Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

Do you ever have one of those moments when you’re just trucking along, thinking you know what’s what, and then BAM, something unexpected happens leaving you grasping for purchase, grappling with faith, and gasping for breath?

Maybe it’s a phone call or a knock on the door or a news story/social media post, something that reminds you of the fragility of your morality, the precariousness of life as you know it in this instant. There’s been an accident, a death, a diagnosis, a divorce, a suicide, a crime.

Maybe those afflicted are close to you. Maybe they’re not. Maybe, in some cases, they’re even complete strangers. But what you’re not a stranger to is the lump that sets up shop in the pit of your stomach like a clenched fist. The pall that settles over your heart and spirit. The questions and lamentations lodged in the back of your mind that spin like a playlist on repeat: Why? What if? If only.

Perhaps these feelings even spur you into motion. You act more kindly, give more freely, love more fiercely. You decide that life is too short, time too precious, and energy too valuable to use up on anything that doesn’t meet your criteria for the most important, the most essential.

But then the days fly by as they tend to do, and as one week fades into the next, you find you’ve returned to your old self. Your patience wears thin, your compassion fizzles out, your bitterness resurfaces. Whether out of self-protection or forgetfulness, the tragedy that seemed like it would never leave the forefront of your thoughts has been relegated to the back of your memory along with other such events. The world rights itself, and you find again that which has become your normal.

You rush and run, compete and compare, hustle and harp. All the perspective you gained from this last unanticipated catastrophe fades away until the next one strikes and the cycle starts again. But maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe one day you realize that you don’t need to wait for a next time. Maybe today is that day. Maybe today is the day you just intentionally stop in the midst of the madness and remind yourself what matters most.

The Rainbow of Goal Realization

You don’t have to hang out with me long to know that I love alliteration. I love the rhythm of alliterative words and how they add a poetic flourish to phrases. How they dance across a page, roll off the tongue, and more importantly, how easy they are to remember.

My last series, The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP, was an alliterative dream. I talked about Acknowledging Accountability and Navigating Negativity and Waking up to Worth. All the things that I either struggled with or found helpful in making progress on both my manuscript WIP and myself as a human WIP.

I also love color. As a kid I dreamed of living in a house with siding planks painted in repeating shades of the rainbow. Since that hasn’t happened (yet), I’m satisfying my kiddie self by calling on a popular mnemonic device to take us through my next series. You may recall Roy G. Biv as the helpful tool many of us learned as children to remember the colors of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

However, for my purposes, Roy G. Biv stands for:

  • Reason
  • Organization
  • Yes!
  • Go!
  • Become
  • Inspire
  • Victory

Altogether, this creates The Rainbow of Goal Realization. Over the next seven weeks, I’ll be digging deeper into these topics, devoting a blog post and a Facebook video (posted every Wednesday) to each one. So if you have a goal you’ve been wanting to achieve but you’ve found it difficult to get started (or maybe you don’t even know how/where to start), be sure to check in again next week as we dive into that first step: reason.

Until then, if you missed out on the last series, you can find all those videos on my Facebook page. Or if you prefer to read them, they are available here on the blog under the category The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP.

The Importance of Play

Last week Tuesday represented a multitude of lasts. It was the last day of the year, the last day of the decade, and the last time I’ll ring in a new year in my thirties.

But there was also a first.

It was the first time in nearly twenty years of NYE celebrations that Angelo and I spent the evening on our own. With neither of us feeling 100%, we decided to stay in, playing board games while waiting for the ball to drop.

These weren’t your average, sophisticated, adult-level games. Nope. Given the choice, we threw it way, WAY back to childhood with Sorry! and Battleship and Mastermind. We built an oddly shaped structure (shown in the picture) while playing Super Blockhead and performed surgery with a little metal tweezer in Operation.

I had forgotten how much fun these simple games could be—though, in all honesty, part of the entertainment was due to our ineptitude in playing some of them. (I seriously don’t remember Operation being so challenging, but I jumped every single time that unholy buzzer went off. And I set it off A LOT!)

Although most of the hilarity would fit in the you-had-to-be-there category, suffice it to say there was a great deal of laughter. And because my laugh, like my mother’s, seems to be inextricably linked to my tear ducts, there was also an equal amount of crying.

The evening as a whole was enjoyable, both relaxing and cathartic, and it was a reminder of the importance of play. As children, play is easy, it comes to us naturally. But as adults, bogged down by the weight of responsibilities and obligations, play is no longer a priority. Our muscle memory declines and because many of us forget how to do it, we miss out on the opportunity to experience these simple pleasures, these moments of unrestrained delight.

So my challenge to you (and to myself) is this: make time—I mean consistent, intentional time—to play. Rediscover the toys and games you adored as a kid, buy yourself a coloring book and fancy markers, paint, swing, go sledding, dance. By committing to unleash our inner child through her favorite activities, we will spring forth into this New Year with buoyant feet, uplifted spirits, and joyful hearts.

Life, after all, is itself a game. How will you choose to play it?

A 2020 Theme

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Yesterday was January 1, 2020. Not just the flip of a new calendar year but the turn of a new decade. And although I no longer subscribe to the notion that a new year is necessary for setting resolutions and goals, I do believe it is a prime time to look ahead. To plan and envision the next twelve months with fresh perspective and hope. To create a concrete and concise theme that embodies our values, our dreams, and our desires.

The purpose of this theme is not to make us inflexible to growth or change—we are, however unfortunately, neither immune to nor capable of fully preparing for the unexpected—but to serve as a guidepost. An anchor to steady us, a roadmap to refer to when life gets hectic. Like the beacon of a lighthouse shining in the night sky, a yearly theme can draw our focus back toward our original destination no matter how off course we might become.

Last year my theme revolved around three words—courage, connection, consistency—and as I began pondering the year that lies ahead, making a list of single words that spoke volumes to me, I again zeroed in on three (as an added bonus, they (again) tapped into my alliterative nature): simplicity, stillness, and service.

Individually, these three words hold a great deal of importance for me but tethered together, the strength of their significance is even greater. The first, simplicity, creates the foundation on which the other two are built and the structure, in totality, exemplifies my 2020 theme.

Simplicity: For the last few years I have felt an almost magnetic pull toward the idea of paring down my life to the bare essentials. To minimize not only unnecessary physical stuff but also mental clutter, meaningless busyness, and those done-just-because-I’ve-always-done-them habits. But shedding the extraneous is simply the means to an end. It’s about creating a pathway through the things that disrupt and distort and distract, leaving ample space for stillness.

Stillness: There’s a hymn we sing in church called, You Are Mine. The beginning lyrics are such that singing (and even reading) them without choking up is next to impossible for me. I’m not exactly sure of the copyright laws for songs and blogs, so I won’t quote it exactly, but the gist of it is a promise from God: That he has called each of us to a specific purpose and it is in the silent stillness of our heart that we will come to know what that purpose is, that we will know how we are meant to serve.

Service: I believe we were all made to love and serve and contribute to the goodness of mankind using our God given talents and abilities. Though this is my belief and something I feel strongly about, it often gets put on the backburner both because a service mindset doesn’t come naturally to me and because I am easily overwhelmed by the number of available options: the organizations that need volunteers, the causes that need funds, the people who are just generally in need. And this is how I come full circle back to simplicity.

To quote business management writer Patrick Lencioni, “If everything is important, then nothing is important.” This year, 2020, is going to be the year that I finally simplify my life enough to figure out what is important. It is through simplicity that I will create space for stillness in order to hear God’s guidance for where I may be of service. Simplicity – Stillness – Service. This is my theme for 2020.

Do you begin a new year with a guiding theme in mind?