originally posted New Year’s 2016…
My social media feeds have been inundated this week with ideas for how to make this year my best year yet by offering new year’s resolution ideas that span diet and exercise programs to reading the entire Bible in a year to book-reading programs to simply being more productive. Taking control of the new year before it takes control of me. The suggestions go on and on. And then, of course, there is the perspective that we should be working to better ourselves every day, all day—not just for the sake of a new year.
Friends, some of these ideas really resonate with me. They sound so full of promise and the possibility of good things happening. But here is my confession: I find all of this overwhelming. I think of last year and what a beautiful, hope-filled, difficult, heart-breaking year it was. And I’m exhausted. Yes, I would love to say that this new year is going to be amazing, and I would love to be able to contribute to that with a new diet and book list and goals of being a better Blythe. But no amount of effort on my part can draw me out of the weariness I feel from this year’s grief. No amount of effort can protect me from grief to come.
Working hard to create an improved version of myself…
I just don’t have the energy for pumping myself up to follow a plan in order to convince myself that I’m not quite as broken as I feel. Because, friends, I feel quite broken. Yet that doesn’t mean that I can’t live life more intentionally, seeking Grace to understand how God is pursuing and healing my hurting heart. So as I’ve browsed all these articles on setting new year’s resolutions, I’ve prayed. I’ve prayed, asking God to reveal how I can be more of a Gracemonger. And this what I’ve come up with:
1. Be Still. My husband Aaron has had this week off, and because he is home to help, I am not alone responsible for the children and the household 24/7. We cleared the calendar and limited screen time and have had very few social engagements. I had no idea how much I needed this. I had no idea what it would mean to have so much quiet time, time with no obligations, time for thinking, processing, dreaming, praying, spacing out. I feel more like myself again after the craziness of this year. We are always so busy, and it takes a toll. Let’s be more intentional about creating/finding/stealing moments to be still, to decompress, to be quiet, to sit before the Lord and share our hearts. To encounter Grace in the still spots of life.
2. Be Loved. The days that I believe how much God loves me as I am are my good days. The days that I trust Jesus when he whispers his love for me are the days that my heart is filled with hope despite my circumstances. The days that I know that God loves me and sees me as he sees Jesus, beloved and worthy, are the days I live with certainty in the coming redemption of my heart and body and this world. These are the days I see Grace around every corner.
One of my favorite books of all time is Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God. In this book, Brennan, the master of communicating God’s furious longing for his children, talks about the reckless, raging confidence that comes from knowing the God of Jesus Christ. He suggests that we pray a passage from the Song of Solomon:
How would our lives change if we fiercely believed this? How would our lives change if we prayed this and asked God to convince us of this truth? How would our perspectives change? How would our interactions with others change?
3. Be Joyful. We talk about this a lot in the Mundane Faithfulness Community, what it means to choose joy. Just 2 days after Kara went Home, Mickey used this phrase to describe how Kara’s children were doing; she simply said that their default was to choose joy. What happens as we travel through life, experiencing pain and regret and betrayal and loss? Why do we lose that beautiful, God-created default to choose joy? Why do we allow ourselves to be convinced that joy cannot be found? Because, friends, I assure you that as children of the King, we can always find joy. We have the promise of Home, the promise of redemption, the promise of our God making all things new. It is a gift of Grace that God has given us that even in the darkest of circumstances and the most painful of situations, joy is always an option.
4. Be Kind. I want a calm heart. I want to believe that God loves me passionately. I want my spirit to be filled with joy. But I am remiss if I keep these treasures to myself. I am learning that the simple act of being kind can do more than bring a smile—it can change a life. It can make an eternal impact. I’m not talking about being nice—I am talking about the sacrificial act of noticing someone else’s need and moving toward them in love to fill it. Kindness means seeing someone who might otherwise not be noticed, recognizing something that might otherwise be overlooked, and engaging this person in order to love them in a way that makes sense to them.
Being kind is not easy. It often requires us to forfeit something we love, whether it’s a physical item or time or comfort. What would it mean to give up an afternoon to care for someone who is sick or babysit children whose mama needs a break or make a meal for a tired family? What would it look like to put our phones aside and play a game with our children? What would it mean to our marriages to look for ways to be intentionally kind to our spouses? Dare I suggest that simple acts of kindness not only make an eternal impact on the receiver but also on the giver? Maybe being kind can help someone else encounter Grace in the midst of their own hard.
Friends, rather than wish you a happy new year, I will pray that this new year, your hearts will overflow with God’s love for you, bringing joy to your days and kindness to those around you. Let’s seek Grace in the mundane and hard moments together.
How was last year wearying and heart breaking for you? In what ways do you see God drawing you near to him? Do any of these ideas spark your heart or give you fresh ideas for recuperating and living with more intentionality? What would it look like for you to choose joy in the midst of your own circumstances? How can you be a Gracemonger in the new year?