This year - this will be the one that I'm fit and healthy. That I'm organized and clean. That we are debt free. This will be the year that I have more patience and kindness and over all loveliness. This will be the year I overcome some of my "issues" with God - the year I can really trust Him and rest in Him. This will be the year that we take a vacation. That Todd finds a new job. This will be the year I remember to send birthday cards to everyone, and write notes and be the most thoughtful friend ever. This will be the year I journal everything. That I do the cute things on Pinterest, like making a jar of happy moments or writing something in a calendar about every day of the year. It will be the year I craft with my kids and try new recipes and coupon and run four miles a day. This will be the year that I meet all my goals, that I live a fabulous life, that I do and finish everything I set out to.
It will be the year that I'm the best version of myself ever EVER!!
Seriously, I have this conversation with myself every single year. I've decided it's getting old.
Even in the church bathroom last week, I found a little advertisement for women's ministry. Something about "A new year, a new you." Guides for meal-planning, budgeting, meeting your goals with prayer and accountability and focused time for Bible study and scripture. I see that message plastered everywhere as if that's the ultimate goal - being a new us. We are supposed to change ourselves, better ourselves, improve ourselves. We are told from TV commercials and self-help books and even pins on Pinterest that it's what the new year is all about. Somehow the fresh start of a new year comes with this insane to-do list of thing we must do, overcome, change and get right.
Ya'll. This is exhausting. It's discouraging. I'm worn out before the new year has even arrived.
I'm already on a mission to undecorate my house - to take Christmas down and get life back in some kind of normal order. Then I want to purge and get rid of things we don't need. I want to clean my house from top to bottom. I want to rush off to the store and fill my fridge with fruits and vegetables and healthy snacks, and buy a new pair of tennis shoes for all the working out I'll be doing. I want to buy a crispy new journal and devotional for all the time I'll spend with God and what an amazing and disciplined Christian I will be this coming year. I want new things and I want to be new and do new things and new, new, new, new, new.
I have the exact same patterns every single year. For me, they center mostly around my health and organization. Places I feel most out of control. Places that need the most help. Places that I feel most like a failure. Places I am grasping for control.
As the end of the year has drawn near, I find myself in the familiar place of looking back. I get quiet and introspective. I tend to beat myself up for the places in the life lived behind me that didn't go as I had hoped or I dropped the ball. My tendency is to feel like a failure and wallow there. I give myself a mental and emotional ass-kicking and tell myself that I will do better in the new year. I will be this woman that I've built up in my head that I'm supposed to be.
This year I haven't been the mother I thought I would be. I've struggled with my weight and with food after being in a better place with it. I've sat in disappointment over the job Todd left in North Dakota and what that has meant for us. I've felt like we've been floating through our marriage and life together - because, Jacob. I've felt too busy and full to experience real intimacy in friendships and relationships - I've beat myself up over what a bad friend I've been, who I've had to cancel on, who I haven't had time for. I've struggled with anger and contempt, with feelings of rejection and old hurts and places where my heart has been broken. I've felt absent and stuck in a daze. And sad - so sad. Depressed even. A lot about this year has felt disappointing and I feel guilty for admitting that because I have a beautiful baby boy and we got to keep our house and I have so many things to be thankful for. Yet disappointment - it's there.
And at the end of a disappointing year, I feel like it's my mission to make the year ahead of me the best ever. As if I can control or orchestrate that. And here I am again managing my heartache and disappointment through control.
I know there is nothing wrong with setting goals. There is nothing wrong with cleaning our homes and striving for good things and taking care of ourselves, especially for health and wellness. But often times, I believe, new year resolutions aren't kind. They're almost dangerous because we are so focused on ourselves that we forget what is really important. We put ourselves on centerstage - we both beat ourselves up and build ourselves up. For me, I've recognized this pattern where the new year puts me as the central focus of life and living. And when I do that, where is God in all of these places?
How does He fit in to all of the meal-planning, budgeting, organized bin-making, and dieting schemes I have planned? Where is my Jesus, my Savior who loves me, accepts me and is pleased with me just as I am? Disorganized, overweight, grouchy, stressed, wretched and all? I think maybe He is right here in front of me. Asking me to lay down these huge expectations for myself at His feet and just come to Him and rest. Because if we change, if we are healed, if we can accomplish any good thing or reach any lofty goal - isn't it because He has done in it in and through us?
All this to say, there's a new year just around the corner. I have hopes for the new year. I have goals. I have desires and wants and longings. There are things I would love to see change especially in myself. There are places I need help and things I need to do to take care of myself mind, body and soul. It's not that I'm not going to do any of those things, but I don't want to make the new year about goal-setting and change-achieving either.
Because I realized something. No matter what I resolute or what goal I set, I am still the same me. The new year isn't suddenly going to usher in a new Jennifer. I can change habits and behaviors and rearrange furniture and organize the heck out of my kitchen cabinets. But I'm still me.
I'm still going to get behind. I'm going to cancel on plans with friends because I've had an overwhelming day and I need to be home. I'm going to struggle with food. I'm going to have glorious moments as a mother, and plenty of not-so-glorious ones too. I'll continue in ups and downs with Todd because that's what marriage is. I'm going to set goals and not meet some of them. I'm going to hope for things and see some of them never come to fruition.
But overall, I want to be kind to myself in the new year. I want to stay close to Jesus even if it means only having five minutes to myself before kids are awake or the only time to pray is in my car on the way to work. I want to remember that I can't really change or control the things that I believe I can. That I can't change my body or my junk drawers or my messy garage or even my attitude, overnight.
I want to remember that the start of every new year is a promise from God that life continues to hold the opportunity for possibilities and change. To do and experience things we are dreaming of. To know Him and experience His love more deeply. To hold both joy and pain in our hearts knowing that we won't really feel or have what we want most until we are present with him.
Mostly, I want to remember that the clean slate of a new year isn't an invitation to work and stress, accomplish this great to-do list and to get everything right and be some better version of myself like Jennifer 6.0.
It's an invitation to enjoy a fresh start, to acknowledge the One who loves me as I am, and to dance in the freedom that is already mine.
New Year. Same me. And that is perfectly okay.