Some years I have set lofty goals in January and picked words for the year that have depth to them – and a month or two into the year, those plans have gone by the wayside. Some years, my word has stuck, and I’ve spent the year exploring and embracing it in meaningful ways.
As this post will be mostly celebratory for how the year is going so far, I just want to say that if your year is more of an “it went by the wayside” kind of year, please know that I don’t judge you one bit. Nor do I think I’m more successful than you in my discipline or goal-achieving.
Because all of last year was the lowest I’ve ever been, especially in discipline, motivation, and goal-achieving. Last year was one of incredible grief and survival – not one where the brain can think too far beyond what’s needed for the day. Many of the books I read last year were my “comfort” books that I was re-reading. A lot of the time, I just didn’t read because my brain wanted the ease and comfort of watching favorite TV shows. And even though I had the time to get out and exercise, sometimes I was just too exhausted to move off the couch.
So if that’s where you are at right now, I extend my love and grace to you. We all need times of rest, recovery, and respite from the world.
But eventually those times will come to an end, and motivation will return. And I’m grateful that so far this year has been that for me. Back in January, I wrote a post about making this a year of growth – to be okay with baby steps in areas of reading, spiritual and physical health, and trying new creative hobbies.
And while there have been some rough days and weeks, overall, I see that growth inching forward every day. And I am grateful for the grace of God allowing me to grow in these ways. If a new tragedy should happen next week and that growth comes to a halt, I will still trust that the Lord is working through every circumstance and that growth will return at a later time.
Here are a few places of growth this year that I’m celebrating (and still working on):
*Reading: my goal was to read four books a month in the genres of Young Adult, Classic, Current Events, and Spiritual Growth. While I haven’t exactly hit that goal yet this year, I’ve read at least three or three and a half books each month.
Cutting out Netflix and other streaming programs was especially helpful in this goal, but I also had to re-train my mentality toward reading. I had to embrace it whole-heartedly like I did when I was younger and read just a little bit longer than I normally would each month. Consequently, apart from the classics, I’ve been able to finish about one book per week.
So far this year, I have read:
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- Holy Sexuality & the Gospel by Christopher Yuan
- Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
- Hard Times by Charles Dickens
- Finding Serendipity by Anjelica Banks
- Why Social Justice isn’t Biblical Justice by Scott David Allen
- Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald S. Whitney
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
- The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin (the first third)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
*Spiritual Health – I’ve committed to studying and memorizing the book of 1 John this year, and already it has been a powerful instrument in my spiritual growth. I realized that it had been awhile since I had committed to studying a book of the Bible in-depth, like I was taught a few years ago in our college ministry, so I decided to sink my teeth into 1 John to start the year off.
And as it turns out, nothing could be more applicable to our current age of people denouncing their faith (or “deconstructing it”), buying into false teaching, and claiming to have love while showing hatred to those they disagree with. It has been convicting to my own heart to stay immersed in the truth, lest I also be led astray by the lies of the culture.
*Creativity – As I talked about in my book review of Digital Minimalism, I wanted to pursue more hands-on creative activities this year as an alternative to screen time. Toward that end, our college staff ladies have started a monthly get-together with our college girls to have them learn a different craft or skill. Our first one was a painting party (led by one of our artistic staff ladies), the second was a card-making party (cards like you’ve never seen before!), and the third was a crochet day led by my own mama.
I’ve loved the ability to create things with our hands and increase our community at the same time. On my own time, I have been practicing my hand-lettering and scrapbooking and have re-discovered my love of crocheting from my childhood. Additionally, I bought some strawberry plants and flowers for my yard and have been spending time digging in the dirt – something I never thought I’d enjoy as a child. But it’s amazing how refreshing and satisfying it is to look at well-manicured flower beds and think – “I did that! I took care of them and made them look pretty.”
And as the book predicted, these hands-on creative ventures are so much more satisfying than the endless scrolling and watching videos online.
*Writing – I’m not ready to disclose where I’m at in my writing goals yet, but suffice it to say, I’ve taken some big steps of faith in that area, and the possibilities for where they might go are incredibly exciting.
*Exercise & Nutrition – Not a lot of progress in this area, but I’m making it my area of focus for this month, so hopefully more growth will be made. This is where I have to give myself the most grace, because my thyroid issues and the exhaustion that comes from teaching often keep me from consistent exercise. But I have to do what I can, and trust that it’s enough for now.
Growth looks different for every individual, and I am learning to be okay with that. For some people who never read, finishing a book a week might seem impossible. For those who read about a hundred books a year, that might seem paltry. For people with boundless energy doing hardcore CrossFit routines every day, a daily walk or yoga routine might seem weak. For someone like me who crashes every day when she comes home from work, it’s a big deal.
So wherever we’re at in the growth process, may we celebrate our progress and not get discouraged when it seems to be going slower than we’d like. Set a small goal for this week, make daily choices to accomplish it, and then reward yourself once you’ve gotten there. Or in the words of Pam from The Office about getting to the hospital to have her baby, “And if I don’t get there, I don’t get there.”
Happy Spring, my friends! May the sunshine and fresh air rejuvenate your spirits and help you move toward even more growth.