By PRECIOUS KELLY

Rantoul Press columnist

New to the column world, my name is Precious Angel Kelly. I am excited to join this space.

I have lived in Rantoul since 1987 (birth). I attended UIUC by way of Parkland College and earned a bachelor of arts degree in Rhetoric. Recently, I earned a master of arts degree in Grant Writing, Management and Evaluation aspiring to work with non-profit organizations.

Presently, I am a universal banker in Urbana. I love spending time with my family and friends, volunteering as yout director at my church and singing with my siblings and church choir. I enjoy watching movies and sports and learning how to tap-dance and play piano.

The "I Believe" column seeks to unravel the threads of daily life and weave fibers of inspiration. This inspiration is founded on a faith in Jesus Christ.

OK, so it’s the second month of the year. Let’s replay the last few weeks. At the end of 2018, perhaps you made a few resolutions for the new year. 2019 comes in like a blind date. How’s it going? Have your expectations been met so far? If not, no worries; it’s not too late to get back on track.

Even if binding yourself to new year resolutions isn’t your thing, consider this objective:  create a year’s theme (a spin-off of a social media post back in 2017). This is how it started.

I came across a friend’s social media post: a picture of a square filled with random words. The post asked you to identify one word that resonated with you above all the others. This word would hold hidden truths about yourself. I accepted the challenge and found a word that had been popping up throughout the year for me. I brought this idea to my family on New Year’s Day.  

Midnight of Jan 1st, 2018, we were bringing in the new year. I started video recording my sisters sharing their hopes for the new year. I asked each one, "What is one word or concept you came across last year that you would like to bring into the new year?" Each one gave her response. For me, I chose the word, "presence"—presence in my spiritual life as well as natural life.

My family had frequently shared with me that I was too busy and preoccupied. I had obligations as youth director at my church, singing in the church choir, and graduate studies. They’d see me making phone calls via Bluetooth while riding in the car with me or talking on the phone while paying for groceries (still a challenge). I earned the reputation that I was not present or engaged in the few moments I was around them. So I decided that in the new year, I would simply work on being present.

The first few months I would text my sisters and share my experiences with the year’s theme. That didn’t last long: sharing heart-to-heart convos via text just didn’t work. So I made it a personal journey. Consistently throughout the year, I would pause randomly and remind myself that I should be in the moment.

At my parents’ house, I would leave my phone in my purse —until they asked to see something from it. While volunteering at a local event, I would remind myself that I didn’t have to search for something to say but let things unfold naturally.

In my spiritual life, I wanted to seek the presence of God in a more inclusive way. I had learned at a conference in Nigeria the past year that God is with me; I must acknowledge his presence. I pondered the verse from the book of Psalms: "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11 KJV).

The life God had purposed for me included experiencing his joy and glory. I acknowledged him when the pressure of my needs and obligations seemed like a heavy weight on me praying, "Father, will you take care of this for me, please?" I found truth in the lyrics of a song titled, "Your Great Name," that "Things change when I call you, Jesus. Things change when I call your name."

This process of arbitrarily, but purposefully, being aware of an attitude or perspective I had chosen to have helped me grow in this area of being present. I can look back at 2018 and say I lived in the present and watched God move in a way I hadn’t noticed before. The year was a full one, and it did not scurry pass me in a rush to get things accomplished.

On the last day of the year, Dec. 31, 2018, my sisters and I reviewed the video we had made together at the beginning of the year. It was awesome to see one of my sisters exclaim that mostly everything she had hoped for in the past year had occurred. I didn’t have a list of items that I could check off, but I had adapted a new perspective which fostered new and positive behaviors for me.

Growth is a necessary and natural part of life when we reflect on our experiences and make changes to adapt for the better. Some make stepping-stone goals for the year and work diligently at them until they have reached their goals. Others may see areas to improve in their lives but find it hard to buckle up for an entire year to consistently deliver predefined expectations; consequently, the less constricted year’s theme may be a better approach. Year-long resolutions, themes or goals may not be the best method for everyone to grow and improve one’s person. I believe there is a way for everyone to grow. Please tell me, what’s your approach?

Winterized Tip:

Winter reminds us to get our furnaces checked out once a year to avoid combustion-risk and carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, during freezing temperatures leave faucets slightly dripping and cabinet doors left open that contain water lines. This will help prevent water pipes from freezing.

Precious Angel Kelly, a native of Rantoul, writes a Christian-based monthly column to inspire faith, hope and love. She welcomes correspondence at precious.angelkelly@aol.com