We’re prone to wax philosophical on December 31st, aren’t we? Whether you’re a goal-setter, resolution-maker, or a disavower of both, we often grow a bit reflective as we anticipate turning the proverbial calendar page. (Well, I do anyway. Do you?)
In the months leading up to my oldest child’s departure for college, I’ve been consumed with emotions and lengthy lists.
The fact that I’ve got lists should come as no surprise. I’ve got lists of items I need to purchase for her, tasks to get done, and wisdom to impart (all the things I’m sure I never taught her!). I suppose the emotions should be expected, too. (Note to the wise: do not purchase the airplane ticket for firstborn’s college departure when premenstrual; extreme risk to computer keyboard.) Yet in all the activity and tears, a single question has proved to be the most helpful in preparing me for this emotional milestone.
“Back to school” felt really different this fall. And I did not like it one bit.
My oldest daughter really took responsibility this year.
She looked up her schedule.
She organized her supply needs.
She drove herself to registration.
And to school.
And to practice.
All. By. Herself.
Before she left for school one morning last week, I began to load her water bottle with ice so it would still be cold by the time her 3:30pm cross-country practice rolled around. She’d already prepared her own breakfast and lunch; this was my small token effort to come alongside. But she interrupted me, saying that she wanted to do it… a particular way.
I felt rejected.
She didn’t seem to require anything from me. She just didn’t need me. While we’re raising our children to prepare them for launch into adulthood, I wanted her to need me (for more than just registrar fees, anyway).
I am a pessimist.
There. I said it. It may not make me popular, but it’s true. This “glass half full” way of going through life isn’t something I chose; some of my earliest memories and childhood decisions were couched in it. It colors my every day as an adult. Not in a paralyzing fashion, mind you, but it affects me nonetheless.
pessimism – an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome
If this was my natural inclination, then did God appoint it to me? Like introversion and extroversion, is there a place for pessimism within the Christian Body? I think it’s possible and will explore that idea more fully later in the series. Yet the hope that we have as Christians — because of our salvation and the certainty of heaven — should buoy and encourage even the most despondent of pessimists.
To that end, I’m embarking on a 31 day writing series called “Think on these things: Learning optimism”. Over the course of October, I’ll post some daily thoughts on this topic, inspired partly by Philippians 4:
I love starting projects.
Cleaning closets. Organizing the garage. Planting bulbs in the yard for spring color. Sinking my teeth into a Lindt dark chocolate bar… the kind with a touch of sea salt. Finishing projects is a whole different story. Somewhere in the middle, I just give up steam. The “to donate” pile lingers in the corner of the closet for weeks. The garage has a strange collection of tools that never really find their home on the peg board. And I still have boxes of unplanted bulbs. (I’ve got no problem finishing the chocolate bar, however.)
Whether you call them resolutions or goals doesn’t really matter. The days between 12/25 and 1/1 are usually free of regular commitments, permitting time for reflection and evaluation, to set a course for the coming year. There’s something about flipping the calendar over that fills me with renewed vigor and hope. Yet before February 1, that hope dissipates when many of us find ourselves already off track. Before you lose inertia, here are a few tips to keep you on the wagon:
Here we are, gang, at the launch of our fall Bible study of Amos. I look forward to the coming weeks of study together. (It’s not too late to sign up; the first set of questions will hit your inboxes on Monday.) Some background information on our prophet and his book might prove helpful as we get started. I’ve got a few additional thoughts for you in the vlog at the end of the text — just press play.
The book of Amos is considered one of the ‘minor prophets’. This isn’t a comment on the content of his prophecy, rather only describes the length of the book. It’s ‘minor’ when compared to the likes of Isaiah and Jeremiah. But his message is quite major, as we’ll see.
I cheat every year.
The first morning of school is too frenetic in our household to stop and take photos on the way out the door. And my kids depart at differing times, making a group shot impossible. A few years ago, I began taking their pictures the night before school… or even a couple nights before. My goal is simply to capture what they looked like at this juncture in their lives… it doesn’t really matter to me that they don’t have a backpack on or that it wasn’t 7:45AM when I snapped the shutter.
If I take an honest look at my motivations, I admit I also prefer that their clothing is somewhat coordinated. I detoured from my Finance coursework in college and took a photography class, so I came to care whether colors and stripes conflicted or complemented. But we’re long past the days when I could mandate their ‘outfit’ for the first day of school. By taking photos on a different day, I manage to get a cohesive picture with a coordinating color scheme.
A four letter word. Of the best variety.
I’ve been reading the book of Amos this summer, in anticipation of studying it this fall. Amos beseeches Israel to repent of sin and return to God.
For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel:
“Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
Seek the Lord and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!”
— Amos 5:4-7 ESV
Summer vacation: excitement or dread?
School’s out in our neck o’ the woods. That means my carefully crafted schedule has been turned on its ear. No more neatly slated, color-coded Outlook appointments. Gone are the large chunks of time allotted for writing… something I apparently can only accomplish in blocks that exceed 120 minutes.