It’s time to turn over a new leaf–start something new–resolve to change. That’s what we do at New Years.

Resolutions can be frightening and stressful, so I am seeking to be positive in my approach this year. Instead of focusing on what I should eliminate (lose weight, blah, blah, blah), I thought I’d focus this year on what I can add (hopefully, not weight). I landed on adding one resolution each month, although I expect a good bit of overlapping. I don’t need to participate in all of these all year long–I just want to get them started. Of course, this means I must naturally eliminate other things to make room for the additions to my life, but instead of stressing over cutting back my schedule, I will let the less important daily time-absorbers cut themselves. I will probably have to write a blog later about how that didn’t work, but oh, well.

Categorically, everyone can make these 12 resolutions, and our lives will all be richer just by attempting these endeavors, regardless of how successful we are at them. Here they are–

  1. Add the arts. Take a painting class, pick up an instrument, sing kareoke. This month, I am considering joining a city choir to sing Handel’s Messiah because I’ve noticed that my voice is beginning to lose its range and tone. I’m probably not even a soprano right now; I’m more like Jimmy Durante. I’m also considering a drawing class. I love to draw! Not only does it make me feel like a kid again, which is invigorating, it relaxes me. I think that’s the key–find an artistic outlet that relaxes you, and it’s probably the one you did most as a child.
  2. Learn for the pleasure of it. We all know that keeping an active mind is necessary for brain and body health. January is a good time to revisit that truth. Pick a couple of kindred spirits and plan some mental activities together–museums, galleries, symposiums, book clubs, study days. Take a class. Visit the library. Just schedule in time to learn something you don’t have to know for work. One of my faves is book club. I’m an avid reader anyway, but book club has helped me stay on pace of reading at least one book for fun every month. Typically, I have several books going at once, but meeting for book club makes sure I finish and start a new one for the sheer joy of reading and not for the information.
  3. Join a humanitarian aid organization. We can all do more for the underprivileged. I give money to missions, go on mission trips, and sporadically feed the homeless and donate to charity, but this year, I want to become more intentional about helping others. I’d like to join a group that knows and meets the needs of the underprivileged. I don’t really know poor people. I just smile at them. That needs to change. Stay tuned.
  4. Learn to do something you should’ve learned to do when you were young. For me, it’s dancing. I never learned to dance. That’s bad for a girl, I know, but in my little sheltered Baptist upbringing, that was pretty normal. I’m tired of faking my way through a slow dance and sitting out for the fun stuff. This needs to change. I’m going to be prepared for the next wedding I attend.
  5. Do something you’re afraid of. Tackling fear is perhaps the most liberating self-help plan out there, especially if you attack your fears head-on. You don’t need to read a book on fear or attend a support group. You just need to do something that you typically avoid doing. My list of fears is long, but here are a few I’ve tackled thus far in my life: ride really high roller coasters (yuk), forgive a great offense, take a job I’m not qualified for, confront a friend who’s hurt me, visit where my parent died, write a book, start a blog, share a personal tragedy, send my child alone to another country, speak to a couple thousand people. You see where I’m going with this. We all have hard stuff we avoid, and we have to do a little digging to find out what it is, cause we’re good at burying it. Yours might be speaking to strangers or inviting someone to dinner. I have those, too. No fear is silly. Fear is fear. And it needs to be kicked in the teeth. I have 2 fears that come to mind right now–the dancing in public thing, which I mentioned, and also teaching on the internet. I’m having a class filmed (for You Tube unless I botch it completely) while I teach it, starting in January. I’m so freaked out, I’m feeling nauseous just typing this. (What’s the worst thing that can happen? A few people I’ll never meet watch me and write nasty comments. On the internet. For anyone to read.) Puke.
  6. Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it. If you’re honest with yourself, you know this is hard to do because forgiveness of deep hurt is a continual process, not a once-and-done “I forgive you.” Forgiveness takes intentional grace toward the offender and an honest look at reality; sweeping hurt to the back corners of my heart and mind only gives bitterness and fear power in my life. I recently uncovered a hurtful correspondence, which caused me to relive an experience I thought I had overcome. The result was setting up further protection for my heart, which felt selfish and un-Christian, to be honest. But necessary, given the history. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you make yourself a punching bag. It means you set yourself free and you offer the offender freedom, if they are brave enough to take it. Forgiveness prevents me from punching back.
  7. Experience nature. Something spiritual transpires in my soul whenever I am outdoors and especially if I’m moving in it. I love walks, gardens, the ocean, and the mountains because when I’m there I connect to God and gain clarity about my life. I think clearly in nature, so I try to experience it regularly. You will probably agree that this is hard for any suburbanite. My nature time mostly happens like this: morning jog/walks, working in my yard, going to the beach on vacation. Not enough! Here’s my new resolution: I want to take up hiking. I actually love to hike. Ironically, I only hike on vacation, even though I live 1 hour from the Appalachian Trail and 15 minutes from Brown’s Island. I have hiked mountains in Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri, and Maine, but not really in Virginia. (We’ve spent almost 2 decades driving to sporting events for our kids instead.) Yet I see hiking in my future. I already have hiking shoes for land and water, and I intend to use them. I think I’ll rent a cabin for us and schedule a hiking vacation. Maybe 2 days worth, to start. Perhaps I could also add some Saturdays . . .
  8. Fast something, if even for one day/month or one month/year. Our church is doing a one-month fast in January. We started today. Fasting is hard but incredibly revealing. By eliminating something I love, I open my heart and mind to absorb new truths and new priorities. I free myself to hear from God and respond unselfishly because I’m presently learning to be less self-absorbed. This month, I’m fasting from Facebook and sugar. This is not going to be pretty. (I just longingly bagged up cookies from last night’s party and put them in the freezer.) But I know it will be good for me.
  9. Renew an old acquaintance. Why do Christmas cards and Facebook bring us such joy? Because we like to stay connected with people we never see, and we have limited time. One of the best things I’ve ever done was attend my school reunion this past year. I’m going to the next one, whenever it is, and I’m taking my husband. And I’m thinking about a birthday reunion for my childhood friends. We all turn 50 this year. Ladies, expect some correspondence after January.
  10. Join a small group. Book club, prayer group, Bible study, MOPS, garden club, PTA, Bunco, whatever. Join a small group where you will see the same several people at regular intervals for the whole year. You don’t have to schedule anything, RSVP, or ask who’s going. You just go, and everybody else goes, and you eat together, and everyone talks at the same time. It will change your life. If your present small group has disintegrated, don’t be hurt by it. Just start a new group. That’s how life works–life is a continually emerging and adaptive process. My life has been enriched by participating in so many kinds of groups. Presently, my group of choice is my book club. I am obsessed with book club, and it’s no longer about the books, although I’m a literature nut. Book club is about the freedom to geek out, to experience something I love with someone else who loves it, to live and breath a culture with a few soulmates. Books reveal longings, and shared longings are the substance of deep friendships. That’s the point of any small group. Don’t be afraid–join one!
  11. Choose a theme for the year. A few Januarys back, when I was so overwhelmed by stress that I quit my teaching job, I chose a theme word for the year, just to remind me why I was making such a radical decision. The word was “Simplify.” I shared it on Facebook, and some anonymous angel friend made me a beautiful sign with the word on it, which I now keep over my kitchen sink. I filtered every decision that year through this word. I have chosen a theme word every year since. This morning during my devotions, I read Psalms 145 and 147. The words “satisfy” and “fulfill” leaped out at me. I’m interviewing both for the job of theme word for 2016. I’ll let you know who wins.
  12. Read the Bible. Last year, our family decided to read the One Year Bible together. You read a designated section of Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs each day. We started off great and fell off the wagon hard. My oldest son was the successful and consistent reader. Everyone else was playing catch-up or feeling guilty. Now remember, my husband and I both teach the Bible a lot, so we were reading and studying the Bible regularly; but we didn’t exactly complete the One Year version on top of our other studies. I’ve decided to finish it this year, just keep plugging away while I do my other Bible studies. It doesn’t matter how you read the Bible, just read it regularly. Nothing has impacted my life as much as reading the Bible for myself. The words are power.

Well, that’s it. A very long blog to start off the year. Twelve ideas to keep us all busy. Write something below and tell me what you think! Share your own resolutions and priorities! If you comment on Facebook, bless you. Just know that I won’t see it until February.

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