You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitudes of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
When I lived in Guatamala, I loved “Dia Del Diablo,” The Day of The Devil. On December seventh of each year, the people there sweep any trash from their dirt floors out the door and into piles in front of their homes. Then they add their old items that can’t be repaired or mended anymore. After sunset, they light the piles on fire. It is an amazing sight to see: fires burning up and down the dirt roads as far as the eye can see. They believe the fires draw out the bad spirits from their houses. It is their way of cleaning their homes, both physically and spiritually, in preparation for the birth of Christ on Christmas morning.
I wanted to bring Dia Del Diablo back with me when I returned to the U.S. But I can’t light a fire on my street in New Hampshire. So my version is to systematically clean out all my cabinets, drawers, and closets, giving away or donating what we don’t use anymore. I’ve always viewed this purging process as a focus on the old: looking back, assessing what used to fit and now doesn’t, what used to be used and now isn’t. This year I want to look at it differently.
This year, I wanted a less hectic Advent, with less “to do’s” on the list. So I postponed my Dia Del Diablo until after Christmas. Doing so beautifully aligned it with the new year. It also got me thinking about New Year Resolutions.
I have always failed at New Year Resolutions, and giving things up for Lent. Whenever I think of something I’m not supposed to have, I obsess about it. All my resolve crumbles in the face of obsession. Consequently, I end up gorging on whatever the food or activity is, leaving me worse off than before.
But last year I had to make some significant life changes for health reasons. If I didn’t succeed, I’d end up on more medication, with more side effects, and be less and less agile as time went on. That’s not okay for anyone, but as a mom of three young children, I couldn’t allow that to become my reality.
Although fear is a pretty good motivator, that wasn’t enough. I had to find a new approach. Like this scripture passage says, I had to put off my old self, my old ways. I couldn’t sabotage myself by using old, unsuccessful techniques, and thinking about past failures.
Instead, I needed to be made new in my approach, and in my attitude. It wasn’t easy. But with tons of prayer, I learned a whole new mindset.
I discovered that whatever thing I put my focus on actually gave that thing power. If I thought about sugar, that’s all I wanted. But trying not to think about sugar meant I was still thinking about it! So I had to change my thought process. I had to replace the thought of sugar with the thought of veggie chips, a yummy snack that is still somewhat healthy for me and okay to eat.
When I thought about how much I hate exercising, I procrastinated getting on the treadmill. So I found a TV series I love, but made a self-imposed rule that I couldn’t watch it unless I was exercising. Now it’s like a treat. Just because I’m walking on the treadmill, I get to watch back to back episodes of The Big Bang Theory every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – guilt free!
For the first time in my life, I actually achieved my health goals. And it felt, and still feels, wonderful! It was all due to putting my old self and ways behind, wiping the slate clean, changing my mindset to the positive, and asking God to support me through it all.
Now for 2016. Almost all of my cabinets, drawers, and closets are cleaned out. The piles are slowly moving out to friends and non-profit organizations. That has inspired me to want to light some more of my bad habits on fire. I have more slates that need to be wiped clean. I want to draw out some other past failures and old ways and feel them go up in smoke too. It’s not just on Christmas that new life can be born to save us. God wants to birth new hope in us constantly, we just have to open the door of our hearts and receive it.
One thing I really want to focus on is my marriage. I need to apply my new techniques to my relationship with my husband: focusing on what he does do, not on what he doesn’t. Most of all, I need to wipe his slate clean. I can’t hold his past mistakes over his head anymore. Even when I don’t put that into words, he can feel that I do it, and it completely demotivates him. He doesn’t deserve that. He’s really an amazing husband and father.
So my list of New Year Resolutions grows. But I’m more hopeful than I have ever been. With a clean slate, a new attitude, and God’s help, I know now that it is possible to “put on a new self.”
What are some of your New Year Resolutions?
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