Lessons Learned and Lessons To Carry Forward: Happy New Year!
Friends, it’s the first day of a new year, and I am (cue, Sue from SNL’s “Surprise Party sketch)¹ “so freaking excited” for 2023 that I could almost bust through the walls and windows and declare I made it. You made it. We made it. We are alive, and today I celebrate endings — for they precede new beginnings — and today is the beginning of new. Below is a list of two thousand and twenty-three things I wish you to know and experience in this new year. I’m kidding; there are only four, but these are four of my favorite lessons from this last year and facets of life I am carrying into this year, and I welcome you to use them as well.
Before I go too far, I want to say, “Thank you for taking time last year to sit among my words and thoughts with me.” When I was initially asked to write a blog for my graduate work, I was less than thrilled about the idea. The idea of writing a conversation, on your own, in quiet rooms (or coffee shops), lonesome and far away from the people you’re talking to, hoping the words aren’t just talking to yourself but also engaging the mind and hearts of the listener is at times challenging. But you all have made the journey worth every step, and it has been a thrilling experience. I’m excited to see what my hands type during 2023. Hopefully, you will stay engaged on my funny, caffeine-filled, unapologetically spiritual, and often vulnerable blogging journey.
Lessons learned and lessons to carry forward:
1.) Rest is not a bad thing. I grew up in an environment where it was essential always to be busy, but there’s something to be said for downtime. In the holiness of Sabbath, we awaken to the wonder of life. Ideas are born, love is rekindled, Scriptures come alive, and necessary work and reflection on your life are handled when you step back and direct your attention to the places hiding in the shadows. Embrace sabbath! Trust me; you will be healthier and more connected to Christ as you do.
“Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work…” — Exodus 10:8 (The Message Translation)
2.) Make joy a priority. Life is too short, and we often try to remove all the symptoms of our dissatisfaction, but what if instead of striving to remove everything we dislike, we embrace the things that bring us joy? God, family, date nights with your spouse, singing, dancing, pointless memes, a good cup of coffee, etc. — try this year to identify the things that create positivity and joy in your life and dance through the days and nights with those things. When you embrace joy, you are less likely to get lost in the quicksand of comparison. You (I, we) deserve joy!
“Be joyful in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” — Romans 12:12 (Revised Standard Version)
3.) Persevere. When you’re working hard on something you believe in (including yourself), persevere. It will not be painless. You may feel like you’ve wept your last tear; it may not be quick; you may keep asking, “God, how long will this take?” Say it with me, “Persevere!” Push through all the s**t that gets thrown at you. Even “the fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure.” — D. H. Lawrence. Often, the difference between success and failure is perseverance.
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” — 2 Chronicles 15:7 (New International Version)
4.) Put yourselves in other’s shoes. Think, “What is going through their heads right now, and how would I react if that was me?”. As a parent, spouse, human, and Christian, this is one of the essential things we are called to do, and yet it is something most of us don’t do instinctively (our instinct is always to look after ourselves). Let’s look at others with realistic expectations and let our love outgrow the shoes of the expectations we put on others.
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” — Luke 6:37 (Modern English Version)
I’m sure you have your personalized list for this year. Resolve what you will this year, but never forget that God is for you and not against you. Believe this daily — and if you fail to see it, I pray you remember that “we cannot present a reason for Christ to finally close off his heart to his own sheep. No such reason exists. Every human friend has a limit. If we offend enough, if a relationship gets damaged enough, if we betray enough times, we are cast out. The walls go up. With Christ, our sins and weaknesses are the very resumé items that qualify us to approach him.”²
Here’s to a new year; I pray it is our best.