all images// John Zabawa
image taken at OWL Bakery on our recent stop in Asheville, NC
When I look towards the year ahead, the year in which I turn 30, I’m particularly struck by the ideas of resilience and strength, qualities that are so rooted in regarding one’s life with wondrous appreciation and grace. It’s a key component to thriving with hope and joy that I’ve been lacking. 2017 is about cultivating positivity, working to shift my focus and redirect some of my misplaced emotions and unproductive conclusions. In that sense, my intentions for 2017 are not entirely different from years past and there are several things that remain ongoing works in progress.
I have plans to expand on this subject later, but in short, a major priority is to invest in friendships even when I feel misunderstood or alone in my experiences. I completely failed in that area during 2016. I was so convinced these relationships would just naturally happen without too much work, but the difference now is that I’m actively praying, putting myself in challenging social situations, and engaging in conversations with my best friend (who sadly moved to another country) and husband about ways to improve. I want to reach out and pursue others though it terrifies me, and not simply as an empty remedy to the loneliness I’ve felt the last year. There shouldn’t be a pressure to find deep, life-long intimacy, but I still need to explore how to better engage others, meet new people (especially at church), and grow the relationships I already have.
Another priority is to pursue knowledge and truth–anything that promotes healthy thinking and dialogue between others: reading scripture and praying with my husband, things we already do but long to do more fully and frequently; reading, not just for comfort, but for discomfort–to push myself to learn and study perspectives that may not be my own; finding a podcast or two that I really enjoy and listening regularly; learning a new skill or hobby; exploring with my husband and participating in more cultural activities and opportunities to engage our minds.
After all my surgeries, you’d think eating well would be the norm, but it hasn’t been and I’ve paid the price, so health is a priority this year. Everyone is different, but there’s no denying the link between my body’s ailments and coffee, sugar, gluten, and alcohol. None of them are worth regular physical pain. I’d be lying if I said a byproduct would not be to also lose weight that I’ve put on. Though I’ve had moments of confidence, I haven’t felt like myself in a long time. It’s easy to let difficult life experiences and emotional burdens drag me into a spiral of poor eating and decreased activity, but I’m ready to practice displine.
During the winter it’s not uncommon to feel oppressed by the cold, dark days. I myself retreat inward, which is often not a positive thing. Being thoughtful, intentional, and critical without letting it consume is an art worth practising. A recent post about the dangers of the hyper-examined life has been on my mind a lot. My husband has said that both my greatest gifts and biggest weaknesses are my sensitive heart and introspective nature. I felt this article was written precisely for me:
The hyper-examined life is exhausting. Life, including the Christian life, isn’t meant to be lived by way of nonstop self-appraising and people-pleasing. A day-in, day-out regiment of the hyper-examined life leads inevitably to burnout, frustration, and a nagging sense of unfulfilled desire not based in reality.
By contrast, the well-examined life is not driven by fear or compulsive self-searching but by a humble desire for grace. Personal failures are not meant to be endlessly agonized over but repented of, with confidence in God’s provision for forgiveness and transformation (2 Cor. 7:10). Confidence in the mercies of God disarms paralyzing fear, if we live life knowing that poorly made or even sinful decisions don’t exist outside the scope of God’s plans and promises for us (Rom. 8:38–39).
Instead of meandering from one thing to the next in search of the emotional fulfillment that always feels out of reach, living the well-examined life frees us to drop self-preoccupation and learn the virtues of gratitude and contentment. –Samuel James on The Gospel Coalition
Here’s to not allowing excessive introspection and fear prevent me from living well in 2017. Lord, help me seek diversity in experiences, perspectives, relationships, and means through which I strive to know you better. Help me reject indifference and make time to slow down and welcome failure as part of growth and joy in you.
And here are a few other things that have been on my mind so far this year: a case for drinking celery juice, a personal definition of minimalism that struck me in particular, and no-pressure tips on how to make friends.
These photos were taken on a cold day in Cincinnati last week, when the sun started to fade and cast the most beautiful moody, golden glow. This outfit is without a doubt my favorite of the year. My clogs were a Christmas gift from my husband. They’re a lovely rich shade of bordeaux I’ve been dreaming of for winter and easy to throw on for my ideal balance of effortless and cool. My dress was purchased on our last trip to Charleston, back when it was too hot to even think about wearing it, and I’m so glad the temperatures at home resemble something of a winter now. My pants, the wonderful Clyde work pants from Elizabeth Suzann, are now a beloved staple in my closet. And the scarf I’ve had for many years–wearing it makes cold weather seem more exciting. It has pockets! All together I felt so like myself in this moment, browsing yet another bookstore with my husband. I’m glad he snapped a couple photos to remember one of the last days of the strange, hard, significant year.
Between our own holiday celebrations and post-Christmas time with both our families, I’m a little behind and feeling unprepared for 2017. We tend to have blindly hopeful notions of the new year–this great, sweeping fresh start where change is certain and immediate. A sense of hope has immense benefit and meaning, of course, but in many ways the new year is a lot of life as usual mixed with change that comes after tremendous work. Habit shifts and new beginnings don’t always happen overnight simply because the calendar year is different. I’m still looking forward to sitting down to reflect on 2016 and the kind of year I hope to have personally in 2017, like in years past, but for today I’m content taking it slowly.
In terms of the blog, though, I’ve had a few thoughts on my mind for a long time, particularly in regard to where Good Bones is headed. To be honest, I don’t look forward to blogging as much as I once did and I’ve opted for less involved posts, fewer personal daily life posts the last several months as a means of avoiding the lack of interest and creativity I’ve experienced. In general, my love for and inspiration found on the internet has been waning–largely due to insecurity, a tendency to compare, and the pressure I feel to be a polished blog that constantly delivers fresh and unique content. But for me that pressure is especially misplaced and unproductive, antithetical to my own goals when I first started out. I want to reign in my focus and not only reevaluate my goals but also establish a clear, purposed plan for meeting them. I don’t need to try and keep up in 2017–I can continue trying to do what’s right for me.