Giving ourselves permission

Although I’m usually an early riser, some mornings, I just have to sleep in.

That was the case this morning, when I savored the lull in activity after the Christmas rush and the warmth of the covers before facing the dip into the 20’s awaiting us on the back porch.

While I love the anticipation and celebration of Christmas, I also love the seven days after as we prepare to step into a new year.

During this odd week of the year when many are taking a pause before launching into whatever is next, I enjoy reflecting on the year that’s passed to inform what I’d like to do differently in the 12 months ahead.

Although the specifics may vary, two themes are consistent: more of this and less of that.

And they often go hand in hand.

Because doing less of something that doesn’t prove beneficial gives me more time to apply myself to those things that are.

In healthcare terms I’d compare that to risks vs benefits when evaluating a treatment plan.

Or in business terms it’d be return on investment, aka ROI.

Applying Permission to the More-and-Less Equation

Regardless of how we couch it, evaluating the more-and-less equation often comes down to giving ourselves permission.

Permission to let go of something we’ve decided isn’t as helpful as we thought it would be.

And permission to start doing something completely new or that which is familiar in a different way.

Often, the latter has been delayed because we felt we didn’t have the whatever [courage, time, energy, money, fill in the blank] to start.

We may also have persistent items on our lists.

The less-of category often includes things we “over” do, like wasting time on frivolous things (which each of us has to define for ourselves), eating stuff that isn’t good for our health, or spending money on things we really can’t afford.

In contrast, the more-of list often includes that which we think we “under” do, like spending focused time with God each day, exercising regularly, or getting enough sleep.

Finding the Sweet Spot

My lists are already forming in my mind, and I’ll be praying about them this week as I enjoy the process of reflecting and writing them down.

As I do, I’ll likely dig back into a great little book of Mom’s that I just love, Between Walden and the Whirlwind, by Jean Fleming.

Published by NavPress in 1985, it contains many fabulous gems about setting priorities with God and giving ourselves permission to carry them out.

Consider the chapter titles and you’ll see what I mean:

  1. In Search of Simple
  2. Focusing Life
  3. Living Decisively
  4. How Busy Is Too Busy?
  5. The Marrying of Service and Solitude
  6. Solitude
  7. Service
  8. Contentment
  9. A Pilgrim Mentality

This little volume is only 133 pages long, including endnotes, but it packs a powerful and specific punch about seeking God’s kingdom first and aligning our priorities accordingly.

In the section on “Pruning” in chapter three, she describes her method for staying on track in this context:

​“I view my life as a tree. The trunk represents my relationship to Christ; the limbs represent major areas of God-given responsibility such as family, job, ministry, and personal development; and the branches represent the activities and opportunities of life. … I must go beyond defining life by activities. I must focus not on the branches, but on the trunk and limbs. I do what I do because of Jesus and His claim on my life. I don’t do what I don’t do for the same reason. … I must examine my tree and determine which branches need to be pruned back or hacked off at the base. Life is always changing. My tree must undergo changes too” (p.40-41).

​Fleming goes on to describe how, three or four times a year, she sets aside a specific time with the Lord “to examine my schedule, and to set some new directions for the months ahead” (p. 41):

​“Then I lay out my tree before the Lord. I make lists of current obligations, activities, and opportunities. I pray, ‘At this point in my life, Lord, what is it You want me to do? What must I do to keep my relationship to You vital? What do You want me to say yes and no to?’” (p. 41).

​An inherent aspect of that type of yes-and-no filtering involves giving ourselves permission.

Permission to keep.

Permission to let go.

Permission to start something new.

When we’re doing so in alignment with what we perceive as God’s specific plans for our lives—giving ourselves permission also means being obedient to Him.

How about you? What kinds of things are you going to give yourself permission for in the coming year?

If you’d like to share, please subscribe to my newsletter and respond to me there.

Sue Montgomery is a Christian writer/content creator who's also been a hospice nurse, family caregiver, health coach, and professional organizer. Now she's helping Baby Boomers like herself embrace the Boomer Continuum™ of agile caregiving, graceful aging, and peaceful dying—with Christian faith and simplicity to focus on what matters most.
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