A New Year and Some Help in the Valley of Suck

I hate New Year's Resolutions.

Seriously, I just feel I have to put that fact out there.  I am good with just calling them resolutions or goals.  And I do not want to dissuade you from making good, life changing decisions in a new year.  My problem with them, I think, is that it makes the new year seem like things from last year just went "poof!" and they're gone.

They aren't.

You know it and I know it.  I know it more personally than ever I guess.  The valley of suck, this period of grief and readjustment continues.  Another first is coming this week: our wedding anniversary is just ahead - my first one without Heather.

The new year did not bring an end to the reality of our loss and readjustment.  My kids and I are still healing and our hearts still ache.  There are bad days and good days and moments where we expect to hear Heather come through the door or laugh or shout our names because we did something silly and stupid.

Even so, there is hope in a new year. There are so many changes which I can see coming down the road, so many opportunities before us, so many decisions each of us have to make for ourselves and how we continue to become a "new" family.  We made some new traditions among the old ones and said goodbye to a few as well.

But I still did not make any new year's resolutions.  I don't because I know I won't ever keep them, not if I make them at the new year mark.  I have found I do better before or after January 1.  Either that or I make the decision at a different time of the year, usually at the place where I see the need for change.

This week, as I began the new year, I did listen to my heart and found a longing, a longing for guidance, a need for being more attentive.  From it came a breath prayer: "Holy Spirit, speak clear so I may hear and follow faithfully this year."  Even as I pray it, I am reminded my responsibility here is precisely to HEAR.

So far, I have found two things which have been most helpful and have already shaped and guided my discernment process.

The first was connecting to Michael Hyatt.  If you aren't familiar with Hyatt, you can check out his blog at MichaelHyatt.com.  I came across his blog in November and a webinar he did on writing.  One of his resources, "Your Best Year Ever," helped me drill down to eight goals I want to make happen in this coming year.  Enrollment for this course has passed now but you would still benefit from his other works.

Here is what I want to encourage you to do that I learned from Michael and working on my own goals: KNOW WHAT MOTIVES ARE BEHIND YOUR RESOLUTION/GOAL.  If you are making any goal whether it is weight loss, exercise, family life, work related, etc. don't jus make a resolution or plan.  No, take some time to write out 3 or more motives BEHIND the goal.  When things get bumpy (and they will) or you sense a conflict in your life regarding a decision, it is likely here, in your motivations, where the conflict lies.

The second is the book, Mini Habits by Stephen Guise.   I'm still reading but it has already helped me with following through on my goals.  Everything started for Stephen with doing 1 push-up a day. But Guise doesn't just share his experience of living a better life through making mini habits, he examines the science and reasoning why this is a better way.  I downloaded this on my Kindle and suspect it will be a go-to reference for the coming year.

Now, I'm not going to tell you what all my goals are but one is probably obvious and it is to discern God's leading in the coming year.  Now, that may seem vague, and I mean it to be.  It is actually much more specific BUT my point is, your spiritual growth, improving your relationship with God is NOT going to just happen in 2017.  God's grace empowers you to move toward God if you want but God is not going to force you.  Paul's point to the church at Corinth was, in part, to encourage them in this way when he writes to run "the race" as though there is a prize to be won (1 Corinthians 9:24).  The prize is the relationship you develop with God - God alone is the prize - no temporal trophy is to be won.

As I have looked back, I find my intuition to have played out, namely that grieving fully the loss of my wife with each surge of emotion, has made each decision and each day a little easier.  The valley still sucks, the loss still is felt, but life, my life, is meant to go forward.  So I will, living from grace to grace, running knowing the prize is always present.

Images used with permission: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/new-years-eve-1-1325351 and http://www.freeimages.com/photo/hourglass-1418304


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