Jesica Swanson: Clinging to Hope

What a beautiful life I have been given, full of dear friends, 35 years of living under my belt. I simultaneously feel young and old. The words of Solomon ring loudly in my ears. “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”(Ecclesiastes 1:18) The more life I live, the more people I treasure, the more I experience broken heartedness, financial strain, and anxiety. It seems 2015 was a banner year for those stressors. As my calendar neared it’s yearly end, I found myself feeling extremely optimistic about what 2016 might hold. I was hopeful that it would be a truly NEW year. My optimism bubble was promptly burst as I sat in the auto body repair shop waiting for an estimate on the 5th of January.

WBRQODG12L2016 didn’t start out shiny and fresh. I have heard more stories of hurt, divorce, loss, and worry. I look out my window to the grey, rainy day and feel like the weather reflects my spirit. I feel grey. The brightness has gone. It’s too early to think of summer, but to far into winter to feel excited about more snow.

It’s depressing.

I’m depressed.

I want a simple fix for this heartache, for this weariness. Why does it seem that I only find the daily drudgery of the routines of life?

I’m a person that needs to have something to look forward to. It helps keep me moving from one point to another. In the past I’ve been motivated by a girls weekend away, or trip to see family out of state. When I was in the madness of the littlest babies in my home, I would look forward to Fridays, when my husband was home. I looked forward to taking a real shower and even sneaking a nap. Having hope has always been a marker of my life, even when I was in extremely hard situations, but somehow I have lost that. Being an adult is not easy and it certainly hasn’t been fun the past year. In many ways it has felt like the things that I had pinned my hopes on were sabatoged by real life and responsibility.

Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” That was my 2015 in a nutshell. Heartsick.

The truth is, I still need hope. Likely, we all need hope.

Whether it is the hope that our child will finally use the potty consistently or that the amount we make will be enough to cover the expense of our essentials. We might hope our husbands see our needs or that we meet a friend that “gets” us. We might hope we get pregnant or that we can just keep the kids we have alive.

Hope is essential.

So I’ve started searching. (Cue thank you speech to Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts)

I search for hope now, more than ever. I’m like the greedy magpie that steals cat food from our deck. I am sneaking around, watching from my perch, looking for the morsel of hope in each day.

This week it has come unexpectedly.

  • My 5 year old daughter, belly laughing in the car as she burps in the mirror, while we wait for her brother to get out of school.
  • My son, reading with fluency one more chapter, willingly, while we snuggle, side by side on the couch.
  • PNFSQE66VDMy husband, who has not always understood my subtle hints, bringing me a fresh, bright bouquet home from the grocery store.
  • Two friends gathered in my home, seeking with me the good gifts in our lives and understanding the hard places in between.

Has being an adult gotten easier this week? Nope. In fact I just had 4 cavities filled and don’t have dental insurance. Adulting is hard, but maybe if I can look for just enough hope for this day, then I can become convinced, again, that God is faithful. He is, of course, I just don’t always feel it.

So, I keep my eyes open and I am beginning to see that he does bring enough hope for each day. And, if he can bring enough hope for each day, he can certainly bring enough hope for each month, each season, each year, and each trial. I’ve decided to put into practice Psalm 147:11, “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” I am certain He owes me nothing, He gave me all He had on the cross, but I can find hope in His steadfast love. I can find hope in the millions of little things that show His love to me each day.

Maybe 2016 won’t be the year I get my stuff together, or the year I make a large deposit in my IRA, or even the year that joy comes easily, but it is to be hoped that 2016 will be the year I learn to hope again.

 

 

Jesica Swanson is wife to Norse and mother to Boden & Isley. She’s a big fan of marriage, wholehearted friendships, and loud laughter. While still trying to figure out her marketable skill set, she spends her time goofing off in Montana and writing candidly about spiritual life, marriage, motherhood, fun books and music, and whatever else pops into her head at http://www.atleastwecanlaugh.com .

 

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Jillian Johnsrud-Morrissey: Small Goals

Bill Gates is quoted as saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

I love the new year. I love the fresh start and the feeling of limitless possibilities. It can be tempting to over shoot in our New Year resolutions. Charlie Munger was a friend and business partner of Warren Buffet, and had the theory that everyone should work for themselves for an hour a day. Instead of just investing time for other people or organizations, an hour a day should be set aside to create something for yourself. As a mom with 4 little kids at home and one about to be born (tomorrow!), I feel like an hour is a bit ambitious.

Maybe 5 minutes? Maybe 5 minutes total, because sometimes 5 consecutive minutes can be hard to come by. What if we didn’t attempt to change our whole life in one year? Instead we focus on starting a habit. We find 5 minutes a day to set a trajectory for our year. Will it get us to total victory by 2017? No, but we are laying ground work and building habits that will change our path. Let us not despise the small things.

How about we set goals so small we can’t fail? Goals that take 5 minutes or less a day. So to lower the bar even more (remember baby is coming tomorrow!), let’s just pick one. After a month or two of feeling victory after victory from achieving our tiny goals, we could add 1 more. Here a few that I already have and a few that I recently added just for some tiny goal inspiration.

smoothieHeath: drink 1 green smoothie a day. Now this isn’t to replace a meal, or at a certain time of day. I just have to add one at some point. Start to clean up I can make one in less than 5 minutes and even have a little smoothie station in my kitchen now to help me get going.

Fitness: 1 minute of exercise, 5x a day. I can never seem to find 5 uninterrupted minutes f20160108_155047or this, so I try to carve out 60 seconds. I will do squats, lunges, bicep curls, jumping jacks, etc. for 1 min, then move on to what ever child crisis has occurred in the last minute. Because that is almost a guarantee.

Personal Finance: Use a budgeting app. I started using “Good Budget”, it’s free and I can log our daily transactions within 2 or 3 minutes. Add in another 1-2 min to remind my sweet hubby to add his and we are set.

Personal Growth: Read one blog post a day. There are a few blogs I like to follow, and each are really short. 2 minutes to read something thought provoking and challenging, 1 min to contemplate.

Reducing Stress: 1 minute of deep breathing up to 5x a day. My house can have a “full” feel to it. It’s small, busy and noisy. That 60 seconds is the difference in me acting like “crazy mom” and a slightly more mild response to toddler tantrums. Sometimes I hide in the bathroom to do this. Beings I’m 40 weeks pregnant, I have to pee all the time anyways. Mom multitasking right there.

What ever your big goals or plans are for 2016, the most important step is starting. 5 minutes might not get you 100% of the way there by next year, but your will have set a new trajectory that you can build on. Success builds on success. So set your wins small and as they start to pile up you will maintain the motivation way past February. Note: another app I have been enjoying is HabitBull. It’s also free and will let you track if you track up to 5 habits, plus it will take less than 5 min to set up for your new habit.