Happy New Year! Traditionally, I spend New Year’s Day and the week before, if honest, working on my New Year’s resolutions. I love new beginnings. HA, I even love Mondays because they represent a fresh start to the new week. That said, this year, after an eye opening Christmas morning with my soon-to-be four year old, I decided against making THE LIST because, let’s be real, I make the SAME resolutions year after year, only to blow them out of the water soon thereafter. Nonetheless, to make myself feel more confident, I set some goals really low and easily obtainable (which is really cheating), but sooner than later, I generally end up feeling like a complete failure because many goals are just downright unrealistic and nearly impossible to achieve. Sound familiar?
Back to Christmas morning — I was so excited this Christmas because this year my daughter was really getting into all things Christmas — counting down the days, helping to wrap gifts and plug in Christmas lights, singing Christmas songs, etc. So, imagine how surprised (and disappointed) I was on Christmas morning when she did not appear excited in the least. Sure, she was happy to receive the dress she wanted, and she seemed really happy to watch her dad and sister open the gifts she actually earned the money to buy, which is a good thing, but she was not really “over the moon” thrilled like I expected her to be. (I have seen her more joyful about spaghetti for dinner, something we have at least once a week.) But what really got to me was when she said, RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF OPENING A GIFT, “Well, next year I am going to ask Santa for _____.” That remark really irritated me, but more so, saddened me.
Let me explain — I immediately recognized that attitude of dissatisfaction, looking for another gift under the tree because nothing opened so far was really good enough or exactly what she thought she wanted — it came right from her father– JOKE! (He is probably one of the happiest guys around when it comes to finding joy in the simple things; he equates biting into a hamburger with winning the lottery!) Nope, that attitude was 100% me. I have spent many a Christmas looking for yet more under the tree, already anticipating more next Christmas, only to be left feeling letdown and overall unhappy the rest of Christmas Day.
OK, I understand that some of my child’s reaction is typical for her age, but it is not all about her being a child; it’s a heart problem, one that I have battled many years, and last year I prayed that God would take away my tendency to continually strive to be more or to have more than truly necessary. Yes, I have improved, but these lifelong habits still sneak up from time to time, so I need more strategies to deal with them. Before the New Year rolled around, numerous articles and blogs about claiming a special word for 2018, came to my attention. Well, I could not commit to just a single word, so I claimed two words: SIMPLICITY and CONTENTMENT. Instead of creating huge lists simply to have something to check off, filling my calendar (and my family’s), with activities for the following week, which likely will include chasing the latest sale, starting the newest diet, setting more career goals, or seeking another volunteer opportunity, I plan to sit back and “smell the roses.” Even as I type these words, my heart is racing, and I am starting to get all blotchy and red. See, sitting back, BEING IN THE MOMENT, without ticking off every box of a ten year, strict game plan for my life (and my family’s), goes against every fiber in my body. Nevertheless, God tells me in Deuteronomy 31: 6, LAURA, LISTEN TO ME, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified. . .,” adding in I Timothy 6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain .. . If we have food and clothing, we WILL BE content in that.”
Striving for a more simplified lifestyle prior to Christmas, I cleared out a good bit of stuff around the house, stuff that frankly, we just don’t need, even if some was on a great sale. Besides, my girls do not need the latest, newest toys to have fun, for they really enjoy playing in cardboard boxes and being with their momma outside. Nor do they need to wear fancy, smocked dresses or, goodness knows, matching outfits everywhere they go. As a matter of fact, I did not buy one thing these last few weeks during all the sales, and let me tell ya somethin’, IT WAS TOUGH because of that persistent, nagging thought, “Oh, no! People are going to think you, Laura, are a worthless mother because next year the girls won’t have new Christmas dresses, only the other eight to wear (most still with tags),from the year before.” Yep, I AM crazy, but I AM sincerely trying to live by words Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:25, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about yourbody, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
Furthermore, I am going to stop looking for all the things I want to change about my house and be thankful for the home God has given me. On this subject, while visiting a friend recently, I immediately began to tell her all the things I loved about her house, and with each compliment, she replied, “Oh, but I love this about your house.”REALLY?!? Why is it SO HARD for us to be satisfied with what we have been given, not just at Christmas, but ALL of the time?!? To put it plainly, maybe all of the excessiveness and overabundance in our lives chokes out the gratefulness and contentment that God longs for His children to have. Believe me, I never thought I would say something like this (just ask my Mom), but most of us possess not only a lot of everything we want but perhaps too much of everything . . . Don’t take me the wrong way — I am not asking God to make me a godly example by stripping away practically everything I have like He did to Job, but I KNOW the more I look at what others have and do compared to myself and the more I depend on more stuff and activities to make me happy, the less happy I am.
So this year, I encourage you to do a few things: 1) Pray and spend time with God and let Him rock your heart. 2)Find your own word or words to live by in 2018. 3) Encourage me! I need all the help I can get through Scripture, words, and advice. While I am generally upbeat, the unplanned, the lack of activities on my calendar and living more simply is going to be really hard for me — have you seen the end-of-the year sales — what is going to happen if I don’t add another black sweater to the two others in my closet?!? 4) Live with genuine joy, finding it in small, everyday things and in EACH OTHER — IN PERSON, NOT just through social media. It came to my attention recently that we are a nation that is more lonely than ever, more dependent on medication than ever, and more likely to commit suicide than ever, EVEN THOUGH we are more connected than ever. My family and friends know I love to write letters, for I believe the written word is truly powerful and can do amazing things for one’s spirit. I also really enjoy one-on-one time with people, and that is hard to schedule, especially with small children, but valuable relationships are made when we take the time to cultivate them. If you cannot get away to spend time with friends one-on-one, then invite them and their family to your house, grab a picnic and meet them at the park or work out together at the gym — whatever works! Fight the urge to simply send a text, or squeeze in a five minute phone call. Those things are good check-ins, but do not let that be your only form of communication. Meet with people to ask how their Christmas went, maybe over coffee while your kids play mermaids, instead of simply reading their status.
In closing, remember that you are loved and are special, and while it is usually easier to say we love God, (talk the talk), it is definitely harder to walk the Christian walk, especially with so many distractions and temptations constantly barraging us. But if we commune with the LORD daily and surround ourselves with other Believers for encouragement, God will put in us a heart full of joy, peace and gratitude. My verse for a Happy New Year in 2018, is John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” What’s yours?