Ever since we got married, Tim and I have set aside a day at the start of each year to dream, evaluate and plan for the upcoming year. We call it our “Blue Day.” (We explain this concept in detail in our book, “Fight With Me.”) We continued our tradition this January and left Allie to cavort with her grandparents while we borrowed our friends’ place for a day of reflection.
Last year, our word was “Courage.” We needed that word. It guided us, encouraged us and gave us strength as we wrote and published our books, chose a faith community to identify ourselves with, found out about our second baby and made the (crazy) decision to start our own marketing company.
This year, as we take stock of the path we’ve travelled and what might lay ahead, the word that has come up is “Establish.” Like a plant that is past the stage of germinating, we find ourselves at a point where the seed has already sprouted in its chosen patch of soil and now we need to grow roots and develop what has begun. This is true in various areas of our lives: our work, our family, our faith community, as well as our home.
We realize that the work of establishing is not romantic. The germination stage was like a honeymoon. There was an initial thrill of newness and excitement about all the changes. Establishing or building, however, necessitates perseverance, diligence and faith that our small actions today contribute to something greater tomorrow. The last couple years for us were a whirlwind of change. This year, we know it is time to hunker down and apply ourselves to the people and endeavours that we are committed to.
How do we go about the work of establishing our lives? How do we grow healthy roots? As Tim and I conversed, it became apparent that deepening and growing these areas would require discipline. It was easy to slip into the mentality of “settling,” (as in, we have a home, a career and children so we can just coast) but one of our values is being intentional, so we wanted more. As with building anything worth establishing, we would need to develop good habits and practice those habits with consistency and excellence over time. What this looked like would vary, according to each area.
For us, a significant part of developing good habits has to do with pre-making some decisions. Raising a toddler, running a home and trying to get a new home-based business off the ground while being pregnant means that we don’t have spare energy or time. To be blunt, we operate mostly tired. Pre-making decisions means that we don’t have to expend extra energy to choose which option is better for us – because if we leave the decisions to the moment, we would always choose the path of least resistance, which is not always what’s best.
For example, in our marriage, we noticed that especially after having our daughter, our Friday night dates had slipped into a rut of sitting on the couch, surfing the internet for TV shows to watch. It isn’t particularly relationship building and we don’t really feel like those date nights connect us. So we pre-made the decision to set aside one Saturday morning/lunch a month where we’d find a babysitter and we’d take turns being responsible for planning the date. We would keep the weekly Friday hang out times, but once a month, we would do something more intentional.
In terms of our home and family life, we recognized that we pretty much have a one hour window of what could be productive time in the evenings between when Allie goes to sleep and when we (especially I) need to start getting ready for bed. Most days, that hour would pass by without us knowing where it went. More frustratingly, it always feels like we have a pile of things we want to get done but never actually get around to doing. To help us set better habits, we pre-made the decisions about what to do each night of the week:
- Saturday night would be set aside for reading (something both of us are deeply refreshed by and want to do more of);
- Sunday we would pull out our calendars and go over the upcoming week together;
- Monday is a rest night where we could do nothing in particular (because Mondays are the longest days for us);
- Tuesday would be our admin and email night;
- Wednesday would be set aside for meeting with our home groups or catching up on work (Tim and I are part of men’s and women’s groups respectively that meet every other week);
- Thursday would be for home stuff (like cleaning or fixing things);
- and Friday would be our night to lounge on the couch and catch up on TV shows.
Of course, after our second baby arrives in June, all of this structure will be temporarily tossed out the window. But having these decisions in place now will help us to make the most of the first half of this year and hopefully get us growing our roots in the right direction.
As we think about this year and the work of establishment, we know that much of it will be by the grace of God. So for 2014, we will adapt the ancient prayer of Moses,
“May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our lives for us – yes, establish the work of our lives” (Psalm 90:17).
Do you have a word for 2014?