A relational and reflective new year resolution

It’s now 2019, and many people have written sweet, thoughtful posts on Facebook or other social media and blog accounts reflecting on the old year and sharing hopes for the upcoming one. I like reading the reflections, but admittedly, I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. Besides, the only times I managed to temporarily conquer my sugar problem were for a couple of Lents in years past. Apparently religiosity is sometimes more motivating to me than the time of year when you keep writing the wrong date on things…

Reluctance to resolve aside, I was inspired by (naturally) a podcast from Homebrewed Christianity, interviewing Gareth Higgins, that talked about a way to gather in community and reflect on the directions our lives are going. I love reflecting, but being in a routine about it is tough, and even tougher is being in regular relationship with people I would be this vulnerable with. I want to share about the practice with you here, in hopes that I will also find a way to birth this practice into my life.

First: gather a small group of people. At least three, up to 8 or 10, to form a community (as two is just a friendship). This will be something like an accountability group (call it something else if that feels to evangelical-y for you). Gather regularly and ask each other the following four questions:

  1. What’s coming alive to you? What is life-giving to you right now?
  2. What is challenging you, draining you or taking your life away?
  3. How is your purpose for the common good showing up? (What am I here for, what is my vocation, what gift do I have and how can I use it to help heal the community? Your gift is often where your wound was. How am I leaning into this and how am I running away from it?)
  4. Having heard what we’ve heard, how can we help each other? (whether practical or existential; economical or spiritual)

Even just writing out these questions, I feel compelled to start mulling them over. Here are where my answers are leading me this week. What about for you?

  1. What is life-giving to me is my vacation home to Colorado for the holidays, full of abundant sunshine, friends and family, and my beloved mountains (see below!). I am continuing my never-ending Enneagram exploration (currently listening to The Road Back to You), which is fun for me. I am excited for friend and family gatherings coming up in the near/near-ish future, like my brother’s wedding!
  2. What is/was challenging me recently was the feeling I have when I am not my whole self, either because I am not seen for who I am or because I refuse to bring my whole self to the table (for various reasons). I also realized how much I can daydream and tune people out when I am in the presence of others, which was rather startling when my family started pointing this out to me.
  3. My purpose for the common good is showing up when I still make time for my counseling clients this week after getting back home early Friday morning, and then when 100% of them show up, which feels validating! But using my job as a therapist also feels like a cop-out, so I’m going to add that when I do things like write or make some kind of connection with others (which for me, takes intentional effort), I am also showing up for the common good. There are so many doubts and reluctances in play that keep me from writing or believing my words or my presence really matters much at all. Sometimes it takes a lot to show up.
  4. How can you help me? By reaching out and letting me know something I said or wrote mattered. By sharing your own experiences and stories – I try and let you know when I “hear” or “see” you (online) or I try to give you my full presence when we are in person (see my struggles in #2; it is easier with friends than with family). If you feel curious and maybe a little compelled to give a group like this a shot… well, it would mean a lot if you let me know!

My beloved Colorado mountains: definitely life-giving.

Making art: Also life-giving! Especially when combined with the beloved mountains.

Do you guys have any inspiring (or just regular) New Year’s resolutions? Do groups like this sound intriguing, boring, or terrifying to you? What is giving you life and how is your purpose showing up in your life today?

simplicity and farmer’s markets

(from Tuesday, 2-9-16) The canal path is white today and the bare tree branches dusted with snow; the flakes come down and greet my eyeballs with a handshake. The simplicity and the beauty of the snow make me think: what do I really want from life? Where will I find my joy? Because I recognize that I have such joy in this simplicity; this morning run on my canal that I’ve done hundreds of times, the gentle flakes falling from the sky, the houses on the canal path that I always imagine myself living in, fantasizing of a life of simplicity and peace as you look out over this waterway every morning with your coffee. What I long for is the complex simplicity of making your home, your life, a place for people to find their peace in or find a community that they belong. What I long for is someone with whom to share all of this. And I realize, as I propel these tired legs forward on a random, beautiful Tuesday, that right now I have all that I need. In this moment, it is complete. And some deep part of me trusts that the next moment will also, somehow, be complete.

*****

(from Saturday, 2-20-16) Farmer’s Market, Saturday morning. A February morning that makes you believe wholeheartedly in spring before winter strikes again, not ready to fully release us to sunshine and melted streets and birds singing. People file into this old windowless warehouse building, funniest farmer’s market atmosphere I ever saw, for their market goodies before starting the rest of their day. My roommate sells coffee along with free huge hugs and smiles to brighten your day. I go to see her. I love this collection of people who are willing to slow down, savor tastes, and pay a little extra for the real thing. I wish I could be more like them.
Too soon it is time to go, back out to the sunshine, off to my Saturday shift in the library before I am free to run and play in this abundant sunshine. The surprise summer-in-the-end-of-winter puts me in a giddy mood and I cook up plans for how to squeeze every last drop I can from this day. I act as if I won’t have this again forever, and in a way I won’t, if forever means a couple of weeks. I remind myself to let the abundant sunshine rain its abundance on me. There will be days like this again. And right now, live fully into the moment that today is giving me.

Abundance or scarcity?

Do you live like your resources are about to run out?

I do.

Doesn’t matter what kind of resource either; I’m not picky. There is money, of course: most of us are aware of the overall trajectory of our bank account, depending on our circumstances of the time. But I know that even in the times when I’m making more money than I’m spending, I still feel like my money is at risk for running out soon.

I may be generations away from the Great Depression, but I still want to save my baggies for my next sandwich. Why throw it out when you could just use it again?

I also believe in scarcity of food. I’m that kid (maybe you are too) who was always told the importance of finishing all the food on your plate at dinner, or you’d be eating it at the next meal. Now I just have a guilt complex about wasting food. I clean up the crumbs and spoon up the melted ice cream. My friends know I’m a master scraper of what you thought were empty peanut butter jars. (I’m perhaps telling you too much about my neuroses). I get physically uncomfortable when I see people throwing food away. What about the starving kids in Africa? And hey, I bet I could put that food to good use if you gave it to me!

You didn’t know this was possible, but I also try to hoard sunsets and mountains. They are some of my favorite things to look at. But I look at them like they were going to disappear tomorrow. I hunger for the beauty, with a feeling inside of knowing the peace I experience in this beauty will soon fade away. Sunsets quickly fade to darkness. I move from Colorado to Indianapolis, which has a distinctive lack of mountains.

Why do I act like this, when I shouldn’t seem to have a reason to?

I’m housed. I have enough food. I even found out that though Indianapolis has no mountains, they’ve got great trees, and the sun sets here on the flatland in ball-of-fire ways I’ve never seen before.

I know not everyone has these things. But what might change if I believed in abundance, not scarcity?

It’s the widow who puts her last coin in as her offering while I sit back and calculate how much I think it would be “prudent” to give.

Why is it that so often, those who have the least to give, give freely, while those of us with the most to give, hold back so tightly? What is it about the idea of having that is so addictive? That keeps you searching and searching for more of whatever it is that you have until you think you have enough- not realizing that you never will?

What must we have been separated from when we entered this world that makes us long for the day, the time, the feeling, when we will never be lacking??

I occasionally wonder what it would look like to live with abandon, childlike, not worrying about how I personally am going to make everything come to fruition. Being able to live exuberantly — not narcissistically or selfishly or spending all my money on myself, but realizing that money is just a thing. It’s not an ideal to be collected and saved, or contrarily, to spend on worldly treasures and experiences. It’s a tool. Helps us get around in this strange world we live in. It’s not a god.

What if we lived and moved in communities where we really loved one another as we loved ourselves, and if someone is hurting, down and out, and in financial distress, we didn’t bat an eye at helping them out. Who wouldn’t buy themselves food when they needed it- or their neighbor whom they love? Likewise, I could move securely in this community trusting that if I were in great need, someone – someone whom I loved deeply – would come to help me. I would also need humility to accept help like that.

What if I could act in faith believing that if I extend myself – perhaps in risky ways – to help another, somehow, that extension will not fall to the ground without bearing fruit. I will, somehow (here or after) be protected, while I do my part in protecting others. What if that little piece of good was like a seed, and the only way to get it to grow is to drop it, scatter it, send it out, even at the risk of being crushed or going unnoticed, because it’s not going to start growing while it’s clenched in my fist.

At the end of the day, I will never be lacking when I am acting in real, genuine love.

I know it’s risky to pray for crazy things like… the ability to take risks. To ask for challenges that require me to take action to meet the challenges. To ask who and how I may serve today.

Risky, but worth it. I’m not saying I’m going to be a rock-star success as I stumble on this trail, but I think I want to give it a shot. Who is with me?