For as long as I can remember I have been that nerd kid who absolutely loved getting new school supplies. I would burst with excitement over the sharp wood-scent of new pencils and the crisp bindings on composition notebooks (and later in college, slender, trendy moleskins) with all of their empty pages which seemed to me to hold whole worlds of possibility. I have always been a lover of the written word and even though most of my notebooks would soon be filled with notes on lectures and computations and random doodles in the corners when I got bored, each blank book seemed to me to hold secrets that I had the power to unlock by simply setting my pen to the paper. The beginning of a new school year was full of opportunity.
Even in college, I loved the first day of classes when we’d get our syllabi and I would carefully copy due dates and assignments into my planner as though they were treasures just waiting for the right moment to be revealed. I loved the first lecture where I would use a new pen and have dramatic internal struggles about what the first worthy thoughts were to put on the page. (I was always a little anxious about marring the page with something silly or insignificant.) The first day or even first week of lectures would be preserved in careful notes written in my most precise handwriting and a mistake was like a horrible blemish on that perfect clean slate. I’ve even been known to tear a page out completely and recopy the whole thing rather than leave the ugly stitches of a crossed-out word on one of those first sacred pages. Of course after a couple of weeks my handwriting grew sloppier, my carefully printed words slipping into a crazy mixture of print and cursive, my full sentence outlines turning into bits of words and phrases scattered haphazardly across the page, my syllabus a portent of doom rather than the exciting excursion into knowledge it had once seemed.
In many ways, I have a habit of looking at a new year in the same way. There is the initial excitement of the fresh start, as sweet and clean as the crisp pages in a brand new notebook. There is the anticipation of the beautiful things that might be discovered in the coming days and weeks of this year. There is the hesitation over how to begin. How to place that first mark on something so pure. So altogether holy. Unblemished. But inevitably, it does begin. Usually with a dozen promises to myself, to God, to the world, of all the projects I will begin, the habits I will form or break, the ways I will be better, more, different. Things I want to accomplish. Things I want to change. The parts of me I want to discard like yesterday’s newspaper. The parts I want to sink more deeply into, attributes I desire to weave more deeply into the fabric of my being. The parts I want to take up and try on for the first time and see if they fit. As if any of these things could happen simply because one day rolled into another and we called it 2012.
I find the idea of New Year’s Resolutions too simplistic to be helpful. The idea that I, by sheer force of will and determination, could decide in one day to change the patterns and habits that I’ve been developing for years simply by resolving to do so. I mean, think about it. It isn’t as though I had a magical revelation on December 31 of all the things I wish were different and am now making my first genuine effort at changing them. I am constantly aware of things I want to change, from practical things like being more organized to heart issues like being less selfish. In most cases, they are things I have already tried (many times) and failed (many times) to change. Like my careful notes in my notebook during the first few weeks of a new school semester, I manage to keep some of my resolutions for a few weeks. But slowly and surely (or more often honestly, pretty quickly) I slip back into my old routine, my selfish habits, my less healthy choices, my overly busy lifestyle.
For me, New Year’s resolutions quickly become a reminder of new ways that I have failed. Failed to do what I said I would do. Failed to change things that need to be changed. Failed to keep that clean page of the new year free of angry ink-scarred blemishes. Over the past few years I have stopped resolving altogether, at least officially. But this year I am thinking something new. I am thinking that my failure doesn’t have to be such a negative thing. I’m reminded of another post I wrote many months ago about how ultimately, there is no such thing as ultimate failure, there is only feedback. And looking at it from that perspective I can see that my string of failures are valuable in several ways. At the most basic level, they help me eliminate something that does not work. A “solution” that did not have the intended result. But on a spiritual level failure is a stern teacher, a reminder of my brokenness, of my inability to fix myself, even when I can see what needs to be done. Failure gives witness to my sinfulness. To my need for salvation. And then I remember the great news. The news we celebrated just last week. Salvation is here. God with us. Hope is here.
So instead of making resolutions this year of things I will do or won’t do, I’ve decided to frame it in terms of hopes for this year. The greatest of which is that God would make himself known. That in my weakness, my utter inability to fulfill any of these hopes, I would see any progress as the work of the Giver of every good and perfect gift. That I would see any small successes as an outpouring of grace. That I would understand that in my weakness, I am utterly incapable of making the changes I want to see in my life. But my weakness is the perfect avenue for God’s strength. With that in mind, these are the things I am hopeful for in this year. These are not things I think I can accomplish and they are not items to check off like a grocery list. These are ways I hope to see God work in my life, but hopes I hold with open hands knowing that God’s desires for me may be different than my own.
My hopes in this year:
1. Develop a greater dependence on God and a greater desire to hear his voice and to obey it, both individually, and as a couple
2. Cherish and invest in the friendships God has given me
3. Practice being a better listener. Be slower to speak.
4. Give more than I take. Especially with my husband.
5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle- eating well and continuing to run even after my half marathon is over
6. Take time to write. Hopefully finish something I’ve started. It’s been years since I’ve completed something besides a blog post.
7. By this time next year I would like to be in a job or school situation that is more fulfilling, even if it isn’t my ultimate “dream job.” Take a step closer to understanding what God made me for.
8. Bake more! : ) And practice the gift of hospitality that goes along with that.
9. Live an adventurous life, less hindered by fears that disguise themselves as “practicality.” Take opportunities to travel, to love strangers, to try new things, to learn from unexpected teachers.
10. Find ways to spend time playing with little children (in the non-creepy way!)
Great stuff!!! I need to subscribe to your blog. Did you guys find a church yet?
I would love to have you subscribe, thanks for reading! There’s an email subscription button on the side bar (I think!) And yes, we found a church that we LOVE. It’s called Vintage 21. We actually had decided to visit there right before I asked you for suggestions. We went that Sunday and we both immediately were like, yes. This is it. They have several small campuses in Raleigh and one in Durham and the pastor is young, but very intelligent, very knowledgeable and very humble (a tough combo to find sometimes). He is able to speak theologically about things and preach deep spiritual truths on a Sunday morning without losing people who may not be as well-versed in Christianity. And he has an enormous heart for social just and especially for being the love of Christ in our city so there are a lot of opportunities to serve the poor right where we are, a big emphasis on adoption and care for orphans and widows, as well as a missional focus. The church has a vision of being deeply rooted within their community and building lasting relationships with the city. Within two or three weeks we felt like we were in a family we belonged to and are in a community group with lots of other couples around our age who have been incredibly welcoming to us. We also love the worship which is basically a guy with a guitar and another with a banjo and harmonica singing their hearts out in this old wooden chapel we rent out in the middle of downtown. It is a very genuine, unpretentious church and we feel so blessed to be there, even when Tyler’s messages leave us totally convicted. : )
Ok. I thought I was the only one who loved new notebooks and the first day of school! I always looked forward getting my supply list in the mail! Loved how you related that to a new year… so beautiful and true! And I like your list of hopes… way to go! And, you’re training for a 1/2 marathon?!
I’m glad we are alike in our nerdiness too! And yes, I am running the Disney Princess Half Marathon through Disney World in February! I am so excited! Also afraid of dying…but mostly excited!
Just found your blog Lily! You commented about mine and I didn’t even know you had one! Love it. Now I have to go back through the archives….more to read 🙂
Such a heart warming post and a great precursor to your 2014 NY post. The consistency is encouraging and so authentic. God Bless you both xx Rowena
Aww, it’s so cool that you went back and read this. It was a trip down memory lane for me. 🙂 Thanks for reading and for your kind words. Blessings on your New Year!
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You’re welcome Lily. Blessings for you too xx Rowena