As the new year has begun, I’ve found myself spending equal amount of time looking forward and looking back. I’ve re-read my bullet journals for the year, the hopes and the challenges I wrote for myself, and using that as a guide for my goals for this year.
I didn’t really have resolutions last year. I knew I was having my fourth baby and I knew we were moving from Georgia to Kentucky, and I figured that would be enough to worry about. And didn’t know the kids and I would be living in a different state than Jeremy for half of the year while we waited for our old house to sell. It was a good year but a long one!
It’s the en vogue thing, at the start of the year, to choose a word for the coming year, to guide and steer decisions and hearts. I have thought long and hard over it, and I couldn’t really settle on just one word. My hope for 2017 is an ideal that I can’t find just one word to summarize. So here are a few words–my hopes for the new year.
Head to Hands
I often get bogged down in bringing ideas into fruition because I spend much time, instead of just working, in trying to work cleverly. This is true when I try to communicate stories here in my writing, or try to accomplish something in my housework, or try to teach my children, or try to create something with my hands. I can’t just do it! It has to be clever. And because, I suppose, cleverness is in short supply these days (my attention span is too short for it), I can not achieve it, and I do nothing.
One of my hopes for the year is to stop living in my head and to start living with my hands. To translate ideas and ideals into action and then do them–to perfect them through practice. When you are a perfectionist, this means submitting to a great deal of humility and the possibility of doing things terribly wrong, having to be corrected, and then start again.
If you could read my journal in 2016 (which you could, I suppose, if you wanted to) you would have seen several pleas for a relief from ideas. I am blessed–or cursed, as the case may be–with a great ability for formulating ideas. What if we did this? What if we did it this way? Or that way? What if it looked like this? That’s a great idea! Let’s do that! And then I go so far as to dip my toes in it, maybe gather the supplies for it, and then stop.
I stop because it gets hard. Because it won’t turn out the first time, and I know it. And I stop because I get distracted by other ideas. Good ideas. I’ll do that instead. Let’s do that! And the process repeats.
I am still praying for a relief from the idea factory. And I hope to discipline myself to follow through on the ideas I’ve already invested in. These range from anything to home projects to homeschool routines to ministry opportunities. I can’t do everything, so I need to choose and then set my hand to what I’ve chosen.
I type all this with a sort of sickly feeling in my stomach. This is not going to be easy.
By far the ugliest word on my list.
I love easy. I love easy. I like to make things easier. I like to think of new ways to do things so that they will be easier. I had a former employer who thought this was a strength of mine. In reality, it’s just laziness. Making things easy is my first line of defense. If things can’t be made easy, then I like to ignore them. I don’t want to do them. I don’t feel like doing them.
There is a shrewdness in sloth that can be used for good (like the impulse to streamline and simplify) and there is also a huge danger of falling into a pit of chaos because of slothful habits. When I am lazy, I dance on the edge of that precipice, and when I fall in, I drag my whole household in with me.
In October I wrote down these words while listening to a podcast:
Like hoarding, laziness is a habit that brings a false sense of comfort. Even if we know it’s unhealthy or causing problems, we do it because it feels good. Laziness is a sin and should be treated as such, not glorified. God, free me from the bonds of laziness! Let it bring no comfort that I can bear.
After a year of participating in and observing mom culture through various social media outlets, I have become deeply suspicious of the self-care, me-time, grace-upon-grace ideology that is so prevalent among us moms. None of those things are wrong in and of themselves (well, the jury is out for me on “me-time”) but it’s the fruit of their glorification that doesn’t sit well with me–that fruit doesn’t play out well in my house.
This idea really needs more fleshing out, and I won’t do it here. But I will say that I am deeply contemplating the command to deny oneself and wondering how that fits with the modern trend of treat yo self. I’m thinking about when giving myself grace is appropriate and when it’s not even grace but a harbor for sloth that I’m giving. I’m wondering if I can even give myself grace; is it mine to give? What kind of grace are we talking about? I’m thinking about the ravens feeding Elijah but Jesus refusing to turn stones to bread for himself; I’m thinking that God says He gives rest, but the easy yoke is still a yoke, so what is rest? And daily I contemplate that old saying about no rest for the wicked and the righteous don’t need it and wondering if this is what they meant.
the most important thing
All these hopes and thoughts are well and good, but the greatest concern for the new year is more excellently expressed in this excerpt of a sermon by Charles Spurgeon:
Let us pause here a minute and let each of us, as we begin a new year, ask this question—How far has Christ’s purpose of sanctifying me been answered in my own case? I know that in one sense I am completely sanctified, but, in another sense, I still feel my imperfections and infirmities. How far have I progressed in sanctification during the past year? How much has my faith increased during the year? How many of my corruptions have I overcome? How much nearer am I living to Christ, now, than on the first Sabbath of last year? How much do I know of the Savior? How much closer do I approach in my likeness to Him? Have I more power in prayer? Am I more careful in my life? Is my spirit more loving than it used to be? Am I more decisive for that which is right? At the same time, am I more meek in standing up for it? Am I, in all respects, more like my Master than I was a year ago? Or, on the other hand, have I been going backward? Stand still, I cannot—I must either go forward in Grace or go backward! Which have I been doing during the past year? And I charge you, O my Heart, whatever answer you have to give to these questions, to remember that if you are ever so much sanctified, you have not yet attained perfection! I beseech you, forget that which is behind, and press forward toward that which is before, looking still unto Jesus, who is both the Author and the Finisher of faith! The Lord give you so plenteously of His Grace that you may be sanctified wholly, by soul and spirit! And I pray God to preserve you all unto His coming and glory.