I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. In fact, I'm more the type to gently poke fun as people that do, as they tend to have a shorter shelf life than fresh baked bread. This year, however, in light of the chaos that Hurricane Harvey caused, which essentially disrupted every habit everybody had formed, I decided to make a list of things I want to do more of (or get back to doing) in 2018. Even more to the point, as I wrote elsewhere, many of us could sum up 2018 by observing, "Life is at once the most heartbreaking and most wonderful adventure imaginable." With the exception of writing a book, none of these are brand new habits I want to form or new goals I want to accomplish--they are either habits I want to get back to (playing guitar) or take further than I have in the past (writing).
As I was making the list, they naturally tended to fall into categories, into which I've grouped them below.
1. Improve posture. This sounds dumb, but I've noticed in the past few months my posture (sitting and standing) has become slouchy and uncomfortable. Not sure if this is a reaction to stress, too much time in camp chairs since we don't have any real furniture right now, or just laziness. No matter. I don't like it and aim to correct it.
2. Fitness. In addition to running, which I do semi-regularly now, I want to expand my fitness routine into rucking and heavy bag training. While these are certainly two crazy-ish fitness regimens stemming from military training, but they are two things I really enjoy.
3. Meditation. I had made mindfulness/meditation a regular part of my pre-Harvey routine and noticed a world of difference with workplace stress reduction. While I have gotten a bit more regular in the past months, I want to get back to my routine of 10-20 minutes of meditation at the start of every work day.
4. Prayerfulness. I have a pretty good (i.e. regular) time of personal devotion and prayer each morning, but as with anything related to faith, there is room to grow. "Pray without ceasing" is quite a challenging bit of instruction from St. Paul, and yet it is a challenge that Christians have used as a reason and means for growing closer and closer to God for two thousand years.
5. Family devotions. Our time of family devotion was definitely put on hold through Harvey, but we have managed to get back with it during Advent. The NALC, LCMS, and LC-C have just published a three-year bible reading plan which is perfect for family time--the readings are short enough to keep a child's attention span but long enough to be meaningful. One of our favorite parts so far is the constant repetition of the Psalter (approximately one per day for the duration). This is a great stepping stone to reading and praying larger chunks of the Psalms, on the way to a once per 30 or 60 day approach. We are also using Bo Giertz's devotion book, To Live With Christ, which is a wonderful resource.
6. Re-memorize the catechism. I have started working through Luther's Small Catechism with our youngest and recognize that my knowledge of the Catechism has gotten pretty rusty. I want to brush up on it and re-memorize those parts of it that I've lost through years of neglect. This is not only a good example to my children, it serves as a wealth of great instruction for me personally.
7. Play more guitar. I first picked up a guitar during my freshman year at the Air Force Academy when little other recreation / diversion was allowed. In subsequent years, life has gotten busy and my guitar dusty. I thoroughly enjoy playing still, though, and find it wonderfully therapeutic and relaxing. Last summer, my guitar and I rekindled our relationship, but it was short-lived (Harvey, ahem). It's time to pick it up again.
8. Journaling. Here is another habit that I am looking to refine and enhance rather than start anew. I do journal regularly--4 to 5 times per week. I want to make it a daily practice, however, which I think I can do without too much angst. I have found the last year of regular, private journaling to be helpful as a means to think problems through, write down memories I want to keep, vent without potentially hurting feelings, and just capture ideas.
9. Writing/blogging. Since Harvey, my writing / blogging has slowly been gaining momentum and become more and more regular. I write offline regularly, too, though I want to commit to upping my writing from ~500 words, twice a week to ~1000 words, three times a week. My hope is that at least two of these three sessions will result in something I want to share with the world, but I by no means consider that a rule. I shall simply see where it takes me.
10. Read more. Compared with most folks, I read a lot. I am always reading something, but I want to shift my reading to a larger ratio of thoughtful books to 'fun' books. While I'll always have some fun fiction that I read a few pages of daily, I want to read more history and theology in the coming year than I have in the past couple of years...not for any reason than to learn.
11. Write a book. This is the humdinger of the list. I have long wanted to write a book but never actually started. I have wanted to write about the chaplaincy or translating the catechism into daily life for some time...I've just never done it. This year, I want to change that, though admittedly, this resolution-that-isn't-a-resolution needs lots of fleshing out before it becomes real.
12. Give more compliments. Life can be pretty crumby--2017 surely was for us! Our society is pretty negative. My workplace is pretty pessimistic (after all, I work with a bunch of engineers). It can be draining and soul-sucking. Without being fake or trying too hard, I resolve to find genuine things that I can compliment people on more often in a one-man attempt to make the space around me more positive.
13. Ask more questions. I list this practice as a means to understand people better--what makes them tick, why they say and do the things they do, what they dream about, and what keeps them up at night. Why? If I can better understand people, I can better relate to them and be a better co-worker, employee, friend, etc.
14. Listen more. This is pretty closely tied with asking questions, but I find that many times people say things without being asked, probed, or questioned. This is also a bit of subtle rebellion against our culture, which is obsessed with talking, typing, posting, etc. but very short on receiving and listening with any real deliberate effort. We "talk" a lot but tend to listen very little. This is a practice I have been trying to impress on my children...what better way to teach them than to demonstrate?
15. Spend more time outdoors with kids. As much as technological gadgets have made life more entertaining and allowed us to share ideas around the world instantly, it hasn't done much for our appreciation of the real world right outside our doors. Our children love being outdoors. I love being outdoors. Time to put all this together and spend more time outside together. This is really a no-brainer for our home.
16. Find a way to grow at work. I have been in the same position for several years now. While the challenges I face are different every day, I've stopped growing and become comfortable. I don't like that. If I wanted a job where I simply needed to follow a checklist and do the same tasks daily, I would have that, but those types of jobs don't excite me. I want to find a way to grow again at work. While I'm not sure what this will look like, it is something I intend to work toward this year.
17. Get more involved with my Air National Guard wing. As a "Traditional Reservist" (aka. 'weekend warrior') I do not get to spend as much time ministering to the people in our wing as I would like to. I have deliberately put aside any aspirations of moving up further in the Guard to concentrate on better serving the men and women in our wing. Now that our newer chaplains are more up to speed with their responsibilities, I can delegate more to them and spend less time on 'administrivia' and more time doing actual ministry.
18. Be a better husband. My wife and I have a really good marriage--if we didn't, we wouldn't have survived the last few years (details I shall not share here), but there is always room to make things better. It is, after all, a relationship between two flawed and sinful individuals. I hope this year will bring us relief from some of the stresses of 2017 and allow us to focus more on each other and thriving than merely surviving and keeping our family intact. I place this last on the list, not last because it is least but because it is by far the most important thing on this list.
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash_