Seems like a good time for a fresh start. I mean, the new year isn’t even a week old, the tone of 2018 is set about as firm as jello. And everyone around me talks “clean slate”, “my word for the year”, “resolutions”, and “goals.” Guess this is as good a time as ever.
The whole thing is admittedly a bit arbitrary. As a society, we decide this year is “new” because some guy named Greg (or something like that) made up a calendar that works with the earth’s rotation around the sun, then threw a dart at ye ole’ day chart and declared a certain 24-hour period January 1, The Beginning Of The Year. And it’s still a thing. Whatevs.
I, for one, hope and pray that 2018 is truly new, that I can pack The Year 2017 away in a box someplace and hide it in my attic where I don’t have to look at it ever again. It was a hard year. Not all bad, for sure, but challenging in most every aspect of my life. I ended with my annual holiday vacation but skipped out on traveling and extended family. I’ve been desperate for rest and my little tribe needed me to hunker down with them and recover our mojo together. I was in awful shape after an insane ministry year and God forcing my feet onto the solid Rock of Christ alone - if I so much as inched a toe onto something else and dared believe I could count on it for a second, God set it to shaking. Nothing else held together for me. Everything turned to quicksand, looking solid from the surface but running like liquid when I put my foot out. This hemming in and refining of my trust by God is undoubtedly a good thing for me in the long run, but I have to tell you, it hasn’t been fun. Learn from my example, friends - we can count on nothing in this world save God alone.
Maybe your 2017 was more stable than mine. Maybe it was a great year for you filled with dreams realized, challenges overcome, old things dying and new life springing up. I have friends who thrived in 2017 and are looking forward to the trend continuing. Even still, a fresh start isn’t a bad thing. Re-energizing and focusing strength to continue the climb can be awesome, and I hope that’s where you are. But some of us feel like we’re starting 2018 with no place to go but up.
So here I am and there you are. Time to make a fresh start. I step out a bit tentatively, holding it all loosely knowing full well that I have no idea what’s coming for me. But 2017 wasn’t a total wash - I did learn a few things, and I’ve got a few principles I’m determined to put into play this year no matter what it holds. What do you say? Can we put these into practice together and encourage each other as the year goes along? I hope so…here goes.
Be present with I AM.
If you read my last blog post, I made the case that if I want to be with God, I have to be where He is, and He is in the present-tense. I AM. Right here. That means I can’t live in the past, though I grieve some of it. That also means I can’t live in the future, though I can dream from time to time. I have to live in the here and now where He is and in the moment that He’s given me. Otherwise, I risk missing Him.
Take back some control.
Don’t misunderstand me - I’m not suggesting we wrestle with God for control over the direction of our lives. That’s a losing proposition and one bound for frustration. And if I learned anything in 2017, it’s that I’m not in control of where the wind blows. But I can control the direction of my sails, particularly when it comes to my thinking and emotions. Last year, if hurricane blew through, I just blew along with it, back and forth, beaten and exhausted by the end. Some of you have had calmer seas, and bless the Lord for that! But some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. This is the wrong season for applying the popular phrase “let go and let God” - He might be the One sending the storm to shake us loose, or He might be testing the strength of our attachment to the Anchor of Him. If we let go of that, baby, we’ll be cast out to sea in a quick minute.
So I’m tethering myself to my Anchor with a few strong lines that I believe will help me hold on much better this year. Rehearse the Truth I know. Create some margin in my mental and emotional life so my spiritual life has a shot at staying on track. Prioritize being a human “being” instead of a human “doing” for once. And then…
Put some things back in order.
Like my priorities, for example. Every year I determine to make self-care a non-negotiable part of my routines. Every year I get distracted and go all starry-eyed over big dreams and goals and chuck self-care over the proverbial cliff. Every year I regret it. Could this be the year I get it right? Dunno. Gotta try.
In the spirit of not doing the same things the same way and expecting different results (a.k.a. the definition of insanity), I’m getting more specific with my self-care goals this year so I can more easily see if I’m on track. Here’s what I’m thinking:
- Maintain my Friday-evening-through-Saturday-evening Sabbath. No emails. No work. No bra. No makeup.
- Take a long hot bath with either bubbles or a lovely scented bath bomb once a week, and take time to thoroughly shave my legs instead of relying on the hack-job in the shower. And use sensitive-skin-vitamin-enriched shaving cream made for girls. I need to soak and take care of the skin I’m in. (Sorry, sweet hubby, this needs to be “me” time.)
- Each work day, stop for 15-minutes and either sit in the sunshine or find someplace quiet and solitary, no matter how busy things get.
Three specific goals…I should be able to do three things, right? You can choose your own three things, of course, but let me encourage you to not go wishy-washy or vague on this. Losing sight of ourselves is way too easy in this busy, convoluted, and chaotic world. We need something specific to aim at if we’re going to keep ourselves in sight.
I don’t know about you, but my routines need a bit more organization, too - as in it would be nice to have a routine for maintenance at the house, the condition of my office desk, and other stuff. My usual pattern is to wait until things get so disastrous I can’t stand it then spend hours cleaning and scrubbing and feeling so proud of my accomplishments then being so tired of cleaning that I don’t do it for another month and then being so overwhelmed that I just don’t bother because 30 minutes of work won’t really make a dent so I wait until the clutter gets on my nerves again and so on. Instead, I’d like to commit to small beginnings, to honor peeling back the layers in 15-30 minute chunks, to appreciate the process and the discipline more than the results.
These are three big ideas I want to focus on this year. But there’s one more place in my life that needs some refreshing, some newness in 2018. One more principle that I need to put in play to make a fresh start, and it’s the one that matters most.
Remember who I am.
I lost sight of myself last year. I didn’t even realize it until after I went home for my holiday break, slept for two weeks, and recovered a bit of perspective. It got so bad that I’m tempted to go reintroduce myself to my new boss - he started four months ago and I’m not sure he’s ever had the chance to meet the real me. But that would just be weird.
Honestly, I thought I was too smart, too self-aware to misplace my own identity. But I didn’t give my crazies enough credit for taking my focus away from what is real and true about me and turning all of my attention to the urgent. To the crisis. To the good and important but not primary and essential. Ever been there? Ever been in a season when one thing leads to another which leads to another and before long you’ve ended up somewhere you don’t know and acting like someone you don’t recognize? I sort of knew I was sliding but I felt powerless to stop it. Out of control. Unable to peel away from the tyranny of all that everyone else was counting on me to do. I didn’t become someone awful. I just became someone else and uncomfortable in my own skin. I’d hate for that to happen to you, but I’m naive to think that it can’t, or that it can’t happen to me again. Identity-theft of this sort can happen to anyone who’s distracted enough to not be paying attention.
But we can choose to remember. And in the remembering, we return.
I’m writing this down then, not for the sake of you knowing who I am, but for the sake of me using my words and creating an external reality that the internal me needs to be reminded of. Saying things out loud matters, you know. It’s yet another way we’re made like our Creator who speaks worlds into being and simply says “Let there be…” and there is. Like His, our words have power (not as much, of course) which is one reason He tells us to be so careful with what we say. We create “realities” for ourselves and others with our thoughts-made-sound. So even as I speak these words over myself about who I am, I hope you’ll take time to speak some truth and identity over yourself, too.
I am made in God’s image and therefore intrinsically valuable and worthy of honor.
I am a woman made to be an “ezer” like God is an “ezer” (see below) - a strong warrior in the world to fight for my brothers and sisters, not against them.
I am a mother and a wife, my life irrevocably interwoven with the lives of my husband, my daughter, and my son.
I am a minister of the gospel, affirmed by the Spirit, my authorities, and my colleagues, and through whom God loves to share Himself with others. If He were done with me, He would have taken me home to be with Him by now. Since I’m still here, I am still His vessel for the message and love of Jesus.
I am a writer and a teacher. I feel God’s pleasure and joy more when I share Him through words, written or spoken, than at any other time. To not share my words is to deny a part of who He made me to be.
I am a hopeless romantic and a nut job of the highest order. I have a weird sense of humor, a brutal realism and honesty, and a nerdy way of approaching life. I think in unique ways and feel all the feels.
I am an introvert. All that thinking and feeling wears me out. I need time alone. This is as basic as breathing for me when it comes to my emotional and mental health. I will go psycho if I do not de-stimulate and fully rest on a regular basis.
I have strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, faults and talents, gifts and foibles. I don’t have to hide any of them.
I am brave because God makes me brave and because I choose it every day. There’s much to be afraid of in this world, but fear will not be the deciding factor in my thoughts or actions.
I am me and I am His and there is no separating the two.
And I’m making a fresh start.
”Ezer” is the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:18 to describe the first woman He makes in the Garden of Eden - it’s often translated “helper” in our English Bibles. “Ezer” shows up another 20+ times in the Old Testament original Hebrew, 14 of those times referring to God Himself and always in a military context. Some modern scholars believe an English translation of “ezer” that better incorporates the original connotation might be “the strong help without which the battle would be lost.”