The beginning of a new year always fills me with hope and excitement. It’s like a big reset button, the promise of three hundred sixty-five days of new possibilities. The crazy holiday season is over, life starts to go back to its normal pace, and I find myself longing to reevaluate, reimagine, and reorganize.
I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. Mainly because I know myself and know that no matter how passionately I proclaim my determination to change, that willpower will melt away within a few weeks when I’m once again bogged down with real life. Then I always feel like a failure and give up.
So in recent years, I’ve learned to tone down my all or nothing, I MUST DO ALL THE THINGS PERFECTLY RIGHT NOW OR I WILL HAVE FAILED AS A HUMAN BEING mode and just choose one or two things to focus on.
Last year, I focused on the words “consistency” and “grace.” I wanted to be consistent in the things I did, part of which meant choosing things I could do for long periods of time without burning out. I also chose to focus on “grace” because I usually beat myself up when I fall short instead of giving myself the grace God has already given me.
While I still want to keep those words in the back of my mind, I thought of two new words for this year: “Content” and “Fearless.”
I struggled a lot with contentment last year.
Okay, to be perfectly honest, I’m still struggling. It’s probably something I’ll have to work on all my life. But I’ve found it especially challenging for the past several months.
Our house is old. It’s hot in the summer, sometimes unbearably so, and cold in the winter. This past summer, when our community was burning all around us from the Carr Fire, the thick, acrid smoke came in through our swamp cooler, giving us headaches and making us nauseous. For much of the summer, we had to stay with my parents in their air-conditioned home to escape the heat and smoke.
Our house is also getting a little small for us. We have almost no storage (no garage and tiny closets), the washer and dryer are in the kitchen, and my two oldest girls share a room that, frankly, would work a lot better for one person … especially since my middle daughter is a collector, an artist, and a crafter, all three of which lead to her having an extensive collection of stuff. I have no idea where she gets that from. 😉
I also just have to mention that we have one bathroom and three daughters. Which will be fantastic in a few years here when we have three teenagers.
My body is getting old and flabby. I decided to try going to the gym on my own last year instead of taking a class or working with a trainer. That was mildly successful, but not my greatest idea. Then, this past fall when the girls went back to school, I decided to skip the gym and just work out at home.
That was an even worse idea.
My clothes are getting too tight. My chin is starting to look suspiciously jowly. I’m aching in places I didn’t when I was in better shape, and I’m out of breath after minimal activity.
Food is just annoying. I wish I could ignore it completely, or eat what I want without it affecting my body shape, or hire a personal chef. Sadly, this won’t be a possibility unless we suddenly strike it rich. Or if someone invents food that tastes like chocolate and pizza but is as healthy as broccoli.
And then there’s the whole writing thing. It hasn’t been the smooth sailing I naively thought it would be when I first jotted down those sample introduction chapters in 2010. Life and its responsibilities happened. My idea needed revision after revision. Every submission was rejected.
Sometimes, when I’m in a bookstore like Barnes and Noble, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of books already in the world and wonder why on earth I think I’m qualified to add to them.
Because of these struggles, it’s been easy to look longingly toward the future and grumble about the present.
As a kid, I always liked the song “Someday my Prince Will Come” (in spite of Snow White’s wonky vibrato). As I got older, I realized the silly and sometimes dangerous idea of sitting around waiting for Prince Charming to come sweep me off my feet and solve all of my problems. But often, I find myself falling back on that mentality when I’m feeling particularly frustrated with the now.
Someday my book deal will come.
Someday my perfect body will come.
Someday my new, bigger better house will come.
And then I’ll be perfectly happy.
Sure, it’s okay to dream. The world would be a dull place if we never dreamed about what might be someday. But it becomes an unbearable place if we spend so much time dreaming that we forget to look for the everyday wonders around us.
For instance …
My house is old, which means my girls can hang whatever they want on the walls and paint their rooms whatever color they’d like.
My house is old, so if my girls spend the whole day crafting at the kitchen table and accidentally spill the black paint all over the floor, it’s no big deal to clean it up and keep crafting.
My house is old, so I can have my pets inside without worrying too much about all the things they will ruin. (Although I have my limits.) 😉
My house was hot, smoky, and miserable this summer, so my wonderful Hubby decided to invest in room air conditioners and install them. The relief was instant and my stress level went down 90% as soon as the cool, non-smoky air filled the house. This gave Hubs the chance to be an everyday hero and gave me the chance to appreciate him even more.
My house is old, but at least it’s still standing. So many of my friends and family can’t say that anymore after the Carr and Camp Fires. 🙁
My body is flabby, but I have the opportunity to take a Skinny Jeans class at the gym again and get back in shape.
My body is flabby. It isn’t where I want it to be right now, but I can still be a caring wife, a loving mother, a nice neighbor, and a good friend even when I’m packing some extra pounds.
My body is flabby, and I struggle with my relationship with food, but this gives me compassion for those caught in other addictions. It helps me connect and sympathize with other people who struggle to stay at a healthy body weight instead of looking down on them. When we have a scale or non-scale victory, it’s a shared triumph.
I still don’t have a published book, a book deal, or even an agent. But I have so many amazing friends I’ve met through my writing that I never would have met otherwise.
I still don’t have a published book, but I’ve learned so much about writing, creativity, and patience through all of this.
I still don’t have a published book, but I can work hard to use my time wisely instead of watching Netflix and thinking that I could totally write a better story than this.
I still don’t have a published book, but I get to go to TWO writing conferences this year to learn, grow, and connect with other people who talk to imaginary characters all day.
I still don’t have a published book, but I’m learning a lot about depending on God and trusting Him to fulfill my dreams in His time and in His own way.
I may not be where I’d like to be, but I can be content.
In the meantime, I can get up off the couch where I’ve been pitifully dreaming about the future and DO something to change what I can.
I can cut back on extra spending, pay off more debt, and save towards a bigger, newer house, just in case.
I can go to my gym classes consistently, make good food choices, and keep myself accountable through my gym instructors, WW, and my friends.
I can keep writing the stories burning on my heart when I have a moment to sit and type, even if it’s only 500 words here, 200 words there.
I can trust that I’m where I need to be right now, and even if things don’t change, God has a reason for it.
And if the time comes and opportunity knocks, I want to move forward fearlessly and boldly pursue the dreams God’s written on my heart.
What about you, friends? What are your hopes and dreams for the new year? My prayer is that you would all find ways to be content while working towards the dreams God has written on your hearts.
I’ll be right there with you, cheering you on as we race toward the finish line together.