A New Resolution

By Bindu Adai Mathew

This year I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Now don’t mistake me. There’s plenty I want to improve about myself and my life, but this year I decided on a different approach. I created New Year Intentions.

A New Year Intention is a conscious, dedicated, yet kinder, gentler approach to achieving specific goals. Now I know the experts say without a detailed plan, measureable goals, a specific deadline, accountability, yadda yadda yadda, a goal is less likely to be achieved.  And for some things like tasks and projects, I would agree that is probably the case. But for other things, such as the yearly goal most people have to get into shape or start living healthier, I realized telling myself to cut out sugar, caffeine, carbs and working out 4-5 times a week might work for the month of January, but by February or March, I either get bored or “too busy” or too tired to continue. I love my morning toast and chai. And my afternoon Spicy Cheetos.

Make realistic goals would be some experts’ response. Yeah. I guess. But somehow the yearly New Year’s resolution eventually becomes something I abhor. I intentionally shirk from it after a few months. Because whether it is a lofty, unrealistic goal or just something minor I want to change about myself, I find that anytime I don’t follow my goal for that day or that week, I start reaching for the eject button and am ready to abandon my goals.

A New Year’s Intention, on the other hand, is a shift in mindset. My New Year intention isn’t just a goal that I attain… it’s a lifestyle change. Rather than focusing on a specific amount of pounds to lose or a specific size of clothing, I, instead focus on making healthier choices, whether it’s what I decide to eat or how much of it to eat. It’s recognizing I want to be healthier, that I need to eat better, work out more. And that is my intention every day. That is my intention even when I don’t work out for a few days during the week and that is my intention as I bite into a sweet, soft donut that someone brought to work on Friday. Yeah, you heard me. So as I eat that donut, I’m not plagued with guilt. I’m not plagued with worries about my skinny jeans no longer fitting. That I don’t have a right to eat this donut because I didn’t work out earlier in the week. And neither am I plagued with thoughts of getting to the gym that night or the next day to “burn off” that donut. Instead, I’m enjoying that donut for all its sweet, warm gooey goodness. BUT. I know that donut is not healthy for me. So after a few bites, I realize that my initial desire for the donut has been curbed and because I’m not plagued with a “heck, I already screwed up, I might as well finish it and then grab another donut” thought, I can actually set the donut down and not feel I have to eat all of it. I’m no longer “feeding” my guilt or shame. I can listen to my body and create that space between want and truly need and make a better decision. And because my mindset has shifted, I don’t feel “forced” to make a healthier choice for food at lunch, but realize I want to. Because I truly want to give my body what it really needs. Because that is my underlying intention. Every day.

The same goes for working out. Become more organized. Procrastinating less. Spending more time with God.

This past week, it was hard to find some focused quiet time in the morning to read my Bible. So instead, I turned on some praise and worship music and worshipped God as I made my daughter’s breakfast and packed her lunch and then had a conversation with God on my way to work and during my afternoon break. I think of “time with God” less as a formal, set time but rather than a continual, all-day awareness that He is with me, that He is in control, and I often now speak to him throughout the day like I would with a close friend. And eventually I’m back to reading my Bible on a more consistent time frame.

A New Year’s Intention isn’t casual or half-hearted. In fact, as its name implies, it’s very intentional. It has to be well thought out and some specifics do need to be identified and followed through. But most of all, it has to be something you are ready to do. It requires a commitment. And perseverance. But it’s guilt-free. It allows you to be human. To “mess up. “ But you never have to get back in the saddle, for you never got off.

So whatever changes you want to make in your life, remember, above all else, be kind to yourself. And persevere. For as Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.

Before the New Year Begins: Gratitude

Patches make up a quilt and people make up a life.  The love you have inside and from above needs a place to run free.   Potential love is just that.  The beauty of love is in the giving and receiving.  The beauty of the quilt is in the many patches.

So much beauty and goodness took place in 2016.  My marriage made progress.  I wrote 2/3 of a book.  I learned a lot about myself and made peace with my “weaknesses.”  One of my kids broke free from anger and food addiction.   Good friends became even closer friends.  I even hiked a mountain for a good cause.

All of this came to a crashing halt in November.  While tucked in the top bunk in a cabin at my daughter’s spiritual retreat, I started to feel shooting pain in a few of my teeth.  My first thought was, Darn, I should have gotten those two cavities filled.  The pain progressed to incapacitating over the next few days.  The kind of pain where you don’t move, don’t eat and barely sleep.  It turned out to be a malfunctioning nerve on the left side of my face.

My life slowed down of course.  I had days home from work.  I made it a point to sleep eight hours.  I covered up in warm clothes and blankets and asked God to come meet me in deep places.  He did and I began to feel closeness and togetherness and covering in a cheek to cheek way.  The pain eventually subsided and I am much better.

More came crashing down in early December.  I reached to turn off the alarm clock and noticed my body was shaking – – whether it was on the inside or the outside, I could not tell.  I self assessed as I walked to the laundry room in the dark.  On my second pass, I asked my husband to take the kids to school and barely made the walk back to bed.

I didn’t move or think for the next five hours.  The long term push of my everyday life finally put me out.  Three hours into my trance of exhaustion, I received this text (in part) from my friend Debbie and found the strength to cry.

But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.  Jude 1:20-21

About a year ago, my best friend Nathalie suffered from burn out.  After reading a few articles on the signs of burn out, I sent a text to Nat asking her about her experience.  Despite our six hour time difference, she stopped everything and called me.  I hadn’t cried out loud like that in a long, long time.  Like the good sister and mother she is, she let me cry until quiet fell.  And, then, like the good sister and mother she is, she got down to business.

She did the leading while I wrote a list.  The list comprised of five things I would give up or delegate for my well-being.  She challenged me to focus on the essentials for a few months.  Eating, drinking, sleeping and exercise.  If something doesn’t actually need to be done, don’t do it.  She pointed out that the fantasy super woman is actually a made up wonder.  The fantasy is not attainable even when you have the best of intentions.

I started by saying that quilts are made of patches and lives are made of people.  In November and December, my life was held together by the patches that were passed to me.  Here are my patches of gratitude.

You are the most exceptional individual I know on the face of this earth.  Stop all this crazy #$%* you are doing, NOW.  –Nathalie

Your body and mind can’t keep up with your heart.  Realize that the small things are mighty in His eyes. – Christina

I have been thinking about you and praying for you.  I know you are going through so much right now.  I am hoping you are feeling a little better and I know you are holding onto Jesus.  Is there anything I can do for you? A meal?   Coffee somewhere?  Let me know.   –Lynn

Praying and hoping that things are better for you.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 – Susie

Stay strong.  -Jenny

The notifications on my phone have been off for exactly one month.  My friend Suzanne has covered for me at work almost as many times as I can count on my fingers.  Isaiah has given me a gift that continues to lead me to wholeness.

There will be no limits to the wholeness He brings.  Isaiah 9

There has been another sister who let me into her deep.  She let me into her own wounds so that I could bleed myself.  She heard me, stayed with me and let me know it is okay to be in the grey.

The patches kept coming . . .

The hearts of the old testament Israel looked like my sad, scattered desktop.  Truth be told, we all have hearts so easily distracted and forgetful . . . We need constant reminders of who God is and who we are.  –She Reads Truth, Advent Bible Study, 2016

After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.  The sacrifice was done.  It was – and still is – finished.  Meanwhile, we just can’t seem to sit still.  We think there is more to do.  –She Reads Truth, Advent Bible Study, 2016

The last two months have hurt as badly as the time in which I grieved for the loss of my dad.  As Christmas approached, an unexpected gift came.  Seven years to the month after my dad’s passing, my aunt delivered my dad’s bible to me after a long trip from north to south.  I sat with my kids in bed looking at my dad’s handwriting and highlights, putting back in pages that slid out as we turned them.  The unexpected gift reminded me that He does not forget and He is never late to deliver.  His peace worked in me to bring wholeness before and His peace is working in me to bring wholeness now.

The beauty of the quilt is in the many patches.

When you don’t know where to begin and you’re at the end of yourself, you get to be where all of God begins.  What you always need most is need.  -Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

The love you have inside and from above needs a place to run free.   Potential love is just that.  The beauty of love is in the giving and receiving.  This is the foundation of my end of the year Gratitude.

As always, there are a few patches that are too personal to tell.  The first patch is for my mother who I say a thousand thank yous – -although she would never ask for a single one.  The second patch is for you who said you are sorry for the last two months.  I remain confident of this: We will see the goodness of God in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

The beauty of love is in the giving and receiving.  I was gifted silent prayers of brothers and sisters.  There were times over the last two months that I had no strength to lift my head.  But it was lifted anyway.  I account this to the prayers of my friends and family.  This the foundation of my end of the year Gratitude.

Prayer is essential in ongoing warfare.  Pray hard and long.  Pray for your brothers and sisters.  Keep your eyes open.  Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.  Ephesians 6:13-18

Patches make up a quilt and people make up a life.  It is the people that make up my life.  I learn good lessons from their gifts of love.  It is okay to be in the grey.  It’s not okay to run my body into the ground.  It’s good to ask for help.  It’s even better to give and receive in your need.  His peace worked in me to bring wholeness before and His peace is working in me to bring wholeness now.  There is no limit to the wholeness He will bring.

Sometimes- some things have to break all apart so better things can be built.  I nod. Never be afraid of broken things.  It’s the beginning of better things.  The best yields always start as broken fields.  -Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Advent Message

There is no limit to the Wholeness He will bring.  As we ride sometimes on a roller coaster and sometimes in slow motion, we catch of glimpse of our own faith.  Maybe from a mirror reflection.  Perhaps from a relationship.  Sometimes in tangible moments with God.

I have seen glimpses of myself recently.  I had the very honest moment of speaking out loud the fear I have been holding onto for as long as I can remember.  I have been brave on many occasions.  I even have a large well of peace and calm that the people I am close to see in me.  But, at the floor of it all, I have stored fear.

Ruth is my personal hero.  I always think of her on the threshing floor speaking truth in the dark night to Boaz.  I like to think I would do the same under the same set of circumstances.  And, I probably would.  But, there on the floor, I would still be holding onto my fear.

Something happened the last few days.  Because God is good, He had no plan for me to store up my fear until kingdom come.  I unexpectedly spoke my fear out loud to someone I trust.  She prayed and prayed and I listened and listened.

If you are whole, there is no fear.  I used to be afraid about things that are too personal to share here.  I have gifts in me to give and it’s okay that some may not want them.  I have faith in the future of my kids despite my imperfect life.  I used to be afraid but that is gone now.  I am not in chains anymore.  Ultimately, I am free to love God as my Savior.

I have always believed in the miracles of the holiday season.  I am embracing Advent in a way I have not before.  I came across Isaiah 9:2-7 in the Message.  He is the Prince of Wholeness and there will be no limits to the wholeness He brings.  If you are speeding or in slow motion this season, catch of glimpse of your faith.  There is no better time of year to let go of the bottom of you and let Whole seep in to every part of yourself.  There is no limit to the Wholeness He has for you.  Go ahead and believe in December miracles.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

For those who lived in a land of deep shadows — light! sunbursts of light!

You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy.

Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!

Festival joy!

The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.

The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants —

all their whips and cudgels and curses —

Is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising

and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.

The boots of all those invading troops, along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,

Will be piled in a heap and burned, a fire that will burn for days!

For a child has been born — for us!

the gift of a son — for us!

He’ll take over the running of the world.

His names will be:

Amazing Counselor,

Strong God,

Eternal Father,

Prince of Wholeness.

His ruling authority will grow,

and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.

He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom.

He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going

With fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always.

The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.

Isaiah 9:2-7

To You, Sue

By Bindu Adai Mathew

Today the world lost an amazing person – Susan (Sue) Varghese Thomas – after nearly a 10 month battle with cancer. She had a bright smile, endless optimism, a creative energy, and a beautiful heart.  In many ways, I considered her a kindred spirit because like me, she was an aspiring writer. We shared similar struggles with getting published along with the ups and downs of carving a legitimate career out of our passion for writing. She was Indian and Malayalee like me, and most importantly, she was a sister in Christ.

But I never met Sue. In person, that is.  It was a close friend we had in common, Suja Jacob, who brought us together. Because of our shared love of writing, Suja always told us about each other. So when Sue published her book, The World from My Fire Escape, I felt personally invested in her success as a writer. I followed her on her blog, and when Facebook became popular, we also became Facebook friends.

It was through Suja that I first learned Sue had cancer. It was also through Suja that I learned that Sue’s cancer had worsened when she called me a week ago after seeing Sue. She was in tears after seeing Sue’s condition.

“I really thought God would have healed her,” Suja said, her voice and spirit broken with pain. “I don’t even know how to pray. Do I pray for God to take her so she’s no longer in pain? Or do I pray for her to be healed? Of course, I want her to be healed, but I don’t want to see her suffer like this.”

“You definitely pray for her utter and complete healing, “ I encouraged her, my voice strong with conviction. “With her body wracked in pain, you must stand in the gap and believe for her. You believe God, despite Sue’s condition, can and is willing to heal her. And then you pray for God’s will to be done.”  As I spoke encouragement, I felt faith well up in my own spirit. Yes, I felt, God is the healer. He who brought the dead back to life, He who created Life out of nothingness, He is able. What is impossible for him? Nothing.

“If it’s not her time, she won’t go,” I reminded Suja. “No one, but God can give or take life.”

So this week, I really prayed for Sue. I prayed the pain she was in would subside and be tolerable. I especially prayed for her complete healing and that she, too, would have the strength to believe despite her pain and circumstances.

So you can imagine my shock when I got the call that Sue had died this morning. As I comforted my friend, I felt sadness overwhelm me as well. Gone too soon. I think of all the books she still had in her, waiting to be discovered by new readers. The places she had yet to explore. The love she still had yet to share.

And then suddenly her passing seemed so wrong. But we prayed fervently, I reminded myself. And I know God heard us. And just like all things we don’t understand, I am reminded that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and while He was fully able to heal Susan, He decided it was her time.  And then I’m reminded she is in Heaven. HEAVEN. What am I mourning but our loss? For she has truly gained her reward. As she is pain-free in Heaven in the presence of a God whom she truly believed and loved.

As it reads in 2 Timothy 4:7:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Now enjoy your reward, Susan. You’ve earned it. I just wish you could have written about your experience… oh what a bestseller that would be!

Let Your Faith Take a Turn

The neat thing about faith is that it is always taking turns.  If you ever feel it stop moving, it is time to stop and let it move.  I’m in a moving season.  My faith has started to take a turn.  It’s like standing in front of an IMax screen and getting ready to step inside.

Part of what leads me to move has to do with friendships, the words I read, quiet moments.  Funny enough, exhaustion that brings me to spend most of day laying on the couch also brings my faith to move.

I’ve been writing a book about time.  As I have been wrapped up in my thoughts about time and eternity, I am being moved by what time really means and how that meaning ought to drive how we live life.

Emily P. Freeman shared an article by Ed Cyzewski about the contrast between a salvation moment and a life long conversation with God.  We are converted throughout our lives as we learn what it is to abide and to receive the life and transformation that God slowly brings. It’s not that we have a ticket that we can either protect or lose. It’s that God’s passionate love is pursuing each of us right now, and we can choose to either abide in it or go about our own business. 

We can abide in Him or we can go about our own business.  It may feel like an easy answer to choose to abide in Him.  It’s an easy Yes.  But in the hundreds of little choices you will make today, will you choose to abide in Him?  The decision is easy, the action point is harder.

I’m reading a book called Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.  She tucks in a few lines that speak to my thoughts on time and how it plays into our long term life.  What if the [bible] passage you are fighting to understand today suddenly makes sense to you when you most need it, ten years from now?  It has been said that we overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten.  Are you willing to invest ten years in waiting for understanding?

I think we are meant to live like there is no time.  We are meant to live and move and breathe in a place and a space of depth.  Where we are not lassoed in by time constraints, judgmental time lines or frozen by time.  I think we were meant to live in the light of eternity.  Where there is no time.

 

Walking & Talking on Mountains

I was walking in the sun with my daughter training for our summer mountain climb.  We were with about ten other women on what we affectionately call Trash Mountain.  In Florida, we have flat and, when we want an incline, we go to the local trash mountain.

There we were, sweating bullets in groups of two and threes, hiking up and down the sides of the man-made hill.  As I held my daughter’s hand and walked, I listened to the conversation ahead and behind me.  I leaned into my own conversation with my daughter and thought about the magic taking place.

There is something profound that happens when like-minded women gather together for a purpose.  Without any agenda, the conversations run deep on Trash Mountain.  The words shared mirror the seasons of parenting and speak of children still small and others taller than their mamas.  The conversations speak of concerns only women know.  The conversations dig up past experience and contemplate the future.  The conversations echo and resonate among the group of hiking ladies. I walk with my daughter and ponder the beauty and depth taking place.

Women have an uncanny knack for seeing more than meets the eye.  I see this gift at work as women on this mountain walk and talk.  As I hike with my daughter, I want her to be invited into the depth.  I want her to hear the thoughts of women as they talk through motherhood, education, the beginnings and ends of things.  Of times past and times to come.  I am proud of her when she enters into the conversation in her ten year old way.

This is the beginning of her introduction to womanhood, to motherhood and to friendship.  In this community, she will find in herself the knack to sense the needs of others.  She will become attuned to how needs can be met through walking and talking along side another woman.  She will understand why women gather for a purpose.

She will understand that, while she is young, she has a lot to learn from the mamas around her.  She will know unity and community well enough to enter in even as a girl.  Over many walks and talks, she will understand that she has both much to learn and much to give.  She will take in the value of becoming wise and in giving freely.  And, someday, when her path has stretched over many years, she will continue the walk and the talk of mamas.  She will continue to share and love and embrace the magic of hiking with like-minded women on mountains.

If you like the idea of hiking on mountains for a purpose, check out thefreedomchallenge.com.  You may find yourself in Machu Picchu in the the Fall of 2017. 

Being Impractical Has Its Gain

There is a voice on the inside that speaks through your heart.  The voice is wiser than your own.  The thoughts expressed are higher than your own.  This voice doesn’t have any motivation beyond love.  The voice always knows the way, always speaks the truth and always points you to the light.

The voice gives you inspiration and insight.  There are many things that will be accomplished in a lifetime, but the voice particularly speaks to the great adventures that were written for you before time.  You can think of the great people you know and you can think of the great people throughout history.  Both the small and the larger than life live out a dream that the voice once began to speak about deep within.

There is a woman who heard a voice.  Against all practicality, she walked to a home in Bethany where Jesus was having dinner at a table with a handful of followers.  She brought with her a beautiful alabaster jar filled with a fragrant essential oil.    With faith and love tucked in her soul by the voice, she poured the oil or perfume over Jesus’ head.

There are so many reasons why her act of kindness was against practicality.  It was probably late in the day when she began to walk; maybe it was sunset or perhaps night.  Not the best time to start a journey.  The alabaster jar of oil she carried was worth a year’s wages.  Whether the jar was a gift or whether she earned the money to purchase it, the idea of giving it away was a big decision.  As to her act, she probably knew it would not be understood by some or all.

Journeys are this way.  It is never the best time.  There is always cost.  We risk the chance of being misunderstood.

For those of us who have had the courage to acknowledge the voice that is wiser than our own.  For those who have tilted an ear to listen to the voice that loves us more than we will ever know.  For those of us who have begun journeys or who are thinking about beginning.  Remember this.  The woman with the alabaster jar met Jesus face to face because she listened to the voice. Our journeys are always this way.  The voice that calls will always be the voice that meets you.  He will be with you always, even to the end of the age.