It is relevant to here reveal two of my personal traits that I have heretofore kept hidden from you. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say: two traits that I have heretofore refrained from announcing publicly. You’ve probably picked up on them if you know me at all and you’ve been paying any sort of attention.
(As a side note, we’ve been watching the Netflix series The Crown over the Christmas holiday. We’re enjoying it very much! Of course, living in a house with British people makes the story all the more interesting. Said British people keep anticipating and announcing what’s going to happen next, which is great fun. On my part, though, I can see the lovely language sneaking into my scribbles. Hence, the use of “heretofore” in those opening sentences. Did you see how I worked it in twice? It’s a great word, right? Three words, really, smashed into one. It’s just fun to say. And to write.)
Two personal traits.
The first trait that I am here to confess is this: I am chronically late—but only selectively. I am never late to work. In fact, I typically arrive in my office at the ridiculous time of 5:30 a.m., so I can beat the traffic into Chicago. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I happily wake up at 3 a.m. to make this happen. I actually love those extra-early morning hours—probably too much. I may be addicted to them. (That’s an issue for another post.)
But when it comes to my personal appointments or getting my kids to church and such, I am always running just behind the clock. It’s not that I can’t get myself out of bed or off the couch. Rather, my particular problem is the opposite, I suppose—I imagine that I can accomplish too many things on my way out the door. On a Sunday morning, for example, I somehow believe that I can get breakfast on the table, unload and reload the dishwasher, make the bed, tidy up the playroom, put away a load of laundry, organize my daughter’s new 100-piece pen set (I did refrain from rearranging them according to color), and so on. I continually see so many things that beg for my attention, and I find it difficult to walk by something and leave it undone. The result is that I often spend so much of my time fiddling with the inconsequential that I’m not able to give myself fully to the more important issues at hand.
My husband Peter has a name for it. He calls me “The Great Faffer.”
Just last night our family was settling in on the family room sofa in the basement. Peter was going to read to us the first chapter from The Hobbit while we waited for dinner. Just before he began, Peter asked if I would run upstairs and check on the food. When I got to the kitchen, I stirred the pot on the stove. But then I saw that the counters needed to be wiped down and a few dishes needed to be put away… I returned to the basement several minutes later to find my family giggling at me. When I raised my eyebrows in return, Amelia spilled the beans. “Daddy said you were faffing!” I can always count on her to give the secret away.
So, all of that to say, here I am on January 3—late to the party— wishing you a very Happy New Year! True to form, I’ve spent the last few days crossing all sorts of other things off of my list before I could finally sit down and write this post.
A second and related quality I possess is this: I am a slow decision maker, a ponderer, a late adopter in many situations. Peter and I were the last among our friends to get mobile phones. I held back a long time, waiting to see if Facebook was really going to be a “thing” before I joined. My hairstyle and wardrobe are typically “so five minutes ago.” The fact that I just used that expression is probably another case in point.
Before I pull the trigger, though, I like to weigh all of the pros and cons. I like to think through all of the possible results and consequences. I like to talk a new venture to death. And then I like to stack the deck in my favor to ensure that—if we play this game—I will win.
So in addition to faffing, I have also been pondering this post, wondering if it’s a good idea or not, praying through my motives, asking God if this is really from Him, begging Peter to either support me or stop me if I’m about to make a magnificent mistake.
See, I know my own propensity for taking on more than I can handle. I know my own struggle with making promises that I am not able to keep. Just like we often have eyes bigger than our stomach, I often have ideas and dreams that are bigger than my capacity and my ability and my life.
But on the heels of that confession, here I am. About to spill a new little can of beans.
Some of you know that for a couple of years now I have been captivated by the simple, but profound, command of Jesus in Mark 12:29-31.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Of course, Jesus is only repeating what God commanded His people through Moses way back in Deuteronomy chapter 6.
And I love that this core command of what it means to live the life that God intends has never changed. It’s what God told Moses. It’s what Jesus told the scribes when they asked, “What is the greatest command of all?” And I believe it’s still the best way to summarize the life that God desires for us to live right now. But I find, as simple as it is, it merits a lot of unpacking.
I’ve told many people that Mark 12:29-31 is a sort of thesis statement of our book, 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twentysomething Selves. To be honest, it wasn’t a thesis statement that I intended or recognized when I first wrote the original “20 Things” blog post. But as Peter and I worked through the manuscript and organized the chapters, the theme clearly emerged.
So 20 Things was a stepping stone for us in trying to understand and articulate what it means to love God and love our neighbor well. But I know I still have a long, long way to go in learning to live out this greatest of all commands. I know God has a greater work to do in me, in my family, most likely also in you.
Back on October 17, I wrote a blog post to that effect, letting you know that I was still ruminating on this command. I also announced that I would be writing about these things for several blog posts to come.
And then—for all intents and purposes—I disappeared. I flaked out. I invited you into a conversation, and then I left the room. Oh my! Sorry about that.
Yes, we were very busy. Maybe, there was some faffing involved. Definitely, there was some fear. I fail so miserably at loving God—heart, soul, mind, and strength. I am often not very good at loving my neighbor or myself. What could I possibly have to say?
Then, a few Sundays ago, our church held an event they called “Thrive.” They created a space for family members to come together and strategize for the new year.
First, they challenged us to establish a family Bible verse. That part was easy. Peter and I agreed on two actually. Joshua 24:15. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
And Mark 12:29-31.
Next we were challenged to make these verses visible in our home. (That’s a work in progress, but I’m excited to show you the end result sometime soon.)
Third, we were encouraged to repeat and memorize these verses as a family. And finally, we were instructed to come up with tangible goals and action steps.
How am I as a disciple, and how are we as a family, going to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength in 2017? How are we going to grow in our ability to love our neighbor as ourselves? How are Peter and I going to disciple our children so this becomes even more a part of their DNA?
These are the questions we’ve been discussing and pondering. And we certainly don’t have all of the answers yet.
But here’s the deal.
We are heading into 2017 with a renewed focus on figuring out how to give feet to our faith, and we’re calling it our little “Holiness Project.” Our humble attempt to walk out our love for God and neighbor in ever deepening ways.
Each month we plan to focus on one or two areas—habits, skills, disciplines, and such. We’ll focus on growing in those aspects of life. I’ll post some of the things we try and the resources we uncover. I’ll share both our victories and our defeats—as there are sure to be plenty of both along the way.
The bottom line is this: we want to let God mess with us and make us more like His Son. We want to be more deeply in love with Him in December than we are now. And we want to spend 2017 stewarding as best we can this life that we’ve been given.
The professor in me wanted to have an entire twelve-month syllabus prepared to post today. But—surprise!—I’m still pondering. I don’t know exactly what this is going to look like, and I’m trying to be ok with that. The more I pray it through, the more I think that I need to take my hands off the reigns and let the Spirit lead us along as we go.
If you and your family want to join us in your own “holiness project,” we’d love the company. You may find it helpful to adopt the same areas of life that we are working on. But you might also want to ask God to shine a light on what He has for your family each month. Undoubtedly, the work He wants to do in you is different from the work He wants to do in us. We’d love to hear from you here or on facebook. Many studies have proven that having a supportive community is one of the best predictors of successful life change.
For the month of January we feel led to focus on two things in our family—our diet and prayer.
And secondly, we are focusing on prayer. Our church is starting the year with a 31-Day Prayer Challenge, and we think it’s the perfect way to seek the face of God as we head into this new year. Since we’ve been homeschooling, we pray with the kids every morning as a part of our Bible lesson. And we pray with them at night before we go to bed. But we are adding in another time of family prayer after dinner, using the prayer guide that the church has distributed. Again, I’ll share more as we go.
Praying for you—and for God to do a new work among us in 2017 as we learn to love Him more!