4 Tips for KEEPING Those New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions get a bad rap, but I LOVE them. I even make New Month resolutions (sometimes). That level of intensity is not for everyone, you do you. But as a self-improvement junkie I have learned some helpful things over the years, whether you are a resolution nut like me or not.

1. Be realistic and honest

Know what you want, why you want it, and whether or not you are willing to make the necessary changes. Lose weight/get fit is a common resolution, but if my desire to eat what I want continues to outweigh (ha!) concern about my health or appearance, I will never actually make changes in that area.I am considering some form of “keep my house clean” as a resolution this year. It has been on my long list for years (I am seriously not great at housekeeping), but rarely makes the short list. Mostly because of this principle: when I am honest with myself I just don’t care enough about it. Especially not when I had little constant-mess-makers home with me all the time. And in the two years I have worked outside the home again, I have mostly cleaned the things other people see, just before they are going to see them. But as I work on my list of 18 things that will make me happier in 2018 (from Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast, more on this soon!), I know that having less clutter and dirt would make me happy. Especially the areas like my bathroom that only affect me, since those tend to be last on my list, always. I just need to figure out some manageable steps, and am trying to be realistic about my desire and commitment to change.

2. Keep your resolutions short and simple

Even into my 30s when I should have known better, I was making lists of 10+ (or 20!) things I wanted to change or improve. And I regularly didn’t make it a week with even one. First: My focus was spread too wide to actually accomplish any one thing. Second: If your list is long, you likely have things on there you’d like to improve, but don’t actually care about enough to make the necessary habit changes (see number one.)

I am making a list of 18 things that will make 2018 happier, but there are only a few traditional resolutions on there. The list is filled out with tasks (like “clean out my closet monthly”, “find a system for regularly getting the photos on my phone into some physically enjoyable form.”) or things I want more of (sleep) or less (wasting time on my phone.)

My actual resolutions are few, specific, and things I actually care enough about to change.

3. Schedule it

Whatever your resolution is, put it on the calendar. And honestly consider what you need to say NO to in order to say YES to your new habit (or vice verse, what positive thing you will do in order to say no to a bad habit.)

I have already failed at this. I intended to do daily yoga in January, but I didn’t plan a time in my day to do it. So I am already behind 2 days. I can’t think I will do daily yoga (or daily anything else) without planning a place and time in my schedule for that to happen.

I am going to follow my own advice (from the Advent Devotional) and jump in today rather than trying to catch up. And I am picking a realistic time to do it (mornings on weekends and holidays, just after my younger two go to bed on work days.) That should get me on track to keep that resolution (which I am REALLY excited about!)

4. Start where you are and embrace a GROWTH versus an ALL OR NOTHING mindset

Real growth happens when we make daily deposits, over time. Small, regular habits accumulate, and consistency trumps random. But our tendency is to jump in making sweeping changes without addressing smaller habits that make up that lifestyle. For example: If I rarely or never exercise, and my New Year’s Resolution is to work out for an hour daily, how likely am I to give up? Quite.

This one is really hard for me, because I am 100% all-or-nothing. Matt says I am a light switch, either all in or all out (he is a dimmer switch, slowly inching his way up. This is a very entertaining marriage dynamic.)

I have to try hard to remember that small changes add up, because making a resolution to do something small or incremental seems super lame to me. But when I make big goals and can’t keep up the pace, I give up completely, forgetting that anything I am doing counts toward growth and change, if I do it consistency.

The idea of habits has been really helpful for me. I try to remember that anything I do or don’t do regularly is a habit. Two years ago one of my resolutions was to floss daily. I occasionally skipped, but on the second day I would remind myself that I was in danger of sliding back into my habit of not flossing.

As I think about health and wellness goals this year, I want to keep a growth mindset: Any healthy choice is better than not caring at all, ignoring or shaming my body. I also need to keep this habit principle in mind, not bullying myself or depending on rules and schedules, but asking, “Am I making a habit of ignoring and mistreating my body? Or am I habitually nourishing and caring for myself?”

Happy New Year! And cheers to making resolutions we can KEEP!

Have you made resolutions this year? What helps you keep your new year’s resolutions?

Advertisements

Welcoming 2018: A Prayer

This is the year the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I welcome You in this new year, Lord, and I want more of You. Remind me of how much I need you. Make me small in my own eyes, but remembering I am greatly loved. Keep me close to you, always.

I receive this new year from you, Lord. I welcome all it brings, whatever it brings.

I trust you. Whether this year holds that which looks good and easy, or that which seems hard and harsh, I trust You.

I release my thoughts, plans, and expectations for this new year. I release my illusions of control. I release my tendency to manage outcomes (for myself and others). I release even my hopes and dreams.

I welcome Your control, Your outcomes, Your hopes and dreams for me and for the world around me.

In this new year I welcome unexpected twists and turns. Not my will, but Yours be done.

As I walk the path of 2018, let me walk in love. Let me walk in faith, not fear. Responding rather than reacting. Gentle with myself and others.

And let me walk in hope. Not hope in my plans or desired outcomes, not even in the hope that You will do what I want.

In 2018 let me walk in the great hope that you are with me, always. And let me walk in the hope of redemption: that your goodness is big enough to bring goodness even in things that are not good, in all this year holds, whatever this year holds.

Amen.

Thank you so much for joining me here on More Than Eyes Can See

I’m beginning to process the blur that was 2017, and I am so thankful for you, my readers who have joined me in this little corner of the internet. When I started blogging again, I had three goals:

I wanted to learn to write on a deadline, not just when inspiration struck. I decided I would write twice a week, every week, whether I felt like it or not. I set aside Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, thinking time was my biggest hurdle. Friend, I wish I could tell you setting aside the time to write made me actually write. What it did was show me my very worst distraction and procrastination tendencies. But I also learned how to push through those tendencies, and how to set myself up for success (most of the time. Biggest tactic: Don’t pretend you’re going to write at home where there are 800 things asking to be done, plus a super comfy couch calling you to nap.)

I wanted to learn to write for an audience. I’m still working on this one, writing to a specific reader and being brave enough to put my writing out into the world. I have some plans for the new year to learn and grow in this area. But I consider this a success because in the beginning I just wrote and didn’t tell anyone, afraid to post on social media, worried people would think I was trying to be Beth Moore or something (my mom thinks I’m the next Beth for sure, Hi Mom!)

I wanted to write regularly and grow as a writer. I didn’t know how to measure this one, and wasn’t sure I had changed as a writer at all. And then I decided to revamp some things I wrote a few years ago. I was HORRIFIED, reading some of my older blog posts (from this and previous blogs), embarrassed at my own long-windedness and severe abuse of the exclamation point, parentheses and ellipses. (Y’all: I love an ellipsis. And I probably still overuse the parentheses.)

Looking back over this year of blogging

I have appreciated the encouraging comments I’ve received on here, on social media, and in real life. It is so good to know that my work is encouraging you, and I am thankful for the connection and the way you affirm my gifts.

My number one favorite thing this year on More Than Eyes Can See is definitely Waiting on God: A 4 Week Advent Devotional. THANK YOU for joining me on this Advent Journey, whether you bought the PDF or are receiving the daily emails.

I love writing about Faith and God and Life, but my most popular posts (by a LOT) were about parenting.

2017 Top posts on More Than Eyes Can See

1. WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT BEING A STAY-AT-HOME-MOM

2. TALKING TO KIDS ABOUT THEIR BODIES AND S-E-X

3. A MOTHER’S DAY MESSAGE FOR ALL WOMEN

If there is anything you’d like to see more (or less!) of in 2017, drop a comment or send me an email, I would love to hear (though if you’re asking for fewer parentheses, I am not sure I can actually do that.)

 

2017 Thank You (Insta)

 

When You Don’t Really Slay at Life

I just finished listening to a podcast series celebrating women and it really bothered me. AT the end of every episode, every week: Unrest.

I love the podcast, I love women, I love celebrating women, and I personally celebrate a few of the women being interviewed, so what is my problem?

I’ve been working on the spiritual practice of noticing. Noticing my feelings, noticing my reactions, noticing my thought patterns. Not judging or evaluating, but noticing and asking God and myself: What is that about?

At least in part my problem is that as I listen to all  that these “Girl Bosses” have done with their lives, I can’t celebrate them because I’m busy comparing myself and not measuring up.

These business owners and world changers and over comers were also each introduced as “totally slaying.” Slaying at their jobs, slaying at ministry, slaying at life.

Am I slaying at life??

First: What does “slaying at life” mean anyway? Second: Is this, slaying at life, something I’m even called to?

I’m a hard worker and a grown up woman, and I’m doing the best I can with this life I’ve been given. If I feel like that’s not enough, like I need to be “slaying” at something, is that the voice of my Father?

Ultimately I wonder if my desire to “slay at life”, if my competitive reaction to the interviews I’ve been listening to, comes from my desire for greatness?

Make no mistake: I want to be great.

I’ve always been driven by success. I don’t always want to be the greatest, but I do want to be great. I think this is why fear of failure has bound me so tightly – I need to succeed. I listen to what other women have done, I hear them described as “slaying” and I want to slay at life.

So I turn (again) to what Jesus said about greatness.

 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

(Matthew 18:1-3)

Today I think I’ll lay down my desire to slay at life.

I’ll try to surrender my desire to succeed, to win, to be great. And I’ll look to the children in my life and learn Jesus’ definition of greatness.

When I look to children, I see:

Curiosity…

So I’ll foster a sense of wonder, and ask for eyes to see all that I don’t know. I’ll choose to be curious about others, about myself, about this wide, beautiful world we’re living in.

Trust…

So I’ll trust in the goodness of God and look for goodness in the world around me. I’ll try not to demand answers and explanations and understanding before I move forward, before I try, before I live.

Joy in simple things…

So I’ll rejoice in the simple sacraments of : Hands held around a table. Bedtime kisses on sleepy cheeks. Changing seasons. A favorite song.

Today I’ll lay down my desire to slay at life. I’ll  still be a grown up, I’ll expect to work and I’ll be responsible, and I’ll love excellence (because it’s the right thing to do, and also because that’s how I’m made.)

But I’ll also cultivate a childlike spirit, playful and curious and thankful.

I don’t always feel like I am slaying at life. But maybe that’s not the point, anyway.

When You Don't Really Slay at Life

 

Photo in my images is by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

I Will Be Satisfied.

In India this summer, I loved getting to meet people from various religions and learn what they believe and how that faith affects their lives. But I also loved and was greatly impacted by watching and learning from my Indian brothers and sisters, believers in Jesus.

One Sunday evening we had the opportunity to visit a small home-church gathering. This handful of  Indian Christians meet in an apartment in a part of town where very few Christians live, to sing, and pray and study the Bible together each week. It was beautiful.

A young man with a guitar led our singing, interrupting the songs periodically to pray. He thanked the Lord for His presence. For their American guests. For the gift of meeting together. For God’s Word and wisdom and guidance. For His goodness.

As he prayed and sang, this young man would periodically pause and say, Continue reading

On Knowing When to Speak and When to Be Silent

I have a voice.

Sometimes it can be loud, and I hate being shushed. My voice is one of the things that makes me feel like I am too much for people. Being loud makes me feel like I’m not feminine or soft or “Christian womanly” enough.

I have a voice.

Because of my life, job, different opportunities and even my (sometimes too loud for people) personality, people listen to me.

I have a voice, and I am not afraid to use it.

I want to speak up for the oppressed. I want to draw out the silenced. I want to encourage the discouraged, speak truth into lies, speak life and value over myself, my family, those close to me, and anyone who crosses my path.

I have a voice.

But sometimes I feel silenced. It can feel like a woman has to speak louder than is socially acceptable in order to be heard, and I don’t want to be “that woman.” It feels like my little words have no impact on the lies and fighting and noise in the world. Even in prayer, it can feel like what I want, what I’m asking God to do in my life and in this hurting and broken world, are just words thrown to the wind.

Faith is a necessary element to Christianity. But faith in what? I want to grow in faith that God hears me.

And as I grow in certainty that He hears me, I want to grow in claiming Him as my first audience. I want to go first  to Him with my fears, concerns, joys, and worries. Before I let something rattle around in my head for days and weeks, before I pour out complaints and fears to a friend, before I share a praise or celebration online, I want God to hear my voice.

Give ear to my words, O LordConsider my groaning.
Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.

Psalm 5: 1-3 (NASB)

In a world that is loud, how do we practice silence? How do we avoid contributing to the noise and strife and outrage-fueled peaceless-ness?

In a world that silences us, how do we learn to speak up? To claim our right to consent, own our own preferences, opinions, feelings? How do we claim our right to speak in a world that doesn’t want to hear our voice?

Perhaps this is a purpose for prayer, a reason why we pray.

Not to get what we want, not for answers, but to teach us.

Perhaps prayer is a place where we can practice believing we are heard.

Perhaps if I submit my voice to God first, I will gain confidence in being heard, valued, loved by my heavenly Father.

And perhaps then I will learn when to speak, and when to be silent.

I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:1-2 (NASB)

When to Speak, When to be Silent quote (1)

Photo in my images is by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for India

I traveled home from India by myself, needing a few extra days before the boys started school.

I have always loved traveling by myself, finding that I hear from the Lord and am able to process in a deeper way while traveling. Also, I love airports. And as any parent knows, after traveling with kids flying solo feels like a dang vacation.

My flight was at 3:30 AM on a Friday morning. I spent Thursday saying goodbye to dear friends in India, giving and receiving gifts, and having last sweet moments with our group of college students. I thought when they left our hotel room at 11 that I was seeing them for the last time. But as I arrived downstairs, I saw big grins on the faces of all the hotel staff and found our whole team waiting to sing me a song and say one last goodbye.

Matt and our friend Abhik dropped me off at the airport at 1AM. I breezed through check in and security, since hardly anyone else was there besides a sweet family who were also traveling through Qatar to Chicago (on their way to Seattle, so they had a longer trip ahead of them: small children.)

That left me with a couple of hours to kill in the Kolkata airport. Knowing I needed to stay awake, and wanting to take the time to think and process over the past 3 weeks, I opened my journal and thought through all that I’d learned and seen in the 3 cities I’d visited. The universities, slums, gardens, rock quarries, malls, the wide variety of places we visited. I wrote about the friends I made, the welcome I received, the things I’d learned. I wrote about the weather and the food and the beautiful people of Kolkata, where we spent the bulk of our time.

Then I thought back to our first days, with the Hope Venture. I thought about what it meant to me, returning to a place of privilege and comfort, after seeing such sorrow and hardship, but also hope and help. I thought about the precious Indian friends I made who do not turn their eyes away from the hurting and broken in their neighborhoods and city. And I asked myself what I could do in my own neighborhood and city for the hurting and broken.

Here is the prayer I wrote that morning. Continue reading

Better than Jesus? (Pentecost & the coming of the Holy Spirit)

 

We want a Jesus we can feel and see and touch, we want to know that He is with us. Over my years with college girls, I’ve lost count of how many have said to me, “I know God loves me, but I want something more. I want a love I can feel, arms around me, a hand to hold.” I have felt that myself.

And over the centuries, the words of Jesus echo

I am with you, always.

On Sunday the Christian church around the world will celebrate Pentecost, remembering the day the resurrected Christ fulfilled His promise to send a Helper, a means through which God’s people could live always with His presence.

 

The disciples had Jesus. The presence of God right in front of them. They could see, hear, touch God.

But Jesus said there was something better. Better than Jesus? Better than God right in front of them, God they could see with their eyes, touch with their hands, hear with their ears?

“I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you. (John 16:4-7, The Message)

Do we believe this? I see the promise right there in my Bible. But it doesn’t seem possible that what we have  is better than what the disciples had. Could it be possible that Jesus has kept His promise to be with us, always?

As we long for something more, something better, is it possible that we already have what we need?

Pentecost is not a holiday I have ever celebrated, never mentioned in my church tradition. And I wonder, why not? At Christmas, we celebrate God with Us. Through Lent and Easter, we meditate on what Jesus did on the cross. But Jesus Himself says something better is coming. Continue reading

God does what He wants {Psalm 115}

I’ve been thinking about idols lately.

Last week I prayed Psalm 115. It starts off so lovely,

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth….”

But verse 3 takes a turn, announcing

“Our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases.”

Not exactly a characteristic of God we tend to paint on rustic wood hangings or put on artisanal coffee mugs.

When we want God to do what we want, is it a form of idolatry?

But that gets at the root of idolatry, doesn’t it? We want a god who does what we want. Continue reading

Faith, Public Opinion, and the Cool Kids Table {Thoughts on James 2}

 

When I was in the 6th grade I got made fun of for my clothes. I was smart and shy and I had Wal-Mart brand shoes. Stacy Edwards came back from the bathroom one day and told everyone I was a loud pee-er. To this day, when I use public restrooms, I try to “pee quietly.” Whatever that means.

My 9th grade best friend was a bass violinist named Lori whose family took me to church, and who was a good and faithful friend. Sophomore year, I had 4th period with kids from the popular crowd, who invited me to eat lunch with them. I stopped spending time with Lori and our studious, steady friends, now seeing them as a social liability. I had a shot at acceptance with a group I’d always felt outside of, and I took it.

What if I’d never been made fun of for having the wrong clothes and peeing wrong? What if I’d chosen to stick with friends who were loyal and kind rather than chasing acceptance and popularity (which always stayed just out of reach anyway.) Continue reading