My words for this year are maintain, restore, and create.
At first they were just maintain and restore, but after some mulling over I realized that fresh enthusiasm brings creativity, at least in me.
As an unofficial and unscheduled review of my life went on at New Year's, I see that the things which grieve me most about my personal life are the Undisciplines, the Messies, the Neglecteds. These are also the things that get us--the two of us in my marriage-- into difficulties.
One difficulty is not being able to find things when needed (where is the car registration for the car he wants to sell?) Another difficulty is not paying the bills in a timely way and getting a late payment attached. Or forgetting about the quarterly payments even though the monthly payments are under control. Or having to wear my husband's underwear when it's been too long since I did the laundry.
But these are just consequences of failure to maintain. To maintain implies there is a baseline, a reasonable standard we can accept as the way we want to live, in peace with each other and without making the rest of the world mad at us.
For instance, I want to maintain our yard. That means we have to mow it on a semi-regular basis. We have invested a lot of money in it by building a wall, putting in a new driveway, and a perimeter watering system. So in this area, a lot of the “Restoration” has already been done. Remember this moment and rejoice! But to protect our investment (and my pride) we still need to weed, prune, and mow. But I think I will add African Daisies in their bold colors all along the front wall this Spring, which is where the “Create” joy gets to flow in me.
I want to maintain our home. I are so thankful to have a home I really like. In fact, I love it. I know it's small and on a noisy street but it's warm and friendly on the inside and its easy for people to drop in. Everyone knows where we live. Which is why we have to mow. But maintaining prevents future problems: if we scrape and sand and paint the house we won't get dry rot and carpenter ants and boll weevils and things that go bump in the night. We hope. Painting the exterior is restoring (its really a mess), maintaining for the future, and creative when I get to choose my colors. If we throw in new furnace filters our furnace will last longer and my sinuses will be happier in the morning.
I want to maintain our cars. That means no junk wrappers on the seats and floor; take them out as we exit the car. We get oil changes and brake checks and things that make the squeaky noises stop. Our cars will live longer and I won't have to wear such a big hat driving down the street. Washing my car would be remarkable enough maintaining, but what I'd really like is to restore it by buffing out all those nasty little black specks on it.
I want to maintain our marriage. That means I want our emotional tanks to be full even though we're empty nesters. (And how can a nest be empty if there's still two people living in it? The nest, the marriage, isn't only about the kids.) Rejoicing here! So, maintaining my marriage means I get to enjoy the companionship of being with my best friend, not thwarted in conversation or by busy teens' schedules. Wait! Is our schedule too busy even for the two of us to unwind together? Monday is Elder's meeting, Tuesday is Music Team practice, Wednesday is Growth Group, Thursday once a month is Mission, Friday morning is Men's meeting 5:30 AM, Saturday is occasionally Global Challenge or Men's breakfast, and that's only for one of us. I'd like us to have dinner times together at the table, not in front of Jeopardy on the nights we're home. I would like to watch less TV in order to read more together. I would like to restore and maintain and refresh our marriage by having more together time, more quiet time, and more conversation time. Less TV time, possibly less computer time, more reading time, more dating. Remember when we used to go for drives to talk? Let's keep looking for free concerts, good walking spots, day trips and museum events as we do when we're traveling together.
I want to maintain our relationships with our friends and family. I have different girlfriends I go out with after work for coffee or sometimes for dinners. I feel responsible to care for my Mom and Dad, even though I'm doing a crumby job of that. I don't see my Mom as often as I'd like to visit her and we don't have dinners here regularly enough for my Dad. We don't include him as much as I wish we did. But when? We want to build up and encourage the people in our church: this is a goal and a pleasure , a gifting and a responsibility. Friendships are also great treats in life, and maintaining them is a pleasure, but it takes time, and the more friends, the more time! There are so many relationships I would like to give more time to—it feels like such a balancing act. As far as I know, none need restoration in the sense of an offense having separated us, but there is a neighbor who needs support that I haven't called, and a cousin going through breast cancer that I haven't written...and I haven't responded to my mother's friends' inquiries, although I mean to...and Janis had hand surgery, and Stephanie has such terrible arthritis right now, and I haven't called my sister back...
I want to maintain and refresh my spiritual life. I want to be open to the Holy Spirit living in me, breathing life to my choices and giving me direction. I want to experience His power--the power of the Spirit—as I obey God's Word. So, I need to be in the Word. I need to have a listening heart and an obeying will and then act on what I know. This will be restorative in any area that is weak and by maintaining this standard I will find all the creative expression and joy that I seek.
This baseline, this composite sketch of “reasonable standards”, is too daunting in itself to fulfill. What if I had unreasonable standards, or needed to rise above the baseline? What if, for example, my daughter were getting married and an entourage of her fiance's relatives from Africa were coming to stay at my house for the month before the wedding? What if I wanted my yard, house, cars, meals, hospitality, and demeanor to be exceptional? Heaven, help me. I mean it. Only Heaven can help me to maintain what I have, restore what I have failed to maintain (that would be the basement. I haven't even talked about that yet.) and find creative pleasure in it. There is the joy.
HEAVENLY FATHER, MY HOUSE IS YOUR HOUSE. MY YARD IS YOUR YARD. MY CAR IS YOUR CAR. AND I DO WANT MY BASEMENT, THE PIT OF ALL I'M SAYING, TO BECOME REDEEMED BY YOU TOO. IT IS YOURS ALREADY BUT I CONFESS TO ITS NEGLECT, MESSINESS, AND CONFUSION. HELP ME TO RESTORE IT TO A PLACE OF USEFULNESS AND PRODUCTIVITY SO I WON'T BE AN OBSTACLE TO ANY MINISTRY YOU WANT TO HAVE IN MY LIFE, WHETHER HOSPITALITY OR STORING DECORATIONS.
AND LORD, I DON'T WANT TO JUST BE ABOUT THINGS, I WANT TO BE ABOUT ESSENTIALS, THINGS THAT YOU VALUE ABOVE ALL: PEOPLE. INTERRUPT THIS SELF-IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM ANY TIME YOU WANT WITH THE PEOPLE THAT COME MY WAY. HELP ME TO WELCOME THEM WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT MY AGENDA—YOU KNOW HOW STUCK I GET ON PROJECTS.
SO PLEASE, GIVE THE IDEAS, THEN GIVE THE MOTIVATION, THEN GIVE THE POWER AND THE STICK-TO -IT-IVENESS. MAKE THIS YEAR IN MY LIFE A TIME OF RESTORATION, A TIME FOR BUILDING DISCIPLINE IN MAINTAINING, AND A YEAR OF GREAT JOY AS YOU CREATE IN ME THE CREATURE YOU WANT ME TO BE, AND I CREATE FOR OTHERS A REFLECTION OF YOU. THANK YOU, LORD, AMEN.