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.