New Year’s Resolution
by Ann-Margret Hovsepian
I suffer from a strange condition I call pickupthephonaphobia. Over the past two decades, I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews and tackled countless difficult writing projects. The task I dread the most, however, is picking up the phone to make a business call. I also struggle with putonmysneakersphobia. I love walking and, when I get going, I can put in a great workout. That’s if I can manage to put my sneakers on and actually walk out the front door. Can you relate?
Sometimes we keep ourselves from accomplishing great things because we can’t get over the first hurdle on the track. Other times, such as every January 1, we start enthusiastically but, somewhere along the way, we run out of steam or get off track. Either way, we can become discouraged about ever reaching our desired destination.
If you struggle with starting (or sticking to) your goals, your teen probably does, too. Since New Year’s is a time people typically resolve to make positive changes in their lives, it’s a perfect opportunity for you to connect with your teen and share with each other your hopes and goals for the coming months. Accountability can play a huge role in successfully making changes, so team up to help each other experience a fresh start that makes it past the third week of January. By modeling authenticity in your struggles, you will alleviate some of the anxiety your teen may be feeling about his or her own goals.
Most of us start each year with a long, stress-inducing to-do list and, if we’re honest, it only makes us feel lousy, as if we were such horrible people in the previous 12 months that we need a major overhaul this year to have any value. This is usually the result of comparing ourselves to others. Please stop doing that to yourself! Your teen knows you do it and will likely pick up the same tendencies.
Ironically, the motive behind most resolutions is to make us feel better about ourselves, a flawed strategy that inevitably leads to failure. Try this: Instead of writing down all the things you can do to like yourself better 12 months from now, ask the Lord to help you start a revolution in your life and in your family, to transform you from the inside out. Romans 12:1-2 is a perfect passage to memorize and meditate on: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
This year, replace your list of goals with a blank page that you offer to God. Allow Him to reshape your thoughts, character and behavior.
Old Habits Die Hard
I’m pretty sure some of you are still itching for a list, so here are five general principles (not goals) that can help you start a revolution in 2015. Share these with your teen and talk about how life might look different a year from now if you made these changes. Brainstorm ways you can implement these and other positive changes in your lives and how you can encourage each other.
- DO A CLEAN SWEEP (Colossians 3:5-10) – Before you tackle the closets you want to declutter or start tossing out junk you’ve been hoarding, invite the Lord to help you let go of attitudes and compulsive behaviors that hinder your spiritual growth and your relationships with others.
- CELEBRATE EACH DAY (Psalm 118:24) – Don’t wait for special occasions to break out the fancy dinnerware, blow out candles or give cards. Make it a habit to find something special about each day to rejoice over, because each day is a precious gift from God. Do something fun or meaningful—even if it’s tiny—to celebrate.
- BREAK UP WITH YOUR MIRROR (1 Peter 3:3-4) – When I turned 40, I wrote this in my journal: “There must come a point in every girl’s life when she cares less about how beautiful she is and more about the beauty she creates.” Certainly, use a mirror when you’re getting ready in the morning but try not to spend hours in front of it and avoid checking it throughout the day. Set an example of prioritizing inner beauty over outer beauty and of beautifying the world around you. Remind yourself that how you see is more important than how you look.
- TALK LESS, LISTEN MORE (James 1:19) – We joke about how there’s a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth, but the truth is that some people can be difficult to listen to. However, your relationships in general will become healthier when your loved ones see that you are listening to understand them and not simply to respond.
- BARK LESS, WAG MORE (Philippians 2:14, 4:4) – Determine that you will replace complaining and criticizing with thanking and praising. Don’t wait for your circumstances to change your feelings; you will be waiting a long, long time. Instead, change your attitude, and your circumstances will suddenly look very different.
One More Thing
Here’s a fun project, with two formats to choose from, that you can work on throughout the year, either one-on-one with your teen or as a whole family. Put up a bulletin board somewhere central or, if you don’t want guests seeing it, get a journal (or scrapbook) that you can take turns passing around or leaving in random spots around the house to be discovered.
The idea is that your board or journal will become a communication hub—using words, photos, artwork, clippings, souvenirs, etc.—to celebrate life together, deepen your relationships with each other, and spur one another on in your spiritual journeys. This is an effective way to draw out quieter family members who may hesitate to share their thoughts vocally. Don’t fuss about how the board our journal looks or about making it perfect. Let it be messy and real and fun.
Use the board or journal to:
- Acknowledge each other’s accomplishments
- Record special memories
- Share prayer requests
- Acknowledge answers to prayer
- Share inspiring quotes, song lyrics and Bible verses
- Express what you love or appreciate about each other
- Share photos of favorite things, dream destinations, etc.
- Brainstorm ways to bless others as a family (and then make notes when you do them)
- Jot down things you want to experience together (e.g. trips, new restaurants, movies, books, recipes, etc.)
- Acknowledge things you’re thankful for
- Share funny jokes, comics or anecdotes
- Thank each other for small gestures or kind words
- Highlight ways that God is transforming you as individuals and as a family
Did 2014 not turn out the way you had hoped? Let it go. Let God give you a fresh start. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “’The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
I love how Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley put it: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
Ann-Margret’s third devotional book for tween girls, Truth, Dare, Double Dare (Cook), was released in October 2014. She is an award-winning journalist in Montreal who is passionate about women’s ministry and missions.
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