Happy New Year, everyone! January 1st has nothing on September. January gets all the glory, with its fancy hats and blowers and toasts, but September is the legitimate new year; it’s the actual starting line.
September fills me with anticipation: It’s GO time! It’s launch season! It’s the stage for resetting goals, reframing what the year will look like and putting new systems in place (however short-lived; we’d best keep January as a back-up plan). I feel invigorated and expectant, ready to return to routine—all the while aware of what lies ahead. My excitement is tempered with reality, for although I adore this time of year, I also have to steel myself. I must call on my grit, take deep breaths, possibly carb-load…and face the gauntlet.
Life is busy. Very busy. For all of us. Whether we’re surrounded by kids or we’re living solo, our schedules are at capacity. My personal phase of life happens to include full-time work as an elementary school teacher, an unbelievable amount of time in hockey rinks, a substantial relationship with my church community, a passionate commitment to writing and several hours each week at a horseback riding arena (I am camped out in the back seat of my vehicle right now, squeezing in writing time, while my daughter tacks up a horse inside the barn. For real). I really love all of the things and it vexes me that time is finite; that there is only so much. We simply cannot manipulate or elongate the hours in a day, and so, it often feels like there isn’t enough time.
Except that there is.
Good Earth “Sweet and Spicy” tea is one of my absolute favourites. I can’t buy it where we live, so whenever I’m away, I pick up a few boxes. Beyond the inexplicable deliciousness of the tea, there are these lovely, little quotes on the tea bag tags. The last tag I read offered a timely message to arrest my September gauntlet preparations:
When God made time, he made enough of it” (Celtic saying)
I walked around for days afterwards, pondering these words and speaking them out loud to myself. God created time in the form of days and nights and called it good. He does all things well, so if he didn’t scrimp or miscalculate, clearly, I have been doing something wrong. I have been letting the tail wag the dog, as they say. I have been going too easily with the flow and have been carried along with the current. Not this year, baby!
Some years ago, I underwent a rigorous, informal education in setting priorities and in learning to say no. It was really hard for me. My personality is such that I can muster passion for just about anything and everything seems like a brilliant opportunity in the moment. For years, I had myself spread paper thin, and those who should have been getting the best of me, including myself, were getting leftovers. In response to God’s invitation to do what was only mine to do, I became adept at setting boundaries and declining offers that didn’t adhere to said priorities. The parts that remain in my life now are there on purpose or cannot be cut out (because, as it turns out, my family still wants to be fed. Sheesh). The pace can be staggering, but for the most part, even in exhaustion, I embrace it. But I want more than to survive these busy years. I want to thrive.
My word for this season is ease. Identifying a theme word is not something I’ve done before; the choosing was not intentional. I simply noticed one day, while scanning through journal entries, that “ease” was written countless times. There were gratitude entries, thanking God for the ease in which an event had occurred or the ease with which words had flowed during a potentially difficult conversation. The word was also present in many written prayers, desiring that solace that ease embodies. On recognizing the pattern in my writing over the course of a few weeks, I felt compelled to pay attention; to give ease some deeper thought.
My first thought was that ease doesn’t necessitate a change of external circumstances, but that the way we move through the event changes. Metaphorically, I see it like this. It’s the difference between struggling against the water—chest-deep in a raging river, half-drowned, gasping for breath and exhausted by the current ripping my feet from beneath me—and diving under. Though the rapid-riddled surface keeps raging and the current keeps pulling, I slide smoothly under the water into the quiet. Instead of soldiering on, forcing my way upstream against a current that wants to wash me away, I dive under and slide more easily through the water; less resistance, less friction.
For me, this looks like partnering with God and walking through every single moment of my day in the knowledge that I am not alone. I am covered. I am loved. I dive under in his presence and do all things as unto him, even the menial stuff. On the surface, it may appear that nothing has changed. But my experience of situations changes remarkably.
Another thought was that ease does not mean easy. Easy evokes escapism, pretending everything is A-okay and bobbing superficially along the surface. Easy wants mountain tops and no valleys, refusing to acknowledge that life can actually be simultaneously difficult and beautiful. When we believe things should be easy, we end up frustrated, disappointed and cynical, because they rarely are. Easy lacks depth and nuance, whereas ease feels like grace.
Ease offers sanctuary in the eye of the storm. Ease indicates a lightening or lessening of concern, struggle and discomfort. Ease feels like sliding through life’s circumstances un-rocked, unafraid, unaffected by the waves. Let the storms swirl and rage, you’ll find me asleep in the bottom of the boat with Jesus. Ease doesn’t mean things are easy, it means we are at peace, even when circumstances are not, because we know who calms the storms.
So, my September New Year’s resolution is this: I will navigate this year with ease. Instead of hanging on for dear life, enduring all that the schedule demands, I’m going to dive under every day. I’m going to embrace work and meetings and hockey games and practices and rehearsals and meals and driving and driving and driving from a place of peace.
Even when life isn’t easy, I’m choosing to live with ease.