A Time for Resolve

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven .” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

A new year begins tomorrow, and with it comes a host of traditions from which you can choose how to observe it. You can go old-school and dine on pork and sauerkraut, or just chill with some hot wings and Doritos. You can party ’til dawn, or make a quiet toast to 2015 at eleven and then ring in the year by going to bed at a responsible hour. You can resolve to make things happen this year, by golly! – or you can assert your coolness and declare that this New Year’s Resolution stuff is sooo ten years ago.

Those who choose the latter option generally cite one of two major reasons for eschewing this age-old practice: (1) Making a resolution is a recipe for failure, as doing so guarantees that you will break it; or (2) Waiting until the new year to improve is for the weak-minded, since we should ALWAYS be striving to be better…and besides, a new year is just numbers on the calendar anyway. Frankly, I can see the logic in both arguments, and my resolution-making history is quite checkered due to consideration, at different stages in life, of both lines of reasoning.

A few years ago, though, I decided something: I am not too cool to make New Year’s resolutions.

First of all, I’m just not cool, and I’ve learned to embrace that. More importantly, however, I see value in using a set time each year to evaluate my approach to different aspects of life and identify where I need work. After all, we don’t reserve all our gratitude for Thanksgiving, but when November comes, we make a point of being more mindful of how we’ve been blessed. We (hopefully) express appreciation for our loved ones regularly, but when somebody’s birthday rolls around, we take time to make sure that person feels special and valued. If you follow Christ, you hold His birth, death, and resurrection close to your heart every day, but on Christmas and Easter, you set aside extra time to celebrate those events.

So I’m not giving up on New Year’s resolutions just yet. Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t made a lofty list of Twenty Things to Accomplish in the quest to become a New and Better Me (I did that once, and it tanked, largely because I misplaced the list)…but I do have one or two areas in which I have resolved to be more intentional. And for me, at least, a new year seems like the perfect time to start.


Somebody Who Understands

For about eight months now, I’ve been dabbling in some amateur psychoanalysis – an unexpected, but fascinating perk of keeping a blog. For subjects, I have my readers (comprising, admittedly, a miniscule cross-section of the general blog-reading public) and for statistics, I have data indicating the number of “views” for each post.

Of all the topics I’ve addressed – music, technology, grammar, travel tips, motherhood, and more – I’ve found that the most widely-read posts have been the ones about seemingly commonplace experiences. Like changing after you’ve had children. Or being told that your problems are insignificant. Or feeling inadequate next to everybody around you.

Why do we – I include myself here because I am similarly drawn to such articles – feel so strongly compelled to read about experiences we’ve already had? We could be reading the news, or learning about an unfamiliar subject, or debating politics with strangers. Yet what draws many of us is what we already know.

I think – speaking, remember, as an unlicensed amateur psychologist – that what we want, more than almost anything, is to be understood. To know that our feelings are valid. To believe that somebody out there knows what it’s like to be us. Even if that somebody is a blogger, or author, we may never meet. We crave that reassurance: yes, it’s hard to be human. It’s okay. You’re not alone.

Want to know something awesome?

That’s exactly what Jesus does for us.

Have you ever thought about what it meant for Jesus to come as a baby? That when He chose to dwell among us, He didn’t pick the richest parents, the plushest accomodations, the best society? Philippians 2:6-7 describes exactly what it meant:

…although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…

Jesus relinquished His right to exercise His full power and authority because He wanted to know what it was like to be us. He wasn’t a parent, but He knew how it felt to be exhausted and unappreciated. He may not have ever been picked last for the baseball team, but He experienced rejection. He spoke only the truth, but He knew what it was to be misunderstood, to have his words twisted and his motives questioned.

You may not be able to touch Jesus, or hear His voice, but He knows you better than any writer, or even any friend, who has shared your experiences. He loves you so much that He CHOSE to experience those things that make life on this earth so very hard so much of the time. We read in Hebrews 4:15 that “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

God, the Creator of galaxies, came as a helpless, needy baby because He loves us. The thought overwhelms me, takes my breath away. And He didn’t stop there. The next verse in Philippians shows us just how far He was willing to go in order to show His love for us:

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The One who chose to experience rejection, pain, and grief — went on to die for the very people who had rejected Him. Who didn’t believe they even needed Him. And it’s the reason He came in the first place. In one of my favorite books, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey says this about Christ’s birth, life, and death here on earth:

“During that wrinkle in time known as the Incarnation, God experienced what it is like to be a human being. In thirty-three years on earth God’s Son learned about poverty and about family squabbles and social rejection and verbal abuse and betrayal…God’s Son had to encounter evil personally in a way that perfect deity had never encountered evil. He had to forgive sin by taking on our sin. He had to defeat death by dying. He had to learn sympathy for humans by becoming one…Because of the Incarnation, Hebrews implies, God hears our prayers in a new way, having lived here and having prayed as a weak and vulnerable human being.”

If you’ve ever wondered if somebody out there understands what you’re going through…Somebody does. And He loves you immensely. It’s why we celebrate Christmas. Because Jesus came to be one of us…to die for us…and, three days later, to live forever for all those who will receive Him.

What good news of great joy!


Fifteen Reasons to Love Winter

Winter – according to the weather people – is coming.

Apparently – you’re not going to believe me, but I’ve heard rumors – some people out there don’t like winter. (I know, right?!?) Anyway, in order to cheer up any of you who might fit that description, I’ve compiled a list of:

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  1. Christmas — of course.
  2. Sledding, snowmen, and snowball fights…what’s not to love?
  3. Cold days and early nights are a ready excuse to snuggle in and watch a few movies.
  4. Discolored spot on your roof? Bare patch in your lawn? Weeds in your flower beds? Snow makes every home look like a picture in Better Homes & Gardens.
  5. When you’re running errands, grocery shopping doesn’t have to be last on the list, because your perishables will be well-refrigerated right there in your trunk.
  6. With nighttime beginning at 5:00, you can take your kids outside to look at the stars, then go inside and play hide-and-seek in the dark…and still get them to bed at a decent hour.
  7. Think about it: Would you appreciate spring as much if it came right after fall?
  8. SOUP.
  9. You don’t have to fight with your kids to make them take advantage of the beautiful day and play outside. Because for a few sweet months, you’re perfectly justified in keeping them inside…right in front of the TV.
  10. Dark mornings mean kids sleep later.
  11. Your chances of getting burglarized are significantly lower than in the warmer months.
  13. Swimsuit season is a distant memory and a far-off dream of the future…so you can eat cookies to your heart’s content, knowing that nobody will be able to tell when you’re wearing sweaters.
  14. As every Calvin & Hobbes fan knows, being cold builds character.
  15. You can always put on more clothes and have it be socially acceptable. You can only remove so many before it’s…not.

So buck up, my friends. Embrace the cold. And the next time somebody complains about winter, offer him or her a cheery smile, a pep talk about being positive, and this list. I’m sure it won’t be annoying at all.


To Put Away Childish Things

Today’s blog post is written by a fellow writer, friend, and oh yes, my cousin. Good stuff.

I recently read a humorous list of things that catch newly-minted adults off guard. Things ranging from making your first doctor’s appointment by yourself, to eating an entire cake just like you’ve always wanted induced many reminiscent giggles (it was an entire bag of marshmallows for me). That list has come to mind several times over the course of the last month. Initially it brought about lots of laughs and a determination to make sure my kids are prepared for the world when the time comes. But even more so, it has brought to light my own foray into adulthood. 

This has been a challenging year for me. Both of my children have officially started homeschool which brings about a empowering sense of accomplishment and determination accompanied by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Unlike most who have at their disposal the luxury of blaming the system for their children’s academic struggles, it’s all on me. If they traipse off to college and fall flat, that’s on me. So we get up each morning at the same time, not because someone makes me do it that way, but because it works best for us. Despite how much I’d love to sleep in some days, or not worry about school, I know that my kids, so young now, are counting on me to teach them how to be good, capable people. 

On top of that, my grandmother, now eighty-seven, has moved in with our family. The sheer volume of the treasure trove that is her life’s story makes it worth it. As a child I always marveled at how strong she is, how capable. Now that I’m older, coupled with the simple proximity of our paths’ daily crossing, I am keenly aware of her struggles. Her loneliness since my grandfather’s passing some ten years ago, her fight to remain useful and relevant, her frustrations over a failing body. And, now, instead of walking away knowing that someone else will take care of it, I know that it’s on me. If she’s unhappy, it’s my job to encourage her, to let her know she’s loved and appreciated because there is no one else who knows her like I do. There is no one else in the position to see her needs…not anymore. Her physical and emotional well-being? That’s on me. 

Moreover, my parents have reached retirement age. The time has come to start putting their affairs in order. It’s time to pass the torch of their property and its heritage to the next generation. But the doing of such is ever more complex. Trying to balance the interests of three children and their spouses is an exceptional challenge, one that I’m in the thick of simply by living near them. Part of me wants to pull for my best interests, but that’s the child in me. The grownup me knows that my father’s desires to preserve what his father earned and was eventually laid to rest on are every bit as important as my mother’s desire to please and bless each of her children fairly and all of this trumps my wishes. So instead, I devise as many options as I can dream up to a variety of ends. I seek legal and tax council to make them as informed as possible. I encourage, urge, and entreat them to make a decision soon. But most of all, I determine that whatever they decide is best, will satisfy me even if I’m left with nothing.

This year, I also informally took on my aunt’s bookkeeping. It’s not exactly a huge undertaking, but it is very telling. She’s also reaching retirement age, and in need of help to keep her household in order. My father was the obvious choice, except that it goes without saying that he won’t be around forever. Again, my proximity to the situation made me the best candidate for the job. So now I make sure her bills are paid, that her heat is on, that she has money for food. I also anticipate looking after her affairs as her health begins to fail and, more immediately, as repairs or issues arise regarding her car, her house, or any number of things that can go wrong from day to day. The child in me was ignorant to the struggle, arrogant towards the need. The adult sees that there is no one else, so her well-being is also on me. 

I don’t say all this to gain sympathy or accolades, though I’ll happily take both. Rather to share my experience of laying the child in me to rest and taking on the mantle of adulthood with its ever-increasing weight. I understand why adults are more serious than kids, why they have more thought-lines on their foreheads and around their eyes. It does not mean that they have lost the ability to have fun, but that they have gained perspective on fun. I understand why grownups are wiser than children. They have put off the immediacy of childish urging and look to the greater, far-reaching good. I understand why adults deal with conflict differently than children. While it’s understandable for a child to not want to work with someone who has slighted him, a grown person does not have time for trivial conflict. Instead the adult chalks it up to a misunderstanding, or even scales the unpredictable slopes of peacemaking. 

And how? How does one simply become grown? With that mantle weighing down as I uphold new responsibilities with each passing year, how do I stand? Who holds me up? The answer is found in Hebrews: Whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest so that no one may fall… It’s about coming to a rest on God. He holds me up. And He is faithful. His most common tool in holding me up is my husband, a man solidly anchored in Christ, on whom I come to rest daily. 

And I am blessed.

I am blessed by every new word my children read.

By every laugh invoked from my grandmother.

By my parents and their struggle to be wise. 

By my knowledge that my aunt is taken care of.

By my husband who is like a rock, unwavering. 

By my God whose lovingkindness never ceases, whose mercies never fail and are new every morning.