A Year of Promises?

This year more than other years I’ve been seeing some backlash on the whole new year new you idea and resolutions as well, in part with people just not talking about it at all. One of the big reasons I like talking about the new year is because it naturally encourages change, and change is something we all need to work through and talk about. Change should be a year-long conversation, but if we are at least having the conversation once a year, that’s better than nothing. So for this year to be mostly back to business as usual, it’s gotten me thinking about if we’ve reached a place that we need to have a different conversation about the new year and change.

Maybe instead of talking about changes, we’re going to have conversations about promises to do more, be more and live more. In that conversation it’s as important to talk about the ‘more’ aspect as it is to talk about promises. Are we better or worse at keeping our promises from a year ago? Are we more or less committed to our relationships than a year ago? Are we more or less committed to making decisions, and smart ones at that? Or have we given up on making promises because we seem to fail so often with how quickly the world changes and how much harder it is to anticipate everything going on in the world and our lives?

The past year for me has renewed commitments and promises to family and those I care about, but in other aspects it hasn’t been as reassuring. I also see some people making and keeping promises to themselves and making commitments to themselves and the people who are good for them. Every day that we wake up we know that God is keeping His promises to be with us. We still have a long way to go on navigating promises in this new, fast paced world, but keeping our promises as best we can may be what we need in our lives right now, and not more change. There’s always room for improvement in our lives, maybe this time the improvement is about following through and not about making changes.

Do you need to make some promises or work harder to keep some promises you’ve made?  Maybe you don’t need new resolutions, you just need to commit to the ones you keep making.

Maximizing January

The new year is here and with it lots of people and businesses are talking about new things and change. Are you one of those people who loves resolutions? Or do you prefer to pick a word of the year? Or do you just keep going on with your regular life and largely ignore the calendar change? There are lots of people who support doing resolutions, we all have areas of our lives that need change after all, and having something as clear cut as a new year and month are great visual representations for when and why to start. I’ve not been someone who has done many resolutions in the past, although I do think the new year is a good point for taking an evaluation of yourself and how you’re living and working. The past few years I’ve picked words to live by, and some years they have more of a lasting effect on my year than others. I’m probably going to pick a word or few to focus on this year, but haven’t quite decided yet.

As I read all the reflections from people sharing their words of the year and some posts about resolutions and how to attack or approach this new year, I got to thinking about the fact that some 80% of resolutions fail within the first two months of the year. It’s almost funny how large of a failure rate that is, especially with how many people know about and participate in resolution making. It really makes a poor statement about how well we can commit to things and how important our resolutions were to us in the first place. Yes, some of those failed resolutions were met with circumstances that people could never have predicted or anticipated, but the majority weren’t.

So I got to thinking about January and how people are living up to their resolutions this month. What if we chose to tap into this change energy that shows up in January and worked extra hard in January to accomplish all that was on our to-do lists or even just a few things that are really important for us to do or have bothered us for a long time? What if you commit to eating well every day this month (with a few special treats mixed in of course)? What if you committed to clean and organize your whole house this month? What if you committed to reading a new book each week? What if you committed to working with a counselor or coach or consultant for the month either by yourself or with your partner? What if you committed to learning something new each day? What if you finally worked on that book you’ve been meaning to write?

What impact would a successful and productive January have on the rest of your year? Maybe you won’t have a completed resolution you can show off at the end of the year, but maybe thanks to a good January, you’ll feel more confident and have a better attitude towards the rest of the year, or maybe there will be a whole other positive result that you could never have predicted. What will you be doing with your January 2020?

Reality Reflection: The Myth of Catching Up?

Lately it seems like all I’ve been doing is trying to catch up. It’s not always my fault either, like when the weather is bad and adjusts my plans for me, or when ants decide my house looks great to live in and stops the work I was doing, or other people change their plans and delay mine. I don’t cause any of those things, but as a result things I’m trying to get done or places I’m trying to go become exponentially more challenging, and things get pushed off because other things are of higher priority. While I have some more to manage in my life than others, I do know that others have even more they’re trying to manage than I am, and it got me wondering if anyone ever truly catches up on their whole to do list.

I think it is a good lesson in learning to prioritize, making sure that we are doing what’s important and letting go of what’s not really important. It’s also a good teacher of patience, that we learn to be patient with ourselves and others. Finally, it’s also a good lesson in alternatives and being able to restructure, reconsider, redo or find options that work.

As I was thinking about catching up, I got to thinking about change and how some say that change isn’t good or they don’t like it. I don’t know about you, but I like to change my clothes each day and I like when the weather changes to be warm again, and people like to change to a partner that’s more loving and caring. Often change can be good., and we experience many of the same emotions when it comes to change as we do catching up. We feel feelings of frustration and fear when we’re behind or not on board with the change, and we experience happiness and excitement when we experience good changes and catch up on things.

So I don’t believe that ‘change is good’ is a myth, I think it’s definitely possible for change to be good, depending on the situation. I don’t know if it’s truly possible to ever be all caught up though, because with each new day we’re given new things that have to be tackled, even if they’re the same things we did the day before like eating or getting the kids to school. Maybe the point isn’t about getting caught up, but being productive and slowly but steadily getting things done.

Times of Change and Reflection

I’m never surprised but always blessed when the verses that pass through my life reflect what’s going on in life and the world around me. This week I read the passage, 1 Peter 1:24-25, which talks about how beauty fades but the word of the Lord remains forever. In some ways it’s one of the more depressing verses in the Bible, and really seemed appropriate with the beauty of nature changing and fading all around as we head into winter. Yes, there’s beauty to be seen in the stark grey trees against the blue sky or the white snow everywhere, especially when it’s on the trees in the early morning sunshine, but compared to the other 3 seasons, we’re entering the months and the season that beauty isn’t defined or displayed as most people expect.

As much as we don’t like thinking about the loss of beauty that we’re seeing around us, and as difficult as it is to be reminded that things change or die or don’t remain the same, it’s something that God shared throughout the Bible in reminders of different kinds including Ecclesiastes 3: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up…”

This chapter in the Bible also brings up something else we struggle with and dealt with this weekend, and that’s time (with the end of daylight savings time) and the idea that there’s time for everything. I know some people would laugh at that statement, because it sure doesn’t feel like there’s time for everything, it’s why we’ve got to-do lists that go unresolved for weeks and even years.

Maybe these first two weeks of November are an opportunity for us to do some reflecting and checking of our priorities and even consider the more difficult aspects of life such as pain and loss. We’ve got some really joyous opportunities ahead of us with Thanksgiving and all the December holidays, but sometimes we need to deal with the harder stuff before we can get to the good stuff.  I encourage you to make time to talk with God about things like priorities, needs, desires, dreams, change and time and ask Him for His guidance and wisdom.

Reality Reflection: Autumn Changes

Monday we have our first official day of Autumn. The calendar switches over from summer to autumn. Many people say they love autumn because it means hot beverages, but I drink hot beverages year round, so that’s not an enticement for me. I’m cool or cold 90% of the year so the turn to cooler weather that some people enjoy isn’t enjoyable for me either. While I think the trees changing colors is magical, it’s always stood as a symbol for what comes next (snow/winter) so that doesn’t excite me much either. And yet here another autumn comes and I’m staying where I am and don’t have any plans to move to someplace where the seasons aren’t so defined or extreme (like the Carolinas or New Mexico).

As I was contemplating the fact that I haven’t had any real inclination to move despite my dislike of the cold, I got to thinking about why I don’t want to move or why I haven’t moved yet or why I’m here to begin with. Ask anyone who has done some traveling and they’ll tell you that no place is perfect for one reason or another. It may be harder to come up with reasons in some places but if you really put your mind to it you can. So when it comes down to it there’s always give and take whether it’s where you want to live, who’s in your life or how you earn your income.

But all of the discussion and contemplation in my head brought me to another point as well, that as much as this is about weather and temperature, even more it’s about change and its place in our lives. How well do you anticipate changes and work through changes both anticipated and unanticipated? You may not welcome change excitedly each time it shows up, but do you have a positive attitude towards working through it? This autumn while others are working on kids homework and sports schedules or keeping up with their favorite sports team, I’m going to work on understanding, accepting, and most of all working through change. What part of change is most challenging to you?

Reality Reflection: Going with the Summer Flow

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and all you can do is watch it come at you and wonder what on earth you’re supposed to do. As it does the damage it does you have to figure out how you’re going to pick up the pieces and what comes next. One of the biggest emotions you experience is frustration, anger might be a close second, with disbelieve and sadness also possible contenders. It’s not fair, but if we didn’t have these curve balls, would we really be as smart or creative as we are?

I lost a blog post I was going to share with you today, it just magically vanished and there’s no way for me to retrieve it. It’s rare but it happens. Once I got over the panic and thought about it I realized why it vanished and wasn’t so mad, but I was a little frustrated. It’s times like these that I wonder if the universe has a better plan, or just wants us to do something different or just thinks we need to do a little extra work.

So I’ve changed course from my original topic and now I’m thinking summer, because there’s nothing better than coming up with alternative plans when it’s the summer. Like having to find a new activity to do because it’s raining and you can’t go to the beach or pool like you were originally planning, so now you’re driving to that little donut or BBQ joint you heard rave reviews about but never found the time to check out. Or maybe you’re just going to stay home and clean some stuff out that you’ve been meaning to do (maybe for years!!).

So much of summer is about moving with the flow, but we forget that during the rest of the year. Somehow it’s awesome in the summer but not acceptable during the other 3 seasons. So as we officially begin summer this week I would invite you to go ahead and adopt that summer flexibility, to really work on going with the flow and being more flexible and willing to change as change is needed. If you’re more open to it, it will be easier to navigate, and you’ll feel better about it too.

God with Us

It’s that time again, the time when young people move on in their lives to the next thing.  The many people graduating this year and every year is a reminder of success for each of us, we’ve managed to help yet another generation through another year.  But that final college graduation should not be seen as the last graduation that we’ll go through.  In fact we all go through times in our lives that are graduations.  No, in all likelihood there won’t be a big celebration or lots of people attending those future graduations, but they’re not any less important, or any less scary than graduating high school or college.

At different times throughout our lives we’re asked or forced to move on.  It’s never easy and takes lots of courage to truly move on in a way that doesn’t damage us permanently.  If we hold onto the negative emotion of being let go or dealing with death we’ll never be able to get to that next step in our lives.  The good news is we’re not alone.  In Exodus 3 as God is speaking to Moses about the graduation He has planned for the Israelites Moses naturally shares that he’s got some fears about the whole situation.  God says

I will be with you.

Yep, that simple.  And it’s the same for us too. God promises to go with us through the different challenges and trials of our lives.  He doesn’t promise it will be easy, but He does say He’ll go with us.

If you’re facing a change or graduation in your life today, don’t let the fear take control or take over.  Know and trust instead that God is right there with you and will be the whole way.