New Year’s Resolutions Reversed

On a rare evening out together a few weeks ago, Will and I took the chance to discuss some of the challenges we are facing and how to adjust our lives to better fit our calling. We made some goals for the new year, and talked about how we might go about accomplishing them.

As we were eating our steak, I suddenly put down my fork. “You know,” I said, “I feel like every single area of my life needs to change. It’s depressing.” After a minute of silence, I added, “What have we done well in the past year?”

I love to dream of the future, and I always dream of improving myself, my circumstances, and my surroundings. I believe in dreaming and goal-setting, but that evening I realized that my dreaming sometimes stems from an inner sense of failure. I mean, is there anything that I do that doesn’t need to be improved?

The ever popular New Year’s Resolutions may not always be based so much on excitement for the year ahead as they are salving that internal disappointment and discontent I feel with myself.

By this I don’t mean that dreaming is erroneous. I can hardly be effective if I have no goal, or at least some presiding values. But it’s hard to wean myself of a pride characterized by a crippling self-judgment.

But if “in Him we live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28) I can’t possibly have done everything wrong.

Will you join me in a little challenge? Can you name things that you did the past year that you feel good about? Can you name them without adding any caveats?

If you are self-deprecating like me, an exercise like this is very hard. I’ll go first, then I invite you to add your thoughts in the comments. You may describe what was hard for you, but you may not add any explanations of what you didn’t do right.

Here goes.

I am glad that in 2017 Will and I took classes and pushed through all the paperwork and inspections to become a licensed foster family. Having a foster child in our home is a great blessing to us, and I know we brought her a place where she is safe and loved.

In 2017, I homeschooled my children even though I have a special-needs child and teaching school is not natural for me. I gave my children a good education as well as the chance to be close to their mama every day. I taught them important Christian values and life skills.

I cooked nourishing food for my family in 2017. My heart was happy when I had a nice meal on the table and my favorite people all around enjoying the food and conversation.

In 2017, I opened my home to others even when it wasn’t convenient. I played with neighbor children and added an extra plate or three to our table many times. I enjoyed taking time to listen to people, young or old, who needed a listening ear.


Whew. Leaving out the caveats is hard. Of course you know I did these things only with God’s help, right? 😉 Your turn now. What did you do well in 2017?

 

24 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions Reversed

  1. joyfulhopeflokstra

    I love this! Emily Freeman, on her blog, wrote a post about 2017 where she talked about what had worked well for her and what hadn’t. It felt like a healthy way to close down a year and prepare for a new one.

    I got up regularly with my alarm clock and had a morning schedule that worked for me. And it allowed me to read the entire Bible in a year.

    I poured my heart and mind into preparing a talk for a women’s retreat.
    I learned to understand and connect better with my children.

    I stayed connected to a friend in a new venture when I could have been intimidated or jealous.

    Like

    1. I like the idea of looking at what worked and what didn’t. It’s too easy for me to focus only on the things that didn’t go so well.

      Getting up to spend time with God, speaking at a women’s retreat, and staying connected through a vulnerable time–those are all admirable accomplishments! Well done!

      (I’d like to hear you speak at a women’s retreat. 😉 )

      Like

  2. I feel like 2017 was a banner year for me. A year of change and changes, a year of doing new things:

    * I went to two life-changing youth conferences—for the first time in my life.

    * I made a long-overdue career change and am now in a much better place financially.

    * I moved out of my parents’ home and am now on my own.

    * Overall, I feel much more mature, closer to God, and more independent than a year ago.

    Looking forward to 2018!

    Like

  3. Louisa

    I dared to
    – change places of employment
    – change churches
    – start counseling.
    All important changes, and all have bettered me in some way or another.

    Like

  4. jane

    #1. I ventured outside my comfort zone, sharing hospitality. Which in turn led to a door being opened. A dream I didn’t realize I harbored, stepped through the door. Writing…..
    #2. I chose to ask for the help we needed for our child, walking through a dark valley. God is faithful!

    Like

  5. Dorcas Byler

    I have connected with an 11 year old boy in one of our local public schools tutoring him in reading.
    I have found a lot of fulfillment in working at a crisis pregnancy center.
    My Airbnb has been successful and an answer to prayer.
    I have not used a credit card except for a time or two when I had loaned my debit card out to a family member and forgotten it had not been returned.

    Like

    1. It sounds like you lead a worthwhile and fulfilled life! And good job on not using the credit card! 🙂 Will and I quit using a credit card about ten years ago and don’t miss it a bit.

      Like

  6. RachelG

    As you know, the last 15 months have been traumatic for us.

    We went to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
    We heard nothing but silence
    and we found out that our baby had died.
    Then my Grandma died.
    A new baby of ours, one too tiny to bury, died.
    My “big sister” from church died from cancer.
    My friend was killed in a car accident.
    I gave life to a baby girl
    and we saw her heartbeat on an ultrasound
    Hope surged
    but
    she died, too, and we buried her next to her sibling
    under my favorite tree.
    We made an excruciatingly painful decision,
    one that carries its own loss forever.
    I lived 2017 as a shattered woman.

    But…
    In 2017 I grieved well. A friend of mine, a trained grief counselor, took me out for lunch and after she had seen my tears and heard my questions and felt my depression and anger she said, “You are grieving really well”.

    In 2017 I cared for myself. I wrote in my journal. I talked to God often and read His Word. I created a space for my tears. I joined an Infant Loss Support Group. I started my second year of volunteering with a Children’s Grief Support Group. I cooked nourishing food. I started walking 10 miles per week.

    In 2017 I created happy memories for my three living children and I was emotionally present with them. We went camping for a whole weekend. We went to the Children’s Museum. We celebrated my son’s first piano recital. We laughed and cried and talked about everything.

    Thank you for inviting our comments. Thinking about the things I did well was humbling, because it helped me to recognize where the abundant grace and presence of Jesus was in my dark year.

    Like

  7. LRM

    In preparation for moving, I gave away many things (a big free garage sale, donating to a thrift store…), recycled many other things, and threw away other things. I need to do more of it, but I am giving myself time to do it, rather than thinking it all has to be done now. LRM

    Like

  8. Beth Slabaugh

    I enjoyed reading your post…it was encouraging to think on the positive note instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the mistakes!
    My husband and I and two little girls are serving in S.E. Asia.
    This year, I took on extra language classes and sent our three year old to a local Christian preschool ( a stretch of my trust!!) to help us be able to communicate more here.
    I pursued friendships even though they still feel awkward when I run out of language to express myself.
    Opened our home numerous times to guests.
    Went on exploratory trips with the consideration of moving to more intense locations with our family.
    Made decisions to get outside when feeling depressed.

    Like

  9. Browsing

    Hey Rosina

    My doctor told me yesterday I probably have several more days before my respiratory infection clears up. It’s nice to have extra time for reading, in spite of my throbbing head. I wish I lived closer to you so we could have tea. I’m probably over 20 years older than you, but I like reading about your journey to greater intimacy with God as you and Will follow him.

    I hope you had a good time celebrating the birth of the Messiah with your family. Jesus is born, Jesus died, Jesus is risen, Jesus is coming again! In the meantime, he has made his home in those of us who belong to him. Christ within us is the mystery of the ages, as Paul said. Jesus told his disciples he would not leave them as orphans. The Holy Spirit has been sent, and we can ask Jesus for the baptism John the Baptist said Jesus would do for us. Jesus invites us to ask in Luke 11:13.

    The message of the Bible isn’t “try harder!” or “perform better!” I know many people who try to do great things for God, and then point at them and say, “Look what I did for you, God! Now, bless it!” They’re either burnt out or angry at any given moment. They don’t understand why God doesn’t seem to be blessing their projects. I suspect, based on my visits to a Mennonite church in the last month, that performance-based religion is a big, big problem here. The group I’m visiting is small and newly formed, having splintered off from another group for reasons that are yet unclear to me. There are only about 20 adults, and half of those are women who don’t (can’t) contribute. The men I’ve heard speak so far seem to think the goal of a Christian’s life is to stop sinning. They talk about temptation in an unbiblical way, portraying it as a reflection of how vile a person is, and if only they weren’t so disgusting inside, they wouldn’t be tempted. They portray temptation as a sin in and of itself. They make unbiblical statements about “the new man” and “the old man,” saying the new man would NEVER do such and such. The atmosphere is heavy with condemnation and a lack of joy. I can only imagine their communion service, with its public confessions and silent satisfactions, has an even heavier atmosphere of disapproval. The women have been very kind to me, but about half the men have found some way to insult me in a
    passive-aggressive way. I am only able to visit for about 6 months, and feel like God wants me to keep going for that time. I’m praying for them and obeying God’s promptings for when to say something that points to the truth of God’s word, and trying not to take the disapproval over my appearance and gender personally, since God has no problem with it.

    This post and some of your other writings make me feel like maybe you feel condemnation a lot over not trying hard enough, because sin never seems to leave you. Or that maybe you feel condemnation and discouragement because you’re tackling projects to serve God, who’s busy himself in his corner of the universe, but he’s not sending you enough texts lately to buoy your spirits amidst your service.

    Jesus was tempted in every way, but never sinned. Temptation is not a sin. Satan will tell you it is, but he’s a liar. Quote God’s word when you feel attacked. Eve was without a sinful nature when she was tempted, as was Adam. The first Adam chose sin rather than obedience when he was tempted, the last Adam chose obedience every single time he was tempted. We have been redeemed by the last Adam, and when we become his, we’re no longer slaves to sin, but his slaves. We don’t face the temptation to sin alone anymore. That’s why Corrie ten Boom said, “When Satan knocks at the door, I let Jesus answer it.” We’re neither to feel condemned when we’re tempted, nor to handle it in our own strength. The message of the Bible is, “Not effort, but union. Not struggling, but abiding.” (Derek Prince). People who don’t know what abiding means get really frustrated. They think each day is a contest in which they are bombarded with tests, and God is the frowning score-keeper. Their view of God has much more in common with Santa Claus than Jesus Christ.

    We’re invited to become God’s children, and to abide in his arms, and face all of life secure in him who will never leave or forsake us. When we choose to sin when we’re tempted and do not abide, we then need to confess to him and he is faithful to forgive, and we are reconciled and abide again. Sinful patterns that feel compulsive and habitual are things he can point to the root of, when we cry out to him for help. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God completely, with all that we are. That relationship we’re able to have through Jesus is the basis for facing and handling sin. It’s a relationship of daily dependence and direction. The lord is my shepherd…

    The world says perform better and try harder and maybe you’ll be rewarded with God’s approval and a relationship. Which gospel is our church or upbringing presenting to us? Paul told us there’s more than one gospel. We must choose the gospel of Jesus.

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  10. Browsing

    After more thinking and praying, I’m wondering about how part of the problem might be the way a relationship to God is presented to Mennonites as children, and to outsiders as adults. I’ve only been attending a short while, as I said, and there won’t be room in the car for me to catch a ride soon after my Mennonite’s friend’s next baby is born. (I can’t drive.) I’m puzzling things out, but more will probably become clearer over time as the weeks go by.

    When we met for coffee and she invited me to visit (the church I’d been going to was being led by a man acting like Diotrophes — see 3 John), I asked her what they did to help people become Christians. Her reply made it seem like the goal was to get people to become Mennonites. It was troubling, as was her reaction when I told her how I had become a Christian. She seemed less than enthused. I knew that Mennonites have different ideas about what Paul’s words mean in 1 Tim 2, 1 Peter 3, and 1 Corinthians 11, but I didn’t know much else.

    My impression after listening to this community is that they don’t seem to like children to come to Jesus. I know, that sounds terrible. But they seem almost contemptuous of “the sinner’s prayer,” or of people asking Jesus into their hearts as per Ephesians, etc. Many Christians I know have done this as children, including myself, and we’re later baptized when we understand more about what it means to be identified with Jesus in his death and resurrection. (I wasn’t raised in a Christian home and was not baptized until 20. A few months after that I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to pray in tongues, and God has used me in other gifts of the spirit as well over the decades.) Over the years God has freed me of much and helped me to trust him more each year. We’re being prepared for eternity as his bride. Jesus is our bridegroom, and the wedding supper of the lamb is coming up soon!

    It seems like these Mennonites maybe don’t want children to come to Jesus until their teens, and at the point of deciding for baptism or not, but I can’t really tell yet. I wonder how much the Anabaptist tradition has affected not only the mindset toward baptism, but what it means to be born again and to begin a relationship with God. Jesus didn’t say, “Keep the children away from me until they’re old enough to be baptized with you in the Jordan for repentance.” He wanted children to come to him, and to begin a relationship with him even when very small. You spoke in one of your posts (I forget which) about not wanting to force your faith on your child. If by “faith” you mean your religion, that’s understandable. But if we talk about “faith” the way the Bible does, that’s something observed, not something which can ever be forced in another. Faith comes from hearing the word of God, and children can watch their parents’ faith grow, and can see how much their parents love Jesus, and see how their parents handle sin — if they’re quick to apologize, etc. Children who grow to love Jesus as they hear the Bible shouldn’t be discouraged from believing and receiving Him, and asking him into their hearts. When they get older and learn more about their growing independence and how they have a body, soul, and spirit, they start to see more of how their soul – the seat of their mind, emotions and will – is often at odds with God’s will, and they have to learn to die to themselves. This shouldn’t be attempted unless they’ve decided to commit their lives to Jesus and be baptized and walk with him., but before that they certainly learn to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and learn about consequences for behavior.

    We’re to carry our cross daily in our walks with him as we wait for his return, and enjoy sweet fellowship with him, as it says in 1 john. I’m starting to see the problems in this community’s assumption that someone is not truly pleasing to God unless they’re a Mennonite, but it’s really grievous to keep people (even children) from Jesus. We must try hard to grasp what God’s word says about grace and sin, and the choices we face.

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    1. The subject of faith in children is an interesting one, and something I’ve thought about. To me, the faith displayed by my children is the purest and sweetest sort, and I do not ever want to discourage that.

      I think emphasis on salvation must be different in different groups, because I remember asking Jesus into my heart when I was quite small, maybe 5 or 6. My parents did not discourage that but celebrated it and told me that God would keep talking to me. I’ve often been thankful for that.

      For me, the gifts of the Spirit came much later after another spiritual awakening seven years ago. But my heart has been tender toward Jesus for a very long time.

      The emphasis on conversion to being Mennonite rather than to being a follower of Jesus is one of the reasons I had to leave. I cannot agree with that exclusivity.

      Like

      1. Browsing

        I’m glad your parents celebrated the beginning of your relationship with God. I think this group I’ve been visiting has some particular…issues. “Conversion to being Mennonite rather than being a follower of Jesus” is a dichotomy I don’t think they’d recognize. I’m deformed and disabled from my deformities, so I can’t drive. The oldest child in the family I’ve been getting a ride with recently made a comment on the way home about “believers vs. true believers” which I found alarming–I’m wondering if that phrase is one they’re using to try to teach their children about the difference between Christians inside and outside of the Mennonite community. I hope not. The wife of this family has asked to meet with me sometime this month, so I suspect I’ll find out more then. I suspect she’s been assigned to have a chat with me. It’s awkward being a kind of a “test subject” for her to see that people outside the community can also belong to Jesus Christ. I keep praying that God will be glorified through my pointing to Scripture, and that the community won’t mistreat her if they’ve designated her the “point person” to deal with me for continuing to show up in pants and jewelry with uncovered hair. I don’t want to be a hypocrite and look like a Mennonite only on Sundays. I shop at the same supermarket as many of the women, and when they and their kids see me there during the week I won’t be dressed like one, so… I want to dress in a way that has God’s blessing 24/7, even if it means experiencing human disapproval on Sundays. What they probably perceive as a lack of respect is actually integrity.

        Every church needs to have leadership that is sensitive to the fact that legalism is something Satan tries to gain traction with in every congregation. It’s been said that it’s the sin religious people find most appealing. There might be something to that. Religion tries to change people from the outside in, but God through the gospel changes people from the inside out. Religious people in Galatia took their eyes off Jesus and started taking pride in their own actions which they thought provided proof of their salvation. Legalism takes as many forms as there are churches–people can pride themselves on following rules concerning just about everything. The problems in this Mennonite community aren’t unique, they’re just a different flavor of the same substance.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Browsing

    This morning I re-read part of Corrie ten Boom’s book, Not Good if Detached. (The title alone is excellent!) if you haven’t read it already, I think you would like it very much. It’s very encouraging. (I’ve found most of her books on ABE Books.) Here’s a little poem she learned somewhere that made me think of our recent comments:

    It is not try, but trust.
    It is not do, but done.
    Our God has planned for us
    Great victory in his Son.

    Hope you’re doing well!

    Liked by 1 person

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