Broken resolutions and Life Lessons for 2017

The holidays are over, and life is back to normal. For those of you who made New Year’s resolutions, maybe you’ve already broken some of them. I’m not saying this to criticize. At the beginning of January in decades past, making a resolution then breaking it a short time later often caused me some discouragement.

The website, www.timeanddate.com reports, “…according to some studies almost 80 percent of all people who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them sometime during the year.” That’s why, a couple of holidays ago, I made a resolution not to make any more resolutions. Instead, when I need to change something in my life, I try to work on it right away.

This philosophy is coming straight from the keyboard of a former procrastinator. After all, one of the most noteworthy lessons I’ve learned along life’s path is that important tasks that we put off, rarely get done. It’s best to tackle an issue as soon as possible to make sure that it doesn’t get lost in the whirlwind of everyday living. This anti-procrastination principle is more significant than some other beliefs that are part of my life repertoire. For example, I’ve also come to believe that a person should never buy a single pair of socks or gloves. The law of probability ensures that when socks are placed in the dryer, frequently they will disappear into what I refer to as Sock Heaven. Solo socks take this mysterious journey into the unknown never to be seen from again.

This theory holds true when purchasing gloves, too, although I doubt there is a metaphorical heaven for missing mittens. Instead my lost gloves are probably strewn throughout Ohio left in restaurant booths or on roadways. Missing gloves aren’t too high on the life lesson priority list, but keeping in touch with family and friends is crucial. In our hectic-paced world, social isolation becomes a daily challenge.

This means taking time to share more than an occasional Facebook “Love you” post, text, or hurried email. Instead chatting with a true friend or loved one over a meal can be exhilarating. Don’t take your cellphone along, as the constant distraction will frustrate the flow of genuine conversation. When we are with folks who truly care for us, we somehow remember who we really are. The pieces of our life fit better, and we can bask in the camaraderie that comes only from authentic relationships, where we are accepted imperfections and all. Still, getting together can be especially tricky in this geographically mobile society where families and close friends are often separated by countless miles for employment opportunities.

Although speaking of not being perfect, another painful lesson that I’ve learned from life is that people won’t always like you. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s true. No matter how hard you try, you fall short in their acceptable category. According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Ben Michaelis about 15 percent of folks won’t like you, if you are emotionally healthy. “If 85 percent of the people you meet like you, you are probably doing something right,” writes Michaelis in an archived  Huffington Post blog, “If everybody likes you, you are doing it wrong….you are probably doing too much to get along.”

The experienced psychologist says that when, “You ignore your own needs in favor of others,” it’s not healthy. Of course, they like you, everybody likes a doormat. Unfortunately, a doormat gets worn out and has to be thrown away after too much use. Yet, if more than 15 percent of people don’t like you, you might actually be too difficult to get along with.

Lastly, there is a life lesson that involves “letting go.” It can be a spiritual breakthrough forged in prayer. Or an internal follow your heart and instincts moment that allows a person to sense when it’s time to cut your losses and venture out on a new path. It might be something as substantial as a job change or having the courage to end an emotionally destructive relationship. To let go and embrace change willingly is a challenging life lesson, because by nature most human beings are creatures of habit who hang onto familiar circumstances.

So, for the first month of this New Year, I didn’t make or break any resolutions. Yet, I did celebrate another year of new beginnings, counting my blessings, and reminiscing about all the lessons learned on life’s path.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

‘HOPE’ Update: My One Word for 2014

As the  calendar turned to January 1, I felt the gentle nudge of God’s Spirit encouraging me to choose, ‘Hope,’ as my word for 2014. It was no coincidence, that while ringing in the new year, hope was something I desperately needed myself, since I was battling depression resulting from a health crisis. Circumstances, which I initially had no intention of sharing with others. However, our Heavenly Father’s plans for us are often very different from our own.Jeremiah 29:11 & 13

This was the first time, I had ever participated in selecting a word  for the year.  Picking it was easy though, as it seemed like God had chosen it for me. I tell the story of how this came about in my blog titled, “A Postcard’s Reminder of Hope.” Here’s the link if you’d like to read the post: http://christinaryanclaypool.com/blog1/2013/12/31/a-postcards-reminder-of-hope-for-the-future-by-christina-ryan-claypool/

It was this Godwink of a postcard with a rainbow and the verse, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV), that began to restore my own expectancy in God’s good plan. Since then, it seems like I see the word, ‘hope’ everywhere.

It almost jumps off the page, sometimes, when I’m reading the Bible. At other moments, I hear the promise of hope coming through song lyrics. An example would be for King & Country’s tune, “Crave.” One line of the song says, “Hope is what we crave, that will never change.” What has changed for me, has been the renewed vision in our Creator’s desire to do good on our behalf, along with His ability to bless our lives and to use us despite physical limitations, aging, or our own inadequacies. This was a catalyst for the depression I was experiencing, falsely believing that I was no longer of any value to God’s dynamic kingdom.

 One Perfect WordThere was another gentle nudge of the Spirit, which resulted in me finding the book, One Perfect Word  by Debbie Macomber in a thrift store recently. Out of the thousands of books there, it just stood out as something I needed to purchase. When I got home and began to read it, I found out that Mrs. Macomber had chosen ‘hope’ for her word of the year in 2006. It was such a joy to glean wisdom from this talented writer’s insights, not only about hope, but also about the importance of selecting a word for each new year. Something she has been doing for a very long time.

I’m just starting my own journey of finding significance through a word for the year. It’s only April, and already, I’ve learned more about ‘hope’ than I could have believed possible. I’m optimistic about the future again, and busy finishing a new book. For now, I would like to close with another line from ‘Crave,’ “It’s written on my soul hopes what we crave.”

Here’s the complete song: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GrXLXVL_0AE

6353664 - CopyChristina Ryan Claypool is the 2011 First place national Amy award winning freelance journalist and a Christian speaker. She has been featured on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV show, and on CBN’s 700 Club. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

 

 

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Circles of Faith, Founder and Executive Editor, Elise Daly Parker, posted “My One Word for the New Year Update and LinkUp”. Go to their website at www.CirclesOfFaith.org to read Elise’s blog post and to hear an update from other women about their inspiring One Word journeys including: Kimberly Amici, http://kimberlyamici.com/ who is the Circles of Faith Co-Founder and Managing Editor, Holly Barrett whose Website is http://hollybarrett.org/, and Laura Roth who blogs at:  http://www.laurarath.blogspot.com/  This Circles of Faith post encouraged me to write my own update.

 

A Tale of Two Cardinals

Two CardinalsI never thought much about birds, certainly not Cardinals. Undoubtedly, the males with their brilliant red feathers are eye-catching. Yet not that long ago, I believed that collecting bird memorabilia was better left to those with little to do. Now Cardinal keepsakes are finding their way into my home.

Most people who grow up in Ohio probably know that the Northern Cardinal is our state bird. They might not know that the bird is named after the Catholic Cardinal because of the clergy’s bright red attire. It is also the state bird for Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

For most of my life, I was just too busy to even notice the crimson creatures who commonly nest in a pair. A pair, that’s what my late mother and stepfather of more than 35 years were. When they died less than five months apart a couple years ago, I didn’t think that the holidays would ever be joyful again.

After all, every Christmas my husband and I would fill our car with food, gifts, and suitcases, and make the trip from Ohio to Philadelphia to spend the holidays with my parents. Both my mom and stepfather were musicians. She was a church organist and choir director. Neal also became a choir director later in life, although when he was young he traveled the world with the Navy band. They were an ecumenical couple, since my stepdad was a Baptist, but Mom played and directed music wherever the “Spirit” led.

My beautiful mother

My beautiful mother

Christmas at their house was all about music, too. When my husband and I would arrive, often Mom would invite us to join whatever choir she was currently directing on an interim basis. My hubby and I would both try to graciously decline, but somehow Christmas morning would find us reluctantly dressed in choir robes with my then seventy-something mother directing away.

On our last Christmas together in 2009, my mother insisted that I escort my stepfather to the church platform. By then, he was 80, and almost blind from diabetes. Still she wanted him to stand behind her as she accompanied the choir and congregation on the pipe organ as they sang Handel’s Hallelujah chorus. I can still hear his deep baritone voice, as he sang out the notes he must have known by heart.

It was such a shock when “Teddy Bear” as he affectionately called Mom died suddenly ten months later in October 2010.  Following her death, my stepfather’s broken heart stopped beating in less than five months, too.

After someone you love dies you often find out things about them that you never knew. For instance, after my mother’s death my sister shared how Mom would often look out the window above her kitchen sink to watch the birds that would gather in their foliage filled yard. I also learned that the crimson-colored Cardinals were a favorite.

Last year, as the holiday season began approaching, I was dreading another Christmas without my parents. I had no idea how I was going to be able to celebrate or create new traditions. Then one day, I was looking out my own kitchen window when suddenly I spied a Cardinal near the evergreen tree in my backyard. There was a second less colorful Cardinal who landed on one of the tree’s branches. Instantly, I realized that these birds were a couple.

I didn’t know then that Northern Cardinals nest as a pair, and that the female is tan, and often has red in her wings or tail feathers. Nor did I know that the male is incredibly protective and that he sings loudly to keep other males away.  So like my stepfather who always kept a watchful eye on my mother. All I could tell was that these two lovebirds were singing a duet. As I watched the Cardinals communicating, suddenly my gloomy mood turned to one of amazement and joy.Neal and Glenna Sprang with Christina Ryan Claypool, daughter

It was then I began seeing Cardinals everywhere, since they remain in the north all year long. For instance, while passing a store downtown last December, displayed on the glass window of Peter’s Pense Religious Library, I saw a picture of the red Cardinal with a story about the Christmas legend that surrounds the beautiful bird.

As for the legend, according to www.relijournal.com, “The Cardinal [is] christened the “Christmas Bird” for its spectacular red color….A glimpse of this brilliant bird brings cheer, hope and inspiration on a gray wintry day. This is nature’s reminder for us to focus on our faith; the Cardinal’s scarlet plumage represents the blood of Christ shed for the redemption of mankind.”

For me, two Cardinals singing together were a Heavenly sign reminding me that those we love live on in our hearts. For now, From The Road Less Traveled, may this season of unexpected miracles bring you the renewed hope that is found in the One who is the Creator of Cardinals. Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in The Lima News, Sidney Daily News, and Troy Daily News.