I don’t know anyone who makes New Year’s resolutions, do you? We used to, but we rarely kept them and felt miserable about it, so we just don’t do it anymore. And yet, a brand new year calls for some kind of change. Instead of ‘resolutions’, we determine to make some improvements. We choose to work at getting better at what is already good and losing whatever is not so good through the process of attrition.
Wouldn’t it be nice if things worked that way? OK, granted, up to a point, they do. Every day has 24 hours and if we focus on pursuing good habits and goals, there’s simply less time for the bad ones. Eventually, the good overtakes the bad. At least, that’s the ideal.
There are different approaches to this process of improvement. Some people take an inventory at the beginning of the year and choose their area(s) of focus: healthy eating, exercising more, work related goals or polishing a craft or skill. Some people create Bucket Lists – things they want to do or achieve before they die; feeling happy when they tick off items as they do them. Some people decide to let go of one dream in order to pursue a new one.
Pastor Andy Wood of lifevesting.com selects one word for the year, and applies it to every area of his life. His word for 2017 is walk. Find out why here http://lifevesting.com/blog/2017/01/04/walk-my-one-word-for-2017/.
That word, walk, resonates with me. I love to walk. It’s my favourite mode of exercise. Not only does it get me from point A to point B, but there’s so much to see and enjoy along the way. I rarely tire of familiar routes but I delight in finding new ones, or in varying the ones I know well.
Walking denotes movement. It requires you to decide to get up out of your chair, choose a direction and move. Purposefully, at a moderate measured pace. Not running. Not limping along slowly. But putting one foot in front of the other, consistently. That’s what I plan to do this year – in my relationships with close family and friends, and with God; in my work, my health, my home life and leisure time. I will consider where I want to go in each of these areas, and start walking.
My first step is to do what many Christians do – begin the year with 21 days of fasting and prayer. They seek God’s direction for their lives and their roles as members of the body of Christ. The added benefit is that it helps shed those holiday pounds and resets them to a healthier way of eating. There is excellent material on this available here https://www.jentezenfranklin.org/danielfast.
This is my first time doing a dedicated new year fast, I chose the Daniel Fast (DF) because it’s doable for me. The fast is based on the biblical model of Daniel and his friends (Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego). To honour God, they asked to be allowed to follow their own simple diet rather than partake of the king of Babylon’s rich fare. The diet consisted of vegetables, pulses (legumes) and water. No meat, dairy, fermented foods, alcohol, caffeine or processed foods (the last two are for the more contemporary version of the fast). They did this for 10 days, after which they were found to be healthier than the other young men in their group.
The contemporary DF allows grains (like oats, rye), nuts and beverages like plain nut milk. When I committed to doing fast, I decided in advance that I would have one ‘cheat’ – my morning coffee. I also had some yogurt to use up before I started (on January 9th) and that was part of my commitment to waste less this year (food, money and time).
So at the end of day 4, I felt good. Mild hunger pangs (mid afternoon and after dinner) which I would normally satisfy with cheese, crackers, chips or ice cream, I settled with almonds and dates. Breakfast has been fruit, lunch vegetable stew with beans and dinner vegetable soup with rice cakes. Afternoon snacks were a banana, an apple with peanut butter or plain almonds.
I am finding that it’s not so much the actual food that I miss as the freedom to choose it. Already I recognize my pattern of defaulting to foods that I know are not healthy (chips, ice cream) or digestion-friendly (cheese, wheat products) simply because they are convenient and filling. A touch of comfort and self-medicating, perhaps? I also miss having a glass of red wine when I get home from work, to transition from ‘work mode’ to ‘home mode’. It gives me a chance to sit in a comfy chair for a few minutes, and look out the window at the lights in the buildings across the way (and colourful Christmas lights) and at stars twinkling in the indigo sky. To say ‘thank you’ for another day.
Hearing from God
In my quiet time the other day, I got a picture of a maple tree that grows in a park near my previous home. In early autumn, the leaves on one half of the tree begin to turn gold and red, while the other half remains mostly green, its leaves colouring later and more slowly. What this picture did was to reassure me that, while I’m getting older and certain opportunities are past, I still have time to accomplish something in life, to make a difference.
Someone once said, God is speaking to us all the time, we only hear occasionally. Over the remainder of my fast time, I will be listening more closely. I look forward to more insights and encouragement. I believe that this year will be one of change. Being and doing differently. I am beginning with small changes that I believe will lead to bigger ones.
I am committed to walk in 2017.