I think I hear your question already:
Why are you doing a "5 things" post for a new year when we're 3 days in?
Great question. Glad you asked.
This is actually the time when we should be thinking about "new things" in a "new year." The fact that we make resolutions when work and school schedules are abnormal, when we're still finishing the cookies left over from Christmas, and when we're feeling moderately loose in any and all disciplines doesn't make any sense at all.
We can't be trusted to make decisions for that whole week.
For now, I want to challenge you to engage in 5 experiments this year. I say experiments because you may choose to bail on them eventually. I say experiment because each of these suggestions need to be tailored to your own personal circumstances, weirdness and environment. Feel free to take or leave any of these, although I must say I wouldn't suggest them if I didn't believe they were, in fact, beautiful.
1. Read a novel.
This might be one of the least followed suggestions I've ever given. Getting past the question of whether you're a "reader" or not - which we all are, because even scrolling your Facebook news feed is an act of reading - the fact that fiction is not a part of our bloodstream is a great tragedy.
There is something about losing ourselves in a story that brings creative insights into leadership, parenting, relationships, and ministry. Great storytellers tell more truth about life than some theologians, to be honest.
My suggestions for a starting point would be either Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry or Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Feel free to suggest your own in the comments below.
2. Eat Paleo.
My wife and I have benefitted from both the Whole 30 experiment and the Paleo eating philosophy this past year, losing 25-30 pounds each and finding new life in our bodies at the ripe age of 40. There are numerous resources out there for eating Paleo, and plenty of answers to the question "What is a Paleo diet?"
My wife has enjoyed the recipes and insights of The Paleo Running Momma and I have enjoyed eating those recipes. My suggestion would be to start with the Whole 30 month-long experiment and then transition on to the Paleo strategy.
3. Schedule your social media time.
I write this partially because it's a good idea, but more so because it is something I DESPERATELY need to do. How often are we sitting at a dead moment - stoplight, doctor's office, etc. - and we go for one of the social icons on our device?
I found myself struggling over the break between Christmas and New Year - specifically looking at Instagram and seeing other authors having great success, other families with better looking decorations, other weather that was...well, not the Midwest...and I felt a general sense of depression coming on.
This year, my hope is to do one specific thing: I will set aside time each day - perhaps 15 minutes - where I'll check my social media accounts and after that I'll stay away from those accounts. I may have to actually delete the apps from my phone, we shall see, but ultimately I need to remind myself that I'm the grown up in this relationship - social media is the toddler.
4. Plan for and embrace silence.
In line with #3 above, we are all awash in a sea of noise. We walk distracted through most of life because we are either so far from silence that we can't reach it or we're so petrified of what we might find there that we stay away on purpose.
The experiment we need this year is to take 5 minutes a day and turn off any "dings" and "bings" and find a quiet spot in our day to embrace some silence. If we're driving, we shut off the Spotify or Sirius. If we're at home, we go to an undisturbed place and we sit in silence with God. It is best not to come with an agenda or an objective, because even the desire to "accomplish something" in silence can be noise of it's own. You may want to bring a notepad, however, just in case you have a thought that you don't want to lose or you may hear something from God's quiet Spirit in the noiseless moment.
Try to do 5 minutes, 3 days out of the week, and then the next week bump it up to 10 minutes.
In Greg McKeown's book Essentialism he talks about how play helps create moments of insight and clarity that don't come with straight, hard thinking. We rarely play these days. Research is beginning to reveal how the economics of working Millenials is leading away from Xbox and more towards board games. Perhaps a generation that embraces tactile, community-focused play is on the rise?
Set a day to play a game as a family. A cheap deck of cards, UNO or otherwise, is easy to come by and you may even have one in that abyss of a drawer in the kitchen (you know which drawer) already. The act of play - detaching from activity that leads to an outcome - is a modern mental Sabbath that reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. Because...
In 2018, much like it was in 2017, we are not in control of the world.
Play can help us to reconnect with the God who truly fits that job description.
What experiment are you engaging in this year? Leave a comment and let's start a bigger discussion - or fire me a Tweet (@cktygrett) so we can share wisdom.
May your experiments, in 2018 and beyond, bear the beautiful mark of the God who makes all things new.