Journeying in the New Year


Happy New Year signage

The year 2020 took us up the rough side of the mountain. We traveled over difficult paths and were battered in the way.  The battering came from all directions, most notably from the coronavirus, but there were other stressors.  In my community many are still suffering from the devastation of what has come to be called the  Easter Sunday tornado. We are still sad for those who suffered extensive loss,  but we also celebrate  the ones who have found the courage to start over and are beginning to build again.

The new year  presents us an opportunity for a new beginning, not for the purpose of forgetting that we had troubles, but so that we  become proactive and set out on a new path. We can learn to do just this from author Aryeh Green—to pick up after a  time of broken pieces and start a journey to  a  place of rebirth and realized fulfilment. A devastating personal experience sent the author on a solo hike on the 700-mile Israel Trail, out of which came his book My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land. The book is a personal growth story of healing that should appeal to anyone seeking for peace and spirituality in these trying times. The writer  presents a meditation as it were on existence, happiness, and hope. Just what we need after our bruising year.

In the new year, we’ll begin  a journey that may be as dramatic as Aryeh Green’s, taking us to a distant land and through  a learning curve. Or it may be  rooted in service as is  my friend’s planned mission trip  with her pastor and church friends.  The start of the new year is a beginning, whether or not we think of it in such terms.  Let’s set our sights on  a journey that holds great possibilities.

Years ago a  friend  shared with me the poem “Ithaka” by C. P. Cavafy. The poem has  a journey theme and suits us well as we think about starting a new year.  You may remember reading Homer’s Odyssey, in which Odysseus  sets out for his home in Ithaca (a different spelling from the Greek form in the poem) after his victory in the Trojan War. The allusions in the poem create images from Odysseus’ experiences on his way home, but the poet gives his readers a lot of useful travel advice. This  year spreads out before us like a beckoning Ithaka, inviting us to launch out on a memorable and fulfilling adventure.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.

You may recall Odysseus’s struggles against the Laistrygonian cannibals, the fearsome one-eyed Cyclops, and the raging Poseidon. They made life intolerable for him at times. But the poet says we won’t find them on our journey as long as  we set our thoughts in the right direction, as long as we’re in the moment,  the excitement of the journey stirring our spirit. The poet names again the disruptive  creatures in Odysseus’ way  and says, “You won’t encounter them unless you bring them along with you.” This is a truth worth remembering. Negative thinking will be a drag on our progress over the miles. Our attitudes matter. Therefore, let’s take for our journey the good graces of  a thankful heart, patience, a generous spirit, openness and inclusiveness, faith, and love. They will serve us well as we travel. New and exciting things await us on our journey:

may you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time
may you stop at Phoenecian trading stations to buy fine things
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony
sensual perfumes of every kind
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Here the poet invites us to contemplate the delights of life along our way.  Experience  the beauty that is all around  us to touch, taste, and smell. Our Ithaka journey should be laden with books. That’s the way to meet the most fascinating people—“to learn and go on learning from” them— and to  visit  intriguing  places. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.” Our reading  will broaden our knowledge and enrich our appreciation for the great Creator’s  world.

“Keep Ithaka always in mind,”  the poet says. But Ithaka is not a place: rather it is a process. The journey itself must be our focus.  Completing another year  is not the goal. How we live  in the year is what will matter—finding enjoyment and  value, and savoring the pleasure of being alive.  Ithaka is the destination. Odysseus eventually reached home, and December will come, but the life between January 1  and December 31 will be what counts.  Even now we can be confident that this will be a successful journey because we have a Guide who knows every turn along the way, every bend in the road. And He says to us, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

Have an adventurous 2021!




    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Pauline,

      Thank you for your new year’s greeting. The year is new and full of potential. May it bring you every good gift. JN

      • Sinan Smada

        Dear Judith,

        A Happy New Year to you and wishing you the best of health in these troubled times!

        As usual, your musings tend to have a subtle fusion of piquancy and poignancy! Always thought provoking!

        2021 seems to have commenced on a seamless baton hand over from 2020 which by now, should have been the much clichéd ‘hindsight’! The disturbing scenes we all witnessed made me to google the word “tolerance” but alas! “Anarchy” came up instead! This prompted me to juxtapose Yeats & Eliot somewhat to encapsulate my thoughts but also as an ode to Achebe.

        “We returned to our palaces, these kingdoms, but no longer at ease here in the old dispensation;
        Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
        The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
        Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
        Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
        With an alien people clutching their gods,
        I should be glad of another death.
        Surely some revelation is at hand;
        Surely the second coming is at hand.
        Surely the journey of the magi will end?
        A cold coming they’ve had of it,
        Just the worst time of the year.”

        We can but only remain hopeful for a better tomorrow! Amen! Peace!!!
        Regards, Sinan.

        • Judith Nembhard

          Hello Sinan,
          The year is still young, so I’ll wish you a happy new year with many good things to come down the road.
          The W.B. Yeats poem “The Second Coming” from which you quoted, is so appropriate to these fractured times
          that we are witnessing. Things seem to be falling apart, don’t they? “Mere anarchy is loosed on the world.”
          Yeats had a World War in mind, but his words truly apply to that horrible scene last Wednesday in the Nation’s
          Capitol. So disheartening. However, we know who is still in control, so we won’t despair.

          Thank you for your insightful comment. Let’s keep the faith. JN

    • Judith Nembhard

      Thank you for reading my post, Ouida. I hope you’ll have a fulfilling journey this year. Stop by
      a Phoenecian market or two for some exotic things. A blessed 2021 to you! JN

  • Barrington Wright

    Typical Country people in old-time Jamaica often prepared for long journeys by saddling their donkeys with needed support for use along the way and at the destination. You have packed the thought containing hampers on your readers with your wonderful encouragement and inspiration for the 2021 journey. Thank you and “Walk Good!”

    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Barrington,
      I find a lot of humor in your comment. You reached back to Yard for a great metaphor for our coming journey.
      I hope your hamper will be full of all the good things needed to keep you going during the year. Saddle up for a great year ahead,
      And thanks for the “Walk Good” blessing. JN

  • Fartema

    Happy New Year!!
    How encouraging!! I plan to “Walk Good” on an upcoming mission trip this spring. I’m getting excited for this God opportunity to serve at an orphanage for young girls. This will be my first mission trip (under the umbrella of Maranatha).
    Please keep us in prayer for a safe trip, and the ability to make a positive impact on the lives of these children.

    • Judith Nembhard

      Fartema, you have a special stop to look forward to on your Ithaka journey this year. As Barrington, suggests, carry
      a lot of good things in your “hamper,” and Walk good. JN

    • Judith Nembhard

      It’s so good to hear from you, Aryeh. Happy New Year to you! Interestingly, my son told me that he sent the post to a friend who would appreciate reading it because it mentions your book about Israel. I thought that was a good outcome from the blog. I wish for you a most satisfying Ithaka journey this year. JN