Some people might say I started the year on the wrong foot. I am looking at it through a different lens; I started the new year on my left foot, which isn’t necessarily the wrong foot. The new year didn’t start as I imagined or planned – the way I would normally begin the first day of the year. January 1 is for me what December 31 is for many – a cause to celebrate. But you won’t find me celebrating in a crowd with a drink in my hand; I am usually up too early for that sort of thing. You will find me still in pj’s enjoying a cup of coffee in the quiet morning hours. A journal and pen will be nearby as I pray about and process God’s direction for my life as I embrace a fresh start. I list out things I would like to do differently; these thoughts have been sprouting weeks ahead in anticipation of the new year.
I reminded myself of something I often tell clients while encouraging them in the process of moving forward into change: You don’t have to do this perfectly. Starting the new year imperfectly according to my standards doesn’t make it wrong. Actually being sick helped me to postpone some weighty “should’s” and to recognize the world doesn’t crumble without me.
When the calendar boasted a new year on January 1, 2018 I found myself sick and unprepared for the new beginning. I felt stalled out. The first full week of the new year my husband and I were both sick and still feeling a bit sluggish. Laying around reading, resting and watching shows seemed to be the best we could do most days. We craved vegetables, chicken noodle soup and juice. I mustered up the energy to keep us well fed and my husband bought the green juice to make us well. Bit by bit I found a renewed interest in the wide open space the new year held and how I might map it out.
Emily P. Freeman writes, “I don’t see Jesus calling me to excellence, I do see him calling me to himself. And sometimes, on the kingdom of earth, moving close to Jesus looks like failure and embarrassment.” I felt a little ashamed at first of my inability to push through the viral fog and think clearly about the new year – at least until I decided to embrace the extra rest and quiet. I finally allowed myself to enjoy the freedom from the constant care of others, and hone in on caring for Jim and I – us caring only for one another – only then did I begin to embrace being forced to slow down and rest. During this hiatus I remembered the Life Plan my brother helped Jim and I develop in October; the plan has grown out of the seeds of our life experiences, passions, spiritual gifts, strengths and callings. Words emerged directing me, not only in the year ahead, but the next and the next and so forth: intentional, focused, creative, nature, present, welcoming. Sickness limited the way I began the year, but the forced rest reminded me that the limits of the Life Plan make it so much easier to know what belongs in my life.
I love the way Kristen Strong processes limits in her book, Girl Meets Change. She writes, “Limitations are borders, boundaries that hem us in and keep us on the path God has prepared for us. . . . In one form limitations are boundaries. But in another, limitations are wide-open fields where I acknowledge my own weakness and accept I need Jesus to go the distance where I cannot. A limitation is grace space for me to lie down in and soak up God’s presence. It is a garden spot for me to reflect on God’s believability. When we spend all our energy wishing things were different, we have no strength to revel in the glory of the blessings right in front of us. Our limitations work for us, not against us. They also test to see just how genuine our faith is.”
I discovered the start of a new year can be just as good even when it defies tradition. It isn’t so much how I began the year as how I will live it. I was tempted to take the negative view of the delayed or different way I was forced to begin 2018. But then I began to realize that starting slow and restful was a good thing; it involved an extra week home from work. Jim and I enjoyed the time catching up with one another after an unusually hectic autumn. I was given more time to process how God wants to sift the direction of my life through the Life Plan He gave us. I can begin to consider what needs discarded. Slower has been a good way to start; I was given the opportunity to pace myself instead of rushing pell-mell into a new year as if my life and everyone elses’ depended on it. So whether it is the right foot or left foot that takes the lead it is still a step in the right direction. How has 2018 been for you so far?