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Entries in New Year (4)

Monday
Jan012018

September 1st as the real New Year

Happy New Year! I hope that wherever you are, you are warm. Across Canada, it seems like everywhere is under a deep freeze. I am thankful that our windchills, while bitter, aren't as bad as they could be. My husband and I stayed in. Who wants to go out when it's so cold?

I wish that the New Year could be observed on September 1st. It is a far more meaningful date when it comes to change than January 1st is; for me, anyway. That date when summer is drawing to a close and the school year is upon us has been a marker for me since I was five years old. Even when I grew to adulthood, it was still a feature as I attended school myself and as I homeschooled my children. It is still a factor now that I'm in seminary. When I grew up, the significant changes in my life were observed in the summer months. When my father as inevitably transferred, it usually occurred in the summer months in order to make it easier for us as a family. Goodbye old city and school in June; hello new city and school in September. If the New Year was in September, it would be more enjoyable to celebrate here in Canada, anyway.

On December 31st, there is always the typical look back upon the year at events both in the news and personally. Of course, real life doesn't observe markers with such precision, and often when I'm encouraged to look back on the year, I can pick out a few significant things, but there are still things that are unfinished that will come to a conclusion later this year. Ask me in a few months to look back, and I may have a better answer for "how was your year?"

One of the most significant events in my life happened on a day in September: my first child left home. That event was a bigger adjustment than even becoming a parent for the first tiime. Looking back on that time, I think it actually took me about eight years to really adjust. I thought I had adjusted pretty well, but it turned out it had been more difficult than I realized. That day, as we watched our daughter walk across the football field at her new school, toward the student dorms, I had no idea of what change I was experiencing. The significance of dates and times often don't manifest themselves until long after the changes have happened. We never know what will be a watershed until well aftter it's happened. For some, another random date may feel like the first day of a new year.

Perhaps I like September 1st better because there is more of a build-up. I don't feel like I've been out of school that long. I've already begun reading for my history class and I've reviewed Greek every day since I finished classes, so I don't feel that sense of anticipation. My anticipation lies more in the hope for good weather every Tuesday and Thursday when I drive to school. What I do find interesting is that in September, we are often encouraged to reflect back on our summer, not the whole year; as if summer brings with it more scope for change or significant events. The fact that we often anticipate significant things happening in the summer kind of implies that September 1 is a significant date.

It is good to take time to reflect on our lives, but one doesn't have to do so on December 31st. Pick a day of the month every month. Even better, write about the significant things that happen. It is especially valuable to keep track of what we've read in our Bibles and the spiritual lessons we've learned. Paper journals are still a big business. I was at Indigo on Saturday, and the selection of journals was impressive. I guess the point is to be pro-active about looking back. It's a good way to see where we've come from, and help us as we look ahead.

Friday
Dec302016

My year in review

Actually, I'm not really going to do a year in review. At least not the kind where I look back at my posts for the year. I don't really keep any real statistics that would enable to tell me that.

I was thinking back over the past year as I got out my 2017 wall calendars and began using my Moleskine day planner (it starts on December 26). After making a mental promise to myself to seek to avoid breaking another bone in 2017, I thought about what has gone by this past year. What has stood out to me?

Although it's not an illuminating thing, it's something that has been re-inforced to me repeatedly this past year: there is life outside the internet and social media. Of course that's a no-brainer. We all know that. But, often, I feel like we forget. I know I do. I will worry more about an exchange on social media than I will about my relationship with my family or friends. I may think that following someone on social media means I know them intimately. I may get unduly irritated by something I see happen on Twitter. I need to remember that those things are very fleeting. Internet attention spans are notoriously short, so why do I get in a tizzy?

Two things in particular have really driven this point home. First, my systematic theology class. Being able to talk face to face with other theology nerds has reminded me of the value of in person communication. When I consider the many topics we discussed this past semester, I've often thought, "I wonder how this exchange would play out on social media?" The answer, of course, is not with nearly as much grace and kindness. We didn't rant at one another, speak with nasty sarcasm, or call each other heretics. My prof, especially, has modeled what valuable, biblically-driven disscussion looks like. 

Second, I broke my ankle. That not only meant being unable to spend a lot of time online (my Mac is a desktop, and having my foot down was not a good thing), but depending on people. While I love my blogging friends (especially the women I blog with at Out of the Ordinary), and they offered prayers and concern for my situation, ultimately, it was not they who brought food, drove me to appointments, or came to visit when I had cabin fever. It was the people in my circle of friends and family. I was especially served well by my children. My sons regularly took turns driving me to and from school when they were able, and my daughter came a few times to help out when my husband had to be away. My husband's help was nothing short of fantastic. I know many women don't like the idea of depending on a man, but I sure am thankful he was able to get up early with our dogs, do the grocery shopping, and much of the cleaning; this on top of a very busy job which is especially busy in the month of December.

I really love reading blogs and using social media. When it begins to irritate me, it's easy enough to mute the voices I don't want, ignore them, or just walk away. The past year, I've seen the value in doing what my husband always suggests: ignore. I think the best analogy of social media is the one that says it is the "town crier" of the day. And there are so many town criers, and some of them are not nice. It shouldn't surprise me that some Christians conduct themselves in a truly awful way online, but every now and then I just can't believe it. I need to ignore it and be committed to not being afraid to speak truth, but to speak it without being a brute.

All in all, this year has shown itself to be, through God's provision, a good year. That doesn't mean it was absent any blips on the screen or any struggles, but considering one of my closest friends closed out 2016 by burying her son a month before he was scheduled to get married, I'm not going to complain. 

Friday
Jan012016

Being a Pooh Bear

I was a real party animal last night. My New Year's Eve, following a lovely meal with friends, ended with falling asleep in front of Luther, an episode which I will have to re-watch since I only caught the first eight minutes or so. My kind of New Year's Eve.

I am making no real resolutions. I have thought that this year I want to focus more on what's happening right now rather than asking a lot of "what ifs?" or worrying about tomorrow. That's more of a life goal, not a resolution.

I have a few reading goals, but I'm not going to broadcast them. Every time I do something like that, I fail at them. It's like telling everyone I'm going on a diet; it exerts pressure when others know. It does for me, anyway.

One thing I do want to do is think more. Rather than racing through a book so that I can finish it, I want to think about longer. I want to have times where I spend more than ten minutes pondering a Bible verse or a principle I've discovered in a book. I want to ponder longer over sermons I listen to or hear at my own church. 

One of the things I read in my course syllabus for my hermeneutics class is that getting good marks involves original and interesting thoughts when it comes time to write my three hermeneutical papers. I know from what others have said about this prof that if I want to excel in this course, I am going to have to go above and beyond. That means thinking. And thinking means being patient; rolling things over in my head, letting things sink in, and praying over things more. It may meaning reading other things less so that I can focus more on the course material.

Whatever goals we set for ourselves, let the assumed goal be to do all to the honour and glory of God.

Thursday
Jan012015

New year's thoughts 

In my reading of The Existence and Attributes of God, I'm in the middle of the discourse on practical atheism. I remember when I read this book the first time, this discourse was the one where I did a lot of underlining. I'm finding it just as compelling now. Here is an excerpt where I wrote "sobering" in the (tiny) margin upon my first reading:

No man is any more born with sensible acknowledgements of God, than he is born with a clear knowledge of the nature of all the stars in the heavens, or the plants upon the earth. None seeks after God. None seek God as his rule, as his end, as his happiness, which is a debt the creature naturally owes to God. He desires no communion with God; he places his happiness in anything inferior to God; he prefers everything before him, glorifies everything above him; he hath no delight to know him; he regards not those paths which lead to him.

The phrase which jumped out at me this time was, "he places his happiness in anything inferior to God."

How often is this true of me? How often does something insignificant like getting my blog linked become the source of my happiness?  How often do I find more happiness in having my opinions heard or validated than I do in God? How often do I just sit quietly, meditating on who God is, rejoicing? Just how often is my happiness generated from the most inferior things?

I am not one to make New Year's resolutions. I find choosing any date a rather arbitrary way to start cultivating change. But this year, I know that I am on the cusp of potential changes, and my thoughts are drawn to what kind of attitude I am going to demonstrate. I want to rest in Christ. I want my happiness to emanate from the reality of God, who he is, and what he has done for me.

I found Christmas discouraging for a number of reasons. I have tried to shake it, but it is like a filmy coating I just can't peel off. I want this not to be. I want to find my happiness in God and for it to radiate. And I know if I ask God to strengthen my resolve to do this, he will do it.