Hello everyone! Happy New Year!
After an enjoyable time with family, I am glad to be back here on the blog, especially as we have a shiny new decade upon us.
I’ve been giving some thought to the idea of new beginnings and about how much I love them so. I’ve always loved starting things over. And not in the best way.
You see, I am a Paper Crumpler.
What is a Paper Crumpler, you ask?
Allow me to explain.
A Paper Crumpler, (the term I completely made up this week), can really manifest itself in two ways.
On the one hand, picture a person feverishly scribbling away on a paper, surrounded by twenty crumpled-up attempts. The current paper is deemed “not good enough” as well and is then crumpled up to join the rest. It is a frantic, heart-sickening scramble to measure up, usually accompanied by hot tears and misery.
I deal with this type of paper crumpling, but not usually at the beginning of January. Instead, I am particularly drawn to the second mode, which has a very different feel.
Another scene and another person. This time she is holding a paper filled with notes, instructions, doodles, and diagrams. It is complicated and tedious to navigate. The lure of a fresh blank page is more than she can bear. And so, she crumples up the boring old page and leaves it in the dust. It is an adrenaline-infused rejection of the less-than-exciting parts of life, usually accompanied by important things falling through the cracks. The new page soon fills up, eventually becoming as mundane as the previous one, and the cycle continues.
Being a Paper Crumpler does have it’s advantages. In health, we can have a steady commitment to improvement. A willingness to go back to the drawing board again and again. A pioneer spirit, ready to brave new worlds and start afresh.
But at the crest of a new year, we have to steady ourselves and make sure we transition well.
Three Steadying Thoughts
1. Not everything is changing.
Maybe this is a year of new beginnings for you. A new season in life. A time of adventure and climbing every mountain.
But I’ll wager to bet that not everything in your life is changing.
Things like laundry. Dishes. Your children. Your spouse.
Oh yeah, those things.
We don’t actually have a blank page in front of us. Before we chart an entire new course, we need to pause and make sure our priorities get transferred over to our new page.
Consider these questions:
What important things are not changing in your life this year?
If you were to list out what matters the most to you, would your New Year’s Vision include those areas?
Be mindful that your shiny new ideas don’t crowd your priorities off the page. Ask the Lord for renewed vigor for the areas in your life that are not changing. You are in this season for a purpose.
If we do not focus on what this season requires of us, we will miss our chance to do it well.
2. Make resilience your goal.
The new year acts as a natural catapult to get us going and I am very grateful for it. But there is more to change than a good launch. We want to keep going.
Nobody starts a January habit that they intend to quit by March. Things just happen. Life doesn’t go as smoothly as our New Year’s Resolutions anticipate. But that doesn’t mean you should crumple up your paper in failure.
Make resilience your goal. Recover and try again. Keep going steadily towards the mark.
The good news is, we are not left alone to transform ourselves. God has more interest in our transformation than we do, especially if we are aiming to be more like Christ, and he will empower us to change.
Our biggest work will be in surrendering ourselves to God, asking for his help, and bringing our choices under his lordship, moment by moment, again and again.
3. Get yourself some scaffolding.
The hearty resolve you feel right now is going to fade. If your voice is the only one cheering you on, you are in trouble. You need to get yourself some scaffolding. Here are my best suggestions:
If you have a tendency to isolate, this is particularly important. It takes time to build relationships with other people. It can be scary, especially if you have baggage. But there’s a part of your healing that can only be done in community.
Not sure where to begin? Just start showing up places. Tag along with a social friend to their group activities. Reach out to someone and get together. Find a support group for your particular struggle. Over time, it will get easier to open up. You will wonder how you ever survived without it.
Have you thought about going to counseling before?
Yes, it will cost money. And yes, it can be inconvenient to fit into your schedule. But if you are continuing to carry around unsorted baggage, stuffing it back into the closet rather than dealing with it, you will not make the progress you long to make.
Going to counseling was, hands-down, the best decision I ever made. And you know what, I still have her number a button-push away. I completely anticipate going again. Why? Because counseling/therapy is a powerful scaffold. One that impacts every other area in my life for the better.
Another great tool is reading books on areas you are working to improve.
First and foremost, the Bible is our best source. If you only have the time and energy to read one thing, start there. After that, go by what fits your needs.
Did you notice when I mentioned laundry and dishes earlier? Ben Franklin might have said “nothing is certain but death and taxes,” but I don’t think he did the laundry or the dishes.
If you, like me, are a “wow, look at the sky!” *trips over a sidewalk crack* kind of a person, then you might need scaffolding about the practical parts of life. Dana K. White is an author I love and she has written several very helpful books, including How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind and Decluttering at the Speed of Life. They are practical, funny, and make fantastic scaffolding.
You might try biographies of people you admire, inspiring fiction, business books, weight-loss books, homeschooling books. You might consider subscribing to my blog. I’ll be here week in, week out, keeping myself on track and I’d love to have you along. 🙂
Basically, you want to surround yourself with words that inspire you when your inspiration is sputtering.
I love the mobile nature of podcasts. I can listen to A Slob Comes Clean while I am cleaning the bathroom, Hope*Writers podcast while I am on my afternoon break, The Next Right Thing while I am driving kids to choir practice. Look them up in your podcast app, or find others that fit your needs. There’s nothing like consistent audio input to keep you moving. (This applies to audio books as well.)
Your Calendar and Phone Alarm
Do you want to do more _____? You name it. Then put it on your calendar. Set an alarm on your phone. Make a placeholder so you actually get to it. I find that if I am whimsically interested in doing something, there is very little chance of the stars aligning.
Attending a workshop, reading your Bible, establishing a family game night, or cleaning out the yard. Whatever it is that you really want to do more of, use your calendar and phone alarm as tools to get you there.
Out of sight, out of mind is a real thing. Sometimes I completely forget what I had adimately planned to focus on. This is just the nature of our brains.
If our plans are only invisible thoughts in our heads, it is very easy to misplace them.
Get yourself some note cards and write reminders to your forgetful self. I found a massive office bulletin board at a thrift store and it sits on my desk, covered with visual reminders. Scriptures, quotes, pictures, bills, etc. Things that will trigger the thoughts I want to remember to think and get me back on track.
Start making a personal collection. You will thank yourself later for the scaffolding!
So there you have it. My thoughts on the new year.
Hopefully this reflective pause has given some ideas to help you navigate this new page of 2020. Transfer your priorities first, focus on steady effort and resilience, and put some scaffolding in place.
It’s going to be a good year, I can tell.