A new year rises and with it a natural unsettling. I rather like it.
Time is moving. We cannot ignore that fact when the calendar flips its long stationary numbers.
Reflection is not my natural bent, but there is something so valuable in pausing to look at the past year, sifting out the cadence in it all – what worked, what didn’t, highs and lows and all of the unexpected. It’s often in the looking back that we see His grace in a new and different light.
A new year lends itself to reflection organically.
At the same time we are coming off a seasonal high. A month of the year like no other, December often stretches and stresses us in many ways – our budget, our calendar, our waistline. We seek to be intentional with our traditions and fit in all the good stuff. We attend more parties, spend more time with family, more and more and more. It all adds up.
A new year finds us searching for normal again, shedding the excess, finding center.
Whether we are among the 40% who traditionally set New Years resolutions or not, there is something very valuable in taking this turn of the calendar seriously.
More time is not guaranteed. Why wouldn’t we look at our days carefully?
We have the opportunity to reassess and reorganize, to renew our hope, our faith, our boundaries, our vision. We can seek to reaffirm our horizon line, re-chart our course when we have gone astray. All in bravely pausing to look.
But we are also fully aware that resolutions fail us. The statistical success of making these slippery intentions stick is exceedingly poor. You may have read about it, seen it in your own history; the odds are not in our favor.
But I have a feeling it has less to do with the resolutions themselves, because they are not mythical in nature, correct? We can, of course, determine to lose weight, read more books, get organized and actually do it. Save for a few of us who set our sights unattainably high, it is possible to achieve the things most of us hope for in a new year.
So what gives? If the disparity between the change we desire and the probability of success is so great, where is the hang up?
Many things have been attributed to this chasm over the years – environment, accountability, self-discipline, etc. And all of these contain an element of truth. But lately I have been wondering, if it is the soil in which we are planting those goals, dreams, resolutions, that fails to nurture growth.
Could it be the framework in which we are arranging our resolutions that makes all the difference?
- What if we planted our hopes in a bed of Truth?
- What if we viewed them through the lens of the gospel?
- Are we brave enough to stare down the fears that feed our failure, call them out for what they are and swap them for an active faith in what we profess to be true? (Dare to unpack that question, friend.)
- What if we traded our measuring stick of success for a barometer of faithfulness?
This is what a brave New Year looks like.
We can pursue change, reflect and re-direct, while turning the whole measurement of success upside down. We can plant our hopes in a fertile ground of faith, seeking new and better and good without fear of failure when we are playing by entirely different standards.
That is where I want land this year, friend.
I like goals; let’s have them. I want to be thoughtful, intentional, and purposeful about how I spend time; let’s think through that. But at the very same time let’s wash the whole mess of it in a barrel of grace and Truth. Let’s sift the chaff and make sure these new and exciting things we are committing to are viewed in light of what really matters.
Will you do that with me?
Here are 5 commitments I want to stand on in the year ahead.
I will fix my eyes.
The most simple and challenging goal of the entire year, better yet, our entire lives. God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc 3:11) and it is that very heart that instructs us if we choose (Ps 16:7). But at the same time we all know there are thousands of things that vie for our attention. We notice our friends, we get wrapped up in our work, we give priority to our marriage, our kids, serving, giving, homemaking – you name it. And the catch is – these are all good things. But what would it look like to truly seek him first this year? What does it mean to fix our eyes on Christ?
I will choose the one thing.
We know the familiar story well – Martha bustling around the house in preparation, an eager taskmaster. Mary parks herself at Jesus’ feet. And then these words:
“Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42)
I can feel the very weight of his words. Can you? You see, we plan birthday parties and attend meetings. We host guests and set up conference calls, play dates, vacations. But there are moments of glory mixed in and amidst our very normal. There are opportunities to see Him, to meet a need, to rest and catch a glimpse of Him, woven into all of it.
Help me to see it, God. Give me the courage to choose it.
I will not give way to fear.
Of course not, right? But let me tell you this – fear is sneaky and insipid. It infiltrates through the tiniest cracks of our minds and deceives us. In order to truly spot it we often need to weigh our hearts and ask ourselves hard questions.
- What is really motivating me here?
- Is that response or reaction motived by fear – or it’s first cousin, pride?
- Am I waiting on God or just scared?
- Am I saying yes or no because I’m afraid of what other mights think?
Being brave enough to ask ourselves these hard questions, over and over again, becomes the root of choosing brave.
I will use what is in my hands.
So often we say we would do something, if only. If only we had more time, more money, more freedom. If only we lived there, had those friends, that mentor. We have all had our moments of sulking in the if onlys. So did Moses.
A speaker recently reminded me of Moses’ moments of doubt and God’s simple question in response, “What is in your hand?” (Ex 4:2). God used what Moses already had in order to work in and through him. He can and will do the same with us. With these kids, in this town, with this husband, at this job and in this very season of your life. God is not limited by our circumstances.
Are we brave enough to drop our doubts, stop murmuring our if onlys and offer all that is in our hands right now?
I will live by a barometer of faithfulness rather than a measuring stick of success.
Rulers measure one thing – length. They are flat and linear. They offer a singular perspective. And we bust them out as we peruse Instagram, glance at the “successful” women we know, or anyone we seem to think is doing things “right”. We look from our single, flat perspective and deem ourselves as not measuring up.
I hate how often we do this. I hate to think that you might read my words here and never see all that I choose to neglect in other areas. I’m making choices, tradeoffs, to write here. That other girl, she is making choices to have rock hard abs or the cutest ever home, well dressed kids, an abundant garden and amazing meals. None of this is intrinsically bad, but please know that we are not your measurement of success or failure. Ever.
We are not built for comparison.
A barometer is a tool used to measure atmospheric pressure, typically to forecast the weather. But I think it could be quite effective in our homes as well. What if we measured our success based upon the pressure that ultimately impacts our environment? I know for a fact that I don’t want my kids to see a mother who is never at rest, always striving, unhappy unless is all clean and done and checked of my list. It is an unrealistic expectation for me and for the women my kids will one day become or marry.
So this year (as in the last and the next) I want to measure success by a barometer of faithfulness – faithfulness to what He has called me to and placed in my care – not what someone else is doing, not societal expectations, not even what I did last year or resolved to do on January 1. Faithfulness today – in the big and the small and everything in between. I want to determine to be faithful to the task AND in the methods I use to accomplish them, letting my efforts pour out from the overflow of the work he is doing in and through me.
There you go, friend. Five commitments. Small, but huge. Five ways to sift all that you are dreaming of, hoping for or seeking to change in the year ahead. Pray through this. Weigh carefully.
Let’s take on this year bravely. Always and only for His glory.