the Jordan.

  • What prayer rises in you?

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
–Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

* * * 

Credits and References:
“Sitting in Silence” by Alice Popkorn. Used with permission.
“Stones” by Peter. Used with permission.
“Reaching Out” by little*star. Used with permission.
Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2018.


About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Prayer Retreat Outline, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to DIY Retreat #12: Welcoming the New Year

  1. Mary MacGillivray says:

    Can you send me # 10 retreat. It was so beautiful. Mary


  2. Esther Hizsa says:

    Dave Small, who has a blog about Teresa of Avila, happened to “like” this post before I unintentionally removed it and before I reposted it again. Thanks for your continued encouragement, Dave.


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