Making Next Year a Good Year: Seven Things That Will Be Free in 2009

Monday, December 29, 2008

After all the events of the past few months-- the economic troubles, the restrained but still costly Christmas gifts and celebrations, the resulting bills and fatigue ... could you use a little encouragement about the year to come?

Me too.

So I've listed a few things that will be stark raving free in the coming year. Are you ready?

1. Rest. Funny, isn't it, that so many Christians seem to know so little of the rest Jesus talks about when he says "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden." We are far too heavy laden to spend much time considering the lilies of the field. We have work to do.

I wonder if we wouldn't do well to bring the term, "worldly" back into the Christian lexicon. You know, that word we once used to describe things like the practice of dancing (even the Jitterbug) or going to the movies (any movies) or playing cards. We finally discarded the word because some movies are really good, and we like to play cards. (For some reason, a lot of Christians still don't dance, not even the Jitterbug, and that seems a shame.)

I do think it's a useful term. It's the only word I know that can rightly signify those unquestioned ways of thinking and doing things that Jesus didn't share with the rest of the world, and that he asked us to stop sharing: "Do not worry, asking, what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or what shall we wear? For those are the things everybody else worries about." (Popa translation.)

This year, if you choose to, you can let everybody else do the worrying. You can let go the need to acquire and hoard, and take your bills a little step at a time. You can take a rest from all the worry, and trust that Jesus meant what he said about those lilies of the field.

2. Space. Without making it a burden, you can treat yourself to a regular un-shopping spree, by choosing a desktop or drawer or shelf in your home or office, removing everything, and putting back only the few things you really, really need, and a couple things you really, really love. Of course, the only way to keep this from becoming a burden is to work on one small area at a time. Not a whole closet. One closet rod or shelf.

What you're "buying" for yourself and your family in this un-shopping spree is open space, and open space looks a lot like peace to me. A valuable commodity, don't you think?

What to do with the stuff you remove? You know the drill: If it's junk, toss it. If it's not, give it away - I mean walk it right down to your second hand store or Salvation Army truck. If it's really, really, really precious, more precious than space and peace (think about this), store it away.

3. Beauty. Somewhere near you there is a beautiful place. A park? The beach? A lake? Go there as often as you can. Feed the birds. Note the changing seasons. If you have a camera, use it; if you don't, dig out a blank book or notepad and draw a sketch, or start a journal . Become a part of the place, and let it become part of you.

4. Friendship. Stay close to your friends this coming year. Find things to do together that cost nothing. Take them to your beautiful place. Give them half your coffee. They will need your cheery face, your encouraging words, and you will need theirs.

5. Meaning. This one isn't so hard. On a regular basis, find someone outside your circle of friends, and encourage them. Everybody gets a million subtle messages a day that they are not pretty enough, young enough, wealthy enough, smart enough. If you tell them to their face that they are all that and a bag of chips, they may not believe you. Find a million - or maybe just a few - subtle ways to tell them they are valued. Ask their opinions and advice. Admire their accomplishments. Look them in the eye, and openly like them. Make them your friends. Voila. All at once, your life will have meaning.

6. Quiet. If you keep considering those lilies of the field, you'll find it easier to just blow in the wind once in a while. Why not let go of doing so much and spend a little time just being? It's good to listen to that still small voice that can only be heard in the quiet.

7. A Kinder, Gentler Shorter To-Do List. I've stopped prioritizing my list. From now on, 1 is for the big bad urgent things, and most days I hope I don't have any of those. The numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 no longer signify hierarchies of importance, but rather times of day: 2 is early morning, 3 is late morning, 4 is early afternoon... see the trend? When I enter an item in the list, I preface it with the number of minutes I think it will take - and I try hard to overestimate. Then I look at how much time I've planned for each part of the day, and generally, if I've planned more than an hour and a half, something has to move to another time or another day. I know, an hour and a half times four equals six, not eight hours, but the unexpected happens every day, so why not just expect it? This method leaves me with a short, realistic, doable list. For free.

I have a confession. Some of this stuff I'm not doing - yet. Are you? Ah, but aren't we free to change?

And wouldn't this be a lovely way to spend the coming year?


Judy said...

Thoughtful post, Katy. Great list. I need to make these "free things" a priority in my life this year.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Beautiful thoughts, Katy. I'm going to put this on my board so I can be reminded, then I'm going to put what I can into practice. Do you know what a valuable friend you are to me??

Latayne C Scott said...

Thank you for those wonderful ideas, Katy. I really liked the idea of cleaning out just one drawer at a time.