Monday, January 17, 2022

A Gentle Start To The New Year

 "And what does January hold? Clean account books. Bare diaries. Three hundred and sixty five new days, neatly parceled into weeks, months, and seasons. A chunk of time, of life . . . those first few notes, like an orchestra tuning up before the play begins."


I love a fresh start, and January always arrives with the promise of that. For years now, I've spent the greater part of the week between Christmas and New Years, planner and journals open and ready to embark upon a list of lofty goals, only to find soon after that I've already fallen out of rhythm. 

I was deep in the throes of disappointment with myself recently, when I recalled that I hadn't listened to the latest podcast that my dear friend, Heather, provides for us in each week at Hearth and Home, appropriately titled, Easing Into The New Year. In it, I was happy to discover that she is prone to taking a slower step into the changes that the promise of a new year brings, especially in light of the fact that for her, as well as for many of us, come January 1, we are still deep in holiday celebration. Since I observe the liturgical calendar, Christmastide spans through January 6, so it isn't until the days following the observance of Epiphany that our decorations even come down. She was good to remind us that there are no hard and fast rules about how or when we embark upon the changes that we want to make in our lives, if at all. It caused me to consider, perhaps for the first time, how much weight that date, January 1, holds for so many of us. I'm not sure there is any other time, save for perhaps a birthday or anniversary, when time is marked so sharply. In any other regular month the 30th or 31st slips seamlessly into the the 1st, and we don't give it a second thought. But come December 31, you had better have your ducks in a row come morning, if you hope to achieve anything in the coming year, or so we've been prone to believe.

Listening to her podcast breathed new life into my "I might as well just go ahead and give up now" bones. I realized that rather than failing too quickly, I was setting myself up for failure with the timing of it all. I'm simply not ready, come January 1. It's a new year, yes, but it's still Christmastide, my favorite time of the year, and while the calendar pushes us forward to "new beginnings", I'm still resting in the glow of the end of a most beautiful season. I'm much more rested and ready to embark upon my goals mid January, say, around the 15th. Enough time to celebrate Christmastide through the Epiphany and ease, as the church calendar suggests, back into "ordinary time".

This year we've also had several snow days. On January 3 we got a good, wet 6", then a dusting on the 6th, which was nothing, really, and then yesterday we got 3" of snow but a good amount of ice on top of it. Now, I realize that 6" is nothing for many of you, but bear with me here. You're talking to a Texas girl who lived forty years of her life with very little snow and longed for the want of it. I can probably count on one hand, if my memory serves me correctly, the number of days school was cancelled because of  snow when I was growing up. So, yes, now as full grown adult, I have reserved the right to make up for all the snow days I was deprived of in my childhood.  It is a silly thing, I suppose, but I'm taking them, none-the-less. We took them when we homeschooled, as well, since here in Virginia they rarely last more than a few days. Homeschooled, or not, I was absolutely not going to deprive my children of the very thing I wanted and missed as a child. So, with all that, what I'm really trying to say here, is that my want for observing "snow days" has likewise extended my time of rest and leisure, and failed in promoting a sense of urgency to begin checking off the boxes in the achievement of my goals. And speaking of goals . . .

Even in this, I'm being gentle in my ambitions this year, focusing on tweaking rhythms and rituals that I set in place, and some that I have yet to set in place, at the start of 2021, a few even back in 2020. I learned about A Rule of Life a few years ago, and wrote out my own, which I'll be sharing in increments over the coming months, and it has been life changing for me. If you are not familiar with A Rule of Life, you can download a workbook to write your own, here. (This is the resource I used). I would also suggest listening to this series, Unhurrying With A Rule of Life. To be honest, I only wish that I had discovered this sooner, but I'm happy, at least, to have discovered it at all. Writing out my personal Rule of Life has helped me to define the margins and prioritize what is important. It is the scale by which I measure my days, weeks and months. It determines the outcome of every yes, or no, because it has aided me in defining what is important and necessary, and to guard it. For the most part I've done well in implementing it, but there are a few components, that I'll be discussing over the next few days, that I have yet to put in place and I'm hoping to make them a regular part of my life rhythm in 2022.

My word for the year is "YEARN", which I found interesting since my word for the year in 2021 was "SEEK", and I felt that I didn't really give it the full attention and intention that it deserved.  It was almost as if the Holy Spirit was saying, "OK, since you didn't fully embrace SEEK last year, now you get to YEARN." But what I do know is that yearning has definitely been seeded deep in my soul.  I think Tozer said it better than I in this quote.

"I want the presence of God, Himself, or I don't want anything at all to do with religion. 
I want all that God has, or I don't want any."


I was so moved by that quote when I read it that I promptly wrote it out on the first page of my Bible. For most of my adult life I've struggled to make my faith my own, and not piggy back off of my parent's beliefs or even feel, necessarily, that I needed to adapt to my husbands' belief system, although I did that for several years. For me, it's been more of an unlearning, than a learning. Separating "religion" from "relationship" has been monumental for me, as I'm sure it is for most people. If you want to know someone it helps if you have a relationship with them. Elementary, perhaps, but it took me a lot of years to understand that about God (L-O-N-G story!). But since becoming a follower of Christ, and especially over the past two years, my faith has become not only very personal, but has grown by leaps and bounds. To say that I truly "yearn" for God, and want it all, is probably an understatement. I am also quite sure that I do not, in my humanity, fully grasp what to yearn for God even looks like. I got a little taste of it last week when I was having a bit of a dark, lonely day, and for the first time in I can't remember when, I cried. It was in that moment that the word "yearn" came back to me, and I felt ashamed that I often do not long for Him the way I long and hurt for other relationships in my life. In that instant I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to keep this memory fresh in my heart and to help me hurt in my want for God as deeply as I was hurting in that moment. I also stopped hurting, not surprisingly, and stop crying instantly after this revelation. Oh Lord, let my want for nothing in this world exceed my longing and yearning for you!

And so my friends, I want to encourage you today in this. If you, like me and so many others, began on January 1 with a list that you now realize you haven't looked at since and are feeling guilty about it, don't! Stop, pray and regroup. Look at that list again. Maybe you're trying to achieve too much. If there are five things on your list and that seems like too much, consider if, perhaps, you should  narrow that down to three. Or instead of just writing them all out, prioritize them and set a date to begin working on the first thing on the list. Once you have that accomplished or in place, then, and only then, move on to the next. Also consider if your goals truly reflect what is important to you and to your family. Are these things that you feel are authentic, or just something you picked up somewhere that sounded like a good idea? Always remember, that even good things, are not necessarily the best things for you and for your family. Try to keep that distinguished. 

As fitting as it would seem, this was the first thing I read this morning when I opened up Instagram.

"Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. 
Tip toe if you must, but take the step."


I've decided to tip-toe slowly into 2022, I hope you'll join me!


Everydaythings said...

Really enjoy reading here, but must add that i find that snow animation very distracting and annoying as it covers up some words when reading. Other than that thank you for those links im going to investigate them right now

Kimberly Lottman said...

@Everydaythings - I'm glad you're enjoying your time here, and thank you for the reminder concerning the snow. I love winter and snow, and I've added it to my blog around Christmas every year, sometimes leaving it through the season. But this year, for whatever reason, it's making my computer run a bit warm when I have my web page up. It's an old mac, so I'm not surprised. I'd been meaning to remove it for a couple of weeks now, but other things took priority. But I have now, though I'll warn you, come next Christmas you'll likely see it again. It wouldn't be winter her for me without it, for a little while, anyway.

Kimberly Lottman said...

@Everdaythings - I remembered that I had another code that hopefully isn't quite as distracting for you, and one that my laptop seems to like. :)

Everydaythings said...

Thanks Kimberly im re reading the whole post now, and that new snow is almost invisible, and much more reader friendly so, thanks for that. Have a great day!