I haven’t done a New Year’s Resolution or New Year’s “word” in a while. I’ve done them on and off again. But this year’s smacked me upside the head.
It started a few weeks ago.
I turn 50 in September. And I’m super heavy. Overweight heavy. The heaviest I’ve ever been except for pregnancy. You know, with triplets.
So I’d already planned to do weight loss as a New Year ‘resolution.’ No extreme diet or plan. I have to lose 32 pounds in 8 months. That feels reasonable. Four pounds a month, or one a week. Cleaner eating. Walking every morning. And then whatever else I can work up to. Modest goal.
At the same time, I’m watching the kids spend more time on their phones. They have now had them for a year. We have plenty of controls. No app downloads without permission. Screen limits. Downtime. We check their texts every other day or so. They know these are our phones and breaking phone rules means they lose them. But I’ve seen the addiction creeping it and it concerns me.
This week at dinner, I said we’d try a family resolution. No use of the phones Monday – Wednesday except for calling/texting or if a work/school email had to be returned. No social media (for mom). No games or You Tube (for anyone). No use of the phone except for how you’d use an old school Blackberry.
As these resolutions started bubbling up, a word bubbled up too.
It was more than just too much food. Or wine. Or cell phone. It was too much of everything.
Bray went up in our attic to put away our boxes of Christmas décor this week and was apoplectic. “WHAT IS ALL THIS STUFF? This is insane!” He said that we’re decluttering and we’d start with his office, but we would hit every space in our house.
I’ve started spending without discipline again. Periodically I go on a spending diet. I notice with three kids in middle school, the spending sneaks up on you. Athletic gear and new clothes and presents and parties to attend and school activities and donations. Nothing bad. But the amount of money I’ve spent in 2022 has passed previous records.
Then, as I’m crafting this blog post, I heard THREE (that’s right, not one, not two but THREE) reinforcements of the power of less. God calling me, and our family, to less. So I wouldn’t miss it.
First, I’m listening to a book called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer which a friend recommended. Dr. Kimmerer is a Native American and shares wisdom about the importance of the care and reciprocity of our land which came from her Native American heritage. In a chapter called Windigo Footprints, she talks about the Windigo monster in traditional tales that was designed to strengthen self-discipline and to build resistance against the insidious germ of taking too much. “The Windigo nature is in each of us. So the monster was created in stories that we might learn why we should recoil from that greedy part of ourselves. This is why elders remind us to always acknowledge the two faces – the light and the dark side of life. In order to understand ourselves, see the dark, recognize it’s power, but do not feed it.” The insidious germ of taking too much – boy if that doesn’t characterize me and everything around us in our country.
Next, I’m listening to a podcast by Annie F. Downs called Let’s Read the Gospels. Every day for a month, she reads three chapters from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John and at the end of the month you’ve listened to the entire gospels. Each month she’ll read them in a different translation. She is starting in John. In John 3:30, John the Baptist says “He must become greater; I must become LESS!!!” (Exclamation points added. Like the Bible just went and SAID THE WORD right when I was supposed to be learning it.) Then, right after that, in John 6, Jesus shows the power of “less” when he feeds thousands with five small loaves and two small fish.
Less isn’t for us. Less doesn’t diminish what can be done. Less is so God can show up and be God.
Finally, I’m listening to Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (having already read it a couple of years back), and she’s sharing how she moved to a simpler life. She said, just tonight!, “Pride, for years, has told me I’m strong enough to drink from a fire hose and gluttony tells me it will be so delicious. But those voices are liars.”
I feel those words like arrows to the deepest part of me.
Because of having a childhood of less because of necessity and lack, I’m ever prone as an adult to “more” in the worst sense. I overdo it all. For parties, I’ll prepare like there’s 40 even if there’s only 10. I want “nicer” things. Remodel parts of the house. Remodel parts of me.
Those deep needs for more are from the unhealthier parts of me.
So my resolution, to the extent there is one, and my word, to the extent I have one, is LESS.
Less time on the phone.
Less opens the door to more.
More time with those I love most.
The only way to get to the healthy more is with a concentrated effort on less.
That’s what I pray 2023 will hold for me. Less.
What will it hold for you?