Happy last first day of school from your favorite senior who’s not ready to admit that the countdown has begun! I just left my first class of the semester: Western Military Thought, the capstone course for my history major. Scribbled in the margins of my notes from the introduction of class is this: “You can’t have a strategy without a goal.”
I knew that coming into this school year, only a month and a half out of my time in Argentina, was clearly going to be an adjustment. I needed a plan – to keep those lessons I learned at the front of my mind, create boundaries, promote health, and continue to seek after Christ. And to create that plan, the heartbeat behind how and where I spend my time in this final semester of undergraduate classes, I made myself a list of goals.
I’ve pulled that list out several times since I’ve been back, just to remind myself what I’ve committed to, because already the enemy is flooding my system and my surroundings with busyness, anxieties, fears, missteps, and frustrations. I tend to throw myself into defensive mode to counteract the barrage of information and activities to keep track of – and that only causes more problems than it solves. Today I was thinking – maybe it’s time to step out, not shrink back.
My mom has always had this saying – “Be a duck.” Let things roll right off your back. Don’t get so worked up about the little things. It’s good advice, even if my pride and stubbornness have held me back a long time from admitting it.
I am, by nature, the opposite of a duck, whatever kind of bird that is. Things sit heavy on my head and heart; I get worked up about them quickly and it takes me a long time to come back down. In my mind, there is a fine line between complacency and conflict – however harmless the remark, I can’t stand it when there’s no challenging an insult, a mark of disrespect, or miscommunication. Even if it’s my remark, I would rather wade through the murky water of apologies up front than let the possibility of my thoughtlessness linger in someone else’s world. They say pick and choose your battles – but what if all of my battles matter to me too much to put any of them down?
This is a year where I have to make choices. I have to decide what my priorities are, what is the most important to me. And in evaluating those, in every time I get worked up about something, I have to remind myself. It’s okay to be a duck, it’s okay to let some things go; and it’s okay to fight for some things at the same time. When it comes to our circumstances, Scripture has a caveat for how we respond and what we prioritize.
There are two kinds of fights. There’s fighting for ourselves – for control, power, image or success. For the things we want, for the things we don’t trust God to handle for us, for the things of the world. Scripture has a response to that.
We do live in the world, but we do not fight in the same way the world fights. // 2 Corinthians 10:3
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. // Exodus 14:14
To me, that’s not a fight at all. That’s when I respond from a place of self-defense, not security; I lash out, rather than choosing love.
Then, there’s fighting for the Gospel. For our identities to be rooted in Christ. For the light to shine in the darkness. For truth to be louder than fear. For the chance to know Him deeper and walk with Him more closely. For the people around us to know love and be known.
Fight the good fight of faith, grabbing hold of the life that continues forever. You were called to have that life when you confessed the good confession before many witnesses. // 1 Timothy 6:12
I want the life that continues forever.
I choose to fight the good fight of faith.
These are the things I’m going to fight for this year.
I want to stop saying that in the next stage of my life, I’ll meet these goals or purse these activities. I want to do them now. Just like I want to stop saying that at the next turn, I’ll be the person I want to be, instead of being her now, when I’d like to be most.
I want to recapture the languid pace of life in Buenos Aires, the way the hours stretched by, and translate it in Vanderbilt’s environment.
I want to wake up at 6:30 every weekday morning, no exceptions.
I want to keep listening to podcasts while I get ready in the mornings. I want to eat breakfast, then sit at the kitchen table and read my Bible.
I want to do my homework right after the class for which it’s assigned. I want to leave that class with all of my ideas and notes bubbling at the surface, take an hour to sit down and organize myself for whatever work needs to be done for the upcoming week. If my brain is worn out from class, it’s okay to kill half an hour first. But it has to be started – at least looked at – that same day.
I want to pick a consistent time of day and place to sit and write or “work.” I want to do what Anne Lamott said and just put down words on the paper, a one-inch picture frame at a time, whether it’s TWC prompts, HopeWriters, blog research, or just plain word vomit. I want to do it every day that I’m able. I know I won’t always be able. I want to try anyway.
I want work out. I want to do my ankle exercises, squats, lunges, pushups, sit-ups, planks every day. I want to go to yoga class, just one hour a week. And I want to go work out with somebody else. Not all the times, but a couple of times. Some times.
I want to pour into my friends and be poured into. I want to pursue lunches, dinners, breakfasts, brunches, coffee dates, work nights, Starbs on Sundays, whatever it is, whatever it takes to love on them and be in community. I want to put my phone away every time I sit down with someone. I want to talk about the messy parts of life and create spaces that are authentic. I want to not overwhelm myself with people, to see time with them as rest, as a privilege, and not an obligation or an evaluation.
I want to work hard for Phi Lamb, and I want to work hard for band. But I refuse to let either one of them work me up to the point where my identity, my joy, or my value is determined by how either are going. I want to give what I can and walk away with my hands open and my head high and my gaze fixed on things that are more important.
I want to create meaningful relationships in Navs. I want to go every week, and I want to do every week of the study.
I want to cook, budget, and meal prep. I want to make actual recipes and learn what I’m doing even if it means I fail a few times. I want to learn some basic dishes that I like, that are easy, and that I can freeze. But I want to eat well and I want to teach myself what I’m doing, even if it means I have to block out some extra time. Just look at it as mental health time. Because that’s what it is.
I want to put my phone up at 10:30pm. It gets plugged in across the room. If there’s not an outlet across the room, it goes in the living room. Until I go to sleep, I want to read.
I want to be kind to myself. I can’t do everything I want to, just everything I can. The things that I’ve drug along as I’ve skated through the surface of life, making it from one day to the next by the skin of my teeth, carrying a load that I promise myself will lighten as soon as I reach the next milestone or checkpoint – when they start to weigh on me, I will let them fall.