Preparing My Life, and My Heart
When I was younger, I would greet the new year with so many resolutions. So much hope for the future. New notebooks and journals and planners and pens and stickers and highlighters. All the things that were going to, magically, make me a more productive, organized, and capable person.
I'm older now, and wiser. I know that, no matter how pretty or new the notebook....it won't alter your life. No matter how sparkly the stickers, they won't make you a different person. And, even, no matter how appealing it sounds to wake up on January 1st and suddenly find yourself with all the skill and willpower and energy you've always wanted, that's not how life works, and we're better for it. The progress I've had to struggle for greatly is the progress that brings the longest lasting and most rewarding change in my life.
So I don't make resolutions, and I don't wait until January 1st to implement new habits, if I feel they are needed. However, I do like to pick a word to focus on throughout the year. More a character quality than anything else, a way to incorporate something good and edifying into all that I do. What I usually find is that, whatever the word I pick, this is where I continually fall short during the year (isn't this always the way?). I didn't end the year, when my word was nurture, saying, "Wow, I did a great job really nurturing my family this year! I am so glad I took the time to nurture the things that were important!" Instead, I end the year realizing just how far I have to go to achieve my goal of excellence on the topic.
So it's always with a bit of trepidation that I choose my new word. I know it will be on my conscious all the time. I know it will smack me in the face when I go to bed. I know it will prick my heart when I'm choosing, instead, to act selfishly or foolishly.
I also know it will bring a whole lot of growth and refining.
This year, my word is prepare. Prepare, not prepared. Prepare, not the destination. Prepare, as in the journey.
I think it's a common tendency to focus on the outcome. And a proper idea of your goals can be encouraging and motivating, for sure. But, at least for me, the outcome is the ONLY focus. How I get there is a lot less important to me.
This was particularly evidenced to me this past month, as I've struggled to get our new home set up and organized. I want a tidy, clean house, which is fine and good. But being so focused on this destination that I'm willing to sacrifice a patient word with my children, or reading to them before bed, or being a calm and gentle presence in our home...not ok.
I want my mind to be focused on the preparation. This covers so many different areas, which is why it was such an appealing word for me.
It's simple things, like preparing meals for my family. Taking the time to be thankful for the nourishment I get to provide for them. Preparing our home for the next morning by making sure the floor is swept, the table wiped, the living areas tidied. I want to prepare my kids for time outside by making sure I have the proper clothing. I want to prepare spaces that they love to occupy by making sure their toys and messes are organized and manageable. I want to prepare for the week by meal planning, prepare for peaceful weekends by keeping up with chores, and prepare for spontaneous trips by keeping the car cleaned out and with a full tank.
I also want to prepare in bigger ways. I want to make sure I have first aid and medical supplies on hand in case of an emergency. I want to step out of my comfort zone and work to build community here, forging relationships and serving in whatever ways I can so that we can have people to lean on and depend on (and provide that for others). I plan to prepare my land for gardens, and chickens....maybe goats or meat rabbits. And, in turn, prepare ways that my family can be more self-reliant.
And then...perhaps most important of all....I want to recognize that preparation comes in many intangible forms as well. I don't want my relationship with my kids to be one that just tries to make it through the day. I am preparing them for adulthood. What a big thing! I am helping them understand how to handle struggles, joys, challenges...LIFE. Remembering this lends so much more reverence to my actions. My nights spend rocking a toddler, or soothing a child having a hard day, or taking time to allow little hands to help instead of sending them away, all these are not only preparing them with their own skillsets for coping and doing, but also building the foundation of our relationship. It's preparing a strong and steady trust that will be able to withstand the storms of the future, when they are bigger and more challenging to navigate.
I also want to prepare my own heart. It's so easy to get caught up in the temporal. So easy. But eternity is where my mind should be. Am I preparing my heart to meet my Maker? Am I meditating on His word and spending my days praying, cultivating a heavenly perspective that will prepare me for the trials, when they come?
My dad loved to use Bible stories to illustrate lessons for us when we were kids, and a few stick in my mind most prominently. One is the parable of the ten young women, waiting for a wedding party in the dark night;
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." Matthew 25:1-13
I don't want to be caught unaware, so focused on passing things that I don't see the value in the eternal. I want to be prepared to recognize the opportunities I have to speak life and love into those around me, sharing the light of Christ that I have been so graciously and mercifully given. I want to prepare my mind for hardships, expecting them instead of being surprised by them, knowing that God is faithful.
I want my year to be spent in preparation by practicing good stewardship, acquiring knowledge, and prioritizing the future harvest that comes through the patient, tender, gentle sowing of good things.