When the New Year Begins Without a New You {and you’re stress-eating sweet tarts}


Two weeks ago I had big plans to roll out the new year with a bevy of productive and worthy endeavors: kids in school, back to a regular exercise schedule, writing ideas, and general goodwill toward others and myself.

And then school starts back but without all the kids. Because strep throat.

And you’re running back and forth to the pediatrician instead of the gym.

And while your house has yet to return to its pre-holiday condition, a flurry of showings pop up three days in a row and you vow that your next house will be a mansion whether you can afford it or not because you never want to list your house again.

And you are darting across Walmart like a manic squirrel on a Monday morning because you didn’t make a list.

And you signed up for two meals — one for a dear family and one for the cheer team and this was many weeks ago and how were you to know then that they’d land on the same day? The same day that one child has a meltdown and is paralyzed from getting ready for school and so you make two separate trips. The same day as another house showing. The same day that two kids have games at the same time.

And so you’re the classy mom in her minivan, driving around town with restless kids and piled-up laundry and a bewildered dog.

#mealsonwheels   #justanothermanicmonday

See? My funny has been reduced to hashtags.

Sometimes the new year starts without you.

Sometimes a new week starts without you too. At least not the you that you’d planned on back when 2015 was fresh out of the gate with possibility.

Days and weeks like this show me what I’m made of — stress, selfishness, and an addiction to my own agenda and also Chewy Mini Sweet-Tarts.

I mean, how am I going to get my amazing on when I am running around serving people?

That’s the embarrassing truth of the matter.

For many months now, I’ve been praying that God would show me my selfishness. I still don’t know why I decided to pray for that but let’s just say God has been faithful to answer. Yay! Thanks God.

Apparently I am the world’s biggest onion and there is no end to the all the layers.

When I begin to see my inside mess for what it really is, I begin to despair. I am always just one chewy sweet tart away from the shame spiral. I am all curses and woe and muppety Don Music banging my head on the piano keys: I’ll never, never, never get it!

A couple of weeks ago we had an honest discussion about gentleness in our Sunday School class. We were studying a passage in 1 Timothy and how we’re called to pursue gentleness. But we were candid about the utter frustration for those of us who don’t naturally have a calm and gentle demeanor. It feels doubly hard. I’m not exactly a bull in a china shop. But I am a rather intense, anxious, and edgy person cloaked beneath a layer of polite niceness.

Gentleness and southern are not the same thing. Let’s just be clear on that.

Yet gentleness is something my heart longs for. It’s the balm that soothes relational angst and familial aggravation. It’s a virtue we’re drawn to in others. Gentleness is like a warm bath for the fretful soul and the coziest of homes for the anxious heart. We don’t even know how much we long for gentleness until we find it.

But I’ve lived and strived long enough to know that one doesn’t just decide to be gentle. Well, I actually did resolve to be gentle two weeks ago and I made it all the way from 10:00am until 2:00pm. Four hours of gentleness for the win!

What I’ve realized these last few weeks as I’ve been rolling the concept of gentleness around in my head is this.

Gentleness toward others begins with gentleness toward ourselves.

Not in a positive, self-talk, Stuart Smalley kind of way but in a Gospel sort of way.

Our friend in Sunday School told us that when he thinks of gentleness, he thinks of their Lenox wedding china. How they’re careful with it because of how precious it is. They wash it gently in the sink and then hand-dry with a soft towel before putting it away. Why? Because it’s valuable to them. Naturally they don’t want it to chip or crack or break.

We are so much more than fancy wedding dishes to Jesus. But I love how it illustrates his care. I love how it illustrates the care I want to extend to others and to myself. Gentleness doesn’t break people. It invites them to rest, to be patient with themselves, to know that they’re loved whether they ever get it together or not.

God could have sent an intimidating king to rule us into shape. Instead, He sent a baby.

Nothing speaks more to my soul than the tenderness and gentleness of Christ toward his beloved.

When we put on true gentleness, we put on Christ. And vice versa.

It doesn’t begin with steely resolve. It begins with the conversations we have in our own heads. The conversations we have when we mess up, when we wig out, when we’re tempted to move toward penance instead of the rest that comes from repentance.

And as these gentle internal conversations become more natural, they begin to overflow into our external lives — into the way we talk to our kids and to our spouse, the way we approach manic Mondays, the way we cope with days on end not going as planned, the way we deal with ourselves when we choose sweet tarts over the treadmill.

Jesus doesn’t speak with a voice of tyranny. He speaks with a voice of tenderness. I wonder when I’ll stop forgetting this.

In these new days of a new year, a time vulnerable to getting ourselves together, to boot-camping and boot-strapping, let’s remember gentleness. Not the kind some people are just born with. Not the kind we willfully determine to be.

Receive the gentleness of Christ toward you. The Christ who laid down his life, who forgives without limits, who loves without end, who promises that He is making all things new. We can be patient — with Him, with ourselves, with others.

When the invitation to be harsh with yourself or with others comes rolling around all day long, remember the gentle voice of Christ that says that He’s with us in the worry and the flurry. There is patience and peace and purpose in days like today.

Most of all, there is Jesus.


You might also like:

What Makes Us New by Shannan Martin {so good!}

What’s Your Real Motivation for Wanting to be Awesome? I wrote this last fall and needed the reminder. Maybe you do too?

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  1. Kim says

    Mmm, I love mini chewy sweet tarts. Problem: Once I start, I can’t stop!

    And, yes the new year started without me. I just began the Read through the New Testament in a Year that our church is doing… Yesterday. Yep, 2 weeks behind. I felt overwhelmed trying to decide which “good to start in the new year” things should I do? I do not want to take on something that I will not follow through on. So, typical me, I just put off making any decision until I could breath and wrap my brain around the fact that I can still grow from my success, no matter what that looks like in the end.

    • Marian says

      Same here about the sweet tarts. As for those resolutions, I’ve been prone to pick too many self-improvement projects at once. Totally not sustainable!

      Best wishes in your new year. May grace be the undercurrent of all the days.

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