I know it's a little early for a New Year's post, but you have to understand that I begin thinking about the new year as soon as the weather turns colder around Thanksgiving. I enjoy the holidays immensely, but the thing that excites me the most and has me contemplative and hopeful throughout the holidays year after year is that I am on the verge of a fresh start. A whole new year. 12 glorious months, 4 quarters, 52 weeks, 365 days in which to become a brand new me. This year I will be better. By the end of this year I will have become so much wiser. Thinner. Stronger. More creative. Out with the old, in with the new. Change excites me. Firsts excite me. January 1. Mondays. The first day of summer. "This summer is going to be different!" I say. I am such a sucker for things like "Be More Spiritual in 21 Days" or "Revamp your Life in 30 Days or your Money Back". :)
What I am learning is that inherent in these resolutions of a better, newer, improved me within certain constraints of time are at least two very serious mistakes: 1) the illusion that I am in control of the start and end times of my growth, and in what areas I am growing; 2) the lie that, as I am today, is not good enough. Obviously I need 21 days of change to be enough. I will be happier at the end of this year if I am smarter/thinner/more creative/etc. etc. etc. These two are deadly mistakes, killing joy and robbing people of contentment and self-love year after year.
A few truths: 1) I am constantly a work in progress. I am a work in progress on December 31, and still in progress on January 1, and still in progress on March 22. . . you get the picture. The Lord is in control of this process, not me. The Bible doesn't say that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it in 21 days. Or 30 days. Or a year. It just says that He will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). It also doesn't say what that work is. I may think I need to work on losing weight, but He knows that what I need to work on is getting my mind off my weight and onto understanding and extending grace. He is in control of both the specifics of the good work and the timetable. And as I was reading in Jonah this morning, God "prepared" a big fish, a plant, and a worm to teach Jonah a lesson. That Hebrew word for prepared means "appointed", "ordained", "assigned". God used really cool things to complete a good work in Jonah. And I bet none of those things were on Jonah's list of New Years Resolutions. "Go to Ninevah" was probably not at the top of his list. "Give Jonah a heart for the lost" was at the top of God's, and within some timetable, probably not between January 1 and December 31, God did that. As for me, 2013 turned out different than I thought it would in so many ways. God had different plans for me than I had. Different lessons than I thought He would be teaching me. And He is still teaching me now. I'm not sure it will be completed by December 31. :)
2) If I can't love and accept myself as I am today, I will not love and accept myself as I am at the end of 2014. If I end the year 10 pounds lighter, more in control of my emotions, and with more knowledge in my head, great. But those things will not make me more of a person or more worthy of love and acceptance. The only thing that makes me worthy of love and acceptance today is the blood of Jesus Christ, and the only thing that will make me worthy of love and acceptance on December 31, 2014 will be the blood of Jesus Christ. Thinner or heavier. Healthier or with a life-threatening illness. Better or worse. God has taught me so much about this in the last few years. For years I thought that working out was what made me worthy. Usually after a having a baby I nearly kill myself working out to get back to the svelte body I feel like I must have to be worthy of love and acceptance. This time it has been different. I haven't been able to work out consistently for almost 18 months. The surprising thing is, I can fit into everything in my closet. I am back to the same size with absolutely no effort on my part. Yesterday I comfortably wore the jeans I wore 13 years and 5 babies ago. God asked me to let it go, and He has shown me that the world keeps turning if I don't make it to the gym. No one has "unfriended" me because I'm not in as good a shape. I doubt anyone but me has even noticed. It has been such a good lesson for me. I will assure you though that this too is still a work in progress. Two days ago I had a day of total self-loathing. I ran into every beautiful, well-dressed person on the planet it seemed. I was wearing old jeans, muck boots and a thermal shirt that had snot on it. No makeup. At home I felt confident. Went to a coffee shop, where I ran into people "out in the world" doing corporate things and knowing the news and having the latest fashion this and that, and I felt like crawling back under the rock I came from out in Somerville. So no, I am not there yet. :) But I am determined to practice self-love and compassion every day until I understand that I am great exactly as I am. Which requires a total rewiring of the brain, from "You belong under a rock" to "You rock". :) I will continue this process. Probably until the day of Jesus Christ. :)
So, what is my "one word" for 2014? CELEBRATE. Celebrate what is. Celebrate what is happening today. Celebrate whatever my reality is in this moment. Embrace it, love it, see it as a gift from God, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). My wise sister gave our family a book for Christmas a few years ago called "Every Day a Holiday" here. This book calls for celebrations nearly every day and we plan to use it. We will celebrate "Festival of Sleep Day" on January 3 and "Thank a Mailman Day" on February 4. We will make up our own days, such as "I Surivived ____ Day" (because I am sure we will need those!), and "I Can _____ Day" (because I am sure we will need those as well.) We will celebrate what is happening and what God is doing, whatever that ends up being.
Do I think New Year's Resolutions are a bad thing? No. Goals are good. Just keep the perspective that you are a work in progress, all the time, and that is okay. Goals met or not. 30 days or not. Say with Julian of Norwich, "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well."