New Practices for 2013

— Dana

I haven’t spent a lot of time writing on our blog the last year. It’s been on my mind since I deactivated my Facebook account (yes, for the second time) in October. I think I will change this starting today. Hello, blog…it’s nice to see you again.

I like to ease my way into new practices and resolutions…never pushing too hard or expecting huge changes too quickly. That’s why I like to pick one word and see where it takes me as the year rolls on. I sort of nudge and gently flow my way into healthier, happier ways of living. I started doing that a few years ago. The last two years have been particularly moving in my life (and I have witnessed the most heart change, too).

Back in 2011, the word “Rest” took me out of a very long season of overcommitment and compassion fatigue. This year, the word “Happiness” was gently laid upon my lap by the Holy Spirit. I kept picking it up and throwing it far away from my mind…only to have it reappear the next day. Eventually, I embraced this word. With the year finally behind me, I am incredibly thankful that this was my lesson for the year. God changed my heart (and still is) in so many ways with the word “Happiness”. Now, as the new year approaches, I am eager to wrestle with the word “Meditation”.

While I was watching the snow fall, from the comfort of my couch yesterday, a few “new practices” sat heavy on my heart. I figured I would write them down here and create some sort of a check list to see how I’m doing each week. These are the things that bring me the most happiness in my life (as I learned in 2012). I want these things to become a part of my everyday, ordinary life. In no particular order…

1. Nurture My Health
Taking care of myself each day is so important to my overall well-being. At some point in my Christian journey, the idea of sacrificial love and serving others was the most important function in the church. I followed this for so many years and truly neglected my own body. It is important to understand that taking care of your own body is not a sin (Scripture even says that it is the temple of the Holy Spirit). And with the same energy that we nurture our bodies, we should also serve others (if I were to take that advice literally, I would treat other people like crap because that is how I treat my own body the last few years). With that said, I already attend “PraiseMoves” and aerobic classes a few times a week, and I plan on continuing this. I also stopped eating gluten and dairy 5 months ago (to help with joint, muscle and stomach pain). The areas where I need improvement is adding physical activity everyday, receiving a massage once a month, exfoliating and hydrating my skin, visiting the chiropractor and an acupuncturist once a month, begin counseling twice a month, experimenting with professional waxes and facials, and taking the time to learn more about hair styles, make-up and wearing clothes that fit and are in style (I’m tired of feeling like a frumpy mom). Those are just a few ideas that I can work on this year in regards to nurturing my health. This is probably my biggest challenge in the coming year (because I’m not very good at it…yet).

2. Sacred Sleep
Everyone has a different need when it comes to sleep. In our family, my husband really needs to get up at 5am every morning. This means that I need to encourage him to go to bed early so he can get enough rest. We function better as a family when I get up with my husband and we have a few quiet hours together before we start our day. This means that my wake-up time is 5am, too. Early to bed. Early to rise. I am already in bed by 9pm each evening. And each day, I plan on taking a 30 minute nap in the afternoon. I’ve learned the hard way that getting 8 hours of sleep every night is simply a non-negotiable. There is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. My grandma once told me that sleep is sacred, and I couldn’t agree more. The one area where I need improvement is having a routine where I get up, take a nap, and go to bed at the same time…everyday…even on the weekends. I’ve read time and time again that this helps battle insomnia and leaves you feeling more alert and refreshed during your awake hours. I think we would all do better in the Kangas Commune of we could stick to this sleeping plan.

3. Hear God’s Word
I read a book this year that talked about the importance of hearing God’s word with our ears instead of always reading and studying it with our eyes. One lingering effect that I seem to have from past churches that I’ve attended is that I now have trouble reading my Bible for personal study and reflection. During Christmas this year, I found that attending a “high church” mass and hearing Scripture read aloud (without an overlay of interpretation) or singing hymns has helped relieve some of my anxieties. I also started using a devotional book that has been healing as well. Aaron and I have been reading it together in the mornings before he starts work. It’s called “Disciplines for the Inner Life” and has brought some great healing in my heart in regards to Scripture. I want to get the Bible on CD and listen to God’s Word. I want to attend “high church” once a month for meditation, prayer and to hear God’s Word echo through the cathedral. I want to speak God’s Word to my child and husband as a daily practice. Not as a form of manipulation with Scripture, but to get use to the idea that GOD SPEAKS TO US!!! I feel uncomfortable with that thought…God Speaking. I would like to change that this year.

4. Make Strong Social Bonds (Using Play, Smiling and Quality Time)
We took a personality test this year that revealed the obvious truth about myself…I’m a Loyalist (and Aaron is a Peacemaker). The sad truth is we have too many friends (I know…so sad) because of my natural personality to pursue people and then be fiercely loyal to them. The problem with this sad fact is that I’m feeling spread too thin and so is my wonderful peacemaking husband. We really don’t lack in quantity time as we do in quality, life-giving relationships. I’ve also allowed my relationships get too melancholy over the years…focusing on struggles and troubles instead of laughing, smiling and sharing light-hearted truths. It dawned on me this week that PLAY is not really a big part of my relationship with my husband, daughter and friends. This needs to change (especially since “quality time” is quickly becoming my top “Love Language”)!!! Also, with my little family, I feel more like a janitor than a nurturer. I want to make more time for playing with my daughter because she LOVES it (I’m pretty sure every child’s “Love Language” is play). I’m always happier when I make time to take her on outings, read books at the library, or do something special with her. I can make this happen by scheduling activities in advance. Once upon a time, my husband and I were great at having a weekly date night, too. The last few months we have fallen out of this habit. It has to go on the calendar and not be pushed aside when something “more important” comes along. I also need to work on “physical touch” with both my husband and daughter. I want to give them more hugs, massages and high-fives. Because all these things will boost my happiness and the happiness in their life, too. I also want to practice the ancient art of smiling. It has been scientifically proven to boost everyone’s mood when they smile more.

5. Find Silence
We can all agree that the world has this constant vibration feeling. It’s like we are all buzzing from the onslaught of technology, busyness and stimulation. Finding silence and alone time is a lost art that I have been cultivating the last few years. I have recently noticed that doing the dishes, taking a shower, and going on long drives tend to be my mini retreat places when I need to let my thoughts wander without distraction. In the coming year, I am digging deep into what it means to be a Christian and have time for meditation. This will include practices like journaling, sitting in silence to let my thoughts wander, avoiding technology for large parts of my day, lighting candles, and practicing the Sabbath for one day during the week. This is a weak area in my life. I’m excited (and scared) to see what emerges from the depths as I embrace God Speaking in the silence…and actually find out what my heart really says when people are not telling me what to think.

6. Disciplined Writing and Reading Time
When I took that personality test this year, I also discovered that I have an investigator side of my personality. In order to operate out of the healthier side of my personality, I need to allow time to read books and write in one form or another. I’ve discovered that I work best in the afternoons, when Naomi is taking a nap. This time is often wasted by other pursuits (that are often necessary but can usually be accomplished during different time throughout my day). I need a better schedule so I can nurture this part of my life. Everyone is happier in the Kangas Commune when I give myself time to read and write. My focus will be on “Meditation” for most of the year, but I also have stacks and stacks of books that I really want to read. I seem to have more time to do this particular discipline since getting off Facebook. The longer I’m off that particular social media, the more I realize that my personality is not a good fit for Facebook. I am a much happier person when I’m not operating my life around technology and the emotional turmoil of other people. I need to be investing my time in relationships that will improve (not hinder) my emotional health. I also need to spend time doing what I’m passionate about. It has become apparent that I need to set some long-term goals that include teaching or writing a book. This scares me for some reason. I want the next few years to be one of refinement and discipline, so I can be ready to use my God-given gifts effectively.

7. Tackle Nagging Tasks
Too many waking hours are spent thinking about things that need to get done instead of actually doing them. The biggest burden is ORGANIZE MY BASEMENT. We have made a pact in the Kangas Commune that we will not re-activate our Facebook accounts until our entire basement is organized. We started this quest a few months ago and have witnessed the transforming power when we both work on a project side-by-side with undivided attention and with equal zeal. It has been incredibly therapeutic to go down into the basement for a few hours a week. Don’t tell any of my conservative Christian friends ;-)… but it sounds like a bunch of sailors live down in the basement as we sort through all the crap (figuratively and literally) that has been weighing us down for a long time. Some other nagging tasks include: make (and stick to) a new, reasonable budget; find a hobby that I can really get into; spend more time outside (especially in wild nature); and simplify our recipes.

Cheers. To a Happier and Healthier New Year!!!