Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Resolutions or Convictions?

It’s that time of year when people make one (or more) New Year’s resolution. Promises made, resolve strengthened, bad habits kicked and diets started. It is no surprise that January is the most profitable month at health clubs with new memberships initiated. According to various internet polls, the top three resolutions are to exercise, diet and quit smoking. A quick Google search shows that upwards of 90% of resolutions made will not be kept. That is a disappointing statistic, especially for the one who failed to keep the resolution—again. I do not want to admit how many years I am in that "failed resolution" category.

Where does this whole thing fall apart? What part—if any—has a spiritual component? Is it that human efforts and strength just wear out? Do we not plan well or plan enough? Is it possible that some of the well-intentioned resolutions are really convictions that we are being prompted to adopt? Kinda all of the above? I am learning to realize that there is a difference between a resolution and a conviction.

Webster’s dictionary defines resolution as, "the act or process of resolving; the act of determining" (rooted in action) and the given definition for conviction is, "a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced of error" (rooted in belief, resulting in action). I believe a conviction is a God-prompted leading to take action and make real change in my life (turning away from old and marching on towards the new), for my good and God’s ultimate glory.

Wanting to be timely in sending out birthday cards is a great idea, as is the determination to deep-clean the house closets. But what about getting on and sticking to a spending plan (budget), purposefully strengthening my relationship with God, creating better time management skills or changing eating and exercise habits? Perhaps some of these "resolutions" are actually God calling me to real, lasting change that not only benefits me, but points to God as the giver of my strength…because I could not do much on my own power. Past experience has proven that I really can’t stick to much on my own strength….I wear out, get tired, get bored and just plain ol’ don’t care about my original good intentions! Resolutions tire out. Convictions keep going when I feel like quitting because it’s more than just changing behavior…it is a change in my belief system. (It’s actually a change in my thinking, which then affects my behavior; but that seems like a deeper subject for a different day!)

As it says in Psalm 8:6, "You have given him [man] dominion…You have put all things under his feet." It states in 1 Corinthians 4:2, "It is required of stewards [manager or supervisor] that they be found trustworthy." It adds a greater sense of duty and responsibility when I see my resources as a gift, to be used right, with me as the manager. My health, home, family – all gifts on loan that can be gone in an instant. This realization adds (or, should add) a deeper level of commitment (conviction) to make sure I’m being a good steward of what I’ve been given. To properly take care of all my blessings should be much more than just a flippant, sure-to-be-broken resolution.

A long list can be made of the various areas in life where change is needed and required. I’m already overwhelmed and am getting nervous about how long my list needs to be! We can be encouraged and prepared for New Year’s resolutions and convictions by giving some thought to the following:

PRAY! Ask God for guidance and revelation in knowing the areas in which He is calling for obedience and change. Request that He reveals the new road He would have you travel—for His glory and your good—even if it is hard and it hurts. Most good things are not easy! Having a baby, remodeling a house, repairing a relationship, running a marathon...all good, but none categorized as easy.

PRACTICAL PLAN! It’s not common to decide to work out five days a week and be able to keep it up much past February. (not impossible, just not common) Start with bite-size pieces in all areas. Walk three times a week, lose five pounds (not thirty), start going to bed or getting up 15 minutes earlier than usual, limit the budget to one latte a week. Start with baby steps and work from there. Forward progress may be slow, but it will be progress nonetheless. The emphasis is on "practical" since what works for one will not work for all.

PARTNER! It’s all about accountability. Ask someone who will "hold your feet to the fire" and someone who will not accept excuses. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man [woman] sharpens another." We all need a tough and sharp friend!

PRACTICE! To borrow from a popular slogan, "Just Do It!" There is never a good time to begin something that will be difficult. Statistics show that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. (It sure feels like more!) Old habits die from neglect. When we faithfully "feed" a new habit, the old habit will start to die away. This is by far the most difficult part of any resolution or conviction….keeping on track when it is easier and more comfortable to stray off course. (Thus, the vital importance of accountability!) Sadly, I can crown myself queen of going off course, but I think my throne would be shared by many!

In my life, I am really considering what lasting changes I need to make. Maybe it was having a serious medical emergency in 2009 that is making me think "bigger picture" for my future. Or maybe it’s watching my kids grow up really fast and seeing time fly away. Or it’s the stupid wrinkles near the corners of my eyes. Whatever. It just feels like I’m doing a lot of grown-up thinking about my life and how I’m living it and realizing there need to be some changes that are more than just "good ideas."

Of course, that means I gotta finish all my Christmas candy THIS WEEK! Then you feel free to hold my feet to the fire!

Every now and again, not often, but sometimes, God brings us to a point of climax. That is the Great Divide in the life; from that point we either go towards a more and more dilatory and useless type of Christian life, or we become more and more ablaze for the glory of God - My Utmost for His Highest.
~Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Mom

I don't know if it's the time of year, where stress runs high and patience short, but I have seen SO MANY moms completely controlled by their kids! Are there really that many wimpy moms, afraid of their kid's anger and displeasure if they don't give their child his or her own way? Or am I just running into every one of them while I'm out and about? In the doctor's office, the grocery store, Target, the local coffee shop, restaurants, you name it! "I'm not going to tell you again to stop touching stuff!" was threatened more than eight times by one mom to the same child! And, this wasn't a two-year-old child I'm talking about. These harried moms are anything but joyful at this season of joy. How amazing is the power of a small, stubborn human. I always wonder at the moms (and dads) who want to be their kid’s friend; the parents who really want their child(ren) to like them. My kids know full well that I don’t care if I make their "good list" for the day or if I meet their approval…which usually revolves around them getting what they want. (I’m not going to go into the whole be-a-parent, not-a-friend thing since that’s a whole other topic for another day.)

While I am FAR from the perfect mom or a poster-mom for all that is made of sweetness, understanding and patience, I am pretty sure that over-all, my kids do not run me or my life. Oh sure, they make it busy and crowded and full, but it's not because I'm letting them run over me with their will and wants. Not that it NEVER happens, but it's sure not the norm or how the kids and I are characterized. I've had to work hard at letting them know that while I love them and they are vitally important to my husband, me and God, they are not the center of the universe and life isn't about them.

Years ago when the kids were a lot younger, we were enjoying a family lunch at a restaurant in Nashville. A few tables over was a rather loud family, where the kids were rowdy and the parents were demanding, begging and pleading with the kids to "sit down, behave and be quiet." Lunch got a lot nicer (and quieter) when that family left! We continued on with our meal, which included a lot of instruction ("Don’t dip your napkin in your sister’s water!") and numerous potty breaks. (Do they save it all up just for when we’re out?!) While it was a nice meal and nothing horribly bad happened, it was tiring for us as parents! As another couple was leaving the restaurant, the woman came over to me and complimented our children’s behavior. She also told me that while it was hard and tiring work, she thought I was doing a good job with the kids. I almost burst into tears of gratitude! Her words of encouragement made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside for a long time afterward. I NEEDED her words, and her kindness had long lasting affects on me as I pressed on in doing what was right. (Which is NOT synonymous for "what is easy.")

Next time you’re out and you see a mom doing the RIGHT thing with her children, speak a word of encouragement to her. A simple, "Being a mom isn’t easy, but I see you’re doing what’s best for your child even if he/she doesn’t appreciate it right now" can make that mom’s day. Never underestimate the power of a smile and, "I’ve been there and done that – stay strong, Mom!" as you’re walking out of the grocery store. All too often I can point out the trouble child, but how often do I look for the positive? How often do I address the positive? Truthfully, not often enough. Proverbs 25:11 says "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Words of encouragement are precious and valuable to the hearer! If there is a mom teetering on the edge of giving in, giving up and turning to the wimp-side, some fitly spoken words will be strengthening for her – especially from someone who is also in the trenches of motherhood!

Hmm…maybe I should write Diary of a Wimpy Mom...a book of warning and what I've learned along the way. I'd get be a stick figure...not likely to ever happen in real life! :)