A New Year~A New Start For You

Starting a new year prompts me to make my 2014 to-do list of things I want to accomplish during the year. I'm a compulsive list-maker, and the start of a new year is similar to having flood gates opening. The to-do list possibilities are endless! I thoroughly enjoy making my to-do list each year. With my New Year to-do list, I elaborate on my usual simple to-do list process to include categories: personal, professional, home, spiritual....and so on. Then, I begin to identify monthly goals of things I want to accomplish, and from there I list my to-dos for each week of January and will do this at the start of each month. By now, I am really into this process, my mind is racing, and I can't write things down fast enough!

For the things I really don't like to do, I will even include how long I have to do these activities each day to get them finished. For example, "organize my study for 30 minutes each day next week!" For me, making my to do-list each January is a list-maker's dream come true! Somehow, just writing everything I can possibly think of that I would like to do down on paper gives me a sense of accomplishment. It provides me with an action plan, some place to begin! The list also serves as a reminder and helps me to be accountable to complete my list.

I see a few common threads in my list for 2014. One of the threads I am seeing is a desire to get organized and simplify....once and for all! This has been a front runner on my annual to-do list for a few consecutive years. I have listed this on my to-do list for the last time! In 2014, I want to figure out a way to manage the clutter, both physical and electronic. It's not just the mound of paper on my desk I am not sure what to do with, it's also my email inbox! I am opening emails on my phone and reading them, but waiting to get home to answer them on a more convenient device. Consequently, I loose track of what I have answered, what needs an answer, and what should be deleted. The number of emails in my inbox is growing without rhyme or reason, completely random and unorganized. Entering 2014, I have identified two major sources of clutter. I can see my desktop papers and email inbox slowly oozing from neat, organized short stacks of organized communications - visibly morphing into a bottomless abyss formerly known as my kitchen desktop and email inbox.

Wanting to organize and simplify is a desire I hear frequently from women of all ages. To help start the new year with a plan to streamline the paper process and eliminate the physical and electronic clutter, we have asked professional organizer, Melissa Brownstein, to join us at First Pres Church in Wheaton for two "how-to" sessions on Thursday, January 23, at 1pm and 7:30 pm. These two 90-minute sessions will be identical and are scheduled to accommodate women's different schedules. Mark your calendar and plan to attend one of these how-to sessions to make a significant difference in 2014. Another thread I am seeing is a desire to have fun. To do activities I have't done before or haven't done in a long time for the purpose of having fun. Where is the fun these days? What do I do to play? It's a very (extremely) short list of things I do just for the fun of doing them! In 2014, this short list needs to add some depth and breadth of things I do for fun. With only 24 hours in the day, I am not sure where I will find the time to have fun. Last, I am seeing a desire to have more passion in my life. I'm not talking about the steamy passion from reading smutty romance novels or watching "Beverly Hills Housewives." I want to feel the passion that stirs from my core and comes from being involved with something in which I believe in and am committed. I want to discover something about which I am really excited, something I want to learn more about and share with others. How does your 2014 to-do list look? Do you see items you list every year and never get accomplished? Do you see some trends in your 2014 list? Are you noticing some of the same common threads I am seeing in my list? Interestingly, as the holidays pass and I enter January, winter begins to drag on and the cold, gray days roll into weeks of cold and gray. I can best describe my feelings about myself and life in January as "Blah." I become very aware of my routine and how "routine" my daily routine has become, and "Blah" sums things up perfectly!

In January, I schedule all of my annual doctor visits. It's quite rewarding to mark off these visits from my 2014 to-do list early in the year. Each doctor visit is listed separately, suddenly my January "personal" category has several items crossed through! Seeing my crossed through accomplishments is very motivating! At a recent annual visit with my OB-GYN doctor, I mentioned I felt "Blah!" I elaborated on my description of my feelings with him to say, "I am not sad, not depressed....just Blah." Appreciating the very descriptive, scientific definition I had given him, he asked me three simple questions. I'd like to share these three questions with you, so you can ask yourself these questions and reflect on your answers as mid-January approaches. 1. What do you do for exercise? Moving our bodies is very important to our sense of well-being. Increasing technology has allowed for us to adapt and become almost complacent. The hunters and active people we once were has evolved into sedentary creatures of comfort. Have you noticed how many problems you solve during a 20-minute walk? After walking 20-minutes, your mind is clear, your heart is beating....you are aware of your body and you are ALIVE! It's time to find that pedometer stuffed in the back of the drawer and begin wearing it - aiming for the 10,000 steps threshold. God intended our bodies to move. 2. What do you do with your time? It's so easy to plan to spend 15 minutes on the internet, "surfing" for a recipe or checking in on Facebook or playing a game or two of "Words with Friends" or "Candy Crush" and suddenly an hour or two has passed. Have you noticed how you feel after spending an extended time playing games or surfing the internet? It's a completely different feeling from the energized, awake feeling you feel after walking. Instead, your motivation has decreased, your eyes are tired, your brain is foggy and the next activity you have planned is taking a nap! How we choose to use our time provides us with a sense of purpose. If it feels as though you don't have enough time in your day, it's up to you to begin to manage your time. For example, try setting your alarm to awaken 20 minutes earlier every day. At the end of a week, you will have found an extra two hours and 20 minutes. At the end of the month, you will have found an extra 10 hours!

During this newly found 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and go to a place in your house where you can clearly see nature outside your window. Take time to notice, really notice your surroundings. Notice the stillness, the way the light hits the trees and the shadows, and the colors you see on the ground, in the trees, and in the sky. Intentionally notice the details of what you see so as the seasons change, you will notice the small changes that occur ever so subtly in the nature around you and are easily missed.

Also during this 20 minutes, begin keeping a gratitude journal. Each day list three items/people/places (anything goes!) you are grateful to have in your life. As I begin counting my blessings this way, I began to feel a shift in my attitude. I feel more positive. As a result of feeling more positive, I have discovered more patience at other times in the day. Recalling my gratitude list during the day provides me with a sense of calm and grounding to what is really important to me. My gratitude journal reflects back to me those things I value in my life so I can see them more clearly. You may have a blank journal laying around your house, find it in your pile of books on your nightstand. Then, dedicate this journal to list the things you are grateful for and nothing more. As 2014 unfolds, you will be able to go back and reread your list, reminding your self of those things you are grateful to have in you life. You only have to list three things a day. 3. What do you do for fun? How do you play? As a young person, this question was easy to answer. Now, it is more difficult and I struggle to even answer it at all. I don't believe the time at the health club or observing my children playing a sport counts as playing for me. I enjoy doing those things, but these activities aren't personal play time. What are the things you do that make you laugh and give you pleasure? If you have stopped doing some of these things, ask yourself why you have stopped? Do you need a partner? Do you need to modify the activity to account for physical changes? What can you do to begin doing these activities again? As my doctor reminded me, there is a reason why playing for amusement and recreation is called"Re-Creation" and serves to recharge and renew our spirit. Playing, laughing, and having fun is most often done with at least one other person. Living in community is vital to our sense of well-being. God desires for us to be in community with each other. As you proceed in January 2014 with intention and self purpose keep these four things in mind: 1. Begin getting up 20 minutes earlier each morning and spending the time listing the things you are grateful to have in your life, and taking time to intentionally notice the subtle details of nature around you. 2. Begin a 20-minute daily exercise routine, maybe doing a DVD at home, walking, spinning, or swimming. Notice how energized you feel afterwards and how quickly you begin to look forward to your daily exercise time. 3. Plan a date with a friend to do something you enjoy doing, just for the fun of being together. It can be something simple such as meeting for coffee or planning a trip to Chicago to attend a play or concert. It's not the activity or how much it costs that makes it fun, it's spending time with your friend that makes it fun.

4. Plan to join us at First Pres Church in Wheaton for a "how-to" organize and downsize session with professional organizer, Melissa Brownstein on Thursday, Jan 23 at 1pm or 7:30 pm. You can register online at www.firstpreswheaton.org or by calling the church office at 630-668-5147.

Enjoy your journey!! 2014 is waiting for you!

A dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

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