I’m Not Making a Resolution

When I see articles and blogs and sponsored Instagram posts (bonkers annoying) about resolutions and setting goals for 2016, my head feels all swirly and my heart starts going fast.

I become aware of everything I could be doing, everything I don’t have. It looks like list-making and trying to drag my husband along on my quest for more of one thing, less of another.

Honestly, I’ve asked myself why I’m to act like this year is the year when January 1st comes around every year. What makes this year any different?

And yet, I completely get the appeal of new beginnings, ambitions and anticipation. Vision-casting is practically a planning type’s hobby.

But this year, I’m going in with less of a resolution and, hopefully, more of a direction. I’m saying no to cut-and-dry, numbers-driven goals and yes to less tangible things I believe God has already called me to…things like taking myself less seriously, accepting complexity and engaging whole-heartedly. I suppose my goal would be to remind myself of these things.

At the risk of making you feel over-resourced (me every week), here are two pieces I found helpful entering the new year that didn’t entirely make my head spin:

This printable from Ann Voskamp.

This blog post from Paul Tripp.

Maybe a clear goal is just what you need. Maybe your resolve will make this year markedly different than past ones, and if that’s the case, I am so cheering for you.

For me, I needed wiggle room, allowance for the canvas to be painted differently as the year progresses. I don’t know if 2016 is the year above all years, but it is the one we’re given, and that is a grace in itself.

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October Goals

I’m welcoming fall this year. The fake decorative leaves, the honeycrisp apples on sale, the cooler mornings, all of it. I guess this isn’t really a new thing for me, but something in a season shifting wakes me up a bit. Now entering October, I’m setting a few goals/reminders/would-love-to’s for the month.

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  1. Finish one book. Maybe two. And I should probably give myself the guideline that cookbooks don’t count. I’m ready for another fiction read, so let me know if you have any recommendations.
  2. Clean out the closet. Then get new winter-proof boots.
  3. Make pumpkin ice cream. Probably from Joy the Baker in her book, Homemade Decadence. 
  4. Take note of what I’m learning through the month. Inspired by this post.
  5. Try something new. Vague with little direction. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Happy October, friends!

Redefining Value

Something of magic happens when the weather turns a few degrees warmer, hinting at spring and open windows.

I know we’re not the only ones who dragged our grill to the back deck, swept off the front door mat and walked around sockless. We moved here in deep winter, and even the slight uptick in temperature has us refreshed, hopeful and craving more. We’re coming up on three months in this house. I’ve not been working, which has been a great blessing in that I’ve been available to support Thomas through sleep-altering schedules and nutty stories.

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So I think about these fast three months and wonder at them. The freedom of un-rigid days that sometimes, somehow, still felt daunting. The idea that I’d use this season to do or make progress on, or, at least, plan something substantial for my writing or other another big idea. Like a productive sabbatical where the stars would align, bolstering my ambitions and hindering obligation to other people’s needs. It was going to be my time.

In an ironic turn, a different message keeps pressing into me. In our church small group, through sermons, blogs, books and hard conversations, what I’m hearing has nothing to do with goal-setting, productivity or self-preservation.

Instead, I’m asking questions like:

“How can I give more of myself away?”

“What actions and pursuits have long-term value?”

“How can I love those directly around me and tend to this small piece of the kingdom I’ve been placed in?”

My body fights it. I want to protect myself and my season of freedom so I can accomplish something concrete. I don’t want to be taken advantage of by always taking care of others. Every ounce of culture tells me I’m entitled to pursue what I want, like we’re all little soldiers fighting for our rights.

So again, I think of these fast three months and see a lot of small, seemingly inconsequential actions…dinner-making and dog-bathing and candle-burning on the nights our friends come over. In terms of things I’m doing, it all seems average.

But the idea that it’s not all about me and what I accomplish has been refreshing and satisfying. The quiet days with tiny victories, un-pressured and un-hurried, have been generous to me.

I’m redefining what’s valuable and learning that even the inconspicuous and intangible have worth. I’m reconsidering what is pleasing and good, productive far beyond me and not just about right now.

Every meal made, every person cared for, every prayer uttered, every dream chased and every idea set aside for now – I think God uses all of this, shows up in all that seems small, so we don’t need to worry about what we’re not accomplishing by the world’s standards.

And for that, I am so thankful. It’s exhausting to always lead the charge, to always feel the need to achieve, to feel that our achievement is who we are.

This is ongoing for me. Releasing what has no place here, pursuing what is good, and differentiating between the two.

That’s the journey I’m on. And, maybe, the one we’re all on together.

P.S. I’d be lying if I told you the only thing on my horizon was more cookie-baking. This June, I’ll begin working at Purdue Christian Campus House, a church that primarily serves college students and a growing number of young professionals. I’m thrilled for the opportunity and will certainly keep you posted!

The Best We Have

“Start where you’re at, be all the way where you are. Sink into where God has you…accept the lessons and the gifts.”

These warm words came from a blogger in my Instagram feed yesterday morning. And on that particular Monday – with a negative wind chill and a dog as my all-day company – those words felt important.

We’re in the throes of a fresh start. The year, naturally, but also the beginning of a new job for Thomas and a new, though undetermined, course for me. We’re one week moved into a rental house a few hours from home. The adjustment’s been slightly achey, but our eyes are wide open to how God’s provision spans wider than our apprehensions.

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Back in July, Thomas started a 5-month police academy that required us to spend weekdays apart. We’re still celebrating with the wine friends keep bringing over and repeat trips to Target – a small luxury, much like the half tiramisu/half biscotti gelato we split the other night.

We talked a lot about how we changed in 2014. How he learned resiliency and grew to lead others. He’s paying attention to his purpose (even if that purpose puts me on edge when I watch the news). And I’m different, too.

A few years ago when we traveled to Cape Town, a staff worker gave me a compliment I didn’t even know I craved when she said, “I think you’re brave.” I like to think that 2014 forced me to lean into courage. In the big things, but also in the small things. You know, like waking up on a Tuesday. The truth that God is the source of hope – I believe that’s the truth that enables our bravery.

One of the most daunting parts of this new start is that I’m not sure what’s next in our story. Sustaining our marriage on 15-minute phone calls and recounting the training to our family and friends gave us something to say. We had a goal to work toward, a barrier to overcome, and it molded, strengthened, sensitized and built us up.

Now that things are “normal,” what is our story? What are we working toward that will keep us from apathy and stagnation? Not just in our marriage, but in our lives as a whole?

My first step is admitting that I don’t know, but I want to find out. And today I have a little peace that even the smallest movement despite fear, on any level, is one of the best gifts we can offer God, and ourselves.

November Goals

The months are flying.

I remember celebrating the start of 2014, and now we’re deep into fall, complete with a 5-inch thick layer of leaves, frosty grass in the mornings and the consuming desire to eat chicken and noodles three times a week.

I remember the first week of January making a list of things I wanted to accomplish this year. I know I haven’t touched everything on the list, but in this season, specifically, being intentional about my time has been immensely helpful. I’ve felt more focused, ambitious and thankful. Centered on things that matter and more relaxed about things that are better rolling off my back than lingering on my mind.

But intentionality doesn’t come easy, so I’m modeling after some other bloggers and saying my goals out loud this month. Small things, for sure, but with only two months left in this year, I want to squeeze in what I can.

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1. Give the mirror a facelift.

It’s large and currently leaning against a wall of our bedroom, so you have to back up until you’re nearly out of the room to see your whole self. All it needs is a little paint on the frame, and we’ll be ready to hang.

2. Finish the book Delicious!

My mom said she laughed her way through this book. I’ve been out of the fiction world for more than a year, so this one holds promise to rope me back in.

3. Find the jeans.

Kind of at a loss here. But I’m hopeful.

4. Clean out the closet.

Technically, I already have. I’ve unearthed the criminology textbooks and old fish tank, the candles and extra pillow cases and Christmas decorations. But there is so much I’ve realized we don’t need. Time to do something with it.

5. Complete the Hospitality study on She Reads Truth.

She Reads Truth is a bible study app for women that provides different themed studies. Some look at individual books of the bible, and others cover a topic, like hospitality. The daily devotions are simple and meaningful, but I’ve never completed a whole study. Maybe this is my month.

Any goals for you this November?