Spins and Soft Landings
Since my late teens, the few last fuzzy days leading up to January are typically spent in frantic reflection and resolution mode. I inevitably will find myself cramming twelve months worth of expectations into a few neurotic hours with pen and paper where I
1. Evaluate what went wrong.
2. Resolve to do better.
3. Reconsider when to start doing better after taking stock of realistic circumstances.
I make a date to remove all temptation. Because let’s be honest. There’s only so much willpower one has when surrounded by piles of Christmas stocking stuffer chocolate and the visible evidence of impulse holiday cheese purchases every time you open the fridge.
And every year, I inevitably encounter a problem called reality.
You know what I mean?
I make some great plans.
I intend to bring my A game in the New Year.
This year will be THE YEAR.
People cheer me on.
And then oops- reality sets in.
For example, did you know Valentines Day is just around the corner?
And according to the Walmart aisles, as of December 23rd, we should already be celebrating this- the next great holiday for chocolate bingeing and indulgent dinner experiences.
If the sales departments for our nation’s top retailers know anything its that most of us will be celebrating in anticipation very shortly.
I probably won’t want to be left out of the celebration.
So pass the chocolate heart box.
Then after Valentines Day maybe I’ll re-evaluate because by then warmer months will be coming and I’ll want to look good for the months when it becomes a heat stroke health hazard to lounge in baggy sweaters and leggings.
But Spring spells ice cream and Easter spells Cadbury mini eggs and pretty soon, I’ll be reasoning that swimsuit wearing isn’t really my thing anyway… And leggings work great in air-conditioned environments (aka my native habitat).
And I’ll probably come to this conclusion well before August:
Life’s too short to not enjoy sugary indulgences. Better luck next year.
Except, there’s that whole “I want to be healthy to live my best life” thing which will nag at me with constant reminders of my long lost resolution.
Face To Palm.
And I’m not just talking sugar fasts or exercise routines. This hamster wheel of great intentions gone awry has the tendency to show up anywhere in my life I want to improve on.
How about you?
Do you ever have great intentions derailed by momentary temptations?
Do you ever get lost in your turbulent mixed feelings?
Do you ever feel constantly bombarded with noise and distractions that keep you from doing the things you really want to do?
It’s easy to get lost and lose our focus.
It’s easy to give up and give into feelings of defeat and despair.
I recently read something by Abraham Lincoln that grabbed my attention. He said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”
Just one day at a time.
That is a great thing.
The truth is, I love the idea of New Years and fresh starts. I love the idea of starting off with a clean slate and trying again. New Years feels special because it’s a universal time of renewal. We all feel it during this season. But the truth is that deep down, we were all made to embrace the opportunity for newness every day. We were created to see every day as a new possibility to start again.
And that is what grace is all about.
Philip Yancey is one of my favorite authors. He wrote a book called, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” In it, he says, “Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family.”
When we fall off the crazy spinning machine of good intentions, let’s resolve to fall on the soft embrace of the grace God gives us - a love that is unconditional- and not on the hard edges of shattered expectations and disappointments.
So on a practical level, when I find that long lost half gallon of Tilamook ice cream in the back of the freezer, if I lose my resolve and choose to take a scoop, I do not need to eat the whole container in self-loathing misery. But even if I do, I can embrace the softness of grace, forgive myself and move on.
And in that place of safe grace and acceptance, I will start again.
A couple years ago, I was working on what felt like a HUGE project. I didn’t know where to start and I was in over my head. It was the kind of thing where I didn’t even know what kinds of questions to ask.
On a quest for insight, one of the generous experts I talked with offered this piece of advice about starting something, “In the end, all it boils down to is people writing down what they are going to do and then actually doing it.”
One day at a time.
In fact, Jesus advised to take life one day at a time. “Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will have its own worries. The troubles we have in a day are enough for one day.” (Matthew 6:34).
If it’s important enough for Jesus to say it, maybe we should pay attention?
We don’t even know what tomorrow holds. Carson Daly lost two parents last year and he recently talked on the Today Show about his changed perspective on life. He talked about how often we are prone to think ahead and plan our days but instead, we can turn our focus to a more macro level. We can be thankful for what we have here and now. Here and now, is where we decide the next best step and what we’re going to do with the choices right in front of us. We don’t need to wait until tomorrow when the circumstances are perfect (because news flash, they’re will never be a day without temptation this side of heaven). But today.
Today when the chocolate ice cream is still in the freezer. Today when you checked your social media more times than you said you would. Today when you yelled at someone you loved. Today when you said something you wish you hadn’t. Today when you’re not perfect and neither are your circumstances.
Here’s my New Years’ tip, to us friends: Let’s pause and evaluate our options. Let’s choose what’s best and move in that direction daily- faithfully but not perfectly- and with a whole lot of grace.
Let’s ask Jesus for help recognizing grace to receive and extend… and pray for the ability to laugh at ourselves when we fall and start again.
Note: As I finished reading this to my husband, I was about to spend an hour on writing projects when I realized we forgot to work out today as intended and noted in our schedule. “Aww shucks,” He smiled, “I guess that’s what your article is all about.”
P.S. Another truth. My hope is to send out my January newsletter to email subscribers later this week. If you haven’t signed up, please take a moment and do it! I promise your email is safe with me and I won’t bombard your inbox with junk. This monthly-ish newsletter is my way of sharing encouragement and happenings with all of you. You can sign up here if you haven’t already. :)