Thursday, January 24, 2013

Suggestions for New Year's Resolutions

What would one of my blog posts be if it wasn't record-setting length?  I have learned, though, you will read it if it was meant to encourage you!

I'm sure you have given at least a passing thought to New Year's Resolutions this past month. I would like to believe that over the years I have learned to be wiser about making New Year's Resolutions.  I try  to be more realistic, and definitely less selfishly motivated when deciding on changes to make. What do I mean by selfishly motivated?  Selfishly-motivated resolutions are ones that are motivated by pride and  vanity. For example, I used to always make resolutions for healthy  eating and exercise and weight loss goals. Even though I tell myself that my motives are good and noble:  that it is simply wise to eat better and take care of my body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that I need to look better so that I bless my husband, at the root of it all is still a selfish desire to look good, if I dare to look that close into my ugly, deceitful heart.It is really simple vanity and pride.

The past few years God has taught me a thing or two about health and beauty. Those types of resolutions are no longer my style.  Now I long for the beauty of Christ to be reflected in me, and just strive to keep my eyes on Him at all times, trusting Him to do His work, making me like Him.

I did make one personal resolution this year, and that was to be a better steward of "My Husband's Money."  After reading this post on this lovely, lovely blog, I set up a small book that I keep by my bedside and record all the day's expenditures.  We are 23 days into the year, and I am still doing it! It is certainly eye-opening. It is very easy for me to mentally "sweep under the rug" little (and bigger) expenditures here and there, after I have mentally  justified to myself my unjustifiable purchase. I'm good at fooling myself into thinking I am a much better steward than I am.  Hopefully, this new resolution will help me to walk a little more in the light.

Are you left frustrated every year by the process of choosing carefully and then quickly breaking a long list of self-centered New Year's resolutions?  I have a few suggestions. These are ones that have worked for me--and they are not as selfishly-motivated as some of my resolutions (although I don't think I could ever make one that did not have some selfish motivation at heart--that is my human, fleshly nature).

What is the goal of every Christian? Or, rather, what SHOULD be the goal of every Christian?

To be like Christ.  Here are some things you can do (resolutions you can make) to be more like Him:

1.  Take the blame.  That is what Christ did for us. He took the blame for our sins. There is nothing more humbling than taking blame that is not ours. There is nothing that deals a more fatal blow to "self."  A few years ago, when my son was about 14, he was visiting some family on an extended trip. One of his relatives (a boy one year younger than him) leaped on him and tackled him from behind in a surprise attack to start a wrestling match. It threw them both off balance, and as they fell, a lamp crashed to the floor and broke.  My son got in trouble, being admonished, "You were older, you should have known better."  He called me so upset and hurt, because he DID know better, but he did not even know it was going to happen. The other boy jumped on him with no warning.  He wanted to know what  to do.  I prayed for a moment, asking God to help me counsel my son, and instantly realized the answer. I told him to thank God for the opportunity to gracefully take the blame for something he did not do--to thank God for the opportunity to be like Jesus, who so lovingly took the blame for us--for all of us.  My son understood, and peace instantly came upon him.  Now--don't think you have to be wrongly accused to be able to "take the blame."  You can actually "take the  blame" every single day by refusing to justify, defend, or excuse your actions to anyone at any  time. You can choose to stop telling your side of the story.  You may be surprised at how often we do this without even realizing it!  Shedding  this bad, selfish habit is wonderful way to die to self and live unto Christ.

Update:  I have another good example of this. My 18yo son has been struggling at work. He works at a zipline tour company where it is crucial the the work is done correctly. All procedure and checks must be perfect at all times because people's lives are on the line.  My son, of  course, is very diligent and responsible.  He performs all his work exactly the way it is supposed to be done--never missing a single step or procedure. In addition, during down time, he works very diligently on maintenance projects. He also takes good care of all the gear and equipment--putting it away carefully. He is always on time.  He is a good employee--because He works to honor God.  However, many of his colleagues don't have such standards. They can be lazy and careless--something my son does not have an appetite for.  When one of them makes a mistake or does not do their job right, well, or even do what they were told, my son is frustrated because he will get reprimanded, too.  One night he came home so frustrated.  I reminded him of this lesson. I told him to take the blame, and thank God for the opportunity to be like Jesus.  I told him the path of humility is always the right choice.  I told him, when being reprimanded for sloppy work that was someone else's doing, to just say, "I'm sorry." And then be quiet and continue to work as unto the Lord.  I reassured him that his boss as well as his colleagues know full well who is to blame when things go wrong, and it wouldn't go unnoticed if my son said he was sorry.  My son adjusted his behavior immediately and remembered to "take the blame."  Within three weeks, he was promoted to manager--past all the people he was hired with, past all the people who were hired the year before, and even past the two more senior people who were already "managers in training."  When the time came, they knew hands down who deserved the job.

2.  Live only for others. Not yourself. That is what Christ did. His whole life was lived with the thought of YOUR life. He came to serve, and lay down His entire life to save ours. Can you do that for your husband, your family, your friends today? Live only to serve them without thought for yourself? Oh, this is such a free and blessed way to live. Try it and see what it does to your mental state! Depression and other negative feelings are often rooted in selfishness, self-thoughts, and self-pity. Lay down your own life and live for others. That is the Spirit of Christ.  

One way to do this is to always keep your present duty before you, and do that with a servant's heart--the servant of the Lord. (Do all things heartily, as unto the Lord).  Most often that means, for us mothers anyway, making a bed, doing some laundry, sweeping up the food under the high chair for the millionth time.  My present duty is always revealed to me, like the lantern in the dark that lights just one step in front of me.  Satan likes to trick us into living by keeping our eyes always peering up and around into the darkness, but God leads us and directs our paths by lighting just one step in front of our path at a time.  Most steps are little things-like lovingly listening to a child, a hug for your husband, reading a story to a toddler, dusting, scrubbing the bathtub. But if we stay on course, one step at a time, sometimes the steps will be for the bigger things--the things we search for and feel are more important.  But there is nothing more important than remembering to serve God in each moment with what He has set before us.

 By the way, setting New Year's Resolutions usually takes us AWAY from living like this.  Not good.  But if we DO remember to live like this, then  we find that a lot of our resolutions take care of themselves:  the house does stay cleaner, and we tend to make better choices in all areas--like eating, and speaking, and keeping our priorities straight!

That is how Jesus lived--every moment  only to do the will of His Father. To do what was set before Him.

Here is a link to a wonderful (but LONG) excerpt by a man named J.R. Miller from his book The Beauty of Self Control, emailed to me earlier this week by a friend. I used to have it pasted here in this post, but it is too long, so I put it in its own post.  It's called Finding Our Duties:

  3. GET RID OF STUFF  Quit wanting, buying, and owning so much stuff! Do you find you have too much stuff to manage? Does your desire for more stuff consume a great part of your day?

Here is the question for you to reveal what our example should be: What did Christ own?


He knew better. It is not eternal and has no eternal value whatsoever. Christ understood about stuff. He understood that it is just stuff, and that one day it will all pass away.  Doing the will of the Father was His only goal.  He did not have a goal to buy a house, buy a car, own an iPad, have 24 pairs of shoes to go with every season and outfit… …  He did not have books, movies, toys, games, hobbies to take time away from doing the will of His Father. He knew better.

And some of you will recognize the following text from a years' old blog post of mine: Stuff Immunity Disorder. I believe this is a dangerous immune disorder. Stuff Immunity.  Do you have any of these symptoms? If you truly want to improve, be honest with yourself and use this quiz as a tool to identify areas where you can start making a difference today.

1. Shopping through Catalogs
2. Watching TV and making a mental note of something you need to buy
3. Watching Home Design shows and dreaming about buying/building/improving/painting
4. Out-of-control craft/hobby supplies (more supplies than you even have close to time to work with, as a matter of fact, you don't even know the extent of your own supplies)
5. Full bookshelves of books you don’t read, many of which do not honor Christ
6. Full shelves of movies you own but don’t watch--with many that do not honor Christ
7. You don’t even know how many shoes your family owns or if they all fit. You don’t wear them all.
8. Unused clothing in your drawers and closets (pieces that haven’t been worn for over one year)
9. Collections
10. Disorganized, overstuffed cupboards with kitchen items you haven’t used or touched for years
11. Your spice cupboard is a mystery, and it is easier to buy a new jar of spice rather than determine if you already have it
12. Junk drawers
13. Storage tubs
14. Magazine collections (no, you probably don’t go back and read them, ever)
15. Unfinished projects
16. Dust collectors (candles, figurines, picture frames, vases, boxes, baskets, blah, blah, blah)
17. You don’t know exactly what food is in your freezer,  fridge, and cupboards.  There is probably some stuff in there that has been there for years.
18. You wonder why your children don’t have an appetite for godly things such as church, prayer, reading their Bible, being diligent at school work, working with their hands…
19.  You wonder why you don’t get the things done you need to get done, and why you are far from Christ.
20.  You make excuses for the money you spend and the things you buy. You find yourself trying to justify to yourself and your family why you needed what you bought–and you believe yourself.
21. You make excuses for your children and why they have so much stuff, or a particular toy. You promise to limit their time with it–but you end up not limiting their time with it.  It was just an excuse.  You believe what you tell yourself.

Dear ones, as a follower of Christ, the stuff has to go. Now, don’t think I’m being weird and radical.  Not all stuff has to literally go.  But your attachment to it has to go.  You have to be willing to let it go, just like that, if Jesus were to ask.  If God spoke to you right out of heaven one day and said, "Put that ________ in the trash…" would you happily walk over and dump it in without a second thought? Or like the rich man, would you have to turn your back on Jesus and keep your possessions? 

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.  Mark 10:21-22

I’ve helped people move, and I’ve helped ladies clean and organize their home, and I’ve watched how people absolutely cannot let go of stuff.  Meaningless, useless, unused stuff.  Stuff that will belong to somebody else the instant you die (or be thrown in the dumpster). Stuff that will burn up to exist never more one day.  Stuff that has laid around for ages, piled, stacked, stuffed, and unused.  I’ve watched people get in fights at yard sales, furious over their rights to their stuff or the money they think they deserve–for the stuff they already realized they don’t need.  Ladies will feel so proud of themselves when they get rid of a bunch of their stuff, thinking they are not attached to stuff, and are being so "good."  But, in reality, they had so much stuff, what they got rid of was not much more than the same as brushing a stray hair off a sweater because it fell out of their head.  They got rid of stuff to justify getting more or better stuff.
Stuff equals greed. Greed leaves no room for God.  It is fleshly and feeds fleshly lusts only.

And we are immune to it.  Because everybody has stuff. It is the world we know, especially here in America. If children are to be followers of Christ, they must never contract this disease.  But unfortunately, they were probably born with it–born into a nursery full of "stuff," — matching crib set, new blankies, piles of baby clothes, and all the accessories, and more toys than any one infant could ever play with.

But we are not called to be like everybody.  And we are not called to be like the world.

Here are some tips on how to cure yourself of Stuff Immunity Disorder:

1. Do not allow catalogs in your home. Do not browse them. Do not let your children browse them.  Cancel your name off their mailing lists, and put them straight into the trash if they do arrive.  STRAIGHT into the trash.  If you truly need something that is in one of the catalogs, you will know you need it without having to see it in a catalog first.

2. Seriously limit TV influence.  Immunity to the effects of commercials is one of the first stages of Stuff Immunity Disorder.  If you are watching TV, mute the commercials.  Do not watch programs that make you want to redesign your home, buy new furniture, etc.  If you truly need to do this, you do not need the influence of a TV program to guide you.  You need Christ.

3. Get rid of collectibles and stop collecting ANYTHING–you or your children. The second you get rid of a pointless collection you are instantly freeing yourself in this area. Collections are bondage to stuff. (Yes, it is possible to enjoy a pretty collection without being in bondage--but we are taking a hard look at ourselves, here). It’s almost idolatrous, is it not?  Spending money on frivolous collections is a serious waste of the resources given to us by God to manage (don't try to tell me it's an investment--take that up with God).  One Berenstain Bears’ book titled, "Mad, Mad, Mad Toy Craze" not-so-nicely exposes the silliness of the collection mentality.  It tells how all the children and even their parents got caught up in buying "Beary Bubbies."  The new toy came on the scene with an advertising blitz and all the school children became hooked. There was much publicity about how stores would run out of stock, and how hard they were to find. At first, you could buy them for $2.75, then they were $5.00, then the rare ones were selling for over $100 each.    Here’s how the book ends:
Of course, not many things are forever–and Beary Bubbies certainly weren’t. Pretty soon, Beary Bubbies were everywhere. They came in Krinkly Krumbles cereal boxes. You could get them at the gas station with a fill-up. You could get them with a Krazy Meal at the Burger Bear. After a while, just about everybody in Bear Country had so many Beary Bubbies that they didn’t know what to do with them.
There wasn’t much you could do with them in the first place. You couldn’t play dolly with them the way you could with a good doll. You couldn’t play choo-choo with them the way you could with a toy train. You couldn’t play baseball with them the way you could with a bat and ball. 
All you could do was look at them–except they had a way of looking back at you and making you think about all the money you had spent on them.
The only thing you could really do with them is brag about how many you had.
"I have 24 Beary Bubbies."
"I have 32 Beary Bubbies."
"I have 48 Beary Bubbies."
"I have 94 Beary Bubbies."
And no matter how many you had, there was always somebody who had more.
"I have 4,202!"

Get rid of completely or seriously control with a strict limit collectibles and collections.  All they do is tempt you to get more stuff.  For no reason whatsoever.  God created plenty of things for us to enjoy without having to muster up a collection.  When our family started trying to clear up "Stuff Immunity Disorder" in our home, the area of collectibles got completely purged.  My children weren’t allowed to have toys that encouraged "buying the whole set," or "all the accessories."  Such as:  Polly Pockets, Littlest Pet Shop, Barbie (but Barbies went for other reasons, too), Furryvilles, Thomas Trains, Character toys, and on and on and on.  Other toys that could be collectibles–well, we just don’t collect.  Hot wheels, Legos, doll babies, etc.  We set a limit on how many are allowed for reasonable, healthy play, and if a new one arrives that puts the number of that toy over the allotted amount, they child must choose which has to go. 
If you collect things like cows, pigs, cookie jars, Coca Cola, antiques, bears, dolls, Barbies… (I don’t know, what do people collect?)… then STOP!  STOP IT AT ONCE!  Get rid of the stuff and get rid of the temptation to buy needless stuff.

4. Whittle down your craft/hobby stuff to less than  5 projects and their necessary supplies.  For example:  If you like to sew, choose five projects, and keep the fabric and notions just for those projects, and get rid of the rest.  Just get rid of it. If you truly need it, God will supply it again, but I suspect many of you have pieces of fabric sitting in your sewing tubs that have been there for years, and before you, they were in your mother’s sewing trunk for years, and maybe in your grandmother's.  Get rid of it.  If you have not made a quilt in the past five years, chances are you will not make one in the next five years.  If you do ever get around to it and it is God's will, He will provide new fabric and supplies.    Five projects, with a vow to not buy any further materials or supplies until the current ones are completed.  Same goes for crocheting, knitting, rubber stamping, scrapbooking.

5. Whittle down your wardrobe to the things you wear.  Not the things that you might wear.  Not the things that you might wear if you manage to become one, two, three, six sizes smaller one day.  If you do ever lose that weight and need new clothes, God will provide. Whittle down your shoes.  As you do laundry, do not put clothing back in  your children’s drawers that have become too small.  Fold it into a separate pile to be taken to church to give away, or to the Salvation Army.

6.  Clear out your movies, books, puzzles, games.  Hold each one and ask the Lord, "Does it please you that I have this? Is this helpful or useful for the spiritual growth and well-being of our family?" Have we used this in the past year? If the answer is NO, put it in the trash or give away pile.  Can you get it at the library if you need it?  If the answer is yes, get rid of it.  If the world were to come a screeching halt, the economy were to crash, and we had to go back to living primitively, would you need to have it for survival?  Hmmm… how much room does it take to store just the Bible?  And a book on gardening and saving seeds? I’m not saying get rid of everything but your Bible, but I’m saying think about how much is too much!  Honestly evaluate how much you do crack open that book or listen to that CD. 
7. Clear out your kitchen of unused dishes, serving dishes, tupperware, and more.  SO WHAT if it was a wedding present?  Do you use it?  How many coffee mugs does your family really need? (Remember "Little House on the Prairie?"  They had one tin cup per family member, for hot and cold beverages. Ahh… simple!)  Do you even know what is in your spice cupboard?  Do you use all those things?  Look at your pans and bakeware.  Pull out five you have not used in over two years and get rid of them.

8.  Run all your planned purchases by your spouse first, for approval.  He will let you know if you really need that new shoe rack, those tiny tupperwares to pack snacks–or the snacks, a new rug for the bathroom, or that new gadget for the baby. Husbands are a great reality check on all our creative, ambitious plans. Use them and then heed their advice. When they say,"no, you don't need special tupperware containers, because sandwich bags work just fine," say, "You're right! Sandwich bags will work just fine!"

9.  When you make a shopping list, challenge yourself to find as many things as you can remove from it because after consideration, you realize you don’t really need them and will get along just as happily without.

Guard against Stuff Immunity Disorder! Do what you can to begin curing yourself and your children of the disease! It is dangerous!  How you "spend" here will affect how you spend eternity.

There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches. Proverbs 13:7

I am sure more than one of you has thought protectively of some of your cherished items and family heirlooms while reading through this.  Now, let's take for example my dear late Grandmother, there in heaven, does she really care that I treasure and carefully store her old Czechoslovakian brooch?  NO! NO! NO!  Do I have absolutely no concept of what heaven will be like?  My grandmother no longer has attachment or longing for anything earthly.  She is not up there wishing she could have taken her jewelry with her.  She is not up there worrying about who has her stuff now and how well it is being cared for.  I am not honoring her by hanging on to her old jewelry.  I don’t wear it. I don’t use it. I could truly sell it and give to the poor–that might please my grandmother.  That is heavenly and eternal…  Does that make sense?I do have some beautiful jewelry that I did inherit and I do actually wear. But as for some of her other favorite things (figurines, vases, dishes, etc.) I chose one pretty little glass bluebird that she always kept in her kitchen windowsill. It now sits in mine, and that is more than enough to help me happily remember my grandmother.

I have counseled many women who have this disease and their marriages and families struggle in many ways. Usually, the disease is chronic.  If I mention "cutting back," ladies will often defend why they bought this or that, and why their children have this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this… and why her grocery budget can’t be less than $____ because of who just has to have this, and this, and this, and this…. They try to tell me they are buying these things to help make their home better for their husband, or to help them become more organized, or have a better homeschool. But they have an immune disorder. They cannot see that they are actually tearing apart their marriage and home.

I understand we all have different gifts, different ministries, different interests, and different callings. We all have different incomes, and God calls us all to different levels of responsibility regarding possessions.  We all use different kinds of stuff and different amounts of stuff. We all have different needs for different kinds of stuff.  We all have husbands to submit to, and some of them are addicted to stuff worse than we are. But I know you are wise enough to discern between what is wise and necessary for your family and what is not.

But like I continually try to do for myself, I urge you to do as well:  Evaluate YOUR symptoms.  Pray. Ask God to help you improve in this area so that you can truly give up your earthly attachments and follow Him.  Deal with your stuff, and the things in your jurisdiction (no, don’t sell your husband’s three extra chainsaws and the 2,000 pounds of tools he never uses). And if you are reading this blog, know that I am praying for you, too.  

Oh, and as some encouraging parting words, let me share with you some of the beautiful symptoms that you will experience as you start curing yourself from Stuff Immunity Disorder:

1.  Your budget will go further.
2. You will be able to give more.  
3. Your bills might even get paid.
4. You will begin using your time more effectively for the Lord–because you will be more organized. 
5. It will be easier to clean your house. 
6. You will not waste hours in useless fiction novels or in front of a video screen.
7. Your spiritual health will improve.
8.  You will not feel the same.You will feel more freedom and joy.
9. Your marriage may improve.
10. You will become more creative.
11. You will become more like Christ.

The question is–do you want to change?

So, Happy New Year. Go clean out one cabinet, or one drawer. Just one. 15 minutes. Throw away a bunch of stuff, or bag it up for charity. Try it. You’ll like it.


  1. Ok, you might have broken your own record for "longest post ever"!!

    I love (and cringe) at the idea of titling the spending journal "my husband's money". Ok, that really hurt!

    I am the one who takes care of the "books" in the family and as we all know, that sometimes means that we can spend without asking. Not like going out and buying a new couch and hoping he doesn't notice, but more like, buying some new makeup when I could have gone a little cheaper or waited a little longer. Or, buying a pizza for lunch instead of enduring another sandwich.

    I'm going to head over to Mrs. White's blog and read some of her testimonies about this and then repent:)

    Thanks for the great reminder about resolutions. They should really be about growing in the Lord and not in the flesh.

    Blessings to you:)

    1. Yes,the post should have been three or four separate posts, instead of one.... and it has been hinted before that maybe I should write books instead of blogs.

      And the reasons you listed are exactly why I started my little accounting book. I do have some jurisdiction in making decisions on how to spend my husband's money--but am I truly being as wise as I can be? The question I have to ask myself is if I would buy the things I buy if my husband were shopping with me. The sad answer is no for at least 50% of the time. Which means at some level I am not being completely trustworthy. And even being unable to drive/run errands the past six months--I am not much better, when a computer click shops for me just as easily! My husband or son have to take me shopping now, which makes a big difference in my accountability, sadly. It shouldn't!