Today has been quite a busy day. We have cleaned this house from top to bottom. I’ve been on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathtub and dusting baseboards. The whole of Christmas-decked halls has been packed up and put away, which is a pretty big change for me since I usually fight tooth and nail to leave it all up well into January. We have cleaned out cabinets and cleared off counters. My arms ache so bad from all the scrubbing that my brain had to pep talk me into typing this post. I just couldn’t go to bed on this new day of this new year without getting a few thoughts out first. (Not completely sure if it’s all the scrubbing or if I’m catching the flu from my little one. Please, oh, please let it be the scrubbing.)
For the past few years at this time, I’ve chosen one word that would sort of define what I felt God desired to speak into my life for the coming year. I guess I thought if I had just one word….one single bunch of letters forming a meaningful unit…that surely I could manage to apply that word. It’s not like it was a list of stuff. Not like a bunch of resolutions that would never make it past the third week of January. It was just a word.
But honestly right this second, I can’t even remember what my word was for last year. Or if I even had one for that matter.
I think I was drawn to the vagueness of one word. Just one word should be easy to apply throughout the year, right? Apparently not.
So this year, when I started to think about my one word, I felt like God was clearly saying, “No more vague. It’s about time we got specific.” And you know what? And when specific gave me a feeling of relief, I was kinda surprised. Because vague is usually how I roll. By keeping things vague – not setting any really specific goals, not nailing down a really intentional plan, not “boxing myself in” anything that’s on purpose – it means any failures would be pretty vague, too. Like did I really fail, since I really didn’t set a goal or have a really solid plan the first place?
I did still ask about the one word, but instead of one (and in addition to a little list of 2015 to-do’s), He gave me four:
Less stuff. More love.
I’m sure there’s lots to be unpacked in those two little phrases, but initially here’s what I see.
I am overwhelmed with stuff. Clothes and knick knacks and pots and pans and Pyrex and books and I feel my eyes crossing just thinking about all the stuff I own. And all the stuff my kids have. And all the stuff my husband has. We have so much stuff. And it’s that much more we have to clean. And that much more space needed to keep it all. And that much more wasted money or time or whatever else spent on all this stuff. Less stuff indeed. This year will be the year of simplicity and downsizing in the stuff department.
And love? Yes, love. If there is one question I have asked God over and over in this past year, it is this: How do I love others well? Love my children well, love my husband well, love my friends and family well, love the stranger well, love my enemies well? Show me, Lord, how to love my neighbor. Teach me how to pray for my enemy. After a conversation with my very wise friend Daniel at church this past weekend, I started to realized that I spend quite a bit of my prayer time, my journal time, my one-on-one with God time just pleading for God to change me. For Him to fix this in me or remove that from me. If I think back and read back over my journaling, it’s a lot about me. So I’m thinking maybe God’s trying to help me get my mind off me and onto others. More love. For them, for Him. Yep.
I also have a list. It’s not a huge one. And not a hard one.
Here’s what I have so far:
1. Intentionally make a date night with the hubby once a month. I know for some people, this one is a no-brainer, but for us it hasn’t been. This past year has been a pretty rough one for our family and so I guess date nights were probably the last thing we’ve thought of. But it dawned on me yesterday that I’ve missed my husband! So yes, please. Once a month date night. Check.
2. Read the Bible – the whole thing – this year. Something you’d think I would have done in my 30 plus years of walking with Jesus, huh? It’s not that I haven’t ever tried before. I’ve had lots of started attempts. (I’ve probably read Genesis more than anyone else I know.) But I’m an impatient one and so my efforts at reading the Bible have been like a lot of things I do. I’ve tried to do it in as little amount of time as I can, but then I fall behind, get frustrated, and quit. This time will not be rushed. I will savor the Word of God. Bit by sweet bit.
3. Memorize scripture. This is the other thing I’ve had a tendency to rush…and thereby be unsuccessful at. I give myself a few days to memorize a piece of scripture and then move on to the next one, but then I end up forgetting what I learned because I didn’t really let it sink in good. So I will be spending two solid weeks on each scripture. Sometimes it might just be one verse, sometimes it might be several. But regardless to whether I have it memorized in three days or if it takes the whole two weeks, I will not rush. I will stay with the same selection for the full two weeks. I will also keep this simple. No big chunks or whole chapters, just one or a few at the time.
4. I will pray less for myself and more for others. One of the many little tidbits I gleaned from my conversation with Daniel is the reminder that God has my back and He will take care of me….and I can find rest in that. And resting in that means that I can focus my prayers on others – my family, my friends, my church, the world, those who’ve never heard the gospel, missionaries, and whatever else and be assured that God will cover me. That I don’t have to beg and plead and pray the same prayers over and over a million more times. I can intercede for others with the same desperation that I’ve prayed for myself, and be at peace knowing that Jesus is interceding for me. I’ll write my prayers in my journal and will intentionally pray for at least one person/place/thing each day.
5. Be intentionally thankful. I love Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. (If you’ve never read it, you should add it to your 2015 reading list right now. Do it.) So much joy to be found in being thankful. I’ve kept gratitude lists before and will do that again this year. I will write down at least one thing each day that I’m thankful for…one unexpected blessing, one sweet moment, one kiss from God…something to remind my heart where every good and perfect gift comes from.
6. Keep it simple. I have such a knack for complicating the snot out of something, whether literally or imaginatively (as in thinking something is going to be way harder than it is). In the past, in an effort to be organized (ha!), I’ve had a journal for my thoughts, a notebook for prayer requests, a gratitude journal, etc. So for the sake of simplicity, I will have one journal. Everything goes in there. Prayers, scriptures, gratitudes…all of it. One thing to carry around instead of three or four. This particular bit also applies to the whole “less stuff” thing. I got a pretty decent head start on the house today and will keep that going this month. I think January will be the purge month. Just get rid of stuff I don’t use, can’t wear, don’t like and clear out the clutter. I don’t really need 6 rectangle Pyrex dishes, right?
So that’s what I have so far. In all this however, there is GRACE. Grace to screw up. Grace to start over. Grace to rethink. And the neat thing God showed me about this list is that it is unfinished. Usually when you think about making resolutions, you think about changes you intend to make for the whole year. But this list is just for right now. And next month, maybe we’ll add something else to the list. Maybe we won’t. I’m sure there’s going to be some getting healthy and exercise in there eventually, but for right now, I guess we’re starting with the heart.
So Happy New Year to you and yours. I’m looking forward to a year of simple…less stuff, more love.
What about you? Do you do the one word thing or make a list…or just pass on resolutions altogether?