Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Sense of a Fresh Start

[what's brewing: find out on New Year's Day!]

Isn’t it interesting that so often people who try to create a fresh start in life through a relocation, new job, or new marriage often end up making nearly the exact same choices and following the exact same patterns as they did in their previous situation? It seems we are predisposed to make certain choices consistently, despite the details of our surroundings. Maybe this is why New Year's resolutions don’t often turn out to be quite as life changing as their makers have envisioned them to be – they are all too often focused on large scale changes rather than the momentary choices that collectively create a lifestyle.

After a series of failed resolutions, I have finally started to focus on little decisions that are consistent with who I am becoming, rather than who I would rather be.

For example, I have friends who deal with their stress by engaging in physical activity – they love nothing more than going for a 3-5 mile jog to burn off stress, sadness or frustration. I, on the other hand, prefer to deal with those emotions through physical inactivity – I don’t want to do anything (though it should be noted that enough anger topped off with my own stubbornness can put me in a turbo-cleaning mode that accomplishes a remarkable amount of work in a short period of time). I would love to be the type of person who craves a long jog when feeling homesick or frustrated with language learning, but quite honestly, that is the most unnatural response I can think of. So it will not surprise you to hear that my resolution back in 2004 to become the type of person who turns negative emotions into physical activity did not prove successful.

However, my decision in 2005 to try to exert myself more in unfamiliar social situations has proven much more successful, which I attribute to the small, momentary nature of the issue.

I have often wished that I were more confident and outgoing in unfamiliar social situations. I marvel at people who can enter a room full of new people and easily delve into conversations with nearly everyone in the room by the time the night has ended. While no amount of effort will turn me into an extrovert, I do find that pushing myself to initiate conversations when it feels unnatural to do so is a practical step I can take in building relationships with people in a new setting.

And now that we are here in a new culture where social interactions are even more complex because of the language issue, this has been a vital commitment for me to come back to time and again. It’s a moment-by-moment choice to do things differently, not an attempt to change the personality that is engrained within me.

I know people who only make resolutions based upon spiritual qualities (fruits of the Spirit, prayer habits, commitments to fasting, etc.), and I also know people who don’t make resolutions at all because they believe we should always be striving for personal change and betterment. I personally love New Year's resolutions because they provide a sense of a fresh start – a time to take inventory and identify particular areas for personal growth in every aspect of who I am.

My decision to take risks in initiating conversations has been crucial in my ability to connect with people in my new setting. While it may not be a fruit of the Spirit, it reveals my dependency upon Christ for strength and confidence in a tangible way that I may not experience if I were simply focusing on joy, peace or patience. It opens the door for new relationships as it reveals my own vulnerability, which many times the women I work with need to see.

Worldly wisdom would guide me to make choices that protect and cover my own vulnerabilities and sinful ways of being. For me, resolutions are concise declarations of my desire to leave those ways behind and apply the wisdom of heaven to my life by intentionally making different and healthier choices.

With 3 short days left in the year, I’ve been thinking carefully about the resolutions I want to make this year. I always have a hard time narrowing my list down and I rarely finalize my selection until New Year’s Day – this year is no different.

Check back on New Year’s Day (Thursday) for my 2009 Resolutions!

What about you? How do you feel about New Year's resolutions?

What are you considering for your 2009 resolutions?


Grammy said...

Sometimes a goal or plan help you along, also needed are the tools and accountability partner really helps!!!!
I will never be slim again or wear a certian size but I can be fit and healthy not for me or style but for God's work. So I have gotten some exercise dvds that are do-able. That can be done in tiny spaces with no special equipment.
So I have the mind set, the material needed, now someone to keep me accountable.

Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

ahh...New Years resolutions! This is dangerous ground :-) Always those plans that fail and asperations that never get fulfilled. So I just continue to pray that my life will be filled with God's plans for our ministry, our home would be a happy place, and my daughter and my husband would continue to rejoice in all we do. These are a few of my favorite things (insert dancing here).

Ellie said...

Funny that you say that. I've moved faithfully ever few years all my life, and it's true. Every time, I say, "this will be a fresh start - here I will be like this...."

I've managed to reinvent myself in small ways... but very small... the basic problems and the struggles I deal with follow me.

The only thing I had success with on a move was becoming less shy in public situations. When I moved and began nursing school, I just told myself, "you, now, stop being shy!" The uniform helped, but it took work. I took every opportunity to present, talk, whatever job that took speaking up in public. It worked - to a degree... I'm still shy, but I can fake it well!

Two Sheep said...

This year, I am not just listing a goal, but also a couple of practical steps of how I can get there. Without those small, tangible ways I can move towards my goal, I know I will not meet it, no matter how much I desire it.

I just recently found this blog and really appreciate it. This is a great community to be part of and as a woman living cross-culturally, I need the community of others. Thank you and Happy New Year to us all!

Anonymous said...

I am one of those who don't do New Year's resolutions. I am more likely to do resolutions some time during the year when prompted by the Lord. The same applies to "fresh starts" - they are more likely to happen and in my view are more genuine when it's a God moment, some kind of work of God in my life, even if it is just a day of prayer and fasting. New Year's eve never seems to fit this definition as there are usually so many other things going on.
Happy New Year to all of you! - with or without resolutions. ;-)

Anonymous said...

As far as resolutions go...This is the first year I was able to keep mine. I must say that it has been a real comittment to read thru the Bible in a year but I made it. Not only did I make it, I grew closer to God in a relationship with Him than any Bible study I have ever done!! Context is EVERYTHING. Instead of picking out a passage to fit my problem for the week I met with God in a way that I have always wanted to. The way HE wanted me to.
I plan to do it again!!
I read your blog every Tuesday and would love to be connected to the links list.

Katherine said...

http://www.khmerkronicle.blogspot.com/ is my blog address

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for writing this, it was unbelieveably informative and told me a ton.


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