In Defense of New Year’s Resolutions

new year resolutions

It’s the New Year.

I made resolutions.

I always make resolutions. I am one of those people who kind of loves doing that sort of thing.

But over the last week I’ve been stumbling upon a lot of articles and posts and arguments against the whole enterprise.

Don’t get me wrong…they’re articles with amazing points…like Glennon Melton’s, who said: “I don’t want to be a BETTER ME in 2016. Screw that. I don’t want to chase after some imaginary more fabulous version of myself. I AM what the people I love need. I already AM. And when we are always BECOMING we have no room to BE. So I’m done striving. I’m fine, thanks. I’m showing up to love my people and you and the world this year JUST AS I AM.”

And of course I can get behind that. It’s beautiful and true and gracious.

I don’t want to strive. I don’t want to stress. I don’t want to hustle.

But at the same time, I do kind of want to be a better me in 2016. Not necessarily a skinner, diet-keeping, bad-habit-breaking kind of better. Not the beat-my-demons-into-submission kind of better. This is not about walking shame-faced, self-loathingly into a new year, trying to leave some old self behind.

One of the most important aspects of my Christian faith, for me, is that because of God’s grace, I am already enough. I am beloved. I am wanted. There is nothing I could do to become more loved. There is nothing that I could do to become less loved. I don’t have to be good. I don’t have to be better.

And yet, the clock strikes midnight and the calendar page turns, and it’s new in some vague way…and there’s a part of me that loves that. There’s part of me that wants something new for myself here in the first hours of the brand new year.

*

This week, I’ve been reading Steve Wiens brand new book Beginnings. The book starts with him sitting on his deck in the middle of his life, feeling a kind of ennui. He writes:

“On that night, on that deck, in those suburbs, the continual forward movement seemed to have stopped. The tracks had run out. I used to be in motion, rattling forward toward a destination that kept morphing. But on that stationary deck, I had become solid and stable, and stuck.

There would be no new beginnings.”

So begins a book that uses the Creation poem from the biblical book of Genesis to explore the ways that God is always at work, always creating new beginnings for us, always inviting us into something new.

This idea is like water to me…especially as a Mama of two at the beginning of the middle part of my life.

I believe in a God that is endlessly creative. Why wouldn’t I believe that he’s all the time creating something new in me?

And it’s New Year’s week. It’s a natural pause. It’s a moment in the middle of winter where it all starts fresh…at least on some level.

You get a minute on New Year’s to remember and reflect…and then, if you choose to take it, you get the chance to set your intention for the year ahead.

What new thing might God be inviting me into this year?

Where am I being asked to expand to make room for something new?

What might I let go of this year to make room for something else?

These are just a few questions that Steve’s book and the new year have me considering.

Beginnings Quote

*

If you read my newsletter, you know that I spent New Year’s Day in the car, driving to and from a tiny town in South Dakota where my Grandma lives. (If you don’t read my newsletter, go to the sidebar immediately and sign up. You’re missing stuff!)

I made the drive because it was my Grandma’s birthday and because I wanted to see her. But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that part of the allure of the trip was the drive. It was the chance to be alone in the car on New Year’s Day. To have time to think, time to be quiet, time to reflect on the last year and wonder about the new one.

And when you’re driving in South Dakota at sunset, you can’t make lists. You can’t look away from the road for even a second, because the deer are blinking dumbly but beautifully at the side of the road, trying to decide whether to run into your vehicle full-tilt. Because the prairie wind is railing against your car and obscuring the edges of the road with snow.

Because the vistas are exquisite.

Because the angus cows are so still as they graze in the tall, half-buried grasses.

Because the sun is setting. Because the snow is crystalline. Because in South Dakota, the beginning of the year looks like a vast, empty beauty, and it’s so mournful and beautiful and full of buried hope that you can’t look away.

So I made resolutions in my car. Three of them.

I made them, probably, because I am Type A and an Enneagram 4 and I can’t remember my Gallup strengths, but I think one of them might have been “achiever”…and whatever…I like making lists and goals okay?

But also I made resolutions because a new year is beginning…and I am invited into it.

Because we are all invited again and again into our own beginnings,…not because we’re not already enough…but because, as Steve writes, “God speaks, and the earth responds by producing a kind of life that contains even more life inside of it. What does it mean God has embedded even more life inside of you and me?”

I believe this to be true. And making resolutions, for me, is a way of saying, I’m in.

It’s a way of affirming that I’m enough…AND…that there is even more life inside of me.

It’s a praise, a prayer, a confession, a cry of hope.

It’s me, saying to God, to myself, to the empty South Dakota prairie, It’s a new year. Let’s make something beautiful. 

South Dakota Sunset_Fotor

*

Beginnings BookSteve Wiens’ beautiful book Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life is on sale now, and I highly recommend it as you begin your new year.

You can order it here.

Lonely at Church {Dear Addie Column #1}

lonely at church

My first official Dear Addie column is up at Off the Page, and it’s a topic that is so close to my heart:

What do you do when you’re lonely at church?

When you can’t find community? 

When the whole place just feels completely inauthentic?

I’m sure that there’s not a perfect answer to this, but I’ve done my best. Here’s how it begins:

As a single woman in her mid-twenties I am struggling to find my way. I struggle to find community. I have more non-Christian friends than Christian ones. I so crave community. I even told a pastor that I don’t like going to church alone. I told him it is scary to me but I am going to try anyway. I told him this after we had been having conversations about how I was doing and how I could get plugged in. He simply didn’t reply back to my answer. It made me want to run from the Church even further. What do you do when you’re all alone? How do I find that community of believers that I so long for? I have been to all the programs. Sometimes it all feels fake. How do I make Church feel more authentic when honestly it seems to be the least authentic thing I have ever been a part of. ~ May K

Dear May,

The summer I turned twenty-four, I found myself in the backyard of a suburban evangelical church, holding hands with summer-sweaty junior high students, yelling “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Katie right over!”

I was in the middle of my third lonely church experience in three years…in the middle of falling apart.

The overzealous eleven-year-old girl next to me kept trying to tickle me, and the youth pastor kept jogging past the kids, spraying whipped cream into their open mouths. And I remember thinking, What am I doing here? What the hell am I doing here?

(Continue reading at Off the Page)

8 Life Lessons I Learned from Hallmark Christmas Movies (Plus a FREE Hallmark Christmas Bingo Download)

Image from Hallmark Channel

Image from Hallmark Channel

Last year at the beginning of December, we accidentally-on-purpose switched cable companies, and in the process, received the Hallmark channel.

I liked Hallmark movies before…but ever since that fateful day I have fallen into a cavernous pit in which this is all I want to watch at Christmastime. It’s a problem. And also not a problem because where else but a Hallmark movie is some character going to say, in all sincerity, “So, do you have anyone special in your life to trim your Christmas tree?”

I am so vocal and ridiculous about my love for Hallmark movies that my friend D.L. Mayfield recently quoted me in her Christianity Today article about Hallmark movies and my friend Leigh posted the entirety of one of our epic Hallmark-watching-text-message-conversations. I’m starting to be known for this. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Anyway, the thing about Hallmark movies is that the plots are absurdly predictable, mostly along the line of “Self-absorbed career woman rediscovers love (and the Christmas spirit.)” The characters are two-dimensional and uncomplicated! All the small towns are sweet and filled with Christmas decor and cheer! Everyone wears totally inappropriate (and yet super cute) winter-weather wear instead of giant puffer coats and hats that make their hair look bad!

And yet…I can’t stop watching them. And it’s the silly stupidity of it — the making fun as you watch. The bad lines and the terrible metaphors and the oh-so-obvious staging of it all…

But also…there’s also that little tiny part of me that finds it sort of nice — this idea that somehow during Christmastime people start to see things better. Truer. They let go of old hurts. They forgive their parents. The go home after being away too long. They make peace with their past. In Hallmark movies, it only takes two short hours for the grumpiest, hard-ass grinch-man to soften in response to some act of kindness or goodwill. Things are made right in the end. I love that. I love a good happy ending, even when it really isn’t earned.

Maybe especially then…because in all honesty…what happy ending have I ever earned?

So yes. Judge me if you must. I’ve watched like 20 Hallmark movies this year so far — and I started before Thanksgiving.

What can I say?…Except here is some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from Hallmark this Christmas season. ENJOY.

8 Life Lessons I Learned from Hallmark Christmas Movies

1. “A problem is just a snowball waiting for at target.” North Pole: Open for Christmas

Image from Hallmark Channel

Image from Hallmark Channel

2. If you tell some random street-corner Santa your Christmas wish, be ready for some weird Christmas magic to screw with your life.

“Sometimes what we don’t wish for is more powerful than what we ”
~ The Santa Claus from Tis the Season for Love.

3. “Nothing is impossible at Christmastime!”Christmas Incorporated

4. When you don’t know what else to do, channel your inner Mrs. Claus.

“Being Mrs. Claus is in your blood. What would she do?” Charming Christmas

Image from Hallmark Channel; Photo: Julie Benz, David Sutcliffe Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Brooke Palmer

Image from Hallmark Channel; Photo: Julie Benz, David Sutcliffe Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Brooke Palmer

5. Taking the moral high-ground in business-dealings will always be rewarded at Christmastime.

“I can’t yell at someone who did the right thing.” I’m Not Ready for Christmas

6. Dream career < true love. ~ Every Hallmark movie ever.

7. “The family that ciders together, stays together.” ~ Angel of Christmas

8. “When in doubt, add glitter.” Christmas Land

Image from Hallmark Channel

Image from Hallmark Channel

*

In honor of Christmas week, I’ve designed a Hallmark Christmas Bingo game that is yours to download FREE.

hallmark christmas bingo

There are ten unique Bingo boards so that if you need a shot of the ridiculous-romantic in the midst of your holiday gatherings, you have a family-centric way to suggest it!

“Hey guys!” You could say. “Want to play an awesome game??”

For prizes, I recommend the following: a Hallmark-certified Christmas ornament, a snow globe, or a bag of coffee beans that has a ridiculously Christmas-y name.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY OF HALLMARK CHRISTMAS BINGO NOW!

Welcome Home [for Christmas]

Note: This was originally written for my church’s Sojourn Christmas event and has been modified to fit here.

welcome home

Andrew and I are at that agonizing place in life now where we have to decide all over again every year what to do about Christmas.

For a while, we’ve been reserving the day itself for our small family of four, but we still have to decide about these crazy weeks around it. How and when will we see family? How much can we reasonably fit into this already stuffed-full month? Who will we see? Who will we skip? How much will we do? How far will we go?

And most importantly for me — will we go home for Christmas — by which I mean, to my childhood home in the Chicago suburbs.

After all, it’s a seven-hour drive, and the timeline is a little hard this year with Andrew’s work schedule. But still – it’s home, and every Hallmark movie or Thomas Kinkade Christmas card I’ve ever seen would cry, Yes! Of course go home for Christmas! Of course you should!

Go home even though your sister can’t make it out from Boston and your brother will be in Houston. Go home even though the magnolia tree that was in the front yard your whole life died this year and had to be taken down.

Go home even though all the careful Christmas traditions your family once had have collapsed into something new and strange and grown up, even though it means packing your two young boys up and listening to them fight for seven hours in the car.

I’ll be home for Christmas. You sing along to that old, warbling song on the radio, and it’s so mournful isn’t it? So achingly nostalgic, so hopeful and sad:

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.

Because you go home for Christmas…or you don’t…and either way, it’s not what you remember, not what you imagine. Your childhood home changes. Your family shifts – moves away or passes away or simply grows in directions that confound you. The traditions and rituals that held so much weight when you were little – or when your kids were little – shift and crumble beneath the weight of change.

Even your own home, the one you have created – the one you’re creating now – never seems to quite match the picture in your head…which is perhaps why you keep buying new throw pillows and serving dishes and hand towels. The stores are all lit up red and green and gold, selling “home” like a commodity, selling it in pretty boxes, marked 40% off – and you keep buying it even though you know better than to believe the empty marketing promises.

Christmas.

Is there any other holiday that is so happy and so sad at the same time?

Any other time of the year where you feel that longing for home quite so desperately?

I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.

*

Here is the story of Christmas: a baby was born in a stable that was not his home, laid in a manger that was not his bed. He was born into the chaotic turbulence of a traveling family, making their way back to their ancestral home for a government census.

He was born to impermanence, born to wandering.

There was a stable and it was cold and dark and not home. But he was born. And it was a match striking against the coarseness of the world.

Light.

Jesus was born – Emmanuel, God with us – and it was a candle flickering to life that will never go out. Light of the World, the Gospel of John says. And I used to think that this meant BRIGHTNESS and SUNSHINE…and sometimes it does.

But more often, for me, the world feels very dark. I am so aware of the fact that so much is not right. I see the news and worry for my kids. I scroll through the footage of the refugees wandering, and I see in their eyes my own sense of displacement. I wake up in the morning to the Minnesota cold, and it hits me so hard in the gut sometimes that I almost can’t breathe…

And maybe this is why I love to think about that stable, that manger, that nativity scene we’ve seen a hundred thousand times. Certainly there are small fictions here – of course Mary did not look that glowing after childbirth; of course the shepherds were much more foul than they look here; of course the ox and donkey were not leaning gently in like cartoon characters on PBS…

And yet – there is something so fundamentally true about that tiny light coming from the manger that I can’t look away.

And it’s this:

Into this homeless, wandering world, Jesus Christ is born.

He is the light of the world, the candle in the window, shining in the darkness…

He is welcoming us, drawing us, inviting us into the truest kind of home…the one that we cannot seem to conjure up on our own, no matter how much holly we hang or bread we bake or miles we drive to see family.

It’s Christmas, and love has come, and so you don’t have to go home for Christmas. You already are home.

You don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to be anything. Put down the egg bake and the laundry basket of gifts and the guilt and the worry.

The light is already here, shining, dancing, inextinguishable – and this is where you belong.

The door is open. The coffee is on.

Come on in.